I spend my days on the riverbanks of surf history, hunkered down on my thin old-man shanks, panning through silt and stones. It is tedious but satisfying labor. Meditative, almost. The job is not so important in the grand scale of things. I will not solve cold fusion by scanning photos of beaver-tailed surfers at Hermosa Pier from my collected volumes of Surf Guide magazine. But it is not without value, either. A good part of the material I'm loading kilobyte by kilobyte into the hardrive is balanced on the frozen black lip of the eternal media void, and once it falls over, that's it, gone. So yes, I do feel, day in and day out, a mild but steady frisson of righteousness.
And of course, now and then, as I sift forth, a jewel rattles onto my pan. So it was 16 years ago. While researching the page on sandboarding, for the print version of Encyclopedia of Surfing, I was surprised and delighted to learn, from multiple sources no less, that ancient Egyptians rode the dunes on custom-made pieces of pottery. But of course! Egypt! Dunes! Duh! The image springs to mind fully formed. Wealthy bronzed-limbed, tunic-clad youth climbing the ridges of the Great Sand Sea, pyramids in the background, Nile winking the sun; then pause, jab a finger up to Ra, huck over the ledge, couple turns for rhythm, a Sphinx-stance though the bowl, a double-Pharaoh claim at the end, maybe a happy tear or two, and of course, thanks to Qetesh for making it all possible. Heckle the Nubians on the way home.
And thus the Encyclopedia of Surfing entry for sandboarding opened as follows: "Ancient Egyptians used planks made of pottery or wood to slide down sand dunes." Last week, I finally loaded the sandboarding web page, and for due diligence reached out to Sandboard magazine founder and all-around godfather of sandboarding Lon (Dr. Dune) Beale, in Oregon. I reminded Beale that we'd done this once before, in 2002, before the book went to print. Here's how our Facebook conversation went that day:
First, anger. Dude played me 16 years ago, and the above apology would have to be twice the size to qualify as half-assed.
Followed by a moment of two of Breitbart consciousness. I can totally work with this. By saying "Many people believe sandboarding began in ancient Egypt," have I not created an alternative reality? Can you prove that ancient Egyptians were not, in fact, the original sandboarders? You cannot. Case rested.
Then, finally, resignation. Yesterday morning, I deleted the first sentence on the sandboarding page. Vowed to do a better job at checking sources next time. Felt gullible and mockable.
Mr. Beale, I leave you with this: "The beach is just something I cross in order to get to the surf." Phil Edwards, bitch. Look it up. On EOS. You say that beach is not a sand dune? Do you know for sure that Edwards wasn't obliquely but expressly making fun of your silly little "sport"? You do not. Now go shake the sand out of your Fruit of the Looms. We're even.