Tag Archives: surf culture

APPROPRIATION: CLOTHING STORE MINES ‘80s L.A. SURF CULTURE TO HELP SELL DENIM

Junk Food Clothing and Levi’s, the iconic purveyor of denim jeans, had collaborated on a pop-up concept store in Venice, Los Angeles.

The store is located on fashionable Abbot Kinney Blvd. and is called Tees & Jeans. It offers customers personalization of the brands’ clothing, which is  growing fashion-and-style trend.

In the service of the selling of these clothes, and adding edge to the shop’s collabo idea, is a retail design concept and interior decor that rips from a specific era of Los Angeles’s pop cultural history: Gritty 1980s Venice and the SoCal surf and music scenes as epitomized by an obscure local band called the Surf Punks.

The clothing is sparsely displayed a minimalist space that feels raw, under-decorated and under-produced. But it is very much produced and every detail has been thought through.

These details include the vintage framed black-and-white promotional photos of the Surf Punks, founds objects like  traffic road signs, and used surfboards covered in dirty wax and scrawled with graffiti, deftly propped up in a corner of the store. (Yet another example of the over-employed cliche of a surfboard as decorative object in a shop or restaurant, as also seen here.)

SIGN OF THE TIMES: LAIDBACK SURFER HAND GESTURE GETS A SPICY UPDATE

“Shaka” or “Shaka, brah!” Maybe you’ve heard this expression. Maybe you’ve uttered those words in earnest salutation or ironically. Maybe you’re a core surfer living on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, and these words are your go-to, standard form of salutation. You use it all time without even really thinking about it. (For example, when you stride into Ono’s in Haleiwa for a pork sandwich, you offer a shaka to staff at the counter.)

In any case, the word “shaka” and its utterance are but only part of the communications protocol here. Those words are said with an accompanying hand gesture that might be more familiar to many readers than the words. 

The shaka hand gesture, sometimes referred to as the “hang loose” sign, is similar to the “devil horns” gesture associated with heavy metal music. But with the shaka, the pinky finger and thumb are extended outward from the palm while the index, middle and ring fingers are bent down into the palm.

With fingers configured as such, the hand is then raised or extended and often given a little back and forth wiggle or shake, a motion functioning like a wave of the hand, to emphasize and visibly highlight the message to its intended audience.

The gesture is one of positivity. It’s loved by most surfers but also loathed by some surfers, hence the use of the “ironic shaka.” The shaka is undeniably a part of surf culture and has its modern usage and cultural origins in the birthplace of  surfing: Hawaii.

But culture and its symbols evolve. The shaka in the pic above is part of a two-page graphical spread in the zine Can’t Steal Our Vibe that show the gesture altered as a mash-up with the standard “f*ck you!” middle finger gesture.

In this new versions, the extended pinky of the shaka is pulled in, and the middle finger is extended. On first try, it’s not an easy gesture to make with natural fluidity, compared to the shaka.

But no matter. It’s what the gesture means that’s important here. And what does it mean? That’s the beauty of it: For now it’s subject to interpretation. And if the creators have a denotation for it, its esoteric.

We love  that the “F-You-Shaka” hybrid brings together the insouciance, anger and insult of the middle finger with the friendly, laidback “everyone’s a bro” vibe of the trad surfer shaka. These are opposing sentiments and may confuse.

The mashup, we think, is more ironic and captures even more accurately the contemporary core of surf culture: Its rebel semiotics and its knowing cues and tribal codes.

Can’t Steal Our Vibe, BTW, is a zine published occasionally by Lone Wolfs (sic), a surf brand and shop and music studio in Venice, Los Angeles, that uses the new “F-You-Shaka” as a kind of logo on stickers. The title of the zine is taken from a graffiti-like, spray-painted message written on a panel that covered a door that had been shattered in an attempted burglary at Lone Wolfs in 2016. The shop has also spray painted the phrase as a tagline on the side of the store.

CULTURE: DOES WATCHING SURF FILM “FREE JAZZ VEIN” UP YOUR OH-SO-RETRO STREET CRED?

The answer, savvy reader, is “No, no it won’t.”  Whatever level of individual street cred one has will not be intrinsically changed by watching an awesome, super cool, retro-style surf video. But if there is a surf video that might move the needle slightly to and fro for a hot nano-second before it goes back to its original compass position, it would be this one. “Free Jazz Vein” is the second feature surf film by Argentine filmmaker-surfer Tin Ojeda. (His first was titled “Expencive Porno Movie” (sic), and it’s a classic for  the ages.) It’s as beautiful as his first film. We love it.

CLICHE UPDATE: YET ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF SURFBOARD AS DECOR

A few months ago we posted on the phenomena of shops and restaurants upgrading their space with the simple act of adding a surfboard as decorative object or artwork to that space. Many pix were included in the post as examples of this trend. This past weekend we discovered yet another example at a  casual seafood restaurant in Newport Beach, California called Bear Flag (killer fish tacos, btw). There, mounted on the wall, is a beautiful, vintage single-fin longboard surfboard with the restaurant’s California-inspired Bear Flag logo laminated onto the bottom of the board. 

DECK THE WALLS: SKATEBOARDS AS DECOR – THE HORROR!

There’s really no excuse for this. Unless it’s a college dormitory or your parents’ basement or the living room of a pro skater or the place of business for somebody connected to the skateboarding industry (and by extension the surf industry), skateboards as decorative wall art is no bueno, brah!

You see, savvy reader, once you’re past a certain age and a certain living circumstance (i.e., you’ve moved out of your college dorm room or parents’ basement into your own apartment or one-bedroom condo) your choice of decor and artwork should show that you’re adulting, and we mean adulting hard! Continue reading

SIDE HUSTLES: WE LIKE TO SKETCH

Yes, it’s true, savvy reader. Sometimes we here at Global Graphica like to pick up a pen, pencil or, preferably, a Sharpie and make little drawings of things, everyday objects, people, faces, and so on. We have a habit of making sketches of surfboards and surfers riding waves, as in the example pictured here. And we do so in our Moleskine notebook or on any available paper surface. In the case of the surfer in the sketch above, we drew that on a paper tablecloth while dining out and killing time as we waited for post-dinner dessert to arrive.

Daydreaming A Little Daydream at Dreamy Daydream

The space at Daydream Coffee and Surf in Costa Mesa, California is great, but it’s missing a few things that would make it perfect: A bed, a TV, and a set of keys to the space with our name on it.

Unbearable Cuteness x Freakishness: Artwork at a Venice Beach Surf Shop

Mollusk is the wonderful name of a wonderful surf shop in Venice Beach, Los Angeles. It’s one of three such shops – the others are in San Francisco and the LA neighborhood of Silver Lake. These locations should tell you a lot about Mollusk. There’s a willfully underplayed and potent hipster factor at work here, and the shop has got a reputation for being intimidatingly cool for a certain subset of young adult and teenage surfers, who can sometimes be found lingering outside, tentative before entering this small but influential shrine of good-taste surf retail. (Clearly these kids have issues, but, hey, that’s on the kids, right?)

Mollusk is no ordinary surf shop and thank god for that, because comparatively speaking most shops suck in their seen-one-you’ve-most-certainly-seen-them-all ordinariness. Mollusk has fucking style. The gang that run it have taste, grit, and a keenly curated collection of hand-shaped surfboards. This taste extends to the decor and the artwork of the shop, like the painting pictured below of an unbearably cute if freakish half-furry creature and half-neoprene-clad humanoid surfer smoking a pipe while cruising a wave. The artwork is in the surfboard loft of the Venice shop, and it speaks thick volumes about Mollusk’s style.

Vintage Surfboards

The artwork on these beautiful vintage 1970s-era surfboards is surprisingly well-preserved even though the boards themselves show some of the wear and tear that comes with use and age, bearing scars of repaired dings and discoloration. The boards evoke a time when surf culture was evolving and surfing was largely seen in the U.S. as a past time for rebels, outsiders and underground creative types. These are among hundreds of boards on view at the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center in San Clemente, California, which is worth a visit if you’re ever passing through the area.

Locals Only

    Last weekend, we stumbled upon this throw pillow with the words “Locals Only” embroidered on it at the Mollusk Surf Shop in Silver Lake in Los Angeles. The pillow is a funny, cute mash-up of old-school, cliched surf-culture sentiment and a folksy, homespun style more fitting in grandma’s living room than a surfer fort at Lunada Bay. It’s not the kind of item that the average surf shop would stock, but then Mollusk is not an average surf shop and Silver Lake is not your average surf shop locale. It’s not a laidback seaside surf haven. That there’s even a surf shop in Silver Lake at all is an anomaly.

    Mollusk originated in San Francisco where it made a name for itself that traveled far beyond the Bay Area. It established a style and a reputation for great taste. And for selling interesting, quality surfboards from shapers who made their boards by hand and were influenced by retro designs. Whether it was a shortboard, longboard for a 1970s-inspired “mid-length” board with a single fin, by and large many of these surfboard makers themselves appreciated design and style and their aesthetic tastes were reflected in their boards. (And, by the way, yes, we surf and we enjoy nerding out on this stuff.)

    Then Mollusk opened up branches in LA. One is in Venice, LA’s infamous and gritty (if now largely gentrified) beach town. It’s not a mecca of great surfing nor great waves. In fact, the surf at Venice Beach sucks most of the time. But it is a block from the beach and central for the greater LA metro area, and it’s a hub for a creative surfer community. Surfers still paddle out into the waves at the Venice breakwater most days in spite of the poor surf conditions.

    Then there’s Silver Lake. It doesn’t have Venice’s location or vibe, but there’s a niche demographic overlap. SLake is home to a class of fashionable creative types (music, film, art, advertising, design), both the moneyed kind and the less-moneyed aspiring kind, and it’s a magnet for a generation of hipsters, some of whom surf or pretend to. Mollusk is right at home here and yet it’s also totally legit, albeit with those ironic, stylish “Locals Only” throw pillows strategically placed in the store.

    “Locals Only” has come a long way.  It was the kind of thing that one often encountered back in the ’70s and ’80s in the form of crudley spray-painted graffiti near remote or hardcore surf spots along Pacific Coast Highway or at a handlulf of certain “localised” beaches in the string of seaside communities up and down the California coast or in Hawaii. It was a warning to outsiders, one tinged with menace, not to surf that beach … or else. This localism was the harder-edged face of surf culture. So to see those words rendered on the kind of soft, cuddly pillow you might cozy up to on a sofa while sipping a cup of tea and savoring the prose of a Maya Angelou novel, well, it’s funny and brilliant.  Its trick is how it both deflates the inherent threat and danger associated with those words while in another way making those words even scarier.