Ugly brands have been dancing in surfing's glory for too long. No more!

And here I sit, on my veranda, flipping through the latest Vanity Fair whilst sipping Dr. Pepper from a paper cup. It is an almost perfect cloudy day and yet my eyes hurt because they are being assaulted by very hideous Michael Kors advertisements. One after the other after the other featuring saturated tones, pouty faced models and clichéd copy.

For those who don’t know, Michael Kors is a very gauche American fashion brand that aspires to mimic high-end labels at a price point. Its collections are neither inspiring nor innovative. It aims directly at what the middle class consumer thinks is fancy. And it is totally working. Last year, the company did over three billion in revenue and its stock is booming.

The masses enjoy Kors’s take because they can feel luxe without actually being luxe but, really, it ain’t good. It is ugly. And reductive. And gauche. And for sure Vanity Fair’s staff know it ain’t good but will gladly take the company’s dollar bills because publishing is a tough biz and gift horses are not to be looked in the mouth.

But VF staff should look that gift horse directly in the mouth and think to themselves, “Away with you. We are an institution. We set the tone of what is worth conversing about and Micheal Kors, just like True Religion and Von Dutch before, is not it. Yuck!”

Which, of course, brings us to surfing. I spent a few minutes perusing various surf websites this morning and had the same general feeling. What the hell is D’Blanc doing “presenting” anything? Its product offering may not be the worst thing ever but its utterly tacky messaging sure is. The company was created instantly and overnight from a large wad of private investment cash but imbued with grime in order to mimic some sort of salt-of-the-earth hipster sensibility. A straight marketing ploy bereft of spirit. And why is Neff allowed to play? Neff is so bright gumball goobery that I am really at a loss for words. It is really the most goobery thing I have seen in years. Just say the damn word. Neff. Neff. Neff. It sounds like Michael Kors.

Publishing can be an ugly business and Vanity Fair and surf media are so scared of folding that both will take almost any dollars they can find. The art of curating taste and demanding beauty is long gone or maybe in the case of surf media never was. But remember those awesome Schroff ads or …Lost ads or the 1998 ad from Guinness beer (above). Watch it five times in a row and feel that heart beat. Amazing advertising, you see, is transcendent. It makes the spirit soar. The kids get inspired and make better things and learn the difference between real and dumb and we all benefit. But how do the kids know what to eschew when the media companies show no difference between the genius and the base?

At the end of the day, I don’t pretend to know what the best fashion/image is but I know what is not. And, thus, I can say, here on beautiful BeachGrit, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled Neff yucking masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming Rip Curl’d shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, Vissla-loathing to me: 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

compare this nastiness to the beautiful art above.
compare this nastiness to the art above.

Mitch Crews portrait
The tour rookie Mitch Crews regrets a lot of things: the tattoo of a taco on his leg, falling in love, splitting from school, hurting gals (physically!) and climbing into little planes. But don't he look pretty here! Who doesn't dream of unwrapping this androgynous gift! | Photo: Mitch Crews

Candid: Mitch Crews and the unbearable pain of being

The tour rookie regrets so many things: Hurting a gal (physically!), splitting school and posting under the influence…

Mitch Crews is the 24-year-old surfer from the Gold Coast for whom the World Tour is likely to be a singular orbit. Mitch is rated 30th on the World Tour ratings (only the top 22 remain on tour) and is nowhere to be seen on the qualifying series ratings. Wouldn’t that just rope you in the guts. All that training, all those contests, y’make it into the league, then it all disappears within a year.

Yet there is so much to like about Mitch. He dresses in wigs and wears lipsticks and prefers leopard prints over pastels. He also has minty breath and his face looks like a stone carving. Precious.

BeachGrit asked Mitch to list his 10 biggest mistakes.

1. BEING UNEDUCATED: I regret that I never gave my schooling years 110%. I squeaked through as a 55% to 60% kinda guy and would take any chance I could get to get a day off to surf. I have no ranking to get into a university or a grade to get me into a good school. If I stopped surfing right now, I would love to be able to go straight into three years at a top school, get a degree and educate myself on a subject that I’m interested outside of surfing. Unfortunately I can’t. It would be cool to challenge myself intellectually instead of physical sporting achievements one day. I feel naked only knowing how to get by in the surf world and not whats’ going outside this bubble and realising all the other opportunities in life.

2. MY FIRST TATTOO: I was in California with my Lifewithoutandy friends Mitch, Mitchell and Brandon. I was 19. They were like older brothers to me. I was injured with a busted ankle at the time and they took me around and showed me a true USA experience. We all had such a great trip together that we all decided we should get a tattoo to represent how good a time we had on that trip. We decided to get a Taco tattoo (like the edible mexican food) on the inside of our leg. My taco is there for life now.

3. FALLING IN LOVE TOO EARLY: I know what love is. I worked it out and… it’s fucked. I met this girl once, she was gorgeous and she showed a slight interest in me. I fell for her right away, thought she was a full-on keeper. I chased her round for a year-and-a-half thinking I was killing it having her as my girlfriend because she was pretty. It took me a while but I realised she was an absolute idiot. My friends thought I was retarded being with her especially when I was 21 and in my prime. After that relationship I can’t manage to be open to meeting women without criticising every little annoying thing they do and I come off as an asshole. I have a vendetta or something. It’s so bad.

4. DRUNK INSTAGRAMMING: I grew up in the Social Network generation (Myspace and shit) so this is a bigger issue for me than drunk-dialling. Anytime I am intoxicated I start trawling through my Instagram feed and writing absolute nonsense on people’s photos. Liking a shitload of random hot girls pics and commenting on how beautiful they are. I usually put up a photo that I’ve ran through three filter applications and I think it looks creative because I’m really pissed. Then I notice the next morning that it’s actually a horrible photo. It’s a blurry, over-sharpened pic of me arm-in-arm with some random blokes at a bar or something.

5. MOVING OUT OF HOME: Thought it was a really good idea to move out of home a couple years ago and rent my own apartment. I wanted freedom, to be independent and more responsible for myself. That year I was probably home a third of the year because I was travelling around the world doing WQS events so it just sat there empty. It definitely wasn’t the smartest financial decision. The only good it was for was having friends around for dinners and parties but that would then just lead to a week’s worth of cleaning. Living at home is incredible, my parents are the best roommates ever.

6. EMBARRASSING MY FORMAL DATE: Had a shocker at my year 10 formal. Somehow managed to get this girl to go with me. She was very pretty, way out of my league. I’m sure she just agreed to go with me because she felt sorry for me. She arrived looking stunning, absolutely glowing. My suit I picked up from the Salvation Army the day before. It smelt like a dead person and was two sizes too big. I was wearing a trucker cap to hide my salty hair and had a wetsuit neck tan. She didn’t even want to sit next to me on the bus. I’ve learnt to at least run a comb through my hair before formal occasions now days.

7. LOVING AUSTRALIAN HIP HOP: I heard the song by Hilltop Hoods, Nosebleed Section, when I was 14. Used to think it was the best song ever made. When I hear that shit on the radio now days, I can’t fathom how that garbage is even put live on air. What a mistake.

8. SLIDE TACKLING A GIRL: This didn’t really impact my life too much but I definitely made a mistake this day. I used to play soccer in my early teens. My position was centre mid-fielder, which basically meant do whatever the fuck you want. I was pretty competitive and I loved hogging the ball. This day the opposing team had a girl playing on their side, she got possession of the ball and I just ran in and put a huge slide tackle to steal the ball off her. I tripped her pretty bad, she fell over and hurt herself and started crying. I got a red card and got sent off. All the adults were very disappointed in me.

9. NOT TAKING PICTURES: I’ve been to some amazing places in the world. Seen some incredible things and experienced different cultures and I’m really lucky I get to do that as a job. People my age save years to go on an overseas trip and I complain about jetting off to Brazil for a week for an event. I wish I had taken more pictures to remind me of my life travelling around the world. I never wanted to think of myself as ungrateful. So I should start now I guess. But it’s so groovy and hip taking pictures nowadays so I’m kinda doomed.

10. TAKING A CHARTER FLIGHT WITH A FULL BLADDER: My first time to the Telo islands this year and I was with Noa Deane and Jay Davis. We were flying from Medan to Telo and it’s usually a 40-minute flight. We rushed to catch the flight and I didn’t have time to dash off to the bathroom. We ran into quite a severe storm and we were all absolutely terrified. We thought our plane was going down for sure. Amongst all of this I was busting for a piss and our flight route was delayed for an extra hour due to the weather. So the thought of dying mixed with the feeling of my bladder about to burst was one of the worst moments I’ve had.


Doc Paskowitz just died

More than a pioneering surfer, the old cat had profound insights into sex and good living… 

One week ago, BeachGrit was the first to jump on the Doc-is-Dead bandwagon. We saw a Facebook post, knew he was rattling the gates of the Jewish afterlife (Wait! Their ain’t no afterlife according to the Torah. It’s all about focussing on this earthly life! How…real!) and proclaimed his death.

But he wasn’t dead. He was close. Ninety-three-year-old Doc hadn’t eaten for three days yet he was hanging on. And so he did for nearly another two weeks. Two days ago, Rob Machado pronounced Doc dead on Instagram. But he wasn’t and Kelly Slater told him so in the comments pane.

Half-an-hour ago, however, word came. Doc is gone.

Kelly Slater and Doc Paskowitz on Instagram
Kelly wrote on IG: Blessings to you, Dorian #DocPaskowitz. You’ve been a beacon of truth, light, knowledge and determination for all of your surfing brothers. Despite numerous reports of Doc’s passing over the last week, he quietly said his #LastGoodbye this evening. I was lucky enough to spend time with him a few days ago and get a couple of hugs and this final photo. He was passionate about diet and exercise but his biggest wish was to see peace in Gaza between Israel and Palestine and always believed that those who could surf together could live together peacefully. He told me that if they would ‘pave the streets of Palestine in gold’ there would be peace between the people. He personally walked donated surfboards over the Israeli border to give to his Palestinian surfing brethren as a sign of respect and acknowledgement. Maybe one day his true dream will be realised. I’ll miss this crazy old man who helped raise my little brother and teach me about the ways of the world. Condolences and love to his wife and 9 children…

So let’s celebrate the most remarkable of lives! Of a man who threw in a career as a doctor to surf, raise kids (nine of the bastards) and raise hell in a 24-foot camper van. No money, no fatty food or sugar, just waves and beans and rippling six-packs everywhere you looked.

Doc also loved sex. Who don’t? He even made it a life goal to improve his sexual technique by screwing 100 girls and awarding each a “male deficit score” depending upon whether or not they knew more about the game than him.

On his 25th gal, however, he met Juliette and away they went. Every 13 months another kid came along until there were nine. Living on the beach, in cars, vans, without money, not even going to school. Each morning the kids woke up to Chairman Mao’s wake-up song, fed gruel and just… surfed.

Their seventh kid Salvador says in the documentary about their life, Surfwise,

“Most parents say ‘Go to school. Don’t go swimming with sharks, that’s dangerous. Our parents said, you can go swimming with sharks, but you’re not fuckin’ going to school — that shit’s dangerous…”

And what’s Doc’s parting words: “It is easier to die when you have lived so I say to young people, go make memories.”

Buy his remarkable book, Surfing and Health, here while you can… 

Julian Wilson on Instagram
"Julian’s Instagram is a shrine to his girlfriend," writes Ali Klinkenberg. "(But) whimsy models and surfing success don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Ask Kelly. Could it be that with every crooning post, 'One last amazing dinner before we said our goodbyes for a couple weeks. Sad times but already can't wait to see you. Xxx' – Jdub’s rivals smell blood?"

If Julian Wilson falls, we all fall

What if Julian Wilson really does fail to re-qualify? Is it the end of hope, of optimism?

“A love like that was a serious illness, an illness from which you never entirely recover.”  – Charles Bukowski.

The path of the romantic often ends in catastrophe. We’re always getting screwed. Mark Anthony skewered himself and died in the Cleopatra’s arms, Romeo Montague drank the poison and cooked his insides and, as we head to the Pipeline, Julian Wilson seems next in line to sacrifice himself on the altar of romance.

There’s something decidedly Shakespearian about Mr Wilson, as if the wonderfully queer sonnets were written just for him. But something’s afoot; our very own Sir Galahad isn’t at the top where he so obviously belongs.

Could it be… love? 

Julian’s Instagram is a shrine to his girlfriend. Whimsy models and surfing success don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Ask Kelly. Could it be that with every crooning post. “One last amazing dinner before we said our goodbyes for a couple weeks. Sad times but already can’t wait to see you. XxxX” – Julian’s rivals smell blood. Medina ain’t loving out on the gram, he’s taking moody selfies, giving nothing away. They say charity starts at home, well, so does bloodthirsty competitiveness. Living in Bondi Beach and hanging with the bub does not a world champion make.

Julian needs to win Pipe to take control of his destiny and ensure his place on the 2015 dream tour; if not he leaves his fate in the hands of the gods. On paper Julian Wilson is an easy guy to dislike. He’s unfathomably handsome, gets paid a million dollars-plus a year to go surfing, has a nice car/house/girlfriend.

So, why is it that the thought of Julian falling off tour pains me so? It is this dear reader: If Julian Wilson can’t succeed in this game of life, can’t have everything his heart desires, then what hope is there for the rest of us?

My own special relationship with Julian Wilson began with Young Guns 3. The nostalgic wave that washed over me while re-watching it on YouTube was almost too much to bear. It was the popping of a myriad of personal cherries: Keramas, INXS, alley oops – and all punctuated by this beautiful Aryan boy.

“If only,” I thought. “Don’t change for you, don’t change a thing for me.”

But things have changed dear Jules. You’re not the same sparkly eyed, carefree boy you once were, and neither are the rest of the Young Guns for that matter.

Such hope, such promise among the Guns but alas, Reynolds is disinterested, Julian is about to get booted off tour, Flores is also getting booted off tour, poor old Gaz Parks is washing windows in Byron (but still ripping), Marzo’s sponsored by Carve eyewear – the horror! – and sensei Slater has headed off into the Outer Known.

Like my optimism, the Young Guns got bloated and died. If that isn’t a metaphor for the shattered dreams of adolescence then I don’t know what is. If Julian falls, we all fall. It is the end of hope.

Julian had a moment with Rosy Hodge in Portugal where he came clean about how upset he was with his current predicament. He said that he needs to “man up” and make some heats at the Pipeline. What a wonderfully succinct phrase.

One thing that’s for sure is that Julian’s surfing is a current as ever. His latest edit from Lakey Peak (Dusty is that you? Welcome home!) really hammers home the radical functionality of his surfing. His technique and flow and speed through transitions are really something to take note of.

As we head to Hawaii the game is clear. To be a true champ means you must be a single-minded prick. It is all consuming and will cost you friendships and relationships.

But I’m not going anywhere Julian.

If you can’t do it for yourself, or your Juliet, or your 242,711 Instagram followers, then do it for me.

We need this.


Surf Movie Icon Loses Leg to Booze, Pills and Brawlin’

Jan-Michael Vincent used to be the hottest surfer on earth. Then the good times got him… 

There was a time in that belle epoch, late-seventies til late eighties, when any man, woman or sophisticated animal, would’ve thrown their gates open to the American actor Jan-Michael Vincent. A golden ball of muscle and flaxen hair and cheekbones that were as sharp as birds.

Bite into my delicate flesh, you would’ve begged, as your heart palpitated and your knees quivered.

JMJ dazzled surfers in the John Milius movie Big Wednesday where he played Matt Johnson, the gun surfer in a small Californian town who hangs on to his best-surfer status long after the rest of the town, and the world, has moved on.

Johnson becomes the town drunks and only redeems himself on the day (a Wednesday!) when the biggest swell in his life arrives. Watch it here!

Anyways, Vincent’s life since Big Wednesday has mirrored Matt Johnson’s. Booze, drugs, brawls, car crashes, dumb court cases and now, in an interview with the National Enquirer, he tells how he had to get his leg amputated ’cause of his years of self-poison. (Click here for the interview)

Jan-Michael Vincent in 2014
Jan-Michael Vincent in 2014 and, inset, when he was the highest-paid TV actor in the world, inhaling 200 gees an ep for Airwolf.

Gregory Harrison, who played master shaper Chandler in the film North Shore (1987), wrote to Peter Townend, the ’76 world champ and one of the surfing stunt doubles on Big Wednesday, on Facebook this morning.

Jan and I started at nearly the same time in “the biz”, the early 70’s. Various choices we’ve made over the years have dictated what kind of third act each of us are having now. I toyed with the same temptations that Jan did, but somehow pulled out of every tailspin before the crash. Not sure why that is, but man, I’m so grateful I did.”

Ian Cairns was one of those Australians who kicked open to the door to Hawaii in the winters of 74 through 76. He wrote: “Jan was a great guy and ultra fit. As we all get older it’s a daily struggle to get off the couch and go surfing, not drink the extra beer and step away from the table. Getting older is not easy and seeing this is so sad.”