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Beach Grit

Bethany: Better Than You!

Michael Ciaramella

by Michael Ciaramella

What's not to love about Beth's technique, charisma?

If you don’t appreciate Bethany Hamilton, you are anti-anti-depressive and should probably leave right now. The shark attack survivor/mother/world class surfer personifies class in a sport defined by egotism and insouciance.

I once watched Matt George cry while reading, aloud, his profile on Bethany Hamilton. Dramatic, yes, but it is a wonderful piece that one would only benefit from reading. For instance, did you know that Uncle Laird put a price on the assailant’s head, leading to the culling of a fourteen-foot tiger shark whose jaws matched the markings on her board within two micrometers? Derek would be so proud.

This year I had the fortune of sharing a few sessions with Bethany while she was warming up for the Fiji Pro. Her athletic frame cruised the Cloudbreak lineup with just the right combination of force and attitude. People cheered her into waves as if she needed the extra boost. She didn’t.

Bethany has invented a crafty technique for wave catching, wherein she positions herself to the meet the wave at its near-breaking point, pulls the nose of her board back into the lurching wall, and uses the board’s buoyancy and wave’s momentum to sling herself over the ledge. If unable to position herself for that maneuver, she’s still able to out-paddle most of her peers — dare I say out-surf them, too.

This video features Bethany cauterizing the unsuspecting walls of Pasta Point in the Maldives. Is it her best surfing? The most stunning piece of film? Nay. But it forces me to remember and appreciate everything she’s done for surfing and those living with disabilities. Bethany Hamilton has singlehandedly changed our game for the better.

Healey: “I experienced real racism!”

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Big-waver Mark Healey reveals wild childhood on podcast, The Truth Barrel… 

The Hawaiian Mark Healy is someone you can safely refer to as a “waterman” without conjuring up scenes of noise and braggadocio.

Without fanfare, the thirty five year old from Wahiawa, has won the WSL biggest-paddle in award (2014), the Todos Santos big-wave event (2010), the XXL Monster Tube Award (2009), the Surfer Poll worst wipeout (2008), and in the same year he won the World Cup of Spearfishing in La Pax, Mexico. Outside magazine called Healey the “greatest athlete you’ve never heard of.” Mark likes to dive with the fabulous Great White, too.

Recently, Mark was a guest on The Truth Barrel, a podcast that takes place in a heated sauna and is hosted by the journalist and one-time pick-up artist Neil Strauss and pro volleyballer and wife of Laird Hamilton, Gabby Reece.

“There’s no fluff around Mark Healey,” says Reece, who posits that it wasn’t just Mark’s exposure to the ocean that turned him into the beast he is today, but growing up a small, white kid in a tough, local Hawaiian school.

In this episode, Mark speaks movingly of being the smallest kid of 200 in his grade at Kahuku High, girls included. The only kid who approached his diminutiveness was a boy with cancer.

“I didn’t break one hundred pounds until I was seventeen,” says Mark.

Small, white, no connections.

“I experienced real racism,” he says. “But then again it’s complex issues. A lot of white people did a lot of bad stuff over there. I didn’t. I wasn’t coming from land barons. My parents were just as poor and hard-working as anybody else, probably a lot more poorer than the local families. It’s human nature (to bully, exclude). You deal with a lot of stuff. Racism is obviously an issue and bullying is obviously an issue today but…

“Come on people, if they experienced the skin of stuff I experienced growing up. I’d be twelve years old, and small for twelve years old, and have a senior come by and give me his best shot. Straight down the pipe. Blow my face out. You were constantly on edge. You’d get in altercations twice a week. You learned to be either a doormat or stick up for yourself. Not a lot of kids stick up for themselves. You kinda snap every now and then.

“The crappy thing is,” says Mark, “you get forced into a situation where you have to react and if you lose, you lose. If you win, then you have their entire family looking for you.”

And don’t go expecting the other small white kids to help. They’re “shaking in a corner with PTS,” laughs Mark.

Thing is, he says, the fights, the racism helped him become who he is.

“I was dealing with an environment where I was, a, a minority and it was a little rough, b, being the smallest guy, c, being poor… I always tell kids this. If there’s anything that’s really served me, it’s this. I learned at an early age that sometimes you have to work twice as hard to get the same results as the person next to you. Life’s not fair. Do you want it or not? Do what it takes to get it.”

Listen here.

 

 

War: Alex Gray bloodies Kelly Slater!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

The greatest there ever was knocked out by a wily upstart!

If you are an observer of the surf game, even casually, then you will know that Kelly Slater is the undisputed, never before grazed, 10000000 times world champion of the passive aggressive unprovoked and unnecessary take down. Who could ever forget such classic bouts such as “Adriano de Souza wins his first (likely only) hard fought hard earned world title only to be upstaged by Kelly Slater and his wave pool hours later?”

Devastating!

Or “John John wins his much celebrated title and while the world (save Brazil) rejoices Kelly Slater claims Jordy Smith has better video parts?”

Crushing!

Kelly is a master. His timing, his delivery, his approach flawless and conventional wisdom had him only being bested in the passive aggressive unprovoked and unnecessary take down scene once dementia started to creep more fully.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday a challenger stepped into the ring. A young man out of Los Angeles with a quick wit, a crooked smile and a mischievous glint in his eye. Lady’s and gentlemen… put your hands together for…

Alllllllllllllex Graaaaaaaaaaay!

The big wave surfer took to Instagram praising his sponsor Body Glove new product offering.

Body Glove created the first wetsuit and now they’ve created the first heat moldable bootie! I’m really stoked to be part of the new technology. Having the bootie mold to your foot takes any extra room out, preventing any of that typical sliding around inside the bootie. I also really like the new pattern on the bottom for extra grip. If you have a narrow foot like me now we get to have the perfect fit for those cold days! And also feel like ninjas with glue feet. Thanks etc. etc. for having me along the process.

Very kind, thoughtful and sincere. Alex, I believe, was let go by the vicious Volcom earlier this year and would be forgiven being grouchy. This is the sort of generosity of spirit that makes me smile and I’m sure Body Glove was smiling too. Kelly Slater, though, couldn’t stand these smiles directed away from him and dropped a hammer in the comments.

I like it but didn’t Oneill make the first wetsuit?

That blow should have staggered poor Alex Gray. Should have knocked him out entirely. But like Rocky Balboa he took it right on the chin then countered with an even bigger hammer!

@kellyslater is it true ur wave pool is currently broken?

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And there goes the champ. Reeling! Spinning across the canvas unable to find his feet… going… going… going… down!

Who would have ever guessed that? Who would have ever guessed Alex Gray was surf’s Buster Douglas? Well, you should have quite frankly. Alex is no spring chicken. He once even battled Filipe Toledo’s dad!

But how will Kelly Slater respond? Will he ask for a rematch with Alex or go and lash out at another unsuspecting foe to build  confidence back up?

And is his wave pool currently really broken? I’m going to get to the bottom of this as soon as I’m done cruising Harajuku!

Audio: “What does Laird get for Xmas?”

Anthony Pancia

by Anthony Pancia

A pleasingly loose interview with Size King Laird Hamilton.

Yesterday at four am, sometime BeachGrit reporter Anthony Pancia was awoken by a phone call from the wife of Laird Hamilton, the model and volleyballer Gabby Reece. The reporter had been chasing an interview with Laird and had taken to sleeping with his portable telephone under his pillow in case of an unlikely callback.

But miracles do happen, and it is the season for the miraculous afterall.

And with Laird stuck in a car for an hour, and in a very good humour, the pair talked Christmas gifts (“This year I got some stitches!”), hip replacements (“Too many lifetimes in one!”) and the history of foil-boarding (“The only way to ride the biggest waves on the world will be on hydro-foils.”)

Listen!

 


Just in: Chas Smith Goes to Tokyo!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

I know I once wrote bad things about surfing and the Tokyo Olympics but now my heart soars!

The 2020 summer Olympics, to be held in Tokyo, are almost here and it will be surfing’s biggest moment ever! Our debutante ball! Our Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah and quinceañera and christening all rolled into one!

I know I wrote the brilliantly titled The Olympics Made Surfing Lame, Somehow just last year for The Daily Beast. Would you allow me to read some of my own work?

Surfing is probably going to be in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which is stupid and everyone I know agrees.

Oh it sings! It sings like the most shimmeringly intelligent angel in all of heaven picked up a pen and started scribbling a chorus but the beauty of the language obscures its messaging. That surfing shouldn’t be in the Olympics, which is just wrong.

And can’t a gal change her mind?

The laughs we are going to have! The costumes surfers will wear in the opening ceremony! John John Florence surfing for the newly seceded island nation Hawai’i! Gabriel Medina leading the Brazilian contingent in a cleanly shorn version of Girl from Ipanema pre heats.

It will be glorious!

And I just had to come early. To see this Tokyo that will stage our big coming out. I’ve been once before but it was a long time ago and I had a fat orange man as my friend and guide.

The flight from San Francisco was uneventful save United charges for booze and I racked up a rather large bill on Titos and first ginger but then the sweetness overpowered so shifted to soda. My seat was littered with tiny bottles and I wondered what Kelly Slater would think about my footprint but then remembered he flies private to Europe and that is a heavy personal load to carry. Much guilt etc. Our surfers should think about this and either bring their own vodka in glass bottles from Duty Free or just not care about Mother Earth for 10 hrs. Kelly Slater, anyhow, would be a better source of advice on this point.

Everything worked smoothly once we touched down at Narita and our surfers are in for a real treat. The Japanese are polite and helpful. I was first dubious, trying to sniff out a scam, and this lead to confusion as the nice lady at the train station was just trying to save me some money.

One hour later, I arrived cleanly in my hotel near the Shinagawa station and maybe our surfers should stay here as well. It seems both high class but in the heart of the action.

A short time after this I found myself seated at Gonpachi. It is the restaurant that hosted the final flawless scene of Kill Bill. You recall. When Uma Thurman savaged all the little men with black masks. And, at the Olympics, who will our surfer version of Uma Thurman be? Will it be John John Florence flourishing his blade? I think likely but am also practicing my Hawai’ian nationalism.

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The restaurant, in any case, was truly fantastic with wonderful service and delicious miso soup and sake. Our surfers should try and I would make specific menu recommendations here but feel I’ve already gone on too long about contrivances that add very little to the general fund. Am I trying to be the next Rory Parker or something?

I joke, I joke! There will only be one Rory Parker. Noted writer, national treasure etc. etc.

In any case, so far so good for our surfers. Tomorrow I’ll head to the beach. Or Harajuku.