Localism: The experts weigh in!

National Geographic exposes surfing's charade!

James Joiner is a journalistic renaissance man. A photographer/filmmaker/writer with two fingers on pop culture’s pulse and two other fingers making a peace sign/smoking a cigarette/playing a piano. He has had stints across the board with Esquire, The Daily Beast, Vice etc. but his latest for National Geographic surely wins because it is National Geographic, of course, but also because he tackles the topic of surf localism in a thorough, captivating way.

Let’s dip in!

Across the Internet, surfers have been cheering at the thought of one of the world’s most infamously localized breaks opening up for general use, with those who speak up against the suit being quickly shouted down in comments sections.

Some long-time surfers feel this widely publicized case against localism has come to represent more than a battle over a small break. It’s indicative of an ongoing battle between traditionalists and new school riders over surfing’s very soul.

“We’ve protected this beach for years,” McCullom told the LA Times in 1995, in one of many articles the paper has published about the town’s forbidden break. “This is why: so we can have driftwood on the beach rather than Kentucky Fried Chicken boxes. If this place was ever opened up, it would be packed with lowriders, guys in VW bugs; the rocks would be marked with graffiti, and the beach wouldn’t be safe at night.”

Many surfers are quick to note that he’s not without a point—even 21 years ago, neighboring beaches in Torrance and Long Beach were rife with overcrowding and litter, a stark contrast to the clean sands of their “protected” stretch of Lunada Bay. But it’s not just crowds that localism targets—it’s also a method of self-policing, enforcing respect among the ranks for each other and, especially, for the ocean. Localism has always been an undercurrent of the surf scene, an at times harsh punishment for infractions in an oftentimes harsh activity. Yet now, in many places, it’s being phased or, some will claim, gentrified out.

“Up until fairly recently you wouldn’t even dream of getting in the water if you weren’t from the neighborhood,” Jeff Johnson, a lifelong surfer and noted adventure photographer, explained in reference to a surf break near Ventura. “If you were an outsider you’d get hassled for even checking the waves. But now it’s a free-for-all.”

How good is Jeff Johnson? I think very good and an expert. Would you like to hear from another expert? Of course you would!

Chas Smith had a different take, likening these territorial surfers to drug addicts chasing their next adrenaline fix rather than a tribe of spiritual, if testosterone-filled, modern-day warrior poets.

“I think surf localism exists because surfing makes people insane,” he said. “The longer a man surfs, the more insular and selfish he becomes. Paranoid like Gollum. He wants the preciouses all to himself. He can’t stand someone even looking at them … Talk of surfers being a ‘tribe’ or maintaining ‘chill vibes’ or anything like that is all lies. Surfers are decrepit addicts. Nothing more.”

Read the rest here!

Trump Rally
A bloodied Trump supporter in Costa Mesa, not our surfer pal, however… 

Fresh: Surfer Goes To Trump Rally!

The Republican nominee performs in Costa Mesa! Town raises hell!

Ever been to Costa Mesa, the modest neighbor just inland of Newport Beach? It’s not too terrible of a destination. Plenty affordable Orange County standards and just up the hill from the playful peaks of 54th st.

The hip thrive in Costa Mesa. What Youth operates here, and The Growlers, (a popular psychedelic-surf-rock-band with a tendency to write songs that sound the same), call the area home as well. Their combined residencies attribute to Costa Mesa’s aesthetic of cool. Lots of black denim cuffed at the ankles here and as displayed on national television, a deep burning anger for Donald Trump.

Trump held his rally at the Orange County Fairgrounds last Thursday night, predictable, as the O.C is a conservative stronghold. Thousands came to hear him talk Muslims and Mexicans, but Costa Mesa’s Millennials and Latinos were also there… to raise hell.

As the right wing were entranced by Donald in the fair ground’s amphitheater, pissed-off youth paced the parking lot drinking beer and spray painting, “Fuck Trump” on the street. Mexican flags waved alongside American ones in protest of Trump’s wall and plans for large-scale deportation.
Innocent at that point, but then things got ugly. Traffic was halted, rocks were thrown and the roof in of a police cruiser was stomped.

Seventeen violent protesters were arrested. Right? Wrong? You can’t fight Trump like animals and give the fearful a reason to be so, that only plays into his hands. Peaceful protest and increase in voter registration, that’s the only route to curb the madness.

So how does this qualify as surf news?

Well, we’re in luck for Ryan Croteau, a semi-professional surfer who calls Newport home, was amongst the riot. In a video posted on his Instagram, he shakily films the precise moment when a wave of protesters crash against police forces. An innocent bystander can be heard saying, “Here it goes, we are about to get rubber bulleted”.

Ryan responds, “This is getting sketchy dude, let’s get out of here.”

As Ryan reflected afterwards, “Seen a lot of Trump rally videos but this was insane. Being in the center of this was just nuts. The tension was crazy. Seeing this gives you a real eerie feeling that we could all be doomed.”

What do you think?

Do you agree with Ryan Croteau that the US is doomed under Donald’s reign?

Will his racial rhetoric cause a race war? Or is the war already underway given the left’s obsession with race? So much irony!

Will this be the year, as Hunter S. Thompson wrote, that “we finally come face to face with ourselves, finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable?”

From the movie, Narcose. | Photo: Les Films Engloutis

Parker: “There’s a wonderland below!”

Come freediving and feel total freedom from the hectic hell of land…

I’ll be the first to admit that competitive freediving is a little odd. Especially at the top levels. Pushing your body to its limit, any mistake could be your last.

Yeah. People don’t really die within the confines of competition. Safety is taken seriously. Canned O2 on the surface, emergency staff, safety divers keeping an eye on everyone.

There’s really only been one death in a sanctioned event. But the Nicolas Mevoli incident was more a cause of an overly driven individual than any failure on the part of event staff. Tragic, but hardly indicative of the sport as a whole.

Recreational freediving, either with a spear or without, tends to take a few people each year. Often very capable people, just half-assed safety protocol one time too many. Easy to do, become a tad complacent, forget that even minor depths are dangerous.

It’s hard to convey the appeal to people who, perhaps rightly, view the whole ordeal as kind of dumb. “Worst sport ever. Just put a gun in your mouth and be done with it,” really isn’t far from the mark. Especially if you’ve never experienced the thrill.

The sounds at depth, it’s hardly quiet. The sensation of a slow freefall through water. Your lungs feel full again as they compress to the size of oranges. Total freedom from the hectic hell of land, too focused on your body, your survival, to care about what’s always waiting up top.

It makes for gorgeous video, if you can combine ability with creative talent. Which is a hell of a challenge.

No one does it better than Les Films Engloutis.

Guillaume Néry and Julie Gautier have been producing stunning work revolving around freediving for years. You’ve probably seen some of it.

Freefall did the viral rounds a year ago.

Ocean Gravity did too.

Narcose was beautiful. Visual poetry that comes damn close to capturing the feeling of euphoria you experience just prior to the lights going out.

Their newest piece, Haven, takes a turn to the sinister. Dark, foreboding, brilliantly edited. This time they focused on the fear, rather than the majesty.

Give them all a watch. Book a freedive course. Learn to hold your breath. Stop being a pussy who plays around on the surface without thinking about the wonderland that lies just beneath you.

Shane Dorian
The excellent short Just Passing Through documents this very wave from so many angles. Can you conceive the feeling of a loss of gravity, like Shane here? Lifted and then dropped on a 25-footer? | Photo: WSL

Movie: Dorian Turns the Juice on Full!

Shane Dorian's 2015-16 big-wave season caught in dazzling movie form!

The Hawaiian surfer Shane Dorian polarises nobody. Who can argue with the rugged way Shane handles himself on land (devoted father, self-sufficient hunter) and the way he wrangles big waves?

Shane’s also a creature wise, and even a little mysterious, in his beliefs.

On marriage he advises, “find out if she is an evil bitch BEFORE you take the plunge!”

On the ethics of hunting, he says, “Everyone automatically thinks I’m Satan cause I kill a deer. My friends will go spear fish and you can put 50 million dead fish on Instagram and no-one will ever say a thing. But, if you put one Bambi on Instagram people lose it. I don’t see the difference between fish and deer.”

On the joy of catching a perfect big wave Shane describes it thus: “It’s like being a super fucking ugly guy and having sex with the hottest super model on the planet. It’s like you pulled off the impossible. Because everything in the universe has to align for you to get this ride that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. And there should only be a handful of these in any surfers’ life, waves that you truly remember. That feeling is rare and elusive as hell. It’s a mix of pure elation and accomplishment.”

Below is a short movie made by his sponsor Reef on Shane’s 2015-2016 big-wave season. What’s interesting, I think, is the emotional hit a man, or gal, gets after fronting these sorts of waves.

“The comedown after such a tremendous event,” says Shane, “is almost like postpartum depression. You have this crazy euphoric moment when it’s happening where you’re on this razor’s edge and you feel like you’ve reached the absolute pinnacle of your life but then…almost in slow motion… it starts to fade as you reach the channel. Even though you just rode the wave of your life and you knew it and felt it while you were riding, it evaporates as you flick off and becomes, immediately, past tense. It’s such an emotional swing! You’re definitely not high forever.”

Piracy: “Ain’t what it used to be!”

Youthful dreams die hard on the Horn of Africa.

The sun isn’t quite up but I am, wading through a world soaked in sticky molasses. How do you deal with jet lag? I usually try and soldier as late as possible into the night, exhausting myself through and through. Sleep is usually fitful but I will do the same thing the following night and the following until eventually falling back into a rhythm. In any case, I am awake now and alone and it is very early. Would you be so kind as to sit with me and permit one more Arab-like ramble into non-surf related topics? Can we speak of piracy?

I loved the idea of Somali pirates from the first minute I touched down on the Horn of Africa many years ago. The same friends who had conquered Yemen and I peered west across the Indian Ocean on certain days in those early 2000s and thought, “Somalia must have amazing surf too. Look at the way she fronts the sea. Look at the way she bends!” We were not well-versed in what makes waves actually work, had gotten dumb lucky in Yemen and figured Somalia would be an uncharted surf utopia as well.

It was not. Maybe it is public knowledge, but the continental shelf that scoots off the Horn is so gradual that it might be possible to wade to India. There were no waves or very bad waves but I took something glorious from that adventure and it was piracy.

This was years before the world knew anything of pitch black men terrorizing shipping lanes with small motorized boats and I felt as if I had stumbled upon a modern day fairy tale. Real life pirates! Could anything be better? Could anything be more romantic?

I followed their stories in the news and cheered them on. When Captain Phillips hit theaters and I went and felt giddy surges when Barhad Abdi fixed Tom Hanks in his beady eyes and said, “Look at me. Look at me. I’m the captain now.” Mr. Hanks is one of my least favorite actors and to see not only a boat, but a scene, wrested from his prolific hands sent me to the moon!

As children do with all fairy tales, though, I eventually lost interest. Real life invaded and consumed my days. True stories of of Graham Stapleberg getting slapped in his own house. Of Dane Reynolds and Craig Anderson both quitting Quiksilver. I soon forgot about Somali pirates all together.

Then came the wonderfully half-baked scheme to free a ketch from war torn Yemen and sail it up the Red Sea. For the first time in years I thought about what my pitch black friends were up too. Yachts were not immune to their net. Many had been seized over the years with many casualties.

And so as our flight touched down in Djibouti I wondered if I would finally get to meet my heroes and if pistols would be enough to greet them or if maybe a bouquet of AK-47s might be more appropriate.

Djibouti, if you did not know, is Somalia too, just one colonized by the French and driving though Djibouti-ville’s center that first night brought me straight back. It is the very definition of a hot mess. A decrepit slow burn. A God forsaken Eden.

We eventually wound up at the Sheraton, a hideous blight, and saddled up to the bar next to camouflaged Germans. Camouflaged Germans? What on earth were they doing here? I asked and the answer, delivered in thickly accented tones, was “Anti-piracy.”

Yes. The Germans have an entire anti-piracy unit billeted at the Sheraton. The Japanese and Spanish have anti-piracy units billeted at the much nicer Kempinski across town. The French and Americans also patrol and the Chinese are building their first African military base with the expressed purpose of combating piracy as well but with much larger ambitions. And the pirates? They are done. There have been zero incidents for over a year. Zero.

This new reality made me very wistful. The little Robin Hoods have been stomped out. Their game pieces on the high seas wiped off the board. Romantic piracy is now, officially, a relic replaced by an ugly east African land grab led by the yellow bastards. But I won’t bore you any more today with modern colonization and thank you for keeping me company.