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Candid: “I tried to wring Ashton’s neck!”

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Chas Smith uses strangulation to silence Stab editor Ashton Goggans!

This morning, at approximately 10:40, I leapt over a reclaimed wood coffee table in the Surfrider Foundation’s well-appointed San Clemente headquarters and tried to wring Stab editor Ashton Goggans’ neck.

We were in the first third of recording our bi-monthly Grit! podcast. I didn’t get a good grab, maybe not even any grab, as Ashton is a robust man, and was soon pulled off by host David Lee Scales who was also half looking out the window to see if any Surfrider Foundation staff had heard the commotion.

What precipitated this violent outburst?

Well. Today’s episode has been in the works now for a week and I was very excited to debate Ashton on a variety of surf media topics. He arrived, late, in a transparent overcoat, the gooseberry fuzz of his skin peeking through, toenails showing remnants of cherry red polish, delicate long boned monkeyish feet, jabbering about some unrelated matter and then Mr. Scales pressed record.

Things were moving along until we came to the topic of Stab’s predominantly ex-BeachGrit staff and how we refused to pay a living wage while Stab, out of the goodness of its very heart, supports these bright young artists.

I contested and firmly believe that any writer, but especially the surf writer, shouldn’t really expect money out of the gate. That he should work another job while toying around with words because he can’t help but write. Because she loves to write. Because without writing everything else would be bland and monotone.

Eventually, I think, if the love remains strong the writer will find his true voice and might also find employment as “a writer” but the end goal of writing should never be to get paid. It should be about love and if money follows then fantastic.

Oh I know this sounds like a very poor excuse for not paying writers and in truth Derek and I have paid every cent of our paltry earnings to our exes (and in Rory’s case, five per cent of the company) but anyhow Ashton continued, claiming that I had never worked a day in my life and only did what I did because my wife has money.

Something inside me snapped and I was across the coffee table madly, clumsily, shamelessly, agonizingly reaching for Ashton’s windpipe; hopelessly, I should add, because that frenzy of mutual possession might have been assuaged only by our actually imbibing and assimilating every particle of each other’s soul and flesh; but there we were, unable even to mate as slum children would have so easily found an opportunity to do so.

But why? What in me broke? Let me try and explain. I purposefully don’t write much about my little family here because they didn’t ask for, nor deserve to be in, this crazy little spotlight. I am wildly proud of my wife, and daughters, what they do, who they are but they are not fodder for my BeachGrit work. Also, because she happens to be in our extreme sport universe, we keep a wall up.  She never feeds me rumors and I never try to leverage her contacts.

Ashton’s charge was, furthermore, insulting to her. To think that she would suffer a fool doddering around the house posting cheap surf stories is ridiculous. I make my salary through book advances/royalties/film options etc. and even not married to her would still be doing exactly what I’m doing in some inland shack. Maybe Las Vegas. It frustrates me greatly to even have to mention any of this.

The fact that he brought up my family, anyhow, made me lose my mind and over the coffee table I went and almost again, 30 minutes later, when he said I should be spending more time with my daughter.

Was I wrong? Silly? Ludicrously out of control?

Certainly yes but I would do the same thing tomorrow and the day after that too. Making fun of Stab’s look, its content, it’s behind-the-scenes threats to advertisers, what it chooses to cover and not cover will remain good fun.

But families? They have always been, and will always be, out of bounds.

Or am I still wrong?

Am I drawing a completely arbitrary line in the sand?

Just so I can justify embarrassingly bad behavior?

At the end I watched Ashton Goggans leave after refusing to shake his ring adorned fingers. Rage still percolating.