In February of 1997, the Reader did a cover story featuring surf writer Chris Ahrens as one of San Diego’s leading “micro-publishers” in the then-growing field of authors self-publishing their books.
Now, six books later, this month Ahrens released his seventh, Behold, What is Greater Than Thyself, a fictional novella into the world of surfing in Baja in the early years.
“I wrote for those that lived it,” said Ahrens. He says his greatest compliment is when people read the stories and say, “It was just like that, man,” and then they to tell him a true story of the period, similar to one in the book.
Ahrens started his writing career around 1980, when he got a story about his mom published in Family Circle magazine. But his love of surfing started earlier, when he was 14, living in Montebello in the San Gabriel Valley.
He and a buddy saw the movie Gidget, the campy surfing film starring Sandra Dee. He ran home from the theater and told his dad he wanted to try surfing. Ahrens said his dad, who had tried surfing in the 1940s when boards weighed about a 100 pounds, thought it was too dangerous. “He thought we’d kill ourselves,” said Ahrens.
No matter, the boys tore apart his HO-scale train set and used the plywood base to saw out shapes of surfboards. Even painted them yellow, just like in the movie, and took them down to the beach.
“Of course they didn’t work,” Ahrens said. “But I think we ended up using them as skim boards.” Since then, Ahrens has been a waterman.
Ahrens has written and edited for every major surf publication in the country, including Waves, Surfer, Surfing, and Surfer’s Journal. Currently he’s a monthly columnist on surfing and ocean issues for the North County’s Seaside Courier.
Ahrens’s received critical acclaim for his cinematic directorial debut in his 2008 documentary D.O.P.E. – Death or Prison Eventually, which followed the lives of four legendary 1970/‘80s SoCal skaters from the height of worldwide fame into the depths of drug addiction and crime, including Encinitas’ Bruce Logan.
Chris Ahrens on February 20, 1997 cover
From that work, Ahrens received an offer from the faith-based publishing arm of Harper Collins, Harper One, to help Christian Hosoi, once one of skateboarding’s biggest stars, write his autobiography; Hosoi, My Life as a Skateboarder, Junkie, Inmate, Pastor was published in 2012. Hosoi’s fall from fame and eventual redemption was featured in Ahrens’s film.
Ahrens writes his columns and books from his ocean-view home in Cardiff by the Sea and self-publishes under the name Perelandra Publishing, which Ahrens says, was C.S. Lewis’s second book in his space trilogy, meaning Mars, but metaphorically, heaven.
Ahrens says he doesn’t use the manual typewriter anymore, nor can he cross his legs like in the 1997 Reader cover photo.