MANTAUK: Allan Weisbecker

Over a fresh catch of calamari on the dock at Lenny’s, Allan C. Weisbecker, the “gonzo” writer of the American surf memoir, looked me square in the eye to punctuate his point: “I called the captain a fat fuck.” The author of In Search of Captain Zero, Cosmic Banditos and Can’t You Get Along With Anyone?, is recounting the time he sank a vessel carrying 8,000 pounds of marijuana because the Coast Guard was in hot pursuit. As a pot smuggler, pioneer of the Long Island surf scene, and one of Miami Vice’s first screenwriters, Weisbecker’s nonfiction has earned him cult hero status, inspiring a generation of surfers to leave their comfortable American breaks for Central American in search of great waves and adventure. Among other subjects, Can’t You Get Along With Anyone? explores the murder of a friend in Costa Rica in the 90s. It also served as the impetuous for a travel film that Weisbecker has spent the last four years finishing. The story touches upon deeper issues such as media cover ups, the state of the world, and man’s vicious cycle of denial: themes that have occupied the New York native’s thoughts ever since his ‘experiences with murderers in paradise, sociopathic girlfriends, dumb ass literary agents, cranky movie stars, and Hollywood in general.’

You mentioned your dad started bringing you to Montauk from the city when you were young?
My dad was a little crazy in his own way, a true eccentric. He began bodybuilding in the 50s before fitness was even a thought in the commercial mind, as well as scuba diving and spear fishing. He included me in everything, god bless him.

Did you love being in the water early on?
Yeah, I was going to be a marine biologist at first, and then surfing changed everything.

Did you learn how to surf here?
Ditch Plains in about 1965.

What was Montauk like back then?
Put it this way: Gosman’s was a hot dog stand. Montauk changed very slowly but over the years it was significant. About half of it is State Park so it’s sort of safe, more or less, depending on how you define ‘safe’. Starting at age 16, I would spend the summers out here in a tent at the trailer park (for about three bucks a day) and I got to know the local crew that are still my friends today.

Do you remember your first board?
It was called a ‘Malibu Custom,’ but it wasn’t ‘custom,’ it was a pop out. They just called it that; my intro to commercialization in surfing was instantaneous.

How did your surfing develop from there?
After seeing Endless Summer and realizing that Long Island wasn’t the hub of wave riding, I moved to the North Shore in Hawaii. I was 20 and living at ground zero for several sorts of revolutions, sociological and surf-wise. The North Shore was sort of an outlaw subculture within an outlaw subculture. We looked down on hippies – who got stoned and pretty much just sat there. We were going places (on waves) that no one had ever gone before.

What’s your favorite place to surf?
It would be Pavones where I lived in Costa Rica, but I’ve crossed it off my personal surf map.

Why can’t you go back?
Has to do with a murder investigation I did there in 1997 and that came back to haunt me in 2006. It’s in my last book.  I mentioned that [the son of the murderer] has had sex with a cow.  But he was also screwing my girlfriend, Lisa. So it became distasteful to me that she was fucking a guy that fucks a cow and he hated that I put that in the book.

How did you start writing?
Around 1980 I decided to get out of the pot smuggling business, because somebody did something that I would have kill him to stay in the business. You can’t stay in that business and have someone rip you off. I decided I didn’t want to kill anybody.  A lot of things came together badly at the same time. The Coast Guard caught me off of Puerto Rico with 8,000 pounds plus various other catastrophes…
 So where did that leave you?

I come back stateside, open my closet and my lawyer’s coats are hanging in there, my girlfriend at the time stuttering some bizarre reason.  So I checked into the UN Plaza Hotel, which I stayed in because their security is so good cops can’t get in. I made a list of what else I wanted to do with my life. It had a lot of things on it, but I had always been interested in making films and writing.

I knew this guy in Hollywood who was producing TV’S Laverne and Shirley, and features also. I called him and asked how to get into the making movie business. He said, “Write the best screenplay ever written and bring it out here.” Then, being the character he was, he hung up on me.
So I sat down and wrote a script that I’d had in my head for a while – I had to buy a book to find out what screenplays even looked like. In about a month I went out to Hollywood, handed it to him and hung out at his pool while he read it. He closed it and offered to option it then and there. It was probably the world record for a sap showing up at Hollywood and getting a deal. I got an agent who put me together with Michael Mann and was off to the races, with Miami Vice and film scripts. Sure seemed easy. The hard parts came later.

Were you surfing out there?
Not as much as I should have been. One reason I did the Captain Zero journey was that I had slipped out of surfing. I knew I had to get back to it.

Were you too busy with other aspects of your life to focus on it?
The smuggling thing got really distracting. I had a Lear jet and could have put my surfboards on for side trips, but I didn’t. I can’t explain why. I lost the plot, as the British say. Surfing and being rich don’t mix. You either do one or the other.

You recently returned from Costa Rica where you’d lived for a few years. What were you doing there?
Went surfing. I built a house, went surfing. Fell in love, went surfing. Got in trouble because of a murder investigation I’d done for a magazine (Men’s Journal), went surfing. Wrote a book, fell out of love when I realized my girlfriend was a sociopath, then came back to Montauk… Went surfing…

The book you wrote is Can’t You Get Along With Anyone, A Writer’s Memoir and a Tale of a Lost Surfer’s Paradise. Where did the title come from?
It was the body of an email I got from one of the literary agents that I fired.

How many agents have you fired?
Lost count. The last one went in less than a week.

He was going to sell CYGAWA, right? Okay. When I asked him if he’s read my first book, Cosmic Banditos, which was published by Random House and then Penguin, he said no, he hadn’t. So I ask him if he intends to read it. He says, No, since he’s not going to sell it. At that point my finger was quivering on the Firing Another Agent trigger. Then he says that he did read In Search of Captain Zero, like reading it was a major accomplishment.
He pauses, then adds, ‘Every word.’
Boom, gone.

Sean Penn bought In Search of Captain Zero for the movies, right?
That’s true.

Apparently you didn’t get along with him either.
Sean’s last communication to me was, and I’ll quote: ‘I hope you stay in Central America until something resembling death.’

Sean (along with a studio that put up the bucks) buys the book and hires me to write the screenplay, right? I have a conflict with the studio over the screenplay and go to Sean for back up, which as the producer is his job. Turns out he hadn’t read the screenplay or the book. I take exception to that. Sean takes exception to my taking exception and the next thing he’s wishing me ‘something resembling death.’ Which I don’t get. I mean what resembles death?

How could he buy the book for the movies without reading it?
Ho-rayyy for Hollywood.

You had some sort of problem with John Cusack, who bought your first book, Cosmic Banditos, right?
That was over money.

Didn’t you physically threaten him?
Yes, but from a distance, one coast to the other. John’s a black belt at kickboxing.

It seems like in the film you’re making your problems with people have…

Yes, expanded. Explain.
During and after my experiences with murderers in paradise, sociopathic girlfriends, dumb ass literary agents, cranky movie stars, and Hollywood in general, I started really looking into how the world works, meaning the difference between what we’re told about world events and what really happened. And so down the rabbit hole I went.

My impression is that you’re into various conspiracy theories.
What do you mean by that term? ‘Conspiracy theories’?

That there’s always some malevolent force behind events.
Well, for example, according to the 9/11 Commission Report there was a conspiracy. In fact, almost every crime committed is a conspiracy. All you need is two or more people involved and you have a conspiracy.

After a discussion of world events since World War II, Allan says:

Look, the problem in discussing these issues – especially for a little interview like this — is what the media has done to our way of thinking.

Which is?
Let’s say you ask me if I’m glad that a Seal Team killed Osama bin Laden last April. I might say, Yes, I’m glad, or I might say, I wish they’d taken him alive so we could get info on the rest of al Qaeda. Right? Pretty simple. Everyone knows what you’re talking about.
But what if I say, Osama bin Laden’s been dead since a few weeks after 9/11? Suddenly, it’s like What?! I’d have to explain about all the evidence that surfaced in early 2002 – unreported by the mainstream media, of course — that he was dead.

I mean the whole thing is ridiculous on the face of it: For a full decade – two and a half times the length of World War Two — our trillion dollar defense/national security apparatus and their satellites that can I.D. you from space by your thermal imprint couldn’t find a six foot four inch Arab dragging around a kidney dialysis machine.

But very few folks reading this will understand the obvious truth of what I just said, let alone actually look into the subject. Formal, peer reviewed studies have been done – and for me real life has born this out – showing that once something has been repeated over and over enough times, people are incapable of processing new information that contradicts whatever the belief is.

The big D. Denial.

How does this sort of thing fit into a film about a surf trip to Mexico and Central America, which is what your film is about?
Ain’t easy. But I somehow combined pot smuggling with quantum physics in Cosmic Banditos, so I figure it’s worth a shot.

What’s the title of the film?
Water Time; Surf/Travel Diary of a Mad Man. That’s ‘Mad Man,’ two words, not ‘madman.’

If you believe people are incapable of changing their minds, what’s the point of making the film?
Or doing this interview, right? Good question. Let’s say a thousand people read this. Down the road, I’m hoping that one person out of the thousand is fooling around online, looking up who Angelina Jolie is banging these days or whatever, and maybe for the hell of it or to prove I’m a crackpot, they Google ‘9/11 Commission Report’…  Then, maybe someday deep down the rabbit hole I’ll meet that person and they’ll thank me.Most folks just get pissed off.

Are you still surfing?
Fuck yeah. I was just in Mexico for four months. I’m not that old. I still surf well too. But in Mexico, the worst day there is like the best day here.

To see a trailer of Allan’s film or read his latest ‘down the rabbit hole’ essay, go to