In a little over a half-decade working as a “surf journalist” (quotes intentional, as surf journalist may be an oxymoron), I’ve been able to file stories from some remarkable places: Trekked deep into the Javanese jungle to paddle out with a predominantly Muslim crew of stylish longboarders, as the morning call to prayer emanated from the local mosque and served to score to our twilight sessions; bore witness to some radical post-surf wall tags undertaken by soft-top-addicted crust punks in Byron Bay; even once made a wildly uncomfortable house call to an aging Pacific Northwest-based rockstar whose delusions of persecution (as well as his three-story warehouse wonderland filled with the most-random assortment of tchotchkes) seemed both par for the rockstar course and the corollary to a psychotic episode. Fun times, to be sure!
But in the year 2020, as an open-ended global pandemic has upended life as we know it, these recollections seem like excerpts from a highly forgettable memoir I once skimmed (certainly not my own). While we may not be sheltering in place anymore, I don’t think the distance between here and Indonesia could feel farther than its estimated 10,000 miles.
Your boy’s got cabin fever, is what I’m saying.
In early August I had a long discussion with Kiwi surfer and founder of the Christchurch, NZ-based surf-music-art festival, the Single Fin Mingle: Ambrose McNeil–a somewhat nomadic fella I’ve run into in such seemingly disparate places as Canggu and Saladita. In March, after McNeil’s home country instituted one of the most draconian lockdowns on the globe–closing its borders, restricting nonessential business, confining the population to their homes, and essentially banning surfing outright–he was forced to cancel his festival. A month later, that lockdown proved to be one of the most effective in stamping out the virus, as the island nation was able to lift all COVID-related restrictions. In late July, McNeil and hundreds of New Zealanders did indeed throw down in Christchurch. The pictures that accompanied our interview, which ran on Surfer Magazine’s website, show crowds not only surfing and mingling (maskless!), but raging to live music into the wee hours, sans-social-distancing.
For me, this little piece of “surf journalism” served as a beacon of hope in dark times–a look at a post-COVID world. Like McNeil and his Kiwi compatriots, I’m certain we will mingle again.
What will that look like in Jacksonville? The content we’ve put together for this, our fall 2020 issue, offers some clues: Arts features on painters Addie Gibson (“The Art of Healing”) and Cooli Ras (“Flow State”), as well as a music interview with R&B-influenced singer-songwriter Sailor Goon (“Gaining Ground”) show our region is home to plenty of young, yet fully formed, artists. Their work resonates right now, and will surely be amplified by the walls of a gallery or the PA-mains at a local venue.
Speaking of live music, we talked to some of Jacksonville’s most innovative impresarios and venue runners about what the future of live music looks like in our region (“Painful Silence”). And, while it’s not exactly insider trading, the results of our #1 in the 904 reader’s poll could serve as a kind of stock tip, the winners a clear representation of who and what the community is banking on to ride the wave of a post-coronavirus rebound.
There’s a lot to look forward to, sure. But within the pages of our fall 2020 issue (and here locally for that matter), there’s plenty to revel in. As always, thanks for putting your eyeballs on our mag.
This feature originally appeared as the Liner Notes to our fall 2020 issue, free to pick up at more than 300 locations in and around Jax.