Show Us Your Quiver – Josh Nelson
“The Sunset is bleak.” A memorable indictment in black and white along this line was made by the headline in a New York Times pictorial in 2010, and it certainly provoked a reaction among neighborhood residents.
However, that article got it right about the Sunset District being a neighborhood of surfers and families looking for affordable housing. One such family that Ocean Beach Bulletin happened upon lives three blocks from the Great Highway in the middle section of the mostly gray, almost always frigid, sandy stretch of Ocean Beach.
True to the neighborhood picture painted by The Times, Josh Nelson indeed is a family man and surfer. A knock on the door produces a concert of cacophonous chaos: Josh belching out like Jackie Gleason of “The Honeymooners” to his wife, overlaid with a barnyard concert composed of two dogs going completely insane while scrambling and skating on hardwood oak floors, a bird squawking, and a daughter professing loudly that someone’s at the door.
It would warm anyone’s heart (even a New Yorker’s) despite the weather.
A short-haired, dirty-blonde Josh cracks open the door, turns back and screams at the dogs to chill, and we all head over to the beach to talk about surfing, the San Francisco surfing community, the San Francisco surfing lifestyle and his boards.
This is a longboard for Stella [Josh's wife]. She’s used it a couple of times, but I kind of took it over over the years. It was my go-to board for a while. It works really really well in Southern California on the mushier stuff like San Onofre down at Trails, Malibu, North L.A. County. … It’s more like a hybrid, you can run up on the nose a little bit. … When a longboard is called for, that’s the board I’ll take out.
Pink INT board
The pink board was purchased for Bailey[Josh’s daughter] . She’s used it a couple of times. She rides it mostly like boogie board, and she hasn’t come close to standing up on it, but we’re working on it. In my quiver, it’s the equivalent of my scooter. … It’s bright pink, and it’s fun to ride but it’s goofy to ride. It doesn’t really go that fast. It’s a little bit too small, and it doesn’t go from the get-go. … It bogs down. But once you get it going, it goes OK. It flexes a lot. It’s a boogie board. It’s a boogie board with fins.
OBB: What is your vision for her? Do you envision her surfing here at OB?
Josh: I think eventually, yes. I’m doing the best I can to ease her into it. I’ve taken a couple people out at OB over the years and it hasn’t worked out that well, so I’m trying to take it as slow as I can. We’ve backed out of using pinky, and now we’ve moved to more of getting down the wave mechanics, and body surfing on the stuff that’s really close in. We’re just taking it slow so it’s enjoyable. I want her to pick it up at her own pace. So it’s two steps forward, one step back, three steps forward, four steps back, five steps forward. Over time she’ll pick it up if she wants to. She loves it. She’s out there on a lot of days. … A lot of days when it’s freezing she’s got no wetsuit and still having a blast. She’s growing up around it.
OBB: If you’re a parent, and you want to teach your kid to surf, give me the recipe for that.
Josh: Don’t force it. Make it appetizing as much as you can. If that means getting them a really nice, high-end wetsuit that’s going to keep them super warm, then do that. [Bailey] doesn’t seem to have a problem with the water temperature because since she was a baby, she’s been running around in cold water. She doesn’t really know the difference, which is awesome. But don’t push anything. … A lot of the people at the beach (when they see you surfing) the first question out of their mouths is, ‘How cold is the water, does that wetsuit keep you warm?’ … So far Bailey’s stoked about it, so I’m optimistic.
Larry Mabel Kane Garden 5’10” fish.
OBB: Who’s King Of Kooks?
Josh: I can’t reveal who King Of Kooks is. It’s a wonderful board. It was posted as a recession special on Stoke Report. I was there when the ad went up. I shot him an email right away, I said I could really use it, I just damaged the board I used every day and it was going to take a while to fix it, and he said come on over. That was it.
The thing that was so awesome was that the week before, we were out at Sunset Shapers and they were having a garage sale of boards, and they had almost the identical board, but nowhere near as nice, laying down out in front, and I said to my wife, “That would be the perfect board for Bailey.” Then she said, “Really? Then we should get it.” And I said, “No, not really, but it would be really nice for me.”
So I passed on it, and a week later I had a board that was 10 times as nice, super awesome in my hands and I surfed it the next day. It stays super close to the curl, it’s super skatey, it really pivots off of each fin. …I love it, I’ve had a lot of fun on it.
Roger Hinds 7’0”
My wife got it for me as a one-year wedding-anniversary present. I knew I wanted a board that was going to last a long time. I had them put on fairly thick glass on both sides and a really thick stringer on it. It’s a good go-to board for a lot of stuff. It’s not all that maneuverable, but it gets into a lot of stuff, and it’s functional at OB from 2- to 3-foot, pushing 10- to 12-foot, but it gets a little sketchy at that point just because it’s not as fast. You really want a board that’s going to take off. This doesn’t do that as much. It’s a little heavy, a little cumbersome, but fun.
OBB: What do you like about the surfing community in San Francisco?
Josh: It’s mellow and super low-key, but there’s a lot going on under the surface: a really thriving art community, guys making really cool boards like Hess and Sunset Shapers, people making clothes right here like San Franpsycho, Betabrand and Mollusk. It’s all happening here, you just have to look a little bit and you’ll find really beautiful things being created right here in the city. Same with the surfers. … There’s a great community here that’s really thriving, but you have to look a little bit.
Josh: This is where my dad was born. They moved out here when it was brand-new. It was the first house that my grandfather got when he came back from World War II, to raise his family. It just had so much to offer to raise kids: the beach, the zoo, Golden Gate Park. … It’s safe, it’s really easy to bike around. I taught my daughter to ride a bike here on a really low minus tide at the beach. It’s easy to do tons of stuff without having to drive anywhere. I’ve got her down at the beach almost every day. … It’s ideal.
All photos: Josh Teitelbaum