In the past two weeks I have been to three non-surf locations: Aspen, Colorado, Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas, Nevada is best for the modern American surfer.
There are bright neon lights, cocktails, Michelin starred restaurants and trough-styled feeders, all hour clubs. Lascivious gambling. Dirty women.
The lascivious gambling replicates much of our modern American surf experience.
I approach the Encore casino floor at a nick past ten-thirty pm. Gambler by neither skill nor desire, I manifest loss through my lack of belief. I spite goddess Fortuna and her damned wheel, but tonight I must throw myself at her mercy. For I have been given one crisp twenty-dollar bill and one twenty-dollar bill that has been ripped in half and told to win. So I approach the Encore casino floor and, being non-gambler, march toward the roulette.
I step up to the lacquered wood and felt green too certainly and am met by steely-eyed glares from the locals, the chunky Midwestern woman in cork heels and the maybe younger but equally Midwestern man in leather vest. The general mood is very much akin to Silver Strand in Oxnard. I am not welcome. And, just as when I surf Silver Strand in Oxnard, I don’t care. I return glares while slapping a twenty on odd. The crisp one.
The attendant, also wearing a vest but not leather and floral, replaces it with four five dollar chips and whips the ball and caster toward their destiny. They spin. And spin. Oh Fortuna relent! And spin. But Fortuna is a troll. The ball clicks and clacks and lands on 22. Could any number be more even? 22! Completely even. Completely even. The locals tell me to paddle in with their condescending eyes dulled by Bud Light.
Yet I will not be cowed! I slap two pieces of a ripped-in-half twenty on odd and they too are replaced by four five-dollar chips. My problem with that last spin, I realize, is that I wished for victory. It is the same as wishing for a perfect wave to take to shore after a long session. That wave will never come. The wish chases it away.
So this time, as ball and caster spin, I wish for nothing. I don’t even watch. I remain aloof and smoky. And Fortuna is an honorable maiden! The ball lands on 33! Could any number be more odd? Victory! I hit the lip and send saltwater spray into Cork Heels’ rosacea’d face. I stroke past Leather Vest and throw a Fly Society shaka.
I play on, always odd, and sometimes the trog steals my chips and sometimes the maiden doubles what I have. Sometimes waves come, sometimes they do not, but mostly they come.
And at a nick to eleven I gather my winnings and begin to paddle in. The locals are happy to see me go. They desire Fortuna’s glow all to themselves. They sense a rising swell with warm offshore winds. But I know a secret! Even though I am victorious it has nothing to do with Fortuna at all! It has to do with my complete and utter lack of care. And the best surfs happen in the same exact way. Care is so last year. Indifference is the hot new now.
I point directly at the roulette wheel, all black and red with two small green rectangles and shout, “Filth!” while spewing white cosmopolitan all over the cream leather stools and busy butterfly carpet. “How dare she pretend to be a virgin. Look at her degenerate face. Rape her!” I then wander over to Chanel to buy a bracelet for my love. The locals stare holes through my back. —Chas Smith
Baby, Take it Off! is Chas Smith’s semi-regular column. His semi-regular Twitter stream is @chasdoesntsurf.