Kolohe CJ and Brett Simpson

The American Storm!

Oh say can you see by the dawn's early light? CJ Hobgood crushing it and Kolohe Andino so inspired?

There’s an old-sounding saying in a new-ish film, called The Imitation Game, that goes like this. “Sometimes it’s the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” As cute as it is bulky! The particular person in the film no one imagined anything of was gay super mathematician Alan Turing. He wore his hair parted severely to the side and his eyes looked autistic. The thing that no one could imagine was busting Nazi Germany’s unbreakable Enigma Machine. The gay autistic with severely parted hair quite basically won the war for the Allies while saving millions of lives.

So too, as we head into stop number four on our beloved World Surf Tour all the American surfers dwell at the very bottom of the rankings. Kolohe Andino is there, ranked number 26 after a dismal Bells finish and sad Instagram poem. Brett Simpson is there also, ranked 29. CJ Hobgood is below him at 36 and Jack Freestone even further down at 37. There they are, huddled together, scared maybe? Hope fleeing from their very souls? “Wait just one damned minute…” you cut me off “…Nat Young is sitting 5th and Kelly Slater 9th, first off, and second Jack Freestone is not American.”

“Pish posh!” I angrily respond. “Prove to me that Nat Young is, in fact, American and that Jack Freestone is, in fact, not. Examine their names. Their jaw-lines. Their significant others. See? I told you. And Kelly Slater doesn’t count. He is as much from outer space as the United States.”

And back to the point. As we turn our attentions to Rio, think this. Sometimes it’s the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine. Yes, an American Storm brews in the land of caipirinha and capoeira and New York Times fascination (read here!). A red, white and blue deluge ready to pour out upon the land. CJ Hobgood is going to do the thing no one can imagine and beat Wiggolly Dantas and Gabby Medina in heat one. Brett Simpson is going to do the thing no one can imagine and score over 10 points. Jack Freestone is going to do the thing no one can imagine and be given a wildcard spot. Kolohe Andino is going to do the thing no one can imagine and win the entire event.

An American Storm cometh! And so to hell with the truth! As the history of the world proves, the truth has no bearing on anything. It’s irrelevant and immaterial, as the lawyers say. The lie of a pipe dream is what gives life to the whole misbegotten mad lot of us, drunk or sober.

Freedom surfer
Freedom! Individuality! Expression! At heart, the qualities that all surf brands trade off. The idea of surfer as noble savage, flipping the bird to desk-jockey conformity and riding off on a pure wave of creativity and enlightenment. A pure wave of bullshit! | Photo: Morgan Maassen

Opinion: You are riding a pure wave of creativity!

And you are a noble savage flipping the bird to conformity! No, wait… 

You are a sheep.

You have no individual thoughts or instincts. And just because you’re here, at BeachGrit, a corner of the surfing world lit by a dim, flickering light of awareness, you’re not special.

Everything you think and do is unoriginal. You’re just an accumulation of clothes, music, attitudes and ideas that you’ve arranged around yourself, in an effort to have an identity, in an effort to get laid.

If your memory were erased and you found yourself naked, blank and innocent on the shore of the hip surf zone you currently inhabit, would you view those jeans you’re wearing as anything but an absurd encumberance?

Would a skirt not be more comfortable?

And what of that beer brand you favour? The one that denotes your taste, place in society, even the state you live in? Would a green tea not be more refreshing and useful?

Of course! But don’t worry! You’re not alone! Nearly everyone is the same as you. You are made of your history. Only one in a million will possess the necessary intellect and strength of character to break the shackles of their past.

And those that do are usually considered mentally ill. Or actually are.

For the love of absurdity, does this not make the surfing life even richer in paradox?

Freedom! Individuality! Expression! At heart, the qualities that all surf brands trade off. The idea of surfer as noble savage, flipping the bird to desk-jockey conformity and riding off on a pure wave of creativity and enlightenment.

A pure wave of bullshit!

It’s an idea perpetuated by a few isolated moments of weirdness in the 1960s and early 1970s which were in themselves just following the hippy fashion of the time. Surfing is as mainstream as breakfast TV and surfers in general are as incapable of free will as any other herd of humans.

So what should a surf brand do?

In between binges of cocaine and self-loathing, advertising brand strategists sometimes use a thing called “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” to give a veneer of academic rigour to an occupation that is otherwise as intellectually bereft as a night spent shelfing Xanax on the Gold Coast.

Prof Maslow said that once humans have their basic essentials covered, they head up a pyramid of needs leading to self-actualisation: “What a man can be, he must be.”

And with a sour, trembling hand, our advertising brand strategist will point to the need for a surf brand to find a role in the collective mind of the human herd in order to better sell boardshorts and other non-essentials.

And what role have they found? What do they stand for? The freedom that does not exist! The independence that is not possible! The creativity that is not original!

There isn’t even the fleeting satisfaction of irony. The Xanax has worked its way through the colo-rectal tissue, a warm dullness has spread.

So what should the modern, enlightened surf brand do to better help the human feel self-actualised through their fashion purchases? If you’re still following these terrifying spasms of logic, you’ll be with me when I suggest that it’s time for the dim, flickering light of awareness to blaze a little stronger.

If the herd wants to buy the idea of freedom, show them authentic freedom! Show them a freedom that is not shackled to history, but a freedom that confounds, a freedom that unsettles, a freedom that makes a man see himself for what he is!

It’s time for Rip Curl to sponsor Westerly Windina’s audacious gender swap! It’s time for Volcom to host feminist poetry slams on the North Shore! It’s time for Quiksilver to use only the blackest Africans in every photo shoot!

It’s time for surfing to jerk vivid rainbows of anti-cliché into the collective unconscious.

Those would be boardshorts I can believe in.

Candid: Enslave Me Sally Fitzgibbons!

Ms Fitz has an electric smile, tan lines and an air reverse almost on tap. What's not to love?

The world tour for gals something else. An eye-blink a go, it was fierce and furious and you wouldn’t  call it pretty. Nowawdays, with Ms Enever, Ms Gilmore, Ms Moore and Ms Fitz winging and swinging, it’s cuter than any single damn time in history.

BeachGrit has always held Ms Fitzgibbons in divine awe.

And, therefore, it was in a mechanical daze that we interviewed the 24 year old…

BeachGrit: I’m going to ask some real heavy-hitting questions if that’s ok. Tell me: you like tan lines? We sure do.

MS FITZ: I’ve got tan lines! I’ve grown up as a wetsuit kid and so when I come to the tropics, I’m in bikinis and when the waves are good I’m always in boardshorts. This gets me into a little bit of drama with the tan-line police because when I take my bikini off and boardies, I still look like I’ve got a bikini on – a white one.

Tan lines are the most fashionable things ever!

Really? You’re lying!

It’s high-fashion, seventies supermodel chic. Anyone can buy an all-over spray tan. Look at Henrik Purienne or Akila Berjaoui’s photos!

Oh really? So, it’s a demonstration of authenticity!

Authentic and wild and divine!

Awww, then I’m in luck.

You’ve got the cutest damn accent. Tell me about it.

Ya know when people say you’ve got an accent but you can’t hear it? And you go to, say, America and you think you’re fitting in, but then you say something and they pick you up on it? There’s definitely an Australian English. Sometimes I tell a story and I know I’m losing people after a couple of sentences. I guess it’s unique. People always find me interesting to listen to.

May I say, your accent has changed so much. I remember you describing a wave once a few years ago and…so broad…so infused with elongated vowels!

Has it changed? A lot?

Of course it has. You’re worldly now. Now tell me about what a competitive devil you are.

I don’t like to be overly competitive but it’s been built into me! I grew up with three older brothers! You compete over everything. Like, in the backyard, you bet on everything. If you don’t make the shot you have to do this or that. I love a good challenge. I love something I can’t do and keep trying until I do it.

Is your stomach your crowning glory, even though it’s not a crown? What things do you do to it?

After I injured my back on my first year on tour I wanted to make sure my core was really strong and…ha…I guess it shaped itself.

Do you do like a zillion situps and hours of planks?

Ha! Planks…hmmph…Swiss balls… ya gotta keep it super strong so when you throw yourself into a crazy position, your back doesn’t go. Being injured and not being able to surf is the worst feeling.

I’ve spent a few decades accumulating fat. Out of personal interest, if I want to see them abs, do I gotta lay off the nasty food?

Awww! Ha! Ya gotta limit those super greasy foods. It builds up. It depends on where you store your fat, but I guess, if you want ’em, exercise and eating super healthy.

You like to drink?

No, I don’t drink.

How about a little champagne after another competitive triumph?

I love spraying champagne and I love going out but I haven’t got into drinking.

Champagne showers are the best!

A lot of the girls say that if I win a world title I’ve definitely gotta drink the champagne outta the cup.

So you will booze if you win the crown?

It’ll have to be on the cards. But, in the meantime, it’s a lifestyle choice… to enjoy going out and parting and not drinking.

Jamie O’Brien made a similar lifestyle choice. The redhaired hottie said he wouldn’t touch liquor until he won the Pipe Masters. Then he did and he hasn’t looked back. And his personality improved! From drab teetotaler to the life of every single party!

And it was all downhill from there!

Uphill! He’s so much better in conversation now!

I was joking!

Tell me about the world title thing. People tell me it was very close last year. What are you going to do to cave in Carissa’s skull this year?

The title defintely needs to be rolled back to Australia. No good having it over there in Hawaii.

Are you a lil crazy in the water? Do you hassle? Do you growl?

I’m mellow. I grew up in Gerroa so I like my own space. If there’s an uncrowded peak, I’m on that.. I like catching a lot of waves in the session so I’ll hunt around on the inside. In the water, I only hassle if I’m being hassled or if it’s do or die.

You’re a smiling assassin!

I am a smiling assassin, alright!

(I ask Sally about the cutest boys on tour and to rate the top five. The top four includes Kai Otton, Kelly Slater and Ace Buchan, but when Julian Wilson is mentioned, Ms Fitz lights up!)

You’ve gotta put Julian in there! He’s like the… ya know… the standout.

While his rug remains atop his crown, I would say he is the most beautiful boy in the world.

He’s very handsome, very sought after. All the girls come to the events, they don’t come to watch the surfing, they come to watch and meet Julian. They always ask the question, where’s Julian?

I wonder, do you have a motto?

Here Now and This Moment. We use it a lot in training. Don’t think too far ahead and dream.

What’s your biggest virtue?

What’s an example?

Honesty, loyalty, discipline.

Hmmmm… fun!

That’s a v good choice. I say this because I believe that anyone that can go out, dance, mingle and tremble, and not be boozed to do so is vastly superior to the rest of us drones. Now, tell me, what’s the best phone call you’ve ever received?

I got invited to go to Parliament when the Queen came to Australia.

What did you say to our beloved head of state?

I was in Barbados! But, it was one of those special calls.

I can’t believe you blew off the Queen’s invite!

I saved the invite.

What’s your favourite food?

Mango and chocolate cake. Awww, so yum, when it melts and it oozes…

Stop it! I’ll never get abs! 

note on pole at Fishery Bay, South Australia
…yeah, maybe it's a good idea to rack the sled for a while. | Photo: Brinkley Davies

Surfer Critical After Great White Attack

South Australia revives its reputation as the shark capital of the world… 

There’s a sign fashioned out of a plastic bag and taped to a pole at Fishery Bay, an easy righthander (called Right Point) near Port Lincoln in South Australia. Its message is as simple as it is a stark reminder of the animals surfers share the ocean with in the Southern Ocean.

“Surfers. Pointer attack this morning. KEEP OUT OF THE WATER.” 

If y’haven’t heard, and why would you, shark attacks are common enough in Australia now to be related to a few paragraphs on page 12 instead of the front page, a surfer is in a critical condition after having his leg taken by a great white.

Chris Blowes, 26, was sitting upright on his board among a pack of a dozen guys, a few metres from rocks, when what one witness described as a 20-foot great white attacked and swam away with his leg and surfboard.

Port Lincoln is a tuna fishing town on the Eyre Peninsula, population 14k or thereabouts. More millionaires per square click than anywhere else in Australian, too, thanks to the abundant tuna and abalone. Plenty of fish. Plenty of sharks.

It’s a tight surf pack here. A small enough place for everyone to know everyone.

The community is hurting. What do you do when it’s your local spot? How do you saddle up again?

“The whole community is pretty torn,” says Brinkley Davies, who taped the sign to the pole. “We were out at Right Point the night before and I actually forgot my fins so I was just swimming out there and I was hanging around the suck rock, and that’s where Chris got attacked the next morning. Anything can happen and the surfing community is pretty tight down here so it rattles everyone. I really hope he’s going to be alright. My thoughts go out to his friends and family who are by his side right now.”

Brinkley says she’ll surf Right Point again, “but not for a while. I mean, it’s super sharky, everyone knows that. But it was really shallow where he got attacked.”

Last May, her boyfriend Ty Swan (click here, he’s rad) was surfing round these parts when his pal got hit by a 15-foot white. He survived with one helluva story.

(Read about that attack here). 

As it happens, Ty is an abalone sheller which means “that if the abalone diver ever gets done he has to deal with the first aid of that.”


“It’s a hectic reality here,” says Brinkley.

(Read more about yesterday’s attack here.) 

Kolohe Andino: Barbarian at the gate

The boy heads into Rio enraged. He will probably win.

We all begin life as babies. We cry, spit up, get changed, cry and look cute. As we grow, our adoring elders wonder what we might become. Will this little monkey become a doctor? A writer? An actor? And if one of our parents is Dino Andino, then the surf masses wonder, “Will this little monkey become a professional surfer?” It is all fun. The weight of what we might someday become is not heavy on our shoulders. We are, in fact, simply a weight on someone else’s shoulders. And if our name is Kolohe Andino then we are a weight on Shane Beschen’s shoulders. But it is all pure, weightless fun. Then we grow some more and start to exhibit certain talents and if our name is Kolohe Andino, people start to prophesy because they watch what we do on a surfboard.

Kolohe now bears the heaviest heavy burden. The surf masses are critical of his every move. He is critical of his every move. This year on tour has not been kind but he seems steely-eyed. Will he achieve his potential in Rio? Will he flounder? Nobody knows. And I wonder if Kolohe ever thinks, “Son of a bitch, this bright light is hot. It used to be easy. I used to be only cute. That used to be my full-time job.” He has traversed a slightly awkward adolescence and come through the other side as a man. Broad shoulders. Razor focus. But now he also must become a top 10 surfer and win events or he will be seen as having failed. He bears the heaviest burden.

I hope he shrugs it off. And I hope he does break the top 10 and win Rio. I believe everyone who personally knows Kolohe hopes for the same thing because he is a great kid. He is also a stylish kid and, today, he might lean down and whisper in Shane Beschen’s ear, “Black Flys? Hmmmmm. Not the best choice.” Yes, I still hope the world for Kolohe Andino. His potential is still very real.