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!”


Need Essentials
A slick, all-black, no-label suit for $A180 (3/2) or $A200 for the four-three? Tell me that ain't a total victory for the little man. And those tech trunks for under fifty shekels? Revolutionary!

Supply Chains: A new kind of surf biz!

Ice the middle man and y'got high-end wetsuits for under two c-notes, tech trunks for under a fifty… 

A few months ago, BeachGrit reported on a surf biz called Need Essentials that was selling high-end 4/3mm wetsuits for $A200 ($US140) apiece. Made in the same Taiwanese factory (read about the amazing Sheico Group and how they stole the wetsuit market away from the Japanese here) as Quiksilver and the rest, but without the team riders, without the execs, without the marketing, labels and swing tags.

The difference? The 100-percent markup.

The surfer behind Need is Yamba-based surfer Ryan Scanlon, the former Senior Vice President of Global Products for Quiksilver. Ryan has a sharp eye for detail, as his former job would imply, and he knows the surf biz.

Back in June he told me: “I try to live a pretty simple life (he lives on a yacht) and Need is a reflection of that. I wanted to create something that I wish existed but didn’t. A supply chain where you didn’t have to pay for all the excess. You just pay for what you… yeah… Need.”

Anyway, his biz, which is just over a year old, has since gone nuts. He sells out every run he gets made and ‘cause Ryan’s a one-man show, he keeps the runs tight so he doesn’t fall into the trap of most businesses where they grow too fast, borrow a ton of cash and… yeah, you know the rest.

Click here 

And maybe here too.

‘Cause I wrote the last story about I’ve become a conduit for surfers wanting to know about Need and to field complaints that no one could get in quick enough to get a suit. It doesn’t hurt that the all-black no-graphic or logo suits have a Dior-esque feel about ‘em.

On this run, Ryan has added a technical surf trunk. It’s basic black, medium of length, has a slim silhouette and feels exactly like a $200 pair without the gimcrackery. What’s the hit? Forty five Australian dollars.

This kind of biz has the power to shift the established consciousness. High-end flavour with a price that is Costco.

As you can tell, I’m unduly impressed by Need and was delighted to lash our website with his branding. I recorded this interview with Mr Scanlon a few days ago. I know, I know, it sounds pure advertorial but this is a brand that is real in the way Quiksilver, say, was back in the seventies. Small company, great gear, a price that didn’t hit you in the nuts. Who wants to be screwed?

BeachGrit: A lot of people I spoke to were dying to buy Need but couldn’t get a piece. Y’still got stock? 

Ryan: Yeah, we have a heap of summer stock. We are a little light on with steamers but there are more arriving in the next couple of weeks. We’ve whipped up our supply now that we know we have a great product that is well tested.

BeachGrit: Those trunks are pretty wild for 45 bucks.
Ryan: Yeah, we tried to create the perfect boardshort so we got the best fabric on the market got the best board short factory in the world to make it and priced it for $45. People are pretty stoked on it!

BeachGrit: What else y’got?
Ryan: Okay, this is how we work. We don’t release a lot of new products. We just try and continually improve our essentials. We don’t revise our products every season to make them look fresh in store or in a marketing campaign. That way we can slowing improve our products with every production run and by not always changing we eliminate the risk of mistakes and faulty materials or technology. We have a few new products lined up for the new year that really focus on colder water. People in cold climes have to spend so much on rubber every year and we want to help them out with new options. We have an epic hooded 5/4/3, boots and gloves that we have just finished testing in July and August in the south island of New Zealand that we are really happy with.

BeachGrit: Tell me about the design of the suits. Do you design? Are they picked off the rack? 

Ryan: Yup, we design all our suits. We don’t skimp on the quality of fabric, components or manufacturers. That’s the foundation of how Need works. Best materials in the market, best manufacturers in the world and best components. What we do eliminate are all the things that add cost that don’t make a difference to the function or comfort in the wetsuit. By foregoing retail mark-ups, branding, swing tags and packaging, athlete royalties, expensive marketing campaigns and fads in trend and technology we can make a world-class wetsuit at a fraction of the cost.

BeachGrit: You don’t call yourself a company, but rather a supply network. Talk me through that? 

Ryan: We are pretty different to other surf brands! We don’t see ourselves as a brand but more a supply network. We don’t do fashion or fads, we just focus on surfers genuine needs. We understand that most surfers just need a great product that keeps them warm and is built to last but they don’t want to pay top dollar for all the extra noise.

WSL: New speed dating format!

What if the middle bits were cut out of a surf contest? Come find out how it feels!

Sometimes lulls drip with anticipation. Two surfers bob. Ronnie Blakey layers on the buttery intensity. Pottz amps it down, slightly. And then fireworks! Sometimes lulls drip with lull. Two surfers bob. Ronnie Blakey spews nonsense. Pottz amps it up, slightly. And then fizzle.

But in Portugal, a contest deemed so dull that the powers had a meeting in which they decided to cut out the lulls altogether and only stream scoring waves. Voices soar as does the heart. Take a look for yourself and tell me I’m wrong.

Also, if the World Surf League went to this formula full time do you think the surf fan at home would enjoy more or do we need the lulls, even when they drip with lull?

Retrospective: Taj vs. Parko!

Both have been called bridesmaids but which would you want standing next to you on your wedding day?

An era of professional surfing is coming to a close and we, the spectators, have a crystalline moment of hindsight at our disposal. We know the past. But, standing at this minute, how will that past be transcribed into the future?

Freddy Patacchia Jr., CJ Hobgood, Kelly Slater, Taj Burrow and Joel Parkinson have either/maybe should/or are thinking about hanging up the singlet. Fred and CJ will drop into the warm sands of time and be remembered fondly alongside the likes of Ross Williams and Saxon Boucher. Kelly, of course, is King Kelly. His place in history is assured. But what about Taj Burrow and Joel Parkinson?

The two have defined the epoch as much as anyone, without a doubt, but how will their accomplishments, personal style, skills be remembered?

Taj was electric. A prodigy even. And after turning down the tour in 1997 (the first and only to ever do!) he stormed the barn in 1998 winning rookie of the year. What promise he held, competitively, and yet seventeen years on all the boy mustered was two runners-up. Tuck into the rest of story here on Matt Warshaw’s masterwork and then let us get down to brass tacks. Does Taj never winning a world title matter? He is many, many children’s favorite surfer even still because he both is and was very exceptional. But does that exceptional talent taint his epitaph seeing as he never hoisted the trophy?

Joel was graceful. Smooth is what the people say. And during his first year on tour (2001) also won rookie of the year honors but the decade plus that followed were filled with ouch. He lived at the top of the leaderboard but there was always something that kept him from the grand prize. In 2012 he finally hoisted the trophy. The number one surfer in the world! But only once. And, after you brush up on your Parko here on Matt Warshaw’s masterwork let us get down to brass tacks once again. Does Joel’s one title matter? He is loved, his style emulated because he is both is and was a fine surfer. But does that fine surfing yielding only one title dirty his historical relevance?

Both have been called bridesmaids but which would you want standing next to you on your wedding day? Which is the greatest bridesmaid in surfing’s history?

Pauline Ado
"Are we done with your crap?" asks Pauline Ado in her little lampoon. "Can I go surf now?"

Is it so wrong to sex surfer girls?

And, another thing, does it sell women’s sports?

I have mixed feelings when it comes to photographing surfer girls in a sexually subservient manner. I’ve been responsible for orchestrating some (the luminous Rosy Hodge, the fantasy of Anastasia Ashley) and was pleased with the results, that is if the net result is to balance the arousal of the reader with the dignity of the subject.

If were to examine the photos (and why not, they’re relatively suitable for work – RSFW – click on the names above) you’d find they were built on a single premise: the scientific examination of a beautiful girl at the apex of her beauty.

This is another shoot I enjoyed very much, created during my tenure at Stab although I had nothing to do with its creation, only the story that surrounds the photos.

Other shoots, I ain’t so thrilled by.

The cupped hands over the tits (might we become rapists if a nipple is shown?) or with asses elevated and pressed into the camera. Turn ’em around and their faces are like cold piss, their teenage broth barely warm. The viewer reduced to a crippled masturbator. Gratuitous and insulting to girl and viewer.

Two years ago, there was a predictable storm over using Stephanie Gilmore’s sex to promote the Roxy Pro in France. It was hardly genius but nor was it daring or revolutionary. I was numb to it. Arousing from the point of view of the masculine culture? If only women knew the perversity of man.

And that was the point. The Roxy ad was aimed at young girls and not men.

The modern feminist who sees sex as something to be parcelled out to a man, sparingly, and only on her terms, forgets there’s a generation of female digital native out there who grew up on youporn and its variations; girls who don’t believe a blow-job joyfully given or the use of men as studs mark the end of civilisation, girls who’ve been imprinted with an overt joy of mutually consensual and sensational sex.

And for that, the ad was…perfect.

It’s very easy to get haughty about such things, though. The condemnation of male onanism is divinely simple. It’s the ultimate vice.

A few days ago, the French professional surfer Pauline Ado dropped her lampoon of a surfer using her sex. It’s cool. It’s pretty funny. I like it.

But the irony!

At the hook, liberated Ms Ado says,  “Are we done with your crap? Can I go surf now?”

You have to…ask?  The exquisite possibilities of a power play!

Pauline à la plage 01 from PLANETBLOW on Vimeo.