Back To Top
Beach Grit

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!

The 20 Best Surfers in the World (Part 4)!

Longtom

by Longtom

The final torrid instalment!

Find out why Jordy Smith needs to learn the true meaning of jihad. Why Gabriel Medina’s backflip was evidence of “tectonic stasis rather than progress”. Why the public is a bitch and how it relates to Dane Reynolds. How Kelly Slater accidentally represents the dark side of capitalism and why John John Florence is the necessary catalyst for a renewed tour.

5. Jordy Smith

According to Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the chief architect of salafi jihadism, America is the most decadent culture in human history, obsessed by the pursuit of wealth and luxury, corrupted by a depth of moral licentiousness never before seen. On pain of beheading I respectfully disagree.

I’m sick to death of writing that Jordy has no ticker. You can imagine a thousand pathways to a world title for Jordy but none of them involve winning a showdown at real Pipe.

I find Americans just about the stoutest and staunchest citizens on Earth. My only beef is when Americans use the word cunt. From puritan mouths it sounds queer and mean. It’s a convict term of endearment and it should remain so. That digression because I’m sick to death of writing that Jordy has no ticker. You can imagine a thousand pathways to a world title for Jordy but none of them involve winning a showdown at real Pipe.

Al-Zawahiri’s other intellectual achievement was the sanctification of what he terms “matrydom operations”, a concept our beloved South African/American could borrow when it comes to hucking the ledge at Pipe. Am I saying Jordy needs a bit of jihad in his soul to stiffen his resolve? I guess I am.

4. Gabs Medina

I know people are going to call me a glass half-empty miserable son of a bitch, even though I’m not. In real life I’m cheerful as a sky full of swallows. But I saw the Medina Rio backflip (what, forgotten already?) as a sign of tectonic stasis rather than progress. Flynn Novak pulled it off around the end of the last Ice Age, way back in 2010. That was the era of Kai Neville and the Kustom Airstrike, if you recall. Boat-load of the best progressive surfers on the planet in Indo with Kai cutting edits from it. Hard to believe they haven’t live streamed one like it yet.

Competitively, it was the last opening for a true progressive vision of the sport to emerge. Dane had effectively welded an avant-garde amalgamation of tail-high aerial surfing to brutal power hacks, Kelly had risen to the challenge, bringing new lines and fresh approaches to old venues. Natural heirs like Julian Wilson, Owen Wright and Jordy Smith were ready to punch through the hole into a radical future.

My heart pains to say that judges faced with radical choice cowardly turned back to the conservatism of traditional Aussie power surfing. Dane quit. The historical opening closed. We got Parkinson, Fanning and De Souza. Parker’s Dead Ball Era. In that context Medina could be the last best hope for a radical recurrence.

3. Dane Reynolds

Seen from the perspective of an omniscient, omnipresent narrator Dane’s career shimmers as the ultimate rock-n-roll swindle. Quit the tour on a high and slit the throat of the Quiksilver fatted calf with the biggest payday in history. One that forced the hand of CEO Andrew Mooney to turn away from “athletes”, make Kelly an offer he couldn’t accept and left a bloodless corpse to be picked apart by the vultures of predatory capitalism.

How to kill a company, by Dane Reynolds. Chapter 11: Redemption. Did you thrill,while watching Ch 11, to realise the wilderness hadn’t been empty save cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon but was in fact a dark night of the soul and Dane was now happy and on the other side?

Did you think, like I, that those good ole Ventucky boys Dane grew up with were reading from the book of Right-On when they proclaimed pro surfing as an aberration, a weeping syphilitic chancre on the flaccid cock of modern surfing?

The public are bitches. They turn on you in a heartbeat. In each of us lives a person who wants to be loved for himself or herself and not for his or her abilities, or even qualities. Value per se, intrinsic. A dangerously anti-instrumental, anti-capital orientation. Therein lies the motivation for Ch 11.

I understand panic attacks at pro surfing contests, having suffered a similar malaise for years. It’s a mark of exquisite taste that a man should feel spiritual and physical death descend at these events. Is it now too much to ask that Dane lets C-Kat bring the weird with the falcons and gives us what we want, what we desire from the WSL but rarely receive: raw, elegant brutality, no insipid 75% compromise, innovation? In short, the best surfing in the world. You’re no huckster Dane, so the question is: Is you is or is you ain’t going to bring the fucking gas money for the rest of the trip?

Sincerely L. Tom.

Chapter 11 from Marine Layer on Vimeo.

2. Kelly Slater

Capitalism is an insatiable bitch, is it not comrades? Despite being a digital entrepreneur and a sub-human redneck wastrel I hate it intensely*, more than Noam Chomsky, more than Naomi Klein, more than Yanis Varoufakis, more than Bernie, more even than all the nude hippies in Morning of the Earth smoking chillums in the cave at Ulus.

In the future, the one percent are going to own everything and milk us dry, charging fees on everything. They’re going to shred us all into tiny atomized monsters fighting each other in a bottom-feeding frenzy for scraps of paper trickling down through the gig economy.

The future is five minutes ago in the USA, five minutes away in Oz. Granted, hating capitalism is a fashionable shape to throw in public, one Kelly Slater loves to strike. He loves to swing for the fences with Monsanto who, after all, did nothing more than democratise GM seeds (true). They took jah’s seed and privatised it for profit, he took jah’s wave and did the same thing, in a process he described as “spiritual”.

Funny what folks find anti-depressive. Dark visions thrill me. When I’m down I love to imagine the smoking ruins of capitalism are nigh and the four horsemen wielding burning Merricks are galloping over the hill ready to storm the hated symbol of corporate oppression: the Slater Wave Tub. The blade falls and the surfing prole hoists the white flag of freedom.

Suited greedheads have been eyeing off surfing since the eighties, the seventies even, but we never imagined the person delivering the Judas kiss would be the greatest surfer of all time. Slater has finally achieved what business has yearned for but never been able to achieve: he’s turned the essence of the surfing experience, riding a wave, into a pure transaction. A wave as good to be sold in the free market for profit.

For that, for feeding what was left alive of surfing to the bitch of capitalism, and on behalf of the surfing prole I say: fuck you very much Kelly. Kelly’s legacy is now set in stone, hitched to the wavepool wagon for good or ill.

In the interim, while history arms itself against the rise of the wave-machines and their “unforeseen consequences”, there is a more pressing issue for Kelly to deal with: one last swing at a Title in 2017. Chances? Depends on Snapper. He can’t afford to be dead in the water after the Aussie Leg.

*Still available for freelance gigs. Special South Pacific and wave-tub rates available now! Call me Kelly!

1. JJF

I love it when a writer handles his subject with a cool, light touch, wields the scalpel so deftly the subject doesn’t even feel the hot sting of the blade. But I love it more when passion for the subject overwhelms them, when they lose restraint and start bludgeoning everything in sight like a viking on an orgiastic rampage. That is character. True Character. Like Dell on Israel, Chas on Yemen and Rory on Costco workers.

As for writers, same for musicians and surfers. When they let loose, when are they completely overcome in the moment is when the real shit happens. That’s why watching JJF in Rio and in the Portugal Final was so viscerally satisfying. There was no holding back. No “mind.”

How’d you like your world champ’s year? This’ll be as popular as a turd in the sangria bowl but I found it a tad… under-cooked. The biggest tour cheerleaders would find it hard to spin a narrative claiming the tour brings out the best in JJF. Low-energy lineups orphan his surfing in a haze of opioid indifference.

He sits there, and he waits, and he sits. As for Fiji, apart from round three did he not underwhelm, slightly but ever so surely? Well-beaten twice in succession in perfect six-to-eight-foot surf by Matt Wilko.

More than Pipe, more than Teahupoo, more than any other reefbreak in the world, CB demands a cerebral approach, a constant thinking and rethinking that just seemed to be beyond JJF. Easily surrendered to Fanning in the J-Bay Final, Slater at Chopes.

What he has is the inverse of what Damien Jurado sang about in Return to Maraqopa: Out there is nowhere but inside is endless-taking up room till you run out of space. He has endless space out there but inside is limited.

An algorithm can’t create now, or ever, the kind of surf which elevates him from the amazing to the sublime. What he did in the chaos of Rio, in Portugal, at Pipeline is a supra-intelligent transcending of chaos.

The tour must be restructured, in format and location, to do justice to the talent or suffer the slow burn of potential greatness dying on the vine. The Slater Era is dead. The JJF Era must proceed in a different biosphere. He is the greatest argument for renewal.

Resolution: Leave the 100 ft wave alone!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Andrew Cotton is looking for it... or is he?

Does the dream of a man surfing a 100 ft wave thrill you to pieces or leave you cold and confused?

It leaves me cold and confused!

Oh I don’t mean to take anything away from brave souls combing nautical charts, calculating wind, fetch, ummmm Fletch, in order to find and conquer the biggest waves on earth but the number 100 just seems so arbitrary.

Like, do you remember when Garrett McNamara claimed that he had done it, done the 100 ft, at Nazaré in 2013 but it maybe turned out that it was 60 something? A little embarrassing.

It is impossible to really measure a wave. Isn’t it?

CNN just did a nice story on the fabulous surfer Andrew Cotton that pushes the 100 ft narrative but it seems that Mr. Cotton might not care so much about the number. Let’s read!

Andrew Cotton is on a perpetual quest, the thirst for which he admits will probably never be truly quenched.

Two years ago, the English plumber was fixing dripping taps — now, as a professional surfer, he is tackling the world’s biggest waves.

His obsession is twofold: To beat the unofficial record size of 100 feet high; and to track down treacherous waves in waters that have never been surfed before. Combining the two is the ideal.
“I think what drives me is the biggest wave,” Cotton says. “That’s the dream isn’t it, in a place where you’re not going to have 50 surfers? That’s exciting.”

If he breaks the record, and in uncharted waters … what next?

“The thing about big-wave surfing is that it’s not like you climb Everest and say, ‘That’s me done’,” he says. “There’s lots more Everests to climb; with surfing you have no idea when the bigger wave will come. I’m searching for the biggest wave, and that search is never ending.”

That sounds like the right attitude. It doesn’t really sound like he cares about “100 ft.” That’s CNN’s trip.

The Top 20 surfers in the world (Part 3)!

Longtom

by Longtom

Joel Parkinson through Albee Layer, Ryan Burch and Filipe Toledo!

Are you new to the BeachGrit Global Power Rankings? It’s a top twenty of the best surfers in the world, including those who chase contests, those who chase clips, boy, girl, binary neutral etc. Read part one (surfers 20 to 15, here) and part two (surfers 14 to ten) here. 

And, now…

9. Joel Parkinson

Thoroughbred racehorse being flogged to go around a track one more time. The argument is the CT produces the best surfing on earth, from the best surfers. I argue the opposite: too often the CT forces the best surfers on earth to down tune their surfing to a level of excellent mediocrity, to make heats.

Joel being exhibit A.

He can rack up two sevens all day long. What about a detailed filmic exploration of Joel doing what he does best? Surfing J-Bay. Working title: Portrait of the Artist as Pointbreak Surfer. Set him up for months, allow total freedom of quiver, allow every minutiae of style and technique to reach it’s fullest flower and fruit. Is that a boring concept? Not as boring as watching the great thoroughbred grinding through the low gears of another year or two on tour for diminishing returns.

8. Albee Layer

Take the Snowdonia wave tub victory, add it to the Peahi Finals, under the lip take-offs to otherworldly tube-riding during the El Nino winter, throw in the recent backside 540 and you get a convincing case for Layer being the best surfer in the world over the last two years.

Put him up against Adriano, imagine any surf from two-foot to twenty and tell me who was the best during 2015. That’s no convenient truth for a sport that relies on the production and global acceptance of a continuous series of more or less agreed upon world champions for it’s credibility. John Florence restores the global balance for now but Albee Layer remains a fly in the ointment.

7. Ryan Burch

Hand on heart, I wouldn’t swap my hand-to-mouth existence, economically useless, taxpayer-subsidised higher education, loving family and surfing life at one of Australias best pointbreaks in the most consistent sub-tropical wave zone on earth for a single day of a competitive pro surfer’s life.

The futility of surfing to a subjective criteria and being judged in an incomprehensible manner would bring me to a homicidal/suicidal fury in weeks, even if I had the talent, which I do not.

But there are paid surfer mocassins I would cut a left nut off to walk a mile in. Mostly Ryan Burch’s. Psychic Migrations shat all over View from a Blue Moon, for feels. That South American light, so Californian, but a California with hollow lefts and no strip malls. A better world. Heaven.

I keep imagining that Burch could be the most influential surfer of a generation and I can’t understand why Burch, best surfer-shaper in the world with daylight second, is shaded by androgynous Aussie millenials like Craig Ando in terms of moving picture and editorial coverage.

Can you?

6. Filipe Toledo

When you have the world on a string, like Toledo had in 2015, with a small/medium wave game that simply erased opponents like irrelevant amateurs then you keep doing what your doing, right? And fill in the missing pieces with the hollow lefts. Which he was on the way to doing.

But last year was mystifying. Take the injury out of the equation and he mostly tried to power surf to victory, with a few rare exceptions. What is that: a failure of will, of strategy, of intelligence in the Toledo camp?

Judges had already lost their marbles for him, no need for him to look backwards and try and meet them halfway back along a path he needed not traverse.

Daddy Toledo, take your boy back to 2015. Follow that template. There’s your Title.