Back To Top
Beach Grit

banner

Yemen: War in Heaven!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Chapter 4: Boys arrive in the land of knives and dinner jackets.

(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. Catch up, if you wish, on the links below…)

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

At this moment in history Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, is a prototypical den of human despair. Skeletal children peer through photojournalist lenses. Fathers weep over dead daughters surrounded by dust and rubble. Mothers die of cholera hooked up to saggy IV bags. Saudi bombs, sold to them by the United States, explode hospitals, orphanages, schools. 125 today. 276 dead tomorrow. We, all of us, too busy, too inundated, to care. Last year Venezuela, the year before that Sudan, perpetually Haiti.

Misery is numbing.

But as my British Airways flight began to descend from Los Angeles to Sana’a International via London almost 15 years ago I was glued to the window.

Enthralled.

I had no idea what we would find. Had no idea if there was surf or if we’d be able to get to it. No idea if we actually had visas to enter the country. But it was an adventure and adventure for its own sake is valuable enough. If we succeeded then great. If we failed then we would do so spectacularly. Or at least that’s what I would tell Sam George if Yemen’s security services allowed phone calls from immigration jail.

And then we broke through the clouds and the city sprayed before us in its earthen glory. And then the pilot barked something in English about preparing to land and then Arabic.

And then the wheels skidded onto the tarmac.

J., N. and I gathered our surplus military backbacks and headed out into the… relatively cool? It was to be the first surprise of ten thousand. The expectation when landing in the middle east during the month of June is blazing heat. Cairo in June is unbearable. Dubai in June is a few degrees cooler than the sun. Satan himself vacates Djibouti from June through November.

But Sana’a was cool. Pleasant. And I had not taken into account its elevation. The city rests at a comfortable 7000 feet above sea level and boasts summer highs of 78 and lows of 63. I adjusted the collar on my Op Classics button-up, winked at J. though my wrap-around Spy shades and felt ready for whatever fate would bring.

I don’t recall any other foreigners on that flight and we shuffled behind the locals toward the single story terminal. Inside men wearing floor length dresses, thick woolen dinner jackets giant belts with even bigger curved knives attached jostled up against the immigration desk. J., N. and I stood off to the side. There was not a woman to be seen. We decided to jostle too even though woefully underdressed.

And then we were at the front, pushing our dark blue American passports at a man with a giant wad of tobacco* in his cheek. He stared at them, thumbed their pages, looked back at us with a blank look, thumbed their pages again, looked up and said, “Where’s your visa?” in Arabic. J. muttered that ours were being taken care of by someone important in his formal UCLA Arabic. I probably added something in my laughably broken Egyptian Arabic. The man was not amused.

We retreated while he gestured angrily toward his boss and the two of them incredulously flipped though our passports together. We looked at each other and felt the sort of comedic helplessness that strikes any traveler who dares venture outside a packaged tour.

Suddenly, a very handsome military man pushed through a door and marched straight up to us. In perfect English he said his name was Khaled, he was there on behalf of H., and apologized for being late. His uniform was immaculate. So was his Don Johnston stubble/moustache combination. Arab military men love the Don Johnston stubble/moustache combination.

He strode over to the immigration officers, grabbed our passports, gesticulated wildly then walked back over to us.

“Do you have any bags?”

We told him we did and he pushed us through a side door and into the baggage claim area/entrance hall. I looked back at the immigration officers. One was slightly incredulous. The other seemed indifferent.

Khaled stood next to us while our two giant surfboard coffins and cooler filled with film were pushed out. We gathered them, he escorted us to a newer Toyota Landcruiser and had a taxi put our coffins one-third in the trunk, two-thirds hanging into the exotic wilds.

And then we were speeding down a wide boulevard with many pictures of the president waving and many military trucks and some donkeys. Khaled explained that H. had been delayed in Dubai for a few days but that he wanted to see us before we left Sana’a and so was taking us to an apartment.

I was glued to the window, taking it all in, the gingerbread houses, the men in dresses with dinner jackets and curved knives, the no women, the mosques, the mosques, the mosques. Taking everything in until we screeched to a halt in front of a modest three story building two miles outside the old town. Khaled escorted up to a three room apartment that felt like the lap of luxury to boys that thought $5,000.00 was a fortune. He said he would be seeing us soon and left.

And we were in Yemen.

Without passports.

*I would learn later that it was not tobacco but qat. An almost perfect drug.

A Saudi bomb explodes in Sana'a. Of all the cities I've ever been to in this world, Sana'a is one of the most magical. See the image below for its pre-war glory. It was like a storybook. And it is disappearing, brick by brick, every day.

A Saudi bomb explodes in Sana’a. Of all the cities I’ve ever been to in this world, Sana’a is one of the most magical. See the image below for its pre-war glory. It was like a storybook. And it is disappearing, brick by brick, every day.

 

Sana'a's old city pre-war.

Sana’a’s old city pre-war.

Quiz: What’s the best/worst board you’ve ever owned?

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Giddy highs, depressive lows.

Some years ago, and just before discovering Matt Biolos, I was en thrall to a surfboard shaper whose designs were famous for their experimentation.

Because I occupied a position within the media where the occasional favourable story could be dripped, perhaps he even viewed me as a friend, I would, for a cost price of three hundred  dollars, receive custom hand-shapes.

One board, I remember, convinced me I’d mastered surfing.

Where to next, I wondered? A new sport? The tour?

This feeling was short-lived, of course, and never returned. But, oh, those dimensions, those magic pre-literage dimensions: six-one, eighteen and five-eighths, two and five sixteenths, fourteen inches at the hip, a flat bottom curve under the front foot and into a slight double tween the fins.

I chased that feeling over and over from this shaper but never came close to replicating the feeling of absolute mastery of man over board. As if to punish me for my hubris, the boards became increasingly harder to ride until, one day at Huntington Beach, I told my wife I wouldn’t be coming in until I rode a wave properly. Determination has never been my strong point, when the going gets tough, quit, is generally my motto, but that day, I had a problem to solve.

That was at one pm. At eight she was roaming the beach in the dark asking the last surfers coming in, if they’d seen a guy still out there.

I think I rode sixty waves that day and didn’t come close to a satisfactory experience.

From the best board I’d ever ridden to the worst. Same shaper. Same design theories.

These days, I know what works for me. Biolos shapes, mostly, the all-time best board I’d ever owned was one of the early round-nose fish, although a Slater Designs Sci-Fi made in Carlsbad just before the big fire has been a revelation.

I have an echo chamber of boards, all low-rockered, wide, thin. My ability to surf in the pocket has completely atrophied but every time I catch a wave I can get a little buzz on.

For me,

Best board. Five-nine round nose fish by Lost. Shaped by the Hawaiian Brian Bulkley while on a working holiday at Pukas Surfboards in Spain. Narrower than is the norm now (19 7/8″) and a vicious little pulled-in tail.

Worst board: A radical front-foot vee into a deep, deep concave underneath the fins. I was surfing at Lennox one day at little Dean Morrison paddled over to talk.

Yours, he said.

I surfed like I was riding on the back of a distressed bull, up, down, up, down, before vaulting the horns. I could’ve cried. I repeated the process three times.

And, you?

Best?

Worst?

Train: McGregor and Fanning’s secret!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

It involves "unclogging the hose!"

Unless you live underneath a rock then you know that tonight Floyd “Money” Mayweather takes on Conor “Notorious” McGregor in the fight of the century. The betting line favors Mayweather and almost ridiculously so. Like, -400 or something.

But still. Conor McGregor has a legion of fans who believe he can upset one of the greatest fighters to ever lace up the gloves. They have faith. They have passion. And he has a secret training technique gifted him by his trainer.

A secret training technique also shared by 3x world surf champion Mick “Eugene” Fanning!

No, it is not pride in Irish heritage. It’s… it’s… well, let’s just read about it!

Since we know that maximal power output as delivered through the kinetic chain is comprised of an orchestra of accurately timed muscular contractions and relaxations, how is it that most fighters focus so little on the capacity to disengage and relax overly tense areas in their bodies? This is a basic understanding in fields that truly mastered power/speed output like the Javelin Throw, sprinting, Discus in Track&Field or pitchers in Baseball where the results in MMA and Boxing when it comes to issuing force are rather inconsistent and rely more on …. Talent and inclinations.

They’ll tell you punchers are born not made. BS. They can be made and if they are born with natural gifts they can be enhanced. I’ve been focusing with @thenotoriousmma on ‘Unclogging the Hose’ and being able to RELAX certain areas in the body fully and immediately as well as CONTRACT maximally and abruptly in a well timed chain of actions. It’s not about stretching, mind you and in the photo we don’t do any pull ups or strength work in the traditional sense. Relaxation is a skill and one of the most underrated yet hardest one to master.

The ability to “keep the body soft” is a skill relevant to all athletes wanting to refine and improve performance.

It is an “often overlooked” technique according to elite performance coach, Nam Baldwin.

“It’s so important as it gives an athlete a much broader spectrum in which to operate, i.e. through relaxation they will further enhance the talents they already have (both in mind and body) which otherwise would have remain untapped,” Baldwin said. “Athletes and coaches have nothing to lose by giving this practice a go, yet everything to gain.”

Baldwin, a former sprinter and freediver with a background in martial arts, said he uses the principles when training world champion surfer Mick Fanning, Stephanie Gilmore, the Australian Olympic K4 kayak gold medal team, and the Warriors.

The technique, which Baldwin learned through his own teacher Sifu Mark Rasmus, instils the ability to “generate incredible power” through the most subtle of movements.

“When training pro surfers, we often work on drills that help to generate greater speed and power through a more relaxed body or line, these skills allow you to do more on a wave, manoeuvre much better and produce bigger and better turns,” Baldwin said. “I (and many others) refer to this concept as generating elastic force, or spring energy.”

I did not understand one word of that whole thing except “unclogging the hose.” I can do that. So can you. We can all be as successful as Conor and Mick.

Anyhow, who are you cheering for tonight? Floyd Money or Conor Notorious?

Or Mick Eugene?

Witch Hunt: Brazilians + Interference Calls!

Giancarlo Guardascione

by Giancarlo Guardascione

Interfering is so damn futile. So why do it? A clash of cultures? A witch hunt?

Why all the interference calls involving Brazilians?

Is it a witch hunt? A clash of cultures?

For reference (and fun), let’s scroll through history and remember the top 5 Brazil vs the World interference calls.

1. Neco Padaratz vs Sunny Garcia, Pipe Masters 2007: Remember? Split peak. Side -by-side take-offs. Sunny wasn’t feelin’ the Latin love. So he did what any Hawaiian would do, try to get ol’ Neco in a headlock mid wave! Give both these guys credit. Sunny for the take-off-to-vice-grip combo and Neco for noticing and slipping through the ring of fire like a dissident circus lion. Sunny reached the shallows, flicked his board, and strutted up the beach like Godzilla about to pounce Sao Paulo. Neco tip-toed up the beach sodden with the realisation he’d need an immediate flight off the island.


2. Adriano de Souza/ Jeremy Flores, Quiksilver Pro, 2014: Jeremy felt accosted by Adriano the same way Parisians do when Americans ask for directions to the Eiffel Tower while standing in it’s shadow. Why? Using the rules to get what you want, even if it’s a dick move, never felt so Bernie Madoff/Gordon Gekkoo.

Still, Jeremy’s response was classic  je ne sais quoi.

“From him it’s the worst sportsmanship that you could get, but I don’t expect anything less from him. Everybody knows that. It sucks. I learned that next time in a heat with him I am going to paddle on him, elbow him… If it takes all this to win the heat, it’s pretty bad. He had to freakin’ take off on me…”

Ironically and hysterically, Adriano’s rebuttal resembled a Frenchman’s response to a scorned lover complete with cigarette, shoulders elevated and lips pursed in a ‘shit happens’ overtone.

“We had a lot of rivalries. We are good friends. We started together in Junior events and we had many heats together. I saw the potential he had, and when I saw his board under my feet I was like ‘oh’. There’s something wrong here. Judges saw that and gave him an interference”

"From him it's the worst sportsmanship that you could get, but I don't expect anything less from him. Everybody knows that. It sucks. I learned that next time in a heat with him I am going to paddle on him, elbow him... If it takes all this to win the heat, it's pretty bad. He had to freakin' take off on me..."

Jeremy on Adriano: “From him it’s the worst sportsmanship that you could get, but I don’t expect anything less from him. Everybody knows that. It sucks. I learned that next time in a heat with him I am going to paddle on him, elbow him… If it takes all this to win the heat, it’s pretty bad. He had to freakin’ take off on me…”

3. Gabriel Medina/Glen Hall, Quiksilver Pro, 2015: A two-foot wave never felt so wanted. Gabs is deeper, further up the point. Glen sitting lower with priority. Gabs goes, Glen takes off with priority. Gabs gets painted red with the shameful INT. Again, pretty benign, except for Gabriel’s post heat interview in which he quoted Glen Hall’s classic Irish/Aussie poem, “Fuck you to me.”

5. Filipe/Kanoa, Everywhere: True love stories have many chapters. The awkward beginning. The passionate middle. The ugly breakup. This one reads like Romeo and Juliet. Is it ironic that one is from a culture that is blatantly blunt and candid and the other so cautious and demure.

And so.

The question remains: why do so many Latin dancers get caught stepping on peoples toes? In the eighties and nineties these scuffles between Americans and Aussies were idolised. Some even beg for it to come back, as long as its not from south of the equator.

Maybe the answer lies in the translation of the rule book.

That sneaky Portuguese ‘x’ switches between ‘sh’ and ‘s’ quicker than a Capoeira hip swing. Could be the hugs and kisses between Latin men when saying hello that John Wayne would never approve of.

Might be something as simple as the soccer/football/rugby confusion.

Either way, everyone seems bewildered and few seem to want to acknowledge an answer.

Adrian Grenier to Chas: “#STOPSUCKING!”

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

World famous actor calls surf journalist to account!

Do you recall last Friday when Zach Weisberg of The Inertia finally admitted to what everyone in the world has long believed? Of course you do! He stood on his tiny little soapbox and declared, “I have sucked my entire life!”

Oh how I felt invigorated when I read those six simple words. Vindicated too.

Zach was also talking about using straws and how it is very bad for the environment because straws are generally made of plastic, go into the ocean and kill… fish. He had actually hitched his tiny little cart to that of actor Adrian Grenier who is the UN environmental ambassador and is imploring people to #stopsucking.

Some 500 million straws are used each day and many end up in the ocean killing… coral. If we all stopped using straws entirely it would be a very good thing. Find much more valuable information right here.

Anyhow, in my story celebrating Zach Weisberg’s admission I also celebrated Adrian Grenier’s and wrote about how I found him unbelievable as a major Hollywood star in HBO’s Entourage and hate watched every episode because I thought the character he played, Vinny Chase, sucked horribly.

Well, Adrian must be a BeachGrit reader because early yesterday morning he reached out via Twitter and wrote:

Yeah Chas, you talk big talk but do you still suck?! #STOPSUCKING. That’d be a headline…

And while we generally don’t use hashtags in our headlines here, only exclamation points and colons, I thought to myself… “The man has got a point!”

So there you go, Adrian! Do you like?

But also I feel bad for being rude. Vinnie Chase is not you and that character should be disliked because isn’t he a version of Mark Wahlberg? So you actually played it very well.

While I have you, though, I didn’t like how your character Nate broke up with Anne Hathaway’s Andrea in The Devil Wears Prada. It felt as if Nate was putting his own career goals (being a chef) ahead of Andrea’s newfound fashion passion. I know that she changed her ideals, drastically even, but shouldn’t we all be allowed to grow?

One more thing. I haven’t sucked for the last decade plus because if I’m not drinking water or coffee then I am drinking booze and the film Crazy, Stupid, Love put me off ever drinking booze from a straw again. In fact, I think you should license that scene for your #stopsucking campaign. It will be way more effective than talking about dead fish and coral.

Trust me.