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Meet: Surfing’s most famous scam artist!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

A scam too wonderful to believe!

Scamming is for sure an art, which is why those who excel are called scam artists. And I thought BeachGrit, Home to the Pro Surfer Jumbo Jet, was also Home to Surfing’s Most Famous Scam Artist until yesterday.

You most certainly recall our Michael Kocher. The war veteran who pretended to have brain cancer in order to get money from you in order to buy drugs. A low-level scam to be sure but amplified in when he later died in a police shootout while maybe taking people hostage.

He was number one and I know that many people would argue Miki Dora was way more famous than Michael Kocher and a bigger scam artist and those people would be right except but let’s not get all bogged down in “details” because yesterday it was revealed right here by the Right Reverend channelbottom that an even BIGGER surfing scam artist is prancing on the earth.

Let’s meet Brazil’s Eduardo Martins!

Eduardo Martins’ story was too perfect even for the world of internet celebrity.
The 32-year-old from Brazil said he had been abused as a child and beat leukaemia as a young adult.

But he had turned his life around and now worked as a UN photographer whose experiences helped him connect with human suffering in some of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones.
His work appeared in reputable international outlets such as Getty Images, The Wall Street Journal, Vice and BBC Brasil.

In between trips to Mosul in Iraq, the Syrian city of Raqqa under the control of so-called Islamic State (IS) and the Gaza Strip, Eduardo Martins enjoyed surfing.
He shared glimpsed of his life with his almost 125,000 Instagram followers.

Until it all came crumbling down when a BBC Brasil investigation found out that Eduardo Martins was a completely fictitious character.

For years, someone using that name had been stealing pictures taken by professional photographers who had risked their lives in conflict to get them.

Eduardo Martins fooled journalists and picture editors by making slight alterations to the images, such as inverting them, just enough to elude software that scans pictures for plagiarism.

As Eduardo Martins’ list of clients grew and became more impressive, it became easier for him to distribute the next lot of photos. He further boosted his profile by giving interviews to websites and magazines.

“Once in Iraq shooting a conflict, I stopped shooting to help a boy who was hit by a molotov cocktail, dropped the camera and helped get him out of the conflict area,” he told Recount Magazine in October 2016.

“In scenes like this, which are common in my work, I stop being a photographer and become a human being. I cannot be impartial in these moments.”
Fabricated identity

He kept his cover going by stealing images of Max Hepworth-Povey, a British surfer, and photoshopping him into pictures of war zones.

Mr Hepworth-Povey remained completely unaware of the fraud until it was exposed.
“When a friend showed me the pictures, at first I thought it was a joke, someone making fun of me,” he told BBC Brasil.

“But actually my pictures had been stolen. It is mad that a random guy has decided to use my image amidst so many options on the internet.”

The 32-year old from Cornwall said some of the images stolen from him date back five years.
“I work very far from war zones, with surfing trips,” said Mr Hepworth-Povey, who has been living and working in northern Spain for the past three months.

“I don’t like the idea of creating an aura of glamour around a country in conflict.”
Fraudster busted

Eduardo Martins’ career came to an end after he contacted Natasha Ribeiro, a BBC Brasil contributor based in the Middle East.

She became suspicious because neither she nor any others among the small pool of Brazilian journalists working in the region had ever met an Eduardo Martins in person.
So she started digging.

BBC Brasil got in touch with the UN, which confirmed he was not employed by them.
Organisations that the fraudster claimed to have visited around the world were also contacted and none of them recognised him.

Mr Hepworth-Povey told BBC Brasil that back in 2014 he had been contacted by someone identifying himself as “Bruno” who wanted to talk to him about some work related to surfing.
But when the pair tried to have an online meeting, “his video wasn’t working and eventually I said I was no longer interested”, Mr Hepworth-Povey recalls.

The surfer says that a week later, a fake profile of his appeared on Facebook, which led Mr Hepworth-Povey to close his Facebook account. “It was all very creepy,” he said.
The timing coincides with the period that Eduardo Martins started sending pictures to publications around the world.

It could also explain why editors contacting Eduardo Martins via Skype would see a picture of the handsome surfer before the connection allegedly dropped and the conversation with the fake photographer moved to voice and text messages sent via messaging service WhatsApp.

BBC Brasil has also been in contact with one of at least six women, all young and professionally successful, who say they had romantic online relationships with Eduardo Martins.
None of them has ever met him in person and they all have asked to remain unidentified.
Once it was clear Eduardo Martins was a fake, BBC Brasil took down a story it had published about him and issued an apology to its readers, adding that the case “will help reinforce our verification procedures”.

Oh the story goes on and on and on. Nobody knows who “Eduardo Martins” really is and this makes him bigger and better than anyone ever. Congrats “Eduardo!” But I still have lots of questions. Primarily, if you were Mr. Hepworth-Povey from Cornwall wouldn’t you be crazy hyped and thankful to “Eduardo” for taking your sissy last name and making you an international war hunk?

Rumour: Sweeping Changes to WSL Tour!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Surfers dramatically reduced! One-day events! Maybe a private jet like the Rolling Stones!

In twelve hours, the greatest assemblage of surfing talent ever will leave their five-hundred-dollar-a-night houses and hotel rooms and stare at two-foot Lowers.

The contest will be called off and the surfers will return to their temporary homes to attend to Facebook, Instagram and Netflix. Some will hit golf balls. Others will go bowling.  The hundred or so workers busy with broadcast, construction and hospitality duties will be sent home and a skeleton crew of security will be left to fend off barbarian fans.

This will go on for around one week until a rideable swell arrives and the contest begins. But it will begin, as it must for there are thirty six surfers, with a numbing six hours of non-elimination heats.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Time and money wasted. Core fans bored. Non-core fans not interested.

What’s right with this picture?

The best surfers in the world. Dazzling infrastructure. Slick broadcasting. A sugar daddy who don’t mind being fifty mill in the hole.

The answers will define pro surfing beyond the transitory years of 2017 and 2018.

Pro surfing, and the WSL knows it, can’t continue in its antiquated form.

I was spitballing my ideas for an improved tour, the one-day event, a dozen surfers, an event every month, a private jet to take the whole show to meet a swell at Teahupoo, at Fiji, with a WSL employee and he nodded his head vigorously.

“Yes, yes, we know, we know. There’s going to be changes,” he said. “You’ll be very surprised.”

Can you imagine how fabulous pro surfing would be if a WSL-branded jet flew a dozen of the best to ten-foot Teahupoo?

And you…knew… the event was on so you could arrange to drop everything a couple of days before?

No dozen unimportant heats before the real action began?

No Renato or Kieren Perrow looking sad into the camera and telling us competition is off for the day or, worse, on stand-by leaving the viewer in purgatory.

The best surfers actually in the best waves? And with all the filler removed?

It’d be like the Kelly-John John semi at Teahupoo over and over again.

Tell me pro surfing won’t soar.

Tell me the ink of the WSL ledger won’t colour red to black.

And the pool, don’t forget the pool.

Yemen: Oh, I buried you today!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Chapter 7: Boys get in to trouble they never ever saw coming.

(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 right here… Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6)

We woke early the next morning with a hot Arabian sun cooking our repurposed British Empire outpost and was it all just a mirage? Just a dream? Had we really surfed in Yemen? I left our room, which opened directly to a patch of grass that fronted the beach, and squinted. There they were. Waves. Still breaking out the front. Little shitty Huntington Beach waves but waves but in Aden.

Hoorah.

We surfed again but without the relish of that surf less than twelve hours earlier. It was fun and yet the thrill was gone and ain’t that the damndest thing about being a surfer. “Fun” gets downgraded to “whatever” within twelve hours no matter how exotic. I don’t know, maybe things are different for John John Florence and his endless waves better than the ones before but for me, and I would imagine you, the memories don’t generally stick. Yesterday’s triumph is merely today’s lack.

Yesterday’s beautiful revelation merely today’s waist high slappers. Nevertheless, we did our best to get usable images for Surfer magazine. I was, in the back of my Oregonian mind, still thinking that our ability might carry the upcoming feature. That one of us would somehow do a turn just good enough to be confused for… Brian Conley or some other D grade pro. Obviously laughable in the clear light of today but back then I still believed that physical ability could be willed.

After an hour of bogged turns and ugh, Major Ghamdan al-Shoefy waded out to us in the lineup clutching something in his hand that he was determined to keep dry. He was a highlander and not used to the ocean but undeterred. And when he got close we could see it was a plastic photo album. He opened it with pride and began to flip through image after image of his victory last night. No, not over Al-Qaeda but over Islamic morality. He had somehow found a one-hour film developer who had printed pictures of him and two hookers caught in the least sexy, most fully clothed tryst of all time. Picture after picture of two soup cans and Major Ghamdan drinking Johnny Walker and lounging in comfortable t-shirts and sweats.

It was somehow the perfect end to Aden and we paddled in, packed our board coffins and told him it was time to press on. He seemed disappointed. Like, to the best of his understanding we had found what we were looking for in Aden and would spend the month there “surfing” while he tasted its fruits.

He dragged his feet for a while but eventually we were back on the road, leaving the Aden governorate and entering the Abyan. Where Aden felt mountainous and wild, Abyan felt barren and raw. Rocky sand and scrub. Like driving to Las Vegas.

We kept our eyes out the window, scouring the coastline. There was little variation and it seemed as if the continental shelf must decline very gradually. Waves, but not as good as Aden. Or maybe as good but no better. We passed though smaller and smaller towns featuring the ubiquitous small garage, small chicken restaurant, small convenience store selling delicious Nougoum candy bars and Bower Horse energy drinks. I think “nougoum” meant “stars” or “galaxy” and “Bower” was supposed to be “Power” but Arabic script doesn’t have a version of “P.”

And in one decided to stop and surf just because. We were maybe three hours outside of Aden and a complete novelty. There was no tourism here. No business. No oil. No port. No reason for four white boys and two Maribian Yemenis to be kicking around. People started gathering as we pulled our boards down from the Landcruiser, followed us as we made our way to the beach and posted up in an open structure used to gut fish. To watch.

Abyan locals witnessing the best surfing they had ever seen.

Abyan locals witnessing the best surfing they had ever seen.

The water was warm but a treat when juxtaposed against the pounding heat of the day. The waves were almost non-existent but, again, it felt good to be pioneering. It felt good to surfing in Yemen. After one weak hop down the line I looked up and saw the town taking it in. I may never be as good as Brian Conley but for that brief moment I was the best surfer anyone there had ever seen.

After finishing, we posted up in a small chicken restaurant with our folded Yemeni map and discussed waves and surf with a few of the local fishermen, trying to see if there was anything along their stretch of flat coast. They didn’t seem to think much. Then we pointed to a series of maybe promising jagged bays near a town called Bi’r Ali some 200 km away and suddenly the room got animated. Many clucks and low whistles.

Ghamdan began arguing with one. His brother Hunein with another. Much waving of arms and gesturing toward us, the map, the ocean, back toward us. Eventually Ghamdan broke from the pack and explained that we would soon be leaving Abyan and entering the Shabwah Governorate, a famously lawless region that was, apparently having some sort of trouble. Our moving on was very ill-advised. He also didn’t think the checkpoints would let us through.

We argued back, just as vigorously, in our silly academic plus Egyptian Arabic, that stalling wasn’t an option. We had to move on. Had to. No choice. None. And we argued until he shrugged his shoulders half-heartedly and wandered back to the Landcruiser cleaning his teeth with a little twig called miswak. We followed with our JC surfboards in our Ocean Pacific trunks which in Arabic would have been Ocean Bacific.

The fishermen just shook their heads.

One hour later the paved road ended and it just us and the dirt and the sea. Three hours later when the sun was just above the horizon we reached the checkpoint heading into Shabwah. The word sounded nice. Shabwah. It sounded unhinged. In Yemen’s 2015 civil war, Shabwah was a giant battleground where the northern Houthi rebels fought viciously against a group of southerners. The southerners won and, a decade later one of their proud fighters would sail our boat from Aden, though a Saudi/US blockade to us in Djibouti. But that is a story for another time.

That day, in 2003, the soldier manning the gate looked at us, read our permission slip and said, “La.” No. We told him it was of great importance and he went and got his superior. Two hours after that, many phone calls, much argument we were told we could go inland and spend the night in a town named Ataq. Pronounced “Attack.” This was only a partial victory. We were being allowed in to Shabwah but were missing some 50 km of coast since we’d have to go inland then head back to the coast on a different road. We fought more but by this time it was dark and we were tired.

Our Landcruiser bent away from the coast and we felt like we had somehow let our mission down. The drive to Ataq was, anyhow, beautiful or looked beautiful in the moonlight. Boulders and interesting trees and hard curves. Goats. Maybe this is the way things were supposed to go? But damn it. We found a cinder block hotel with a neon green sign and figured we’d weep over that 50 km of lost coastline in the morning.

If we only knew at that very moment a swarm of Al-Qaeda were in the hills just kilometers in front of Ataq rushing to grab us and a battalion of Yemeni government troops were just kilometers behind us rushing to meet them.

Elon Musk: Wave pools to “cause WWIII!”

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Great inventor has a prediction that should scare you!

Elon Musk is likely the most famous engineer in the world and the second most famous South African (after Jordy Smith). He is best known for giving the electric car company TESLA its wings and founded Space-X, co-founded PayPal, etc.

He is a prescient man so when speaking about the future and how it will look, people listen.

Yesterday he spoke about the beginning of World War III.

Of course there is much paranoia as North Korea ramps up its nuclear testing and intercontinental ballistic missile launching but Mr. Musk declared Kim Jong Un and co. to be very low on the things we need to worry about.

Instead, we need to worry about artificial intelligence.

“China, Russia, soon all countries [with] strong computer science. Competition for AI superiority at national level most likely cause of World War III imo,” he tweeted and then went on to describe how computers might destroy other countries if they calculate a preemptive strike increases odds of survival.

All I could think about was Steve Shearer aka Longtom fighting Greg Webber. Of Wavegarden and Kelly Slater Surf Co. and The Cove and even Flowrider. There is more heat around pools these days than AI and I could very easily see a war between them that quickly spins out of hand.

How far would Kelly Slater go to protect his intellectual property? He didn’t even blink when needing to destroy Adriano de Souza’s world title. How much farther could he go?

#scary

If you had to back a winner which would you choose? Kelly’s is barrel but Greg says his is more barrel but Longtom says they’re all going to die slow painful deaths (radiation poisoning?) which leads me to feel Wavegarden.

#texasstrong

But you. What do you think?

Revealed: Surfer “racism” has BG roots!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

When you point one finger at someone there are three fingers pointing back!

What a red letter day. What an absolute banger. I haven’t been this excited since Laird Hamilton talked about why sharks prefer eating women. I thought that things would be slow this morning when I cracked my eyes open and let the cloudy gloom in. It is Labor Day in the United States, a holiday dedicated to the celebration of wage inequality, and I thought too many people would be home stress eating to make real surf news.

But then Surfer magazine posted a racially charged Instagram caption!

And then I became a social justice warrior and they edited it into something arguably worse!

And then Greg Webber invited the great Steve “Longtom” Shearer to share a fight!

And then it was revealed to me that Surfer’s social media editor got his wonderful start right here at BeachGrit!

Oh you certainly remember Adam Jara. He contributed to your third favorite gossip surf website some year plus ago. My favorite of his pieces was Ace: “I was Former’s first customer!” wherein he recounted trying to buy a t-shirt from Dane Reynolds led co.

And now he is Surfer’s social media editor. I think I once knew this but forgot. In any case, it means that the racially charged Instagram caption from earlier actually had its genesis right here. Adam Jara learned from the absolute best in the biz and I’m glad took his education seriously.