Kolohe Andino wins the Hurley Australian Open of Surfing
The almost 21-year-old Kolohe Andino, from San Clemente, surfs each wave as if they were statements on the way to the grave. Number #11 in the world (World Tour) and, currently, the #1 on the qualifying series. | Photo: WSL

Kolohe Andino wins Australian Open of Surfing

"There's no place I'd rather be than competing," says Kolohe.

On an anything-but-lazy Sunday afternoon at the very apex of a hot Sydney summer, San Clemente’s Kolohe Andino showed magnificent form to beat the Tahitian Mateai Hiquily.

Kolohe is just one month short of his 21st birthday, an event that is still an occasion in the USA (champagne rooms!), and he rapped on the door every heat with authority. This included a fearless tackle with the star of Cluster, Jack Freestone, a heat that was referred to as a “fiery meeting and in the old style.”

And in the final this afternoon, he began with a near-perfect 9.73 opening wave. For Kolohe, such scores are now as easy as an actor strolling onto the stage, loosening his tie and removing his jacket.

Mateai surfed as if he had a 12-foot long blade upon which he’d lance his competitors. He beat Mick Fanning twice (in rounds two and five), as well as Newcastle’s Ryan Callinan, another star of Cluster, in their semi-final.

“This is the best week and the best day of my life,” said Hiquily.

Kolohe is a surfer with a strong sense of the future. “There’s no other place I’d rather be than competing,” he said.

(In the gals, the winner Laura Enever surfed with urbane reassurance. This is most attractive.)

Fatal shark attack Reunion Island

Predictable: Fatal Shark Attack on Reunion Island

A dozen attacks in a little over two years; six fatals… 

Can you believe the chutzpah of all these sharks? Hoo! It used to be that unless you lived in the heartland of the great whites, South Australia or Cape Town or Northern California, shark attacks were only an abstract concept and to to be unduly concerned about ’em was the act of a paranoid mind.

Now I’m getting repetitive strain injury typing, “Shark Attack Reunion Island” or “Man killed by shark in Byron Bay” or “Is Western Australia the shark attack capital of the world?” every few months.

Last week, Byron Bay had it’s second fatal attack by a great white in less than a year. By all accounts, and for whatever reason, maybe unseasonably warm water, the joint is crawling with sharks. Surfers bumped; divers hit.

Six hours drive south in the city of Newcastle, beaches were closed when a 15-foot white was patrolling just offshore. Even as I write, dozens of beaches on Australia’s east coast remain closed because of shark sightings.

And if you were thinking about escaping to the Indian Ocean, Reunion has just crawled back into the headlines with a fatal attack on a swimmer. The sixth fatal in a little over two years. The 20-year-old was bitten on her leg five metres from shore in southwestern l`Etang-Sale, just south of St Leu’s dreamy lefts. She died of cardiac arrest at the local hospital, as tends to happen in such catastrophic events.

(Click here for an eerily similar event at the same joint two years earlier)

In the last two-and-half years, Reunion Island has hosted 14 attacks, six fatals. It ain’t pretty.

But what’s interesting, and it’s interesting after the fatal attack on a surfer near Byron Bay last week, is the differing circumstances of all these attacks.

The facts are clear enough. More surfers are being attacked by sharks. But, then, never has there been such numbers of people surfing. Look around. All those weird little coves, points, reefs, beaches that no one touched ten years ago are filled with surfers.

In Reunion, it’s bull sharks, mostly. Tough bastards who don’t care how hard you jam ’em in the eyes or gills. In August 2012, Fabien Bujon was surfing St Leu, when a bouldogue went for him. He kicked it. Off came his foot. He went for its eyes and gills. The shark took his hand off to the wrist. With his remaining hand Fabian kept ahold of the beast’s vulnerable gills. He survived. With a limp and an empty handshake.

A year later a 15-year-old girl was ripped apart while snorkelling five metres from shore. Only two months before that a honeymooning surfer was attacked by bull sharks in front his new wife.

In mainland France, popular television shows make jokes that the country’s Paralympic team is comprised mostly of athletes from Reunion.

Yeah, Reunion has always had a rep for sharks. It’s the Indian Ocean. It’s tropical. Like Madagascar. Like Mauritius. Attacks happened but they were predictable. Surfers were smart enough to avoid the east coast, to avoid surfing after rains that muddied the water and by staying out of the drink at dawn and dusk. An attack here and there, but years apart, and only occasionally fatal.

But in 2007, a 19km stretch of marine reserve was created on the west coast. Nothing could be touched, shark, coral, whatever. Shark attacks spiked. And all either in or close by the new marine reserve.

“The reserve became a refrigerator, a pantry, for bull sharks,” says Laurence Joanblanq, a former pro surfer, whose family keeps a restaurant at St Leu, but who now travels abroad every school holidays to avoid letting her kids spending time in the water there. After every surf, she texts her husband to let him know they’ve survived.

One local surfer says he sometimes weeps, literally cries, whenever he drives past these perfect empty waves.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays, days when the kids aren’t at school, vigie requin (government employed freedivers with spears) patrol popular surf spots. If a shark is spotted whistles are blown and the water cleared. The vigie requin are trained to deal with trauma. ie. sudden amputations.

In Byron, they’ve got whites; same as in WA and South Africa.

Northern California has plenty of whites, but according to San Francisco surfer Lewis Samuels, they have a different hunting pattern to those in Australia and South Africa. 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, therefore giving you a chance to get to shore before you expire.

“That gives you time to get medical help,” says Lew.

So what do you do? Do you kill ’em? Or you live (and die) with ’em?

(Click here for a GQ magazine investigation…)

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.