One of surfing's tall tales dies of apparent heart attack.
I went looking for famous surfer turned dropout Dave Eggers once on the Salton Sea. It is a strange world out there in the middle of California’s desert. A “sea” was formed, or rather re-formed, accidentally in 1905 when engineers were attempting to irrigate the area for farming. It was then thought to be a wonder and many people built vacation homes.
Today, the water has resided and toxic dust delivers cancer to the few inhabitants who think that levels will rise again and they will be sitting on primo waterfront property. Dave worked here, somewhere, I was told in a bar. I went looking but never found him and today, at 45, he is dead of an apparent heart attack.
Much has been made of his prodigious rise as a young surfer, his fall into drugs and later diagnosed schizophrenia. Matt Warshaw wrote the most beautiful eulogy today, or maybe just the most fitting. As a younger man I heard the tale of Dave Eggers and how he fell into drugs then disappeared. For some reason I thought he came back as Dave Eggers the author and thought, “What a brilliant story. Surf star to drug addict to best-seller.” It’s too bad that his story, and most stories like his, generally end in the dumps. Fucking drugs.
A new facility in Southern California makes you and Brett Simpson better surfers.
There is, in Costa Mesa, California, a 2500 foot warehouse filled with all manner of heavy rope, heavy ball, stretchy band and padded floor. The name on the outside reads Extreme Athletics and, though I’ve never been inside, I’m certain it is also there on the wall.
What makes Extreme Athletics different from all varietals of CrossFit X-Fit t-Fit is that it is surf specific training. A whole gym! Dedicated to the shred! First opened in 2012 by a kinesiologist and an exercise scientist, the whole mission was/is to help surfers surf better by focusing on what surfers actually do.
“It’s not traditional training, we put a different spin on it. We take the mechanics of how the body works and [use] specific exercises that a surfer needs to get results…” Paul Norris, the exercise scientist, tells Sports Illustrated. “If you watch a lot of videos of NFL athletes, they’re doing a lot of clean and jerks and really heavy Olympic lifting because they want to be explosive. Surfers don’t need to be big and bulky and don’t need to carry a ton of mass, but they still need to have that power and agility.”
Pros (Brett Simpson is a client!) and more casual surfers both receive similar training, apparently, focusing on the legs and agility but the pros get a more tailored experience depending on what sort of wave they’ll be making surf to.
In Huntington Beach, for example, during the US Open of Surfing “… the waves are chopped up and not smooth and the wave will reform so they can do a few more turns on the inside,” Norris says. “So we’ll focus on leg endurance so they can keep pumping on the wave on the inside.”
Let us please, now, be honest with each other. Are you the sort that tells people, “The best training you can do for surfing is to go surfing…”? Do you roll your eyes at the thought of going to a gym and doing surf exercises? Do you even hate the gym altogether and think it is completely anathema to the surf life?
Would you surf train if it was guaranteed to make you surf better? Do you only hate the gym because people who used gyms beat you up in high school? Does the smell of sweat on padded floors and the sound of Metallica rush you back to an uncomfortable childhood place?
So many questions, but important I feel to arrive at our root catechism. Is surfing a sport? Let’s once and for all answer!
Don't like paying for eye candy? Watch that instant surf-classic from early 2015 here… for free!
Earlier this year, the filmmaker Toby Cregan released his sci-fi surf film Nix Nic Nooley. The 40-minute film conjures up a fantasy world in the year 2879. There is transmutation, flight, prophecy and wizardry.
“Due to pollution the ocean has dried up, the only way to surf is by time travel using a cybotactical head unit. Zilou and Bibilou are two of the only humans interested in surfing, this is their story back in time.”
Apart from illuminating the many genuine gifts of Creed McTaggart, who filmed for NNN in between trips for Cluster and Strange Rumblings, we see the very underrated surfing of Duncan McNicol and a roll call of cameos that include Noa Deane, Dion Agius, Beau Foster, Nate Tyler, Wade Goodall and Jay Davies.
A few minutes ago, I asked Toby, who is 24 years old and who is also principal in the band Skegss,why the movie was suddenly for free. He said he’d sold out his entire print run of DVDs (500, of which 50 were gifted to friends) so, “why the fuck not?”
“Literally, the next day, we had Beau Foster in a dress because we knew if we didn’t shoot straight away it wasn’t going happen. It was just going to be one of those things we talk about, like, ‘We should do that movie where we dress Beau Foster up in a dress.'”
The idea for the movie came when Creed, Toby and Duncan were driving from Byron Bay to nearby Cabarita for a surf. Duncan had just watched the Oscars and he announced that he would make a “fucking sick actor.”
They started shooting the next day.
“Literally, the next day, we had Beau Foster in a dress because we knew if we didn’t shoot straight away it wasn’t going to happen. It was just going to be one of those things we talk about, like, ‘We should do that movie where we dress Beau Foster up in a dress.'”
Why the dress?
“Because everyone on the internet, and in real life for that matter, says he looks like a chick. And because he does. He’s a hot dude.”
The name Nix Nic Nooley comes from the opening scene where Duncan and Creed speak a invented language called Zeekna. Listen carefully and you’ll hear.
It began with: “Immensely talented pro surfer from Santa Barbara, California; world-ranked #5 in 2006; the first Mexican-American to qualify for the pro tour; known as much for his colorful anti-surf industry rants as for his powerful, stylish turns.”
And, included, “Martinez seemed to take pro surfing’s often-shallow inner workings as a personal affront, to a degree that soon began to affect his competitive drive. He held onto a top 10 position, but 2009, the career complaints that he’d so far kept mostly among friends—about judging, contest formatting, venues—began showing up in public forums.”
Were you sad when Bobby jumped off the tour in 2011 just after being DQ’d from the Quiksilver Pro in New York? Oh, I was.
Warshaw’s post about Bobby re-fired my thoughts about Bob, still just 33 years old, four years younger than Taj and a decade behind Kelly. And yet retired for four years already. Ain’t that crazy?
Being a professional contest surfer, in that regard, makes so much more sense to me than just being a photo pro, or whatever they’re called these days. Maybe if you’re 21or 22. But as an adult? I don’t know. Craig Andersen, and Dane, and that whole aging Modern Collective crew — there’s gotta be some heavy-duty existential dread floating some of those guys’ heads.
Anyway, I wanted to ask Warshaw, what did Bobby Martinez leave behind? Anything? This interview took place between Sydney, Australia, and Seattle, Washington.
BeachGrit: I read with immense interest your post about Bobby Martinez. Seven NSAA titles, wins two events in his rookie year and finishes fifth. Quits tour at 28 because “every surfer was complaining and no one was happy… endless amount of shit… it fucken got to me.” As a historian, tell me how Bobby is remembered… or is he remembered…
Warshaw: When did Bobby pack it in, four years ago?
BeachGrit: 2011, yeah…
Warshaw: Sadly, to me anyway, I think he’s more remembered these days for being . . . take your pick, a giant crybaby, or the New Millennium Dora.
BeachGrit: Sadly? Why?
Warshaw: Sadly, because when I was making those two little vid clips for his page, I remembered what an amazingly good surfer he was. Or is, I mean! Better now then he ever was on tour! Smaller boards, a bit more flesh on his bones, and look at him go!
BeachGrit: You’ve written that you never really liked Bobby’s “surf-rebel rants.” I was thrilled every time he took the microphone. Why didn’t they excite you?
Warshaw: No, they did. They excited me in that he wasn’t boring. Chas just wrote a little love note about Joe Turpel’s handling of Mick’s shark episode, but for my money the standout world tour announcer response of all time was Todd Kline’s post-heat webcast interview with Bobby in NYC. The shock and joy dancing across Kline’s face! Surfing, for a few great moments, was vicious and funny and slightly out of control, and I still get a buzz watching it on YouTube.
BeachGrit: Oh, you do jumble things. You like ‘em or not?
Warshaw: What I liked about the New York blowup was just how slashing and sudden it was. But really . . . what’s behind it? What was Bobby so angry about? Not just in New York, but those two or three years before, and even after he quit. Why so mad? You’re a Top 10 professional surfer, making, I don’t know, a half-million a year? Living a block off the beach in Santa Barbara?
BeachGrit: Did I tell you of the timeI wrote a cartoon (with the artist Ben Brown) about Bobbyand, as a fan, I made what I thought was a lovely pictorial of his life, but he was… furious. And, I believe, ready to use fists. This wasn’t an initial worry ‘cause he little, five five max in his little Ed Hardy slip-ons, but then I later saw what a boxer he is. Ooowee, I sure was lucky he didn’t make me pay. Do you love this sort of passion?
Warshaw: No. I mean, yeah I love passion, but what you’re saying here, it just sounds to me like Bobby doesn’t have a sense of humor.
BeachGrit: Of a scale of one to ten, how dumb was Bobby’s decision to quit the tour?
Warshaw: For a lot of people, Bobby obviously included, being on tour is an awful way to live. If you love being home, if being around friends and family is important—all true for Bobby—then flogging around the world nine months out of the year or whatever, while at the same time turning your favorite thing into a cutthroat job, it’s like you’re fucking your life up four or five different ways. So good for him for stepping off. Same with Dane. Mick and Kelly and those guys can do it. Others can’t. So yeah, Bobby’s decision to leave was completely sound. But trying to play it off like it the ASP tripped him up somehow? That’s where my eyes start rolling.
BeachGrit: When I flew over to Santa Babs to write a story about Bob not long after he quit, it seemed like he’d hit hard times. He was thinking of getting into a little concreting like his Dad.
Warshaw: I read that story just last weekend. The part that really got to me, it was so honest and kind of raw, was when Bobby told you that surfing for him had become aimless. He needed to have a goal, he needed to have something to chase. It got to me for two reasons. Bobby obviously hadn’t yet got to a point with his surfing to where he couldn’t just do it for the sake of doing it, which is sad. But even sadder is, you DO need to have something to work on, a goal to aim at. Bobby, you, me, everybody. Being a professional contest surfer, in that regard, makes so much more sense to me than just being a photo pro, or whatever they’re called these days. Maybe if you’re 21or 22. But as an adult? I don’t know. Craig Andersen, and Dane, and that whole aging Modern Collective crew — there’s gotta be some heavy-duty existential dread floating some of those guys’ heads.
BeachGrit: When do you think a surfer should retire? Bobby told me, “I looked at guys who were there longer than me and go, how the fuck are they doing this? How are they still there?” Is it an age thing or when your rating hits a downward trajectory or do you wait until you fail to qualify?
Warshaw: None of those guys on tour today, and nobody going back to, I don’t know, Tom Carroll pounding out fender dents in a garage—none of them have any idea what it’s like to not be a surf star or a star in the making. Making a big change in your life is so hard. And so scary. A career change is terrifying. On the other hand, not making that kind of change is slow death. And that’s where Bobby was at there at the end, in New York. Maybe it wasn’t conscious thought, but he was smart enough or brave enough or both to cross the bridge. And blow it up behind him.
BeachGrit: When was the last time you saw Bob surf and tell me your impressions.
Warshaw: Mini Blanchard did a clip on Bobby for Channel Islands, it came out maybe six months ago. Shot mostly in Ventura, last winter. Bobby’s riding these little quads, like 5’6”, and all the joy is back, all the power, all the flow. His last couple years on tour, and for a long time after, he was so obviously just surfing by the numbers. But that the Channel Islands vid — Bobby is a man reborn.
Did he, a few short months ago, deliver the greatest call in sporting history?
Sporting history is littered with amazing calls by equally amazing broadcasters. Vin Scully describing the last batter of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game, “He is one out away from the promised land, and Harvey Kuenn is comin’ up. … So Harvey Kuenn is batting for Bob Hendley. The time on the scoreboard is 9:44. The date, September the ninth, 1965, and Koufax working on veteran Harvey Kuenn. Sandy into his windup and the pitch … a fastball for a strike. He has struck out, by the way, five consecutive batters, and that’s gone unnoticed…”
Bill King describing an Oakland Raider fumble, “The ball flipped forward is loose! A wild scramble, two seconds on the clock. … Casper grabbing the ball … it is ruled a fumble … Casper has recovered in the end zone! The Oakland Raiders have scored on the most zany, unbelievable, absolutely impossible dream of a play! Madden is on the field. He wants to know if it’s real. They said yes, get your big butt out of here! He does! There’s nothing real in the world anymore!”
Vin Scully, again, describing “The Catch,” “Montana … looking … looking … throwing in the end zone … Clark caught it! Dwight Clark! (Crowd noise for 29 full seconds)It’s a madhouse at Candlestick”
Chick Hearn drawling, “This one’s in the refrigerator, the door’s closed, the light’s are out, the butter’s getting hard and the jello is jiggling…” near the end of every Los Angeles Laker win.
I could go on all day! But do you want to know a call that gets finer and finer every time I hear it, and I’ve heard it many many times recently? Joe Turpel describing the Mick Fanning shark incident of ’15! The cool calm in his voice, his refusal to get rattled, and that initial priceless description, “As we look at Fanning on the rankings. Oooh we can see a little splash…”
I’ve written about his work that day once before, right after the incident, likening his use of “Mick gets back on the ski to reset” to Edward R. Murrow’s “Good night, and good luck.” But these things take time to enter the historical pantheon and, months later, I think it is very clear that Joe Turpel delivered the greatest call in sporting history. And it is the front half, the initial sentence, that soars. The “oooh” so delicate, air sucking slightly in, placing the word “little” before “splash.” I mean, seriously, does a call get any better than that? Does it? I have to say no. I have to say Joe’s calm juxtaposed against the very clear enormity of what was happening on screen makes it the greatest of all time.