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Long Read: The Most Beautiful Shaper in the World!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

He is still the most fantastic looking man I have ever seen and what sleepless nights he caused me!

In a photograph kept behind glass in the stairwell leading up to a Coolangatta hairdressing salon, I saw him for the first time. This was many years ago and still the memory of it hasn’t succumbed to the inevitable erasure of age. It’s like it’s been bound, forever, in a red leather book that I can take out and thumb through when I want to be afflicted by jealousy and awe.

The photograph, taken in a studio with a cloud-blue background and most probably using a lighting setup with two umbrellas arranged on each side, and just to the front, of the subject, shows our fantastic looking man from the sternum up.

He is clothed in a denim shirt open to the bottom of the frame with arms placed on opposite shoulders. His skin is lightly tanned and the face is dominated by an aggressive nose and a cuspidated chin. But it’s his hair, rightly, that seizes the attention. It is a blond waterfall that cascades arrogantly over one side of the head, its immense opulence beyond dispute.

“Thats Darren,” said my new girlfriend, who was standing next to me. “You’re going to meet him later on.”

I had arrived on the Gold Coast, from Perth, as an 18-year-old seeking nothing more than the sweetness of easy waves in warm water. Soon, I had met a girl with curly yellow hair and pale blue eyes and she agreed after not much persuasion to be my girlfriend.

It would prove to be fortuitous and torturous that her best friend was the girlfriend of what was then the hottest surfboard shaper in town, and later, the hottest surfboard shaper in the entire world.

I met the girlfriend first. We were in a supermarket and as she walked through the turnstile in front of me she gave it a hard spin so it would hit me in the legs. I wasn’t offended because I knew I was attempting to consort with surfing kings and queens. I didn’t care that she was a mean girl  because, by association, I had been allowed admittance, a sort of restricted admittance like a singing negro, say, in a 1930s Alabama music hall, but admittance nonetheless.

Darren was older than me by some years and while I wouldn’t say he took me under his wing, he was kind enough, certainly kinder than custom in these situations demands.

He even agree to shape two blanks for me at $50 plus blank apiece which I could then take to his friend to have glassed for a further $280. These two surfboards were very important to me. I was convinced they were the difference between being a poor to intermediate surfer and becoming as instinctive as the surfers I now associated with and they deranged me slightly, as we shall see later on.

At a backyard cricket game at Darren’s house I sat with the girls as the cream of the local boardriders club whooped it up. Darren seemed to bat a lot and he was very good at it. It was a good natured game and I was asked a few times to join in.

“Go on play,” said my girlfriend.

“No,” I replied. “It’s ok.”

It wasn’t ok. It marked me, to my girl, to Darren, to his girl, to everyone, as unimpressive.

Inside the house, I was given a tour by my girlfriend. She opened Darren’s wardrobe and said, “Darren has such good clothes. Such amazing taste. You should borrow some. He’d let you.”

“Cool,” I said.

At dinner at an upstairs Mexican restaurant, my girlfriend asked Darren if she could look at one of his rings. Each of his fingers was wrapped in an elaborate silver ring and my girlfriend chose his middle finger.

Instead of using, say, two fingers of his other hand to twist the ring off, he put the finger in his mouth and used his teeth to drag it slowly off the finger. My girlfriend stared. I stared. It was such a bold thing to do. So many things could’ve gone wrong. He could’ve gagged. He could’ve struggled futilely and only achieved a wet finger and a bemused table.

Did he practise this erotic, alpha move?

My girlfriend took the wet ring and admired it. I did too. It was a fine ring with ornate detail, probably from Bali.

Since I was sitting next to Darren I finally raised the important matter of the spray on my new boards. I hadn’t been able to sleep ever since my girlfriend had told me she’d mis-specified the spray.

“Just tell him,” she said.

But I couldn’t. What, just pick up the phone and call?

My chance arrived. I said that I was reconsidering increasing the width of the rail spray from one-and-a-half inches, which my girlfriend had incorrectly specified, ha ha ha, to two-and-a-half inches which would achieve the aesthetic I was chasing.

“About this wide,” I said, bringing my own hand into play. (Note: girlfriend didn’t stare.)

“What, about as big your dick,” said Darren.

He laughed. My girlfriend laughed. His girlfriend laughed and laughed and laughed some more. I laughed too.

But I wasn’t really laughing. I was out of my depth with these people and I had failed every attempt at integration. I deserved nothing and they owed me nothing.

I belonged on the lower rungs, among girls with brown hair and boys who never really get how to surf, with the the slack -breasted and the pot-bellied, the underachievers and the inert.

Just a lonely servant boy without a voice or a fast pair of heels. And, that night, I knew that was all I was ever going to be.

How Craig Anderson changed surf style!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Never before has one figure been so sartorially worshipped.

I went to my first surf party, last night, in a very long time. It was a celebration of Dion Agius’s very sleek new capsule collection at Globe and well attended. I had great conversations with Dion, of course (he has grown into such a fine young man), Joe G (who made a short film for the event. Joe is at the very top of his game), Jason Weatherly (Benji’s older brother and surf kingpin), Brendon Gibbens (wore white shirt, white jean combo in a sea of black on black. He was the only one who did not look like catering staff), Surfline‘s Editor-in-Chief Marcus Sanders (so smart. So old-school journalism even though the ship he captains plunges the depths of sexual depravity), Shea Perkins (one of the cutest in all surf), Peter Jasienski (left behind Hurley and the surf life for Adidas and the @lookatthisrussian life) and the best of the bunch Queen Lili Speed (serious Hawaiian royalty who has laaaand and is beyond beautiful).

And it was while I was having a great conversation with Eric Tomlinson (Globe’s surf marketing manager and maybe cuter than Shea Perkins) that I saw Craig Anderson across the way.

“Excuse me…” I said to Eric. He did not say anything back because I don’t think we were really having a great conversation. I think he was looking at girls while standing near me.

And I scooted off to say hello to my friend Craig Anderson. There he stood, a little pensively, gazing off into the near distance. There his pale skinny denim hugged stork-like legs. There his red stocking cap perched and there his hazelnut locks cascaded over his shoulders.

I approached from the side and gave a hearty hello. Craig turned around but it was not Craig. I did not know this until he opened his mouth and uttered a very American “Huh?”

“Oh I’m sorry…” I said to this non-Craig and felt bad. But not for long because I saw my friend Craig Anderson!

There he stood, shoulders hunched, slightly, back not straight. There his big brown eyes passively took in the scene. There his prepubescent mustache glistened in the pale light of a full moon.

I approached from the front, raising my arm to give a hearty hello. Craig flinched. He thought I was going to maybe hit him and I laughed and asked, “Why did you flinch? Did you think I was going to hit you?”

And out came another very American “Uh. No. Hahaha.”

This was not Craig either! And I spun around, dizzy. There were so many Craig Anderson’s in the crowd. I saw him here, there, in the corner, drinking moonshine, kicking at a pebble on the ground. It was like that famous scene in Spartacus when everyone raises a hand and says, “I am Spartacus!”

I left thinking, “That Craig Anderson sure does have a stranglehold on surf style” and went to Carl’s Jr. to get a Western Bacon Cheeseburger.

Masterful: View from a Blue Moon

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Welcome to Blake Vincent Kueny's world. It is magnificent!

How gorgeous is the new trailer for surf film View from a Blue Moon? It, of course of course, stars John John Florence and a troupe of next level surfing talent but wow! The art and direction star at first blush. That cinematography, that music, that…..feeling. It is very otherworldly and all thanks to auteur Blake Vincent Kueny.

I first met Blake at the offices of Surfing magazine. He was bringing in his freshly-finished surf film DONE and I yawned. Another surf film by a boy with three names. But then he walked through the door and he was so…so…different. There was something in the way he carried himself, some air of greatness swirling. He was quiet, kind. And then he set up a small projector. And then his surf film blew my mind. I loved every image. I loved the way he tied them together. I loved how it was arty but never lost focus, never screamed “LOOK AT MY ARTY!” Afterward we chatted and I saw even more greatness in his eyes. And I knew, then and there, as long as John John kept his cart hitched to Blake Vincent Kueny’s bull, he’d be going grand places.

And I was right. Watch the trailer and watch again. Feel your heart pound. And while your watching, and while your heart is pounding, let’s call Blake!

Blake!

I’m sorry, who is this?

It is your best friend/brother-in-law Chas Smith! (we are not brothers-in-law but I pretend!)

When you put it that way I feel rude.

So did it actually get released at the high point of the blue moon, or whatever it’s called?

Yeah, John John released it at 3:42 am.

Is it a pain in the buns to work with all that fancy new equipment or do you enjoy?

It is at first but the more we used it the easier it got. And then it all ran really smoothly.

Does the tech angle inspire or do you prefer just setting up the shots and making it look gorgeous?

I like it once you learn the tech. I don’t like learning something new, related to the cameras etc. every single day but once I learn I like. And once you learn it’s a pretty simple rig.

So principle shooting is all done?

Yeah all. Releases this winter.

What are your inspirations?

Ooooh. You know, I have to say for this film it was just the locations. So much of the film is location-based and I really tried to capture the feeling you get when you are some place new. It is cool for it to feel different…Sometimes films with a large budget feel like films with a large budget. It changes it somehow and it comes out a certain way….but I don’t think that happens here.

It certainly don’t. All I see is sexy.

Wave pool’s first ride: “Yeah, it’s a game changer, but…”

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

It ain't perfect, but it's gonna be, says Jarrad Howse of first commercial Wavegarden. Includes bonus fight!

I’ve ridden a few tanks. One in Malaysia, with a ski, and it was crummy, another in the Canary Islands without the bike and it was fabulous beyond measure. It was so good I could hardly breathe, a real-life three-foot wave with heft. And we surfed it at midnight, under a full moon. And then later we blew our heads off with whatever we could find and wandered the streets of Tenerife, laughing at the terrific numbers of people in wheelchairs (come on, you would too! It’s crazy!) and the very ugly men in soccer uniforms from England.

(Watch below for an interpretation of that event, although I’ve been skilfully edited out.)

 

Anyway, the former CT surfer Jarrad Howe, 36 years old, and now the part-time coach of Mick Fanning, went to Wavegarden’s first commercial pool in Snowdonia, Wales, to scope it for a Red Bull event there in September. He flew to Machester, grabbed a car, and drove an hour-and-a-half through them rolling green hills and stayed in the wee town of Conwy, home to King Arthur’s fabled castle!

The Wavegarden is at the gateway to the Snowdonia national park and next-door to a hydro-electricity site. Handy!

Although he only rode one wave, and on borrowed equipment cause his own stuff got lost in transito, he spent a day watching Brits Alan Stokes and Jayce Robinson ride it.

(See here)

 

 

 

I wanted to know, how does Jarrad, who’s been around the block plenty of times, actually rate it? He’s got a small conflict of interest, I suppose, as Sports Director of the Red Bull event, but he does tend to play straight.

BeachGrit: How long ago was this clip slung together?
Howse: I went straight to the pool after J-Bay. I was planning to stay an extra day-and-a -half, but when the G-Dubs started trying to end peoples lives, I got out of there.

BeachGrit: So what was your impression of the tank?
Howse: I thought it was awesome. I surfed the original in the Basque country and you couldn’t help but be completely excited and in awe of a mechanical wave, at least when you first see one. That in mind, the one in the Basque country gets boring. I’m too big for it. If I was a grommet, 14 and under, I’d want to surf that wave all day. It was pretty exciting to go to one that was double size. They were actually reluctant to release the footage because the wave was only at sixty-percent.

BeachGrit: It’s cute as hell, I’m sold etc, but it sure needs an oncoming section or… something… to break up the 10 same turns to the shore.
Howse: They’re doing it, they’re building a closeout air section. They were only running the middle third of the wave. Right now, it’s built for top-to-bottom surfing, hacks, and then the blow-tail air reverse Dane, Jordy and Julian do. The end section will add an extra twist.

BeachGrit: Is it a game changer?
Howse: I think it is. The wave, literally, runs at the same speed from start to finish. There’s a repetitiveness to that, but you could master one certain trick. And it would be awesome for board testing as well. Yeah, I think this is just the beginning.

BeachGrit: Tell me about Filipe Toledo’s cuz showing up…
Howse: There was a guy sleeping in his van who told the people from Snowdonia that he was Filipe Toledo’s cousin. He’d drawn Rip Curl stickers on this board, but got his way in. I saw him catch a couple of waves and it looked like he was surfing switch-stance. One of the instructors questioned whether he was really sponsored, if he was really Filipe’s cousin, and the guy started swinging at the instructor who was only half-way out of his wetty. Localism already!

BeachGrit: Is it going to work?
Howse: It’s funny, when the boys used to go to that Scotland event, you could randomly ask anyone, the Hawaiians, the Americans, the Aussies, what their favourite event was, and even though it wasn’t the best waves, and it was by far the coldest, the historic feel of the area just had an… impact. It’ll attract your travelling surfer in France, Portugal. Snowdonia will become a stopover, to see it, and the novelty of riding it for a couple of days. There’s a lot of ticks for Snowdonia, especially if the wave is 40 per cent better than I saw it.

Power Rankings: pre-Tahiti! (Part two)

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Today! The dull and maybe meaningless mid-tier! Eleven through 17!

11. Jeremy Flores
J-Bay Result: Injured
WSL rating: 12 (-2)
Key Question: Can this dormant animal be roused?

“No major brain damage!” Jeremy told me proudly in June when he face-planted at a reef in Sumbawa, Indonesia. “A fucken air,” he’d said. “All frothing to learn all these new tricks and ended up landing head-first onto dry reef.”

Can you imagine?

Bleeding rapidly, blinded with his own blood, groaning, overcome with pain and terror? Being rescued by Wiggolly Dantas and Jake Paterson and helicoptered to hospital? And in this, a sort of comeback season, after so many scandals, and for all his inability to understand a crowd, when he again looked able to navigate a heat?

La vie est cruel parfois (yes, French! Mais bien-sur!). The way it strikes under your defences, the way it rips the skin from your undersides. The way t gives you a couple of kisses then clean forgets about you.

The general structure of Jeremy Flores’ surfing remains. I believe he has the stomach for Teahupoo, and for Teahupoo when the other children on tour are gasping and squealing, and enough glimmer in his little-wave game for the beachbreak events. Occasional gunshots amid the flutter of little wings.

12. Nat Young
J-Bay Result: 9
WSL rating: 7 (steady)
Key Question: Is he a dumpy little woman or a supermodel?

Often, I’ll look at Nat Young and think, how can someone that obvious in his technique, with those clumsy telegraphed turns, with a smell so bad it wafts through the webcast, make it among giants like John John and Kelly and Filipe and Medina? So formal, so boring.

But then he’ll unload his cargo like ten thousand devils and what are we to think then?

Is he a dumpy little woman with no redeeming features, as I initially thought, or a supermodel or… perhaps likely… a melange of both?

When Nat throws on his lipstick and rouge he makes me die to be spooned with his sugar. Otherwise, I just find it queer as anything and numbing.

13. Italo Ferreira
J-Bay Result: 13
WSL rating: 9 (-1)
Key Question: Is he really Brazilian?

I tend not to set my alarm to watch Italo’s heats in different time zones. But those who know say the kindest things about Italo’s surfing, at least in a partial degree, and this is backed up by his rating in the top 10.

He lacks the dazzling skin of Wiggolly and Filipe and their apparent weightlessness and, therefore, I conclude he is a Brazilian on the Portuguese side of the ledger not the fabulous African side.

Not that it reduces my physical admiration one iota, the cow-like tenderness of his eyes, the captivating shyness.

14. Matt Wilkinson
J-Bay Result: 13
WSL rating: 16 (-2)
Key Question: Why the yellow teeth?

If I was a girl I don’t think I’d kiss Matt Wilkinson. His teeth, that briny snout, a pork-like red of the skin. The hair is striking granted, but there’s not much else to give an uprush to the brain.

The feeling I have for Matt Wilkinson is as an admirer of his ballet. I’m fascinated by it, so fascinated, I’ve grown very fond of watching him surf.

He certainly did go down swinging his little fists at J-Bay, 16-ish points to Gabriel’s 19-and-a-bit. Afterwards, he sobbed miserably, shoulders hunched up, but his friendless was not diminished and nor was the imagination and intuitive nature of his surfing.

Matt was beaten by the 2014 world champ, after all, and in his best heat all year.

15. Josh Kerr
J-Bay Result: 13
WSL rating: 9 (-1)
Key Question: Can he tidy up the style a little, just to make his hammers a little more cut and dried?

I’ve seen Josh Kerr nail the biggest airs I’ve ever seen, he has the gift of flight after all, and, then, look lost while out on the face. Just this morning on the WSL website, I thought the homepage featured a photo of Josh at the US Open. But a closer inspection revealed Billabong stickers – it was Courtney Conlogue!

This is common thing. It is the hardest thing in the world to be a little of everything, and not just one or the other, although this is where John John Florence and Dane Reynolds excel.

This year Josh’s air game looks subjugated to turns and it maddens me. I want the noise of the cannon, the clash of steel! I want my brain inflamed!

Josh Kerr is fearless and skilled but he cannot allow himself to be weakened by the colonialism of what he perceives as “criteria”. I can’t exaggerate the effect this has on his career.

Yeah, be conscious of the danger, it is a tricky and occasionally tiresome game, but don’t lose what you represent.

16. Joel Parkinson
J-Bay Result: 13
WSL rating: 17 (-2)
Key Question: Why?

Just, why? Eight heat wins and the season is halfway done. Examine the 2012 world champion’s heat average and it’s a respectable 13.72, which means he’s average a couple of sevens every time he paddles out, better than surfers rated far above.

But such are the varying fortunes of surfing. The standard of play is high. It is cosy and it’s congenial, a friendly mix of age groups and nationalities. His survival on tour will depend on his pooling his efforts and resources. Teahupoo, result, Trestles, maybe not, France, possibly, Supertubes, possibly, Pipe, yes.

It’s interesting to compare Joel’s career and life to Mick’s. One has three world title, possibly four come December, the other has kids and a life that exists beyond professional surfing.

If he wants to milk the WSL teat for a few more years, Joel needs less crooning and has to become more barbaric, terrifying.

Joel needs to exude electricity instead of, what is now, just a faint buzz.

17. Jordy Smith
J-Bay Result: Last
WSL rating: 22 (-4)
Key Question: How can someone be so singularly repellant and yet at the same time singularly magnetic?

What a number of angles there are to the question of Jordy Smith! However, what interests me is passage of time, how quickly it sweeps by us all. One minute we’re staring at headlights in the distance and in the blink of an eye we’re watching the taillights fade to black.

Jordy is in his 27th year and any idea that he’s going to win a world title, or create a legacy beyond the current epoch, you would think is fast fading. For a surfer who has the liberal gift of body awareness (think: he’s the only surfer on tour who can jam two significant turns within half-a-metre of lip) his lower third rating on tour would seem a grand failure, despite the injury that kept him out of Fiji.

But life isn’t so cut and dried as all this. The only way to express the truth is to, calmly, assess an athlete’s assets and make some kind of summation.

Well, here, he lives an exciting and modern life (with a bikini model who seems to adore his reduced chin and heavy eyebrows) in California and lives off a skilfully negotiated contracted worth many millions.

“Who do you think I am?” he might ask.

“I don’t know,” you’d be compelled to say.