The nature of being a new dad that enjoys reading is there ain’t much time for it. One of the best explanations I’ve heard about parenting a young child newly on the move is that your only job is to keep them alive against their will. And between baby’s exploration of power outlets and having a strange affinity for sharp objects, vigilance is key.
I mention all of this because I have a stack of half-finished novels in my bedroom that continues to pile high with ambition. Someday, my wife and I will be sipping piña coladas under a shady palm tree in paradise both engrossed in books while someone watches our kid. Until then, finding the time to sit with a story that develops characters over hundreds of pages just isn’t in the cards. I have, however, found a renewed interest in writers’ abilities to tell concise, compact stories over just a few pages, which brings me to Jamie Brisick’s latest, a collection of shorts packaged beautifully into a little book called Dazzling Blue.
The premise is this: some time ago Birdwell Beach Britches tapped Brisick to author short non-fiction pieces for their blog with the through-line being things surfers do in board shorts. The series was called “Dazzling Blue.” Now, those stories consisting of autobiographical shorts, witty universal observations about surf culture, interviews, book excerpts, and more have been neatly packaged into a physical text that’s oh, so inviting. And understanding full well the irony of writing this on a purely digital site, there’s something beautiful about holding a physical book in your hands that reading text online will never dispatch.
If I may, I’d like to quote an excerpt from one piece, in particular, titled “The Hand.”
“We like the hand,” Brisick writes. “It’s encoded in our surfer DNA. It echoes through the history of wave riding. Think back to those early Polynesians streaking across blue combers with erect and regal style. Their alaia and olo boards came from sacred trees – koa and wilwili wood – and included rituals, rites, and prayers. They were carved by hand, no doubt, with great love.”
It’s the romanticism of seemingly insignificant components of the surf experience – in this case, hands – that make Dazzling Blue incredibly thoughtful. And yet, there’s little structure in form, which is also part of its charm. Many of Brisick’s stories are like photographs from his past, interspersed with history lessons, interviews with modern longboarders, board builders, writers, and lifeguards, and sharp takes on culture with little regard for which came before and what will follow. It’s a grab bag of you-never-know-what-he’ll-take-on-next back-dropped by fine writing that’s delightfully digestible.
If there’s one caveat it’s that, as you’d expect from something bankrolled by a brand, mentions of Birdwell Beach Britches pepper the prose, albeit in an understated and fairly organic way. Brisick reveals his first pair of boardshorts were Birdwells, for example, and references to Carrie Birdwell Mann, the brand’s founding matriarch, can be found in a story or two – but with heritage that runs deep, it’s no wonder.
Dazzling Blue, in essence, is an effort to capture the soul of surfing. The feeling you get in the water when the warm Southern California sun is beating against your bareback in the summertime. And overwhelmingly, Brisick’s words ring true.