Brenden Newton on big wave by Ray Collins
"The lunatics with their little foam squares kept seeking out the shallowest, thickest hell waves the ocean had to offer," writes Rory Parker. "While hard-board surfers were struggling to learn the smallest of airs, 'spongers' were blasting huge rotating aerials over razor sharp reef. And all the terrible barneys, the type who gave bodyboarding a bad name? They went out and bought surfboards." The bodyboarder here Brenden Newton ain't rich from the game, at least in a cash sense. "If any group can lay claim to being free of corporate conformity, of being nothing more or less than a group of like minded individuals dedicated to fun and freedom and self expression, it is bodyboarders." | Photo: Ray Collins

It’s Here! The Pay-Per-View World Tour!

Uh, bodyboarding only. But still! Maybe the future.

Today marks the kick off of the very first event of the 2015 Free Surf World Tour, a bodyboard-only, video-based tournament that’s actually kind of cool.

Rather than go the traditional run-a-heat-and-make-the-guys-scrap-for-points format, the FSB is taking the purely social media route.

For $US4.99 a contest viewers are given access to the videos and allowed to vote on their favorites. Whoever gets the most votes, wins. It’s not a totally original format, there have been numerous video voting contests run, but this one could, potentially, spell actual money for competitors.

I think.

See, I first heard about the FSB about six months ago, then promptly forgot about it.

In the meantime they underwent a site redesign and some of the information I’m about to relay has been removed.

Or moved.

Whichever, I can’t find it. So the following is dredged from the depths of my drug-addled mind, making it of somewhat dubious reliability. But it might be totally factual. \Sometimes I surprise myself.

Anyway, it goes like this: twenty professional bodyboarders (plus an unspecified number of wildcards) have one month to submit minute-long clips which are voted on and ranked accordingly.

The twist is that voters pay $US4.99, per event, for the privilege of casting a vote, the proceeds of which are split among the riders.  The split goes: $1 to the company, $2 into the winner’s pot and $2 to whichever athlete got your vote.  It’s an innovative plan to get some money into riders hands, one that I like.

But not everything is perfect.

Their website still needs some work (Click here) , not a great thing for a web-based contest series, and the fact that everything is locked behind a pay wall from the get go isn’t very enticing.

Ideally they’d give the first away as a free trial, show that it’s a worthwhile concept to support, and begin charging with the next one. Though that would mean they’d have to pony up cash for the first event and it is bodyboarding.

There’s undoubtedly a ton of love behind the tour, but very little cash.

They need to take a second look at the name as well. It’s called the Free Surf World Tour, but promotional material repeatedly refers to it as the FSB, short for Free Surf Bodyboarding. It confused me, and I’m not totally retarded, so they’ll probably want to tighten things up a bit.

But it’s run regionally, which means guy are competing in the same swell window, eliminating a need to travel extensively. Which is great, since, again, I highly doubt these guys are making enough sponsorship dough to travel the world chasing swells. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

But it’s a great idea and I really hope it works out for them. When everything ocean related is being commoditized and marketed at a break-neck pace it’s great that their weird little clan of belly sliders exists out their on the fringes, doing their own weird little thing.

Kelly Slater at Cloudbreak.
Kelly Slater at Cloudbreak. Like cream on your peach! | Photo: WSL

Kelly Slater’s Epic Cloudbreak Breakdown!

'Cause who else y'gonna ask?

Yeah, it’s a year old. But why not replay something if it’s going to bring a little exultance into your life? And, especially now, with the Fiji Pro (no naming sponsor! Yike), two weeks away.

As far as wave breakdowns go, this is as incisive as it is entertaining. Some of them I’ve seen are awful, dull as anything, superficial without any research, but Slater has given much thought to the problems of lineups and reefs and as he takes off from Tavarua and soars over the Cloudbreak reef.

We discover his favourite lineup (get your marks from the judging tour which stands year-round half-way up the reef and the mountain behind), the peculiarities of the reef as well as the best swell direction (205-215 degrees).


As seen on Stab: New Point Break trailer!

And it looks good...

Yes, Stab did get to this gem first but only because I was at Disneyland. But guess who I was there with? Jamie O’Brien. Suck it, Bondi Road! Yes, Jamie grabbed me whilst I was looking for a toilet and he was standing outside of one. We had a fun chat. His girlfriend lives in Irvine so he’s here for a week. My baby (why I was at Disneyland in the first place) was sleeping and her grandmother was watching her so I could actually go to the toilet and Jamie looked fit and we hugged and talked about Eddie Rothman and what a wonderful friend he is.

But back to the discussion at hand, there is a new Point Break movie coming and it has been coming for a long time but there is finally a trailer and it looks good. It looks like narcissistic Occupy Wall Street types who shred and get rad and whatever but I want to watch it and you should watch the trailer.

Also, Stab has this up but not The Inertia. Do you think The Inertia does not have it up because everyone there is a narcissistic Occupy Wall Street type? Do you think they are really genuinely getting hyped about following this new Bodhi to wherever he takes them? Do you think they masturbate to images of Patrick Swayze and now this no name new Bodhi?

Hmmmmm. Good questions I think.

Fiji Pro wildcard Dane Reynolds (at right) and Sammy Boo!
Fiji Pro wildcard Dane Reynolds (at right) and Sammy Boo! Dane surfs against Mick Fanning and Wiggoly Dantas in round one! | Photo: @sealtooth

Big Poppa Dane Reynolds is your Fiji Pro wildcard

That's right, surfing's proudest new father is stepping out of paternity leave to don a singlet in Fiji…

Like most, I hold out a childish, Chicago Cubs-esque hope that Dane won’t be Dane each and every time he paddles out in a heat.

I don’t expect him to blow each lip he approaches into oblivion like that fateful flare up at Haleiwa a few years back. (Clip below.) I’d be fine with him just not looking lost and confused out there, bloodlessly flailing, breaking our hearts.

Regardless, I’m glad they’re throwing him in the mix at Fiji. With a pretty solid swell on the horizon, let the young father put food on the table with some good old-fashioned work.

Let him leave some skin on the reef, let him bleed for his baby. With his newly beefed-up power approach, let him heave himself beautifully towards victory.

Let him bring home Sammy Boo’s bacon.

Or at least let him make a couple heats. We want to believe.

I want to believe.

Dane surf against Mick Fanning and Wiggoly Dantas, heat five, round one.

…and this short by French magazine Desillusion, you’ll like too…


William Finnegan, surfer
William Finnegan, above, is the author of the piece Off Diamond Head in the June 1 issue of The New Yorker. A compelling coming-of-age story of a Californian kid suddenly transplanted to Hawaii. | Photo: William Finnegan

Long Read: Surfing in The New Yorker

Want to feed that inquisitive, wonderful mine o' yours?

There isn’t a magazine in the world that can touch The New Yorker. Nineties years in the biz (started in 1925), this small paper magazine of one hundred pages or thereabouts has the ability to make the dullest subject, car recalls, say, and turn it into the most compelling and educating thing that has touched your eyes since, yeah, the last New Yorker feature you read.

And the thing about The New Yorker is… it never gets old. Despite a rigid house style, the stories sing.

In the June 1 issue, we get personal history piece Off Diamond Head by William Finnegan. Has there been a better account of a kid finding his way in the ocean than this? Moves to Hawaii from California ’cause his dad gets a gig as a production manager on a Hawaiian musical variety show. Day one, the kid grabs his board and looks for waves.

Here’s an excerpt… 

I ran to the beach for a first, frantic survey of the local waters. The setup was confusing. Waves broke here and there along the outer edge of a mossy, exposed reef. All that coral worried me. It was infamously sharp. Then I spotted, well off to the west, and rather far out at sea, a familiar minuet of stick figures, rising and falling, backlit by the afternoon sun. Surfers! I ran back up the lane. Everyone at the house was busy unpacking and fighting over beds. I threw on a pair of trunks, grabbed my surfboard, and left without a word…

…Nothing was what I’d expected. In the mags, Hawaiian waves were always big and, in the color shots, ranged from a deep, mid-ocean blue to a pale, impossible turquoise. The wind was always offshore (blowing from land to sea, ideal for surfing), and the breaks themselves were the Olympian playgrounds of the gods: Sunset Beach, the Banzai Pipeline, Makaha, Ala Moana, Waimea Bay.

All that seemed worlds away from the sea in front of our new house. Even Waikiki, known for its beginner breaks and tourist crowds, was over on the far side of Diamond Head—the glamorous western side—along with every other part of Honolulu anybody had heard of. We were on the mountain’s southeast side, down in a little saddle of sloping, shady beachfront west of Black Point. The beach was just a patch of damp sand, narrow and empty.

I paddled west along a shallow lagoon, staying close to the shore, for half a mile. The beach houses ended, and the steep, brushy base of Diamond Head itself took their place across the sand. Then the reef on my left fell away, revealing a wide channel—deeper water, where no waves broke—and, beyond the channel, ten or twelve surfers riding a scatter of dark, chest-high peaks in a moderate onshore wind. I paddled slowly toward the lineup—the wave-catching zone—taking a roundabout route, studying every ride.

The surfers were good. They had smooth, ungimmicky styles. Nobody fell off. And nobody, blessedly, seemed to notice me. I circled around, then edged into an unpopulated stretch of the lineup. There were plenty of waves. The takeoffs were crumbling but easy. Letting muscle memory take over, I caught and rode a couple of small, mushy rights. The waves were different—but not too different—from the ones I’d known in California. They were shifty but not intimidating. I could see coral on the bottom but nothing too shallow.

There was a lot of talk and laughter among the other surfers. Eavesdropping, I couldn’t understand a word. They were probably speaking pidgin. I had read about pidgin in James Michener’s “Hawaii,” but I hadn’t actually heard any yet. Or maybe it was some foreign language. I was the only haole (white person—another word from Michener) in the water. At one point, an older guy paddling past me gestured seaward and said, “Outside.” It was the only word spoken to me that day. And he was right: an outside set was approaching, the biggest of the afternoon, and I was grateful to have been warned.

As the sun dropped, the crowd thinned. I tried to see where people went. Most seemed to take a steep path up the mountainside to Diamond Head Road, their pale boards, carried on their heads, moving steadily, skeg first, through the switchbacks. I caught a final wave, rode it into the shallows, and began the long paddle home through the lagoon. Lights were on in the houses now. The air was cooler, the shadows blue-black under the coconut palms. I was aglow with my good fortune. I just wished I had someone to tell: “I’m in Hawaii! Surfing in Hawaii!” Then it occurred to me that I didn’t even know the name of the place I’d surfed.

It was called Cliffs. It was a patchwork arc of reefs that ran south and west for half a mile from the channel where I first paddled out. To learn any new spot in surfing, you first bring to bear your knowledge of other breaks—all the other waves you’ve learned to read closely. But at that stage my archives consisted of ten or fifteen California spots, and only one that I really knew well: a cobblestone point in Ventura. And none of this experience especially prepared me for Cliffs, which, after that initial session, I tried to surf twice a day.

It was an unusually consistent spot, in the sense that there were nearly always waves to ride, even in what I came to understand was the off season for Oahu’s South Shore. The reefs off Diamond Head are at the southern extremity of the island, and thus pick up every scrap of passing swell. But they also catch a lot of wind, including local williwaws off the slopes of the crater, and the wind, along with the vast jigsaw expanse of the reef and the swells arriving from many different points of the compass, combined to produce constantly changing conditions that, in a paradox I didn’t appreciate at the time, amounted to a rowdy, hourly refutation of the notion of consistency. Cliffs possessed a moody complexity beyond anything I had known.

Mornings were especially confounding. To squeeze in a surf before school, I had to be out there by daybreak. In my narrow experience, the sea was supposed to be glassy at dawn. In coastal California, early mornings are usually windless. Not so, apparently, in the tropics. Certainly not at Cliffs. At sunrise, the trade winds often blew hard. Palm fronds thrashed overhead as I tripped down the lane, board on my head, and from the seafront I could see whitecaps outside, beyond the reef, spilling east to west on a royal-blue ocean. The trades were said to be northeasterlies, which in theory was not a bad direction, for a south-facing coast, but somehow they were always sideshore at Cliffs, and strong enough to ruin most spots from that angle.

And yet the place had a growling durability that left it ridable even in those battered conditions. Almost no one else surfed it in the early morning, which made it a good time to explore the main takeoff area. I began to learn the tricky, fast, shallow sections, and the soft spots where a quick cutback was needed to keep a ride going. Even on a waist-high, blown-out day, it was possible to milk certain waves for long, improvised, thoroughly satisfying rides. The reef had a thousand quirks, which changed quickly with the tide. And when the inshore channel began to turn a milky turquoise—a color not unlike some of the Hawaiian fantasy waves in the mags—it meant, I came to know, that the sun had risen to the point where I should head in for breakfast. If the tide was extra low, leaving the lagoon too shallow to paddle, I learned to allow more time for trudging home on the soft, coarse sand, struggling to keep my board’s nose pointed into the wind.

Afternoons were a different story. The wind was lighter, the sea less seasick, and there were other people surfing. Cliffs had a crew of regulars. After a few sessions, I could recognize some of them. At the mainland spots I knew, there was usually a limited supply of waves, a lot of jockeying for position, and a strictly observed pecking order. A youngster, certainly one lacking allies, such as an older brother, needed to be careful not to cross, even inadvertently, any local big dogs. But at Cliffs there was so much room to spread out, so many empty peaks breaking off to the west of the main takeoff—or, if you kept an eye out, perhaps on an inside shelf that had quietly started to work—that I felt free to pursue my explorations of the margins. Nobody bothered me. Nobody vibed me. It was the opposite of my life at school.

I had never thought of myself as a sheltered child. Still, Kaimuki Intermediate School was a shock. I was in the eighth grade, and most of my new schoolmates were “drug addicts, glue sniffers, and hoods”—or so I wrote to a friend back in Los Angeles. That wasn’t true. What was true was that haoles were a tiny and unpopular minority at Kaimuki. The “natives,” as I called them, seemed to dislike us particularly. This was unnerving, because many of the Hawaiians were, for junior-high kids, quite large, and the word was that they liked to fight. Asians were the school’s most sizable ethnic group, though in those first weeks I didn’t know enough to distinguish among Japanese and Chinese and Korean kids, let alone the stereotypes through which each group viewed the others. Nor did I note the existence of other important tribes, such as the Filipinos, the Samoans, or the Portuguese (not considered haole), nor all the kids of mixed ethnic background. I probably even thought the big guy in wood shop who immediately took a sadistic interest in me was Hawaiian.

He wore shiny black shoes with long, sharp toes, tight pants, and bright flowered shirts. His kinky hair was cut in a pompadour, and he looked as if he had been shaving since birth. He rarely spoke, and then only in a pidgin that was unintelligible to me. He was some kind of junior mobster, clearly years behind his original class, just biding his time until he could drop out. His name was Freitas—I never heard a first name—but he didn’t seem to be related to the Freitas clan, a vast family with several rambunctious boys at Kaimuki Intermediate. The stiletto-toed Freitas studied me frankly for a few days, making me increasingly nervous, and then began to conduct little assaults on my self-possession, softly bumping my elbow, for example, while I concentrated over a saw cut on my half-built shoeshine box.

I was too scared to say anything, and he never said a word to me. That seemed to be part of the fun. Then he settled on a crude but ingenious amusement for passing those periods when we had to sit in chairs in the classroom section of the shop. He would sit behind me and, whenever the teacher had his back turned, hit me on the head with a two-by-four. Bonk . . . bonk . . . bonk, a nice steady rhythm, always with enough of a pause between blows to allow me brief hope that there might not be another. I couldn’t understand why the teacher didn’t hear all these unauthorized, resonating clonks. They were loud enough to attract the attention of our classmates, who seemed to find Freitas’s little ritual fascinating. Inside my head the blows were, of course, bone-rattling explosions. Freitas used a fairly long board—five or six feet—and he never hit too hard, which permitted him to pound away without leaving marks, and to do it from a certain rarefied, even meditative distance, which added, I imagine, to the fascination of the performance.

I wonder if, had some other kid been targeted, I would have been as passive as my classmates were. Probably. The teacher was off in his own world, worried only about his table saws. I did nothing in my own defense. While I eventually understood that Freitas wasn’t Hawaiian, I must have figured that I just had to take the abuse. I was, after all, skinny and haole and had no friends.

(Continue reading here)