The Tijuana Panthers On California Games and T&C Surf Designs

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Outmoded Sensibilities: Everybody’s going Surfing—Surfing NES

“We’re talking about outmoded sensibilities…Like Surf Culture.” Frankie Ennui of Suburban Lawns said this on New Wave Theatre and I knew exactly what he meant by it. Growing up in Long Beach I shared a lot of the same feelings that Suburban Lawns and other Long Beach bands had about LA & OC, who sandwiched our port city. I believe that Orange County was the place Ennui had in mind when he made that statement. A lot of Suburban Lawns songs comment on the “Surf City” beach blanket bebop vibes where “Gidget Goes to Hell” ‘cause “she’s not going to school—surfers rule!” Growing up we would go down there to surf each day, sometimes even twice a day. Drive down, get in the water, get some waves, get out and head home. It wasn’t a place we hung out at, it was a place that had waves and we loved it for that, but we couldn’t wait to get back to Long Beach where we felt like we could get weird. Between surf sessions we would fill our time skateboarding or building forts near the river bed. Sometimes if we were beat we would play videogames. The two main games in our rotation were T&C Surf Designs: Wood and Water Rage and California Games.

T&C Surf Designs: Wood and Water Rage (or, as we called it, “T&C Surf”) came out in 1988 and was our favorite game that simulated surfing and skating. My little brother and I would spend hours on the countless levels and I seriously think there was no end to that game. With one of my favorite characters Kool Kat I reached level 22 on the surfing portion, then just gave up because it seemed like the game was just gonna keep going on forever. It for sure was nothing like actual surfing, except for the seagulls that would continually fly through the screen that you would have to boost airs over. Same goes for the skating where my little brother dominated with characters like Thrilla Gorilla and Tiki Man and would destroy until it seemed like he was just jumping over sand drifts, barrels and cracked cement one after the other. I say “jump” because you couldn’t ollie, you had to hippy jump over everything, which means letting the board still roll on the ground and you’re just jumping over objects landing back on the board. With all that said, we accepted this pixilated reality and knew that this was the best we could get at the time for a simulation. We also were able to go outside year round and skate or surf whenever we felt the urge so the games were just an additive. I do think that T&C Surf probably sparked an interest in these activities for someone out there, just as wave pools did in the 80s. It had a California feel to it. Everything was brightly colored blue skies, you had the digital sound of the roaring surf, and the characters wore trunks (except Kool Kat who surfed in a tuxedo). The only game that oozed California vibes more than T&C Surf was California Games which my brother and I did not own. Luckily our friend did.

Every time we needed a simulated fix of hacky sack we would head over to our buddy Topher’s house. California Games had surfing and skating, but it also had a number of games that the makers must have thought embodied the leisure activities of California. These activities included BMX, roller skating, footbag (aka hacky sack) and Frisbee. We didn’t have the time or even the desire to put in the time to master all of them, so we each became a specialist in one or two events. Topher became the “Crue Jones” of the BMX course, my little brother Danny skated the halfpipe under the Hollywood sign, and I would focus my attention on useful activities like hacky sack and Frisbee. The games creators were pretty dead on when they came up with the canon for what games would represent California with its summer fun atmosphere. Just like my friends and I approached the game by latching on to a specific activity, most Californians each have their own trip they are on, and sometimes these things don’t cross paths. But in California Games they do and you too can play the digital leisure games from the land where everyone owns a surfboard and plays hacky sack “Under the Big Black Sun”.

I feel very fortunate that I could soak up the “Surf City” culture in the AM and then jet back to Long Beach to run the streets with my buddies. Just like the games California is full of these leisure activities, and most people out here take advantage of them. That might be the reason we are all so laid back, especially on the 405. So if you are into these outmoded simulations then come on out and share some tasty waves, people are real chill out here in the lineup. The world is pretty much perfect when Kool Kat jumps that last seagull and shoots for the pilings towards the judge’s tent on the beach with those pixelated waves crashing behind him.

Phil Shaheen
Tijuana Panthers

Phil Shaheen is the drummer for the Tijuana Panthers. Their third full-length, Wayne Interest, is out on Innovative Leisure Records today.