Wax On, Wax Off: The Black Hole Surf Shop Makes Waves in Costa Mesa Scene

​Friday, August 28th: Black Hole Surf Shop Opening Reception

"I can remember your name if I just stop trying," he said, "don't tell me. I can get it if I just stop trying." He was a sixty-something man known locally as "The Dude." Sabre Vision makes a pair of sunglasses called The Dude, named after him.

He is thin and tall and has shoulder length white-gray hair under a large trucker hat. He rides a skateboard. Next to him was a group of young girls, maybe sixteen at the oldest. Next to them was a small group of tattooed artists in their mid twenties.  "That's really the key, you know. The key to...to..."

"To life," said a passer-by.

"Yes, exactly," he said, beaming. "You kids get it. That's exactly right. The key to life is not trying."

The Japanese Motors' set drew a large crowd--at least a hundred people, maybe more. The guys from Hollywood's Barber Shop next door were manning the kegs, pouring five beers a minute.

Lots of signs told people to be careful about the booze. "DON'T BE SKETCHY, DRINK INSIDE," said one. Japanese Motors played some of the indie hits that make them so beloved in the local scene, songs like "Better Trends" and "B.N.E." They also played some of their new stuff, the songs that will be on their long-awaited second album. People ranging from 13 to 60-something years old danced and talked and enjoyed the show.

Tanner Prairie's best boards were on display, price tags and all. He chatted with people, running his hands along the rails or explaining a board's shape. He got some phone numbers and expects the orders to start rolling in.

Wax On, Wax Off: The Black Hole Surf Shop Makes Waves in Costa Mesa Scene

Gantez Warrior, as usual, lit up the crowd. There was a scare earlier in the night when it was rumored that members of the band had been surfing at Rincon all day, but they all made it just in time to play. Short on time and still smelling of salt and sunscreen, they borrowed the Japanese Motors' equipment. Girls of all ages swayed and smiled at the tan young punk-surf dudes. The same infectious drunken smile seemed stuck on everyone's faces, and the band played in the middle of an open pit in the crowd.

The narrow, orange-lit alleyway where they played rocked and reeled with shadows while people danced. Around this time, the cops showed up. Apparently some kids were tagging on a wall out back, and the cops came to chase them off. At some point during the incident, one of the cops leaned over to look down the alley. He smiled at his partner as if to say, "cool concert over there." Despite the noise and the obvious public scene, once the taggers had been dealt with, the cops went on their way.

After Gantez's set, the crowd was tired and semi-dispersed. Photographers made rounds, getting some end-of-the-night cleanup shots. The kegs were empty. The trash cans overflowed with red cups. Tanner looked satisfied. In addition to lots of leads for boards, he sold hundreds of dollars worth of t-shirts. More importantly, he proved to himself and everyone else that his shop is here to stay. At the party, it was clear that the Black Hole, which Tanner himself has called "the Anti-Mainstream surf shop," truly caters to the unique, grungy scene that lurks within Costa Mesa's surf culture.

People leaving after a long night of fun included Mike Marshall, the legendary 1960s shaper who taught Tanner Prairie the craft; Jeff Parker, a 1980s pro surfer; Kio, a forty-something local legend at Malibu who has been called "the king of the underground;" an off-duty police officer; Alex Knost and the rest of the Japanese Motors, and a handful of others who are deeply embedded in the most authentic, seedy underground corners of Southern California's surf culture. 


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