John Hoskinson is the communications director for the Surfrider Foundation.

Monday, 18 Oct 1999

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif.

Dear Diary: Today I got a pimple … YUCK! And Jenny Pitrizoni pulled my hair and said that I was ugly … Oh, wait … wrong diary. I’ll start again.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

I thought I’d start my week of entries explaining how I got stuck — uh, I mean, blessed — with being this week’s diarist for Grist Magazine. I will then demonstrate why I am such a horrible choice.

The original plan was to have Surfrider Foundation’s new executive director, Chris Evans, do it. Chris would’ve been a perfect fit. He’s witty, intelligent, a great storyteller and — other than being freakishly tall — he’s damn near perfect. In fact, I hated him with an intense passion until I found out that I’m a much better guitar player than he is. (I still think he’s faking his incompetence in an attempt to build up my self-esteem.)

When Chris had to back out due to his current workload, I thought Chad Nelsen, Surfrider’s environmental programs manager, would be a great replacement. Chad is one of those rare individuals who possesses both a great knowledge of environmental science and the ability to explain it to us lowly plebeians in a clear and concise way. He also has a great sense of humor and usually has a hard time saying no.

Well, after Chad said “no” (albeit in a clear, concise, and humorous way) I decided I’d give it a try. This could be a HUGE liability for Surfrider Foundation. You see I have a penchant for saying incredibly inappropriate things. What makes this particularly dangerous is that I think this is one of my best attributes.

I’ll give you a recent example.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

This summer saw the closure of a large section of Huntington Beach due to high bacteria levels in the water. A local assemblyman reacted to this by saying that maybe we needed legislation that would allow coastal cities the discretion to overrule their county Health Department’s recommendations. I thought our official statement should’ve been: “I guess the Assemblyman spends so much of his time with his head up his butt that contaminated water doesn’t seem so bad.”

So you can see why this whole diarist experiment could be a very bad thing indeed.

Tuesday, 19 Oct 1999

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif.

I spent all day yesterday on Catalina Island with the rest of the Surfrider Foundation staff as we mapped out our work plan for 2000. It was a beautiful day and we got a lot accomplished.

Fortunately we did not have to endure any typical “team-building exercises” such as the ever-popular — and always retarded waste of time — “falling backwards into the arms of a co-worker.” Instead, we spent the last hour of the day playing a fast and furious 18 holes of miniature golf.

The contest pitted the North Side of the office against the rowdy, ne’er-do-wells on the South Side. It really was a great experience. It gave us an opportunity to engage our fellow staff members in a friendly and healthy competition — for the first few holes anyway. After that, it deteriorated into an embarrassing display of taunts, insults, threats, and foul language. In fact, there was some flashing of the North Side and South Side gang symbols during some of the more hotly contested holes. In other words, it was just like a day at the office except we also got to smack things with a club! It was GREAT!

By the way, I am happy to say that the North Side — of which I am a proud member — kicked the South Side’s sorry, tree-hugging butt!

In conclusion, I just want to say that although I’m no expert, I think the miniature golf game was a pretty good team-building exercise. Well, at least for the North Side. The South Side is in complete disarray now after its humiliating defeat.

Wednesday, 20 Oct 1999

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif.

I think I’m going to open up to you people out there today. I feel like I’ve gotten to know you both very well (I’m assuming there are about two of you who actually slog through these diary entries every day) and I want to share a dirty little secret with you. Ready? Okay, here it goes … I have never surfed in my life.

That’s right, I work for the Surfrider Foundation and I DON’T SURF! Please keep this under your hemp hat, my enviro friend, because nobody here knows this dirty little secret. I have managed to work here for almost three years without blowing my cover and I don’t want to jeopardize it now.

How do I do it? It’s actually pretty easy. First, I pepper my conversation with the occasional “bro,” “it’s all good,” and “mahalo.” Second, I feign great interest — or at least muffle my yawn — when someone tells one of his or her “favorite wave” stories. Lastly, when the conversation turns to Big Wednesday, I try really hard not to obviously wet my pants from laughter when coworkers assert that it’s a cinematic masterpiece. As you might guess, this last one is by far the hardest and I’ve had to resort to wearing Depends undergarments on a regular basis.

I know what you’re thinking: “Yeah, but doesn’t anybody wonder why you never go surfing with them?”

I’ve got that covered, too. I’ve developed a sarcastic personality so grating and annoying that nobody would ever want to go surfing with me.

The benefits of my little charade are many. Let me give you one example. Let’s say I know that this afternoon there’s a rerun of a classic CHIPs episode (like the famous “Malloch Must Die” episode in which Donnie Most plays a KISS-like rock star). I obviously need to leave work to see this, but I know that my boss might not understand why. So I go in his office and convince him that I need to go surfing.

“Excuse me, Chris … umm, I mean ‘bro’ … uh, I hear that Trestles is, umm … ‘going off’ and I thought perhaps it wouldn’t displease you if I went surfing for an hour or so? If not, then that’s fine … umm, I mean ‘no worries’… uh, ‘dude,’ because … uh, you know … ‘it’s all good.’ Uh, mahalo.”

Thursday, 21 Oct 1999

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif.

The first thing I do everyday is check my email. After reading the various jokes and gossip from my friends, I start reading the Surfrider Foundation related stuff.

I’m the lucky bastard who gets all of the “general information” emails that come from our website. I spend a ridiculous amount of time separating the thought-provoking wheat from the you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me chaff. The three basic types of chaff are: (1) people who think Surfrider is some sort of surf travel information bureau, (2) surf industry entrepreneurs who think we’re a small business think tank, and (3) the crazy people.

Let’s talk about the crazy people. Crazy people are everywhere, but seem to be driven toward environmental groups like twisters to a trailer park. Believe me, it’s no coincidence that we’re called environMENTALists.

Typically these are nice, well-meaning crazy people with fairly harmless conspiracy theories — kind of like Oliver Stone. My challenge is to nicely thank them for their email and subtly brush them aside in a way that won’t push them over the edge and result in some bizarre manifesto. It’s always in the back of my mind that they may be crazy but at least they’re on OUR SIDE.

It reminds me of a book I read recently about Mafia hitman Sammy “The Bull” Gravano. There’s a story from his childhood in which Sammy ‘s father says of the wise guys in the neighborhood, “They’re bad people. But at least they’re OUR bad people.”

So that’s how I think of it. They’re crazy people, but at least they’re OUR
crazy people. Isn’t that comforting?

Friday, 22 Oct 1999

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif.

The other night I saw the most amazing infomercial ever. No, it’s not the one for the belt-with-the-beeper-on-it that reminds you to suck your stomach in (although that one’s pretty damn good). The one I’m referring to features an Australian woman selling a hair removal product called — I’m not making this up — “Nad’s.”

The infomercial is full of white-bread American women saying unintentionally hilarious lines like “You simply rub Nad’s on your upper lip” and “I love my Nad’s!” This infomercial was accidentally funnier than anything Saturday Night Live has done in YEARS! (I know that’s not saying much, but you know what I mean.)

Oh, but I digress. What I really planned on writing about today was the bizarre perception some people have of Surfrider Foundation. For some reason, they think that we’re some huge corporate behemoth. We get phone calls every day from people who ask to talk to someone in one of our “departments” (e.g., Marketing Department, Legal Department, Human Resources Department). I thought it might be helpful to give a description of a few of our “departments.”

The Surfrider Marketing Department consists entirely of me and a crazy, pro bono creative consultant who calls himself Sid Leary (a cross between Sid Vicious and Timothy Leary). Our Legal Department is some lady who falls down a lot; she also is our Newsletter Department and the Deputy Executive Director. A woman from Texas (she actually talks pretty normally except for saying things like “nekked” and “sammich”… it’s surprising how often these two words show up in the same sentence) is our Human Resources Department and our Accounting Department.

The typical call I get for the “Marketing Department” goes something like this: Some magazine ad sales guy will do a five-minute spiel on how he saw our ad in Longboard Magazine and he’s a surfer who’d love to do ANYTHING to “help us out.” When I tell him that what he saw was a public service announcement and we have a budget of $0 to buy ad space, I am usually met with stunned silence. Suddenly this guy is a lot less dedicated to “helping us out.” Sometimes I can actually hear the greedy little bastard as he curses me under his breath.

All in all, though, I am proud that people have the perception that we’re a big outfit. It’s a direct result of having thousands of dedicated activists in our 45 chapters kicking some major butt all over the country. Somehow we manage to have a much bigger reach and effectiveness than our budget and measly staff would seem to allow.

In conclusion, I would rather have our perception problem than the one that plagues the poor people who sell “Nad’s.”