Prologue 4.3

The Golden State

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As the most-powerful, outrageous, richest state in the most-powerful, outrageous, richest nation on Earth, California is as easy to hate as it is to love. Despite beautiful year-round weather, a perpetually booming job market, the best food in the world, and a generally high standard of living, California’s detractors never hesitate in pointing out the Golden State’s flaws-its lackluster ski resorts, its PC smoking laws, the sometimes-less-than-welcoming attitudes and appearances of its natives, etc., etc. As the old saying goes: love looks through a telescope-envy, through a microscope.

For surfers, California is also a mixed blessing. Through a telescope one sees the state’s rich surf history, its 840 miles of west-facing Pacific coastline, its bottomless well of surf talent, and its wide array of surf spots that span the full spectrum-from Mavs to Newps. The flip side to that coin is California’s bad side: heavy localism, the strange influence of the So Cal-based surf industry, ridiculously crowded lineups, and (despite 50 years of propaganda and palm-tree planting perpetuating the idea that California is almost tropical) cold water.

While we could go on for hours listing its pros and cons, the fact of the matter is, California is definitely not perceived as the ultimate surf destination. That honor has been bestowed upon the likes of Hawai’i, Indonesia, Western Australia, and the thousands of francophone-populated islands and atolls that dot the rims of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Surf magazines have filled their pages with Oceania’s crystal blue, 80-degree water, its perfect reef breaks, and jungle backdrops for decades, and in the process, California has become a sort of distant second. Green water and fullsuits in photos just don’t seem to cut it anymore.

But this winter, while the vast majority of the world’s surf photographers sulked around the North Shore checking online surf forecasts and waiting for rumored swells to materialize, California cranked. And the funny truth is that California always cranks in the winter. Yeah, the water’s cold and green, and yeah, you’d better own a good pair of booties, but there’s something about the harsh definition of front-lit California morning shots that makes all the thirty-first state’s flaws seem so far away you’d need a telescope to know what they are.

The California photo section starts on page 80. Eureka!-Joel Patterson