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.

Dave Rastovich portrait
"I love how twisted and creative my mind gets after being awake for a couple of days," says David. "I don’t necessarily have alcohol or anything in my system but I enjoy that delirium you get into and how quirky and creative you get." | Photo: Electric

Kinky: “Sleep Deprivation. It’s my fetish!” says Rasta

David Rastovich on a life very well examined… 

David “Rasta” Rastovich is the just-turned 35-year-old surfer famous for his environmental activism (Dolphins!) and endowed with a level of surfing that is as immaculate as his coca butter skin and glowing smile. What may not be so well-known is David doesn’t give a damn about what he says and is, therefore, a rare and intelligent interview.

Let’s learn more…

Nickname: Doc (his initials are DR), DR, Rasta, Ronavitch.

Music: I was in a collaboration project with (Cronulla surfer) Terapai Richmond, Ash Grunwald, the lead singer from King Tide and others. I played whatever I could, mainly percussion, to fit in. I’m into every kind of music except pop which I think is more about making money and fostering image. A favorite track is Golden Brown by the Stranglers. I like Ernest Ranglin and Loose Jam.

Romance: It’s about diversity on all levels. Being open-minded, creative, going interesting places and not doing clichéd, stereotypical things. It can be as simple as the way you talk and communicate with each other to sexual things.

Diet: Vegan. I eat organic and go to the local farmers markets every Tuesday. For 35 dollars I can eat for a week. I don’t drink or eat chocolate and I don’t support massive food chains that use pesticides and who unnecessarily ship foods to places that don’t need them.

Grooming: As long as my hairy ass is warm I’m good. I don’t want logos all over my threads. Obviously, no leather or animal fibres. Billabong have organic cotton products which I get around in. I dress practically as opposed to image based.

Haircare: I haven’t washed my hair in 10 years. Once, I got lice sleeping on a dank mattress in Mexico. I had to shave my head and use anti-lice shampoo. There was another time when I was in India with Taylor Steele and Dustin Humphrey. We were on a river ferry and my hair was long and seedy and we were bored so we washed it.

Weapon shape: Gary McNeill 5’10”, stringerless board with carbon rails, a pulled-in tail and a deep concave. It’s made out of a sugar cane substitute instead of polyurethane. It’s strong, fast and light.

Car: Toyota Troopie, which is insane for camping and tripping. And a beaten up Holden Rodeo for around home.

Movies: The Cove (a documentary about the wrangling and killing of dolphins in Japan) is amazing. I worked closely with that. I like films from Asia and the Middle East. Fantastic Planet is amazing and left field. You don’t know who the actors are, what’s gonna happen, it’s so new and fresh.

Fun: Mountain biking in the hills behind my house.

Liquor: Coopers Green pale ale. No preservatives, thick, lagery and smooth.  There is a brand of Vejo-flavoured vodka made by 42 degree below. It’s a New Zealand fruit that I’m in love with.

Payment: Credit card so I can keep a record for tax purposes.

Confrontation: Not into it. I’ve been in the middle of it a few times. When someone is drunk or high on something I get rattled. But, being involved in conflicts in an environmental protest I love. I was in a Sea Shepherd confrontation in Ecuador and the one with fisherman in Japan. In those scenarios I can’t have any form of aggression. If you sit there peacefully it highlights their insanity.

Computer: Weathered old MacBook Pro. The CD doesn’t work and the keys are tweaked.

Indulgence: A few beers and sleep deprivation. It’s my fetish. I love how twisted and creative my mind gets after being awake for a couple of days. I don’t necessarily have alcohol or anything in my system but I enjoy that delirium you get into and how quirky and creative you get.

Surfing: I’m not in that world. I don’t see anyone surf anymore. Uncontrived, someone who lets it come out whether they’re on a bodyboard, goat-boat, shortboard, grandpa, little girl. Someone who lets it come out of them without controlling it or concocting their style and plan. Same with music.

Contraception: Meditation.

Training: One hour of yoga a day. And an hour-and-a-half paddleboard session. And bike riding in the hills.

Spending: I don’t have any luxuries. I don’t buy CD’s cause I play music and I don’t buy shampoo cause I don’t wash my hair. Just chip away at a home loan.

TV: Don’t have one.

Airline: No preference. I don’t always pay for the carbon-offset program. It’s a bit funky, that, large offset programs where companies are selling old-growth forests to set up new ones. And this is supposed to give companies a good name for offsetting their carbon?

Pets: Brush turkeys and ibis birds and pelicans that roam around my house, but no pets.

Surf Psyche: Waves. I saw a video that got me more psyched to surf than any other – Searching For Michael Peterson. I’m from Burleigh where all those guys are from, and they use to be out there when I was a grommet.

Backside tube: No hands.

Education: I finished high school, but the things I value the most I have learned through travel. The essentials of learning to write, talk and communicate are the base. But, in terms of treating people, experience in life and appreciation of things, travel is the best education.

Wave: Anything empty really. I’m not a human’s human. I would rather surf waves that are less perfect with no one out there.

Best Post-Shark Attack Interview Ever!

"It came straight out of the depths and got him!" says witness…

Just last weekend, a surfer in Northern California was dive-bombed by a Great White. It ain’t no big deal in those parts. It’s as much a part of surfing as sunburn and fin-chops from thrown away SUPs are on Australia’s Gold Coast.

And, as the writer Lewis Samuels told BeachGrit, surfers there take comfort in the fact that great whites in northern California are different to the more energetic South African and Australian breed. In that, they have a different hunting pattern. They might bite but they’ll let go after the initial bleed and wait for you to bleed out instead of taking you down straight away.

And it’s exactly what happened last Sunday! The surfer, 50-year-old Kevin Swanson, was surfing Sand Spit at Montana de Oro State Park near Morro Bay when a Great White had a swing, a bite, and split.

The surfer, reportedly some kind of commando, applied his own tourniquet while paddling for shore and, on the beach, his surf pal, New Zealander Andrew Walsh, calmly recounted the attack.

Such calm after the ambush of a magnificent prehistoric animal! Click!

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