086: Jamie Brisick/After The Fire

Jamie Brisick, Malibu, April 2019. Photo: Tozer

“I’ve had the rug pulled under me more than once in my life”.

Disaster, tragedy, catastrophe, death, grief – these are the concealed details of life, hidden in plain sight in the hope we never have to experience them.

The truth, of course, is that we will all be tested by such experiences in our lives. Until we do, a couple of questions loom. How will we cope? How can we square these experiences, and move forward?

Jamie on the site of his old home. Photo: Tozer

These are questions Jamie Brisick, my guest for episode 086, has had to face twice now in the last decade. The first time was when he was suddenly widowed. And now, having lost everything he owns in recent Woolsey Fires in Malibu, he is facing them all over again.

Like all true artists, he’s used these unimaginable losses as fuel for his work, channelling his experiences into a series of articles exploring the aftermath of the fire that rank among his finest.

Photo: Tozer

I met up with Jamie in Malibu at the start of my recent trip. We recorded this episode of the podcast at the site of his former home, exploring in depth the emotions that such experiences bring forth – loss, grief, self-examination and, ultimately, hope.
This was the second time we’ve chatted for the podcast, but the first time we’d actually met, and it was a rare pleasure to meet somebody I’d long admired in person for the first time, and to share such a personal and moving conversation. Listen to the episode below:

Show Notes

  • At his old place in Malibu – burnt down by the fire.
  • How the locals evacuated.
  • On not taking all his possessions with him during the evacuation: “I just didn’t think it was going to happen”.
  • “I’m now self-aware enough to observe my own patterns”
  • Coping with trauma.
  • ‘A Surfer’s Perspective on Malibu in Flames’.
  • Existential questions.
  • Malibu diversity
  • The  grassroots Malibu community.
  • The Force Majeure moment: fight vs flight.
  • The atmosphere amongst evacuees after the fire.
  • The Point Dume Bomberos.
  • Blitz Spirit.
  • Natural regeneration: “I think it’ll recover pretty quickly”
  • Montecito Mudslide 2018.
  • When his wife Gisela passed away 6 years ago.
  • Starting anew in Malibu, after life in NY with Gisela.
  • Living a bland life vs living a life that has stories.
  • From Paul Auster’s Memoir (writer): “we’re a couple of moves from a bad place”.
  • Gratitude lists.
  • Moving to Topanga Canyon.
  • “I have a lot of writing I want to do”.
  • Jamie’s previous interview on the Looking Sideways Podcast.
  • The Westerly Project: “we knew it was going to be a long ride”.
  • Fading spotlights in fame.
  • How the transgender debate has changed so much since he first started the project.
  • Transitioning from competing to writing about surfing in 1991: “compressing and totally exciting”.
  • Wearing blinders as a pro-athlete.
  • Surfing’s counterculture.
  • The narrow-mindedness of surf media.
  • Being curious about surf culture.
  • Jake Phelps’ recent passing.
  • Studied surf, skate, snow and youth culture in Japan.
  • The ego of individual sports.
  • Changes in the current surfing landscape: Olympics and the media.
  • “There are so many other ways to surf”.
  • There’s a book in mind.
  • Shaping ideas for new products.
  • Therapeutic side of writing.
  • Imposter Syndrome.
  • Enjoying writing for the sake of it.
  • Getting over the adult-side of practicalities.

Places Mentioned

Companies/Brands/Organisations Mentioned