Mike Black is a California surfer who produced and starred in the cult surf film “Invasion! from Planet C” and is featured in the much anticipated “Jazz The Glass” – a pirate-themed movie. He is also the creator of the popular blog “Surf A Pig” that extolls the virtues of logs with wide hips.
What was your life like growing up?
Privileged. Back in the day, my dad would take my family and I to the beach to bodysurf every Sunday. We lived in Houston at the time. As we were going over the intercoastal waterway leading to Galveston (a long bridge that at its highest point was about 40 or 50 feet off the top of the water), he’d stop the car, pull over to the side and say, “Okay! Who wants to jump off?” My brother and I would almost start crying. My mom would just sit there quietly shaking her head, letting her husband have his fun.
Finally, for my 15th birthday, my mom let my younger sister play hookey from school. They drove to Galveston and picked up my first surfboard. Since I was too young to drive, I was always trying to bum rides to the beach. My father drove me to the beach so much back then—from Houston to Matagorda. Then, he would just chill and wait. He made me go out to the outer sand bar. He told me to quit playing around on the inside. He is the reason I quit sponging and started surfing. I am so lucky to have the supportive family I have.
When did you get your first surfboard?
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
Frustration. I stood on my surfboard and rode in the foam straight to the beach quite a few times before that first real ride. Now, once I had that first real ride, that was when my life changed. Once I felt the power of a wave accelerate me beyond the effect of gravity, sliding me down the drop in, I was hooked!
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young man?
My grandmother. She is an amazing woman that has seen so much. Her perspective on the world is spot on. She is an amazing artist.
Rumor has it that you, a math teacher, came up with the idea for Invasion! from Planet C as a way to explain certain theories to your students. Is this true?
Not exactly. I had been frustrated with the nature of “surf movie”. My roommate at the time was watching piles of them. I’d walk by his room and ask him what he found so interesting about the films. He didn’t really have an answer. At the time I was acting in David Potter’s film projects. I decided I wanted to make a surf film. I went to David and asked him to help me. My original “idea” was something more akin to Siestas and Olas. He said no because my proposed idea lacked the essential ideas to make a story worth watching. I didn’t give up. I was teaching at a high school, at a community college, and sculpting, painting or drawing every night. It was a very busy, creative time for me.
One day I was teaching my freshman kids how to prove the quadratric equation. Right in the middle of the proof, I stopped and wrote a two-page bullet point outline for the story. It included the name of the characters and the title of the film. It broke down the story—all except the love element. That was David’s deal. So, it’s not like the story explains a theory, but rather during an explanation of a theory, I thought of the story.
Where did you come up with the idea for Jazz the Glass? How did you get permission to use the footage from an old black and white pirate movie with Charles Laughton?
Jazz the Glass came to me on my ride to work. My partner, David Potter, had acquired the film through public domain; the film company never chose to reinstate its copyright. He had a script written for it. He wanted me to read a few of the parts way back when. After releasing Invasion! from Planet C, we wrote a script for this private eye piece. We started filming the surfing for it. When we got back from filming some of the surfing, David decided the logistics of a full on movie was not getting him stoked. So, we had this surfing footage and we had this pirate film. It was natural. David sent me his original pirate script and the film. I re-wrote the story to make if fit “stoke mining”. David and I passed it back and forth until it became what it is today.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out and why?
I love Costa Rica. I can speak enough Spanish; I know the country. It’s warm. It’s affordable. I am a creature of habit in that regard.
Who/what inspires you?
Logic inspires my decision-making. My wife inspires me to be less selfish.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
Every sentient being is connected. If everyone knew this, we would live a different life.
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
Sure. There are those animals and people I have not helped. There are all those waves I didn’t go on that I probably should have.
What are you most proud of?
I am so proud that I had the wherewithal to listen to my parents when I was growing up.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Surfing, to me, means riding a wave on a surfboard. Nothing more, nothing less. These movies and everything they have brought are just distractions. I don’t need to get the deepest barrel. I don’t need to do the most rad cutback. I don’t need to get the longest noseride. I am grateful I have a life that allows me to spend the time in the water I get.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Harmonious relationships. I am happy when I honor my wife. I am happy when I know my family is healthy and happy. I am happy to have the friends I do.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
Gene Cooper, Chad Marshall, Miki Dora, Joel Tudor, and Christian Fletcher. These men’s contributions to surfing are currently defining where things are going today—in my eye.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
Gene and I are designing a Cooperfish Blackboard. It’s a traditional pig pushed through Gene’s magic. That is my favorite board. It is something I am so lucky to be a part of and something I am incredibly proud of.
My favorite surf spot is an enigma. There are spots that have the shape, but the crowd ruins them. Malibu, Sandspit, Rincon, Cap, and Poles all come to mind. There is this spot on the Oso Peninsula and this other spot on the mainland across from the spot on the Oso Peninsula. Those spots are probably my “favorites”. They are super long, perfect, warm and uncrowded.
In 20 words or fewer, tell us why everyone should “surf a pig”?
I’d prefer everyone not surf a pig. More people should shortboard. Pig boards catch too many waves.
What’s your favorite meal?
Currently, a nice salad. By nice salad, I mean one with meat and cheese, nuts and organic greens.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
Bascom Lamar Lunsford
What causes/organizations do you support?
None. I’m not a joiner. I don’t believe in putting my name on a list to help this or that. Some organizations out there are ones with a cause worth supporting; that much is certain. However, every organization will ultimately do something I disagree with, hence my reluctance. Furthermore, helping one thing might hurt another. I help my community immensely with my chosen profession.
What are you most grateful for?
The love and support of family and friends.
What’s next for Mike Black?
Many things. I hope to be starting a family with my wife in the very near future. I have this Blackboard with Gene in development. We are launching Jazz the Glass this month. I am currently writing an article for Slide magazine. Stoke Films, LLC might launch this Bollywood-style motorcycle bounty hunter surf story project.
My profession keeps me challenged and rewarded. I am a candidate for a fellowship for Talented Youth instructors. That has me psyched.
A future full of positive, creative endeavors—that is what is next for me.