Beach Boy: “Surfing is hell!”

Is playing good music and playing good surfing possible?

The Beach Boys are, of course, the most famous “surf band” of all time. Surfin’ USA, Surfin’ Safari, Surfer Girl etc. titillated 1960s audiences with images of a libertine mis en scene being staged on warm California sands.

Students of history will know that the Beach Boys didn’t actually surf. Brian Wilson, the genius behind the group, recently told the New York Post in an interview that, “I tried surfing once, and the board nearly hit me in the head. That was it for me.”

As good a reason as any to instantly give up and turn to acid.

Do you remember when Andy Irons posed with Metallica for his boardshort? I think one or two of them surfed, right? And look at the size of that shaka!


The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Kiedis and Flea both surf but both look very bad doing it.


Jack Johnson surfs very well but plays very bad music. as_surf_jack_630

Which makes me wonder. Is there anyone who surfs passably and makes OK music or are the two pursuits mutually exclusive?

Jordy Smith Fiji Pro
Do you think, like me, that surfing's great asset is the playfulness of its surfers, and the media's access to their charms? | Photo: WSL

How to: Save Pro Surfing’s Heart!

How about we loosen our collar, shuck our potato sack jeans… 

One day ago, I posited the idea that pro surfing might like to dredge a middle finger down the throat of ten point rides. 

I got that from reading a story about gymnastics in the New Yorker. Gymnastics had blown off ten-pointers, even thought it defined that sport in its pursuit of artistic and athlete perfection, because it rewarded… safe.

In response, the filmmaker for John John Florence, Blake Vincent Kueny, argued for a 100-point scale.

Waves should be based on the 100 point scale, there’s too many nuances in surfing for it to be narrowed to tenths of a point.

Might surfing ever be so bold?

Anyway, while browsing the work of Taki Theodoracopulos I was struck by the similarities of today’s tennis tour and, perhaps, surfing soon.

Let’s study the text.

The French Championships, as they were back then before the Open era of 1967, was my favorite tournament—Paris being Paris, the Parisian girls being, well, beautiful and easier than most, and a very laissez-faire attitude among tennis officials making it so.

Needless to say, the French Open is now a very different affair. Top players are multinational corporations, marketing is a sine qua non, and if one wants to speak to a player, one goes to his agent’s agent and negotiates an appointment. Everything is machinelike: the play, the way players act, their training, even the umpiring, with Cyclops overruling the human error. Players are protected from prying eyes inside the locker room, and from getting in each other’s heads by their limited access to them. Coaches, trainers, gurus, and dietitians make sure of it. Tennis is a soulless game made so by technology and hucksters who sell it to advertisers who in turn sell it for big corporation dollars. Hype rules supreme and debases the game. Everyone, with very few exceptions, looks and plays the same. The most banal questions precede and follow the matches by hacks who are basically cheerleaders. Welcome to the modern game of pro tennis.

Do you see the parallels?

For so many years I couldn’t believe the access writers and photographers had to the best in the game. Ring up whatever company was sponsoring an event the day before it started, wrangle a pass, stroll into a VIP area that mixed surfer with media, wait for surfer, jam miniature tape recorder under their chin and cajole whatever it was you wanted out of ’em.

I remember the creamy tan handsomeness of Kelly Slater up close. How gorgeous Andy Irons looked once he’d shucked his potato sack Rising Sun trunks for jeans. I remember surfers whom I’d accidentally affronted being tense and slit-eyed and hissing at me like vipers.

One time, my journalist mentor had a screwdriver jammed into his throat by a very famous Hawaiian surfer who said,

“Tell me why I shouldn’t just kill you right now…”

It was real, although most were disarmed when the offending piece was broken down into easy-to-understand morsels. End of the day? We’re all pals. And we ain’t changing the world. Loosen the collar and have a good time.

Now I got the WSL behind my armpits, deleting fair use of clips, hassling me on Instagram, cold-cocking me on Facebook. Try to get to a surfer now and apart from a few honourable exceptions (Hello Conner Coffin! I’m so sorry my GarageBand file didn’t save) you’re gonna have to go through the surf co, the manager and then promise to show ’em the story you’d written.

Uh…uh… honey!

And what do we get for negotiating those hurdles?

Whimpering email interviews.

Rose satin video clips rotten with the stench of vanilla.

Panting profiles that serve only as love letters and not windows into the life of a significant athlete.

Do you, like me, think that the playfulness of pro surfers, and not the laborious process of two-week long events that start, stop, pause, maybe start again in a week, is the the WSL’s, greatest asset?

That by recognising the humanity of the shadows we inhabit, there is something a little more?

A still from Bodysurfin' The Movie. "Bodysurfing is a good diversion when the only thing on offer is whompy closeouts. Nice way to exercise off a hangover."

Parker: “I really like bodysurfing!”

Nice way to exercise off a hangover.

I really like bodysurfing. Used to love it. Much more fun before I got hurt. Years later, still battling through hesitancy. Spent years bouncing off the bottom before I got charged for it. Can’t help but think of consequences now.

Still, though, fun. Good diversion when the only thing on offer is whompy closeouts. Nice way to exercise off a hangover.

Not many bodysurfing vids out there. Come Hell or High Water was okay. A little too Malloy for my tastes. Can’t swallow that pseudo-spiritual stuff. We’re only playing, nothing magic going on. In the moment it might feel special, but that’s just drugs stuff going on. Brain chemicals.

I’ll give an hour long bodysurfing flick a shot. Why not? It’s King Kamehameha Day, we don’t open presents until sun down. Got nothing better to do.

Was really hoping for something better. Something that really captured the fun of the act. But that’s tough as hell. Beyond Mike Stewart…

…and Mark Cunningham

I’ve never seen a clip that comes close. And that’s just because they’re on that freak level. Actually look as cool as you feel.

Which is the deal with most filming ocean Xtreme! sports. Like home-made porn. Don’t spoil your perception with cruel reality. Keep the dream in your mind’s eye. Gotta be in the top percentile to be worth watching.

This movie runs long. There’s some good stuff, some funny original songs.

I will admit, the neighbor’s gardeners are currently using chainsaws whittling our privacy hedge into transparency. So I’m a bit distracted. And my neighbors are gonna see me naked.  Which is fine by me.

I think the thing would play really well in the background at a bar.

Is that a thing? Can you license out videos for bars to play on repeat? I could imgaine this thing running non stop for a decade at, like, Duke’s. Or that place on Oahu. Haleiwa Joe’s.

Watch here… 

Memories: When Eddie Slapped Graham!

An excerpt!

I wrote a book, once, too long ago. It was called Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell (buy today!) and was my love letter to Hawaii. I’m working, slowly, on a second and having to flip through it today. Here’s my favorite part:

And when my American Airlines plane wheels skidded along the tarmac of Honolulu International airport Eddie Rothman was driving his jacked-up black Ford F-350 diesel.

He had left his compound at Backyards, a famously localized surf spot, after the sun set and drove south on O’opuola street before turning east on the Kamehameha highway, gripping his steering wheel with scarred knuckles. He passed Ted’s Bakery, known for its plate lunches, its cream pies, and its impossibly slow service. He passed the only Chevron for miles, run by a family of transgendered Samoans who flirt freely when handing over packs of cigarettes or change. They are each over six feet tall, two hundred pounds, with the daintiest touches of eye shadow and blush. He passed the rotting fruit stand selling fresh passion fruit and pineapple, Ehukai Beach Park and its just erected “Billabong Presents the Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons” scaffolding, set up for the contest that would run the next day. He passed sunset Beach Elementary school and then he abruptly turned right, without signaling, onto Ke Nui Road.

Ke Nui is the size of a small alley and runs parallel to the Kamehameha for a rough mile. Banyans and palms hover over it like a frescoed ceiling. There are no streetlights. Night can feel thick on Ke Nui. Dense. Eddie drove over the speed bumps without slowing and then slammed to a stop at its end. Directly in front of the Billabong house.

He got out of his car, went through the wooden gate and up the rock stairs and straight inside without ringing the doorbell and without the customary removal of slippahs.

Inside the house he paused briefly, glancing around, before walking up to Graham Stapelberg and fixing him in his dull gaze. Looking through him. Before reaching a scarred knuckled hand through time and space and grabbing his throat. The surfers and executives, those who had not yet left for Surfer Poll, froze. The horror. This horror. And Eddie reached his other hand back, back, back, and then, as if it was a slingshot, launched it forward. It smashed into Graham’s cheek with a painful thud. Eddie kept slapping him and then dumped him in a pile and went on a tear through the house. 

God bless Eddie Rothman.


Beware: The menacing surf gang!

Watch the clip! Those boards! The scariest!

The American cable channel TNT premiers its new show Animal Kingdom this week. Deadline calls it “Gritty but gratuitous.” Entertainment Weekly declares it is a “…surfing Sons of Anarchy.”

It follows the fortunes of a southern California crime family who surfs, drugs, etc. BeachGrit‘s Australian friends will, of course, recognize that it is an adaptation of the film with the same name that followed Melbourne’s famous Pettingill family. They did not surf, if I recall. And why would they? Bells? Burrrrrrrr!

In any case, the darker side of surf is all the rage. The Lunada Bay “Boys” and their “surf fort” strike fear into the hearts of the public. Etc.

Complex Magazine even wrote a piece about the phenomenon this morning. Let’s look!

Surfers have largely eschewed the seedy reputation that’s stuck to their land-bound alterna-sport brethren. Skateboarders hang out behind the grocery store. Dirt bikers lurk around the woods. Surfers wake up early to go to the beach; even the most wholesome mom can get behind a lifestyle like that. At worst, surfers are sometimes seen as aloof Spicoli-types, perhaps a bit too laid back for their own good.

Alas, even the sunniest beach gets a dark cloud every once in a while. Menacing “surf gangs” have long played a supporting role in surf culture. Often just a close group of friends, these groups band together to enforce the infamous “locals only” policy on their favorite break. Generally, these groups are harmless, and their enforcement methods are limited to sending bad vibes your way, with perhaps a rare verbal threat. Sometimes, though, the locals take things a bit too far, and that’s when the police come in.

Here’s a brief history of surf gangs running into trouble with the law. Strap on your leash—it’s going to be a choppy ride.
The writer goes on to discuss the Lunada Bay “Boys” and La Jolla’s Bird Rock Bandits before turning his attention to Hawaii.
Surf gangs aren’t just a mainland phenomenon. In Hawaii, where beaches are crowded and tourists are everywhere, surf gangs have done their best to make sure that locals always have room to ride. The Wolfpak, led by Kala Alexander (who had a role in the decidedly kooky film Blue Crush), is the most notorious group on the North Shore. As one surfer put it, “It’s kind of like Mafia control in the surf.” Since 2001, they’ve sought respect using a combination of intimidation, volunteer work, and fists.
Nor is the surf gang just a recent menace. Da Hui, or the Black Shorts, have been active since forming in the ’70s in reaction to the increase in surfers from Australia and the mainland. This intense localism has been exacerbated by Hawaii’s position as a tourist hotspot; at numerous points over the last 40 years, police escorts have been required to get visiting surfers home safe.

Surf gangs might be intimidating, but don’t let this information keep you from heading out into the waves. Compared with the very real risks of drowning and spinal injuries, surf gangs are harmless. Even sharks—a statistic often compared to being struck by lightning or winning the lottery—are infinitely more threatening than your fellow humans. In the ocean, the real danger always comes from nature. That said, you should still probably think twice before cutting off a local.


Wait…what did that say? I was too busy studying the 12 foot thrusters in this Animal Kingdom clip.


Maurice Cole? Matt Biolos? Is this the future? 12 foot thrusters?