Deaf surfer
Deaf, Jewish, big-wave stud Ido Dar-el chasing trinkets at Cloudbreak, Fiji. Ido says he'll "never forget the only time I actually heard a tube at Zicatela (Puerto Escondido) riding at full speed on a thick seven-six, a brown, dark, sand-sucking cave and the… kaboom… in my ears just before being spat out into the light. I had tears of joy. It was so emotional." | Photo: Scott Winer

Unique: A Deaf, Jewish Big-Wave Stud!

You'll fall in love with this ulitmate minority surfer… 

Let’s do a little catalogue of minorities, here. Ido Dar-el is a Jew (almost wiped off the map seventy years ago), he’s deaf (hello! Hello!) and lives for big waves (rare-ish)!

If y’read my stuff, you’ll know I’ve got a thing for Jews. But not the Hasidic-Hasidim with their end-of-world-divine-right jams, and their obstruction of the Palestinian question even though it was the secular men and women, and not the black hats, who fought the wars and got ’em the Holy Land in the first place.

Anyway, Ido came onto my radar and he’s a man with a perspective unlike anyone I’ve interviewed, at least in surfing.

When I asked him, who the hell he was, he came back with, “I love tubes, the bigger the better. When I go outside Israel and its crappy windswells I start climbing the food chain again, from channel to peak, adjusting to seven-sixes and swell periods counted in two digits, not one.”

Ido went deaf when he was a baby, his hearing wiped out either by a virus or a one-night high fever.

Anyway, what’s your first thought when you meet someone who’s blind or deaf? What’s it… like?

The energy of the wave engulfs you. The senses are heightened to smell and taste and being aware of the surrounding. It sounds real corny but you hear the ocean from the heart. It’s similar to hearing people who dive in the silence of the depths.
Imagine hearing the thundering set waves, the foamball inside the tube, though your eyes, through the body.”

“Ever seen a black-and-white TV? Try switching from HD color to that. But it can be a gift, too, no distractions to your imagination, no need to pursue nirvana and mediation sessions, it’s built in. You don’t hear other people’s crap talk. It helps in work too, 100 per cent production. Not hearing crowds in the water cannot ruin your concentration or take away from the beauty of being at sea. And hearing music is incredible but, for me, it’s intuitive. You feel the vibe. And I do sleep good on stormy nights.”

And surfing?

“It’s the best thing to being one with the wave. The energy of the wave engulfs you. The senses are heightened to smell and taste and being aware of the surrounding. It sounds real corny but you hear the ocean from the heart. It’s similar to hearing people who dive in the silence of the depths.
Imagine hearing the thundering set waves, the foamball inside the tube, though your eyes, through the body.”

Ido says he’ll “never forget the only time I actually heard a tube at Zicatela (Puerto Escondido) riding at full speed on a thick seven-six, a brown, dark, sand-sucking cave and the… kaboom… in my ears just before being spat out into the light. I had tears of joy. It was so emotional.”

One thing Ido wants surfers with functioning eardrums to know is how much the deaf miss being tapped into surfing culture.

“There’s so many interesting debates or interviews on the web that don’t have subititles. I’d love to hear Greg Long talk! It’s actually opening up a big niche to the deaf that want to indulge in the surf culture and stay updated. It’s not enough just reading short summaries of the interview.”

Being deaf and out among 15-foot waves isn’t without its challenges. Partly, because it’s not as if someone can let you in on all the currents and entry and exit points (who knows sign language!) and partly, because he can’t hear a fucking thing, he can be a bit of a menance.

“Being deaf is a great responsiblity. There’s a need to look around all the time, analazying the crowds, the right spot to take off and to not to get in anyone’s way, pulling out of waves when in doubt that others will take off. It adds a lot of nerves and stress to surfing big waves with other people. Pipeline and Teahupoo are my dream spots but the crowds and small take-off area makes it off limits for me because I don’t want to endanger anyone. And surfing is about respect.”

When Ido’s not chasing swells to Hawaii or Fiji, he’s prez of the Deaf Surfers Israeli Association. What, the world’s tiniest club? I hooted.

Two hundred surfers in it, he says. You live and learn.


Ian Crane Surfer
The future of surf competition! Come on, those dudes are flogging sizzle sans steak, the whole thing came off like a Virginia Beach 'QS one star. Or whatever they call them now. WQS1000, I think. B level comp surfers, the odd A level freesurfer, battling to out top turn each other, the occasional reverse thrown in.

Wavepool contest like bad one-star QS!

Red Bull Unleashed the future of surfing? It came off like a Virginia Beach one-star, says Rory Parker.

The nice thing about being a cynical prick, you’re right far more often than wrong. It’s really the easiest path, everything sucks, everyone sucks, there’s always something wrong with something.

And then you get to say, “See, SEE!  I told you it would suck. Goddamn, everything in this world is terrible but me.”

If you’re my wife you reply with a line stolen from The Big Lebowski.

“Yeah, Rory, you’re right, but you’re still an asshole.”

Whatever, I’ve heard it all before.

Right is right, sorry if it hurts your feelings. Let’s just pretend everything is fine and dandy. Yay, look how much I love everything that’s awful!

I like some things though. I generally enjoy the spectacles Red Bull bankrolls. Dudes jumping out of spaceships, lunatics riding bicycles off mountainsides. The cliff-diving stuff is pretty neat too.

And that thing, whatever they call it, where a bunch of guys on ice skates fly down a giant Hot Wheels track and fight each other. Crashed Ice. I just looked it up, that’s what it’s called.

But they just can’t seem to wrap their collective corpo addiction peddler mind around surfing. It’s understandable, surf is a bitch to package, too dependent on swell and weather and groups of fringe dwelling weirdos who view the coastal area as some magic-bitch-goddess-earth mother. Much easier to cart a hundred people up a mountain and trample it flat.

The Jaws event never went, the Cape Fear deal was boring as hell.

And this new attempt, the Wave Garden?  The future of surf competition!

Come on, those dudes are flogging sizzle sans steak, the whole thing came off like a Virginia Beach ‘QS one star. Or whatever they call them now. WQS1000, I think. B-level comp surfers, the odd A level freesurfer, battling to out top turn each other, the occasional reverse thrown in.

But I adore JOB’s vids, and I believe Red Bull’s tossing money into that.

Which is what I want to see. Freak show fun, damned-be-the-consequences recklessness, a total lack of attempted play by play commentary seriousness.

To that end, here’s a few ideas Red Bull is free to employ the next time they want to dip a toe in the ocean. These are only a mere taste of my brilliant ideas, though.

For more and better I encourage who ever is in charge of this stuff to contact me via BeachGrit. I know that Chas and Derek have been able to suckle at the caffeine teat, I would also like a taste.

Surf Joust: One wave, two surfers, no mercy!

Combining the only elements non surfers really want to see, wipeouts and injury, Surf Joust would feature a number of tow teams whipping riders at each other at full speed on a lined-up shit wave somewhere it’s legal to ride PWCs in the surf, last man standing wins.

Basically the Bronson Canyon scene from Thrashin‘ but at 40 miles an hour, and riding pointy glass stab planks.

SUP Brah’l: Up shit creek without a paddle!

This one isn’t really surfing, but stand-up paddling down a river is close enough to sell it that way.  SUP Brah’l would see thirty dudes on sweeper planks unleashed down a class five rapids, the only rule being whoever gets to the bottom first wins it all. Punching, shoving, Kai Lenny taking a carbon paddle blade upside his head, that’s the kind of violence I’d tune in to see.

The Whomptown Classic: Shorebreak yo’ neck!

Why no novelty waves? If I want to see a bunch of high-level surfers try to rip a good wave to the beach I’ll just watch a WSL event. Where Red Bull has always shone is in finding that next-level, neck-breaking danger and convincing a bunch of adrenaline junkie wack jobs into risking their lives for what amounts to relatively paltry sums of money.

Ke’iki, Wedge, Lover’s Beach, wherever. Just watch a bunch of skim board videos until you find a hellish shore pound where you can bribe your way into closing the beach and running an event on the biggest swell of the year. I, honestly, think the Wedge would be do-able. For as much as it’s closed off to surfing most of the time it is located in Orange County, California, a hellishly backwards conservative dystopia populated by greedy white assholes. And those people are nothing if not easily corrupted.

Yeah, the bodysurfers will bitch and moan, but does anyone really care what a bunch of middle-aged guys who frequent a break in an area they can’t afford to live think?

surf novel

Great Unfinished Surf Novel: Literature!

One Day in the Life of John Dennis (part II)

Out the airplane rear door. Down the metal roll-up stairs still bopping and into the terminal. He has read, on iPhone, that the forecast is for clearing so his mood feels better. Plus that his car is here and he can drive himself home. Plus there is rumor of possible surf from mate Les who calls.

“Les…Nah ah just landed. Is it good? No no, ah’ll be down there by twenty. Where are you now? Are you goin’ out already? Ahhh call us when you’re goin’ down. See ya dude.”

Though Wes is unreliable. He just got a girlfriend so whenever he sees the surf, or gets to go, claims it’s all-time. Rock it like a baby cradle.

He is ready to get his bag and get to car. He knows his bag will be last because it is an oversized board coffin. Four boards inside plus one wetsuit some jeans and some t-shirts and some socks. Maybe he left his socks behind. The airport crowd is uninspiring and he needs a coffee and a surf and a breakfast and a sun. Oversized luggage is always last, never first or even mid. Leaning up against a stainless steel column he plays with one of the wool threads on his camel colored jumper. It was his dad’s or still might be his dad’s. In any case, he was too lazy to fetch a jacket out of his room before leaving for South Oz so has been wearing this oversized tan wool cable knit for the past three days. He pulls a black beanie, from his back jean pocket, over his long long almost to shoulder hair. Sunbleached from blonde to so many colors of the blonde pantheon. Girls die over it. Really go mad. He doesn’t really care.

His board coffin gets shoved, finally, through a small door near the luggage belt when only a last lonely suitcase is circulating round and round and round. He grabs its nose and drags it toward the parking structure across the way.

8:30 am

Silverchair made this town famous. Newcastle, Australia. Population . Maybe 100 kilometers from Sydney. The airport is an isolated almost Russian steppe looking area to the north. Green trees give way to a plain and there are absolutely no hills. He lives in the south, in a neighborhood named Mereweather. He’ll drive there first, collect his filmer, check the surf in Mereweather and then…He doesn’t quite know, but for sure surf somewhere.

Board coffins are such a pain. His scrapes and scratches as it drags across the wet concrete. Bounces a little up the stairs and then there it is. His car. A black Dae Woo station wagon handcrafted with pride and joy in South Korea circa 2002. Dae Woo. He got scammed on this car, royally. Picked it up from a man in Sydney for five thousand dollars as he was driving it home realized nothing worked. Not the electric windows or engine or anything. The man who sold felt so bad that after John signed the papers etc. he gave him the hugest lolly bag ever. Filled with all sorts of snakes and feet and everything etc. His dad told him to spend two grand and replace the shocks. Fat chance! For this heaper? But it still always seemed to get him where he was going and the interior smelled of comforting mildewed wetsuit but the front passenger side speaker annoyed like fuck with that little hiss it did.

He folded down the back seat and slid the coffin in, started the engine, weasled a CD from out of the glove compartment and backed out of the spot. Pursuit of happiness.

“Crush a bit; little bit; roll it up; take a hit

Feelin’ lit feelin’ like two am summer night

I don’t (hisss) care; hand on the wheel; drivin drunk; I’m doin’ my thing

Rollin the midwest side and out livin’ (hisss) my life getting’ out dreams

People told me slow my road I’m screaming out fuck that

Imma do just what I want lookin’ ahead no turnin’ back

If I Fall If I Die Know I (hissss) Lived It To The Fullest

If I Fall If I Die Know I Lived And Missed Some Bullets.”

Driving round and round and round until the fee pay machine. He doesn’t know what the fee is because he pays on one of his two new credit cards and throws the receipt on the ground before looking at it. Credit cards. It took him, like, an hour to sign the back of these two because he was trying to sign the strip that is normally swiped. He finally figured it out but not before being laughed at by his friends. Li’l bastards! But it was funny.

He crawls through the exit gate and onto the main gate. Possible clearing? Looks not in the cards. It is raining and really raining. And really cold. He would turn the Dae Woo heater on if it worked.

The road leaving the airport, two lanes, is empty and speeds by the desolation and then the outskirts of The Steel City and then the plants where his dad works. He didn’t work here when the family first moved to Newcastle, he worked as an electrician, but now he is a manager at….this plant here to the right. John isn’t sure exactly what he does.

He continues driving. Oncoming cars’ lights reflect off the wet asphalt. The brick buildings look drab against the drab sky.

They pass. Pubs, etc. Opportunity shops etc.

He speeds past the downtown train station and looks at some of the new apartment units that have been built over the port. The construction is quality and they look like they’ll hold their value, whatever that might be. International housing bubbles, which sent the whole world into financial crisis, never hit Australia and things look better and better here.

He winds through parts of town and out in front of the ocean and stops to watch.

He gets out of the cold and a touch drafty Dae Woo interior, stands on the wet curb and looks at the waves for a minute and there is certainly swell. Looks to be either straight east or nor’east. Forster might be all time. Newcastle ain’t terrible. The Gold Coast is probably perfect. He stands in front of the ocean and watches lines streaming in. He watches a few surfers scratch in over the lip and down racing walls that line up not quite as good as he would want. Though he has been stoked for surfing heaps. Been so excited. As excited as he’s been in a long time. He’s got good boards going from JS, his shaper. That’s why he’s been excited. “I’ve got good boards.” Mmmmm.”

He stands in front of the white wooden guardrail, in front of the beach grass which leads to the sand and the ocean and watches the waves peel. “It’s shit.” It isn’t really shit but it might be a bit dumpy. But there is surf and surprise beyond surprise, possible clearing. The overcast ends in an abrupt line just kilometers away. “Clear here!” he thinks. “It is so wintery cold, huh? Looks fucked. Out there, there’s some good reefs. A couple. It should be improving. I wonder if Sydney’s sunny? It has to get sunny.” Another set steams in over the horizon. Thinks more, “There’s a couple of little swells. If it was bigger….this place gets so good when north swells come. Like, see how the lines are going down like that? It wraps around…You get big lefts that barrel. Funny how excited my friend Les gets. That sucks pretty much.”

He climbs back into his Dae Woo and heads home.

Almost there he pulls through an intersection that gave him a terrible fright a few weeks ago. Right there. He almost died. The memory floods. He told his sister moments after it happened, shakey kneed and pale faced. “Ah was comin’ from here and there was a car comin’ this way on that street and he started driving so I thought he’s driving and I’m not even gonna stop. I thought we’d go like that. Like in sync. So I was sweet. Then I looked this way. And there was a car fuckin’ straight in front of me. It almost tagged me good. And I pulled over and sat for ten minutes. It was the worst.”

Billy Stairmand wavepool

Novelty: Albee Layer Wins WavePool contest!

Completes metamorphosis from goose to swan! Wins Red Bull Unleashed at Surf Snowdonia, Wales!

Earlier today, the Red Bull Unleashed event at the Surf Snowdonia wavepool in Wales ran its length. All things considered, it was a good-natured event and well furnished with non-WSL surfers.

These surfers included Jack Freestone, Mitch Crews, Ian Crane, Evan Geiselman, Zeke Lau, Kalani David, US Open winner Hiroto Arai, Kalani David and Albee Layer.

Let me tell you the result: the Hawaiian Albee Layer is no longer a goose but a swan!

In mostly identical two-ish foot waves, Albee worked a surprise act that showed his manifest intention to leave the judges (Pipe Master Jake Paterson, World number two Brad Gerlach and Alain Riou, the Tahitian once beaten by a girl in a heat) gasping.

Let’s dip into the press release, momentarily.

“Layer was consistently the fan favourite, picking up on the nuances of the tricky waves early on and mixing up his manoeuvres to keep the crowd and judges entertained. His musical selections were as sharp as his surfing, and between his 80s metal and pop shuvits it was clear from the early rounds that Layer was the man to beat, despite being one of the bigger surfers in the draw. Aside from Layer and Jack Freestone the WaveGarden proved to be the domain of the lighter surfer this week, and Stairmand, Crane, Mitch Crews, Kai Hing, Ian Gouveia and Hiroto Arai were but a few of the fleet- footed ninjas who left their mark on Surf Snowdonia this week.

“In the semi finals Layer had to come from 2-0 down to beat Crews 3-2 on his final wave, in what will be remembered as the best duel of the event. In the second semi final Stairmand accounted for Freestone 3-0, before rolling on to the ultimate duel with Layer, who carried the momentum of his epic win over Crews into a 3-1 defeat of Stairmand.

“Sprayed with champagne on the podium, Layer, who notoriously does not compete, couldn’t help but beam with pride. “I didn’t know what to expect coming here,” said the Maui local, “but it’s been incredible. Surfing so close to so many people, music playing, heaps of energy in the air, to get the win is crazy. If more events were like this, I’d do them!”

Albee Layer and Billy Stairmand
Event winner Albee Layer was overcome by love for…everyone… and loved Billy Stairmand, if briefly, like a brother.

Can you feel the vibrations?

We’ll take a little more of the press release to explain the event.

“As opposed to traditional half hour heats, there are no second chances at Red Bull Unleashed, every wave counts and falling is a curse. “It’s cool!” said keen spectator Jordy Smith, “you both have an equal opportunity, and there’s no two ways about it, the best surfer always wins. You can’t afford to fall so you really have to walk the fine line between pushing it to the limit and pushing it too far.”

“Throw in an audience 10-feet away and a DJ pumping out the surfer’s chosen tracks, and you have a stadium-worthy spectacle. “The crowd’s right above you, as close as you can possibly get to someone on a wave,” said Smith, “some guys thrive off it, other don’t. It’s an arena for those who can feed off the energy of the crowd.”



Albee Layer (HAW) 3 def. Billy Stairmand (NZL) 1

Semi Finals
SF1. Billy Stairmand (NZL) 3 def. Jack Freestone (AUS) 0

SF2. Albee Layer (HAW) 3 def. Mitch Crews (AUS) 2

Quarter Finals
QF1. Billy Stairmand (NZL) 3 def. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 1

QF2. Jack Freestone (AUS) 3 def. Kai Hing (AUS) 1

QF3. Albee Layer (HAW) 3 def. Jayce Robinson (GBR) 1

QF4. Mitch Crews (AUS) 3 def. Ian Crane (AUS) 1

Round One
H1. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 3 def. Alan Stokes (GBR) 0

H2. Billy Stairmand (NZL) 3 def. Leo Fioravanti (ITA) 1

H3. Jack Freestone (AUS) 3 def. Evan Geiselman 0

H4. Kai Hing (AUS) 3 def. Kalani David (HAW) 0

H5. Jayce Robinson (GBR) 3 def. Hiroto Arai (JPN) 0

H6. Albee Layer (HAW) 3 def Ian Gouveia (BRA) 2

H7. Ian Crane (AUS) 3 def. Mikey Wright (AUS) 2

H8. Mitch Crews (AUS) 3 def. Reubyn Ash (GBR) 1

Goals: To be a surf expert on Fox News!

What do you dream of doing?

I’ve got goals, one of which is positioning myself as a media expert on surfing. Being the guy Fox News uses when they need someone to go off half-cocked, yammering on about vaguely racist subjects with no basis in reality seems like it would be fun as tits. Probably pays pretty well too.

My problem is my filter, or rather, lack of one. Since I have no real incentive to keep my thoughts private I occasionally hear something come out of my mouth which, really, would have been best left unsaid. Fortunately most people don’t take me very seriously, and since I’ve more or less effectively branded myself as a creative type I feel like there’s some expectation of half wit insanity.

But I need more practice. I swear too much, I’ve got a terrible tendency to make unconsciously anti-semitic remarks (and I adore the chosen people), I’m easily riled but have hard time sustaining that fervor for longer than a few minutes. I also lack a bullshit doctorate to give my opinions weight, and you just cant buy them online as easily as you once could.

I recently had the opportunity to be interviewed for a podcast about surfing, which fits my end game to a tee, and I lept at the chance. I think I’ve got a beautiful, resonant, mellifluous voice, if a tad nasal, and I’ve been told many times throughout my life that I’ve got a face made for radio.

It was a perfect fit.

And I could plug Beach Grit, cross promotion galore!

Go here.