The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: beach

Goodbye (for now)

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Coming in 2017. A big book from your ocean loving friends at The Scuttlefish and Chronicle Books. 

Hey all, after a few years, hundreds of weird and interesting stories, and a lot of fun it’s time to put The Scuttlefish on pause. Several months ago, Chris Dixon and I had an idea for an ocean related book. That idea turned into a proposal, and that proposal has become a contract with Chronicle Books, publisher of among other titles, Chris’s Ghost Wave, Matt Warshaw’s The History of Surfing, The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook and of course, Darth Vader and Son.

We are keeping the details under wraps for now, but it’s a project that we couldn’t pass up and there’s not enough time in the day to do both the book and this site. The Scuttlefish has gone into hibernation before, though and I’m sure it’ll come back in a different form, one day. Thanks to our faithful readers – and the ocean – for all the inspiration.

Thank you to Chris Dixon, Owen J. Burke, Mark Lukach, Carolyn Sotka and other contributors who put their love for the sea into so many fine words and photos on The Scuttlefish. I’m sure we’ll cross paths again.  – BL

A Thanks to Brian Lam, Matt Warshaw, Jeremy Spencer, Chronicle Books – and Everyone who’s Made this Ocean Life Possible

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My first ever rejection letter. Courtesy of Surfer Magazine and Matt Warshaw. 1989. 

It’s weird the stuff you decide to file in your folder book of memories. The above note is one such recently found object. It’s my very first, of very, very many professional rejection notes. If you’re a writer, you get used to rejection notes from editors. If you don’t, well, you’d better find other work. Aside from being a first, what makes this letter so very damn special is that it was written and signed by none other than Matt Warshaw. If you’re a surfer who’s worth even a grain of salt, you know him. If you’re not a surfer, suffice to say that the author of The History of Surfing and editor of The Encyclopedia of Surfing is to our sport as Ken Burns is to baseball – or James Michener is to Hawaii.

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Not too long ago, I stumbled upon Warshaw’s note in the back of my garage, amidst a stack of yellowing articles and letters. I’d completely forgotten this little nugget, but I vividly remember when it arrived. It was late 1989. I was a hopeful young journalism graduate, freshly minted from the University of Georgia, freshly cast off by my UGA girlfriend and freshly rendered unemployed and homeless by hurricane Hugo’s godawful smashing of the South Carolina coast. Forlorn and filled with a twenty-something’s boundless capacity for angst, I’d found temporary refuge in the basement of my dad’s Atlanta condo, and a temporary job shuffling fonts around on a Macintosh computer at his advertising agency. I reckoned the only way out of depression and self-pity was to write, and get the hell back to the beach.

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Holy Hell. This is Why Giant Waves are the Greatest Show on Earth.

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That’s gonna hurt. In fact it might just kill you. A frozen moment of carnage at Jaws.
All frame grabs courtesy: World Surf League. 

Yesterday I had the honor of reporting on the the inaugural Big Wave World Tour Pe’ahi Invitational for Surfline.com. Holy hell. The. Most. Insane. Surf. Contest. Ever. Watching it live in my living room on, and wondering if Greg Long, Billy Kemper, Carlos Burle, Shane Dorian and a slew of other madmen were going to even survive this cerulean gladiator pit was a wild, stomach clenching ride – even from the safety of the couch.

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Shane Dorian. Will he make it? Frame grab courtesy: World Surf League. 

At the end of the line, feel free to give my Surfline story a click, and comment on whether you agree with my prognostications, or whether I’m missing something altogether. — CD

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A view from the contest HQ. Frame grab courtesy: World Surf League. 

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Maui Local Albee Layer. Frame grab courtesy: World Surf League. 

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Helicopter Pilot Don Shearer gets his cameraman a drone’s eye view. Frame grab courtesy: World Surf League. 

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The ski would end up a casualty of the wildest surf contest in history. Frame grab courtesy: World Surf League. 

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Greg Long. Maybe the biggest wave ever paddled into at Pe’ahi. At least Jaws guru Dave Kalama thought so. Frame grab courtesy: World Surf League. 

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The Cocovore’s Fallacy. How a German Escapist’s Coconut Utopia Went to Hell in a Handbasket.

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“Man, how noble in reason…” – Hamlet. Photo courtesy of Christian Kracht, author of Imperium.

Did you ever read the book The Beach? The story of the turn-of-the-twentieth-century German nudist and ideologist August Engelhardt reads like a heinously nightmarish, psilocybin-riddled version of Alex Garland’s novel.

In the late 19th century, in the wake of the popularly published works of Darwin and Thoreau, many German youths were looking to get back into nature, a movement known as Lebensreform (Life Reform).

Some actually did. Unfortunately, in 1902, Alex Garland’s prophecy was not yet at the disposal of the young Engelhardt, a nudist and proponent of Lebensreform left Europe for the South Pacific island of Kabakon (now Papua New Guinea) with a library of books and an even more simplified idealogical approach: He was going to live on nothing but coconuts.

Engelhardt’s theory was that coconuts–how god-like they sit atop their skyward perch, how infinite in faculty–were a magical substance of divine provenance bearing all the sustenance a man needs; and if apes live on raw fruit, why shouldn’t we?

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Hawaiian Surf Legend Duke Kahanamoku’s Former Diamond Head Home Is on the Market for Almost $9 million

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Photo: KITV.

Built in 1937, the nearly 4,000 square foot home, formerly belonging to Olympic champion swimmer and surf revolutionary Duke Paoa Kahanamoku sits on what was once a fishing village during the King Kamehameha the Great era.

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Photo: KITV.

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Wish You Were Here: The Birthplace of Aotearoa and the Māori People – Hokianga Harbor, New Zealand

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After what is now New Zealand’s discovery, the islands were named ‘Aotearoa’ which means ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’; seen here in the entrance to the Hokianga Harbor from the Tasman Sea. Photo by Carolyn Sotka.

With the ancient Kauri forest shrinking in our rear mirror, my family set off for the west coast of New Zealand with a calm, revered silence from being in the presence of the giant 2000 year old trees. As we slowly lumbered through the woods, thick trees thinned and gave way to rolling hills. A final corner turned and we were met with one of the most magnificent vistas I have ever seen.

Ahead lay the Hokianga Harbor, with bright, golden sand dunes, contrasted against turquoise waters and cliffs peppered with bushes and flowers. Everything about our trip to New Zealand was unexpected, especially this moment. Reminiscent of Big Sur, California with a mix of Vermont and Ireland and pinch of the Swiss Alps in summer, this place was so unique, yet so familiar.

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The Kauri coast leading to the Hokianga Harbor. Photo by Carolyn Sotka.

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“Basso Profundo.” A Big, Merciless Late Fall Day at William Finnegan’s Ocean Beach, San Francisco.

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Screenshot from Chris Wilson’s video below.

San Francisco’s vast and featureless Ocean Beach produces frothing, pitching walls of water worthy of your worst nightmares. Big waves, cold, ominously gray water and shallow, hard-packed sandbars keep most surfers out of the water on larger days, but the few, ostensibly fearless who do manage the paddle out over relentless, insurmountable avalanches of whitewater are offered the wondrous sensation of weightlessness that accompanies dropping in on these foreboding faces.

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This was the sort of imagery that kept me out of the water during most of my time living in San Francisco. Screenshot from Chris Wilson’s video below.

Few surfers–and even fewer writers–are better acquainted with the terrors of winter surf at Ocean Beach than New Yorker staffer Bill Finnegan, who detailed some of his more daunting surfing experiences of his surfing career while living near the end of Noriega Street under the guise of local legend Mark “Doc” Renneker, whom he profiled in his two-part feature for the New Yorker, “Playing Doc’s Games I & II.” Below is a brief excerpt from “Playing Doc’s Games I” in which Finnegan recounts one of his more harrowing days at Ocean Beach:

I dived deep and swam hard. . . . The deeper I swam, the colder and darker the water got. The noise as the wave broke was preternaturally low, a basso profundo of utter violence, and the force pulling me backward and upward felt like some nightmare inversion of gravity.

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Wish You Were Here: Dropping In at Piha, New Zealand

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand in a camper van with a camera, surfboard and speargun in search of stories, waves and fish. We’re putting together a waterperson’s guide to the island nation, but meanwhile, we’ll be publishing stories and photographs, short updates along the way from the Yankee in Kiwiland. -CD

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This was one of the smaller, more makable sets of the day. Photo: Owen James Burke.

A brutish, section-y left-hand wall of water comes careening in around this rock mound from the Tasman Sea on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, somehow, seemingly, gaining momentum while tearing its way through rock and sand.

This wave at Piha Beach, outside of Auckland is known–by some, at least–as the nation’s deadliest wave, to which a quick Google query is testament enough. I stayed on shore for this swell–I’ll maintain my excuse that I didn’t have a board at the time–but must admit I felt a little humbled when watching two young boys who couldn’t have been much older than seven or eight paddle out, alone.

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