The noted writer Matt Warshaw, crown-fringe and dancing hands at left, and the sizzling big-wave stud Brock Little, circa 1998.

Warshaw on Little: “He’s indestructible!”

The noted writer Matt Warshaw on the dazzling legacy of Brock Little.

There’s a lot of folks coming to terms with Hawaiian Brock Little’s illness. One of ’em is the surf historian, and one of the more underrated writers in the game, San Francisco’s Matt Warshaw.

Matt is a former editor of Surfer and creator of the Encyclopedia of Surfing Occasionally, we get together for lightweight back and forths at BeachGrit, on the relevance of Miki Dora, on surf commentators, on wavepools, whatever requires an experienced eye.

Today, Brock Little…

BeachGrit: I’m pretty numb to people I don’t know getting cancer, dying etc, but for some reason hearing that it was Brock, the ultimate big-wave stud, shook me. Why do you think that is? 

Matt Warshaw: The Instagram photo, maybe? I found out he was sick three or four weeks ago, but when I saw the picture yesterday it just buckled me. The shock of the photo, then Brock saying “I have cancer, it sucks,” which is such a total Brock thing to say. So the two things together, the awful photo and the totally normal voice . . .

When he rode for Gotcha in the ‘80s, he’s drive up at my house in San Clemente and pull two huge cardboard boxes of free gear from the back seat, dump it all in a huge pile and just crack up, all these free clothes when he just cruised around all day in trunks and no shirt. Michael Tomson was a fuckin god back then, terrifying and all-powerful, and Brock would come back from a meeting with Michael and do this wicked imitation of him and all his kowtowing minions, and it was just blasphemy.

Yeah, agreed. But it’s more than that…

He was indestructible for all those years.

More than that. 

He laughs at everything. How serious all the big-wave guys are. The idea of getting a paycheck for surfing. All the bullshit surf industry politics. He laughs at it and loves it at the same time, which is the perfect attitude. Brock loves being part of it all, lives for gossip, puts himself in the middle of everything. Then he’ll step outside of it and make fun of it all. When he rode for Gotcha in the ‘80s, he’s drive up at my house in San Clemente and pull two huge cardboard boxes of free gear from the back seat, dump it all in a huge pile and just crack up, all these free clothes when he just cruised around all day in trunks and no shirt. Michael Tomson was a fucking god back then, terrifying and all-powerful, and Brock would come back from a meeting with Michael and do this wicked imitation of him and all his kowtowing minions, and it was just blasphemy. And hilarious. But anyway, for some reason, apart from him being a friend, the idea of a guy with that perfect of an attitude getting cut down by cancer just seems especially cruel and wrong.

Years back, I was doing these ads for Surfing Life where I’d get famous surfers to talk about why they read the mag. You know, I read ASL because… Brock said, “because it doesn’t take surfing seriously.” Ever since, I felt he rode a similar wavelength and I’ve based my career on that quote…

That’s it exactly.
The idea of a guy with that perfect of an attitude getting cut down by cancer just seems especially cruel and wrong.
And so damn good looking. The sorta guy I’d keep real far away from my gal. A little busted, a brutal handsome edge. 
After Chas did that little piece for you about Balaram Stack and Christie Brinkley, I followed with a 10 Most Glam couples involving a surfer. Brock and Kate Bosworth came in #8. She flew to Hawaii to do Blue Crush and the producers handed her off to Brock to show her the island, teach her a little about surfing, and he got the gig was he was the “responsible” surfer on the set, right? She was like 19 at the time. Look at the two of them! Brock said they kept it platonic for a couple of weeks. I cannot imagine the willpower involved. The pheromones just filling the air. They should have bred. The word would be a better and better-looking place.
Brock Little and Blue Crush star Kate Bosworth.
Brock Little and Blue Crush star Kate Bosworth.
And you know, while yeah, women threw themselves at Brock, he also had the worst luck with love. Heartbroken more often then not, which is how we bonded in the first place. For 10 or 15 years, one of us or both of us was needing to spill guts about the latest love disaster. The night of the 1990 Eddie, when he got second, he called me and spent like 10 minutes on the contest, then sighed and got to the real point of the call, which was that his recent ex-girlfriend was dating a lifeguard. He always wanted to be married, and he always wanted to start a family, from way back.
Brock Little Cancer
Do you remember when baggy was beautiful? Matt Warshaw, three sizes too big, at left, and Brock Little, in oversized cord and shearling, right.

Opinion: Decide the world title at Jaws?

Who would struggle and fail? Who would die?

The hardest part of pumping out a constant flow of words about surfing is coming up with ideas to write about. There are periods when it feels like there’s nothing to say, beyond, “Hey, check out this radical three minute web clip.”

And I can only take serving up so much pablum before I get bored with what I’m doing, and if I’m not enjoying writing there’s really no point. There definitely ain’t much money.

Like, Mick’s getting divorced. Ugh, such a non-story. If it were contentious, if he was whomping on her or she were claiming he brought home the clap after after some filthy top ten group grope-and-poke, then right on, let’s go full media feeding frenzy.

Should the world title be decided at Jaws? Of course not, that’d be a terrible idea. Getting A+ quality swell for big wave events is more difficult than herding cats, and the vast majority of the ‘CT would just struggle and fail. Maybe die, more likely dodge sets and basically waste a million quality waves.

But normal divorces are boring, and kind of sad. Absolute terror if you’re the primary breadwinner.  Or so I assume. I’m not too worried about a divorce in my future, the wife and I have been together since we were kids, got no pre-nup, and I’ve made it very clear I’d expect her to keep me in the lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed.  I feel I am due, nay, am entitled to, half.  If the missus thinks she’d be getting an amicable dissolution she doesn’t know me at all. God bless gender equality.

When it’s slow, and I’m struggling, Derek’ll gift me a little prompt and that’s usually enough to spark some inspirado. Because there’s always something to write about, and a good suggestion is enough to get the words flowing. I don’t think the actual act of writing is that difficult, especially considering the relatively low standard to which the surf media is held.

Like juggling, once you’ve got the knack it’s easy to keep things moving. And once you get me started I’ll happily blather on for hours.

Today’s suggestion was, “Should the world title be decided at Jaws?”

Of course not, that’d be a terrible idea. Getting A+ quality swell for big wave events is more difficult than herding cats, and the vast majority of the ‘CT would just struggle and fail. Maybe die, more likely dodge sets and basically waste a million quality waves.

I’ll admit that watching the beachbreak killer contingent endure white knuckle heats could be entertaining, but not enough to fill 24-ish hours of webcast.

do think that the tour could benefit from including at least one deep water power wave. Something that requires thick, seven-foot plus, sleds. Holds you down, beats your ass, leaves you wrecked and ruined on the inside gasping for air staring down a looming set.

Sunset is an obvious choice. The spot has a legacy, already got the permits and infrastructure in place. Seeding 44 guys into the HIC Pro would be relatively easy, and it’s a consistent enough wave to count on.

I’ll admit it’s an often boring event, but it manages to produce at a few moments of brilliance every year. And while it doesn’t make for great video it does produce killer stills. And injecting a bit of the ol’ waterman spirit back into the tour would be nice.

Although, man, the word waterman

Talk about taking a good term and marketing it into the ground. Always something to aspire to be, but not a label you get to bestow on yourself. You know, you spend a lifetime learning to surf, paddle, dive, fish, play in a swirly wet hell that’ll kill you without caring.

Then other people call you a waterman, you downplay your ability, but smile inside because it means you’ve accomplished something. Something that’s kind of narcissistic and comes at a heavy price and doesn’t really make you a better person or more successful at real life, but is still worth feeling proud about. Like owning a big thick cock, if it’s true you don’t need to talk about it.

I blame the SUP crowd.

They’re the ones who emblazoned the term on every epoxy import piece of shit they could get their hands on, silk screened it on t-shirts they flipped for $50 a pop to spare-tired-middle-life-crisis cases looking to sweep their way into a lifestyle that’s slightly less meaningless than however they wasted the last few decades.


Rumor: The future of the WSL!

The same money behind the World Surf League also funds Kelly Slater's wave pool!

We live in the information age, don’t we though, and this usually means Internet and blog and iPhone. Funny, though, that mouth and bar are still so wonderfully effective.

I was sitting, for example, just two days ago in a Dallas, Texas airport bar drinking vodka soda and fielding sneers for ordering such a thing in Dallas, Texas even though it was just an airport bar. The men next to me were talking. I was listening. And then we all started talking. It turned out that they allegedly knew the money behind your favorite surf league, and one thing led to another and guess what that money is also investing in?

Kelly Slater’s wave pool!

From what they knew, it seemed like all the money.

And everything snapped into perfect place.

The World Surf League will build wave pools across the world that develop not only a taste for surfing but a consistent place to contest events. I’d imagine the top tier would still take to the ocean but I’d also imagine that most juniors, QS and lots of specialty one-offs would pop in Des Moines, Dubuque, Denver and, yes, Dallas.

The taste, though, would be more important. The World Surf League Wave Centers would have stores that could sell Glenn Hall singlet (read here), teach the parents how safe and healthy and concussion free the shred is and create a hungering froth in thousands, millions, billions of inland children. They would go home after two hour barrel sessions, flip on the iPad and watch Glenn Hall get pitted while wearing his singlet.

Kelly Slater, of course, will make the only board that works for the pools, those hideous banana things, and surf will be the biggest thing on earth and all of CEO Paul Speaker’s gobbledygook will make perfect sense. Bigger than the NFL!

Those who cling to the ocean and think this model won’t work will be viewed the same as those who insisted that the Internet was just a fad. The future!

The only trouble I see with all this raddness is that CEO Paul Speaker don’t surf, literally, and might be missing a little something about how the addiction is actually built. Then again, I didn’t get online until basically yesterday.


Brock Little: “I’ve had a great life!”

A telephone call to the Hawaiian big-wave stud Brock Little on his cancer diagnosis… 

A couple of hours ago, I called the Hawaiian big-wave stud Brock Little. I was still reeling from his Instagram post from two days ago where he announced his cancer diagnosis, and wanted to hear his voice, to see how he was handling it all.

I mean, Brock Little? Not even forty-nine years old and hit by the Spanish Dancer? The same guy who laughed at Waimea while others grimaced?

Some of the questions might seem a little insensitive, what sort of cancer do you have, what existential thoughts do you have, but Brock is a man of war, fearless and skilled in battle. I knew he’d take ’em as they were meant, as the curiosity of a lifelong fan.

In the seven-minute call, Brock talks about his prognosis (not good), when he was diagnosed (one month ago), why he told the world via IG (“When you’re out there looking like shit, it’s pretty obvious you have fucking cancer”) and how he feels about it all (“I’m so stoked. I’ve had a great life and what I’ve lived through and what I’ve done in my life, crazy good times.”)…


Rage: Come visit crazy Lunada Bay!

"Localism is part of surfing culture and commonly found in places like Redondo Beach, Miami and the beaches of Hawaii."

Palos Verdes Estates’ Lunada Bay is home to expensive homes, stunning ocean views and the “Bay Boys,” a group of older locals who dislike outsiders and intruders and barneys, kooks, ho-dads, etc. You’ve read about them here and here but with all this El Nino action they made the Daily Breeze, Redondo Beach’s hometown newspaper and I, literally, can’t top it. So here it is unabridged:

High swells attracted the usual contingent of surfing locals to Lunada Bay in Palos Verdes Estates on Friday, but they had some company: four police officers, the city’s top administrator, the media and a few out-of-towners who wanted to share the waves.

It wasn’t exactly a party, though.

The Bay Boys, notorious for their harassment of outsiders who visit their surfing spot, weren’t fond of the attention that rained down on their patio hangout at the bottom of a cliff. Partially responsible for the crowd was one man’s attempt Friday to rally nonlocals to Lunada Bay, which seemed to have fizzled.

Jordan Wright, who has experienced the wrath of the Bay Boys before, had tried to mobilize a crowd on Facebook but only a couple of his friends showed up.

Still, about 20 people stood atop the bluffs to watch the at-times tense scene that revolved around the few out-of-towners looking to surf and the territorial hometown surfers, who have made the stone structure their stomping ground.

None of the surfers in the water claimed to be a Bay Boy, and none wanted to be identified. But they acknowledged having a problem with surfers in the water who aren’t local, accusing them of littering the shoreline and not being able to negotiate the current.

One claimed to be able to spot a nonlocal because he put on his wet suit at the top of the trail.

“Locals don’t wear their wet suits until (they are) down the trail because it ruins the trails,” he said.

Asked if they wanted to share their side of the story, the locals declined to give their names, saying more media attention “would just make things worse.”

Others said localism is part of surfing culture and commonly found in places like Redondo Beach, Miami and the beaches of Hawaii. 

“It’s all getting blown out of proportion,” one said.

“When we go out and try to apply for jobs, they Google us and see where we’re from,” another said. “And when they see (localism) going on, they’re not going to want to hire us.” 

Detective Aaron Belda denied that Lunada Bay was getting any special attention Friday, saying police regularly patrol the area, especially during high swells. Even City Manager Tony Dahlerbruch showed up, saying he often visits the popular surf area and makes a point to stop by during optimal surfing conditions.

Officials have not yet determined whether to remove the unpermitted patio, which is just one of dozens of illegal encroachments in the city. As a coastal city, Palos Verdes Estates has an obligation to provide equal access to the beach.

However, it’s unclear if the cliffside structure directly contributes to territorial behavior in Lunada Bay. And because the issue of localism is behavioral, city officials said they are working to determine if the patio itself makes the shoreline exclusive to only a certain group of surfers.

Jordan Wright and Chris Taloa were among the few out-of-towners who tried to rally friends to surf the area Friday. Taloa, who organized a protest against localism in Lunada Bay in 2014, said the hostile environment hadn’t changed. 

While Wright was prepping his surfboard at the top of the bluffs, he said a man driving past yelled “kooks!” Wright said he immediately called police and filed a report.

It wasn’t his first encounter with localism either. Wright recalls visiting Lunada Bay as a 15-year-old with his father and being confronted by Bay Boys who wouldn’t stop verbally harassing them until they left.

“I just want to go and surf,” Wright said. “I’ve tried to get people to go and, if I do, I’ll go — otherwise I’ll go somewhere else. I’ve already made up my mind that I’m not going to surf by myself.”

Just past noon Friday, the crowd began to dwindle when Wright and his friend, Diana Reed, began their trek down the hill. Four watchful police officers edged closer to the ledge.

Wright said he and Reed were yelled and cursed at by a local as he approached the patio.

“At that point, cops heard him because they were by the patio,” Wright said. “Police walked toward us and cops patted him down and detained him.”

Wright said they were offered the opportunity to make a citizen’s arrest or file a report. While he initially decided to file a citizen’s arrest, Wright said he didn’t want to complicate the situation.

“Everyone saw it, everyone saw my face,” Wright said. “I don’t want any problems. I just wanted to surf.

“We need cops involved, we need surfers taking (localism) head on and reporters drawing attention to this. At the end of the day, maybe someday we’ll change the story down there and people can look freely and surf.”

My favorite sentences, in order of how much I love, are:

1) Others said localism is part of surfing culture and commonly found in places like Redondo Beach, Miami and the beaches of Hawaii. 

2) “Locals don’t wear their wet suits until (they are) down the trail because it ruins the trails,” he said.

3) “When we go out and try to apply for jobs, they Google us and see where we’re from,” another said. “And when they see (localism) going on, they’re not going to want to hire us.” 

4) Jordan Wright, who has experienced the wrath of the Bay Boys before, had tried to mobilize a crowd on Facebook but only a couple of his friends showed up.

5) While Wright was prepping his surfboard at the top of the bluffs, he said a man driving past yelled “kooks!” Wright said he immediately called police and filed a report.

I mean, have you ever read anything grander? Me neither!