Back To Top
Beach Grit

banner

2015: Surfing’s Dead-Ball Era!

Rory Parker

by Rory Parker

Did we just live through the most tedious year, ever, on tour?

There were two stories I spent most of 2015 waiting to write. The first, Brazilian Storm Downgraded to Drizzle, was mainly based on the fact that I think that’s a clever title, and I honestly thought that they’d falter and drop the ball mid-season.

But in the end Brazil ended up with more top ten surfers than any other country, and variations on the title don’t really work. Brazilian Storm Upgraded to Hurricane sucks.

For those of you who don’t know much about professional baseball, and I’m assuming that’s the majority of our readers, the period from 1900 until 1919 is known as the dead-ball era. The near twenty year span was marked by low scoring games, a heavy emphasis placed on stolen bases and hit-and-run strategy. The then-rules, combined with equipment limitations, encouraged a slow and steady approach, chipping away to victory.

At first glance, surfing and baseball have almost nothing in common.

Surfing, as an activity, excels when removed from a competitive framework. You may see flashes of brilliance during a heat, but the very best performances, without exception, spring from free surf sessions. Baseball, on the other hand, doesn’t exist outside of the competitive arena. Without an opposing team you’re just playing catch, or swinging away at the batting cages. Fun? Maybe, but not baseball.

However, they’re very similar in that they are long, often tedious, affairs, and to all but the most devoted fans are best delivered in the form of fifteen minute long post event wrap-ups. Waiting, waiting, waiting, a few seconds of action, more waiting, waiting, waiting.

Boring stuff, by and large.

Not that it matters to competitors. Those that win know that there’s only one thing to worry about, winning. Dead-ball era players knew their near unhittable spitballs and bunt-and-runs were awful for spectators, but that was for management to worry about. The coaches and players were obligated to always strive for victory, and intelligent strategy forced a certain approach. Rules are rules, once the teams had an effective strategy dialed they had absolutely no incentive to change. Empty platitudes aside, it’s only about having fun when you’re an amateur.

The top two surfers on the tour, De Souza and Fanning, figured out the rules, knew what it took to win. Unfortunately for us, the viewers, what it took to win was technically perfect, totally uninspired surfing. Outside of a heat I think it’s an easy statement to claim that Fanning is the superior wave slider, but once the horn sounds they step into the same role. Link the turns together, don’t fall, bonk it at the end. Tens may win heats, but consistent sevens win titles.

Which brings us to the end of 2015, the year that dead-ball came to surfing.

The top two surfers on the tour, De Souza and Fanning, figured out the rules, knew what it took to win. Unfortunately for us, the viewers, what it took to win was technically perfect, totally uninspired surfing. Outside of a heat I think it’s an easy statement to claim that Fanning is the superior wave slider, but once the horn sounds they step into the same role. Link the turns together, don’t fall, bonk it at the end. Tens may win heats, but consistent sevens win titles.

Interestingly, if not surprising, though DeSouza finished in first, he has the lowest average heat total of ‘CT top five. Despite hype, the year is a grind, and ADS had the best mill stone around. Combined with his stereotypically Brazilian gamesmanship it should have come as no surprise when he landed on top of the podium.

Fanning looks like what he is, a world class surfer, arguably one of the greatest of all time, approaching the end of his career. He can’t play the high performance game at the same level as the young ‘uns. What 34 year old could (not counting Slater)? So he takes the same tack as De Souza, albeit one that’s stylistically better. Link your turns, keep the board in the water. Surf to win, not to impress.

An experienced surfer understands how difficult it is to surf like ADS and Fanning. Surfing well, and not falling, is insanely difficult. More difficult, without a doubt, than hucking huge hail mary airs and hoping for the best. But it just isn’t engaging.

As a fan of professional competitive surfing (which I most definitely am, constant WSL criticism notwithstanding), I’d much rather see John John do two amazing turns and fall on the end section than watch either of this year’s top two whack the lip twice and toss a floater for the score.

Dead-ball baseball came to an end with a series of rule changes (such as outlawing spitballs and counting the first two foul balls as strikes), equipment changes (corked center balls which were replaced more frequently) and a reactionary adjustment to tactics. Stadium dimensions were changed, and power hitters, beginning with Babe Ruth, started hammering balls out of the park. Scores were higher, the game became more exciting.

Unfortunately, surfing isn’t so easy. The equipment is great, hard to imagine better. The venue is a constantly changing nightmare. It’s impossible to be provide truly objective scoring without reducing the sport to a figure skating style ritualized dance.

But, still, adjustments can be made. It’s easy to cast judgment, but to do so without offering an alternative is straight up weak shit.

Fuck objectivity. Judges should score based on what they, personally, view as superior surfing. Certain judges will reward certain surfers, but the beauty of averaging scores should smooth out any edges.

Isolate the judges. Noise canceling head phones, a separate feed for each to watch, a partition between them. Easy stuff to implement.

Identify the judges. I understand a reluctance to name people, it’s 2015 and the internet is a mercurial bitch. Simply assign each judge a number, report each number’s score, allow viewers a chance to track said scores over the course of the year.

Fire the entire judging staff, hire some fresh faces. While internet conspiracy theories are fun, I don’t believe there is any actual collusion. However, weird shit goes down, sometimes, and surfing isn’t great at holding people accountable. Like back in ’93, when Renato Hickel, current Tour Manager, served as head judge while dating Lisa Andersen on the side. A gross conflict of interest, one which should have seen him drummed out of the sport.

Conspiracy: Google Exec throws smoke!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Are the tech powers trying to keep Jaws all to themselves?

Does the Jaws big wave competition still rattle in your memory? Those towering waves and brave conquistadors! Billy Kemper won the event with his great friend Albee Layer coming in second and both are from Maui, which stands to reason because Jaws is also on Maui.

But where, exactly? Do you know? Do you know where to launch your ski, say, if you had a hankering for some plus-sized bombs and didn’t have the mojo to jump from the rocks?

Well, there is a conspiracy floating around that Google is trying to keep it a secret! A Google exec, see, has recently moved to the valley isle for its beauty but also its tech potential. His name is Jamie Dinkelacker and he is a higher up engineer who, possibly, overseas the Google Maps division. But is he also a big wave cowboy? A man who lusts for the thrill?

On some of Google’s maps, you see, the boat launch one uses to set out for Jaws is obscured by an ugly grey box! And oh how the wheels of sedition turn! The Internet lit up with some accusing Mr. Dinkelacker of purposefully locking the information away as to deter all those hopeful kids with 8’10 surfboards in their California garages and dreams in their hearts.

Like most conspiracies, though, this one is full of holes. Too many to list here.

Do you want to surf Jaws? I know where to launch a ski if you do. Call me on your burner phone and we’ll whisper a plan.

 

Candid: “I quit surfing to deal heroin!”

Michael Kocher

by Michael Kocher

Surfer turns marine turns heroin dealer.

(Editor’s note: This story first appeared earlier this year. The author asked for it to be removed while he dealt with legal issues which have since been resolved.)

All my days are empty and the pages of my diary are all silver foil, with nought but an inky black snake carving its way through the days…” – Russell Brand

So now that I’ve engendered an outpouring of support, love, and affection from the fine readers of BeachGrit, it’s time for me to destroy all that with this article. We’re going to talk about addiction, about drug dealing, about heroin, and about how fucking amazing, and also hellish, all of those things can be. We’re going to be real, we’re going to be honest, and we’re going to be fucking awesome. None of this actually happened, unless it did, but then maybe it didn’t. This too is a war story, and war stories are always blends of fact, fiction, misremembered events, other people’s stories, and your own flawed memories. This is war story, but a story from the drug war, not the long war. As always I switch liberally between first and second person. That’s how I roll. Love me or hate me just don’t date me.

Addiction stories are absolutely boring. I hate reading them because the journey is always the same, one of two stories, addict falls into addiction, hits rock bottom, gets clean and survives, or addict falls into addiction, hits rock bottom, doesn’t get clean and dies.

That’s not what this story is about, nor is it something I would ever write.

My story is the same as all others. I was prescribed painkillers for my knees, tolerance grew and eventually I was cut off by the doctor for “drug seeking behavior.” Doctors are great like that. They put you on an addictive script and then get pissed at you when you get addicted. As if any of us can control how quickly we build tolerance to something.

Once I got cut off from my supply the only thing I could do was start buying tar heroin to get my fix. Oxycontin or heroin, the feeling is the same, the addiction is the same, so who fucking cares, right?

The realization you come to as your habit grows, however, is just how much money is being made by asshole dealers off you and your friends. You realize that if you just sold to your five or six close friends who also use heroin that you could easily make money and pay for you own addiction.

Eventually you’re buying directly from the Russian Mafia, for this story takes place in the frozen north and it is always the Russian Mafia in the frozen north, whether Scandinavia, Vancouver, Alaska, or Moscow. It’s always Russians, they’re always huge, they’re always covered in prison tattoos, and they are always clearly on the edge of doing incredibly quick and vicious violence. You love the Russians because you’ve always had a death wish and you know they could grant it.

Simple, no? Not really.

Tolerance always goes up, and tolerance for people goes down. Someone calling your phone over and over while you’re trying to see a movie with your nephew isn’t something that you are equipped to handle with an opiate-addled brain. Twenty-five calls in fifteen minutes? Are you fucking kidding me?

You understand it on a lizard brain level, you need your fix too, but these motherfuckers are thirsty. So your clientele keeps expanding and the amount of dope and cash you’re handling increases. Eventually you’re buying directly from the Russian Mafia, for this story takes place in the frozen north and it is always the Russian Mafia in the frozen north, whether Scandinavia, Vancouver, Alaska, or Moscow. It’s always Russians, they’re always huge, they’re always covered in prison tattoos, and they are always clearly on the edge of doing incredibly quick and vicious violence. You love the Russians because you’ve always had a death wish and you know they could grant it.

Your typical day starts at 4:30 a.m. when the first junkies start rolling through needing to fix before work. If you don’t answer, they will come to your house and knock on your windows. This almost gets them shot on a daily basis. You don’t want to shoot anyone else, you’ve done that enough in your life.

Deep inside you know you’re just another piece of shit junkie, but the duality of being a dealer and a junkie allows you to maintain the fiction that they’re the junkies, not you. Your day continues on until sometime between midnight and 2:30 a.m. when the last guys come through.

You probably went to bed at 2:30 a.m. but you’re up at 4:30. You move out to your couch and start weighing out the different amounts you need. Ounces, half ounces, grams, half grams, and tenths. You weigh them, you bag them, and you stash them all over the apartment so you’re never carrying enough to get hit with intent to distribute. This takes you into the late morning and the whole time you’ve had a steady stream of people coming through. Junkies, sure, but also smaller dealers who don’t use and buy from you. You let them hang out, but the junkies need to leave immediately. You don’t want them around your dog, your girls, but mostly you don’t want them around because they remind you how much you hate yourself. You know you’re an addict, a junkie, but you feel like you’re better than them, all junkies do, because you won’t do this drug this way, or you won’t trick for your habit, or you won’t steal, or whatever you use as a justification.

Deep inside you know you’re just another piece of shit junkie, but the duality of being a dealer and a junkie allows you to maintain the fiction that they’re the junkies, not you. Your day continues on until sometime between midnight and 2:30 a.m. when the last guys come through.

Your whole day is a waking dream though, because while you hate that you feel this way you absolute love heroin. It is the one true love of your life. She’s always there to make you feel better, she’s always there to help you through a shitty day, she’s always there to perk you up, and she never complains. This beautiful, dark, mysterious, woman that lives on the squares of foil that litter your apartment understands you in a way that no real woman ever will. You hate her for it but you love her more.

Every bad feeling you have, every bit of pain, it isn’t erased by her but you just stop caring about anything else. That’s what she does for your brain, she lets you ignore the world and just live in bliss, in nirvana, in heaven, in Valhalla, or on Olympus.

Eventually you realize that you hate yourself but you love her more. You want to stop but you need her more. Eventually the love affair ends though, and you become more disgusted with yourself, with your need for her, with your desire for her, with your love for her. Every hit you take makes you hate yourself just a bit more. Every line you cross makes you feel like a failure just a little longer. Eventually she doesn’t even make you feel happy anymore, she just gets you well, keeps the withdrawal away. That is the power of heroin addiction. That is how you feel every second of every day.

Eventually you’re moving enough weight that the amount of cash you’ve got coming in is getting fucking ridiculous. You’re paranoid, you’re always carrying at least a Colt 1911, and often an M-4 under the seat of your car. How the fuck do you launder money, you wonder? You have literally tens of thousands of dollars in cash hidden in shoeboxes, buried in the garden wrapped in plastic wrap and Ziploc bags, and various other super safe places.

Eventually you’re moving enough weight that the amount of cash you’ve got coming in is getting fucking ridiculous. You’re paranoid, you’re always carrying at least a Colt 1911, and often an M-4 under the seat of your car. How the fuck do you launder money, you wonder? You have literally tens of thousands of dollars in cash hidden in shoeboxes, buried in the garden wrapped in plastic wrap and Ziploc bags, and various other super safe places. You’re not working, you have no W-2, you can’t *prove* any of this income to the IRS.

You never planned this, you just wanted to fix for free, but now you have a new addiction, you’re addicted to the power that you have over other addicts, you’re addicted to flying to Vegas and dropping $20,000 on table service in a night while giving no fucks, and you’re addicted to the cash. Absolutely and totally addicted. Your usage of heroin has actually gone down to the point you’re considering quitting cold turkey because the power and the cash give you more of a rush.

You go to the Russians for advice on laundering, you feel you have a good rapport with them, you also being a giant, violent, tattooed man from the frozen north. You’re wrong. They ask all the right questions, seemingly wanting to help, but in reality they’re establishing the high and low end of your business, figuring out what cut they think they deserve. You’re naive, addicted to power and cash, and too trusting of these violent men from a violent, communist, past

You go to the Russians for advice on laundering, you feel you have a good rapport with them, you also being a giant, violent, tattooed man from the frozen north. You’re wrong. They ask all the right questions, seemingly wanting to help, but in reality they’re establishing the high and low end of your business, figuring out what cut they think they deserve. You’re naive, addicted to power and cash, and too trusting of these violent men from a violent, communist, past.

You get back to your house, sit on your couch, and feel at ease. At that moment your door is kicked in. You draw your 1911 — even now years of training in the Marines mean that your muscle memory is precise and immediate. There are three Russians with MP5s in your doorway. You have your 1911 trained on the first’s forehead. It’s a Mexican standoff and you’re definitely in a better position with worse weaponry. They inform you that from here on out you owe 20% of your revenue, not profit, your revenue, to their boss.

You have pride. You tell them to eat a box of dicks and fuck right off back to Novgorod or wherever the fuck their bitch of a mother spawned them. They come back and this time you’re in a back room with a girl. This time they have three MP5s trained on you. This time your pride backs off because you don’t want the girl to be shot, even if she is an insane junkie.

You have pride. You tell them to eat a box of dicks and fuck right off back to Novgorod or wherever the fuck their bitch of a mother spawned them. They come back and this time you’re in a back room with a girl. This time they have three MP5s trained on you. This time your pride backs off because you don’t want the girl to be shot, even if she is an insane junkie.

So now you’re paying up 20% in order to continue having access to the extremely pure tar heroin that they can get. It’s not as bad as you think because your clientele keeps growing, your revenue and profits increase, and you continue to live the hood-rich lifestyle you’ve grown accustomed to.

This whole story has played out over the course of about 18 months at this point and you’re getting sick of it all. Sick of the junkies, sick of the other dealers, sick of yourself and your continued usage. You thought you were going to quit but you’re just another scumbag junkie trying to make his way in the world.

The one upside is that you’re so vain you never used the needle; you didn’t want to fuck up your tattoos with tracks. A small comfort but one you cling to in order to make yourself feel superior to the junkies that you despise. Addicted to the needle. Pussies. You’re getting sick of it all, you haven’t surfed in almost two years, and you hate your life. You consider turning the 1911 on yourself, easier than extricating yourself from this situation, but you also know that your dog relies on you and that means you’ll never go through with it.

Let’s take a quick interlude and talk about the power. The power you feel. The power you hold. You can literally deny someone something they need to feel normal. You can convince people to trade anything they own, and pieces of themselves, for what you have. You have enough money coming in at all times that you can say “fuck you” to anyone and anything you don’t like.

Let’s take a quick interlude and talk about the power. The power you feel. The power you hold. You can literally deny someone something they need to feel normal. You can convince people to trade anything they own, and pieces of themselves, for what you have. You have enough money coming in at all times that you can say “fuck you” to anyone and anything you don’t like. You hold all this power, and yet inside you know that it’s not true power, it’s not real power, and it’s not real influence. You’re a robber baron holding a company town hostage. You’re a warlord with a village under his boot heel. Eventually, like the robber barons, like the warlords, your power will fade and you will fall, and that terrifies you, so you grab more, more money, more clients, more power, in a futile attempt to stay on top. It doesn’t work. You too will, and do, fall.

You need an exit strategy, and like every decision you’ve ever made you make this one at four a.m. after a copious amount of alcohol. You turn your phones off, you leave your apartment, and you vagabond around living in your Tahoe for a while. You live that gypsy life. It works but people still manage to find you, still manage to bother you, still draw you back into the addiction.

So you make a final decision, you drive to California and don’t look back, you hate the place you’re from anyway, and you don’t know why you moved back for this roughly 20-month stretch. The people are awful, you’re awful, everything is awful, but the road beckons and the power and money have faded. You leave, you quit cold turkey, and you never look back. You can’t, and won’t, step foot there again. You’ve been told in no uncertain terms that you are not welcome, that you still owe 20% of various totals, and that while you’ve earned the right not be killed outside of that place, you are still at risk if you ever step foot off that plane.

You make it to Washington State, you cut west, you hit the 101, and you stop at the Pacific. You’ve been clean for about a week, your addiction to power, money, and heroin all quit at once. You rent a shitty egg board. You paddle out. You cry tears of relief and joy, your salt water mixing back with the salt water it was born from so many millions of years ago, and you never look back. You’re free. You’ve annihilated friendships, you’ve destroyed lives, but you’re free. You’re finally free.

*Author’s note: For a variety of reasons, this is being presented as fictional, most importantly because of statutes of limitation. Some parts are fact, some are fiction (the Russians are most definitely not fiction). I’ve been clean for almost five years now, and I’ve never stepped foot back where this takes place. I am not proud of this time in my life, nor should I be. I lost friends, I lost family, and in one case I allegedly destroyed a lifelong friendship by supplying my friend’s father. The tone is the same as all my writing because that’s just how I write, but trust me, the cancer is karmic retribution for this time in my life, and I have accepted that.

Audio: “I exploded my shoulder at Jaws!”

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Mark Mathews describes what it feels like to have your arm torn from its socket… 

Earlier this month, the Australian Mark Mathews rode what Shane Dorian would later describe as “one of the biggest and heaviest waves ever paddled into.”

Shane should be Mark’s press agent, don’t you think? It wasn’t true, of course, the euphoria of a good day of big-wave surfing will fill everyone with an orange glow and make even gunmen like Shane Dorian high on hyperbole. But what a ride it was. 

Under Maui’s lemony sunshine, the world’s best big-wave surfers had assembled for the 2015 Pe’ahi Challenge. With only 45 minutes to surf before the start of the event, Mathews promised himself a big north set. He watched Shane Dorian air drop into a sixteen-storey bomb.

A dozen minutes later it was Mathews’ turn.

Too deep, too far out, on too-short and too-thin a board, the Australian wrestled the takeoff, retrieved a submerged nose – all to the delighted shouts of the surfers paddling out for the first heat – but it quickly turned into a disaster movie, his shoulder ripped from its socket, muscles and ligaments and whatever else scrambled.

Bad? Yeah.

Last Tuesday, Mathews went under the knife at a Sydney hospital. The surgeon described the view from inside as an “explosion” and likened it to the mess he’d seen on a motocross rider eight weeks previous.

Here, Mathews describes the day, the wave, the view from sixteen stories up, and what it feels like to be 30 feet under, with a flapping wing, and knowing a second twenty-footer is about to land on your head.

Bizarro: Mayhem for snowboarding!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

It's a mixed up world!

I’m up to my eyeballs in snow and it is grand. Perfect for Christmas. My thighs ache from days on the hill but my spirit soars. The only problem is that my surf brain is barely crawling. I’m thinking about powder, you see, instead of swell. And also, all my wonderful surf friends are on vacation and so the Coconut Wireless don’t ring.

Except there is a glorious intersection! Did you know Matt Biolos is a total pow hound? He has a home in Mammoth and gets his winter shred on. My best pal Derek Rielly spent time with him and spoke of all the hiking and hunting for untracked lines and riding.

Mr. Biolos is so fond of snowboarding that he has a Mayhem x Lib Tech collaboration! It is a round nose fish, of course. The mountain website evo says:

You’ll have the most fun on the mountain if your ride received the personal treatment from Matt Biolos. With Matt’s help, the Lib Tech x Mayhem Round Nose Fish XC2 BTX Snowboard brings rippers a missile for the entire mountain. With 630 square inches of planing surface and a knife cut sintered base, this board can carve its way out of ice or heavier snow. The XC2 balances out rocker and camber so float and edge contact can peacefully coexist. Translation – you can rip this thing in any condition. The UHMW sidewalls and impact deflection will keep your board strong season after season. If you have an insatiable appetite for carving and speed, the Lib Tech x Mayhem Round Nose Fish XC2 BTX Snowboard is your compadre.

lib-tech-x-mayhem-round-nose-fish-xc2-btx-snowboard-2016-157-5

And I think I need one now. For sure I need one.

Lib Tech, in case you don’t know anything, make the finest snowboards in the biz. By far. I ride one and it goes very well but I’ll do a better review once I get my round nose fish. In any case, Lib also makes a surfboard but they call it a waterboard and I think I need one of those now too. I’ve only heard wonderful things but I’ll also do a better review once I get one of those too. Merry Christmas me (maybe)!

Puddle-Jumper-TOP-738x1640-360x800

All to say, how great that seemingly opposite pursuits share such wonderful people? And if you don’t snowboard you should. It costs $100000000 but it is worth every penny. Also Gerry Lopez does and he has never done anything wrong in his life.

Bachelor-Gerry-Lopez

P.S. Did you know that The Inertia has The Inertia Mountain, a snowboarding site or maybe just include tons of snowboarding into their existing site? Don’t worry. No one else did either. I’m just letting you know that BeachGrit is not so bold as to regularly fold snow into surf. This is a one-off! Until I get my round nose fish and then it’ll be a two-off!