Tom Kendrick — a former Santa Barbara resident and graduate of San Marcos High — is coming to town on October 5 to talk about his maiden book, Blue Water Gold Rush: The Odyssey of a California Sea Urchin Diver, which chronicles his ups and downs as a sea urchin diver from 1978 to 1996. The book is a must-read not just for those who lived through those years in S.B., but also for those who appreciate the sweet smell of an ocean breeze and the timeless appeal of a life based around the sea. If that’s not enough of a reason, here are five more.
1] Jim “Weener” Robinson: Tragically taken from this world all too soon by a shark attack just off San Miguel Island in the mid ’90s, Weener was an absolute legend and is perhaps the most colorful character in a book full of vivid personalities. The proud owner of an Egyptian mummy and a wicked sense of humor, Weener was a beloved member of S.B.’s tight-knit commercial fishing community; stories of his exploits in surfing, diving, and drinking are still told today over rounds of beer and tequila at Brophy Brothers. And for Weener neophytes, the book explains the hilarious and well-hung origins of Jim’s nickname.
2] Adventure: It’s a well-written wild ride of high seas adventure. From scoring surf at Hollister Ranch and capsizing off Santa Rosa Island, to facing down death at the Farallon Islands and making heaps of cash harvesting urchins, Kendrick’s tale is a complete celebration of the good, the bad, and the magic that surrounds a life spent on the California coast.
3] Celebrity praise: Though only recently released, Blue Water Gold Rush is already getting the thumbs up from heavy hitters in the ocean-going community. Patagonia owner Yvon Chouinard read the book in one sitting and immediately decided to sell the book in his stores nationwide. Gerry Lopez—arguably the world’s most stylish surfer—also enjoyed the tale as did collector of all things Californian Huell Howser. The latter liked it so much that an upcoming episode of his PBS show will feature Kendrick urchin diving off the Channel Islands.
4] Locals: A majority of the book takes place in Santa Barbara and the ocean that lies at our doorstep. From Radon boats and Don Duckett’s Wetsuit Factory to Jim Marshall, Jerome Betts, Jim Cotton, and Andreas “the Spaniard” Martinez, this book is jam-packed with some of our most notorious old salts from the past and the present.
5] Watermen Matter: In the day and age of a chain store-dominated State Street and the associated über-marketed glitz of being America’s Riviera, this book serves as an essential reminder of S.B.’s history as a seafaring community. It is easy to forget that for many years the harbor was the main landing port for California’s abalone and sea urchin fisheries, but this book brings the story of those times to life. With any luck, it will serve as a reminder to future generations about the historic and rich tradition of surfing, fishing, diving, and innovation that once defined Santa Barbara.
4•1•1 Tom Kendrick will give a talk and sign copies of Blue Water Gold Rush on Thursday, October 5 at 7 p.m., at the S.B. Maritime Museum, with 20 percent of sales going to the museum. He will also sign copies at the S.B. Seafood Festival at the harbor on October 14. For more info, see bluewatergoldrush.com.