Craig Anderson surfing wave garden
The South African-born Craig Anderson is attuned to the rhythm of life like very few others. He is not the man who enters a woman and then pounds at a punk rock pace until he has finished but the sort who will begin slow before building to a wild hair-pulling pace. Surf or sex, it all confirms to the Rhythm of Life.

Revealed: The Rhythm of Life!

Sex and surfing are tied together by one common thread…

The universe has a rhythm and it is fast/slow/fast or slow/fast/slow and those who operate in any other way appear jarring like Scarlett Johansan’s singing career.

Yes, the alternation between slow and fast, fast and slow, in methodical, purposeful, directed ways makes for magic. Let us look, for instance, at the music of Led Zeppelin. Let us look at Stairway to Heaven. There is a lady who knows all that glitters is gold and she’s bu-u-uying a stairway to heaven.

The masterpiece starts slow, a lullaby for the awakened, but somewhere in the middle of its seven-plus minute running time it spikes. Furious strumming of double-necked electric guitars. The pounding of booze-soaked drum heads. Your head is humming and it won’t go, in case you don’t know. The slow comforts us, the furious excites us and when the song ends slow (And she’s bu-u-uying a stairway to hea-e-ven) we have reached auditory orgasm. Stairway to Heaven mirrors the rhythm of the universe.

Let us look at sex. The man who enters and pounds at a punk rock pace until he has finished is the most worthless sort of lover. Sometimes, yes, a woman wants to be manhandled, she wants to be abused, but the man is only abusing himself if he refuses for one instance to change pace. He must let himself breathe. He must feel the enjoyment building. The best lover starts slow, builds to a wild hair-pulling pace, and then, without awkward hiccup, returns to slow. Or he starts recklessly and then slows like he is swaying in a rowboat on a tranquil lake, so peaceful, before returning to his icky thump. She will moan with the truest of pleasures and he will too.

Let us look at film. Al Scarface Pacino does not enter the first frame lighting up the silver screen with bullet and cocaine. No. He enters as a poor Cuban criminal. He enters slow and of humble origin though arrogant. And later he falls in love and later still he lights up the silver screen with swears and angry red eyes. And then he is shot in the back. Slow to rapid fire to dead (slow).

Let us look at marathoners. The gun cracks and they are off! They run quickly to best position themselves and then they slow. They pace themselves properly for the long haul. They move methodically as if in a trance. And then the end is in sight and they move like wobbly lightening in order to finish strong.

And, finally, let us look at surfing. Some ill-breds who are out of touch with nature itself paddle into waves and they peer down the line and they think, “speed!” And so they pump their legs like pistons and they beat the wave. They change neither pace nor direction for theirs is only a straight line of fast and it is painful to witness. Others, usually on longer, thicker boards, set their course and don’t move a muscle. Slow. Only slow. And their stiffness is hardly witness-able.

But the true surfer, the one in touch with God, drops in and does a luscious bottom turn and then creeps back up toward the lip. He then shimmies fast and hits the lip. Pow! And another slow arcing cutback to slow himself and a fresh burst to finish with an air reverse. Or he bends his knees and maxes out the throttle on his first move and wham! into the sky before slamming the breaks in the form of a slidey tail something before picking it up once more with a burst of turbo before stopping entirely with a frontside 360 foam climb.

The best music, sex, film, long distance running and surfing all follow the formula of fast/slow/fast or slow/fast/slow and if the reader is still unclear let him watch softcore porn on late night HBO. He will understand the essence of life and his surfing will greatly improve.

Brandon "Laserwolf" Campbell by Rodney Odgaard.
And this is the photographer himself, Brandon "Laserwolf" Campbell at the heaviest wave in the Mentawai Islands, as captured by Rodney Odgaard. | Photo: @rodney_odgaard_photography

Rare! Meet a photog who wrangles big waves!

You might know this duel citizen as Brandon "Laserwolf" Campbell…

As far as handles go, Laserwolf is one of the more ambitious. Are his tendencies wolf-like; is his stare as forceful as a laser beam?

“It’s my spirit animal,’ says Brandon.

Whatevs, Brandon is one of the more reliable shooters with game on the North Shore. You need some colour for your magazine or website? Give Brandon a hit and let him inflate your electronic mailbox. Water, mostly, ’cause he’s a water baby, shooting for cash and kicks, surfing when necessary.

Brandon Campbell has fixed himself upon the North Shore for the past six years. He’s a Florida transplant, but don’t shoot a man for his non-indigenous background. If you really want f’reals, let me tell it like it is: Brandon’s from Melbourne, that city that was founded by former slaves in the middle of the 19th c. An’t much realer than that. The Hobgoods, Jimbo Morrison and model Kate Upton are from Melbourne, too, although like Brandon ain’t much of that fine chocolate in their DNA. Yeah!

He’s even picked himself up a a single-fin riding, yoga-teaching, non-cow eating “real conscious goddess” too so he’s feeling real attached to the seven-click miracle.

Laserfox and Laserwolf
The photographer Brandon “Laserwolf” Campbell and his yoga-teaching, non-cow eating, single-fin riding goddess. Call her Alexandra or Laserfox. Both work.

I got some questions for Brandon…

(And if you want to see his photos, click here for his BeachGrit gallery.)

When did you first pick up a 10-foot wave? 

I’ll never forget it. I was 14 and Hurricane Floyd came ripping up the Florida coast. There was a mandatory evacuation but my family stuck around and rode it out at our house just a block away from the beach. It was pretty heavy but as soon as the storm started to pass, the winds went offshore and the waves were the biggest I had seen. I grew up on a barrier island and because everyone had evacuated and the bridges to get on and off the island were closed off, I had the lineup all to myself. It took me forever to get out and there were palm trees and boardwalks floating buy  but I caught this bomb right away and I was so spooked that I went to kick out but before I could get to the top of the wave the thing just pitched this massive barrel over me. The whole thing’s on video and you can hear my mom and a few other people gasp but then I got spit out of this thing and they all start hooting and whistling for me. I’ve been hooked ever since.

So tell me about your big-wave game now… 

I just like riding waves brother. Big or small, I’ll take what I can get. Growing up in Florida, we only got overhead surf a few times a year so we were hungry for it. I’d been to Puerto Escondido a few times and some other spots that get pretty solid so I was comfortable in bigger surf by the time I moved to Hawaii. My first winter out here I was towing the outer reefs but kicked that habit a few years ago and got a 10’8″ shaped for paddling in. For a minute I thought it’d be cool to be the first guy from Florida to make the big-wave world tour but, I dunno, most of those guys are on another level and I ain’t down with all the politics. I’m just stoked to surf.

Y’any good? What’s your most profound big-wave experience thus far? 

I’m alright. My mind is good out there and that’s just as important anything else. Maybe I haven’t been sitting deep enough but I had a good track record of making all my waves to the channel up until this winter without any heavy wipeouts. I got smoked a couple times this year and this past swell I took a bomb on the head that completely annihilated me. I had been in the water for about eight hours with a couple breaks in the channel to refuel. It was a tough crowd and the big boys didn’t want to share the bombs so I was only getting the leftovers. I was paddling back out after catching a medium size one when this 18-foot (Hawaiian scale) monster broke right on my head. It close out the whole channel and boats and skis were scattered.The impact was so heavy, it set off two of the air canisters in my inflatable vest, I got the wind knocked out of me and felt like my limbs were being ripped off. I tore some muscles in my back and haven’t been able to surf for a couple weeks now.

Brandon "Laserwolf" Campbell surfing an outer reef.
Here we see the photographer at an outer reef as nibbled on by Doug Falter (@dougfalterphotography). “I was comfortable in bigger surf by the time I moved to Hawaii. My first winter out here I was towing the outer reefs but kicked that habit a few years ago and got a 10’8″ shaped for paddling in. For a minute I thought it’d be cool to be the first guy from Florida to make the big-wave world tour but, I dunno, most of those guys are on another level and I ain’t down with all the politics. I’m just stoked to surf.”

Y’got a dog, I know that. Bitch vicious? 

Bruce The Boss. Half French Bulldog, half American Bulldog. He’s a gentleman and a scholar but don’t get him too excited or he’ll piss all over your feet.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve done? 

What, like that time I ran into a burning orphanage to save a bunch of children, woman and kittens? I kid, I kid. Probably quitting my job to focus full time on surf photography while being a single dad. It was a scary roll of the dice and a lot of people  were pretty discouraging. “It’s too late in the game”, “ You don’t have any connections”, “Surf photography is dead” blah, blah blah. I heard it all but I stuck with it and it all seems to be working out.

Cameras, when did they come into your life? 

My auntie is a photographer and I recently found out that my Quaker ancestors were some of the world’s first photographers. I guess its in my blood. I’ve only been shooting surfing for three years though.

Why? Ain’t no money in that game? 

Yeah you know I hear that a lot, especially from the OG’s who were doing this back when surf photographers were raking it in, but fuck, I mean how much money do you need? I’m not stacking paper but my bills are paid, my kids taken care of and I’m travelling the world doing what I love while calling Hawaii base camp. I wake up every day and do whatever I want. Surf when I wanna surf, shoot when I wanna shoot. No one telling me to shave my face, tuck in my shirt, where and when to be. Life is good brother!

But then y’got some covers, tell me about ‘em.

Yeah I got a few, hopefully more to come. My first cover was with Freesurf which is the local mag here in Hawaii. It’s also the first mag to run one of my shots. I’m really grateful for all the support from them. I’ve got the cover of Stab this month as well. That one is a pretty big deal for me. Stab is the hottest surf mag on the planet right now, but I don’t don’t need to tell you that, you helped build that empire! Ghetto Juice’s slapped one of my shots of Wardo on the cover of this year’s Hawaii issue too. I couldn’t be more stoked with the way 2015 has started off for me.

What’s your money shot?

I got this shot of my friend Marcelo down in Tahiti. I’ve never seen anything like it. My camera was in the lip looking straight down on him. The water is so clear it looks like he’s in a bubble. It’s definitely my one the bests images I’ve captured.

What’s your strength as a photographer?

Barrels, I love shooting barrels! Fisheye, 50mm, Long lens from the channel, whatever.

What’s your weakness?

Motivation to shoot when the conditions are anything but perfect. If its cloudy, I’m going surfing but then I’ll see someone else nailing sick shots and I get all down on myself for slacking.

As far as I know, you’re one of the few photographers who hit a little juice? Why is that? 

Yeah, its weird. I know a lot of surf photogs that don’t even surf. I guess if you’re a surfer, the last thing you wanna do is watch your friend surf while you work. I’m getting barrelled either way, so I’m just stoked to be in the water. I’ve seen Hank Foto tow into some BOMBS though at the outer reefs. I might be the first photog to give Jaws a go but don’t quote me on that. Besides, I was shitting myself out there. That place is heavy! You know who is a closet ripper? Jimmy Wilson a.k.a Jimiicane. I think he won a Volcom contest in Florida one time. Brent Bielman rips too!

Do you believe in Jesus, that he’ll come and save you if you get stuck out there on some outer reef? 

Nah, I’m not into all that. Different strokes for different folks. I respect everyone’s beliefs but I don’t need to deal with the middle man when I can go straight to the source. I’ve got no doubt that there is something out there bigger then me and you and I make sure to keep the line of communication wide open and be grateful for life’s blessing but I wouldn’t feel right putting a label on it and telling everyone who doesn’t share my belief that they are gonna spend eternity in a fiery pit or their next life as a cockroach. I don’t have the answers but I think at the end of the day whether you pray to Jesus, Buddah, Allah or whoever, we’re all acknowledging the same higher power, God, just in a different style. Religion is like surfing, you might bodysurf or ride a boogie board while I’m on a thruster and she’s on a longboard or whatever but we’re all really just riding waves right?

When you lie in bed, at night, alone in the dark, what do you think about?

Before I was 20 I probably had a dozen friends from my neighbourhood die. Now I can’t even count them on all my fingers and toes but I think about them often. Car wrecks, drownings, overdose, murders, suicide, freak accidents, you name it. It’s wild and I can’t help but wonder when I’m next. Life is precious and you really gotta’ live every day like its your last.

What is the key, you believe, to a good life? 

The universe is gonna serve you up some Karma casserole on a silver platter, good or bad. Its a round world and it all comes back. You gotta give everyone a chance but don’t let anyone push you around either. Be kind, be grateful, be respectful, accept the path others chose for themselves, be righteous and be strong. Take care of the earth and it will take care of you. I don’t always get it right but those are the basics I try to live by.

Anything else you wanna holla at me? 

I wanna keep the ball rolling and continue to learn and grow as a photographer. Hopefully get on a hand full of trips this year and maybe even knock the freelance hustle and land and staff gig with a good company.

"Deep down I'm angry all the time," says Mitch Coleborn. | Photo: Courtesy of Little Lion photography/Epokhe

Mitch Coleborn: “Deep Down I’m Angry All the Time!”

A vintage interview that features sickly cameos from Craig Anderson and Jordy Smith… 

The well-known Australian surfer… but perhaps it’s best not say exactly which well-known Australian surfer –  they’re a sensitive breed!

And why would the gentlemen we’re about to surprise be an exception? But what the fuck, Mitch Coleborn, it is Mitch Coleborn, sits on one of the marble steps leading to the top floor of this, his penthouse suite. There are 17 altogether, plus four bedrooms, a dining area, kitchen (with open floorplan) flowing to a large living area flowing to a large deck. The floor is a white marble with grey veins and the ceiling lights are recessed. The bathrooms don’t have doors but opaque pull shades instead. The furniture is white leather. It feels, like, today. Modern, without being well-thought but also without being garish. It is the sort of modern that Balinese specialise in. Unobtrusive. Stainless steel appliances and smoked glass. The large deck overlooks Uluwatu.

Mitch is sitting and smiling broadly because he doesn’t feel the least bit sick. His voice is full of light. His Volcom Hawaiian print shirt pressed and unbuttoned three from the neck. Brixton sailor cap perched, jauntily, on his brown curls.

“So, yeah, last night. We went out for a sniff but kind of got there too early. Waaaaay too many Bintang singlets floating around. I had another shitty session yesterday, so I just fucken felt like a Bintang and then one drink led to another and I thought we’d go out and have a look and a couple more drinks and ummmmm…”

“What time was it Mitch? I didn’t think anyone would be out at all…” Craig Anderson, interrupting, is laying on one of the downstairs bedrooms’ queen beds. We surprise him too and he feels a lot sick. And he looks it, though fully dressed, his normally inquisitive chocolate eyes are dull and flat. His South African-tinged Australian accent weak.

“Ahhh, it was shit but it felt good just to get out of the fucking house,” Mitch continues. “And so we got there and Jordy just ruled. He’d talk to anyone. Anyone in the whole place.” Mitch’s laugh imitates his broad, healthy smile. It is robust.

“I was friendly,” Jordy clarifies. He is not surprised at all and is on another downstairs bedroom queen bed. A different bedroom from Craig, but both heads are pressed against the same interior wall and both doors are open. Craig and Jordy are mirror images of each other (as seen from the author’s perch in the hallway). Jordy is sick too. Sick in the stomach. Like Craig.

“Super friendly,” Mitch adds.

Did Jordy brave the night with sickness already gripping is large intestine or did the wretched curse take him midway?

“Uhhhh, last night it did come on. It was actually pretty weird. I was, like, talking and then the next thing I’d say is, ‘Ahhh, I have to stop talking to you because I have to go to the bathroom’.” Jordy looks disgusted with himself but also a touch amused. His eyes are on fire and he is tucked under his sheets plus baby blue comforter. He must be sicker than Craig.

What is Jordy’s prescription for stomach illness? Does he ride it out? Does he call for a doctor? The way a man handles illness, and especially that of the stomach, intrigues. “Ahhh, if I can get a doctor I get a doctor. One came in this morning.” Craig Anderson looks up, nods his head. He saw the doctor too. Then goes back to studying the casing on his computer. Mitch asks what he is looking at. “My computer. Someone dropped it on the floor.” (It was the author).

Jordy, suddenly animated, lifts up to an elbow, lounging like Cleopatra. “Well, that’s karma. Too much Facebooking. Yah.”

Does Craig do the most Facebooking out of anybody? Mitch doesn’t need to think. “

Yes,” he says.

Jordy too, “Without a doubt.”

Craig jumps to the defensive. “Ahhhhhh, whatever. You are the biggest liar ever.”

Jordy tells him he (Craig) bought three (and holds up his fingers to emphasise. Three. Even though Craig can’t see him) internet cards yesterday.

Craig parries, “Noooo! I bought one and then I lost it then I bought another one. You Skype and Facebook waaaay more than I do.”

Jordy seems shocked by this allegation. “No. That’s a lie.”

Craig presses. “No it’s not.” Jordy gives ground. “I might Skype. Skype yah. But that is talking face to face.”

Craig smugly asks, “Why do you Skype?” And Jordy ends this particular line of questioning with a tautology. “It is face to face.”

Silence. Mitch, looking at both Craig, who is lying on his back now, dark blue shorts scrunched high, and Jordy, who is still lounging like Cleopatra with sheet tight under his armpit, continues his story. “So we get to the bar, Craikey (Ry Craike) went to the bar and ordered…”

Jordy cuts in, “the worst fucking drink ever.”

Mitch laughs. “…these awfucking strawberry drinks but they were voted the best drinks in Bali. That’s what, that’s what pulled him into ‘em. And, they were easily the worst drink I’ve ever had. The whole thing was like pulp. Like red pulp. And you’d have a sip and then turn around, talking to the boys and they’d start laughing at ya and I was like, ‘I’ve got something in my teeth, don’t I?’ It’d be all red. Disgusting.”

Jordy adds the drinks had leaves in the bottom of them.

Craig is listening, not very amused. Would he have gotten that particular drink?

“No.” What would he have had? “A beer.”

Jordy disagrees. “Craig would have had a strawberry milkshake.”

In any case, the awfucking strawberry drinks led to one thing which led to another which led to the boys out at a tranny bar being ogled by beautiful (wo)men with beautiful adams apples. A big night indeed, but not necessarily out of place. These are professional surfers. And Jordy is the most professional. He is so big, even lying in bed, sick, still physically dominant. Wild eyes matched by a wild haircut chopped with dull shears, tousled by salt breezes, colored by sun. A black O’Neil shirt stained with life. If anyone were to be master of his fate, captain of his soul, it’d be Jordy Smith. He is South African. A poster of Afrikaner might.

Photographer Ryan Miller, editing pictures nearby, says, “I was with Jordy for, like, a week or 10 days in South Africa and out every single night and not one person said, ‘Hey are you Jordy Smith’ or  ‘Hey can I get an autograph?’ or ‘Hey can I get a photograph?’ One chick randomly, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the country, walked up and asked if she could get a photo. Asked where she was from. Newport Beach.”

Jordy says he thinks it’s better than cool to be left alone. “Yah, it’s awesome. It’s really good. It’s super mellow back home and I can just get away from everyone. Home is where you’d think people would want you more but it’s pretty cool to go home and just be able to relax.”

How often does he spend in South Africa every year, relaxing? “Maybe three or four months a year. You don’t get to spend much time anywhere in the world.”

Craig, listening in, says, “Three months is a long time to spend in one place. In a whole year, I haven’t even been home for four weeks this year.”

Mitch contributes a caveat, “That’s by your choice though. You little workhorse you. Comin’ on to the scene. Comin’ in hot. Fucken…  too cool to go on trips with Quiksilver.” Craig tells him to fuck off.

Mitch says, “Him and Dane.” Jordy laughs. Mitch laughs.

What is Mitch doing? “I’ll do the Europe leg of the QS. How fucken fun does that sound? Yeah, just try to get a few results in the bag so I can get into some comps next year. Fuck. I’ve been trying to get results but it hasn’t really happened yet.”

It really hasn’t happened. He has been no good, in competition. Why? “I don’t know. I’m not…  something is wrong. Jordy’s trying to be my mentor.” Does Jordy give tips? Mitch says he doesn’t ask for tips but Jordy gives anyhow. Do they help?

Jordy says, “We’ll all wait and see.”

At Margaret River Mitch didn’t get out of the trials. He is told Craig made it to the main event (as an injury wild card).

“Yeah, I got a 4.7.” Craig says, nonplussed.

In Brazil Mitch didn’t get past the round of 96. Craig asks, “Did you have three Brazzos in your heat?”

Mitch replies, “Two, and where is Arritz from?” Someone says, “France.”

Both Craig and Jordy say, “Spain.”

Jordy laughs, then asks Mitch what ticks him off. Mitch asks for clarification. Jordy clarifies. “What makes you angry? You’re never angry.”

Mitch asks, “I’m never angry?”

And Jordy tells him that he has never seen him angry.

Mitch says, “Deep down inside I’m pretty angry all the time.”

Jordy, intrigued, says, “Really?”

Mitch says, “Nahhh.”

Then Craig speaks up, “Remember at Reunion? You were pretty angry then. I was angry too. We had those meltdown sessions.”

And Mitch remembers. “Ah yeah, yeah, yeah. Bad freesurfing sessions piss me off way more than losing in a connest. Way more.”

Jordy understands this, instinctively. “Yah and if the waves are really good and you can’t surf…”

Mitch says, “Kind of like yesterday.” And Jordy continues, “I guess it’s all different. Sometimes in comps when the waves are really bad you have some of your best sessions.”

Mitch, looking a little bit forlorn, says, “I would way rather do that then when the waves are really good and you have a fucken bad session.”

Does he ever punch his board? “Yes.”

Does Craig, “Nah, not really.”

Does Jordy? “I used to when I was younger. I started hitting the stringer and it hurt so I started punching my grip.”

Craig asks, “Punching the grip?” And Jordy responds, “Yah.” Craig says, “Punching the grip. I’ve done that before and I punched through to the other side. Punch right through it. I’ve done that before.” Clean through? “No, no, not my whole hand but like a ding on the other side.”

Jordy says, “Wow Craig. You must be strong.”

Mitch laughs, free and easy, “Craig probably really has to shit but he has this paranoia. Like, look at the bathroom. There is no wall. You can just lift the blind up. He probably needs to shit so bad right now. Look at him. You should just go shit in the pool.”

Craig says, “I don’t need to shit. I promise.”

Craig keeps his promise. The next day Mitch, Jordy and Craig surf world-class Keramas. The day after too. They return to the penthouse each night before going out and being large. They each live the life you wish you could.

(Editor’s note: This interview was recorded five-ish years ago and first appeared in Stab magazine.)

Conner Coffin with copy of The New Yorker
When Conner Coffin isn't reading The New Yorker, the 21-year-old surfer from Santa Barbara in California is head-deep in historical novels like Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth. "The book traces the development of Gothic architecture out of the preceding Romanesque architecture, and the fortunes of the Kingsbridge priory and village against the backdrop of historical events of the time." It's a classic! | Photo: Miles Pitt

(Audio) Conner Coffin reads The New Yorker

The Santa Barbara surfer and star of Cluster reads a comedic piece called I Will Slap You…

To find Conner Coffin, who is currently embedded on the Qualifying Series, the intrepid journalist must foray into the wilds of Newcastle, a regional centre two hours north of Sydney. Outside hotels with names like West End Accommodation barefooted women of fantastic builds share cigarettes and noisy curses; in the cliff-top carpark that I use to find my geographical markers (Dixon Park is… that way!), the lovers in the P-Plated Daewoo share a colourfully painted bong.

And, therefore, when Conner is found in the beachfront apartment that he is sharing with his brother Parker, another surfer of Tahitian good looks but whose name slipped me by and his filmer Ryan Perry, the first thing I say is, “Man, this is a bleak town!”

“Oh, we love it,” says Parker. “The girls!”

“And there’s waves every day,” says Conner.

Positivity! I should try a little of it sometime.

The piece I asked Conner to read is by Colin Jost called I Will Slap You. It appears in the February 9, 2015 issue.

“Did you choose this piece because you want me to slap someone?” he asks.

I reply that I enjoy the comedic meter of the piece.

“I slapped Tom Carey once,” says Conner.





Brinkley Davies diving
Brinkley Davies, pictured here, has seen six Great Whites while surfing and, once, while diving off the coast of Adelaide, South Australia, came face to face with a White. As a just-certified marine biologist, she works on a Great White dive boat off Port LIncoln. If this 53-kilo enchantress doesn't panic at the sight of a Great White, why should we? | Photo: Brinkley Davies

Revealed: How to Terrify a Great White!

First, you'll need a pod of aggressive orcas, says Ms Brinkley Davies…

You’ve been introduced to Brinkley Davies, the freediving, barrel-hunting surfer marine biologist from South Australia before.

First, here at Stab; later, here, on BeachGrit.

Last time I spoke to Brinkley, the now-22-year-old, was putting the gloss coat on her degree in marine biology and was planning on spending the summer down there at South Australia’s neptune islands, near the fishing town of Port Lincoln. The Neptunes are famous for one thing and one thing only.

Great Whites. Monster Great Whites. Sharks six-metres long and five-and-a-bit wide.

And, so, for the past few months, Brinkley has been working with Adventure Bay Charters, a Great White cage-diving operation that differs from most because they don’t bloody the water to attract sharks. Instead of the diver’s experience of Great Whites being the horror of bloody mouths grabbing the cage with rows of see-sawing teeth and with eyes protected by their second eyelid (haunting!), the diver sees a relatively passive, inquisitive animal.

But, lately, no Whites! Let’s ask why! Maybe, as we all hit various panic and fear buttons after the Byron attacks, it’ll give us a handle on how to keep ’em away…

BeachGrit: So, what happened to all the Whites? 

Brinkley: Well, we haven’t seen one in two weeks, ever since a couple of Orcas came through and killed a a big male behind our boat. Neptune is a sanctuary and there’s usually heaps every day. The only people I’ve known who’ve seen a White lately have been a couple of my friends who saw one at Blacks (a popular surf break).

How’d did the Orcas smoke the White? 

First they take it down with their mouth or slam it with their body weight. After they kill, Orcas are picky eaters, so they’ll eat the liver and a few other things and leave the carcass. Right now it’s sitting on the sea floor. That’s why the sharks haven’t come back.

What a welcome!

Yeah, Great Whites rock up to the Neptunes, think, What on earth has killed this other Great White? Obviously, no other sharks come in that area ’cause of the Great Whites so it’s a bit of a ghost town. There are a lot of questions being thrown around, as in where have they gone? They might have migrated back to Perth early because of the Orcas. Who knows?

Tell me about your relationship with Great Whites… 

I spend a fair bit of time on the boat, on our cage-diving boat, no burley or bait, so all the interactions are really calm, very inquisitive. They swim up directly underneath or side-on and check you out. Going out and seeing an animal that’s been made to be aggressive by burleying as opposed to an animal in their natural habitat completely shifts the experience. People come on our boat and instead of saying, “That was so scary”, they’re, “Wow! What an amazing beautiful animal! So big and so amazing up close!” That’s how I want to see them. Surfing around here, especially, you don’t want to be looking at sharks in an aggressive aspect. I’ve seen Great Whites freediving outside the cage. I saw one off the coast of Adelaide and it looked at me and swum away. It wasn’t scary at all. People see them searing regularly over here. It’s just… how it is. There are mixed opinions. Most people accept that South Australia is a hot spot for Great Whites.

How important are Great Whites, y’think?

They’re amazing apex predators and, therefore, so important in the food chain. Just because people are scared doesn’t mean we should get rid of ’em. Because they’re right at the top, or at least behind Orcas, everything would get thrown out of balance if they were to disappear. A couple of years ago, there weren’t too many sharks and the increased seal population started eating penguins, wiping out an entire colony. Whites have been here since the dinosaurs. They didn’t die from disease or pollution. They clean up our mess and they kill the weak and the dying. That’s a massively important thing. That’s how evolution works.

What colour eyes do they have? I hear they’re baby blues like you! 

All the eyes I’ve seen are black. Quite often, they’ll roll their second eyelid over when they attack, when they’re grabbing a boat. Most of the time, it’s all black, no pupils.

Tell me about their amazing swimming abilities! 

There’s the western population that goes from South Australia all the way to Exmouth (in northern Western Australia) and the eastern population that goes from Tassie all the way up to Cairns (in northern Queensland). All the sharks here are from the western population. But there has to be a breeding ground nearby. We had a White visit that was way bigger than our boat, a massive animal, then some two-metre males and then a White the size of a tuna. What the hell?

Ok, enough small talk, although I love small talk. Why all the Great White activity? Y’got a theory? 

Well… there’s so much hype on the east coast at the moment. Those two attacks in Byron were, more likely, from a bull shark. The thing is, the media has been thrashing it. We’re just looking harder. They’re spotter planes, lifeguards and heaps of people in the water. There’s no actual statistics that prove they’re more Great Whites than usual. At this time of year, all the juvenile Great Whites come straight from their breeding grounds and cruise. It’s where they live! It’s where they swim! They’re one to two km off the coast, that’s totally normal. People in their tinnies film these sharks swimming off their boats and then post it on YouTube. Anyone can get a shark to swim around their boat!

How about in South Australia? Much happening in the surf?

Where I live, everyone has seen someone get attacked. My boyfriend (Tyron Swan, who’s rad. Click here!) saw his friend Monkey (Andrew McLeod) get attacked by a Pointer. It came up from underneath, grabbed his board sideways. Just smashed him from the bottom! It’s pretty exposed down here and in WA. But, unlike, the east coast, we don’t have big muddy rivermouths reaching out into the ocean. Ballina, for example. All those break-walls and muddy outlets everywhere. It’s bull shark heaven. Bull sharks are aggressive.

So, back to the Orca thing, let’s say, and this is cruel, but y’gotta be cruel to be kind, right? How about we slaughter one Great White and we chain in to the bottom of the ocean out the back of every surf spot. No Whites!

It’s a theory, but on the east coast, you have a lot of scavenger sharks, tigers, reef sharks, and they’ll eat dying and decaying animals. A White won’t eat something that’s dead, generally, maybe they’ll have a swing at a whale carcass, but they won’t eat an actual shark carcass. So you might scare off the Great Whites but you’ll bring in the other sharks.

What would you do if a Great White was coming towards you?

Thing thing is, they’re bottom attacking predators. That’s when you get nailed. It comes straight out of nowhere. If I did see one swimming around, and they do swim with their nose out of the water and their eye looking around, I’d get a wave in. I totally get it that I’m in their environment and if I get nailed I don’t stand a chance. I weigh 53kg  (slender!) compared to a one-and-a-half tonne animal.
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