“The Most Insane, Courageous Performance I’ve Ever Seen!”

Dion Agius remembers Damien Hobgood's surfing at a rough Indonesian reef. "He was an animal!"

Some time ago, while filming for Strange Rumblings, Dion Agius and other Globe surfers including Creed McTaggart, sought out the circles of Greenbush in Sumatra, Indonesia.

Greenbush is one of those waves where tuberiding to the death is preferable to opening the cat-flap or proning straight. For surfers such as Craig Anderson and, in our case, Damien Hobgood, it is where their courage and their skills are most visible.

I’d heard about Damien Hobgood’s solo session at 12-foot at Greenbush from Dion Agius and Creed McTaggart. As I swooped on their drinks cabinet they mimicked what they believed had transpired. Giant drops beyond the vertical axis! Circles that were so big that even if a camera had been there it wouldn’t have been able to translate its enormity to pixels.

Damien, see, was in Bali and had heard the wave was going to be good and, short of partners, flew, drove and hopped a boat until he was sitting in the channel of an Indonesia version of Teahupoo, ready to surf solo. And solo he did.

The following day, when the swell had dropped but was still a respectable, even horrifying, eight foot, Dion and Creed and the rest of the Globe gang arrived. And Damien, hardened from the previous day, owned it.

Now let’s talk with Dion!

BeachGrit: Describe to me how Damien behaved in these waves?

Dion: Damo acted like an animal out there, like a man possessed. It was the most insane performance of talent and courage I’ve ever seen. He did not give one fuck and was getting bounced of the reef and bleeding everywhere and just kept charging.

What about when he surfaced with his back covered in glitches. He laughed it off, yeah? 

Yep, he had been bounced on the inside. Tore up his whole back, copped the next death set on the head on the inside section and swam down to the bottom and bear-hugged a giant coral head while an eight foot dry set bore down on his head. And he gritted his teeth and said underwater “not today.” That’s what he told us when he paddled back out bleeding. “Not today!” Jesus. I wanted to go home crying. I was so scared at that point.

Can you describe, in detail, one outrageous wave he rode? 

He got one that came in looking like Black Death. The whole channel went black, it was the biggest wave of the day by far and he saw it and just started paddling for the horizon. A the very last second he swung as fast as you’ve ever seen and put his head down. I think his face may have even been in the water and he was grunting an paddling so hard paddling like 20 miles an hour. Once his board caught up with the tremendous forward thrusts his arms were producing, he took off behind the peak and lost contact for a second before regaining at the bottom and accidetanlly went into a soul arch with an eight-foot guillotine lip heading at his face. He ducked about two-inches and it slid right by his ear before he stood completely straight and proceeded to man-handle the beast all the way down the line and then got spat out right in front of my face. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. He was giggling.

What sorts of things do you remember him saying to you? 

I think he said, “that was fun.” I couldn’t speak for about 20 minutes.

What can we learn from a man like Damo? 

How to be a man. And an awesome loving, caring gentle man that is also as tough, and strong and crazy as the manliest of men.

Do you wish you were more like Damo? 

I wish I was Damo.

Empty waves during Cyclone Iggy in 2012
''You're just looking at each other with your mouths open and you're shaking your head and nothing comes out, you don't know what to say. I'd lost my voice by the end of the day," says Taj of a wave that has only appeared, in this sort of form, twice, and only for a few hours each time, in the past 20 years. | Photo: Jamie Scott

Is this the best wave in the world?

Long, draining, warm-water, sand-bottom point. In Western Australia. Make you wanna chase?

What do you want in a “world’s best wave”? A few jocks will chase the Teahupoo dream; others are Hawaii; a few thrill to the cold-water ledges.

Me? And you? I’m thinking warm-water sand-bottom points with a cap on the wave size at, say, six foot. Like this remarkable confluence of sand and swell three hours drive south of Perth in Western Australia, and relatively close to the primary residence of the tour’s Taj Burrow.

”You’re just looking at each other with your mouths open and you’re shaking your head and nothing comes out, you don’t know what to say. I’d lost my voice by the end of the day,” says Taj of a wave that has only appeared, in this sort of form, twice, and only for a few hours each time, in the past 20 years.

Cyclone Bianca (2011) and Cyclone Iggy (2012) are two meteorological events that surfers who were there, on this day, and on the previous one the year before, will remember for the rest of their lives.

Cyclones, y’see, don’t do a hell of a lot for waves around these parts, usually. Mostly they’re too far up north, Exmouth and beyond. But Bianca and Iggy flew south and spun their north-swell dreams into a part of the state more famous for its lefts (Let’s leave North Point outta the picture for a minute).

And what happens is the prevailing southerlies push sand up into the beachbreaks, every day, every year. But without a north swell to light ’em up, they’re always closeouts.

“We couldn’t believe it happened two years in a row,” says Jamie Scott, who shot this photo. “That never happens. Two in a row! We were losing it.” The “we” refers to Taj, Jay Davies and another local surfer Dino Adrian.

Jamie is 44 years old and takes surf photos for a living. He also prints these shots, makes frames and then “sits it out at the markets every Saturday and Sunday in summer.”

“As far as beachies go, these were the best waves we’ve ever had down here,” says Jamie. “North Point gets fucked up as you know, but these were long, draining, heavy beachies with shape. And it was pumping, as in the waves didn’t stop. Usually our swells are long-period here but because the cyclone was so close there was a real short period and the waves were closer together, pumping through.”

Which means, “good lineup shots,” says Jamie.

How long can you mind-surf this photo for?

(To buy this image or to flip through Jamie’s catalogue click here. You want his social? Click here for Facebook. And click here for his Instagram. 

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!