Going through our archives, I found this post I originally wrote in 2012 and am pleased to update it for summer 2020, which I think we can all agree is the strangest summer in any of our lifetimes. One year ago I’d decided that 10 years in New York were enough and was planning to move to Charleston, SC, where I’d wanted to move as a young man. In the end I made a u-turn and moved to Newport a few months before the virus broke. I looked forward to the summer and the chance to surf, but had no idea I’d become a surf bum. Everything’s indoors is canceled or masks mandatory, so there’s really nothing else to do. If I don’t end up staying here, I’ll always remember the summer of 2020 — for so many reasons.
And now on to what I wrote eight years ago, with no idea where life would take me. Which is what makes the ride so beguiling. — CC
* * *
… For about five years while living in Los Angeles, my favorite summer activity was surfing. Swimming in a natural body of water — ocean, lake, river — is one of life’s great simple pleasures. Likewise, sitting on a longboard near Santa Monica pier, with the ferris wheel in the background and dolphins zipping by while you wait for the next set to come in, was one of Southern California’s great pleasures. For six weeks of the year I could get by without any wet suit (some wear them year-round), and the alternating feeling on your torso of the sun beating down and the bracing salt water upped the experience tenfold.
Released in 1966, “Endless Summer” is still considered the greatest surf film ever made. It’s a documentary that never fails to inspire a zest for life, no matter how landlocked or water-phobic you are. Check it out if you haven’t.
Though hardly Ivy League, the film does have some cool patches of midcentury style, with suntans and Wayfarers and relaxed sportswear. You’ll see surfer Mike Hynson in penny loafers and white socks and Robert August in a salmon-colored short sleeve buttondown with third button.
But even more radical than the changes that have come to surfing since 1966, with the graceful, harmonious riding of the waves on longboards replaced by the frantic slashing against the ocean that is shortboarding, is what the young Californians behind “Endless Summer” wore on their trip around the world: suits and ties. Below are August and Hynson — who appear at several points in the film in their navy and charcoal suits — and filmmaker Bruce Brown, with sneakers and cigarette:
Though Brown used surf-rock band The Sandals for the “Endless Summer” soundtrack, the music for his earlier surf films was provided by saxophonist Bud Shank, one of those jazz cats who knew how to rock (or rather swing) the buttondown, as seen in the top photo and here below:
And I love this illustration:
Summers don’t last forever, so make the most of 2012’s while you can. You might even want to give surfing a try; it’s not as hard as you might think, and the exertion-to-exhilaration ratio makes learning to surf well worth it. Or you could start digging jazz. “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” a great summer movie set in the Ivy heyday and should provide some inspiration.
In closing, while preparing this post some lines from poet AE Housman came to mind. No surprise, as a quick search revealed that this happened on a summer post from three years ago, and I’d made the same mistake back then. The poem’s actually about spring, not summer. Regardless, the point stands, so here it is again. Your summers are a finite resource, so, to paraphrase another poet, drink them to the lees. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
Poem II (”Loveliest of trees…”)
By AE Housman
From “A Shropshire Lad,” 1896
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.