Photo: Gilley

Rob Gilley

Previously in denial about his photographic past, Rob Gilley now rummages through his trove of mediocrity.

Followers of Waxing Gaseously may remember "Lost Treasure," an installment which lamented the insidious path from beginner joy to veteran surfer grumpiness. This essay used a personal anecdote about an uncrowded day at Black's Beach, and then cited multiple venomous online comments as downward spiral evidence.

I'm happy to report that revealing this personal story and then pointing out blog hatred seems to have decreased toxicity, and, more importantly, made this space a more constructive forum.

Constructive is a good adjective for a blog because its near-opposite, unnecessary negativity, only distracts from its greatest potential feature: interactivity. Unlike print, alternative viewpoints can be voiced on the web immediately. Additional information can be added to the existing line of thought. An occasional fart joke can be told.

And fittingly, that's the ultimate clichéd lesson to be gained from "Lost Treasure" too: that in the end, it's all about how we share.

In this spirit, I would like to use this week's post to highlight some of the better information and comments made by Waxing Gaseously readers since the posting of "Lost Treasure," as a way of thanking them for their contributions...

As a well-written, direct response to "Lost Treasure" and a harbinger of future positivity, "SurfersAgainstBadBlogs" wrote:

"Nice Mr. Gilley, Truthfully, your previous posts had intermittent wafts of unsettling self-righteousness akin to a toddler beauty pageant or an episode of Glenn Beck. Although it was likely employed to veil insecurities, it made many of your observations hard to swallow. Public forums are places to poke at the social fabric of our culture but only after we gut ourselves and chuckle at the stench of our innards. Continued self-reflection to the point of deprecation as illustrated in this post will ensure that your only haters will be trolls and your 'gaseous waxing' will only serve to expand our consciousness."

In a similar exorcistic post, "jojo" confessed:

"As one of the aforementioned blog haters, I, for one, want no part of the weird culture of online passive-aggression. I denounce my previous comments - well, everything except the witty bits..."

And lastly, a more-to-the-point excerpt from an insightful 29 year-old, "Eric":

"I'm glad you came to this assessment at your age, most older guys I know are just salty old dogs protecting their bone..."

For "In Grain I Trust," which attempted to shed light on the history of the digital revolution in surf photography and waxed nostalgic about shooting film, there was significant debate on both sides of the issue. However, probably the most worthwhile and telling comment came from a surf cinematographer's spouse, "Crystal Homcy":

"...My husband, Dave Homcy, mainly shoots motion picture film, but also stills. He claims when Film is gone, he will retire and open a little restaurant. Keep the art form alive...shoot film!"

(To which Kodak subsequently closed labs and declared bankruptcy. I hope Dave's new restaurant serves soup that we can both cry in, Crystal.)

For "Not Forgotten," which lamented the passing of fellow surfers, many contributors chimed in with the names of late surfers not mentioned in the blog. They include,

Jason Bogle
Peter Miller
Tiger Espere
Tommy Winkler
Rusty Starr
Bunker Spreckels
Jesse Oke
Midget Smith
Mark Foo
Miki Dora
Eric Hopps
Greg Starr
Eric Diaz
Sion Milosky
Jay Moriarity
Rell Sunn
Rick Rasmussen
Butch Van Artsdalen
Buzzy Trent
Dewey Weber

For "Crazy Larry," which profiled the unheralded, brass-balled filmmaker, Larry Haynes, the comments were unanimously positive:

From "Greg Huglin":

"Larry is the best water cinematographer alive and should be paid more than the pesos he works for. What a great attitude and what a cool person. Thanks Larry."

From Zak:

"Great article Rob, Larry is the man, he is so much fun always singing in the lineup and making jokes, when all you really want to do is focus on the 10 foot sets coming in towards you. Larry is a true legend stoked you did this on him."

And an expression of educational surprise from "Greg":

"Wow, Larry is really highly thought of. I know nothing of any of this. Yet I can definitely state that this was absolutely the most positive commentary section I have ever read in any surf publication ever. And that is worth noting!!"

Also, at least two readers wanted to add the same three names to the brave water photographer list: Aaron Loyd, Daren Crawford, and Daniel Russo.

The responses were light to the epic, fecal-orbed saga of "The Marble," but a sage, educated comment came from "EddieP":

"Brilliant piece in which the marble represents enlightenment, the sandal used to cover it, shame."

Been reading a lot of CliffsNotes lately, Eddie?

To the resoundingly popular "Geezer Nation," which outlined the aging demographics of the surf population and the mysterious disappearance of the 20 and 30-year old surf herd, most readers seem to agree with the premise, and some even offered explanations like "Scrump":

"Your answer lyes [sic] in the expense of living in a beach community in California. Who can afford to raise a kid near the beach any more? And if you can, youre probably at work most days...all day. Pretty simple."

And then a comment from a proud geezer himself, "Mike Dreebin":

"Still out at Malibu after 49 years. What we really need are digital watches with BIG numbers. We can't wear reading glasses in the water."

And, as a way of explaining some of the snide, younger-oriented comments to "Geezer Nation," "Tim Baker" pointed out:

"There's your answer Rob, that's where guys in their 20s and 30s are - on The web being narky bitches."

As testament to the humble ways of four-time World Champion Mark Richards written about in "The Mark of a King," a few readers related personal experiences like "Scott":

"I have been to Richards Surf in Newcastle twice and both times MR was at the register to ring me up. He gave me tips on where to surf in what swells and took a photo with me at the shop. I wanted to buy a DVD but he reminded me it would not work in the states. He is a surfing legend and a real life nice guy and my favorite surfer of all time because of that. Thanks for giving him his due."

And this flashback from "Gra Murdoch":

"It might be a grom hallucination but I saw MR walking around the car park picking up rubbish after winning Bells once."

For "FREE NAKED PHOTO!!!!!!," which commented on the hyperbole in the surf media and pictured a distant shot of a naked volleyball game at Black's Beach, the most entertaining comment came from, "EddieSurfs":
"Anyone know how to zoom in using Microsoft Office Picture Manager?"
For "Mortal Compass," the jury seemed to be pretty split on whether surfers of lesser ability should purposely travel to venues of consequence. One seemingly balanced, wise perspective came from "Greg Pero":

"...It is interesting point that other outdoor sports have some type of ratings to give people an idea of what level their getting into so they can make a more educated decision on whether they are up to it or not. In climbing - each established climbing route has a rating - so a climber depending on his/her ability can understand ahead of time whether they are getting in over their heads. Same goes for river rafting, mountain biking and of course snow boarding/skiing. It helps with planning a vacation - for instance if you're an intermediate level snow boarder - would you plan a trip to a mountain where the majority of runs were double black diamond? Probably not - not to say that you might want to at least try one to challenge yourself but you also want to go to a location that had a balance of runs you could enjoy. I think the same could be beneficial for surfers trying to decide where to go on a surf vacation..."

And a shorter, cryptically philosophical answer from, "Whamo":

"Only those who face the dangers of the sea can comprehend its mystery."

For "Five Under," which profiled five underrated surfers that I have personally known and which also mentioned a smattering of others, many readers added their own personal favorite underrated talents. The list includes:

CJ Nelson
Keil Miller
Henry Hunte
David Dupont
Royden Bryson
James and Tyler Hollmer-Cross
Chris Owens
Torrey Meister
Albee Layer
Alan Cleland
Jon Vine
Peter Berkey
Pete Devries
Peter Mendia

For "The Ambastronauts," which nominates surfers to represent our culture in the event we need to send envoys to another planet, two prescient comments came to fore. First, from "Adam Fraser," a message and a link to a bizarrely like-minded website:

"Rob, I love how far you're taking us outside of the box with this article. For what it's worth, I've actually spent some time thinking about how badass it would be to surf the cosmos... enough that I started this photo project: might appreciate it "

And a pithy comment from "ingreenowetrust":

"send greenough. He's the only one that could communicate fluently with aliens."

For "Tick Tock," which points out the increase in great white shark sightings, subsequent probability of attack, and public response, the comment boards lit up with their own shark sightings and debated the notion of fishing or culling the great white population. But most importantly, "Susan Wickstrand-Roche," the surf artist, revealed that great whites are already being tagged and monitored:

"Rob, A good friend of mine finally got her app approved today:
It tracks adult great whites and is called: "Expedition White Shark". She's one of the scientists that has helped tag, track and develop this app.~ SW."

I never thought I would be saying these words, Susan, but that sounds like a useful app.

For "Small Saviors" and "Small Saviors Redux," the blogs which listed 12 essential, inexpensive items to bring on every surf trip, a few savvy readers added a few gems:

Extra leash strings
Duct Tape (small roll)
Mini UV ding repair kit
Vinyl stickers (for dings)
Fish hooks

And lastly, we come to "East and West." No blog has elicited this much debate and venom since the days before "Lost Treasure."

First, for clarification, it should be pointed out that the term, "vacated nut sack" is not a diss or reference to East Coast cowardice (which some readers inferred), but a physiological state in which cold water causes the testicles to retreat to a more protected, warmer position in the upper regions of the intestines. In short, when the water is cold enough, your balls--anyone's balls--run and hide.

More importantly, I think you will find that if you read "East and West" again, you will realize that the last line, "Except for Florida. That place sucks," is intended to be a joke. In truth, I have nothing against Florida. In fact I have surfed fun waves there, and had a great time.

Instead, the last line of "East and West" is a satiric play on the premise of the very first paragraph of the piece: that all you have to do to garner page views and ignite online debate is to diss a particular coast, or take a side.

Which, in this case, turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Given the potential for literary misunderstanding, some of you out there might question the logic of re-running Waxing Gaseously comments at all. As a way of explaining the importance of second looks, let me leave you with an "East and West" comment from "Christian", who obviously gets it:

"I posted twice for emphisism."