Friday, March 23, 2007

Dirtsurfer Chronicles (Prologue)- Bardo goes offroad

After a long day of waiting in a giant warehouse-sized video stage for my bit in an unsponsored Puma® commercial, my turn came in front of the special slo-mo camera which can shoot 2000 frames per second - and beyond if you can get enough light. 2 P.A.s sprayed fine droplets of water on my bare chest, arms, face and glistening, baldhead. The bright lights kept me warm while the director and cinematographer ironed out the specifics before each shot, most characterized by several bright flashing lights. At one point I was doing a speeded up improvised version of the tai chi I’ve been practicing. Another shot I am on a dolly with my didj. “Didj on a dolly!” I kept saying to most likely only my delight. The time flies by. It’s nice to be the center of attention. The crew has a relaxed and laid-back approach. No one tries to dominate. There seems to be a subtle undercurrent of electricity, soundless buzz and noiseless hum, like everyone’s experience is cool. They all want to be here.

I arrive back in Ojai around 10 PM and am greeted silently by my new Dirtsurfer, just arrived via UPS and separated into two different boxes. My enthusiasm for the new toy overcomes my inclination to just fall in bed and go to sleep. Without the proper tools, I am unable to completely put it together and end up going to bed hungry – hungry for dirt that is.

The next day, I comlete the assembly using some bike tools. One screw is missing and I find a suitable substitution at Ace Hardware.

I head into the back yard and give it a go. My first attempts are like a kick in the gut – “hah!” – not physically, just mentally. I’d not expected to have too much trouble. 10 minutes later I am able to roll 10 feet or so at the max. A sore foot and slightly bruised ego helped delay any further attempts for 3 days.

Its Monday, there is a fine drizzle of rain outside in the troposphere. The grass is wet. The driveway: wet. The road: wet. My foot feels good, no pain. 3 weeks ago, I’d baled off a wave and one of the fins nailed my foot pretty good. Recuperation has taken 3 times longer than my most pessimistic prognosis. No matter. Today is the day. Foot’s fine. I wheel the Freestyle Dirtsurfer into position and give it a go. The 3 days rest must have allowed for some new data integration to take place or something because the second attempt saw me sail across the yard 40 yards or so. I’d found the little center of gravity window that this baby offers and fallen in love instantaneously. It felt so much like surfing that the joy was almost painful in its intense heat, which I quickly adapted, harnessed and am now using as an alternative energy source. I wheeled the land boarding contraption to the top of the driveway and surfed back down, easily slaloming up an embankment on the right, ducking under the branches of an orange tree and streaking across the long grass and weeds and baling off laughing and giddy with the thrill. This was it, I was hooked immediately, just add dirt or asphalt or both.

It’s Friday. I am wheeling the Dirtsurfer up the road and I see a familiar Range Rover, driven by Jason. Big eyes and a curious face sum up his response. “What is it?” He finally remembers to ask.

“It’s a Dirtsurfer. This one is the Freestyle – 16 inch wheels.”


“Want to see me ride it down the hill?” I move my head in the direction of the fairly steep section of road just a head.


“Will you drive me back up here?”

“Sure- I want to see this.”

“You can try if you want.”

“No. I just want to watch.”

I put the board down, right foot on the back part of the board, push off the asphalt a couple times with the left foot and slowly make my way to the approaching incline. It is like I am in the mellow part of a river just before the falls on a surfboard. If I fall, there will be no water to cushion my fall and also no water to drown me. No, there is only the unrelenting black asphalt worn grey with rain, sun and time. Over my shoulder, I see Range Rover Jason smiling with anticipation. I smile in a flash of teeth and then I make the drop and gravity quickly accelerates me to 25 mph approximately. The turn approaches and I smoothly squat down and use my hand on the calf break to slow down to a leisurely 10 mph before making the turn. Made that part a little to easy. I stand straight up and let the speed build to around 30 mph and then the final turn comes up, I use my right hand on the calf break again but leave some momentum for a fun left, backside turn. Feels so much like surfing ocean waves but there’s something fresh and new. Undiscovered. Clearly it is its own sport. Surfing the frozen waves of hills, mountains, trails and the black ribbons of asphalt.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button