Surfin’ USA

Heather Seton hitchhiked across the English channel when she was just 18-years old. She planned to spend two weeks in France with a girlfriend to immerse herself in the Bohemian lifestyle of early Sixties Paris. She soon bemused painters and photographers and became an integral part of the Cafe circuit. She never went back. Robert Eisenman traveled from his native New York to Paris to write poetry and fiction. He was a striking man and a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar. Heather and David met at the Monaco Cafe on the left bank. They got married in 1970 in Jerusalem. Two years later Sasha was born.

“I am amazingly good!” says Sasha without hesitation or irony. “I mean it would be ridiculous if I wasn’t. I started surfing when I was eight years old.” The last time I saw Sasha Eisenman, he had shaggy light brown hair and a messy beard. He was wearing his signature bell bottom jeans and a corduroy or suede jacket. Today he greets me from his porch, clean shaven, topless and tan like a beach bunny. His hair is chopped off, side-parted and bleached a natural shade of blonde. I am startled by his new appearance – he looks so much younger! “You remind me of a 1980’s surfer!” I manage to utter after I make it up the stairs. “More like 60’s,” he replies spontaneously. Sasha’s family settled down in Huntington Beach, California in the Seventies. He was on the surf team in high school and worked at a famous surf shop called the Frog House. He met Bruce Weber when he was 19-years old. Bruce was shooting a surf portfolio for Interview magazine and picked Sasha as one of “the boys”. “I gave modeling a shot and started traveling around the world, skateboarding, surfing and camping” he recalls. “I would take pictures of my friends and family as a way of documenting my adventures. One day Bob Richardson saw my photos and asked me if I wanted to be a photographer. I’d never really thought about it, but I took the plunge. By 2001 I got my first fashion shoot for Dazed & Confused magazine.”

Sasha’s entire being breathes Sixties and Seventies. He draws most of his inspiration from movies, “the Italian stuff, like Antonioni or Sam Peckinpah’s work.” He’s laid back, takes life one day at a time. His mom is the one who finds the coolest vintage pieces for him. She goes on lengthy driving excursions as an excuse to dig out treasures in Passadena or Palm Springs. And Sasha’s since adopted a passion for anything old and collectible. He once traded a pair of white and blue striped Henry Duarte pants for a 1969 long board with surfer and musician Donovan Frankenreiter. “We were shooting for Big magazine and I was wearing these pants. They looked kind of circusy but Donovan loved them. So I said, “I’ll take one of your surfboards for my pants”. And he said, “take three!” Donovan had a storage room full of old boards, dating back as far as the Sixties.” Sasha was just a kid when the Seventies ended but he was aware and sensitive enough to remember the era as “wild and free”. “Those early memories of the world are always the most powerful,” he acknowledges. “And I think it’s normal to want to seek to remain in, or return to that time. Things were more simple in those days. The world and certainly California had not become so regulated yet. There weren’t so many rules. California still had a sort of Wild West feel to it. No, I don’t care much for the modern world.”

August 24, 2011

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