Don't Look Back
I was surprised when I received a text from Cort to give him a call. Though we have tread the same waters for years, as life takes its tacks and jibes we’ve not crossed tracks in decades. Though I’d always admired him, It would be a stretch to call us close friends. I figured he might have some briny bone to pick about the book.
I biked up to Lake Folsom, took a break and gave him a call. I won’t share the depths of the conversation to protect the innocent nor even the wicked, but suffice to say it was a wild look back. To my surprise, Cort told me that he loved the book, had read it in one sitting from start to finish. But then it came…”You know, I was more than a pretty face. I won two world championships.”
I honestly didn’t remember that. I thought Robby won them all. I know he was on fire in the early eighties and a true pioneer of Hawaiian wave jumping, as witnessed in this great photo by Steve Wilkings. Yet, all accolades aside, I’m still going with pretty face – just as I’d give his cohort Mark Robinson the speedobod award – banana hammock notwithstanding. My book didn’t delve into who won this or that championship, and certainly not those that happened pre-Maui.
Cort was a shining star for sure, and good lord, did I not refer to him in print as Jesus Cort Superstar? There’s nothing wrong with having a pretty face. I wish I had such a pretty of a face, though I’m not sure I’d have been able to handle the troubles that came with the package. Cort is certainly a legend but was not featured in my movie, Wind Legends, and though he had a cameo in the book, not highlighted enough for all he was worth. And he was worth a lot. He made more money than most of us “sponsored” sailors put together. He might have been second on the money list next to Robby. The fact is, there are so many legends in on our sport it could fill volumes.
Cort had browsed onto my FB groveling about all the big stars being mum about the book, then advised that most of them don’t really want to look back. Come on, man. Even Alex? Certainly, it could be difficult when you were once riding high and then along comes the next. Bruce, Matt, Mike, Ken, Robby, Bjorn, Antoine…any reminder of that peg knock might sting. But I would think most of them are mature enough to swallow that pill and relish their post windsurfing fame successes.
Referring to my films, Pete Cabrinha once told me that “If you’ve pleased 50% of your audience – and yourself – you’ve succeeded.”
Looking at my book from a sales perspective, I didn’t feel like I’d succeeded. Impact Zone, my first book, was far more successlful. Glory Days has been slogging along akin to when you get caught on the outside at sunset with big waves and the wind shuts off. Alas, nobody who writes a book with the intention of it being a best seller sells more than ten and since one of my daughters read it, and my Mom, I’m glad I penned it. Thank god my wife didn’t read it.
Cort is always full of wisdoms as well. I’d go as far to say he is the Yogi Berra of windsurfing. “If you want to make a small fortune, start with a large one.” Cort. He claims at his 101 BoardSports shops in the bay area that he makes “tens of dollars.” It’s just not fair that god gave him these great looks and the gift of gab as well. Of course, god gave him cancer as well, but he took that adversity with a dose of wisdom, which only gave him a higher perspective on life. If God gave him worms he’d go fishing.
I asked Cort if he had any wisdoms for me or criticisms even better. I asked him why, as talented as I was, others were largely more successful. Was it because they were more cordial with the universe? “That’s it,” he said. “A lot of people don’t get your form of humor. It’s smart, but some, they take your Seinfeldian scarcasm as just being mean.” A tough pill to swallow as I don’t mean to be mean, but I can look back on it as well as forward and then sideways to try and improve, at least to 50%. If I make myself laugh, I win.
He talked about Ken Winner and how he told him to read the book, as Ken is quite featured. I would think that at least Ken, a guy I always figured was born with a large dose of pride, would eagerly want to read about himself. But no, Ken doesn’t want to look back. Evidently, Mr. Winner’s happiest when he focuses on the present and the future. I guess a young, smart, fast foiling girlfriend helps. Maybe when he can’t keep up with her, he’ll read the book.
Then, Cort and I got to talking about shared, ahem, exploits, and the final wisdom: “It’s just as easy to marry a rich girl as a poor one.” That had the clock hands burning circles, until my Strava app beeped me. I had to jump back on the bike before the sun set so I could walk the dog. The dog doesn’t give a hoot about my book nor my humor, as long as I hand out treats.
Looking back, there are so many great guys like Cort that I wish I had spent more time getting to know. Perhaps with my brand of humor, I’d piss them all off so what’s the point. Don’t look back. But please do.
Dog Food Dreamin'
The waves were cracking, booming loudly on the reef right outside the beachside home I found myself and my family carousing. There was no wind on those waves, nor people. I picked up the phone and called Robby.
I wish that my memory matched the vivid recall of my dreams. Upon awaking, I felt as if I was still stuck in this dream, and didn’t find it that funny. Robby has always treated me well, and would never have said the things he did to me in this dream. Still, the realization that the end result is reality shook me like a Kelby doll being ragged in the turbulence of a crushing napalm. Who writes like that?
In this reality, I’d sent two of my books, Maui Glory Days, to Robby’s mom, Carol. One was signed for his family and one to read for Robby. Yes, selfishly I had hopes that he might endorse it like he does in his FB videos of this and that product. Of course, they are products of his own, but just one little photo on FB of him smiling, holding the book up with his usual hat on backwards, flashing a shaka sign would have propelled my little book into the Amazon stratosphere.
A couple of months went by and neither The King nor any of his other major disciples had not spoken highly nor lowly on SM about the book, a book largely about them. Naish, Waltze, Schweitzer, Angulo, Simmer, Polakow, Kalama, Haywood… not one word. Mumsters.
Then, Bruce Matlack included me in his anti-pumping group email, and there was The King’s email address. I thought, what the heck. I’d just write Robby to see if he had at least received the book. And then, to my surprise, Rob kindly wrote back that he’d pick it up over Christmas, right after he returned from New York and his new film premier. Ah, great, I thought! I love this guy!
With this promise in my pocket and the one that had been dragging on for months from Delius Klasing to consider publishing the book in several languages, it was hard not to get my hopes high. The publisher was just waiting on the editor from Surf magazine to give his approval or not, and if so, they’d present it at the annual meeting for strong consideration. The editor, Manuel, loved it.
Fast forward two months later. I wrote Rob again to see if he had read the book. No reply. Not that I expected one. Between business, movie producing, and wave chasing, the guy is busy as hell. It probably got buried amongst his millions of emails and I don't want him to think I’m groveling. I just want hime to read the damn book.
Worse, book sales had taken their natural course and diminished to one per week. I only make about a buck a book, so there went my dream of retiring and finishing my other five books, books that have nothing to do with windsurfing. Hemingway-esques and Steinbeck-eeks, though not as good nor depressing. Perhaps I should drink more.
Then, Delius Klasing replied that, while they and the editor both loved the book, they only did well with Instructional books. There was no market for windsurfing books. So it was all up to me and my self-publishing. And Robby. Or whiskey.
I lay down my head to sleep and like one of those long drawn out advertisements revealing what supplement do we actually need to take to get rid of this belly fat, we can finally get on with the dream:
The waves were cracking, booming loudly on the reef right outside the beachside home I found myself and my family carousing. There was no wind on those waves, nor people. I told my wife, after discussing that she doesn’t remember her dreams, at least not as vividly as I do, that I had to make a call. Book sales were suffering.
Robby began to speak before I could even say hello. “What’s up, Jonathan?”
“Oh, hey, Robby. How are you?”
“Good. What can I do for you?”
“I was just down here at… I think it’s Waltze’s, or perhaps Polakow bought it…”
“Right! Angulo’s. Anyway, the waves are cracking.”
“Right. So what is it you want?”
“Well, I was just wondering, you know, if you had a chance to read my book.”
“Nope. I told you I wasn’t interested in publishing.”
“I just thought you might find it interesting. There’s a lot about you in there. I realize there’s a lot about you in every book about windsurfing…”
“I just don’t have time nor, I hate to put it to you, the interest.”
“Well, maybe you’d enjoy some of the stories about your friends in there?”
Silence. More waves cracking. I thought I’d lost him, and then…
“Okay, Jonathan. I tell you what. Send me a fifty, a bag of dog food, and a peanut butter cup in one envelope. If the peanut butter cup isn’t crushed when I get it, I’ll read it.”
“Oh, great! Wait, what? A bag of dog food and… a peanut butter cup?”
“In other words, I’m not interested in reading it.”
He hangs up. I look at my wife and she asks me how it went. I want to tell her, but I wouldn’t want to say anything bad about The King. So I eat my words. There is a banana in there. A banana is what gives you the belly fat.
Then I woke up. Robby is still The King. He's a great guy. He's just too busy. Maybe one day, when he slows down to 80, or on a 20 hour plane trip, he'll pick up the book and start reading, and never be able to put it down.