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.

Andrej Pejic and Chas Smith
In this, the second of Chas' three-act journey, we investigate steroids. But why would the world's equal number one androgynous model need steroids?

I was a top androgynous model! (Part two: Steroids)

Steroids or ecstasy? Maybe GBH? The many daily decisions of a male model.

The Gym life is a strange life. It is not a natural fit with my typically easy breezy motif. It is indoors and sweaty and smells like a perversion of the spirit. House of Pain plays at loud volume. But I knew that I would have to work. My will is strong enough to obtain a lover and an agent but it is not strong enough to make my muscles grow while sipping ’61 Imperials under a palm.

I stared, confusedly, at the pulley machines, rowers, dumbbells, barbells, stairclimbers, stationary bikes and thought, “Fifteen pounds of muscle but how? If I ride the stationary bike don’t I lose weight? If I row what happens? Bigger shoulders smaller chest?”

A kindly trainer approached and I told him my dilemma and what I needed. He spent the next hour explaining somatotype, set point theory, the ratio between intensity and volume and stress. He told me that I needed stress, barking, “Zero impact, zero stress, zero adaptation.”

I needed to stress to adapt my 160 pounds into 175. Then he pointed at the bench press.

That first set felt like the end of the world. My arms quivered as I lifted the bar off of the rack and lowered it to my chest. Blood coursed through my temples. “Breathe,” my trainer barked. He had me do push-ups, as many as I could, in between each bench set and then gave me a sledgehammer and told me to hit a giant monster truck tire outside. I was dying. House of Pain implored me to jump around but I could not. I could not jump around.

And when I really could take no more he gave me a towel and his congratulations and then made me drink a protein milkshake. I vomited it away in the bushes outside. That night I could not sleep. Every muscle ached and the next day they ached worse and the next next day worse still, but I had another gym appointment and so I forced myself out of catatonia and back into the end of the world. I would not be undone by physical discomfort. Anne Bronte once wrote, “But he who dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose.” I craved the rose and would grasp the thorn. I needed 15 pounds of damned muscle and, if it meant catwalk and print campaign and doe eyes then I would suffer. I would fight through affliction and brutes wearing Affliction.

Onyx played at loud volume.

I worked on my legs, this time, squatting and whatnot. During a brief rest I asked my trainer how long it would really take to get my muscles. He told me six weeks. It hurt to hear and it hurt, again, when I drank my protein shake and it hurt yet again when I went to bed and could not sleep. But I could not stop now because stopping now would be admitting defeat, ceding the beautiful ground to others. No, I would do the work. I would fight.

The days stretched into weeks and after five I had put on seven pounds of muscle. I was constantly sore. I did not feel, at first, that I was growing but sometimes I would catch glimpses of myself in a mirror and see swells that had previously been absent. I would flex. It was working but it was working so damned slowly. My trainer had lied. This was going to take longer than six weeks. It was going to take 10-plus, if current projections held.

One day I was so frustrated that I punched my treadmill’s “energy output” screen. The well-ish built man running next to be asked me what my deal was. I told him, “I’m not getting big enough fast enough. Opportunities are passing me by.”

He guffawed, “I got a guy.”

“Who does what?” I replied.

“Fucking HGH,” he responded.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

This is what I needed. I was not seeking to wear the maillot juane in the Tour de France for even one second. I was seeking to become beautiful. I took the man’s business card and forwent the protein shake on the way out.

Later, I called a male model friend and asked him how many in our business (it was now ours) do HGH or steroids. He told me, “Not many steroids or other supplements that I am aware of. Everyone is using cocaine, GHB and ecstasy. Doing all the drugs and getting sucked into the nightlife. It is almost as if the agent is the dealer telling us we need to play the game and to be social and mingle with the power players in our industry.” (Yes. Our industry).

I thanked him for his candour and realised, of course they do not need HGH. They have won the genetic lottery.

Andrej Pejic and Chas Smith
Only a few short years ago, the "scene" was heavy with the Chas Smith-Andrej Pejic rivalry for number one androgynous model. Chas, like a gold sovereign on a dull mirror, contrasted favourably with the shocking whiteness of Andrej's body.

I was a top androgynous model! (Part one: Jealousy)

And it was just as fabulous as you could imagine!

My lover and I were in San Francisco when I saw her eyes dance. I love her eyes, when they dance for me, but this morning they danced over my shoulder. What on earth could she be finding so mesmerising? I turned around, casually, and there, sipping a cappuccino, was San Francisco’s dreamboat mayor Gavin Newsom. His chestnut hair was slicked back without one strand out of place. His mouth, pulled into the perpetual smirk of the gorgeous, exhibited straight teeth white enough to light a boudoir. His jaw was chiseled from marble. Goddamn him. He was beautiful and I loathed him for it. His handsome, his beauty, had, almost instantly, undone the arrogant je ne sais quois that I most usually feel about myself. I find myself compelling. But confronted with her dancing eyes and his unquestionable gorgeousness I felt weak. I felt second tier. I felt I had lost my power.

I swallowed these feelings, agonisingly, and we went about our days with little mention of Gavin Newsom. I set about building myself up, internally, once again, and when he showed up in the newspaper I undermined him by telling my lover that with those looks and that political pedigree he was underperforming. He should be President of the United States not mayor of California’s third largest city.

Some time later, The Social Network came out and my lover’s eyes danced at Armie Hammer. He was even more stunning than Gavin Newsom, tall, patrician with the bluest blood and there was nothing I could say to undermine him. Nothing. I was back to the second tier. And I could no longer swallow these feelings.

Beauty is a son of a bitch. I could be good at many things, even great, but without exceptional, noticeable, defined handsome I would merely be a clanging gong. It all seemed so arbitrary. Talent and wealth are mostly earned, even if one’s parents are Olympic athletes. Beauty is given at birth. Dolled out by the gods.

Beauty certainly does not guarantee success. Many beautiful men grind at Starbucks. But when rich, talented men take their lovers to Starbucks their eyes, too, dance for the barista and their men are relegated to the second tier, even if momentarily. And what else is there besides being desired by all 100% of the time? Yes, there is talent, there is wealth, there is beauty. And of these three beauty is the greatest.

I had come to a definitive fork in the road and, as I saw it, three paths lay before me. I could give up entirely and no longer assume I was the greatest thing to ever walk the face of the earth. I could become grossly self-deprecating. I could become beautiful. I decided to become beautiful. And that meant I had to become a male model. I would be beautiful because I was a model, not necessarily a model because I was beautiful but this difference would be purely academic.

As arrogant as I am, I am fully aware that I am not classic male model material. I was born skinny, not thin, not trim. I was born with eye the color of a dirty swimming pool on a cloudy day. I was born not classic. Still, I am tall, I have hair, and I possess and unshakable belief that all things are possible to him that believeth. I sometimes even feel all my “shortcomings” might, if honed, if bent just right, if captured by Terry Richardson himself, might make me a very beautiful man. I sometimes feel I am the Big Bang. A cataclysmic, once in history event of dirty eyed, crooked nosed, tall tall awesome.

But how to become a male model? One very hot summer’s day, I walked from Manhattan’s Meatpacking District toward the downtown Ritz-Carlton. I was going to meet the owner of one of the most respected male model agencies. I was going to get famous.

The Ritz-Carlton doorman eyed me as I drifted past him into the cool of hackneyed decadence and the agent owner was waiting for me at the bar. He had a kind but business-first face and he looked over at me and I launched into my pitch.

“So, here it is. My lover thought that Gavin Newsom was too handsome and it upset me greatly and I’ve been thinking about male beauty and its relation to power ever since and I have decided that…”

He finished my thought. “That you want to become a male model and that you want me to represent you.”

“Yes” I answered. “I want to be famously beautiful. I want to discover, first hand, if there is really power in beauty. And I want to spite my lover for the Newsom incident and also the newer Armie Hammer incidents.”

He looked at me some more, this time carefully, and asked how tall I was. I replied I was 6’4″. He said that I was too tall. I was taken aback. Isn’t height the very building block of male beauty? He told me that 6’2″ is ideal and I said,

“Yes, I am 6’2.”

He said,

“No. You are 6’4.”

And kept looking carefully. Thankfully, he continued. “6’2” and a 31 inch waist.”

My waist was 31 inches! Usually! And I told him so.

He looked down and said, “You know, male models are winners of the genetic lottery. That’s it. And, don’t get me wrong, you are a good looking guy but…” I kept staring at him and kept a straight face but burned inside and thought, “I’m the Big Bang, motherfucker. I’ll show you and all your beauty industry cohorts that beauty can be willed!” Sensing my passion, or wanting me to leave, he cracked. “OK I’ll do it. I’ll help you.” I don’t know why he decided. Maybe he just wanted to send an “unusual taste” down the mineshaft. That is what he called me, an unusual taste, when I asked if I should get a nose job. “No no no no. No need. You have tattoos and a certain, whatever. Look. You will already be an unusual taste…” He then told me I had to gain 15 pounds of muscle, while studying my arms, and get my teeth whitened.

We parted ways and I was fifteen pounds of muscle, and a trip to the dentist, away from the start of an adventure.

Martin Potter and Ross Williams
The 1989 champ Martin Potter (foreground) and the one-time consort of Kelly Slater and the rest of the Momentum gals, Mr Ross WIlliams. When they're not in those curious little commentary booths imprisoned by headphones the pair are lying on their backs in bathing suits of old-cut off chinos like the fully-fledged media stars they now are!

How the world fell under Ross Williams’ Spell (Again)!

The world's best commentator and his inspiring riches-to-rags-to-riches story!

Unless there’s a three in front of your age, Ross Williams is a name that rings no bells. But what a superstar he is, and for so many years, when he was consorting in that group called the Momentum Generation. There was Kelly Slater, Kalani Robb, Shane Dorian, Rob Machado and… Ross.

And then, ever-so-prematurely, his career wound up at the end of the 2000 season. Ross was 28. He’d always lived by the maxim that if you can’t cut it on the World Tour you shouldn’t be on it.

And so while others were affixing themselves to the teat of the qualifying series and competing in every bad-wave shithole from Brazil to Spain, Ross wasn’t. Beaten in his last-ever tour heat by Nathan Webster at Pipe, as if further insult was necessary. Rated 34th. Two spots off the game.

A circle on the qualifying carousel beckoned, he was too young to retire after all, but an air into the flats at home on the North Shore exploded every single tendon in bone in his foot. Three long screws held the foot together and Ross spent nine months in a cast. It was two years before he was jamming those playbacks again.

At 32, Ross found himself newly married, with a kid on the way and with only a modest income from “a couple of simple houses” on the North Shore and a small stipend from the surf brand Reef.

Now house husbandry ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Once you’ve attended to the occasional issue with your rentals, you’ve got all the time in the world to do… what exactly? No one can surf all day (except maybe John John) and one way to kill a love of surfing is to be granted the freedom to surf whenever you want.

And so Ross started hosting a little at the Reef event at Haleiwa around 2009. Five years later, when he heard the ASP was hiring, he threw his name out there. The ASP liked the way Ross added his expert colour to events, gave him a three-day crash course in broadcasting (how to hold a mic, how to project his voice, “The ABCs of broadcasting,” says Ross) in LA and he was put on the 2014 roster alongside Martin Potter, Joe Turpel, Ron Blakey, Todd Kline, Pat Parnell, Peter Mel, Striker Wasilewski and Rosy Hodge.

For Ross it came just as he was birthing his third kid. Finally, perhaps, a chance to get on the road and holster his baby-maker.

“It was perfect timing,” says Ross.

A few weeks away from turning 42 (Ross is from the class of ’73 like Rob Machado), Ross is now the WSL’s Colour commentator, a job BeachGrit believes he is very good at. Perhaps number one on tour!

“There are so many intricacies in surfing at this level and it’s really hard to be aware of them unless you’ve had years and years of being a tour surfer,” says Ross. “And I get really excited to relay all that information to people who might miss those nuances. I love to shed as much light on a heat – who’s surfing good, who’s not, who’s capitalising on a heavy wave – who’s not, that I can.”

Given Ross’s three children, it ain’t a surprise that “frisky” is one of his signature words, although Ross says he’ll gobble a word up at one event and bin it for the next.

“One thing I realised before I got this gig was we all have our favourite commentators and we all have those commentators we avoid for the dumbest reasons: we don’t like the tone of their voice, their accent or they keep repeating a word or a phrase. I’ll hang onto a phrase for an event and then get rid of it.”

Unlike most mainstream commentators, Ross doesn’t practise outside of events preferring, instead, to stay fresh, to put his faith in his native surf intelligence, that same knowledge that had him and his pals commentating events as they sat on their beachfront porches long before the webcasts came up.

And so, Ross is in an earthly heaven. He’s the colour guy, he travels and he’s made some real tight pals in Strider, Pottz and Joe and he even gets to style his own hair or at least the last stubborn follicles.

“I’m absolutely in love with what I do,” says Ross. “It’s a total privilege to be a retired pro surfer and, then, suddenly, be gifted the chance to relay all the information I have logged in my head. I love it. I love it. The trick is being able to deliver it in a way so everyone is entertained.”

Oh Ross. You succeed. And how!

Opinion: The fans want Screaming Joe Turpel!

Subtlety is so overrated in this new era of absolute Brazilian dominance. Give us weeping, passionate commentators!

Brazil. Choose one single adjective to describe that joint and the people of it. Go on…you’re relatively safe here, we don’t judge (all the time). It’s passionate, isn’t it? For better or worse, Brasilians are the most openly passionate people on earth.

But why?

How can a country riddled by crime and overpopulation spring forth a populace completely unafraid to hug, kiss, dance, sing and as evidenced by the reaction to Gabriel Medina’s world title win, absolutely rejoice in the victories of its sportsmen and women?

“They just need it, the whole country runs on a spirit that is fuelled by passion,” says former resident, the twice married to a Brasilian, Ross Clarke-Jones. “You spend time there and you can just feel it, in the way they talk and interact with each other. And there’s…so…many of them I think they all feed of each other and it’s such a special thing.”

Ross points to the country’s humiliating 7-1 defeat at the hands of Germany at the 2014 World Cup as an absolute low point in the country’s psyche, second only to 1994 the death of F1 driver Ayrton Senna. “I was there for Senna’s funeral and the whole country was crying, and so was I and I’m not even from that country,” he says. “I just got caught up in the emotion. You couldn’t help but not.”

So, that said, are surfing’s commentators up to the task of fuelling the beachside passion displayed by Charles Medina and the hordes of Brazlians now attracted to the sport following Gabby’s win?

Wouldn’t it be nice to hear Joe Turpel just fucking… lose it? Pat Parnell move away from phrases such as “And he’ll kick out,” or “That’s a massive hack,”? And who didn’t enjoy Martin Potter’s little homoerotic groan at the completion of Tom Carroll’s Heritage Heat Pipeline pit?

Click on the play button, close your eyes and imagine it now. Surf commentary, fuelled by passion.