Ode: To the glorious tube

It is the grandest place not on earth.

Riding the tube is the highest of all surfing arts. Unlike airs, gouges, ungainly luggage and fibreglass, it alone belongs to surfing. There is no tube on the sidewalk or in the mountains.

The tube is not the oldest of all surfing arts. Ancient Hawaiians did not duck underneath the lip, they only slid down the face. But it was a Hawaiian, in the 1970s, who made the barrel look so so beautiful. His name was Gerry Lopez and he stood, shielded from the sun and from spectators and from all but his own introspection.

He stood with loose limbs and flair borne of subtlety. He went very deep in thunderous barrels but always looked graceful and without worry or fear. Gerry Lopez made the barrel the highest of all surfing arts.

Other magnificent tube riders, following in Gerry’s wake, have been Tom Curren, Andy Irons and his brother Bruce, Jamie O’Brien, Rob Machado, Josh Kerr, Matt Archbold, Bruno Santos and Koa Smith. They have made the tube a sort of second home and the nuances with which they trim, the slight movements that take them deeper and deeper are beautiful to witness.

Being inside the tube feels like all time has stopped. The first experience, inside, the surfer feels a rush of adrenalized fear. He feels that he is defying God’s natural order and should not be allowed to be where he is. He is between sheets of water, breathing his own air, but otherwise part of the sea. He feels that the lip will, at any moment, hit him in the head or the walls will crush him altogether for defying God’s natural order. But he must persevere. He must trust that the barrel will stay open and do what it does, which is to roll like a freight train, unless he is surfing closeout beachbreaks and then he will be crushed for his defiance.

And the first experience, inside, the surfer has very bad form. His legs are spread too wide. His arms move in small circles, pointed in odd directions. He leans too much toward the wall of the wave. He thinks, maybe, that he looks like Gerry Lopez but in reality he looks like a spasm. With time, however, the surfer becomes comfortable and the tube becomes the only place he wants to be. He is hungry for it with a hunger that never wanes. He can never get enough.

And so he listens to music that inspires him to get more tubes. He listens to anything by Icelandic supergroup Sigur Ros. Their ethereal sound gives him peace, unblock his chakras and allow him to flow. He eats a macrobiotic diet filled with steamed vegetables that is dull, not spicy, but, again, his chakras remain unblocked. He lives in a Hawaiian-style white plantation home and plants pineapple in the front yard and grows zucchini, which he steams.

He decorates his walls with expressionist art of a certain flow-ey, colorful bent. It puts his mind in the mood to be both surreal and rubber. He refuses to watch film and only goes to the theater and only watches Russian ballet. Tears fill his eyes when Russian ballerinas perform Peter and the Wolf.

His mind warps so thoroughly that the barrel ceases to feel strange and it becomes the only place where he feels natural. Western society marginalizes this obsessed man but he does not care. He spends more and more time in eastern places, like Bali, and odd places, like Hawaii.

He hums Sigur Ros tunes in these places and the locals cannot differentiate between these melodies and the melodies of Justin Bieber. He is home. He is free.


Greg Long on National Geographic Live
National Geographic live featuring Greg Long, big waver.

Inspiration: Big-Waver Greg Long Talks Fear

Everything you wanted to know about staring fear in the eyeballs and… stabbing it!

False evidence appearing real. What an empty fucking platitude. Sure, it applies to your mundane social construct terrors; like public speaking, or dancing, or just dealing with strangers who are interested in your whole trip, but falling apart over that type of shit is more manifestation of cowardice than healthy instinct for self preservation.

Maybe I just don’t get it, though. Hand me a mic and I’ll happily yammer at a room full of strangers for hours. I don’t care if people are interested in what I’m saying, just look at me. Look at me! Watch me dance! Pay attention to me!

But real fear is out there. Putting your body on the line, confronting your mortality, driving on the 405 freeway after the better part of a decade in Hawaii. Scary shit, all of it.

Because of the whole surf writer thing, and because I live where I do, I’ve been tapped a fair amount of times to interview big wave surfers. Lots of ego going on there, though understandable, and forgivable, given what they do for work.

You’ve gotta have a relatively high opinion of yourself to hurl your body over a fifty-foot ledge on a regular basis. That thin line between self confidence and arrogance is defined by doing. We all love to hate on Laird, but I can’t think of a single time his mouth wrote a check that his ass didn’t cash.

They all talk about their fear. It sells well, it humanizes, it plays with humility. But I’ve never believed it to be true.

Fear’s a sliding scale, and if you’re doing things right it’s different day to day. As an eight-year-old confronting chest high shore pound my knees were weak. As a grown man with decades of experience it ain’t nothing no more.

I was a fearful child, and remained so into early adulthood. What might happen, what could be, was an ever lurking horror beneath my bed. Consequences, failures, humiliation; bugaboos so abhorrent they’d freeze me in my tracks.

I found a switch, it turns emotion into emptiness. We all have it, it’s just a matter of learning where it lies and how it flips.

It’s not that you don’t feel fear, it’s that you don’t feel anything. In that moment your mind is blessedly free. In a heartbeat you attain an emptiness that the unenlightened achieve by decades of chanting into a void.

You may end up broken, or beaten, or spend years analyzing a failed moment that is the culmination of years of preparation. But that really doesn’t matter.

What matters is that split second when your every instinct screamed, “STOP!” but you went anyway.

Consequences don’t matter, only doing does.

We’re all gonna die, better by misadventure than shortened telomeres.

Methodical: Day Two, J-Bay Open 2015

Prestigious event survives the peculiar pain of round two… 

If you thought the first round of a CT event was a long-haul, the loser round, round two, is worse. All those wildcards chosen to placate locals, all those borderline pro surfers on the slow road to oblivion. The horror of the scene, which soaks up half a day, is made vaguely interesting by those surfers for whom round two is a rarity. It’s like stabbing a bound, defenceless man for no reason at all and then sitting, watching him die, with a dull, meaningless stare.

But something happened last night. The waves switched on a little and the surfing was imperious!

Let’s examine the heat between the Australian Kai Otton and the Brazilian Jadson Andre. Neither surfer would have fans of the sport jamming the turnstiles to watch a heat tween the two and yet, in four-foot runners, not one inch of wave was wasted. As the camera focussed on Otto after a wave he clearly deemed to be better than nine, and mistakenly thinking he’d scored an 8.33, his eyes blazed, his fur twitched and…screw everyone! … he pounded the water. His personal tragedy turned melodious when a 9.33 dropped. What a frightful difference a point makes.

The 2012 world champion Joel Parkinson got pushed up and down hill by the New Zealand rookie Ricardo Christie, both surfers presenting a very uncomplicated approach to J-Bay.

Alejo Muniz beat Taj Burrow and later said he’d been watching and admiring Taj since he was a “little kid”. Alejo is 25 years old; Taj is nearly 40.

Gabriel Medina won a heat! Against Glen Hall!

Jordy Smith uttered a little moan, as if the air was being squeezed out of a little pin-hole, when he lost to Adam Melling with only one scoring wave.

And Filipe! Mercifully, we didn’t lose Filipe! His wrought-up nerves, his slim hunched up shoulders, his humming gouges, slid him past the South African wildcard Michael February.

Let’s sees what unfurls tonight! I look forward to Kelly v Kolohe and Adriano v Dane.

J-Bay Open Round 2 Results:Heat 1: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.33 def. Slade Prestwich (ZAF) 13.04

Heat 2: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 12.00 def. Michael February (ZAF) 8.00

Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) 16.17 def. Tomas Hermes (BRA) 13.77

Heat 4: Alejo Muniz (BRA) 18.13 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 15.83

Heat 5: Nat Young (USA) 17.10 def. Brett Simpson (USA) 12.10

Heat 6: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.96 def. Dusty Payne (HAW) 15.16

Heat 7: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.00 def. Glenn Hall (IRL) 10.44

Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.84 def. Ricardo Christie (NZL) 18.13

Heat 9: Adam Melling (AUS) 14.90 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 8.03

Heat 10: Kai Otton (AUS) 18.10 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 17.07

Heat 11: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 17.77 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 15.23

Heat 12: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 14.80 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 13.93


J-Bay Open Round 3 Results:

Heat 1: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.50 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 15.40

Heat 2: Kai Otton (AUS) 15.50 def. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 12.83

Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) 17.94 def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 8.40

Heat 4: Nat Young (USA) 16.87 def. Adam Melling (AUS) 8.03


J-Bay Open Round 3 Upcoming Match-Ups:

Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA)

Heat 6: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Dane Reynolds (USA)

Heat 7: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. C.J. Hobgood (USA)

Heat 8: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)

Heat 9: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)

Heat 10: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Keanu Asing (HAW)

Heat 11: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)

Heat 12: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Alejo Muniz (BRA)

Just in: Huntington Beach gets worse!

In a move previously deemed impossible, Surf City becomes less attractive.

Huntington Beach, home to rohypnol, Donkey Punch and Travis Ferre is now home to “an aggressive seven foot Great White shark.” Who knew “Surf City” could get worse!

Last week, ISIS targeted the famed 4th of July parade. “The Intel is they are going to kill mass people and then target the fire, police and military that respond…” Huntington Beach’s fire chief allegedly texted his son (read here!)

This week, the marine patrol closed the water for the first time in city history after an aggressive shark bumped a surfer. It was hot and people from inland Chino and Riverside wept openly when told they could not wet their skins and calf length boardshorts.

Lt. Claude Panis told the Los Angeles Times, “The ocean is like a big wilderness. There are many sharks out there.”

Stanford University, though, just released a study that said shark attacks in California are down 91% since 1950. Lt. Claude Panis maybe told the Los Angeles Times, “They have all gone to Australia. Australian flesh tastes like avocado toast drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. California flesh tastes like cold McDonland’s french fries. Huntington Beach flesh? Oh. You really don’t want to know.”

Veronica-Pooh Nash Poleate
“The shark has the right to eat you up when you get in his house. Use some common sense if you are going to the beach. You watch the ocean from a distance.” Who knew it was so easy!

Proof: Why the Pro-Shark Argument Sucks

Don't wanna die in the mouth of a shark? Stay out of the ocean! Who knew!

There’s one of those viral video clips doing the rounds at the moment. After the half-a-doz recent shark attacks in North Carolina, Tennessee gal Veronica-Pooh Nash Poleate (yeah, welcome to the south) filmed herself delivering an in-car sermon about dey fools who swim in the ocean.

“I’m on my way to church this morning, but I wanted to make a quick video because my spirit was troubled this morning. I had the news on and it was talking about somebody else done got ate up by a shark…

“The shark has the right to eat you up when you get in his house. Use some common sense if you are going to the beach. Go to the… beach. You watch the ocean from a distance.”

Twelve-and-a-half million views plus however many million hit it from here.

Every major news organisation from New York to London bit. Without exception, it lauded her “logical” and “epic” advice.

And that’s the thing with the pro-shark argument. Don’t wanna die? Stay out of the ocean. Simple. The world carved into black and white.

I don’t want to die in a twisted car wreck either but I’m not going to recoil at getting behind the wheel. Plummeting to the earth in an Airbus with all engines flamed-out don’t excite me too much either, but I’m still going to fly.

What usually follows the argument are the stats for getting hit by a shark. But take away the 95% of the world’s population who don’t go in the ocean, but who are included in the calculations for shark attack, take away another four per cent who don’t go past their knees, add the fact that you surf every day somewhere where there’s been a cluster of attacks and the odds shorten dramatically.

What this kinda homespun “common sense” also misses is, there’s a world of grey out there. What if you’re not for the destruction of sharks but you’ve got a few questions to ask before you hang up your sled?

As in, what if there is a sudden imbalance in the ocean?

Ask the surfers of Reunion Island, who lived with the occasional shark attack without complaint, but when a marine reserve made it a haven for bull sharks, surfers started dying en masse, kids included. Jeremy Flores went there for two weeks last year and didn’t surf once, even when the surf was pumping.

What about Byron Bay? A fatal every decade or so, now one every few months. And not the usual bull sharks and bronze whalers hanging around rivermouths but the mighty great white.

What about Western Australia? Quiet, now, but how long before a white surfaces with a lid or six-two in its mouth?

A year or so ago, I spoke to a shark fisherman from SA who said he and the other 50 or so shark fishermen there used to take a couple of hundred whites every year. He told me to do the sums since they were protected in 1999.

“Imagine, 200 times 50 times 15 years,” he said.

That’s a lot of White.