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Surfing: Not as racist as you think!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Think surfing ain't diverse? Think again!

Surfing has a reputation, I think, for being a very white thing. Oh sure there are Brazilians and Fijians and Hawaiians and Tahitians and Indonesians but the outward facing representation is, more often than not, a blonde boy with blue eyes and pouty lips.

In Southern California, where I live, “ethnic diversity” is not the first thought that pops into my head when I paddle out each and every other day.

And it would be easy to think that surfing here is mostly white but guess what? It isn’t! A new story in LeBron James’s website The Undefeated is titled Black People Don’t Surf? This Org Proves That’s Not True.

Let’s read a few sections!

Four years ago, Detroit native Mimi Miller had never been in the ocean. Now she’s a devoted bodyboarder, surfer and volunteer for the Black Surfers Collective — a group that, according to its mission, raises cultural awareness and promotes diversity in the sport of surfing through community activities, outreach and camaraderie.

On Aug. 12, you could find Miller standing on the shoreline of Los Angeles’ Santa Monica State Beach, clapping and cheering on newcomers who took part in the collective’s monthly free lessons to introduce black people to surfing, called Pan African Beach Days.

Miller and the rest of the collective’s members are part of the proud if lesser-known tradition of black surfing, which some would argue goes back to native Hawaiians (descendants of Polynesians), who are credited with inventing the sport in the first place. Among the legendary surf icons are Montgomery “Buttons” Kaluhiokalani, a black Hawaiian whom Surfer magazine called “the father of modern day surfing.”

L.A. has its own lore, beginning with black surf pioneer Nick Gabaldon, who frequented the Inkwell Beach in Santa Monica in the 1940s, where black beachgoers congregated during segregation. Also, the late Dedon Kamathi, a radio host and onetime Black Panther, was a surfing devotee, as was police abuse victim Rodney King.

Pan African Beach Day was launched a few years ago because too few black people in L.A. get to the beach, and they don’t always have a background in swimming to enjoy the water, Rachal explained. He credited the Surf Bus Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes ocean sports and safety in L.A., for helping make Beach Day a success by supplying the boards, instructing students and providing additional volunteers. Beach Days are open to anyone, although most participants are people of color.

So very wonderful but could we back up just a touch. Rodney King was a surfer?

Mr. King was made famous for getting beaten by a pile of white police officers in 1992. Their subsequent acquittal led to the massive Los Angeles riots. He sued the city of Los Angeles and won 3.8 million dollars which he used to start a record label.

From 1993 on he got busted lots for drunk driving, won some celebrity boxing bouts and appeared on various reality television shows.

In 2012 his body was discovered at the bottom of a swimming pool. Toxicology reports declared a combination of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine contributed to his drowning.

A surfer indeed!

Watch: How Jordy Smith came to own J-Bay!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

"Jordy Smith is the best surfer at Jeffreys Bay," says Joel Parkinson. Yes?

In the film below, we’re gifted a five-minute short on Jordy Smith and his relationship with Jeffreys Bay, funded by his sponsor Red Bull, and made by Sage Erickson’s stud Jacob Woden.

Joel Parkinson is interviewed and says Jordy is the best surfer there, something the remote observer might call into question after Filipe Toledo’s dominant performance one month ago. 

We stand cheek by jowl with his dad Graham and his pal Chad du Toit as Jordy makes a perfect heat before, in the words of Red Bull, “a string of strange occurrences conspired against him” and he finished fifth.

The strangest occurrence might’ve been Jordy’s own conservatism during the event. As was reported here, an analysis of his performance revealed a deeply risk-averse approach.

Let’s recap.

Jordy Smith is the worst safety surfer on tour. I went through every single one of his scoring waves and gave every turn a number from 1-10. Ten was the highest-risk turn, the most radical and zero was, well, falling off or doing nothing.

As a reference point, Jordy’s standard top-turn wrap, a turn he can do with zero risk 99.99% of the time, was assigned a five. This was painstaking, tedious work. Out of 85 counted turns, 17 scored in the excellent range (eight and above) and eight of those came in a single heat (round five resurf against Conner Coffin, Jordy’s best heat by a mile).

Jordy’s average turn score came in at a very safe 6.22. That is, safe surfing.

Jordy’s camp can rail against this and shoot the messenger or they can do the analysis themselves and face the reality. Absent an angry, belligerent Jordy, what we get is safe, low energy surfing.

The highlight of the film might be Jordy’s suggestion that Nelson Mandela, looking down from the paradise of the afterlife, gifted him two perfect waves.

Whatever, the short is enough to make you want to hitch your pyjama pants and jump a bird to J-Bay.

Mystery: 5 Waves That Just Disappeared!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Can waves be decommissioned? Surf media says yes!

Just two days ago, I saw a husky old-timer who asked me if I’d like to buy some digital photos.

The description of his photographs sounded wonderful. It was a sequence and featured a young, and fairly it, surfer descending the ladder into a big tube.

“Ours,” I asked.

“Yeah,” he replied, looking like an awful wreck.

“Couldn’t sell ’em to Surfline,” I asked?

“They don’t want anything from Ours,” he said.

Oh I knew.

Ours is a casualty of the media game where waves, like surfers, shine and blink like satellites, before, eventually, being decommissioned and forgotten.

And photographers trying to sell images of the following waves are worse than toothaches.

Let’s see if you can remember the following:

#1 Ours (RIP 2016): The Red Bull contest there last year was very good, but you might have to travel to a  European or South American print magazine to find any current images of that spectacular, and very hard to surf, wave.

#2 P-Pass (RIP 2015): Do you remember, and maybe you won’t being twelve years old, when this Micronesian reef was everywhere, when north swells shadowed by little wind created an exodus of surfers and photographers on Continental Airlines? P-Pass peaked with DJ Struntz-Andy Irons a decade ago, although it was a sorta buy with mags, websites until two years ago. This post is the last recorded feature on P-Pass. 

# 3 Lances Right aka Hollow Trees (RIP 2010): Before P-Pass there was a relatively easy to surf righthand point-to-ledge in the Mentawai Islands. Lance’s greatest gift was its proximity too the afternoon sun, the light gaily illuminating the tube every afternoon. Perfect for photographers soused on Indonesian beer and shooting from a large boat.

Peter Frieden’s epic photo of Lance’s Rights.

#4 Cloud 9 (RIP 1999): The jewel in a Filipino crown of thorns that breaks thirty days a year. Tortured a thousand surf photographers and pro’s, who didn’t figure out you need a monsoon for any sorta swell to light it up, until its unsurprising demise at the turn of the century.

# 5 Mundaka (RIP 2009): So fun, but so never breaks!

What waves do you think will decommissioned next?

Nazaré, obviously, but what else?

Podcast: Rory Parker x Zach Weisberg!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

A podcast gift from Santa's big red bag!

Some mornings I wake up glum. It is cloudy, I am tried, spent, the surf is flat, there is no funny surf news, there are no professional surf contests, there will be nothing on television that evening and the covers got pulled off in the middle of the night and I spent the whole thing half asleep and cold.

Other mornings I wake up and Rory Parker has interviewed Zach Weisberg on his podcast Everything is Always Terrible.

Of course you know Rory Parker, the one time BeachGrit contributor who left in a blaze of very hurt feelings. And of course you know Zach Weisberg, the founder of Venice-adjacent’s favorite parkour website The Inertia.

Together?

Like Christmas!

The last time Rory Parker stopped by BeachGrit he explained “Why I quit.” A snippet?

In the beginning there were lots of kind words about being ‘partners’ and a ‘team,’ but when push came to shove they made it clear they’d always considered me an independent contractor.
I should’ve quit then, but I let Derek talk me into hanging around with a bunch of vague promises. Because I truly enjoyed writing for BG. It was fun.

Until it wasn’t anymore.

If I’m being totally honest, a few kind words would have been enough to keep me around. But that was too much to ask for.

Chas loves to play up the fact that he’s an unpleasant person. And he truly is. Rather than being a partner in the site I loved I found myself working, for free, for someone I can’t stand.

I had been begging for this sort of honesty since “Rory Parker” left the byline and wanted to further explore so quickly emailed him and said I would come onto his podcast and we could talk lots about. He asked, “Why would I do that?” To which I confusedly responded, “To get more listeners?”

His answer was, “I’m happy with the listeners that I have.”

Hmmmm and the very definition of an echo chamber. All fine and good but I still want Rory to have more listeners so let’s listen in on him and Zach!

I skipped around a bit, I’ll be honest, and heard some talk about racism, coffee, diabetes and wrestling. It was a conversation between two very like-minded men with slightly different approaches to life. Rory sounds upbeat. Zach sounds like he knows he accidentally created Venice-adjacent’s favorite parkour website and hates himself for it every day.

The only moment that gave me pause was when Rory discussed not wanting to be “friends” with professional surfers because when he covered the Pipe contest for BeachGrit he sat in the bleachers for hours and it was boring.

I may be unpleasant but would have gladly told him that no one sits in the bleachers at Pipe especially not professional surfers or anyone even remotely related to professional surfing for that matter. Fun means crashing the various houses one by one and drinking their beers.

But to each his own, I suppose, and listen here to the rest!

Existential: Thinkings best surfer!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Which famous philosopher would rule the waves? Let's ponder!

There is a new book out this month called Surfing with Sarte by author Aaron James, an “avid surfer and professor of philosophy.” It combines pop philosophy with surfing. Obviously. National Public Radio writes:

James tackles many of philosophy’s age-old conundrums — How do we know we exist? Are the things we sense real? — but he’s more concerned with a pragmatic issue: How do we balance labor and creativity, work and leisure, while living in a capitalist system that pulls and prods us toward an ideal of efficiency? His answer is simple, yet nuanced, and he delivers it in a refreshing way that eludes moralizing. “In the surfer’s easy self-transcendence, she remains herself, desires and all, but becomes attuned to things beyond herself.” Taking his own advice, he infuses Surfing with Sartre with just the right mix of personal insight and universal scope.

Etc. Etc. You get it, right? Cute. But the title made me wonder. Who is really thinkings best surfer? Surfings best thinker is… who would you say? Who is the smartest surfer out there? I’d say Matt Warshaw. He went to Berkley n shit.

Thinkings best surfer is a little more difficult though. Sarte looked like this…

…oh those googly eyes! He would be dropping in on everyone because how could he even begin to see? Or maybe he would never drop in because he would see both the far left and far right at the same time. In either case he wouldn’t be thinkings best surfer.

What about Immanuel Kant? His categorical imperative would be fun to abuse in the lineup and if he ever got in the way you could scream, “Facking Kant!” in a neat British accent.

Nietzsche would übermensch every wave to himself and look at his moustache…

…he would for sure ride a very heavy self-shaped thing that would hurt when he plowed into you.

Ludwig Wittgenstein would live in a nifty farm and probably end up stealing your girl..

Bertrand Russell would bum you out, Martin Heidegger would bore the shit out of you but it would be fun to call him a “boozy beggar”, Simone de Beauvoir might be a good time but I’m going to say Foucault. He would rule any scene, even Da Pipeline, through a perfect combination of knowledge and power but more importantly look at that breezy smile!

But who do you think? Do you disagree?