In Defense of the Tawdry

A continual tilting toward windmills!

The sun rose this morning on a new surf landscape. One where a proud little worker bee from Sao Paulo, Brazil with the letters H and D emblazoned on the nose of his surfboard (what’s HD?) stands above the blonde/bald Adonises. One where we can speak truthfully about things maybe?

I hate to keep beating this drum but just one more time, for clarity’s sake!

Yesterday early, I published details of Mick Fanning’s brother’s death. Through the day Derek and I debated its pertinence before Derek evaporated it in the afternoon and published the wonderful piece What is Newsworthy? documenting why/how we do what we do.

And in the comments a very great discussion took place, one that inspired. The whole reason I published in the first place, even though, it turned my stomach was because I am tired, exhausted even, of the surf media being a dumb ostrich. Anytime something veers into the distasteful or uncomfortable we put our collective head in the sand. It has become patently absurd especially when things are either widely reported externally and/or very very public on social media or elsewhere.

Longtom said it well. “It was bizarre (that day) hearing people giving shout outs to Mick and wondering what the fuck was going on and then watching the whole thing blow up into a huge mainstream story……like every News Bulletin I heard today featured it as the lead story, front page of New Ltd newspapers. Can’t silence something that is news to that extent, no matter how much you want to respect the family. At that point it seems ridiculous, surreal even to try.”

Derek added, succinctly, that part of BeachGrit‘s trouble when it comes to reporting uncomfortable truths is, “the architecture of our site doesn’t help. Our headlines… YELL… and give the impression we’re tap-dancing every time we post…”

Completely true. Still, one of the things I most wanted to do when we founded this little nugget was to be honest about what’s happening. Anti-depressiveness first but truthfulness also even when tawdry second!

Burt Reynolds (welcome Bo “Bandit” Darville!) added, “When you want the idea of exposing the truth to become why people read as opposed to what you feel your individual narrative can give to a story then you’ve stepped a foot wrong in my opinion.”

And he is exactly right. I don’t want to be an ugly tabloid and would never, ever report something personal and private. I have sat on more of those stories than I can count. But, again, if something is widely reported and/or impossible to ignore public then, hell, even if it turns the stomach it flies, in my opinion, because opening up the window and letting air into the stale, ultra-conservative, fearful den that is the current state of the surf has value.

Captain Clark added, ” I personally don’t think dodging the elephant in the room does anyone any good albeit done in the right way. Dodging enables the issue to fester causing regrets.” And boredom. And an utterly skewed perspective. And slow slow death.

So I will keep tilting at this damned windmill unless a super minority says, “Stop it!” And I will point back to this post, the next time, because it is not personal and it is not mean-spirited. The truth is simply nothing to fear.


What is Newsworthy?

Opinions on what should and shouldn’t be reported splits BeachGrit!

Earlier today, BeachGrit reported on the grittier details of Mick Fanning’s brother Peter’s death.

News outlets in Australia and in the UK had quoted a senior police officer confirming the likely cause of death, and BeachGrit principal Chas Smith, who has a commitment to candour, reprinted the uncomfortable news.

I woke to the story all over my Facebook, all over BeachGrit, and it belted me.

In my opinion, it ain’t in BeachGrit’s anti-depressive style to talk about anything that, while titillating and superficially popular, might cause anyone unnecessary grief or suffering.

A man loses his brother? How about we peel back a notch.

In a different context, but one that can be applied with vigour here, the writer Sebastian Junger said: “There are no journalistic ethics that transcend the value of human life. There are none. In a situation where you can save a human life, you must. There isn’t any conflict in my mind.”

Substitute “dignity” for “life” and it fits.

So, Chas and me had a back and forth all morning.

“It became a story because everyone did stories on it but no one looked it in the eye,” Chas texted me. “That’s my opinion. That’s why it ran. ”

As gatekeepers and curators of a thousand potential stories every week, the editor runs a fine line.

Four years ago, I commissioned a story on the photographer Paul Sargeant despite being told he was suicidal and that the story of his sexual assault on a surf journalist would be like pulling the trigger on a gun pointed at his head.

I thought about it for the two years it took Fred Pawle to write one of the better stories ever printed in a surfing magazine. In the end, I felt it was a story the public should know and that any further suppression of it would just prove how shifty and weak surf mags were, are.

Sometimes opening the gate can be a positive experience. Like a story I commissioned, again by Fred Pawle, on surfing’s first openly gay surfer. 

As for today’s story, Chas added “I thought lots and lots about it but I could easily be wrong.”

Yeah, we got it wrong. So wrong. Would we write anything for a few hits?

I’m not one for pulling stories (unless I’m going to get my ass sued. Hello WSL.) but this didn’t fit our game.

And so we evaporated it.

Getting it wrong, and sometimes crossing lines, is the messy, noisy, price of candour.

“It’s a demon’s game,” says Chas. “That’s what I thought and thought and thought about. The surf industry sweeps everything under the carpet. It’s what it does and that is fine because feathers don’t get ruffled but what if we all just committed to the truth for once? I get the insensitivity and it made my stomach turn too but son of a bitch. What if someone has a drug problem brother right now who read the piece and maybe thought to go talk to him? Being sensitive is wonderful. But being truthful can also be.”

Adriano De Souza world title
A beautiful moment tween Mason Ho (third!) and Pipe Master/world champ Adriano De Souza. Even in waves so terrible it must now force the WSL's hand to shorten events, the game's stars sure did shine… | Photo: WSL

Adriano is Pipe Master and World Champ!

After years of shit-talking from every direction, Adriano De Souza takes sweet revenge…

Dragged my ass out of bed this morning at the crack of 7:30. Tired, stayed up too late reading the second half of the Succession duology. Great stuff, if you’re a fan of science fiction, which I most definitely am. Fantasy too! Robots and wizards and spaceships and magic!

Pipe’s definitely finishing up today, albeit in a dying swell. Early morning will probably drop a few gems, then smaller and smaller and smaller.

Big Pipe is truly terrifying. I spent a decent amount of time swimming around the lineup back when I lived on Oahu. Not enough to earn a spot, but long enough to earn a nod from my fellow bodysurfers every once in a while.

Small-ish Pipe, like today, is scary too. Much shallower, still has plenty of power. Easily capable of ripping your head off, or, in my case, drilling you shoulder first into the bottom and putting you on the injured list for a very long time.

Still, it’s not what we’re here to see, and that’s a bummer. Title on the line, watching the finals day degenerate into what’s sure to become a grovel-fest. Anti-climactic, that’s what it is.

Flores/Kerr went okay. Nothing mind blowing. Flores looked kind of over it. Didn’t rend his clothes over the loss. Means De Souza meets Kerr in the quarters, an easier draw than Slater, for sure. In big Pipe I’d be tempted to give it to Josh, but in these conditions the ability to conform to judging criteria puts De Souza in front.

Medina threaded some little tubes, put a doppelgänger’s career to rest. Webcast shows Hobgood got an inconsequential interference. I missed it while brewing more coffee.

A three-way title battle is pretty neat. Too bad the Slater/Fanning heat is lackluster. No shine but that bouncing off Kelly’s dome. Very low scores, Kelly ain’t lying down, Mick looks kind of distracted. But this one’s a wave catching contest, might as well flip a coin.

I’m really looking forward to the next heat. This type of small, lumpy, shallow hell seems to bring the magic out of Ho. Judging by his clips, at least. Will he paddle out with a plan, try and play serious, or let it all loose and get nasty? I hope for the latter.

A foamy drop to quick in and out at Backdoor for Fanning. He’s fist pump claiming it. Making the drop should earn the score he needs with only two mintues left. But who the hell ever knows what the judges are thinking.

Six-point something, more than enough. Thirty seconds for Slater to pull a rabbit out of his hat. He’s done it before… but not today.

You know who he reminds me of? Nineties vert ramp pro, Andy MacDonald. Both take a blue-collar approach to comps, neither gets any love from mainstream companies within their sport. I’d love to see Adriano win it, then take MacDonald’s path. Say, “Fuck it,” in Portuguese, ride for Walmart or Burger King or whatever large non-surfing companies exist in Brazil that see the value in brand exposure.

That puts Medina out of the title race, but he still has a shot at killing Fanning’s dream in the semis.

If Adriano beats Kerr he’ll face either Melling or Ho in the semis. Should be a walk in the park, tactical hassling, manufacture his way to the finals. I don’t think either can stand against a determined De Souza. Still needs to get through Kerr.

I’m gonna call it early. Based on the draw, Adriano’s got this one wrapped up.

You know who he reminds me of? Nineties vert ramp pro, Andy MacDonald. Both take a blue-collar approach to comps, neither gets any love from mainstream companies within their sport. I’d love to see Adriano win it, then take MacDonald’s path. Say, “Fuck it,” in Portuguese, ride for Walmart or Burger King or whatever large non-surfing companies exist in Brazil that see the value in brand exposure.

Found a relevant quote from Andy Mac in an old Transworld Skateboarding article.

“When I first turned pro, I didn’t have enough money to pay rent. I was going to contests, and the sponsor wasn’t paying for me to get to the contests. I’d skate hard enough to make the cut, maybe not go for it as hard as I should’ve – I’d skate conservatively, just enough so that I was in the money and had enough to pay for my trip home and the rent.”

Jeez, this is boring. Gonna see a whole lot of single digit heat scores today.

Sick little wave for Ho. Long little tube, steezy roundhouse, bonk at the end. That’s a heat winner, today. Looks like he’s playing it straight. Breaks my heart.

Is there another family that comes close to the Ho’s for total competitive domination? That’s a serious question, I’m trying to think of one and I’m drawing a blank. Between Derek and Carissa and Mason and Mike they have a hell of a lot of wins.

Kerr is one of those guys who’s been around so long I forget he’s younger than me. So weird, turning from a freesurf pro into a competitive animal. Williams is saying he’s here based on pure talent, but I don’t buy that line. You don’t reach the top tier of competition without caring about winning.

Kerr is one of those guys who’s been around so long I forget he’s younger than me. So weird, turning from a freesurf pro into a competitive animal. Williams is saying he’s here based on pure talent, but I don’t buy that line. You don’t reach the top tier of competition without caring about winning.

Oh boy, a Mason interview! Comes off like a toddler surrounded by puppies and candy, pure innocent excitement.

According to someone on reddit, this win means Ho’s on the ‘CT next year. Is that right? Asked Derek, he asked Prodan. Not true, “…still falls well short.”

I doubt that’s a height joke.

After a ton of spent floating around like turds in the punch bowl Kerr grabs a quick cover up and snags the lead. ADS out the back with priority and fifteen minutes.

Cut to Mick dancing with his eyes closed.

With ten minutes left ADS is prowling the inside like an animal. Paddle in, flick out. Paddle in, flick out. Keeping his shit together, putting in work. Only needs a 2.01, down to six and change left, can’t write him off yet. But Kerr’s playing it cool, holding on to priority and chipping away at the clock. Had a chance to put it to sleep, but got clipped on his way out and fell. Bettered his worst, but only barely. Ran back into the lineup, hung on to priority. Important in the dying minutes.

De Souza needs a 2.44 now. Three minutes left.

De Souza Slaters into one at Backdoor, squeaks out, claims it. Scores haven’t dropped but it should put him in the lead with two minutes left.

Now less than a minute, Kerr needs a 2.51. Forty seconds, thirty seconds, Kerr paddles in… and gets eaten! Title battle still alive heading into the semis!

The surf may not be the best, but who doesn’t love when the top spot comes down to the final moments? I sure do.

His groove must be flowing, Fanning’s first wave was a gem. Damn far behind that section, hammered through the foam ball, dodged a section then little bonus roof. That’ll be hard to match, unless we’re looking at a last minute pulse and it turns on for the next half hour.

7.33, Medina’s basically combo-ed.

Fanning backs it up with another at Backdoor into a reverse attempt in six inches of water. Digs the hole a tad deeper. Gabe needs a 6.27.

Since there’s not much action I’m clicking around the ‘net while the comp plays in the background. Did you see that they arrested Martin Shkreli?

Too funny, or maybe not, how financial success is almost always based on theft. People play like they’re some sort of genius, but it’s all just stealing. Not about being bright, just about lacking scruples.

There’s an interesting article in The New Yorker about the history of organized crime in the United States. It talks about the use of “innovation” in upward mobility, how often successful clans can be traced back to criminality. That our nation’s, my nation’s, obsession with “success” leads to those without access to traditional, legitimate, means resorting to crime in their quest for splendor.

According to Wikipedia, Shkreli was raised by immigrant parents, so it kind of applies to him.

With nine minutes left Medina grabs a right. No where near Mick’s 7.33, but is it a 6.27? Maybe. If not it still closes the gap. Fanning’s gotta be feeling the wolves at the door.

Only a 4.83, seems low. Medina still needs 5.54 with five minutes left. Fanning has priority. Should he shadow Medina, keep him from a shot at a hail mary inside air, or sit out the back and keep his grip on the sets?

He chose poorly. As I typed the last sentence Medina took off on a plopper and flung himself into a big frontside three. Yeah, it’s a tube riding contest, I know that Turpel, but there ain’t no barrels and the JUDGES GIVE IT TO MEDINA!!!!

Laid back the landing pretty hard. Thought we weren’t counting those anymore.

One minute forty five and Mick needs a 4.0. Which he doesn’t get. And now it’s up to ADS to drop the ball.

Poor Mick.

What do I want to see more? Mason Ho make the finals at Pipe, or De Souza win the title?

Tough call, they’ve both got my heart. I have to side with De Souza, Mason’s got plenty of years left and he’s only getting better at the game.

Medina won the Triple Crown. Wasn’t even on my radar. Feel like that title isn’t relevant anymore, though I couldn’t tell you why. Maybe because, by modern surfing standards, Sunset and Haleiwa aren’t super relevant either.

Oh boy, Mason wants it bad, kicking scratching power paddle back out. Gets his hands on priority. First exchange is done, .57 for De Souza, .37 for my little snuggle bunny.

Sucks to say, but that .2 could be important.

Mason’s board done broke, Adriano’s alone out the back. But there’s plenty of time left, and it’ll be an easy paddle. Or maybe not, Mason’s kinda getting thrashed on the inside. Oahu: where a two foot day will beat the ever loving shit out of you.

Vicious paddle battle that De Souza wins after an exchange at Backdoor. Pretty similar waves, Adriano’s a bit cleaner. I’m giving it to ADS, but you never know what the judges are thinking.

De Souza sacrifices priority for a close out. De Souza gets the edge on the previous exchange. Now Mason needs a 1.38, tries to commit suicide on a right, sneaks back out and regains priority.

With seven minutes left they’re sitting pretty far apart. De Souza ain’t gonna do a last minute huck, but he’s definitely gonna try and three-to-the-beach it to better his low score. Hopefully the judges won’t reward that.

They kinda do. Five minutes, Mason needs a 3.01. Makes an unlucky choice, strokes into a Backdoor right that looks wide open, then pinches and turns weird. Ho bobbles and catches his rail off the bottom. That’s nerves, right there.

De Souza had a chance to hammer that last nail in the coffin, but gets clipped on his way out.

Two minutes before Adriano is champ. Mason should be headed inside and aiming for a flip. It’s not gonna happen. One minute left. It’s gone flat, De Souza just took it.

Good for him. Two Brazilian champs in a row, time for De Souza to renegotiate some contracts.

It’s a Medina/ De Souza final. But who the hell cares?

I want to slap the fuck out of that guy from ESPN standing in the background, holding his phone in front of De Souza’s face. Look at him, mug just screams “punch me in my stupid haole head.”

Maybe Chas knows. Do the guys get a pay bump for drinking Red Bull on camera, or is it in their contract that they have to?

I want to slap the fuck out of that guy from ESPN standing in the background, holding his phone in front of De Souza’s face. Look at him, mug just screams “punch me in my stupid haole head.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 9.55.01 am

Congratulations to Mason, a semifinal Pipe finish ain’t nothing to sneeze at. Go pound some beers and use those bedroom eyes to lure a few ladies into your bed.

And a HUGE pile of congrats out to Adriano. A decade of trying, constant shit talking from every direction. Head down, made it happen, never let the naysayers get him down. And that’s something. I catch a tiny amount of shit online compared to the guy, and you develop a thick skin, but sometimes shit makes it through. Easy to let the public ruin your brain, the fact that he didn’t is impressive in itself.

His win has some implications for the judging criteria. More on that sometime in the very near future. Probably tomorrow.

Straight out for the final, was expecting the usual hour long lead up. Crown De Souza, hype the heat, build some tension.

But the swell is near dead, so it’s a good call. Not that the final matters. Actually, the difference between first and second place is a substantial sum of money. That matters.

De Souza’s on fire. Two solid tubes in a row.

Have you seen this web short starring Macaulay Culkin? I’m in no way invested in the result of this heat, so I just watched it, and it’s very funny.

Wow, De Souza pounds home a third good wave. None of the showboating Medina pulled last year, running around the beach, basking in the glory, paddling out when the heat’s half done. De Souza’s true blue collar, through and through. The job still ain’t done, back to work.

And that’s it, the end. Adriano De Souza takes home the title and a Pipe Masters trophy.  First Brazzo ever.  That’s pretty neat, since Medina already snagged their title.

Speaking of which, where’s the Brazilian love?  When Medina won it was a near riot.

2015 was, all things considered, a pretty shit year for professional surfing. Hopefully 2016 brings better. Or maybe it needs worse. Maybe the best thing would be the WSL ruining the tour, killing the money, and allowing for a fresh rebuild. We’ll just have to wait and see.

In the mean time, I need to find something else to bitch about for the next few months.

Deliriously happy!
Deliriously happy!

Ótimo: Your 2015 world champ!

Adriano de Souza takes home the cup!

The surf wasn’t pretty but who needs pretty when you’ve got Adriano de Souza! The working man’s hero scrapped through emotion, through bad winds, through Mason Ho and, minutes ago, was crowned your World Surf League champion du monde!

Just last week I wrote:

There are many scenarios, still, but if I am really going to look in the mirror and be honest with myself, I must say, “I’m an Adriano de Souza man!” The little bee slaves away in all waves while people at home say he has a “poo stance™.” But he closes his ears to their caws, shows up to work and does work. He is the professional surfer construction workers from New Jersey can get behind (plus he wears a delightful gold chain over his hairy chest in WSL profile pic). He is a people’s champ.

And also that his title would usher in a new era of world peace.

We’ll have to wait for that to unfold but, for now, the North Shore is awash in a sea of green and gold. If not peace then we will at least have progress and order.

Now raise your caipirihna to ADS!

More aloha than you can handle!

Do you want to taste the sting of the North Shore?

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 8.26.57 AM

You are, most certainly, tuned into the Billabong Pipeline Masters right now. How could you not be? This has been one of the wildest of all surf contests. So many contenders! So much barrel! You’ve seen the stunning performances. You’ve heard the wonderful commentary team talk about how the waves, when big, shake up your toes and all the way to your heart. Well guess what? You can feel it yourself!

Billabong is running a contest and you can enter it HERE.

What do you win?

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 8.27.08 AM

And how does that slap you? More aloha than you can handle! If you have never been to the North Shore during this time of year you should certainly enter.