Cluster (the mag) changed my life!

Print trumps film for the first time since 1923.

While the film left me wanting less, the accompanying issue made me want more more more! Editor Travis Ferre, Kai Neville, Scott Chenoweth and team put together a physical work of art in a day and age when print has waning value.

The cover, and floral sleeve that it comes in, excite, the paper stock feels sensual and the content thrills. Feminity and masculinity are perfectly intertwined, creating the most perfect dance. It is truly wonderful.

And why did it change my life? Because I still love print, for one, and to see a group of handsome young men doing it better than Vanity Fair is inspiring. Because I love having things on my coffee table, for two. It is a repurposed trolley, or something, all hardwood and darkened brass, and only the finest publications will do. They must be gorgeous and intellectually/artistically valuable in case someone opens in a moment of conversational lull. An oversized copy of Death in the Afternoon sat there for years. Now it is Cluster and I imagine it will be there for years too. Because coherence is still important, for three. With so many short clips/blogs/etc. these days, long form coherence is on the outs. But it is so nice to sit back and not be pinballed for a moment. To sit in one moment for, like, 20 mins. And because I like floral motifs, for last. I like them in the French countryside and I like them in my grandma’s house. Floral is coming back. What Youth led the way.

I stand my ground on the film and I know that I am right. The film took an ill-conceived direction because surfing, as a pastime, will never be “hard.” And Noa Deane will never “fuck” cops. But it is ok. Kai will return to the cinema and this misstep will make him stronger. But the issue is just exactly right. Bravo!

David Bower for Cluster
David Bowie, a surprise, and welcome, inclusion in the Cluster soundtrack. Kai says he was worried that the choice might be too obvious for Creed's section and he tried other songs, some uptempo Frank Black tunes, but…"You know what? This is fucking Creed!"

Cluster is Kai Neville’s Magnum Opus

Chas Smith got it so fucking wrong… 

Three hours ago,  714 mostly young men attended the Australian premiere of Kai Neville’s film Cluster at a restored art deco cinema in Sydney.

Roughly a tenth of the young men there wore the headgear of Craig Anderson, a perennial of Kai’s films (with varying degrees of success. How do you snatch the style of someone as ephemeral as Craig Anderson? How can you make hair that colour and fall in those curls without the falsity of premeditation?). Others, though less in number, wore savage blond bobs in the style of Noa Deane.

I came into the movie with BeachGrit’s Chas Smith’s criticism whistling in my ears. Too long, too repetitious, too derivative, too “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” I downed each criticism by the spoonful.

Read it here. 

And that fat old Lazarus Surfer turned on Cluster, too.

“I’m not going to get all Nostradamus and warn of the impending death of the surf movie, because that will never happen,” wrote Todd Prodanovich. “But I do think that this type of surf movie—a straightforward montage of high action and lifestyle—is hurting. In a world where we can pull up free web clips on our phones featuring surfing and editing on par with anything in Cluster, you have to wonder: if it isn’t the very best, then what’s the point?”

Read it here. 

But after an hour of Cluster?

Oh Chas, loving you thus and hating you so, my heart is torn in two! 

In order, Mitch Coleborn, Brendon Gibbens, Conner Coffin (with Taj Burrow and Jay Davies cameos) Dillon Perillo, Dion Agius and Ozzie Wright (mutual open-shirt twerking), Jack Freestone, Chippa Wilson, Creed McTaggart, Ryan Callinan, Dane Reynolds, Craig Anderson and Noa Deane come along and noisily de-stud us.

All those skills Kai has developed from punching out films for 15 years has been squeezed into Cluster’s sixty-ish minutes. The cuts are switchblade sharp, the pacing so submerged but so heart-racing, the clips dazzling in their choice.

Oh, of course we’d like John John. Who doesn’t want to step into his fire? Why no John?

Let’s ask Kai!

This interview took place just after the movie finished. It’s a noisy little jam and the interviewer causes his subject some confusion when he refers to the skate brand Baker as Baxter. What can I say, skating ain’t my thing.

Cluster drops into the iTunes store on March 17.


Is this the best surf gadget ever made?

This crazy little thing measures the intensity of your turns and even edits your clips!

To hell with cancer, malaria, AIDS, world poverty, and every other disease and misfortune that besets mankind. The brightest minds on earth are busy… doing things that matter.

Doing things that make us feel warm inside and so very happy.

Like this fantastic new device ($US199) from a company called Trace. Affix a small plastic disc (couple of inches wide, less than inch high) to your board, surf your brains out, come in, and it’ll… well, how about we save my fingers and cut and paste the company’s press release here…

“Trace is The Action Sports Tracker. Trace measures your performance and auto edits your most exciting moments whether taken from a GoPro, iPhone, Android or other camera. You connect Trace to your skis, board, or helmet, turn it on, and go. Trace connects to an app on your iPhone or Android where you can view your stats, see yourself improve, and share your accomplishments with friends.

“GoPro, iPhone, and Android video all integrate with Trace to find your rides and cuts out the boring stuff. Trace then color corrects your footage, adds your stats, and compiles them for you.”

You ain’t even in the game anymore unless there’s some hunk of GPS-enabled gadgetry or camera affixed to the nose of your favourite board. Or, in the case of the remarkable Rip Curl watch, wrapping your wrist in its electronics.

Join the revolution here! 

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.