Kelly Slater Wave Pool

Is the WSL creating a wavepool monopoly?

If I worked for those poor Wavegarden guys I'd be sending out resumes as fast as I can…

Three days ago, someone poisoned me. Don’t know who. I’ve got enemies. Could’ve been the wife, finally grown sick of my shit.

Could’ve been the secret Zionist cabal that controls the world. Been too long since we ran a pro-Israel piece. My dog’s been actin’ real worried and shook up, he’s the only one I trust at this point.

Unless that’s some sort of ruse…

Went out for sushi in Poipu the night before I fell ill. One of those hotels that looks really nice but is identical to a thousand around the world. Are we in the Bahamas? Palm Springs? Cancun? Kauai? Who the fucks knows. Does it even matter?

Suspect I picked up a bug from one of my million fellow aloha shirt haole twang colonizers. Or caught the end result of unhygienic cook staff forced to labor in the sushi mines so their home can better serve as an outsiders’ playground. Might be some sort of karmic retribution going on here. If I believed in that kind of stuff. Which I don’t, unless it suits my purpose.

The upshot is two days of fever delirium, body wracking aches, and the ever lovely situation wherein you sprint to the toilet and realize it’s coming out both ends simultaneously. Bathroom waste bin doubles as a bucket!

Feeling like a wrung-out rag. Dehydrated, weak. Probably ten pounds lighter. But more or less mentally here. And it’s killing me I missed the wavepool news. Because I’ve got opinions. Ever so many!

I’m sure y’all are tired of pool coverage by this point. I’m almost there myself. Not too worried about the ramifications for our lovely sport as a whole. A pool won’t ever be “real” surfing. No matter how good some rich kid gets on the thing he still won’t know how to paddle, or read the ocean, or position himself in the lineup, or deal with the ravenous hordes of us old-timey “naturals.”

We’ll get to see them try. Rock up to the beach on a full Rick Kane trip and get their asses handed to them. And that’ll be amusing.

But we all know the hardest part of surfing ain’t riding a wave, it’s putting yourself in the situation to do so repeatedly. Hell, just making it into the lineup will be challenge enough to deter the majority of chlorine neophytes. Why struggle so hard if you can afford the ersatz variety?

Real ramifications for wave pools as an industry, though. Stunning act of vertical integration. Own the waves, own the tour. Sell the wave, rent the tour. Great selling point right there.

“When you build a KSWC/WSL/Ziff brand pool you’re not just buying the wave. No siree, Bob! You’re also buying perpetual WSL event sanctioning. Something no other wave pool company can provide.”

Real kick in the nuts right there for Webber. Hard to compete with that. Draw built right in. Toss a ‘QS event into each contract, let the biggest money bid on the bigger show.

Wife says it smacks of monopoly. Film industry got popped for similar antitrust practices back in the day. Owned the theaters, only screened their own films.

An interesting idea, for sure.

And, you know, let’s not forget that a few of pro surfing’s non-surfing overlords come from a background that knows a lot about running a successful monopoly. NFL lost an antitrust suit back in the 80s. Cost them a whopping $3.76 in fines. No missing zeros in that previous sentence.

But that’s a potential problem for the future. In the now, if I were a member of the KSWC sales team, I’d be licking my chops.

But if I worked for those poor Wavegarden guys I’d be sending out resumes as fast as I can. First one addressed to Lemoore, CA.

Or wherever KSWC offices are.

Maybe Santa Monica?

Scary: New Hollywood shark film!

Beautiful girl stuck on rock, bleeding, scared!

There is a new Hollywood shark film named The Shallows debuting right before the WSL’s J-Bay Open. Apparently it is about a girl (Blake Lively) stuck on a rock in what may or may not be Western Australia.

There are two trailers out. Here is the first one:

And here is the second:

I like the minimalism of the first better. It seems like it could even be good. Very moody. Quiet with moments of panic. The second suggests strange Hollywood variations on our dear surf. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a surfer wear a GoPro like a Teletubby. Have you?

It’s fun, in any case, that sharks are having a horror renaissance. They deserve it after all the work they’ve put in this year. But what is the scariest shark film ever? What is the scariest horror film for that matter? When I saw The Ring it really undid me. Is that embarrassing? I suppose it is.

Yikes: World surf population explodes!

Not even counting a surf rabid India!

The number of people surf, worldwide, is maybe unknowable. What does “surf” mean for instance? Does it mean skim, boogie, body? Joel Tudor wants you to know that it sure as hell means longboarding, Surfing magazine be damned. And how many times must a person go to be considered a “surfer?” Once a year? Once a week? And must the “surfer” be in the ocean? Does it count if he wake surfs or river surfs or spends his days in Lemoore, California riding the trough-less wonder? All very imprecise.

Nick Carroll wrote a wonderful piece for Australia’s Surfing World two years ago titled Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics wherein he discussed the kicked about numbers. At the time he quoted the International Surfing Association’s claim that there are 23 million surfers in the world, 3.5 million of which live in Australia before quickly poking it with his fork.

You don’t have to think very hard about it to realise that the figure is a fantasy. I mean, just do a flat-line comparison. Three and a half million people is 15% of the entire population of Australia. Extrapolate that to Sydney with its 4-million-odd population and you’re talking about 600,000 surfers in that city alone, or about 15,000 surfers per beach. Yeah, we know Bondi gets crowded, but come on.

The rest of the bit is very good and he basically concludes that in Australia, which I would imagine to be the case in America as well, participation is decreasing while the age of participants is increasing. But maybe Nick Carrol should have gone to India!

The first ever India Open of Surfing is set to kick off so the World Surf League sent its Austral-asian manager for a peek. Mr. Stephen Robinson was very impressed, telling a reporter from the Times of India that along with the Philippines, Taiwan and Jordan, India is ready to go explode!

Wait, Jordan? Like, the country Jordan? With about 3 kilometers of beach at the very very tip of the waveless Gulf of Aqaba? That Jordan? I once caught amoebic dysentery in Aqaba and spent a long week hooked up to tubes in the hospital. In feverish episodes I dreamed I was T.E. Lawrence having crossed the Sun’s Anvil in order to take the city from the rear thus thwarting the great canons pointed outward. To protect their amazing surf, I now suppose.

In any case, Mr. Robinson warned India’s burgeoning surf class that surf fever comes with a few problems. “The situation (in Australia) can be such that surfers get in to verbal altercations over parking their vehicles.” But cheered everyone up by saying, “I have no doubt that there will be more youth (in India doing this sport) in future events,” adding against an estimated worldwide community of surfers of 30 million. “India will add the numbers (of surfers) in the days ahead, just as The Philippines and Taiwan did over the course of time that I have visited these countries on surfing duties.”

30 million surfers worldwide is a solid 7 million more than the most outlandish figure I’ve ever seen. And this does not include India and its ready-to-be-surf crazed 1.25 billion.

Do you think WSL CEO Paul Speaker sends ridiculous fun facts to his global managers every morning? Like, “Aloha gang! Hang ten and HOWZIT! Today’s fun fact…4000000000000 babies were born yesterday each named Robert Kelly Slater in honor of our new business plan. 80000000000000000 surfers paddled out at Snapper for evening gass off and another 9800000000000000000000 paddled at Trestles for Dorn Patrol. Killer Dana!”

Nick Carroll, would you like to go on a balloon popping mission to India?

Kelly Slater wave pool
Can you imagine? Swing your blade over at the Slater and, later, move to the Wavegarden. | Photo: KSWC

Warshaw: “Scarcity makes surfing!”

It turns us into hustlers, liars, unreliable employees and even worse life partners…

Wavepools spell the end of surfing as we know it, says Matt Warshaw, the surf historian etc.
I say, of all the exquisite pleasures that have flooded my body, nothing has come close to riding a wave tank on a moonlit night in the North Atlantic, with a handful of pals. The eerie warmth, the surprising power, the way the wave faded into darkness, board invisible beneath my feet, my heart beating like a hummingbird.
Why the contempt? Why the burning passion…against?
Let’s ask!
BeachGrit: Have you ever surfed a pool? Would you like to ride a pool? I’ve ridden a couple, a shitty one (Malaysia) and a pretty good one (Canary Islands) and, boy, does cynicism wash away real fast.
Warshaw: I was poolside at the Allentown debacle in 1985, but did not surf it. But that wave was shit. Totally different deal from Slater’s pool, or even Wavegarden.

You write, take away the wave and we’re just… parkour. Is that all, essentially, surfing is?

Surfing in a wavepool is… take your pick. Parkour, half-pipe, gymnastics. Except worse, because those sports will never be any better or worse than what they are, while surfing in a wavepool you’re kind of sticking your finger in the eye of the whole deal. And no single pool, or single session, is going to ruin surfing. But the years will pass, and the pools will pop up across the land, and if we live long enough, Derek, the sport to some degree will be shaped by, will shape itself around, wavepools. And so yeah, that makes us parkour.

Scarcity made our sport. Lack of good surf makes surfing really difficult, for starters, which is great, and then it turns us all into hustlers and liars and travelers and autodidacts unreliable employees and even worse life partners, and that shit put together is really all we have going for us in terms of surf culture and personality.

Kelly’s pool will lead surfing to an existential crisis, you say. Are pools really the end of the world? And what does this dystopia look like?
Endless Summer was about Bruce Brown and his buddies getting bummed out about how crowded Malibu was, so they went around the world looking for surf. That’s what we do. Even if you’re just paddling down the beach to try another peak. Scarcity made our sport. Lack of good surf makes surfing really difficult, for starters, which is great, and then it turns us all into hustlers and liars and travelers and autodidacts unreliable employees and even worse life partners, and that shit put together is really all we have going for us in terms of surf culture and personality.
Is there a part of you that believes, maybe knows, that pools will become the kink for a few years then… fade away, like old amusement parks? That in ten, twenty years, they’ll be cracked concrete shells, drained of water, grand failures?
Tow surfing was all the rage 20 years ago, and now its lame and yesterday, so I don’t know, maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m not giving surfers enough credit. But where my own personal existential crisis with Kelly’s pool kicks in, is the fact that I want to ride it so badly. Maybe just once or twice now, but the 15-year-old me would have been in the pool until the lifeguard dragged me out.
Is there an optimistic bone in your gorgeous body that thinks, the ocean will empty, that pools might… improve… surf for souls who still brave the ocean?
That is the wonderful best-case scenario. I hope to live long enough to find out.

Matt Biolos volume tank
Here we see, at left, the noted Californian surfboard shaper Matt Biolos, BeachGrit's Chas Smith and Benji Thompson, from He explains the volume tank!

Just in: BeachGrit’s new TV series!

First episode: Matt "Mayhem" Biolos and his amazing volume tank!

Let me be the very first to welcome you to BeachGrit’s newest offering. A television series we call Like, Bitchin!

Each two-to-three minute episode will pull back the curtain on some pointless extravagance of our little surf world. Some inconsequential but almost fun-ish insight.

Are you curious about how rocker changes the way you ride?

About Michael Tomson’s opinion as to why our industry died?

About China’s bald-faced Horn of Africa land grab and how this is affecting the world potash market?

Well, take your shoes off and pour whatever alcohol you have nearby into whatever juice was leftover from breakfast. You’re going to need it!

It won’t be the most exciting 2:51 you’ll spend today but it is worth it to watch Matt Biolos, a sculpture in his absolute prime, do a Chris Ward impression. Also of note is host Chas Smith’s very clear ignorance around a surfboard. He has no idea what volume has to do with anything and is still puzzling over which half of the board is the deck.

This first season will feature eight episodes in total. Number one explores Matt “Mayhem” Biolos and his Volume Tank.

I went to Matt’s lovely San Clemente artist cottage on a fine spring day to hear him talk volume and what it means to the shaper and, thereby, us. It won’t be the most exciting 2:51 you’ll spend today but it is worth it to watch Matt Biolos, a sculpture in his absolute prime, do a Chris Ward impression. Also of note is host Chas Smith’s very clear ignorance around a surfboard. He has no idea what volume has to do with anything and is still puzzling over which half of the board is the deck.

Real quick, do you remember Like, Bitchin? Derek and I started a blog years and years ago with that name. I can’t remember anything about it and do you want to know why?

We became very embroiled in a certain controversy and ripped the whole thing down and we ripped it down so so successfully that there is no trace of it anywhere. Poof. Gone.

But back to Like, Bitchin! 2.0. It is much better than the original. Maybe.