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Yemen: The river of dreams!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Chapter 3: Or when Sam George rides in and saves the day.

(I am writing a series about Yemen because what is currently happening there is terrible beyond. My inaction disgusts me and so I am going to introduce you to to the country because… the place, people, culture all deserve to be saved. We’ll get into the meat next but just one more meander about how we all actually got to Yemen in the first place…)

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

My best friend, J., and I both surfed albeit poorly. I had grown up in coastal Oregon. He had grown up in rural Minnesota. But still. Once surfing truly enters a life, maybe even especially coastal Oregonian and rural Minnesotan lives, it reorients most things. Where to live, where to go to school, when to… not work and where to travel. And after 9/11 all I wanted to do was travel to Yemen and surf.

We didn’t know anything about the coastline other than what we could piece together from old maps and rare Internet posts. It seemed surfers, or windsurfers at least, had been to the island of Soqotra that hovered closer to Somalia than Yemen but information on the mainland was limited at best. J. had a penchant for ancient Islamic trade routes and could account for the country’s booming 11th century frankincense markets and what the British living in Aden during the 18th century thought about the southern Yemeni diet but nothing about surfing. It appeared Duke Kahanamoku didn’t make it that far on his “share surfing with the world” tour.

And so I concluded that no one had ever surfed the mainland. But how to know for sure?

The answer, like everything surf in the early aughts, was to call Sam George.

He of the golden bouffant and single earring. He married to surfing’s ultimate crush (Nia Peeples from North Shore). He the gatekeeper to all that mattered. He the Editor-in-Chief of Surfer magazine.

Back then surf media didn’t attract the low-lives and has-beens of today, or so it appeared. Sam George was a towering monument to earthly success, he of the linen shirt/pant/unstructured jacket combo, he of the white Ferrari Testarossa.

I don’t know that he actually drove a Testarossa but it in my Oregonian mind he did and I figured it worth a shot to contact him, tell him that I was going to surf Yemen’s mainland and ask if Surfer wanted the story.

I had never written anything in my life.

We had no idea if we could even get visas to Yemen much less travel the country.

But my operating principle since birth had been “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” which is a close relative of “shoot first, question later” so I sent an email that I wish I still had. I’m certain it was filled with pompous grandiosity and ridiculous assertions. I’m certain it would be the pièce de résistance in the Asshole Museum.

Yet somehow it worked.

At first Sam George tried to push taking professional surfers with us. We told him it was too dangerous and he somehow demurred. We then told him that we needed the money up front and somehow he agreed. A few weeks later I had a crisp check from Surfer magazine in my hands for $2000.00.

Sam George responded that he was interested in hearing more about this adventure and J. and I were invited down to Surfer’s offices which were then in Laguna Beach, I think, or somewhere weird. There we met with the surf icon and he was everything I dreamed he would be. Vivacious white smile, tan chest peeking through a casually unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt. I don’t remember much from that day other than that and Sam’s single earring, J. spinning on about ancient trade routes and Sam telling us that, to his knowledge, no one had ever surfed mainland Yemen and that he would be happy to run a feature if we dare attempt. At first he tried to push taking professional surfers with us. We told him it was too dangerous and he somehow demurred. We then told him that we needed the money up front and somehow he agreed. A few weeks later I had a crisp check from Surfer magazine in my hands for $2000.00.

Never before had I felt so high.

J. hurried up and applied for an Arabic language scholarship from UCLA. He promised them he would go to a school in the capital Sana’a and study Yemen’s enviously pure strain of Arabic and they gave him $3,000.00.

But now we were also really stuck. $2000.00 was a small fortune but not quite enough for a three month traverse of Yemen. That’s how long we decided we needed. Three months. J. hurried up and applied for an Arabic language scholarship from UCLA. He promised them he would go to a school in the capital Sana’a and study Yemen’s enviously pure strain of Arabic and they gave him $3,000.00. And we were rich beyond our wildest dreams but still had no idea about how to actually get to Yemen so called our friend N.

N. was American but had grown up in Bolivia and possessed a sort of heads down dogmatism when it came to absurd ideas. He was happy to join up even though he had never surfed a day in his life, Bolivia being South America’s only landlocked country etc. And so he began searching Yemeni companies on the Internet and emailing the given contact, explaining that now three intrepid explorers were going to come and Make Yemen Great Again by surfing almost passably on their virgin waves.

And a man by the name of H. responded.

H. was, from what we could tell, the son of Yemen’s ex-prime minister. He had gone to university in America, split time between Dubai, Cairo and Sana’a, had multiple business in Yemen and had an easy manner over email, just telling us to show up and we would be taken care of. I can’t recall what N. promised in return but I think at this point we were relatively honest and thought surfing was simply the best thing ever and to do it in Yemen would be the best thing ever and not just for us. Surf tourism etc. Relatively honest and ridiculously naïve.

H. didn’t seem like he cared about what we had to offer, anyhow, and just seemed intrigued by the harebrained-ness.

And like that we were set.

Except that none of us had a camera or took pictures.

Or had ever written anything for publication.

This was the dream, right here, but how to get from southern California to right here, past Qishn, where no road exist and pirates have shoot-outs with Al-Qaeda in the dreamiest backdrop ever takes Sam George.

This was the dream, right here, but how to get from southern California to right here, past Qishn, where no road exist and pirates have shoot-outs with Al-Qaeda in the dreamiest backdrop ever takes Sam George.

Breaking: SurfStitch in “Total Collapse”

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Shareholders "likely to face complete loss on their investment."

How do you solve the problem of a biz built on what is essentially a solid foundation but ruined by a “failed acquisition strategy” and facing various law suits and an investigation by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission?

Hoist a white flag and call in the administrators. It’s a way a company like SurfStitch that ain’t doin’ so well, maybe it has a viable biz but needs a little time to steady the ship, can keep creditors at bay while an administrator works out what the hell it should do, if it’s viable and so forth.

Although, as reported today by The Australian,

“The long-troubled surf and sports products online retailer SurfStitch has collapsed into voluntary administration, ending the public life of one of the worst floats on the market in recent years, leaving its shareholders likely facing a complete loss on their investment.

“SurfStitch has the ignominy of being one of the worst performing floats in recent times. Set at an IPO price of $1 when the company floated in late 2014, the shares soon crashed following a string of profit warnings, class action law suits, failed acquisition strategy and then the shock loss of one of its co-founders and co-chief executives Justin Cameron soon after its float.

“The long-troubled surf and sports products online retailer SurfStitch has collapsed into voluntary administration, ending the public life of one of the worst floats on the market in recent years, leaving its shareholders likely facing a complete loss on their investment.”

“The cracks started to show in SurfStitch soon after it floated on the ASX, with the company plunged into turmoil in March 2016 when Mr Cameron quit via a one-line email to the board, as he joined forces with a private equity firm to launch a possible takeover of the group. SurfStitch, led then by chairman Howard McDonald, had been scrambling since to regroup executives and integrate the businesses that SurfStitch bought up since its $83m float in late 2014.

“In 2015, SurfStitch kicked off an acquisition spree, as it extended its reach beyond online retailing of surf and sports goods – which was its original business model – to buy up a host of other companies. SurfStitch paid $23.7m for specialist global water board distributor Surf Hardware International and prior to that paid $21m for Stab, a leading online surf content platform, and surf forecasting network Magicseaweed. It also bought Garage Entertainment and Production for $15m.

“Many of those deals failed to deliver the returns SurfStitch had hoped for.”

“Earlier this year, law firm Quinn Emanuel filed an open class action in the Supreme Court of Queensland for anyone who bought or held shares between August 27, 2015, and June 8 last year included in the litigation. It represents a potential $100m lawsuit.

“The plaintiffs allege Surfstitch was trading at a loss in August 2015 but announced that it was expecting EBITDA to double in the 2016 full-year. Surfstitch allegedly covered up the loss by entering a series of copyright licensing deals with surf technology group Coastalwatch and Three Crown Investments.”

A meeting on September 5 will update shareholders on the progress of the administration and what sorta cut they might get out of their seven cent shares.

Bloodbath: Great White Fever Comes to Cape Cod!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Terror in New England as Great White numbers soar!

What travellers Great Whites are. After establishing buoyant new colonies in Western Australia and around Ballina on Australia’s east coast, as well as in San Clemente ninety clicks south of LA, the Great White has now made a show of its arrival in New England.

Over the past few days around Cape Cod, a fisherman has filmed a breaching White, a SUP pilot was attacked in three feet of water and two surfers “feared for their lives” and the ocean was tinted a gorgeous red when a Great White hit a seal twenty metres off the beach.

Watch the breaching White here (and read the Boston Globe’s account of the event here.) The skipper Hap Farrell says “This has happened to seven or eight other boats in the last two to three weeks. I just happened to catch it on video.”

The panic as a White hits a seal here. (Nisi Schlanger, who was surfing for the first time, said, “I felt like the shark’s gonna pull me in from my legs or something.  “People [were] yelling, ‘Get out the water! Get out the water!’ I thought I was dead.” He said there was “blood everywhere” as the shark ate the seal.)

And read about the son of a bitch on an SUP who was hit in shin-deep water, here. 

In response to the sudden activity, the usual calls for a cull have been thrown out. As reported by the New York Post:

A shark attack on a seal in Cape Cod has prompted a call for a controversial system that would hook and kill great whites.

Ron Beaty, commissioner for Barnstable County, believes the “shark hazard mitigation strategy” will help protect swimmers from potential shark attacks, the Boston Herald reported Wednesday.

“This shark, that attack that got videotaped off Nauset, that was very close to shore and very easily could have been a small child and not a seal,” Beaty said. “It’s very easy for these sharks to mistake a person for a seal. They’re just looking for something to eat. God forbid it’s somebody’s child, and by that time, it’s too late. We can’t wait for that.”

Under Beaty’s proposal, which he said has worked in South Africa and Australia, baited drum lines would be set up along popular beaches. Great whites that are found hooked would be shot to death, their bodies tossed out at sea.

Do you like the idea of Great White bodies being tossed out at sea? Or does it make you so mad you feel like going straight to Facebook and creating a page about it?

My favourite quote re: these events goes to the scientist Gregory Skomal who told the Boston Herald: “When you have overlap with humans, you do get the potential for these interactions, you know, a shark biting a person.”

Jordy Smith: “The Big South African!”

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Jordy Smith is set to win Trestles. Set to win Trestles big!

I read a wonderful piece on the World Surf League’s website this morning about Jordy Smith, the big South African, and his special connection with Trestles. Did you know that Smith, who clocks in at 6’3/190, has won the event two out of the last three times?

Amazing and you should certainly read the rest here.

I, for one, had forgotten but the big bru’s special relationship with that wave could easily solidify his grasp on the top slot and made it very difficult to derail his all kinds of husky momentum.

Wonderful. And it the World Surf League story the phrases “big South African” “big bru” and his height/weight were all included, which gave me slight pause (husky momentum this author’s own addition).

Oh of course I was kidding when I blamed the League of fat shaming Jordy with their web ad “194 lbs of boom” but it is impossible to read his name in any surf media without also seeing the words “big South African” attached.

Do you think Jordy likes it?

But more importantly, what if there was one phrase attached permanently to your name? What would it be?

I think mine would be “reed-like Chas Smith.” Or maybe “unfortunately trim Chas Smith.”

But what about you? What’s yours? And be honest.

Just in: Smoking weed is fun!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

And here's how you get some!

And how wild is it that we live at the beginning of the end of prohibition? Marijuana is on pace to be completely legal in most western countries over the next decade or so. In the U.S. more states than not have legalized medical usage and a good handful, California included, have voted in full recreational as well.

Yet, if one read only surf media, it would appear that marijuana is still the Great No No. A closeted and frowned upon vice of low-lifes and miscreants. Ain’t that even more wild? Surfing used to have a well-established counterculture bond with weed that extended deep into the 1980s. Maybe it was the 1990s economic boom that saw surf brands become publicly traded. I am not economically inclined so have no real understanding.

But the surf media? What a bunch of lily-livers! The Inertia, for example, regularly beats the 1950s drum of marijuana being bad for you. Stab does the odd story about its medicinal qualities or the even odder story where a writer partakes and interviews Herb Fletcher but all very… odd.

But why? But what the hell?

The world is basically ending and if you want to toast the good times like Jeff Spicoli of old then we’re here to help and especially if you live in greater San Diego. Tomorrow (August 24th) head into PLPCC near the airport, buy one gram of Hot Nife and get a half gram free.

You read that right! Free weed! All you need to do is go inside, say you heard about this on BeachGrit and don’t like strange moralist tirades in your surf media and then boom. There you’ll be!

PLPCC is only the finest, friendliest marijuana dispensary in maybe the world and Hot Nife is a new cannabis oil brand that gets it. That understands that, sure, people consume weed in order to ease aches and pains and headaches etc. but they also consume to have fun and get high!

Just click the gorgeous colors in the margins and you’ll be delivered to where you want to be. Don’t forget to bring your medical marijuana card and your ID. In January it’ll be a free-ish for all but until then…

Bon appetit!