Adventures in Advertising


15 Jul Adventures in Advertising


“The Forgotten Four” was written by Ithaka, and published in Water magazine for his column “Fishdaddy Chronicles”.


Part 1: Accidental Purists

Day 1:

It’s bizarre how time

can compress or expand,

depending on circumstances.

A mere micro-second

in the barrel can feel like a minutes.

Waiting for a delayed plane

can feel like weeks.

And for an unlikely crew

of 29 individuals (ages 15-50),

traveling to mainland Mexico

to shoot the 2003 OP ad campaign,

a week was seemingly transformed

into several months.

For the first couple days,

it was just the seven of us,

a skeleton crew of photographers,

cameramen, art director,

and marketing folk

with the intention

of scouting locations,

and hopefully, surf.

But we’d missed the swell.

Wrong angle…

Wrong tides…

Wrong wind… Wrong coast…

Left as dismal substitutes

were 18-inch

marshmallow crumblers,

staggering drunkenly

across an exacto blade,

lava shelf completely

encrusted with thousands

of baby sea urchins.

And the water was too damn hot,

offering 0% refreshment

from the tropical madness.

Anyone over 95-pounds

was shit out of luck wave-wise,

but the chocolate-skinned

village groms

utilized the impotent dribblers

as a skate park,

each of them with repertoires,

including airs and reverses

(style hopefully will come in time).

One thing was for sure,

this was their break.

Age, ability, and size

were not taken into consideration,

of whom, they rode in front

and behind of.

They snaked all of us

and each other,

over and over again.

No pecking order

of any kind existed,

but up on the beach it

was all bro-shakes and smiles.

We had arrived

just six hours earlier.

An hour and a half, of which,

had been spent trying

to clear100 clothing samples

through customs

(finally achieved with cash bribes,

sweet talking and a couple of pairs

of corduroy walk shorts).

Another two hours

had been burned

digging our rented van

out of bottomless pothole.

And the remaining time

we’d been tap-dancing over urchins.

The trip already seemed doomed.

But at dusk, walking

up the hill to

our luxurious borrowed palace,

the methodical blink

of fireflies

began flickering like

a glimmer of hope

through thick vegetation

on both sides of the path.

I love those little flappers,

someone said,

Yeah,e too. We used to crush‘em

and rub the glow powder all over our faces…….

Yeah…I remember the time……….

Day 2:

More location scouting:

a deep jungle trail boogie,

climaxing with

a wade through a putrid,

mosquito-larvae infested mud pond.

The rewards?

A clean white sand beach

and 2-4 foot glassy but gutless rollers.

Enough scouting — we surfed.

Once again,

local kids were

on everything in sight.

I wondered if they even realized

that by taking turns

they’d have even more fun.

I was stoked to see,

the campaign’s lead shooter, Colin Finlay,

(who I’d known only by photographic rep

and had no idea was even a surfer),

catch one of the better waves

and milk it to the sand.

New arrivals began trickling in

later that afternoon.

Our final group equivalent

the size of an independent

feature film crew:

7 pro surfers

(an injured Tim Curran among them),

2 swimsuit models

(one of whom, Ana Paula Limez,

wanted to surf just as much

as the contract riders),

2 makeup artists,

2 clothing stylists,

1 designer,

3 photographers,

2 cameramen,

1 art director,

1 V.P. of marketing,

2 marketing coordinators,

2 cooks and our host family,

the Taylors.

In the morning,

our two Californian chefs

drove an hour

out of their way to

the Sam’s Club in Vallarta

to buy 60 pounds of frozen fish.


Here we were,

located at the goddamn

fisherman’s Bay of Plenty,

and the mofos are driving

to buy fish imported from Chile.

The next few days

could technically

be considered work,

but with cool people

in a beautiful setting,

the atmosphere was not exactly stressful:

shooting film, taking photos,

getting sun burnt,

avoiding giant flying ants,

sweeping scorpions out of our rooms,

scooping beatles

the size of potatoes

out of the pool,

drinking Pacificos

and attempting to find waves.

You tend to talk a lot

on a trip like this,

plenty of down-time,

transport time

and time to hear

people’s own versions

of their own life stories,

(not just what you

have learned through

the grapeweed

or read in surf magazines).

Among us were:

celebrated pros,

big wave hell raisers,

glowing hot upstarts,

underground film makers,

an award winning photojournalist,

and two voluptuous sex symbols.

But considering the talent roster,

egos were at an all time low.

Barriers were broken.

Groms and veterans

had the same rank and file

(and equal opportunity

to ride shotgun

on wave checks).

Lately it seemed,

I ‘d been surrounded day to day

with people who just “talk stuff”,

their whole lives devoted

to the pursuit of material subsidies.

That shit gets old after a while,

downright boring.

But people here

were having real conversions

about real things;

waves, travel, music

and relationships.

(What else is there?).

This was group therapy.

The Breakfast Club,

estilo Juevos Rancheros.

Five days (or was it months)

into this sojourn,

a distant tropical depression

(that we’d barely

been paying attention

to by weather reports)

was now a Category 3 hurricane

a couple of hundred miles

off somewhere.

Enough to send

our pink-bellied cooks

scrambling to the airport

to get the hell out of Dodge.

With empty stomachs,

the rest of us took it all in stride.

But by the next morning,

the system was

now being reported

as a Category 5

and predicted to hit land

in the exact vicinity of

our low-lying adopted village,


Although not yet

an official evacuation,

it was strongly advised

that we relocate an hour south

to Puerto Vallarta

into the protection

of Bahia de Banderas.

Facing northwest

and protected by high headlands

to the south,

hurricanes had never

entertered the sheltered bay.

Departure was set for eight pm.

With a little light left,

a few of us

snuck down the hill

for a few softies

in front of the village

(the water still too warm, s

till nicking our feet

on the rocks and urchins, a

nd the lineup still infested

with neighborhood kids

demolishing every ripple in sight).

The hurricane warning

had to be a hoax,

the swell had actually decreased.

Sean Taylor’s birthday tonight:

we ate soggy grilled lobsters

and cake and sang

happy birthday

before stockpiling

into four vans.

Most of us had arrived

on separate planes

in phases as strangers,

but we were leaving

as a single tribe

of brothers and sisters.

The southward journey

was a smooth one,

moonlit tropical perfection.

The kind of night made for driving,

we could have kept

going all the way to Guadalajara……

and we should have.

Most of the hotels

were completely booked,

but we eventually ended up

in the Sheraton’s

rock-star marble lobby,

cramming into elevators

en route to our assigned rooms.

Some people crashed early,

but true insomniacs

migrated to the halls.

It was, after all,

Sean’s 18th birthday (

and Holly Beck’s 22nd

was just a couple of days away).

AND we had escaped the storm!

This justified celebration.

Taxis to old town Vallarta,

like a mass of tourists

arriving by cruise boat,

we completely overran

one of the nearly empty

ocean front bars,

(the staff ecstatic at our arrival).

On the ride down,

I’d overheard Sean

ask volumptous model Sarah Stage

what she was giving him

for his birthday.

What do you want?, she asked.

A lap dance, he said.

“Ok”, she responds. “

I’ll buy you one

as soon as we get to town.”

But in the end,

Sarah had her way.

It was Sean

who ended up

giving her the dance

(women rule the universe).

The metallic sounding techno

didn’t vibe well with our crew,

and some people

segregated straight off

to the pool table,

but Jamo Pibram went upstairs

and threatened the DJ,

ensuring bass-heavy,

bumping hip hop joints

for the remainder of the evening.

Two For One drink specials

were rampant,

meaning they just diluted them

twice as much

(but all of us at least grooving

on a psychological buzz).

Pretty OP marketing coordinator,

Nikki Larsen had to fight off

several locals that

were hovering about

trying to stick to her like glue….

(she’d received two separate

marriage proposals

by the end of the evening).

And people

you wouldn’t have expected

to even dance at all,

were throwing down moves

that would’ve made Travolta

sweat with envy.

Filmmakers Mark Jeremias

and Jason Baffa were solid standouts,

but wild man,

Bron Heussenstamm dominated.

Four hours later,

emerging outside into light rain,

I overheard the doorman saying

the hurricane was already

300 kilometers north of us.

We’d survived.

Part 2: The Greatest Show On Earth

We were all up early

considering the near all-nighter

we’d just pulled.

It was still raining,

not a particularly impressive rain,

but now there was wind.

And instead of being lake flat

out in front the hotel,

there was now two-foot shore pound.

It’s starting, prophesized

the shoot’s art director Eric Crane

over orange juice in the lobby bar.

We ignorantly watched

in amusement

as the swell size

and wind velocity

both quadrupled

in about an hour.

On the way back upstairs,

we bumped into North Carolinian

power-styler, Matt Beauchump,

the only person among us

who had ever even been

near a hurricane…….

See those waves, he said,

in about three hours

they’ll be breaking

through the lobby.

Like disbelieving peasants

listening to Noah’s promise

of the great flood,

we disregarded

the information

as pure fantasy.

But minutes later,

the storm was already

kicking the shit

out of the tile rooftops

and palm trees.

And suddenly

the whole thing just snapped!

The waves, wind

and rain seem

to hyper-accelerate

in a single second.

Downpour charged the hotel

in grey opaque blankets

of solid water.

The initial gust of wind

blew out a couple

of 4×6 foot hallway windows.

And like giant liquid teeth

trying to swallow the entire coast,

monster Teahupoo-esque

mud grinders

greedily devoured

the sandy beach away

in a matter of minutes

and were now gnawing

on the cement walkway

leading to the back entrance

of the Lobby.

Surges of muddy white water

rushed up the lawn,

across the pool

and right up

against the building.

This monumental rise

in tide level soon brought

the waves in even closer.

Incredulously we watched

the hotel’s beachfront restaurant

get completely demolished

by a single, three-story wave,

(its fifty foot high palapa

popped like an enormous

palm leaf pimple).

Eight foot walls of whitewash

were now going

right through the hotel’s lobby,

stripping bricks off the walls

and plaster off the ceiling.

And pushing EVERYTHING,

including: sofas, computers,

lawn chairs, refrigerators,

pots and pans, palm trees,

sand, mud, rocks

and garbage

completely through the building

and out the front doors

into the muddy swamp

that used to be the parking lot

and tennis courts.

At this point,

security came through

the corridors instructing

everyone to go up to the 7th floor.

Phone, electricity and water

were long gone.

And we’d also just been informed

there was a gas leak.

The elevators being disabled,

we used the service stairwell.

With horrific sounds

of the flooding taking place

only a couple of floors below,

the walk up the pitch dark stairwell

resembled a scene from

The Poseidon Adventure.

On the 7th level,

we passed an open room

where most of the hotel’s staff

were sitting on the floor

holding hands in a circle

and praying.

This image,

more than anything else,

began to plant seeds

of real fear within our group.

We all packed

into a single room

where trip supervisor,

Michael Marckx, did a head count

and came up a couple people short

(only hours later did we learn

of our friends whereabouts).

Two natural gas containers,

both the size of station wagons,

got ripped off of the roof off

the hotel’s garage (

where they’d been bolted down)

and flew away like balloons.

One punctured on landing,

the pressurized vapor output

spinning it down the street like a giant top.

Because of the hotel’s

diagonal angle to the beach,

it was possible

to watch the storm

from the hallways’, retracted,

windowless balconies.

With the wind rushing sideways

past us at 130 mph,

we still remained in relative safety.

But down below, some of

the outer lower level walls

of the Sheraton’s

pyramid-shaped structure

began crumbling

like graham crackers in wet milk.

No chance of leaving at this point.

And nowhere to leave to.

Debris flying through the air.

The surrounding area totally submerged.

No swimmer on earth

could have survived the water that day.

Although there was no screaming

or hysterical outbursts

among our crew,

we all knew there was

a significant possibility

that the entire hotel could go down.

Built on sand

with low grade cement and bricks,

each gargantuan lip

landing out on the lawn,

set shudders up the building’s spine.

Peoples’ personalities

began to shift under crisis. S

some of the maids and attendants

began freaking out and crying,

others began looting supply cabinets

and guest rooms.

Even the Wonder Grom,

(15 year old, straight-A student,

wave-shredder), Erica Hoessini,

hungry and thinking

it was all over with,

karate kicked (and shattered open)

a glass mini-bar door to retrieve

what she thought was sure

to be her young life’s last Snickers Bar.

Hypnotized by the entire spectacle,

most of us couldn’t

stop staring at the ocean.

This was not the ocean

we had grown to love,

this was an ocean possessed.

When the bigger sets crashed,

warm water spray

from the colossal white explosions

splashed our faces

way up on our seventh floor balcony.

If the high tide

and storm surge continued

to rise and the hotel itself

took the brunt force of even

a single 20 foot set wave,

it would’ve loosened the building

from the sand it rested

and could have set

the Vallarta Sheraton

teeter-tottering down

into a pile of mud, bricks,

and cheap cement.

But it didn’t !

The extreme tide

began to drop,


the ceaseless bombardment.

The swell diminished

and the rain and wind lessened.

The once immaculate

poolside flower gardens

began to reappear

as broken trees

and twisted metal,

eventually revealing

the swimming pool

(completely filled to the coping

with sand, stones,

mud and lawn chairs).

The whole entire episode

had lasted no longer

than four hours start to finish,

from 9am orange juice

until the storm

had completely passed us

(heading north

to obliterate the city of San Blas).

Our missing friends

reappeared unscathed.

The sun came out

and clean-up crews

with bulldozers arrived

to begin making

the roads passable again.

And as far as we heard,

there were (unbelievably)

very few human casualties

in the entire area.

Our vans were still half-submerged

in the parking lot,

(all eventually started).

Walking several blocks inland,

we saw familiestrekking

through the mud

with all of their possessions

and animals in tow.

We saw jet skis and boats laying

in the middle of the streets

alongside of logs and rubbish.

We passed a weddingdress shop

that had been flooded

with muddy runoff

and had now completely drained.

The 11 dresses being displayed

on vintage mannequins

were each equally dyed to the hip

with red mud.

We bought snacks

in an air conditioned supermarket

that had survived without a incident

(only 1/2 mile from where we had been).

WE personally had seen

the worst of it all.

Actuall,y as far

as Vallarta was concerned

the destruction was very localized.

Because of the Sheraton’s

severe damage,

we were again forced to relocate

like a band of caravanning gypsies.

But by sunset,

we were all swimming

in a beautiful lapis-tiled pool

and ordering pina-coladas

and smoothies from the sunken bar.

Everything decadently perfect

except for the smell of dead fish.

The storm,

although not visibly damaging

this resort,

had killed most of the fish

in the golf course ponds

and the stench

was beginning to waft its way

over to us,

(the only indication here

that there had been a storm at all).

Had it really even happened?

This morning seemed like a week ago.

Last night seemed like last year.

The longest 24 hours

any of us could remember.

The next day shooting

resumed as scheduled.


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