Midget Farrelly
Individualism doesn't always mean a drunk kink, tattoos and prison stints. Midget played it clean and departs this beautiful earth a… great.

Dead: Surf Icon Midget Farrelly!

Matt Warshaw on the squarest man in surfing… 

Australia’s first world surf champ, Bernard “Midget” Farrelly has died, aged seventy-one. Big deal? Yeah, maybe it is.

I threw a few questions at surf historian Matt Warshaw, currently on a mountaineering retreat, to show why Midget still matters. 

BeachGrit: Midget was Australia’s first world surfing champ. Which made him big in Australia. But is there anything that attaches him to surfing, now? Performance? Boards?
Warshaw: Midget’s timing, for those first big years, was perfect. He was the surfing gentleman, the boy next door, perfect manners, well-dressed, posh accent — at a time when surfers in general were just a step above pickpockets. He wore that mantle so well. When surfing went hippy, and Midget refused to go along, he got hammered for being a square. I think it’s greatly to his credit that he stayed true to who he was — an articulate, highly-focused, no-bullshit person. He actually did his best surfing during the years where he was uncool. Damien Hardman is the surfer who I think came closest to late-period Midget in terms of being hugely accomplished but not especially loved. I can’t seem to make a connection between Midget and any 2016 surfers. Sad to say, but I think he’d be as unpopular now as he was in the late ‘60s, in that he wouldn’t sing and dance and mug for our pleasure. He was better than that.

BeachGrit: The most interesting thing, it seemed, was his blood feud with the slightly younger Nat Young, who superseded Midge as Australia’s best surfer. Midget really hated Nat; and Nat was contemptuous of Midget. Any theories on its origin? Was it something to do with Midget’s anti-drug stance at a time when the world was turning on?
Warshaw: It’s complicated. Here’s what I wrote a couple years back:
The epigraph for Midget Farrelly’s 1965 autobiography This Surfing Life is brief. “When you’re comfortable, you’re dead.” The man was 21 years old, reigning world champ, and the toast of the Australian sporting set — yet he chose to introduce his book with that little nugget of gloom. Here’s what I’m getting at. The bitterness that would come to at least partly define Midget Farrelly in years to come — that was inborn. Some of it, anyway.

And some of it was forced down his throat. For almost 50 years now, Midget has been surfing’s most ill-treated figure. Surf media tastemakers lost interest in Farrelly not long after This Surfing Life was published because, A) he didn’t get stoned, and B) he was roughly 85% less charismatic than his protege-turned-rival Nat Young.

Fifty years ago, Bob McTavish, Nat, and John Witzig did an issue of Surfing World, cheering the arrival of the “New Era” (self-titled), which basically meant Nat and Bob and George Greenough. Midget was saluted, the article was in fact very much respectful of Midget, but clearly he wasn’t really included in their New Era club. So that was the beginning of the feud. It should have lasted a few months, maybe a few years, outside. But it never, ever died. Or rather, it died when Midget died. In the end, I think it was Midget holding onto the anger, more so than Nat. Then again, Midget was the one who had to eat the injustice.

Midget and Nat, in slightly breezier times…

BeachGrit: Wasn’t a big fan of the surf media, either. Because of its beatification of Nat? Of drugs?
Yeah, in a nutshell. Midget was hardcore anti-drug. Belittling, even. It wasn’t a nice side of him. He was so good at what he did, everything he did — his surfboards were as sleek and perfect as his surfing style — that I think he was blinded to the idea that other people could do things differently.

As far as I know, Midget never acknowledged that Nat and all the other red-eyed shortboard longhairs, dippy as they often were, had nonetheless moved the whole program along. Their was a stiffness to Midget, the person, even though as a surfer he laid down some of surfing’s most fluid, graceful tracks. He was uncompromising. It made him great and it cost him dearly.

Dane Reynolds married
Here, we see, at left, Dane Reynolds, the almost thirty one year old surfer known for his 'go-for-broke' surfing and, at right, the sassy creative Courtney Jaedtke, officially coupled today. | Photo: @miniblanchard

Dane and Courtney just got married!

And, now, advice from Rory Parker on the happy union… 

Dane and Courtney got married! Can you believe it?

Did she take his name? I don’t know. My wife didn’t take mine. No big deal. I’ve never really understood why women change their names. I’d never change mine. Rory Parker is my identity, flipping it into something different would feel really uncomfortable. She’s got a cool last name too. Slang for an awesome drug combination. Misspelled French because her cajun swamp trash ancestors were illiterate.

Dane and Courtney waited a long time before tying the knot. Pumped out a baby first. Built a life together. Really the right way of going about things. People change over the years, gotta spend enough time together to know you can change together. In such a way as to keep from absolutely loathing each other.

Marriage is, really, just a business deal. Like merging two separate companies. You both bring your strengths and weaknesses, build a whole better than its parts. Life’s better with a teammate. Definite benefits come tax time, or when you need health insurance.

Dane and Courtney
Family means theme parks!

Which is why you’ve gotta let the homos marry. God isn’t real, imaginary sky man’s opinion on unions shouldn’t count for shit in a modern society. The point of marriage is building a life as a team. Damn difficult without a government recognized status.

Before my five-minute ceremony on the beach at Mokuleia I had all sorts of heads giving me advice about marriage.

“Everything changes,” they said.

Except it doesn’t. We’d been living together for over a decade. At that point you’ve seen pretty much everything. I’ve shit my pants in front of my wife on multiple occasions. Once while walking down the road in Dahab, Egypt.

It was a bad gamble on a fart. Hot semi-solids flowing down my legs.

“Oh man, I just shit my pants.”

“Really? That’s fucking gross.”

“Whatever. I’m gonna hop in the water and rinse off.”

We were near a section of the Red Sea that was ankle deep reef for a hundred yards out. But no one around so I just did the squat and splash. Trying to clean myself enough to walk to deeper water. Wife watching and laughing and mocking.

Here comes the tour bus. Faces pressed to the window. Wife waving and smiling. Good memories.

She tried to tease me for it. I reminded her of the time were in Argentina and she ate nothing but bread and cheese for two weeks and eventually broke our hotel toilet with a log the size of my forearm. Sounded like she was giving birth. Very amusing.

Basically all that is wedded bliss. Pooping with the bathroom door open. Knowing someone has your back. Screaming matches over inconsequential problems. Badgering your wife into sexual role play.

“I’m your seventy year old uncle. You’re my twelve year old Mormon spirit wife.”

“I don’t want to do that.”

“Perfect! Keep it going.”

“No, seriously. Stop. I don’t like this.”

“It’s what god wants, little girl. Don’t you want to be closer to god?”

“No. Cut it out.”

“Listen, missy. You swore to love, honor, and obey. Now get on all fours. Don’t make eye contact.”

“Come on. You’re making me uncomfortable. This isn’t fun.”

“I’m gonna keep filling you full of babies until you die in childbirth. I don’t believe in modern medicine. I’ll just pray at your bedside as you bleed out.”

“Fuck you, Rory. I’m so over this.”

“Just a minute more. I’m almost there.”

Congratulations, Dane and Courtney!

Good call on waiting. Popping the question at the beginning of a relationship is for fools. The type of shit you see in movies. How children think love works.

There ain’t nothing romantic about signing a contract.

Laird Hamilton: A Hipster Hero!

Macho? Sexist? Mainstream? A hero to the hip?

I’ve decided to take a different approach. After speaking with Maui’s Laird Hamilton, who is fifty two years old, for an hour (or more accurately, after being spoken at by Laird for an hour), I came to the conclusion that he is an offshoot cousin of the now rampant surfing hipster.

While hipsterdom has sold out and hooked its vintage-clad extremities into every hole of mainstream society, the door has opened for the emergence of a pure DGAF (don’t-give-a-fuck) character such as Laird to take the title of avant-garde surf hero.

Since hipsters are generally defined by what they are not, I have compiled a short list of three things Laird is not, which if taken together should cement his new status.

Laird Hamilton is not… 

MACHO: While surf hipsters the world over counter macho masculinity via gender-bending floppy sun hats and rogue kindergarten-grade flower drawings at the end of video clips, Laird has the balls to admit safety is his top priority.

This commitment to safety is the fuel behind his taboo preference of towing over paddling. Laird says: “As long as I’ve been trying to ride big waves and as long as I want to continue riding giant waves, I’m trying to reduce the risk, not increase the risk, in order to have more shots at it and also not create the opportunity to have an experience or a wipeout that may affect the outcome of my love of big wave riding.” In the macho realm of big wave surfing, Laird is committed to putting safety first. The courage to admit to fear, the individuality to embrace it.

SEXIST: A (true) hipster would never be sexist. A while back, Laird’s now infamous comments regarding Maya Gabeira being neither skilled nor experienced enough to be out in maxing Nazaré were widely slapped with the tag of sexism.

Let’s say, for example, I entered into a life-threatening twerk battle with Anastasia Ashley, barely made it out alive, and then was later labeled as not skilled enough to be there in the first place. Sexist? No. Other men can twerk (I’ve heard) and other women, according to Laird, can handle any waves (citing goddaughter Keala Kennelly).

People tend to forget that Laird has shared multiple tow sessions with Maya and rescued her on several occasions. While you could argue that he wouldn’t necessarily be an authority in judging prone paddling capabilities due to his lack of involvement, to say that he is sexist for calling out a fellow tow surfer (of which he is, by default, the most experienced ever) with whom he has extensive experience is silly. It is in fact sexist to assume that he made those comments because Maya has girl parts.

“My mother was an incredible woman. I think women are more than capable of doing many of the things that men do, and quit a few things that we are not capable of doing.” Loves his mommy and admits women can do things men can’t? Hipster. Quintessential surf-hipster-guru Kai Neville including Dusty Payne’s blatant and non-ironic sexists comments in Lost Atlas? Poser.

MAINSTREAM: Alaias, retro twin fins, neck beards, asymmetrical whatevers, all had their birth (or rebirth) in modern surfing at the hands of a few individuals (hipsters) trying to break the monotonous mold of the standard potato chip.

Now,  there are hoards of bearded bros from Malibu to the Maldives hand-jiving down the line on their Mini Simmons. What does this mean? It has evolved from a splinter group to the mainstream.

From hydrofoiling to stand-up paddling to windsurfing and kitesurfing, Laird is one of a very exclusive group of guys shredding alternative equipment in XXL waves. And, according to him, they get no love.

“You know it’s interesting. I saw Kai Lenny paddle that morning (last big swell at Jaws) for probably six hours, then he went on his stand-up board and got a couple of the better waves of the day and then a bunch of guys gave him a hard time, and I was kinda like, ‘I don’t understand that’, like, ‘Don’t be so narrow minded that you can’t appreciate that.’”

Need more proof of Laird as the master of… everything? Inhale here.

Terror: A new threat in beautiful Big Sur!

Sharks, elephant seals and mean locals used to scare but now there is something worse!

I am in Big Sur and it is fantastically beautiful but danger bristles around every majestic corner. Wildlife, from the great White Shark to the bulbous elephant seal guard the ocean. A terrible wildfire burns in the north, befouling the air, and crusty locals patrol the most secret of surf spots.

Oh it is such an adventure!

Big Sur, and the rest of California’s northern coast, used to be a regular stop in my life but I haven’t been back in ages. The unbreakable vistas. The cliffs that careen into oblivion. And I have discovered a new, most terrifying new menace.

Chinese drivers.

Oh son of a bitch, have you ever driven here? The roads are perched at the very edge of those cliffs that careen into oblivion, straight into the mighty Pacific hundreds of yards below, the great White Shark and the bulbous elephant seal ready to tear meaty bones from mangled auto wreckage. Giant boulders teeter above the roads begging, pleading, to be loosened so they can mash and smash and bash unsuspecting motorists.

The bends and winds, switchbacks and S-turns are severe. Maybe more so than any other stretch of road on earth. And now each is filled with Chinese white-knuckle gripping the steering wheels of rented Fords and Dodges.

Terror would be in their eyes if their eyes were visible. Their eyes are not visible, though, because they are hidden behind Police, Armani Exchange, Costa and other off-brand sunglasses.

Oh son of a bitch, have you ever driven here? The roads are perched at the very edge of those cliffs that careen into oblivion, straight into the mighty Pacific hundreds of yards below, the great White Shark and the bulbous elephant seal ready to tear meaty bones from mangled auto wreckage.

These are not American born Chinese but Chinese from China. 參觀大蘇爾 (Visit Big Sur!) must be a best-seller at this very moment in the People’s Republic because they are literally everywhere driving like folk who have never even seen a car much less know how to operate one. They creep along at a snail’s pace, weave erratically, sit in the middle of traffic and try to cross an opposing lane. They brake wickedly and without warning. They have no idea what a passing lane is and what a turn out is and what a speed limit is and that it is not, in fact, a “limit” but a meek suggestion for the lowest probable rate of motion.

You can keep your ISISes, your terrorists and your bombs. Big Sur is the scariest place on earth. I dare you to visit.

Hawaiian Airlines
I called up the Hawaiian Airlines customer service line at (877) 426-4537 to see if they could shed some light on the matter re: surfboard charges. What followed was one of the most bat shit crazy attempts to find information I've ever experienced. Thirty five minutes on the phone, half of which was spent on hold. No big deal, the lady was trying to help. Kinda. If you consider politely giving me totally wrong information regarding size restrictions, prices, and damage coverage, refusing to transfer me to someone who knew more, then finally admitting, "We actually don't know the process of the airport agent because we actually are located in the Philippines," helpful.

A Batshit crazy call to Hawaiian Airlines!

Regarding Kelly Slater and Bob Hurley's recent complaints… 

I like Hawaiian Airlines. Do my best to use them to and from the mainland. Usually a little more expensive than other carriers, but I think it’s worth it. Staff is typically very friendly. Planes are newer. Always very clean. I’ve honestly had nothing but good experiences.

But I don’t travel with surfboards.

No real reason to bother. I live where the water is warm and the waves are fairly good. I’m perfectly happy to avoid the hassle of lugging around a huge bag. Don’t mind riding beaten rental equipment. I toss a pair of swim fins in my roller bag, go for a bodysurf if that’s my only option.

So when Bob Hurley (and Kelly Slater) started complaining about Hawaiian Airline’s policy regarding surfboards my first reaction was, “Aw, boo-hoo. Poor rich boy wasn’t being catered to?”

Probably an unfair response.

Yesterday Hawaiian Airlines posted a rebuttal on Instagram. One sentence in particular stuck in my craw.

Plus, we’re liable for damages if something goes wrong. The fees we charge are intended to cover those costs, and we try to keep them reasonable and competitive.

Translation: We charge you for the damage we do to other people’s boards.

They followed up with:

We try our best to inform our guests about these policies before they travel, because nothing is more upsetting and frustrating than learning about them at the airport. 

Can’t argue with that. Unfortunately, the policies on their site aren’t one hundred percent crystal clear.

So I called up the Hawaiian Airlines customer service line at (877) 426-4537 to see if they could shed some light on the matter.

What followed was one of the most bat-shit crazy attempts to find information I’ve ever experienced. Thirty five minutes on the phone, half of which was spent on hold. No big deal, the lady was trying to help. Kinda. If you consider politely giving me totally wrong information regarding size restrictions, prices, and damage coverage, refusing to transfer me to someone who knew more, then finally admitting, “We actually don’t know the process of the airport agent because we actually are located in the Philippines,” helpful.

And, of course, no one would ever consider that helpful.  It’s the complete opposite.

If I actually needed the information I would have lost my fucking mind. Thankfully I was just playing surf journalist and was able to remain nice and calm.

You can listen to the call here. It’s pure lunacy. It has been edited to remove time I spent on hold, nothing more.

What’s the takeaway? Hawaiian’s release was nothing more than a disingenuous PR move. They don’t have a clear policy in place, their support staff is totally untrained. Ship boards with them at your own peril. Despite what they say there’s no way of knowing what’s gonna happen until you’re standing at the gate.

What really sucks is there’s not much we can do about it. Hawaiian could serve me a steaming pile of shit for my in-flight meal, charge fifteen bucks for it, and I’d still choose them over Delta or United.

Hawaiian hasn’t lost my business. Still gonna use them to and from. But it’s worrying. Demonstrates a real lack of care. Shows that they’re far more concerned about perception than actual service. Whoever is in charge of the company’s public face is totally detached from the actual operation.

Get your shit together, Hawaiian Airlines.  There’s no excuse for this kind of service.