“Taylor Steele Likes it Rough” and “Searching for the Perfect Phrase” are the latest History of Surfing chapters. I recently watched the first 15 minutes of Steele’s career-launching video Momentum, and it always cheers me up to remember that the first surfer onscreen isn’t Slater or Machado or any of the other hairless young-stud teens who would later collectively be celebrated as the Momentum Generation. No, the first surfer we get is Tom Curren—primary member of the Curren Generation—at his magnificent full-grown early-’90s best. Giving Tom the Momentum opening slot was a class move by Taylor.
“Searching for the Perfect Phrase” is mostly about “Playing Doc’s Games,” William Finnegan’s massive two-part 1992 New Yorker article, which grabbed me not just for its fluid and muscular prose, but because I had more or less replaced Finnegan as Mark “Doc” Renneker’s running partner at Ocean Beach, meaning the article was filled with moments that spoke directly to my day-to-day life, which was thrilling and a little disconcerting. I was also low key upset that this Finnegan dude was writing three levels above me on a subject that I felt was my turf.
(Sidenote: Mark and Bill had been friends going back to their college days together at UCLA. Mark hated “Doc’s Games,” felt he’d been ambushed, and went through the piece line by line, circling the bits he felt were unfair, including one description where Finnegan describes Mark’s beard as “unkempt.” Because I was on Team Renneker at the time, I looked dismayed on his behalf when Mark read this out loud to me, and told him his beard was very kempt.)
(Sidenote #2: Five years later I wrote a Surfer’s Journal article about how surf-lit was on the upswing and used “Doc’s Games” as Exhibit A. Finnegan got in touch to say how much he liked the Journal piece, we became email pals, and a year or so later had a delicious outdoor meal together in Bridgehampton, where he told me about his ongoing tennis rivalry with Martin Amis. I kept my head on but was riding a massive fanboy high. The happy upshot of all this was that Bill wrote the intro for the print version of Encyclopedia of Surfing.)
Apologies for the brevity of this week’s Sunday Joint, which is really more of a Sunday Roach. Next week will also be light on new posts, but it looks like we’re ready at last to push the big green button on EOS 2.0, which should come with a free miner’s lamp for all subscribers because that’s how far down the surf-world rabbit hole you’re about to go.
Thanks everybody, and see you next Sunday.
PS: Forgot to mention this new Bob Cooper video. Much to love here, but my favorite moment is Bob and his bearded understudy at 1:41. Talk about fanboys!
[Taylor Steele photo by Steve Baccon]