The Great Hamster of Alsace (crow) Sun 12 Jun 11 19:26
<comber> has talked about surfing in Ireland. I had no idea!
Michael Scott Moore (mikesmoore) Mon 13 Jun 11 00:47
Hah, thanks. Japan made it hard not to write about food. And the Irish by now are really proud of their waves.
Ed Ward (captward) Mon 13 Jun 11 01:10
One of the things that will probably surprise a lot of people is the revelation that surfing isn't always done in the ocean. I wasn't as surprised as I might have been because I'd already discovered the bizarre (to me) scene at the Eisbach because it's on a main street by the big art museums, one of which I was headed to. This is a stretch in a stream which is mostly underground in downtown Munich which is, apparently, a good test of skills. Then there was the Severn Bore in England. Any more famous river-surfing spots out there?
Michael Scott Moore (mikesmoore) Mon 13 Jun 11 05:11
The wave in Munich really is tough, because it feels backwards: You fight to stay in one place, not move forward. It's like a treadmill. And the wave happens to be fast. But the Severn Bore, which is a tidal surge up the Severn River that becomes a rideable wave several times a year, competes with a few other tidal bores around the world for the boast of "longest wave ever ridden." That's another reason I wrote about the UK. These guys who surf it, the bore chasers, are basically a lot of eccentric Englishmen who get in the water and ride the wave until they fall, then swim out to their cars and drive upriver to a spot where they can catch the wave again. It's loads of fun. There are bores up plenty of other rivers, particularly in France. But the one on the Amazon is strong and attracts good South American surfers who swap endurance records with the Brits. The Qiantang River in China supposedly has the biggest tidal bore in the world, but the authorities will arrest you for surfing it. The Colorado River used to get a surge up from the Gulf of Mexico, but not since the Hoover Dam. Back in the day it was called the "burro" and it was the bane of riverboats. I'm fairly confident no one ever surfed it, though.
view from prescription hill (cjb) Mon 13 Jun 11 09:42
This past Saturday morning, I swear I saw a copy of the Reno-Gazette with a front page photo of somebody riding the Truckee River! Unfortunately, I can't find it now in their on-line edition/archive. And, I'm still having a hard time getting around the concept. But having read your book, I wonder if someone came over from Munich and brought the idea to the Truckee, where nature provides plenty of "waves" when the water is running strong over huge boulders. Anyway, your book is going to be in Australia. I'm sending my copy off to one of my "brothers" in Adelaide, to the fellow who let me use the board he'd shaped there, at home, in '64. Actually, I think he was quite glad to palm off the long, heavy board he'd made to his new, exchange student, "brother" and use the lighter one he'd bought. I never did manage to stand up on the beast; and after it nearly knocked me unconscious a couple of times during my first experience in 6-8' waves, I switched to body surfing. But, enough of my personal experience. I've really enjoyed your writing style - it is an excellent example of how well New Journalism can work - and I'm sure my "brother" will enjoy it too.
Craig Louis (craig1st) Mon 13 Jun 11 12:37
Old buddy of mine surfed Uluwatu incessantly in the early 70's. We met at a martial arts school where we both were doing some long, long courses of early morning breathing exercises - so, of course, there were some talks about spiritual this and that. He repeated a few times, as I recall, that there was something about riding in the tube that he had not experienced since, until doing lots of breathing meditation over a long period. I'm going to send him your book, Michael. He's surfing the Bay of Biscay these days, and I know he'll enjoy it.
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 13 Jun 11 16:09
Here's a little aside -- dog owner culture is getting more intense and indulgent in California, but one of the results is that dogs are getting good at new non-hunting sports. (Yes, dogs were bred for sport hunting and racing long ago, of course.) Canine surfing does not seem to favor a specific breed, so far... This is great fun: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/family/pets/8557722/Dogs-take-to-the-waves-for-Cali fornian-surfing-competition.html>
Ed Ward (captward) Tue 14 Jun 11 11:49
I'll tell you one thing that Sweetness and Blood did for me, it re-interested me in the Israeli-Palestinian thing. I'd stopped reading about it long ago -- my reaction to theocracy anywhere, I guess -- and whether it was reading an early version of that chapter or your talking about it after you got back from that trip, it made me realize how pettily the Israelis exercised their advantage in the situation. Then I started reading more NYRB essays and it's back on my radar. Have things improved any on the surf side since you wrote that chapter?
Michael Scott Moore (mikesmoore) Tue 14 Jun 11 15:25
Thanks for all the comments. I really do hope the book is good travel writing or first-person journalism, not just good surf writing. And I'm entirely in favor of surfing dogs. The Gazans who surf are still at it, and the Israeli group Surfing 4 Peace has finally managed to deliver a load of surfboards. Now they're trying to bring Muslim surfing attire over for a handful of young women. That's a part of the story I didn't see. A few girls in Gaza have learned to surf. The problem is that as soon as they reach a certain age -- fourteen or so -- it's a matter of honor for them *not* to be seen in the water with men. The burqinis will help, but not entirely. Israeli officials were petty to me, but I happen to love Israel as an idea and a place. One Israeli reader said I'd shown the good aspects of Israel just by describing its surfers. I tried to do the same thing with my own country. The idea for the book came to me during the worst phase of the Iraq war, when I realized that surfing had already accomplished a number of the war's stated goals in subtler ways in other parts of the world. Americans don't realize it, but surfing has brought a notion of independence and freedom to some really remote countries without the need for aircraft carriers or Chinooks. @Craig: It's not macho to say this, but surfing's very similar to meditation. It requires absolute presence of mind. Otherwise you'd fall.
Craig Louis (craig1st) Tue 14 Jun 11 20:55
Thanks, Michael. I've heard that another similarity is that one needs to achieve a good stance, without being fixed. Or something like that.
Michael Scott Moore (mikesmoore) Thu 16 Jun 11 02:46
That's true, you have to find the right stance but then be ready for anything. I was just in California to read from the book, and I surfed with a bunch of young vets from the Los Angeles VA. A group in my hometown is giving them "surf therapy" to fight PTSD. The results are instant, because in the water you can't think about thirteen different kinds of threat from the enemy. It brings you right into the moment. Some guys who can't sleep without drugs go home from their first surf session and sleep a solid 6 hours.
Craig Louis (craig1st) Thu 16 Jun 11 19:04
That is damn great.
From Robert Newman (captward) Sat 18 Jun 11 03:03
Obviously you had to do a great deal of research and took down a great deal of memos and data for the book as you travelled around. How much of thee whole amount would you say actually went into the book ? My secondary question would therefore be, would there ever be a type of follow up to fill in some of the gaps in the book that you didn't have time to cover perhaps ? My next question is, "From all the places you have visited so far, what 3 phrases or things that people said to you stick out in your mind (without looking at notes or quoting from the book) ?" Lastly, "How do you view your role in terms of the book itself and the narrative therein ? Your style seems to be a mixture of several styles - journalistic raconteur, objective, subjective, narrative, historical nuances and so on." Will you be pursuing that multi-styled of writing in the future - a kind of fusion, if you will, or will you concentrate on specific styles ?" Greetings from the boys and girls in Japan Mike :) Peter Daniels was just here and said to say hi - we were back at the pool bar where we played and hooked up when you were here.
Julie Sherman (julieswn) Sat 18 Jun 11 09:51
<scribbled by julieswn Sat 18 Jun 11 09:51>
Julie Sherman (julieswn) Sat 18 Jun 11 09:53
The above comment that <captward> posted was from one of our off-WELL readers: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ed Ward (captward) Sat 18 Jun 11 10:53
As indicated in the pseud...
Michael Scott Moore (mikesmoore) Sat 18 Jun 11 11:21
Hah, it's clear to me who that comment was from. Only a fraction of my travel journal went into the book, but I find that early, first-impression stuff from the spiral-bound to be absolutely vital for travel writing. It has to be mixed with a large amount of research, but I knew the early notes would be important so the effort, in every place, was to get every detail down.
Michael Scott Moore (mikesmoore) Sat 18 Jun 11 11:26
That mixed form of nonfiction feels really comfortable for me, so I'll probably do it again. In fact I don't even think of it as mixed. To me it's just a question of getting the story down.
Michael Scott Moore (mikesmoore) Sat 18 Jun 11 11:34
Three most memorable quotes -- "Is there river surfing in California?" from a Munich river surfer (a question that stumped me). "Do you have any whiskey?" not quoted in the book, but asked by a fisherman in Morocco who found me dripping after a surf on a remote beach at the base of a cliff. He'd gathered that I was American. (On why surfing is like work) "Paddle padde, and sometimes -- big wave come!" Taro Takahashi, on the beach,near Rob's house in Chiba.
Michael Scott Moore (mikesmoore) Sat 18 Jun 11 11:35
@Rob -- Say hi to Peter and beat him at pool for me.
Ed Ward (captward) Sat 18 Jun 11 11:52
Right, while we're doing the fiction/nonfiction thing, why not say a few words about your novel, Too Much of Nothing, which I'm afraid is obscure to most of the folks reading this, and yet might be something they'd run off and buy if they knew about it.
Michael Scott Moore (mikesmoore) Sun 19 Jun 11 11:23
Well, it's a ghost story. A half-Jewish kid in Southern California is still hanging around his beach town, as a ghost, because a onetime friend killed him in mysterious circumstances. The friend was an unruly punk in the 80s who fell into selling coke on his high school campus. But he inadvertently gets close to the source of the cocaine, which in those days in greater Los Angeles had an unexpected political background (namely the Contra-CIA connection uncovered by Gary Webb). I started writing it in the late 90s when the Webb's version of the story was still taboo in some newspapers, like the LA Times.
Michael Scott Moore (mikesmoore) Sun 19 Jun 11 11:30
It sounds a bit stark, but it's told satirically. For me fiction is a fine art of exaggeration.
Ed Ward (captward) Sun 19 Jun 11 12:01
That's a nicely concise way of putting it. And, so, non-fiction would be..?
Michael Scott Moore (mikesmoore) Sun 19 Jun 11 14:33
A fine art of *not* exaggerating. That can be tough sometimes.
Members: Enter the conference to participate