TROY DOC DOCKINS

Interview by Glenn Sakamoto

Troy Dockins, or Doc as he calls himself, is a surfer/writer/artist and has been on our radar for some time now. Starting with his blog observations on surfing in Oregon to his foray into the Twitter-verse. His 140 character or less thoughts on surfing are part-haiku and part-Aesops in nature. We spoke with Troy to learn more about him and his life of writing and surfing. 

What was the inspiration for you to start tweeting about the subject of surfing?
I started a blog called Surf in Oregon in 2006 where I posted some surf stories, cartoons and stuff about surfing in Oregon. Then my job changed, I had some pesky injuries and just couldn’t really put in the time to maintain it. So I more or less mothballed it; it’s still around, just kind of dormant, like my surf stoke! The Twitter thing started a couple years ago, I suffered from a compressed nerve in my neck for a few months and I couldn’t really put my arms over my head (which makes paddling tough) without extreme pain and so I couldn’t surf much. Then one night I was sitting in a bar drinking, and basically pissed because I couldn’t surf, and I texted a friend something about surfing and life and drinking and we started going back and forth. Then I just started tweeting out some of the stuff we were riffing on, since I couldn’t surf it out. Once I got back in the water, the tweets got more positive; like soul, and stoke, and give a wave to get a wave. Now my neck is hurt again and so the tweets will probably be more about incessant rain, shitty surf, onshore winds, sharks and kooks. Getting old (like Surf in Oregon) is not for the weak, but on the mend!

Tell us about the reaction to your surfing tweets. Is it mostly positive?
I’d say the reaction, if any, is neither positive nor negative really. It’s cool when you do get the occasional response, but mostly it’s just retweets or favorites or follows. The tweets aren’t really that conversational; more just little 140 character observations, comments and repurposed quotes from people. In fact, generally it’s outright internet theft of people’s words and then somehow twisting them into being about surfing. Sometimes you get on a roll, usually after a few beers. But I just jot stuff down as I go, then tweet them out when I have time.

What have you learned/gained from sharing your thoughts about surfing on the internet?
Mostly that I’d much rather be surfing than staring at a little phone screen trying to think up something pithy to say about surfing! It is nice when you’re able to come up with something that reaches someone else; it doesn’t really matter if it’s funny, philosophical or just an observation about this activity so many of us have gotten sucked into.

Tell us a bit about yourself
I was born in San Diego in 1961, grew up in Pacific Beach and Leucadia mostly. I don’t really remember starting surfing, surfing just always was. It helped some that my uncles were surfers. Skip Frye was married to my mom’s sister Marcia, and whenever I went to the beach with my cousins there were always plenty of boards to play around with. I lived with Skip and Marcia off and on when I was little during grade school, like from 1966 until 1970. Skip was shaping a lot of experimental boards and figuring out how things went. The other uncle was Chuck Hasley who was married to my mom’s other sister Reggie. I don’t remember Chuck surfing as much as Skip at that point; but he was always around, super cool, a real presence in San Diego surf circles and one of the founders of the Windansea Surf Club.

In 1970, I moved to Leucadia to live with my Dad who worked at Scripps running their fish collection. We’d drop skiffs off the Scripps Piers, scramble down the chain link ladder and go fishing. I was pretty much free to roam around the beaches and aquariums there totally unsupervised, which today I just don’t think would ever happen. Being around that place as a kid, that was a whole other side of the ocean based lifestyle really! My Dad’s house was on La Costa Avenue (skated a bit with Skip and my cousins up in La Costa too!) The house was an old avocado grove that overlooked Bataquitos Lagoon and Ponto Beach (South Carlsbad State Beach now), a pretty idyllic setup and empty back then. Ponto had a barb wire fence strung along the highway back then during the early 70’s; it was like our own private beach more or less. We called the spot below the intersection at La Costa & 101 “Noah’s Ark” after an old restaurant that was long gone by then and there was a big hippie commune on the eastside corner back in those days too.

Tell us more...
My dad passed when I was in 8th grade and my stepmom adopted me. I was in the Junior Lifeguards program and worked with State Lifeguards from Carlsbad down to Blacks; yet another great group of watermen. I got to work with people like L.J. Richards, Mark Allen (of Ironman fame), and many, many other classic accomplished watermen. I surfed pretty much all over North County until I graduated from San Dieguito High School in 1979. I went to Palomar College in San Marcos for a bit, then moved up to Long Beach for college and surfed spots up there, mostly Huntington Cliffs and Seal Beach though. Then it all kind of went to hell surf wise; because I moved to Michigan for grad school, getting my MFA in Painting from Cranbrook Art Academy.

After graduating, I came back out west and ended up moving to Portland, Oregon in 1989. Still pretty far from the coast but a lot closer than Michigan! I taught college art classes briefly then went to work for a restaurant and brewery group out of Portland. At that time, my brother Clay managed the Longboard Grotto in Leucadia and he shipped some boards up to Oregon for me… now he lives in Michigan! Ha! I was working quite a bit in Eugene and Lincoln City and would head to the coast and drive up from Coos Bay to Seaside pretty regularly. A lot of the time you had to surf breaks alone because there was just no one surfing; and many times, whether it was because it was too big, too rocky or too sharky, you’d have to pass on really great surf just to find a break where someone else was surfing.

Where do you surf?
I mostly surf the north coast now since I’m not working down south as much anymore. I make a few trips up into Washington and the Strait every year (I got skunked this past October). Needless to say, living in the Valley isn’t exactly conducive to consistent surfing but you make do. I’ve been doing a lot of flat water stand up paddling and some prone paddling (on a Bark Unlimited) on the Willamette River; I did my first down winder in the Columbia Gorge this summer which was pretty killer. Also took my Bark and paddled around Neakahnie Cliffs this summer, which was a truly amazing experience. I’m not really interested in Stand Up Surfing, I’d just rather prone surf; although if my neck doesn’t get better I might have to give it a shot. Sorry, stand up haters.

What was the inspiration for you to start tweeting about the subject of surfing?
I started a blog called Surf in Oregon in 2006 where I posted some surf stories, cartoons and stuff about surfing in Oregon. Then my job changed, I had some pesky injuries and just couldn’t really put in the time to maintain it. So I more or less mothballed it; it’s still around, just kind of dormant, like my surf stoke! The twitter thing started a couple years ago, I suffered from a compressed nerve in my neck for a few months and I couldn’t really put my arms over my head (which makes paddling tough) without extreme pain and so I couldn’t surf much. Then one night I was sitting in a bar drinking, and basically pissed because I couldn’t surf, and I texted a friend something about surfing and life and drinking and we started going back and forth. Then I just started tweeting out some of the stuff we were riffing on, since I couldn’t surf it out. Once I got back in the water, the tweets got more positive; like soul, and stoke, and give a wave to get a wave. Now my neck is hurt again and so the tweets will probably be more about incessant rain, shitty surf, onshore winds, sharks and kooks. Getting old (like Surf in Oregon) is not for the weak, but on the mend!

Tell us about the reaction to the surfing tweets. Is it mostly positive?
I’d say the reaction, if any, is neither positive nor negative really. It’s cool when you do get the occasional response, but mostly it’s just retweets or favorites or follows. The tweets aren’t really that conversational; more just little 140 character observations, comments and repurposed quotes from people. In fact, generally it’s outright internet theft of people’s words and then somehow twisting them into being about surfing. Sometimes you get on a roll, usually after a few beers. But I just jot stuff down as I go, then tweet them out when I have time.

What have you learned/gained from sharing your thoughts about surfing on the internet?
Mostly that I’d much rather be surfing than staring at a little phone screen trying to think up something pithy to say about surfing! It is nice when you’re able to come up with something that reaches someone else; it doesn’t really matter if it’s funny, philosophical or just an observation about this activity so many of us have gotten sucked into.

Tell us a bit about yourself
I was born in San Diego in 1961, grew up in Pacific Beach and Leucadia mostly. I don’t really remember starting surfing, surfing just always was. It helped some that my uncles were surfers. Skip Frye was married to my mom’s sister Marcia, and whenever I went to the beach with my cousins there were always plenty of boards to play around with. I lived with Skip and Marcia off and on when I was little during grade school, like from 1966 until 1970. Skip was shaping a lot of experimental boards and figuring out how things went. The other uncle was Chuck Hasley who was married to my mom’s other sister Reggie. I don’t remember Chuck surfing as much as Skip at that point; but he was always around, super cool, a real presence in San Diego surf circles and one of the founders of the Windansea Surf Club.

In 1970, I moved to Leucadia to live with my Dad who worked at Scripps running their fish collection. We’d drop skiffs off the Scripps Piers, scramble down the chain link ladder and go fishing. I was pretty much free to roam around the beaches and aquariums there totally unsupervised, which today I just don’t think would ever happen. Being around that place as a kid, that was a whole other side of the ocean based lifestyle really! My dad’s house was on La Costa Avenue (skated a bit with Skip and my cousins up in La Costa too!) The house was an old avocado grove that overlooked Bataquitos Lagoon and Ponto Beach (South Carlsbad State Beach now), a pretty idyllic setup and empty back then. Ponto had a barbed wire fence strung along the highway back then during the early 70’s; it was like our own private beach more or less. We called the spot below the intersection at La Costa & 101 “Noah’s Ark” after an old restaurant that was long gone by then and there was a big hippie commune on the eastside corner back in those days too.

Tell us more...
My dad passed when I was in 8th grade and my stepmom adopted me. I was in the Junior Lifeguards program and worked with State Lifeguards from Carlsbad down to Blacks; yet another great group of watermen. I got to work with people like L.J. Richards, Mark Allen (of Ironman fame), and many, many other classic accomplished watermen. I surfed pretty much all over North County until I graduated from San Dieguito High School in 1979. I went to Palomar College in San Marcos for a bit, then moved up to Long Beach for college and surfed spots up there, mostly Huntington Cliffs and Seal Beach though. Then it all kind of went to hell surf wise; because I moved to Michigan for grad school, getting my MFA in Painting from Cranbrook Art Academy.

After graduating, I came back out west and ended up moving to Portland, Oregon in 1989. Still pretty far from the coast but a lot closer than Michigan! I taught college art classes briefly then went to work for a restaurant and brewery group out of Portland. At that time, my brother Clay managed the Longboard Grotto in Leucadia and he shipped some boards up to Oregon for me…now he lives in Michigan! Ha! I was working quite a bit in Eugene and Lincoln City and would head to the coast and drive up from Coos Bay to Seaside pretty regularly. A lot of the time you had to surf breaks alone because there was just no one surfing; and many times, whether it was because it was too big, too rocky or too sharky, you’d have to pass on really great surf just to find a break where someone else was surfing.

Where do you surf?
I mostly surf the north coast now since I’m not working down south as much anymore. I make a few trips up into Washington and the Strait every year (I got skunked this past October). Needless to say, living in the Valley isn’t exactly conducive to consistent surfing but you make do. I’ve been doing a lot of flat water stand up paddling and some prone paddling (on a Bark Unlimited) on the Willamette River; I did my first down winder in the Columbia Gorge this summer which was pretty killer. Also took my Bark and paddled around Neakahnie Cliffs this summer, which was a truly amazing experience. I’m not really interested in Stand Up Surfing, I’d just rather prone surf; although if my neck doesn’t get better I might have to give it a shot. Sorry, stand up haters.

What boards are you currently riding?
I’ll pretty much surf anything from my 10’ 6” Frye Eagle on down to a 5’ 8” Terry Martin Hobie Fish (badly, I might add). I’ve been working on Skip for a few years now to shape me a Fish, but even relatives have a hard time getting a board from him and I hate to pester him about it! I apparently have way too many surfboards anyway; at least that’s what my wife tells me. But she doesn’t surf, so what does she know? 14 boards is not that many! I tend to ride longboards mostly, especially when it’s smaller, if it’s under 6 foot or so; just more float, glide, easier to paddle, more waves and less frustration. I still love to short board, but it needs to be a bigger wave and wintertime Oregon waves can beat the short board out of you!

What’s surfing like in Oregon?
The great days are really great, really special. But they are interspersed with rain, wind, current, beer, sharks, more wind and even more rain. That said, if you drive an hour plus you’re probably gonna paddle out even if it does suck! It’s a lot easier now for people to know what’s up surfwise with forecasts and wave cams, so the good days are that much more crowded nowadays. Ultimately, people tend to migrate to the usual spots though, and if you want to surf alone it’s really not a problem. There are some pretty classic breaks up here; but you don’t really talk about them. You gotta want it, you gotta be comfortable getting in and out over rocks and boulders, and you gotta deal with the local crews; which is mostly not a problem, but still a hassle sometimes. But like anywhere, as long as you’re respectful and low key you can get your waves. All in all, it’s still easy to surf by yourself in Oregon.

What’s next for Troy “Doc" Dockins?
Rehab my neck. Too many skateboard crashes (I was a crappy skater too) and faceplants body surfing as a kid I guess. Maybe move some of the surfboards around in my studio and do some painting. But mostly, just keep on surfing… maybe the odd tweet here and there. Maybe leave another message on Skip’s answering machine about shaping me a board!...

I’ll pretty much surf anything from my 10’ 6” Frye Eagle on down to a 5’ 8” Terry Martin Hobie Fish (badly, I might add). I’ve been working on Skip for a few years now to shape me a Fish, but even relatives have a hard time getting a board from him and I hate to pester him about it! I apparently have way too many surfboards anyway; at least that’s what my wife tells me. But she doesn’t surf, so what does she know? 14 boards is not that many! I tend to ride longboards mostly, especially when it’s smaller, if it’s under 6 foot or so; just more float, glide, easier to paddle, more waves and less frustration. I still love to short board, but it needs to be a bigger wave and wintertime Oregon waves can beat the short board out of you!

What’s surfing like in Oregon?
The great days are really great, really special. But they are interspersed with rain, wind, current, beer, sharks, more wind and even more rain. That said, if you drive an hour plus you’re probably gonna paddle out even if it does suck! It’s a lot easier now for people to know what’s up surfwise with forecasts and wave cams, so the good days are that much more crowded nowadays. Ultimately, people tend to migrate to the usual spots though, and if you want to surf alone it’s really not a problem. There are some pretty classic breaks up here; but you don’t really talk about them. You gotta want it, you gotta be comfortable getting in and out over rocks and boulders, and you gotta deal with the local crews; which is mostly not a problem, but still a hassle sometimes. But like anywhere, as long as you’re respectful and low key you can get your waves. All in all, it’s still easy to surf by yourself in Oregon.

What’s next for Troy “Doc" Dockins?
Rehab my neck. Too many skateboard crashes (I was a crappy skater too) and faceplants body surfing as a kid I guess. Maybe move some of the surfboards around in my studio and do some painting. But mostly, just keep on surfing… maybe the odd tweet here and there. Maybe leave another message on Skip’s answering machine about shaping me a board!...

To learn more about Troy Dockins, check out the surfinoregon blog or follow him on Twitter @surfinoregon.