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.


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.