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By Daniel Ritz

In a foreword to Jim Kempton’s new book, First We Surf Then We Eat, famed surfer/chef Raphael Lunetta, the head chef and proprietor of Lunetta restaurant in Santa Monica reflects on the experience of communing over a meal and the bond that experience brings.

“When you’re surfing,” Lunetta said, “you’re always building strong personal connections. I’ve learned that the best way to nurture those connections is through a wonderful meal.”

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In First We Surf Then We Eat, Kempton aims to pass along the innumerable connections he has formed through a lifetime of surfing, cooking and writing. The editor and former publisher of SURFER Magazine as well as director of the Quiksilver Crossing Project, a boat that searched the world for the best surf breaks, the San Clemente resident currently serves as the president of the California Surf Museum and expressed that in its own way, his new book is about recording his own history.

“I hope people see this as an opportunity for good recipes that are enriched by the stories that come with them,” Kempton said. “It’s like reading a book by your favorite author and knowing the real-life stories connecting them to what you are taking in. It makes it so much richer.”

Kempton certainly has a few stories to tell, and a dish to accompany everyone.

First We Surf Then We Eat features more than 75 recipes from across the globe, many with accompanying stories from Kempton’s travels to that region. True to surfer form, Kempton said the unifying theme across all the recipes is relative simplicity, a skill he learned during his time manning the Quiksilver Crossing Project, where world-class chefs catered to traveling surfers and more.

“I learned so much there, seeing these chefs making delicious and exotic meals without 14 pans and all of the bells and whistles,” Kempton recalled. “Most of the recipes in First We Surf Then We Eat can be made on hibachi, a Weber grill, or stuck on a stick over a fire.”

Kempton said that throughout the book’s stories and recipes, a cultural connection to the ocean and coastal culture is evident.

“This book is unique in that it is a crossover of two very similar worlds,” Kempton said.

For Kempton, First We Surf Then We Eat is metaphorical to a musical performance.

“Surfers are like jazz musicians. There is a lot of freestyle, we travel in small packs, and generally stay below the radar,” Kempton said. “Jazz musicians are in their dim-lit clubs, out of the spotlight. The big hair-bands played the arenas. Surfers, and chefs, we don’t ever want to do that, but sometimes, occasionally, a Miles Davis “Bitches Brew,” or the like, is born, and something is brought from the back room of the jazz club a little closer to the big stage.”

Editor’s notes: Jim Kempton is the author of the monthly column ‘Wavelengths,’ featured in the San Clemente Times. First We Surf Then We Eat is available now for purchase on and by emailing It will be available everywhere Sept. 4. Stay tuned to www. for future book-signing and release events.

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