Are you convinced you have the gun and the ammo to be a prolific surf writer? Are you unafraid of the telephone? Do discussions involving new season backpacks thrill you beyond measure? Yes? Well come inside! | Photo: Morgan Maassen

Advice: So you want to be a surf writer?

An Open Letter To Applicants For Rory Parker's Job.

Dear Bros, Dreamers, and everyone currently spunking pretty pastiches into Chas’ inbox,

Let me save you some time.

You know why there aren’t many great surf writers? Because it’s hard as fuck to be good at writing and surfing. Both involve lifelong learning. It’s not enough to love surfing, you need to love language as well. You need to put in the hard yards among the pages and the seaweed.

I know you think “I got 19 upvotes one time, I can do that!”

But you can’t.

You really can’t.

You may think you can do what Chas does. You may think you can replicate his Jackson Pollock approach to sentence structure, but I’m afraid you can’t. Not convincingly. If you can’t appreciate language in the first place then you can’t appreciate the craft of linguistic fuckery either.

I don’t care how well you surf. Doing surfing a bit good doesn’t mean you have worthwhile things to say. I’ve spent time in classrooms and jail cells. I would consider myself to have done solid work in each, but I sure as fuck don’t think I can be a teacher or a copper. Good surf writing is about writing, not surfing. If all you’ve done is surf then you’re wasting your time trying to be a writer.

You may think you can do what Chas does. You may think you can replicate his Jackson Pollock approach to sentence structure, but I’m afraid you can’t. Not convincingly. If you can’t appreciate language in the first place then you can’t appreciate the craft of linguistic fuckery either.

On recent evidence, a failed pro career and a SoCal address should actively discourage you from writing about surfing. You’re already a failure. The ship of language and literature has definitely sailed, my friend, and you’ll probably never catch up. Come back when you’ve served your time in life’s library. See you when you’re 50, maybe. You still won’t be fit to lace Matt Warshaw’s boots.

If all you’ve ever read is “surf journalism” (and Barbarian Days) then you’re not a writer. Maybe you once made it through a whole issue of The Surfer’s Journal as well. Wow.

If you’ve habitually disregarded other forms of art and literature then you’re not worth listening to. Watch a play, read some poetry, listen to rap.

If you think being able to identify an adverb is deeply wanky, then you’re not a surf writer. If you don’t understand structural features like listing, repetition, or rule-of-three, then you’re not a surf writer. If you can’t explain to me what a semi-colon does; then you don’t have the right to never bother using semi-colons. And if you don’t know what a rhetorical question is then you’re definitely not a surf writer, are you?

What about imagery? Do you see images made of words like Neo sees The Matrix? Can you weave language like silver ropes, and bind mingled swirls of fiction and fact? Your words should come back to the reader like hoisted water ravelling off a bucket, just like the singing of Heaney’s blind neighbour in At The Wellhead.

You should understand that story, narrative, is the single, defining factor that steered the evolution of human beings and captains our will to carry on. Be aware of everyone from Hans Christian Andersen to Nasir Jones.

Be purposeful when you write. Don’t be faux anything or evangelistic anything else. Understand irony. Be learn’d. You don’t exactly need a foundational knowledge of Greek philosophy but you should have something interesting to say. “One original thought is worth a thousand mindless quotings”. (Diogenes.)

Acknowledge those who laid the flagstones of your passion. I’d be willing to bet the sharpened edge of surf commentary was forged by the whetstone of literature. I’d bet Longtom has a working knowledge of the works of George Mackay Brown. Sean Doherty has read more books than you’ve had hot cocks. Finnegan’s a straight up scholar in mullet’s clothing.

Make your reader work but don’t fucking insult them. It’s your duty to stitch and to sew, and to make your words glow. Don’t ever submit without editing. Edit then edit again. Weave, scrub, buff and shine. And remember: economy of words, not economy of language.

And finally, if you think that the digital spunk-bubble generation has the capacity to appreciate anything over 600 words you’re dreaming…


Debate: Is Nazaré now equal to Jaws?

Did you once snigger? Do you now gasp?

Is it just my faulty memory or is it true that when Nazaré burst onto the scene it was considered an optical illusion? An oversized bunny hill? Not too tough? Teeheehee?

I dug into the archives and found this piece from Derek Rielly from two-ish years ago…

As the UK’s Daily Telegraph reported, “It’s the world’s most powerful and monstrous wave – yet it didn’t put daredevil surfers off showcasing their skills.”

I can hear you laugh! Me too!

Derek then goes on to quote the great Shane Dorian who says:

The place is a logistical nightmare. We lost a couple of skis. And, it’s really hard to do rescues there, really really hard. Each surfer needs his own water rescue guy on a ski. At all times. It’s really super dangerous. There’s a cliff there. All that shit.

Scary! And whispers of Naz not being up to standard faded. Right? Is my narrative correct? Is Nazaré now accepted on equal footing with Maverick and Jaw?

Is it world-class?

Watch these gorgeous new angles from RED BULL (suck it WSL!) and debate!


Daddy wants me to pave paradise and put in a parking lot!

Just in: Ivanka Trump blesses Hawaii!

She is Making Hawaii Great Again!

How many times have you watched the video clip of Mason Ho weaving that Pipeline monstrosity on Christmas day? Seven times? Eleven? I will cop to a full fifteen and counting.

It is magnificent!

But how did that wave arrive? Where did it come from?

Now that Rory Parker and his toothless but so angry liberalism has left the building we can tell you.

Ivanka Trump!

The force of nature arrived in Hawaii for the holidays (her husband is Jewish so we call them “holidays” not “Christmas”) and Made Hawaii Great Again by bringing sexy beach lingerie along with a heap of PUMPING SWELL!

screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-5-47-05-pm

Did you even know sexy beach lingerie existed?

And you still don’t believe me?

Watch this! Then watch it again and again and again and Make Hawaii Great Again!

Ooooooooeeeeee! Does it get any better?

Could it thrill you any more?

And do you remember the final day of the Pipeline Masters when… who won again… won? It was slop! Piddly! Kanoa Igarashi! But that is because Ivanka Trump wasn’t there yet.

Oh sure the angel’s father doesn’t believe in global warming and soon half of the ocean will be floating with plastic and nuclear holocaust etc. etc. etc. but look at this wave!

Look at this WAVE!

It is a wave I would suffer nuclear holocaust for!

Wouldn’t you?

#winning

#winners

#wieners

#MAGA

#Putin

#PutinLyphe


Biggie, Sabre, Sockie.

One day in the life of Sabre Norris!

Where the writer discovers the true meaning of family… 

“Bringing up a family should be an adventure,” wrote the psychiatrist Milton R Saperstein, “not an anxious discipline in which everybody is constantly graded for performance.”

Two days before Christmas, I drove to Newcastle to officially anoint my new favourite surfer with a documentary for our Like Bitchin’ series. I wasn’t going to see Craig Anderson, although he remains in my top six, tentatively given his recent limited output, Ryan Callinan, still top eleven despite discrediting my claim that he would win rookie of the year, nor Matt Hoy, the very first surfer I wrote a long-form profile on.

I’d become hooked on an eleven-year-old surfer/skater called Sabre Norris, dynamite on a board as you’ll see, frontside airs in surf, 540s on a ramp, but…even better… the owner of  a punchy and brilliantly clear mind.

You remember this interview from November, yes?

The interview drove the internet nuts. Millions of views. Worldwide press.

Best of all, an  invite to appear on the insanely popular Ellen show in Burbank, California, and gifts from Ms DeGeneres that included a trip to Las Vegas, five hundred American dollars and tickets to see Justin Bieber on his Australian tour.

In my story, I’d admitted that the kid had become my new favourite surfer and Sabre responded with a hand-written letter thanking me and inviting me to drive up and see ’em, “surf all day” and wrap it all up with dinner at Crinitis, an Italian restaurant famous for its crisp pizza bases and delicious toppings.

Sabre Norris letter

Sabre lives with her two younger sisters and little brother in an industrial estate called Thornton, thirty minutes drive inland from Newcastle. Their dad, the Olympian swimmer Justin Norris who beat Michael Phelps at the 2000 games, built a swim school out there and the family live in a two-bedroom apartment attached to the rear of the compound.

I meet ’em a little after dawn at a reef break called Cowrie Hole, just around from Newcastle Harbour. Mum is Brooke. The four children are Nazzie, who is six, Biggie (aka Coda), seven, Sockie (aka Cerrus), nine, and Sabre. They’re waiting outside of their black Volkswagen Caravelle, doors peeled open, wetsuits on, Gath helmets and little DHD surfboards lined up.

But first things first! Before I came, the kids drew up a list of ten questions about me that each answered. Could I mark ’em? Could I select the winner?

What sort of car does he drive?

“An Audi!” screams Biggie, punching the air.

“Show me your muscles!”

I flex.

“Yes! Bigger than dad!”

(One of the questions: will he have bigger muscles than dad? Later, I’ll see the Olympian and realise the child has been more than a little generous.)

Biggest wave, favourite dinner, favourite dessert, and so on. Pretty sure Biggie wins with four. Maybe it was Sockie.

We surf. The three kids drop synchronised chop-hops. Sabre paddles hard and pushes Sockie into waves. Biggie is all elastic muscle, growling and flexing, plunging down waves, as ripe as a tropical mango. Sabre lines up the water filmer and brings her rail to the correct distance from his wide-angle lens.

After the surf, Brooke gathers everyone to the van and, from a cool box, reveals the ingredients for breakfast: berries, bananas, strawberries, granola, vanilla yoghurt. Brooke constructs each kid, each adult, a cafe-worthy bowl.

Earlier, Nazzie had asked me what my wife did for a living. I said she designed clothes. She runs over and gives me a handbag she’d spent the last couple of hours making with a letter inside. Meanwhile, the kids peel off their wetsuits and reveal suntan socks and gloves.

Sockie Norris
Sockie’s pair of tan socks.

We drive back to the swim school. Sabre rides with me. Biggie’s in the back.

“Don’t put your feet up on the seat,” Sabre warns Biggie.

I tell ’em to do whatever they want.

Real early on, when I had sired a few kids, I realised I needed to make a decision. Keep my car looking good and be a pain in the ass or sacrifice the vehicle to the greater good of family harmony. Childhood’s too short to have it smashed by an eggy parent fizzing at sand in his car.

I explain this to Sabre, who, like the other three kids, has been throwing non-stop questions at me ever since I arrived, and she nods, smiles. I know she likes the theory, that kids are more important than a car, when she repeats the theory to her mum.

We talk about surfing in club contests (Biggie finished second, Sockie, second, Sabre won the open women’s), about travelling to Los Angeles, about eating, about surfing, about cars. Sabre wants a Lambo. I tell her I want a Porsche Macan.

“Sell BeachGrit and you’ll be able to buy the Porsche you want,” she says.

“Do you like Mitsubishis?” asks Biggie, so beautiful in his innocence.

Cough. Yup. Cough.

We arrive at the swim school, a handsome, low-slung building emblazoned with JUSTIN NORRIS SWIM ACADEMY, close to the arterial cord that connects Newcastle south and north. Eleven years ago, the family borrowed a million bucks to finance the dream. Be your own boss. Run your own school. No biz plan. A couple of mentors. They made it work. Had four kids. Brooke wants another. Nazzie records the pursuit of the fifth kid in an ongoing journal, documenting each pregnancy test.

The apartment attached to the swim academy is small, maybe fifty square metres. Two bedrooms. In the main, a mattress hits three of the four walls. In the kid’s room, it’s bumper to bumper. Nazzie against one wall, Sabre the other, Biggie and Sockie in the middle. When Sabre gets scared at night (it’s real quiet out here after dark) and she worries that someone’s gonna come in and kidnap ’em, she wraps her arms around her sister to keep her safe.

The main room is an open-plan kitchen and living room. There is one lounge chair, in red velvet, which I’m invited to occupy, rings hanging from the roof that Justin uses to train with, half-a-dozen guitars (the kids busk in Newcastle to raise cash) and the world’s tiniest Christmas tree. The one-foot high tree made of green tinsel delights the kids. It’s the first thing they show me. Then it’s the presents. Each kid has dropped a year’s worth of savings on a mountain of gifts. They grab ’em from the parent’s room, whisper in my ear what each one is, then pile ’em up around the tiny tree.

Time for a tour of the backyard. As we walk outside, I ask Sabre in which park did she nail the 540 two years ago?

“Park?” says Sabre.

We walk a corner to reveal a monster skate ramp the family had bought second hand. They were surprised at its size, too, when it arrived. Two smaller ramps are butted against it.

Sabre Norris
Sabre Norris and her backyard ramp.

Sabre practised the 540 one hundred times a day for a month until she nailed it. She knows exactly how many attempts because after each one she’d line up a little rock to keep count.

Biggie’s debut on the ramp was less auspicious. He snapped his femur. Today, for the camera, he re-enacts the break by laying on the ground, leg bent under his back, weeping.

Under an umbrella on one of the smaller ramps, we interview Sabre for the mini-doc. I ask her what she thinks about when she’s riding waves and she riffs on the exquisite freedom she feels in the surf. No parents telling you what to do, where to be, where to go. An isolation that’s rare in a kid’s life. She’s good. More constrained and thoughtful that the fireworks of the Ellen show or the excited calls on Today.

We go back inside. We play guitar. Brooke makes toasted sandwiches for lunch. Biggie and Nazzie urge me to go and swim in the pools now all the classes have finished. Justin swings over with a pair of goggles. When I’d arrived I’d asked for tips on getting speed in the pool. Not every day you get to peel open the brain of an Olympian.

I jump in. We work on my stroke, my head position, the way I breathe. Justin videos me with his telephone and shows me how crooked my left arm is and the awkward way I lift my head when I breathe.

As I come in, Brooke thanks for listening to Justin. Sockie sits in the red velvet chair and says, “This is the best day of my life.”

I drive away with a sense of family I’ve never felt so acutely. The kids are practical dreamers with that playful sense of nature only a country childhood can give. There is no banality in their lives. There are no video games. Here are children who are inquisitive and blessed with curiosity, empty of any television-infused cool. Open books. Books you want to read.

Sabre tells me she wants to retire from the world tour at twenty-two, after two world titles, and have six kids. She wants to build a series of inter-connected houses for her brothers and sisters, mum and dad. Giant rooms for all the kids. She expects her and Sockie will take turns being pregnant so there’s always a baby around.

They never want to be apart. Family is family, afterall.

Watch One Day in the Life of Sabre Norris in two weeks! 

 


You riding the wild QS!

How to: Qualify for the Dream Tour!

The world is your oyster!

Wow how rude was I yesterday? So Grinchy! So grouchy! So totally depressive! That is NOT the BeachGrit way at all! Rory Parker was a national treasure and we’ll miss him every day of the week but while we’re missing him should one of us maybe qualify for the World Championship Dream Tour?

Now that thought gives me wiiiings!

I read a piece this morning by Ben Mondy, who is very very funny, on Grind, which still magically exists, about Portugal’s Fred Morais.

This particular piece is not funny. It details the rigors of the 49 event qualifying series and how “difficult” it is etc. etc. etc.

“The ‘QS is so damn hard and can take a toll on your confidence,” Morais is quoted as saying. “You just have to keep plugging away and competing the right way. In the end, if you are good enough, you’ll get there.”

But I was thinking… what if you or I just entered every single QS contest, flying non-stop from Huntington to Maroubra to Israel to Hawaii to Queensland then we can stay in Australia for six contest, to French Polynesia to Florida to Tahiti to Argentina to Basque country to Martinique to Indonesia to Brazil to Indonesia to Bali to South Africa to Japan to South Africa to Hawaii to South Africa to Spain to Japan to Mexico to Chile to Japan to Portugal to Huntington to Cornwall to France to Virginia Beach to France to Spain to North Carolina to Portugal to Morocco to the Philippines to Cascais to Costa Rica to Japan to Hawaii to Brazil to Taiwan to Hawaii?

Oh our travels alone would lead to a global warming extinction event but…. for sure we would qualify right? Maybe not year one but probably year two. It is a joy of professional surfing that heats are not won by the best surfer. There are just so many variables from the ocean going flat to the judges being gently encouraged to screaming in the ear of a young 15 year old that he is not good enough.

And then you or I would be in the Big Dance!

Doesn’t that give you wiiings?

Should we try?