SUNDAY JOINT, 4-5-2020: MITCH THORSON, COVID-19, “MICKEY DORA’S 50K CHALLENGE”

Hey All,

If you are uninfected and still employed and more or less getting on with it as if you were a 59-year-old man grounded until further notice by your 91-year-old father (my Dad is home reading The Godfather and Proust and day-drinking Bombay Sapphire), your thoughts are likely rocketing with great fury and no real purpose in every direction, high and low, near and far, existential to nugatory. Is your sense of scale, like mine, totally out of whack? A 10-minute walk to Safeway yesterday was spent pondering the ramifications of a 30% unemployment rate. The return trip was spent wondering who the fuck in Queen Anne is panic-buying my favorite silken tofu.

Two weeks ago in the Joint I suggested that the silver lining for surfers during COVID is that we’d get to ride this thing out in the ocean. I was wrong. The science may be against it, for starters. Beyond that, surfing is no longer ethically or morally defensible. If we’re all grounded, we’re all grounded. In non-pandemic times, I will defend to the death your right to be a selfish prick of a surfer, and at some point in our vaccinated future I will drop a Selfish Prick Surfer list in which I will unabashedly place myself in the back half of the Top 10. But not now. Not under these conditions. Don’t look for the loophole, the angle, the surf-related hustle. Us vs Them is no longer in play. This is Us vs Virus. Or rather, Us vs Virus backed by Raging Leadership Disregard of Expertise plus The Really Important Thing Is To Make Sure The NFL Season Starts On Time. (Speaking of expertise, not only have I signed the petition to get Anthony Fauci named as People Magazine’s 2020 “Sexiest Man Alive,” I have closed my eyes and imagined him slow-motion Turtle-waxing his Chevy Bolt in Montgomery Clift’s From Here to Eternity aloha shirt, the sweat from his intelligent brow dropping to the group and spritzing the air with the smell of leather and day-old orange peels.) In any event, I hope the levied fine was steep and the shaming acute for the SUP jagoff taken off the beach at Malibu last week in handcuffs.

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Speaking of Malibu and questionable ways to make use of perfect waves, here is a full reprint of SURFER Magazine’s 1974 cover story “Winner Take All: as $50,000 Cash—Mickey Dora’s Challenge,” which at the time even my unformed 13-year-old mind registered as being something between hoax and satire, although some people apparently took it seriously (I’m looking at you, Mike Purpus). On the face of it, Dora’s idea was to have surfers race from the top of the point to the bottom, each wave timed, fastest guy wins 50 large. The big day came and of course Dora didn’t show, and surprise! the whole thing was an elaborate prank on the idea of professional surfing. As a bit, it’s twice as long as it should be, but worth a read nonetheless. (Dora’s 1969 “Cataclysm” graph, which is as sharply-pointed as it nonsensical, is a good companion piece to the $50,000 Challenge.)

Thanks to everyone who wrote in this week regarding the origins of James “Booby” Jones’ nickname, and extra sprinkles to Ricky Cassidy, who came through with this lovely pupils-dilated recollection of growing up with James.

Thanks also to Nick Carroll for letting me reprint his fine Tracks-published Mitch Thorson profile, and here’s a two-plus-minute video sampler of Mitch looking like somebody who should have gone Top 10 but just wasn’t bastardy enough. Mitch grew up and learned to surf on Rottnest Island, 11 or so miles off the coast from Fremantle, Western Australia, and until 90 seconds ago I would have picked Rottnest as a Top Five spot to ride out the virus. Whoops! 

Lastly, a couple of subscribers got in touch last week to say their EOS search results were coming up blank, even for high-traffic names like Simon Anderson and Kelly Slater. I was unable to reproduce the issue. If you have a moment, can you run a search or two, and report back to me if the results seem off?

Thanks everybody, maintain distance, and see you next week!

Matt