Found: The Meaning of Life at Surf Movie Premiere!

Wait, you had an epiphany at a double bill with Cyrus Sutton and Dingo?

Four years ago I attended the premiere of Dean Morrison’s movie A Dingo’s Tale at the Ritz theatre in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. I went with a pal and without agenda, just to see some surf on the silver screen, but the events that unfolded had a pungent effect on my palate.

The night was put on by action sports distribution firm VAS Entertainment, and the support act was a little movie called Stoked and Broke by a man unknown to me at the time called Cyrus Sutton. The two movies being pared together was coincidence, but in doing so VAS entertainment unbecomingly put together a dissonant account of surf culture, one that is evident today.

Being fashionably late my friend and I were forced into sitting upstairs in the gallery. Dingo sat among his Sydney conglomerate the Bra Boys, in a mob that took up the first five rows. Next to my friend and I was a known local surf dog with a piece of dental floss hanging from his sun tipped curls, and behind us a tardy and boozy Paul Fisher, who took great pleasure in squawking like a amphetamine riddled McCaw whenever he saw fit, usually with the phrase, “Yeah the Ding!”

Cyrus’ movie chronicled his and Ryan Burch’s man-powered surf trip through San Diego County dragging a cart each containing boards and supplies and relying on the generosity of others for food, money, and shelter.

Contrived sure, but the sentiment was real. The humour and kinship that Cyrus managed to convey powered the boys through the county in a captivating fashion. Not to mention the surfing of one Ryan Burch! Burch carries his sleigh containing all manner of weird and wonder filled crafts from beach to beach and draws highly creative lines in all manner of Cali glass.

The image of the boys sitting on skateboards towing their trolleys past one of Southern California’s many golf courses, while a sparkling SUV is itching to get past them is golden. It reeks of the surfer larrikin. (Not to be confused with the Gold Coast larrikin depicted in A Dingo’s Tale.)

Nah, the same strand of tomfoolery that saw Miki Dora and the boys don the Schutzstaffel uniforms that their Pa’s had brought back from the war and ride flexi’s through the storm water drains that run underneath Windansea in the sixties. Doing surf culture proud.

At the conclusion Cyrus had to stand at the foot of the blank screen and answer robotic questions on his work of great passion

“Where did you get the idea…” 

All the while the Boys Bra were five feet away, peering under their flat-brimmed hats and straight into Cy’s soul! I died with him.

A Dingo’s Tale started to rapturous applause and lots of “Yeah the Ding’s.” It was barrels, sand placement, abusive parents, saviour Rabbit, and Dingo’s hi-fi game was near flawless.

Yet I couldn’t rid my mind of the epiphany that Stoked and Broke had triggered in my partially explored brain. These were young surfers actually thinking about stuff! Questioning life, surfing, capitalism, suburbia, whether you really need a four-wheel drive. But doing it in a thought-provoking and humorous way, with an eye on the past and an eye on the future. The irony of doing a feral hobo surf mission in gentrified Southern California was clearly not lost on Cyrus Sutton.

The most poignant moment in Stoked and Broke comes in an interview with surfer, filmmaker, and writer Richard Kenvin, when talking about a young surfer who lives with his single mother:

“There’s nothing better that you can get outta life than having a family unit, y’know. A loving family of your own, which I don’t have… and some sort of security in the world. That’s of a much higher value than anything that you’re going to get out of surfing. And if you can get surfing to fit in there somehow, then, y’know, you’re on top of the game.”

My mind slithered back to the now, where a close-up of distressed looking Dean Morrison appeared on the screen.

“Then I got dropped by my sponsor, my dog died, and my wife left me….” 

This moment, clearly intended by the director Matt Gye to be the heart-string tugging climax to the movie, steeled the Ritz’s audience in uncomfortable silence. Just as the awkwardness was almost too much to bear, relief came from a high-pitched nasal snigger from one Paul Fisher. We exhaled, ashamed and embarrassed.

Shuffling out of the theatre my pal, a man of few words, offered his thoughts on the night

“That was good, ay.”

I kept him company in his unintentional flippancy.

“Yeah pretty good.”

But in my mind, thoughts tornadod. There’s more to life than surf? Irresponsibility puts you in a prison? Can this be true? But most potently, “If you can fit surfing in somewhere then you’re on top of the game.”

To view life through surfing, what a dreamy medium!


Kieren Perrow portrait
"In 2000, I nearly gave the pro surfing thing away," says ASP (WSL) Commissioner Kieren Perrow. "I missed the WCT cut by two spots. I was in tears. I didn't know how to cope. It could've made me bitter and twisted. But I came back. Came back without the feeling that I deserved it. I could've walked away but I would've regretted it for the rest of my life." | Photo: ASP

Kieren Perrow: How beating Grass changed my life.

The ASP (WSL) Commisioner ain't a fool. Very sharp. Maybe even wise.

Long before he became ASP Commissioner the Australian Kieren Perrow was a tour competitor of  note, winning even the Pipeline Masters in 2011. This interview was recorded during a break in the Tahiti contest some years ago, but contained within, is a candour perhaps not available now given his high-profile position within the sport.

Fear is never too far from the surface. And it doesn’t take much for it to appear. You will fluctuate from being shit-scared to feeling totally high.

I discovered I got off on big waves on my first trip to Hawaii. Sunset was 10 foot, perfect. Margo (Brenden Margieson) faded me and my board was too big but after a few hammerings I realised I was enjoying the power. Once you get the taste there’s no going back.

In 2000, I nearly gave the pro surfing thing away. I missed the WCT cut by two spots. I was in tears. I didn’t know how to cope. It could’ve made me bitter and twisted. But I came back. Came back without the feeling that I deserved it. I could’ve walked away but I would’ve regretted it for the rest of my life.

I felt like I had something to prove in surfing. No one thought I could qualify. I was never a stand-out. I was never being touted as the Next Big Thing. It didn’t upset me but part of me wanted to say, Fuck you, I did it. 

My year on tour I finished seventh. It was the third best rookie result ever, behind Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning.

Australia? There’s a split between the olds who don’t want war and who ware sympathetic to refugees and others who parrot the government line.

I thought I was going to screw up in my last year of school. I felt like I was slipping. I bought the idea that the HSC (final year exams) is it, that it sets your course for the rest of your life. I didn’t do much except smoke pot. Then school finished and reality hit. Your social structure falls apart. Pot stopped being fun and became a habit. Six months after finishing school it was a pretty intense situation. I’d get up at five, start chopping up, then smoke four or five cones before a surf. It was an escape from time and thought. I remember waking up and looking in the mirror and thinking: What the fuck are you doing? One part of me said, Have a cone and you’ll be all right. And I did. But I stopped soon after and didn’t smoke again for seven years.

Two weeks after I stopped smoking I was in Sydney waiting for a connecting train to Victoria for a contest. When I got to the platform the conductor wouldn’t let my boards on. I was left standing on the platform freaking. I went outside and borrowed some change from a guy for the phone. As I waited to be picked up, we started talking and he wound up paying for a hotel, then picked me up in the morning, took me to the airport and bought me a one-way business class ticket to Melbourne. I would never have been open to that if I’d been stoned. I would’ve been suspicious and paranoid. It taught me the power of generosity. I don’t want to care about money too much. I like having it and I like giving it away. It gives immense satisfaction. His name was Eddie Andrews from the Australian Management Group. Thanks Eddie.

A few months later, I started talking to one of the hostess on a flight to Perth. I immediately became infatuated and wrote her a one-and-a-half page poem. When I told her I didn’t have anywhere to stay in Perth, she told me to call her at the Hyatt. I went there and she answered the door in her undies. I went to the contest the next day with the biggest smile. I felt young and invincible.

Danielle came to help me with my contracts and we talked for four hours. As she was walking out the door I had this irresistible urge to kiss her. Eighteen months later she was my wife.

All women should learn to fight. They need to defend themselves.

Believing in yourself is great. But, eventually, you’ve gotta achieve or else you need to face reality.

Everyone’s perverted in some way. Everyone.

You can't argue about the WSL's ability to arrange celebrities on a New York rooftop. At a cocktail party last July to announce the name change, and thrown by the movie producer Harvey Weinstein, Katie Holmes, Anna Wintour swished around with Kelly Slater, Gabriel Medina, Stephanie Gilmore, Coco Ho, Courtney Conlogue. | Photo: ASP

Sponsor Me: The WSL Goes Chasing Cash

Even the masters of the game of pro surfing have to make a buck to keep the show rolling… 

It ain’t easy putting on a multi-million dollar surf circus every month. That infrastructure don’t put itself up and those commentators and cameramen and tech guys and gals all need airfares, a reasonable sorta stipend and some place to stay.

Three, four mill, is what it takes, depending on the finer points of the event. And since none of us are paying for those expensive-to-produce webcasts and it’s mostly free to watch an event on the beach, how’s the World Surf League gonna make ends meet?

Advertising, partnerships, branded content. The same biz model that drives newspapers and magazines, online and print, enabling us to pay $10 for a 200-page mag and get our paper journalism for only a couple of shekels and our websites mostly for free, but a biz model that leaves businesses vulnerable as hell.

And so, like of all us, even BeachGrit when we eventually start trading ideas for cash, the WSL is knocking on doors. They got Samsung, they go GoPro. But they need more or else it’s all going to end up in the sinkhole of failed dreams.

To chase money, you gotta have what’s called a media kit. Now let’s examine.

The sixth word on the WSL sponsor page is “millennial.” As in “youth” as in “marketing jargon for youth” as in “pedophiles talkin’ ’bout kids.”

“We understand and engage with millennials…”

Ummmmmmmm, really? Professional surfing, wrapped in the clothing of 2007 Fox Sports West with the voice of Pat Parnell, is what millennials dig? Complicated and subjective scoring systems? They like? Raoni Montiero?

Ummmmmmmm, yeah?


“We are in a growth business. Fortune estimates by 2017 the global surf industry will generate more than $13 billion. Worldwide participation is growing by +30 percent annually.”

I’m at least happy that surfing is an almost 17 billion dollar industry with 30% year-on-year growth.

“We are marketers, who seek to collaborate with brands on programming that achieves measurable objectives and leaves the world a better place,” says the WSL.

Who doesn’t!

Examine the document yourself by clicking here! 


"Why is the majority of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (W.A.S.P!) surfing community so reluctant to accept our delightful chocolate-skinned world champ?" writes Ali Klinkenberg. | Photo: ASP/Kirstin Scholtz

Candid: All my friends are racist!

A world champ from Brazil? Say it ain't so, scream white devils!

Just like the annual anti-climax of Xmas and New Years, Gabby’s triumph has come and gone. Our brother from the land of the rumba showed composure most men three times his age will never manage to muster. My heart soared!

But the alarming majority of my acquaintances grumbled. This ain’t no redneck country town either. This is Bondi Beach, world famous. Metropolitan, cosmopolitan. Or maybe we’re just as dang prejudiced as the rest. As the streamers settle on Gabriel’s carnival we have to ask ourselves: Why is the majority of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (W.A.S.P!) surfing community so reluctant to accept our delightful chocolate-skinned world champ?

“He’s got a bad style.”

Style is the numero uno criticism that gets rained upon the Brazilians. Sure Gabs doesn’t surf like Parko. But no one surfs like Parko! How long can our racism hide behind this falsity? There’s nothing wrong with Gabby’s technique, not one bit. Adriano, sure there’s an issue. Gabby’s no “Giraffe on rollerskates.” Lumping all the Brazilians in together and say they surf without style is a dumb generalisation. The new breed: Gabs, Miggy, Felipe, have all got unique and aesthetically pleasing elements to their surfing.

“Brazilian’s hassle.”

Give the boys a break; they’ve been fighting for every meal since day one! Who can blame them? The majority of them grow up in crowded metropolises and have to scrounge for waves, that’s just how it is. Moreover, my experience suggests that the pro’s from Latin America’s largest country are some of the most courteous in the biz.

Story time:

I was surfing fun three-foot Sanur, an east coast righthander in Bali. The lineup consisted of a Swiss Family Robinson-style Aussie mob of six, myself (British), and two Brazilian pro’s. The younger of the two was hanging on the inside, catching scraps and doing punts. The elder was sitting way out, sensei style, waiting for the five-foot bomb that’d come through every 20 minutes.

When the bomb arrived he’d stroke in and set off a procession of the most technically sound backhand hooks you could hope to see. All was going swimmingly until three of the local indo hoodlums sauntered out (at the same time, of course.) They were that strange breed of sponsored local Indos who have a hugely inflated opinion of their meagre ability.

Sensei Santos was burnt on three waves in a row straight off the bat. Every time he paddled to the peak without a word, despite being the best surfer in the water by a nautical mile. The fourth time it happened he threw his hands up in the air in frustration,


That was all the rabid threesome needed. They swarmed him, one grabbing him from behind in a headlock, and the other two landing blows on his face and chest.

“I’ve been coming here for 20 years,” he pleaded.

He completely submitted to the punches. Presumably his experience had taught him that handing out beatings to the local bully boys in Indo isn’t the smartest move. They punched his fins out and told him to “Fuck off back to Brazil.”

It was an ugly scene, but one thing was clear. His nationality made him a target.

The South American contingent first crept onto the World Tour in the early nineties with trailblazers Gouevia and Padvaratz (Flavio, Neco and Teco!). They had their moments of success, but failed to really challenge for the big prize. This was in the first coming of King Kelly after all, and he smote all in his path. What the boys did bring to the tour was cultural diversity, character and South American passion. And by God it was needed.

In general the World Tour is a painfully middle-class affair. White Aussies, Americans and a sprinkling of Saffas from well-to-do homes dominate the line up, so to speak. Even the Hawaiian’s are white. The Brazilian contingent brings some much-needed diversity to the tour. What’s not to love? As Brazil’s economy continues to boom (which it’s totally doing now) the South American contingent on the WSL will continue to flourish. And I for one like it.

In embracing the Brazilian contingent, surf opens the doors to another world. Medina has the #friendship and support of global superstars Neymar and Robinho. Neymar alone has 30 mil Instagram followers! That’s more influence than anyone from Australian sport can fathom. Competitive surfing is well and truly on it’s way to becoming a world-wide marketing powerhouse, for better or worse. Big bucks mean big advancements.

Those that have fear for the soul of our precious pastime need not. It’s in good hands. The soul game and Gabby’s jazz are two completely separate entities. And that’s a good thing. The tour is surfing’s equivalent of Wall Street, the high rollers risking it all and taking it to the bank.

If surf culture’s going to split then it may as well split in the most spectacular of fashions. Competitive professional surfing ain’t cool in the slightest. But who cares. There’s other surfers to carry the banner for all things cool and groovy. It’s improbable to look cool in a brightly coloured rashvest covered in multinational companies logo’s, but I’m more than happy for Gabby to be leading the charge to the right while the left heads off down it’s own path.

I’ve never been to Brazil, but I’ve experienced its fruits. I once dated a Brazilian garota linda (beautiful gal) who looked like Penelope Cruz (no shit), and my good amigo Gui used to be addicted to condensed milk (four cans a day!).

These two and glorious Gabs have two things in common: tthey’re Brazilian, and they’re awesome.

It’s a New Year and a new start. Open your pasty hearts to the Brazilian storm. It’s coming to add colour to your meager lives whether you like it or not…

Andrej Pejic and Chas Smith
And, here, we see the final dramatic act! The epiphany! Photo shoots! Chin arranged just so, forehead dipped ever so slightly, bent nose the plume. A trademark!

I was a top androgynous model! (Part three: Epiphany)

Chas gets offered deal as centrefold in Playgirl! Will he accept? Will he become, finally, number one male model?

Eventually, I gained 12 pounds. I then waltzed into the chicest salon ever (called Meche pronounced “mesh”) and got a trillion-dollar haircut from celebrity stylist (and hunk) Michael Sparks. Now it was time for my book.

A model’s book is his portfolio of work and photographs of himself that he loves. Photographs that show his genetic lottery winning bone structure face bending slightly down from the camera like Marcus Schenkenberg. Bending slightly down because the light refracts off of nose, brow, chin and allow his eyes to look slightly up and fill the viewer with lust. Photographs that show his bronzed, shaved, fat-free, muscle perfect torso bending slightly away from the camera like Michelangelo’s David. Bending slightly away because he is nude and only titillating the viewer with dick and ass not posing for Playgirl. A model’s book is how he gets cast for Hermes runway shows and double spread Louis Vuitton advertisements and this is what I needed.

And so, I went in to visit my agent’s west coast office in Los Angeles and find the right photographer. I knew I would have to have an artist. A man or woman able to see my true splendour and capture it splashed in glorious shadow and sex. My eyes needed to smoulder. My pectorals needed to appear big not just slightly big.

My agent’s west coast agent suggested photographer after photographer and I looked at their work but I was uninspired. I needed something more. I needed something different. I needed something that would sing. I simply couldn’t bear becoming the face for Beers of the World. My lover had already added a third name to her list of men she was openly fawning over. Charlie Hunnam, who plays Jax Teller on Sons of Anarchy. Beers of the Fucking World would NOT cut it.

Then I saw his work. The photographer’s name was Derek Dunfee and he was different. My agent’s west coast agent said that he was a big-wave surfer who was just starting to get into fashion while shrugging dismissively. What did he know? He was merely my agent’s west coast agent. Derek’s photographs seemed sunny and light. They seemed like they would suit my particular je ne sais quoi just exactly and so I called him and set up a time.

We met mid-afternoon in La Jolla, California. It was the place where Derek was raised and where he drew his inspiration. He stood before me, tattooed and model handsome himself (he was actually IN Flaunt’s metallic issue), holding a Canon 5D camera. He also had an old Yashica T4 junky Terry Richardson 35mm. I do not like lo-fi for the sake of lo-fi but I liked Derek’s whole deal. He knew what he was doing. But I also started to feel very self-conscious. The Canon 5D and even the Yashica would expose me as a fraud. They would show that I did not belong.

Derek placed me against a brick wall. I felt my face go wooden, my smile become laboured, my aura vacillate between doubt and greater doubt. I could not shake bad bad feelings. Sitting for photographs goes against the average man’s best instincts. He does not want to appear vain. He does not want to be the centre of attention. And even as I was trying to rise above the average man and his infernal best instincts, I saw myself sliding into his pit. I saw myself as “average” not, as I should have, as “spectacular.” My face was an awkward mask. My shoulders and arms did not know what to do. I wished I had practiced. I wished I had won the genetic lottery.

Derek remained silent, the only sound coming from his Cannon 5D shutter. I had done the work, hadn’t I? I had gone to the gym, I had gone to the proper salon, I had willed myself beautiful. I screamed at my own heart, “BE BEAUTIFUL!” but did not feel any different in return.

And then Derek said he was finished. He said he would email me the selects. I was devastated but also held out slim hope that my images would represent something greater. That there would be something undeniably magnetic looking back. Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford and Hedi Slimane and Raf Simons would fall under my spell. I would be the face they had all been looking for.

Derek emailed me selects days later. The images were great, perfect even. He had talent. But the man standing in their centres was only out of place. It was all that could be said for him. Still, not wanting to admit defeat, because admitting defeat was the same thing as ordering my lover to go and be with Gavin Newsom, Armie Hammer and Charlie Hunnam, I marched back into my agent’s west coast agent’s office and threw my book on his desk. He picked it up and slowly looked through the images. Looking down and up at me and down again.

Finally he said, “You know what I think would be perfect for you? Playgirl. They really go for the guy-with-a-unique-story thing. Would you do it?” Playgirl. It was better than Beers of the World but it was not Yves St. Laurent. Or was it? I mean, what is the difference between high-fashion nudity and soft-core pornography? Wasn’t my entire goal to get women to look doe-eyed at me? I told him I would think about it and walked out his door into West Hollywood golden light not knowing if I should be depressed or flattered.

Just then my cellphone rang. It was Playboy, not Playgirl, accepting my giant feature on the agricultural conglomerate Monsanto and their dirty meddling in Hawaii. The story has the sexiest elements of danger, gang activity, murder, palm trees and genetically modified organisms. My lover hates GMOs and would be thrilled at my damning of that industry. The West Hollywood golden light trickled into my soul. Joseph Heller, Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Haruki Murakami, Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac, Kurt Vonnegut had all written for Playboy and women love writers more than they love models. Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller. Yes, writers are hot. Fuck models. Fuck mayors and actors too. Writers are the hottest men ever. I drove home to my lover to tell her that I was a literary rocket ship and she was welcome to come along.