Stanley's Surf Gear


Surf Stories

UPDATED 09/08/2009

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Excerpts of a mystery novella by Greg Goodwin

Stanley's Now

Stanley's isn't anymore. Both the seaside steak house named Stanley's and the beach in front of it are gone. The concrete tunnel under Highway 101 from the beach to the gone. Now there is the usual eight-lane highway and a stone seawall set out too far in the Pacific for the waves to break. The round swells hump into the seawall, aborted, denied from rolling into those green transparent tents that threw themselves into themselves, to die on the sand like perfect martyrs in the sun of the summer on the coast between Ventura and Santa Barbara.

Orange groves turn into tracts of houses, green hills become condo complexes, a row of Victorian houses by the beach becomes a Holiday Inn, movie theaters become churches, small town downtowns become shopping malls. And surf spots disappear. There's nothing left, no physical evidence, only memory which says this was not always this way, and when it was different, this happened here.

Stoned At Stanley's

What happened there started with Stanley's at its best--a hot, white-bright summer day, a bitchin', out-of-sight day. Bobby had scored a kilo of Mexican grass the day before and came to Stanley's with the pockets of his navy blue nylon jacket full of weed, dropping fistfuls into our hands as he cruised the dirt parking lot like psychedelic royalty dispensing favors.

The tunnel under the highway leading from the beach to the oil fields was the place. Crawl in from the white light of the beach, into a world of cool, of grey damp half-light, with the cars hissing just above your head, while you sat wrapped in the concrete quiet, slowly getting stoned, slowly becoming aware of everything around you, as the world moved closer to your eyes, as your thoughts turned visible, as you looked at your friends, smiling, falling into their eyes changing, turning into genuine palpable stonedness, and the cars just above your head, big American cars full of families on vacation, full of white bread healthiness, white rice blandness, baked potato brawn, orange juice vitality, cornfed confidence, red meat assurance, full of post-war prosperity, while other guys sat getting stoned in Vietnam, in the jungles, in the Saigon bars, on the white sand beaches, before they went out to kill and be killed, while the world turned, while the bombs fell, while the waves curled, the fish swam, while the bullets flew, the mine sweepers swept, the oil wells pumped, while the joint passes, shortening, burning your fingers as you pass it, burning your throat as you smoke it. Suddenly nothing but quiet, just heart beating, blood pumping, the world inside running like an electric city, a universe of skin, muscle and blood, neurons and synapses, all silently flashing into thick halos of body revolving around something invisible, flesh on the bone all hanging on the light behind your eyes, all hanging on whatever it is that starts the heart, keeps it beating and leaves when it ceases--the only true equality, the democracy of death making us all lost children under strange skies. Then crawling back from the tunnel, slowly, the light getting brighter and lighter, until you crawl into the bleached white ordinary sunlight, the carnival of voices on the beach, the roar of the waves, the sun on your skin, the hot sand burning your feet, the colors of bikinis, towels and trunks, the green waves pouring in, and suddenly you were there, alive, well and stoned at Stanley's.

Surfing At Stanley's

The day before had been unbelievable. No wind, in the 80's, waves four to six feet, perfectly shaped, designed by the aquatic engineers of Paradise, sent from some salt water Olympus beyond the off-shore rigs behind them, the wells pumping on the other side of the highway, all morning, all day, the waves pumping, the wells pumping, nature pushing, wells pulling, we riding into the afternoon, the sun backlighting each wave as the crowds thinned and it was just me and Bobby having Stanley's all to ourselves, until it was so glassy, green, gorgeous and alone that we let beautiful, delicious waves go by, leaning back on our boards and bowing to the sea with a "no thank you" to waves we would have fought for in a crowd, but now let go, like hunters sparing wild animals we had tracked for days, sitting and watching the waves break in their exotic, transparent ritual of sacrifice, unfolding, unmarred, pristine, throwing up steam and spray as they collapsed into the sand, the sun setting at our backs, the red sun dropping and cooling into the water, while Stanley's was etching memory, changing blood.

Twilight At Stanley's

Twilight, peach sky, oil-rigs black on the horizon, waves translucent, Bobby the only one out, black shape dropping in, ripping the wave in his busy, hyperactive style, never staying still, riding, dominating the wave's shape and movement. He climbed up the rocks into the dirt parking lot. He stood outside the car and shivered. I handed him a cigarette.
"How did I look?"
"Great waves."
"But how did I look?"
"You looked good, but not as good as the waves."
"Your "ride the wave, not the board," philosophy?"
"Yeah, you know, how can you perfect perfection?"
"I perfect it by being there, by realizing the moves in the wave."
"But they're your moves, not the wave's. The wave exists whether you are there or not. Harmonize, don't dominate."
"Acid talk."
"Hippy surfboy talk. It doesn't matter, it's perfect right now."
"Then what I did is perfect too, and what I'm saying right now is perfect, and these words, I don't know I'm going to say, will be perfect. . .REFRIGERATOR, NORGE, POPSICLE, STICK, HAMMER AND SICKLE, SURFERS OF THE WORLD THROW OFF YOUR CHAINS, YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT YOUR MINDS!"
"Perfecto mundo."

The sun was gone, all was dark at sea save the lights on the oil rigs, the glowing end of Bobby's smoke and the red neon "Stanley's" on the black sky.

Contest At Stanley's

I don't know if it was the dope, the sun, Bobby's board, the craziness of the night before, the acid I'd been taking, or what, but it was the worst contest of my life. It was to be my chance--if I did well, I would get free surfboards from a local shop and be "riding" for them. This was a singular honor, it would elevate my status immeasurably, and probably get me a cute girl friend. But I had gotten ripped in the tunnel, come out just before my heat, grabbed Bobby's board instead of mine, told myself that competition was a human disease, that it didn't matter who was the best, that the ocean was neutral, that fun was the answer, harmony the goal, and I fell, laughing off the nose of Bobby's blue board into cool green waves, having a great time, losing my chance for free surfboards, cute girl friends and elite surfer status. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

It's part of a little mystery novella.

Greg Goodwin
Copyright © 1994-2009 [Stanley's]. All rights reserved

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