Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Joy in the Mundane

My body was made to walk and not sit as much as it does. I am not sure if it was reading Andre Agassi's autobiography or if I was just ready, but I walked to work yesterday. Andre's book is fantastic, probably even if you aren't into tennis. His dad made him hit one million balls per year. Surely I can walk 2.9 miles to work. I've biked it before, but I wanted 45 minutes of being outside instead of 15.

Hello blue Caddy fins. Our family had a car like this when I was a teenager. The Batmobile, we called it. I'm sad to say I was embarrassed to be seen in it, even though my grandmother told me it was cool, all the kids in California love old cars (I lived in Louisiana at the time).

Why yes, it's me and I have two heads.

I've driven by this creek a thousand times and never knew it was there. Those are Eucalyptus trees. They were brought over from Australia during the Gold Rush and used as windrows on agricultural land.

I like a good peace symbol.

Abalone shells.
5 more minutes and I'm at work. I feel invigorated all day.

On my way home. Jay asks if I want a ride. No thank you, I said, even though it starts drizzling.
I think my brother has gotten a fretboard repaired here.

I wonder if this mannequin comes alive at night.

The interior of this Skylark was creamy tuck and roll leather. You can hear the sound the engine makes, can't you?

Bullet train on the way to San Francisco. I always like seeing the people in the windows reading.

Everyone in California knows the El Camino Real because it's a 600 mile highway running from San Diego to San Francisco. It was created to connect all of California's missions and pueblos. There are the weirdest collection of stores on the ElCo. In two blocks alone I can think of stores to buy saddles, guns, lamps, manicures, pizza, ice cream and bridal gowns. The American dream?

My dream home is a Spanish/Mediterranean style, like this one. Close to the beach of course.

Lights greeting me on the corner of my street. I feel content and think of that great line, "I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul."

Happy New Year! I want 2010 to be amazing for all of us. I know I'm going to sound mushy, but we just have to keep our hearts open. Lots of love, JW

Saturday, December 12, 2009


It rained super hard here today and it was awesome. We took a drive to Half Moon Bay and the sea was stormy. There were a bunch of kite surfers practicing on the north side of the Jetty. We stopped to get a coffee at Blue Sky and the owners had just returned from a trek in Nepal. They were really stoked on it and still had a glow in their faces.

We took the long way home and drove down Skyline through the foggy redwoods. It was so beautiful I just wanted to stay there. I need the mountains and need to go to them more. The mountains are givers. I was thinking existential thoughts like, our lives are kind of an illusion. We can do anything we want. I'll try to explain that another time, but I also thought it'd be good to be more like the Native American Indians.

How? Well lots of ways but particularly, I think it would be highly beneficial for everyone, starting as a teenager, to go on your own vision quest say, for 10 days. And to do this every two years. That way, you'd always stay on track, or quickly get back on track and know what you are meant to be doing. You'd know yourself very well, you'd know nature and you wouldn't get lost. I'm going to think about this some more.

Sometimes I have gotten so mad because I've felt off track and I knew instinctively that all I'd need to do is take some time away. A few years ago I was frustrated by working at a boring office where everyone took things too seriously (does money have to be so serious?) and I was not making enough art or being in nature enough and I just wanted to walk. I fantasized about walking from here to Santa Barbara. I didn't do it.

From what I see around me I think we work too much, in general. I think we need to be in nature a lot more. I can envision our world being healthier. Do I feel like I am at the highest level of healthiness in my body, mind and spirit? I know that I'm not. I need to be so strong that that is always my highest priority. I want to raise the level. Let's do it.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Dear Diary: Part Three

January 6

Dad plaid a game of checkers with me and I won!
My tooth almost came out. And the next day it did!
The toothfairy brought me 25¢

February 3

Today Beth is going to come over and do a dance
my mom taught me "(and Beth.)"
The dance is called, You Make Me Feel Like Dancing.


Anyone know what the going rate is for a tooth these days?

The General Store

I can't wait to visit the brand new General Store, a collaboration between sweethearts Serena Mitnik-Miller and Mason St. Peter. It's in the Outer Sunset near Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

A perfect way to start the day would be to have some coffee at Trouble, walk to the beach, get a new t-shirt at Mollusk, have lunch at Outerlands Cafe, and visit the General Store.

Mason said that the General Store features carefully curated items from both new and vintage sources. Local Artisans and Craftspeople contribute to the mix of furniture, clothing, tools, plants, household items, books, jewelry, cards and small electronics. In January they will unveil their backyard garden and patio.

Sounds like goodness to me!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cher Pendarvis: Part Three

1969-70, shaped by Tom Threinen, with glassing help by Cher. The 5'8" Arch Tail Twinny preceded Cher's first fish.
Photo by Tom Threinen

What an amazing time that must have been for you, experimenting like that and surfing with all of those greats. Can you tell us a little about working for Surfing Magazine? What did you do there?

When I worked at Surfing, it was a bi-monthly and I was the only woman on staff for quite awhile until they hired a receptionist. The staff at the time was about 5 people then it grew. I was an Art Associate and became an Advertising Designer; this was in the late mid-late 1970s.

How many surfboards do you suppose you've had, Cher? What is your current favorite?

I worked on surfboards in Ocean Beach in the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. In 1974, our friend Mike Casey was head shaper at Channin, and he introduced me to Tony Channin and Mike Diffenderfer. Channin has always been known for their quality and precision. Tony sponsored my surfboards for more than 15 years, and he commissioned me to design logos for his brands and also had me work part time at the factory if I needed more freelance work.

7'1" swallow tail shaped by Mike Casey; Channin built it for Cher's first surfing trip to Oahu to visit Rell in 1976. Shaun Tomson gave Cher hints on the design for tube riding - and she still has this board.
Photo by Tom Threinen

This was a creative time, and Mike and I worked on designing boards. It was an honor to work with Tony Channin and the crew. Mike Casey moved to Hawaii in 1978 and we continued to work together, and I rode his boards until Steve began shaping my boards.

Looking back and doing some counting, I think I've had more than 150 boards. It's been very fun, and an honor to ride each and every one. I still have some favorite boards that date back as far as 1970.

Currently my favorites are:

- Juvenile Garribaldi, 5'10 old school keel fin fish
- Frisky, 6'2 EPS quad swallowtail
- Queen Angelfish 4, 6'4 twinnie with trailer
- Kelp Slipper, 6'7 high aspect twin fin for heavier water
- Firecracker, 5'4 chambered balsa fish
- Leopard Spots, 6'10 chambered balsa high aspect fish
- Mother Garribaldi, 6'9 Skip Frye fish

I love how you name all of your boards. What is your current homebreak?

Sunset Cliffs and Ocean Beach (Southern California).

Your husband Steve Pendarvis, is a well known shaper. Can you tell me what defines a Pendoflex board?

A Pendoflex has a high speed torque tail design that Steve shapes into the board. After glassing it, he finishes it with a light foam decking. The Pendoflex allows you to subtly change the rocker of the board to get more speed out of your turns. Steve's Pendoflex design also helps the board to subtly conform to the wave face and tap more of the available energy.

1999 Pro Masters, riding Angelfish 3, PendoFlex, built by Steve
Photo by Jim Pigeon

Did you meet Steve while surfing?

Yes, Steve and I first met while surfing at the Cliffs, as acquaintances. Many years later, our close friend Janine formally introduced us, and we are very grateful to her.

What are you working on right now that you are most excited about?

Oh, I'm grateful to say it's many things. Being a self-employed artist, it helps to have a broad base of work that can be done. Right now, I'm working on a new edition of The Painter Wow! Book, which is an educational book which combines art and technology.

During the past 4 years, I've been working on and off as a producer on an independent documentary film, and my work included researching, organizing and conducting more than 20 interviews, and contributing photography among other things, for the project. It was an honor and labor of love to do the interviews and other work and hopefully the project will be completed someday.

Right now, I'm working on a painting commission of some Ginger flowers for a client, and helping Steve with his surfboard business. And a favorite on-going photography series involves photographs of surfing people and scenes. Steve and I are grateful to do creative work and we love the work we are blessed to do.

Cher, in all the riding you have done, is there one wave that is more memorable than others?

Thank you. Two waves, one was at Sunset on the North Shore, off the point in the Spring of 1982, the waves were about 6-7 feet. I got a long wave that had an incredible barrel so wide and dry that you could stick out your arm, out and not touch the waterfall. It was long and fast and so wonderful to emerge from the dry barrel.

The second wave was after Rell passed away in 1998. Rell used to say, "The ocean is the blood of the Earth and it keeps us connected, So if she was in Makaha and I was surfing the Cliffs, we were still surfing together."

I was surfing alone at my favorite reef in the spring after she passed away and riding an old Lis fish for fun. I felt her on the little board with me, and when I hopped near the nose to trim on the inside section, I felt her come through my heart and ride the wave with me to the beach. It was so wonderful and thrilling to share, and after that I floated on my board in the tidepool and cried happy tears, but missing our dear friend so much.

That is incredibly beautiful, thank you for sharing that. As our last question, I’d like to ask what advice would you give to a girl today, who wants to learn to surf?

If you have friends that surf, ask them if you can come along and watch and when you're comfortable, ask if you can try a board. You may even ask for some pointers. It's important to learn how to swim first, if you don't know how already. And nowadays there are classes and surf clubs in many junior high schools and high schools. YMCA's close to the coast offer surfing classes and camps.

I would love to encourage young women with the ocean to stick with surfing if they are inspired.

Cher with her new, 6'7" high aspect twin fish
photo by Steve Pendarvis

Thank you, Cher! This has been an absolute honor. You embody the spirit of aloha and are an inspiration to so many.

Cher is in the the current issue (Vol 18, No. 6) of The Surfer's Journal, where she penned an article on Walter Munk (pg. 92).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cher Pendarvis: Part Two

Rell, Susie & Cher
courtesy of the Cher Pendarvis photo archive

Cher, you were friends with Rell Sunn. Do you have a favorite story about her?

Rell and I met in 1975, waxing up for a heat in a WISA event in Oceanside and spent much of that summer surfing together and we had great fun! Rell loved to look for special vintage goodies in second hand stores and it was always fun to make little stops after surfing with her. I still have a 1950s silk Hawaiian dress that Rell bought me for $1, in 1975, and we shared this dress on occasion. Rell and I were close friends for more than 25 years.

We visited back and forth many times, and sent faxed letters to keep in touch. When I was visiting her, we had great times surfing Makaha, the South and North Shores, and she took me diving for fish and we would gather shells at special beaches on the West side. Once we were diving on a clear day near Kaena Point and we saw a big Ulua. Rell wanted to spear it, but the fish was too fast. Later, I think she did go back and capture this fish. Rell showed me to true Aloha.

When did you start shaping, glassing and painting on boards?

Picking up from patching dings to earn my first board in the mid-1960s, I was comfortable with surfboard building materials. I began building boards with my first husband and dear friend, Tom and friends in 1968. I did a little shaping for myself in the early 1970s, but Tom was more adept at it, so I focused on color work, glassing and designing and making fins when I worked, to earn money for college. Tom and I worked with Mike Sheffer building Fresh Fish Surfboards, also our own, and for friends.

1970, Cher glassing her 5'2" fish
courtesy of the Cher Pendarvis photo archive

It was a thrill to shape a family board this year with Steve, on my 59th birthday. Since this was the beginning of the last year of my 50s, I wanted to build a board from start to finish. It is a "6'7" high aspect twin fin fish.

How did you feel about the transition from longboards to shorter boards?

I loved my last longboard, the 9'8 Surfboards Hawaii Model A. Surfboards were getting shorter after Nat Young won the 1966 World Contest in Ocean Beach on his shorter, more maneuverable board, Sam.

My first short board was an 8 foot Hansen 50/50, and after that we began experimenting and building our own boards. Our boards went shorter very quickly after that.

We began to build our own boards in 1968, first from cut down longboards, and soon after that, we were buying blanks from Mitch's Surf Shop in La Jolla. Mitch was a good friend and you could buy all of the supplies for making your own boards at his shop.

Design was changing rapidly and many friends were experimenting, and we loved sharing ideas and trying one another's boards. It was an exciting time.

Cher, featured in an ad for Channin, 1976. Riding the 7'1" Channin Swallowtail shaped by Mike Casey.
Photo by Aaron Chang

From some of these photos, it looks like you are a real charger on the short boards. Did that come naturally to you once you started surfing short boards?

Jamie, I loved the shorter boards, they were faster and more maneuverable. I love the glide of nice longer boards, too. I have always loved to grow and push myself with surfing. It's just so much fun and so creative. The fish has been my favorite surfboard design since 1970, but I love to ride a lot of different shapes, as well.

Who at that time was your inspiration and did you pick up any tricks from other surfers?

My main inspirations were Thomas Threinen, Skip Frye, Bunker Spreckels, John Riddle, Jeff Ching, Larry Gephart, Steve Lis, John Brockway, Larry Bertlemann, Shaun Tomson and of course, Steve Pendarvis.

Jeff Ching was especially inspirational because his surfing was extremely quick, and stylish and smooth. Jeff was the first stand-up surfer to ride a fish, and I was in the water when he first borrowed Stevie's kneeboard and began surfing it standing up. Shortly thereafter Stevie shaped Jeff his own fish. Most of the early fishes were 4'6-5'6.

Soon, Tom shaped me a 5'2" fish, and this little board changed my surfing. It was so free and fast, almost like a bar of soap skating across the water.

My first fish had hard down rails that were inspired by some of the edge boards that Bunker was riding at the time. I loved helping build this fish and glassed it and made the fins.

Tom was a stylish longboarder in the 1960s, and made the transition to shortboards. He was inspired by George Greenough and fell in love with kneeboarding. Tom built himself spoons, tri plane hulls and fish kneeboards.

He, Stevie Lis, John Brockway and other kneeboarder friends, Louis Greco, Mitchell Pelegrin, Marshall Myrman, the Huffmans, Mark Skinner and others... their deep tube riding was inspirational.

Cher surfing a 5'5" fish in Mexico, 1974. Shaped by John Belik and glassed by Cher. This was Cher's fourth fish and she still has it. The photo was used on the press release for the first ever women's pro contest, The Hang Ten Women's Pro Malibu, 1975.
photo by Tom Threinen

Bunker Spreckels was a very creative surfer, who was very fun to surf with and died tragically at the age of 27. During the early 1970s era that Bunker was around, we rode edge boards with small fins or finless, and were speeding sections and then slowing the fast little boards by slipping/sliding 360s and helicopters similar to the folks riding finless boards now. I became fascinated with tube riding and loved traveling the coast with our kneeboarder friends in search of barrelly waves.

When we were working at Surfing Magazine in the late 1970s, I met Shaun Tomson, whose tube riding was ground-breaking. We got to see Dan Merkel's first shots of Shaun at Off the Wall when he first brought them in to Surfing.

Shaun kindly gave me pointers on tube riding and shared ideas for a board that Mike Casey shaped me for Hawaii. At that time, we also met Larry Bertlemann, and surfed with Larry, and other inspirational Hawaiian surfers on the North Shore.


Please stay tuned for Part Three tomorrow!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Surf Fridays!

“The first time I saw surfing was in 1956 and I was 6 years old. My mom and I were living in Oahu, having moved there from our native California, as my father was deployed on a ship in the eastern Pacific. Mom and I loved to watch the surfers gliding on the waves, like dancing on water...I dreamed to surf from that day on...” Cher Pendarvis

Riding the 6'9 shaped by Tom Threinen at OB jetty in winter 1968-9
photo courtesy of the Cher Pendarvis photo archive

I was fortunate to meet Cher Pendarvis at the Mattson Family Art Benefit. She had generously donated two photographs and I remember being impressed that there were several guys who were trying to outbid each other like mad for her photos. I first learned of Cher actually, by reading photographer Liz Cockrum's blog. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know.

Cher has an amazing life story with surfing. She taught herself at a time when there weren't many other girls surfing. Initially discouraged by her parents, she had to hide from them for a while that she was learning to surf.

Cher glassed boards and made fins for friends to help work her way through college and she was one of the first ever women's professional surfers.

Off the lip at OB Jetty, January 1969
photo courtesy of the Cher Pendarvis photo archive

Cher was also the first woman on staff at Surfing Magazine & surfed with Bunker Spreckles and Shaun Thomson. Now a self-employed artist working with her husband Steve Pendarvis, Cher is an every day surfer who loves to share her stoke with others.

As this is being published, Cher is on a flight to Oahu to attend and help with the Rell Sunn Aloha Jam and work on some projects with friends.

For this interview, we shared a lot of emails back and forth and one of the most poignant things Cher said to me was, “There's just so much enthusiasm and excitement about the past and present, and I am so grateful to be a surfer, ocean woman.”

May we all be fortunate enough to feel like that. This will be a 3-part series and I hope you enjoy as much as I did, learning more about this special lady.


I was really curious why your parents didn't support you surfing - did they think it was dangerous for a girl?

My stepfather was a navy officer who did not like surfers; he thought all surfers were bums. Keep in mind that for many, the surfing lifestyle represented freedom and fun, kind of wandering and bohemian, and back in the 1950s-early 1960s that could be scary to someone who had grown up in the depression in the mid-west like he had; My stepfather was very bitter.

And you borrowed boards until you saved up enough to buy your own - did you surf without your parents knowing, for awhile?

Yes. I had to sneak to the beach for awhile.

Practicing a hard bottom turn on 9'6" Dewey Weber Standard Speed
photo courtesy of the Cher Pendarvis photo archive

You were first entranced with surfing while living in Oahu - is that also where you learned to surf?

We lived in California, Hawaii, The Philippines, Japan and for a few years in Florida. I first saw surfing at Waikiki when my Mom and I were living on Oahu in 1956, when I was 6 years old. My Father was deployed on a ship in the Pacific. I remember we were so excited, "Mommy, it's like they're dancing on water!"

My Mom and I dreamed of surfing then, but instead I was enrolled in ballet classes. After Hawaii, we lived in The Philippines and Japan, and moved back to California in the Bay area.

When I was 11-12 years old, I taught myself how to swim and practiced ocean swimming to be more comfortable in the water, still carrying the surfing dream... and getting ready for surfing.

1966, Florida Gulf Coast, first time riding her second board
Photo courtesy of the Cher Pendarvis photo archive

My first wave was when I was 13, on Easter weekend in St. Petersburg, Florida, on a hollow lifeguard paddleboard. I asked Mom if I could ask the lifeguards if I could paddle out on the lifeguard board and she said OK. Mom was an artist and more free-spirited than my stepfather, and vicariously wished she could surf (even earlier when we were in Hawaii in the 1950s).

It was exciting to begin surfing, and yes, I did have to "sneak" to the beach for awhile after that first outing on Easter. Most people thought that "girls don't surf!"

I began meeting people when their boards would wash up on the beach, and I'd ask if I could ride a board when the person was done. I taught myself.

What was the ratio of girl to boy surfers at that time?

The hard-core surfers were mostly young guys, and there were a few girls. My stepfather wanted to retire in Florida and it was hard for my Mom and I to leave our native California. My parents moved from California to Florida's west coast during my last year in Junior High school. There were surfers in St. Petersburg, but they were a closed group until I got to know them better.

I looked forward to returning to California, and did so after graduating high school.

Sunset Beach, Florida, 1967 with a 9'8" Surfboards Hawaii Model A, named "Mr. Tricks"
photo courtesy of the Cher Pendarvis photo archive

What did your Mom say when she finally saw you surf?

My Mom saw me surf a bit in my teens and she was supportive. My Mom passed away from cancer in the summer of 1968 and I was not yet 18. Very heartbreaking.

When you saved up to buy your first board, how much did it cost and what board was it? What color was it?

My first board was a used 9'7 O'Hare that had been broken in half and repaired. It was very heavy and cost $45 at the shop where I was patching dings. It had a thick redwood stringer and a wide, diagonal green stripe where it had been repaired.

It took me all summer of patching dings at the surf shop and doing chores to earn this board. I asked my stepfather and Mom if I could bring it home and he replied, "Well you earned it, you can bring it home."

Did you compete?

Yes. In the winter of 1971-1972, Skip Frye talked with me at Sunset Cliffs when I was riding one of my fishes and told me that I was one of the best women and should consider competing. I was blown away. Skip has always been very kind and supportive of our surfing and board building. I did not know about the other women, as I had not competed in the US Championships. I was working hard on college studies, working on boards and surfing mostly at the cliffs, and Baja.

In March of 1974, Skip told me that Jericho Poppler was founding Women's International Surfing Association with Nancy Katin and some other women, and he gave me a recommendation and contact information to call Jericho. I then became a founding member of WISA. Skip encouraged me to follow up, make friends and compete.

1974-1975, I worked hard to compete in WISA and earned a ranking that qualified me to be one of the first ever women's pros, I was in the top 3 on the West Coast as an amateur going into the pro events.

photo courtesy of the Cher Pendarvis photo archive

In September 1975, I placed in the first ever Hang Ten Women's Pro at Malibu in 1975, even winning over Margo Oberg in an earlier heat, and but she came back to win the event and I placed. Later Margo complimented me as a groundbreaking, creative surfer from California. Margo is a great competitive surfer and a true champion.

I did not stay with professional surfing for long, due to my family situation at the time. And I was not able travel to Australia and South Africa when I was invited to surf in those Pro events.

When Margo Oberg said your surfing was groundbreaking & creative - did you already kind of realize that it was? What a compliment!

Yes, what a wonderful compliment, from Margo, I was very honored. I knew that we were riding unusual, creative boards that we were building, and my Channin boards were unusual and new/creative for the time. We were blending inspiration from my early fishes with some of Mike Casey's ideas, even in the mini guns that he shaped for me at that time.

5'2 fish shaped by Tom Threinen and glassed by Cher in 1970
photo courtesy of the Cher Pendarvis photo archive

Please stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow!