Baby, Take it Off! is Chas Smith’s column. “Surfing is so totally awesome sexy!” says Chas.
Surf Journalism is the awesome topic du jour. And what fun! Endless discussions about the responsibility of the working surf journalist to his mature public (and by mature I mean oldish and self-entitled and totally rad!). Endless ire from his mature public about not getting enough information. Or proper information free of capitalistic surf company taint. “Tell us!” they scream while loosening their belts. “Tell us who is doing what, with whom! And where! With whom!” while brushing Funyun crumbs from their stubbly chins.
And the mature public is so right with all that well-placed ire. Their integrity so intact! But not all of us have failed. Australian surf journalist Tim Baker continues to carry the torch. He is hardworking, maybe the hardest working. He wakes up early even before the sun rises and goes to sleep late after producing brilliantly. Here is a glimpse into his life as I have witnessed…
The hammer banged reveille on the rail outside theinertia (dot com) offices at five o’clock as always. Time to get up. The ragged noise was muffled by sand and a salty brine two fingers thick on the windows and soon died away. Too onshore chilly windy for the publisher to go on hammering.
The jangling stopped. Outside, it was still as dark as when Tim Baker had gotten up in the night to use the latrine bucket — pitch-black, except for three yellow lights visible from the window, two in the perimeter, one inside the office park.
For some reason they were slow unlocking the cubicle, and he couldn’t hear the usual sound of the orderlies mounting the latrine bucket on poles to carry it out.
Baker never overslept. He was always up at the call. That way he had an hour and a half all to himself before phoning surfers and hunting down the truth — time for a man who knew his way around to earn a bit on the side. He could write books about Mark Occy. Or take some rich team manager his felt boots while he was still in his bunk (save him hopping around barefoot, fishing them out of the heap after drying). Rush round the internet looking for odd jobs — Bustin Down the Door 2, or running errands. Go to the mess to stack bowls and carry them to the washers-up. You’d get something to eat, but there were too many volunteers, swarms of them. And the worst of it was that if there was anything left in a bowl, you couldn’t help licking it. Baker never for a moment forgot what his first publisher, Kuzyomin, had told him. An old magazine wolf, 12 years in the game by 1983. One day around the campfire in a beach grass clearing he told the reinforcements fresh from the college, “It’s the law of the jungle here, men. But a man can live here, just like anywhere else. Know who croaks first? The guy who licks out bowls, puts his faith in the sick bay, or squeals to the vice president of global marketing.”
He was stretching it a bit there, of course. A stoolie will always get by, whoever else bleeds for him.
Baker always got up at once. Not today, though. Hadn’t felt right since the night before — had the shivers, and some sort of ache. And hadn’t gotten really warm all night. In his sleep he kept fancying he was seriously ill, then feeling a bit better. Kept hoping morning would never come. It was an almost impossible life, that of the surf journalist….
It truly is. I stand and salute my brothers who dare get to the bottom of the story and share. I salute Tim Baker. Dieu est de votre côté.—Chas Smith