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 boardformula.com. 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.

Rage: Matt Warshaw HATES wave pool!

Surfing's honored historian goes on a wild rant!

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!

One shaka for me one shaka for Red Bull!
One shaka for me one shaka for Red Bull! | Photo: Nick Woodman!!!!!

Just in: Red Bull buys GoPro!

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 (GPROTech30) 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 (AAPLTech30), Sony (SNE) or Google owner Alphabet (GOOGLTech30). 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.