The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Tag: san francisco

“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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How a ‘Bubble Curtain’ Will Protect Marine Life When San Francisco’s Bay Bridge Is Demolished

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It would appear that this might be the greatest lengths any demolition project has ever approached in order to save a population of smelt, and that is why we love San Francisco. Gif file: Gizmodo.au.

This fall, before 9072 tons of dynamite are detonated, likely this month, when waters are believed to be least teaming with fish and mammals, a diffusion of bubbles will be cast around the bridge in order act as an alarm, hopefully dispersing and deterring wildlife from the area. An audio recording will also be played in hopes of warding off birds, too.

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“He thought it was Wonderful. I Thought it was Absolutely Horrifying.” Talking Story with Barbarian Days Author William Finnegan, Part II.

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William Finnegan. Surfing Ocean Beach. Photo from Barbarian Playing Doc’s Games, The New Yorker, 1992. 

Editor’s Note. Last week, I fired up Skype for a chat with author and longtime New Yorker reporter William Finnegan. Finnegan, 62, is a personal hero. He’s a Manhattan-based, hard-nosed, badass, no-bullshit, journalist’s journalist, and surfing’s most accomplished wordsmith. In his recently released New York Times bestselling memoir Barbarian Days, A Surfing Life, Finnegan has written a sweeping, engrossing narrative that literally took six decades of living to write. Earlier this week, we talked about the immorality of surfing hurricane waves. Today, Finnegan discusses how hard it was to write Barbarian Days, his seminal New Yorker article “Playing Doc’s Games,” the drop-knee cutback, and the terror of big Ocean Beach. — CD 

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Barbarian Days. Well worth 1926 pennies.

Chris Dixon: Ok, let’s talk about Barbarian Days. I’m wondering from your verbal perspective, why did you feel it was time to write a book about your own personal life experience as a surfer when you, aside from “Playing Doc’s Games,” which got somewhat into that – you haven’t written much about your own personal life.

William Finnegan: My other books have all been more journalistic, it’s true – although my first one, Crossing the Line, about teaching at a black high school in South Africa was pretty first-person. Still, I was strongly trying to report on South Africa and what I saw there.

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I didn’t recently decide it was time to write this book (Barbarian Days). It was twenty-something years in the making. It just finally got done now. It started with that piece in The New Yorker in ‘92 – “Playing Doc’s Games” – which in itself took 7 years to write. So really this is a long, old project.

The genesis. I was living in San Francisco, freelancing. I sent a short political piece over the transom to The New Yorker and someone in the editor’s office said, “If you want to write longer pieces, this would be a good time to submit something to the editor – you’ve got his attention.”

So I felt like I needed to come up with something in five minutes – right now. And I didn’t have any ideas. So I just sort of looked around and proposed a profile of Mark Renneker. I was surfing with him at Ocean Beach at the time – and he was this big colorful character that struck me as a John McPhee type hero. Not that I’m John McPhee, but I could see Mark in The New Yorker. Perhaps under someone else’s byline!

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Sharks of the Bay, An Evening with Experts at San Francisco’s Aquarium of the Bay

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Image: The Bay Institute.

There’s been a lot of talk about the recent footage of a white shark tearing apart a seal off Alcatraz, but did you know that there are about seven species of sharks that regularly visit San Francisco Bay, all of whom serve critical roles in the ecosystem?

Close out Sharktober with the Aquarium of the Bay on October 29th for an evening short films, photography and lectures on San Francisco Bay’s sharks by David McGuire (Shark Stewards) and Michael Grassmann (Aquarium of the Bay).

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This Great White Feeding Will Give you Something to Ponder On Your Next Swim to Alcatraz.

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Very crimson water, courtesy of a Great White, San Francisco Bay. Screen Grab from video by Chris Hindler. 

With the caption “Guess we know what happened to the few escapees…” YouTube user Chris Hindler captured the lingering fear of every swimmer who ever rounded Alcatraz Island or every surfer who ever paddled out at Fort Point. Yes, that’s a Great White shark eviscerating an unfortunate seal or sea lion near Alcatraz – inside San Francisco Bay. This may well be the first documented feeding of this kind in these waters, and it will probably give pause to the brave people who do this.

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Photo: Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim

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Alcatraz Cruises, North America’s Only Fleet of Hybridized Ferries

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Photo: Edible Excursions.

In 2009, Alcatraz Cruises, the National Park Service concessioner of ferry service to San Francisco’s Alcatraz Island introduced the United States’ first hybridized ferry. Today, their entire fleet is completely hybridized, powered largely by solar panels, wind turbines and grid power, and all are decked out with recycled and sustainable materials.

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If You Left a Piece of Your Heart in San Francisco or in Big Sur Like Me, This Time Lapse is for You

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Aerials of the Pacific Coast Highway 1 start at 1:58 minute mark. Screen shot from Mark G. Media.

Time lapse and aerial video of San Francisco and down the coast through Big Sur. All shot in 2 days from Mark G. Media.

Adriana Basques’ Gallery ‘Giants’ of the Sea

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Whale shark by Adriana Basques.

Check out award-winning photographer Adriana Basques’ gallery of the giants that rule the sea. This series of ‘big animals’ photographs contrasts against her ‘miniature life’ underwater gallery.

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Three Sperm Whales by Adriana Basques.

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