Sex, Lies and Rabbit Bartholomew?

Many things are coming to light. Many things.

Australian golfer Robert Allenby was recently, as reported on BeachGrit, “kidnapped,” “tossed in the trunk of a car,” “driven 6.5 miles,” “beaten up” and “robbed” in Honolulu after spending the early evening in a wine bar. Like Rabbit Bartholomew circa 1971!

He told the PGA, the day after the “incident,” that a homeless woman saw him tossed out of the trunk and battered. She has recently come forward and said, “Nah.”

Her name is, amazingly, Charade and she lives in Ala Moana Beach Park, which is where I once tried to buy ice. In any case, she told Hawaii Now News, “He was already all bleeding and he was groggy and he wasn’t really walking and he was disorientated a little bit…” but there was no trunk of a car or beating up. “…I can’t say somebody did something I didn’t see them do,” she told Hawaii News Now. “I can’t even tell you how he got hurt. I just know that he was bleeding everywhere.”

Charade says she likes to be helpful even though it makes her homeless boyfriend angry and she tried to help but pretty much denies his entire story. Especially since the wine bar is kitty corner to Ala Moana Beach Park as opposed to 6.5 miles away. Which makes me wonder about Rabbit Bartholomew circa 1971. Was he merely wine drunk outside Haleiwa Joes as opposed to charging big Sunset? Hmmmmmmmmm.

Is Charade a babe? Maybe.
Is Charade a babe? Maybe.

Man holding bags of Ice
There’s a meth epidemic in the Islands, haven’t you heard?

Long read: How to buy ice in Hawaii

Want to throw your life down the ol sink hole? Buy meth! Here's how!

Roger was sitting off the Pali Highway near downtown Honolulu in front of a big chain drug store. He looked like he’d been up for a couple days… tired and a little dirty. Otherwise, he seemed as normal as cheeseburger stains on a fat kid’s shirt. I knew, instinctively, that he either was high or had been high so I made a move. I’d been around the block for the past day and a half and, contrary to published hysteria, it hadn’t been easy to find a real-live tweaker in public. Yeah braddah, “Rog” wasn’t just regular high, he was twacked. Floating around the atmosphere on an ice cloud and I needed to take advantage of the situation

As I asked my uninformed/rude questions his eyes darted back and forth but he answered respectfully. Yes, he had smoked last night. No, I couldn’t take his picture. Yes, he had a steady job and a family. No, he hadn’t stuck any of his kids in a microwave.

“Roger” is the face of Hawaii’s sworn enemy –  crystallised methamphetamine abusers – and if statistics means anything, the nightmare has just begun.

They call crystal meth “ice” on the islands. They also call it an “epidemic” “monster” “curse” and “plague.” Hawaiian Lt. Governor Duke Aiona told CBS News that he’s “…never seen devastation from another drug like this. It’s insidious.”

U.S. Attorney to Hawaii, Ed Kubo added, “Clearly, Hawaii is being killed (by ice).” Awfully big words, but the numbers appear to back them up. The World Health Organisation reported that Hawaii is the only place in the United States where meth is more widely abused than alcohol, or any other drug, combined. 44% of all arrestees test positive for meth, 80% of all emergency room visits are meth related, and deaths related directly to meth have quadrupled in the past decade.

Anyhow, you can’t trust statistics, you can’t trust the news and you certainly can’t trust U.S. attorneys to Hawaii.


Ice is a relatively recent addition to the illicit drug scene, but methamphetamine is not. Invented by a Japanese scientist in 1919, the stuff has had a powerful clientele. Hitler lost WW II because he was too baked to think straight and JFK made his “ich bein ein Berliner” speech while soaring.

East Asian crime syndicates were the first to bring da meth to Da Islands. It was popular because Hawaiians don’t like needles and could easily crystallise the powder, making it smokable.

Back on the mainland, Mexican Cartels had just finished kicking Colombian drug lord buns in the early 2000s and wanted to expand their business. They saw slant-eyed gangstas running a profitable little circus in Hawaii and decided it would be theirs. In no time Mexis centralized the production (making almost all the ice in Cali and Mexico) and distribution. Today they have a complete monopoly.


Directly concerning you Mr. Surfing Man, this ain’t just any drug infested Pacific island. Hawaii is surfing’s Golden Temple. Whatever happens here touches you touching me. Sweet Caroline.

United Flight 96 landed and there were no speed freaks waiting outside baggage claim to rob me blind. In fact, I wandered around the first day point five without much success. No matter where I looked, everything seemed normal. Well, not exactly normal, Honolulu is bizarre like an aging b-list actress. Bauhaus dominates the architectural scene, conjuring up a “non-aligned nations” vibe. Except instead of Congolese communists wandering around in Mao suits it’s Japanese twenty-nothings clutching monogrammed Louis Vuiton Neverfulls. It’s weird, but not plague-of-iced-out-zombies weird.

I would ask “locals” where I could find some “you know, ice or whatever.” They would either look at me like they didn’t know what I was talking about or give me pat condescension. A gay waiter at a sushi joint told me, for example, “It’ss everywhere. I mean, you don’t ssee it, but you ssee it…” I had to think he “ssaw” it every night. Gay white men are massive meth consumers. When I ordered him to get more specific he pointed west with a manicured pinky and said, “It’ss passt that misssty mountain…”


Sho nuff, my first brush with ice came in Ewa Beach on the West side. I had read that Ewa Beach was dubbed the “meth capital of the world” but that don’t mean much. My hometown of Coos Bay, Oregon is also called the “meth capital of the world” and so are a handful of other backwater hovels strewn across mid-America. Maybe a Johnny Methelseed went planting the idea in the heads of ugly little mayors that “meth capital” looks good on tourist brochures. I don’t know.

Ewa Beach looked regular as I exited the highway. Standard mainland colonisation-style. Blockbusters video stores and Vons super markets punctuated by an odd malasada or kine grub joint. Things started to go sour as I moved toward the water, though. Gated communities gave way to boarded up hell-holes with bizarre accoutrement strewn about. In one front yard two battle-cocks in cages waited for their next big fight. Another garage was open, revealing a partially assembled prison gym. Meth keeps you awake and creative. Maybe this dude pumped iron, then made sculptures from the set.

The streets were strangely ghost town silent. It appeared that, while clickers don’t sleep, that they don’t stand in the sun either. I got out of my car and started snapping photos when I heard,

“Haole boi…you wan beef?”

I turned around and saw three tubby Hawaiians posturing in all their ugly tank top spread toe steez.

“No, I want ice.” They gave me a long, hard look. “Whachu said haole boi?”

“I want ice.”

Ah, get out haole before we hurt you.” I left. They were 15 and I probably could have taken them, but whatever.

I walked around for a while longer but it was all the same. Crappy houses and no people. The streets were laid out in an uninspired grid and after a while I got lost. Cruddy house, cruddy yard, cruddy house, cruddy garbage… I re-found my car and bolted.

Making my way back up to the H-1 East I noticed a sign for a “behavioral clinic.” Perfect! Research on meth use suggests that it’s tough to die from the stuff. Unlike heroin or other opiates you can’t really overdose. Instead, people lose their minds. I assumed that a mental institution in the middle of Ewa Beach would be crawling with looney battery benders.

I got in big trouble for walking around “unsupervised.” A muumuued nurse rudely informed me that, “People who use vast amounts of methamphetamine usually have strokes and die before they go crazy” so they didn’t have any methamphetamine users on the premises. I let her know she was flying in the face of hard academic study. From what I had read, lots of heads go crazy. She stared at me for a while, then, like the 15-year-old boys, suggested I leave.

Ewa Beach was close. I mean, the evidence of ice infiltration was everywhere. Drugstores didn’t sell regular Sudafed (Sudafed contains pseudophedrine which can be used to manufacture ice. On the mainland they lock it up. In Ewa Beach they don’t even have it at all), neighborhoods had turned to shit and, despite what the stupid, fat nurse lady said, there was a dubious mental clinic… yet I still didn’t see any meandering junkies.


Back in Honolulu, sitting in a seedy Mexican restaurant while nursing stale chips and salsa, I had an epiphany. I had come to the restaurant with the hair-brained notion that Mexicans were setting up swinging joints as fronts for their ice business. Things looked good for a while. My waiter was babbling Spanish and a table of ultra-caliente Latina’s fronted mine. Within half an hour, however, I had discerned that my waiter was Peruvian, the Latinas were Puerto Rican and the owner was Chinese. Bummed. Then it hit me like a shrink-wrapped kilo. I was trying to hard. Meth is no cocaine. Coke is sexy, sultry Al Pacino in a white leisure suit talking like a Cuban Italian. Coke dealers like to show-off. Their cars, clothes, women and front businesses scream I DEAL YOUR COKE!

Meth, on the other hand, is embarrassing and tawdry. Ice dealers, if they show off, do it in stupid ways. One of Oahu’s biggest local movers had recently been apprehended. The newspapers flashed his bling, which included a 1985 Chevy Blazer and some jet skis. I’ll tell you this, if Pablo Escobar had been caught with a 1985 Chevy Blazer, he would have shot himself. Coke is a party rich starlet drug. Meth is a desperate tooth-rotting drug.

I had to be was desperate. Hurrying outside, I found the first trashy 30-year-old standing in front of a strip club I could and asked him for some ice. I’m sure my drug vocab was woefully inaccurate, but it worked. He shot me a sideways glare, then asked how much I wanted. I didn’t even know how it was sold so I said an ounce. He seemed doubtful but quoted a price I thought was ridiculously high (come to find out it was alright) so I told him I had to get cash and bailed.

Desperation had worked! The scales had fallen from my eyes! I took my confidence to the Pali Hwy where I stumbled upon “Roger.” He was sitting off a run down stretch of road and didn’t want to be approached. Ice heads don’t like to jive on their uncool addiction, but he still talked to me a little. Moving from Honolulu slum to sleazy bar, interacting with geeters, I chatted with a tweaked couple whom I photographed making out. The guy got mad but I told him they were cute. He ended up explaining how you smoke ice (in a glass pipe) and how it makes you feel.

“Amazing brudduh. Jess real amazing.”

Even tourist heaven Waikiki held ice secrets. Outside the Marriott a 40-year-old man was trying to force his two parrots on unsuspecting honeymooners. The parrots would sit on the young lovers shoulders while the man moved jerkily around photographing the scene. I saw one of the pictures and it was horrible: poorly cropped and a little out of focus. I marched up and said, “I’ll pay you the parrot picture rate if you tell me, honestly, if you smoke ice.” He looked around and whispered, “sometimes.”

I finished my night under the fireworks at Ala Moana Park. It was the 4th of July, but I wasn’t just here to celebrate (and frankly I didn’t know why Hawaiians were there either). Ala Moana houses Hawaii’s homeless population, which I just knew would include thwackers. It didn’t this patriotic night. The most disastrous examples of humanity I could find were senile Japanese grandpas and Hare Krishnas. No matter. I had had my breakthrough. Time for the Temple.


The next morning I left for surfing’s most hallowed ground. The North Shore is shockingly close to Honolulu but it feels like a different world. Pineapple plantations give way to crystal green water and languid air. As the Kamehameaha bends north, past Waimea, Pipe and Sunset it’s shocking to actually witness each spot with my own haole blue eyes.

The whole place surprised me by how small it was. In my head, these waves occupy the geographic space of one large country (like Kazakhstan) but in real life it’s an easy bike ride from Hale’iwa to Sunset.

Obviously I know it only works in da wintertime, but still, seeing its dormant summer flatness is depressing. These giants have made and broken men from Eddie to Lance Burkhart. Watching a Japanese girl screaming with glee as she body boarded a two-inch wave was simply too much. This was right in front of the Volcom House. Legit Pipe being manhandled Harijuku style.

I began to see the point of hard drug indulgence. Such a heavy memory of unfulfilled potential – of what it should be and isn’t right now. A pent-up energy explodes over the lackadaisical sunscreen slathered University of Texas frat boys, then dissipates into snorkel tour groups. It’d be like if the real Saudi Arabian Mecca was only the surging mass of Islamic humanity it is for a few months out of the year and the rest of the time it was a Chuck E. Cheese Pizza parlor. Fat little ginger heads sliding down the Ka’ba and barfing in the Great Mosque.

Living so close to something like that must play dirty mind tricks. I sauntered over to Foodland and asked the checker if she had seen ice tear up the community.

She said, “Yeah. Sometimes they come in here all tweaked and drop their stuff of the ground.”

Another surf shop girl said that she was from Detroit and had been on the North Shore for one month: “The first crack head I’d ever seen was just a few days ago right here.” (For those who don’t know Detroit is a nasty town plagued by every out-of-control drug pestilence you can imagine.)

The only person who wouldn’t tell me anything/didn’t know anything was the Hindu kid selling “Banzai” t-shirts at ‘Ehukai Beach Park.

“No I don-a-know what ice is. I’m religious.”

Then he flashed me his best shaka.

I stuck around Pipe as the sun dribbled down the sky. Darkness brought a few gackers who had wandered from their hovels into the night. They stood at bus stops and stumbled along the Kam. I approached one outside Shark Cove who was entirely incoherent. Apparently two of his cats were missing, but one was a tom and one was a hunter so it might be fine. There does seem to be more baseheads, per capita, then Honolulu, and like Honolulu they only come out at under the moon.

Frankly, at this point, the thrill of meeting ice junkies was wearing thin. I had already talked to quite a few, and, honestly, they weren’t very interesting. All of them were poor, and most smelled rotten. I knew that working class people use ice too, in order to stay awake, or whatever they tell themselves… but the middle classes don’t like to talk. A tattoo artist warily told me, “It’s like coffee, man…” but that’s all I could get.

Whatevs, Mickey D time.

McDonald’s is a magnet for the weird. Maybe it’s the lighting, or the colours. In any case, the dregs of society are drawn to the golden arches. I made my way to the one at the southern tip of Hale’iwa town and marched to the front door. Sitting right there, at one of the outside cement tables, was a surfed out 20-year-old. Salt-crusted skin, sun-bleached hair, and nothing but board shorts, a frown and lots of swear words. “Fucking McDonalds!” He threw his fries at the door and half a Big Mac at the window. He was shifting violently on his bench, kicking cups, and stuff.

“What’s the matter bro?”

“Mind your own fucking business!!!”

“OK just trying to help.”

Somehow I offered this last line with real sincerity. I think my goodwill shocked him because he threw his Coke at the trash, jumped on his surf-stickered motor scooter and scooted. Good. I had seen my first surf ice head and lived to tell the tale. Mission almost complete.

So what does this all mean? Does Oahu have an ungodly ice epidemic? Something that, if unchecked, will wipe out future generations, or is it all yellow rhetoric used to sell the 10 o’clock news?

In my studied professional opinion, the talk about the ice plague is as yellow as Lindsey Lohan’s eyeballs. Don’t get me wrong, if you know what you’re looking for you can see ice, and it’s effect, everywhere BUT to be a “plague” or an “epidemic” it’s got to be egalitarian. I’ll tell you this, I didn’t see any bank execs shaking and cursing at bus stops. I know that the World Health Organisation claims that ice is the most widely abused drug in Hawaii, suggesting that the banker is doin’ his cursing and shaking in an executive bathroom. In any case, I don’t care about him or your artist friend who lives in a Waikiki loft and snorts meth bi-weekly. The banker and your friend are just flavor of the month drug users, not the tip of an epidemic ice-berg.

Those concerned with drug use (the police, medical institutions, non-profits, etc.) call it a plague because it’s democratic.

“Who knows, man, I could be addicted next blah blah blah”. But you won’t be. Poor people will be addicted next because poor people are bummers and do bummer things. In New York they inhale crack. In remote Australia they sniff petrol. In Hawaii they smoke ice. The cellar dwellers of humanity have always been afflicted. Two thousand years ago they had leprosy. Today they have drug addiction.

Average people get a dramatic thrill discussing how much “ice crime” there is in the “bad ice neighborhoods” but the problem is, Hawaii doesn’t have the kind of Cartel warfare that really causes blood to flow. The Mexican Cartels run 96% percent of the meth into Hawaii and take 95% of the money back to California and Mexico. Most of the crime only affects, again, bummer poor people who live near other bummer poor people. A strung out junkie on Pua Lane stealing a stereo from another strung out junkie on Pua Lane. Ain’t no Miami Vice busts of neo-classical beachfront mansions. Armed thugs shooting Uzis from cigarette boats while Don Johnston sticks his penknife into a kilo and takes a taste. Drug money has to stay around for that kind of good movie violence, and it just doesn’t here.

To be fair, Hawaii has a few factors that magnify the problem. For starters, ice is the most addictive drug around. 98% of first-time meth users become addicted after a year and no more than 6% of meth users can ever really kick the habit. It permanently destroys your brain, rots your teeth and pocks your face.

Also, Hawaii’s native population got colonised/stated-up by the biggest sin bags ever: White Protestants. The naked Polynesians had no chance since WASP’s can hold their sin better than any people group in the history of mankind. Whitey proceeds to pass the good times along at an exorbitant price. Sexually transmitted disease, booze, greed, drugs… all white specialties that have destroyed the “gentler races.”

Hawaii’s climate supports a more degenerate scene then, say, Reykjavik. The perpetual 78 degrees means you can sell everything you own for a little taste of the crystal. Sell your car, house, kids, wife… ain’t no thang! The nights are warm and the sun is free. Paradise facilitates extremes that wouldn’t be approached elsewhere.

Lastly, the islands are strange. Populated year round, in two-week increments, by some of the most hideous examples of pan-Caucasian and pan-Asian humanity. Those who move here permanently are usually douche bags in the construction trade who love to sit out at Ala Moana Bowls and say things like, “You can’t beat this. All I do is surf, screw and eat.” It’s an inescapable Disney landmass, which is great to surf from November to January… but tough to swallow as a round-the-calendar lifestyle choice. I could see how it’d be easier to slip into some reality-bending substance.

STILL, all things thoughtfully considered, ice is no plague.

I finally bought some glass on my last night in Honolulu. It was a little bag (maybe 1/16 of an ounce?). The guy who sold it to me was a twitchy, tweaking poor Anglo. Probably 45 or 50. Probably used to work in the welding arts before taking an entrepreneurial turn. He was wearing jean shorts, ankle socks, Reeboks, and a “hang loose” tank-top. It cost me 30 bucks and I brought it back to my hotel room. It sat on the desk staring at me in a decidedly unglamorous way, so I gave it to the Duke Kahanamoku statue. One more Hawaiian down, 200,000 to go.


Empty wave Teahupoo
Surfing Teahupoo in Tahiti is one. It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t even have to be six foot. You just have to feel it: the long paddle from the end of the road, skirting the reef and paddling around the channel markers, up the point and pulling up at the world’s most infamous and photographed hunk of volcanic rock. | Photo: Dominic Mosquiera

10 Things Every Surfer Has Gotta Do (Before Lights Out)

Talk to Slater, spend a summer in France, catch a wave at Teahupoo, order a board from this century's Duke… 

1. Surf Teahupoo: It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t even have to be six foot. You just have to feel it: the long paddle from the end of the road, skirting the reef and paddling around the channel markers, up the point and pulling up at the world’s most infamous and photographed hunk of volcanic rock. It won’t be crowded, at least it won’t be if you avoid the two weeks of the Billabong Pro, and you’ll sit up on your board and see the green-covered mountains throttling upwards from the shore, the reef fish swimming among the crevices below your feet, the fishermen hurtling through the dynamited channel close to shore in their speedboats steered by two levers and a wave that’ll come from either a south or west direction. As a Teahupoo novice, select the south swell running up the point. It’ll let you in easy and, more importantly, it’ll let you out. If you’ve got a stab of courage in your gut, take on a west swell. Once committed, it’s a clean, in-out tube or a wrestle with your craft as you ride the cylinder straight onto dry rock. Whatever the outcome, when conversation with non-surfers turns to surf and someone asks: Have you ever surfed Teahupoo? You can confidently and honestly tell the truth and bask in the wave’s associated cred.

2. Order a surfboard from Simon Anderson: Imagine your grandfather putting you on his knee and describing the time he had a board personally built for him by Duke Kahanomoku. Do your future grandchildren a service by ordering up a craft from the inventor of the thruster, Mr Simon Anderson. Despite his reputation, Simon works out of a small factory in an anonymous industrial estate in Mona Vale on Sydney’s northern beaches. Call, make an appointment, and share a cup of tea (this is Australia, saddled with so many English cultural references) with the most influential man in surfboard design while seated on stools in a backroom brimful of boards destined to all four corners of the world. Simon will repay your handful of gold (a paltry $900) with a beautiful surfboard and an experience that will pay for itself over and over. Remember to keep the order form with Simon’s notes.

3. Be towed into a big wave/have a small-wave whip in sesh: You don’t like jetskis? You’re not alone. There’s a plague of the things. Anyone with access to a benevolent parent or personal loan is stumping up the green for a little jet power. Meanwhile, you sit in the lineup and you can’t believe the clowns on the things. What a joke? Who do they think they are, Laird Hamilton?  But, if something’s popular, it’s gotta have something going for it, right? By whatever means, get yourself a couple of sessions behind a ski. Be towed into a 12-foot wave. Be launched into a four-foot ramp. Then tell the world how fucked it is.

4. Be coached by the Martin Dunn: It’s horrible to think about and even worse to admit, but most of us surf with an appalling technique. We try to hit the lip a second too early or late, we outrun sections, we only try cutbacks when we’re a mile away from the tube, our airs are dreadful throwaways and backdside tuberiding is something we can only enjoy vicariously through video of Dorian or AI.  For the price of a couple of sticks ($330 a day, private, or $165 a day if you can find two other souls) and maybe an airfare from wherever you are, you will stay with super coach Martin Dunn, surf three times a day, and have every session videoed and analysed. You will leave either a vastly improved surfer or so discouraged by the shit you saw on the tv, you’ll never want to touch the sport ever again. As for Martin’s credentials, have you seen how good his kid, Ben, surfs?

 5. Visit the Mentawais on a luxury charter vessel: For the last 15 years, the surf mags have poured a tsunami of ink onto their pages documenting the Mentawai islands. Is it as perfect as you’ve been led to believe? Only one way to find out. And if you’re going to go, save a little longer, save an extra couple of grand and experience it as if you were a millionaire professional surfer. Air con cabins, a fast boat, hot showers, a king’s supply of Bintang and food so artfully prepared your taste buds will weep with joy. This, and waves you’ve only ever seen in the movies.

6. Surf in South Australia: Ever since the Great White had the bounty lifted off its head in 1999 (July 16, mark it on your calendar), they’ve become so plentiful Port Lincoln fishermen reckon some days you can just about walk from boat to boat on their backs. Good news? Of course! What paranoid, weed-smoking locals wobbling around with shotguns couldn’t achieve, the conservationists have with the protection of the Great White – zero crowds! Experience hot days, cold nights, cold water and a cold frission of fear every time you paddle across the bottomless channels. You’ll either die in the mouth of a primitive mammal or leave with a headful of memories of desert barrels.

7. Spend December on the North Shore: Like the Mentawais, it’s just one of those joints you have to see once in a lifetime. Pick up your rental pickup (black) from Alamo, follow the signs to the North Shore and stay at your pre-booked beachfront house at Off The Wall. Go to the opening ceremony of the Eddie, visit Foodland every day, eat at Café Haleiwa, surf Rocky Point and Sunset and the various Pipe waves (Backdoor, Off the Wall, Pipeline), watch the Pipe Masters, get yourself on a nodding basis with Kala Alexander in the Pipe lineup and pick yourself up a sweet mainlander looking for surfer prime beef. Just once.

8. Spend a summer in France: Think you know it all? Think France in summer really is a kaleidoscope of naked Lolitas with bushels of pubic hair beckoning you to their favourite sand dune while sand-bottom barrels spin off on dreamy uncrowded banks? Reality is never like the dream. Sometimes better, often worse. It’s your duty to discover the truth.

 9. Have a conversation with Kelly Slater: As irony would have it, the most in-demand surfer in the world is also the most approachable. For the sake of a memory bank you’ll need to access when age and decay force you out of the water, engage the best surfer ever in a conversation. He isn’t hard to find –  his movements are posted on the WSL website in a section entitled Events. Don’t be drunk, don’t overfawn, treat the champ with dignity and respect and you’ll be rewarded with candour and insight.

10. Get stitched by a skipper: You haven’t lived until you’ve drunk half a bottle of Captain Morgan’s rum and had the skipper of your charter vessel crudely weave your split knee/arm/back/skull back into shape. Now that’s a scar you can brag about.

Gay surfers
"Lewis (Samuels) is first choice, except the waxing costs would break me," winks Matt Warshaw. "(Drew) Kampion I’ve maybe got a daddy thing for. I could be Chas’ (Smith's) daddy. Chas actually might be my #1, not Lewis. Chas talks a big game, perversion-wise, but family life suits him. I’d trust him to raise my son."

Warshaw: Give Me Lewis Samuels as Lover

What surfer or surf writer would you take to bed, men? But only hypothetically (wink!)

A few days ago, BeachGrit ran a story called the Five Best Interviews in Surfing (click here!). In response, the surf historian Matt Warshaw from San Francisco wrote about his own five best interviews (click here!). 

Obvs, Warshaw’s dance all over mine, a result of his superior intelligence gathering.

But one interview I took exception to was that with the big-waver Fred Van Dyke and his claim that most big-wave surfers are “latent homosexuals.” He actually said that in a Life magazine interview in 1967, but it wasn’t until Warshaw spoke to him in 1992  that he clarified it. In the lamest way.

“What everyone missed was that I said latent homosexuals,” Van Dyke told Warshaw. “I didn’t say we were all lovers. I meant that we all came to the North Shore, and it was Boys Town USA. One guy would rent a house, 10 other guys would move in, all these macho big-wave surfers, and it turned into a classic case of arrested development. Freud describes different levels of development, and one of them, for males, comes at around 10 to 12 years of age. That’s when you band together as guys, and don’t let girls into your lives. It doesn’t mean you’re gay. It means that the only thing that matters is your status among male friends—and that was everything for us. Everything! But instead of being 10 years old, we were 18, 20, 22, even older. We were still like kids. We were stuck”

Lame, right? Latent means hidden. Homosexuality is a beautiful dance. It ain’t for me, but not much is besides a gal’s ass that is as precious as bone china and titties that sway and sway and sway across my lips.

Anyway, I got Warshaw into a little exchange, below.

DR: Fred’s explanation regarding latent homosexuality has always bothered me. “Latent” means hidden. And latent homosexuality is that wonderful erotic zing toward your brothers that you keep hidden, not a desire for bonding. So I want to know, was there a genuine latent homosexuality between all those early big-wavers, you think, holed up together on the Shore? All those strong men! All those stiff cocks!

MW: Fred I think messed up the Freudian definition of “latent homosexuality.” Although who knows, like everybody else I haven’t actually read Freud. But yeah, Van Dyke’s take, like he says, is that North Shore big-wave guys were all about the guys. Just like my five-year-old is all about the guys. All that matters is what your buddies think. Girls aren’t in the picture.

DR: But man-on-man action? You think?

MW: Fuck, who knows.

DR: Secret gay feelings? 

MW: Between big-wave surfers? Sure! One of 10 of those guys is probably gay. Just like the rest of the male world.

DR: The one in ten figure is thrown around a lot. Which gives us four fabulous fruits on the tour! I wonder who?

MW: All I know about all those guys is what I see on ASP webstream. I certainly like the cut of Michel Bourez’ jib, though.

DR: Who doesn’t?

MW: What about you?

DR: I’m besotted by the sheer ordinariness of Bede Durbidge.

MW: You’d want to set up house with a guy like Bede?

DR: On the contrary, it’s house-setting I’d like. Sundays in bed with espressos and newspapers and… flashback… amyl.

MW: Okay how about this. Rielly, Warshaw, Doherty, Samuels, Sam George, Chas Smith, Kampion, Jarratt, Carroll, Baker. Pick one.

DR: Whom I’m attracted to? Or who swings?

MW: Both.

DR: I can only mention those I’ve met. Sam George I would describe as a classic Californian beauty, so maybe. Nick would be rough and his tongue would have absolutely no subtlety. So, no. Jarratt is too old, maybe slow to arouse. Tim Baker has a chocolate brown bosom that I’d always longed to tug at with my mouth, again, maybe. Brisick you didn’t mention. I’d fly to Bangkok with Briz and one of us would be gender reassigned in the interests of long-term happo. You?

MW: Lewis is first choice, except the waxing costs would break me. Kampion I’ve maybe got a daddy thing for. I could be Chas’ daddy. Chas actually might be my #1, not Lewis. Chas talks a big game, perversion-wise, but family life suits him. I’d trust him to raise my son.

DR: Yeah, well, I don’t get the Lewis fixation. The last time I saw him he wore a red-checked shirt, baggy stonewash jeans, New Balance sneakers, tortoise-shell seeing glasses (the sort preferred by middle-aged women) and a fist of hair climbed out of the neck of his undershirt. Is Kampion attractive? And tell me what rough trade you’d have with Nick Carroll. 

MW: Kampion was once the spitting image of Bob Dylan, from the Freewheelin’ days. Fine looking man. Nick’s working what we in San Francisco call the Bear angle, which never appealed to me. But honestly, at 54, I’m looking for romance of the mind. I left my libido somewhere in my mid-40s.

DR: No libido? Let’s bust some myths about Miki Dora, tomoz! You ain’t even a sexual being!

Summer’s over! Get radical!

The bubble of youth is going to pop! Soon! Milk it!

Big Wednesday is and always will be the only time that Tinsel Town has effectively captured our beloved surf. The themes portrayed in John Millus and Denny Aaberg’s 1978 classic are still totally relatable to the lives of every surfer today, and offer an almost prophecy like sermon on the circular nature of the surfing life.

The film’s major success is that it’s not about surf; it’s about the golden period in every young man’s life that inevitably has to come to an end. Summer’s almost over and every song has an ending, but that’s no reason not to enjoy the music!

Denny Aaberg, the creative prophet behind the film wrote a short story for Surfer magazine called “No Pants Mance,” from which much of the film was based. The piece is short and describes a swinging Malibu party that ends in a brawl and someone urinating in the host’s Mum’s steam iron.

The intro to the piece is most telling as Aaberg describes how the generation of Malibu surfers that came before him, including Miki ‘Da Cat’ Dora, all packed up their trunks at the end the summer of 1962, “the last great summer,” because, “the great days are gone, the real surfing is over and it’s too crowded!”

This is a theme that rolls through Aaberg’s seminal film, but also acts as a metaphor for all things surf. The influx of surfing’s popularity, the government’s influence and the fact that everyone has to grow up, whether they accept it or not, is most potent.

Big Wednesday’s three protagonists effectively cover the spectrum of the weird and wonderful characters that our beloved pastime attracts. Jack Barlow is the talented introvert, a natural company man who’s been influenced by his beach side habitat.

Far over to the left is Leroy the Masochist, a wild dude who lives to “get radical” in the form of recklessly charging big waves and trying to grill himself in the oven at parties.

Smack bang in the middle is Matt Johnson,  “That is Matt Johnson!” –  an Adonis destined to burn briefly, but ever so brightly. Every surf town from Cape Town to Carlsbad has a Matt Johnson. The handsome, humble dude, who between the ages of 18 and 25 has it all. The best haircut/car/chick/sponsor, but inevitably loses it. Being popular in high school never did anyone any favours.

Male-on-male admiration is portrayed beautifully in the film. It’s such an inescapable part of the surfing world, and it’s totally gay! Stephen Fry says that, “The best thing that you can do is to have a hero, someone that you admire,” but Stevie also used to play a game called ‘rudies’ with a childhood pal, which involved watching each other defecate in the woods! So I’ll leave that one up to you.

However, you know that bile-inducing feeling you got when you first learnt the fate of our Andy Irons!? That’s love my friend! The grommets in the messiah-like Bear’s surf shop certainly feel the same about one Matt Johnson. In a moment of indulgent self-deprecation Johnson tried to shrug his endorsement deal with Bear and declares that:

“I don’t want kids looking up to me… I’m a drunk Bear. I only surf because it’s good to go out and ride with your friends. I don’t even have that anymore.”

This sentiment is quintessential to the route to surf stardom (Bonjour messieurs Marzo, Wood, Archbold, Herring) and brings to a head the reason that professional surfing is almost void of characters: If you want to be a professional surfer at the highest level then you literally have to spend the whole of your adolescence surfing!

Everyday, surf, surf, surf, it sure doesn’t make for interesting interviews! Gabby didn’t spend his teens making out with Bridget Bardot types on picnic rugs at beach-blanket burnout style parties and getting in bar-brawls in Tijuana with Leroy the Masochist. But then again that’s why Gabby’s a world champ and the proverbial Matt Johnson ended up cleaning pools for a living.

The scene ends in classic style, when Bear, with gravel in his voice and tears in his eyes, preaches his poignant sermon:

“Growing up’s hard on any kid. But those kids do look up to you whether you like it or not!

(Lengthy trumpet crescendo to theme tune)

“You better pick yourself out a new board now, don’t ya think.”

The “all good things must come to a end” sentiment is perfectly punctuated in art as in life by the Vietnam War. The conscription scene in Big Wednesday is one of the all time classic depictions of youth defiance in cinema history. The boys belting each other in the knees, dousing themselves in fish oil, dressing up as queens and Nazis alike to dodge the shackles of conscription is absolute silver screen gold! But this shit actually happened.

What a cruel twisted fate it was to go from the real golden era of surfing in the early-to -mid -sixties (think striped trunks, Volkswagon beatles, fires on the beach) to being thrust into the filthiest of mosquito-ridden jungles to fight the yellow man. What a wild ride!

Friendship ties into the tale of the golden era of the Malibu surf scene in an eternally relatable manner. It’s the morally incorruptible Bear, once again, who hits the proverbial nail on the head in his wedding day exchange with the newly appointed Los Angeles state lifeguard/excommunicated surfie Jack Barlow.

“For god’s sake Jack it’s my wedding day, have a drink.”

“No I don’t drink.”

“Jack, your friends are the most important thing you’ve got, have a drink.”

“What are we drinking to?”

“Only to your friends, to your friends come hell or high water.”

My best mate’s Dad’s in his fifties and he runs with a gaggle of weekend warriors that we refer to as The Johns. The Johns spend countless hours at the weekend, away from the trouble and strife, driving up and down the coast hanging out in car parks, drinking coffees, and checking the surf endlessly.

They barely ever surf, even when it’s pumping. The unexplained, eternally greener grass nature of this seemingly pointless activity became clear to me in the re-watching of Big Wednesday. The Johns aren’t searching for a better sandbank or a more sheltered cove. They’re searching for Atlantis, the Garden of Eden, a thing that’s gone and lost forever. The golden era of their youth. This powerful potion of nostalgia is the glue that binds the Johns,and it’s totally spawned an industry. Hello  Deus Ex Machina!

If you, like me, are in the apex of your golden years I urge you, I implore you, not to take for granted the rose-tinted phase in with you currently exist. Cherish your friends and your time, because before too long the bubble of youth will pop!

In the haunting words of Matt Johnson:

“Summer’s almost over, let’s get radical!”