Robert Shaw as Quint in Jaws
Eeek! I'm in its jaws! Lewis, baby, Lewis! Help!

I saw a great white take my pal!

"I saw the shark breeching out of the water with him in its mouth!"

Lewis Samuels is what you’d call a soul surfer if that term hadn’t been so corrupted. Lew surfs lonely big waves in the sharkiest of northern Californian waters and he ain’t afraid of either.

Lew has five pals who’ve been attacked by great white sharks. One, Royce Fraley, has been attacked… twice.

Lew was there for one of ’em.

“We were really far out to sea, literally, about a kilometre out to sea. It took 45 minutes to paddle out,” says Lew. “Out of the corner of my eye there was this explosion. And as I turned around, I saw the shark breeching out of the water with him in its mouth. Then they fell down in an explosion of whitewater, like when a whale breaches. Fifteen feet is as big as a car and they’re a lot fatter in person than you’d think they would be. And he was in the fish’s mouth and there was this fucking impact in the water and then there was nothing there, gone, like a fucking whirlpool of displaced whitewater where he’d been. There was no one else near him, just another friend way up the line, and so when the attack happened, what are you fucking going to do? You’re not going to leave your friend out there.”

But, says, Lew, “Let me be fucking honest. My first fucking response was to paddle away. But I thought about it, he was my friend, and whether or not he comes up he needs my help. And so I paddled back over, got there and he popped up out of the water and he pretty much paddled up onto my back, literally, trying to get out of the water. I said, ‘It’s alright, man! Hold on! I’ll paddle you in, man!”

What does a shark attack victim look like? “I didn’t want to look. We were 45 minutes out to sea and I figured he’d have a leg missing. I had this 200 pound guy on my back but… he fucking seemed okay. We started paddling next to each other. A friend, Britt, a lifeguard, saw what happened from a distance and started paddling with us, checking him, and he goes, ‘Where’s he fucking hurt?’ It didn’t make sense. Finally, we got in, I ran to a pay phone a mile away ’cause there’s no cell phone service and when I got back down there he was with an ambulance.”

The injuries, says Lew, were “like little scratches. The whole attack was a like a cartoon, like a toothpick in a dog. The board had gotten stuck in the mouth of the shark and it didn’t clamp on him. He was holding onto the board as the shark took him under and he got the scratches when he bounced off the shark.”

Lew says he finds comfort in the fact that great whites in northern California are different to the more energetic South African and Australian breed. In that, they have a different hunting pattern. They might bite but they’ll let go after the initial bleed and wait for you to bleed out instead of taking you down straight away.

“That gives you time to get medical help,” says Lew.

How did the attack affect Lew? Did he surf the spot again?

“What are you going to do? I was out there the next day. The waves were good.”

Jeremy Flores Hossegor
The water ain't entirely pleasant, in south-west France, winter time, but there isn't what you'd call a shortage of swell. Swing a jetski to get out there for a better view ringside.

Ringside: Eight-foot Hossegor tubs!

With the comely Jeremy Flores… 

Derek floated the idea of doing film critic style evaluations of clips. I like it! Makes for decent filler content on slow days. And it’s fun to pick apart other peoples’ hard work.

So much easier to hate than create.

First on the block is Green Lines, a fresh hot joint from everyone’s favorite temperamental Frenchman, Jeremy Flores.

It’s a fun ride. Good surf, lots of Hossegor barrels. Sparing use of slo-mo. Which is a wise decision. Too much artsy-fartsy, frame-by-frame bullshit out there. Put to use well during one particularly pretty lay back fan.

A bit too much black and white. I don’t really understand why anyone would shoot surfing in anything but color. There are so many beautiful hues to play with, why stick with grey scale? Smacks of intro to editing.

Starting off with a bluesy ode to anal sex was a bold choice. One I fully support even though that particular musical genre doesn’t really speak to me.

The second half warms up good. Fleetwood Mac delights my white boy heart. Music that speaks to my honky soul in exactly the way the blues do not.

Thumping beachbreak tubes set to the crescendo of The Chain! What isn’t to love? Great hype up, got my pulse beating a little quicker. Made me check out how our hurricane situation is sitting. Excited to blow the dust off my fave pin tail and spend some time getting the ever-loving shit beat out of me.

A few filler turns, very nice B+ clips for the rest. I really enjoyed the waves with both a land and jetski angle. Love watching those little inside the barrel adjustments. The only area I really look for knowledge these days. Good tube riding skills are maybe still attainable. Airs are most definitely not.

All in all a very solid effort.

The type of stay-in-the-public-eye video that’s perfect for tiding over your fans while you save your best for a year-end edit.

Politics: “I danced with a Mormon!”

Tonight, Donald J. Trump takes the stage at the Republican National Convention. Four years ago I was there to see Willard Mitt Romney do the same.

Four years ago almost to the day I was in Tampa, Florida for the Republican National Convention. Casey Butler, a wonderful surf writer, reminded me of the time and today the story I wrote is very apt.

My flight touched down in the evening at Orlando’s international airport. I walked through the terminal, shoving by chunks, who stopped to gape at DisneyWorld and Dolphin Tale posters, and left into the sticky hot air. It was so sticky. So hot. It felt the way I always think Honolulu should but Honolulu always feels cold, at least initially. I got my car, an eggshell white Fiat, the same that J-Lo owns, and drove through flat uninspired green, though I did love how the Spanish moss draped from the trees. So Gone With The Wind! So the south will rise again! I drove to Clearwater, just outside Tampa, to try and secure a pass for the Republican National Convention. The hottest ticket since I don’t even know when. Since Ponce de Leon found the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine.

I met a man whom I was first introduced to in Finland three weeks back. He had done secret things in Afghanistan and Iraq and had just recently moved to what he called “cracker country.” I later saw “cracker homes” and “cracker food” and “cracker barrel” advertised on billboards. I, mistakenly, had thought “cracker” was racist. Apparently it is not. Now I can write, without fear, that almost all surfers are crackers.

This man, who had worked on political campaigns in the past and also for Hunter S. Thompson, before going dark in America’s dirty secrets, made “cracker country” look good. We drank cold beer at the world’s very first Hooters. We walked down to the beach and felt that warm water. We talked politics and about the Republican National Convention. He pointed out from the balcony and said, “See that building there across the street? That is where the dolphin without the tail from that movie is. They say it has brought over 500 million in tourism to the area but, you know, that dolphin is going to die pretty soon. I’ve got a theory. They are down there chopping the tails off replacement dolphins even as we drink…” It was a good theory. I asked if he could get me into the convention and he said, “No. I used to work for the other side.” I was on my own.

Tampa had been set up so that you could not even get into the town center without a pass from the GOP. Crazed protesters, mostly supporting Ron Paul or against “homo sex”, stomped around. Angry. How was I going to get a ticket? I parked J-Lo’s car and thought. I thought, “I will drink.” And so I went into the nearest hotel bar, a gaudy Hyatt, and pushed between two bad suits, ordered a mojito, and starred at the attractive brunette across from me. She was my ticket. We made small talk and her talk grated. She was from Wisconsin, in Wisconsin’s state senate, and I told her she needed the surf vote. That, if Republicans were going to have any chance to win this fall they had to secure the surf vote. She said, “Oooooh I don’t knowwwww. What does the surf vote need?” I told her clean water and Matt Biolos to be put on the ticket, or at least in the cabinet. She replied, “Sounds like Democrat stuff to me…” And I countered, “You, good woman, do not know Matt Biolos.”

At that moment her blonde, drunk, flirty friend stumbled over holding two pinot grigios. “Who is this?” she slurred in the same Wisconsin grate while eyeing my very nice Costume National pants. This was my moment. “We both need something. I need a ticket and you need the surf vote.” She didn’t even ask what the surf vote was, fumbled in her purse and pulled out a red “suite guest” ticket. She slid it across the bar, “You’re my new best friend, right.” “No” I said. “My wife would not approve of me hanging out with conservatives.” And I darted out before she could retract the gift.

I walked through miles of security, assuming I would be plucked out at some point but never was. I made it into the convention hall, into the suite, and drank Bud Light and watched speeches (Jeb Bush looks chubby. Clint Eastwood looks completely insane). I watched the delegates in totally bizarre costume. I talked with young Capital Hill staffers about Mitt Romney’s deficiencies. I told them he would win hearts if he just went outside, sat on the curb, and drank a Bud Light too. Even though he is a Mormon, they all agreed with sad sad sighs.

While moving down the floor for a better look, I pondered Florida so far. I liked the hot and sticky. I liked the water temperature, even though there were no waves. I liked that I was in the Republican National Convention. Ann Coulter broke my pondering by smashing into my shoulder, spinning around and giving me the eye, before being whisked away by security. My wife does not approve of Ann Coulter but I was starting to have warm feelings about Florida.

surfing drop in
This is a surfing drop in! With ass play! An interesting surf photo that requires no skill except grabby hands!

How to: fake surf shots like a pro!

You ain't real good? It don't matter!

I’ll be the first to admit I ain’t the surfer I usually think I am. On a little runner, with easy-to-read shoulders, and riding one of my stable and easy-to-surf Biolos quads, you might think, yeah, there’s something there.

But there ain’t.

Started too late, found solace in being too cool to try when I was on the cusp of being okay, didn’t join a boardriders club at an early-enough age, and the result is a sad lil man standing on a very crowded  wharf, the ship of good style and instinctive surfing long sailed.

One thing I do know, and this is something I learned from staring at thousands of photos as a magazine editor, is that you can fake a good surf shot.

Never had a good surf photo of yourself surfing?

Oh baby, let me show you how.

  1. Spastic isn’t a dirty word. On one hand, I’m glad we washed our hands of this epithet for anyone with cerebral palsy. How many kids did we torture with it at school? On the other hand, you’re not going to get a good surf shot if you think style means barely moving on a wave. The surf photos that work are the result of aggression and bold directional changes. Get spastic, baby! Get your ass low to your board, coil up, throw your arms in the turn, scream if you have to. I know a guy who might be, and this is an extremely competitive division yes, the ugliest surfer in the world. I think he’s Swiss, maybe. Beautiful man, body like an Olympian. But the way he bounces on his board and throws himself at the lip makes for… photos. I watch him surf, spellbound sometimes, snapping the shots in my head, knowing, he could take some of these home and be on the cover of a magazine.
  2. You’re not in the pocket and you’re nowhere near the lip. What a sad thing it is to see video of yourself on a wave for the first time. All those times you ragged on Alejo Muniz for not surfing critical enough? Oh god, look at this: you’re three pumps out on the face before you even started looking upward at the lip. Here’s the thing. If you think you should be stalling for the tube, that’s where you need to be doing your turns.
  3. Airs go toward the beach not off the back. Running down the line and throwing yourself off the back of the wave won’t look like an air however fast your photographer hits the shutter button. If you want a flying kick-out shot to show your pals in Cleveland , sure, keep doing what you’re doing. If you want something approximating an air that’ll fool your pals at the beach, huck it towards the sand.
  4. Think, one turn only: you’re not being scored on the wave, only the photo. Waste the entire wave if you have to. Murder five sections. Gather your speed and deliver.
  5. Go retro-fab: Soul arches are the easiest damn thing in the world. Throw your back out, hands by your side, and collect your very 2009 photo at the door.


John John Florence skateboarding
JJF flies, water or cement. Doin' one doesn't exclude the other… 

Dear Rory: “Skate parks or surf?”

Skate parks are a fun substitute, but they ain't the same thing…

Dear Rory:

They recently built a free world-class skatepark near my house, perfect five-foot-low, nine-foot-high kidney bowl with vert extensions, a bunch of buttery quarters and corners in the six-foot range, and all the basic street staples, everything executed with a perfect pour that grips wheels and slides knee-pads magically. There are never cops, they don’t enforce helmet rules, and it’s lit into the wee hours. Other than the fact that it takes my old ass a long time to warm up for morning sessions, I can’t find a single downside to spending my AM playtime clicking airs at the skatepark and I find myself surfing less and less in the adjacent beachfront community where I spent my youth but can no longer afford to live. I used to surf every day, but now my strongest connection to surf is reading BeachGrit. What’s a beached surf rat to do?


The Plaque on Andy Roy’s Missing Teeth

Dear Rory says: I know I’m getting old because I don’t think helmets and pads are lame anymore. Now they seem like a very reasonable precaution. I’m sure all the kids still think they’re dorky, but I really couldn’t care less if some teen thinks I’m cool.

I definitely don’t want to be the guy in his mid/late thirties who all the kids think is awesome. That dude’s creepy. Like, childless assistant AYSO coach creepy. Let the neighbor kids drink beer in his garage creepy. Bring your bible to the skatepark creepy.

A church near where I went to high school set up a shitty skatepark in some derelict commercial space and let kids skate all they wanted. They’d try to preach at you, suck you into their faith.

As an adult it seems crazy. Setting up something to lure in children, then indoctrinating them in your beliefs? How is that allowed?

If I tried to do similar I think people would have a real problem with it. And rightly so.

“Oh hello, come inside all you unattended minors! You can play all you want, eat sweets until your bellies are fit to burst.”

Set up a sundae station, fire up the video games. Have a grand old time. No adults allowed!

Then, when all the little ones are comfortable, their guards down, I just slide in some of my own beliefs.

“Your parents have no idea what they’re doing and kind of wish you were never born.”

“Drugs are great so long as you don’t take too many.”

“Spend your twenties fucking everything that moves.”

“Life is pointless. There’s no god, no afterlife.”

“Never cross a picket line.”

“You should suck at least one dick, just to see if you like it.”

“If you earn below a living wage you have every right to rob your employer blind.”

“You can’t get pregnant in the butt.”

After a while I’d single out the most easily manipulated, buy a van, rent some office space. Put the kids in my van and drive around the country recruiting more children!

It’s a good system. I can see why they do it.

What was the question again?

Skateparks are a fun substitute, but they ain’t the same thing. Because they aren’t the ocean.

Which is really what makes surfing special. The fact that it takes place in water and the ocean is just pure fun.

Swim, bob around like a potato, whatever. Being in the ocean is always nice. Even when it’s cold.

There’s always so much going on. The way the currents move, the different worlds on either side of the surface. You can play in it, hunt in it. It can kill you. Never a dull moment.

But you’re an adult, so you don’t have to go every day. Just become a weekend warrior. Check to reports, sleep in if it’s shit. Miss swells, who cares? You’ve made the responsible decision by moving inland. Surfing every day isn’t something responsible people do.

Sure, it means you’ve kinda given up. Definitely lost a part of your youth that you’ll never get back. But that’s what being an adult is, isn’t it?

Caught in a jam?  Stuck in a pickle? Send your life questions to [email protected]. Due to volume Rory cannot respond to every letter.