Viral Spiral

January 30, 2016

What does El Chapo—the world’s most infamous narco cartel boss—and Cow Bay’s iconic moose statue have in common?

If you said Brody Jenner, you’d be wrong. I’m pretty sure El Chapo wouldn’t put up with that kind of tomfoolery.

This is not about Brody, bro. This is about Sean frigging Penn. Fast Times at Ridgemont High’s Spicoli himself. The man whose character single-handedly created the enduring air-headed, spiritual-stoner stereotype we surfers still enjoy today. The man with a couple of Oscars poking out of his eccentric overcoat. The man with the killer goatee and omnipresent cigarette. The man who had the cajones to munch tacos with El Chapo himself, months before his dramatic recapture in early January, 2016. Sean Penn—the ultimate dude.

I have it on good authority that Penn once paddled out at The Moose. Rob Chapman, a fellow Cow Bay resident (no relation to Chapo), filled me in. It was September ’99 when Chapman’s pager buzzed. His pal Morgan was working on a film called Weight of Water, and he needed to hear from Chapman urgently. When he got to a phone, Morgan told him “we have to take Sean Penn surfing.”

The rest is surreal, really. Penn showed up at the old Shell in Cole Harbour after a few frantic pager messages. Penn—driving solo in a rental car—got lost in true Halifax fashion before figuring out where the hell he was. After that, he trailed Morgan and Chapman to the Bay, where they popped out for a surf check by the church. According to Chapman, Osborne Head was clean, firing, and absolutely empty. Penn stood there for a few minutes, smoking, and then said, “Looks good, but is there a left around?” Once a goofy foot, always a goofy foot.

Where else to go but The Moose? In Chapman’s recollection, it too was devoid of all humans, with sets in the five to six foot range. Here Penn pulled on a ratty old diving suit and grabbed the board Chapman leant him—a toothpick-shaped 6’3” Third World Exotic shorty—and paddled out. After a few unsuccessful drop-in attempts, Penn said to Chapman, “I can’t do anything on this pool toy.” Chapman swapped him his 8′ mini-mal and they had a fun session before the chilly water offended Penn’s SoCal sensibilities.

That’s the whole story. Chapman remembers asking Penn if he wanted to shoot some pool after the session, to which Penn answered, “No man, I’m just gonna get going.” Then he was gone.

The point is, Brody Jenner’s Cow Bay celebrity selfie-fest got trumped retroactively by Jeff Spicoli. This is important for us to know. It is also important for us to hear these lines again, quoted from Ridgemont High:

Judge Reinhold, behind the counter of a mini-mart: “Why don’t you get a job, Spicoli?”

Penn, pausing: “What for?”

Reinhold, incredulous: “You need money, come on.”

Penn, pausing longer: “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.”

Which brings me to my final point about El Chapo. If he were in Cow Bay, he might have questions about the circus that is now the moose parking lot whenever there’s a sniff of swell. Actually, he might not even get a spot. But if he did, he’d see the moose statue and wonder why it doesn’t have an official name. Then he might ponder, recalling his doomed meeting with Mr. Penn, and offer up the following suggestion:

“I say we name that moose Spicoli.”



Ryan Shaw