Great unfinished surf novel: Part Four!

One Day in the Life of John Dennis (IV)

10:00 am The Great Debate (pt.1)

John thinks of going up to Forster but isn’t quite sure, wants to have a sniff around Newcastle first. The thought of better surf haunts him. A plus about Forster is Benny S. John’s long time friend Benny and his brother are proper gangsters. Both white as the snow, short, trim with long long brown hair and green eyes. Benny has gold-capped teeth too and just bought a mid-seventies Cadillac in the States and had it shipped out to his home in Tuncurry, just across the river from Forster. He explains all this to Pat. Tells him, “I heard he doesn’t even take it out of the driveway.” Pat asks if he is too paranoid? “Nah. Oh, maybe paranoid but I just think he loves it too much.” Benny and his brother both rip, surfing. Amazing. And they know every break around their area. From Blueys to Bulls Paddock.

“I don’t even know where to go out,” John says. “I don’t want to miss somewhere.” The beach is in view again. The wave looks like it might even have little sections on the corners to punt. The wind isn’t right, though, for air but, “Look at that guy go right there…” He pulls over. Pulls the emergency brake. Gets out of the car. “Ahhhh it feels like a new town.” He stares out to sea. “This is fuckin’ ridiculous right now. The winds will be offshore in Forster. If this was eight foot…that’s when it gets best here at eight foot. Tide’s going out…”

This stretch of sand and water appear a different place than they did just one hour ago. Mereweather floats above the blue bathed in sun. The white buildings look so white! The brick pop red! The blue beach hotel does too! And the green weedy beach grass looks positively Irish. The ocean, groomed by constant offshore breezes, is inviting.

A kid maybe ten or twelve runs by in wetsuit holding board. He has an eyepatch over one eye. It looks to be medically necessary but also still looks like a pirate eyepatch. Black etc. Pat asks, “Does that kid have an eyepatch?” John answers, “What?” And Pat repeats, “An eyepatch.” John looks. “Sick.” Then, “Ah fuck. These conditions with this swell is heavy. Forster is probably the best it’s ever been. I bet it’d be so good. What do you reckon? Should we go hang out with Benny for the day?”

He continues a tortured monologue. “This swell is north east. Don’t get it very often but when we do…. Fuck. Or we could just sit in the house all day.” He pulls out his phone and pecks away with both thumbs. Pat looks from water to light to wave. If John paddles here he’ll shoot it from down the beach and get him in left barrels even though they don’t really need more film of left barrels. Bali equals a left barrel. John speaks up again. “I’ve just messaged the guys in Forster to see what it’s like. They probably won’t write back though. Oh that guy just got belted!” A surfer eats shit. “I wonder what Bosco’s doing?” Bosco is a photographer who might or might not be angry with Him. He didn’t choose one of his photos for a new ad campaign so… He stares at the ocean, arms folded. “Somewhere it’ll be the best it’s ever been.” He stares more. A knot of five surfers bob on the surface. One takes off and doesn’t do much but it still looks fun. Maybe six feet on the sets. “I’m so bad at making decisions. I need Walshy here.” Anthony Walsh is a surfer with ridiculous knack for calling “the spot” and also rock solid, unwavering conviction. He doesn’t dilly-dally or debate. He knows and goes.

He watches another less than spectacular surfer take off and race past a section. “Oh what? You gotta hit that!” There is no word from Benny yet. “It’d be really good up there. Fuck.” Ding ding. His phone and he assumes Benny but it’s not. “Hoy. Yah man. After ten tomorrow? I don’t know…I don’t really want to do it now. It’s kinda almost firing. Forster. I don’t know, I’m thinking about it. Ummmm not here actually. It’s horseshit. Nah. It’s just just too small. It’s three foot. If it was eight foot it’d be good but…I’ve been here for like fifteen minutes…Dave O’leary on the mal…Nothing. Yeah. It’d be bigger probably. Maybe Bluey’s, your spot…Yeah. Where else up there? Everywhere huh? Ohhh shit. Well when can we do this car thing? Tomorrow. Noooo I’m gonna help you out. When are you gonna do it? Today or tomorrow? Ok. Then tomorrow we’ll do it. Ten o’clock. In the arvo? Ok then we’ll do it tomorrow arvo. Ahh perfect. Ok. No it’s alright we’ll just tie the coffin to the roof. Sick, well…ok well, we’ll do it tomorrow arvo then. Alright old boy, I will talk to ya. I don’t know. I’ll be fuckin’ leavin this place though. It’s baaaad. Yeah. Boskie’s down there? Ahhh he hates me these days. Ahh I’ll call Sfennie then. Alright Hoyo, I’ll talk to you soon. Yeah I’m gonna be back. I just messaged the Forster boys and they haven’t got back to me. Yup. I’m up there. See ya, man.”

He looks over at Pat who has his eyes fixed on the lineup still. “Hoyo sounded so gutted cuz he has the kids.” John puts a hand up to shield the sun. Looking. “Ahh what to do. I’m not surfing out there, that’s for sure.” He asks Pat, “Do you want left barrels, cuz that’s pretty much all we’re going to get here.” Pat, spotting another empty peak a little further down the beach asks John why nobody is surfing it. “People are like sheep here. They just follow each other. They’ll just surf where everyone else is.”

Bosco drives by in a white truck. He either doesn’t see John or pretends he doesn’t. “There goes Boskie. So funny that guy.” He follows the truck down the street then turns his head toward the water. “Look at this shit are you kidding me? Ahhhhh…” A left barrel reels, perfectly, across the bank. “Is that Desert Point or…” Desert Point is a famous famous dredging Indonesian left. John tells Pat, “When it is double that size it goes from there…” pointing to a rock outcropping off to the left “…all the way….ahhh it’s so good. These waves can be so good.”

Les, the loved up man who called earlier, pulls in behind the Dae Woo and looks thrilled. Eager, excited. John says, “What’s up Lessy…it’s almost doing it…” Les says, “Yeah, When I drove past this morning it was all time. Like the biggest sets ever.” John doesn’t show his dubiousness. “What, six foot?” Les says, “Yeaaah…” And John breaks in, “Ahh that would be alright…” And Les caveats, “…but it probably only rolls through every two hours.” John asks, “Are you out there?” Now a slightly embarrassed smile crawls over Les’s face, “Yeah.” And Ding Ding. John answers, “Ollie…What’s up? yeah a little bit. Looks like it’s getting a little bigger. Looks four foot on the sets maybe bigger. It’s like a proper nor’east swell. Forster. Stop working and I’ll come grab you.” Ollie is one of John’s longtime friends. Surf is rare for him lately because he works with his dad doing some sort of construction. John doesn’t really know. A gorgeous blonde passes in skin-tight black lycra jogging pants. “Ahhh Johnny, how are you?” Her voice is like honey. John says, “How are you?” At the same time and adds a sheepish, “Good.” After. She powerwalks on. John watches her. Turns to the surf one last time. Opens his drivers door and gets inside. Pat is already there. They back out, decision made, and head through the fresh sunny light home.

The car wheels down the beach road then takes a first right. Around a roundabout and, again, it is at the dreaded intersection where his fate was almost undone. He explains to Pat who has had the same expression on his face for the last fifteen minutes. “I rocked through a stop sign. Like it was a four way stop and they have to stop so I just kept going…” The expression is dispassionate but interested. It takes exactly two minutes and fifty-eight seconds to reach his driveway.


The Four Things Smart Surfers Do

Do you vomit at the notion that "the best surfer is the one having the most fun"?

I sometimes feel like my verbal sculpture focuses too heavily on the negative aspects of life. I’m not a bitter or unhappy guy, far from it, though I’m aware I often come across that way.

So, in the future, I’m going to make more of an effort to write something positive. Not every day, of course. I think it’s important to point out stupid shit, focusing solely on the positive becomes an empty headed circle jerk.

In that vein, as a follow up to yesterday’s Dumb Things That Surfers Do, here’s four things that smart surfers do.

Learn about board design

You don’t need to get too deep into it. Unless you’re actually trying to build your own boards there’s no real reason to know anything about the relationship between rocker and fin cant or agonize over how far from your rail to set those quad trailers. The whole point of finding a good shaper is divesting yourself of the need for that knowledge.

Too many surfers make their purchases based off knowledge wrung from marketing materials, by and large bullshit. There’s no such thing as a “true” all around board. It’ll work great in some conditions, terrible in others. Or it’ll kind of suck all the time. Pick your poison.

But, still, you need to know what’s possible. A vague grasp of how planing surfaces work, an intuitive understanding of the give and take relationship of board design. Every time you improve one aspect, you’re hurting another. Always.

Too many surfers make their purchases based off knowledge wrung from marketing materials, by and large bullshit. There’s no such thing as a “true” all around board. It’ll work great in some conditions, terrible in others. Or it’ll kind of suck all the time. Pick your poison.

Once you know what’s going on you’ll be able to make more informed purchases, and you’ll never run the risk of asking for (this is an exact quote), “…a board that works in two-foot Waikiki AND twenty foot Waimea.”

That guy was an idiot, and he got really offended when I laughed at him.

Look beneath the surface

It’s surprising how many surfers spend their lives playing around on the surface of the water, without ever really considering what lies beneath.

There’s a whole ‘nother world. Reef and fishes and plants. Beautiful and impressive and, often, tasty things, just waiting to be experienced.

It’ll make your surfing better, every iota of information about the ocean you internalize will help build that waterman package I think we all like to pretend to aspire toward.

And it’s fun, really fun. Grab a speargun, or just a mask and snorkel, toss on some fins and go for a cruise. It’ll make flat days something you don’t just deal with, but actually look forward to.

Try hard

“The best surfer is the one having the most fun.”

Yeah, learning to stand up and get in trim is plenty fun, but being able to lay every ounce of strength into an oncoming sections feels fucking sublime.

My god, how I loathe that trite little quote. It’s just empty pap spewed by the type who somehow surfs regularly for decades without developing a high level of skill, repeated by beginner barneys looking to justify dropping in on the guys sitting twenty yards deeper.

Surfing gives as much as it takes, and it repays every drop of blood sweat and tears you put into it.

Yeah, learning to stand up and get in trim is plenty fun, but being able to lay every ounce of strength into an oncoming sections feels fucking sublime.

Take a break

Until this morning I’d forgotten Dale Webster existed.

Decades ago I read about him in Surfer, an interesting fellow blessed, or cursed, with the single minded determination to paddle out every single day, no matter the conditions, and ride three waves to the beach. It seemed like an awesome goal to my young mind, at the time surfing was my be-all-and-end-all.

Then I grew up, and realized there’s more to life.

Riding a wave may be among the greatest things on earth, but a life solely focused on any single pursuit runs the danger of becoming shallow and empty.

There’s a big awesome world out there, full of adventure and struggle and experiences you’ll never enjoy if you don’t occasionally leave the boards at home. A life that revolves around surfing is little more than self indulgent navel gazing, you’ll never truly live if you don’t lift your head and look around.


Everything you ever wanted to know…

...about big wave surfing. And then some!

The Player’s Tribune, Derek Jeter’s website/portal into the mind’s of athletes, is an amazing place. He started it because he felt the press would often twist his words. And so he created a place free of twist. A “unique insight into the daily sports conversation that publishes first-person stories directly from athletes.” Athletes write about their experiences at length without nasty journalists getting in their way.

Today, you can find Mark Healey writing about big wave surfing at length. He tells us everything we ever wanted to know plus much more. Without further twist from a nasty journalist, here he is.

MY JOB: BIG-WAVE SURFER

“So, what do you do?”

You know that thing when you’re at a party and it’s kind of tedious having to explain your job to people? Well, I’m no different. My answer can be summed up in four words: professional big-wave surfer. But as the follow-up questions come, it gets a bit more complicated. To put it simply, I chase ocean-born storms — the largest I can possibly find— all around the planet with the goal of riding the waves they create. Like a doctor, I feel like I’m always on call. As the saying goes, “Time and tide wait for no man.”

Surfing, that’s the fun part.

But there’s another part of my job that’s just as important: getting there. Seems obvious, right? You have to get to the wave to catch the wave. The big-wave surfer’s mantra might be the famous line, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Big, beautiful, pristine waves come and go all the time, and no human is there to ride them. That’s the big difference between surfing and big-wave surfing. If you’re not there at the right time, you’re suddenly no longer a big-wave surfer — you’re just a weary traveler standing on a beach, staring out at a flat ocean. Like a lot of sports, luck and timing both play huge roles.

Looking at big-wave surfing as a job, this is how I’d break it down.

First, you have to be a meteorologist. Or at least, you have to be an amateur meteorologist who thinks he’s a real one. Basically, you have to obsess over weather patterns, day and night. Some people call me a “storm chaser,” but most of my storm chasing starts in front of a computer, scouring the Internet. I refresh swell reports like it’s Fantasy Football.

Next, you have to be a good travel agent. You can start to see a storm brewing about five days out. That’s when you first “see” a wave. Surfing is a laid-back lifestyle, but you have to be anything but laid back about logistics. Everything is last minute and you’re always rushing. Then you have a choice: Do you go? If the answer is yes, you usually have one-to-two days to get halfway around the world. If you don’t drop everything right away, no matter what engagements or responsibilities you have, you’ll get to a beach 13,000 miles away and miss the whole thing. It’s happened to every big-wave surfer.

(read lots more here!)


Baby Arabella Rose, a source of perpetual wonderment to parents Rebecca Jobson (pictured) and Taj Burrow.

Year of the Stud: Taj Burrow, Daddy!

First Dane Reynolds, now the tour’s flashiest vet… 

A few hours ago, the once-perennial bachelor, Taj Burrow, took delivery of a baby girl, Arabella Rose, just five months after Dane Reynolds and Courtney Jaedtke had their little Sammy Boo.

It’s the year of the aggressively virile stud tamed by formidable, maybe even great, women.

(Read about Dane’s Sammy Boo here)

On the photo, here, we see the new father getting in close to see the radiant look on his kid’s little face. I’ve thrown seed and sired children hither and yon since I was not much more than a child myself and so I can write, with some authority, that the face of a a child is like a tunnel opening onto the essence of the world. I understand exactly the sudden change in rhythms of life, of values, the recalibration of what is serious, what is funny and what is not.

Taj Burrow baby
And with the arrival of child comes a new kind of frivolity, laden with worry and responsibility, yeah, but with a levity and new appreciation to life.

The mother is Rebecca Jobson, whom you saw in the main photo, and whose erotic value has definitely not diminished after childbrith.

For both, a blossoming awaits. Life begins now.


Movie: how to score nines with Mick Fanning

Four dazzling waves from 2015. The jazz-like perfection of a world champion.

There’s never any bullshit with Mick Fanning. He’s no ass-out trapeze artist like Gabriel. There’s no crazy jive like Filipe. He’s not jamming junk down your throat like Julian Wilson.

Three world titles, a probable forth by the time December comes around. Who’s going to argue with that?

I assembled this compendium of Mick’s nine-point plus rides from 2015 to disprove the central theory in a story that claimed judges were pushing him through heats with all their weight.

Let’s examine the charge.

“Enter the Mick Fanning Complex. The judges (and commentators) apparently love nothing more than watching the EXACT same combination of turns on the outside to a half-layback safety snap on the inside close-out section. Predictability would be an understatement. Mick Fanning is often hailed as the most consistent surfer on tour. No shit he is. The dude has been doing the exact same thing for the last 15 years. Look at any contest footage (or video parts for that matter) of his over the course of his career. Besides his boards and boardies getting a bit shorter, he looks, literally, exactly the same. Forget “do it in your sleep” Mick could do it in a fuckin’ coma.”

(Click here to read the story in its entirety)

I can’t figure the whole switch out. What’s wrong with a system that rewards perfection of technique? Mick Fanning is a like a jazz musician blowing a horn and being really part of it. It’s part of him.

Why would you argue?

How to score nines (and win multiple world titles) with Mick Fanning from BeachGrit on Vimeo.