Have you ever tried to Hang Eleven?

Are you a surfer? No? Then I’ll try to describe what it’s like. Go out into the garage and get a metal garbage can lid. And a basketball. Take them into your yard and put the basketball under the lid, and then stand on top of the lid, trying to balance on the ball for more than about 3 seconds. If you can do that, have your brother or your buddy then squirt you in the face with a hose while trying not to dig up the petunia patch with your chin. Since surfers prefer winter because the waves are usually bigger and the beaches less crowded, try this in January: have your dad get out the snowblower and use that instead of the hose. I’m dead serious.

 Surfing big waves is physically almost impossible, and at the same time it can also be transcendent but at the same, same time terrifying, and gorgeously demoralizing for anyone over 14, unless you're one of those particular H20bros who started catching waves when you were, like, not even three.

If you’re not familiar with the surfing scene, you can get a good idea of the special tribal vibe with these movies, gear, destinations, gear, and a beautiful book. The astounding balleticism and devotion involved in this don’t ever call it a sport – makes it more like a beautiful, addictive obsession than anything else.

1.) Ya gotta see Fast Times at Ridgemont High, starring Sean Penn as the classic Hollywood stoner surf dude. I used to think he was the coolest ever, until I watched the movie again very recently. I now think Mr. Hand is the man.

2.) Endless Summer is the quintessential surfing documentary, an all-time-great deadpan-funny classic, in any genre. The director Bruce Brown probably had more influence on the popularity of the sport than any other human being, ever.

3.) Surf Nazis Must Die. This horrible-camp movie, put out by the redoubtable Troma Films, is a classic in its own right: insipid script, laughable plot, terrible acting, annoying soundtrack, over-the-top awful fight scenes – in short, an amateurish mess of a masterpiece.

4.) Back to the Future. Michael J. Fox's down vest-wearing skateboarder Marty McFly needs no introduction or explanation. Rent this groundbreaking, heart-aching, fist-shaking, money-making feel-good blockbuster immediately. "Who's the Vice President? Jerry Lewis?"

5.) Surf’s Up is a witty, animated mockumentary movie, voiced by Shia LaBeouf, Zooey Deschanel, and Jeff Bridges, as Big Z. This is a charming coming of age fil, that avoids the cliché treacle, and is sometimes actually laugh-out-loud funny. And the critics all agree: Chicken Joe steals the show.

6.) Even though Jaws isn’t a surf movie per se, it’s a monster well-worth watching again, especially if you haven’t seen it since you went to the Franklin Cinema as a teenage twerp wearing Hai Karate cologne on your first date with Kendra Jensen like I did. It holds up wonderfully as a heartwarming and charming thriller, if that’s possible.

7.) There are many worldwide surfing hotspots, but we'd recommend starting with your local haunt. In Newport it's either First Beach, or Ruggles. Maui, Hawaii is the dream location for any surfer, young or old – big, consistent waves, perfect weather year round. Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa is an intense experience and definitely not for beginners. Rincon, California is known for some of the best, most reliable right-handed waves in the world. Other popular surfing locations are: Kuta, Bali, the Philippines, and Costa Rica.

We used to go wakeboarding on the Hudson River when I lived in New York and had a boat at the 79th Street boat basin, and then we’d drop the tow rope and ride the wake all the way to the Statue of Liberty and back. I know, I know, it’s not surfing – but it was wicked fun. 

8.) There are many different types of surfboards, but here are the most popular, from shortest to longest: bodyboard (or boogie board) fish, shortboard, hybrid, gun, funboard, longboard, and SUP board.

There are even more types of skateboards than surfboards, and a multitude of variations too numerous to mention, but here are some of the more popular ones: old school, classic, penny, cruiser, speedboard, and cruiser. There are also longboards of every size and stripe: slalom, technical sliding, carving, cruising, long distance, board walking and surf style.

Fun, or maybe not so fun fact: Walmart sells more surfboards than anyone else in the world.

9.) Our classic surf songs are a top ten within a top ten: Mr. Motoby the Belairs; Latin’ia by the Sentinels; Pipelineby the Chantays; Wipeout by the Surfaris; Surfer Girl by the Beach Boys; Surfin’ On Heroin by the Forgotten Rebels; Surf City by Jan & Dean, Shoot The Curl, by the Honeys; Surfin’ USA, by the Beach Boys and Church Key by Dave Myers and the Surftones.

10.) Vocabulary is always key to being an insider, innit bro? So here are a few slang surfing terms for all you hodads (non-surfers) out there. Goofy Foot is a person who surfs with their right foot forward. Hang Ten is an advanced nose riding technique where all ten of your toes are wrapped over the front of the board. Barney: a newbie. Betty, Wahine – female surfers. Hang Eleven: male surfer hanging ten, in the nude. Other terms for you to look up yourself: Gnarly. Goober. Goat Boater. Aggro.

11.) I’m going to finish with a flourish with a book, since that’s the mightiest medium, and because it's so astonishingly entertaining. Barbarian Days, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for autobiography by William Finnegan is a stunner: muscular, hilarious, insightful – a fascinating, subtle, intoxicating personal journey from Hawaiian haole to celebrated New York sophisticate.
November 06, 2020 — Johnny Mustard