But his post-heat interviews will be uproarious! The spirit will soar!
Now before we get into this, let me make one thing clear, I love Mason to death. My favourite surfer? Yeah, he’s close. Head-checks, backside alley-oops, backside tweaked-out method grabs, disco floaters plus the general not-giving-a-fuck-what-anyone-else-in-the-world is doing, especially on a piece of foam and fibreglass. Mason Ho is fan-fucking-tastic, if I’m going to be honest.
The newly signed Rip Curl Hawaiian has the wildcard entry into the Bells Beach World Tour event and this will mark his first ever appearance in a World Tour event.
And he won’t make a single heat.
You see, Mason ain’t known for grinding out turns in creaky little waves. Against the three-times Bells winner Mick Fanning? Fred Pattachia? Those old horses who’ve thrown their lives at the Tour? Who understand, implicitly, what World Tour judges want?
Mason is the antithesis of Mick, and this is why Rip Curl signed the 26 year old. He makes surfing look like more of a hoot than anyone out there, hunting his closeouts on dry reef while riding those colourful beefed-out Mayhems.
Epic right? Well, not really. When was the last time you saw a chop-hop in a heat? A switchfoot? Or when someone got naked mid-wave? Mason is famous for fun surfing. But fun surfing is not World Tour surfing. Mason will have to change his entire wave outlook to stand a chance against any one of the world’s best.
Remember we’re talking about Bells here, the fattest wave on tour, where tubes are seldom seen and air sections are few and far between (unless you’re Kelly whose Bells huck-to-the-flats is surely implanted in your memory bank). The rail game has always reigned supreme out here and Mason’s rail game while solid is not the focus of his repertoire.
Bells also has a habit of eating rookies alive. The supernatural cauldron of eyes beaming down on you has played on everyone from Kolohe to Kerrzy and Mason is up against the wall. Having not shown the form to qualify through the WQS and a lack of winning experience at a wonky ole wave like Bells will leave Mason with his hands full from the get-go.
Oh yeah, and it’s cold. Like real cold. Hawaiian surfers don’t get a lot of full-suit time and have struggled here as a result. The last Hawaiian to make a final appearance out here was the late great Andy Irons with the new breed struggling to make an impact in recent years. Mason has the froth with his collection of brand new Curl steamers but that shiver sure is hard to shake.
Mason, I hope you read this and go out and prove me wrong. I want nothing more than for you to combo Fred and Mick in the first round. I want you to cheater-five all the way to the final and out-boogie the whole damn tour, come in, and then show ’em how to nail a post-heat interview.
Bring it on Mason, bring it on.
Hope: The new GPS watch will make you a better surfer!
Rip Curl will change your life with bulky plastic trinket!
I was in a cafe eating bagels when my companion reached for a slice of seared tuna from the unfinished plate of the just-departed diners next to us. As his arm reached across me, the shirt-sleeved pushed back enough to reveal a bulky plastic watch, the sort you might’ve seen on children in the eighties. It was a squared-off, all-black device that protruded from his wrist like a pyramid with the point sawn off.
“Rolex?” I said, irony heavy.
“Rip Curl,” he said, forking the tuna into his mouth.
By Rip Curl he meant the Rip Curl GPS watch, fashioned from the same technology that Billabong had knocked back during its terrible time with buy-outs and revolving CEOs.
I’d seen ’em online and knew Rip Curl had squeezed some of the most fabulous surf-centric software into its little anodes and transistors and valves. What use was irony to me now? What use was allegiance to everything hip when what I wanted, as a surfer, was here before me in this plastic shell?
I begged, “Get me one.”
My pal has contacts. Three days later, a box was dropped onto my doorstep containing my own GPS watch. The watch comes in a small white container with simple instructions and a charger that bites the undercarriage of the watch like an inquisitive shark.
I’ve had it for one week, or four surfs. I’ve ridden a total of 54 waves, paddled 14.5km, reached a top speed of just over 30 clicks and danced upon a wave that traversed over 140 metres of Pacific ocean.
I follow the surfers Mick Fanning, Owen Wright and Matt Wilkinson on the Rip Curl Watch app and find my numbers compare favourably, although mine are at Bondi; theirs are at Pipeline and Bells.
Mostly, I’m a lazy surfer, or at least I was. Pre-watch, I’d paddle out the back, sing a few tunes, engage pals in conversation, wait for sets, get one out of every three if I was lucky, most surfs coming in at six waves or thereabouts. In and out within thirty minutes.
Now I’ve got a wave-count meter staring at me. How long can you look at the number one on your wrist? Or two? Fifteen is now my lowest acceptable number. Paddle distance enthrals me (fitness!) so I traverse the beach looking for banks, looking to up my wave count, of course, but also to get the kilometres ticking over.
The money figure is top speed. Who knew 30 clicks could be so fast? Who knew how often we stagnate at around 23 or 24 k’s or, if the surf is weak, between 12 and 16. If you really wanna go fast, you have to try harder, and harder than you think. Already, I’ve learned that one pump into a critical-enough turn will up the speedo. It’s addictive and I’ve developed a no-prisoner approach, even in crowds.
Are you really going to paddle over that shoulder and force me to lose precious momentum just to avoid you when my vanity is at stake? A stutter along the wave could mean the difference between something in the high-twenties and the thirties. What a thrill it is to skim your fingers and see your bewildered eyes!
Downsides? Yeah, there’s a few. Run fast and hard enough into the water and it’ll count it as a wave (but you can lose it with the software’s trimming device). Apparently if you pump your arm fast enough back and forth it’ll add a little too. If you thought surfing was a way of getting away from staring at your phone, well, don’t tell me you won’t be staring at his.
And, with precious data at stake, every surf becomes a heated battle with yourself.
I like it. I love it. I live for it.
When I forgot to charge it and arrived at the beach to surf yesterday, I didn’t paddle out.
What if I succeeded in creating a new benchmark in my stats? What use would it be?
I was routinely mocked for posting a 93 week old Instagram feud as “news.” “I’M SAVING EVERYONE A CLICK” @VishOnaMish tweeted and on the surface she was right. How can anything noteworthy exist so long ago? Except the journalist’s heart beats true. His nose can smell a story even through 93 weeks of stink. And I was right!
It turns out that Ricardo Toledo, young Filipe’s father, is a stone cold shred. Like, he really rips. And who would have known that, I ask? Who amongst you would have known that Ricardo Toledo is arguably the best surf dad out there right now? He even stone cold shreds in lycra short shorts making me rethink the boardshort altogether. So cumbersome! So much extra material! Jimmy Wilson, photographer extraordinaire and not one to pull punches says, “Did you know he was two time Brazilian champ? He’s a badass. I just watched him get spit out of barrels at Lakey Peak last week. I’m a big fan of Ricardo.”
So there you have it. As of right now, Filipe Toledo is the World Surf League’s first champion and his father, Ricardo surfs better than any other father who has a child on tour.
Dino, are you reading? Would you like to participate in a BeachGrit sponsored surf-off between you and Ricardo and prove me wrong? Ritchie Collins, do you feel that competitive fire burning? Mike Snips Parsons? Ummmm. You don’t count. Kolohe is not your son.
Alex Gray is a fine young-ish (27, maybe 28) man who grew up in a Los Angeles costal suburb and has carved a name for himself chasing monster swells. He is, in my experience, very pleasant and easy with all manner of small talk. I believe our last conversation was behind a curtain backstage somewhere. Maybe during a Brian Setzer x Mike Ness show? I can’t be entirely certain. I only remember chuckling together. Apparently, though, not everyone feels the same.
World Surf League front-runner, and major part of The Brazilian Storm, (New York Times does piece today!) Filipe Toledo’s father thinks poorly of Mr. Gray, posting the above picture on his Instagram account with the caption:
“hei alex gay…sorry, gray, I think you this wanting suck my dick! sorry but will not give, I am well settled sexually, and besides, my wife will kill you!!! Fuck yourself…(winky smiley face sticking out tongue).”
Granted, the missile was launched 93w ago, an eternity in social media, but it has newfound value with Filipe’s rise to the top. Whatever could have transpired to cause such ire? Is it settled or does this blood feud stretch back generations? BeachGrit will not rest until we have answers, but until then you can ponder these other questions:
What is Mr. Toledo wearing whilst SUPping? Was Alex Gray SUPping too? Is it a SUP feud? If SUP feuds were televised as Mad Max meets Roman gladiator brawls (think beefy men with giant spikes on paddles, shields, etc. slowly meandering down the line toward each other…) would you watch? Who would be the WSL SUP FEUD WORLD CHAMPION?
It’s official! Kelly Slater has “70 percent of Firewire!”
Firewire founder Nev Hyman and the joy of Kelly Slater taking the wheel of his biz…
The Firewire founder Nev Hyman knew he’d done it, knew he’d created the game changer he’d been working on for 30 years when he was on a layover at Helsinki airport, Finland.
On an email, the Tahitian surfer Michel Bourez had written that he needed new boards for Teahupoo. Adjust this, change that etc.
Nev, who let’s be honest, was until that point happy swallowing the flaxen-haired gals loping by in their torn denim and bustiers with as much gusto as he was his inhaling his little espressos. What man with blood still in his veins doesn’t? But Nev opened up his AKU Shaper software, made the adjustments and emailed ’em to the Firewire factory in Thailand.
Nev knew they’d be finished, packed, and then sent to Tahiti where, four weeks later, Michel would open up the giant box and see his new improvised sleds.
Nev closed his computer and thought, “I’ve done it. Boards, one hundred per cent finished, without me touching ’em.”
You ever hear of Nev Hyman? Maybe not. Short memories. Before I swing into the biz of Kelly Slater and his “70 per cent-plus” stake in Firewire, which is now official and there’ll be a press release from Firewire shortly, let’s talk a little about Nev. It’s worth the circumvent, it’ll give you a handle on the brand, so hang in there.
Nev is a 57-year-old surfboard shaper from Perth in Western Australia. When he was 20 he shifted to the Gold Coast and, soon, became one of its most popular shapers. Nev Surfboards – who thought that name could fly?
But Nev was always a smart cat. In the late eighties he was the guy who threw it on the line to not only champion machines that could shape boards from a computer program, but poured money into it. His dream was to shape a board on his laptop, send the details to a machine, and have it finish the board 100 per cent. Ready to ride.
The APS3000 and AKU Shaper machines and Shape 3-D software exist because of Nev. Because he believed in the technology even when it was deeply unpopular to do so. Because as much as he loved shaping, as much as he got off on those lucrative 15-board-a-day runs in Japan where he’d shape so much his fingers would bleed, he wanted to design. He wanted to watch a guy at Pipe, adjust his shape accordingly and, a few hours later, the new improved board would be on the sand ready to ride.
Nev shaped boards for every great surfer around, from Andy to Taj to Kelly and more. His retro-rocket and kick-tail models in the nineties were championed by the best local surfers.
What Nev struck on his way to creating a process that’d make 100 per cent finished boards possible was the impossibility of doing it with regular polyurethane blanks. Too much movement in the machine.
And then Nev heard about the Western Australian shaper Bert Burger and his unique process of building boards via his Sunova brand. Nev bought the company, brought the Burger family over to Queensland and, together, they started working together on what was, still then, Nev surfboards.
In 2005, new investors came in, and the former pro surfer and co-creator of Tavarua (as well as the clothing brand) and VP of Reef was brought in as General Manger, something that’s gotta happen when you’re creating something you want to be… big. That’s going to shift the entire industry.
The group took the brand to a trade show in San Diego and the response was encouraging. But when they got back to Queensland Nev faced an uncomfortable request.
As in, the name ain’t gonna cut it.
Nev? The brand’s 30 years old. This is… new. Nev was working with some of the smartest marketers in the biz. He took it on the chin. Mark Price, who’d become CEO in 2007, came up with Firewire, which went down well with Apple computers. Miraculously, after legal back-and-forthing, and the realisation that Firewire surfboards was only going after the surfboard biz not our souls, Apple backed off.
The next few years were various shades of hell. Production was tough. Taj Burrow was winning events on the boards, demand was there, but the factories in San Diego and Burleigh Heads just couldn’t get it right, says Nev. As well, there was the issue of “piece rates.”
In the surfboard game, historically, you make x-amount for your part of the process. Glasser gets whatever, ghost shaper, whatever, all the way down the line. It works when there’s a dozen or so boards a week. When the process is streamlined, when the production line is jamming hundreds of boards a week it’s unsustainable.
Hence the company’s move to Thailand, where it owns two factories. Nev ain’t one to shirk the Asian origin of Firewire’s boards. The factories are spotless, he says, there’s no dangerous chemicals like acetone, catalysts etc, 60 per cent of the workers are gals (hello ladies!) and they’re all paid higher than average wages. Nev figures, what’s the difference between jobs created in Thailand and those created in Australia or the US? We’re global, yeah?
But back to Kelly. Firewire approached Kelly midway through last year. Kelly happened to be on the market, too, looking for something to pour his formidable intellect (and wealth) into. He bit, he bought.
“I said to Kelly, you will not only be the best surfer in the world but the best surfboard-designer,” says Nev. “Combine that level of intelligence (Kelly has a law degree) with the tools we’re providing him and can you imagine where he’ll take it?”
Already, working with the Lennox Heads shaper Daniel ‘Tomo’ Thomson, the pair have concocted a little something that will appear in the Firewire range in six months or so. Revolutionary? Tomo and Nev think so.
“I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was aesthetically beautiful, complex but beautiful. All of Tomo’s stuff had excited me – with reservation. But the curves on this board would make any shaper weep with happiness. This is going to completely blow everything away. It’s going to be sensational for Firewire…”