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Sponsor Me: The WSL Goes Chasing Cash

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Even the masters of the game of pro surfing have to make a buck to keep the show rolling… 

It ain’t easy putting on a multi-million dollar surf circus every month. That infrastructure don’t put itself up and those commentators and cameramen and tech guys and gals all need airfares, a reasonable sorta stipend and some place to stay.

Three, four mill, is what it takes, depending on the finer points of the event. And since none of us are paying for those expensive-to-produce webcasts and it’s mostly free to watch an event on the beach, how’s the World Surf League gonna make ends meet?

Advertising, partnerships, branded content. The same biz model that drives newspapers and magazines, online and print, enabling us to pay $10 for a 200-page mag and get our paper journalism for only a couple of shekels and our websites mostly for free, but a biz model that leaves businesses vulnerable as hell.

And so, like of all us, even BeachGrit when we eventually start trading ideas for cash, the WSL is knocking on doors. They got Samsung, they go GoPro. But they need more or else it’s all going to end up in the sinkhole of failed dreams.

To chase money, you gotta have what’s called a media kit. Now let’s examine.

The sixth word on the WSL sponsor page is “millennial.” As in “youth” as in “marketing jargon for youth” as in “pedophiles talkin’ ’bout kids.”

“We understand and engage with millennials…”

Ummmmmmmm, really? Professional surfing, wrapped in the clothing of 2007 Fox Sports West with the voice of Pat Parnell, is what millennials dig? Complicated and subjective scoring systems? They like? Raoni Montiero?

Ummmmmmmm, yeah?

Ok.

“We are in a growth business. Fortune estimates by 2017 the global surf industry will generate more than $13 billion. Worldwide participation is growing by +30 percent annually.”

I’m at least happy that surfing is an almost 17 billion dollar industry with 30% year-on-year growth.

“We are marketers, who seek to collaborate with brands on programming that achieves measurable objectives and leaves the world a better place,” says the WSL.

Who doesn’t!

Examine the document yourself by clicking here! 

 

Candid: All my friends are racist!

Ali Klinkenberg

by Ali Klinkenberg

A world champ from Brazil? Say it ain't so, scream white devils!

Just like the annual anti-climax of Xmas and New Years, Gabby’s triumph has come and gone. Our brother from the land of the rumba showed composure most men three times his age will never manage to muster. My heart soared!

But the alarming majority of my acquaintances grumbled. This ain’t no redneck country town either. This is Bondi Beach, world famous. Metropolitan, cosmopolitan. Or maybe we’re just as dang prejudiced as the rest. As the streamers settle on Gabriel’s carnival we have to ask ourselves: Why is the majority of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (W.A.S.P!) surfing community so reluctant to accept our delightful chocolate-skinned world champ?

“He’s got a bad style.”

Style is the numero uno criticism that gets rained upon the Brazilians. Sure Gabs doesn’t surf like Parko. But no one surfs like Parko! How long can our racism hide behind this falsity? There’s nothing wrong with Gabby’s technique, not one bit. Adriano, sure there’s an issue. Gabby’s no “Giraffe on rollerskates.” Lumping all the Brazilians in together and say they surf without style is a dumb generalisation. The new breed: Gabs, Miggy, Felipe, have all got unique and aesthetically pleasing elements to their surfing.

“Brazilian’s hassle.”

Give the boys a break; they’ve been fighting for every meal since day one! Who can blame them? The majority of them grow up in crowded metropolises and have to scrounge for waves, that’s just how it is. Moreover, my experience suggests that the pro’s from Latin America’s largest country are some of the most courteous in the biz.

Story time:

I was surfing fun three-foot Sanur, an east coast righthander in Bali. The lineup consisted of a Swiss Family Robinson-style Aussie mob of six, myself (British), and two Brazilian pro’s. The younger of the two was hanging on the inside, catching scraps and doing punts. The elder was sitting way out, sensei style, waiting for the five-foot bomb that’d come through every 20 minutes.

When the bomb arrived he’d stroke in and set off a procession of the most technically sound backhand hooks you could hope to see. All was going swimmingly until three of the local indo hoodlums sauntered out (at the same time, of course.) They were that strange breed of sponsored local Indos who have a hugely inflated opinion of their meagre ability.

Sensei Santos was burnt on three waves in a row straight off the bat. Every time he paddled to the peak without a word, despite being the best surfer in the water by a nautical mile. The fourth time it happened he threw his hands up in the air in frustration,

“COME ON!”

That was all the rabid threesome needed. They swarmed him, one grabbing him from behind in a headlock, and the other two landing blows on his face and chest.

“I’ve been coming here for 20 years,” he pleaded.

He completely submitted to the punches. Presumably his experience had taught him that handing out beatings to the local bully boys in Indo isn’t the smartest move. They punched his fins out and told him to “Fuck off back to Brazil.”

It was an ugly scene, but one thing was clear. His nationality made him a target.

The South American contingent first crept onto the World Tour in the early nineties with trailblazers Gouevia and Padvaratz (Flavio, Neco and Teco!). They had their moments of success, but failed to really challenge for the big prize. This was in the first coming of King Kelly after all, and he smote all in his path. What the boys did bring to the tour was cultural diversity, character and South American passion. And by God it was needed.

In general the World Tour is a painfully middle-class affair. White Aussies, Americans and a sprinkling of Saffas from well-to-do homes dominate the line up, so to speak. Even the Hawaiian’s are white. The Brazilian contingent brings some much-needed diversity to the tour. What’s not to love? As Brazil’s economy continues to boom (which it’s totally doing now) the South American contingent on the WSL will continue to flourish. And I for one like it.

In embracing the Brazilian contingent, surf opens the doors to another world. Medina has the #friendship and support of global superstars Neymar and Robinho. Neymar alone has 30 mil Instagram followers! That’s more influence than anyone from Australian sport can fathom. Competitive surfing is well and truly on it’s way to becoming a world-wide marketing powerhouse, for better or worse. Big bucks mean big advancements.

Those that have fear for the soul of our precious pastime need not. It’s in good hands. The soul game and Gabby’s jazz are two completely separate entities. And that’s a good thing. The tour is surfing’s equivalent of Wall Street, the high rollers risking it all and taking it to the bank.

If surf culture’s going to split then it may as well split in the most spectacular of fashions. Competitive professional surfing ain’t cool in the slightest. But who cares. There’s other surfers to carry the banner for all things cool and groovy. It’s improbable to look cool in a brightly coloured rashvest covered in multinational companies logo’s, but I’m more than happy for Gabby to be leading the charge to the right while the left heads off down it’s own path.

I’ve never been to Brazil, but I’ve experienced its fruits. I once dated a Brazilian garota linda (beautiful gal) who looked like Penelope Cruz (no shit), and my good amigo Gui used to be addicted to condensed milk (four cans a day!).

These two and glorious Gabs have two things in common: tthey’re Brazilian, and they’re awesome.

It’s a New Year and a new start. Open your pasty hearts to the Brazilian storm. It’s coming to add colour to your meager lives whether you like it or not…

I was a top androgynous model! (Part three: Epiphany)

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Chas gets offered deal as centrefold in Playgirl! Will he accept? Will he become, finally, number one male model?

Eventually, I gained 12 pounds. I then waltzed into the chicest salon ever (called Meche pronounced “mesh”) and got a trillion-dollar haircut from celebrity stylist (and hunk) Michael Sparks. Now it was time for my book.

A model’s book is his portfolio of work and photographs of himself that he loves. Photographs that show his genetic lottery winning bone structure face bending slightly down from the camera like Marcus Schenkenberg. Bending slightly down because the light refracts off of nose, brow, chin and allow his eyes to look slightly up and fill the viewer with lust. Photographs that show his bronzed, shaved, fat-free, muscle perfect torso bending slightly away from the camera like Michelangelo’s David. Bending slightly away because he is nude and only titillating the viewer with dick and ass not posing for Playgirl. A model’s book is how he gets cast for Hermes runway shows and double spread Louis Vuitton advertisements and this is what I needed.

And so, I went in to visit my agent’s west coast office in Los Angeles and find the right photographer. I knew I would have to have an artist. A man or woman able to see my true splendour and capture it splashed in glorious shadow and sex. My eyes needed to smoulder. My pectorals needed to appear big not just slightly big.

My agent’s west coast agent suggested photographer after photographer and I looked at their work but I was uninspired. I needed something more. I needed something different. I needed something that would sing. I simply couldn’t bear becoming the face for Beers of the World. My lover had already added a third name to her list of men she was openly fawning over. Charlie Hunnam, who plays Jax Teller on Sons of Anarchy. Beers of the Fucking World would NOT cut it.

Then I saw his work. The photographer’s name was Derek Dunfee and he was different. My agent’s west coast agent said that he was a big-wave surfer who was just starting to get into fashion while shrugging dismissively. What did he know? He was merely my agent’s west coast agent. Derek’s photographs seemed sunny and light. They seemed like they would suit my particular je ne sais quoi just exactly and so I called him and set up a time.

We met mid-afternoon in La Jolla, California. It was the place where Derek was raised and where he drew his inspiration. He stood before me, tattooed and model handsome himself (he was actually IN Flaunt’s metallic issue), holding a Canon 5D camera. He also had an old Yashica T4 junky Terry Richardson 35mm. I do not like lo-fi for the sake of lo-fi but I liked Derek’s whole deal. He knew what he was doing. But I also started to feel very self-conscious. The Canon 5D and even the Yashica would expose me as a fraud. They would show that I did not belong.

Derek placed me against a brick wall. I felt my face go wooden, my smile become laboured, my aura vacillate between doubt and greater doubt. I could not shake bad bad feelings. Sitting for photographs goes against the average man’s best instincts. He does not want to appear vain. He does not want to be the centre of attention. And even as I was trying to rise above the average man and his infernal best instincts, I saw myself sliding into his pit. I saw myself as “average” not, as I should have, as “spectacular.” My face was an awkward mask. My shoulders and arms did not know what to do. I wished I had practiced. I wished I had won the genetic lottery.

Derek remained silent, the only sound coming from his Cannon 5D shutter. I had done the work, hadn’t I? I had gone to the gym, I had gone to the proper salon, I had willed myself beautiful. I screamed at my own heart, “BE BEAUTIFUL!” but did not feel any different in return.

And then Derek said he was finished. He said he would email me the selects. I was devastated but also held out slim hope that my images would represent something greater. That there would be something undeniably magnetic looking back. Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford and Hedi Slimane and Raf Simons would fall under my spell. I would be the face they had all been looking for.

Derek emailed me selects days later. The images were great, perfect even. He had talent. But the man standing in their centres was only out of place. It was all that could be said for him. Still, not wanting to admit defeat, because admitting defeat was the same thing as ordering my lover to go and be with Gavin Newsom, Armie Hammer and Charlie Hunnam, I marched back into my agent’s west coast agent’s office and threw my book on his desk. He picked it up and slowly looked through the images. Looking down and up at me and down again.

Finally he said, “You know what I think would be perfect for you? Playgirl. They really go for the guy-with-a-unique-story thing. Would you do it?” Playgirl. It was better than Beers of the World but it was not Yves St. Laurent. Or was it? I mean, what is the difference between high-fashion nudity and soft-core pornography? Wasn’t my entire goal to get women to look doe-eyed at me? I told him I would think about it and walked out his door into West Hollywood golden light not knowing if I should be depressed or flattered.

Just then my cellphone rang. It was Playboy, not Playgirl, accepting my giant feature on the agricultural conglomerate Monsanto and their dirty meddling in Hawaii. The story has the sexiest elements of danger, gang activity, murder, palm trees and genetically modified organisms. My lover hates GMOs and would be thrilled at my damning of that industry. The West Hollywood golden light trickled into my soul. Joseph Heller, Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Haruki Murakami, Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac, Kurt Vonnegut had all written for Playboy and women love writers more than they love models. Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller. Yes, writers are hot. Fuck models. Fuck mayors and actors too. Writers are the hottest men ever. I drove home to my lover to tell her that I was a literary rocket ship and she was welcome to come along.

I was a top androgynous model! (Part two: Steroids)

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Steroids or ecstasy? Maybe GBH? The many daily decisions of a male model.

The Gym life is a strange life. It is not a natural fit with my typically easy breezy motif. It is indoors and sweaty and smells like a perversion of the spirit. House of Pain plays at loud volume. But I knew that I would have to work. My will is strong enough to obtain a lover and an agent but it is not strong enough to make my muscles grow while sipping ’61 Imperials under a palm.

I stared, confusedly, at the pulley machines, rowers, dumbbells, barbells, stairclimbers, stationary bikes and thought, “Fifteen pounds of muscle but how? If I ride the stationary bike don’t I lose weight? If I row what happens? Bigger shoulders smaller chest?”

A kindly trainer approached and I told him my dilemma and what I needed. He spent the next hour explaining somatotype, set point theory, the ratio between intensity and volume and stress. He told me that I needed stress, barking, “Zero impact, zero stress, zero adaptation.”

I needed to stress to adapt my 160 pounds into 175. Then he pointed at the bench press.

That first set felt like the end of the world. My arms quivered as I lifted the bar off of the rack and lowered it to my chest. Blood coursed through my temples. “Breathe,” my trainer barked. He had me do push-ups, as many as I could, in between each bench set and then gave me a sledgehammer and told me to hit a giant monster truck tire outside. I was dying. House of Pain implored me to jump around but I could not. I could not jump around.

And when I really could take no more he gave me a towel and his congratulations and then made me drink a protein milkshake. I vomited it away in the bushes outside. That night I could not sleep. Every muscle ached and the next day they ached worse and the next next day worse still, but I had another gym appointment and so I forced myself out of catatonia and back into the end of the world. I would not be undone by physical discomfort. Anne Bronte once wrote, “But he who dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose.” I craved the rose and would grasp the thorn. I needed 15 pounds of damned muscle and, if it meant catwalk and print campaign and doe eyes then I would suffer. I would fight through affliction and brutes wearing Affliction.

Onyx played at loud volume.

I worked on my legs, this time, squatting and whatnot. During a brief rest I asked my trainer how long it would really take to get my muscles. He told me six weeks. It hurt to hear and it hurt, again, when I drank my protein shake and it hurt yet again when I went to bed and could not sleep. But I could not stop now because stopping now would be admitting defeat, ceding the beautiful ground to others. No, I would do the work. I would fight.

The days stretched into weeks and after five I had put on seven pounds of muscle. I was constantly sore. I did not feel, at first, that I was growing but sometimes I would catch glimpses of myself in a mirror and see swells that had previously been absent. I would flex. It was working but it was working so damned slowly. My trainer had lied. This was going to take longer than six weeks. It was going to take 10-plus, if current projections held.

One day I was so frustrated that I punched my treadmill’s “energy output” screen. The well-ish built man running next to be asked me what my deal was. I told him, “I’m not getting big enough fast enough. Opportunities are passing me by.”

He guffawed, “I got a guy.”

“Who does what?” I replied.

“Fucking HGH,” he responded.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

This is what I needed. I was not seeking to wear the maillot juane in the Tour de France for even one second. I was seeking to become beautiful. I took the man’s business card and forwent the protein shake on the way out.

Later, I called a male model friend and asked him how many in our business (it was now ours) do HGH or steroids. He told me, “Not many steroids or other supplements that I am aware of. Everyone is using cocaine, GHB and ecstasy. Doing all the drugs and getting sucked into the nightlife. It is almost as if the agent is the dealer telling us we need to play the game and to be social and mingle with the power players in our industry.” (Yes. Our industry).

I thanked him for his candour and realised, of course they do not need HGH. They have won the genetic lottery.

I was a top androgynous model! (Part one: Jealousy)

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

And it was just as fabulous as you could imagine!

My lover and I were in San Francisco when I saw her eyes dance. I love her eyes, when they dance for me, but this morning they danced over my shoulder. What on earth could she be finding so mesmerising? I turned around, casually, and there, sipping a cappuccino, was San Francisco’s dreamboat mayor Gavin Newsom. His chestnut hair was slicked back without one strand out of place. His mouth, pulled into the perpetual smirk of the gorgeous, exhibited straight teeth white enough to light a boudoir. His jaw was chiseled from marble. Goddamn him. He was beautiful and I loathed him for it. His handsome, his beauty, had, almost instantly, undone the arrogant je ne sais quois that I most usually feel about myself. I find myself compelling. But confronted with her dancing eyes and his unquestionable gorgeousness I felt weak. I felt second tier. I felt I had lost my power.

I swallowed these feelings, agonisingly, and we went about our days with little mention of Gavin Newsom. I set about building myself up, internally, once again, and when he showed up in the newspaper I undermined him by telling my lover that with those looks and that political pedigree he was underperforming. He should be President of the United States not mayor of California’s third largest city.

Some time later, The Social Network came out and my lover’s eyes danced at Armie Hammer. He was even more stunning than Gavin Newsom, tall, patrician with the bluest blood and there was nothing I could say to undermine him. Nothing. I was back to the second tier. And I could no longer swallow these feelings.

Beauty is a son of a bitch. I could be good at many things, even great, but without exceptional, noticeable, defined handsome I would merely be a clanging gong. It all seemed so arbitrary. Talent and wealth are mostly earned, even if one’s parents are Olympic athletes. Beauty is given at birth. Dolled out by the gods.

Beauty certainly does not guarantee success. Many beautiful men grind at Starbucks. But when rich, talented men take their lovers to Starbucks their eyes, too, dance for the barista and their men are relegated to the second tier, even if momentarily. And what else is there besides being desired by all 100% of the time? Yes, there is talent, there is wealth, there is beauty. And of these three beauty is the greatest.

I had come to a definitive fork in the road and, as I saw it, three paths lay before me. I could give up entirely and no longer assume I was the greatest thing to ever walk the face of the earth. I could become grossly self-deprecating. I could become beautiful. I decided to become beautiful. And that meant I had to become a male model. I would be beautiful because I was a model, not necessarily a model because I was beautiful but this difference would be purely academic.

As arrogant as I am, I am fully aware that I am not classic male model material. I was born skinny, not thin, not trim. I was born with eye the color of a dirty swimming pool on a cloudy day. I was born not classic. Still, I am tall, I have hair, and I possess and unshakable belief that all things are possible to him that believeth. I sometimes even feel all my “shortcomings” might, if honed, if bent just right, if captured by Terry Richardson himself, might make me a very beautiful man. I sometimes feel I am the Big Bang. A cataclysmic, once in history event of dirty eyed, crooked nosed, tall tall awesome.

But how to become a male model? One very hot summer’s day, I walked from Manhattan’s Meatpacking District toward the downtown Ritz-Carlton. I was going to meet the owner of one of the most respected male model agencies. I was going to get famous.

The Ritz-Carlton doorman eyed me as I drifted past him into the cool of hackneyed decadence and the agent owner was waiting for me at the bar. He had a kind but business-first face and he looked over at me and I launched into my pitch.

“So, here it is. My lover thought that Gavin Newsom was too handsome and it upset me greatly and I’ve been thinking about male beauty and its relation to power ever since and I have decided that…”

He finished my thought. “That you want to become a male model and that you want me to represent you.”

“Yes” I answered. “I want to be famously beautiful. I want to discover, first hand, if there is really power in beauty. And I want to spite my lover for the Newsom incident and also the newer Armie Hammer incidents.”

He looked at me some more, this time carefully, and asked how tall I was. I replied I was 6’4″. He said that I was too tall. I was taken aback. Isn’t height the very building block of male beauty? He told me that 6’2″ is ideal and I said,

“Yes, I am 6’2.”

He said,

“No. You are 6’4.”

And kept looking carefully. Thankfully, he continued. “6’2” and a 31 inch waist.”

My waist was 31 inches! Usually! And I told him so.

He looked down and said, “You know, male models are winners of the genetic lottery. That’s it. And, don’t get me wrong, you are a good looking guy but…” I kept staring at him and kept a straight face but burned inside and thought, “I’m the Big Bang, motherfucker. I’ll show you and all your beauty industry cohorts that beauty can be willed!” Sensing my passion, or wanting me to leave, he cracked. “OK I’ll do it. I’ll help you.” I don’t know why he decided. Maybe he just wanted to send an “unusual taste” down the mineshaft. That is what he called me, an unusual taste, when I asked if I should get a nose job. “No no no no. No need. You have tattoos and a certain, whatever. Look. You will already be an unusual taste…” He then told me I had to gain 15 pounds of muscle, while studying my arms, and get my teeth whitened.

We parted ways and I was fifteen pounds of muscle, and a trip to the dentist, away from the start of an adventure.