Graham Stapelberg
Can’t an exception be made for a poor brother who just wants to have a little fun?

Dear Graham Stapelberg…

Just one small favor and not even for me!

Dear Graham Stapelberg,

Hope you are well and super excited about the first World Surf League season. In a mere two weeks it will be all thrills, spills and chills. And Pat Parnell. Will Brazil sweep the top five spots? Will Kelly give it a real go? Will anyone on staff get paid? I know I don’t have to tell you how dramatic it will all be…it’s your show…but I just can’t help myself.

In any case, I am stealing a moment of your precious time not on my behalf, but on behalf of an injured surfer from southern Oregon. I will let him speak.

Paul Evans and Chas Smith
Swatch is the new rebellious face of surfing? “That is a rotten shame,” says Chas Smith (right). Very funny man in bleak striped shirt of his own choosing (Holocaust homage?) is the editor of Surf Europe Paul Evans.

 Last September I got a really bad head injury, and then in December I blew it and ate shit on a huge wave at Whaler’s, and thrashed my head again. So I have been out of the water for almost the whole winter, and it has been very depressing.

 While in recovery, the one main thing that has been putting a smile on my face and making me laugh has been watching the replays of the Swatch Girls Pro. I used to compete in the NSSA growing up in Carlsbad, and I am often a fan of watching monotonous online surf contests.

 When I stumbled upon the discourse between Chas Smith and Paul Evans, I was in heaven. I found myself replaying it on a daily basis because the two of you just have a way of bringing fun into an extremely stupid situation.

 One day when I was watching the replays, they got taken down! Those Swedish bastards! They took away the most brilliant surf commentary in history, and the one thing that was putting me in a better mood.

 Is there anywhere online where I can watch this? Or is it gone for good? I promise you that I have no other interest other than watching it myself.

 How can I keep watching?”

How can he? Did you take the videos down because Paul and I were drinking beer on camera in the booth? Swearing? Because unsavory comments were made about certain local politicians? Because we got paid (by Swatch)? Because we actually had fun and didn’t speak like robots? Because we are both under 75 years old? Because I never put my hand on the desk and left it there like it was paralyzed? Because both of us could use our necks to turn our heads? Because no Occy? Because our desk didn’t change material/shape/style from day to day?

Whatever the reason, can’t an exception be made for a poor brother who just wants to have a little fun? I trust you to make the best decision.

Yours forever.

Chas Smith

(Audio) “OK, this is serious!”

Jamie Mitchell on wiping out on a sixty-footer and being caught inside by something even more disquieting… 

Yeah, so this wave is a year old, almost to the day.

You’ve heard about it. You even read about it on BeachGrit (click here).

But what a wave of  nervous joy it gives to hear Jamie Mitchell, the 38-year-old big-wave surfer and peerless board paddler (10-times winner of the 32-mile Molokai to Oahu race), describe paddling into a sixty-footer, getting bounced then facing a wave that is eighty-plus!


Mason Ho on dropping in
Mason Ho and the art of dropping in. How do you avoid collision, danger? "Frick," says Mason, "you draw a higher line where you’re going extra fast and then you get the bigger, high-speed maneuver right in front of their face." | Photo: Manulele Incorporated

Lesson: Mason Ho on the art of snake!

The world's most dynamic surfer on how to survive (and thrive!) dropping in… 

(This interview was recorded in 2010 and originally appeared in Surfer magazine.)


Mason Ho, 20, is the most charismatic midget you’ll ever see in the water. He rides Mayhem quads and bottle-nosed fish and his surfs are punctuated by fin-throws, old-school air reverses, even older-school 360s, chop-hops and even backside alley-oops. If there is a Hawaii style, his is it: all warm-water, loose-limbed, afro-swinging extravagance.

Mason is also the son of Hawaiian star Michael Ho, the nephew of Hawaii’s first-ever world champ, Dez Ho, and brother to girls champion Coco Ho. If he wanted, Mason could book an audience with Fast Eddie Rothman at the tap of a few keys. Mason also likes, very much, to drop in. See 5’5” Redux for visual evidence.

BeachGrit: I can’t remember the last time I so adored a human who so flagrantly flouted the most basic rule of surfing. 

Mason: Ha!

BeachGrit: Have you always dropped in?

Mason: Let me see. Usually, I’m not too bad dropping in, but when Joe Alani comes to film for the …Lost videos I just go on a barrage and burn… every…single… person. He comes for, like, 10 days out of a whole year and I figure I’ve got 10 days to work. And, if that includes burning people, that’s cool.

BeachGrit: Do you like to see who your victim might be?

Mason: Not really. My theory is that I just don’t look back so I always end up burning my friends and my Dad and my Uncle and my Sister.

BeachGrit: What about Hawaii’s famously ferocious and livid regulators?

Mason: I accidentally burn them, too.

BeachGrit: What line do you take; obviously dropping straight down the face would result in a collision?

Mason: Frick, you draw a higher line where you’re going extra fast and then you get the bigger, high-speed maneuver right in front of their face.

BeachGrit: Are some surfers good sports? Does the man or woman behind ever hoot your theatrics?

Mason: It used to happen all the time when I was younger. But, I haven’t had one for a while because I got good at burning guys.

BeachGrit: A kid with brillo-pad hair dropping in is cute; a 20-year-old doing it is kinda crook.

Mason: Yeah, I definitely think a 20-year-old dropping in is crook.

BeachGrit: What is the best strategy for dropping in?

Mason: My favorite theory is right when you burn someone, you try and hide in the barrel as fast as you can. That’s the best, and then you come out and they’re, like, more baffled. If it’s not barreling and I burn someone, I figure I gotta do an air ‘cause if I do something gayer that’s extra crook.

BeachGrit: What’s the best turn you’ve completed after dropping in?

Mason: One time I burned this guy, got this big backside barrel and I came out and did a big indy alley-oop backside. I kicked out and said, “Sorry about that” and he said, “No, it was sweet!”

BeachGrit: Who’s the most famous surfer you’ve dropped in?

Mason: Uncle Derek. I got him at Pipe one time and then I got him at Desert Point a couple of times this last trip.

BeachGrit: How does Uncle Derek react?

Mason: He loves it. Because the next couple of fricken waves he rides in front of me. He looks at it as a meal ticket.

BeachGrit: What about Kelly Slater?

Mason: Oh, I… have… dropped… in… on… Kelly. At Trestles, I burned him. I heard: “Mason!” Then I heard, “Ho!” Then I heard, “Mason Ho!” Huh, huh, huh! I looked back at went, “Oh sh**t, Slates!” That’s my problem. I just don’t look back.

BeachGrit: From where did you learn the art?

Mason: I learned it from Coco. I figure if my little sister can burn everybody, I can, too.

BeachGrit: Coco copped it when she smoked Layne at Haleiwa last year. 

Mason: That was the funniest shit ever! I was on the beach rolling. All the girls were paddling around Coco, just owning her. Me and Dad were, like, “C’mon Coco! What are you doing?” Finally, in that last exchange, we counted her out. We knew she was going to let everybody paddle around her again, and she did. And then she ended up going, anyway. I was laughing so hard, going, “That’s what I would’ve done!”

BeachGrit:  How should a reader of this magazine, on his trip-of-a-lifetime to the North Shore react, if he finds himself breathing your exhaust? Should he be grateful for a close-up look at your charismatic styling?

Mason: No way! I don’t want them to appreciate me burning ‘em. But, I sure do appreciate ‘em letting me surf in front of ‘em.

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.