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Chris Burkard’s Effervescence for Expression

Michael Ciaramella

by Michael Ciaramella

Frozen fingers capture the best moments!

Chris Burkard describes arctic photography as Type-Two fun. The kind of experience that is dreadful in present but memorialized in the highest regard. Comparable to surfing big waves, road trips, high school.

Burkard grew up chasing the windblown blahs of Cental Cal, only to discover that its hilly and diverse terrain was better geared towards photography than high quality surf. Picking up a camera at 18, he conceived a new form of expression that would come to redefine him and his bank account.

Burkard was quick to realize that surf photos don’t pay for shit, so he expanded his interests and captured the world as a whole. He’s now one of (if not) the most coveted and successful surf photogs in the world. Cold and stormy are his M.O., making this Icelandic sojourn something of a peak moment for Chris. “This is maybe one of the most insane things I’ve ever seen in my life,” says he.

I found this video to be simultaneously inspiring and destructive. I don’t generally get all mushy about surf, but gliding under the Northern Lights might be the pinnacle of our art. The whole ordeal appears so palpably spiritual, even existential (hey Chas!) in nature. That said, it’s hard to conceive of  circumstances that would lead to my experiencing it. I just don’t want it bad enough. The cold, the waiting, the trying to fit my Beachgrit boardies over a 6-5-4 — it’s too much!

So I’ll continue to chase tropical perfection until my skin cancers and dilapidates. But something tells me I’ll never be fulfilled until the light at the end of the tunnel screams green and blue and blood orange. Take me with you, Chris Burkard!

Kepa Acero Narrowly Escapes Death at Mundaka!

Michael Ciaramella

by Michael Ciaramella

Busted neck. Saved by pals!

Kepa Acero almost died on Monday. The Basque-country native and jovial globetrotter took an exquisite tumble at his home break of Mundaka, breaking his neck and temporarily losing the ability to move his arms and legs. He was saved from drowning by some of his close friends. Below is a translation of his Instagram post on the matter.

I can only start this post by thanking everyone that has been by my side in these past couple days. It’s been a really hard time for me and those close to me. I would especially like to thank Lander and Iñigo who saved my life at Mundaka. I will be forever grateful.

The second of January, at midday, I had a near-fatal fall at Mundaka. I fell and hit my head against the bottom, and at that moment I lost consciousness. The only instant that I can remember was under water – wanting to break the surface, but my hands and legs wouldn’t obey commands.

At that moment I thought I would never come up.

I don’t remember anything else. I then found out that Lander and Iñigo put me on their boards and took me out of the impact zone. I even lost vision.

My friends <3 @natxogonzalez1 @nando_arostegi @eukenimasa and @aletxugironi got me out of the water, and after hours of agony I got to the hospital. They told me that I had broken my neck, broken and displaced my cervical, and broken a dorsal. Miraculously the spinal cord was not damaged so I can be thankful for feeling and being able to move my body, legs and arms. I have the sensation of being born twice in the same day. My thanks go to everyone that has kept me company, to those who rescued me, doctors, all the ones who have cheered me on, to fate and to life – especially to life.

Thank you again, and now more than ever I am going to enjoy life. Devour it, ‘cause it’s ours.

I get surgery on Wednesday.

A big hug to all <3<3<3<3

Scary moments for Spain’s second biggest tube-hound. We wish Kepa the best through his surgery and road to (hopefully a full) recovery. Left hand points wouldn’t be the same without him.

Oh and just for kicks, here’s a little edit of the swell that almost nipped him. Kepa is the primary slider!

Créme: 2016’s Most Blistering Short!

Michael Ciaramella

by Michael Ciaramella

We've got the best moving pictures!

Créme – French word for cream. Also denotes something of top quality in modern-day English.

From here on out I’ll be delivering the Créme a la Grit, in the form of curated surf videos and their principally biased descriptions. Who do I think I am, Rory Parker? Hardly. In basic terms, I am a Surfing Mag reject, hell-bent on stoking the ashes of a five-day career in the surf biz.

For the sake of this extended series (I’ve signed on for a month!), consider me your Cousteau of the cinematic seascape. I’ll be scouring the web in search of deep-sea treasures, sometimes Titanic, others pure Gold. Either way, you can trust not to find any Larry, Curly, or Moes on your beloved Grit. As our manifesto states: “We believe in recycling plastic and paper and St Laurent jeans but not clips from B-ish surfers.”

Without further ado, your first installment of Créme — a retrospective glance at the best short of 2016: Luke Hynd and Darcy Ward’s The Set Menu

First, Darcy Ward.

The 21-year-old Gold Coast filmmaker is talented beyond his years. If The Set Menu didn’t moisten your muffin, then 1. you have poor taste (Staff Picks don’t lie) and 2. take a gander at Darcy’s Vimeo page — there’s something here to please even the most grizzled weblord.

Next, Lukey Hynd.

Genetic traits follow one of two presets: dominant or recessive. Derek Hynd is the fortuitous by-product of a recessive gene orgy, one that created an icon of eccentricity and flair. He is the physical manifestation of good luck. A fin-forsaking anomaly. A generous uncle.

Yes, Luke Hynd’s personal brand of cool can be directly linked to Uncy D. The laissez-faire approach, long flowing locks, and greed for solitude are built into the Hynd DNA. Being too young to have experienced Derek during his explosive twenties, I relish in the good fortune of sharing an era with his second-coming.

Lastly, The Set Menu, in whole.

A surf film succeeds when it transports the viewer from his physical living space to an inescapable vortex of sight and sound. From the point when Luke makes searing eye contact with a much-too-close water camera at 1:27, I was hooked. At 2:53, Darcy captures one of the most cinematically flawless surf shots of all time. If those don’t cut it, Luke’s solo sessions at not one but two terrifying slabs are enough to make the blood run arctic.

The Set Menu was the best short of 2016. If you haven’t already, go give ’em a click.

Six Books Every Surfer Should Read!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

…that have nothing to do with surf.

…but are great pieces of literature. Foundational pieces.

1. Black Mischief by Evelyn Waugh

… is the most awesome piece of racism that you’ll ever read. I love it so much. Racism is, anyhow, a social construct that is almost always funny. Even when people really mean it, it’s funny. I know, I know, it’s easy for me to say since I’m white. But Waugh elevates the idea of national building in Africa to such ridiculous heights. It’s the sort of old-timey aristocratic remove that today’s social liberal would cry about. Waugh doesn’t take himself seriously either. The well-bred Englishman star of the show is absurd. Awesome. I can’t talk about it anymore. You should go and buy a copy right now.

2. The Gallery by John Horne Burns 

…make-a-me cry. It’s not a linear tale, rather a series of vignettes told in World War II Naples, Italy. I remember going to Naples and thinking the pizza tasted delis and the men dressed like greasy wops. Burns’ impressions are much more devastating. It didn’t make me cry because it was said (you’re a jerk for thinking me a pussy!) rather the bugs of brilliance are overwhelming. I can’t do it justice. Here’s a piece. “Every five minutes she looked out the window into the swirling foggy streets to see if there were any New Zealanders coming. She remembered what Il Duce had said the Kiwis would do to the women of Italy. She had Giulia fetch the carving knife from the cupboard. She promised that this knife would finish in Giulia’s heart if ever a New Zealand tread were heard on the stairs. Then Mamma would turn the knife, smoking from her daughter’s blood, on herself: for who knew that even a matron of her age would be safe from ravishing New Zealand soldiery?” OH MAN! So good, and as a bonus, highlights the perversity of New Zealanders.

3. The Plague by Albert Camus

…is considered an existential classic. A few years ago I loved existentialism because I liked how the word looks.

E X I S T E N T I A L I S M

It sounds good when you say it and it can be attributed to almost anything. “Hmmm, that experience I heard you talking about is soooo existential.” Then I read Sartre and barfed all over his ugly face and thought maybe existentialism wasn’t so pretty. Camus was handsome to the point of ironically beautiful. The very picture of French Algerian masculinity. He had tuberculosis but smoked like a chimney and the cigarette was always at a jaunty angle. I love the absurd. And I love Camus and I love The Plague. We have no control, baby. None at all. I think that makes many people sad. It makes me happy.

4. Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis 

…is breathless. I’ll only vouch for the first half, which kicks dick. Bret Easton E’s popular culture references, shot at machine-gun speed, will blow up your mind. The way he lists celebrity names in long sentences is genius. I don’t know how he does it. He just lists celebrity names and creates a huge meaning from the list. It’s just too good. Also, the main character, Victor, is the most vacuous creation ever. Love it. You’re on your own at the point Victor is involved in a lengthy homosexual ménage. It sorta goes downhill at that point. But the first half? Fag-u-lous!

5. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer 

…is long, rambling and shot through with radiance. Set in the South Pacific during WWII. Bummer. It seems as if I have a WWII fetish. It’s going to lead to sexual role-play if I’m not careful.

6. The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton

GK is one of the most fabulous men to ever live. He was big and fat and wore a cape. He loved paradox. This is a good story and two interesting historical figures counted it among their favourites: Michael Collins, famous Irish Republican white terrorist took from the book, if you don’t seem to be hiding, no one will hunt you out. And Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent who sold tons of secrets to the USSR used to give the book to his friends. Good enough for me.

Long Read: Greg Webber on Ridiculous Distortions!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Webber explains why his yet-to-be-built pool will change the game… 

Love is an overbearing, and let it be said overrated, tyrant, although I hardly need to tell any reader this.

Greg Webber, the fifty-six-year-old Australian surfboard shaper and wavepool inventor, is currently disabled by bulging discs in his back, an affliction caused, he says, by the pain of a recent affair gone awry.

Webber offers a complex, and not altogether unconvincing, case for single-sex hierarchies in society and, in retrospect, we spend too long on love, lovers past and present, sexual jealousy, and not long enough on the matters of Kelly’s revival of his banana boards (he was supposed to shape one the day we interview) and his long-promised wavepool.

If you were to examine the scene of the interview via drone (so now), you’d be greeted on your remote screen with an L-shaped couch bound in a leather-look microfibre, Webber dominating the larger portion and the reporter laying sideways on the smaller leg, his phone recorder balanced on a cushion near Webber’s face.

Webber offers a complex, and not altogether unconvincing, case for single-sex hierarchies in society and, in retrospect, we spend too long on love, lovers past and present, sexual jealousy, and not long enough on the matters of Kelly’s revival of his banana boards (he was supposed to shape one the day we interview) and his long-promised wavepool.

On the wall next to the large television, an experimental five-foot-eight-inch long, fifteen-inch wide surfboard with no curve in the outline, though with a banana rocker and a floor-to-ceiling concave, steals the attention.

“I wanted to understand something about planshapes,” he says. “We’ve always had curved boards with curved planshapes. And that stops you from seeing what the core fundamentals are doing. That’s why I do stupid experiments.”

BeachGrit: You were supposed to shape for Kelly today. Tell me why the banana board attracts him so…
Webber: It’s what Kelly feels. It’s more than just a moment. He feels connected to the board from nose to tail. It sounds like a wank to say this but they’re possibly more advanced than what he is. If the best surfer in the world does a turn on a board and it comes underneath his feet with grip and keeps going around in the same direction he was heading but his weight is now over the top of the board, because he’s expecting that turn to be finished, but it’s not flattening off it’s still going, well, that’s a good thing. Because it means he’s got more to do! There’s more arc and tightness of turn available. The design is completely valid and the average surfer will find that out as well. Proof of that is Bob Hurley. He’s a good surfer, sure, but he adores the things! He’s got ten of ‘em now. So it’s ridiculous to say it’s only suited to the best surfer in the world.

Well, how do you ride one of the damn things?
Webber: Forward. Don’t stand on the tail. Stand in the middle. The fins are a bit further forward. You’re standing in the same place for your bottom turns as you are for most of your carve turns. You don’t need to move around, almost at all. If you get a board that has a really broad sweet spot but it has got all these other speed-bite-carve qualities, it means you can start to undersurf a bit and feel the wave differently. Thats what the banana is ideally surfed like. But guess what happens. People get on it and ride it what they’ve been riding a flatter rocker board. You’ve gotta forget about your manoeuvres and just get to know the board by feeling where it fits in the wave. It can ride higher. It can get to places you can’t normally.

Have you designed Kelly a surfboard for his wavepool?
Webber: The banana is exactly that. It’s for the wavepool, depending on whose wavepool. His waves look great but the ones we’ll be doing will be… better.

Has Kelly invited you to ride his pool?
Webber: Nope.

Have you asked him?
Webber: No. I don’t think I’d be allowed.

Do you talk about wavepools together?
Webber: We talked at some length on the Gold Coast. But there’s no way I can mention anything about it.

Why is your pool better?
Webber: Everyone’s gotta realise that there’s no point in being critical of what they’ve built there. If there are drawbacks, like a lot of whitewash and a lot of settling time, it’s irrelevant… But they know they can make a faultless wave. They’ve done the most important thing.

At this point, Webber explains, and does so very well, the difference between soliton-style wavepools (Wavegarden, Slater) and his Kelvin wake pool. In short, his will be better because it has a superior wave rate (a pool has to be commercial), a trough (“You don’t travel the world looking for flat-faced waves,” says Webber) and the ability for the wave to be… customised.

“If you can’t make ridiculous distortions it’s going to get boring. You just can’t provide an A, B and C model. Customising is critical. If you can make a wave go from half-a-metre to two-and-a-half metres in five seconds, that’s a ridiculous distortion. It doesn’t happen in nature. And if you can actually create bulges and lumps and backdoors that you can see coming in towards you, but you haven’t ridden that wave before, that degree of random is going accentuate the whole experience. Before my pool’s done no one will realise how vital it is to throw some shit at people so that you’re never aware of what’s going to happen next.”

Wavegarden, says Webber, will “end up being redundant. They’d be horrified at what Kelly did and and even more fucking horrified when I build my one. (But) only one is going to make money. My one. There’s only one design and it revolves around using the Kelvin wake. It allows us to do 500 waves an hour as a base rate. We can have a ride rate of 5000 rides per hour. That’s fucked up. That’s proper money. “

It’s also a lot of people squeezed into a pool.

“Well, you can do it. It’s a huge pool. Three hundred metres by nearly 200.”

To ride his pool, he says, will cost between three dollars for a three-footer to around ten dollars for a two metre wave with a 10-second cylindrical tube and not the conical tube he says characterises the Slater pool.

“And you’ll start off at one metre and the wave will build to two metres so guys who’ve never surfed tubes that big in their lives will be going, what the fuck?”

Webber says he’s going to skip the working prototype phase and go straight to the completed pool. “Probably in two years,” he says, although he admits he’s been saying “Probably two years” for longer than he’d like.

Webber says the whole process of trying to get his pool built has been “sickening.” All the revenue projections, the engineering reports, the patents.

“All of a sudden your brain is thinking stuff that has nothing to do with the shape of a barrel,” he says. “And that’s the sick bit. Having to change your thinking type and not lose the inspiration. Making this work, and making it work well, paying the shareholders back and well, will give me scope to do a number of other things. Like artificial reefs. Like generating power out of rivers without damning ‘em. Can you imagine how many ridiculous ideas I’ve got? If ten per cent are good, there’ll be at least ten of ‘em. And that will be a happy day.”

(Editor’s note: This story first appeared in an issue of The Surfer’s Journal.)