Religious photo
Which way y'gonna swing: Jesus, Mo, Abraham, Ronny L Hubbard?

Thank you! Bless you! Fuck you!

Your guide to the world's top religions… 

God saw fit to create man in His image. Man saw fit to create hundreds of creeds. You know, to thank Him.

Buddhism: Founded in the 5th century BC by a skinny rich Indian kid named Gautma. No, not whoowhoowhoo Indian, rikkitikkitavvi Indian. He was bummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmed about having a super rich king father who tried to shield him from life’s suffering. His mean jerk father built him many palaces and gave him every little thing he ever wanted. Wine, women and song. A real piece of shit. Eventually, Gautma escaped his father’s velvet oppression and saw that life sucks balls. He saw an old man, a dead man, and a monk. Maybe he saw a sick man too, I’m a little hazy. Anyhow, he decided to go solve the problem of suffering. So he sat under a sacred fig tree and thought and thought and VOILA! He figured that shit out! There are four noble truths and an eightfold path. If you try reallllly hard, like Gautma did, you reach Nirvana. Kurt Cobain comes out of the clouds and tells you about the true nature of reality. No more allusions/disillusions. Life without suffering, amen. The real trick, though, was how the Buddha went from being a skinny rikkitikkivavi to an obese Chinaman. Eh? Eh?

Christianity: The Western Buddhism. Just kidding. No one has ever called Christianity the Western Buddhism (except Richard Gere who is mistaken about lots of things). Christianity came on the scene exactly at 0 AD. It’s awesome like that. Jesus was born on Christmas day (awesome) and didn’t do anything until he was in his thirties. Remember the horrible TV show thirtysomething. Uh, it was hideous, but Jesus’ thirtysomethings were cool. He walked around turning water into wine, multiplying everyone’s lunches and talking about peace and love. Oh yeah, and he said he was God. Sounds like a real hippie-fest, and maybe it was. Anyhow, Jesus was Jewish and the Jews didn’t like all this “peace and love and I’m God” garbage so they put a hit out on him. As usual, Italians took care of the situation.

Jesus wasn’t done though. He came back to life (like AC/DC did on Back in Black after Bon Scott died) and then went to heaven. His followers took the peace and love and ran with it…by becoming the most bloodthirsty batch of nuts in history. Seriously, When, in the 1500s, Christians had successfully destroyed all-comers they had to split in order for them to keep drawing blood. Thus, Catholics and Protestants kicked each other in the crotch until they rediscovered Islam in the 1970s.

Mormonism: Mormonism is to religion what Miss Sixty is to haute couture. Not. It started as a purely American “doctrine” in New York and I, literally, can’t think of anything worse. Joseph Smith, the first prophet of the Momos, found some buried golden tablets that spoke of ancient Israelite inhabitants of America and their dealing with God. He magically translated the tablets while hiding under a black sheet and using seer stones. Ugh.

The basic tenants of Mormonism are weird and pointless. They involve holy underpants, spirit babies, black people being cursed and three-hour church services.

None of this matters at all and I wouldn’t even have dignified bringing it up save one fact. The next leader of the free world will be a Mormon. Ugh. Seriously, Hillary Clinton doesn’t stand a chance and Mitt Romney will skate right through to the ’08 Presidency of the United States. The next four years will feel like a giant Leave it to Beaver episode. Except instead of Wally and the Beav it’ll be Wally, the Beav and fifteen other siblings. Gaudy Greek revival architecture will be the norm, two sizes too big black pants and white short sleeve button ups will replace skinny jeans, bikes will replace cars and it’ll be a felony offense to ride without a hideous plastic helmet. The word ‘modesty’ will be used with abandon along with archaic slang like, “You’re such a stud muffin.”

Soon you will be dreaming of those heady years from ‘01 through ’07 when a real God fought a real Allah and rejects like the Angel Moroni, Charles Taze Russell, and L. Ron Hubbard weren’t even let in to the auditorium.

Judaism: Do I have to? Judaism is not very pretty, I’m sorry. This has nothing to do with the belief system; it has everything to do with their skullcaps. I don’t like, on purely aesthetic grounds.

Ok Ok Ok, Judaism is the first of the big three (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). Abraham lived in Iraq and God chose him to be his person. Abraham motored around the Middle East and had lots of kids who also became God’s people.

Later, all of Abraham’s children became slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years, then Moses came along and you’ve seen the DreamWorks hit cartoon, “The Prince of Egypt.”

So all the Jews, as they were now called, ended up in Israel and lived happily ever after. JUST KIDDING! They’ve been butchered by everyone from Adolf Hitler to Zadolf Zitler (he was an evil Persian king).

The basic belief structure is centered on one God who will someday send a Messiah to save the world. His name was Jesus and he was born in 0 AD.

Islam: Islam is hot hot hot right now. I think it’s the fastest growing religion in the world, or that’s what they say. In the year 700 AD a nice, young merchant named Mohammed wandered off to a cave on the Arabian Peninsula and Allah (through the angel Gabriel) told him some stuff. No he didn’t need a black sheet and seer stones, all he needed was a brain and mouth, like regular folk.

Mohammed ran back to his hot wife (he married a very attractive older lady) and told her, his friends and everyone what he had learned. Pretty soon, BAM, Islam! (Think Christianity minus Jesus is God and Judaism minus crappy sweet wine).

The new Muslims were persecuted by mean pagan villagers but Allah sent birds to drop rocks on them and they were smooshed. Today the Muslims are being persecuted by mean Republican Americans. Allah is sending birds (airplanes) carrying rocks (illegal aliens) to drop on them.

Atheism: Atheists don’t believe in God. They believe in the power of human reason and worship the internal combustion engine and Intel Pentium processors.

Hinduism: Wow. Hinduism, literally, didn’t know when to stop. It’s the world’s oldest religion and sometimes has billions of gods and sometimes has just one God sometimes named Brahman and sometimes Vishnu and sometimes Shakti. It grew on the Indian subcontinent around 5000 BC. I think all I can say about Hindus is that they believe stuff. If I say, for instance, that they believe the soul is eternal…lots of them don’t. And if I say they believe in grace…lots of them don’t. So they believe stuff. The stuff usually includes ideas of reincarnation and fucking up your reincarnation by doing stupid shit (karma). When you finally bust out of the cycle of birth and re-birth it’s sometimes called Moksha and sometimes called going to McDonalds for a vanilla milkshake.

Cows are popular in Hinduism. So are burning dead bodies on the Ganges River, doodling swastikas, doing Yoga, convincing Gwen Stefani to wear a bindi (the red forehead dot) and your religion. Yup, in Hinduism all roads lead to God or Vishnu or Shakti or Allah…

Scientology: Is the religion founded by the science-fiction author L. Ron Hubbard. Human beings are actually thetans (spirits) who are trapped in a meat body, or carbon-oxygen machine. Each thetan has many past lives on earth and in extraterrestrial cultures. It’s the job of the thetan to purge engrams (negative experiences), become a Clear and control the universe (you do this by hooking up to an E-meter).

You see, millions of years ago, Xenu, the leader of the Galactic Confederacy, brought millions of humans to earth in DC-8s and blew them up with hydrogen bombs. All of these became body thetans and cause trouble by attaching to other thetans, creating engrams.

When you become a Clear or Operating Thetan of a high level, you help others. Eventually you will go to space but you can find your way back because the Trementina Base is visible from satellites. L. Ron Hubbard is in a galaxy next to ours. Tom Cruise is a Sea Org. 80 trillion years ago people on earth wore the same clothing and drove, pretty much, the same cars. In 6235 BC Earth was invaded by aliens with horrible-looking hands. The Marcab Confederacy is still active. The Maw Confederation accomplished total psychiatric control by smashing meat body faces into super cooled sheets of glass. Earth was originally called Teegeeack. Your first stop after death is Venus (at a landing station). Moses used a disintegrator pistol on Pharaoh.

I can’t top this shit.

Shinto: Is awesome. You never have to actually become a Shintoist to be a Shintoist. All yous gots to be is born in Japan. Booorn in the Nippon-koku, I’m a cool rocking papa-san in the Nippon-koku… . There are no commandments except to live simply with nature. After you die you become a kami, or spirit and eat fruit off high little shelves in people’s houses or Japanese restaurants. Super quaint and well behaved.

It wasn’t always that way, though. Back before and during World War II Shinto was the state religion, and boy was it ever! All Japanese school children had to swear their li’l bods to the state, worship the emperor and fly airplanes into battleships. Kaaaamikazeeee. Hirohito, the emperor during WWII and well after (since he lived to be 137) feasted on the worship of his Shinto people, then feasted on their radiation-poisoned flesh…that’s just rude and uncalled for. I’m sorry. Shinto is nice.

The Dalai Lama: Dude gets his own religious write-up. He’s supposed to be a Buddhist, but right now he’s more hip than Gautma Buddha ever was. Dalai Lamas are actually ancient reincarnations (not from Helotrubus or Targ, either) and the present one is number 14. His name is Tenzin. The Lamas are also supposed to be in Tibet, but China is being a cranky little bitty and not letting this one come home. Oh will, there’s always the next incarnation.

Lots of famous people really groove on him, including the Beastie Boys. That’s lame of me. Twice in a row. First I talked about Hirohito feasting on radiated flesh and now the Beasties? I really apologize. The Beastie Boys aren’t famous and it’s uncool to juxtapose them with anyone, much less a Dalai Lama. Anyhow, he’s rad and peaceful… unless the Tibetan national soccer team is taking on China then he’s black with rage.

Morocco photo
"Thank you! Bless you! Fuck you!"

The trick is not minding that it hurts

Returning to past loves.

The second, chronologically, love of my life, second to surfing, was the Middle East. There was something dangerous, romantic, exotic, naughty about lands where Islam ruled and I craved it as a child and I ran to Egypt as soon as I could to study. In the years that followed I went everywhere lots. Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Somalia (even though not Middle East) but then I just stopped. I don’t know why, exactly. Maybe it got too weird? Maybe to have the right kind of fun meant dying?

The last time Arabic tickled my ears was, anyhow, too long ago. Maybe 2010. It was, before ISIS and before the Arab Spring and before mass beheadings were totally du jour. It was also before weekly attacks in Europe and Je Suis Charlie. Or, not for me. I’ve always been Charlie, but for everyone else. It was before the “west” was officially at war with the entire region. Back when I studied and spent much time I would come home extolling the virtues of Islam. That it was misunderstood. That it was a viable alternative discourse. I don’t feel the same way anymore. ISIS has made it look like shit and the lack of any coherent opposition to that black hideousness is mind-bending.

Of course Morocco has not fallen on crazy times like Syria or even Egypt. It does not have an ISIS branch. It is not dangerous. For now, it is a relatively stable constitutional monarchy that gets along with Europe. Many surfers now go and I will surf too but mostly I’m just excited to hear Arabic again. And the call to prayer. Old loves die hard.

Craig Anderson’s Search for Meaning

The 17 philosophical tenets of the star of Cluster and Slow Dance…

In the event of a philosophical slam among surfers, there’s no intellectual parapet I’d like to hide behind more than Craig Anderson. Wise beyond years (27 this year) and anything but obstinate. Port Elizabeth (South Africa) born, Newcastle (Australia) raised. A man of the world, a pacifist, a man immune to any provocation.

Here, Craig expands upon the central topics of: surfing, women, drugs, booze, friendship, fame, politics and more…

Surfing… is about having fun. Looking back to when I was a grom, it was all about having fun but also wanting to be a professional surfer. Now that that’s happened, it’s just all about having fun.

Women… I think of in the context of the bigger picture. I look at my mum and dad and just hope I can find a wife that’s as cool as my mum. I’m not really out there to play the game.

Fame… is pretty fucked. I’ve seen a little bit of it just hanging out with Jordy. Even with (Matt) Hoy, the other day we were standing there and this guy Hoy’d never met came up and started talking to him. He ended up bringing out his boards and showing them to Hoy, just chewing Hoy’s ear off for half an hour. Famous dudes would get that all the time.

Friendship… is everything. Having good friends and friendships you’ll remember forever is what makes life, life.

Politics… don’t thrill me, that’s for sure. I wish I was the smarter guy that read the paper everyday and gave a shit about all that stuff, but I just don’t really care.

Religion… is super important to me. I grew up in a Christian family and I still have those beliefs. Now I’m older I don’t really practice them as much as I should, but I still have those beliefs and morals. It just gets a bit tough, especially coming from a Christian family and getting flung into the surf scene which is pretty much sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. I still make an effort everyday to make the right decisions and be a good person.

Alcohol… is bad. Lately, I’ve been drinking a fair bit. It’s not good for you. I’ve had a lot of fun drinking alcohol, but it’s like a drug. It’s definitely addictive. You can’t go out, not drink and then have the same amount of fun. The more I drink, the dumber I feel. I wish I could just read a book and get the same pleasure out of it.

Drugs… are really fucking dumb. There’s not one good thing about them.

Style… just happens. I don’t wake up every morning and think about what to wear or go out and surf and think about it.

Training…  is good for keeping fit, but just surfing’s enough for what I do. I’d love to spend time at the gym, doing push-ups or whatever people do, but I don’t really have time.

Sponsors… make surfing what it is. The companies behind it make it all possible. It’s got me to where I’m now, which I’m grateful for. There’s always someone who’s got something nasty to say about the brands, but they make it all happen, it’s surfing. I’m grateful for them. They make the surfing world go ’round.

The Internet…  keeps the world spinning. I’m on it a fair bit, whether I’m trying to get ideas or inspiration or whatever. Everyone around the world can jump on it and see the same thing. Y’can call that the ultimate tool of the egalitarian.

Surfboards… should be whatever you have fun on. A year or two ago everyone was riding the same sort of boards, but then Dane and Kelly started going shorter and wider. Rob Machado and Rasta have always ridden weird boards too and I only realised when I jumped on one just how different it was. I just rode the wave and kicked out, but I realised how much more challenging and fun it was. It makes you appreciate surfing.

Controversy… ain’t my scene. Whether it’s fighting or this person saying that or whatever, I’d rather not be a part of it. I just do my thing. But you kinda need it there to make life interesting. If there was a world without controversy, it’d be a pretty boring place. So you need it, but I’ll stay clear.

Travel… helped me grow as a person. If I look at myself now compared to how I was back before I’d traveled, it definitely helped. Sometimes I wish I could go camp out, experience a place and not have to worry about stuff. Every trip I do, I do the same thing: fly in, surf five times a day and try to get clips or photos, then fly out. I’d love to just fly into a place and really learn about it and hang out. I can’t even remember half of the trips I do.

Hawaii… is tradition. It’s an amazing place, but it can be bit of a show. Maybe in 50 years it’ll be different, but that’s where it all started. It’s part of surfing.

Home… is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where my family is. It’s where I feel the most relaxed.

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…)