“Dear Julian, Mick and the WSL…I’m sorry!”

Real men cry. And punch sharks. And get 90000000000000 views.

As fucked up as a near miss shark attack is, the truth is that everyone is walking away from this one a smelling like roses.

Pro surfing is world news, the WSL should be able to grab a nice viewer bump for Teahupo’o Giant barrels, razor sharp reef, people could be eaten by sharks! It’s going to sell really well. Some people will surely stick around in the long term.

Mick’s tears during the dry land interview? Pretty cool, very humanizing. And in no way, shape, or form indicative of cowardice. An adrenaline dump like that will leave anyone shaking. His nonchalant reaction in the water was so manly I’m going to go buy something with his name on it.

And Julian came out shining. Sprinting to help rather than running for safety. Brave stuff, real courage.

Funny thing about courage, you don’t really know if you’ve got it until the moment you need it. Sure, if I saw someone being attacked by a shark I like to think I’d hurry to help. That’s easy to say. But, really, running toward danger is an unnatural thing to do. We’re all alive because our ancient ancestors were good at peace-ing the fuck out.

We end up with much of who we are determined by our unthinking reactions rather than our planned responses. In a crisis moment you’ve rarely time to think, to consider consequences. Your lizard brain takes over and you’re stuck nitpicking through the 20/20 lens of hindsight.

But Mick and Julian acted with aplomb. No one squealed in fear (though it does look like Fanning emitted a manly bellow), it was square jawed chisel chested John Wayne shit all the way. And in front of a camera so everyone can see how damn awesome they are.

To the WSL, I’m sorry for saying the J-Bay event is boring. It ended up being anything but. To Mick Fanning, I’m sorry for saying your style is uninspiring. And to Julian Wilson, I am sorry I recently said you look like a transgender Miss Piggy.

White Lightening vs. Great White!

"The most exciting time in the history of the sport right now."

The story of how Mick Fanning fought off a giant great white shark in the J-Bay Pro finals is leading all major news organizations, from NBC to ESPN to the BBC to ABC to NPR! And it truly is a wonderful one with wonderful footage to go along with. The punch! The thrashing! The open relief on the boat afterwards! Joe Turpel’s, “Holy shit…excuse me.” Pete Mel getting the interview like he is a Vietnam journalist, bombs whizzing overhead but eye on the prize. Amazing!

And Mick’s apocryphal glow will grow and grow and grow. He fought of a great white shark! He is a winner (even though BeachGrit’s pick Julian Wilson is in his second final in a row and don’t look now!).

And the WSL is an equal winner. The J-Bay Pro, if you notice, is nude. It is the J-Bay Pro. Unsponsored. Unembraced by the corporate hug. How livid are all those corporations now? The news story that will play all Sunday long only has the WSL’s smiling (embarrassing and silly like wrestling) logo shining on all.

WSL CEO Paul Speaker recently said, “This is the most exciting time in the history of the sport right now.” I mocked him, openly, suggesting that he took ecstasy. But maybe he didn’t! Maybe he saw the uptick in shark incidents and saw J-Bay on looming on the calendar and saw Mick’s blazing right hand and saw victory.


Holy Shit! (Oh excuse me)

Mick Fanning fights Great White in J-Bay finals!

In the opening minutes of the J Bay Open, the camera fixed squarely on his broad shoulders as he considered the changing lineup, Mick Fanning was attacked by one, possibly two sharks.

The WSL, using the pussified parlance of our times, described is as “the shark incident.”

And fuck if Mick didn’t go straight for his knives! Watch the clip. It takes the champ less than a half a second to flip his board around, and attempt to fend off the prehistoric beast with the trailing edges of his fins!

He full on fights back! Squares up to the fucker. He puts his fins up, only to be get blasted by some waving shark extremity, and knocked off his board.

He’s OK, but the contest has been cancelled. Both surfers have been given a second place and the total prizemoney has been divided ($70,000 each).

It’s very early here in San Francisco and the sun’s just coming over the hill and our house is quiet, the neighbors still asleep, and I’m here losing my fucking mind because I just watched Mick Fanning fight off a fucking shark in real time in the final of the J Bay Open.

My alarm went off, I made coffee, got the stream going, and literally, wham. 

“I was just sitting there and I felt something grab or get stuck in my leg rope and I instantly just jumped away,” Fanning said. “It just kept coming at my board and I was kicking and screaming. I just saw fins, I didn’t see any teeth. I was waiting for the teeth to come at me as I was swimming. I punched it in the back. I’m totally fine, I’ve got nothing wrong with me. There’s a small depression in my board and my leg rope got bitten and I’m totally tripping out.”“I was just cruising and waiting for my turn, my opportunity and I knew Julian (Wilson) was down the point,” continued Fanning. “I was just about to get moving and start paddling again and all of a sudden I had this instinct that something was behind me. I started getting pulled underwater and then the thing came up and I was on my board and it was right there. I saw the whole thing thrashing around but I was getting dragged under by my leg rope. I felt like it kicked me off but it was still there going and I was still attached to my board. I felt like I punched it a couple of times and then it was dragging me and then my leg rope broke.””I started swimming and screaming and yelling at Jules (Julian Wilson) to move as well, but he was coming at me,” said Fanning. “What a legend, coming after me. I was swimming in and I turned around and I had this thought, what happens if it comes to have another go at me, so I turned around so I could at least see it coming. Before I knew it the boat was there, the jet skis were there and we were in safely. I just can’t believe it. To walk away from that, I’m just so stoked. I want to let all my family and friends know that I’m okay.”“Mick (Fanning) was kind of out in no man’s land so I was really watching him and had my eyes on him,” said Wilson. “Mick (Fanning) was looking down the point and I saw the whole thing pop up behind him. It can up and he was wrestling it. I saw him get knocked off his board and then a wave popped up and I thought, ‘he’s gone’. I felt like I couldn’t get there quick enough. The results don’t mean anything to me, I’m just happy he’s alive. I literally thought when I was paddling for him that I wasn’t going to get there in time, especially when I saw him off his board and swimming away. I thought it was going to grab him and take him under. I’m so happy we’re both on the beach right now, I was so worried about Mick’s life.”

The live stream is dead now. It reads: thanks for watching.

“Life’s more important than a surfing contest,” said Kelly.

(This is what Kieren Perrow said)

(And a highlights wrap)

Bleak: Day four, J-Bay Open, 2015

Who woke up in the black of night to watch the Slater-Fanning-Medina "Super Heat"?

I was up into the middle of the night waiting for the WSL “Super heat” to go. Fanning, Medina, Slater; you’re not gonna find those guys surfing together in round three very often.

So, yeah, “super” heat.

Super boring heat.

Watching the three best competitive surfers in the world struggle to eke out points in wind-blown slop was depressing.

“Not the peachiest day out there,” said Ross Williams as rain fell, as the wind blew.

“A tricky, peaky situation,” said Pottz.

While thrills were scant, the mathematician Adriano De Souza, often a latte bore, calculated a score needed to beat Nat Young and Wiggolly Dantas, hucked his tail high enough, and eventually rode out.

Alejo had electric moments. He seems to have built a killing machine out of an old wheelbarrow.

Ace Buchan shoved his clean turns down Kai Otton and Julian Wilson’s throats.

Want round four in fifty-nine seconds? Watch here!

J-Bay Open Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 13.70, Kai Otton (AUS) 13.50, Julian Wilson (AUS) 7.77
Heat 2: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.00, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 12.57, Nat Young (USA) 8.77
Heat 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.90, Kelly Slater (USA) 12.27, Mick Fanning (AUS) 9.94
Heat 4: Alejo Muniz (BRA) 14.34, Keanu Asing (HAW) 14.04, Michel Bourez (PYF) 11.27

J-Bay Open Round 5 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. Nat Young (USA)
Heat 2: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) vs. Julian Wilson (AUS)
Heat 3: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)
Heat 4: Keanu Asing (HAW) vs. Mick Fanning (AUS)

hugh holland locals only

Gallery: The Queer Sultry Summer of 1975

And, strictly speaking, '76, '77 and '78 by Hugh Holland… 

People are crazy for Hugh Holland’s photos. You know the ones. Those retro-gold shots of skate dogs in the dry summers of 1975 through 1978, when it looked as if the world was skating on the edge of an oasis, everything parched by the sun, when every twilight the spray from a thousand sprinklers washed dust and sand from the grey foliage.

And those skaters, sometimes without shoes and shirts, but always with long hair, and always with a ballet-like style.

If you’re in Australia, or Sydney at least, you can come and see a gallery of Hugh’s best photos, even buy one if you’ve got a little room on the plastic, at Blender Gallery in Paddington.

(Click here. It’s on until August 1.) 

I lit up Hugh’s phone yesterday in Torrance, California, to talk about how he went from furniture and antique restorer to pre-eminent chronicler of the most photogenic era in skate culture and one of the most imitated and referenced photographers in fashion.

BeachGrit: I want you to describe 1975 for me… 

Hugh: Hell I don’t know, it was different for sure. But it was right when the summer of love was ending, although we didn’t see it that way at the time. We thought it was sell the dawning of the age of Aquarius but it was the start of corporate powers taking over. It was the end of the period of growth. I was just getting into gear. I was 32, had my own business going, doing pretty well, and I lived in Hollywood. Things were exciting.

hugh holland locals only

BeachGrit: Tell me about that first summer of 1975, that famous drought, when you started shooting skate in drained pools… 

Hugh: It was hot and dry and there was much more smog then than there is now. And part of what gave the pictures that warm look was the sunsets combined with the movie film I was using. I was using movie film because it was cheaper to process. Eastman film. It had a colour all of its own that was specific. That warm, soft look of film that has become a signature for me was the film combined with the smog and the fact that I shot a lot in the late afternoon.

BeachGrit: Were the shots an immediate hit? 

Hugh: No! All my photos were sitting in boxes for 30 years and hardly anybody saw them. I shot for fun. I didn’t have any idea they’d be fine art prints in the 21st century.

hugh holland locals only

BeachGrit: How’d they get so famous so suddenly? 

Hugh: I guess you could say it was Dov Charney, the owner of American Apparel. He saw one of my pictures at a party in New York in 2005 and he wanted to buy it right then and there. I don’t know if you know Dov…

BeachGrit: Yeah, he’s a wildman… 

Hugh: Yes, he’s a wild man. Absolutely wild. He’s the president and owner of American Apparel and built a whole company and, yeah, he’s amazing. They fired him, though… anyway, he liked the seventies, he liked the way they dressed. You know, the people most interested in the skateboard series are the fashion people, the fashionistas. They like the freedom of the seventies. The way they did and didn’t dress. The toot socks and the short shorts.

hugh holland locals only

BeachGrit: So what happened next?

Hugh: Dov got in touch with my gallery. I was living in San Francisco and the gallery said, you better make some more pictures. He’s really interested. So I ended up making some more and he bought ’em all, about 30 or so. And he made a deal to use my pictures in his American Apparel stores all over the world. That was a time when he was opening stores everywhere. He really put me on the map.

BeachGrit: You shelve a lot of cash with the American Apparel deal? 

Hugh: It wasn’t very lucrative for me with Dov. It was very little I got paid. It was very little. It didn’t start for me (financially) until I got discovered by M + B Gallery in West Hollywood.

BeachGrit: What thrilled you so much about the kids you were shooting in that period? 

Hugh: I was into the visuals. I liked to photograph those wild children. And they wanted to be photographed. It was perfect.

hugh holland locals only

BeachGrit: Y’ever in contact with any of the kids? 

Hugh: Yeah, some of ’em, the ones that are not dead.

BeachGrit: How they do feel about the popularity of the shots? 

Hugh: They’re mostly fifty years old or so, or 60, yeah, and they love it. They love it. All of ’em. I haven’t had anyone who didn’t love it. It was a very good time.

BeachGrit: Did you give the kids prints?

Hugh: I have and I  do, but in the seventies I gave away so many prints. I wonder if any of those vintage prints are still around. I haven’t seen or heard of any. But I made lots and gave ’em to the guys…

hugh holland locals only

BeachGrit: You’ve exhibited, recently, in LA and Sydney. You notice any difference in the response to your photos? 

Hugh: In Sydney, I was amazed at how young they were and how they looked like the surfers and skateboarders in the photos. In LA, it was mostly the surfers and the skaters of the past. But in Sydney, yeah, it was a very young crowd. This one girl in Sydney told me I’d been her inspiration, her big inspiration. And she told me how she got a skateboard photo of hers in a gallery and it was all because of me. She said, ‘You’re my inspiration!’ I had no idea!

hugh holland locals only

BeachGrit: What do you hope your photos give us? Historic curios or something else?

Hugh: The purpose of the photos, of art,  is for people to open up their own imagination of what it was like back then. I like pictures that tell a story but you’re not really sure, no one is really sure, what the true narrative is. It’s something developing and taking place in real life. I like pictures that look like they’re from a movie, that look like they’re a scene from a movie or a play. Something unfolding. Something candid.