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New WSL: Old-style dot-com bust?

So no one told you life was gonna be this way?

Surf Splendor is a wonderful podcast. It meanders, gracefully, because time does not exist on the radio and in the most recent episode hosts Scott Bass and David Lee Scales meander right into a dark and murky pit!

The two uncover a cache of the WSL secrets. You can and should listen here but the nut is this: WSL CEO Paul Speaker and WSL executive vice president/general counsel Jonathan S. Marshall both used to work for a film company called The Shooting Gallery in the late 90s early 2000s. And it was strong, robust even, but then crashed, ingloriously, because, in simple terms, the powers tried to turn a traditional film company into a new media company. Or to quote The Village Voice, “The company got away from its core business…They had a radical philosophy change from being a tightly run, fiscally conservative company that watched every dime to turning around and trying to create a vast dotcom company…In the most simplistic terms, they tried to be a dotcom and crashed like all the others.”

The company was sued and while Speaker was not listed, Mr. Marshall was. He also maybe dated Monica Lewinsky!

And what does this have to do with the WSL? It certainly seems like the powers are intent on reliving the past by trying to make professional surfing something it ain’t… A traditional sport league/event with traditional revenue structures, desks, graphics packages and offices. And if not that then a pay to view sort of thing. But will either work? Will the ocean ever consistently perform? Will the masses ever truly crave an Adriano de Souza vs Dusty Payne round 2 heat? More to the point, why does it matter? I suppose it totally doesn’t. It is just fun/stomach turning watching ex-Hollywood dotcomies come in and try to make surfing broadly understandable/palatable. It like watching Chasing Mavericks.

If you were going to create a 90s dotcom right now what would you call it? Would you rollerblade around your offices or ride a razor scooter?


People who ride SUPs are giant kooks

And Jamie Mitchell makes me eat my words.

The time I met Jamie Mitchell…

He decided, last minute, to paddle his stand-up out to the reef pass instead of hopping a ride on the boat. Sure he had spent last night in agony with a busted eardrum from a thirty second hold down, but today was a new day and he may as well make the most of it.

His board was where he left it, leaning against one of the foundation posts of the Tahitian shack. And there was still ear blood mixed into the wax. He chuckled as he fished his paddle out of a pile of broken shortboards. The kids didn’t really know what to make of his gear but he didn’t let that phase him. The kids eventually become men and then they learn what’s what.

The boat arrived to thundering Teahupo’o and the surfers readied themselves for battle. A generally unkind surf journalist had somehow hitched a ride as well. He had no intention of paddling out, but had always wanted to watch the wave break. It was everything he imagined. Even more. And he stared at its grandeur with a slack jaw.

They had been on the shoulder for a mere ten minutes when the surf journalist went to light a cigarette. Facing the direction from which they just came, away from the wind, he saw a stand-up paddleboarder gliding across the horizon, toward them. “Look at that kook…” he said. The team manager, sitting next to him, didn’t respond. He knew that the “kook” could answer for himself. The surf journalist watched as he stroked past them with a smile and into the lineup. “His ear was so bad last night that he couldn’t sleep, but he didn’t want to disturb anyone so he waited until morning to get a ride to the hospital for antibiotics…” someone said. “He was packing closeouts over the reef just to do it…” someone else said. The surf journalist couldn’t take his eyes off of him. What was he doing out there with a busted eardrum on a stand-up paddleboard? He was asking for pain worse then death.

The set had been working its way toward Teahupo’o’s reef for two days. What started as an open ocean storm, furious and wild, and organized itself into straight lines that only needed reef, or rock, or shore to stand up and detonate. And it was here. The stand-up paddleboarder saw it first and paddled beyond the surfing pack. They hooted him as he went by. The surf journalist on the boat could not believe what he was seeing. What was this mad man doing? Why? His paddle dipped once, twice, three times. Shoulder muscles flashed. Teeth clenched. And then he was dropping down a beast. An absolute monster of a wave.

The surf journalist couldn’t believe what he had just witnessed and exclaimed, “That fucking stand-up paddleboarder just made me forever repent. He is a man’s man.” The team manager, sitting next to him, smiled and finally responded, “Ernest Hemingway once said, ‘As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary.’”


The Australian Mitch Coleborn delivers the opening gambit in Cluster, a celebration of lives realised away from competition. | Photo: Cluster surf movie

Opinion: Why “Fuck the WSL!” still has currency

Surfing is a contrived ritual and the freesurfer represents, beautifully, the pointlessness of the act.

The current crop of freesurfers have a hard time of it. People seem to hate that they get to surf all day and don’t seem to do anything meaningful.

BeachGrit has been unkind too: Chas pondered why they are such disappointments when they could turn things on their head. I, too, have been harsh. I concluded that they are knee-capped by confusion and their need to fuck. I suggested it was a malaise that plagued white kids in general. I’d go as far as saying it is part of the modern existence so many others have lamented.  I stand by this claim. Their so-called rebellious gestures are impotent (Noah and the WSL), their anger lacks gravity, their airs, though technical and impressive, are meaningless.

Yet, I admire them. I admire them for their ability. I admire them for their lifestyle and I admire them because they’re the embodiment of modern-day impotence. Why? Because I can’t escape that feeling of modern-day impotence myself.

I shouldn’t feel like this.

I’m 30, comfortable in my own abilities, in a healthy long-term relationship and I have a good job with excellent career prospects. But I feel empty, without purpose (the essential ingredient for impotence), prone to bouts of aimless anger and compelled to engage in empty gestures of defiance and stupidity. The highlight was being 19 and putting a shotgun in my mouth. I can’t remember if it was loaded or not and I’m not sure if I want to remember.

I’ve accepted living with these feelings, it’s OK. I just put in my ear buds crank up Minor Threat, Death and the Dead Kennedys as I walk to a dull government building and plan on how to destroy myself on the half-pipe or dream of barrels. It is also why I look to the Noah’s, Mitch’s, Dion’s, Creed’s, etc.

Those kids are useless in life like me (and I’m guessing you too, it’s probably why you may hate them). They’re pissing into the wind, they’re team average, they often don’t have nice styles and they ride strange boards. They’re imperfect.

They’re not like the Gods of the WSL. But perfection is boring. Mick surfs heats perfectly, great for winning world titles, but so boring to watch. He’s  70’s stadium rock to Noah’s punk.

Yeah, the freesurfers do contrived things, but who doesn’t?

Surfing (and I don’t care what the poet/surf scholar/ocean activist/ dolphin fuckers say) is completely contrived. The whole of human life is full of contrived rituals, if it weren’t, we’d be back on par with the animals. The fact that they are paid to be average seems obscene to you? It seems no more obscene than fat middle-aged men being called athletes and getting paid millions to walk around a golf course.

Yeah, they’re not going to change the world and they won’t be as interesting to watch as Arab kids trying to overthrow their government through revolution. Remember, though, revolution is self-defeating. It just replaces the status quo with a new status quo and you can’t keep a revolution going in perpetuity.

Slater was a one-man revolution, now he’s just staid and boring. The Brazilian storm will become a lingering warm front (boring light drizzle), and John John and Julian will become what the Cooly kids are now. Seriously, revolutions get boring.

I appreciate competitive surfing, but I want an alternative to that structured world. Dion and his gang is that alternative.

Yeah, they’re impotent modern youth, they’re not John John, they may have slightly dubious fashion tastes, they’re not going to change shit and are probably overpaid for what they do.

However, they do seem to have a lot of fun. And I want some of that cake. So fuck the WSL.


The Inertia claims victory in racist intrigue

Champagne bottles are popping in Santa Monica.

Yesterday, The Inertia contributor/poet/surf scholar/ocean activist Trey Highton began an online petition to Suspend & Fine Gabriel Medina. (Read here) Today, he claims victory. 51 people signed his appeal leading directly (apparently) to Gabs being fined an undisclosed sum by the World Surf League. The League subsequently released this statement:

“The World Surf League (WSL) Rules and Disciplinary Committee has completed its investigation into the Medina/Hall incident from the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. Following conversations with both parties involved as well as reviewing broadcast footage, the Rules and Disciplinary Committee has determined that Medina was in violation of the athlete Code of Conduct and has been fined as a result.  

“Medina’s efforts following the incident to amend any public misperceptions about his and Hall’s relationship have been noted and appreciated.”

Ummmmmmmmm but is that really a victory? Was the petition to Not Suspend & Pretend to Fine Gabriel Medina? No? It wasn’t? Whatever the case, I don’t know how either The Inertia or Trey Highton could feel in any way good about taking an even pretend amount of money from a poor Brazilian man trying to scratch out a living beneath an unforgiving sun.

And, forthwith, in order to stop cynical race-baiting, BeachGrit slapped The Inertia with a heavy No Hate-Mongering in Surf Media by The Inertia petition. 50 people have also signed but victory is most assuredly not ours. Not yet. Victory will only be achieved when The Inertia takes public responsibility for its backing of hurtful language and pairing Teva sandals with oversized Banana Republic short sleeved button-ups. Sign today!

SIGN AND STOP DANGEROUS SPEECH (fashion choices) TODAY!


Introspection: The marine at the airport

In between sweeping up the detritus of suicide bombers, the writer ponders… 

I sit here in the airport and I’m forced to wonder if anyone here is even noticing me. I look around and I see these faces. Pretty faces, ugly faces, fat faces and thin faces, but everyone moves with a glazed-over look and you’re forced to wonder if they even have any idea what is happening around them or who the people are they are so casually dismissing with their non-caring eyes.

Through all of this you’re observing intimate moments. The father coming back from Afghanistan to his four young children, the joy so palpable, so real and so close to home that it reduces you to tears; the scorned lovers who manage to reclaim what they’ve lost for that one fleeting moment when she comes through the gate and sees the man she loved before the moment that she remembers, or maybe realises for the first time, how dead that man really is.

All of this, I sit here observing. They say we’re always in motion, always changing, always affecting everything around us. That it’s impossible to be a non-interfering observer, that the fundamental premise of science (that we can observe and learn without affecting or changing) is blatantly without merit or worth.

Yet I know that these people aren’t noticing me.

Why would they? I sit in a nondescript black chair with a nondescript laptop, a plain backpack,  generic clothing and my height is hidden by my slouch. There is nothing special here and the brains around me understand that. They absorb their surroundings, their quest for the gate, the flight, the adventure (but, more likely, the mundane business of life) and discard those things that are unimportant.

So the question is, am I truly in motion? Or is the world just moving around me? Am I affecting things or just being affected?

Then it happens… a child wanders by. A child who has not yet learned that it is not acceptable to stare. But stare this child does. A stare born of amazement with all that is occurring around them. A first trip the airport? Maybe not, but definitely the first they will remember. And what is this child, this little girl, doing? She stares at me as I stretch. Because children see all. They don’t have the fine-tuned apathy and discomfort that develops in our brains later on. They can’t control the human curiosity that should define us all. They want to see all, and know all, and hear and feel and drink and eat and learn and, though they don’t know what to call it, love all.

They want to experience everything. They have not yet been broken of that most amazing of things… the human spirit.

Then it all flows in at once. I try to be invisible again but it doesn’t work. Suddenly, I feel not just her eyes on me, but notice the quick and hurried glances of the people as they move by me, occasionally holding my return glance for a moment, as if to say, “Yes, even in this hurried modern age, we are still connected, we still belong, and we are still all human.”

And so I realize, as hard as I try to avoid it, I’m just as much in motion as those around me. I sit and I try to let my life pass me by, try to avoid making the decisions that need to be made, ignore the problems that I need to solve. All in the hopes that life will pass me by and I won’t need to make any decisions at all.

And, yet, all I really want to do is be a vulture. I want to sit here and feed off the happiness of these people, the people seeing their loved ones, the people marching towards a flight with a sense of hope and desire, a poignant sense of what is to come.

And, yet, they are all tinged with sadness. Because all of them, all of us, even me, leave a little bit behind in every airport, every plane, that they visit. I sit here still, the odours, images, tastes and sounds passing by me, and know that as much as I wish I wasn’t, and as hard as I try not be, I am indeed part of this chaotic motion, not an observer, taking a little from each experience I share, even if from a distance.

This is what it means to be human.

And it exists in every airport, in every country, in every city. And it’s fleeting, though, because it only exists in those moments.

Editor’s note: Of course, as fate would play these things, Michael Kocher is seriously ill and maybe he won’t be tap-dancing on those keys for long. Malignant tumours. He’s in chemo. If you want to help a brother out, as in America ain’t so great with picking up the tab for its dying vets, click right here.