Chris Ward: “I shared beers with kangaroos!”

Amazing out of context quotes from the world's most interesting surfer.

“I don’t need to lie. I like to do stuff and I did. I did it just to say I drove all the way across Australia and I would do it again probably just cuz I liked it so much. My favorite part was going to a liquor store out in the middle of absolutely nowhere and asking for a beer. I’d take it outside and there’d be kangaroos who would ask to share it with me. I mean, they wouldn’t ask like…what was that movie?…Kangaroo Jack…but they would ask in their own way. They would move their arms a little like they were drinking. I’d finish ¾ of the beer and give it to them. I was sharing a beer with a kangaroo. I don’t care who you are that is fucking great.”

I saw Chris Ward five years ago on the bluff overlooking Margaret River. The contest was on and he was standing next to his rental car all smiles and tan and his smiles were so white. His rental car was not white but rather covered in bugs. Thousands and millions of little deaths. And he told me he had just driven out from Melbourne, all the way across Australia, and I didn’t believe him, at the time. But he did do it, as I found out later in many many apocryphal stories and also from Chris Ward himself. “I’d do it again, probably, too, just because I liked it that much. I love to drive.”

There is something distinctly ethnic about his face up close. That tan is not purely Caucasian. “I’m half Thai, or Indonesian,” he says. I tell him I thought he was Cherokee or some other American Indian varietal. “Cherokee? I like that. They are a strong people.” His unique features and that smile and those sparkly eyes make him a magnet for fine ladies. Also his charisma. Chris Ward is pure charisma. When the waitress comes, for example, his eyes fire and his smile works and the waitress melts into a little puddle.

Chris Ward is a story. A breathing story. Everyone is always telling chapters or paragraphs or sentences. The story spins out. Some of the elements are naughty, like dark winter nights up in Mammoth where women get beaten with icicles. Some are ridiculous, like a young Ward hitchhiking and performing tricks with a cavity and dental floss at age ten. All are awesome. Here are some.

“I don’t know. I love adventure. I never want to pass something up. I want to experience everything. And it keeps the dull out of surfing. Waaaaay too many dull stick figures around. You gottta have something to back the surfing. A personality. When people sit and watch the surfing webcasts I hope they don’t think that’s what surfing is. I just want to be exciting…have an exciting life. Maybe that’s just how I am.”

“I love to go on my backhand in the barrel because you can get in different positions and learn things. Frontside you’re facing the wave the whole time. Backside there are all these variations. Looking, grabbing…different lines.”
Plots and subplots. Maybe some of this heaving backside business has to do danger. Nothing so dangerous as face planting dry reef. Does he ever get scared?

“No. You can’t get scared. You just have to charge in your life. Ahhhhhhh shit. You know, I don’t like to admit that I get scared sometimes. If something happens I go into survival mode. Like last year I was out at Morro Bay with Ashley and our boat flipped. I think it was the same set that washed through Mavericks and hurt all those people…but anyhow we were out on the boat and the ocean was cool but then it turned ugly. Beyond ugly. And a big sneaker set flipped my boat right over. Instinct took over. I bear hugged Ashley and swam down and away as fast as I could. I knew that the way you die is to get sucked down in the draft of the boat. So I bear hugged and swam down as far as I could and then out. We popped up and there was some guys on jet skis who sat with us until the Coast Guard came… Another time when I was fifteen I was on the North Shore and out on, like a….I don’t know, a 6’1 or something. It was fun but then the swell just jumped and it got huge. The sky turned black and there I was trying to duck dive 30 foot waves at Rockpiles. I think I learned the hard way. If a swell is coming up check the buoys…and…”

“I came out to San Clemente when I was seven and a half or eight from Texas. I had a boogie board that summer and then I started standing on it. When winter came I just thought I’m gonna keep surfing. So I did.”

“Ahhhh when I was ten I remember cruising down in the mornings and seeing this dude, Reola (Mike Reola co-founder along with Matt Biolos of lost), who was feeding the pidgeons. We’d chat some, then a couple years later he had just started this brand with Biolos and was tie-dying some t-shirts. So, even thought I was riding for Rusty at the time, I’d go over and smash out some t-shirts for him. I was a grom and just stoked. Then a few more years down the line they had enough money to pick me up. They (lost) weren’t like the others. They were a rager company that was different. And people liked the vids, people liked the surfing. Lost was born.”

“That hurricane that hit Mexico in 2006? Yeah, I drove through that thing three times. Reola and I wanted to go and catch some hurricane swell so we drove down Baja, drove twenty whatever hours straight down there. And when we got to the spot it was perfectly glassy barrels but only like two feet so it wasn’t really worth surfing it. So Reola and I were just filming shit and there were these big puddles everywhere from storms. I was driving my truck through them and full speed and he was filming from outside. There was this one huge one but it had deep ruts in it so my tires got stuck in the rut and I drove right into a cactus that spider webbed the whole driver’s side of my windshield. Then the hurricane blew ashore and Reola and I had to hunker down in my truck. Things were pretty bad for a while and we started really running out of water. Reola was worried that the force would blow through the windshield so he stickered up the whole inside to stop it from collapsing but I couldn’t see anything so I’d have to drive with my head out of the window in a hurricane. I tried to get us to Cabo but had to turn around and then tried to get to Scorpion Bay but it was just full hurricane. Like huge rivers running everywhere. The Baja 500 was running at the same time and they were all getting stuck so we’d look after each other. We got to this river that had busted through a road and the Baja guys said it was impossible but I told them to fuck off and ran my truck right through it. That hurricane was not supposed to hit land but it just ground up the center of Baja. Finally we got to a place where there was no way out. A giant river busted the road and we were stuck. This was in the middle of fucking nowhere. And there was a Mexican family who took us in. They were, like, farmers. I don’t speak Spanish that good and they didn’t speak English but we understood each other. So we stayed with them. They had a well. After a few days the Mexican government came in on horseback and said no way the truck is getting out for weeks. They told us we had to leave the car and hike out on foot. So we did. We walked out and then got a ride to the airport. When we landed I had to go straight to Lowers because the contest was on and I surfed and got fifth. And the very next day we went back down to Baja, to the place where the truck was and got it. I brought the farmers all kinds of lost clothes, jackets, shirts, lots of jeans. Pretty much stacked up the whole village with Lost clothes……..”

Jamie O’Brien Does Proust

I want to die of a head wound at Pipe, says the ever-candid Jamie O… 

Jamie O’Brien is a thirty-ish surfer from Pipeline, yeah actually from Pipe, who threw away a probable career on tour to chase… laughs. Pro surfer or free surfer? Jamie figured he’d find a third way, in his case, creating the online web series Who is JOB, now into its fifth year.

For Jamie, it was a way of turning his life on the North Shore with his pack of goofy pals, which let’s face it, ain’t that serious, into a serious career alternative. And, Jamie wasn’t down with how surfing had become even more serious since his ASP rule book burning days.

“Everyone’s just kinda hipster and wants out of being fun,” says Jamie. “Who is JOB is like Volcom and …Lost in the early days. Everyone is so f**king serious! Surfing’s not what it was in the ’90s and 2000’s, it’s lost that whole punk rock, rockstar vibe, which made surfing really cool.”

But he knows – he gets it– that it’s given his career a second wind. “It’s definitely given me more traction in my career. And it’s a still a surf career but it’s… fun. That’s what you get from thinking outside of the box a little. And people respond to the underlying message which is, let’s do stupid stuff! Let’s surf and have fun! Everyone embraces it. I have five-year-old kids coming up to me. I have people older than me coming up to me to talk about Who Is Job. I do what I do and I surf and my friends may not be the best surfers abut we have the best time. I just love it. Every day I wake up and think, this is so fucking rad, man. I just think of the stupidest things to do and get shacked.”


Now let’s see how he responds to the Proust questionnaire…

Your favourite virtue: Honesty.

Your favourite qualities in a man: Self-reliance.

Your favourite qualities in a woman: Self-respect and a desire to protect her personal virtue.

Your chief characteristic: I’m straight-forward.

What you appreciate the most in your friends: Loyalty.

Your main fault: Drinking beer.

Your favourite occupation: Surfing.

Your idea of happiness: Home, Pipeline. Not travelling.

Your idea of misery: Small waves.

If not yourself, who would you be? One of my friends at home. Just a normal human being hanging out.

Where would you like to live? Pipeline. North Shore. Hawaii. If you grow up somewhere that’s spot-on you don’t ever want to leave.

Your favourite real-life heroes: Anyone with a story and a well-rounded life, Greg Noll, Jimmy Blears, Dave Wassel, Shane Dorian.

Your favourite musicians: Life is too simple to worry about the musicians in the world.

Your favourite food and drink: Newcastle beer is my favourite drink and my favourite food is Poke.

What you hate the most: Liars.

World history characters you hate the most: Kim Jong-il.

The natural talent you’d most like to be gifted with: To be a professional BMX rider.

How you wish to die: Head wound at Pipe.

What is your present state of mine: Positive.

Your favourite motto: Living the dream.

David Carson
Don't you just love a man who can swing his talent into the world, blow minds, and then retreat behind the walls of the perfect surf lifestyle?

Surfer Named 18th Best Designer in History!

Ahead of Gaudi, Marcel Breuer, Arne Jacobsen and superstar architect Zaha Hadid… 

The graphic designer David Carson is a loose naturalfooter who was smart enough, years ago, to buy a dreamy spread overlooking an equally dreamy righthander on a Caribbean island.

So he works, he travels, but he comes home to his divine patch to ride mostly uncrowded green water rights. He invites shapers like Dan Tomson, famous lately for his collaboration with Kelly Slater and Firewire surfboards, to come and ride and play and design.

A surfer to the bone.

Recently, he was voted the 18th most influential designer in history by Complex magazine.

(Click here to read) 

In his foamy wake are the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi, the great modernist Marcel Breuer, the Danish designer of the Swan and Egg Chair, Arne Jacbson and the superstar architect  Zaha Hadid.

Only one rung ahead of Dave is the husband-and-wife team Charles and Ray Eames, whose chairs have become the most pirated in the world.

Don’t you just love a man who can swing his talent into the world, blow minds, and retreat into the perfect surf lifestyle? It gets better. BeachGrit, a fan of Carson since he turned fusty Surfer magazine into the hippest thing alive, overnight, in 1991, asked him to create a new WSL logo, just for you, just for me, after he called it “silly and embarrassing.”

(Read here) 

It’s coming, too! Soon!

I’m getting close, even have a few logos designed,” he said yesterday. 

New talent from Maui sets art world on fire!

Invest now, says Shia LaBouef.

Pharrow Stevens, creating under the name PeauxDoodles, is a 25 year-old from Haiku, Maui who likes to surf, eat snowcones and collect shells (maybe). He is also one of the hottest up and coming artists in the world. His works, bright and often ridiculous, adorn many young actors’/musicians’ walls in Hollywood and many club promoters’ ceilings in Miami Beach. Shia LaBeouf was recently overheard telling Miles Teller “…invest in fucking Pharrow. He is the new Basquiat and the old Warhol. He is the fucking NOW and LATER.”

But thankfully for us he really likes to surf and so BeachGrit was loaned an original artwork depicting the state of the modern day professional scene.

Here we see Taj Burrows carrying Kelly Slater carrying Gabby Medina. I like it because it feels that these are the faces that should be carved on our Mt. Rushmore at this very moment. Taj represents perpetual youth better than anyone. Kelly is, of course, Kelly and Gabs is the outer band of the Brazilian Storm.

Pharrow says his goal is to, “Start an animation studio on Maui with a bunch of other artists.” And his favorite surfer is, “Mason Ho. I love the video he made at Ala Moana bowls with the Don Julian song.”

His work is fresh and brilliant but not all agree. Art critic Robert Hughes wrote, before he died:

“Pharrow’s career appeals to a cluster of toxic vulgarities. First, to the racist idea of the Hawaiian as naif or as rhythmic innocent, and to the idea of the Hawaiian artist as ‘instinctual,’ outside ‘mainstream’ culture, and therefore not to be judged by it: a wild pet for the recently cultivated white. Second, to a fetish about the infallible freshness of youth, blooming amid the discos of the Haiku scene. Third, to an obsession with novelty—the husk of what used to be called the avant-garde, now only serving the need for new ephemeral models each year to stoke the market- Fourth, to the slide of art criticism into promotion, and of art into fashion. Fifth, to the jrt-investment mania, which abolished the time for reflection on a ‘hot’ artist’s actual merits; never were critics and collectors more scared of missing the bus than in the early ‘2008s. And sixtb, to tbe audience’s goggling appetite for self-destructive talent (Pollock, Hendrix, Montgomery Clift). All this gunk rolled into a sticky ball around Pharrow’s tiny talent and produced a reputation.”

Such venom is a sure sign of great things to come.

Mick Fanning drops in on John John Florence
"One of the most significant moments of Mick’s (2013) year came at the business end of his Round 4 spar with Nat Young and John John Florence," wrote Surfing magazine's Brendan Buckley. "It was a no-losers heat, in which 1st place goes straight to Quarterfinals and 2nd and 3rd head to to Round 5. To state the obvious, Mick paddled out with intentions to win the heat — but John John’s 16.37 points got in the way of that. With 21 seconds left, John held priority as a decent Pipe wave approached. He hooked into it, grabbed rail and set up for his umpteenth barrel. Then Mick dropped in on him. It was uncharacteristic for a man of such poise. Mick hasn’t been slapped with an interference all year — and he gets one on John John, at Pipe? Was it an act of desperation, hoping that John John was going right? Cute theory, but we think not. If Mick had placed second in that heat, his title-deciding draw would have looked a whole lot different. He’d have been against Julian Wilson in Round 5 and, gasp, John John Florence in the Quarters. Mick knew exactly what he was doing when he burnt."

Opinion: Ethics and The Strategic Round Four Loss

It ain't cheating, exactly. But it sucks… 

It’s a funny thing when an obvious problem escapes notice…  

It’s no secret that competitors can influence their heat draws by throwing Round Four. Fanning used it to his advantage during the 2013 Pipe Masters, tossing a shoulder -hop drop in at John John in the dying minutes of the heat, knocking himself from second to third, and changing his draw from Julian Wilson in Round Five and an on fire John John in the Quarters to CJ Hobgood in Round Five and Yadin Nicole in the Quarters.

Not an easy setup, but nowhere near as insurmountable. And it was good tactics. Fanning won his heats, the contest, and the title.

(Read Surfing magazine’s story here.)

Call it what you want, sandbagging, match fixing… it sucks. As spectators we want to see guys and gals surf their best, scuttling a heat to ease your path to victory easier is lame, nothing Spartan-like about it at all.

But it ain’t cheating, and that’s what’s important.

Sure, you could say that the use of tactics over ability is weak and boring and leads to people who don’t deserve to win hogging space in the winners’ circle, but that wouldn’t be fair. Professional surfing is a sport and a job and you can’t really blame an athlete for doing whatever it takes to win, especially when they are operating within the rules. Even more especially when the title is on the line.

Which is why Stephanie Gilmore’s plan to skip her Round Four heat to save energy and baby an injury exposes a huge loophole in the WSL rules that needs to be closed immediately.

I’m not trying to assign some nefarious motive to Gilmore’s actions. She was hurt and wanted time to recover, and the fact that she withdrew from the event entirely prior to Round Five goes to show she’s no malingerer. But the fact that the current WSL rules allow skipped heats can only lead to more competitors taking that path in the future.

Fortunately, it’s an easy fix.

Treat a missed heat like what it is: a forfeit. If an injury is truly severe enough to warrant a skipped heat it’s unwise, and unsafe, to allow a surfer to continue later in the event.  Being given a short chance to rest up, only to exacerbate something that would have healed on its own, isn’t something either viewers or the WSL wants.

It is in the surfers’ interests as well. Events missed due to injury provide the surfer the minimum number of points, but absolutely zero prize money.

And I know some lower seeds could use that cash.