Long Read: Come swim in a gorgeous blond stream

The best three brothers that anyone could ever have.

There is something magical in California’s sunlight, oh yeah. The way it is gold and the way it filters down to earth, through leaf and smog, so warm and breezy. The way life looks through it.

Blonde girls spread out on sandy towelettes just taking it all in. Brunette girls walking down hot sidewalks in the shortest of shorts just sipping ice cold Coca-Colas. Sippin’. Time lasts forever in California’s sunlight. No one ever gets old and nothing ever changes, no not ever, and a Mamas and Papas soundtrack dances on those breezes so warm. Ahhhhh, yeah.

So close them tired eyes of yours, child. Close them eyes and open that mind. Picture palm trees and sand and driving with the top down. Driving past the Chateau Marmont and up to Hollywood Boulevard and you go right ahead and call in Hollyweird. You get right on in there, dig?

Breathe deep that Golden State, that Hollyweird. Smell the sweet. (and we all know what that “sweet” is, yeah?. Ahhhhh yeah. It Mary Jane. It that Indian tobacco. Squares call it marijuana but we ain’t square so we call it weed). Stay awhile. Ain’t no hurry ‘cause ain’t no one hurrying. Just keep them eyes closed and keep breathing and just roll. Head back on the greenest grass. (We call it grass too.) Let it be, babe. What is and whatever may be and maybe ain’t no more Mamas and Papas soundtrack. Maybe now it’s that ol’ Jefferson Airplane and maybe now we slippin’ on down the rabbit hole.

Woah! No fear. It’s all happening now. Ride it out. Kaleidoscope, brother!

Who is that man with crazy in his eye and a swastika on his forehead sitting up under that Eucalyptus tree? What’s he saying about the system? Let’s listen.

“You made your children what they are,” he’s saying. “These children that come at you with knives, they are your children. You taught them. I didn’t teach them. I just tried to help them stand up. You can project it back at me, but I am only what lives inside each and every one of you.”


He sure don’t live inside of me! His hair is a wild rat’s nest! Let’s beat it! Let’s find another corner of this totally golden state. Let’s go down to the beach.

And that’s better. We needed some salty spray. We needed some bouncy bikini. We needed some all bared to the world skin.

Wait. Who are those boys with each the same straw-coloured hair and each the same white-as-light teeth sitting on that beach blanket cross-legged and tan? They look like Mormon angel paintings. They look like they live in heaven and they’re talking about something. They’re moving their hands and really digging on something, man. Getting to the meat. What is it? Let’s get close. Let’s get right on in there. What is it? Ahhhh they talking about the surf. Waves, friend. Not metaphysical ones either. Real liquid waves. Waves that break in the ocean from storms a million miles away and waves that they ride. The surf.

The tallest of them is smiling as he speaks. They call him Dane and his hair. Wow! Like, Wow! His hair looks like the fruit sitting under the Eucalyptus tree with the crazy in his eye except it is the colour of straw, like the rest of them, and it is chopped at the fringe. His jaw is strong. All their jaws are strong but his is the strongest. And he speaks.

“Hoooo, it is a blast. Surfing is a blast and I could do it all the time. I do do it all the time.”

And, it becomes clear that all three boys not only have the same straw-coloured hair and the same white teeth but they have the same mother and the same father and “brother” is not being used metaphorically either. Real waves and real brothers. And, furthermore, the one they call Dane has the same genetic code as the one they call Pat. They are twins. Twins, man. Woah!

And Dane continues his thought. “I love travelling with my brothers because no matter what the situation is, we turn it into something fun. And it’s cool to share those experiences with people you’re stoked to be with. We aren’t travleling as much together now but they are always in my heart. Right down in there. In the middle of it.”

And, he looks at both of them sitting on that beach blanket and smiling broad. Then he looks at me. Like, right through me. “But, I’m not the one you should be writing about right now. You should be writing about Pat. You must write a story about Pat but call him the Banana King and don’t pull any tricks on the young maestro and write something else. The Banana King is your meat. There sits the Banana King.” He points a long finger right at Pat who has the same bones as Dane, the same eyes, but not the same hair. His hair is cut short. Almost similar to the way squares wear it. Twins, man.

And, I tell him I don’t really give a damn which of them is on tour. I’m not about all the rules and regulations and hierarchy but Dane ain’t having it. He ain’t having none of it. “Until you learn to realise the importance of the Banana King you will know absolutely nothing about the human interest things of the world” he tells me.

So, now, I am right in the middle of it. Right down in there. No longer an observer of this freaky beach scene but, instead deep down that rabbit’s hole. Engaging. And I ask Pat, the Banana King, what it is like on tour and he tells me, “Ahhhh bro, it’s fun. It’s a blast. Just cruising, you know? There are so many good guys on tour, so many friends, and my brothers don’t do it so we don’t travel together as much and all that but it is real fun. I’m all requalified up so I’ll be doing it next year too and Tanner is charging so he’ll be here soon, too.”

Positive thinking. Idealising. Manifesting the good.

But, he is alone right now. Alone on tour. So I ask him about the latest tour event at Teahupoo.

“That wave seems unearthly. We are accustomed to looking upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there in Tahiti, at Teahupoo, there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It is unearthly and the men who paddled out, all the men who paddled out including my brothers, seemed inhuman. But, no they were not inhuman. They would drop down and pull into huge barrels and howl and leap and spin and get totally shacked and make horrid faces, but what thrilled me was jut the thought of their humanity. The thought of our kinship with this wild and passionate uproar.”

His brothers are all grooving on this beat. Getting in to this rhythm. And, he keeps riffing.

“Teahupoo is my favorite wave in the world. It is so sick. During the big tow day I sat in the channel on my board and took it all in. I was thinking about giving it a go but just sitting there and watching it was amazing. And, of course, it fired for the contest. So sick.”

Sick. And what a heavy thought. Kinship with the uproar and riding a free monster. Kinship with the other two sitting right next to him. Whoa.

And I ask him who he likes on tour. Specifically, what he thinks about Matt Wilkinson because Matt Wilkinson was totally inhuman at Teahupoo. And Pat, the Banana King, looks at me and his smiling face grows serious and he says, “Wilko was doing things out there, man. He was getting after it like no one else but he has hydrocephalus or some manner of lymph disorder I believe. His head fills up with liquid.” Heavy.

And, they all sit and ponder this for a moment. The youngest one they call Tanner and he hasn’t said much of anything yet. Tanner is a good-looking young man two-and-a-half years younger than his twin brothers and he also has a square cut and he is also handsome. He has just been soaking in his brothers’ words and sucking on them like marrow. I want to know what is in his head and what it feels like to have these two twins above him, clearing a path. Do they make him a better person? He answers thoughtfully. “Yeah, definitely. Dane and Pat push me in all things I do. Patrick is a great coach because he has the knowledge of surfing the CT heats. I am super stoked ‘cause he genuinely wants to help me get back to the Tour, so I really cherish his advice. Dane and I always push each other as well. He is the most positive coach, so I am really lucky. But I would do the same for them.”

Dane nods and agrees. But, Dane isn’t interested in competing himself right now. He is on his own trip. Getting after the big waves. Surfing the unshackled monsters. He travels a different path chasing the storms but he is always locked in to what his brothers are doing.

A full-on brotherhood. A totally now collective of enlightened youth just living in the moment and living without the jealousies and negativity of society. Tied together with the thickest of knots but each doing a different version of the same thing. Pat competing full time at the highest level. Dane riding the huge. Tanner coming up the ranks. A full-on hip crew separated most of the time, these days, but never separate.

Pat says he thinks Dane always does the single best manoeuvre of every contest he is in and now he is not talking about his twin brother Dane, but rather Dane Reynolds. Every conversation about competitive surfing these days ends up floating around Dane Reynolds and what he is going to do and what he is doing. Pat really grooves on Dane’s surfing, like everyone else. He says he is psyched to watch Dane surf in any conditions and Tanner smiles. Tanner likes watching Dane too and just likes watching surf, in general, and psyching on surf, in general. He says that surf psych is alive and well in San Clemente.

They all love the surf. They are always surf stoked. Surf psyched and it makes them famous everywhere they go. The great surf psyching Gudauskas brothers. Yeah, just dig on that for a minute. Their last name. Just say it, man. Let it roll over your tongue. Gu-daus-kas. Goo-dows-kiss. Good-ah-skis. I ask what it means, Gudauskis, and Dane answers, “It is Lithuanian. Our pops is Lithuanian and our mom is Irish so we get drunk and then we get drunk. A Lithuanian car bomb.” Tanner adds, “When we travel in Europe we’ll meet girls and tell them our last name and they know our roots are Lithuanian. It’s a pretty common last name over there…” Heavy.

I ask when they first got in the water, when they first graced Mother Ocean with their blonde genetic similarities. They all look at each other and remember the past. And Pat, the Banana King, finally speaks. “I think Dane and I were surfing by, like, four but Tanner didn’t pick it up until he was seven or something. He used to bodyboard all the time, doing doughnuts in the beachbreak. Dane and I were baffled by why he wanted to do that but then he picked up surfing so it was all good.”

Did they ever fight? They all speak. “Nah. We’ve always just been cruisy. Easy.”

The non-fighting, all-surfing Gudauskas brothers. I say they look happy. That they look so totally happy and Tanner says, “Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.”

And with that I turn and walk away and leave them Gudauskas brothers sitting and smiling in the sunlight and still talking about the surf and the psych and the stoke. Good things happening in California down by the beach.

As I’m walking away I run into an old Indian with a weathered face and wise eyes. “You ever hear of the Gudauskas brothers?” I ask him.

He looks at me all deep and said, “I saw those young people, the two with short hair and that one with the long, crazy hair and the Great Spirit told me they will have no greed. We waited a long time to find white men without greed. But we knew there would come a time when we could get together as brothers.”




California magic. California gold.

Jack Robinson portrait
The signing of teen Jack Robinson is just one of the smart commercial decisions made by Billabong in the past two years. | Photo: Morgan Maassen

Buy: Billabong Shares. Now!

Hit bottom, maybe! Room for growth! Grow rich!

Who doesn’t want to be just a little rich? Who doesn’t want to worry about money ever again? No more rent. No more car  payments. No more stressing when the electricity bill is jammed into your mailbox and you open it and it’s $500 and all you’ve got is a few shekels in your account.

Not you? Oh, you lie! 

Anyway, we like cash as much you do (at least deep in your heart) and, right now, at sixty Australian cents per share iconic surf brand Billabong is looking like one helluva buy. Yeah, don’t shake your head. This isn’t an emotional thing.

Let’s do the numbers and you’ll see.

First, Billabong has been through the ringer. The tough days, the hard decisions have been made.

A few years ago, four hundred or so retail stores and some crappy acquisitions they paid through the nose for were eating ’em alive. There was nothing intrinsically wrong with the gear (although it is a taste thing, this I accept) and it was selling well.

There was even a time only two years ago when the company’s debt had swollen so much it was fifty-fifty whether or not the administrators were going to be called in.

When Billabong listed as a public company in 2000 the shares sold for a little over two bucks. Fast forward a few years and they were $16 and climbing. Analysts were calling it the new Nike and predicting numbers in the high twenties. If you’d bought, say, 50,000 shares when it listed (a $100k wedge), you were now worth close to a mill.

So why buy ’em now at sixty cents?

Billabong have halved the number of retail stores and sold off a few of their biz’s, reducing debt, but, tellingly, a couple of hard-nosed US private-equity companies have bought hard into Billabong.

And the CEO is Neil Fiske, who was instrumental in driving the fortunes of the king of US retail Les Wexner, turning Victoria’s Secret and A & F into the dirtiest of money spinners.

On the creative side, Billabong has hired Roxy’s head designer to help drive Billabong gals, RVCA is starting to soar and Tiger Lily is still an unfulfilled buy.

Most interestingly, Billabong’s founder Gordon Merchant recently dropped $2 million upping his share parcel from 8 to 10 per cent. It’s a move that hints that he is finding the price too good to refuse.

As soon as the market works out the new management with their PE Backers have a plan to restore their old margins and and with Billabong still turning over one billion a year hit makes a share price of little over a dollar likely.

Is it worth a punt? Yeah, if you’re going to stick around for a few years. It’ll jump around, as shares do, but don’t torture yourself by watching the share price on your phone every few hours. Take a long-term view.

Set, forget, and come back when it’s around a buck. Then sell.

Note/warning: I ain’t rich so don’t’ wah…wah… and start pointing fingers if the sharp price goes south. My advice is pretty high end… but yeah… ain’t no guarantees.

JOB is a Ke’iki man

Bravest of fools!

I’ve spent my entire life in the ocean and experienced near pants-shitting fear on more than a few occasions, but there’s really no place on Earth I find quite as terrifying as Ke’iki Beach.

Located on the sandy stretch of Oahu coast between Log Cabins and Sharks Cove it’s a shoulder separating dry sand closeout 90% of the time, capable of sending you to Kahuku ER on even the smallest of days (sidenote: if you get wrecked on North Shore and have to choose between the Kahuku Medical Center and Wahiawa General- head to Kahuku. Far fewer junkies lining up with fake injuries in the hopes of scoring an opiate scrip. Better yet, suck it up and make the trek into town for Queen’s.)

When it gets bigger it moves offshore into much deeper water. Which would be great, if it weren’t for the giant stone anvils lurking beneath the surface.

Heading out into that insanity on a pink foam pseudo-boogie at the behest of JOB would be a fools errand. Luckily for us, there seems to be no shortage of fools.

Matt Biolos: The Secret to Magic Boards

It's a little thing called ratios...

I won’t lie to you. I’m deeply, madly, head over hells in semi-platonic love with the San Clemente surfboard shaper Matt Biolos.
Oh you knew that already? Yeah, something about writing his praises, every other month, for the last 10 years might’ve spelled it out. If gay was my game, I’d be so bear.
But why be ashamed when he’s a titan of the game? A shaper genuinely interested in others’ opinions, who actually listens to the marks he shapes for, a man whom God has given everything: money, popularity, family.
He tears me to pieces with his average-man vibe. And, so, I wanted to ask, today, me in Jakarta, he in California, about what makes a magic plus a little side-talk on the good and bad of being a career shaper.
BeachGrit: Okay, first, amid all the awesome, what do you fucking hate about shaping?
Biolos: I really get tired of the grind, the battle of managing production and running the back-end and the financial strain of biz. The stresses of growing or shrinking. Always feeling like you need to have some thing new going on, or coming out. The dirty part. Also, 30 years of foam dust gets old. My skin is permanently dry and damaged. My hair is falling out in weird ways…my eyes are going fast. Gotta wear glasses at work now. I also hate that no matter how many great boards you make, no matter how many deadlines you hit or how many miracles you pull off, there’s always some one not happy or someone whose board got built wrong or took too long.
BeachGrit: What is it about the gig, about owning a large surfboard company that thrills you to bit?
Biolos: I like the freedom to travel and see the world. Been flying around the planet building boards for over 25 years now, but the last couple have been most rewarding as I am now bringing my entire family around with me. Last year we followed the ASP tour a bit and went all over South Africa, stopping and visiting Dubai on the way. We also went to Europe for a month, visiting  Spain, France and Portugal. It’s great being able to work with world-class athletes. I like the challenge in that. I really enjoy designing in general. Whether it’s for the pro’s, or even more rewarding at times, the average dudes, like me.
BeachGrit: What are the variables of making surfboards or manufacturing that you wish people knew?
Biolos: Well, like any business, it’s rife with employee issues. Anyone with manufacturing would know what I mean. We manufacture! We don’t just write orders to factories and wait for containers. We build a lot of boards and it requires a lot of skilled craftsmen. People are not robots. They have emotions, get tired, and sick, or bored. When you have a couple dozen guys: machine operators, shapers, air brushers, laminators, fin guys, fill-coaters, sanders and more, there are ups an downs. tThe same goes with equipment. Machines act up, air compressors explode, air lines burst, power tools go on the fritz. Supply chains can go awry. The bell curve of manufacturing in a some what seasonal biz, means our raw material suppliers get hammered in the spring and getting deliveries can be difficult. The same goes for cash flow. You make hundreds, thousands of boards. You pay for all the materials and labor and overheads. Then you ship ’em to retailers and wait… wait… wait… to get paid. It causes strains. These things are inherent in pretty much any business. On a different level, there are crazy detailed variables with building boards on a high-performance level. We actually go through and weigh individual blanks for our team riders, picking the lightest ones, of seemingly identical blanks, before cutting them on the machines.  On cold humid days, it’s almost impossible to get light laminations here in California. Dry warm days make for really nice light boards.
BeachGrit: Tell me, what’s the most profound thing you’ve learned about surfboards, as in, what’s the… secret to magic boards?
Biolos: It’s all about balance. If one aspect is extreme then a counterbalance is needed. More curve on one aspect requires less curve on another. After 15 years of designing in CAD, I have come to notice some consistently recurring relationships in magic boards. There are certain things that just seem to work. Like, if your outline has a nose which at 24” is 1” narrower than your tail at 24” it always seems to balance best with a certain ratio of measurements in the bottom rocker in the same positions. I have little ratios like that which tell me things.
BeachGrit: What about shaping? What does it give you?
Biolos: Shaping has given me everything. The incredibly fortunate life I have is all from shaping surfboards.

Miki Dora
Why should we care about Miki Dora, dead 13 years already? "What he was really like as a person doesn’t interest me at all," says the noted historian Matt Warshaw. "Maybe he was a total dickhead, maybe he had a secret heart of gold, maybe he was acting all the time, maybe just some of the time. Who knows? Who cares what Dora was really like? What counts is what he represents. Surfing is a game and a hustle. For all of us, just on different levels. You want to surf a lot, you gotta hustle. You lie to your boss, your wife. You break laws, even if its just jumping lights to get to the beach faster. And . . . and . . . you try and do it with style! You out-style the fuckers!" | Photo: Pat Darrin

Culture: Why Miki Dora still matters!

Surfing is a game and a hustle, says Matt Warshaw. And Miki Dora did it with…style!

What do you know about Miki Dora? Anything? Maybe it’s as a vague apparition, or it’s the dusty odour of what we usually call a “legend”, maybe nothing at all.

I’ll be brief. Miklos Sandor Dora aka Miki aka Da Cat was a Hungarian-born surfer who inhaled the surfing dream hungrily. He flamed! He was style in the water, suits out of it, convertibles, Hollywood and movie stars. He was also a thief, a scammer and an impossible loner who travelled the world chasing adventure and waves, his only real friend a small dog called Scooter Boy.

A few days ago, the noted historian Matt Warshaw posted an entry about Miki’s step-dad Gard Chapin. (Read it here, it’s rad.) And, because Matt does history better than anyone in the game, I figured it was finally time for he and I to exchange on Miki.

Was he as great as they said? Does he still matter?

Between San Francisco (Matt) and Sydney (DR), we back and forthed.

BeachGrit: So you just posted a piece on the death, murder of whatever, of Gard Chapin, Miki Dora’s stepdad. And this interests me, because it reminds me of American surfing culture’s fetish for Dora and what he represents: rebellion, individuality, perfection of style. I met Miki a few times in France and was deeply unimpressed despite the fact he was surrounded by acolytes. What don’t I get? 

Matt: Okay, but first — you met him? I never did. Tell me a little about it. I know that five people meeting Dora could easily have five different impressions.

BeachGrit: I was living in Hossegor and hanging with the guys from Quiksilver, mostly, and they were paying Miki to be Miki, as in a witty golf partner, living surf legend. And my pals kept asking, “Do you want to play golf with Miki?” And, me, being anti-nostalgia and terrified of being dragged down golf’s hole, kept knocking it back. The first time I met him was at Stephen Bell’s board factory out the back of Hossegor. Mark Phipps was shaping his boards, these eight-foot-ish gun things, beautiful, and I was there when Miki came to pick up a board. And, let me tell you this, Matt, he was a gorgeous old man, late sixties, this was just before he found out he had pancreatic cancer. He was wearing a sort of pleated sports shirt, big pants belted high, was six-two or so, and had coffee-coloured skin.  

Matt: So in fact you actually weren’t deeply unimpressed. You were impressed!

BeachGrit: Yeah, I liked what I saw. And then that book All For a Few Perfect Waves (click here to inspect) landed and I liked him a little more. But why is he so fetishised? He must’ve been a pain in the ass to have as a pal. Why do you like him? 

Matt: What he was really like as a person doesn’t interest me at all. Maybe he was a total dickhead, maybe he had a secret heart of gold, maybe he was acting all the time, maybe just some of the time. Who knows? Who cares what Dora was really like? What counts is what he represents. Surfing is a game and a hustle. For all of us, just on different levels. You want to surf a lot, you gotta hustle. You lie to your boss, your wife. You break laws, even if its just jumping lights to get to the beach faster. And . . . and . . . you try and do it with style! You out-style the fuckers! So Dora. I mean, never mind the surfing. He was either the most stylish longboarder ever, or in the top three, whatever. Forget that for a second. He’s smartest guy in the room. He owns a tux. He owns tennis whites. He can pick the right wine at Musso & Frank. He can talk about Europe. He does irony. He’s worldly, when every other hot-shit surfer, then and today, is completely lost on the other side of the coast highway. You like eye-rolling the Gudauskas brothers? How can Dora not be your man?

BeachGrit: …yeah, you’re right, he… played it. Did that part in Surfers the Movie do it for you? I still watch it.  

Matt: No, exactly, I was just going to bring up Surfers: the Movie. It was Chas Smith, or maybe it was you, Derek, who said the whole point of us interacting as surfers — again, not counting the wave-riding part — is to be entertaining. To NOT be boring. So I would maybe amend that and add a few exceptions, but okay, for the most part I accept that statement. And on that basis Dora was so far out ahead of the rest, past and present, that nobody else really registers. And that’s exactly what you get in Surfers: the Movie. Christian Fletcher, Arch, Cheyne, Johnny-Boy, Rabbit, Owl — all these guys with rebel cred totally disappear once Dora’s onscreen. Just vanish. Dora’s amazing rant is the only thing anybody remembers about that movie. And a big part, a huge part, of why that rant is so perfect is that Dora admit’s that his life in a lot of ways is messed up. That he’s lonely. He was damaged as a kid, and he’s further damaged himself as an adult. His closest companion is a little fucking dog. In other words, yes, Dora’s out-styling everybody, and out-rebelling everybody, but he’s lost. He’s stuck. The fact that he died at his father’s house, because he didn’t have his own family, is incredibly sad.

BeachGrit: I was actually very impressed by the way Dora died, tanning by a pool in Montecito. I thought it a very civilised and beautiful way to depart. Can you describe those final couple of months?

I just know what I read in David Rensin’s book All for a few Perfect Waves and from what I heard from Steve Pezman, who visited Miki a couple weeks before he died. I don’t know if it was all that beautiful. A lot of pain meds, a lot of morphine, a catheter. But yeah. He was out there tanning. At some point an old friend came by in a Ferrari and took Miki out for a long tear-ass drive through the Santa Barbara hills. Right up till the end, if the pain left, Miki made jokes and laughed. And he made amends to people he may have hurt or offended.  He was gracious.

BeachGrit: Is there a contemporary equivalent of Dora?

Matt: Noa Deane yelling “Fuck the WSL!” at the SURFER Poll, and being thought of as rebellious — it almost makes me glad Dora died when he did, so he didn’t have to witness how far we’ve sunk in terms of being cool and different and maybe a little dangerous.