Update: Byron Bay’s Shark Problem

Two attacks in two days (one fatal) and a man hit in the shallows by a White late last year… 

The city of Byron Bay, tucked just under the border of Queensland in northern NSW, is known for a lot of things. It has the remnants of that seventies hippie vibe and, lately, has become ground zero for surfers chasing the sexy surf lifestyle of leash-less boards, button-ups in the surf, long hair and fantastic tans.

But, now, Byron is… sharks. Big sharks. Killer sharks.

Last September, a 50-year-old man was 15 metres from shore at Clarkes Beach (yeah, right there near the Pass) and was killed by a Great White.

Yesterday, a surfer was bitten at seven-mile just south of Byron.

And, this morning, Japanese surfer Tadashi Nakahar, 41, died after having both legs bitten off by a 10-to-12-foot Great White at Shelley Beach, nearby.

“So so SO sad to hear that it was Tadashi Nakahara taken by a shark on Monday,” the shaper Nev Hyman wrote on his Facebook page. “He was an amazing surfer, having won three times the “Nev Cup” at Surfers Paradise put on by my amazing Japanese staff Shin and Kaz. The Gold Coast surfing community will no doubt be shattered by the lost of such a remarkable man.Amongst other things he worked as the board salesman for Brothers Neilsen stoking out countless of excited surfers from all over the world as they bought a new board. He touched a lot of people all of whom would now be sending their love and sympathies to his kids family and friends.”

It’s interesting to note that Byron Bay, the most easterly point of Australia and once home to a vibrant whaling industry, used to be regarded as the sharkiest joint in Australia. All those migrating sharks would be swimming offshore and… boom… suddenly what was a few hundred metres offshore was now almost on the sand.

Talk to anyone who surfed Byron and it was always about the sharks.

Tallows, that gorgeous little beach tucked away in the headland away from summer’s north-easterlies, had a fatal in ’82.

Eleven years later a diver got it from a White at Julian Rocks, those big hunks of rock you see just offshore from Main Beach.

In 2008, a bodyboarder died at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina, just south of Byron.

And today, and yesterday, and last September, attacks.

But, wait. There’s more!

Over the weekend, a surfer head-butted the actual Wreck and died in hospital.

A woman filming dolphins at Wategoes was launched from beneath by (probably) a shark. Broken board etc.

(Click here)

Another surfer was hit from below at Flat Rock (Ballina) on Sat. Not hurt.

What’s compelling about the whole shark thing round town is how disinterested surfers in Byron are. Even now, unless a shark in the lineup is a monster surfers will be back within half-an-hour.

Meanwhile, on Friday arvo, a man dropped dead while drinking a beer at a local pub.

Life, such brevity.

Gabriel crying after coming second to Julian Wilson at Portugal Rip Curl Pro

10 Things That Suck About Being a Pro Surfer

Y'telling me being paid to shred and fend off A-ish class pussy around the world can be bad? Well, yes!

If you’re a man who lives within any proximity of the beach, you’ve always wanted to be a pro surfer. Like, aha, yeah, sure you want to be an accountant or a representative for a pharmaceutical goods company.

Girls wanna be models of course (hence the pout-y selflies with peace signs and bent legs, hands on hips etc) but beach rats wanna be a pro surfer. It’s validation of your manhood and your superiority over your dopey pals.

But, face it, it didn’t happen or it ain’t gonna happen.

Maybe you’ll scoop a minor sponsor, here, there, maybe you’ll even get a few free boards, but when the World Surf League steals only 34 surfers from the planet’s great pool of surfers (millions!), you don’t have to be Stevie Hawkings to see those miserable odds.

Yet…and yet… the tour isn’t the dick-swinging time you might think it is.

1. The pussy thing gets old

By the time the surf prodigy is 16 he’s engaged MILFs in relatively straight congress, had a handful of threesomes (though mostly guy-guy-girl), has faced maybe a dozen winking anuses (female) and has seen every variety of tit, pussy and haunch god ever created. The average man banks a dozen fucks, twenty if he’s a smooth-talker, on average, in his lifetime. A surf prodigy will roll those numbers during one good long weekend at a junior series event. You want to know why those pro’s get married so young? Cause they realise that sex without love ain’t much more than an agreeable friction. (Although that epiphany will eventually dull.)

2. Want to kill the thing you love? Do it for a living. 

When you and I go for a surf we schralp around for an hour or so, talk to our pals, fall off on every air attempt, drop-in, get dropped-in on, do fins-first take-offs and have a general blast. Now, imagine, your entire career, your life, your finances, your emotional health and, in some cases, the welfare of your family, depends upon you nailing two sets in a heat and banging off 10 perfect turns. And when you get home the internet is full of couch-cowboys telling the world what a kook you are. Stressful!

3. It’s so serious!

One-time tour surfer Mitch Crews thought the qualifying series had set him up for the most sublime experience of his life. And yet, “I felt very awkward in the competition area because I’m really social and felt like I had to go through the charade of putting my headphones on and then staring at the camera all strong.” No one’s there to make pals. They’ve seen Kelly nail 11-titles, and Mick three, from serious.

4. Mostly, it ain’t flying biz

Travel once a year and what a thrill it is to paw at the airline magazines, rip things out of sealed plastic bags and drink wine from plastic cups while the world soars beneath you. Do it every week and it loses all of its sheen, and then some. If you’re top three, you can afford biz. But who’s top three!

5. Bores at bars

I see it around every contest. Some fan eating the ears of a pro, friendly at first, then increasingly belligerent as the pro politely (and they’re always polite) declines his offer of drinks, drugs (If the Gold Coast, meth, if Spain, coke, if Portugal, MDMA) or to kiss his girlfriend. Every pro needs a Johnny Gannon or a Kaiborg. But who can afford it!

6. The surf media

Can you imagine being called up or cornered every day by writers whom, by even the kindest measure, are borderline retarded?

7. There ain’t a lot of money in it

For Kelly, Joel, Mick, Taj, Gabriel… yes. For the back end, a hundred grand goes into the bank, a hundred-ten gets spent on travel. After five years you end up back in your country town trying to kick-start a surf school or schlepping oversized tees on the road.

8. There’s a chance you’ll be killed 

Ever since big-wave surfing went psycho a few years back, the chances of being snuffed out in a heat has increased to it now being… likely. Ten foot Teahupoo; eight-foot Pipe. Not a lot separates you from rock.

9. The weird dynamic with friends

Once you get famous people treat you differently. Friends treat you differently. They walk a little to the side or behind with a sudden deference. And why wouldn’t they? Fans will come up and step right into your conversations with your pal. Girls will elbow the non-famous friend out of the way. And they don’t say a thing! Weird! But not as weird or awkward as…

10. You pay for everything

Let’s say you make it. Big time. A contender but not really. A million Americano shekels a year. You’ve  got a couple of houses, a pretty car. But go out for dinner and the little leather wallet will be placed in front of you every single fucking time, either by staff or discreetly by head friend, to, like “fix up”. He’s rich! We’re not! is the unspoken transaction.

Bruce Irons to take swing at Qualifiers!

The surfer who took Volcom to the stars, who beat Kelly to win the Pipe Masters, is back in the game… 

Bruce Irons, the 35-year-old surfer from Halanalei, Kauai, younger bro of Andy, and once the hottest property in surfing, is kinda back!

After half-a-dozen years of wandering the metaphorical universe (the death of Andy in 2010 ain’t something he was ever going to be able to just shrug off), Bruce has a new manager and his girlfriend, US model Hailee Wade, has entered him into eight events on the qualifying series, beginning at the Burton Auto Pro at Newcastle, Australia, in a week.

Hailee Wade
Bruce Irons’ girl Hailee Wade, from her well-curated Instagram feed.

“My new manager has got me back in the fucking swing of things,” says Bruce. “Shit’s starting to go my way. Although (at Pipe) I fucking blew it, brah… I got good waves but, fuck, I was getting on a roll and I blew it so fucking hard. I was going to win that contest.”

Bruce Irons and Hailee Wade
Bruce Irons has just picked up a little crib in LA where you’ll find him, with cocktail, while his gal Hailee Wade goes about her modelling biz.

With the passage of time, it’s easy to forget how good Bruce was, is. If you really want to get into it, Bruce was the best freesurfer in the world for a couple of years (2004, 2005) before Dane Reynolds stepped out of Ventura. Even when Andy was winning world titles, Pipe Masters titles, Triple Crowns and grinding Kelly Slater, it was his slightly younger brother that was bringing sexy to surfing.

In 2001, before he was even in the tour, Bruce beat Kelly Slater to win the Pipe Masters.

And in, 2004, without even breaking a sweat (Bruce don’t like to sweat), he qualified for the tour.

And that year he beat Kelly Slater in the semis of the Quiksilver event in France before losing to his brother in the final. Four months later, he won the Eddie Aikau event in 30-foot waves at Waimea.

In 2008, Bruce won the Rip Curl Search Pro in Bali, requalified, but knocked his CT spot back to… freesurf again.

“I’ve just kind of been stuck in this rut,” said Bruce at the time. “Same places, same schedule. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t like surfing heats. When it’s not good, I don’t have the motivation. And then I was really worried all along that if I fell off tour, Volcom would drop me. I wasn’t communicating with them about that and I was struggling on tour. I didn’t like the way I was surfing. I wasn’t happy with it at all. So, I talked to Volcom and basically said I wasn’t happy on tour. And I asked them what they thought of me not doing it. They said they’d be stoked if I wasn’t on it. They said they could see my struggle on tour. That I tried it and it wasn’t my thing. I prefer to go back to how I started my whole surfing trip which is to go on surf trips and make videos. That’s where I’m most happy.”

Despite his “lifetime” deal with Volcom, Bruce split with ’em four years after and signed with Fox.

Bruce don’t have a whole lot else on the boil at the moment so why not take one last swing at the tour? He’s not saying that he’s “trying to qualify” ’cause that ain’t Bruce’s style. But he sure would like to taste a little champagne.

“I definitely want to win something,’ he says. “Oh fuck yeah.”

Bruce is also collecting footage for an upcoming film.

5 Ways to Nail the GoPro Angle (with Mark Healey)

You want the perfect POV shot? Here's five inside tricks… 

It’s Sunday morning, at least in Australia, so let’s jam a little side of irony onto your breakfast plate.

Ten days ago, Mark Healey stroked into into an eight-foot wave at Pipeline with a GoPro clamped inside his mouth. As he took off, he grabbed the GoPro camera from his hand and filmed the tube-ride of 57-year-old Hawaiian legend Michael Ho (pops to Coco and Mason). Both Mark and Michael exited and such was the irrationally perfect nature of the ride, it might win the pair $25,000 in Surfline’s wave of the winter.

But that footage of Uncle Mike? Healey blew it. By holding the camera in his hand his framing was totally off. “When I saw the footage of it I wanted to throw up,’ he told me.

(Read Mike and Mark’s account of the ride here.) 

But, generally, Mark is one of the best in the world at nailing GoPro clips. And after we jammed about his Mike Ho tube, I got him to swing five tips on nailing the POV angle.

1. Preparation is everything. 

Once you’re in the water you can’t do a thing. You can’t change the batteries, you can’t clean the inside of the port. So many times in the beginning if I’d spent an extra 20 seconds cleaning that piece of lint off the port I could’ve nailed the best clips. So be patient. Clean the inside of the port. Make sure your batteries are charged. Take five minutes to get it all dialled. Who wants to paddle in, dry off, and do it?

2. Make sure there are moisture absorbing wafers in the housing.

Cameras run hot so they fog. That’s an easy one. But watch how many times you’ll forget.

3. Get two cameras.

I’m lucky, I get ’em for free, but if you can afford it, you won’t miss a shot, ever.

4. Use ’em… a lot.

The more you use your GoPro the more you’ll realise what framing works. A bite plate (so you can clamp the camera in your mouth) or head mount will get what you need, framing-wise. Where you look is where you go. It ain’t rocket science! If you want to hold it in your hand you have to be conscious of where your hand is pointing. Just look at what happened when I shot Mike Ho last week.

5. That said, lift your chin and point it a little up.

That’s a tip from Jamie O’Brien and Anthony Walsh, though they’ll probably be pissed for me telling you that. You’ll get more of the tube in the frame.

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.