Mick Fanning and Chas Smith
And here we are presented with two great champions, one a master of the ocean (Mick Fanning, left), the other of keystrokes. (Chas Smith, right). "The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most," says Chas. "I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity." | Photo: Jeffrey Flindt

(Audio) A serious-ish interview with Chas Smith

On suicidal reporting from Damascus to Hawaii, terrorism (beheadings!) and localism (slaps!)…

Many times, when I’ve gotten into a car I’ve wished for a surf-themed radio show. To hear about all those delicate surfer boys, with more spirit than strength, flushed with fever or pale with exhaustion or haggard after some game-changing heat, tell all.

And, more than anything, to hear the writers, the photographers, those cultural bulwarks, explain their craft.

As it turns out, such a show exists. It is called Surf Splendour and BeachGrit readers can be eased into the show with this hour-long interview with BeachGrit founder and noted writer Chas Smith.

The interview meanders from stories of Chas being bombed in Beirut, kidnapped in Damascus by Hezbollah as a suspected Israeli agent, his moving into surf writing to, eventually, being called a Jew (the irony!) by the just-crowned world champion Mick Fanning.

Likeable? Funny? Yeah he is.


Healey: “I saw the footage and wanted to throw up!”

Mark Healey and Hawaiian legend Michael Ho on their potential wave of the winter… 

A week ago, the 33-year-old Hawaiian goofyfooter Mark Healey paddled out to second-ish reef Pipe with a GoPro camera. That ain’t unusual. Along with Jamie O’Brien and Anthony Walsh, he’s made Pipe a self-portrait studio.

But this day, Healey was all about getting some follow cam. So he paddles up to Michael Ho (the Pipe Master and two-time Triple Crown winner) and John John and says, Hey, if you see me going, just go, I want to get a shot. 

Michael, on an eight-o, says he was just “kicking out the back listening to Mark say that wanted to get barrelled behind someone and I was thinking, not me, if I make a mistake I might get run over.”

And then this wave (hit play!), rolls through. Literally… rolls… on through. A weird swell that crumbled slightly on second-ish reef before depositing its load on the inside.

And Healey, on a six-ten, gets the easiest chip shot into the wave. Michael Ho, slightly on his outside, gets about as soft a takeoff into Pipe as you’ll ever see.

“It was the perfect setup,” says Healey. “It gave me such an easy chip shot into the wave that it was easy to get my camera out of my mouth and into my hand. If it was a nuts drop it would’ve been real friggen hard.”

And, so, “I was trying to keep some distance from Mike. I wanted him to be able to go ahead and set his line. I wasn’t too worried about being too deep. I knew I had to be aways back there to try and get the shot. I thought the foamball was going to catch me because I was taking a lower line. I was waiting for it. I knew it was going to be like stepping on a land mine. I could see the lip just breaking over my shoulder. I’ve never been that low in a barrel and made it.”

Oh yes! Describe the view.

“My view was ridiculous. Fuck, it was so insane. It was one of the coolest views I’ve had in surfing. It was so insane to see a tube ride from start to finish. I got to be in the barrel, see him come into my field of vision to finish his bottom turn and set up the tube, disappear from my view for a second, and then to have the depth perception of it from behind, catching up and coming out at the same time.”

And the surfer! The great Michael Ho!

“He’s the fricken man! He’s such a legend. To share a wave with him was an honour.”

Michael, meanwhile, flicked off, yelling: “I would never have dropped in if you hadn’t asked!”

“I was so embarrassed,” says Healey. “I said, ‘You’re the man out here! You can get any wave you want!'”

“I didn’t even know that he went,” says Michael. “If I did, I would’ve fallen off and got run over, f’sure. Was I surprised he came out with me? I was baffled. I always grab my rail, just to be sure, and because my board was a little long, I just stood in this thing.”

As for the GoPro footage, “I totally missed the framing,” says Healey. “I totally botched it. I was too low. When you hand-hold a GoPro and you’re trying to surf it puts your framing off. I missed the best part of it so hard. I was ready to throw up when I looked at the footage.”

Given the uniqueness of the double tube, and the surfers involved, the wave is there for a shot at winning Surfline’s Wave of the Winter. First prize is 25-grand to the surfer and five-grand to the person who shot it.

And was Michael thrilled with the ride? Let’s ask his son, hot-shot Mason Ho.

“I was just laying at home, cruising, when came in through the door freaking out about how barrelled he got. I freaked out that I was just laying there, grabbed my board and drove to Pipe but by the time I got there it was blown out.”

john john florence, backdoor pipe
All those pre-dawn surfs at Pipe and Backdoor used to happen unacknowledged. It was only after seven am that there would be enough light for all those men with their stills and motion cameras to finally swim out. But, now, thanks to high-speed cameras and the expertise of craftsmen like Australia's Chris Bryan, the viewer is allowed a glimpse into the early morning world of, in this instance, John John Florence. | Photo: Chris Bryan

John John and the miracle of pre-dawn photography

For the first time, photographers can capture the preciousness of a pre-dawn session…

One thing you never see in surf mags, online whatevs, are images of those precious pre-dawn surfs. You know ’em. You paddle out into the oily darkness, into the stillness, and for maybe thirty minutes, you’re gifted a few uncrowded ramps or tubes. It’s a special time, a time when you get a feel for what surfing might’ve been like fifty years ago.

The photo, here, is of John John Florence at Backdoor Pipe and was snatched from the darkness at roughly 6:45am, twenty minutes or so before any real light can land on all those digital sensors.

Isn’t the photo (actually a frame-grab) a little dark? Yeah, it is.

But it’s true to what the filmer Chris Bryan was seeing as John flew past, came out of the barrel near Off the Wall and then hucked a double-grab…well, Chris can’t say whether it was a backflip or more of a corkscrew. The waves he says, were six-to-eight if it was Australia, maybe four-feet if you’re talking shop to Hawaiians.

Chris, an Australian, was actually on holidays with his family on the North Shore and was checking the waves in the dark when he saw John John paddle out. “I couldn’t resist grabbing my gear and swimming out,” he says. “I really like to shoot low-light moody kinda stuff.”

It was only because he owns a super high-speed Phantom camera that he had the technological grunt to steal the photo, something that pleases him very much. And not just for the uniqueness of the shot.

“At that time of the day, you’re not chasing photos with every other photographer. You’re not doing battle with ten other guys to get the shot. There’s no clashes of ego. It’s relaxing. You’re out there by yourself and you’re getting something that is very different.”

Candid: The Beginner’s Guide to Mankind

Despite all the propaganda to the contrary, man is not created equal…

In our politically correct day and age it’s hip to say that all races are the same. Boooolsheeeet. Each stock has abilities and disabilities buried deep within the genetic coding. Double helixes jiving or goose-stepping to a colour-based beat. We’ve all winced at white farm boys dishing stereotypical hoo-ha about how Asians have extra pieces of their brains to do math, but that’s just fluff, darling, and if I live by one rule it’s: “When farm boys say something, it automatically sucks intellectual dick.”

Not that they’re on the wrong path, it’s just that they’re too stupid to discern the subtle complexities in what Asiatics (or any other race) do best. Race is like fine wine. You’ve got to sniff, swill, swish and judge. The first flavour is the least multifarious. Hold, hold, hold on the tongue. Let it breathe up into the olfactory epithelium. Ahhhh, it’s not that Asians are excellent at math, it’s that they’re rotten at prose. Dig?

Have you ever read Shusaku Endo? Twil’ make your eyeses burn. If that was the best novelisation your people could do you’d concentrate on digits too. But I digress on a minor point. So what does each volk have to offer the world stew?


First palette: Anger. Second palette: Rage. Full character: Arabs offer a pretty simple, straightforward flavour to humanity. There’s never a doubt as to what you’ll get. Unmodified umbrage. Just like you know that you’ll always partake in homosexual Italian fusion food. These are life’s constants. Sometimes Arab choler manifests itself in worthless effigy-burning parades, sometimes in jumbo jet suicide attacks. But all the time their little brown bods pulsate with displeasure. Enough to balance the glee of south-east Asians


First palette: Clumsy dancing. Second palette: Business suits. Full character: The white man contains loads of complex sapidity. From Jerry Lewis’ coked up humour to Chris Martin from Coldplay’s whiney free-trade songs. A seemingly robust, complicated brew. But the essence of the Caucasoid is effective heartlessness. Oh sure, we pretend we care about stuff (Chris Martin) but we don’t. We stopped having feelings around 1258 AD. Yup. Nothing in the ticker but a will to power. So long suckers.


First palette: Tequila. Second palette: Beer. Full Character: The Hispic gets written off as lazy by the race-taste neophyte. They pair a glass of Hispanic with afternoon naps and exotic soap operas. Fucking neophytes. In all actuality Spanish speakers are the gasolina that fuels the White Man machine. Without em the world (and by world I mean US) economy would bog down and the White will to power would go sour. They do grunt jobs nobody wants and make delicious tacos. So Hispanics also taste like tacos, but they mostly taste like easy livin’ (if you’re white).


First palette: Poor. Second palette: Gaudy. Full Character: Those hailing from Africa have had it rough. They run a good marathon, on one hand, but then they chop of each other’s arms, on the other stump. Confusing. Diamond encrusted, musically-gifted deliciousness or brackish bloatedness? Both. Maybe? Shoot, them blacks can tug of the heartless strings as well as anyone. Their tang is one of confusion. It goes well with a huge rack of ribs or starvation.


First Palette: Gorgeous off-axis eyes. Second palette: Great at math. Full Character: Asiatics ferment a heads-down, cash-up varietals. Money, money, money, money…. money. In Japan, China and Korea the masses groove 80-hour work weeks for the all mighty Yen, Yuan and Yollar. Sometimes the heads down part screws them in the ass. Like when Japanese markets crashed or when the Chinese painted every toy they could find with a heavy coat of lead. But it don’t matter too much cuz love of lucre is a fire that reigns in the heart.

Red Heads

First Palette: Ugly. Second Palette: Ill-tempered. Full Character: Ugly and ill tempered.


First Palette: White. Second Palette: Asian. Full Character: Ruskies combine the heartlessness of Whites with the heads downess of Asians. They miss out on the will to power and the love of money. Luckily, the Lord has given them miles upon miles of frozen tundra in which to make sadistic jails and run headlong into bad forms of government.

The Surfer and the Terrorist

Surfer gets barrelled; Fundamentalist says his prayers. Both feel something that challenges the soul.

Little did you know, but that bearded Arab hiding behind a sand dune with his rocket propelled grenade aimed squarely at your Qantas flight to Bali is actually your bro. Oh sure, he hates your guts and you hate his (especially after Lindt, after Charlie Hebdo, Bali, Madrid, Bali again and New York), but that’s just because you don’t know each other.

So, everybody extend hands…  it’s time to meet.

Why surf? Every time you wax your board and paddle out, you kick the dominant Western ideology in the balls. Not the theoretical principles of individuality, freedom and happiness but the actual principles of work, cubicles and fluorescent lighting. Surfing is not about making money and it’s not about being efficient.

Frankly, it’s a fucking waste of time and money. It demands your heart and energy for an idea and a feeling that can’t be explained in any rational way to those who don’t surf. It’s about stoke, which can’t be bought, sold or traded on the international markets (unless you’re talking about the Stoke Exchange).

Surfing is an alternative discourse which asserts, “You bitches can make all the efficient capital you want. Go ahead and keep the Ikea furniture stacking up in your suburban homes, Landrover Discoverys needing baths and one billion overtime hours worked last week. I’m going to the fucking beach.”

Why back an Islamic fundamentalist revolution? Every time Mr. Beard-o Jihad goes to the mosque and takes his religion seriously enough to put it before financial upward mobility, he kicks the dominant Western ideology in the balls.  These fellas don’t hate freedom or life. They do hate the reality of a soulless economic system that denies there is any more to it all than making capital in the most efficient way possible while destroying countless lives and claiming that it’s really a more evolved way to exist. Radical Islamic fundamentalism is an alternative discourse which asserts, “Try as you might by shoving McDonald’s down my throat, driving your bling bling Lexus over my family and putting me to work bottling delicious Coca-Cola for one penny a year. I will not repent for believing there is more to life than making efficient dollars, pounds and euros for you and/or your fat-ass bosses.”

You may think that Islamic fundamentalism is austere and hateful. Fundy-bro may think that you are frivolous and shallow. What you feel about each other – or each other’s tactics – doesn’t matter. In truth, surfers and fundies are both part of a broader revolutionary discourse, which percolates under the surface of capital-driven humanity. People wake up, drive to work, drive home, go to sleep and die, lost to any genuine feeling. Surfer gets barrelled; Fundy says his prayers. Both feel something that challenges the soul.

Surfer and Islamic fundy: side by side, lockstep, in conflict against a piece of shit dominant ideology that denies what’s important, the very essence of life, for a measly dollar.

Skip work, paddle out, punt an air, flip off the fucking man and know that in the hills of Afghanistan Mullah Mohammed Omar is flipping him off too.