John John Florence was suddenly propelled into world title contention when he won the Quiksilver Pro, France, in difficult (but not for him!) six-to-eight-foot beachbreaks. "The waves were enough to drown Lebron James and send Derek Jeter crying to Mariah Carey," says Matt Biolos. | Photo: ASP/Kirstin Scholtz

Why pro surfing is better than any sport on earth

To hell with cry-babies Jeter and Lebron! Matt "Mayhem" Biolos on the miracle of the ASP…

The ASP has put together the most dynamic, ever-changing, globally diverse group of athletes, with the widest age group, in the most elite field of competitors of any organised sport in the world today.

The tour is that good. Let me explain.

This year I decided to focus more on my work with athletes on the world tour. That means travelling more to the events rather than just sitting here at Trestles all year waiting for the US Open and The Hurley Pro.

The first stop was Snapper. Then I went to Rio for the Brazil event. I dragged my entire family of six to South Africa for the Ballito Prime and the J-Bay Pro. Back home for the US Open at HB and, of course, we settled in for the Hurley Pro at my home break of Lowers.

In September, we loaded up the four kids and hit the road to Europe for the Roxy and Quik Pro in Hossegor. This made for five men’s world tour events and, with HB being a CT for the girls, five women’s events that I attended in person. When you watch that many events up close you start to really realise the scope of this tour and the challenges it puts on these elite athletes.

And this is without even being at the South Pacific events which are the heaviest waves on the schedule.

And what about France? What these guys do is paddle out in what is essentially impossible-to-paddle-out-to, closed-out wash-throughs  in low-tide beachbreaks that were enough to drown Lebron James and send Derek Jeter crying to Mariah Carey.

But what of the qualifying series? When you watch a few of the bigger events like the Mr Price Ballito or the US Open you realise that of the 100 or so athletes in these events only a handful have a chance to qualify. Meaning only a handful look good enough.

Even more telling is that of the yearly qualifiers. Many don’t look like they could compete at the level required to make it on the world tour anyway. It’s just so elite. It’s becoming a tour of super freaks. I cant think of anything else like it except maybe the genetic curios of sprinting.

I love the the global-ness of the tour. Other tours travel the world but a tennis court is man-made, golf courses are man-made, even downhill ski races are on tracks cut out of the mountain and groomed by tractors.

The ever-changing playing field in surfing is like no other. No other sport is so intertwined with nature. The variety of the waves on tour are impressive and can be even more diverse with a few tweaks. Bring back a slab like Chile or The Box. Maybe a radical cold-water expedition or a truly big-wave spot.

The humanity of the pro tour is also something that lights up every town it stops at. The tour surfers are very visible and for a couple weeks each year become pert of the fabric of the community. Pro surfers are everywhere: the coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and most importantly for our little culture to thrive, the surf spots. Every day, the guys and girls are out searching and surfing the local breaks. Not just the contest peak but all over. This is exciting and inspires the local kids and adult surfers alike.

In what other sport can you interact with the world’s best while they warm-up or practise for the next heat? Split a peak with Slater at Lowers? Priceless. You want to chat with Jordy between sets at J-Bay? Just paddle up and ask “Howzit?”

That point is also a double-edged sword. It’s the only sport I can think of where the athletes don’t have a closed-off, designated place to warm-up or practise. Six am, contest day, Trestles and Gabe Medina wants to warm up a little. There are 80 of his closest friends waiting to greet and compete with him for waves. It’s just not like that in any other sport.

And what about the dramatic age differences? For a man-on-man sport of high athletic demand, it’s got to be the most diverse age group going. Sure, there are specialists in various team sports who can remain valuable to a team into their mid 40’s. And surely some golfers can stay competitive pretty long in the tooth, but can you imagine an Olympic gymnast or ATP tennis player competing at a top level over 35, even 40. It doesn’t happen.

As for the webcasts, these are the single most unifying thing in the global surf community today. You can be on a beach on Bondi or Dubai, Trestles or Tel Aviv, and have the same conversation with the local surfers about the intricacies of a wave or heat or score for any one of these tour athletes.

We don’t all watch every little freesurf web edit that gets whipped up and drops on the internet at an alarming rate, but (especially with heats on demand, replays, and the highlight reels) more than any other time in the sports history, it seems like everyone is watching these events.

The presentations are slick, the announcers are doing a good job, and the back-end productions are solid. Honestly, its an incredible product they are giving us.

But lest the ASP should get any ideas about pay-per-view, listen: the broadcasts have to remain free. I mean, we don’t pay to watch Monday Night Football or the Baseball or NBA playoffs. Why should we need to pay to watch our surfing? The sponsors are paying to “Present” as in a Christmas Present, right?

Now if they could have just not made that godforsaken name change…


Scott Soens plies his trade on land.

The water cinematographer is dying

Yet he is the strongest man you will ever meet.

The water cinematographer will surprise you, upon first meeting, with his girth. Handshake firmed from gripping thirty pounds of motion picture equipment in angry seas. Chest broad from three wave hold downs. Thighs filled from hours and hours of kicking. He is taller than you expect and confident because he faces nature’s worst and regularly survives.

But even though he is the picture of health and of masculinity, and even though his skin is bronze and his shoulders are round, he is dying a slow death. It is difficult to swing a Canon 7D on any beach and not hit at least seven water photographers in the mealy face, but you would have to travel to Daniel Russo’s house to hit a water cinematographer. Or Dave Holmes’s house. Or Rick Jacovich’s house. Or Chris Bryan’s house. Or Scott Soens’s house. The water cinematographer is rare and increasingly so.

I met with Scott Soens on a perfect Los Angeles morning not at his house but at the luxurious Milk studios, and he spoke, at length, about the art of surf cinematography, how beautiful it is, how difficult it is. I asked why it is a dying art and he responded. “It’s really hard to make a living purely shooting water. The equipment is expensive and takes time to master, for one. And, think about it, if you are shooting stills in the water a surfer can take off do a bottom turn, do a top turn then fall off. You’ve still got three shots. But if you are shooting it as a clip, the whole thing is ruined. So people are just not practicing it as much, or at all, and it is becoming, as you say, a dying art.”

Which is heartbreaking. Ask me, what is better than a very slow barrel clip shot from the water? I will answer nothing. It sums up everything elegant and everything perfect about surfing.

With Sonny Miller’s recent and tragic literal dying, the world lost another man’s man. Young child, if you aspire to grow into the very picture of virility, I implore you to pick up the RED and start swimming. We all need more flesh and blood heroes.

Scott Soens in his element.
Scott Soens in his element.

 

 


Radio show that's so not radio but radio format! This is the t-shirt by Ozzie Wright. | Photo: Ozzie Wright

Nihilism! The Surf Radio Channel That’s So Not Radio

An hour of brusque and dull opinion! What's not to love?

Ain’t That Swell is the not-radio radio show of Jed Smith, the former online editor of stabmag.com and contributor to What Youth. His show is an hour of only-slightly-scripted topics squeezed from whatever has been happening in surf.

Last week, his co-host, Adam Blakey aka Vaughan Dead, editor of Surfing World and vocals-rhythm guitar for the Goons of Doom, was out of town and Jed asked if BeachGrit would supply a voice.

Oh, what a first-class fool I sound!  I believe in preparation as a rule and vowed to have all the figures in my head (Filipe’s scores for his backside huck at Trestles and his monster straight at Hossegor, for instance), opinions straight, ideas formed, everything that creates the impression of a vigorous intelligence.

I bought two small bottles of champagne instead and drank for courage and lucidity en route to the studio. And then when the mic’s went live I went… blank!

The producer was kind and said, “We can cut that out” when I got lost mid thought. The disappointment on Jed Smith’s face transcended anything I’d ever seen on the face of a child. I had lost my historical opportunity to soar in public.

But the show is powerful and bestial!

Jed is a tiger in the ring and a pussycat outside the ring! Highlight: the producer falling off his chair mid-recording and his head boiling with blood (you hear, but no see…).

 


It feels good to be king.

RACISM! But this Promo Will Make You Love Gabriel Medina

How can you not love this passionate, prone-to-tears, soon-to-be world champion?

It was during the broadcast of the Quiksilver Pro in France that the short Gabriel Medina Vs The World appeared on our screens.

The refined technique of the short was in the starkest of contrast to everything else zooming around the screen. Simple. Striking. A complete abandonment of the NFL-style of graphics and promo shorts that defines the current ASP.

FOX SPORTS: Gabriel Medina Vs The World from Luke Farquhar on Vimeo.

The two surfers who made the film Luke Farquhar and Jack Shanahan made it on on a three-grand budget, calling in favours and using their own boards and pals and pals’ dogs in the shots. Luke wrote; Jack shot.

The surfboard with the target painted on the bottom is an old Hayden Shapes sled that was thrown off the North Bondi cliffs.

The girl is a pal of Luke’s girlfriend. “She’s brunette and has tits and ass so she looks like a Brazilian,” says Luke.

The bar is The Stuffed Beaver in Bondi.

That’s Luke as the “Brazilian terrorist.”

The voice-over is a Rio radio announcer. “He sent back the audio in two hours,” says Luke.

What’s most interesting about the short (which Rip Curl hates incidentally ’cause they  don’t dig the Gabriel vs the World angle) is it was made by a surfer from the Gold Coast, a twenty-something who was indoctrinated with a Hate-Zillas mentality.

“I grew up with the words This is Burleigh not Brazil painted over the Welcome to the Gold Coast sign,” says Luke. “I grew up with that shit but because of Gabriel and Filipe I’ve done the biggest 180 opinion-wise. I like Brazil and I like all the religious shit around them. There aren’t any Aussies praying to fucking god for Taj to win. They’re at the bar with a schooner in their hands screaming, You can fucking do it!

 


Surfing Breaks US Government

America's first Samoan-Hindu congresswoman blows off government to shred!

United States Representative Tulsi Gabbard, from the fine state of Hawaii, got in trouble last week for missing an important hearing about veterans’ care. She is, herself, a vet having served two tours of duty in the Middle East. She is also a vocal critic of the way the U.S. military is being handled by the current administration.

Still, she missed the hearing, and got in trouble, because she was…………

Surfing!

That’s right, my darling keikis. Rep. Gabbard was out and absolutely ripping Waikiki’s bowls for a Yahoo! news segment called “Extreme Recess.” She says, “Literally every time I come home, my first stop is the ocean.” She’s got a proper duck dive, a proper paddle, a proper little shimmy. All that time in the ocean definitely is paying off. (Plus, she may or may not be sponsored by Rip Curl.)

Yet she is being taken to task for working on her surf game instead of fixing America’s broken social welfare system. Stupid.

And this is why the United States, and the rest of the world, for that matter, is in shambles. Priorities. I’ve sat through enough “hearings” in my life to know nothing ever gets done. People love to hear themselves talk and so they talk and talk and talk and talk and that is all. Neither minds nor realities are changed.

Hearings are as dull as they are pointless and, yes, Rep. Gabbard knows what’s what. Even though she may be on the left, politically, she also goes right with flair!

BeachGrit says “Surf on, dear Tulsi! Even if you loose your political seat, you will always be the representative of our hearts.”