Coffee and apple fritter in the Seal Beach pier parking lot with the Saint and crew under a thick, gray overcast, very relaxing, then suited up, grabbed the beautiful new Takayama hibiscus red 9-0 longboard, tucked it under my arm and walked the wet sand all the way up the beach, past three lifeguard towers, while the willets and sandpipers stutter-legged over the low tide- flat, pecking for whatever they eat for breakfast. So peaceful. I felt so happy. Surfed the jetties at the river (Ray Bay, ton of sting rays–I didn’t put my feet down once), caught ride after ride, some pretty long. Just a few guys out there, all mellow, talking, trading waves. Love the new, old board. Tomorrow reading in Laguna Beach, then up the coast to Santa Barbara and northward. Gonna keep the rental SUV for this part of the trip so I can keep the board with me and surf every day.
Seal Beach, Orange County
Yesterday just breathing salt air and half asleep all day, so glad to be here. Pretty strenuous coming across. The Seal Beach Kook party was Tuesday evening, so I tried to fly the little Cessna out of Santa Fe at dawn on Monday, but got denied due to monsoon storms. That left me with one day to get all the way across. I showed up at the Santa Fe airport just at daybreak on Wednesday, looked pretty clear, satellite imagery showed an open path over Phoenix, so I hopped in and turned the key…dead. Completely. Dang. Found a guy with a pickup and we ran jumper cables and jumped the plane. Started!
“Hey,” I yelled over the roar, “you think this is gonna charge up as I fly?”
“Hope so!” he said. Me too.
Took off at sunrise and headed for Phoenix. Stopped once for fuel at a one pump high desert airport called St. John, flew west, big uplift ahead and…solid cloud deck. Thunderstorms everywhere. No way through. Shoot. This is not normal desert weather this time of year. Turned around, had to dodge a thunderstorm. Saw myself missing the reading, the OC launch. Figured I’d head north to Flagstaff, try there. It was clear. Dodged more storms by the Grand Canyon and came into Palm Springs with a huge relief. Only the LA Basin and the most congested airspace in the world to get through. When I landed in Long Beach and taxied up to the Long Beach FLight School, the guy in coveralls driving the little tug, said, “Peter? Welcome!” The air operations director for the flying club was reading Kook and loving it!
Had just enough time to shower, grab a book and get to the party overlooking the Seal Beach pier. Sold out all the books in first half hour. Mike, the Saint of Seal Beach, our first surf instructor, made up gorgeous Kook t-shirts with the book’s cover all over the front. We had a blast. Everyone from a surfing plumber to the CEO of Mattel was there, all stoked to read the book. Some folks had already read it and were lit up. One man said he was teaching it to his summer school kids and they loved it because it was real and honest and funny. It inspired them. All of this made me remember why we write a book.
Just got this email from Hawaii. Sweetest message I ever received from a stranger.
Oh, my, what a great book! It takes me back so many years, just after returning from two tours in Viet Nam…phew….what a great, fun, tear jerking kind book! I had grown up in Seal Beach area, rode Harbour surfboards, as well as Bruce Jones from Sunset, and Robert August from Huntington Beach….I have surfed the Cliffs, Bolsa Chica, and all those wonderful breaks down south while travelling in my 1969 Ford Econoline Van…built in bed across the wheel wells, storage under the bed, surfboard racks across the inside…each holding one board with tight straps or two with ropes….propane stove and lanterns…trips to Baja….K-38, K-55, etc….oh, my, Peter, you hit the mother lode in my heart and memory bank! I live in Hawaii, have taught school for 34 years, will retire next June…surf regularly…9’0″, 9’2″, 2 9’6″ s 9’10” and three 10’0s. Yes, the older we get the longer the boards. I remember about 10 years ago, when I was about 51-52 I found that I needed to have a long board. I bought an 8’0…yes, an 8’0….I was EMBARRASSED! Then, at surfing other spots here on the Big Island, a 9’0″ was needed….got it…rode the hell out of it…then, after seeing lots of older guys riding 10’0″, I bought one….it was so degrading at that time…yes, as you said in “Kook,” lots of old dudes hang around their cars in the parking lot and talk about old times—so true! I am 61 1/2 and often come to the beach at 530 am and have coffee with my mates, all surfers, but my same age….we have stoke, but not willing to paddle out at daylight….need to access the tide, wind conditions, etc before we choose to paddle out. We have a fellah, from “Kook” era, worked for Hobie, shaped boards, etc. Now he lives here and makes boards, old style….10’0’s, plenty of concave, single fins, etc…the boards I have mentioned before are all his! I am so happy to write this and send this your way as you brought back so many memories via your book. I do feel, Pete, that everyone is a Kook…beginner, intermediate, and even pros…we all have our “kooK” days and just smile and grin as we pearl, wipe out, fall off in soup, etc etc. I thank you for your efforts, bud….I will tell everyone I know to read this. My wife bought it “early” on Amazon and she just received it today…I am standing in my garage, surf shop, ding repair shop….surfboard tables for my computer I am writing you on and just beaming with pleasure after reading the book. Ride on, bruddah….mahalo for the memories, phil Heavenston Ps. my wife yelled at me and told me to tell you she has read the rest of your books and loves them…total stoke, bruddah. aloha
Wear the sun in your heart, ride a wave each day if you can, OR remember one you have ridden, and cultivate feelings of happiness and peace to everyone you meet…live aloha, phil
Flew the little Cessna on the first leg of the Kook barnstormer reading tour today, from Denver to Santa Fe. Had learned to fly in 20 days in Montana for a story, another Kook adventure, and this was the beginning of my first big cross country trip. Glorious early morning, skirting north of the Spanish Peaks, down over the flanking meadows of the San Luis Valley, along the riven canyon of the Taos Box. All well. A few whispy clouds, windrows edging the farms throwing long shadows. Spoke to Air Traffic Control in Santa Fe who told me to land on runway 35. Just as I was turning for my final approach he called, “Triple Three Alpha, you’re landing on 2! You are on final for 2!” Landing on the wrong runway is not advised. He made a split second decision. “No wind, landing on 2 approved, go ahead.” Whoops. I landed. The guy in the tower, I knew, was loved by his mother. He is a great dad. He has a dog. He has a sense of humor. The Kook abides.
Wednesday morning surfed a river mouth in Mexico, the only one out for the first hour of daylight, soft rain on glassy water, the mountains shrouded, pelicans gliding by in pairs wingtips a feather’s breadth off the water. A dark stirring a few feet away and then—a sea turtle’s head out of the water, to say hello. Fritz came out for an hour and then I was alone again. Intoxicated with peace. Caught a last wave in, the last wave of the trip, rode it to the gravel beach, jumped off, somehow kept footing, and trotted up over the stony berm, a thud and clatter, and three horses were tearing by, nipping eachother, full gallop, and soaking wet—I guess from crossing the river. They swerved and ran into the palms. Laughter welling up, its own groundswell of glee. Couldn’t contain the beauty of the morning.
Spent a week in Louisiana, at the Unified Command Center, where the Coast Guard and BP and NOAA and scores of other agencies are frantically trying to contain the spill and save animals and the marsh–then out to the coast. Devastating. Remote beaches unprotected and oiled; herons, egrets, pelicans coated with no help in sight. Even the pristine looking marshes–sloughs and estuaries tucked into green and waving marsh grass, black skimmers flying and keening–even these had the lightest sheen, burned the tongue. Nesting season. This is the world the fledglings will enter. Worst thing I’ve ever seen. But many dedicated people down there giving everything to try to salvage what they can of their home…
The story will be in the September issue of Men’s Journal.
Now in Mexico, in clean water, surfing and getting ready for the launch of KOOK (the book.) So great to be back IN the water, the calamitous, merciless and forgiving sea. With UN-oiled pelicans plunging a few feet away. Life is strange and rich. Good grace help us all.
Welcome to my website. I’ll be posting updates here. Now on the Louisiana Gulf Coast, covering the oil spill for Men’s Journal. I’ll be back soon.
KOOK Barnstormer Book Tour
Please come join the launch
KOOK: What Surfing Taught Me About Love, Life, and Catching the Perfect Wave
July 13th, Tattered Cover LODO, 7:30 pm
1628 16th St. at Wynkoop
Reading and Signing
Bring friends. Let’s pack the house on a summer night.
Publisher’s Weekly just gave it a Starred Review. Called it “Gripping”, “A powerful memoir”, “About love”. Hudson News is featuring it in its Summer Reading Promotion at airports across the country. Pam Houston wrote, “a deeply impassioned stand on behalf of marine-life, and of all life. Kook makes the dangerously unhip suggestion that it is still possible to find meaning–even transcendence–in the ever diminishing natural world.”
I’ll be having a drink at the Wynkoop Brewing Company afterward, upstairs at the billiard room bar, for all who wish to join me.
For those in Boulder, come to:
Pearl Street Mall
July 15th, 7:30
And for friends out of state, I’ll be making a reading tour to New Mexico and up the West Coast in late July and early August. Can’t wait to see everybody. Here’s the schedule:
Tattered Cover – reading and signing – 7:30pm
Boulder Bookstore – reading and signing – 7:30pm
Santa Fe, NM
Garcia Street Books- outdoor reading – 2pm
Seal Beach, CA
Book Party at surf shop TBD – will bring in outside bookseller
Huntington Beach, CA
Barnes & Noble #2743 – reading and signing – 7pm
Laguna Beach, CA
Laguna Beach Books – reading and signing – 5pm
San Luis Obispo, CA
Borders #537– reading and signing – 7pm
Capitola Books – reading and signing – 7:30pm
Corte Madera, CA
Book Passage – reading and signing – 4pm
Elliott Bay Books – reading and signing – 7pm