Scott Soens plies his trade on land.
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.



Ain't That Swell
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 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.
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…………


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.”


Keith Malloy bodysurfing by Chris Burkard
The Plight of the Torpedo People is a remarkable book by the photographer Chris Burkard and bodysurfing aficionado Keith Malloy. “Rarely have I had the opportunity to photograph something as pure as body surfing,” explains Burkard. “It’s the most stripped down form of wave riding.” | Photo: Chris Burkard

The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Bodysurfing

You, a wave and a torrent of water fording your ass. "It's sexy!" says Keith Malloy…

Keith Malloy is the middle brother of the Central Californian family famous for their purist behaviour. Bar fights! Much board paddle! Big waves!

Last year Keith released a film documenting the pleasingly simplistic craft of bodysurfing called Come Hell or Highwater. There’s also a book that fits alongside the film called The Plight of the Torpedo People, featuring Keith, but made by the photographer Chris Burkard, who also shot the photo you see on this page. (Click here to buy! You should!)

Keith sat in a Eames aluminium group office chair in tan denim pants that were somewhat cowboy-ish, a black Patagonia t-shirt and with his head wrapped in a Farmer and the Cook hat, an organic cafe in Ojai, California, near where he lives, and delivered to me (and hence to you) the following primer on bodysurfing.

“It’s sexy!” says Keith. He ain’t lying…

1. It’s more dangerous than you think: Getting smashed is part of bodysurfing, pulling into barrels and getting flogged and washed up on the beach with sand in your hair. But it’s super easy to break your neck. There’s nothing to break your fall. So it’s easy to end up head-first in the sand or reef. The main injuries are shoulder dislocations. I’ve seen ’em all over the years. I saved a bodysurfer once who broke his neck in the shore break at Ventura wedge. He came up screaming. Luckily he wasn’t paralysed. There’s a couple of guys from the (Newport) Wedge crew who are paralysed right now. What do you do? Use your common sense. Don’t think you’re invincible, especially in hollow waves.

2. Learn to pull through the back. If you’ve been bodysurfing long enough you’ll do it without thinking. Mike Cunningham, Mike Stewart, Chris Kalima and I surfed Teahupoo for 10 days straight, six-foot plus, and there wasn’t one scratch on us. One guy didn’t have the experience and he got shredded. What’s the trick? All you gotta do is ride it out as long as can and at the last minute, drop down extra low, penetrate the water and twist back through. Lead with your hands.

3. Always the hands, sometimes the chest: In most biggesr waves, always have a hand out in front. The only time the chest gets a workout is when it’s a mushier section.

4. Bodysurfing etiquette ain’t that diff from the usual: If you’re bodysurfing with a pack of pals, you don’t take off on somebody and ruin their wave. That isn’t hard to remember. But what you might wanna realise is that bodysurfers are the lowest of the totem pole. A 10-year-old girl will drop in on you and not think twice about it.

5. The best waves? Makapu’u on Oahu’s East Side, Point Panic on the South Shore there, The Wedge in Newport, Boomer in San Diego with Teahupoo as the mythical Jaws-style pinnacle

6. The best bodysurfers in the world are Mike Stewart and Mark Cunningham: Mike is number one, Mark is the legend. It’s like Slater and Curren. Mike is the hot-dog master, Mark is the master. Cunningham has the best style and the best technique. Mike does half the shit on a bodyboard without the bodyboard. He does crazy things like getting sucked up the face, blown out into the flats, and keeps going.

7. Travel is easy. A pair of fins. A wetsuit or a pair of trunks. Maybe a hand plane for when it’s small. There ain’t a lot of excess.

8. Bodysurfing isn’t a pain in the hierarchy: The one thing that’s nice about bodysurfing is it’s not going to affect the lineup no matter how popular it gets. Stand-up paddle boarding ruins the lineup. But when you bodysurf you pick up the scraps and you still have a fucking better time than anybody out there. You get more waves because you don’t need a great wave to have a great time.

9. It’s physical and it’s sexy. It’s super neat not having anything between you, your body and the wave. You’re completely submerged in the ocean and the wave. There’s a classic line in the movie where a guy from Wyoming (cowboy country) talks about bodysurfing and how erotic it is, all that water rushing over your body.

10. Bodysurfing smashes ego: It’s connected. It’s what surfing’s all about. You’re not putting on a show. Nobody is watching you. It takes you back to that state when you were a kid when it wasn’t not about your fucking ego. Whoever has the most fun wins. I love that aspect. I started bodysurfing while I was on the tour. It was driving me crazy trying to tear a wave apart from start to finish and surf under the contest criteria. I was living on the North Shore and I started going bodysurfing with Mark Cunningham and it was a breath of fresh air: riding waves without being tethered to equipment, the glide. It was like a vacation from surf contests.