Virtual reality shark attack
Ever wondered what it would be like to peer out of the jaws of a living fifteen-foot Great White shark? No? | Photo: Rapid Films

Just in: I survived a (virtual) Great White hit!

And I road-tested the new WSL/Samsung VR clip… 

I like kink. I like vibrating machines, I like hand-toys that flutter, concentrating pleasure wherever you deem it necessary, and I live my life mostly through the screen of my telephone.

Virtual reality is a hole I voluntarily climb down. A lot of people get eaten up with guilt and insecurity over burying ‘emselves in their screens. I ain’t one.

Earlier today, the WSL threw live the VR clip they made with funding by Samsung and with the tech skills of Rapid Films. Around the same time as Rory Parker was uploading his piece about it (Wow: WSL Brings Virtual Reality to Surf) the director Dave Klaiber was FB’ing me an invite to come to his studio and try the film with the $200 Samsung headset.

Was it the beginning of the technologising of surf? A call from the deep? I accepted the offer lustily.

As far as reconstituted experiences go, it’s more visceral than you might imagine. You involuntarily swing your head back and forth, up and down. You’re inside the tube looking out, now you’re looking back at CJ, now you’re scanning the reef, looking at the sky. The six camera angles feel like a hundred.

Watch it a second, a third time, and you might be inclined to ask, where are the cameras on CJ? How’s he filming the tube angle?

This is where it gets good. Rapid Films have got what is, effectively, an invisible camera suit, which is top secret ‘cause I asked to check it out and Dave and his executive producer Susannah Dilallo both yelped No at the same time, but the way it works is this:

Six cameras means there’s a little piece of overlap from each cameras when your stitch the images together. The overlap sphere means you can hide where the camera is.

“We exploit the overlap,” says Klaiber.

The VR clip was made around this year’s Teahupoo contest for “less than a million dollars”. Rapid sent a team of eight, including the director Taylor Steele, to work with Kelly Slater and CJ Hobgood on the project, although it is CJ who steals the limelight.

Kelly Slater virtual reality
Here we see Kelly Slater wrapped in Samsung VR goggles during the Tahitian shoot. The delicious Tahitian in the background is none other than the very famous Raimana Van Bastolaer.

The CJ clip makes it technically feasible for anyone… including the sick, the disabled or the 99 per cent of surfers who’ll never touch a five-foot tube in their lives… to get into situations that would otherwise remain completely foreign.

Is it a good thing that the infirm or the lazy can climb into a bigger tube than you? Does it matter? Nothing’s stopping the capable nor the humourless nag who rails against such things from paddling out.

Watch the making of it here.

Klaiber isn’t just surf. Rapid Films built a teary short for Samsung around a woman giving birth in Western Australia while her FIFO (Fly In, Fly Out) miner husband watches it happening five thousand miles away in northern Queensland. Oh, it’ll make you weep even if it is lashed with Samsung branding.

And the Great White attack?

As no fuck is ever in vain, no VR experience is time wasted. This time, it’s with a 15-foot Great White that was filmed last year down there in the Neptune Islands in South Australia. (Hello Brinkley Davies! I can see you! The sharks have returned!)

During the filming the White ate the giant housing containing the camera although it was attached to a pole, held by Klaiber. Some kind of biology lesson remained in Klaiber’s head and he figured, he if held on long enough, the White would spit the camera out and he’d have the footage of a lifetime. He held, the White spat.

The headpiece is affixed. Some very good headphones by Seinnheiser are strapped on.

Suddenly, I’m in the Southern Ocean.

“See that five-metre Great White? Don’t lose sight of it,” says Klaiber.

I dog paddle my hands in the air and follow. It turns!

Wait, it bites!

“Look up!” says Klaiber.

I see the world as viewed from the inside of a five-metre White’s jaws.

“Look down!”

I get a close-up of the inner-mechanisms of the sharks’s mouth.

Oh, this jangles the nerves. I get worked up into such a state that I’m beside myself. I polish off the clip, however.

As should you although I can’t guarantee you’ll wanna surf again. Click to watch. 

Buy cheap headsets here. 

Tired of wave pools? Come to Mexico!

Has the explosion of man-made surf got you down? Well travel south of the border, friend, and "surf" like the ancients!

There is an explosion of wave pools around the globe. Why now? Who knows! But if you are tired of the technological silliness have I got a deal for you. Yes, instead of looking toward some crazy mechanical future you can go back in time hundreds of years, maybe, when proud ancient island people stood up on long boards and stroked the sea with paddles. Wait. Did anyone ever do that? No matter! There is a new luxury SUP escape in Mexico feat. none other than the legendary Ian Cairns!

SUP The Mag’s Greg Panas does it more better than I ever could. Let’s read him here!

Tropical, turquoise water. All-inclusive accommodations. World-class cuisine and 1,000-count bedsheets. Pastel sunsets over postcard-perfect surf. Expert SUP instruction in long, friendly waves. More sea turtles than local surfers. Constant stoke and consistent improvement.

These are the components of the new SUP n’ SURF retreat at Grand Palladium Royal Suites in Punta Mita, Mexico And everyone’s invited.

SUP n’ Surf Retreat is a novel approach to SUP instruction—an all-inclusive vacation option for standup paddlers looking to take their SUP to the next level. Its origins stem from the vision of its hosts, professional SUP surfer Sean Poytner and his coach, surfing icon Ian Cairns, who recognized a gap in the learning curve for SUP surfing caused by the lack of available instruction. They saw that the growth, progression and expansion of our young sport are inhibited by limited options for paddlers aspiring to progress from an introductory level into a realm of expertise.

To fill that void, Cairns and Poynter developed an instructional course based around Cairns’ coaching technique, which involves filming a students’ surfing, analyzing the footage and applying the critiques back in the surf zone. With the educational structure in place, they partnered up and began looking for a host venue.

Cairns and Poynter found the perfect fit at Palladium Royal Suites in Punta Mita, Mexico. Palladium’s Punta Mita location offered all-inclusive, luxury accommodations with exclusive access to a variety of uncrowded, friendly surf breaks. It was relatively affordable, and located near Sayulita, a hub of the sport with a burgeoning SUP scene. What’s more, the Palladium Hotel Group, which is comprised of more than 70 hotels and resorts worldwide, was eager to collaborate. “Mi casa es su casa,” quickly became the motto of the partnership.

Over the course of six months, Cairns and Poynter pieced the retreat together and built out its guest list. They hired camera men to film the sessions, arranged a video lounge for mid-day reviews and employed a legendary boat captain who wielded the coveted local knowledge to seek out and transport them to whatever nearby surf spot worked best on a given day. They brought in local professional surfers to assist with the on-water instruction. They created a six-day itinerary and arranged an entirely hassle-free stay for their guests—food, drink, accommodations, ground transportation and airfare—all included. The end result of Poynter and Cairns’ vision was a program that left the students to focus solely on their surfing, which took place during two three-hour sessions each day. Eat, sleep, surf, repeat. With that, SUP n’ Surf Retreat was born.

The first-ever SUP n’ Surf Retreat was held earlier this month and hosted seven guests at the Grand Palladium Royal Suites. Their outstanding experience is documented in the gallery above, and guest testimonies will be available soon on the SUP n’ Surf website.

I think this is a really really dumb idea because why? Also because dumb.
I think this is a really really dumb idea because why? Also because dumb.

Dumb: A surf skyscraper to be built!

Technology has finally given us something we deserve! Let's surf at 10 stories!

The Welsh don’t get all the fun! According to news site Click Orlando, Orlando, Florida the home of Walt Disney World and Disney’s Blizzard Beach, The City Beautiful, is going to get the first “surf park in the sky.”

Sky Surfplex is being built by American Wave Machines (?) and will be opening in 2018.

Let’s read about it!

The new Skyplex attraction at International Drive will allow surfers to catch “out of this world” waves. The attraction will be 10 stories high and will include a beachside cafe, along with three surf machines each running different waves from family bodyboarding to overhead barreling waves, according to a release.

“With surfing as one of the most aspirational of all sports and recreations, and with Orlando being one of the most visited cities in the world, Sky Surf Park will become a world-class surf destination,” Bruce McFarland, founder and president, American Wave Machines, said in a release. “The iconic concept put forth by Skyplex Orlando owners aligns with our vision for premium surf destinations.”

Have you surfed a Wavegarden yet? Will you? Do you care? Are you glad that lots of people are heading weird places to surf pools? Do you really think there will really be “overhead barreling waves?” Do you hope some of the family bodyboarders accidentally paddle out there? Do you hope they drown? Do you feel bad for hoping that?

You should.

Virtual Reality surfing
Imagine being able to experience an entire Cloudbreak session from CJ's POV, especially if you package it with one soundtrack that's just the ambient noise, and another that's actually him walking you through a session, explaining how waves hit different sections of the reef, the little adjustments he's making with his weight and stance, anecdote fillers between waves. Probably wouldn't even need to edit the video, literally just film two hours at a really good wave and use that. Oh, that's Kelly in the corner too…

Wow: WSL brings Virtual Reality to surf!

Virtual Reality! The entertainment medium of the future, since the early 90's or so. It's almost here!

Virtual Reality! The entertainment medium of the future, since the early 90’s or so. It’s almost here! For real this time!

Don’t believe me?  Well, ask Mr Paul Speaker, he’ll back me up.

Speaking at the NeuLion Sports Media & Technology Conference earlier today, Speaker discussed the myriad ways on which the sport of professional surfing is poised to take the world by storm.

First up, “over the top” entertainment. It’s “changing the sports media distribution model… surfing is perfectly positioned to benefit from these developments.”

For the curious, OTT entertainment basically means something broadcast over the internet by a third party, rather than an ISP. It’s also the title of the best movie about arm wrestling starring Sylvester Stallone ever made.

But the real news is the VR.

Thanks to the WSL’s “partnership” with Samsung, a glorious relationship sure to last the ages, you can now step behind the eyes of your favorite surfers, for the low low price of $199.99

Plus the cost of a Samsung Galaxy Note 4, which is a type of cell phone. It might be a good one, I have no idea.

Imagine being able to experience an entire Cloudbreak session from CJ’s POV, especially if you package it with one soundtrack that’s just the ambient noise, and another that’s actually him walking you through a session, explaining how waves hit different sections of the reef, the little adjustments he’s making with his weight and stance, anecdote fillers between waves.

But check the two-minute POV clip they put out.

Mind blowing stuff!  It’s like you’re really there!

If I’m being honest, there is a true potential for VR surfing.

There’s real VR applications for surf, I think. Imagine being able to experience an entire Cloudbreak session from CJ’s POV, especially if you package it with one soundtrack that’s just the ambient noise, and another that’s actually him walking you through a session, explaining how waves hit different sections of the reef, the little adjustments he’s making with his weight and stance, anecdote fillers between waves.  Probably wouldn’t even need to edit the video, literally just film two hours at a really good wave and use that.

Though I’m kind of scared to see virtual reality become a thing. If science fiction has taught me anything, it’s that we’ll eventually become a dystopia of obese internet shut ins who live totally immersed lives while oppressing an underclass of non VR ditch diggers, and hunting a few weird pockets of backwards luddite revolutionaries who shun the whole thing with robots they pay to control in some horrible video game type experience.

I’ll probably be long dead before it gets that bad though.

Paul Speaker, next to his best friend Chairman Mao, is the one that looks like Stalin.
Paul Speaker, next to his best friend Chairman Mao, is the one that looks like Stalin. | Photo: Graham Stapelberg

WSL spurns liberty, embraces Commies!

WSL contest returns to South China seas where the forces of good are facing down the forces of evil.

Tensions have been ratcheting up since the 1980s in the South China seas, and have reached a boiling point over the last few days. The People’s Republic of China, the region’s dominant power, has been creating islands, through dredging, in disputed territory, encroaching on small, friendly neighbors’ claims. Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and South Korea are very worried about the bellicose militarized giant and have voiced concern to the United Nations.

China, for its part, says the new islands are not for military purposes, yet independent analysts have seen, via satellite images, three airstrips that will be able to accommodate bombers. China is also thumbing its nose at international law by pumping oil, endangering the delicate ecosystem to say nothing of outright theft.

The United States of America has mostly steered clear of the situation but, over the weekend, China’s unilateralism proved too much and a little U.S. Navy boat sailed into the fray. China immediately responded in hostile fashion, issuing a statement that, “It does not fear war with the United States.” (read full news report here)

It can be assumed, that if World War III happened tomorrow that nations that love peace, freedom and liberty would side with America (Hello, Australia! Welcome, France! Obrigado, Brazil!). That nations that love discord, totalitarianism and institutionalized deceit would fall in with China (Is that you North Korea? Saddam Hussein, you came back?).

And where would the World Surf League cast its lot? With the powers of evil of course!

Over the same weekend, when a few brave Navy sailors stared down the menacing Red Dragon, putting their very lives on the line for justice and human rights the WSL announced “The World’s Best to Return to China for 2015 World Longboard Championships!”

The press release reads:

Early December will see 36 men and 24 women assemble in Wanning, Hainan Island in the South China sea to compete at the now famous Riyue Bay for the Jeep World Longboard Championships presented by Wanning. China has successfully hosted the Longboard World Championships for the past four years and the consistent reef/point break at Riyue Bay has proved to be an ideal location…

It is troubling, to say the least, but also unsurprising. The World Surf League has flexed its totalitarian muscles as of late, forcing your little BeachGrit to remove videos and also forcing our ally Surf Europe. But, like America’s Navy, we will stare the beast in the eye and say, “You can take our videos, but you can never take OUR FREEDOM!”