Parker Reports: Day Two, Fiji Pro III!

Falls asleep! What did he miss?

So, yeah, heat nine.  Really slowing down here.  About to nod off.  Kerr is beating Andino with 7 and a half minutes left. Rosy’s wearing a billowing blouse number and my wife won’t go for a hump because I’m “way too drunk.”

And she’s making me turn off the contest so she can watch Game of Thrones.  I’m terribly abused.  But there’ll probably be tits.  That’s okay.

Sandor Clegane is still alive.  Wife says he’s gonna fight zombie Mountain.  Who cares?

Filthy dirty weirdo religious guy chats with the hot chick with nice tits and a killer smirk. I swear, ever GoT plot point can be solved by just stabbing some motherfucker.

Red beard bear fucker is following the guy who died but not really.  The wife says giants are all vegetarians, as though that’s interesting.

Eighteen minutes in and no tits.

Whoops.  Fell asleep on the couch.  What’d I miss?

Andino’s gone.  Bourez blessed my fantasy team and made it through.  Buchan slays the mother of dragons. Coffin/Cathels is in the water.  I’m struggling to focus.  Kind of bored.  Worried I missed some magic moments.

Day’s done. Likely lay days in the near future.  I can’t maintain over eight hours of drinking.  Maybe Derek or Chas can fill in anything I missed on the back third.

But Strider is talking about how “The waves actually were really fun out there. The waves were… you could rock up to anywhere you lived, at your home break, and be like, it’s going off.”

So I suspect I’m okay.


Sebastian Zietz
SeaBass dazzles but loses to little Kainoa Igarashi! | Photo: WSL

Parker reports, live, Day Two, Fiji Pro!

SeaBass out! Fanning wins! Taj Burrow menacing!

Ocean comes alive as Fanning/Otton begins. White Lightning wins the exchange with rail work. Otton in the shade a bit, only earns a 6.19 to Mick’s 8.17.

Pottz talking about Mick’s year off. He didn’t take a year off. He’s just working part time, contract basis. And while I don’t hold it against him it’s really nothing more but special treatment handed to a top draw by a governing body. Totally violates rules regarding event participation. Not fair to the other guys on tour. If he doesn’t care about a title he doesn’t belong in the water. This is sport, damnit! Not some feel good exhibition where everyone wins once the checks clear.

Can we start calling Alejo Muniz the Brazilian Caveman?

Rosy Hodge is the type of woman I won’t even bother talking to because I know she’s so much better than me.

Looked away for a moment, glanced back to Otton in a mile long closeout hell barrel. It’s turning on!

But I’m confused and it’s from last year and he got a 2.83 at some point so he’s in the lead but not by doing anything radical.

Otton’s always on my fantasy team in solid barrels. Except for this event because I fucked up and somehow picked Bourez instead. I love Michel’s surfing but I don’t consider him a solid pick. Not consistent enough. But I suck at fantasy surfing. It’s almost like I write about surfing every day but don’t know shit about it because I’m just an empty headed blow hard.

Maybe I’ll get lucky and he’ll do well.


Fanning keeps the lead with two good turns on a close out. Otton grabs a long wave, links turns, gets covered, but it’s scored less. I feel differently. I think Otton demonstrated more skill.

But the replay shows Mick’s second turn is absolutely bonkers. I’m wrong. Mick deserves the win, thus far. Even though I don’t think he belongs in the event at all.

Lost a little time there. Fanning is still in, which doesn’t matter for his career. Otton is out, which totally matters for his.

Sent the wife to the store for smokes and some juice. Adding POG to my Piper Sonoma Brut. More sugar equals more power.

The wife’s fave move is to entice me then pass out. Many times, been there. One drunk night she made me take viagra ‘cuz I was pushing rope. Then went blank. Rather than hump her prone form I followed her into blackness. Woke up early morning with the best boner I’ve ever had.

This was somewhere around fifteen years ago. We met young, she still lived at home.

While I was getting my shit together, glorious priapism thrust into the breeze, her mom walked in. Lots of eye contact, can’t say I was ashamed of what I had on offer. Damn proud. Damn proud.

And that’s how I met your mother, is what I would say if we hadn’t paid a few doctors to murder our potential children.

Best money I ever spent.

Too dark?

Nat Young and Dusty Payne. Nat’s a contest machine, Dusty is a free surf hero who belongs in a world where sponsors put more importance on clips than results.

Gotta focus. Payne on a ugly inside sucker. Difficult surfing, he’s in the lead.

Surfing’s second Nat Young grabs a barrel to impressive hit to closeout bonk. D-Payne behind dismantling over-vert lips. Nat again with what is almost the best double barrel of the contest but he just can’t come out.

No idea what the judges think.

9.33 for Payne. 6.23 for the kid from wetsuit land. The Albino Miracle finds himself combo’ed with the clock ticking.

Nat on a square drainer to come out of comboland. Still needs a big score on another.

One minute left, needs an 8.41, Nat’s Nat and That’s That snaps into a runner tube and hopes and hopes and hopes. For a 5.93. Wait, no, that’s what he got. He’s done, Dusty advances.

Okay, how the fuck did my dog get his paws on an entire stick of butter? Because I just found him hiding in a nook and eating one. Still cold from the fridge too. Something’s going on here. Everyone is against me.

Bottle two done.

The wife thinks our dog’s butter theft is hilarious. Because she doesn’t have to clean up whatever it is he sprays from whichever end it comes out of.

Ciao! Ibelli and Taj “Cuddle Monster” Burrow is on. Last heat was hot, this’ll be a wave catching contest. ‘Cuz that’s how life works.

Caio with a good barrel to huge backside smash. Taj gets more turns, less critical. My mind says Caio. How ’bout dem judges?

Ronnie “Strong Jawline” Blakey says the judges don’t care this is Taj’s last comp. Why would they? A shark never nibbled his bottom.

Ciao with a stylee snap to layback. Cool cool cool. “I didn’t mind it,” says Ross.

Low scores for good surfing. I like it. Numbers don’t really matter, only first does. I hope we’re seeing the end of nothing between 3 and 6. I know we aren’t.

Ross says Maurice Cole was the one who told Taj to skip his first qualifying year on tour. I never knew that. Does Maurice hate me? Maybe.

Mr Debs, super dog, is barfing butter everywhere. That’s just dandy! Which is pretty close to my suggested title for our video series. Absolutely Dandy w/ Chas Smith is great. Genius. Sadly unrecognized.

I got another FB friend thing from some chick I got inside back in high school. She still looks damn good. Got a kid though. Real turn off. Warms my heart that what ever I did on her is remembered fondly. Nothing to call the cops about, at least.

Mr Debs, super dog, is barfing butter everywhere. That’s just dandy! Which is pretty close to my suggested title for our video series. Absolutely Dandy w/ Chas Smith is great. Genius. Sadly unrecognized.

Taj blasts a 8.03, less than five for Caio to play catch up. Veteran shit, wait patiently and smoke ’em when you get ’em.

Caio at the buzzer. Nope. Mr Butter Barfer is sleeping on the linoleum at my feet and I’m opening bottle three.

Kainoa/Seabass. I’ve been riding Mr Big-in-Japan hard this year. Unfairly? Maybe?

Got a letter from someone who’s deal I dig about it. Told me to mellow out. Stop riding the poor kid. He’s a human, after all. Plenty of internal shit going on.

Unfair, making me see him as a person. Professional sports here, criticism is part of the deal. Might feel mean but it ain’t meant like that. Just part of the deal of putting yourself public. You’re not getting paid to surf. You’re getting paid to deal with assholes like me.

Kainoa’s looking to ‘QS his way through this heat.

Taj is so giggly! Love it!

Nice tube with safety turns to extend Kainoa’s lead. Seabass needs a 4.55 to take the lead with quarter hour left.

Kainoa extends the lead, nothing happens. Two and a half left. Last second set rolling in and Zietz has priority. Needs a 6.75. Falls!

Forty seconds, Kainoa with priority. Plays it safe on the last wave of the heat. Takes the wind. Seabass is gone, Kainoa is round three.

And installment two ends. Part three later. Probably.

Gabriel Medina
Gabriel Medina alley-oops against Ryan Callinan in round two…  | Photo: WSL

Parker reports: Day Two, Fiji Pro!

The noted Rory Parker reports, in real-ish time, from the Fiji Pro!

Day two of Fiji! The event we’ve all been waiting for! Back half of the tour, shit’s gonna get good.

Brought to you in partnership with AirBnB. Purveyors of illegal vacation rentals the world over. Mpst especially in Hawaii.

Funny thing, that. First thing I did when I got the PR email announcing the new Swell Dwellings nonsense, checked to see if they had any North Shore listings. Because there are almost no legal short term rentals on Oahu’s North Shore

A real problem for the people who live out there. Exacerbates the already troublesome housing shortage, inflates the price of rentals. A $2k monthly can go for $200 a day. Easy math for investment property owners untroubled by flouting local zoning laws.

There they were, listed under “Championship Tour Stops.” Sent Dave Prodan a kinda confrontational email.

Hey Dave-

Saw the roll out of Swell Dwellings. Quick check of North Shore listings shows a ton of illegal rentals. 

Want to comment? Seems to me that the WSL is looking to profit from facilitating illegal activity in an area that hosts it each year.

Those illegal rentals do real damage to local residents. Inflates housing prices while removing properties from the long term market.

He didn’t respond. He often doesn’t. Problem might be the delivery. I don’t know. But the NS listings disappeared from the WSL site sometime in the last few days. Which warms the cockles of my heart.

Paia, Maui is still on there.  Eighty-eight legal rentals in the area between Paia and Haiku, but 164 listings on AirBnB. Not that AirBnB gives two shits, their whole business model is based on facilitating illegal activity.

Just like how the Uber concept provides rapists easy access to intoxicated targets.

Not that this is the first time the Tour has decided they can do whatever they want to communities that host them. They pretend they own the Hawaiian skies, use their relationship with the Oahu Department of Parks and Recreation to flout local contest ordinances the North Shore community fought tooth and nail to implement.

It’s almost as though the people in charge only care about making money. That can’t be the case, can it? Can it?

Turpel looks like he’s five years away from becoming some greasy expat who spends his days hanging out in a Central American bar with his dusky child bride and his nights writing unanswered emails to children who hate him for abandoning their mother.

Didn’t watch yesterday. Like I mentioned, spent the day paddling the Wailua River with the in-laws. Not as terrible as I thought it’d be. Almost fun. A tad challenging keeping rhythm with my wife’s arrhythmic half stroke paddle method. Lots of excellent husbandly advice handed out. Recieved as well as it usually is.

Heat analyzer’s been down every time I checked so I’ve only seen a few clips. Very impressed with Jadson Andre. Kid went from frontside reverse machine to a damn solid wave slayer. Really nice barrel to beat Medina.

Slater looks back in form. Very befuddled by Mick’s on and off tour status. Not really taking the year off so much as skipping shit events. Special treatment ain’t nothing new for the WSL. Kerr gets IVs, Slater’s a business partner. Don’t know if I can call it corruption, but it’s up against that line.

Do the chatterboxes get to pick their own aloha rigs? Kind of digging the Pottz paisley number. Turpel looks like he’s five years away from becoming some greasy expat who spends his days hanging out in a Central American bar with his dusky child bride and his nights writing unanswered emails to children who hate him for abandoning their mother.

Speaking of Pottz, guy’s looking good. Dumped a ton of weight, getting lean and mean. Pared a good decade off his appearance.

Little bit of morning sickness, swell’s dropped a little. Really hoping the boys use the shape, power, and lack of size to blast off. But I’m bracing myself for cookie cutter backside bonks.

Italo starts it off good. Fades a little too hard out of his first barrel, doesn’t make the second section. But it bodes well. I can get behind a day of that.

Got a tree heavy with lychee in the yard, a fridge full of champagne. Giving serious thought to whipping up some concoctions, drinking my way through the day. Might be a good idea. Might just be the alcoholism talking. Gonna think on it a minute. Don’t know if typing ten thousand words while drunk will be easier or harder.

‘Cuz we’re ten minutes into the first heat and I can tell this shit is gonna run long.

Italo’s second wave is tasty sweet. Bobs and weaves backdoor through a couple of tight sections, links a bunch of solid turns towards the end. Real pretty.

That whip in clip they’re showing is nuts. Knee killer air from the Italian Ferrari. Looks like he covered thirty feet laterally. I could get behind more whip in clips.

Fijian wildcard Tevita Gukilau chooses poorly for his first real wave of the heat. Not much to work with. But he surfs well. Usually the token local is a barrel slayer with a wonk style. Not this year, I guess.

Yeah, I’m gonna start drinking. Peeled and pitted lychee, blended with a little ice. Pour in some champagne. Fancy! Drinking them out of mason jars because I bought a ton of them when they were on sale at the local hardware store and I use them for my famous pickles.

And salsa!

And pesto! And because I’m too cheap to buy proper glassware.

Tevita just couldn’t make it happen. No spoiler today. Slow heat, no dice. No big deal. Damn hard to beat the world’s best in quality waves. Way easier when you’ve got the local knowledge in onshore garbage.

Yellow Jersey v Ribeiro in round two. The Brazilian grabs two off the bat. Nothing magic, but it puts him in the lead while Wilko sits on a zero.

What’s with all these commercials? That’s right, I haven’t installed an adblocker on my new computer. Easy fix, problem solved. Remember to white list BeachGrit! I’m perfectly content with the hypocrisy.

Wilko uses priority to shut down Ribeiro but can’t do nothin’ with it.

Anyone watch UFC 199 yesterday? Great fights. Max Holloway’s ten second ender stand and bang was awesome. So Waianae. “He told me he wanted to bang, like mentally, you know? Like psychologic. Gave me that look, like, ‘let’s bang bro.’ So I let um bang.” Love it! Hometown hero status, for sure.

Wilko ain’t having no luck. Pulls in on his second. Tight little tube with a chandelier that shuts him down. The Brazilian is on the next one. Decent turn to cover-up to a smooth three turn combo on the inside. Solid surfing, Wilko needs to step it up or he’ll be wearing another color come J Bay.

Channel cam does wonder for conveying the power on offer. Straight on long lens flattens shit out. Side on shows things ain’t as easy as they seem. Hitting those lips is scary. This writer’d be out on the shoulder on a rail pretending he’s “power surfing.”

Looked a way for a minute, Wilko’s sitting on two mid sixes. No idea how that happened.

Couple solid turns, that’s how. Huh. I think Ribeiro’s second wave was ridden better than both. Tube rides, bro! Ultimate maneuver, or whatever.

I don’t understand the scoring at all. Which is why my fantasy surfer team has been a perfect example of who not to pick this entire year. Last year must have been pure luck. Or the judges are wrong. That’s it. Can’t be a failing on my part. I refuse to even consider the notion.

Chopping up these lychee is too much work. We’re going straight champagne for the next couple bottles.

Wilko pulls through, stays on the single testicle jersey trip.

Medina/Callinan is on. Medina stuffed Jordy in the AM, “ruffled a lot of feathers this morning.” Flows an oop into a little lay back because he’s “the best at manufacturing scores.” Thank you for that, Mr Williams. Couldn’t’ve said it better myself.

That’s unfair. He rips. Many years old but still love this clip.

Been battling a tricky rooster lately. Obvious escaped game bird from the breeder up the road. Big and mean, more velociraptor than chicken. Smart enough to recognize my silhouette for what it is. Most of the birds have no idea. Makes it easy to snipe ’em from my front door.

Crowing at 5 am, running the moment I’m locked and loaded. He’s winning now, but he ain’t long for this world. I’m smarter than a chicken, in the long term. I hope.

Long tight deep tube for Medina. Cutback. End section maneuver (shudder). Fist pump. 8.17.

Bottle one done.

Medina’s feeling it. Second solid score, 7.77.

Some moron in a helicopter in hovering above the lineup. I’ve never flown in a whirlybird. Performed many for the ladies. Around and around and around and around.

Carbonation ain’t no joke. One time thought, “Hey, a mouthful of Pellegrino combined with a head job would feel great!”

Nope. Burns like fire. Literally slapped my dick out of her mouth. Pure reflex. Funny, painful, and violent, all at once. Which is cool, but not what I’m looking for, sexually. Toss some shame in there though… now we’re cooking!

Blakey and Williams talking about scoring. They don’t understand it either. Makes me feel better.

Medina with a cutback to longboard stomp stall. Gets caught sneaking out under the lip. Won’t help his score but it doesn’t matter. Callinan needs a 8.34 with thirty seconds left and he ain’t no Slater.

Medina’s through, Callinan needs should start planning next year’s ‘QS campaign.

Wilson and Muniz are head to head. Transgender Miss Piggy grabs one of those stand up screamers where you just fly down the line at a million miles an hour. They feel so good. But you aren’t doing any turns until it backs off so he gets a 5.

Muniz has an okay 6.33 and a nothing back up for the lead. Don’t mean much at this point.

Man, a bottle of bubbly on an empty stomach kind of fucks you up. Might should slow down maybe. Or drink a glass of water then crack number two. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

Julian links a few to floater. Unimpressive but enough for the lead. For a bit.

Muniz blows the top out to kinda gnarly reo/snap thing. Big score for two turns, 7.67.  Back on top a little more than halfway through.

Ronnie Blakey and Ross Williams do a good job together. Talking about mental fortitude, it’s necessity to win a title. “It’s between the ears.” They even almost second guess scores.

Who’d make the list for best surfers to never win a title? No cheating with guess who never really tried. Gotta have five years on tour to count.

Taj, Machado, definitely. Shane Dorian, maybe. That’s all I can think of right now. Pretty pitiful.

Six minutes left. Nothing going on.

Julian falls on a shitty wave, loses priority, three minutes for Muniz to sit on him. Joo-joo manages to bait him into one, but it doesn’t help. Buzzer sounds, out in the second for the button nosed towhead.

Time for a little break, crack bottle two. Next installment will be up in a few heats. Probably.

Blood Feud: Jordy vs. Medina!

Rage burns in Cloudbreak's lineup! It is Blood Feud city!

Steph Curry’s pregame warm-up is absolutely mesmerizing. There he is, in the flesh, dribbling through his legs two balls at a time, shooting left handed from the top of the key, then right handed from beyond the arc. The arena, even hours early, holds its breath.

“Can you believe it?” the fans whisper to each other. “Can you believe what that man can do?”

And it is amazing. But did you know surfers warm up too? Sure they do! They warm up, though, on the same waves as everyone they will soon be competing against.



This morning one of surfing’s greatest people James “Jimmicane” Wilson snapped a photo of 1x World Champion Gabriel Medina totally burning 0x World Champion Jordy Smith in the lineup at Cloudbreak.

It sizzled!

Jordy, livid, kicked his board toward the clean shaven and cooked on his insides.

“That fucking Brazilian. That damn little son of a bitch. Who does he think he is? Neco Padaratz? ”

He thought probably something like that.

And what if LeBron James went out during warm-ups and smacked the ball out of Steph’s hands? Would Steph punch him in the face? Should he?

Blood feud!

In any case, As Fuck you Stab.

P.S. I’m drinking again! Ron Blakey, please tell us, on air, why you deleted your Twitter account. Don’t pretend you don’t read these stories. Don’t even!

Also…Blood Feud! Gab Medina vs. Filipe Toledo! The 1x World Champ is an animal out there!

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 2.55.46 PM

Long Read: Fast Eddie’s Last Stand!

Eddie Rothman vs. Monsanto!

Three years ago I traveled to Oahu to write a story for Playboy on Eddie Rothman’s fight against biotech giant Monstanto. Writing about Da Hui yesterday made me remember that time fondly. It is a very long read but it is Sunday, in America. What else are you going to do until the Golden State Warriors tip off against the Cleveland Cavaliers?


(First printed in Playboy. July 2013)


Fast Eddie Rothman is standing on the front deck of his perfectly tropical Oahu house, blocking the perfectly temperate 75-degree sun, waiting for me. His hands, gnarled and scarred with the memories of many teeth, are balled up into tight fists and he drums the deck’s railing.


His fists have drummed often. There was the time they drummed the teeth out of the big Australian surfer’s mouth. There was the time they slapped the vice president of a major surf brand 11 times for bald-faced lying. There was the time they bashed the head of a pervert jacking off in the tropical bushes near the bike path. Or, wait—those weren’t his hands proper, those were his hands gripping a piece of rebar. There was the time they landed repeatedly on the sunburned cheek of a man who had partnered with a local podiatrist to smuggle pain pills by strapping them to children. This man threatened to blow up Rothman’s house with a grenade and bounced his secretary’s head off a rock wall. Rothman gave him a drumming so solid that the man spent a week in the hospital, because like the Australian surfers, surf-brand vice presidents and perverts before him, he had it fucking coming.


Oahu, the most mythical island in the Hawaiian chain, is not commonly associated with bloody beatings and broken teeth. It has, rather, been etched into the subconscious as an island paradise since the turn of the 20th century, when wealthy families, inspired by pastel-hued postcards, steamed across the sea on coconut-scented winds and basked in its flawless climate. GIs followed on their way to World War II’s Pacific Theater, gaped at hula girls, got lei’d under a tropical moon and thought, Thank you, Uncle Sam. And their sons became surfers and went in search of their fathers’ dreams. They found them on Oahu’s North Shore, where the waves were massive and perfect if you had the courage and skill to ride them. They were joined by men with names such as Da Bull, Butch and Duke, and they too etched Oahu into the subconscious. As the 1950s turned into the 1960s, surf-ploitation films about exotic Waimea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline became the rage, and the Beach Boys crooned about riding the wild surf.


But the decades between then and now have been marked by immense struggles for the men who were born into this paradise or who arrived and never left. Men like Eddie Rothman. Today I walk down a dead-end road not five miles north of Waimea Bay, where he is waiting for me. I turn left and push my way into his million-dollar beach compound. Rumors and whispers about his penchant for violence haunt the North Shore. Brave surfers speak of him in hushed tones, afraid they might turn around and see him standing there and then see the darkness of a knockout.


On paper Rothman is simply a successful surf promoter and co-founder of the surf brand Da Hui, which makes boardshorts, surf apparel and, more recently, MMA fighting gear. But the past, as the 1960s turned into the 1970s, is when Rothman’s specter was born dark. He is the elder statesman of Hui O He’e Nalu, or Hawaiian Club of Wave Riders, which he formed nearly 40 years ago along with local surfers Kawika Stant Sr., Squiddy Sanchez, Terry Ahue and Bryan Amona. The mission of the club (from which the surf brand later took its name) was to advocate for Hawaiian surfers on the professional circuit and to help bring a sort of sanity to the winter surf season, which had grown increasingly chaotic due to an influx of foreign surfers who had watched the films, listened to the Beach Boys and decided the North Shore was theirs. But it was not theirs. And Da Hui taught them this by knocking the teeth out of their mouths. During the winter of 1977, visiting surfers’ blood ran both freely and cold, and Rothman became the embodiment of fear.


Hawaii was never, in truth, a pastel-postcard island paradise. Its name most likely comes from the ancient Maori word Hawaiki, meaning “heaven” and “hell.” Early inhabitants practiced a harsh form of governance that included human sacrifice by crushing the victim’s bones. Captain Cook and the first European contact brought disease that wiped out half the population. Inter-island war followed inter-island war until wealthy American agricultural interests convinced President William McKinley to annex Hawaii, subjugating the locals and immigrant laborers under a feudal-like system. Eventually there were enough locals and immigrants in the U.S. territory to demand statehood, which was granted in 1959. And then the surfers came, beginning a new sort of annexation until Fast Eddie Rothman shoved his gnarled and scarred fists down their throats.


Stories of the “black shorts,” as the members of Da Hui were called after their austere beach uniform, beating down disrespectful foreign surfers are still told today. But the club has mellowed in recent years, hosting beach cleanups and preaching the gospel of water safety for surfers and swimmers alike. And it has been some time since Rothman’s been in the local papers for illegal activity: In 1987 he was indicted on racketeering and drug distribution charges, which were dismissed because of prosecutorial misconduct. He had been in and out of jail before and has been in and out since, but his relationship with “legality” is, again, only ever whispered about. Few are brave enough to ask directly what it is that he does. There are outrageous, whispered rumors that he’s in the Hawaiian mafia, that he’s a drug dealer, that he’s a murderer for hire. But no one really knows, because when Rothman takes care of business his way, it quickly and quietly goes from rumor to whisper to legend. No one questions the legend.


And he is waiting for me because I broke the rules. I wrote a book about the North Shore that included him and his specter, which was a severe breech, on my part, of North Shore whisper etiquette. (Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell is being published by Harper Collins in December.) He got a copy of the unfinished manuscript from Scott Caan, who plays today’s version of Danno on the remake of Hawaii Five-0, and Rothman ordered me to his house.


He watches me approach from his wraparound deck, and the reality of the man matches the whispers, even though he is 65 and only five-foot-six if generous, five-foot-five if honest. He is roping muscle. His arms, usually bare, are perpetually flexed. His expression rarely changes. His pug nose has been broken more than once. His gray hair is shaved to a fine stubble. The neck that holds that head up is as thick as a tree. He is a testament to the power of attitude and intention. He has bested more men than he can count, and it looks as if I will be counted among the multitude.


Rothman looks at me and takes me by surprise. Instead of a left hook he drops this bomb: “If you want to tell a fucking important story, then tell this one: Monsanto. Those fuckers are here. They have all these experimental farms right over the hill and are poisoning the land and poisoning the people. Write that shit.” While my eyes had been trained on the pounding surf and the surfers and the fighters, by Rothman’s reckoning I’d had my head in the sand. He is asking me to turn 180 degrees and look squarely toward the island, to those verdant hills, to where Monsanto has alighted like so many interlopers before.


Monsanto is, of course, the multinational agricultural biotechnology company based in St. Louis—some 5,000 miles from the North Shore. It is the staggeringly profitable company that once manufactured PCBs and Agent Orange but for the past 20 years has been making genetically modified seeds that grow herbicide-resistant crops such as soybeans, corn and sugar beets. In Hawaii, Monsanto, along with Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer Hi-Bred, Dow AgroSciences and BASF, is growing some 7,000 acres of crops, including soybeans and corn. These crops are not intended for human consumption per se; rather they are seed crops that will be shipped to farmers worldwide to plant in their fields to sell on the open market. Much of it ends up as feed for livestock in countries around the world. While international farmers have become dependent on Monsanto’s incredibly effective Roundup Ready seed and Roundup herbicide, Rothman is part of a growing group of Hawaiians who see this as yet another encroachment on their beloved land.


His take on them is quite simple: “They are greedy fucks. They don’t care about anything but making money, and they are doing it all right here on Oahu and all over the islands—threatening farmers, closing the local people down, closing farmers’ markets. You know, if some of their GMO seed blows on someone’s land, then they own it. They are controlling our politicians too. Laws to label food as GMO have come into our Congress, but they get shut down. They are taking over the land, just like in the past.”


And his rant continues as he lists past wrongs on Hawaii—the early explorers bringing diseases to the islands, the Mormons bringing Mormonism, the sugar barons overthrowing the Hawaiian monarchy and enslaving the people, foreign surfers coming and stealing the waves, the methamphetamine epidemic now engulfing the islands. He eventually brings it back to Monsanto. “And now they are fucking with our food. They are fucking with the very root of who we are as people. It’s the worst thing they could be doing. Greedy fucking fucks. For what? For money? Money does strange things to people. Fuck them.”


I’d never heard him talk about anything with such passion other than Hawaiian wave sovereignty, the notion that these are their waves, to be surfed their way. With Monsanto, as with everything, Rothman goes with his gut.


“They got all these research farms right over the hill from my house,” says Rothman. “We’re having a March Against Monsanto in Hale’iwa tomorrow.” He grinds me with his eyes and it is completely expected that I will show up.


The next day I drive up the volcanic range that bisects the island and toward the protest march in Hale’iwa. I pass the silly Dole Plantation tourist trap where the fruit company grows pineapple only for show. After a century of dominance on the islands, pineapples are now grown cheaper and more efficiently in Costa Rica. I drive past land that used to be sugarcane as far as the eye can see. But sugarcane is produced cheaper and more efficiently in Brazil these days. Pineapple and sugarcane fields, now deserted, are the ghosts of agribusinesses that once ruled virtually every part of Hawaiian life. The barons used the islands as personal piggy banks, caring little for the ecosystem or the local population. And just as I drop down the other volcanic side, the North Shore splayed before me, I see a street sign that reads Adopt a highway, Litter control next two miles: Monsanto Company.


Monsanto was drawn to Hawaii for some of the same reasons that attracted the pineapple and sugar interests, namely its nutritious volcanic soil and its perfect, perpetually 75-degree weather. The islands are like a giant greenhouse. On the mainland most crops have one growing season, maybe two. In Hawaii they can have up to four, which suits Monsanto’s purposes. More harvest cycles mean more seeds, and large tracts of land have been opened on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Molokai to meet the seed demands of the world’s farmers. These demands have made the seed industry Hawaii’s largest agricultural sector. Worth more than $240 million, it is responsible for a third of Hawaii’s agricultural income. While valuable to Hawaii’s fragile, tourism-heavy economy, the income does little to settle the apprehensions of men like Eddie Rothman.


And Rothman is not alone, not by far. When I exit the main road toward Hale’iwa, hundreds of protesters have already grouped together near the 7-Eleven at the south end of town, or the “bottom” as it is called. It’s a motley bunch: moms pushing strollers, old people with canes, chunky white transplants in awful denim shorts, surfers, Japanese tourists, dreadlocked hippies banging on ukuleles, girls in bikinis, tough mokes. Moke is Hawaiian slang for an aggressive “braddah” who wears “da rubba slippas” and punches haoles. Haole is Hawaiian slang for “white man.” Everyone has a sign with some variation on the demand that Monsanto leave Hawaii. Pit bulls roam freely. A man wearing a V for Vendetta mask tells a man with a head as big as a Fiat, “Look at those clouds, brah. I hope they don’t chemtrail us.” It is a widely held belief here that Monsanto dumps heavy metals into the clouds in order to control the weather. As expected, Monsanto denies the protesters’ claims, of chemtrailing and otherwise.


Across the parking lot a giant pickup truck draped in Hawaiian flags is surrounded by men wearing red Da Hui T-shirts. There is Kala Alexander, a surfer and actor who became famous as the unlikely star of a series of YouTube videos featuring the beatdowns he gave surfers who showed disrespect in the waves. Those videos are a relic of his past. Alexander’s most recent activist star turn is as a concerned citizen speaking out against the encroachments of the biotech companies in a documentary about GMOs and Hawaii.


Rothman stands with the protesters, arms folded across his chest like a sentinel, and lets the others do the talking. As I approach, he says, “You gotta meet the guys who started the march,” and walks me over to two men busily directing the proceedings. “These are the real people. These are the ones changing shit.”


One of them is Dustin Barca, a professional surfer and also an MMA fighter from Kauai. He is handsome, with severely cauliflowered ears. “Five years ago I started studying, reading, watching the movies about GMOs,” he says. “I wanted to get my facts straight before acting. I learned how damaging they are to the people and to the land. It is poison. And so now I want to build awareness. I want to educate the local people on what is happening. I’m not interested in saving the world. I’m interested in saving my island.”


Rarely is a word spoken here today that isn’t rooted in fierce localism. Walter Ritte, standing next to Barca, nods his head in approval. Ritte, older and slight with a full gray beard, is from Molokai and is a legend among Hawaiian activists. His involvement in the GMO debate is tied to the University of Hawaii’s genetic experiments with taro, a traditional Hawaiian root. “Taro is a family member for Hawaiians,” he told me. “It is our firstborn. If they’re going to mess with our firstborn then they’re going to mess with us. This whole GMO issue is so complicated, and I like to make it simple. Basically GMOs package us, they own us. And I would like to tell them—the companies—if you hurt our culture and you hurt our land, you’re in for trouble.”


In days past, Da Hui would have brought the trouble immediately and violently on the interlopers, but today its members have signs and slogans and bullhorns. They are joined in solidarity with farmers and other citizens, joined not by surfing but by living in and loving Hawaii. The march begins, and the energized crowd chants, “Thanks for visiting. Now go home like the rest of the tourists!” People fill the Kamehameha Highway, smiling, chanting and trading horror stories about the evils of GMOs and “Mon-Satan.” I hear many stories about a Monsanto property on Oahu called the Kunia research farm. People say fish DNA is put into strawberries there and 70 different kinds of chemicals are used on the crops. They say Monsanto is destroying Hawaii’s native species by making Frankencrops that cross-pollinate with everything. They say the farm is killing all the bees and changing the weather, and that it isn’t from here. They say the farm does not belong here.


There was a time when Rothman was the interloper, the unknown quantity on the North Shore. Although many people assume he is Hawaiian, he was born Jewish in Philadelphia. “I don’t know nothing about Jew stuff, but once this lady on the North Shore made me some Jew food and it was good,” he tells me. He has said that his mother physically abused him as a boy. Eventually she left, and his father moved to Long Beach, California with him. “My father would fucking beat the shit out of me because I was little, and that made him mad.” Eventually Eddie’d had enough. When he was 14 years old he stole enough money out of his father’s wallet for a one-way ticket to Honolulu. He had surfed in California and had seen the surf-ploitation films featuring Hawaii, with its perfect giant waves, palm trees, white sand and easy smiles.


He landed in Honolulu knowing no one. He knew only that something felt almost right. He stayed in Honolulu for a few years, flying to southern California to pick up marijuana and bring it back to Hawaii. He briefly went to school in Long Beach. “I went to school a couple of times, but the school told me if I didn’t show up, they would pass me.” He eventually moved permanently to the North Shore. It had everything he needed: surf, sun, a market for his marijuana. And as a 16-year-old he would get by selling it and stealing cars.


One bright day he was in the bushes at the Sunset, one of the North Shore’s famous wave breaks, breaking into cars, when he ran into a pack of Hawaiian locals who were doing the same thing. How did they come to accept this unlikely out­sider? “I don’t talk good,” says Rothman. “I have bad speech like them, so it was easy, and everything went from there. I sounded like them, and they just accepted that I was like them.” He was tenacious, so they flew him around the islands to crack heads for such offenses as not paying debts within an appropriate time. When I suggest that the tough Hawaiians had adopted him, he bristles. “They didn’t adopt shit. I proved myself every fucking day. I proved myself with these.” Again, he holds up a fist. A scarred, tooth-nicked fist. On the North Shore, not speaking well goes only so far.


Of all the enemies Rothman has faced over the years, Monsanto is by far the biggest and most elusive. Bloomberg reports that the company did $5.47 billion in revenue in this year’s second quarter alone. It, along with the other seed companies, owns or leases 25,000 acres on the islands.


Before arriving in Hawaii, Monsanto had perfected its craft. Company scientists were among the first to genetically modify a plant cell in their laboratories, and they knew they had struck gold. Traditional seeds cannot be patented, since they occur naturally. Genetically modified seed, on the other hand, can be, as ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court. The company realized it could make a higher-yielding, more-rugged product through science, and it could better monetize that product by applying patent law. And Monsanto protects these patents fiercely, suing any farmer who dares replant instead of purchasing. The company argues that it has spent billions of dollars perfecting these seeds and it only makes sense to recoup investment costs. The Supreme Court agrees. In May, the Court ruled that farmers are not allowed to replant Monsanto seed but must repurchase yearly. To many farmers, Roundup’s near silver-bullet-like effectiveness is worth the cost. Still, Rothman takes issue with this, seeing it as a form of extortion. Just as offensive to him is how close Monsanto is to his home. How it looms in his backyard. “That farm is fucking evil,” he adds to the chorus, near the end of the march.


“That farm” is the Kunia research farm, which sits just opposite the volcanic mountain range from the North Shore, halfway up a small, shack-lined road. It is unassuming from the outside. A man wearing a Jurassic Park-looking uniform lets me in through the gate, and I am introduced to two scientist-farmers who take me on a tour of the property. The farm is virtually all corn and soybean, and as we drive for hours they point out the sustainability of the operation: the terraces, the drip irrigation. They show me an area that has been donated to small-scale local farmers who grow produce there, some of it organic, to sell at farmers’ markets. It’s not a nightmare factory out of The X Files. It is the picture of American ingenuity, but American ingenuity is not the Hawaiian dream.


When I raise the protesters’ concerns about cross-pollination destroying native species, Monsanto representatives point out that corn doesn’t cross-pollinate with anything on the islands and has no relatives here, so there’s no danger. Even if cross­pollination isn’t a worry, pesticide runoff still plagues Hawaii. Oahu has its pineapple and sugarcane ghosts. Researchers from Stanford, the University of California and the University of Hawaii have reported on pesticides in the groundwater and fragile reefs damaged by pesticide runoff after decades of largely unregulated rule by big agricultural interests on the island.


But that’s not Monsanto’s past here in Hawaii, and the company claims to be dedicated to custodianship of the land. The company tells me it pulls up and recycles truckloads of plastic from old pineapple fields. But in many Hawaiian eyes—in Rothman’s eyes—there is no difference between the past and the present, which directly affects Hawaiian protesters’ feelings regarding science. Hawaiians were told in the past that the pesticides used on pineapples were good and that DDT spraying to control mosquitoes was good. They, even more than the mainland America population, are loath to believe the science is sound. Critics such as Michael Hansen, senior staff scientist for Consumer Reports, help feed the perception that GMOs are poison. He says, “We now have allergy problems from genetic modification, or adverse effects on bone marrow, liver, kidney and reproductive systems. There have been animal studies, but they need to be followed up on. There is just no control.”


GMO proponents scoff at the lack of scientific rigor on the other side. After I leave the farm I speak with Alison Van Eenennaam, a specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis. She says, “As a scientist, I don’t just get to have a bad feeling about something. There have been 15 years of research, more than 400 scientific studies, and we’ve eaten more than 3 trillion meals. The jury is absolutely in. The overwhelming bulk of the data says there is nothing biologically different in genetically modified food. We eat it. We digest it. It breaks down. It turns into us. In fact, it is a criminal injustice for us not to feed the world with these products, especially in countries where people are dying of starvation instead of obesity. It is morally bankrupt.”


But if there’s anything Rothman doesn’t lack, it is moral outrage. He’s outraged at a company that has essentially patented nature for profit. He’s outraged at technology that has given rise to Roundup­resistant weeds that have forced farmers across the country to revert to using more toxic chemicals to protect their crops. Rothman’s distrust is a portion of America’s writ large. For a citizen, the first step toward truth often begins with “just getting to have a bad feeling about something.” And Rothman’s bad feeling is about yet another threat to his vision of the Hawaiian dream. It is about defending his version of the pastel-postcard Miltonian paradise. Oahu is still an island in the middle of the ocean. It still has coconut-scented winds and waves so big and ideal that none have ever been found bigger or better. And he wants to keep it pure. And this dream, even if never true, dies hard.


Rothman is smoldering when I go back to his house after visiting the farm. The sun is well into its downward slide, painting the firmament with soft oranges and fiery pinks. His shoulders, as big as hills, slump. He seems exhausted. We stand quietly for a minute, watching the ocean. It’s hard not to think this is essentially about Monsanto interlopers coming in and rewriting the rules of the island. Like the foreign surfers before them and Captain Cook before them. And it’s hard not to see that Rothman doesn’t know exactly what to do.


As if to comfort himself, he recounts a moral victory in his past, over an enemy he could physically best. “See that right there?” he says, pointing to a spot on the beach. I nod. “Years ago there were some little girls playing on the sand, and this big guy came and, you know, showed them his…you know…his thing.” He gestures at his crotch. “So I went over to his house. He was a big guy, and he was in there cleaning his gun, so I got scared. But I knocked on the door and he answered, and then he made a move. I’ve always been a little guy, and so I just go on instinct and—pow—I hit him in the mouth. He knocked out but woke back up when he hit the ground and started moaning. His wife came running to the door, and they called the cops because I broke his jaw. But when the cops came they couldn’t say nothing because the guy would have to say why I cracked him. He was a lieutenant in the Army or some shit. Fucking creep. But that’s the last time he showed himself to any kids.” He lowers his head and rubs his eyes.


“Why don’t you just crack them?” I ask, referring to Monsanto. This is exactly how Rothman drove the surf world into a panicked fear, by knocking enough people out that no surfer ever steps out of line. He turns toward me, and his expression that rarely changes turns into a mask of helpless bewilderment. “I can’t,” he says. “There is no them. I mean, they are everywhere. If I go and slap someone, they just gonna throw me in jail, and I don’t even know who they are. They hide behind their corporation.” He looks back out at the Pacific. The sun is even lower now, and the orange is softer, the pink more fiery. He sighs deeply, carrying the weight of his own legend and facing a new foe that is far baser than any he has faced before. He wants to act, but how? He sighs again and growls, “Let’s go.”


We drive together in silence down his dead-end road, out to the main Kamehameha Highway, then quickly turn into a gorgeous piece of unspoiled North Shore greenery. The land is terraced where we are standing, and I can see half-dug rows almost ready for planting. A large yellow tractor sits idle. The volcanic range rises in the near distance and is crowned with a strange sort of pine that I have seen only in Hawaii. “This is my farm,” he says as we start moving toward the patch of reddish dirt that is his organic farm.


Eddie Rothman the specter has become Eddie Rothman the farmer, just on the opposite side of the range from where Monsanto’s Kunia research farm sits. He tells me he spends long days moving giant rocks by hand, because if he used the tractors they would “fuck up all the water hoses we have.” He tends to taro crops and digs holes for water-purification systems by hand as well. “I’ve seen them do it this way in Samoa. They use their hands and their feet like this.…” He climbs down into an unfinished hole and starts to claw at the earth. He digs his own wells, installs solar panels and feeds his chickens and ducks.


Rothman becomes more animated and less exhausted as we wander around his farm—this plot of land is a Hawaii he can control, where no outsiders threaten the balance he’s struggling to regain. He tells me he worries about Monsanto’s chemical drift but is doing everything in his power to limit his farm’s exposure to the company’s tactics. He says the farmwork is good for his body, and the food, once it really starts growing, will be good too. As we walk, it becomes clear that farming is the way he has chosen to physically go to war against Monsanto, by taking back the land, acre by acre. It’s a tactic shared by other, more experienced farmers in Hawaii, who are lobbying the largest landowners to shift their proportion of GMO leases toward more natural and organic farmland. They want land tainted by pesticide use to be cleaned and repurposed as incubators and education centers for organic farming. They want to be given a fighting chance to sustain their island their way. The chances that a few organic farmers in the middle of the ocean will evict a billion-dollar multinational corporation are slim. But Rothman will have none of that.


Hawaii has been decimated by foreign disease, subjugated by foreign agricultural interests, annexed by foreign nations. It is a series of defeats. Rothman, though, has a victory to his name. Because of Da Hui, and because of him, visiting surfers’ blood still runs cold. He wrestled and punched the North Shore back from the clutches of foreign surf interests, and he is dead set on doing the same for the land. He has played slim odds in the defense of a dream before and won.


He also has the land on his side. The locals talk about the curse of Pele, the legend that anything taken from the Hawaiian Islands will bring bad luck to the taker. By that reckoning, Monsanto is exporting a bête noire as its seeds get planted around the world. Whether because of a curse or the passing of time, the sugarcane and pineapple barons have come and gone. Captain Cook is dead. The interlopers in Hawaii have gotten their due. Eddie Rothman is doing what he can, by protest and by pitchfork, to hurry it along. Before we get into his truck and head back down the hill, he kicks at a volcanic rock and then gives my shoulder a hard pat. It hurts.