The good thing about any kind of so-called retro-progressive movement is the progressive part. Nostalgia for its own sake is a dangerous thing — especially in as young a sport as ours — and can render even the strongest surfer powerless, bitter and spewing from the Lazy Boy rather than spit out of the tube. Fortunately, Surf Style — a collection of art, boards, artifacts and films that just opened in San Francisco — has just enough chaos to keep it fresh.
Opening night in July sees no less that three camera crews, a half dozen photographers, a bunch of surf personalities including Matt George, the Malloy brothers, Joe Curren, Andrew Kidman, Jim Banks, Craig Peterson, Matt Warshaw, Bill Ogden, giggling half-drunk surf groupies (a new species in San Francisco), city artsy types and local Ocean Beach surfers all piled in together and drinking and smiling and bubbling as they jostle for space in front of paintings and at the bar. Local boy Tommy Guerrero lays down the music.
It’s so crowded that moving from one end of the room to the other is closer to paddling out at decent sized OB than some swanky and sophisticated art show. Herbie Fletcher fairly runs the room and the TV crews, too, leading them around popping off flashbulbs and trying to grab one little ion of Herb’s saltwatery charisma. “This is my quiver from the ’70s,” he smiles, pointing out his boards as the tape runs, completely unsentimental. Now’s the time, man. Not then. Herbie shaped and hand-painted a few longboards specifically for the show, and they’re proudly displayed facing super urban Second Street. And yeah, just about everyone stares as they walk by, even this far from the beach.
On the retro side of progressive, we’ve got classic prints from Art Brewer, Drew Kampion, Alby Falzon, and Craig Peterson lining the walls. Each image is a little window into the ’70s, whether it’s a Michael Peterson cutback, a BK bottom turn at Sunset, or an empty wave spinning off in Mainland Mexico. All nave and hopeful and full of promise.
Contemporary photogs represented include JBrother, who’s got some stunning shots of Joel Tudor at Pipe; Patrick Trefz, whose golden backlit wave photo caused every single dusk patroller to skip a beat; Sean Davey, who’s behind-the-tube underwater shots look stunning blown up to print size, Andrew Kidman, whose moody wavescapes make you realize how damn big the ocean really is, plus more.