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.
Yesterday, BeachGrit‘s own Derek Rielly broke the story of the moment (read here). John John Florence, our young prince, heir apparent to Kelly Slater’s throne, got mad at JetBlue Airline for breaking his board and posted about it on his Instagram account.
Not only did this bit of journalism further our goal of winning surfing’s first Pulitzer prize, it was also very funny. Professional surfers hither and yon jumped into the fray, decrying JetBlue’s heartless corporateism. “Maybe airlines will never care about surfers or our boards…” wrote CJ Hobgood. “#instagramisthenewyelp” added Peter King.
JetBlue’s own Instagram account was overrun with surfers telling them to “Go back to the valley…” and “What a bunch of Barns…” and “Beat it, kooks…”
With such salty, surfy talk I wondered if JetBlue actually understood they were being criticized? Also, I don’t like many airlines but I have never had any problems on JetBlue. Their DirectTV almost always works and the snack selection/Tito’s vodka is nice. And so I decided to call and get their story. Every blood feud, of course, has two sides.
Ironically, the song that greeted me, as soon I was put on hold, was Jack Johnson’s radiate. “We turn so slow I know it’s hard to wait. Take your time, sun is yours to take I’m gonna watch you raaaadiate….” he crooned. And in case you have been hiding under a rock, Jack Johnson also penned and performed the View from a Blue Moon original tune (read here).
I was very quickly, and surprisingly passed up the chain until reaching Morgan, a seemingly nice man. I asked, “Are you aware of the brouhaha surrounding a kind of famous surfer lashing out on Instagram?”
Note: I say kind of famous because, let us be quite honest, no surfer is actually famous. Not even Kelly.
Morgan responded with a friendly sigh, “Yeah we are aware of it…”
“Do you understand all the surfspeak getting thrown your way?” I wondered. “It’s all so slangy!”
Morgan chuckled a little. “I don’t surf myself but we have a lot of surfers who work here and they translate it for me.”
“Well…” I continued “…what is JetBlue’s position on the matter?”
Morgan, refreshingly, did not slip into corpo parlance and said simply, “As far as I understand, the baggage folk tried to work with him. He had four boards packed into one board bag and we have very specific rules of one board per bag…”
Aha! That cheap little bastard John John tried to game the system! Any surfer knows that flying one board per bag is a virtual impossibility except John John ain’t any surfer! He could hire four little men to walk behind him, anywhere he goes, each toting a crisp Pyzel in a crisp new bag. What if they were all five feet tall and from India? What if he dressed them each the same? I’m thinking maybe an Egyptian cotton Tom Ford tunic paired with linen harem pants and red Louis Vuitton driving moccasins. What if he had each of them wear a delicate red fez? Of course, the fez is Turkish, in origin, but if I have learned one thing it is who cares! Orientalism is a state of mind!
And here is the real problem. Surfers are notoriously cheap and professional surfers more so. A lifetime of free swim shorts and fins and boards makes them stingier than stingy. John John could have had a retinue of manservants for a relatively small fee and his life would be a pageant. Instead he tries to save a few pennies and ended up with a hurt board/feelings.
I told Morgan, “Don’t ever let surfers fly JetBlue. They are all cheap bastards.”
The post currently has over 24,000 likes and 2500 comments from John John’s almost half a million followers. Very few were in favour of New York-based JetBlue.
The three comments, below, sum up, I think, an overwhelming sentiment.
ryanswiss@JetBlue you suck! I still remember when my board inexplicably turn up with a hammer strike through the deck when it came off the plane, and how you broke the nose off @pauldozier ‘s Webber when we flew you for our trip to Rincon, PR. Lame.
paulmrandolphWon’t be flying @JetBlue anymore. “Fly with us where you’ll get #jetscrewed ”
jeffbortonAre you serious @JetBlue ? Hope your $500 saving was worth the hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue! That’s super lame. Sorry bro.
CJ Hobgood and Peter King, maker of Hurley’s Tour Notes, meanwhile, added their flavour.
peterkinglajollaNow that is social justice! @john_john_florence gets treated like junk by @JetBlue after THEY destroy his surfboard…they said it was his fault…he paid $500 for luggage fees and THIS IS HOW HIS BOARD SHOWS UP!!! Well, one post about it by him on Insta and already 25,000 people have seen it and 2500 comments and growing…@jetblue getting written off on their own Insta feed too and probably gonna lose SO MUCH business because of this! Hahahaha… #InstagramIsTheNewYelp #JetBlueLosingThousand$$$ #JetBlueTombstoneModel
cjhobgood#socialjustice or maybe airlines will never care about surfers and our boards…so be it. But for now let’s not go down without a fight, because I know how respectful and humble this kid @john_john_florence is and I can see someone @jetblue treating our boy like crap and I’m happy to put a little gas on that injustice fire that has been going on forever. @dakine_surf Johnny also needs new board bags.
What do you think?
Do airlines treat you poorly too? Or is John John a cry-baby who shouldn’t fly such shitty airlines?