Locals: Don Muse, Surfer-Skater
The front of his 9′ performance longboard is rising and falling in emphatic slams almost
immediately as he pops to a strong regular-footed stance. He wants more acceleration, NOW,
where many of us would wait for speed to build on its own. He locates himself a little more to the
tail of his board but not in a classic long board style. He is crouched lower. Seemingly more taut
and coiled. Digging hard into turns, doing his own thing, his own dynamic adjustments and
ﬁnessings. Though my eyesight is far from 20-20 on the water, I can know it is Muse, and I smile
inwardly. I do so often in appreciation of many individuals’ varying competences and manners of
navigating the complex unfolding aqueous surfaces.
You can see in his strong and resilient partial-squat as he hits the wave lip and drives his deep
center ﬁn and shallow side-biters through a latent skid that he has roots in skating. Less
immediately obvious as he sits further out, waiting for the bigger wave of the hour, is the power
and speed of his paddle-in when he decides that this is his wave. He starts angling for it, digging
in with his compact build, succeeding in getting in front of it, earning the steeper slope and
whatever the drop that is his fate. The dog catches the rabbit. Rarely do you see this dog
hesitate and say, whoops, this rabbit’s teeth are too big.
Though often Don may appear more aggressive in his attack than others, the ﬂuidity is not lost.
He carves his characteristic well-managed way down the living, shifting, pulsing wave-line. I
aspire for more of that responsive board control and alert ease.
We met at A Secret Garden, ﬂower shop/coffee place, on Main Street Ventura for an interview.
We shifted only slightly from surf buddy talk to more directive inquiry mode about these two
favorite passions, surﬁng and skating.
Because Don has stayed active and cross-trains, cross-plays, he has also stayed athletically
youthful, and his ﬁtness is deﬁnitely on the rare side for someone who has lived about half a
Don started skateboarding around 10 years old and became increasingly inspired, via
skateboard magazines, by the young crew of early Southern California skaters who were
already hard core surfers. He mentioned Tony Alva several times as a renowned pavement
warrior who took horizontal to vert. Initially, he imitated Tony’s wave-inspired moves in pools and
upwardly curving surfaces though he didn’t yet know the surf meaning of the moves performed,
performed against hard immovable land structures. So Don became skater ﬁrst, serious surfer
Muse’s ﬁrst paddle-outs to the play world of H2O, ﬁnally brought broader and integrated
meaning to his learned and emulated concrete repertoire. It’s all about the wave form, he now
philosophizes. At that time, he had then entered his third decade of life. Around Huntington and
Seal Beaches in his early to mid twenties he began his intense love relationship for busting
turns and working glides, now on water, for speed, for controlled aggression, and for dynamic
As background to Don’s general athleticism, he had been succeeding as a child in little league
baseball. His step-dad was his team’s coach, but he was feeling himself recoiling a bit from the
pressures, and from the constraints of strict game rules, limiting physical boundaries, and
team responsibilities. He became instead drawn to the open-form expression of individual
engagement – just skater and skateboard, within the available physical surroundings and within
his new growing sub-culture of other active outliers who were pushing at new kinetic edges.
Though he was giving up a likely trajectory of high school baseball and possibly college ball, he
breathed a sigh of relief and a fresh breath of freedom. Skating became his thing. He joined
others who were also trying to ﬁnd a coherent identity that could ﬁt who they might be.
For him, he wasn’t total street kid and bad boy, but did imbibe of the fringe of public space and
private property regulations and laws, and the conventions of middle American propriety.
Skating into drought-drained SoCal pools and other attractive venues of the paved, with a
variety of his intensely stoked buddies, probing boundaries and borders of many types, brought
him land-stoke. Though he has always padded up for the big cement drops into the 3-D world of
whatever pool lines were to-be-found, he, at past 50 years old, is still willing to fall-in-control
down a hard face. For those of us who don’t skate pools, can we imagine the courage it takes to
actually let go of the safe ledge and drop on wheels into vertical and horizontal hardness. Hah.
Recently he did so and felt, again, the familiar driving loads of compression of knees, legs, hips,
the whole body, and then the un-loadings towards decompression, then recompression
skittering along the coping. (In the two accompanying photos, ﬁrst see him in 2014 compressed
along the Malibu pool’s lip, snapped by Drue Holthe, and last, by Juan Cox, from about 25 years
ago, poised between loading and unloading himself within the giant and iconic Mt. Baldy pipe.)
He describes so well how in a pool one must see, visualize, anticipate his many moves and
arcing tracks, even behind his current moving location in space and eyes, that will come
instantly ahead and that can bring him back to an ever-new starting spot, within the ﬂuxing
sphere of his perception and intention. Flex, hold, release, shift, ﬂex. Say it how you will – a
dynamic orchestration of resisting and succumbing, but acutely felt, to gravitational pull and
solid counter-lift that are our constant living environment, accentuated many fold, within the
In surﬁng and in skating, Don says that freedom through stoke and through action is a dynamic
concentration. It isn’t quite a meditation because its ever-active changes and adjustments are
too prominent. But it probably shares some similarities. In our interview, we came to a place of
his emphasizing the common experience of consolidation of “being”, and of a “ﬂow of being”,
from one full stoking moment to the next full moment to the next. Being! Flow!
When our local surf compadre Don speaks of the varieties of surﬁng, from longboards to short,
recreational to competitive, he is fully respectful of all manner and style of cruising, carving,
shredding, and catching air, though personally he has a deep preference for the organic ﬂow,
the authentically felt engagement with nature’s wave, and the subtler inner dance in partnership
with changeable outer conditions. Don is a lover of surﬁng’s beauty, especially from the inside
And, local Don Muse is a good guy.
– the beginner, doug honeyman