Dear WSL: Run events like God intended!

It is time for the lay day to go away!

We are smack dab in the middle of the “most exciting time in the history of professional surfing” and you know what? Yawn. Because lay day. Because the waves are zero feet zero zero inches. Because there is no swell left in France. Because the fucking swell ALREADY CAME AND WENT AND NAT YOUNG SURFED IT AND GOT A 4.67!

Now, I ain’t a real businessman but I am an Internet one (hello, BeachGrit visitors!) and if I have learned one thing it is that the people must be entertained. When we do not post things, or post bad things (hello, Sweet Sugar: The Inertia Describes New York!), our traffic wanes. It is digital law.

The World Surf League may think of itself as a “league” but it, like BeachGrit, is merely an Internet business. Revenue and growth depend almost solely on unique views/hits/likes/blah. And, as such, it depends on a regular and steady stream of measurable eyeballs. When events don’t run for a day, or six, those eyeballs don’t stay. Eventually they won’t even come. Certainly there are weeks between events but those weeks could actually be filled with consistent programming. Interesting interviews, behind the scenes, set ups, etc. And then the event comes and it builds to a crescendo that satisfyingly delivers a champ within 2.5 days.

Lay days let the air out of a narrative balloon completely. Exciting performances, upsets, big moments are forgotten and lost. The whole event must, from a story-telling perspective, start over in the quarters. That isn’t enough time to get weirdly and embarrassingly thrilled.

How can the WSL accomplish this? Cut down the number of surfers (goodbye, Nat Young!). Do away with meaningless no-loser heats. Done.

And you are welcome Graham Stapelberg!

Laird Hamilton push up
What sort of work-out does Laird Hamilton employ to balloon like he has?

Who’s the world’s most overrated surfer?

Can you guess?

Last Monday, the excellent website Surfline published a list of the “10 Best Power Surfers of All Time.” It was written by Sam George, and you can read it here.


San Francisco’s Matt Warsaw, the self-appointed bearer of the sport’s history, however, was made furious by the list and published his own list of power surfers on Surfer.

(Click here.)

Warshaw then contacted BeachGrit with a proposal.

Warshaw: Much hullabaloo online about both lists. Ian Cairns was pissed off at Sam and Surfline; Nick Carroll called me out for not including Dane Kealoha. Various and sundry power-list-related pissing matches went on for three days. Therefore, should we have a little rave about the ridiculous and irresistible draw of list-making?

BeachGrit: I want to ask you about your power list. Where’s Sunny Garcia? The most powerful surfer of all time. Surfing’s greatest icon! (Hello Sunny, yes I’m coming to the North Shore this season…)

Warshaw: Sunny would probably be on my list for Best at Backdoor and Most Compelling World Champions. And yeah, you know, he’s powerful as fuck, but I only had five slots!

BeachGrit: Here’s a list topic. Most Overrated Surfers. 

Warshaw: No way.

BeachGrit: Got anyone in mind? I’ll touch if you touch.

Warshaw: Everybody’s got a guy they’d put on that list. You know why you can’t do it, though? Cause that guy, whoever he or she is, is going to win the next contest, or post some batshit crazy clip, and you end up being the idiot who had him on the Most Overrated list. And you wear that forever, like a tattoo.

BeachGrit: Okay, okay, wear this. I can’t say I was surprised when Quicksilver collapsed shortly after nominating Matt Banting as their most marketable surfer. Who kills you? 

Warshaw: You’re calling out Matt Banting? That’s not going out on a limb, really, Derek.

BeachGrit: Tough guy, huh? Who you got?

Warshaw: I’ll tell you this. I remember at the beginning of the year, at Snapper, when all the guys in the booth were squealing on about Italo Ferreira, and how good he was, and I watched and was incredibly unimpressed. Same at Bells and Margarets. I would have gone public with that too! But after Cloudbreak and Tahiti, I’m Italo’s biggest oldest fan. Putting on some chub around the waist in homage! What I’m saying is, it’s a risky game, making those calls.

BeachGrit:  Didn’t Sunny call you out?

Warshaw: I said he wasn’t going to win a title when I was at Surfer and he promised to bitch slap me at the soonest possible opportunity.

Derek: Did he slap?

Warshaw: What he did was actually way better. A year or two later, at Huntington for the Op Pro or US Open or whatever it was, Sunny saw me at the event walked over to me with death rays coming out of his eyes, and just before I wet myself he veered off without saying a word. Then of course a couple years later Sunny did in fact win the world title. Sunny will always get the last laugh. Always.

BeachGrit: Do you think Kolohe Andino is the most underrated surfer on tour? I certainly do. 

Warshaw: Dino is and always will be my favorite Andino. Kolohe’s dad was an amazing surfer in his day. Kolohe himself . . . I don’t know. His magic hasn’t yet worked on me. So yeah. Opposite of underrated, if you’re going to twist my arm. Now watch! He’ll win Portugal!

BeachGrit: Tell me, do your eyes light up at the thought of Matt Banting getting the injury wildcard? 

Warshaw: Honestly Derek, I can’t even work up a visual of Matt Banting. I like his name.

BeachGrit: Do you have a visual of Glenn Hall? No one could accuse that brave little man of being overrated… 

Warshaw: The little Irish pug. Micro is so much the total opposite of a guy you’d build your new marketing campaign around that you have to love him. Somebody is going to make a heart-warming documentary about Glenn Hall, mark my words.

BeachGrit: In history, and according to your readings, who is the most overrated surfer of all time? 

Warshaw: Not a chance

BeachGrit: When were you neutered? 

Warshaw: Third or fourth grade, around there.

BeachGrit: Unlike you, did any surf writers escape the knife? Lewis Samuels? My own Chas Smith?

Warshaw: Chas says you keep his boys in a small velvet clutch on your desk. Lewis is intact, but the Google blade is parting his scrotal fur as we write. Tell you what. You tell me who the all-time most overrated surfers is, and I’ll render judgement.

BeachGrit: Rob Machado? The contest-hungry kid who split the tour to create faux-soulster meme? 

Warshaw: Machado is verging on becoming a caricature of himself. Or no, actually he passed that station 10 years ago. But he’s a triple-blackbelt flowmaster. Craig Anderson’s white robes could use a little dirtying up, though.

Laird Hamilton is our very own Rod Stewart. Has become such a laughing-stock, that you forgot how amazing he was. Laird in the ‘90s was so far ahead in the big-wave game, so creative and powerful and balls out, that basically there was nobody else on the field.

BeachGrit: …you leave Craig alone. Number three in the world, behind Dane and John John…

Warshaw: Rob Machado is Gerry Lopez for the Momentum Generation.

BeachGrit: Craig Anderson is Wayne Lynch for beautiful people. Tell me about Laird Hamilton. 

Warshaw: Kind of our very own Rod Stewart. Has become such a laughing-stock, that you forgot how amazing he was. Laird in the ‘90s was so far ahead in the big-wave game, so creative and powerful and balls out, that basically there was nobody else on the field.

WSL is producing a Laird doc. Which I first read about in one of Chas’ BG pieces, actually. They called me week before last and to get the Great Surf Historian’s rapturous take on Laird. Which I kinda did, but when I started talking about what he’s become, and what tow surfing has become, and how Shane Dorian in a lot of ways is the more interesting and ballsy big-wave surfer . . . it was pretty much “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

BeachGrit: I know you’re sceptical about Tom Blake. Tell me more. (Click here for a little historical background.) 

Warshaw: Tom Blake is overrated. The hollow surfboard, his baby, was a bigger design mistake by far than those narrow flip-tip pieces of shit we were riding in the ‘90s. I also get the feeling that Blake was the most depressed of all surf icons, which doesn’t necessarily mean he’s overrated, but it does make me think he shouldn’t be wearing any Surf Lifestyle Pioneer laurels. Which, to be fair, he never asked for.

BeachGrit: How about Duke Kahanomoku? Overrated? Fine swimmer and nailer of gals but given too much credit as the daddy of a sport? 

Warshaw: A long time ago The New York Times eye-rolled the Boss, saying something like “If Bruce Springseen didn’t exist, music critics would have made him up.” That’s how I feel about Duke. He’s the perfect guy for the Father of Surfing job. He’s Hawaiian, has a half-dozen Olympic medals hanging round his neck, he’s big and good-looking and friendly, no dirt on him whatsoever. I read somewhere that one of his brothers, maybe Sam, was actually the better surfer. But Duke is perfect. He’s the guy you want up on that pedestal.

See Matt Warsaw’s latest list here! (Click!)


Rumor: Luke Davis dropped by Reef!

What is this world coming to?

Love him or hate him, Luke Davis has made an indelible mark on surfing. His socials are on fire with younger girls professing endless admiration. His fan base is the sort that actually matters because they spend and are younger. His face is so handsome it almost hurts. And his surfing is very good. Quality barrel weaving, a serviceable air game.

You’d think he would be a company dream but many rumors have floated across BeachGrit‘s Bondi and Cardiff-by-the-Sea bureaus that say Reef ripped up his contract! Why? I reached out to Louie with no luck but an inside source tells me that “He did something to piss off someone at VF Corp and they shredded his contract on the spot.” VF Corporation is parent company of Vans, Nautica, Reef, amongst others.

Investigation into Reef’s company website shows his picture is no longer there. But that face! So handsome!

Where should Luke go next? Do you think BeachGrit could afford to put the Bitchy Crab on his nose?

The Trouble with Claims

Is it racist to suggest that we need more spice, more imagination?

I poked fun, very gently, of Gabriel Medina’s post-full rote 10 celebration on social media recently, comparing his pose to Justin Bieber, and a person got angry. He said, “If it was an Australian or Hawaiian would not do this ridiculous comparison!!!” Which made me think about our delicate surf epoch.

The claim, as it were, has become synonymous with Brazilian surfers, fairly or not. To criticize claims is to, then, criticize Brazil, or worse, to be racist. It has become akin to saying, “I have lots of black friends but…” before making some prejudicial statement.

Now, I do not fall into the “surfers should be good and subdued sportsmen” camp. I love a good claim but that is trouble. Most claims being tossed out today, and Gab’s very much in this category, are unimaginative and bad. The arms in the air to standard vanilla pop “I’m the man” is so dull! So tired! And there is so much material to chose from. Brazil’s soccer stars regularly put on glorious theatrical shows after scoring goals. I would have loved to see Gab yank his singlet over his head and run around the beach before paddling back out. So fun!

Andy Irons once pulled out a shotgun and blew Dingo Morrison to bits. That was good. Gabriel could have done that. Or he could have moonwalked off his board or he could have whip and nae nae’d. He could have done almost anything and I would have applauded.

What he did do, though, was uninspired. And it pulled focus from an inspired air.

Quiksilver Bankrupt

Just in: Vultures Circle Quiksilver!

Two hedge funds fight over debt-ridden, bankrupt surf icon…

One month ago, Quiksilver Inc filed for bankruptcy. Took you by surprise? Yeah, me too. Who follows balance sheets?

(Read about that here.)

At the time, it was revealed by Bloomberg Biz that “Quiksilver Inc. is preparing to file for bankruptcy as soon as Tuesday evening in a deal that would hand control of the beleaguered surfwear chain to investment firm Oaktree Capital Management, according to people with knowledge of the deliberations.”

Today it was reported (source: Dow Jones newswire) that Oaktree is going to have to slug it out with Brigade Capital Management for the right to, what, strip the guts out of the company, and sell it at a profit down the track? Yeah.

Here’s the deal according to Dow: In a filing in US Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware, lawyers for Quiksilver’s creditors revealed that Brigade Capital had made a “superior” offer to finance the company’s restructuring under chapter 11.

Brigade is offering Quiksilver a $US115 million ($A156m) bankruptcy loan that is “cheaper, longer in duration and provides the debtors with greater flexibility,” the creditors said, a part of a transaction that is better than Oaktree’s “with respect to virtually every substantive economic and non-economic term.”

Quiksilver filed for bankruptcy last month in a $US279m debt-for-equity swap with Howard Marks’s Oaktree Capital. The deal includes $US175m — but only $US115m of new money — in bankruptcy financing provided by Oaktree and Bank of America that has allowed the company to keep its doors open during its chapter 11 restructuring.

The deal also includes a hefty $US20m breakup fee owed to Oaktree if Quiksilver, which owns more than $US200m in Quiksilver debt, fails to execute the swap in bankruptcy.

The Oaktree-backed plan “does not represent a new offer from an outside investor who could just as easily walk away if the terms prove unsatisfactory, but a strategic manoeuvre by Oaktree to protect its substantial investment while simultaneously sweeping up significant value from unsecured creditors,” the creditors said in court papers.

Representatives of Quiksilver and Oaktree couldn’t be reached for comment.

Los Angeles-based Oaktree is a big player among so-called distressed-debt firms that look to acquire troubled companies at discount. It owns 73 per cent of Quiksilver’s debt and has pledged its support for the restructuring, which requires court approval. Oaktree also owns a stake in Australian surfwear company Billabong after participating in a 2013 restructuring.

A hearing on the Oaktree-backed deal is scheduled for Wednesday.

Quiksilver is one of the best-known and longest-operating surf and snowboard clothing brands, designing and distributing its products under the Quiksilver, Roxy and DC brands.

The company, which traces its roots to Victoria, began making boardshorts for surfers in the US in the 1970s and is now based in Huntington Beach, California. Its products are also sold internationally; the European and Asia-Pacific businesses aren’t part of this bankruptcy filing.

The cash-strapped company has in recent years been plagued by business issues that slowed the delivery of Quiksilver products to stores in North America. It has been working to turn around the business since 2013, executing the sale of assets including Mervin Manufacturing, a snowboard maker, and Hawk Designs, named for skateboarder Tony Hawk, and a stake in an online retailer called Surfdome Shop.

Although those deals raised funds, operational troubles and continued weak results were exacerbated earlier this year by the labour strife at the Port of Los Angeles.

Quiksilver’s revenue in its most recent quarter decreased to $US333m with margins at 47.1 per cent, resulting in a net loss of $US38m. During the same quarter in 2014, the company reported a loss of $US38m on revenue of $US397m and margins at 48.9 per cent. The company listed assets of $US337m and debts of $US826m when it filed for bankruptcy protection.

Still awake?