You want to cast off into the wildest of yonders? Come surf right in the dictator's lair! Ain't it just a movie waiting to happen?
Indonesia’s passé, Fiji is crowded and Hawaii, who needs the headache! If exotic is your game, how about you join a surf expedition to what is affectionately called “the hermit kingdom” or, officially, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
This September, a New Jersey-based travel company that specialises in trips to North Korea, Uri Tours, is “launching an 8-day surf camp and expedition for a chance to surf the virgin waves of North Korea.”
You like? Let’s read the press release!
“The surf expedition is led by Nik Zanella, official representative of the International Surfing Association and current coach of the Chinese National Surf Team and Andrea Lee, Uri Tours Founder and CEO. The team has been tracking waves and weather patterns along the eastern coast of North Korea for over a year. And the results are promising. ‘The pristine beaches and rocky outcrops of the Hamhung and Sijung area receive a decent amount of swells from a 90 degrees easterly window,’ according to Zanella, who has just completed a 5-year long mapping project of the entire Chinese coast. ‘The DPRK has all of the ingredients for an excellent surf adventure, great surf bathymetry, good exposure and pristine beaches.’ But virtually nothing is known about these areas except for satellite images. ‘Our goal is to cast some light on this coastline, search for the waves, map them and, of course, surf them,’ says Zanella.
Want to go? I do!
“The trip is from September 13-20, 2015 and priced at US$2,400. Package includes airfare from Shanghai, DPRK visas, sightseeing and all accommodations. Deadline August 28.”
If you’ve ever been pulled into Ted Grambeau’s orbit you would’ve found a technically brilliant photographer with the eye of a master.
I’ve known Ted since I first swung into the surf mag game and, back then, it was rare to ever find Ted at home. From the early days in Indonesia to West Africa and Micronesia, Ted was a pioneer of the best sort. He never named. He never trampled the places he came to shoot.
Ted is a photographer in the style of Cartier-Bresson, his favourite as it happens, whose life goal goes beyond money (he has none) but to create images that… speak.
“Photography is a way of sharing your experiences but through your own creative signature,” he says. “And that’s why I love Henri Cartier-Bresson and Sebastian Selgado. They capture real moments and they have their signatures all over it.”
In between all the travel, however, Ted quietly developed his fashion game. Surf co’s and whoever else hired him and without any kind of histrionics he… nailed… their shoots.
All those great Alana Blanchard shots? Yeah, it’s Ted.
His style isn’t studio couture, although this he can nail with his eyes shut, but revolves around water and the movement of the sun.
Lately, he’s been working on a fashion series shot entirely underwater and using the fine-art artillery of Danish Phase One camera backs.
The Hilton Waikoloa on Hawaii’s Big Island is a tourist trap par excellence. Totally self-contained, far removed from the surrounding civilization, it creates a captive audience then proceeds to suck their wallets dry.
I was able to score a free three day stay a while back, piggybacking onto my wife’s work trip so I could get drunk poolside while she spent all day locked in a small room digging through piles of financial documents. The hotel had been stealing their employees tips and she was there gathering info for the class action lawsuit her firm had filed.
I’d shipped over my spear gear from Oahu. Big Island has absolutely amazing diving, due in part to near-shore edges that drop straight into the abyss, luring in deep-water prey and removing the unpleasant necessity of a half-mile swim to reach decent depth.
I realized within minutes of check-in that I hadn’t really thought things through. Our room lacked a kitchen, I wouldn’t even be able to cook anything I caught. Oh well, I’d just go shoot at roi (an invasive grouper) and enjoy the view.
Shortly after unpacking my gear there was a knock on the door. Two security guards stood in the hall. The bellhop had apparently told someone I was planning on spearfishing in front of the hotel and, possibly because I was a member of a party looking to drop legal damage on the business, that was a problem.
“We heard you have a speargun with you?”
“You’re not allowed to have spearguns at the hotel.”
“It’s against the rules. We don’t allow guns in the hotel.”
“It’s not actually a gun, it’s an arbalete.”
“You’ll have to leave it at the front desk.”
“No. If you want it you’re going to have to come take it.”
And that was that. Security guards can’t do shit, and they know it.
The next day, as I was ambling down to the rocks to jump in, another pair pulled up in their little cart.
“You’re not allowed to spearfish here.”
“Yes I am.”
“No, sorry, there’s no fishing allowed.”
“Yes there is. This isn’t a protected area.”
“It’s against hotel rules.”
“Sorry, the hotel doesn’t get to make rules about the ocean.”
I proceeded to do what I wanted, and the poor folks tasked with dealing with me had to go suck eggs. I guess this isn’t that interesting of a story. It’s hard to capture the sweet adrenalin rush that comes with confrontation and pin it to the page.
I spent the balance of my trip sucking down overpriced blended drinks, trying to not get caught staring at the under-age, but legal in Hawaii, daughters cavorting carefree in the sun with hairless boys their age, which is less than half of mine, and tipping people off their rented SUP’s in the man-made lagoon.
With a decent breath hold and a pair of long fins you can creep up on someone underwater from quite a distance. Surfacing at their back, grabbing both rails, and flinging them overboard is a good time. Especially when your alcohol consumption has well numbed you to their sputtering indignation. I made one little kid cry when he fell in. Luckily, his mother thought it was just as funny as I did.
One of the Hilton Waikoloa’s big draws is their dolphin swim encounter. Guests pay good money to commune with the neurotic beasts.
I guess I should say, I’ve no particular love for dolphins. They’re definitely impressive creatures, but intelligence-wise I’ve always considered them to be, essentially, thousand pound ocean monkeys.
Like monkeys, or apes I guess, they’re about as intelligent as a particularly stupid teenager. Which is to say not very intelligent at all.
And, like monkeys and teenagers, they’re kind of rapey, and their total lack of any notion of consequence makes them more than a little terrifying.
That said, the whole dolphin situation was pretty depressing. The holding tanks are about the size of a largish backyard pool, and if you sit and watch them for a while you’ll see they spend their days swimming manically in a circle, periodically stopping to bite the shit out of each other.
In the larger tank next door groups of life jacketed pasties who’ve obviously never seen Blackfish stroke and coo over whichever lucky fish gets to stretch its fins for a moment.
I spent a few hours one afternoon getting fall down drunk on strawberry margaritas, trying unsuccessfully to buy drugs from the scummier looking hotel employees, and hoping against hope I’d get to witness some poor sap get drug underwater and thrashed to within an inch of his life by one of the captive cetaceans.
Not as any sort of karmic retribution for their spendthrift obliviousness, but just because I wanted to see some carnage.
The rest of that day is a blur. I vaguely remember smoking a joint with a group of kids from Hilo, then vomiting bright red into the bushes. I’m not sure how I found my way back to our room, but I was passed out face down in the nude when my wife found me.
Here are some of my favourite dolphin attack videos.
Dusty is a famous Irish dolphin who likes attacking the stupid pink things that are always bothering him.
What an awesome day this little girl had! Not only did she get to experience all the fun of a wild animal bite, she has video proof of her parents lying to her face. Oh the bittersweet nostalgia, that day you learn mom and dad are just as trustworthy as everyone else.
Oh, hey there, human. Having a nice swim? That’s great! Do me a favor, stay right there for a second. What am I doing? Oh nothing much, I was just curious whether I could break your neck with a flick of my tail. Oops, guess not!
I’m only an amateur dolphinologist, but all my research shows that most wild animals absolutely adore having dumb bitches jump on top of them. Not Dusty the dolphin, though. Here he is again giving some pink thing what for.
Hungry dolphins love being teased. Almost as much as they enjoy delivering stiff shots to the sternum.
Until next time, gaze in awe upon the birth of a child’s trust issues.
I first saw Tatiana Weston-Webb surfing in France during the Swatch Pro. I was, as you recall, web commentating alongside Paul Evans and we were both impressed. The girl from Kauai/Dragonstone had a wicked attack in 0 foot waves. But also surfed Teahupo’o, Pipeline, Trestles and King’s Landing with equal parts style and ferocity.
She is the only surviving child of King Aerys II Targaryen, who was ousted from the Iron Throne during Robert’s Rebellion. Tatiana’s mother was sent to safety on Dragonstone island just before the Sack of King’s Landing, and died giving birth to her during a great storm which wrecked the remaining Targaryen fleet at anchor, earning her the sobriquet Tatiana-Daenerys Stormborn. She lived in exile in Essos, until she was sold into marriage by her brother to the Dothraki Khal Drogo; the two gradually fell in love, but she lost her husband and stillborn son to the manipulations of the vengeful magi Mirri Maz Duur. Her marriage to Drogo and subsequent interaction with the Dothraki people gives her the confidence and strength to lead and the belief in herself as the rightful queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Following the death of her brother Viserys, Tatiana was left as the last Targaryen, and intends to claim the Iron Throne as her birthright. She formally styles herself as Queen Tatiana Weston-Webb-Daenerys of House Targaryen, First of Her Name.
She hatched three dragons by having her petrified dragon eggs placed on Drogo’s funeral pyre, before she walked into the flames to claim them. Her dragons are the first seen in the world for hundreds of years, earning her the sobriquet Mother of Dragons.
She won the Paul Mitchell Supergirl Pro in Oceanside over the weekend. And she will win your heart. She is Daenerys Stormborn Tatiana Weston-Webb of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons.
And really, who on the men’s side is that interesting? Tatiana surfs amazingly, she is pretty and it is high time the face of surfing was a woman’s.
Or why I started appearing in ads for Kelly's new label Outerknown…
Kelly Slater and I go back to 1991, when he stayed with my roommate, girlfriend, and me in Newport, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. This was right around the time of Kelly Slater in Black and White. He was a just a kid, crashing on the couch, eating cereal for lunch. I watched him transform from Floridian hopeful to world champ.
And then I watched him win world title after world title.
What impresses me about Kelly is how he challenges himself in every aspect of his life. It’s not enough to just be a great surfer – he reads, he researches, he probes. He has not addled his mind with the drug and drink the way so many have. He is dangerously sober.
When I heard about Outerknown I was excited. Departing from longtime sponsor Quiksilver and starting his own label seemed like a bold move. But I know that Kelly does nothing in half measures. When I heard that ace clothing designer John Moore was involved I was even more excited. John (aka Juan Mas) has been the designer for Hollister, Modern Amusement, M. Nii, and Quiksilver Womens. He has a fabulous mood board in his office, full of iconic and arcane pics from the 20th century. He also has one of best beards I’ve ever had the pleasure of rubbing my face against (a botched hug). Like Kelly, he pours everything he’s got into his work.
Several months ago, they asked if I wanted to be involved. Not as a traditional team rider (I’m 48, my cutback grows new kinks with every year), but more as a brand ambassador or flag flyer. Some talented people are involved: filmmakers, photographers, inventors. We’re a think tank of sorts. I’m in ‘cause I’m hoping we’ll all do a surf trip together. I’m in for the conversation.
I dig the clothes. I’ve grown out of most of the surf labels. Outerknown is more upscale, sophisticated. I know that Kelly and John have gone to great length to bring quality and sustainability to the product.
Sounding too much like a press release of the vanilla and cautious variety?
Okay. I’m in ‘cause Kelly and John are my friends.
I’m in ‘cause I rarely see Kelly these days, but when I do he inevitably brings up some little moment from the two-plus decades we’ve known each other, impressing me with his astonishing memory, and with the fact that despite his big, glamorous life, he is present and authentic.
I’m in ‘cause when my wife died suddenly a couple years ago Kelly wrote me an amazingly heartfelt condolence letter. I’m in ‘cause we live in a world starved of soul, and I see lots of it coming from the Outerknown crew.
Jon Pyzel and Matt Biolos by @theneedforshutterspeed/Step Bros