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Jim Lindberg of Pennywise. Photo: Surfrider Foundation


The Inertia

On May 26th, more than 15,000 punks will descend upon the streets of downtown Las Vegas for Punk Rock Bowling. The annual four-day music festival (and bowling tournament, duh) is heralded as one of North America’s finest punk rock gathering grounds. With additional dates in Denver and Asbury Park this year, the lineup features a who’s who of punk kingpins including Bad Religion, Pennywise, NOFX, and others. One commonality I found with some of these artists is that somewhere along the line surfing played a role in their story. So before the PRB extravaganza begins, I asked a few of them what surfing means to them and what their best ocean story is.

JAY BENTLEY – BASSIST, BAD RELIGION

Photo: Getty Images

Why do you surf?

Most importantly, it’s about my connection to nature. I can paddle out when it’s flat and sit around totally happy just to be out in the water. I surf because I want to feel that pick up and drop into a bottom turn that sets you up for whatever is going to happen next as you watch the wave in front of you unfold. I surf because the moments of panic scratching toward the horizon and an outside set are matched by the moments of the strange silence cutting back on a glassy face. I surf because it’s fucking awesome.

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What does surfing mean to you?

It’s chasing the moment, accepting everything that’s happening. Surfers comprise a bit of an outsider subset of society, but for the most part are an eclectic group of people who have found, embraced and witnessed the forces of nature dictate the terms of their passion. Surfing to me means being in touch with the world outside.

What’s the best wave you’ve ever surfed?

Probably Malibu because I grew up surfing there and it’s just hard to beat a right point break for me because I’m lazy. The best wave I’ve ever ridden there was at night, just a touch overhead, full moon, whales were migrating just offshore…

Tell me your best surf story ever.

Me and a couple of friends flew down to Mazatlán and rented a car, heading for Mantanchén Bay. We got lost a couple of times and drove through a bank robbery in progress and saw an iguana riding on the back of a pelican – you know, normal Mexico surf trip stuff. When we finally got there it was about 110 degrees outside so we went to cool off in the 80-degree water, which wasn’t so great. The waves were one to two feet, so we spent the entire time drinking beers, getting eaten by mosquitos, talking to the locals about sharks and riding these waves for hundreds of yards until our calves hurt. I don’t think I’ve ever had more laughs and a better time with friends. Now that I think about it, I still have never gone back and I should.

JIM LINDBERG – VOCALS, PENNYWISE

Jim Lindberg of Pennywise. Photo: Surfrider Foundation

Why do you surf?

I surf because when you get a good wave there’s really nothing else like it.  It’s a feeling of complete happiness and euphoria.  Surfers put up with hundreds of crappy waves to get that one amazing one that makes it all worth it.

What does surfing mean to you?

I grew up at the beach in Hermosa so it was just what we did as kids – like riding your bike or skateboarding, but pretty soon you realize it’s a lot more than those things.  Not to sound like a hippy but it does become a spiritual experience. I mess around and laugh with my friends when we’re surfing but there are definitely times when you are in awe of the whole thing. When you realize we are riding giant long pulses of ocean energy that have traveled across the planet and we get to glide across the top of them as they crash onto the shore. You really come to respect the power of nature – a lot more so than almost any other sport or past time I can imagine.

What’s the best wave you’ve ever surfed?

The best wave I’ve ever ridden was at Lower Trestles on a brand new board. It was a really long, perfect wave – overhead – and I surfed as good as I ever had on it. That board disappeared the next day. No idea what happened to it. It was either stolen or God was testing me somehow. Never
 got a wave that good before or since.

Tell me your best surf story ever.

Once when we were kids, me and my closest friends were camping at Trails at San Onofre.  We weren’t drunk or anything but a few of us went to the bathroom late at night and we saw an actual witch that supposedly haunts the area, called La Llorana. It’s a native American folktale about a woman who killed her kids rather than let invading enemies get them first, and now she supposedly is trapped in limbo looking for her lost kids. Well, we saw her – a black spirit floating by us. I don’t believe in anything supernatural – maybe it was collective psychosis – but I can’t explain it.  Doesn’t involve surfing but it happened on a surf trip.  Freaked us right the eff out.

GREG ATTONITO – VOCALS, BOUNCING SOULS

Why do you surf?

I really enjoy the purity of the experience. The physical connection with the ocean is exhilarating. When the conditions are good and the timing is right, you can really become one with the ocean’s energy and it’s just amazing. That’s why people call it getting stoked. It literally stokes your soul.

I’d like to take this opportunity to quote one of my soul surfer heroes, Gerry Lopez.  “Surfing is never boring.” That quote wraps up my feelings about surfing pretty well. I love surfing and I feel really fortunate when I have the time to do it and the waves are good. It’s a great metaphor for life. The really beautiful things we experience are momentary and elusive. They pass like waves and come and go with the change of the weather and the tides.

What does surfing mean to you?

There’s no quick answer to this. Surfing means so much to me. It can be such a pure artistic expression of the soul and nothing compares to the liberating feeling you experience when you get a solid drop and draw a smooth line on a wave. The feeling goes so deep it’s difficult to put into words. It’s also an amazing way to connect with nature. Just being in the ocean is so great on so many levels. It’s also a great way to get in shape. The list goes on and on.

What’s the best wave you’ve ever surfed?

That’s not so easy to answer.  Some of the best ones weren’t all that big or spectacular, they just felt great – like I really got the most out of that ride. I haven’t been in the barrel too often so if I have to pick one it would be when I got a nice barrel ride in Costa Rica. It was awesome.

Tell me your best surf story ever.

This may not be the best but it’s an interesting story. I almost got my ass kicked in the water back in the 90’s at a very heavy locals spot in Australia called Maroubra Bay. In true kook fashion, I didn’t check to see if someone was on my right and I dropped in on a guy. I kicked out of the wave as soon as he came flying up behind me thinking I would apologize to him when he paddled back out. When I paddled back out, a different guy paddled over and started making some seriously nasty threats as if he would have swung at me if he was a little closer. We were there on tour and were being hosted by some of the local surfers, so I tried to drop a couple of names on him but that didn’t seem to matter. I made my way out of the water pretty quick. A few years later I saw a documentary was made about the place and the intense localism that went on there in the 80’s and 90’s. I think it’s called the Bra boys.

MATT HOCK – VOCALS, THE EXPLOSION

What does surfing mean to you?

Surfing is freedom. Surfing is fun. Surfing is waking up early to hang out with your friends. Surfing is difficult and incredibly rewarding. That’s what surfing means to me.

Why do you surf?

Usually, in order to be able to get waves, I hop in my car at four or five in the morning and head to Bradley Beach, NJ. The ride is filled with nerves. Will there actually be waves? I hope it’s not too big. I hope it’s not too fucking small. Will I make it back to work in time? As I make my way down the Garden State Parkway, those nerves become fuel. If it’s too big I will paddle out even if Mother Ocean rejects me. I drove all this way, after all. If it’s too small? It’s never too small unless it’s legitimately flat. I would gladly surf knee-high waves for the rest of time if I could. It’s not up to me. It’s up to that beautiful ocean. I can’t choose, so I throw myself at her mercy. Oh, and work. I just woke up before the rest of the city went to bed. If I’m a little late because I went surfing, it’s part of the deal. Another part of my deal, by the way, is going into the office smelling just a little bit like piss. All the bullshit evaporates.

What’s the best wave you’ve ever surfed?

I’m not sure technically what the best wave I’ve ever ridden is. There are some south swells in New Jersey that stand out. Long, long, head-high rights that make me feel like I know what I’m doing. Rockaway lefts that make me feel like I can surf backside, no problem. If you need it narrowed down, I’d say the very first wave I caught at Laniakea on Oahu. I had taken a surf lesson in Kauai a few years before and was hooked. Hooked and horrible. I returned home and almost immediately returned to the water. It was early spring, the water was cold. I got a 5/4 I had no idea how to get into. I had friends who were willing to help me learn and stuck with it. After many cold waves taken on the head, a few scars, and many board repairs, I returned to Hawaii. I had learned enough to surf an actual Hawaiian wave. That was Lani’s and it will be forever in my heart.

Tell me your best surf story ever.

My best surf story? Havent’ I said enough already?

ERIK SANDIN (AKA “SMELLY”) – DRUMS, NOFX

Why do you surf?

Something about the elements changing for me day to day gives a kind of a magical feeling when everything comes together. Like when you catch a wave and you’re pumping down the line of the surface that you’re riding on and it’s bending and moving – and you’re part of it. The energy from the water allows you to stand on the water. It’s a very, very interesting feeling.

What does surfing mean to you?

It’s weird. Some days it’s super frustrating and other days it’s the most beautiful natural thing there is.

What’s the best wave you’ve ever surfed?

I’ve surfed in Indonesia, Maldives, all over Mexico, Hawaii, Australia, Costa Rica…but the best wave I ever rode was 15 minutes from my house in Huntington Beach. It was one of those magical days. Just my friend Smitty and I, about an eight-foot swell, long period. We were contemplating whether we should go out or not because it was pretty big and nobody else was out. We both made it out super easy and caught the best waves of our lives at home; throwing top to bottom barrels with clean shoulders. That was about ten years ago, and it still feels like yesterday.

Tell me your best surf story?

It was on a surf trip, but it doesn’t involve surfing. While in Indonesia, our little boat docked outside of a small village for the night. It was like going back 1,000 years in time. The village consisted of grass huts and dugout canoes from old logs. I felt the people enjoyed a simple and beautiful life. I’m not sure if they longed for more, or if they were content? But I sometimes long for less.

Punk Rock Bowling takes place downtown Las Vegas (May 26-30), Denver (June 2-3) and Asbury Park, NJ (June 9-11). Get tickets and more at www.punkrockbowling.com



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