Dear Rory: “I’m a jerk in the water!”

Surfing is very fun, totally selfish, ultimately destructive.

Dear Rory,

Why does everyone want to save the world through surfing?

or alternately

When will we fully realize the dream of saving the world through surfing?


Confused Do-good Dude

Dear Rory writes:

Surfing is such a weird activity. Not really a sport, not quite a dance. Just a form of play we engage in when energy flowing through the ocean hits land. Very fun, totally selfish, ultimately destructive. Hard to avoid the reality that our boards are toxic and our accessories are made by slaves.

I often struggle with my own identity as a surfer, as it pertains to the group. It’s an undeniable label, proficiency in the water is something that comes from a lifetime of effort. No shortcuts, no dry land training, just countless wet hours, surfing, swimming, freediving. Sometimes, like this morning, simply bobbing around like a potato and enjoying the scenery.

I think people struggle with that knowledge. It’s an ugly combo, a deep love of a natural resource and the fact that our use of it is ultimately detrimental. But nearly impossible to avoid, unless you decide to commit yourself to nude bodysurfing. Which we all know is very fun, but leads to excessive sun exposure in the most delicate of places. You ever seen the degenerates who spend all their time hanging out a nude beach? Dicks like hunks of old jerky, not something to which a rational person aspires.

I often struggle with my own identity as a surfer, as it pertains to the group. It’s an undeniable label, proficiency in the water is something that comes from a lifetime of effort. No shortcuts, no dry land training, just countless wet hours, surfing, swimming, freediving. Sometimes, like this morning, simply bobbing around like a potato and enjoying the scenery.

Often, despite efforts to the contrary, I’m kind of a jerk in the water. I don’t like to talk much, tend to unintentionally mean mug people, answer friendly banter with terse grunts. Not because I resent the presence of others (or, at least, no more so than the norm), but because surfing is a solitary thing for me. I’m not looking to be part of a tribe, don’t have interest in meeting like minded folk. Like Groucho Marx, I’d never want to join a group that would have me as a member.

But that’s not the case for everyone. A lot of people, especially those who find the joy of riding waves later in life, want nothing more than to feel they’re part of a whole. They swallow the marketed culture hook, line, and sinker. Logo’d tees, stickered car windows, puka shell necklaces and Surfrider memberships. They’re jazzed in, they “know the feeling.” For them it’s a spiritual joining with nature, a deluded sense of fulfillment they’ve never found anywhere else. They feel like they’re onto something special, members of a magical secret club.

All completely empty claptrap, of course. Fishing, skiing, skateboarding, sailing, etc, they all scratch the same itch. Fun, kind of meditative, a moment in your daily struggles when nothing matters, you can exist in the moment.

The problem with people who actively seek fulfillment within the confines of a subculture: they’re generally stupid, and there are a hell of a lot of them. Sacrificing your individual identity in order to conform inevitably leads to groupthink, forming masses easily led by the cynical and greedy, unable to think critically because stepping out of line is grounds for exile.

Surfing as a whole has long been held hostage by the disingenuous, self-obsessed, or blatantly evil. The act of riding a wave can be relatively pure, but the business around it, and those who participate in it, are anything but. Dissenting voices are silenced, negative press is akin to murder. And, as a whole, everyone is okay with that.

Which leaves the door wide open for predators, people who possess the ability to lie with their entire body, spin “truth” from bullshit. All it takes is a quality grasp of rhetoric, words like “sustainable” and “green.” Meaningless certifications sold to bad actors, pointless initiatives that serve to funnel money into the pockets of frauds. The definition of “good” has been changed to mean doing slightly less bad. Sometimes not even that, a company can squeeze positive press out of something so simple as taking credit for the actions of others. Suck the cock of carbon offsets, as though damage done is somehow ameliorated by a stand of trees on the other side of the globe.

Groups seek leaders, and those with the ability are usually the last you’d want in charge. Too easy to swindle people, simply pander to their inherent decency, then attack anyone who points out flaws.

Surfing can’t save the world, nothing can. The best you can do is strive to be kind to those around you, and hope to hell the status quo outlasts your lifetime.

Email Dear Rory: [email protected]

Blood Feud: KS vs. Compliments!

Are you excited about Wavegarden's new Austin, Texas operation? What do think Kelly Slater feels?

If you really want your day wrecked, you can smash your hand with a hammer, drink a piña colada then lose your arm or have Kelly Slater give you a compliment.

Our 11 x world champion is an absolute master of the backhanded tribute. Commendations delivered in such a way that they sting worse than straight up curses. Just listen to him praise his competition after defeating them or losing. Ouch! He is an ace, an artist. Who could forget the way he congratulated freshly minted champ the day after he won his title?

Let’s look back at another classic. The company behind Wavegarden is set to launch a location in Austin, Texas any day now. The local surf community is thrilled, the neighborhood very excited. The eyes of the world will be upon their small hamlet. For the first time ever they get to shine!

But recall when the one in Wales opened? Very similar scenario and at that time Kelly tweeted: “Lots of talk/questions on wavegarden. Cool they made a wave but I think you’ll all be very happy when you see what we have in store. :)”

Does the knife go any deeper? Let’s examine!

First, there is the implied business of the lots of talk/questions. Of course talk/questions are bad in a business context and, of course, Kelly’s subtle prediction of failure came true! Surf Snowdonia’s Wavegarden was shuttered soon after The Kelly Slater Wavepool Company released their sexy li’l vid. Tears and unemployment gutted an already depressed Welsh landscape.

Second, there is the lack of capitalization on “wavegarden.” A classic move quietly stripping legitimacy.

Third, is the big slap. “Cool they made a wave…” Such a cold hearted slight! “Cool they made a wave…” “Cool you have a job…” “Cool he drives a car…” “Cool she got married…” “Cool they bought a house…” Can any statement that begins with “Cool they….” end in anything other than shame?

Fourth, to answer the question posed at the end of third, No! In case you were unsure though, throw a “but” into the mix! “Cool they made a wave but…”

Fifth, end the whole thing with an emoji. 🙂 Do you know what 🙂 equals? 🙁

And did you take notes? Employ what you learned right now! Text someone you hate a congratulations!

Happy Birthday The Surfer’s Journal!

The world's favorite magazine turns 25!

I get a big kick looking at surf media. Maybe too much of a kick? I don’t know. I very much enjoy observing how the various websites, magazines, publications navigate our tiny world. It is rare to see any outlet reference any other outlet even though there are, like, 300 surfers in the whole world and 10 people covering them. Funny. No? Am I wrong? Maybe.

In any case, The Surfer’s Journal just turned 25 and it is a complete gem by any standard. The subjects covered and the room they give them to breathe is unique and not just to surfing. It is a work of art, captained expertly by the editor Scott Hulet and team. If you don’t already you should cancel your monthly payment to National Public Radio and subscribe here.

Corky Carroll wrote his happy birthday ode in the Orange County Register. Let’s read some:

Man, that was a fast 25 years. But then, thinking back at how that 25 has gone for me maybe it has actually been a few lifetimes.

The Surfer’s Journal, considered by many, including myself, to be the coolest surfing publication on the planet, is celebrating its quarter century mark. When founders Steve and Debbee Pezman went to press with the first issue back in 1991 in San Clemente, they were surfing into uncharted waters by putting out a subscriber-based product with almost no advertising.

They only run with a total of six advertisers, which they call sponsors. This was a huge risk considering the fact that they were also going for the highest-quality and most-expensive-to-produce surfing publication imaginable. The concept was “all thriller, no filler.”

Let me take you back in time for my take on how this all came about, as I did get to witness it fairly close hand. It starts with a young Steve Pezman…

You can read the rest here and happy birthday to the greatest magazine on earth!

Also, if you are looking for some other good reads try this!

Memories... | Photo: WSL?

Kelly Slater’s mom to champ: “Retire!”

The champ gets tough love from his mama!

Bells. What do we do with her? What do we do with an uninspiring, yet historically important, artifact? Should it be downgraded to a QS thing? Rolled out occasionally for heritage heats? Done away with entirely? What? I remember many years ago when Mundaka was dropped from the tour. It was an impossible tragedy to my younger mind. The stops on the “dream tour” seemed dictated to Brodie Carr from God himself. And of course she was a fickle, fickle wave but she was also stunningly picturesque and had nice traditions, like tossing the winner into the drink.

But just like that, overnight, she was gone. Of course no one except the Basques really miss. And it would be the same, I imagine, if Bells was let out to pasture. Speaking of the past, have you seen the WSL t-shirts? They read: World Surf League. Since 1976. Is that legal to claim? Can anyone make up a start date? Yeah? BeachGrit. Since 408 BC. Is that ok?

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 8.47.59 AM

And also, Kelly Slater. Our handsome champion. His face is getting a little bit wider, as happens in age, but it really becomes him, I think. He got dumped by Michel Bourez yesterday and admitted to ESPN that he is in a “year long slump.”

When asked if it was time to hang up the jersey (buy here!), he replied, “I’ve been thinking about that for 15 years. I will say even my mum texted me and said ‘maybe you should think about it’. She goes ‘but then again, I said that to you before and you came back and won the world title that year’.”

Watching the man surf, it doesn’t necessarily seem the skill level has dropped precipitously, it just looks like he is on weird boards and just plain doesn’t really care. Which begs the question, why do it? But maybe it really begs the question why not do it? Many retiring pros talk about the grind of life on tour but maybe it isn’t a grind for Kelly. He has been to all the stops so many times he may well have houses, cute little wives and broods of small children in each. Maybe he can’t imagine life any other way.

If you were the champ and had lived your entire adult life around the world would you want to stop? Where would you lay your head, at the end? And, assuming Kelly has a cute wife at each stop, which do you think is his favorite? The blonde and impossibly tan Gold Coast girl? The red head from Torquay? The hearty Sheila from West Oz? The dusky heartthrob from Ipanema? Etc.?

John John Florence
Stardust like John John Florence (and Mason Ho, if you really want to get into it) aren't made or fostered or whatever else, they just… are…  | Photo: WSL

“Hawaii’s pride in surfing slipped”?

Is a new kid program in Hawaii a backdoor to rewriting event regulations?

Strange rumblings from the WSL Hawaii office as community outreach seeks to lure innocent children into their lair.

This past Wednesday the WSL announced the launch of its Junior Development Program, a PR maneuver intended to “focus on career readiness, mentorship, tour preparation, and a path to global surf industry opportunities.”

Slightly less nefarious than my own, already existing Junior Development Program, which consists of observing adorable little girls blossom into buxom young ladies over a span of gorgeous summer days, the WSL plans to hold a number of workshops dedicated to fostering the development of contest robots in the Hawaiian archipelago.

Slightly less nefarious than my own, already existing Junior Development Program, which consists of observing adorable little girls blossom into buxom young ladies over a span of gorgeous summer days, the WSL plans to hold a number of workshops dedicated to fostering the development of contest robots in the Hawaiian archipelago.

Today marks the first, and “will include tour scheduling and planning with Pancho Sullivan, mentorship and goal setting with Freddy Patacchia, priority rules and judging, social media procedure and etiquette, injury prevention and more.”

“Social media procedure and etiquette!” What does that mean? Don’t post a rant about niggers, keep your naughty bits to yourself? Good advice, right there.

But why now?

“The Junior Development Program, coupled with a concerted effort to increase Junior and entry level Qualifying Series events in the Hawaii/Tahiti Nui region, is the first step toward Hawaii’s hopes of reigning in Australia and Brazil…[sic]”

Yeah, right.

Seriously, why has an organization that runs roughshod over local ordinances, provides an ever shrinking number of wildcard slots for local competitors and gleefully attempts to misrepresent laws to their advantage decided to play the “think of the children!” card?

Because the residents of Hawaii are “complacent” (read: lazy), and because “Hawaii’s pride and place in surfing slipped.”

Ouch. No pride, no place. Pretty brutal, especially when taken out of context.

But, really, why? The press release clearly spells out real challenges faced by Hawaii groms that aspire to a dream of surf stardom, remote geography, lack of sponsorship opportunities, a tiny number of contests that provide ‘QS points, without doing anything to address them.

A conspiracy minded fellow might look toward the tail end of the text.

“Policy –  a limited number of beaches available to competition, with a limited number of permits and competition days therein.”

Is this merely a half-assed maneuver to build good will before yet another attempt at rewriting the North Shore’s restrictive shorewater event regulations?

Yes, the Department of Parks and Recreation already gifts the comps variances, and yes, I do have copies of emails in which the Pipe Master permit holder instructs the DPR exactly how he wants the variances worded, but we all know that too much is never enough.

If the WSL really cared about the next gen of Hawaii surfers they’d work toward setting up contests in Town, on the West Side or on one of the Outer Islands.

It’d be pretty easy, do the same thing they did in Brazil. Ignore the rule book, let ’em run without paying up front.