In his account of driving to Lemoore, in Central Valley California, 110 miles from the coast, Keith Plocek writes: "We’re going to drive up to King’s County. We’re going to attach a GoPro camera to a kite. We’re going to come back with aerial footage of a man-made lake. Why? Because it’s Saturday. Also, that lake has the potential to change the essence of surfing forever." | Photo: Keith Plocek

Just in: Drone photos of Slater’s wavepool!

Want to see what Slater's mythical pool looks like when you attach a GoPro to a kite?

When Kelly Slater loosed his 10-years-in-the-making-pool to the world in December, it threw more questions than it answered.

Was it really the greatest leap in the history of surfing in tanks? Was this a precursor to the mythical level playing field that would make surfing an Olympic sport?

Where was it?

And, if you were a bird, what did the setup look like? I could guess at the first two, Reddit filled in the blanks on the third, but… the setup?

A month ago, I organised a pilot to fly BeachGrit’s LA bureau (Chas Smith, actually more Cardiff-by-the-Sea than Los Angeles) to Lemoore and to film and photograph. Those damn El Niño temperatures, hovering around freezing for most of Jan, meant he couldn’t fly. And we couldn’t film.

But, this morning, LA surfer Keith Plocek filled in the blanks on his blog with the beautifully perfect title:

I Flew a Kite Near Kelly Slater’s Artificial Wave and Scored Aerial Photos of Surfing’s Future

Because it was Saturday

A few weeks ago, Mr Plocek had rigged the kite he’d bought from New Zealand with a GoPro and a Picavet stablisation system he’d 3-D printed, and loosed it above the pool.

Let’s examine his story.

The typical surf-trip story begins with getting there, so let’s start with Tim and me, three weeks ago, bouncing down the 5 in my beat-up Jeep.

We’re heading up to Lemoore, California, 110 miles from the coast — not exactly the place you’d expect to find good waves. The Jeep is many things, and one of them is loud, so I’m yelling our mission to Tim:

We’re going to drive up to King’s County. We’re going to attach a GoPro camera to a kite. We’re going to come back with aerial footage of a man-made lake.

Why? Because it’s Saturday. Also, that lake has the potential to change the essence of surfing forever.

Last month professional surfer Kelly Slater released a video of the perfect artificial wave, created by his wave company, and the surfing community went nuts. Online sleuths tracked down the wave pool’s possible location in a matter of days. Surfers started posting accounts of driving up to the Central Valley and hanging around the outside of the compound. They all brought boards, hopeful Slater would emerge like Willy Wonka and invite them inside.

Mostly they just got stuck in the mud.

Slater’s people remained silent when asked about the lake’s location. They were mum on the science too. Everyone assumed the lake in Lemoore was the spot, but outdated pics from Google Maps were the only aerial proof.

That’s where Tim and I came in. Tim’s from New Zealand, so he’s born to fly kites, and I like to find new ways to tell stories. We could’ve brought a drone, but that seemed much less fun.

It’s kind of hard to hate on a kite.

On the way up the 5, we kept monitoring wind speeds on our smartphones— just like we’d check a surf report when heading towards the coast. The forecast was good. We talked about surfing. We stared at the road.

After bouncing on the highway for three hours, we took a right and soon rolled past a security guard standing outside a compound with a high fence. We’d made it. But there was no wind at all.

It was flat.

We’d driven all the way out there, and it was flat.

We weren’t going near that fence. We didn’t even want to get close enough to cause trouble. We just wanted an aerial shot from afar. But we had no wind.

Before they’d even tracked down the possible location of Slater’s perfect artificial wave, surfers were already arguing about what it meant for the sport. Would kooks in Utah never even learn how to duck-dive? Where was the magic, the sense of discovery? Without nature’s whims, was surfing even surfing?
I don’t have answers to those questions, but I can say we were inspired that day. If the world’s greatest surfer can invent his own wave, we’d have to invent our own wind.


We took a couple left turns and wound up on a muddy road behind the compound. Tim and I went to work putting down the Jeep’s top and prepping the kite, as if we’d done it a thousand times before.
I shifted the Jeep into gear, and Tim let the kite go. Mud flew in the air. So did the kite.
We were airborne, shooting video, barreling towards an unlikely place for surfing’s future. I’m not sure when I started giggling, but it was hard to stop. We made two passes at the compound, yanked in the kite and drove away. Fifteen minutes later we watched the footage from a parking lot in town. We’d done it.

We’d nabbed the first aerial photo of the lake. No one was there — the lake was placid — but that didn’t matter. Our goal was to contribute just a little to the surfing community’s knowledge, and we had succeeded.

To my eyes there is no question Lemoore is the spot— all the landmarks from the video are there. But I’ll leave the final conclusions to the online detectives.

I had a great Saturday.

(Visit Keith Plocek’s site here…)

Official: The Eddie on Stand By!

Quiksilver puts on the yellow light!

Two weeks ago, right here on your third favorite surf lifestyle website, I wrote “The Eddie Aikau set to run mid-week (fingers crossed)!” And when it didn’t run you laughed and said, “That Chas Smith doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He doesn’t even surf!”

Well look who’s laughing now! I didn’t say which mid-week, did I. And now the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau is on official stand by! And I do surf!

But do you know what would be the most amusing? If crazy swell also pulsed at Mavericks and the Titans of had to cancel their event again. I will say, I’m actively cheering against those organizers for keeping Pete Mel and Grant Twiggy on the sidelines.

So, I implore again, get thee to Oahu! It is the greatest show on surf!


Albee Layer judo
Albee Layer demonstrates a judo air. Let's examine the ingredients: front leg kicked out topside, board grabbed the nose. But does he land?

Poetry: “Albee’s foreskin in gum line!”

We live in a golden age of online commentary… 

I came into the surf game when comments under Internet stories were but a newborn babe and social media was still affixed to Mark Zuckerberg’s fertile womb. Everything was anonymous and the rage poured like a handicapped waterfall.

“You fag!” people would post.

“You fag no good surf!”

Very rudimentary sentence structures. Silly playground taunts with no flair. No élan.

Dude once you get albee’s dick outta your mouth maybe come to Maui and surf? Would love to watch you drown, since you know nothing about surfing and just write bullshit stories about how you are a total faggot who lives in L.A and wishes he could put Albees foreskin in your gum line. Please write an article about this too, I’m waiting.

Life has changed, though, and it seems that true artists now flourish on message boards, Instagram, Twitter and underneath stories. I was messaged on Facebook a while back, apparently in regards to something I wrote about famous and handsome professional surfer Albee Layer, but I didn’t see it until recently. And this is what the message said:

Dude once you get albee’s dick outta your mouth maybe come to Maui and surf? Would love to watch you drown, since you know nothing about surfing and just write bullshit stories about how you are a total faggot who lives in L.A and wishes he could put Albees foreskin in your gum line. Please write an article about this too, I’m waiting.

How could I not? It would be the same as leaving Khalil Gibran’s great works unseen. Like never committing Robert Frost to the page.

On top of it all, he offered to introduce me to some of his friends.

I got some bi-sexual friends on “backpage” they want to meet up with you in LA after I showed them this pic of you. They seem really excited!

The globe is warming, catastrophically. The Middle East is melting down, China’s economy is grinding to a halt, doom and gloom. Except on the Internet, where the flowers of friendship are in full bloom.

Just in: Slater Pool 100% Solar Powered!

What do Kelly Slater's pool and Erin Brockovich have in common?

HUGE NEWS! Slater’s wave pool is going to be 100% solar powered! Oh my gosh, so good for the environment. Everyone is covering the PR coup; Surfline, the inertia, other people… It’s the best thing to happen to Mother Earth since I stopped using plastic bags to pick up my dog’s shit and just started heaving it into the bushes.

Of course, the cynic in me asks, “How the hell can that be possible?”

Generating waves requires massive amounts of power and I have a hard time believing it’s financially feasible to build a gigantic solar array around every park they plan on opening.

So what’s going on? How is it possible?

Through the magic of words! The wave pool will be a participant in the PG&E Solar Choice program, wherein you pay extra for electricity and they promise all the power you receive, delivered through pre-existing infrastructure, comes from solar alone. Even more impressive than the solar program is the ability to keep that new solar power separate from the dirty old kind made from burning coal, oil, or harvesting orphan tears. (That last one is a joke. If I could run my laptop off the suffering of unwanted children I’d be living in a magical world, indeed.)

Since electricity mixes freely once it enters the grid, there’s no way Kelly’s pool will actually run off solar alone. But Pacific Gas and Electric swears that paying extra will introduce an equivalent amount of solar power into the grid. So it’s six of one and half a dozen of another. And you can believe PG&E, they have a long tradition of trustworthy environmental stewardship.

Like in 1993, when they donated, via court order, $333 million, the largest direct action settlement in United States history, to residents of Hinkley, California after contaminating their groundwater with hexavelent chromiumHow could they have known that storing toxic by-products in unlined pools would be bad for the environment? At least we got a Julia Roberts movie out of it.

Likewise the PG&E pipeline that exploded in 2010 in San Bruno, California, killing eight people. Sure, state inspectors had warned that the pipeline had faulty welds, and, yeah, PG&E subsequently increased pressure in the pipeline to meet demand, and yes, they were fined $1.6 billion in April of last year.

But they’re environmentalists now! If you pay them money they’ll provide marketing materials showing you are too!

Yay for capitalism! Yay for disingenuous marketing! Yay for getting in bed with bad actors in the quest for positive PR!

Kelly's Wave from Kelly Slater Wave Company on Vimeo.

Blood Feud: What Youth vs Captions!

“Surf captions are officially dead!” and “Fuck a caption!”

Bold opinion is such a rare commodity in our world of “safe spaces” “micro-aggressions” and “trigger warnings.”

Who knew that one day cartoonists would be gunned down in their offices and other cartoonists would defend the killings as the result of ‘em “punching down”?

We’ve become so pompous and solemn and dull, don’t you think? College students are so terrified of confronting ideas and so unable to cope with even literary classics, The Great Gatsby now comes with a warning: (Trigger: suicide, domestic abuse and graphic violence).

Everyone else is finding hunks of racism, sexism, homophobia and Islamophobia (but curiously not the more virulent anti-semitism) and white privilege in their corn flakes each morning.

And surfing magazines, of which I’ve been a part of, one way or the other, for longer than I’d ever admit, take this piety to new levels. Which makes ’em ripe for satire and for criticism.

So I always light up a little when I see, read, someone having a bit of a swing at the status quo.

What Youth, the magazine started five years ago by most of the key players of Surfing magazine and the filmmaker Kai Neville, gave it to Surfer and Surfing magazines yesterday, on their crummy choice of photos. To Surfer, What Youth‘s editor Travis Ferré wrote:

“Please, we all deserve better from you. Surfers, editors, photographers, followers. This is our lives and just because you’re trying to appease a mil worth of followers, remember when you post something like this you make us all look like kooks. So please, stop it. Sincerely, What Youth.”

Today, What Youth is going after captions, the usually meaningless trope that goes under photos in those spreads.

“Surf photo captions are officially dead. Let’s reinvent them together. Surf photo captions suck because they’re easy to write instead of great to read. They’re designed for the supplier instead of the consumer. And it’s time to fix them. How can we redesign the surf photo caption? What could improve or replace it?”

It’s a good question. I haven’t seen a print mag in a while, but one relatively prestigious title I did find, ran the following captions:

“All smiles inside the world’s deadliest wave. Teahupoo.”

“Hard to believe something so beautiful could be so deadly. Teahupoo.”

One What Youth follower had barely read the Instagram screed before he started waving his pitchfork.

“WY is punk rock as fuck. Fuck a caption, don’t conform.”

My philosophy at Stab, although not always followed to the letter, as some days the lethargy would claw at my fingers and refuse any industry, was that any significant photo had to feature a quote from the surfer and the photographer.

For one week out of every six-week production cycle, I’d sit there and call both participants, chasing top 10 surfers around the world for a three-minute interview. More than once, Joel or Kelly or whomever would hear the silence at my end and ask, “Is that all you want?”

Did anyone care? Did anyone read? Who knows?

Maybe captions are unnecessary. At least they are according to this guy:

“Honestly, captions don’t matter that much, as long as it says who the surfer is, and who took the picture, and maybe where their surfing if it’s not like a secret spot. The main thing is the picture…”

And you? Do you care?