Archive for June, 2009

Flaming Arrow

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009
Social Consciousness

Social Consciousness

In my travels and also in my work here in the US, I often have projects and events thrown at me, or that I simply stumble across. Some I embrace, some I do not. Behind each of these somewhere is a person holding a bow. They have started a fire. They do this with a flaming arrow.

I have a friend here who works for the Ventura Visitors Bureau. Her name is Kathleen Fitzgerald. Her bedroom name (the name we all use for her in private) is Firestarter. What she does is identify the need, come up with a potential idea, launch a flaming arrow. That arrow lands in front of the group which could be the potential solution if they take some of the flame, and simply run with it. Of course they could choose not to. The fire will either take hold and generate it’s own momentum, or die. There are no other alternatives.

Our children are sort of like that. We started a fire when we birthed, educated and mentored them. They are our contribution to a world that does what it will, when that arrow lands.

Seth Godin has this to say about the concept.

I was placing nails in the wall of a restaurant in Santa Barbara one day, hanging a show of my work, curated by a friend. Her husband and I were having a chat as we whacked nails. He had recently graduated from film school and is a brilliant cinematographer. My query: “So what are you going to do, now that you are done with school?” His response: “Oh I think that I am going to try this music thing. “  My response was “Really? That is a tough one, but you never know. What are you gonna do for songs?” ” Oh I have these songs which I wrote for Kim. (his wife) I think that I am gonna start there.” My response was “Wow cool, be interesting to see where that goes” One of his sweet songs and evidence of his flaming arrow is right here.

Bullseye. Jack is like that a lot, one of those people whose aim is generally better than many of us.

A vital firestarter is right here. Drew Kampion.

One of my editors and friends Dina Pielaet sends this very poignant message.

The world needs flaming arrows.

Firestarter Shawn Alladio

Firestarter Shawn Alladio

Scuba Steve and Firestarter Brian Nevins

Scuba Steve and Firestarter Brian Nevins

Firestarter Swain

Firestarter Swain

Firestarters Jen and Dafoe

Firestarters Jen and Dafoe

Mary, the Partridge Twins, Jeanette Ortiz: Firestarters

Mary, the Partridge Twins, Jeanette Ortiz: Firestarters

Firestarter Shinny

Firestarter Shinny

Firestarter Jon

Firestarter Jon

Life is a wave

Life is a wave

Click on any of the images in the gallery to read it’s back story. Launch your arrow. Fan a fire. Do something, it will be the most fun you have ever had.

Flame Out

Flame Out

Is That Real? An Authentic View

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Maldivian Blue

Maldivian Blue

I get asked this question a lot.  When I have finished answering in the affirmative, the second response which has been repeated with enough frequency that I no longer take offense comes: “Is that Photoshopped?”

The line of query says a lot about our over stimulated, content crammed, media saturated world, as it exists today. If one were to slip into the dusty cobweb strewn dark recesses of what passes for my mind, you would hear the little bitch echo of a voice I spend a lifetime trying to stifle, saying in a soft clear tone: “Um, get out much?” (Bad Dave, bad, down boy)

But instead of that, you get this blog. Some of you are laughing right now and some have left the room with a click of the red button on your browser. I understand both tacts. But here is the deal. My frame of reference is  unique and different than that of the person who poses these questions. My job as an artist and communicator is a simple one: I point to the source. Frequently the source is alien to that person.

So in this process I have found myself a cheerleader for real, first hand experiences. Go, breathe, run, swim, surf, ride,  jump, fall, sing, dance, love, taste, smell, feel, listen, struggle, lose, win, live. Turn off the computer, put down the I phone, kill your television, go be that experience today. Then come back and tell us about it in your own voice, not the media’s. Do something. A world could use that joy you find.

I just read a great book called “Ignore Everybody and 39 other Keys to Creativity” It is reviewed here on B&H’s site. It has keys that resonated with me and made me laugh, as I realized that the writer and I do exactly the same things. Thanks to Seth Godin for pointing it’s existence out to me. I needed the reminders in this book. You may also.

A quirky blog that really communicates the value of first hand experience is right here by Seth Godin

Being a virtuoso at anything requires authenticity and pureness of intent, but beyond that, a commitment to engage your passion and then to share the results.  Jake Shimabukuro demonstrates all of that here as he shares something amazing: his authenticity.

Authenticity. Yep, that photo is real, I know what it tastes, feels and sounds like as well as how it appears when I show up at the right moment with a camera. If you experience any incredulity at all, well then, I am doing my job.

Please click on the images in the gallery to read the back stories. The meat of this subject is in there if you would like a taste.

Dan Malloy, Red Dawn

Dan Malloy, Red Dawn

Spinner Fantasy

Spinner Fantasy

Cotton Candy Floor

Cotton Candy Floor

Solitude

Solitude

Ventura Pier

Ventura Pier

Two Trees Dawn

Two Trees Dawn

Definition

Definition

Westside Rainbow Bridge

Westside Rainbow Bridge

Orange Diaper

Orange Diaper

Oop

Oop

Rincon Sunset

Rincon Sunset

Green Dream

Green Dream

Vapor

Vapor

Tiare, Going

Tiare, Going

Consequences

Consequences

The Gallery: Backstories show when clicking on imagery below

Fifty Waves to Leave Your Lover For

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
Donna

Donna

I live in a place many consider to be California’s Gold Coast. The term conjures up images of glassy warm Winter days, and crisp blue green lines which  swell and pitch into morning light, flashing golden with a brilliance that is breathtaking and addicting as it sets an emotional hook in one’s soul.

Dolphins reflecting dawn on glistening lean muscular bodies are syncopating rhythmic reflections which dart into the pull of northwest groundswells and burst into amber flecked projectiles as energy and joy erupt in the life pulse of a distant storm,  that ebbs on the shores of this place. Their high pitched chatter and surging  wakes, massage my senses as the pod passes. A pedestrian’s view this most definitely is not. I will never tire of it. The serenade is otherworldly.

I swim manically. It is what I do. The season for taking best advantage of the unique geography and potential lighting conditions on the Gold Coast exists for maybe 4 months of the calendar year, as swell, sun angle and weather converge to create what is possibly the best natural studio in the world.

In the last 12 years of swimming each day, I have acquired maybe 20,000 wave images that made the grade and  I kept. The women in my life, well, they were hard to pull away from at O dark thirty when excitement roused me with its irresistible reveille. It is black outside and the wind chill near freezing, as air temperature cuts atmospheric haze and focuses the morning into crystalline brilliant clarity.

But I am not the first to be so plucked from warm bed and body, though I may be the most prolific. Nor will my passion, be mine alone.

Kudos to  Doc Ball, Leroy Grannis, Bruce Brown, Craig Peterson, Woody Woodworth, Scott Preiss, Greg Huglin, George Greeenough, Jeff Divine,  Alby Falzon, Mike Moir, Guy Motil, Dale Kobetich, Peter Crawford, Jack McCoy, Don King, Larry Haynes,  Flame, Aaron, Art, Sakamoto, Scott Aichner, Sean Davey, Vince Cavataio, Warren Bolster, Yuri and to everyone who everyone that goes down to the sea with a camera. They all share something transformative with us. The world can be a tough place. We will never see enough beauty or drink enough elixer from nature to transform this blue ball into the oasis it could be. But at least they tried.

Here is a great documentary done by Gregory Schell called The Far Shore. See it if you get the chance. The story documents the travels of two unique characters I had the pleasure of meeting at a slide show many years ago at Dan Johnson’s house in Santa Barbara. Just when I thought that I was getting good, one of them sent me an image just like mine, done 25 years prior. Got to love colleagues. They keep us in check. Their tone became Surfer Magazine and presaged surf travel as it exists today.

This was a fun gallery to put together. I am as humbled by my predecessors as I am by my subject. The ocean gives your heart scale.

To the newest “Best in the world”: Good luck. You will need it, swim lots, share what you see, live and learn. Seth Godin has this to say.

Here is a music piece by composer Mark Mancina, from the film August Rush. Maybe open it in a separate window and play it while you toggle through. It is a brilliant one. I have read that it took him over a year to write it.  I hope that he never stops either.

Here are fifty waves to leave a lover for. Click on the images for the back story and to enlarge them. Oh and thanks to Jason Murray, one of my editors at Surfer Magazine who pioneered this gallery concept in one of the most popular spreads that Surfer ever produced.

This was fun. I think I will do my Wiamea shorebreak and Keiki images next. (Kidding, sort of)

A Father’s Note

Sunday, June 21st, 2009
David Wahinealoha Puu

David Wahinealoha Puu

It occurred to me some time ago that each one of us is a note to the future via our relationship and connection to our Fathers.

Mine died this past year. Though we were not ostensibly involved in each others daily lives, I felt it the moment he left earth. I had been on the phone with a friend and had commented on it, at what turned out to be that instant. Family  connections are like that.

He was a complex mix of Hawaiian mess some times. But under all of the issues associated with being the son of a Hawaiian father came some remarkable lessons and moments and a very strong example of the strength and tenor of the love and responsibility one needs in order to be an effective Father.

My Dad left Hawaii and went to Marquette University In Wisconsin on the GI Bill after serving as a map maker for the military. His camera, a military issue Nikon,  is the first one which I ever shot and what I learned Photography on. He mapped Indo China for what would later become Vietnam. I saw the photos  of the place pre war.

His career was a heavy one for a waterman from Hawaii. His 200 plus mathematical IQ put him in all manner of places one would never expect this pidgin speaking, athletic ladies man to be. The career points he shared are still surprising to me. Here are some memory captures:

Showing me how to use a slide rule after completing work on the first computer and telling me that one day computers would change everything and everyone would have a number. He explained how that number would carry all our information.

He showed me a photo of the X-15 where he did his first job as a design systems analyst. The image was he and the team on the tarmac with the plane that set the stage for our entry into space.

He showed me a bunch of abalone shells and told me about deep free diving, hopping out the school window and spending the entire day in the water off Waikiki and getting in trouble for it. Told me about rescuing a man one day at Sandy Beach. Told me about surviving a tidal wave and how to do it.

He told me about the strike points for our ICBMs and those pointed at our own country and how many would die. He told me about his nightmares. I remember going  to visit him in a mental institution after he had himself committed. I understand why now. He had helped design those.

Watching John Glenn returning to earth on a black and white console television set. My Dad was not there. He was working on the project.

I remember him telling me of how we would go to the moon. And the day he came home late from work and told me of the death of the astronauts who had burned to death that day in a test failure. How he had been one of the first ones in. I remember the look in his eyes. Who knows what he had seen and heard as they burned to death?

I remember him telling me about working burlesque during WW2 in Waikiki. He had helped run the stage. I saw his scrapbook of black and white publicity photos signed by all the girls. I learned the what and why of his middle name, Wahinealoha.

I remember him being pissed off about something at work that his management refused to listen about. Then the horrific crash that killed a plane load of people ten years later.

There was the phone call received the day we had returned to Santa Barbara at the gate at El Capitan beach park which signified a long period of unemployment. My Dad said that the Airbag project was being cancelled and that he would be back with us soon. He was in Detroit and had just developed the system for Ford via Eaton Yale and Town.  The cumulative expense of installing the new safety system in every vehicle had caused Detroit to kill the program after it was completed. It was a system that he had been quite excited about as it utilized a sensor technology that he had helped develop.

He never returned to Hawaii. But he found a way to support 6 children in Santa Barbara California and weather some intense career responsibilities.

I never heard a word of complaint about that. Not one.

He never said, do this or do that. I think he just watched. Often I never knew what he thought. The result of this was me becoming my own person at an early age.

I learned what not to do from my Father, but imagine my surprise when I realized this year as my own sons are now grown, that I am my Father.

He taught me what it means to be human.

Here is to a great day to all of you other sons and daughters on a Fathers day.

A video from Barack Obama is here. A Hawaiian.

An informative blog from Peter Mello is here. Written by Pam Fox Rollin for the Weekly Leader.

A song from one of my favorite films is here

Thanks to my cousin Gayle Puu, for her tireless efforts in scanning the family images. I would never have seen a one of them were it not for her.

puushsn08096

Click on any of the images in the Gallery for the back story.

What is Surfing: Fifty Views

Thursday, June 18th, 2009
The Chant

The Chant

Each day lately, begins with me wading though the e mail file. Today I opened a newsletter from an organization which I support, by lending them usage of some of my images. The subject header was “International Surfing Day”.  A “Cool, we have our own day”  impulse when I pressed the “read” icon, rapidly transitioned to less than kind  post read thoughts.

The newsletter yielded the cyber floor to a new surf magazine editor from Orange County who I had never heard of, and who communicated his chronologically and geologically biased adolescent view of what Surfing is.

But it occurred to me, that maybe Surfing could be many unique things to a diverse cross section of humanity. It is something equally valid to an  OC based ex pro surfer, as well as a neophyte hick from Wisconsin. Each holds a view that could be considered authentic, when taken in the context of a more grand perspective of the sport.

But what is Surfing?  I mean at it’s core? In his youthful myopia the editor had innocently posed that question for me, even if my first response had been indignation.

So here goes. Fifty views of what Surfing is.

One: Surfing is old.  Surfing is actually not a young sport. It’s youth is only in relation to it’s existence in Western culture, where when compared to other sports, its age being within this century, it is relatively young. Surfing is ancient. It was part of the animistic religion of Polynesian culture, and when taken in it’s full context,  had several cultural purposes in addition to it’s spiritual parallels.

It was integral to the maintenance of an oligarchal social Caste system. Wave riding was used as a means of demonstrating skill, the end purpose being to establish dominance within the tribe and of course to that end, it was a means of courtship. When a woman chose to ride a wave with a man who had demonstrated his mastery, she in effect selected him as a sexual partner ( the Polynesians were polyamourous) and it was on, shortly thereafter. There you had it. The first surf contest, and the prize. One can see why Calvinist and Mormon Missionaries discouraged the pastime so fervently.

It always strikes me as humorous when I look at modern day professional surfing for those reasons. (Yes, I knew about this when I surfed for a living) It cracked me up then, too. My ex wife used to comment about modern pro surfing and the lack of women in the boys club,and always alluded to it being a guise for latent homosexual urges. (Hey don’t shoot me, we divorced, remember?)

Two: Surfing is Educational. By forcing one to become intimately acquainted with the sea, surfing places you in harms way. I love Darwinism. Natural selection is the best thing in the world in its equanimity. In the ocean you either begin to catch on right away, or you scurry out of that liquid embrace with all the speed of that cat you tossed in your parents bathtub. It has an interesting affect, the sea. It piques your curiousity and challenges, which causes one to acquire and marshal all the diverse talents needed to be a surfer, or it scares you, and you leave. Flight or fight. Facing fear. Seeking knowledge. Knowledge and its sibling, Understanding, work together to erase fear. Surfing teaches that lesson well.

I love teaching people to surf. Love it. What I do is remove the mystery. I make the person understand that there is nothing that can hurt them, then I stay with them. I make catching those first waves simple using an old push from behind trick where you push the neophyte rider into the wave, but implement a modern twist where you hold on to both rails of the board and stabilize it, all the while giving any direction necessary. I am always calm in the ocean, so that is what I communicate. I start out using my ability as their crutch but eventually the new surfer realizes they have a grip on it all and off they go.  The loss of me as crutch is seldom noticed as they glide along on their own. It is a happy moment when that occurs.

All surfers love communicating surfing. For us it is the golden handshake that we know can transform and beautify a life and translates back into a better social fabric ultimately.  One of my favorite students was a cowboy. Within ten minutes of instruction, I was back on the beach and watched this guy who had never been in the ocean before stand up, ride a wave to the sand, pick up the board, walk to where I stood and say: “Hey that was easy”   “Umm never in the ocean before ever?” I had asked again.  “Nope, but I did race supercross for a long time, and the balance thing is sorta like that, so I just did what you told me. Easy.” This cowboy was a master of motion balance. His name is Jeff Sober and he ran an oil company and hailed from Wyoming. The memory still gives me a smile.

Three: Surfing is expression. It can mean a myriad number of things and conforms to each person and where they are in their lives. It relates to a person spirit, soul and body as it challenges on all three levels. You confront the unknown with each go out. You learn a new world. Your experience is entirely unique and grows more rewarding continually as the accumulation of experience and knowledge begets understanding and allows you to go further eternally. It is the ultimate Pavlovian response example. Good doggie, here is your treat. Or bad doggie, back to the beach with you. It’s methods are basal. It is infinitely expressive.

Four: Surfing is addicting. The exhilaration of the chase, the acquisition and the ride,  yet all that is left as the wave ebbs is the knowledge you are left with. To get more, you must paddle back out. So you do, because you thirst for it.

Five: Surfing is giving. It defines that basic principal of the universe, it gives health, wisdom, understanding, compassion, judgement.  Surfing gives.The most easy going people that I know, albeit the most driven in other ways, are the best surfers. They know who and what they are and how they got there.
I have met and hung with a lot of the best. They really are.

I recently read a great book on a superior waterman. It is here at Legendary Surfers. I find it funny that he and I were both born in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Tom Blake got it. Do you?

A great example of surfing and surfers giving back is Paul Jenkin. His new film trailer Watershed Revolution is here. . Paul gets it. His blog is here.

Six: Surfing is funny. One of the most eloquent expressions of indignation at the rape of a sport that I ever viewed was in the master actor Sean Penn’s sarcastic portrayal of the San Fernando Valley surfer in the cult classic film Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Sean, being from the Malibu- Santa Monica coast had grown up around surfing and had developed his character in the film to satirize all that irked him about the transient surf population which attempted to decide for him what was cool and what was out. His pot saturated idiotic innocent iconoclastic character, Jeff Spicoli, served for over a decade as popular mainstream cultures view of what a surfer was. The brilliance in this was not lost on real surfers. Something to be said for authenticity.

What the performance said was that surfers are idiots. They need to be medicated. They are hedonistic thrill seekers with no future. Sean being a brilliant student of his craft and a surfer,  had manipulated popular culture in his portrayal. Okay dude, cmon down to the beach, I am an idiot and I rock. It’s a funny baiting of popular culture. We all know how it ends when someone does come down to the beach. The education begins rather promptly. To me Sean is surfing and is likely still laughing. The uninitiated to this day still use the expletive “Dude” when attempting to communicate an understanding of surfing and popular culture.  Yes surfing is funny. So particularly are surfers.  If you want to see real practical jokes just hang with a surfer, or watch Sean Penn in that film. It is just who we are.

Seven: Surfing is brilliant. The light it shines on where you are in your life and what is important and it’s ability to reset and restore a person’s defaults thereby bringing them back to an equable place is genius. All you PC users should relate. System locks up? Turn it off. Then back on. It is the last ditch line of defense and can get you back in the game.

Eight: Surfing is smart. It encourages the ability to think laterally and come up with creative solutions. One of the first questions being: “How can I order my life so that I can stay near the ocean?” has given birth to the action sports industry, and countless successful small businesses. You would be surprised at who surfs, or is in some way forever married to the ocean by virtue of having at some point embraced the activity. A great example of lateral thinking as related to marketing is here by the folks from Rusty.

Nine: Surfing is eternal. It explains flow and the cyclical nature of life and ourselves. It speaks to the inner man of who and what we are and comforts us in the communication of the knowledge of our destination.

Ten: Surfing is bliss. Ask any surfer what his most amazing moment was and he will tell you about a wave. Look at them. You can see it in their eyes.
Bliss.

Eleven: Surfing is Understanding. It leads you to a higher intellectual and moral ground.

Twelve: Surfing is harmony. You understand harmonics and music after a while listening to an aqueous symphony. Popular culture is frequently steered by music. It is one of the fundamental occupations of tribal culture.

Thirteen: Surfing is color. Color indicates an energy signature. You really learn about what color temperature means as a photographer. But surfers see colors that the human eye, film and digital technology have the most difficult time expressing.

The remaining 37 views illustrate the old adage of a picture being worth a thousand words. Here are 37,000 words and an infinite number of emotions. When it comes right down to it, surfing is love.

The Bible of the sport these days is The Surfers Journal

What the US did in acquiring Hawaii is here It is educational in a painful way, but explains a lot about the cost of modern surfing.

Here is what surfing is to some lads in Ireland. Approximately 30 minutes of beauty: The Powers of Three from Relentless Films

My girlfriend Donna gets it. Here is an online video where she explains how a female surfer can contribute to social change through surfing and business. What do Holly Beck, Mary Osborne, Shawn Alladio, the Partridge twins, Zuri Star, Jeanette Ortiz, Asia Carpenter, and young Vanina Walsh all have in common? Betty B, Donna Von Hoesslin, the ocean.

U2 gets it. One love, one tribe, one world, one end.  An aqueous melody is here.

Seth Godin had this to say about mediocrity and boy does it apply to this post! I think that it is the issue which truly got my dander up in the first place. I am passionate about this sport my ancestors gave us. I have a low tolerance for mediocrity in it’s leaders. I am not mediocre, you are likely not either. Our leaders should be better than us.  Seth’s assessment is brilliant.

Click on any of the images within the gallery for a back story. The edit was done in ten minutes and signifies what surfing is to me, a hick from Milwaukee Wisconsin who just happens to have native blood in his veins and surfs.

Aloha

Aloha

Kawika

Kawika

Ikaika Kalama

Ikaika Kalama

Mary Osborne, Bliss

Mary Osborne, Bliss

Dan Moore, Challenge

Dan Moore, Challenge

Brendan White, Golden Carpet Ride

Brendan White, Golden Carpet Ride

Solitude in the Pulse

Solitude in the Pulse

Dane Reynolds, Phenom

Dane Reynolds, Phenom

Santa Ana Evening

Santa Ana Evening

Shane Dorian

Shane Dorian

Sean Tully, Homage

Sean Tully, Homage

Keith Malloy

Keith Malloy

Dino Ching Memorial

Dino Ching Memorial

Guy Quesada

Guy Quesada

The Boys and Jericho at Malibu

The Boys and Jericho at Malibu

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.

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