Don't make stupid decisions for a trophy and a check, says Maui's Matt Meola.

I have zero interest in the big-wave tour

Surfing is art, not sport says Maui's Matt Meola… 

You know a surf movie is good when writers drag out the thesaurus to search for alternatives to “awesome” and “unbelievable.”

Kindhearted folk who typically struggle with the conjugation of a simple verb (guilty!) cram as many adjectives into a single sentence as if it was 1995 and each was still worth 50 cents. Behold just one example bestowed upon Attractive Distractions, released this week on iTunes to rapturous applause.

“Attractive Distractions is a creative masterpiece that follows some of the most talented surfers into some of the most wave-rich destinations around the world,” says The Inertia. “It is a comprehensive piece that has the perfect balance of frothy tubes, mind-blowing aerials, top-level rail game, and big wave surfing for your viewing pleasure.”

Big call? Maybe, but Matt Meola, one-third of the creative team behind the flick describes it as thus.

“We are just hoping that this movie proves we are capable of making cool shit,” says Meola. “Maybe next time we can get a super solid budget for something even better.”

Either way, the movie’s likely to live up to the hype, how could a flick starring Meola, Albee Layer, John John, Clay Marzo and a bunch of other A-listers not? Yes, the film does indeed have “the perfect balance of frothy tubes mind-blowing aerials and much “top-level rail game”, but what it also has is Jaws. Lots of it.

Given their ability in the air, we sometimes forget how good guys like Meola and Layer are in the juice. And in case you’ve been out of Wi-Fi range the past couple days, Jaws just dropped a load and Meola, Layer and pals flew, drove and walked in to ride it.

The day before it broke, Meola told BeachGrit of the mind space he enters into once the buoys start to bobble. “The week before a swell can be pretty stressful. It’s not easy knowing your gonna put yourself in a life-threatening situating in the next few days,’’ he said. “But, I have a love-hate relationship with the place. Every day is different. Some days I wake up feeling super confident and some days I just don’t feel it. I just like to show up, check it and if I’m feeling it I’ll try catch a few.”

Oddly enough though, Meola says he has no urge to turn his lust for big waves into a career on the recently anointed ASP Big Wave World Tour. “It’ll be be insane to watch but I have zero interest in  competing on it.” he says.

Why? Well, an absence of the ingredient we like to call soul, for one.

“I started surfing for the love of it and how it made me feel and I see surfing to be more of an art form than a sport anyways. Every wave is different and everybody will ride that wave differently. But, that’s just my personal opinion. It doesn’t mean I don’t like to watch surf competitions.”

Meola even has a warning for competitors.

“I just hope everybody stays safe and they don’t make stupid decisions for a check and a trophy!”

ATTRACTIVE DISTRACTIONS OFFICIAL TRAILER from TAKE SHELTER PRODUCTIONS on Vimeo.


The world's biggest men's online clothing store falls in love with the Mona Vale surfer Luke Stedman. You will too! Over and over again!

Luke Stedman on Mr Porter

Online clothing juggernaut celebrates the pro surfer turned clothing designer with a most lavish profile… 

To make to the home page of the world’s biggest men’s online clothing store y’gotta either be a style icon like James Dean or Steve McQueen or a gorgeous figure such as Eddie Redmayne. Easy? No it ain’t.

The last time Mr Porter came to Australia doin’ shoots my old mag, Stab, was in the frontline and me and my biz partner were lined up. They got here with all their stylists and photographers and men in tight suits with ankles showing and pocket squares tapping away at big phones, howevs, and never called.

Our distress was amplified  when our pals from Monster Children were dressed “street style” and feted in its journal. When I saw, the loudest gasp popped out of me while my biz partner sobbed silently.

Anyway, Luke Stedman, the 38-year-old one-time world tour competitor, has begun cutting himself a slice out of the fashion pie with his brand Instedwesmile. 

High-ish fashion meets surf is how you’d describe it if you wanted to avoid the usual platitudes. Four collections a year; sixty pieces in each.

Click here to inspect. 

And so when Mr Porter came to Australia looking for men to yank into style-stardom, it was suggested by the editor-in-chief of Russh magazine, Jess Blanch, that they’d be doing the world a disservice if they didn’t profile Steds. He is, after all, something of a big dish, and his surfing bona fides are impeccable. Eleventh in the world at one point.

Don’t you just want to bury your face in the weave of his pants?

Read it here! 

 


"What was surprising, and not in a fun oh-you-shouldn't-have type way, " writes Rory, "was the life threatening infection it had caused in my mastoid (the honeycomb skull bone behind your ear.) The doctor told me that it had most likely been there for a decade or more, and had been slowly dissolving my skull the entire time. What I'd thought were ear infections had been pus leaking from the bone infection through a hole that it had eaten into my ear canal. It had destroyed the bone between the infection and my brain until there was only a wafer thin bit left between me and meningitis. The doctor said, 'You've been diving with this?' 'Well, yeah. I've been trying to get to two hundred feet.' 'The pressure should have pushed the infection into your brain and killed you a long time ago.' Fuck me. | Photo: @freedivephoto.com

Horror story: You got brain cancer! No you don’t! Wait!

In a split-second I'd just lost my entire identity. Who am I now? How the fuck do I live?

“The radiologist took a look at your CT scan, we need you to come in tomorrow to talk about the results.  I know you’re very active in the ocean, we’re going to need to talk about your future…”

Two months ago, my wife woke me up in the middle of the night and told me she was taking me to the emergency room. I’d been fine went we went to bed, sometime around 3 AM I started running a fever, and my left ear had sprouted a growth the size of a racquetball. I wrote it off as a bad case of swimmer’s ear and tried to go back to sleep. But there’s not much more persuasive than a concerned spouse. I was in the car and on my way to Wahiawa General 10 minutes later.

The ER doctor agreed with my opinion. It was a very bad case of swimmer’s ear. Just use the drops, it’ll be better in a few weeks.

I’ve had ear problems my entire life. It’s just something I’d learned to deal with. Wipe the filthy crust from your ear, put in the drops, wait for improvement, go back in the water. Repeat as needed. You get used to things, and by now, in my mid-thirties, ear pain and pus leakage is just part of doing business. I mean, what are you going to do?  Stay dry?  Play golf?  Kill yourself?

This time things didn’t improve. The growth got bigger, and the resulting pressure became excruciating. It was pretty obvious something was seriously wrong.

Hawaii doesn’t have the best medical care in the world. We do have great health insurance (if you work more than 20 hours a week your employer is required to provide it), but being isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean means that you deal with a lack of options, some being terribly lazy doctors, others being overbooked and unable to see you in a timely manner. This causes problems when you’re dealing with something terrifying, painful, and unusual.

I’ll spare you the details. They’re more or less boring to an outsider, though to me they were white knuckle inducing. In short, I was told I had cancer, then I didn’t, then I might, wait, no, definitely not cancer. And that fucking sucks.

A CT-scan later they figured out that I had a skin abscess. A quick outpatient procedure drained, literally, a pint of pus from my head. Bandaged me up and sent me home.

My wife had recently been offered an awesome job on Kauai, but it started in three weeks. We couldn’t wait to leave the packed hustle and bustle of Oahu for the Garden Isle, so I put any concerns about the hole in my head that was slowly weeping a foul smelling pus.

After two weeks on Kauai things still hadn’t improved. The moment our health insurance went into effect I made an appointment with a local ENT to see what was up.

It wasn’t good. I was finally fortunate to be seen by a diligent, intelligent, MD, and the first thing he did was start cutting into me to relief the abscess.

“This isn’t good, Rory. I’m seeing a lot of granulated tissue, and I should have hit your skull, but I haven’t.”

Okay, well, I don’t really know what that means. I gave him a copy of my CT and went home to wait for his call.

Which is how I found myself sitting in front of a computer screen flanked by doctors as a radiologist walked me through some panic inducing news. I had a cholesteatoma on my left ear drum. It’s a type of tumour/cyst caused by repeated ear infections and ruptured ear drums. I’ve had hundreds of ear infections in my life, and have perforated both ear drums multiple times, so that wasn’t especially surprising news.

What was surprising, and not in a fun oh-you-shouldn’t-have type way, was the life-threatening infection it had caused in my mastoid (the honeycomb skull bone behind your ear). The doctor told me that it had most likely been there for a decade or more, and had been slowly dissolving my skull the entire time. What I’d though were ear infections had been pus leaking from the bone infection through a hole that it had eaten into my ear canal. Furthermore, it had destroyed the bone between the infection and my brain until there was only a wafer thin bit left between me and meningitis.

“You’ve been diving with this?”

“Well, yeah. I’ve been trying to get to two hundred feet.”

“You’re very lucky, Rory. The pressure should have pushed the infection into your brain and killed you a long time ago.”

Fuck me.

So, okay, I should be dead, but I’m not. Let’s move forward, what next?

I needed surgery, urgently. It was a miracle I was still standing, the infection could spread to my brain at any moment, and, boom, lights out. Best case scenario, I survive and spend the next year learning to walk and talk again while my wife wipes my ass and I pray for death.

Funnily enough, I could handle that. I mean, sure, shit’s scary, but the problem had been identified, it was fixable. Surgery is never fun, but what are you going to do?

But that wasn’t all. They walked me through what would need to be done: shaving infected bone, removing the cholesteatoma- and the consequences of the surgery, hearing loss (no big deal) and…

I’d most likely never be able to surf or free dive or even put my head underwater ever again.

What the fuck is that madness? I can’t go in the water?  Why not?

The surgery would leave me with almost no bone left in my skull in the area and the hole from my ear canal into the void would leave me at risk of life threatening infections for the rest of my life.

How the fuck am I supposed to deal with that news?

To be clear, I like to think that I’m a very good surfer. But, by no stretch of the imagination am I naturally talented. I’m a big guy and I don’t have great balance. Any ability I have is the result of decades of trying my hardest, of constantly struggling while watching other people surf better while putting in half the effort. I’ve put everything I have into this fucking sport, I don’t know how to do anything else. Every pursuit I enjoy involves being in the water. Without that stuff I don’t know what to do with myself.

In a split-second I’d just lost my entire identity. Everything I enjoy, everything I’d ever worked towards, gone. I managed to keep it together in the doctor’s office, then broke down sobbing in the parking lot.

I scared the shit out of some poor lady. She turned a corner to find a 6’2″, 220 lb guy curled in a ball between some bushes bawling his eyes out.  A pretty embarrassing moment, especially since this is a small island, and I know I’ll run into her again one day.

It’s hard dealing with this type of news. I was hesitant to share it with too many people, and the few I did lapsed into your standard, “Everything is going to be okay” platitudes. Which is hard to deal with. Because, I mean, I know they mean well, but shit isn’t going to be okay.

Who am I now? How the fuck do I live without the things that make life worth living? I focused so much on this stuff without them I’m a worthless waste of space.

In a sick way I started hoping I’d die. I’m not suicidal, but having the lights turned out seemed so much better than facing an existence where I was totally rudderless. My dreams, my goals, my future were all dead, not much point in keeping my diseased hunk of flesh I call a body ambulatory.

Thank heavens for good health insurance. Three days later I was on a plane to LA, to a specialist at the House Ear Clinic, to the one person who could save my life and let me return to a normal existence, if anyone could. The nature of the infection meant I got bumped to the front of the operating list and after few pre-op appointments and a physical I was doped up, strapped to an operating table, and cut on, bone reconstructed by modern medical magic.

And so here I am. Stone deaf in my left ear, missing part of my sense of taste (a strange side effect, but one I’ve been reassured will improve with time) and looking forward to a time in two months or so when I’ve been told I’ll be able to return to the ocean and all the things  love.

But I just can’t escape how close I came to losing everything. The idea that it could still be taken away, that something could go wrong, either now or in the future, lurks there in the background all the time. I need to expand my horizons, to stop being a one-dimensional person who focuses everything they have on one tiny aspect of life. But I just don’t know what to do.

How the fuck do other people live?


Worst surf sequence ever?

South Africa's shred scene has never looked so bad.

There have been, throughout history, some classically bad surfing clips… the opening bit of Bad Surfers on Poor Waves (part 1), Dusty Payne’s 2014 Hurley Pro video trials submission, Chasing Mavericks…but none match this South African film for pure ugly. I mean, wow.

Our traveler hits the shred at the 20 second mark after visiting Nelson Mandela’s prison and a vineyard and proceeds to….I don’t know exactly. Surf? I mean, yikes. I mean, Jordy Smith? Why did your country put this out? Why?

(Photo of Jordy Smith, above, by the ever-fabulous Jack English/Surf Images. Go to his website here!)  


Shaun Tomson (middle) is short. Zach Weisberg (far right) barely reaches his shoulder.

To hell with The Inertia

It is high time we put the "war" back in "media war."

I love war very much and a pitched media battle most of all. The two sides, safe at offices or homes or business class flights to Montreal, haranguing each other in print. Oh the vindictive put downs. Oh the slings and arrows of outrageous adjectives. I’ve fomented one or two, in my day, but my favorite will always be Chas Smith vs. The Inertia.

Founded in 2010 by ex-Surfer editor Zach Weisberg, The Inertia set out to be the place where “thinking surfers” congregate. The idea grew from a trip Zach took to New York. There he saw Arianna Huffington speak and, “I listened to her talk and her vision at the moment; I felt that it could work perfectly in the world of surf and action sports. I decided to give it a shot, to try and build that.” It seemed so ripe for unprovoked aggression that I quickly mobilized, penning the now classic Open for Daddy, which included these choice darts…

“…Thinking surfers are socialists. Thinking surfers like you, if you are a thinking surfer. Thinking surfers don’t like you, if you make money and/or disagree. Thinking surfers are Trotskyites. Thinking surfers hate fruity cocktails. Thinking surfers love bad, thick coffee. Thinking surfers don’t know how to synch their fundamental belief in the poor working class with their desire to have a home on the beach. Thinking surfers drink beer at a party. Thinking surfers complain if the beer at a party is not from a small batch brewery. Thinking surfers never bring beer to a party. Thinking surfers are Marxists. Thinking surfers would be social Darwinists if they were fit. Thinking surfers are the exact sorts of people that flourish underneath the fluorescent lighting and prepared bedside meal deliveries and incontinence and visiting hours of nursing homes…”

Zach responded with an actually thoughtful projectile (here) but how grand! We were at war and it felt as right as it did good. Years passed and I tired to drop a bomb or two on my sworn enemy’s head when I remembered but then one morning I woke up and realized, that son of a bitch has actually created something both good and interesting and valuable. And I click on it from time to time and learn and chuckle. And I like him as a person. And I like many of his staff as people. Coals upon my head. But that isn’t fun, is it? This love? So I have decided to muster the troops once again and march back to battle. To hell with you, The Inertia! Your tribute to Doc Paskowitz was as informative as it was warm! Wait, no. Your wipeout compilation is well-curated! No. Your position on shark culling is very nuanced! Shit. The average height of your staff is 5’2! That’s the one. Suck it, Oompa Loompas.