Mick Fanning is from Australia's east. Kolohe Andino from America's west. Kolohe is a better person.
Mick Fanning is from Australia's east. Kolohe Andino from America's west. Kolohe is a better person. | Photo: Morgan Maassen

Australia’s east coast vs. America’s west

Which one is better? Come inside and be floored by irrefutable evidence

Every coastal nation has a best coast, north, south, east or west. One coast trumps the other. In France, the west coast is better than the south Mediterranean coast. In Panama the east Caribbean coast is better than the west Pacific. In the United States’ California west is better than the urbane Eastern Seaboard. And in Australia the urbane east coast is better than its wild wild west. But when California is pitted against Australia’s Gold, Sunshine, Sydney coast which wins? Which is best of all?

Australia’s east coast features one very fine town and that town is Sydney. Some will say Byron Bay or Nambucca Heads or Forster (pronounced “Foster”) are equally fine but they are wrong. And Sydney is dreamy. There is shopping, dining, delicious models and surf. Australia’s east coast also features the Gold Coast and while Surfers Paradise is both a grammatical and architectural travesty the surf is amazing. There are waves for every desire.

California features two very fine towns, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Los Angeles may be perfect. It has everything including the film industry and all the actresses who come for it. Everything except good surf but good surf is easily accessible via automobile. San Francisco is called the Paris of the west and it, too, has everything except attractive women. Australia’s east coast has Snapper Rocks. California has Trestles. Australia’s east coast has Nicole Kidman. California has her too.

Australia’s east coast has beer. California has wine country. Australia’s east coast has Splendour in the Grass. California has Coachella. Australia’s
 east coast has that harsh, unfiltered east coast light. The sort that makes a man feel bad about his past and not dreamy. The same sort as New York City. California has golden light filtered in that way that all light is filtered on west coasts. The past is forgotten. Only the future exists.

And, therefore, California is better than Australia’s east coast. California might be better 
than anywhere else on earth.

John John Florence tube.
…and this is the collision of Dominic Mosqueira's wide-angle work, eight-foot Teahupoo and John John Florence who's steered upwards on the face to avoid another surfer duck diving. The spit of the tube that is coming straight at the camera, dulls the sharpness of the photo but gives it a dynamism often missing from water photos. The irony here is Dom, who is super critical of his own work, didn't send the shot to any magazine, any advertiser although it has since become one of his favourites. BeachGrit too! | Photo: Dom Mosqueira

When Domenic Met John John

The Tahitian photographic ace Domenic Mosqueira and his superstar muse…

When your game is wide-angle surf photography, your muse is John John Florence and your home ground is Teahupoo and the psycho reefs that surround it, it ain’t all high-fives in the channel.

And, so here, and for just a moment, let’s place ourselves in the mind of the 36-year-old Mexico-born photographer Domenic Mosqueira as he endeavours to snatch a water photo, with wide-angle lens, of John John Florence at a wave we’ll refer to as The Right. Not far from Teahupoo, it is a wave suited to North Shore Hawaiians and natives of French Polynesia, specifically, those surfers of better than average talent around Teahupoo.

The wave has elements of Pipeline, in its unpredictability. Will it break here, there? Will the wave closeout or will it allow entry and exit? The reef, meanwhile, is what Domenic calls “pure evil.”

On the day pictured, below, Dom was swimming, always a brave thing to do at The Right, for two reasons. One, you can’t see clearly much above a few feet out of the water and, two, if there’s a 15-foot closeout set, there isn’t a lot you can do except, perhaps, find solace in the arms of your God.

And this day, the 15-foot closeout appeared. Dom could hear all the jet-skis revving and thought, ‘What’s happening?’ He turned around and the wave was almost on top of him. He dived underneath the wave and saw a tiny space where the violent columns of whitewater weren’t hitting and grabbed hold of the bottom. He knew he must not let go until the wave had passed him. Slowly he dragged one hand in front of the other to gain distance. All the time he was waiting for that bolt of whitewater to land on top and “obliterate me. I waited as long as I could, and I made it. I made it. I survived the nightmare wave. I was the happiest kid ever.”

John John Florence inside a righthand barrel Tahiti
Mostly a straight closeout, this righthander not far from Teahupoo occasionally lines up across the reef, giving an entry and an exit. And when it does? It’s as perfect as they come, although the simple lines and calmness of John John do belie its danger.


John John inside barrel, right, Tahiti
“That wave is scary,” says Dom, who believed he was to die during this session when he was caught inside while trying to shoot, crazily enough, wide-angle water photos. Twelve-to-15 feet and John rode it on a 5’10” with a busted-off nose, effectively five feet and eight inches between him and the reef.

But who isn’t going to try a little harder when they’ve become the go-to water guy for the best surfer in the world? Dom was put on John’s radar when the Hawaiian photographer Daniel Russo (see his outrageous work here) asked him to shoot the stills for an O’Neill campaign while he shot RED slow-mo. That was three years ago. And, now, whenever a swell is about to hit, Dom ain’t surprised when the name John illuminates on his iPhone 5.

John John at Teahupoo
This stall in the mist was for an O’Neill campaign in 2011. Dom was introduced to John by the great Daniel Russo, who was shooting RED video and needed a stills photographer with game. “This photo motivated me to keep going. It made me think, maybe I… can… do it.”

“When I see his name I feel adrenalin,” says Dom, “’cause as soon as he calls, it’s go-time. He’s always excited to surf and you know you’re going to have your hands full for a week. It’s exciting and motivating to have that much talent and you don’t want to let him down. It lights a fire under your ass.”

John John, Teahupoo, 2011, black and white
This is John, with shaved head from the swell of 2011. “That wave will forever be ingrained in my mind,” says Dom. “I knew that wave would define that swell. He stood so talk and tranquil inside it while I was panicking about being sucked over.”

Dom ain’t one to boast and if you ask him why he thinks John has made him his number one shooter in Tahiti, he says, “I think that I’m discreet. I don’t make too much of a fuss and I respect what he wants to do with the images. He’s a wonderful man, a nice guy, that’s calm and not sped up.”

Nice, sure, but in rhythm like no one else, as least far as the Fly-in-Fly-Out gang goes. “The wonderful thing about John is he shows up and he seems to be in rhythm with Teahupoo every time. He’s always on the best wave and the way that he surfs it is as stylish and it is apparently simple. He seems to stroke and paddle a lot less than most people. He draws such amazing lines on the wave and he looks so casual when most people are fearing for their lives, the Kamikaze look at the bottom turn, the strung-out look on their face as they grab the rail… John is calm from beginning to end. It’s obvious he’s got some sort of link to Teahupoo. It’s in synch with him.”

Gifts that keep on giving!

Who isn't influenced by the great surf filmmaker Blake Keuny and the just-as-great surfer John John Florence?

Remember when Blake Vincent Keuny and John John Florence gifted us the wonderful film Done? Of course you do because it came out very recently, pairing the most progressive surfing with a clear direction not often seen in surf cinema. So simple yet so stylish yet so not redundant, which is a very very tall order in surf film making. It is difficult to capture the act of surfing differently. It is also difficult to make a surf film that doesn’t feel like every other one out there. Done was a success.

It was so successful, in fact, that Surfing Magazine, following in dear older brother Surfer’s footsteps (click here to see Surfer “Caught With Their Pants Down”), borrowed the title and overall aesthetic for their latest cover, giving truth to the old adage “One done is never enough.”

I had the pleasure of catching up Blake on Christmas Eve. He was back from the islands for one day, maybe two, and getting some much needed rest and relaxation. He is directing the next John John masterpiece, an epic, and promises to be wonderful.

Blake lives in John John’s house while filming and editing. I did not ask him the name of this new film but I’m sure that it will also be the cover title of Surfing’s issue two years after it comes out. The John John Florence creative family has long, long coattails.

10 Reasons Lost Atlas is Kai Neville’s Masterpiece

Three years on, this is still Kai Neville's masterwork… 

That golden period. All collaborative artists have ’em. It’s only years later, upon reflection, that we can trawl through their work and call it. Kai Neville, the 32-year-old filmmaker, sunglass and media house part-owner (Epokhe and What Youth), has owned the performance surf film space since his 2010 debut Modern Collective.

But for Kai, it was his second film, Lost Atlas, made the following year, that built his reputation into a profitable exercise (Red Bull used Kai for Jordy Smith’s bio movie Bending Colours).

Three years later, it’s still his masterwork. It came at a time when he had John John Florence, Jordy Smith, Dusty Payne and Dane Reynolds in his pocket (Dane is back in Kai’s new film, Cluster, to be released in the northern hemisphere 2015 summer) and more than eager to nail clips.

“I felt like my next movie people would think, well, because of Modern Collective, the next one’s next one’s going to have crazy technology, helicopter angles and a thumping soundtrack. I wanted to tone it completely down, to keep the look and the feel subtle and washed-out, nothing saturated and contrasted,” Kai told me at the time. “I wanted the music to be raw, not so fast and I liked the way I ended up shooting it. It was candid. I shot everything. I wanted to simplify the whole thing. It’s really choppy. I didn’t use any fades or motion graphics.”

As to the surfers he used, which also included Craig Anderson, Ryan Callinan and his best friend Dion Agius, Kai said, “They all surf really well, but they don’t get up, surf all day, then come in and talk surf. It’s not all surf, surf, surf. They’re interested in so many other things. The guys that I work with have to come across on screen, too. They’re really interesting people.”

You want 10 reasons why Lost Atlas rules?

1. Dusty Payne’s late frontside switches to reverse in Mexico and Sumbawa are still the apex of the Hawaiian’s performance. 

Dusty had told Kai that if he was starting a move and it was feeling lame he could tweak it mid-turn into something special. I was with Dusty when Kai showed him the movie and recorded this exchange.

Kai: He went up for an air, it was a big straight air, and he thought it was gay so he, you, turned it into a an air reverse. And, it looked sick!

Dusty points at Kai, laughs and says, “He loved the move!”

Kai: It just, like, a last-minute tweak out on the flats. It’s pretty cool.

Dusty: It just happeeeeened. I just remember it was just standard.

Kai laughs, “Yeah, standard…”

Dusty: It was looking pretty stupid and I think it still does look stupid.

2. Dusty on girl’s surfing.

On Lost Atlas Kai played pap-journalist and recorded conversations with his tiny H4 mic. And this quote from Dusty re: girls surfing is priceless in its honesty.

Kai: Dusty, what do you think about girls surfing?

Dusty: Don’t get me started.

Kai: Do they rip?

Dusty: No, they’re terrible! (In a sing-song voice) They think they should just sit on the boat and wait for it to get one foot again so they can go out and do their little tail slides.

“Ok, let me explain,” Dusty told me. “This is why I said it. I was just on a boat trip with some female surfers from the 6.0 team and I’m not saying any names…”

Dusty pauses and laughs.“And, y’know, they were ripping when it was small. And, the last day of the trip, the last session of the trip, we pull up to Greenbushes (a barreling left) and it was three feet. And, we were like…  YES! Finally, some waves! The trip was…ffffllllat! And, we go out and the only girl who paddled out was Laura Enever. And, she went. She got a couple of nuts ones and the rest of the girls sat on the boat and just watched. And, I was, like, are you kidding me? It’s finally breaking and they’re not even paddling out?”

3. Jordy Smith is refused permission to surf where there are fishermen because of “security.” Jordy responds: “What about their security when I start baptizing a few heads?”

4. Jordy Smith introduces new expression into surfers’ lexicon. Cringe. 

Again, with his little hidden mic, Kai Neville captures a candid exchange, this time between Dane Reynolds and Jordy Smith in France. Their quotes are run full-screen over the pair surfing perfect six-foot French beachbreaks.

Jordy to Dane: You know that guy who interviewed me yesterday? He interviewed me two or three years ago in my hotel room and his breath just stunk… so bad… and I was just so off him and I said I’m never doing anything with that guy ever again. And I saw him and I was eggy from the get go.

Dane: I feel that if your breath is that bad to where someone is like three feet away and tripping out… It must feel disgusting right?

Jordy: That’s my worst, like, cringe. Just cringe.

5. A genre-hopping soundtrack

From Grimes to Hotel Mexico to Dead Gaze, King Tuff, Super CHillers, the Samps and Connan Mockasin (whom I personally loathe but he sure creates a mood). The result is a surf film that cuts to a variety of moods and speeds.

6. A Chilean beachbreak with Wade Goodall, Julian Wilson and Dusty Pane

This is Wade’s last great cameo in the big leagues and he does it in the most immaculate fashion, in difficult waves, with tough competition, including the most extraordinary blonde gals in little bikinis on the beach. Such style!

7. It was all shot on a Canon 7D

A masterpiece created for a few thousand bucks worth of hardware.

8. It created careers Dion Agius and Craig Anderson

Craig Anderson’s manager at the time John Shimooka told me, “That cameo of Craig’s was the start of it…  four years ago he was definitely on minimum wage. Now, he’s a top earner. Once you’re affiliated with Kai… it carries a truckload of weight.”

Said Dino Andino, father and coach of the then 17-year-old Kolohe Andino. “If you’re not top 10 in the world, you have to get in a Kai Neville movie. Ryan Callinan, he gets two waves, and it’s huge for him. You take him out of the movie and he might be super talented and super creative, but where would he be? The difference is huge. Money? If you star in that movie you can command 200 plus. If you weren’t in the movie, even if you’re doing the same stuff, you’re looking at 80 or 90.”

9. Kolohe Andino’s frontside grabs in a Canary Islands wavepool

Most surreal, an ethereal interlude in a most prosaic film.

10. John John’s Sumbawa cameo

Until Lost Atlas, the world only had a shadowy idea of how good John John was. Kai showed us.

“I had him on my radar, but he just took it to a whole new level.” said Kai. “That’s what I like seeing in surf films. That raw new talent when they’re surfing with the best guys.”


00:030: Credits.

00:31: 4:52: Mex with Dion Agius, Craig Anderson and Owen Wright, cute music, cuts to hard-core at 3:32 for a one-minute hit. First wave is an unmade tow punt by Dion.

4:52 to 6:33: Jordy Smith and Dane Reynolds in France. Jordy “cringes” at the breath of a surf journalist.

6:34 to 8:59: Dusty Payne in Mex.

9:00 to 11:49: Mitch Coleborn, Chippa Wilson and John John Florence , Indo.

11:50 to 13:24: Conner Coffin, Ev Geiselman, Dylan Perillo and Owen Wright, south coast, NSW.

13:25 to 15:05: Jordy and Dane reprised.

15:11 to 16:31: Dusty, Julian Wilson and Wade Goodall in Chile.

16:32 to 18:30: Craig, Dion and Owen in Mex.

18:31 to 22:35: Craig, Ryan Callinan, Dylan and Yadin Nicol in Indo.

22:36 to 24:26: Dusty and Julian in Chile, points. Backside finners.

24:27 to 26:58: Jordy in Europe. Is refused permission to surf at a beachbreak because of a couple of fisherman, because of “security.” Jordy responds: “What about their security when I start baptizing a few heads?”

26:59 to 28:27: NSW South Coast, reprised.

28:28 to 30:23: Julian, Ev and Kolohe Andino, trippy wavepool session, Tenerife.

30:24 to 33:12: Kolohe, Andrew Doheny, Dusty, mainland Mex.

33:13 to 34:35: Kolohe Andino, cut to Sweet 17 by Dirty Beaches.

34:36 to 37:36: Yadin and Julian in Costa Rica.

37:38 to 39:51: Dion and Craig, with a cameo by Chippa, north coast NSW.

39:52 to 42:46: Dusty, JJ and Chips, Sumbawa, Indo.

42:47: Credits roll to In Power We Trust the Love Advocated by Dead Can Dance.

45:22: Finish.

…this is Hilton Beach, one of only beaches in the Tel Aviv metro area that ain't banning surfers. Soon every single surfer, and every single SUP, in the city is going to be jammed into two lil beaches. The joint's chaos already. But, then, no one handles adversity like the brave Jews! Who else made a crummy, forgotten desert bloom green!

Shmear of the Day! Surfing Banned in Tel Aviv!

It ain't a gas when one of the funnest cities in the world gets heavy on surfers. But blame the SUPs!

Right about now is a fine time to taste the exquisite fruits of the most progressive, and secular (natch), city in the whole of the Middle East. Tel Aviv, oh it’ll steal your heart. The hospitality! The food! The sparkling can-do spirit!

In Tel Aviv, and unlike Jerusalem a couple of hours drive away, there are no heavy vibes, religion is kept at arm’s length, mostly, and along a promenade that runs along the ocean-front, you’ll find 12 clicks of sometimes very good beachbreaks, jetties and reef.

Yeah, so it’s flat for the most, but it’s about this time of year when the winter swells are lighting up this most eastern point in the Mediterranean. Click here for a trip I made with Josh Kerr, Craig Ando, Creed Mc and Dion Agius last winter.

(The movie, which I made with Toby Cregan, is interesting ’cause when I split Stab the movie was re-edited to remove all the references to Jewish history, a result, I believe, of the magazine being spooked by anti-Semitic sentiment. Even after this dumbed-down version, the anti-Jew comments were everywhere. A commentator called Bodhi wrote: “Isn’t this the video that belongs to that puff pro Israel piece published a few months back. the one they had to pull, because quite obviously stab had their lips placed so firmly around an Israeli cooks cock!”)

Lately, howevs, SUPS, which are a plague here like most soft-wave haunts, have caused so many accidents the local government has banned surfing from eight of the city’s 13 beaches.

The beaches where surfing is now banned include Topsea, where Doc Paskowitz and friends got the brave Jew into the sport in the first place and a jetty called Tel Baruch which is as rippable a wave as you’ll find anywhere. At the end of the clip that y’might’ve clicked on above, you’ll see Creed floater-saluting the setting sun – that’s Tel Baruch.

“Surfing is growing everywhere and the same here, surf schools every where, and so many SUPs,” says the surfer Artur Rashkovan, who owns a surf shop at Hilton Beach and who is one of the main players in the getting-Gazans-into-surfing group, Surfing for Peace. “When the SUPs got in the game, the mess started and I don’t need to tell you, many got injured, surfers and swimmers, so the lifeguards pushed to have an order which will ban surfers in eight spots and it started during the winter, when only surfers are in the water (dumb).”

Just recently, Artur’s pal Tamar was fined 750 New Israeli Shekels (what a handle for a little currency!) or around $US200 for surfing.

“Now, just imagine,” says Artur. “They want to push the thousands of surfers in the city into those already crowded spots, Hilton beach and the West Beach. Seems rational, right?”

If surfing in Israel matters you, how about you swing here to Artur’s Facebook page and join in the fight.