Mitch Crews and Kelia Moniz
Fast convertibles, beautiful Hawaiians like Kelia Moniz to pal around with (such a "a beautiful and respectfully platonic relationship") and all under the canopy of the tropics! It's the life!

Mitch Crews: My Year on the Dream Tour

The awkwardness of the banquet, the physical strength of Gabriel and the absurd intensity of tour competition…

In case you missed it in the hullaballoo of the Brazilian clean sweep, Mitch Crews, the 24-year-old Gold Coast tour rookie, has relinquished his grip on a World Tour spot.

Mitch realised he was doomed as early as July in Jeffreys Bay when he made “really, really dumb decisions” in his heat and “just had a mental breakdown. I was, like, fuck, I’m on the Dream Tour and I’m not happy. I’m not even as happy as the same point as last year when I hadn’t even qualified. It was a very strange scenario. I mean, holy shit, isn’t the main thing in life to be happy?”

As far as interviews goes, Mitch is my second favourite surfer to call, just behind Mason Ho. When a surfer isn’t surrounded by expectation, when his every word isn’t headlined, he can afford the luxury of candour.

BeachGrit spoke to Mitch at roughly 10:15 am, two days before Christmas, at Duranbah Beach, where Mitch was preparing with wax a five-six single fin his brother, the shaper Alex Crews, had made him. “The waves are horrible and I haven’t surfed since I’ve been home,” he says, “and this is the best way for me to enjoy myself.”

BeachGrit: Will the ASP banquet be tinged with great sadness? Will your dance moves be a mere shuffle instead of your usual twerking/crumping?

Mitch: I’d prefer not to go. I think this could be the one year that I actually get away with not having to go. I’ve never really enjoyed myself in the past. I feel awkward at it. The surfers’ speeches address a group of people that aren’t surfers and then you look at the crowd and it’s all surfers.

BeachGrit: Why the personal awkwardness?

Mitch: Maybe how everyone dresses is a bit awkward. I feel that people aren’t comfortable in their suits and in their dresses. It’s like they think they look really suave but it doesn’t actually fit them properly. And everyone’s got makeup on and when you walk into the first brightly lit room you can see how much makeup is on. Throughout the year people are salty and sandy and looking horrible but, still, it’s funny to see how everyone looks in those suits.

BeachGrit: Dion (Atkinson, the rookie of the year, also relegated) has to make a most difficult speech at the banquet. Thanks for the trophy, see you… uh… maybe in 2016…

Mitch: I almost didn’t want to win if I got knocked off. That would be a horrible speech to make. Like, I’m stoked but I did shit. Not that Dion did shit, but I’m really, really happy I don’t have to make that speech. That’d make the banquet extra extra awkward.

BeachGrit: What will you do during the Snapper contest? 

Mitch: I was thinking about going on a sabbatical somewhere else, a small town, where’s there fun waves and where I can get better at surfing. It’ll be the first time I avoid it. I’ve always been there for it. I live there but I have no reason to be around it. I’m not in the comp, I’m not in the trials. I’ll go away, practise, and come back with a backhand like Adriano De Souza and fuck everyone up!

BeachGrit: What good friends did you make on the World Tour? 

Mitch: I became good friends with Kai Otton. I got deep with that guy. Kerrsy is awesome. He’s a nomad and he doesn’t give a fuck about anything. In general, everyone was very intense and very serious and it was hard for me to insert myself into conversations.

BeachGrit: Did your rookie year feel like your first year in high school? 

Mitch: It was really hard to break into people’s comfort and trust zones. I feel like I had to drive a lot of the conversations with people. It’s very hard to get a laugh out of some people. I knew who to keep clear of and who I’d get a good convo out of of. I had to pick and choose my conversations.


BeachGrit: Did you fall under Kelly’s spell?

Mitch: Every time I looked at him I felt as if I didn’t get much value. I didn’t want to ask him stuff because he’s the hero and he’s the guy. I had so many questions, too, because he seems like he’d have so much cool stuff to say. I was out there when he did the 720 and I got to touch his bald head. Me and Brother (Kolohe Andino) paddled up to him and we said, you did it! I got a quick grab and that was that.

BeachGrit: How was Kelly’s demeanour afterward? 

Mitch: He was very calm. He was very cool. But he did say it was the best air he’d ever done. I think that’s strange for him. He never says that was the best barrel or best turn I’ve ever done. Brother said, Fuck! after Kelly landed it. Obvious, that’s the end of the hunt for the 720 and the old mate did it.

BeachGrit: What was the best surfing you witnessed, up close? 

Mitch: The heat with John John and Kelly at Teahupoo was the most stupid surfing I’ve ever seen. That first exchange, in the first two minutes, when John John got the nine-nine and we saw him ride the barrel no-hands on a 10-footer and then Kelly did a Bob Burnquist loop-the-loop and got a 10. I didn’t know what to do or say. The waves were fucking huge and they were doing this crazy barrel riding at an event I couldn’t believe I was a part of, really.

BeachGrit: What is the one misconception about the dream tour? 

Mitch: It’s not as much of a dream as people make it out to be. It’s real stressful and I had a lot of trouble dealing with all the attention. And the whole competition side was very intense. I felt very awkward in the competition area because I’m really social and felt like I had to go through the charade of putting my headphones on and then staring at the camera all strong. I lost interest during the year because, straight up, I’m not ready to sacrifice all the cool things in life to go for those big competitive goals. I’ve gotta wait until that kicks in. I’m only 24. I like being 24 and a normal dude and getting to have fun and meet people and drink coffees and go out in clubs and do that sorta shit. And, truthfully, I’m not good enough at surfing yet. I need to put in a hard year of getting better.

BeachGrit: How good is Gabriel up close?

Mitch: He’s ridiculous. He’s got that full Avatar body and I think he’s really, really ridiculously strong. So strong. He muscles through any form of wave. He plays with any wave from knee-high to six foot. He’s unfathomably good.

BeachGrit: What was your high point on the tour? 

Mitch: Travelling to the events in Europe, on the road, being young and being a pro surfer.

Mick Fanning's Matt Biolos-shaped surfboard
Mick, who rode it to the quarter-finals of the Hurley Pro in 2011, says the board, "changed my view on how all my boards should be. Instantly I added the those two extra litres to all my boards and requested a little more width all over. From time to time you get a board that changes your world and that thing came to me at a time I really needed some fresh inspiration. The board allowed me to to take new lines and switch my approach and as a result I got completely psyched on surfing and competing again."

The Surfboard that Changed Mick Fanning’s Life

Mick says, "The board allowed me to to take new lines and I got psyched on surfing and competing again."

The year 2011 was Mick Faning’s worst-ever on tour. The same surfer who’d won the title in 2007 and 2009 and who came third in 2010, had fallen to a miserable 11th. And coming into the Hurley Pro at Trestles that year, Mick had finished second-last in the previous two events, both time losing to Fred Pattachia in round three.

Pressure? None. No world titles on the line. No expectation of an event win. But that didn’t mean he’d lost he will to win. The thing was, he didn’t have a board that felt alive under his feet, nothing he loved.

So Mick did what surfers do before the event at Trestles and he talked to Matt “Mayhem” Biolos who lives, surfs, shapes, breathes, sweats, fucks and sucks Trestles.

Kolohe and his pro surfers pops Dino all ride Mayhems refined in its soft but high-performance wedges. Matt remembers thinking that Mick’s supplied dimensions seeemd pretty refined. He asked Mick what his volume was and Mick shrugged but offered that he liked the way Kolohe looked in all the edits he’d been seeing around. Matt told Mick he’d have some boards soon and Mick left.

Round one came and went. Mick finished last behind Tom Whitaker and Brett Simpson. Mick showed up again and asked how the boards were coming along. They weren’t finished and Mick asked about a pile of boards stuffed in the roof. Was there something up there he could try? Mick climbed up the ladder and dragged a couple down, blew the dust off ’em, and felt one up and down a lot, tripping on the wide tail-block and the wide nose.

It was a typical Kolohe Andino board, the same dimensions he’d qualified for the World Tour on. Even though it’d been ridden and had a  small crease, Mick grabbed it and said that maybe he’d ride in the contest. The next day, Mick took it out in the heat and Matt’s phone lit up with text messages that said,

“Mick’s on one of your boards.”

“Mick’s doing airs in his heat and going mad”.

Matt says: “I saved all the emails and texts from Mick. Guys like Handley and JS, those guys are used to working with someone like that in their prime, but I really wasn’t. He is so professional and well spoken and well written. He really is the ultimate R n D surfer. His surfing is so mechanically flawless and his demeanour is beyond reproach. Like, it’s not fair that DH has had that specimen to work with all these years! I think Kolohe is on his way to being that guy. Anyways. He ended up just saying he was completely perplexed on how some thing that looked like that board rode the way it did.”

Mick, who rode it to the quarter-finals of the Hurley Pro, says the board, “changed my view on how all my boards should be. Instantly I added the those two extra litres to all my boards and requested a little more width all over. From time to time you get a board that changes your world and that thing came to me at a time I really needed some fresh inspiration. The board allowed me to to take new lines and switch my approach and as a result I got completely psyched on surfing and competing again.”

Matt says having Mick ride it “vindicated the work and design concepts that Dino and I had put into Kolohe’s boards over his young career. Like we knew we were making the kid the best possible boards for the QS and lacklustre waves he had to deal with in amateur and junior events, but to see the textbook technical surfer of a generation, a two-time world champ, in his physical prime, surf that perfectly on our little stumpy board, it was a great feeling.”

The classic thing about the whole synergy between Kolohe, Dino, Mick and Mayhem is whether or not it’s driven by the Americans’ hero worship of the Australian.

“Dino adores Mick. He and I both obsess over Mick’s technique like one would over say Alex Rodrigues’ or Albert Puljos’ swing in baseball.”

MICK FANNING’S MAHYHEM SUB-DRIVER DIMENSIONS: 5’11” 18.88” 2.25”, 26.7 litres of volume

Corona beer advertisement
Formula: Worlds Best Surf Cinematographer + Gaggle of renowned Surf hessians + Mexican Sunset + Product = Poetry. | Photo: Corona

Opinion: Surfing is sex and sex sells!

Sun, summer, toned bodies, tanned skin, can’t ya just taste it?

“Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.” – Bill Bernbach 

Some things are totally harder than others. Boxing’s one. The other night I was feeling particularly Dutch and courageous and decided to break a lifetime of loving and become a fighter. Squaring off against a good friend – and part irritating Tolkien-like character – I felt sure that my superior reach and Aryan genetics would see me victorious.

The game plan was to dance around for a few minutes taunting him a la Cassius Clay and then when he got really mad, plant one on the end of his nose, and have another gin and tonic. In theory: flawless, in practice: unrealistic.

I spent about half-a-second taunting, one minute avoiding a combination of right and left jabs and then three days recovering from the mild to moderate concussion that followed a haymaker landing straight in the temple. In entering the fight I ignored the golden rule: Don’t try to compete in an unknown discipline against someone who knows what they’re doing. 

Surfing and selling people crap that they don’t need in essence go together like peas and carrots. But the amount of times that it’s done badly, from surf and consumer points of views, really boggles. Surfing is sex, and sex sells. Sun, summer, toned bodies, tanned skin, can’t ya just taste it?

Convincing the great unwashed that they need to buy your product in order to look and feel better and in turn appear more attractive to the opposite/same/both sex(s) is the aim of the game and what better chariot than surf. What perplexes moi is that the ad companies try to do surf on their own.

Why they don’t stick half the budget in their back pockets and reach out to the salty struggling creative (me!!) doesn’t make sense. Do they sit in the board room are go, “Ah yeah Mike went on holiday to Waikiki with his family once, he’s in charge of this one…”

Here’s a hit, miss, and maybe of capitalisms whoring out of our beloved surf:


This is the ad in circulation that sparked my exploration of the surf ad and, man, it’s bad. It’s more or less impossible to work out who the target audience is. Backpackers leaning to surf? But they’re staying in a hotel. The youth? But the protagonists are fat and heading towards forty. Young professionals on boring holidays? But who with disposable income spends it on Subway sandwiches!?

It can’t possibly make anyone want to surf, have sex, or eat a goddam sandwich. Surely! The error isn’t in the corn. Corny is good, corny sells. Even in the surf world the enlightened amongst us thrive on a bit of romanticism. What this advertisement lacks is fun. The surf doesn’t look fun, the sandwich doesn’t look fun. The essence is fine: Can’t do something, consume product, victory! But why do surf with someone who can’t surf, on a beach with bad surf, and completely lacking in chocolate brown flesh. Fail. There’s no way that anyone with any surf cred had anything to do with this.


So close to perfection you can almost taste the fattening black gold! The copy is outstanding. It’s employed my beloved trick of plundering a theme, or piece of prose, from one of the masters of the Lit game (Melrose) and paraphrasing it just enough so that it feels strangely familiar to the reader, but keeps the legal team of Vintage or Penguin off your ass. Well played Tom Carty (copywriter) you savvy pilferer!

The concept again is genius: Waiting for a bomb, waiting for the Stout to settle into the gorgeously contrasted black and white. The action’s where this one falls short. Dude’s taking elevator drops in black and white at Waimea don’t need no CGI. Save your coin, ditch the unrealistic cut ins of wipeouts and the white horses, play the bomb start to end, and finish up on the beach where the surf was shot. Ahab, Moby and Greg Noll all go have a Guinness at Haleiwa Joes. Perfect.

Big Bill Berbach says, “Properly practiced creativity can make one ad do the work of ten.”

This is a case of the creatives over-cooking the goose with not enough sprinkling of surf knowledge. A commendable effort nonetheless.

(Editors Note: this ad won Gold at eh Clio’s, so who really cares what BeachGrit thinks.)


Ah the Mexican Bintang. Bravo you brown-skinned devils for turning a drab local brew into a global monster!

Formula: Worlds Best Surf Cinematographer + Gaggle of renowned Surf hessians + Mexican Sunset + Product = Poetry.,

And glorious authenticity! It’s borne of a well-rounded vision of why people are interested in your product and why they continue to buy it. Corona’s just like any other lager. It’s light, fizzy, and if you drink too much of it then you’ll do something stupid and wake up with a headache (possibly in the arms of a stranger. Its unique selling point is that it’s from Mexico and people really do drink it when the sun goes down).

The most powerful element in advertising is the truth,” preaches Papa Bernbach.

Amen Father.

Monsters of Water (Part one): Daniel Russo!

How many humans on earth would have the privilege of seeing this angle if not for men like Russo?

Daniel Russo, thirty-ish, from Pupukea on Oahu’s North Shore, is the inspiration behind this series. Y’see the opening shot? Classic Russo. Ten-foot Backdoor and the animal is treading water in the fire zone, diving just under the lip and in front of the surfer, in this case Hawaiian Jamie O’Brien. How many humans on this earth would have the privilege of seeing this angle if not for men like Russo?

Russo was born to shoot water photos. His Dad Larry was throwing him into closeouts at Pupukea sandbar when he was three. At five, if there was a swell he’d skip first grade and swim out to meet his pops at Pipe. Aged 10, he bodysurfed a 10-foot mid-summer swell. Over the past half-a-decade, Russo has created a body of work that is intimate and everlasting.

This series of photos, below, are from Daniel’s early years, all shot on film, all using the ancient Canon 630 wrapped in a small housing.

To what or who do you attribute your success?

I don’t try to force anything. I don’t try to direct anything. There are certain surfers out there who like the same type of waves that I like and I make sure I’m there with them when the waves are pumping.

Who are these surfers? 

Nathan Fletcher Reef McIntosh Jamie O’Brien and recently John John Florence. There’s no science. If you have good surfers and the waves are pumping, and you get in the right spot, you get good images. Everyone always trips out that I’ll swim for three, four, five hours, but sometimes that’s what it takes to get a good image.

Why is water photography important? 

I feel like a lot of the surf industry doesn’t take it seriously and doesn’t value it for what it is. But, it’s important because it really captures certain moments and a true perspective. From the land you can get some great shots, but it’s in the water, when you’re hanging in the lip or just out on the flats looking at a surfer on a wave, well, there’s nothing else quite like it.

What kind of drunk are you?

Ha! Depends. I get an angry drunk on. It depends where I’m at. A lot of times, I’ll be having a good time but I then I start chasing all the girls and I start trying to fight everyone.

What are your favourite drinks?

I like Jaeger a lot. And, I’ll definitely get in on the whisky. Black label whisky a lot and then I drink a lot of wine a lot of times.

Ever tried to fight the wrong person? 

A couple of times, in places and with people I’m not familia with. I used to drink a lot and I got myself into way too much trouble. I tried to mature on that level.

People who grew up on islands love to fight. 

There sure is something about it. It’s in my blood, too. My grandpa was a street fighter and he died from a brain tumour from fighting. My dad’s Irish-Italian and he’s a short guy with a temper on him so he was always getting into fights when he was younger. I have his Irish-Italian temper.

What’s your final word on the art of water photography? 

When you’re on the beach with a camera you’re a spectator, you’re a tourist. When you’re in the water, you’re involved. You belong to the moment. It’s like a painter spends hours on a single brushstroke just to get it right. Water photography is definitely an artform. And there’s a very select group of people who beling in this niche, as an artist.

Under The Rail Off The Wall Jamie ObrienUlladulla Australia Daniel FullerTahiti Empty PerfectionLonely Empty MonumentsGreen Monster Puerto EscondidoDSC_5033DSC_5032Afternoon Backlit Puerto EscondidoBig Blue Empty Backdoor

Great Whites Swarm Western Australian Beaches!

Government shoots to kill… 

If you’re easily scared and you live on the western flank of Australia, you might want to avoid reading the twitter feed on tagged sharks there.

Tigers, bronze whalers, great whites, whatever, they’re kicking around in such numbers you’d be inclined to think one could walk on their backs from Cottesloe in the south to Hillarys further north. (But wear shoes. Backs so rough!)

Some sharks a few clicks offshore; others a hundred or less. And they’re just the tagged sharks. 

(Click here if you dare!) 

This morning, the Fisheries Department SharkSmart live feed reminded us that one three-metre white shark had been detected 66 times off a Perth metro beach.

It didn’t take much for the government to react, either. As you read, contractors are on the scene with baited hooks, drum lines and, one would assume, a gun with an order to capture and kill the errant fish which was first detected yesterday.

Nor did it take long for the Greens Party to express its dislike of the Barnett Government’s newish shoot-to-kill policy.

“It is entirely inappropriate for them to be using the tagged monitoring system to then target a shark and kill it,”  Greens spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said. “The Government is responding in an inappropriate manner and they need to rescind this order.”

Just a couple clicks away, live updates can be seen on Surf Lifesaving’s Twitter feed. (Click here!) 

Again, if you’re the jumpy type, best you avoid that, for it’s all bad news this morning, sharks here, sharks there and, ominously, the most recent post: “Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter is currently helping the Water Police in a missing persons search at Scarborough Beach.”

You will recall the governement’s snappy response following the attack on Sean Pollard at Esperance earlier this year. It didn’t waste a second and pulled two whites out of the water just hours after the south-west surfer was attacked.

Some say murder, others rest easy.