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?
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 Summerwas 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.
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.
It’s been 48 hours-ish now since Dirk Ziff brought both of his surfing mutants (the World Surf League and Kelly Slater Wave Co.) under one roof and how do you feel about it? How has it settled in your heart?
If you are Matt Warshaw you feel the same sort of bald rage usually reserved for barely prepubescent teens! Here is surfing’s revered historian now!
Waves are the whole show. Waves are the only interesting thing about surfing. You’re a poetry-hating anti-New Age atheist with a penchant for hardcore rationalism? Same here. But at some level we know, we feel, that we are riding ocean-transported sunbeams, and it is magical. It is what makes surfing the very best of all sports. It is what separates us from parkour.
Surfers, furthermore, are only interesting because of waves. The things we do over the course of a life in pursuit of, and on behalf of, waves—the 10,000 bad decisions, the fiery burn rate of time and cash, the rivers of espoused bullshit, the volumes of arcane and otherwise totally worthless knowledge painstakingly gathered, catalogued, and deployed—are what makes us different, and, giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt, cool.
For 40-something years now, I have experienced variations on the same anxiety dream in which the surf is excellent, but I can’t get to it. The board is is locked in the car. Contact lenses are missing. Endless duckdives in the shorebreak while the sun drops into the horizon (thank you Ocean Beach, you wounding bitch). The number of times I’ve truly and completely had my fill of waves can be counted on one hand, and in each instance the craving was never further away than a meal and a nap. In terms of a life partner, that type of perpetual desire—a taste here and there, but never enough—is a greased playground slide to insanity. But in terms of a pastime being able to hold your attention, desire is the gift that lasts forever. Big-wave legend and humanist Fred Van Dyke, even when he was no longer able to surf, would pull off to the side of the road during a big swell, look out to a raging ocean, paddle out in his mind, choose a spot in the lineup, and wait for the right wave. In the end, surfing, for Fred, wasn’t even about standing on a board. It was just waves.
I have not seen more white passion since Howard Dean took the state in DeMoines in 2004!
And it is totally worth your day to go read the rest of his screed. God bless Matt Warshaw! God bless him every one!
I think just a pile of stock, not the whole company, but who knows!
I’m no financial whiz, though I just finished reading Michael Lewis’s stellar Flash Boys. It is very good, about the markets and high frequency trading and things. I don’t recall any specific mention in the book, but I think if a company sheds 90% of its value it was not doing very well.
GoPro has shed 45% of its value this year and 90% since going public. And, again, I’m no financial whiz so I bought stock right before its crash but things are looking up! CNN Money has just reported that Austrian juggernaut Red Bull has just entered into a partnership with them! Let’s read:
GoPro’s stock got a much needed caffeine boost, surging 7% following the announcement.
And it may be because Red Bull seems to be calling a bottom in GoPro’s stock, which has plunged 45% this year and is still 90% below the all-time high it hit shortly after it went public in 2014.
That’s because Red Bull is getting GoPro (GPRO, Tech30) stock as part of the deal. The companies did not disclose how much or at what price.
GoPro CEO Nick Woodman touted the partnership as “very strategic” for the company, and said that “we share the same vision … to inspire the world to live a bigger life.”
Do you remember when GoPro CEO Nick Woodman inspired himself by Going Pro on a downtown LA billboard?
Dietrich Mateschitz, founder and CEO of Red Bull, added that the two companies “will amplify our collective international reach, the power of our content and ability to fascinate.”
Of course, both CEOs are using marketing mumbo jumbo to justify the deal. But it could pay off for GoPro.
Red Bull is no slouch. Forbes ranks it as the 74th most valuable brand name in the world — ahead of multinational giants Sony, Netflix, Heineken and LEGO to name a few.
Red Bull also operates its own popular online video networks focusing on action sports. GoPro has a media partnership with the National Hockey League. It makes sense. Sports videos lend themselves well to GoPro cameras.
But GoPro still has a lot to prove to Wall Street. GoPro lost more money than expected in its last quarter. And analysts are forecasting more red ink for GoPro this year and in 2017.
More alarming is the fact that GoPro’s sales are in a downward spiral. Revenues plunged nearly 50% in its most recent quarter.
Is that good or bad? I assume from context bad.
There are increased concerns that GoPro’s popularity may have peaked thanks to cheaper action camera alternatives from Polaroid, Xiaomi and others.
GoPro is hoping that its new Karma drone might be enough to convince Wall Street that it’s not just a one-trick pony reliant on its Hero cameras.
But GoPro shocked investors earlier this month when it said it would be delaying the Karma release until the end of this year. It was originally expected to hit shelves this summer.
Some experts have speculated that GoPro could one day be an appealing takeover target for Apple (AAPL, Tech30), Sony (SNE) or Google owner Alphabet (GOOGL, Tech30). But Woodman has given no indication that he’s willing to sell.
So the Red Bull deal may buy GoPro a little more time with impatient investors until the Karma comes out.
I think the financial writer of this story had too much fun with it but what does all of this mean? Maybe a new multichannel network? Or… I have no idea and the “marketing mumbo jumbo” really does not help. A can camera? I don’t know.
Bloomberg Businessweek, who have an inside track with Slater and the WSL (which knifes me to write ’cause Kelly and I’ve been on a similar trajectory in surf for the past twenty something years, although his forward, mine backward, and you’d think there was a little residual love there) announced the reveal with a history of the pool.
Who’s the brains behind the joint? A Jamaican!
Adam Fincham was a research professor from the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, at the University of Southern California, when Kelly came knocking in 2006, swinging his idea of a barrelling man-made wave.
Fincham had worked mostly in Europe and didn’t know who Slater was. But Fincham “pulled together a team of colleagues and undertook a pilot study in 2007. They decided that, yes, it was possible.”
Two years later, Fincham was director for science at KSWC, working out of a lab in Culver City, just of out of LA, and using a 1/15th model scale for testing.
In 2014, KSWC bought a hunk of land in dusty old Lemoore, a hundred miles or so inland, to test the concept. Why Lemoore? It’s cheap. Half-a-mill for twenty acres.
And, then, the testing, the visiting pros, the visit by the WSL’s Kieren Perrow who said, “I think every surfer at some point has probably dreamt of having a wave like this… People have been trying to achieve this for a long time. I wasn’t sure I would ever see it.”
In the Bloomberg story, its writer Josh Dean describes the pool in a way that’s not obvious from the clips we’ve been drip-fed.
“If you watch any of the videos, shot exclusively by KSWC-sanctiond personnel, they’re carefully cropped so as not to reveal much of a hulking, whirring ram as it’s dragged along a rail under the water. (The hydrofoil is separated from surfers by netting.)… (Kelly) slips into the water and paddles out to the middle of the lake as a cable that runs the length of the hydrofoil housing goes taut, sounding as if someone is whizzing along zipline. Then, in the distance, it begins. A head-high swell rises up suddenly and grows in size as the hydrofoil gains speed. Slater glances back over his shoulder and paddles fast, matching his speed to the wave’s and, as the swell hits the point which the lake’s bottom – by depth and contour – forces it to break, Slater is up, tucking into a barrel that curls perfectly and never breaks…
“The wave is more powerful in person than on film, without question. Slater makes it look easy, but even he wasn’t prepared for the speed; back in December, he missed his first puddle. Another pro, he says, fell on his first three attempts.”
A quote buried in the story is instructive about the WSL’s intentions, now that it owns the majority slice.
“We will always have a majority of the surf contests take place in the ocean,” says WSL CEO Paul Speaker.
For another kick, watch as the Today show visits the pool! The shot of the reporter, Nat Morales, doing a piece to camera on a jetski while Kelly surfs in the background, gives the viewer a revealing view of the shape of the pool’s wave.