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Chas: “Why I’ll miss Paul Speaker!”

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

He is gone now and I am poorer for it.

My phone lit up like a pachinko game early this Japanese morning and of course you know why. The World Surf League’s CEO Paul Speaker has resigned. He has left the building. And many smiling faces and thumbs up and “whoas!” “yeses!” and “wows!” filled my screen.

But my own heart sank like a stone. Like a boulder to the bottom of the sea.

If you are a regular here you know that I have made it a part-time job to kick at Herr WSL CEO and I have taken that part time job very seriously. Why did I kick so often? So relentlessly? So pointlessly? For so long? Oh my memory is a rotted husk but if I sift through its soft bits I think I can find the root. And it is this.

Paul Speaker would never kick back.

I don’t know what surfing meant to him since he didn’t do it himself but the way he went about trying to sell it was, in my estimation, ludicrous. I believe, truly, that professional surfing is the most beautiful expression in the world. That old and young can discover and appreciate. That the possibilities for growth are endless. That it can be explained to the non-surfer and understood by them.

But it all starts with the rabble. For those of us addicted enough to wake up at 3 am to watch Jadson Andre vs. Wiggolly D. It starts with the junkies. And BeachGrit is the home of the junkie rabble. You and I and Nick Carroll and Matt Warshaw and Longtom and Derek Rielly. We are not of the “pro surfing is lame” set.

We love this game and love it more than any other.

And Paul Speaker should have recognized this. He should have drank a cup of concrete, hardened the fuck up and come a’ callin.

His predecessor did.

I kicked at then ASP CEO Brodie Carr when I first started covering the tour so many years ago. I poked at his clothes, at his style, at his overall deal yet he did not run and hide. He took my barbs with the most gregarious laugh and smashed me on the arm wrestling table and we have been wonderful friends ever since.

I wanted to be wonderful friends with WSL CEO Paul Speaker too. I wanted him to call me up one day out of the blue and say, “Is this Chas Smith? Oh you are a worthless cocksucker. Come up to Santa Monica and let’s drink some whiskey.”

I wanted to help him help professional surfing get better. I loved landing shots on his big cornfed jaw. I wanted to be his pal. But none of this will now happen or ever happen again.

WSL CEO Paul Speaker is gone, and I am poorer for it.

Créme: Dreamy Barbados Sessions!

Michael Ciaramella

by Michael Ciaramella

Josh Burke eats up Soup Bowls… 

I’ve known about Josh Burke for roughly ten years. In those days he was seen as the token white-Bajan kid at major east coast events. He surfed well enough, won a few titles. Never considered him a genuine big-league threat though.

At fourteen he went on Surfing‘s inaugural Grom Games trip to Nicaragua and was the indisputable lame duck of the group. The waves were gangbusters and the competition was fierce but it all seemed out of Josh’s league. His scrawny frame and apparent lack of tube experience left him searching for shoulders to slide his toddler-sized Futures.

But a lot has changed in four years.

The below video shows an entirely new and improved Josh Burke. Having put in the hard yards at Barbados’ famous right-hander, Josh now appears comfortable driving through heavy water. This ain’t no Kelly Slater in Sipping Jetstreams, nor Kelly Slater in Campaign 2 (no longer on the web, ugh!), but then again what really is?

The tubes are nice, but I’m most impressed by Josh’s assault of the warping Caribbean walls. The kid is obliterating pockets like an uncapped pen. His surfing is controlled yet abrasive, like some beautiful manifestation of AI and Davey Cathels. He just might have the perfect competition technique.

This idea is slightly derailed by Josh’s 2016 QS ranking of 167. To achieve that mediocre placement, he surfed in sixteen events and made a total of seven heats. This lends credence to two ideas: 1. The QS is excruciatingly difficult. 2. Chas was (almost) right! Surely one of us could make at least sevenish heats throughout the entirety of a season.

But would it be worth it? Let’s break it down.

Travel, food, accommodations: $40K
Contest fees: $10K
The ability to rightfully declare yourself as the 167th best surfer in the world on Tinder, at dinner parties, etc.: priceless.

Paul Speaker Resigns as WSL CEO!

Michael Ciaramella

by Michael Ciaramella

Our benevolent leader has taken his last gasp of salt air

I know what you’re thinking. This should be Chas’s piece. Only he retains the power, privilege, and wherewithal to bid proper adieu to the WSL’s benevolent patriarch, Mr. Paul Speaker.

Believe me, I’m with you. But Chas is either asleep or boarding snow or whispering sweet nothings to a hungover and regretful Travis Rice. In which case I am the one to deliver this sullen news.

The WSL’s CEO and major financial backer, Paul Speaker, has released a statement on the WSL website announcing his resignation. After five years of developing the shriveled, dilapidated ASP into our pristine, cocksure WSL, Speaker has called it quits in order to “spend more time with family.” He will however remain financially invested.

For now, WSL majority owner Dirk Ziff will take over as interim CEO until a full-time replacement is established.

Will we get a surfer this time around, or another corporate head? Perhaps we’ll go bi-curious and steal Nick Woodman from his crumbling empire. Imagine the mandatory nose-mounted GoPros for every surfer on Tour…

Oh, and one last thing. This affair has already experienced its share of media drama.

Just this morning, noted STAB author Morgan Williamson posited that Speaker’s move could be a “get-out-while-you-can” tactic amidst a financially crumbling WSL. The article was then amended, as Morgan replaced the original thought with cookie-cutter, everything-is-always-sunny-in-Santa-Monica quotes from the WSL’s PR-control man, Dave Prodan. Coincidence? Me thinky not.

More from a lamenting Chas soon!

Chas: “I’m in Hakuba with Mick Fanning!”

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Your fifth favourite surf writer snowbound with ol pal Mick!

So I’m in Japan exploring what our Olympian surfers should do when they come for the 2020 games and they should do EVERYTHING!

They should go to Harajuku and buy rainbow cotton candies and to Comme de Garçon’s flagship and to a Shinto shrine. One thing they won’t be able to do is snowboard (since surfing is part of the summer games instead of the winter ones) but they should come here and do it in the offseason like me and Mick Fanning.

We are both at the same resort, right, like, this very minute!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BPCUdIpDYRw/?taken-by=mfanno

Can you believe that? Can you even believe it? Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world!

I am not actually staying at this resort and, if his Instagram ain’t lying, neither is he but this is where we both are today.

I want to see him. To give him a hug and ask to be friends. I also don’t want to wreck his vacation. We’ll see how it all shakes out I suppose.

I don’t know how Mick got here but I drove a van because I’m the only one in my group with an international driver’s license.

Ken Block, one of the most famous drivers in the world, left his international driver’s license at home but is in my group and, this morning, in then van behind me.

Have you ever watched his gymkhana videos? Of course you have along with 20 billion others. He has elevated driving to a high art.

Anyhow, Ken is in the van behind. I am leading. Driving over the snow but no big deal until I take my first left, slide off the road, and high center on a ditch.

Totally stuck.

Spinning tires etc.

Everyone piles out of the van. Ken comes to my window and explains so kindly how I can get out.

His advice worked! He is the patron saint of driving. A gift from God to us dumb bastards!

And now I am at the same resort as Mick Fanning. Can you believe that? Can you even believe it?

If I see him I’m going to hug him and ask to be friends!

Blood Feud: Mick Fanning vs. Airs

Michael Ciaramella

by Michael Ciaramella

Never too old to learn!

I once said that Mick Fanning was the best-ever turner of a surfboard, but Surfing‘s photo editor Jimmy Wilson was quick to correct me. “Mick doesn’t do the most impressive individual turns,” Jim explained. “He’s just the best at linking them together.”

And he’s right!

Rarely if ever has Mick produced the type of grunting, growling, explosion of nose-pickery that we’ve come to expect from say… Dane Reynolds. For instance, many regard Dane’s upside-down, no-grab, under-the-lip-nose-pick at Haleiwa to be the best turn ever done on a surfboard. And Mick ain’t got none o’ dat! Airs neither!

Until now.

Mick has spent his retirement experimenting with aerial progression. Why not? Slater is almost sixty and he’s still jumping off shit. No reason why Fanning, a ripe thirty-five, can’t play catch up. But it makes you wonder, how did one of our most talented athletes completely disregard a major aspect of modern-day surfing for oh so long? The answer lies in the analytics!

I can’t quite remember where he said it, but I’m a hunnit that a sentence of this nature once escaped Mick’s Vertra-coated lips: “Every time I do airs in heats, I end up getting scored lower than if I were just to do turns. So I figured, why bother?”

Is this not a direct example of how the WSL compromises talent for… negative profits? Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either. Unless… maybe the WSL was designed to destroy surfing as a whole. Maybe Paul Speaker once had a love interest pilfered by someone groovier, tanner, with just the perfect hint of sun in his shaggy locks. Maybe this is revenge.

At this point our only hope lies in Mick. Keep jumping homie. Maybe you’ll save surfing in the process.