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Beach Grit

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.)

WSL CEO Paul Speaker: “It’s incredible fun!”

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Are you ready for a dance hall remix of WSL CEO Paul Speaker's most banging quotes?

When ever I get a little down I just Google WSL CEO Paul Speaker then click on his Bloomberg interview and read and suddenly my frown turns upside down!

The co-owner of professional surfing says many transformative things and I’ve shared some before but since he is too big a pansy to talk with me in person I feel like sharing some again but like a remix. Like I’m a fantastic DJ. Like we are all in an Ibiza dance hall. Ready?

Drop the beat Paul Speaker!

“I was an economics major. I loved the people but could not wait to go make money.”

“I worked on Super Mario Bros. for 18 months. It was a game changer for me.”

“I saw that the surf tour needed help, so I flew to Australia to meet with the board of the Association of Surfing Professionals. It was almost a year of negotiation.”

“I was an economics major. I loved the people but could not wait to go make money.”

“I was an economics major. I loved the people but could not wait to go make money.”

“I loved the people but could not wait to go make money.”

“Could not wait to go make money.”

“I worked on Super Mario Bros. for 18 months. It was a game changer for me.”

“We’re the governing body of professional surfing—we changed the name to WSL last year—from junior programs up to our world championship tour. It’s incredible fun.”

“Showing up is really important: for family, for negotiations, for difficult conversations.”

“I worked on Super Mario Bros. for 18 months. It was a game changer for me.”

“They’d done some official Olympic winter sports videos. I wrote them letters saying I could ski backward and hold a camera.”

“I was an economics major. I loved the people but could not wait to go make money.”

“I worked on Super Mario Bros. for 18 months. It was a game changer for me.”

“We’re the governing body of professional surfing—we changed the name to WSL last year—from junior programs up to our world championship tour. It’s incredible fun.”

“I was an economics major. I loved the people but could not wait to go make money.”

“Showing up is really important: for family, for negotiations, for difficult conversations.”

“I was an economics major. I loved the people but could not wait to go make money.”

“I worked on Super Mario Bros. for 18 months. It was a game changer for me.”

“I was class vice president, editor of the yearbook and newspaper, and head of the float and prom committees.”

“We’re the governing body of professional surfing—we changed the name to WSL last year—from junior programs up to our world championship tour. It’s incredible fun.”

“It’s incredible fun.”

Just in: Wavegarden to get reboot!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Wavegarden redundant? The Betamax of surf? Maybe not!

Don’t expect well-reported stories from newspapers during the Christmas-New Year period. No one’s there. No one’s picking up a phone to check sources. No one’s doing much except rewriting stories fed to ’em.

Yesterday, The Australian‘s Western Australian bureau chief reported an “exclusive” headed Olympic surfers to get a home break with artificial waves. It was the sort of story you’d stitch together in five minutes from a press release while you shovel leftover cake down your throat.

Usually The Australian tosses its surf-based stories to my ol pal Fred Pawle and you get a sharpened eye on it. Fred’s on holidays. Saw him hacking a little left ten minutes after I read the story.

It took me a few reads to understand what the “exclusive” was about. One normally impeccable surf news site thought it had just announced three wavepools for the use of Australia’s Olympic contestants.

While in America the Olympic conversation around surfing has been short and kept to the niche, Oz is preparing to take their national pastime to the bronze, silver and gold frontier. And if Australia’s already taking steps towards artificial training grounds we wonder what clandestine movements are being pushed forth in the beloved totalitarian countries.

That ain’t happening.

Essentially, it’s a story designed to reheat interest in Wavegardens for Melbourne, Sydney and Perth via Wavegarden’s new design called The Cove. Wavegarden aren’t stupid. As Matt Warshaw said when the Slater pool (partly) revealed itself in December 2015, “Wavegarden just went Betamax! Wavegarden execs are standing on office building ledges, crying, looking down at the sidewalk!”

So this is it. The Wavegarden reboot called The Cove. Smaller footprint. Better design. Apparently.

Never heard of it? Yeah, me neither. That’s ’cause the details aren’t being released until February.

So I rang Ryan “Callighan” who was quoted in the story as riding the new tank in October.

“It’s pretty… crazy,” said Ryan, before tapping out to call someone to find out if he was actually allowed to talk about it. He said he’d signed a waiver not to take photos. Not real sure about talkies. It was midnight in Europe when I called Ryan so he told me we gotta wait till Wavegarden’s media people wake up to see if we get the ok or the not ok.

And reheat interest means, are those three pools really happening?

One year ago, I reported the banker-turned-surf-entrepreneur Andrew Ross promising he’d sprinkle Australia with the fairy dust of wavepoolsI had a little fun with the corp-speak on the website which made Mr Ross so sad he won’t come to the phone to talk to BeachGrit anymore. Later, there was the comic scenario of being offered an interview with Mr Ross by his PR gal, saying yes, then being told he was having dinner then immediately flying overseas.

Everyone, including us, reports the press releases from URBSURF, formerly Wave Park Group, a little too breathlessly, although by the time of the third announcement we were getting a little worn down.

(Read that here.)

Construction of the Melbourne pool was supposed to start in the back half of 2016 for a late 2017 opening. Then it was an early 2017 start for a late, late 2017 opening.

Like, when?

So I started calling councils, then Melbourne airport who owns the land where the tank is going, to see if the approvals had gone through. Turns out Melbourne is still a dream. A beautiful dream, sure, but no shovels have hit the dirt yet.

I called the PR gal, Sasha Jones, who deals with URBSURF’s press enquiries but was told she was overseas too and could only reply to emails. Did you know portable telephones are an Australia-only phenomenon?

I asked:

Is this a new design? Yes this is a new shape of lagoon which got its very first run worldwide in the Oz today. We are waiting for the Spaniards to release the full package of information in early February we hope.
Can you tell me when work begins at the Essendon site? Melbourne is still in heavy fundraising mode, but we hope to break ground in the first quarter of this year.
 And is Melville any closer? Perth is also still a work in progress, although not a guarantee. The City of Melville has the site advertised right now for expressions of interest for alternative uses and URBNSURF is getting a lot of positive feedback about Perth’s interest in it being located there. But it’s still a process and we have to wait patiently until late January when that next hurdle can be jumped.
And, the follow-up questions.
You mention fundraising. Are you still chasing investors? How much do you need to raise? How much is left? The capital raising for URBNSURF Melbourne is underway and proceeding well. There is a great deal of interest in the opportunity from Australian based high net worth, sophisticated investors, who also surf.  It wouldn’t be appropriate to provide more details at this point.

Last year you said, Melbourne was going to start its build in the latter half of 2016. Then early 2017, with a late 2017 opening. Is this still likely to happen? We decided in mid-2016 to pivot to the latest iteration of Wavegarden wave generating technology, which has only just become available to exclusive partners and has not yet been revealed publicly. This required resubmission of our planning documents and the obtaining of a new approval. Consequently, construction is now due to commence in the first half 2017, with first waves likely to be produced by year end, and the facility open to the public in first half of 2018.

What stage, exactly, is Sydney at? Have approvals been lodged? A lease of the site at Sydney Olympic Park was signed in September. The development application is being prepared and is due to be submitted to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment in March 2017.

Can you tell me anymore about The Cove design? The Cove creates a variety of wave types in a smaller footprint than the Lagoon. These include up to 2.1m high barrels, with rides of 18 seconds in duration, at a frequency of 1,000+ waves per hour (i.e. one wave every 4 seconds). There is no other technology like it that can match wave quality, frequency and variability, guest capacity and cost. The Cove has been built at full scale and was tested by the world’s best surfers last October.

(The world’s best surfers are Ryan Callinan, Julian Wilson and Josh Kerr, by the way.)

I wondered what Greg Webber, a vocal critic of the Wavegarden and Slater Wave Co “soliton” design, would say.

Well, first, the wave-rate increase is a good thing, he says. It means it’ll make it easier to swing a profit. Second, unless it deals with the inherent problem of a fat wave face, it’ll be squashed when the Webber pool debuts.

“Kelly and Wavegarden still have an inherent issue with their patented technology,” says Webber. “They’ve gotta stick to what they’ve patented or there’s no protection and their investment.”

His own pools, he says, are close to reality in New Jersey and Florida.

And when that happens? “They’ll give up,” says Webber. “I know it’ll smash them. We’re going to make stuff that’s going to finish the rest of them off. I’m completely certain of that.”

(Note: There’ll be an update of this story if Ryan Callinan’s lips are unsealed…)

Webber Wave Pools – Soliton Wave vs Kelvin Wave Technology from Webber Wave Pools on Vimeo.

 

 

Alex Smith channels the people’s champ!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Is it a sin to say that someone surfs like Andy Irons? Is Alex Smith a sinner?

I’ve thought for many years that Alex Smith surfs Andy Irons-esque. That he possesses the same sort of unnecessary ferocity. That’s what always struck me about Andy’s surfing. He wouldn’t just hit the lip he would aim to blow the entire business up. Like he wanted to tear a hole in the ocean.

And watch Alex do the same in this very short clip. It runs just under 60 seconds and is this the future of the surf programming I wonder? Have our collective attention spans become Instagram length?

If so, brilliant!

Or like my great grandpappy used to say, “Long shit is boring n shit.”