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'Surf Lingo' : Her First Book Defines Rad Vocab of Surfing World

June 04, 1988|JOHN NEEDHAM | Times Staff Writer

There she was last weekend, running around the Anaheim Convention Center, wearing a bathing suit, a wide-brimmed, shocking-pink hat and multicolored "funkadelic" shoes, toting her surfboard under one arm and a copy of her book under the other.

This is an author? This is art?

Well, yes . . . and sort of.

Actually, Mitch McKissick's get-up was not as bizarre as it might seem, especially considering that her new book--actually, her only book so far--is titled "Surf Lingo." It is subtitled: "A Complete Guide to a Totally Rad Vocab!" Sure, it is not Proust, but the 23-year-old who was born an "inland squid" has clearly avoided becoming a "queber" and can pull a "Quasimodo" with the best of them.

But more about that later.

McKissick's outfit did make her stand out at the four-day American Booksellers Assn. convention in Anaheim that ended Tuesday. But it is not as if she didn't have any competition.

The co-authors of "Eating In: The Official Single Man's Cookbook" were toting a 6-foot Styrofoam fish stick, encased in Lucite, to display what they believed to be the typical bachelor's dinner. Another author wore two framed posters in the style of a sandwich board, promoting his words. There was a woman in a wedding dress, drawing attention to yet another book.

Add it all up and the notion of booksellers as men and women given to tweeds, pearls and stuffy bookstores flew out the window.

McKissick was trying to get some attention for the book she paid to get published. Before heading for the convention Saturday she debuted at a book-signing in Newport Beach and sold 20 copies there. She got a boost from a Los Angeles radio station that mentioned the book-signing right after its surf report.

Four nephews hand-delivered flyers alerting all and sundry in the vicinity of the Newport Fun Zone of the book's existence. Surf shops in the area, where McKissick works for a company that teaches sailing and rents sailboats, were importuned to sell the book.

The object of all the attention is 86 pages of definitions ("Inland Squid--A surfer who doesn't live near the beach") and humorously explanatory drawings by illustrator Donna Stevens.

McKissick, who grew up in Riverside, summered at Newport Beach from age 9 or so onward and lives there now. She graduated from UC Irvine with a theater arts major and swears that the idea for the book popped into her head nearly a year ago, waking her at 3 a.m. She popped out of bed and wrote the first draft then and there.

The book is dedicated to her mother, who retired after 20 years of teaching English at Riverside City College. McKissick said the notion for what eventually became the book was prompted by her mother's complaints that when her students gave oral reports on surfing, she couldn't understand them.

McKissick's mother, Fran Waggoner, sort of agreed. "Well, yes, and all of her friends and the whole crowd left me a little out" when they talked that surf talk, she said. "A little slang is all right, you know, but when you. . . . Let's put it this way, the slang I knew was out of date."

The author turned to Stevens for help with the illustrations because, after all, they had both boxed in a movie (that's right, they bobbed and weaved, jabbed and punched) made in Los Angeles but never shown commercially. She published it herself because in a one-day course at Orange Coast College last fall she was told she could.

A bubbling, athletic woman who says her mother still cautions her to "stop bouncing off the floor," McKissick has surfed for more than a dozen years and was instructed by the likes of Peter Townend and Ian Cairns, Australians-turned-Californians who are top surfers. The owner of 10 surfboards, including the competition model she was toting around Anaheim last weekend, McKissick competes in amateur meets sponsored by the National Scholastic Surfing Assn. and the Women's International Surfing Assn., both based in Orange County.

She is out in the water every day, sometimes doing a Quasimodo ("The surfer stands hunched over with one arm forward and one arm in back") and avoiding the quebers (pronounced kweh-bers and defined as "a geek").

Some of the book's vocabulary has withstood the test of time, such as "hanging 10 (having 10 toes over the front end of a surfboard)," which is so old it was popular before Vietnam was a war. Some is 1980s, such as "gnarly (monster surf)," which didn't get its own page but did wind up in the dictionary at the end of the book.

Inevitably, the book is set to become a movie. Well, sort of.

McKissick has been working on a script for a surfing movie for quite a while now, adding to it in between work, occasional acting classes, book writing and publishing, and the periodic "cattle call" auditions so familiar to would-be actresses.

But for now, the book remains a prequel (as opposed to a sequel). It is available from Coastline Press, 200 W. Oceanfront, P.O. Box 4101, Balboa, Calif. 92661, for $5.95 plus $1 postage and handling.


From Mitch McKissick's book "Surf Lingo, a Complete Guide to a Totally Rad Vocab!" a handful of terms used by surfers, complete with meanings.

Shoulder hopper: "A surfer who cuts in on another surfer's right of way."

Tubed: "To be riding inside the hollow section of a wave."

Smokin' a pipe: "Speeding down the face of a wave in the tube."

Mushy: "A slow rolling wave that lacks speed."

Walking the dog: "Moving back and forth on a surfboard to alter speed."

Walking the nose: "Moving forward to the front end of a surfboard."

Quiver: "A collection of surfboards for different wave conditions."

Wall: "A huge unridable wave."

Clocking in the greenroom: "A long ride inside the hollow part of a wave."

Stick: "A surfboard."

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