Kelly Slater at 13
"Careers of the fairer sex are transitory, born to burn bright and fade when the cruel march of sun damage and sag takes hold," writes Rory Parker. "With few exceptions our legends are male, women of influence largely forgotten. But in a different world, where chromosomal assignations underwent a diametrical transformation, what would fate hold?"

GENDER POLITICS: What if Kelly Slater (and pals) were girls?

Would their career trajectories be the same? Would Laird be a muscle bitch?

There’s nothing more engaging than gender politics. Hairless man-children cavorting for the lens, supple waxen maidens bottom turning cheeks akimbo for the stars. Regardless of sex the chicken hawks are there to feed, and, for most, a career can be measured in minutes. In a sport that’ll chew you up and spit you out, always looking for the next hot prospect to nail to a  prospectus, a few stand strong, building careers that outlast the roster cuts foreordained by purchases made in manufactured times of plenty.

But it ain’t all bread and roses. Careers of the fairer sex are transitory, born to burn bright and fade when the cruel march of sun damage and sag takes hold.  With few exceptions our legends are male,  women of influence largely forgotten. But in a different world, where chromosomal assignations underwent a diametrical transformation, what would fate hold?

Kelly Slater: Talent be damned, hobgoblins aren’t bestowed with billion dollar contracts. A fair-haired Shane Beschen, perpetual second banana to Slater’s early contention, would have reigned supreme. Slater’s career would have dwindled, doomed to a Pauline Menczer-esque slide into oblivion. It’d be a world lacking greatness, but spared so many broken dreams.

Shane Dorian: Bedroom eyes and silky smooth parts, Dorian would have been the Alana of the pre-floss era. Those same sultry qualities would have put an early end to his career, rocketing him to the B-movie heights of which he dreamed but could never quite grasp. The modern era would see no Dorian paddling Jaws, but you’d probably get to see his tits.

Laird Hamilton: An amazonian nightmare pushing women’s big-wave surfing to the heavens, buoyed by an ego on level with the mountains she rides. She would command the same respect, but lack the  funding. Shunned and derided on message boards the world over, she’d take solace in a following of muscle fetishists, flexing and grunting her way to eventual obscurity.

Gabriel Medina: Boasting the rare combination of latin swagger and sensitive mien little Gabby would no doubt flog her way to the top of the tour. Rumours abound regarding her relationship with her stepfather; would the Woody Allen tales be true?

Matt Wilkinson: A star in the junior circuit, career derailed at 18. Low-budget black leather internet celebrity, turning to ashes any chance at representation. Bitter and defeated, orifices obliterated, the backhand attack would be in absence, an attacked backside in evidence.

Mitch Crews: Lean and mean, coiffed and polished, the ingenue of the new generation.  The subject of bidding wars, on everyone’s lips. Plastered to the wall of adolescent quarters, acne addled palms rhythmically greased, pistoning into the night, leaving socks dried crackling between bed board and bulwark.

Julian Wilson: To be honest, if you grew his hair out and flipped him on his stomach, he’d be more than halfway there already. With his plump rump, pug nose and curly blonde locks, he’s oft left this married man pondering notions better left at university.



Kolohe Andino with coffee and Target logo in Fiji
"There is no credit crisis for Kolohe Andino. Visa shines its malevolent 20% interest rate on his angelically blonde hair…" | Photo: ASP/Kirstin Scholtz


Top secret production for Super Bowl ad! Cell phones in tubes!

I am, currently, in Tahiti and you wish you were too. The sun glows pink, palm trees rustle in a tropical breeze and Kolohe Andino films a top secret Visa television commercial with a giant, agitated crew of 70 at Teahupo’o.

For those who have never been, Teahupo’o is far grander than the imagination. The town sits at the very end of the road underneath towering green crags fronted by a crystalline lagoon. The wave, a short boat ride out the front, thunders and thunders and thunders and spits. Even the most jaded surf journalist can’t help but stare, open mouthed, for hours while sitting in the channel. The whole mise-en-scène is far from Tahiti’s capital, Papeete, which is, in turn, far from the worries and cares of a western world caught up in loan defaults and a credit crises.

But there is no credit crisis for Kolohe Andino. Visa shines its malevolent 20% interest rate on his angelically blonde hair. The young man once told me his friends call him “Corpo” and in Corpo Andino because he rides for Target, Red Bull, Oakley and, at the time, Nike (now Hurley). Many surfers would have been ashamed but Kolohe was proud. He believes in the best. And, as far as credit companies go, Visa is the best. Their earnings far exceed both Mastercard or American Express.

And the television commercial really is top secret, though corporate veils cannot block an island’s rumour mill. They say that the woman in charge is mean, like Anna Wintour, and fires multiple people a day sending them home in shame. They say the giant, agitated crew of 70 eats so much that a food shortage lurks. They say that the commercial is for the Super Bowl. They say that its narrative arc includes Kolohe ordering a pizza on a cell phone while standing in a heaving tube.

He zipped by me on a ski, while I was sitting in the channel, mouth agape. He did not stop to say hi but his eyes appeared very mischievous. I could almost feel him spending the thousands of dollars I owe Visa. His friends may call him “Corpo” but his name really means “li’l rascal” after all.


Kolohe Andino portrait in Hawaii
The teenage Kolohe Andino, some years before the ominous thunderclap of form on the World Tour. | Photo: Morgan Maassen


The little teenage millionaire and that insinuating smile and those winking eyes! From 2009.

Target is a department store chain providing a wide variety of goods to the consumer. Everything from milk to clothing to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation for $9.99. Due its tremendous size (over 1200 stores in the United States) and buying power (over 64 billion in revenue) Target can offer exceptionally low prices on their complete range of products.

Size and buying power on that scale strike fear into the heart of the surf industry. Billabong, for example, has revenue of one billion. Australian dollars.

The surf industry, as a whole, has been successful in keeping non-endemic companies, like Target, out by trumpeting the idea of core as well as organizing successful marketing campaigns and making a desirable product. If, however, a non-endemic company, like Target, was accepted by even a plurality of surfers the ground would quake. Target could sell boardshorts for less than half of what Billabong or Quiksilver could. If those boardshorts were not seen as kookish because, say, a handsome young man named Kolohe Andino sports the Target bullseye logo on his board, it could cause a flood.

With the idea of core no longer essential, other non-endemics could get into the surfwear game. Like Adidas (11 billion in revenue) and Nike (proper. Not 6.0. 18 billion in revenue). Shadowed by giants, the surf majors would face their biggest challenge in history.

Target just signed Kolohe Andino to a deal. He used to ride for Billabong. Graham Stapleberg, VP of marketing, North America, for Billabong says, “It was a good four year relationship that Billabong had with Kolohe, and we certainly helped elevate his profile on the international stage. He definitely has talent and we wish him all the best in his future. I don’t see the fit with Target at all; it is generic mainstream retail where surfing doesn’t belong.” Long live the core!

I meet Kolohe Andino at Irons in the Fire, clubhouse for the famed San Clemente municipal golf course. It is a mission revival-style bar/grill catering to upper middle class whites. The San Clemente high school golf team lingers on a practice putting green next to the front door, waiting for their coach. They wear red polo shirts and khaki pants. They are upper middle class whites. People who work at Target also wear red polo shirts and khaki pants but are never upper middle class whites.

Kolohe is at an outdoor table, fresh off a plane from New Zealand but fresher from a surf at T-Street. His hair a sun bleached halo. He sips a Rob Roy and checks a new BlackBerry.

C: Are you tired?

K: Ahhh, I get used to the travel. It’s still fun, you know. But it feels good to be back home. I was with my dad on the road so that is cool too.

C: Are home for a while?

K: Tomorrow morning Nike is flying me up to Portland for some discussions. I want to design some sick shit. Then I am out to Australia again.

C: You have a whole new slate of sponsors, Young Money. Tell me about Target. You are causing earthquakes with that one.

K: What do you mean?

C: I hear you are the next Shaun White. That Target is going to create a whole line of business around the Kolohe Andino brand. The floodgates have opened. Non-endemics! Surf companies are running scared.

K: Ahhhh…

He glances at his BlackBerry, takes off his sunglasses (black aviators), rubs the bridge of his nose and studies me.

K: Target is a great company. You know, they are providing great support, but look at where the sticker is.

One of his gorgeous Mayhem rockets is resting against his chair. I look. A red and white bullseye maybe three inches in diameter is back near the tailpatch. Saltwater drips reflect the early afternoon light and I put on my sunglasses (tortoiseshell aviators).

C: So what are you saying? The rumors aren’t true?

K: Look, Shaun White is a legend. He is an Olympic gold medalist and the absolute top of his sport. He is sick. And I haven’t really done anything yet. I would love to get to that point some day, but it all depends how my career goes. I guess.

He says the “I guess” without a care in the world. His voice so flat. So confident. He sounds like George Clooney saying, “It all depends on how the night goes. I guess” when asked if he will end up with a beautiful woman. Pre-ordained. 

He continues.

K: Right now Target is super great. They are sending me on boat trips with friends. They are helping me do whatever I want to do. They are very open and not aggressive at all. Not pushing their own, like, thing. It’s great and we will see where it all goes.

C: Will shoppers be greeted with giant posters of you doing hot aerials when making their purchases? How will Target use your image?

K: No, no, no… they won’t do that. I am not a big enough name. I’ve got the stickers on my board. And that is it, for now.

C: How did the romance start? You and Target?

K: My manager, Mark Erwin, is also Shaun’s manager so he just works it all out. He’s a great guy. And that is basically that. There is no conspiracy. No big deal.

He glances, again, at his Blackberry and we both get up to leave.

Kolohe Andino doesn’t golf. He is 15 years old. The day after tomorrow he is renting a limo and taking the hottest seventeen year old girl in San Clemente, Maddy Forrester, to the winter formal. He would have rented a sports car but doesn’t have his license yet. We talk about tuxes on the way out and he asks me if he should pair it with Converse. I say no, only patent leather Ferragamos. He nods. The golf team coach has arrived and is giving a motivational talk. None of the red polo’d student athletes are paying attention. They are staring at Kolohe. He is wearing all black.


Lone surfer in lineup


Work hard, save your money, buy a piece of paradise and watch life crap on you. A weekly online serial.  

Five days a week, fifty two weeks a year, for thirty years is seven thousand, eight hundred days. Eight hours a day for seven thousand eight hundred days is sixty two thousand, four hundred hours.

This is what I paid for my security, for a chance to finally relax and live a life.

It was a close thing. The whole WorldCom fiasco set me back a few years, and an ill advised dalliance in day trading set me back a few more.  But I beat the race against social security and I can finally tell the world what I’ve wanted to for the last thirty years.

You can go fuck yourself. All of you.

Decades of busting my ass, eyes on the prize, and what do I get? A wife who leaves me. Leaves me because I’m not willing to cripple my future to put a junkie son through rehab, again. That boy had been a disgrace since the day he dropped from his mother’s womb. Even as a child, he was a liar, and a cheat, and a thief.  So, why am I the bad guy? Why, after feeding him, clothing him, and educating him, why should I be willing to try and save a dirt bag drug addict who’s just going fall off the wagon the moment he gets out? It’s his whole generation, a bunch of entitled, spoiled brats who think the future should be handed to them on a silver platter. That they shouldn’t have to work, to suffer.


And, of course, when the police finally pulled his corpse out of some shooting gallery deep in the ghetto, who’s fault was it? Not mine, I’ll tell you that.

Dead son, dead wife. To her credit, she remarried quickly, at least sparing me the indignity of supporting some withered old hag’s descent into dotage. When her new hubby flipped the their car on a wine tasting excursion to Napa, his reflexes muddled by a combination of room temperature Brie and piss yellow Chardonnay, well, I wasn’t happy, exactly. More like relieved.

But, it’s all come together, finally. Decades of work, a couple hundred thousand dollars, and a sheer, blind commitment to my goals has paid off. The condo is finished and I get to take possession of the place I will die in.  Alone, if I have any luck left.

Two bedrooms, Spanish tile in the kitchen, blue tile in the bathroom, creme colored walls. Exactly as specified. My balcony looks down on a head-high swell unfolding across the pointbreak I’ve coveted all these years.

Those were the best days of my life. Late teens, early twenties, surfing the Point until my arms were rubber, until my eyes were on fire. I told myself that, one day, I’d own a piece of her. And now I do.

The rest of my boards arrive with the furniture tomorrow. In the meantime, I retrieve my longboard from the spare room, and paddle out, into my wave. It’s steeper than I remember and I’m having a hard time making the drop. I can hear the snickers of spoiled Orange County day-tripper brats as I paddle back out. One of them blatantly stuffs me. I kick my board at him and miss.

“I tell him to watch his mouth, that this is my wave, that I’ve been surfing since his parents were children. He spits in my face and pushes me off my board. I take a swing at him and he ducks it.”

He paddles back out and starts screaming at me. “What was that about, old man?”

I tell him to watch his mouth, that this is my wave, that I’ve been surfing since his parents were children. He spits in my face and pushes me off my board. I take a swing at him and he ducks it.

Suddenly, I’m surrounded by his little pack of cronies, all splashing, laughing, mocking “go home old man”,”don’t break a hip”,”where’s your walker?”

I’ll kill them.

Later that night I’m sitting on my balcony, drinking from a bottle of tequila. My cell has ten missed calls, all from my realtor.

“Hey, um, we’ve run into a little problem here, can you call me back?”

“Hey, I really need you to call me back, it’s urgent.”

“Listen, I know you’re retired now, but you need to call me as soon as you get this message.”

“Alright, I didn’t want to tell you this via voice mail, but we’ve run into a problem with the condo…”

And so on…

I take a swig from the bottle and dial his number.

“Jesus, it’s about time, listen…”

“Look, just tell me what the problem is.” I slur out the words.

“Well, it’s like this, you know you own the condo…”

“Damn straight I do…”
“Yeah, well, it turns out that’s all you own. The land belongs to someone else.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The land owner is claiming he never sold the property, that the condos were built illegally. That you have to either pay him five hundred thousand, or vacate the premises.”

“What about my condo?”

“He says you’re welcome to move it.”

I hang up the phone and throw it off the balcony. I don’t see what it hits.

I’m going to finish this bottle, and then open another. I wonder where you can get a gun in Mexico. How hard would it be to smuggle one down from San Diego? I gulp down more tequila, too quick, too much, and retch it back up.

God damn it.


Kelly Slater with computer
And then there's Kelly Slater, a worldly maven who squeezes himself into a little of each category! | Photo: Morgan Maassen

your guide to: americans

The people of the USA fit into five very neat categories. Cheating Californians to fashionable New Yorkers!

America is a big country. And by America I mean the United States of. No one calls Canada, Mexico or Brazil America. It is a big country, a historically young country, with varied and jaw-dropping geography. It has soaring mountains, tropical coastlines, vast deserts, teeming metropolises and small, backward hamlets. Many people called, Americans, live here. And the bigness and the many-ness and varied-ness might intimidate the non-American but it need not. Americans are simple and can be broken into five categories based upon where they were raised, as well as four outlying categories based on religion and belief.

1. Northeasterners: Northeasterners originally hail from New York or Boston or Philadelphia. They are loud and brash and love to advertise their opinions and do so with jarring accents. They love to complain about the cold and complain about the heat and complain about taxes and complain about their sport’s teams. The men bald early. The women shrink and become round with age. Northeasterners have an ethnic mix of Italian, Irish, Dominican. They work as taxi cab drivers and garbage men. They find pleasure in their sport’s teams. Some of them, in New York, find pleasure in owning the best city in the world and being fashionable and being gay.

2. Southerners: Southerners tried to separate from the rest of America during the Civil War. They loved to own black people. And so they fought the rest of America so they could own black people but they lost and now many black people are Southerners. The white Southerners say, secretly in parlor rooms, “The south will rise again!” And nobody knows what they mean by this. Nobody knows if they mean owing black people will someday become a reality again or something else. They love eating delicate fried foods. They love listening to rap music or zydeco music or country music. They move slowly and are also slow to wrath. Their accents are pleasant and their skin is, often, very good. Clean.

“Southerners tried to separate from the rest of America during the Civil War. They loved to own black people. And so they fought the rest of America so they could own black people but they lost and now many black people are Southerners.”


3. Fly-overs: Everyone in the middle. Nobody cares about them but they are the heart of America. They vote in elections. They have small dreams and drive big cars. They work in manufacturing. They are all Germans.

4. Californians: A country unto itself. Californians come from everywhere but once in California become Californians. They are vain. They make movies. The women augment their breasts and the men cheat on the women. They drink fancy cocktails and have an ethnic mix of non-descript white and Mexican. The Mexican cuts the non-descript white’s grass. Some Californians make computers and things and these Californians become very rich

5. Pacific Northwesterners: Pac-Northwesterners are only white. They live in the trees and cut the trees down for work. They listen to loud and angry rock n roll and drink coffee and drink fancy beer. They smoke marijuana and grow marijuana but all this marijuana and beer and coffee does not lighten their moods because it rains on them 325 days a year. They become depressed. They write loud and angry rock n roll songs. They wish that everyone else in America was more eco friendly but they also cut down trees for work. And then they commit suicide. Kurt Cobain is Pacific-Northwesterner.

Outlying categories:

Native Americans, which includes Hawaiians. They are angry. They feel robbed. They act out, aggressively.

Jews are everywhere, or these are the conspiracies that foment. They own Hollywood and fight with the Masons for control of Washington D.C.

Mormons are creepy and genuinely foment conspiracy.

Libertarians own guns and live in the hills and shoot at anything that moves.