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…)

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