One champion to unite us all!

Carissa Moore's champion run gets all surfers to embrace in harmony!

Yesterday right around noon Derek Rielly and I stumbled into the Lost surfboard factory just in time to see Coco Ho take down Courtney Conlogue and hand the world title to a very excited Carissa Moore. Matt Biolos, the world’s best surfboard shaper/Republican presidential candidate was as proud as a parent and the rest of the factory too. Mike Reola was smiling.

And why not? Her surfing is so spectacular, so fully formed that it would be a gift to watch her compete, regularly, against the men. She is smooth, powerful, imaginative and graceful. I have never heard one bad thing, in fact, about her abilities. Surfing magazine’s famed Jimmy “Jimmicane” Wilson wrote, later in the day, “Carissa Moore is my favorite surfer.”

Which got me to thinking. Over on the men’s side it is a minefield of potential frustrations for the fan. I’ve heard grumbles that if Adriano de Souza wins then professional competitive surfing, as we know it, will be forced to destroy itself. Bull roar, I say. I love the little man and his tireless work ethic and his blue collar approach but many many don’t. If Mick wins, some say, it will only be proof of the World Surf League’s ridiculously conservative approach to judging. If Filipe wins without getting very barreled in very big Pipe then many will put an asterisk behind his name reading *is afraid of big waves.

Etc. The only non-polarizing champs could be, maybe, late runs by Julian Wilson or Owen Wright but even then Brazil would, probably, be rightly angered. Such a mess!

But Carissa, oh Carissa. She is a champ, a pure champ, embraced by all. Hawaii, the United States, Australia and Brazil can each appreciate her mastery. So can Lost co-founder Mike Reola who was in the surfboard factory too. He has a beatific smile and it shown when Ms. Moore ran down Honolua’s path to hug her parents.

John C Reilly John John Florence Blake Kueny
“You know what gets my dick hard? Helping out my friends.” John C Reilly, narrator of View from a Blue Moon, with the relentlessly fantastic surfer-filmed duo John John Florence and Mr Blake Vincent Kueny.

JJF and the power of self-loathing

The most insightful review of everyone's favorite surf movie!

Before I go into my review of View from a Blue Moon, I think it’s only fair to disclose the biases I bring with me.

I’m so fucking over shots of beautiful scenery. Been there, done that. I understand that the vast majority of the world is stuck in lives of quiet desperation, city-bound, struggling to scrimp and save so they can one day visit a humid warm land where the trades leave salt crystals in your lashes and everyone is baked a latte brown by a friendly sun. But that’s my day to day.

I’ve seen the sky explode in a riot of color over the ocean more times than I can possibly count, enjoyed every shade of vivid green you can possibly imagine. Crystal clear reefs or cold water kelp paddies, waves crashing on jagged lava rock, mossy boulders, lapping gently against the shores of white sand beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see. People talk of being high on life, I’ve been privileged enough to build quite the tolerance. It’s the main reason I enjoy playing tour guide when people hit the island, it often takes a fresh pair of eyes to kick me out of my own jaded torpor.

So a lot of the film doesn’t resonate with me. Artfully composed, perfectly framed, wonderfully colored, it doesn’t really matter. I’m not the best audience for that kind of thing.

While Kelly Slater is the greatest surfer who’s ever lived, it’s become apparent that John John Florence is the best. Never before has a single surfer dominated every possible ocean condition with the style and aplomb that Florence does. Due to his amazing skill, and apparent total lack of regard for his own safety, View from a Blue Moon contains what may be the highest volume of mind blowing surfing ever stuffed into a single video. Every single aspect of JJ’s game is so high it may as well be a totally different sport than whatever the hell it is the rest of us do in the water. It holds some pretty heavy ramifications for the future. Thousands upon thousands of little sun burned groms are watching his every move, and he’s the level to which they’ll aspire.

I went into the film with the misconception that it would be about John John, rather than star him. I thought it would give some sort of insight into his life, show a little about what makes him tick. Introduce some humanity to leaven his super human ability. It does not, or, at least, I don’t believe it does.

No one’s life is perfect. We all struggle, mourn, crave something always out of reach. To be sure, JJ got pretty lucky. Loving mother, caring brothers, an unbelievable home in one of the best places on Earth. But he’s not alone in his possession of those things, plenty before him have been blessed with the same and still crashed and burned into lives of addiction or failure or just plain old mediocrity.

It’s easy to write off his ability at a young age to natural talent, but that belies the fact he’s spent his entire life in waves of consequence, and no one gets this good without caring so much that failure could crush their soul.

Slater’s spent the last few decades living a similar trip. Everything real kept private, a public persona that shows a driven man, but not a haunted one. And I find it hard to believe that anyone with the insane drive that Kelly has is truly happy with himself, all of the time. Or even most. Self-loathing is a powerful motivator, the absence of a father figure has a profound effect on a worldview. Cracks in that facade seem to be finally showing, as though, after all these years, the mask doesn’t fit so well anymore.

I wonder about John John Florence. I wonder what drives him to try so damn hard. I wonder about the times he hates his own reflection. I wonder about Alex Florence, whether she worries for her sons’ safety, in the water when they play, or in the world as they travel. I wonder about Nathan and Ivan, growing up in the shadow of an older brother who’s fame seems doomed to eclipse anything they ever accomplish. I was really hoping View from a Blue Moon would shed some light on those topics. But it does not.

In the end, View from a Blue Moon is probably the best surf movie of all time, but it just isn’t my favorite.

Rumor: Surf photogs to form union!

Bringing back the glory years of Jimmy Hoffa!

The worker hasn’t kicked his employer in years and years, or so it seems. In the United States wealth continues to concentrate in fewer and fewer hands. Most people just feel lucky to have a job and so don’t agitate. Unions have turned into bloated bureaucracies that do nothing but feed the chunks at their top.

But guess what? The glory years of 1930s organized labor might be back and all thanks to surf photographers! There are very many people with cameras these days, you see, and some are not very talented. Or principled. They stand on the beaches and shoot pictures of surfing etc. Brand managers see them and say, “Hey little boy, you wanna be famous? Gimme that picture and I’ll hashtag you.” The picture is given for a hashtag and, voila, the price of art drops for everyone.

It is a problem and a bummer but rumors swirl from reputable sources of unionizing. The photographers will band together, demand a fair price from buyers and muscle down on those who get out of line.

Just think how fun it would all be! Beaches from Snapper to Trestles to the Banzai Pipeline will be dotted, periodically, with scab busting men wearing, probably, wifebeaters and suspenders and fedoras, smashing the Canons and Nikons of those underselling images.

No one works harder than the surf photographer and if they really do unionize it would be glorious. I would even join though the best shot I’ve ever taken is of a flamboyant twink watching a fashion show. You can’t use it for free anymore. (but if you do please @beach_grit and #beachgrit)


Kelly Slater with Tomo surfboard.
"Slater Designs number one! Always number one!" says Kelly, while the great surf journalist Nick Carroll prostrates himself before his pro surfing equivalent. | Photo: Steve Sherman/Surfing Magazine/@tsherms

Just in: Kelly Slater’s new surfboard Co!

Launches January 15, Orlando! With Pyzel, Tomo, Webber and… Rob Machado!

It ain’t no secret that the 11-timer Kelly Slater is a vast, unfinished masterpiece. You thought he was going to tap out from the tour, rated sixth, heading towards fifty, a fading legacy his only takeaway?

As obediently as we might like to conform to an idea of what an athletic icon might do, Kelly continues to surprise, and to delight.

Let’s backtrack a little, and quickly.

In April, Kelly Slater bought the third biggest surfboard company in the world Firewire Surfboards. Two, maybe three mill.

Firewire, if you didn’t know, is a surfboard brand that builds boards in Thailand, sells ’em for almost $1000 apiece, and counts Michel Bourez as one of its surfers, and Matt “Mayhem” Biolos and Daniel “Tomo” Thomson among its guest shapers.

The launch range will include four surfboard models from Jon Pyzel, Greg Webber, Daniel “Tomo” Thomson and Kelly’s ol pal Rob Machado. Running the show will be former Channel Islands lynchpin Travis Lee, a secret weapon in Kelly Slater’s later world title campaigns.

(Read the story about Kelly buying Firewire here)

This January 15, at Surf Expo in Florida (January 14 through 16, 2016) Kelly will launch his new surfboard company, which is called Slater Designs.

Got a ring don’t it?

The launch range will include four surfboard models from Jon Pyzel, Greg Webber, Daniel “Tomo” Thomson and Kelly’s ol pal Rob Machado. Running the show will be former Channel Islands lynchpin Travis Lee, a secret weapon in Kelly Slater’s later world title campaigns.

Do you hanker for the sweet throbbing surfboards that come from Slater and these shapers?

Would you give years of your life to touch one of these nymphets?

Sterling Spencer Gold

Watch: Sterling Spencer’s Gold!

Pensacola's gift to the world has done it again!

Sterling Spencer’s Gold! dropped this morning and accomplished an amazing feat. It got me to sit through a half hour long surf video without skipping forward, or losing interest part way through. (WATCH HERE)

Like most of us, the constant inundation of online content has given me an attention span that’s best measured in seconds. Gimme the hits, the best clips, all killer, no filler. Dispense with the fucking lifestyle shots. I’m over slow pans of swaying palms and back-lit tropical sunsets. I live that shit every single day, they’re about as interesting as the life insurance policies my wife is suspiciously insistent I read.

I adore Sterling Spencer. I dig his take on the surf world, groove on his never serious approach. I’m not too surprised to learn he’s been depressed and suicidal over the last few years. Full on clown, laughs on the outside, tears on the inside.

I’ve been looking forward to Gold!, more so than JJ’s flick, which also dropped today, but which I won’t likely see until it hits the torrent trackers. I like to watch great surfing, but I crave something different. A window into John John’s life isn’t that intriguing. Apart from the fact he surfs better than me, there’s not a lot he has that I want. In truth, I think I’ve got the better gig. Way less money, sure, but nowhere near the pressure. And he’s still gotta get through his twenties, I didn’t like mine so much. All the responsibilities of adulthood, none of the wisdom.

Gold! reminds me of Taylor Steele at his finest. Goofy acting breaking up surf segments, me cackling away like a loon. Rewind the skits more often than the surfing.

But, whereas the hilarity of Steele’s work was by and large created by the amusement I felt at seeing the pros I worshiped struggle to act their way out of a paper bag, Sterling knows what he’s doing. A calculatedly awkward on-screen presence, perfect comedic timing, self deprecation that cuts without turning pathetic. Successful comedy is damn hard to pull off. Probably unattainable without a natural affinity, but you’ve still gotta hone that edge if you want it to cut. Sterling’s got his razor sharp.

And that Bob Saget segment! Holy hell, perfection itself.

Unfortunately, where the movie falls flat is during the surfing itself. Spencer is very talented, but in a world full of double jointed super freaks dropping clips on the regular, his ability is that of the guy who is, 99% of the time, the very best in the lineup, but when the real deal shows up you see the cracks in his game. Which didn’t detract from my enjoyment, though I found myself waiting for the surfing to end so we could get to the good stuff. Which isn’t a negative. I can think of plenty surf flicks with similar formats and awesome surfing, but where I suffered through the interstitial programming only to get to the action.

Gold! is gold, worth your time, a good enough proof of concept to justify kicking down a few bucks to his GoFundMe. My only gripe is that he plans on donating the money to local charities, I’d much prefer he used it to finance his next project.

 Or maybe not. Maybe the best thing would be to parlay this project into some legit acting work, leave the surf world behind. Kid’s got the comedy chops, looks good enough for the screen, but not too good.. Attractive people can be funny, beautiful people cannot.