Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pop Surf Culture: Moondoggie's Short, Glorious Ride

A somewhat depressing theme begins to emerge from the heaps of great documentary books appearing these days, namely, that ALL THE COOL STUFF IS OVER.

Such is the case with the subject of Pop Surf Culture (Santa Monica Press Books, 2008) by Brian Chidester and Domenic Priore (Priore also being the creator of Dumb Angel Gazette). Here the authors successfully delineate a history and cultural commentary on that brief, early era in surfing--what they term the Bohemian Surf Boom--before it was overrun by the jocks, ugly clothing, godawful music, and corporate sponsorship that now dominate that scene. So what you get here is a great look at the golden years, mainly the period between the mid-1950s to 1970. And, much like modern surfing pioneer Bob Simmons, who for decades combed the California coast on a perpetual search for uncharted surf spots, Chidester and Priore have combed the annals of surf mags, movies, music, and ephemera. In Pop Surf Culture they’ve assembled their findings into the definitive book on the subject, one that’s as entertaining as it is graphically rich.

Among the highlights of Pop Surf Culture is the chapter on Mickey “da Cat” Dora, the original Malibu surf punk, whose story of unmatched surfing mastery, party crashing, media pranks, global lamming from the man, and finally jail time, earns a place in the cool hall of fame. Also, readers would be hard-pressed to find more comprehensive guides to essential surf records, movies, and vintage mags than those presented here.

So yes, another great document about another extinct American scene. Although, on a more upbeat note, the book closes by hinting that a few youngbloods known as the Mollusk Crew (associated with the Mollusk Surf Shop of SF, CA, but there’s even one in Williamsburg!) are currently picking up the “bohemian” torch again.

Pop Surf Culture cover art by Frank Kozik
Surfink sleeve art by --do ya really need to be told?
My Son the Surf Nut sleeve art by Rick Griffin

The Beach Boys - "Moon Dawg"
The Trashmen - "King of the Surf"
Ronnie & the Daytonas - "California Bound"
Jack Nitzche - "The Lonely Surfer"
The Ventures - "The Lonely Sea"

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