Although he might deny it, Cyrus Sutton, at thirty-three, is one of the few real geniuses of surfing. Everything he touches turns to gold, a fact of life which has earned for him the mantle of The Midas of Surfing.
His resume is extensive. Let’s examine.
“Cyrus Sutton is a filmer, director and rad surfer who lives in a van, even when he’s at home (he parks it in a shed in the yard). Cyrus’ movies Compassing, Riding Waves, Stoked and Broke and the website Korduroy.tv all feed into the modern need to back off from all our electronic devices and conveniences. But don’t go thinking Emmy-award winning Cyrus is a dull boy. Ask him about his travel philosophy and he says, ‘Drive fast, take chances.’”
If you have a simplistic view of the world, like I do, you tend to divide people into good and bad. I equate Cyrus with the very special pleasures of life.
Two weeks ago, Cyrus sent me an email asking that I report on his and biz partner Reis Paluso’s Kickstarter project for a sun cream called Manda. The pair learned to make sunscreen for an episode of Korduroy TV, which you can watch here.
Cyrus wrote: “I wanted to alert you to the sunscreen findings and give you content for a potential article about it. You may have seen in the news the discovery by The journal of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology,and reported inTime magazine, The Washington Post,Gizmodo, etc. that there is ground breaking evidence of the extreme impact chemical sunscreens have on coral reefs. It’s been shown that one drop of sunscreen in six swimming pools of water can kill corals and 1,400 tons of sunscreen is estimated to wash onto reefs annually from beach goers. The chemical is Oxybenzone and it is found in over 3500 sunscreens on the market today has been directly linked to the destruction of reefs… We are less than a week from ending our Kickstarter for our organic edible high performance sunblock. We were fully funded within a few days of launch but want to pass on this issue. Whether or not you include us, we feel it’s important to get this message out there.”
The sun cream uses a paste called Thankaka made from the ground bark of a tree indigenous to Burma (BeachGrit refuses to recognise the military junta which changed the name in 1989). Cyrus says Thankaka has been used “by the Burmese people for thousands of years to protect their skin from the sun.”
Such an important message! What is more fundamental than the environment?
But, amid Dane leaving Quiksilver and John John’s blood feud with JetBlue, I forgot to post. It didn’t seem to dent the Kickstarter jam, which raised around 40k, more than twice their original goal.
Anyway, it’s never too late, I believe, to spread the message of cleaning up our dirty old planet. This interview took place between Sydney, Australia, and the Californian desert.
But, wait. Midway through, a meteor shower or an ICBM launch, lit up the sky above Cyrus. Look below!
Anyway, the interview commences.
BeachGrit: Some pal I turned out to be. Y’tell me all about your organic creamies on Kickstarter, I promise the world, and I don’t write shit about it. Do you hate me?
Cyrus: Haha, I still love you. Kickstarters are so 2010 I don’t blame you, I was just doing my job.
BeachGrit: Tell me, real quick, and not in PR speak, what your creamies are like? Why they spesh?
Cyrus: I’ve had trouble getting my hands on a natural sunblock that doesn’t rub off in California. So my friends and I decided to make one. It smells like chai and stays on all day. It doesn’t mess up the coral reefs too which is a big plus.
BeachGrit: Who wants that white coral, huh! I like the colours! Where’s the most beautiful reef y’ever seen?
Cyrus: The east side of the big island has some crazy spots
BeachGrit: But, anyway, you got the cash for launch, yeah? How much y’get and where does it go now?
BeachGrit: While we’re rapping, what happened to your old but iconic surf van? How much y’get, who bought it and tell me about the new one?
Cyrus: I sold it to the owner of 2 mile surf shop near San Francisco. He’s known for his cosmic surf forecasts. They are really worth check out just for their literary value. The guy’s a scribe and pretty hilarious. I got about 10k which is a fair price considering the work that went into it so we’re both stoked. I got a new sprinter van which gets double the gas mileage and is twice as roomy inside so I’m loving life.
Kelly Slater is a magnificent specimen. The closest thing our little world has to Tom Cruise. A massive, worldwide superstar. A man who grows sweeter with age. A winner time and time and time again.
A smile that stops people frozen?
Eyes that plumb the very depths of a soul?
A broad global reach?
A wild intergalactic reach?
My coconut wireless buzzed yesterday, whilst I was sunning, and the message skittering across its skin told me that Kelly Slater and Tom Cruise maybe do indeed share the same religion?
Scientology is, of course, the path of stars! Many famous celebrities have embraced the esoteric teachings of L. Ron Hubbard which gives, maybe, such freedom and wonderful film roles (hello, Frank T.J. Mackie!), or to quote its soothing website, “Scientology is a religion that offers a precise path leading to a complete and certain understanding of one’s true spiritual nature and one’s relationship toself, family, groups, Mankind, all life forms, the material universe, the spiritual universe and the Supreme Being.”
Tom Cruise says, “It’s extraordinary, it’s extraordinary. And you know, you always have to look at someone who criticizes you, you have to look at them and say, okay, so? Who is that person? Why? What do they know? And I can tell you, you’re sitting in front of a Scientologist who knows. And I can tell you from my personal experience it’s been extraordinary for me. I wouldn’t be here where I am today without, you know, those things to help me out.”
And Kelly? My source tells me he is maybe an Operating Thetan V and he knows this because he possibly gave surf lessons to other Scientologists through the Church.
The Church of Scientology’s pamphlet What is Scientology? says the OTV is “The Second Wall of Fire consists of 26 separate rundowns and has been described as dealing with ‘living lightning, the very stuff of life itself.’ This level addresses the last aspects of one’s case that can prevent him from achieving total freedom on all dynamics. An audited level ministered at Advanced Organizations or Flag.”
Kelly Slater certainly dealt with White Lightening for many many years and very successfully. Those eleven world titles, many at Mick’s expense, didn’t win themselves.
How many stories are hidden away, uncomfortable truths buried deep?
I was recently messaging back and forth with a fellow member of the “surf media” regarding a story he’s been kicking around. The subject isn’t important, he was weighing the merits of really going after the story, versus doing something a little mellower so as not to burn any bridges.
It could be a damn solid piece, enough so that I was a little peeved he mentioned it to me. Now I can’t do it.
He was right to be concerned about the reaction to contacting people for info. The wagons would circle, team managers would get pissy. Not because the topic is super inflammatory, but because it might cut into their bread and butter.
Make no mistake, everything you see is groomed, little candid, almost nothing honest. Words without an agenda are few and far between.
Which brings us to Anastasia Ashley. I mentioned, in passing, that I’d seen some photos the other day. Word is that she accidentally snapchat’ed them to her public account, when they were meant as a private message to some very lucky man.
I didn’t see much of a story in it. Amusing enough to make a punchline, but they weren’t anything great. Closeup of a landing strip, a perfectly normal piece of female anatomy. By internet standards pretty tame, barely worth the effort of a tug.
An undoubtedly embarrassing error for Ashley, but considering she’s made a successful career out of selling images of her genetic blessings they were hardly the end of the world.
What happened next was fairly interesting. Stab put up an article on it, then immediately pulled it down. Surfer removed a thread from their bulletin board, then the pictures just disappeared.
The absence of the photo is easily explained away. Her people got working, take down notices went out, everyone complied.
And I’m okay with that.
She didn’t do anything wrong, no reason she should face consequences. And consequences there would be, no-one wants their private parts dissected by the brutality of internet anonymity. Not unless you’re getting paid, or you’ve got some sort of kink that makes it work.
But the removal of words is something else. Neither the forum nor Stab linked to her nethers, and discussion of a public person’s foibles is fair game. It’s the cost of putting yourself out there.
Unkind, often unfair, but an unavoidable effect of life in the public eye.
It makes you wonder how much else is missing.
How many stories are hidden away, uncomfortable truths buried deep, concealed from a public which very much wants to know?
Pleasing people doesn’t make them open up to you, it only makes you their running dog. A disingenuous voice serving masters who’d rather you didn’t exist. There’s no real upside in going along to get along, there’s no future in writing about wave sliding.
The mags are destined to die, falling in step just earns you a cubicle and terrible salary until the inevitable pink slip appears on your desk one cold winter morning.
If we’re not being honest, why the fuck are we doing this at all?
There are no bridges to burn, no awesome lifestyle to be had if you only play the game.
A journey through life isn’t complete without taking a real swing on the North Shore. Until those stripes are stitched onto your arm, why, you’re just a boiled little cry-baby who’ll never know what it feels like to be a real surfer.
Me? Yes! A baby! Five, maybe six campaigns, and never a wave over six feet.
Why the North Shore? Why does it matter so?
You get the waves, you get the surf stars, you get the blood-red sunsets and you get the rain-spotted meth vampires crouching under the roots of trees in their stained undershorts just waiting for you to leave your pretty rental car unattended.
It’s the violent, beautiful heart of surfing.
The photographer Brandon “Laserwolf” Campbell is from Florida but has been plugged into the electricity of the North Shore for the past seven years.
Oowee, he’s seen it all. He’s seen the gunplay, the romance, the bonds and the remarkable beauty and strength of the place.
And he knows what you should do if you wanna make it there. Let’s ask.
BeachGrit: What makes you shake your head when you see new arrivals on the North Shore?
Laserwolf: I see guys all the time that don’t live here hassle locals for waves or try to call a guy off a wave. Just because you’re on the inside doesn’t mean the wave is yours. Not here in Hawaii, at least. If you get burned, suck it up, kick out and put on a smile. Never hassle an uncle for a wave. If I’m on the inside and its my turn but see a guy like Uncle Mike Ho or Sunny or whoever remotely interested in the wave, I won’t even look at it. It’s just a respect thing and thats how it is.
BeachGrit: Give me a list of the dumbest things you see people doing?
Laserwolf: Don’t leave valuables in your car. Tweakers are in the bushes just waiting to do a snatch n’ grab. Every day I see tourists on the side of the road in tears with a smashed window in their rental car and all of their stuff gone.
Don’t walk up to the team houses uninvited. You wouldn’t believe how often people walk into the Volcom House asking if it’s some sort of Volcom museum or if they can use the bathroom.
Don’t try to speak pigeon. You’re gonna sound like an idiot and your not fooling anyone. It’s a tiny community so If your not from here people know. You’ll get more respect for being yourself. As long as yourself doesn’t suck.
Stay off the bike path after dark. It’s the dreamiest little path in the day time but once the sun sets, the vampires come out to play.
Speeding through neighbourhoods is a very very bad idea. Go extra slow. I had been to the North Shore a couple years prior on a surf trip but my very first day as an actual resident, I had grabbed a beater truck on my way from the airport and went straight to check the surf. I was driving through the neighborhood at Sunset Point and thought I was going really slow. Pretty sure I was in idle. Anyways, when I pulled up to check the waves, one of the super-heavy hitters pulled up next to me and told me to roll down my window.
I knew of his reputation and was practically shitting my shorts thinking to myself, ” This can’t really be happening my first five minutes on the North Shore.” I thought for sure I was gonna get pounded but I rolled down my window and to my surprise one of the gnarliest guys around very politely said “Eh’ brah, would you mind driving a little slower, we’ve got a lot of kids in the neighborhood.”
I was apologetic, explained that I was frothing to surf, left out the part that I was JOJ, and assured him I won’t let it happen again and he said something a long the lines of ” No stress, have a great session” and drove off as I sunk into my seat with a sigh of relief. I’ve basically pushed my car down the street in neutral ever since.
BeachGrit: What are the other dumb things you did?
Laserwolf: About five years into living here I maybe got a little too comfortable and a little too cocky. I got lippy with one of the boys over something stupid and was quickly put in my place and reminded how not to act on the North Shore.
Another time, I stashed a bunch of camera gear behind the seat of my truck while I was surfing Off The Wall. I came in and someone had jammed a screwdriver into my door, took my gear, my phone and even the pennies in my cup holder. The worst part is that I used to live in the house across the street and every other day I would see a car that had been broken into in the exact same spot I parked. I knew better. Total rookie move.
BeachGrit: How easy is it to piss someone off and what are the common things people do?
Laserwolf: It’s no different then anywhere else. You get what you give. Be respectful, smile, look people in the eyes when you talk to them and don’t give that stupid high-five fist bump thing. No one likes that. It’s awkward and frat boy-ish. A firm handshake like a man and some eye contact goes a long way. And, yeah, drive slow, don’t step on anyone’s toes and don’t drop-in on anyone.
BeachGrit: How do you suggest one should behave if confronted by angry local man?
Laserwolf: It ain’t like movie prison. Ha! Knocking the baddest dude out isn’t gonna prove anything to anyone. I used to get in a lot of fights when I was younger. I’ve won some and I’ve lost some. Regardless, it was all stupid. These days I’m on a different path and have no problem walking away from someone who’s ready to scrap but I guess it depends who it is and what the situation is about. I’m not gonna let some random hero push me or my family around but I’m not about to have local problems either. Choose your battles wisely and if you’ve done something to upset anyone it’s best to just put your head down, be respectful and right your wrongs.
BeachGrit: How can you integrate yourself into the North Shore community? Do you send chocolates to Ed? Maybe a custom uke to Makua?
Laserwolf: I actually remember reading on Stab that Wiggolly Dantes brought a jar of his mom’s homemade jelly over to the Rothman’s house when he first came here. I wouldn’t recommend knocking on any stranger’s door but well played Wiggolly.
So many people come here, take, take, take and then bail when the waves get flat. I think it’s important to give back to any community you’re spending a lot of time in.
I volunteer with a local non-profit called Friends Of Sunset Beachwho helps raise money for the music and art program at the schools here on the North Shore. I do these art appreciation days where I go in and teach the kids about surf photography. I’ve got a couple companies who flow me gear and they print up posters and stickers of my images for the kids. My wife works with the Kokua Foundationwhich helps bring environmental education into the schools and community. She’s actually there right now working in the school garden.
The North Shore Lifeguard Associationhas a big fundraiser every year. That’s an important one for me to be involved with since those guys work so hard to keep us all safe. Working with the Mauli Ola Foundation is another great way to give back to the community. Don’t do it for the recognition though, do it to help your community grow as a whole.
BeachGrit: Is it possible to actually catch a wave at Pipe?
Laserwolf: During the Triple Crown, when the whole surf world is here, I would say the odds of getting a legit Pipe wave if you’re not a pro, one the boys or a dialled resident are slim to none. Anytime before and after those six weeks of madness, you could absolutely score the barrel of your life. Be ready to pay to play though. Pipe is no joke. Heaviest wave in the world in my opinion.
BeachGrit: How much you gotta spend on a crib during the season?
Laserwolf: I’ve got a family and a dog so I need some extra space and a yard. We pay $2,400 month for a two-bedroom at Rocky Point and that’s actually a pretty good deal right now. Vacation rentals and military housing allowance has shot rent through the roof and made good places very hard to come by. You could come solo though and find a nice room for rent around $800 a month. Rates don’t really change by the season here.
BeachGrit: How much should you budget per week to live?
Laserwolf: That’s a hard one to pinpoint. I guess it depends how big you want to go. My friend Rob Brown is an absolute nomad. He spent a winter camping in a tent at the skate park and lived off PBJ’s and PBR’s. You could go feral or five-star here. Anywhere from $10-$1000 day. In a tent at the skate park or a suite at Turtle Bay. Either way you’re going to score!
BeachGrit: Where’s the best place to live?
Laserwolf: Pupukea up the hill is really nice and quiet and it keeps you away from the riff-raff but you have to get in your car every time you want to go to the beach. For me, it couldn’t get any better then an oceanfront house at Off The Wall.
BeachGrit: What can you do to earn cash?
Laserwolf: Waiting tables is the ideal gig for a surfer. Play all day, then work for five hours at night. The money is killer if you can get into a good restaurant. Three hundred bucks or so a night.
BeachGrit: What’s the biggest misconception about the North Shore?
Laserwolf: That there’s no chicks here. I always heard there were no cute single girls in Hawaii but I met my wife here and she’s an absolute gem. My single friends are killing it.
BeachGrit: What’s the cliche that’s most true about the North Shore?
Laserwolf: There is a lot of petty crime. Mostly thievery so lock up… everything. I caught a tweaker breaking into my wife’s car at five in the morning the other day and when I yelled at her to beat it, she yelled back “FUCK YOU BITCH, YOU DONT OWN THE BIKE PATH ” and continued on with her coat hanger. She was so spun on meth, just full-on, one-track zombie mode.
BeachGrit: What’s the best thing about living on the North Shore?
Laserwolf: Tweakers aside, it’s a great little community to be a part of and raise a family. I’ve made some amazing friends since I moved here seven years ago. My daughter was born here, I met my wife here and I started my career here. Although my roots will always be in Florida, I’m grateful to feel like I can call the North Shore home. Its a special, unique place and I don’t ever want to take that for granted.
You surf? You young? Get used to the idea of walking frames…
I don’t much fear death. That’s not meant in some bravado soaked, “who wants to live forever?” sense.
Though there’s a decent chance that the things I enjoy will turn off my hunk of flesh one day, I don’t revel in the fact, I take every reasonable precaution to avoid it. I just believe (I’d say know, really, but that smacks of too much hubris to admit) that when we die it’s nothingness all around.
No afterlife, no reckoning. Lights out, you’re done.
May as well have never existed. Maybe in some hippy-dippy, we’re all made of star farts, way our existence holds some meaning outside ourselves, but if you’re not a conscious being that point is pretty much moot.
I’ve come as close to drowning as you can in a controlled setting, I can tell you the end feels euphoric, confusing, and empty.
But aging, she holds some terror.
My landlady had a slip and fall this past weekend. She’s 88, active, and when the ambulance pulled into our drive it scared the shit out of the wife and me. I’ve fallen into a kind of houseboy role for her, nothing crazy, just little things. Fetching shit off high shelves, carrying in groceries, hanging the occasional picture.
No big deal, happy to help. Super minor effort on my end, tons of appreciation on hers. She rents us a nice little two-bedroom at below fair market value, definitely don’t want to kill that golden goose.
She’s got a dark sense of humor, “I read the obituaries to see which of my friends died” and drives like a maniac. Takes a pretty fatalistic view of her ever encroaching demise.
When she got back from the hospital we hung out for a bit.
“I’m just glad I didn’t break my hip,” she said. “When that happens it’s always surgery, then just… death. That’s how it works at my age.”
Which rattled me. I’m only 35, still long for this world, but ridiculously injury prone. A lifetime of broken bones, sprains and strains and tears. Constant trips to the ER, two life threatening infections in the last twelve months.
It’s terrifying to realize there will come a time I don’t bounce back. I’m still young and strong, I heal fast. But I can feel it adding up.
I know I’m not the only one.
A doctor once remarked, as he looked over my medical history, “Your entire generation will be using walkers by fifty.” A few years later he killed himself, rather than go to prison. He wasn’t looking at much time, for a young man.
But he was very old, not likely to see freedom again. Suicide’s the coward’s way out, but I don’t hold it against him. We make our choices.
I, and likely you, have spent decades heaving my body at the ground. Beating my joints into dust, plenty of stretching and creaking and a long hot shower each morning to get moving smoothly again.