Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Underneath It All

Cyrus Sutton Surfing on a Wood and EPS Hess Surfboards Gun from on Vimeo.

I been getting a lot of shit from my buddies up in NorCal over the last year.  "Dude, you are so fucking SoCal"  or "Bro, you got soft" or my favorite one when they refer to anything going on in SoCal that they disagree on, "Well, YOUR people...".  It was funny at first, but annoying since.

I won't lie, if I go back home to The Bay and look out at Mother O.B. from the dunes or standing there in front of 3 mile in Santa Cruz and it's overcast, that cold north wind is blowing and the water is just as murky as the sky, I get second thoughts about paddling out.  I have gotten use to surfing fun reefs and points where one wave can easily hand you a ride for 60 seconds plus. I won't lie that I enjoy looking down in the clear water of Scripp's and Black's and seeing the beautiful rolling sand beneath my board. But that doesn't mean that I won't paddle out in 58 degree and below water when it's pumping surf.  But if it looks like we're going to jump in to just jump in when it's ankle biting or victory at sea, I'll probably just watch it from the shore and snap some pics ;)

The fact is, I am a Northern Californian by blood.  My family is so engrained in NorCal to the fact that I saw my grandfather's picture, the same picture that hung in my father's home, in a history book in college, my grandfather at a "ticket" dance in the Valley with all his "Compadres".  And don't get me wrong, I make no apologies for my love of San Diego either.  I'm just a Californian by birth, straight up came to this earth in a town called Berkeley where I also attended and graduated college from 22 years later.  And the word "hella" will always be part of my vocabulary.  

Watching the video above gave me goose bumps.  Watching Cyrus getting spitted out of barrels at Mother O.B. over and over again was pretty awesome.  But it was the little things in the video that made me nostalgic like crossing the Great Highway at the end of of the first dune (Judah), the two story homes in the Sunset where neighbors literally share walls.  To the memory of seeing it going off from higher up the hill, and the MUNI cables above the San Francisco streets.

When I first moved to San Diego, I would refer to myself and my wife as "transplants from the Bay Area".  I continued this for a few months until I was corrected by one of the older guys I surf with at my home break.  "Your not a transplant if your a original Californian".  And I'm glad his wisdom rubbed off on me.  SoCal or Norcal, underneath it all, we are all Californians. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

San Diego Comic Con 2015

The Blur of Comic Con.  The Exhibition Hall.
This has become one of my favorite weekends of the year since moving to San Diego.  Every July, flocks of people from all over the world bring their camping chairs, their sleeping bags and love for all geekdom to participate in the nerd Mecca called "Comic Con".  This is my second year as a badge holder, giving up some solid swell to spend time in line with like minded folks that believe in the "Force", believe that Superman can fly, and believe that John Snow lives. 

Sails Pavilion
I'm not much of a comic guy myself.  I read Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead volumes after I watched season's 1-4 on AMC, read a bunch 'Nam Comic's when I was a kid and few Superman and Batman's here and there.  I still have a dozen or so Star Wars comics from childhood, stored and locked away somewhere.  At Comic Con presently, I realized that you don't have to be a comic book head to enjoy the splendor and awe of this event.  All that one need's is an open mind and a niche, something thing "fantasy" that you have some sort of passion for, and you will find an overindulgence for whatever your guilty pleasure maybe.  My guilty pleasures... surfing.  Well you all know that already.  But my guilty, guilty pleasures are Star Wars collectables, Funko pieces and anything Robotech.  I'm proud to say that I own a 1979 Kenner Millennium Falcon with a 1979 Kenner Han Solo and Chewabacca in the cockpit.  Honestly, I own a crap load of vintage Star Wars stuff, things that made my wife think twice about us when we first met 14 years ago.  My wife on the other hand is a big fan of HBO shows, especially "Game of Thrones", so she is super into Hall H and the panels.  I watch her at these panels with her huge, beautiful smile, and it makes all the joy and madness, the ying and yang of Comic Con so worth it.

One of the raddest Star Wars pieces at the Con.  Not a Bandai exclusive, but who the hell cares!
The "Con" brings a bunch of people (like 130,000+) with a thousand different interests in "Pop Culture", lucky enough to score a badge in the random online lottery system and then somehow sticks them all into a 2,600,000 square foot convention center in the middle of downtown San Diego.  Add another 100,000 visitors in the Gas Lamp enjoying the bounty of restaurants (including Petco Park) and hotels turned commercial and promotional booths and you got just a piece of what Comic Con is.  

I'm not going to try and squeeze out every detail of my experience because that would be a book.  Plus, I'm still trying to process the whole thing.  Some parts are still a big blur, like how I bumped into Jennifer Lawrence, unknowingly, while walking to my car in the Gas lamp or how much of a nightmare it was trying to find the correct Hasbro ticket line on the first day of the Con.  Highlights are going to be my aim in this entry in what is suppose to be a surf blog that somehow has three different entry's about pop conventions.  As 'Ol Panama Red would say to me "You fucking nerd!"  My reply, "Hell the fucking yeah!"

"#hallHline" (seriously, check out this hashtag on twitter.  You will seriously be entertained).  

There are a dozen halls and rooms where panels are held to discuss a million different things that have to do with the comic and entertainment industry.   But "Hall H" is the big daddy hall, the ultimate, the place to be for the place to be people.  This is where fans get the first hand scoop on whats going down with their favorite movie or T.V. show.  It's a place where fans get to say "I was there".  

It's also probably the biggest test group for the entertainment industry.  This is where "industry heads" figure out what's hot and what's not.  This is where people with major $$$ figure out where to put all that bling into, all because of Hall H's response.   My entire goal for this years Con was to get into the Hall H for the Lucas Film's panel that would be all about Star Wars and "The Force Awakens".  People waited in line for a weeks up on days to get into Hall H.  Me, I got their around 5:30p the day before (Thursday, very late to the Hall H line party).  I began all the way down in the Marina just in front of Roy's

My camping mate.

Comic Con guaranteed people into Hall H on Friday morning only if they had a wristband.  They gave out four different wristbands the night before: A, B, C or D.  By midnight on Thursday, they had given out all of their wristbands.  And with fear of a riot, they announced to my line in the Marina that they had ran out of wristbands.  This line had to be a couple thousand people deep, 2000-4000 people deep.  Unsurprisingly, loud sighs of displeasure and disappointments were expressed by a thousands of people all at once, but surprisingly there was no primal aggression displayed at all.  Within 10 minutes, people started to grab all their camping gear and began to leave for their comfortable beds.  Even two of my crew members decided that it wasn't worth it.  But my wife and I decided that we were going to stick it out.  We figured that the juice was going to be worth the squeeze.  After crunching the numbers, we counted that we were #70 & #71 in line after the last bracelet, hoping that out of 6,500 people that received wristbands, we figured (hoped!) that at least 100 wouldn't show up the next day.  We also got word from one of the staff that they didn't hand out enough wristbands to fill Hall H to capacity, which probably meant an extra 500 people without wristbands would get in.  The odds were with us, and when we have the odds, we tend to push all our chips in and hope for the best.  Odds or not, I was staying in line.  I was raised never to half step, and to commit and commit only.  Turning back was never an option.   

"Line bonding" happens.  Neighbors & hardcores.  "Half stepping is for the hacks." Said one of my neighbors.
I brought my favorite camping chair, a nice soft mat and my favorite sleeping bag.  Around 1:30am, those that decided to take the leap of faith and roll the dice found their comfortable spot on that Marina pavement behind the convention center and made their peace.  I have to say, I got a pretty good sleep.  My Italian camp mate pictured just below slept directly on the concrete, no blanket, only using his Comic Con swag bag to cover his cold legs (he had shorts on).  I didn't lend him any of my covers because I had none to lend.  I felt really bad for him.  But he is a true hardcore.  Much respect to you amigo.

On the "Island", 6am, groggy, antsy but still hopeful.
Around 5:30am, one of my "neighbors" came back with 5 cups of coffee from Starbucks.  One was for me!  I didn't even really speak to him the night before, other then the odds I calculated on the chances of getting in.  It was out of the goodness of his heart.  After that, "line bonding" began.  We all started to share our interests, what we wanted to see in the Hall (Star Wars panel of course) and all our wacky theories around all of our favorite movies and shows.  I even taught some of my neighbors how to play an old school Filipino card game named "Pisoy Dos" to pass time.  Around 7:00a, they moved our entire line to the Island near "Joe's Crab Shack", just south of the Convention Center. Around 8:00a a lady came by our line asking if anybody would like to donate to her $20 to her charity for her wristband.  People were pretty skeptical but it turned out to be legit!  My Italian camp mate, being a single, jumped at the chance and scored!  I was stoked for him!  And remember, this is the guy who slept on the concrete, with no blankets!  He totally deserved it.


Around 9am they started moving all the lines into the tents next to Hall H.  The goal is to make it to one of the 5 “chutes” in the tents near Hall H.  If we could make it into the chutes before 10a, the odds of us making it into Hall H exponentially goes up.  Around 9:30a, we had made it into the third chute.  We kept a tally on which chutes were going in, giving us enough of an idea when our chute would be next.  Around 9:55a, the chute we thought would be before us started to move in.  By 10a, that chute had cleared.  Then our chute began to move.  As we inched closer to the promise “point”, where if we passed, we were in, we tried to temper all of our excitement and expectations.  "If we make it in, great, if we didn't, then at least we tried" is what we said to ourselves.  And as we passed the “point” of guaranteed entry, an elation of earned joy was felt.  We had landed on the other side of hope. 

Wristband?  Who needs a damn wristband!
Promise land!!!

Of all the panels during the Con, this was the ultimate.  The first big panel was the T.V. series “The Walking Dead”.  I’m a big fan, and enjoyed it.  The second big panel was the from the HBO series “Game of Thrones”, which my wife is a die hard fan.  I am also thanks to my wife and now I find myself formulating a million theories about John Snow with our friends at each of our weekly quiz nights in San Diego.  But sorry to say to all you G.O.T. fans, no mention of John Snow from the panel, even though a fan's artful question tried to sway the panel to say something.  About 10 minutes before the end of the panel, special ushers passed out tickets that could be traded in for free promotional “swag” at the Hyatt next door.  The swag was pretty legit.  

G.O.T. Swag.  The shirt was so rad that I wore it on Sunday to the Con.
 And then came THE panel at about 5:30p.

Lucas Films: Star Wars. J.J. Abrams was the star of the panel.  It is undeniable how much of a Star Wars fan he is.  He appreciates this intergalactic saga just as much as any other diehard.  As he spoke during the panel, I was totally impressed by his gamesmanship, wittiness and his willingness to answer some tough questions about "The Force Awakens" without spoiling the whole thing in the process.  He understands how to dodge questions in an artful, geeky way, with enough humor and just enough meat to satisfy 6,500 diehards.  He appreciates Star Wars fans and understands how much we take Star Wars seriously.  He even handed out coffee and donuts to fans in line for the Hall.  I'd imagine that he would be in line with us if he wasn't a big time Hollywood guy, reveling in the struggle.

Oscar Issac's Character as Poe Dameron (picture from the Panel)
One of the characters that I'm really excited for is "Poe Dameron" played by one of my favorite actors, Oscar Issac (Check out "Inside Llewyn Davis").  Like most brown brothers, I'm always excited to see one of our kind being casted in major films, especially our favorite ones. Issac, being of Cuban and Guatemalan decent, is big for us.  And he flies a fucking X-Wing!  Doesn't get any better then that!   Maybe even a Millennium Falcon in the future if we're lucky!  He mentioned that his character, Poe, was probably a child watching the Death Star being destroyed above Endor on his "T.V." and dreamed of being part of the Rebellion, making his character the ultimate fan who is actually within the universe of this saga.  I thought that was pretty fascinating insight on his part.   One of the fan questions to Abrams was if there were going to be any Asian characters in the new movie.  Abrams response was (only paraphrasing) "Well, look at our cast, we even casted a Woman as one of the lead villains (General Phasma played by Gwendoline Christie).  J.J. went on to say "I think it's important people see themselves represented in film.  I think it's not a small thing."  (Check out this article on this subject by clicking here.)

The Core Three. 

Another solid surprise was Harrison Ford, who decided to come out of hiding for this panel.  Ford has a reputation for no-showing anything Star Wars.  He didn't even show up for Star Wars Celebration VII.  It’s as if he treats the legend of Han Solo as a plague that haunts him and his funny looking ear ring.  But he proved his self to the legion.  It was pretty cool seeing Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Ford all out there at once, like siblings who haven’t seen each other in a few years.  I could see the unique chemistry they had with each other, that sacred bond of being people who played characters that meant so much to generations.   

Expectations.  All of them were met.  Fans that made this panel were able to see the first "behind the scene" short of "The Force Awakens". J.J. even had one of his mechanical characters walk on to the stage.  But part of attending this panel is the expectation for one of a kind "swag".  And J.J. provided it!  Instead of handing people a bunch of tickets, J.J provided fans with an experience!  J.J. asked everybody to be as safe as possible and that he could not believe that "the City of San Diego approved this." A bunch of Stormtroopers walked up to the stage and then J.J. announced "These guys will be escorting you all, the entire hall, to a free Star Wars Concert for the Fans, played by the San Diego Orchestra".  Everybody went nuts!  My inner geek exploded!  And to ended it all, the famous song played at beginning and ending credits of Star Wars was accompanied by fireworks, as if The Battle of Endor was reprised!  Each participant got a lightsaber and a badge for entry.  

Storm Troopers leading us to the concert.

The Badge

My wife caught me geeking out.  Totally surreal and awesome all at once.

The Concert.
The Hall H line, the camping, the drama, the unorganized planning by Comic Con, the rude security guards, the constant waking up and moving of camps and the leap was all worth it.  I would have not changed a damn thing. Epic.  Just epic.  Legendary matter of fact.  Star Wars history. But the best thing about it is that the "tribe" has a leader in Abram.  He is legit, and understands the love and care that needs to go into this next movie.  And he cares about the fans.  From the "leisure"to the "fanboys" to the "hardcores".  He knows where to land so we can all feel the magic from Episodes IV-VI. That magic was felt on July 10, 2015.  Thanks J.J.

If you have an hour, here is the panel in it's entirety: 


"Cosplay" or "Costume play" is one of the defining aspects of what makes Comic Con so awesome.  I'm talking about thousands of people who put in a full years work into making costumes for a four day stretch.  People take Cosplay seriously while some just love to take their fandom to another level. Either way it's pretty awesome.  You can run into Captain Kirk in front of Hall B, and in Hall C snap a picture with Dead Pool, go to bathroom and in the urinal's next to you are two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and on the way out you could possibly bump into Iron Man holding hands with Thor.  All this happening within a matter of seconds.  For me at least, it's mostly about nostalgia and these characters from my childhood come to life.  Or even from my adulthood!  Here are some of my fav's from this year. 

Sometimes you think you know where some Cosplays are from, but really not sure.  I wasn't sure on this one.  All I know is that anywhere else, these dudes would have be arrested on site.  At the Con, the Cops even take pictures with them. 
Remember taking that Universal Studio's tour when you were a kid?  I did.  Battlestar Galactica!
Universe at peace.  Clone Wars!
"A fat kid with a dream. I can't compete with that." -Milhouse
Sticky Little Fingers.  Ya bastard!!!
True love.
"We are Groot"
Holding down Castle Black with his wolf puppy. 
Second year snapping one with "The Pilot." 

Since were on that subject, Fett wants in.

These kids told me they made these themselves!
Even Godzilla needs a hug.

"Bucket List"

Since last year, I've been wanting to ask a question to at least one of the Hall H panels.  Everybody gets a chance, you just have to have the nerves get up there and ask.  The new FX show "Sex & Love & Rock & Roll" was up just before the panel of one of my favorite shows "The Strain".  Robert Kelly who is also casted in one of my all-time favorite shows, "Louie", was also part of the cast of Sex & Love & Rock & Roll.  Being that, I had to ask...

"Collecting and Line Bonding"

I'm a collector.  I'll admit that.  I love anything that will bring back some nostalgia from my simpler days.  Most of the time it's Star Wars pieces, Robotech, even Transformers.  I also enjoy the Funko stuff, more so of the exclusives.  And every collector will tell you that the "Comic Con" logo on the packaging is the key to most collections.  Most of my time if not in Hall H is running around trying to grab exclusives to pay for the exclusives that I want to keep.  With most collectors, it's not about trying to make $bling$, it's more about trying to break even for the things that you want to keep. 

D.K.E. had these awesome Star Wars Mashups.  Very limited, like 30 hand made pieces. 

Lines upon lines are always the thing at Comic Con.  But the lines unlike elsewhere is where the experience is at.  We call this "Line Bonding".  Some people find their soul mates in life in these lines.  Seriously!  I even witnessed a proposal in the morning while in the "Everything Else" line where EVEN the parents had badges and witnessed the question.  People complain about lines everywhere else in the world, but Comic Con vets know that's where the good stuff is, where you can make a friend for life.  I love waiting in lines at the Con.  It's just that simple.

The "Everything Else" line to the Exhibition Hall.  I met a vet who was in his 21st year of Comic Con, who would come
with his father as a child back in the early 80's.  His father came to the very first one in 1974.  Awesome story!

My mom, who is not to cool with me storing my collectables in her extra room, always gives me hell by saying "toys are for kids," and "toys are toys" and "yada yada yada".  But to a collector, these are modern, even post modern art pieces at a reasonable price that not only fills one with nostalgia of better days, but keeps it's value, personally and financially.  Plus it's cool when you get a piece that one of your friends was looking for.  But it's even cooler when your friend picks up that piece, looks at you, gives you that look that says "Hell ya brother" and that feeling is mutually shared. It's like watching your best buddy get barreled at Black's (best way I can describe it in surfing terms).

One of the sought after pieces at the Con.  A reprise from the from Actions Comics #1 cover of Superman.
Return of the Jedi
Lego has this awesome raffle system.  You wait in line but you have to punch a button on an iPad to see if you get a ticket to buy a piece or not.  On this day, all five of my "line bonding" homies won these figures.  Three of the guys were fellow Pinoys from Arizona, the other homie from the O.C.  It was total and utter geekdom. 

"The True Hardcore"

Hardcores are never say die, no excuses, take all responsibility brethren who commit to a agenda or plan and never look back.  "Am I a hardcore?" I ask myself.  I don't know about that, but if I make up my mind, I'm in like Flynn, totally tunneled visioned and in for the long haul.  But then I see all the people in lines from everywhere else, like people from New York, Australia, Indiana and so forth who are risking time and money hoping to make things work out as they planned.  They are the true hardcores.  People who Cosplay all day in the San Diego heat, wearing layers upon layers to bring attention to themselves and their work, but also to help onlookers smile as they take them on a trip down memory lane.  

And then there's my wife.  She is straight up hardcore.  She watches me as I go full on information overload, running to lines, waiting in lines for hours while at the same time dazed and confused at how much I want to get done, but ultimately will not.  From our start 14 years ago, after she walked into my apartment in Oakland and saw an intergalactic battle of a toy Millennium Falcon, chasing a toy Tie fighter, who was chasing an toy X-Wing, while at the same time Slave One making a dash into hyperspace...  all hanging from the ceiling of my hallway, she knew what was up and stuck it out.  Now she has to deal with me at Comic Con.  God bless her for that.  But she found her own niche at the Con, as she always does with my obsessions (surfing including).  And she is not passive, she will tell me when I'm going over the edge and into the Dark Side and check me when I forget what I promised her I wouldn't do (or do.  LOL!).  But she always has my back, waits in most lines with me and is just as elated, especially when we entered Hall H on Friday, and when we got back to back "greens" in the Lego raffle on Sunday. She is the true hardcore. 

Us at the first Conan taping at Spreckles Theater.  Another highlight.  Team Coco!!!

   "End of the Line"

The one thing that I look for when searching for a line at the Con is the tall sign that reads "The End Of The Line".  Sometimes I can get lucky and run into it, other times I have to walk around a dozen corners or miles (The Hall H line for example) to find that magical end.  So here now is the end of the line for this years Comic Con post.  There were a hundreds of other highlights that I left out (like the Ballroom Masquerade), but hopefully next year I'll touch on them more.  The best advice for Comic Con...  Here are two:  Wear comfortable shoes.  Second:  Create a whole new twitter account dedicated to following all the recommended users and hashtags that the "Unofficial S.D.C.C. blog" recommends. 

The thing about Comic Con is once your in, your basically in.  You are placed on a special registration day separate from the general public where you are at least guaranteed a few days.  The key is not giving up that spot.  Even if you buy a badge and don't attend, you will lose that spot because you have to pick up your badge in person with an I.D. (Comic Con knows all the tricks).  For the foreseeable future it looks like this is going to be a yearly Mecca for my wife and I even if we somehow move away from San Diego.  But that's not a bad thing, it's the total opposite.  We have to go to Comic Con!!!  Have to!!! Yes!!! 

And now counting down the days until #SDCC2016.  365.. 364... 363... 362... 361... 360...

P.S. Click here for my entry from last year's Comic Con.  Also, you should hear my theory on why John Snow lives.  Meet me in the Hall H line next year and I'll tell you.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Them Dog Days

Them Dog Days from Kookingitup on Vimeo.

Summer time.  Checkered flags, warm water and more Wavestorms.  I can dig the last two.  Borrowed one of those bad boys and paddled out in ankle to waist high surf and just had the time of my life.  Can't knock'em.  It's a board for life if you buy one from Costco.  Just have to leave the ego at the sand, jump in and catch three dozen waves with one stroke.  Then you'll get it.  But no, I'm not giving up my shortboard, but while them dog days are here, I'll be catching them waist high waves out back with a big smile on my face.

My wife and I also had the chance to zip line at Catalina Island a few weeks back.  We had a great time, cruising over trees and canyons.  Instructors were good guys.  Funny and entertaining, to a point.  Well worth the dough if your out that way.  We also enjoyed some Karaoke on the Island.  I had the chance to sing "Sweet Caroline", that old classic Karaoke number.  Felt good having people sing it with me.  And interesting facts.  The Island is owned by the Wrigley family (Cubs & gum) and that they have a casino that was never really a casino.  Plus their are tons of Bison and live stock, all due to Hollywood.  It's a place I'd only go to once, but interesting none the less.

Oh, and yeah, the girl on the bull.  I couldn't leave that one out either.  And it is post Memorial Day, so please shuffle them feet.  I walked by the life guard station out at The Shores and they had red buckets full of really hot water lined up with legs in them, ankle high.  Wasn't a pretty site.

I am looking forward to making it out south of the border more.  'Tis the season of south swell, warmer water and even better tacos. Can't believe this is my third South Swell season out here in SoCal.  Time passes so fast.  Just makes me realize that time is worth way more then $. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


ALOHA NALU from O'Neill on Vimeo.

The things they are doing with droids now days is pretty killer. A very good clip of one of my favorite surfers. The Lady kills it.