Surfing Virgin

August 22nd, 2006

THURSDAY JULY 27, 2006 – VENTURA, CA I’ll give it to all you surfers out there: you’ve got a fun sport. Today was my first time in Ventura, on a board, with the gentle swell of the Pacific. I can see why it’s kind of like crack cocaine, the draw for ‘just one more,’ the wave coming in that ‘is the one,’ and the calm of laying on a board, gently bobbing at eye level with the water. At least, that was my experience. Did I actually ride a wave? Briefly. Lying down. I did get two feet on the board but promptly fell off. And there’s the problem of the nose diving and the wave flipping you over. Or, more embarrassingly, simply sitting out on the board trying to hold a conversation, losing your balance, and rolling over into the water. For me it wasn’t as much a matter of if as a matter of when I’d fall off the board. (Left: Patagonia World HQ)

I have Jane Sievert, photo editor at Patagonia, and her daughter Malia to thank for the experience. Both were patient and generous; Jane loaned me her wet suit (I’m a total water wuss), and we traded off surfboards. Malia’s kid’s board was much more stable and her enthusiasm helped keep me in the water as the late evening light turned golden. (Right: At the beach)

The purpose of my visit was to see Jane and the Patagonia ‘world headquarters’, a small complex at the terminus of one of Ventura’s larger city streets. Having recently moved from a small beach house to a studio apartment nearby, it’s literally a five minute downhill bike ride for Jane to get to work. She took me through all the departments; design, production, marketing and others I really can’t remember. I recall all the Japanese art in the design department, the globe on someone’s desk, the expanding web department (Jane complains they keep taking her staff), the number of high-end bikes in the office, and the overall youth, fitness and hints of the outdoors which filled the place. Outside was a raptor sanctuary, a day care playground, and solar panels over the parking lot generating enough electricity to run an entire air conditioned building. (Left: Jane, World Traveled)

Jane herself had a playful energy I haven’t seen in our meetings at the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show or the panel discussions she’s participated in for TOPA, a trade group I helped found. Maybe because we were going surfing. Or maybe because she will be moving up north to the Arcata/Eureka area with her partner, an explorer and writer of National Geographic renown I would like to meet. I saw pictures of the place: a gorgeous garden, a writing studio, and it is just down the road from where Andrea and I lived at one time. Or maybe it was simply because work was over and she was with Malia, a seemingly well-rounded, well-travelled, conscientious child who didn’t want to go surfing because it meant we’d have to get-in-a-car for all of ten minutes.

We surfed, with Malia showing me how to do it, and then headed back to town. Jane pointed out a great (and cheap) burrito joint and I found myself a cafe to grab an espresso for the two hour drive back to Long Beach. The fellow who served me, a relaxed guy with tousled blond hair, made an excellent americano as he spoke of his photographic aspirations. But he did make it clear: surfing comes first. (Left: Jane and Malia)

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