“World Class Points” in North Korea!

Coastline is like “northern California”…

Four months ago, it was reported here that North Korea was open for surf tours. If you peeled off $US2400 (plus airfare) you could throw yourself straight into the mouth of what the West rightly, or wrongly, calls a “hermit kingdom”.

But who can speculate about such things?

Maybe chairman Kim Jong-un has a beautiful thing going. Maybe his animal vitality is reflected in a smiling well-fed populace. Maybe there is no famine, no summary executions, no anti-everything narrative. Maybe, by side-stepping globalism and porous borders, the glorious chairman had created…perfection.

The NBA Hall of Famer and former Chicago Bull Dennis Rodman has famously visited North Korea six times. About Kim Jong-un he says: “When he’s around his people, he’s just like anybody else. He jokes and loves playing basketball, table tennis, pool. They love American ’80s music. They do karaoke to it. He has this 13-piece girls band with violins. He gets a mic and they play the whole time. He loves the Doors and Jimi Hendrix. Oldies. When I first went, the live band only played two songs for four hours: the theme songs from Rocky and Dallas.”

Read about Rodman’s trips here. 

Anyway, the eight-day tour (operated by the New Jersey company Uri Tours) went in September and I was curious to examine the results. The Italian surfer, Nik Zanella, who is also the current coach of the Chinese national surf team, led the tour.

Potential for surf? Yes?

“There is potential in the DPRK for world-class pointbreaks, especially during typhoon swells,” he says. “Google Earth shows astonishing images of actual waves breaking on perfect setups. While we didn’t have full access to the coastline, the setup we had on Majon Bay was as good as a single location could be along that coast. The bay faces straight east and receives swell from over a 90 degrees angle, SE to ENE. The beach break activates also with minimal swells. When it gets bigger, there is a clean pointbreak just under the cliff.”

surfing north korea

The coastline, he says, “looked like Northern California, deep bays of golden sand, interrupted by ferrous cliffs.  I was surprised by the overall beauty of the place.”

surfing north korea

Were the people kind, nice, fearful, terrorised? “Traveling to North Korea was an eye opening trip for me,” says Zanella. “People were beyond nice and we were treated with respect and curiosity. I found that Koreans are hard working smart and have a sense of humor.”

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Why would you go there? The German entrepreneur Markos Kern, one of the heads behind surf tours to North Korea, says,  “North Korea is the last white spot on the map and there are many amazing experiences to be had there. The country is beautiful and the people you meet possess a rare type of curiosity and kindness. Unconventional travel destinations always hold a certain amount of magic and I think trips like these may be the last few off the beaten path adventures we can really have.”

surfing north korea

Yeah, this does all read like propaganda, don’t it.

surfing north korea

So why not visit! See with eyes!

Book here. 


Yours truly getting ready to surf all alone in Yemen. For sure no one is out today. What are you waiting for? | Photo: Cole Estrada

Get learnt: World War III for surfers!

Mass global conflict is around the corner! What this means for you...

Of course you don’t come to BeachGrit for your world news but why not? I feel the collective IQ of our commentary team is higher than the average public radio listener’s (here’s looking at you Negatron, longtom, Audit in Progress, Trogan, Badger, mullet, Mariano, Landa Super Jr. etc.) and as such, could provide helpful advice for the surfer staring down the barrel of World War III.

In case you haven’t been keeping up, here is the short of it. The United States invaded Iraq a decade-ish ago, deposing Saddam Hussein under the guise of deposing Osama Bin Laden. It worked, on both fronts, if we feel like being solely results-oriented, but left the Middle East with power vacuums in the strongman arena (bye-bye Saddam, Hosni Mubarak, Mums Gaddafi, etc.) and in the terrorist one as well (so long, Al-Qaeda and welcome, ISIS).

Now, ISIS is behaving extra-badly, carving out large swathes of the Middle East and calling it a caliphate but also attacking continental Europe and threatening both the U.S. and Australia. There is only one strongman left, Syria’s Bashar Assad, and Russia has decided to go all in on him but the rest of Europe and NATO ally Turkey don’t like but also don’t like ISIS so are hamstrung. Russia is bombing ISIS but also bombing Assad’s enemies in Syria. The U.S. and Europe are sad but stuck. And Turkey just shot a Russian fighter jet out of the sky.

Hello, World War III!

Now. What is the generally shortsighted surfer to do? He doesn’t typically care about the Middle East because he thinks there is not very good surf, thus no reason to go or miss it when it explodes. He is wrong. I have surfed fun waves in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Oman and seen fun waves in Israel. He also doesn’t think geopolitic matters and he is also wrong because  to the victor go the spoils, which is to say, a working knowledge of the globe’s situation will allow him to surf better waves alone, especially when things start really going to hell.

In any case, for both his future surf vacations and if caught in an unfortunate holiday meal debate, what should the surf position be on WWIII? Should the confused surfer back Putin and Assad? Europe/Turkey and a nonexistent Syrian democratic resistance? ISIS? Is there another party he should throw his support to? Also, what board will be most effective?

Let’s discuss!


Rumour: FCS sold for $160 million?

Is Australian bank offloading fin pioneer Surf Hardware?

You can react two ways to the merciless and aggressive greed of the biz world. Either crave, pointlessly, for less rapacity or you can marvel at the ability of those who can grab a co with potential, polish it a little, and offload it at fantastic profit.

Vulture Investors” Oaktree Capital Management, which owns 19 per cent of Billabong and now controls Quiksilver Inc after its recent bankruptcy, is one company very good at this kind of biz.

Pals in the share game tell me the new, leaner, debt-free Billabong has never been a better buy, thanks to Oaktree.

Last month, it was reported that the plan was to combine to the two surf co’s. 

Surf Hardware, aka FCS, meanwhile, is in the process of being sold, at least according to a recent phone call I received. Now, if y’aint au fait with the biz and its importance to our surf game, maybe y’should.

In the early 1980s, Bill McCausland and two partners founded the company Fin Control Systems. It grew. We all started buying boards with plugs in ‘em. Along came a raft of removable-fin imitators.

It all went pear-shaped when the new company’s CEO and McCausland didn’t, uh, get along. The company sacked McCausland but, wait, he had thirty per cent of the company. A receipt for harmony, yes? But, no.

Shit went downhill. I glaze over at this kinda stuff. But read it all here. 

Ten years of court battles followed. Read about the case here. 

Anyway, looks like McCausland came out of it with a few mill. Enough to keep the wolves at bay, but maybe tough to swallow when y’hear the biz is rumoured to be sold for $160 million, and your share would’ve peeled you off $50 million.

I called FCS for a comment, got a nice enough accounts guy who refused to comment either way but obfuscated enough to make me think, yeah, the sale is under way.

And we’ll find out if it’s true soon enough.


Peer pressure: Bruce Irons into Pipe!

What other hashtags can we cook up on the stovetop of liberty?

Oh glorious day! As first reported on Stab yesterday, and followed up by the World Surf League themselves today, Bruce Irons has received a wildcard into the Billabong Pipeline Masters in Memory of Andy Irons!

Let’s examine! Stab‘s Elliot Struck says:

And now Bruce is in the event. But not because of any hashtag. It’s because WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow is a fucking lord and knows how to pick his cards. Bruce will paddle out, not because of any Internet peer pressure, but because Kiz was always gonna put him in.

The WSL’s Kieren Perrow says:

Bruce and I have been talking about a possible opportunity and it’s great to see him charging Pipe again this season. He’s always been a standout at Pipeline and remains amongst the world’s best surfers when conditions get critical out there. With the withdrawals of Frederick Patacchia (HAW) and Matt Banting (AUS), the WSL is in a position to allocate one of the replacement spots to Bruce and we feel like he’s certainly a worthy candidate given the form he’s in. Looking forward to a great event.

And bullshit!

The #bruce4pipelinewildcard is to thank. The angry Internet forced a feeble WSL hand and voila. Bruce is in. What else would you like that paltry WSL to do? What other hashtags can we cook up on the stovetop of liberty? Let’s think!

While we think, and at the end, congrats to Bruce Irons, who says:

I’m so honored to be given the opportunity to compete in the Pipe Masters in memory of my brother, I reached out to Kieren [Perrow] a couple of weeks ago and asked if it would be a possibility and he’s been completely open with me through this whole process. I understand that the opportunity is coming to me due to someone withdrawing, which is never what you hope for, but I’m really pumped to surf Pipe with the world’s best. Really looking forward to the event and I hope the waves fire.

But back to our other hashtags. Is #nomorenolosersround too technical? Would #1swell1event fire the masses? Help me help you!


This is Grambeau's favourite shot from the 20-photo series because "it's dark and a little forbidding with a glimmer of light that sums up, I think, where we are with the issue of climate change." | Photo: Ted Grambeau/ Sea Level

Ted Grambeau Wants to Save You!

…from a wretched, maybe apocalyptic future…

Are you a firm believer in the idea of “climate change”? Of apocalyptic storms and floods and whatever else engulfing the world because of the carbon dioxide we’ve been pouring into the air? That a couple of hundred years of mankind’s excesses has led us to the brink of annihilation?

The Australian photographer Ted Grambeau believes and he fears society ain’t giving it the oxygen the issue needs.

“It’s pretty obvious it’s the greatest long-term threat to mankind,” he told me today.

Now Grambeau ain’t got much cash but he’s got his photos, his art. And, so, beginning at the Pipeline Gallery in Haleiwa next week and, soon, touring internationally, Grambeau has an exhibition called Sea Level, which he hopes will raise awareness of climate change among surfers.

“So it struck me that it stands to reason the general public can’t comprehend the magnitude of the issue. It always gets put to the back of the line, behind terrorism, behind paying the rent, behind eating food.”

The twenty-photograph exhibition is of photos taken, “literally, at sea level, says Grambeau. “I’ve been shooting for 40 years. I’m someone who immerses their eyeballs every day at sea level and yet I couldn’t see any perceptible change in the rising sea levels.
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“So it struck me that it stands to reason the general public can’t comprehend the magnitude of the issue. It always gets put to the back of the line, behind terrorism, behind paying the rent, behind eating food.”

Grambeau had the same experience with some of his photos. He noticed they had elements he couldn’t see with the naked eye.

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“They were actual physical manifestations of light dancing across the water and creating these… moments,” he says. “I’m not a Photoshop person and so all these beautiful moments were just happening while I was shooting. Representations of impending weather, of glances of light through clouds. Water coming off the lens.”

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The play is this: just ‘cause you can’t see something doesn’t mean it ain’t real.

See more of Ted’s work here.