15 December 2008

"This Is The Last Song I Sung- I Wore Amphibian Skin"*

I got a hand written letter the other day. It was delivered by carrier pigeon from my dear friend J Rad who is currently holed up in Rockaway, Oregon. I'm going to share it with you before I return to where I was dragged from, kicking and screaming. 

Dear Pete,

Around 2012, the world will end. There is no longer any doubt about this. If we didn't so stringently subscribe to linear measurements of time, I'd say it is a fact. This incredibly unsustainable lifestyle, centered around economics and its subsequent exploitation and exhaustion of natural resources will collapse. No stimulus package, recycling effort, alternative energy, liberal politician, or reform can save us. Nothing short of a huge de-centralization of power, dam explosions and currency bonfires can salvage us.

For 99% of human existence, we have been nomadic gatherer-hunters. Life was sometimes scary buy also close to nature. More and more anthropological studies are concluding that primitive peoples also had a lot more intelligence, free time and more of an egalitarian outlook than s/he was once given credit for. In other words, gather-hunter cultures were arguably a lot 'healthier' than our current culture that is tied up and a seemingly ever-ending quest for unchecked scientific/ technological 'developments’ that further remove us from nature and create a world of problems that we again look to more science and technology to save us from.

Our basic programming hasn't changed. We still have a desire to get wild, hunt, take risks, run, jump, leap while we are stuck on our MySpace pages, blogs, behind the work desk, hunched over in a heated house, hidden from the cold starry night sky that once inspired us.

We entrap ourselves deeper and deeper in urban labyrinths, crushing our human desires, stressing ourselves out in fossil fuel burning metal coffins on wheels, isolated from our neighbors. Something has to give. And it will.

In the meantime, the only meaningful ‘thing’ civilization, technology, science has given us is, Skateboarding. What? What about language and art? Nope- they are just barriers to real life and direct experience. They represent symbolic thought, nothing more. Penicillin? Sliced bread? Radio? Air travel? Space travel? Electricity? Prozac? Viagra? The Internet? Nope, all those are solutions to problems created by civilization in the first place. Poetry? Religion? Without the horror of civilization, there’d be no need for them. Life would be one big ceremony, one big poem, one righteous song.

To be fair, skateboarding is the same, another band-aid solution, to keep us sane while we remain cut-off from our life source. But it is also a medium that glides us through the urban labyrinths that we’ve holed ourselves up in. A way to tap into our wild nature while, choking in concrete and car fumes. Perhaps it’s a meager substitution for hunting wild beasts or perhaps it’s a substitute for primitive play. No rules, structure, arenas or teams, just reckless abandon in the jungle for the sake of it.

Pic taken from NYC based 5boro skates.

I’ve always told myself that if things go well post-2012, there will be no more need for skateboarding. I have always suspected that I will know I have reached utopia when my desire to tear through the streets has diminished.

As some of you may know, civilization has pretty much already left Rockaway Oregon. We are over three years ahead of the game. The only thing holding us back is the rest of you. I have spent the last few years in exile from my homeland preparing to live off the grid, off the land and ocean. Currently, I’m squatting a foreclosed apartment overlooking a Hossegor style sandbar and a jetty that is currently lined up as a beautiful right hand point. The surf isn’t going anywhere and I know after the collapse, I will still need to play.

With this in my mind, I began to really understand that surfing, as deeply embedded in civilization as it is, can also help us make the transition back to a more desirable state of existence. It is now believed that nautical navigation and the cooking of tuberous vegetables was happening over 800,000 years ago. The knowledge was there a long time before we settle, domesticated and softened ourselves. In the last few hundred years the division and specialization of labor has made most of us horribly incompetent and the basic skills needed to keep ourselves alive in our raw state. Even with all our scientific and technological ‘advances,’ and largely because of them, we are vastly inferior to our ancestors. Each new ‘development’ has robbed us of more profound skills. With language we lost deeper forms of communication, that were unlimited by dictionary definitions and cultural biases. Relearning all these skills is nigh on impossible. Some of us are making efforts to surf Alias, ancient Hawaiian surfcraft, devoid of dangerous chemicals, materials and even skegs.

However, I can’t go that far. Not because I could not rip on one if I wanted to but because the Future Primitive, is going to have to have some recovery time from these last 10,000 years of brutal civilized life. We can’t just unlearn all we’ve learnt. We can’t jump straight back into the garden and return to innocence. It will take several generations to even start working towards this. I can’t just cough up all the pollutants of the city and hope to start re-learning to breathe properly. I can’t tell my mind to stop thinking in words and I can’t tell my leg muscles to forget skateboarding.

As a result, I am going to set about making my last tool. A sub 6’, very wide, very thick neo-primitive surf craft with shallow twin-keels of some form.

This surfboard will be my thesis for 2009 and by 2012 I will start unlearning language. My new poetry will be low-center of gravity turns that will generate, not use up, speed.

These surfboards, resurrected by Richard Kenvin’s research into Bob Simmons, were bore of the false-utopia of post-war California. Before California and surfing, became the center of this horrible machine, there was a short time when civilization appeared to work. Peace and prosperity, time of leisure and play and the pursuit of ultimate freedom in an idyllic setting was very real for some people for a limited time.
Jason Powers Collage

This is where/ when Bob Simmons began to build his transcendental displacement hulls. Alas, nothing lasts. The dream crashed. Simmons’ designs were lost. Surfing lost and according to Kenvin, skateboarding inherited its radical transcendental possibilities. Of course, as we’ve already discussed, skateboarding relies on the temporary medium of civilization. But now things have come full circle. 2012 is upon us and Simmons’ designs are being re-built.

This surfboard will help us wean ourselves away from fins as we continuously sand the keels down, shallower and shallower. And thus it will inevitably help us wean ourselves away from civilization and towards a more noble state of being.

Photo taken from the SurfArt website

See you on the other side. See you at the beach.

Yours Truly, J Rad.


A Silver Mt Zion *Lungfish Tragedy Black Eyes John Zerzan The Garden of Peculiarities By Jesus Sepulveda Hydrodynamica