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Beach Grit

Radical: Surfing mag’s scorched earth!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Rumors of Surfing magazine's demise swirl but are they taking everyone down as they go? Brilliant!

I will always have the softest spot in my crusty heart for Surfing magazine. The powers allowed my to ply my trade there for a few years. Expectations for my output were kept low. I stumbled trying to clear them. Nobody got angry. Just smiles (I think). And so it saddens me to hear the swirling rumors of its imminent demise.

But look at them go out! Today they brought back the smartest man they ever employed to stick an intelligent nail in the sponsored surfer’s coffin.

Ooooooeeeeeeeeeee!

I read the title SHOULD SURF BRANDS RENT PROFESSIONAL SURFERS and must admit that I thought it might be an Inertia piece or some satirical bit of nonsense. Then I read the first few paragraphs:

Why do surfers get sponsored, anyway? In theory it’s because they project a cool lifestyle punctuated by ripping in places you’d rather be. Brands pay to rent the cool. We buy a T-shirt and the cycle starts over.

So now we’re told the cycle is rusting — why? When in the history of mankind has it been easier to “project a cool lifestyle” than today? The answer is: not ever. Food bloggers do it. Tweens do it. Your phone does it for you out of the box. A pile of billion-dollar apps exists just to make all our self-promotion turnkey.

For surfers, whose lifestyle actually is cool, even without cropping and a filter, this stuff should be child’s play. Now should be their golden age of super-distributed flaunting. So what’s the problem?

Maybe it is the economy. Maybe it’s weak sales. But maybe it’s a lack of ingenuity too. Maybe we just need some new models for sponsorship — new ways to play the game. It’s 2016. Cats on YouTube have talent agents. There must be ways to get Parker Coffin paid.

How? Let’s just think a minute.

What? So smart! So well written! I had to sprint to the end of the article to see it was written by the elusive Stuart Cornuelle. Rumor has it that he executive edited Surfing during the magazine’s salad years before retreating to a Zen monastery in rural Japan.

Anyhow, the piece goes on to discuss various models of sponsorship that make more business sense and if brand managers/executives read it they will certainly scratch their stubbly chins and say, “Hmmmmmmmm….” right before drying Joel Parkinson’s money completely up.

Do I think Joel Parkinson deserves his money? No!

Am I thrilled that he gets it? Yes!

Unwarranted riches are what make surfing fun! Wheelbarrowing money into a talented child’s house with no expectation of return makes surfing fun! And if the surf industry ever got practical, got smart, then nothing would ever be fun again!

But I completely tip my cap to Stu and Surfing‘s proposals which include forcing pros to achieve benchmarks in order to get paid, a pay-as-you-go model amongst others that would definitely gut every pro surfer’s paycheck save…. John John Florence. And… Gab Medina (as long as Brazilian men continue to shave their armpits) (click here to read all the proposals!)

I tip my cap because son of a bitch it is well-written in a sea of blah! Also, the scorched earth policy is the most entertaining brand of warfare. Watch them take each surfer then each brand down as they circle the drain! Entertainment par excellence! And at the end isn’t that the only thing that really matters?

Jewel: Warshaw’s History of Surfing!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Matt Warshaw is an artist producing in his absolute prime. Come marvel!

I get v v v v v v v v vvvv bored with myself sometimes. With my own addled mind. Look at me. Just poking at this or poking at that. Poking at the dear Cori Shcumacher or Sharkbanz or The Inertia or WSL CEO Paul Speaker….. Don’t I have anything better to do? Better to write? Something real to contribute to this world?

Duuuuuuuust in the wind. All I am is dust in the wind.

So thank God for Matt Warshaw! He graduated with honors from Berkley with a degree in history. Did you know that? Did you know that he doesn’t just pretend to be smart but actually is? And his writing style… I tell you what, when I read Matt Warshaw it is like drinking a delicious cold-pressed green juice. Like eating an organic free range duck l’orange.

His work nourishes the soul and will be around forever and he just added a whole new series. The History of Surfing!

Just read from Chapter 1 as Matt takes us through surfing’s earliest Peruvian roots…

The caballito reed boat was probably invented around 3000 bc, as tiny coastal enclaves of northern Peru coalesced into larger, more complex villages and communities. Traders used the caballito to move goods short distances along the coast, while fisherman used it as a roving nearshore platform. Peru’s coastline is essentially barren, but the chilly eastern edge of the Humbolt Current—a massive nutrient-rich gyre moving counterclockwise through the South Pacific—is more or less a solid wriggling mass of anchovy and sardines. Fishing was, and remains, a Peruvian necessity.

The caballito is organic and decomposes quickly, so there are no examples from even fifty years ago, much less any from antiquity. Used daily, a caballito remains seaworthy for about six weeks, at which point the reeds turn mushy. The outer layers are then replaced, or the entire craft is thrown away. The modern caballito is thought to be built along much the same lines, using the same techniques, as those made thousands of years ago. Fresh-cut totora bunches are spread out to dry for three or four weeks, during which time the reeds stiffen and change color from green to brown-speckled beige. Hundreds of reed pieces are lashed together into component parts, which form the long front-tapered “mother” pieces, two of which are then placed side-by-side and bound together. As the final set of girdling ropes are installed, the prow is given its familiar dagger-like lift, which allows the caballito to navigate through the surf without nosing under. A rectangular storage area for nets, floats, and the catch itself is hollowed out near the back. The paddle is made from a single thick piece of horizontally-cut bamboo. An average caballito is 12 feet long by 2 feet wide and weighs 90 pounds, and it has the same awkward portability of a full-sized canoe. The ancient Egyptian papyrus raft, which predates the caballito by a thousand years, was a surprisingly similar craft, with its multi-bundle reed construction and raised prow.

If today’s caballito closely resembles those of antiquity, the mechanics of its use are likely the same, too. In Huanchaco, a Conquistador-founded town north of Trujillo and Chan Chan, the caballito remains the fisherman’s craft of choice. Along with the rest of Peru’s west-facing coast, the beach at Huanchaco is almost always blanketed in a light salt-tinged haze, the result of the cool Humbolt Current surface water evaporating and condensing as it glides past a warm shoreline. A concrete boardwalk fronts the beach, and local fishermen now paddle out wearing polyester soccer jerseys and surf trunks, but the scene is often shrouded in a kind of grayish prehistoric gloom.

A caballito will flex slightly as its owner heaves it into the crook between head and shoulder and then grunts his way down the beach to water’s edge. Huanchaco has no harbor or breakwater, but the waves at the base of a long point in the middle of town are always smaller and gentler than the beaches to either side. This is where the fishermen put in. Kneeling or straddling the caballito, he grips the bamboo paddle and uses a kayak-style stroke to push through the incoming surf and out to the fishing groups just offshore. On the return trip, some paddle to the beach during lulls. Those who ride waves do so carefully and directly, dipping the paddle into the water to maintain balance as necessary. The flipped-up bow prevents the caballito’s nose from pearling under while being pushed to shore, and the motion is simple, smooth, and unvaried. Wipeouts are rare. Only in recent decades, as the caballito became a beachside attraction, have the Huanchaqueros put a bit of showmanship into the routine, raising the paddle overhead, or trimming at an angle across the wave, and occasionally even standing up.

I mean…. I mean…… “grayish prehistoric gloom?” “…a massive nutrient-rich gyre moving counterclockwise through the South Pacific?” “A caballito will flex slightly as its owner heaves it into the crook between head and shoulder and then grunts his way down the beach to water’s edge?”

It’s art! All of it! Art!

Thank God for Matt Warshaw!

Go here for your own nourished soul.

But wait? You feel like some more Chas Smith? Oh gladly! Just close your eyes. Only for a moment and the moment will be gone real quick. All my dreams will pass before your eyes of curiosity!

(Hint: My dreams usually involve poking at the beloved Cori Shroomactor, poking at Sharkbanz, poking at The Inertia and poking at WSL CEO Paul Speaker. Duuuuuuuuust in the wind!)

BeachGrit TV: We wish this was!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

The Lone Wolfs do it so damned good. Come watch Eden Saul of The Dead Kooks!

Derek and I give it the college try with BeachGrit TV. We really do. And someday it’ll be good. Our DIY thing will shine etc. And we promise no Cori Shumcacher ever again etc. Ever. Again. And. But. Ummm.

We both know how difficult “television” is to make. Neither of us are comfortable in front of a camera. Each of us run to the corners (off screen in “television” speak) as quickly as we can. Etc. But we promise no Cori Schoolmaker ever again etc. Ever. Never.

But the fact that we did once have Cori Spinnaker on a podcast and we do accidentally not make it to the corners quick enough shows how easy it is to go wrong.

And enter The Lone Wolfs. They do it all right from guest to timing to filming to host to…. everything. Come watch what surf TV should look like. This episode features Eden Saul of The Dead Kooks.

Oh you’ll enjoy every minute because it is actually good. I legitimately laughed at the end.

Warshaw: “My Fav Surf Brawlers!”

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

And how he was once rewarded, post-fight, with a lifetime supply of cocaine!

Have you ever read Matt Warshaw’s History of Surfing? Oowee, it’s thorough. A quarter-of-million words spread over 500 pages and, according to Amazon, a “true category killer.”

But who reads books anymore, am I right?

Yesterday, Warshaw released a first instalment of the book’s contents online. Click here and you’ll be gifted the first two sections, the birth of surfing all the way to the early days of the North Shore. The other chapters will be dropped piece by piece over the course of the year.

Anyway, what was a conversation about history turned into a back and forth about surf brawlers, Warshaw’s favourites, how he was once cuckolded by a relative of Robert Kennedy and, in a separate instance, rewarded with a lifetime supply of cocaine after being mistakenly punched.

Read below.

BeachGrit: You a brawler?
Warshaw: No. A non-brawler from a long line of non-brawlers. My Jewish forebears ran off the Steppe years ahead of the invading hoards just to avoid any physical business.

I know you’re a man of distinction, owner of horn-rimmed glasses, live in a fog of perpetual white guilt there in Seattle, but no man is immune from our caveman past. Reveal, for me, those times when you’ve had to tamper down a burning desire to kill someone…

I was cuckolded by a Kennedy, RFK’s youngest if memory serves. Never met him, but he picked the phone up one morning when I called my girlfriend, and it stove in my world, and for a year or so after I spun out some pretty elaborate torture fantasies.

Kevin and I face off, and I’m sort of talking to him, not particularly worried, thinking it ain’t gonna happen, and next thing I’m my hands and knees, glasses sliding across the sidewalk, bottom lip burst open. One punch done. My pals who were supposed to jump in I guess were as surprised as I was, and faded into the crowd.

Ever put your fists up?

No. Almost. A guy I knew thought I was hitting on his girl at a party, and he called me out. Couple of friends were in my ear right away saying, “Hey man, don’t worry, if Kevin swings we’ll jump him.” So out we all go to the driveway. Kevin and I face off, and I’m sort of talking to him, not particularly worried, thinking it ain’t gonna happen, and next thing I’m my hands and knees, glasses sliding across the sidewalk, bottom lip burst open. One punch done. My pals who were supposed to jump in I guess were as surprised as I was, and faded into the crowd. Kevin and I had always been friendly, we’d surfed together a hundred times, and a couple days later he figured out that I wasn’t in fact hitting on his girl, it was somebody else. This was Manhattan Beach, 1982, and Kevin was an aspiring coke dealer. So next time he sees me, he fall over himself apologizing, and sets me up with a huge bump. For two years after that, ever time we ran into each other at a party, it was off to the bathroom. He overcompensated, if anything.

Historically, who are surfing’s most lively brawlers?
Johnny-Boy Gomes would be the most famous. Some of the Narrabeen guys in the ’70s, but we’d have to ask Nick Carroll about that. California surfer Gene “Tarzan” Smith, back in the ‘30s and ‘40s, was pretty dedicated to knocking heads. I believe he went out expressly looking to fight, the way other guys go out looking for pussy. Brock Little had a bit of that in him too, although I never saw it. Brock was so good at separating the different sides of his life.

Can you list Sunny Garcia’s most golden moments?
There’s a clip online of Sunny slapping Neco Padaratz’s head at Pipe, then chasing him up the beach into the bushes. I like that one because, like the story I just told, Sunny and Neco ended up friends. The fight at Burleigh (second clip below) hd something to do with Sunny’s kid. I don’t recall exactly. But anything having to do with your child puts violence in a different light. Somebody fucks your kid, right or wrong, all bets are off.

Is there a particular culture that celebrates surf fights? I know the Balinese do like a raucous gang bang, so to speak. Whereas the French will throw their arms up in the air, but rarely throw a punch.
I’m so afraid of fighting, or even being around it, that I won’t surf places that have a reputation for violence. I’m a short drive away from one of the greatest point breaks in the world, in Oregon, but the locals make the Bay Boys look like angry toddlers, so I’ll never surf there. Velzyland, back when I used to go to Hawaii, I would paddle out at daybreak then paddle in as soon the first local showed up. On the other hand, all my life I’ve cozied up to the enforcers at my local break. Never had anybody actually fight on my behalf, but I’d get mouthy now and then knowing that the gnarly guy a few yards to my right would jump in if necessary. Unlike my buddies at that party. Fuck, it is all pretty caveman out there in the water, still, isn’t it? Pussy cavemen were no doubt looking for protection from the local heavies just the way I did at Taraval Street, in San Francisco. Whatever gets you more waves, I guess.

All my life I’ve cozied up to the enforcers at my local break. Never had anybody actually fight on my behalf, but I’d get mouthy now and then knowing that the gnarly guy a few yards to my right would jump in if necessary.

Does it ever surprise you how… few… fights there are in the water? Why? Are we, essentially, cowards?
It does surprise me. We puff our chests a lot, and talk shit, but I’ve been surfing coming up on 50 years and can count on one hand the number of fights I’ve seen. Maybe two hands.

What would it take, right now, for you to punch someone in the water?
Nothing could make me throw a punch in the water. A half-century of personal surfing non-violence is what I’m shooting for.

Revealed: Rob Machado can’t swim!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

The world's most handsome goofy foot admits to a deeply hidden secret!

Some of my favorite days of the month are when I bump into Rob Machado at the market. Both of us shopping. Him growing more and more regal with age. Me with two bottles of vodka in my cart and packages of nitrate-free salami.

I bumped into him last evening at the market. Rob’s smile, if you have never seen it up close, is like the Buddha’s. Serene. Peaceful. Content. I asked him, “Do you think it is better to be dumb and know that you are dumb or to be dumb and not know it?”

The conversation turned, slightly, toward having enough general sense to be able to survive. Rob said, “I don’t even know how to swim but if you drop me at second reef Pipe I’m sure I’ll figure out how to get to the beach.”

“Really?” I responded “You really don’t know how to swim?”

“I mean kind of…” he said, “…but not well at all.”

And how’s that. Rob Machado can’t swim well. He is a Pipeline Master.

My take away? It is 2017 and we can be whatever we want to be. Spread those wings and soar!