The album cover of the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “I’m With You” shows a fly perched on a pill slightly larger than the house-fly’s body. I’ve never listened to the album before, but the cover caught my attention when I was perusing The Mushroom looking for some new music. It was on the underside of a surfboard. The board itself had never been ridden, though it didn’t look brand new. It was (and probably still is) crammed between a stack of mo-town CD’s and a bunch of snarky jacket pins. The nose of the board had broken off, one of those small dings that is so crucially positioned that it’s unlikely the damage would be worth repairing. At least I thought, until I noticed that the board was manufactured by Becker. Brand new, this six-foot two cream-colored unwaxed board would probably go for around four-hundred dollars. That doesn’t take into account anything of its origins.
At the Mushroom in New Orleans, LA
The Mushroom’s owner told me that the board was a promotional give-away from RHCP’s I’m With You tour. It was part of a gift package whose main component was a couple of concert tickets. The winners (friends of The Mushroom owner) were ecstatic to get to see the RHCP’s, but they had no interest in the surfboard, and so it was handed off, and wound up where it is now, collecting dust in a music store in New Orleans.
Apparently, the band gives away promotional surfboards in all of their tours. You can go on e-bay and find boards from the Stadium Arcadium tour and several others, and they still sell for between four and six hundred dollars. From what I can tell, these boards circulate from Chili Pepper fans to garage sales to swap meets, and then they are eventually found by a boardless collector of memorabilia as he or she aimlessly surfs the web. For one of two reasons, the boards will likely never ride anything but virtual waves. This is because the person who happens to win one either does not surf, or otherwise probably wouldn’t want to surf their sweet Chili Pepper memorabilia board. the boards’s end fates are either as wall hangings or attic stuffers.
Though this dispersal of boards seems like an unfortunate waste, it comes from a sincere place. Front-man Anthony Keidis and bass player Flea are both avid surfers. Recently, they were caught taking a surf-break during the Rio Music Festival, wet-suited up and tasting some of Brazil’s world famous waves.
Anthony Keidis and Flea in Rio
Further, the boards are often auctioned off on behalf of charities, such as a London based non-profit called Surfers Against Sewage. And if you consider that most contest give-aways just churn out Chinese knock-offs that look like the platonic forms of other things (think crappy guitars, etc.,) it is certainly impressive that they would actually give away a board that can shred.
Still, there it was, leaned up against a wall, never to be ridden, in a store that sells music, bongs and bong accessories. The RHCP’s might not be pleased to know this.
Keidis taught Thom Yorke how to surf; he believes that improving his surfing will make him a better father. But this bong-shop board will provide no parental guidance. No world famous producers are going to experience a glassy wave on its sleek frame. All it is is a plank of polyurethane mass produced in a factory in San Diego. How do we justify its production if it never participates in that particular communion with the ocean, with a person? I don’t mean to get sentimental, but all that board has become is a symbol of a sub-culture—a poser, if I should go that far. It’s a pollutant that won’t decompose for a thousand years.