Kalani Robb on life as an extra in a world of stereotypes. And why he quit so soon!

It’s ten years now since this very handsome professional surfer split the tour in a huff. (“Those judges! Goddamn ’em all to hell!“) He wanted to join the circus of Hollywood.

Oh but if life was that simple! Kalani was once one of the highest-paid surfers in the world but now lives in southern California, duking it out at casting calls with some success (cameos in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Blue Crush), surfing Lowers instead of Teahupoo and Fiji, and learning all about the American legal system as fights to get his wealth back from the parents he’d employed to caretake his money while he surfed.

BEACHGRIT: You were contemptuous of the tour and you left well before your time after Marcelo Nunes beat you in Japan in 2005, at least according to the esteemed judging panel. It was so premature. But we miss!

KALANI: Yeah, I was bitter. Pissed off. Like anyone else would be on tour that gets a bum call. But, it’s how it goes. For me, I had earned my stripes as far as my reputation. There wasn’t much more to do. I’m not, like, stupid. Kelly is the best guy in the world. Everybody knows that. Even if I was to win a world title, like everybody had touted me, that guy is still the best guy in the world… I wanted to shake up surfing, to expand all of our world into TV and the movies. I wanted to be the soldier. Surfing’s big but Hollywood’s… huge.

BEACHGRIT: In hindsight, do you wish you’d hung out a little longer, picking up y’one mill or so a year? Taj is still top five, still succeeding and still ogling and fiddling…

KALANI: I love Taj. I live vicariously through Taj, secretly. He’s my boy. We grew up together. Half the finals I made growing up, we traded off firsts and seconds. I think that if I had that support that he did, maybe it would’ve been different. I went kinda rogue. I went for… Fox. That was the craziest thing right there. I wanted to prove to myself that I could literally ride for a company that’s dirt-biking and make it a surfing industry thing. And look at where Fox is today. I’ve singlehandedly brought them to where they are. For eight years I was their sole rider. Maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing to do.

BEACHGRIT: How well do you think you moved from the tour to real life?

KALANI: I will completely admit I didn’t transition over as soon as I should of. I did a lot of stupid moves. I work on emotion a lot of the time. It made it a ballsy move but I wanted to make that move when I was young so if I fuck up, at least I’ll be able to pull off what I want to pull off. I always want to be in surfing. Let’s be reasonable. The best asset I have is to show my surfing and surf the best I can and have someone that can market that. That’s what I’ve been born and bred to do. I’ve been born and bred to be a surfer. I grew up on the North Shore, I grew up around the best guys in the world, I was groomed by the best guys in the world, I became one of the best guys in the world. I was one of the most invested-in surfers in the world with all these big companies that spent millions of dollars on me. I’m kinda like a product of surfing.

BEACHGRIT: When Bobby Martinez blew up, were you shrieking into the television, “Noooo! It ain’t easy this life after pro surfing!”

KALANI: Bobby’s way was a little bit more gangsta. But his message was still the same: he’s not down with the politics. He said it how it was. I was fucking cringing when I heard him say it, but the truth of the matter is, a lot of people agree.

BEACHGRIT: The thing about guys like Bobby, who wear their hearts so brilliantly on their sleeve, is the reality of making a stand. A month later no-one cares about the point you so gallantly, so vociferously made… And pro surfing is the easiest way in the world to make six figures…

KALANI: Very, very good. Absolutely. Absolutely. Let’s be real, that’s the nature of the beast. But as the surf industry says, there’s a younger kid that’s 15 years old that will surf twice as long as you, go bust his ass for less than you to prove himself, that’s for absolute sure. But Bobby, he was rare. He was a diamond in the rough. He’s a rare, rare breed. If he wanted to stick with it, I tell you what, man, living here in California, and seeing the Hispanic neighbourhoods, he’d be the biggest thing…ever. He had the potential to be the…biggest… surfer…ever.

BEACHGRIT: How do you see the sponsor money breakdown at the moment? It ain’t what it used to be. Just ’cause your pretty good doesn’t warrant a salary anymore…

KALANI: They took the lower-class out, the middle-class is gone and now it’s just the upper-class making the millions. When I made my money it was more like hundreds of thousands, close to millions, but when you got close to millions, you’re like, whoa, they’re the gnarly guys. We used to always talk about millions and millions and millions and millions and it’s good to finally see it. I’m really proud of how far surfing’s gone.

BEACHGRIT: Y’don’t ever lament being born 10 years too soon?

KALANI: I have nothing to complain about! If I complain I’d be the biggest shithead ever! I had it good. If anything, I’m shocked I was making high six figures. That’s what I was used to my whole life. I was making top dollar back then. Fuck, I’m glad I didn’t grow up in the seventies.

BEACHGRIT: Are you surprised by the brevity of fame

KALANI: I don’t give a fuck about any of that fame or nothing… I wasn’t caught in that scene or ever thought of it… As a matter of fact, if fame is the word, I think that I have more fame or more popularity now than in my entire life. I crossed into being on television shows, being in movies, commercials. To tell you the truth, I literally would be more famous than ever. That’s what’s a little baffling to me.

BEACHGRIT: Were you smart with your money in that golden period?

KALANI: Ohhhhhhh! You would not believe the shit and drama over here in America. I mean, I’m not Sunny (Garcia), not paying taxes and going to jail, but I had some weird trips. I’ll put it to you like this. I entrusted everything from my money to my houses my whole thing to my parents. Every son believes their mother and father has their best interests at hand. And to make a long story short, they didn’t have my best interests at hand. And in the last couple of years I got married and when I told ’em, hey guys, I got married, I’ve moved on with my life, than you very much for handling my taxes, handling my real estate and taking care of my money. I actually had to pay my mom a salary for it. And I said, I want to get everything together, I want to handle my shit, and it was like, “No, it’s my shit now. It’s not yours.”


KALANI: …yeah, and I was like, okay, fuck…long story short, my parents are living in my house and I live my life and I have to deal with a lot of attorneys and shit like that. It’s the lamest family position you could possibly be in, having a brand new marriage, having a brand new baby. It was a bummer and embarrassing. But, if anything, it’s a good warning to kids. Young kids have to be really careful.

BEACHGRIT: How does it affect the relationship, this estrangement from your very parents?

KALANI: Oh, dude, it’s like a bad movie. It’s like you’re watching a bad movie and you want to change the channel because it fucking sucks  and you can’t and you gotta sit there and watch the whole movie unfold, and be part of it. It doesn’t seem real. But, since it happened other famous athletes have said, hey dude, this has happened to a lot of people. It’s sooo…common. Some parents get caught up in the kid’s lifestyle and they think that it’s their lifestyle and it’s their life and their money, especially when you go, hey, can you control this for me? And let’s be reasonable, when you’re sitting in a house rent free, a very…nice house… rent free, and you have a bank account that’s just blowing up and you’re sitting there and it’s not yours but you can use any money you want because it’s my son’s, you become accustomed to that feeling. And you don’t wanna give that up. This is mine now. You’re my son, you don’t know shit. It’s bizarre.

BEACHGRIT: What did it teach you?

KALANI: That in life, y’gotta pay attention.


Anastasia Ashley Gets Pounded (plus Maxim shoot!)

Surf gal with ass as precious as bone china hunts hurricanes, gets barrelled, ain't afraid to wipe out.

San Clemente by way of North Shore surfer Anastasia Ashley is known for many things. Twerking, half a million Instagram followers, pictures in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit edition and Playboy, sexy commercial spots for hamburger chain Carl’s Jr. etc. etc. etc. She is famous and will become more famous shortly.  But at the end of the day, she is simply a San Clemente by way of North Shore surfer. Just like Laird Hamilton, (except very much better).

She hunts swell, she runs into hurricanes, she gets frothed over too scientific wave forecasts, she gets barreled. And while you are free to draw any conclusion based upon her social persona, I have known Anastasia for the better part of seven years and can say she is nothing if not a charger. First on a bodyboard (at age 4) then on surfboard (at age 7) and now, sometimes, on a big ol’ gun. She surfs Sunset, she surfs Waimea, she surfs thumping Mexican beachbreak. And right here, exclusively, she can be seen taking a thick lip to the head.

“It was bad…” she told me while we sipped happy hour margaritas. “…I took this one and got totally smashed. And when I came up, I got stuck in the impact zone. It wasn’t pushing me to shore. I wasn’t getting pulled back out. I just sat there and took wave after wave after wave on the head. It wasn’t very fun.”

I’ve never been smashed by a wave that big but can’t imagine it would have been. In fact, I would have retired from the surfs forever. Anastasia, though, is not me (and, thankfully not Laird). The upcoming Pacific forecast is for even bigger surf and she is planning on running back to Mexico to get some more. A charger, I tell you. And while Terry Richardson may photograph her (more on this later) and while her fame may exceed that of Julia Roberts, she is at the end of the day, a surfer. And our little world is better off for it.

Update: Back in July, and straight off the plane from Miami fashion week (rigorous!), Anastasia shot with Blossom Berkofsky for the sophisticated men’s title Maxim. The magazine is currently on the shelves in the US. Watch the vision from the shoot here!







Tiger shark gets caught by baited hooks in Western Australia
Killing ain't a pretty biz. Here, we see a tiger shark that's been caught on one of the WA gov's baited hooks. But let's think for a second. Let's utilise our enormous human brain capacities. How do you think that sushi on that plate in front of you got there? Or that delicious fish burger before it was flame grilled and served with chilli mayonnaise? If y'against killin', you're against killin'. | Photo: Sea Shepherd

Killer Sharks Get Free-ish Pass in WA

No more baited hooks in Western Australia. But great whites might still get iced if there's more killins… 

Western Australia has a shark problem. That ain’t news. Eight deaths since 2008 (on surfers, bodyboarders, snorkellers and swiimmers), and attacks spiking off the charts since 2000, isn’t good for tourism or the beach lifestyle Australia’s biggest state is famous for.

But it ain’t news.

What is news is that the Environmental Protection Authority has scuttled plans by the WA government to re-deploy baited hooks off Perth and south-west beaches.

Yeah, the stats aren’t pretty. Instead of cleaning up great whites, the hooks killed 64 tiger sharks and various other fish. And, visually, the sight of ensnarled sharks being hauled up the starboard side to receive a bullet to the head or knife to the guts belly was always going to be a tough sell.

Yeah, but still.

WA’s premier Barnett had planned to roll out 72 freshly baited hooks come November. He also was pushing for a wider exclusion zone around the contractors (hello Sea Shepherd!) and the freedom to bring the hooks closer to shore if deemed necessary.

No way, said EPA Chairman Dr Paul Vogel, pointing instead to a “high degree of scientific uncertainty” and inability by the Barnett Government to provide a “high level of confidence” to the EPA that his multi million dollar program was indeed an efficient way of dealing with the shark menace. “The EPA has adopted a cautious approach by recommending against the (Government’s) proposal,” Dr Vogel said.

Barnett bit his lip and promised any rogue shark would still be dealt with, “destroyed and removed”, to be precise.

Either way, sure is great news for the white pointer, better still perhaps for the scores who joined the masses on the foreshore, banging drums, blowing whistles and and pleading for the sharks to be left alone to go about their business.

“More chance of being run over by a car!” they shrieked. “You’re in their environment!”

Don’t you dare suggest the removal of a few apex predators is going to help you sleep better at night. Who cares about you and your pre-dawn surfs, your late arvo glass-offs, your kiddies and their comps.

#Save the Great White Shark!

#I Know I Eat Sushi But Sharks Are Special! To hell with tuna!

Surfing WA Chairman, Bob Welch, was one of few who held firm when he learnt of the surprise ruling by the EPA. “We are very disappointed,” said Welch. “Our members will expect us to continue a pro-active stance in considering their safety while in the ocean. We will continue to work with the government on investigating all possible strategies to maintain safety.”

And for now, that means helicopter patrols over Perth’s metro beaches and a paranoia-inducing Twitter feed which provides up-to-the-minute updates on any shark sighting. Feel like a surf? Head to Twitter and discover there’s two great whites offshore. But, yes! It’s their ocean!

For surfers in the state’s south-west, particularly in and around Margaret River, the proposed helicopter patrols will prove little comfort given the clumsy system in place should a shark be sighted.

Guidelines set out by Fisheries WA in 2012 state it will only act on a sighting if verified by “experienced commercial fishers, Surf Life Saving WA representatives or Fisheries officers.”

The guidelines say that sightings from that select group, “have tended to be more reliable than reports from the general public.”

“I can’t really say having a helicopter buzz over every couple hours made me feel any safer,” says surfer Dino Adrian of last year’s rush to ease a scared populous. “I can’t really say that the hooks made me feel any safer either, but something had to be done.”

And therein lies the real issue. Something had to be done. But what?

Chris Boyd was killed while surfing at Umbis in November 2013, a beautiful wave known for throwing up throaty barrels located a stone’s throw off the beach along the Ellensbrook side of Gracetown.

His death, like every other, sent a chill down the spine of every surfer in Margaret River, given it’s ferocity and the fact it occurred on an absolutely stunning spring morning, throwing every preconceived idea of when and where attacks occur out the window.

The area surrounding Umbis came under immediate suspicion. Two other surfers had been killed a short walk away and every surfer  has a story about being chased out of the water by sharks with eyes “as big as oranges”.

“It was a pretty hectic period,” says Adrian of the aftermath left by Boyd’s death. “I was glad when Barnett did something but it freaked me the fuck out that Chris was killed where he was. There’s so many good waves over that side of town, but I don’t surf there anymore – except North Point but even that’s a bit of a gamble.”

Similarly, another well-regarded surfer Chris Ross, himself no stranger to deep water and all of its ghastly inhabitants, recalls a growing sense of dread at the spike in sightings.

“I grew up in Margs and I can’t recall it (shark menace) even being a problem when I was a kid,” he says. “But I think that white pointers have been a protected species for long enough that there population just grew and grew and it’s just gotten to the point that there’s so many of them. You’d have to say it’s out of control.”

The stats back Ross up. Before 2004, in the hundred or so years of records being kept? No fatal attacks. The great white shark has been a protected species since 1999.

Ross, like Adrian and like a lot of others down this way who would rather remain nameless, want action.

Ross suggests taking the white pointer off the protected species list for a while, Adrian favouring a scientific approach.

“The drum lines were a bit of a knee-jerk reaction,” says Adrian. “But good on Barnett I reckon, he had to do something quickly and he did. I’d just like to see more research into why there’s so many big sharks all of a sudden.”

And so, as the whales start to appear off the coast on their annual path down south, the surfer in the south-west can only look out to sea and imagine what follows those beautiful big blubbery mammals and hope that dark shape below is just a dolphin.

Just a dolphin.

John John announces retirement!

He will become a pirate alongside Greyson Thunder Fletcher.

I will say, without fear of contradiction, that The Surfer’s Journal is the most radical publication, maybe even thing, in our surf world. Its existence is based almost entirely on sales. It is thick, meandering, very tactile. As far as I can tell the staff gives no care to social media or the Internet as a whole. Radical!

And the soon to be released issue, 23.5, might be the grandest, most radical yet. It is entirely dedicated to the Hoffman-Fletchers. Anyone who has spent time in their sphere knows they are mercurial, at best. Their reach across our landscape, though, is undeniable, from Walter to Joyce to Marty to Herbie to Dibi to Christian to Nathan, and the Journal does a fantastic job capturing the angles (Lewis Samuels writes a gorgeous piece on Herb). But my fav slice (and Fletcher) is Christian’s son Greyson Thunder. Such a sweet, young man rolled into the packaging of a lumberjack! And he is interviewed by the savant of our time, up and coming surf journalist, John John Florence.

It is a brilliant conversation, worth buying the issue for, but the end, which I share here, is particularly wonderful:

John John: Do you want to be surfing and skating in ten years?

Greyson: Of course.

John Johh: Do you want to be doing it competitively?

Greyson: For fun. Yes.

John John: I want to retire in ten years.

Greyson: You’re going to retire in ten years?

John John: Yeah. We should retire at the same time and go on sick boat trips and stuff.

Greyson: It’s possible.

Possible and fantastic! I, firstly, love that John John will disappear in ten years, leaving King Kelly to sit alone like a Gollum with all his preciouses (that he will have to re-engrave WSL). I love, secondly, the image of these two going berserk on the high seas. They will be pirates and no port will be safe, no fair maiden secure. Surfers/skaters should have turned to piracy years ago. Damn Somalis beat us all to the punch, but I’m just glad that in ten years time we will field the best team ever. A freshly retired Capt. John John and his trusty first mate Greyson.  And we have The Surfer’s Journal to thank. Reader supported piracy! Yo-ho!

Matahi Drollet gets tubed at Teahupoo in Tahiti
Matahi Drollet is the 17-year-old kid brother of Manoa Drollet, who launched him into the wave of the day during the filming for Point Break II at Teahupoo. "He's only 17, man, and he looks younger," says Dylan, "and he went off, mate. He got the biggest drainer. He went deep and made it. On one of my boards too!" | Photo: © 2014 Raihei Tapeta / Mataiea Lifestyle Tahiti


Hollywood comes to Teahupoo for Point Break II

Australian stunt-man Laurie Towner bounced off the Teahupoo reef yesterday and sprung his jaw in two. Pop! Holes in his neck! Holes in his head! Body all cut up! The second wave got him, too, and he blacked out and came to in the lagoon a few hundred metres in with tow-pal Laird pulling him out of the drink.

That’s the kinda thing that happens when you’re a stuntman on the remake of a schmaltz classic like 1991’s Point Break that requires the hero to ride the offspring of a “50-year-storm.”  In this case, it was an ultra-long period swell which meant it was ultra-powerful but also ultra-slow.

And Laurie, 28, who prefers his tubs on the deep side, wasn’t going to have arm-chair jockeys telling the world he coulda got deeper. How many chances was he going to get?

Laurie is, or at least was, ’cause it’s the past tense now that he’s sitting in hospital waiting for his gal to arrive from Australia, the stunt double for Johnny Utah, the film’s FBI agent protagonist. Laurie can’t fly ’cause “so much water rushed into his head and into his sinuses,” says Dylan Longbottom, the other major stunt surfer, who doubles for the film’s conflicted surf guru villain Bohdi.

Bruce Irons stepped in for Laurie and for the rest of yesterday, and today (Friday, Tahiti time), he and Dylan doubled in tubes. Dylan, 40, who also shaped all the tow and paddle boards used in the movie, says the pair got “some crazy, drain-y ones. I was so deep and I was pumping and pumping and flying and I’m thinking…shit… he’s gone and I look back and I see him right at the end come flying out. I couldn’t believe it!”

For the past two-and-a-half weeks all the home-stays, pensions and hotels near and around Teauhupoo as well as hotels in the Tahitian capital of Papeete have been filled with that wonderful mix of Hollywood investors, directors and actors and production crew along with the hardest-edge watermen water patrol guys (Brian Keaulana, Raimana Van Bastolaer, Vetea “Poto” David) as well as camera men (including the most enduring Don King) and surfers.

Laird Hamilton stars as a vagabond tow driver and was also Laurie’s tow driver, now Bruce’s. Dylan has Raimana, who also acts as coordinator for all the boats, cranes, skis, drones and everything else that comes with a movie that ain’t bringing home a shekel in change from a hundred mill.

Such an event doesn’t come without casualties, even with Laurie excepted. Poto’s ski sunk ’cause of a too-heavy camera attached to it and another ski was flipped and the 200-gee camera strapped onto the sled was drowned.

There was even a fight! At least according to one photographer.

“It’s been a hilarious couple of days with Hollywood trying to shut it off to the locals which failed miserably, Hawaiian water patrol flipping skis, a fight out the back amongst a couple of very well-known riders and basically all the superstar riders being dominated by a 16-year-old local.”

The kid was Manoa Drollet’s little bro, Matahi, getting the deepest and biggest tub.

“He’s only 17, man, and he looks younger,” says Dylan, “and he went off, mate. He got the wave of the day. The biggest drainer. He went deep and made it. On one of my boards too!”

Matahi Drollet’s Bomb During Filming of Point Break 2 from MSW on Vimeo.


And what does Dylan think the movie going to be like? Cheese or Rock? Well, for one, he can’t give away too much, ’cause he’s read the script and it’s secret and shit, but he’s seen the rushes. “This one’s for real,” says Dylan. “This movie’s going to be sick, man!”