By Jamie Brisick

Not Surfing in the Time of Coronavirus

Last week, I stood atop the bluff overlooking Malibu Surfrider Beach. Sets of glassy waves marched in, broke, and peeled across the point with machine-perfect shape. There was not a soul in the water. That never happens. Malibu is one of the most crowded breaks on earth. In my four decades of surfing there, never have I seen the waves that good with no one out. 

The sky was a headstrong blue. The sea was shimmering. I watched, transfixed. These were the dream waves straight out of the surf magazines of my teens. We’d pin them on our bedroom walls and draw them on our Pee-Chee folders. The central myth in surfing is the search for the perfect, empty wave. We scour the globe for it. And there it was, right under my nose in this city of 10 million people. The beach was deserted. There was not a single car in the typically bustling parking lot. It was both Edenic and post-apocalyptic. And just as I began to imagine myself sneaking out to grab a few, a police car crept up, as if to say, “Don’t even think about it.”


May 2, 2020

Walking the Floor podcast

Malibu Burning - One Year Later

California is on fire. Or at least it is on the homepage of The GuardianThe New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, and pretty much every news channel I turn to. There are more than a dozen wildfires burning as I write this. The power shut-offs have affected nearly three-million people in the Golden State, and the power has been shut off in western Malibu, where I have recently moved back to after losing my home last year in the Woolsey Fire.


November 14, 2019

Surfing in the Age of the Omnipresent Camera

Conversation with William Finnegan

Self Discovery for Social Survival

I was an ecstatic cowboy the day that director Chris Gentile asked me to write a VO script for his film-in-progress, Self Discovery for Social Survival. I was even more ecstatic when he told me that Jonas Mekas would do the narration. I was not in the room when Jonas read, but according to Chris he sipped wine and nailed most of the VO on first take.

The film is out. Link below.


June 21, 2019

So Long, Marianne - Affidavit

Looking Sideways - podcast

Disaster, tragedy, catastrophe, deathgrief – these are the concealed details of life, hidden in plain sight in the hope we never have to experience them.

The truth, of course, is that we will all be tested by such experiences in our lives. Until we do, a couple of questions loom. How will we cope? How can we square these experiences, and move forward?

These are questions Jamie Brisick, my guest for episode 086, has had to face twice now in the last decade. The first time was when he was suddenly widowed. And now, having lost everything he owns in recent Woolsey Fires in Malibu, he is facing them all over again.

Like all true artists, he’s used these unimaginable losses as fuel for his work, channelling his experiences into a series of articles exploring the aftermath of the fire that rank among his finest.

I met up with Jamie in Malibu at the start of my recent trip. We recorded this episode of the podcast at the site of his former home, exploring in depth the emotions that such experiences bring forth – loss, grief, self-examination and, ultimately, hope.
This was the second time we’ve chatted for the podcast, but the first time we’d actually met, and it was a rare pleasure to meet somebody I’d long admired in person for the first time, and to share such a personal and moving conversation. Listen to the episode below:


June 7, 2019

How We Walk Through The Fire

The text message came just before 7 a.m.: “Mandatory evacuation for the entire city of Malibu.” I grabbed my car keys, wallet, phone, laptop, writing stuff, and a change of clothes. It was Friday, November 9th. I was not worried. Malibu gets a fire nearly every year. Never do they creep down the Santa Monica Mountains, leap the Pacific Coast Highway, and take out homes where I live, in Point Dume.

But this one did. And it took out my home with an almost personal vengeance. Watching KTLA news with a friend in his Venice Beach studio the following evening, he pointed at the screen. “That looks like your house.” The camera zoomed in. “That’s definitely your house.” The shot—a firefighter blasting water at my inflamed bedroom—would play on repeat throughout the weekend. I became a kind of poster child for the Woolsey Fire.


December 1, 2018

American Beauty

He found himself on hands and knees searching for what he thought was a small white pill but was really the Grateful Dead parking lot scene, circa Terrapin Station.

November 5, 2018

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