Jewel: Warshaw’s History of Surfing!

Matt Warshaw is an artist producing in his absolute prime. Come marvel!

I get v v v v v v v v vvvv bored with myself sometimes. With my own addled mind. Look at me. Just poking at this or poking at that. Poking at the dear Cori Shcumacher or Sharkbanz or The Inertia or WSL CEO Paul Speaker….. Don’t I have anything better to do? Better to write? Something real to contribute to this world?

Duuuuuuuust in the wind. All I am is dust in the wind.

So thank God for Matt Warshaw! He graduated with honors from Berkley with a degree in history. Did you know that? Did you know that he doesn’t just pretend to be smart but actually is? And his writing style… I tell you what, when I read Matt Warshaw it is like drinking a delicious cold-pressed green juice. Like eating an organic free range duck l’orange.

His work nourishes the soul and will be around forever and he just added a whole new series. The History of Surfing!

Just read from Chapter 1 as Matt takes us through surfing’s earliest Peruvian roots…

The caballito reed boat was probably invented around 3000 bc, as tiny coastal enclaves of northern Peru coalesced into larger, more complex villages and communities. Traders used the caballito to move goods short distances along the coast, while fisherman used it as a roving nearshore platform. Peru’s coastline is essentially barren, but the chilly eastern edge of the Humbolt Current—a massive nutrient-rich gyre moving counterclockwise through the South Pacific—is more or less a solid wriggling mass of anchovy and sardines. Fishing was, and remains, a Peruvian necessity.

The caballito is organic and decomposes quickly, so there are no examples from even fifty years ago, much less any from antiquity. Used daily, a caballito remains seaworthy for about six weeks, at which point the reeds turn mushy. The outer layers are then replaced, or the entire craft is thrown away. The modern caballito is thought to be built along much the same lines, using the same techniques, as those made thousands of years ago. Fresh-cut totora bunches are spread out to dry for three or four weeks, during which time the reeds stiffen and change color from green to brown-speckled beige. Hundreds of reed pieces are lashed together into component parts, which form the long front-tapered “mother” pieces, two of which are then placed side-by-side and bound together. As the final set of girdling ropes are installed, the prow is given its familiar dagger-like lift, which allows the caballito to navigate through the surf without nosing under. A rectangular storage area for nets, floats, and the catch itself is hollowed out near the back. The paddle is made from a single thick piece of horizontally-cut bamboo. An average caballito is 12 feet long by 2 feet wide and weighs 90 pounds, and it has the same awkward portability of a full-sized canoe. The ancient Egyptian papyrus raft, which predates the caballito by a thousand years, was a surprisingly similar craft, with its multi-bundle reed construction and raised prow.

If today’s caballito closely resembles those of antiquity, the mechanics of its use are likely the same, too. In Huanchaco, a Conquistador-founded town north of Trujillo and Chan Chan, the caballito remains the fisherman’s craft of choice. Along with the rest of Peru’s west-facing coast, the beach at Huanchaco is almost always blanketed in a light salt-tinged haze, the result of the cool Humbolt Current surface water evaporating and condensing as it glides past a warm shoreline. A concrete boardwalk fronts the beach, and local fishermen now paddle out wearing polyester soccer jerseys and surf trunks, but the scene is often shrouded in a kind of grayish prehistoric gloom.

A caballito will flex slightly as its owner heaves it into the crook between head and shoulder and then grunts his way down the beach to water’s edge. Huanchaco has no harbor or breakwater, but the waves at the base of a long point in the middle of town are always smaller and gentler than the beaches to either side. This is where the fishermen put in. Kneeling or straddling the caballito, he grips the bamboo paddle and uses a kayak-style stroke to push through the incoming surf and out to the fishing groups just offshore. On the return trip, some paddle to the beach during lulls. Those who ride waves do so carefully and directly, dipping the paddle into the water to maintain balance as necessary. The flipped-up bow prevents the caballito’s nose from pearling under while being pushed to shore, and the motion is simple, smooth, and unvaried. Wipeouts are rare. Only in recent decades, as the caballito became a beachside attraction, have the Huanchaqueros put a bit of showmanship into the routine, raising the paddle overhead, or trimming at an angle across the wave, and occasionally even standing up.

I mean…. I mean…… “grayish prehistoric gloom?” “…a massive nutrient-rich gyre moving counterclockwise through the South Pacific?” “A caballito will flex slightly as its owner heaves it into the crook between head and shoulder and then grunts his way down the beach to water’s edge?”

It’s art! All of it! Art!

Thank God for Matt Warshaw!

Go here for your own nourished soul.

But wait? You feel like some more Chas Smith? Oh gladly! Just close your eyes. Only for a moment and the moment will be gone real quick. All my dreams will pass before your eyes of curiosity!

(Hint: My dreams usually involve poking at the beloved Cori Shroomactor, poking at Sharkbanz, poking at The Inertia and poking at WSL CEO Paul Speaker. Duuuuuuuuust in the wind!)

BeachGrit TV: We wish this was!

The Lone Wolfs do it so damned good. Come watch Eden Saul of The Dead Kooks!

Derek and I give it the college try with BeachGrit TV. We really do. And someday it’ll be good. Our DIY thing will shine etc. And we promise no Cori Shumcacher ever again etc. Ever. Again. And. But. Ummm.

We both know how difficult “television” is to make. Neither of us are comfortable in front of a camera. Each of us run to the corners (off screen in “television” speak) as quickly as we can. Etc. But we promise no Cori Schoolmaker ever again etc. Ever. Never.

But the fact that we did once have Cori Spinnaker on a podcast and we do accidentally not make it to the corners quick enough shows how easy it is to go wrong.

And enter The Lone Wolfs. They do it all right from guest to timing to filming to host to…. everything. Come watch what surf TV should look like. This episode features Eden Saul of The Dead Kooks.

Oh you’ll enjoy every minute because it is actually good. I legitimately laughed at the end.

surf fight
I drag you into water by arm and destroy you!

Warshaw: “My Fav Surf Brawlers!”

And how he was once rewarded, post-fight, with a lifetime supply of cocaine!

Have you ever read Matt Warshaw’s History of Surfing? Oowee, it’s thorough. A quarter-of-million words spread over 500 pages and, according to Amazon, a “true category killer.”

But who reads books anymore, am I right?

Yesterday, Warshaw released a first instalment of the book’s contents online. Click here and you’ll be gifted the first two sections, the birth of surfing all the way to the early days of the North Shore. The other chapters will be dropped piece by piece over the course of the year.

Anyway, what was a conversation about history turned into a back and forth about surf brawlers, Warshaw’s favourites, how he was once cuckolded by a relative of Robert Kennedy and, in a separate instance, rewarded with a lifetime supply of cocaine after being mistakenly punched.

Read below.

BeachGrit: You a brawler?
Warshaw: No. A non-brawler from a long line of non-brawlers. My Jewish forebears ran off the Steppe years ahead of the invading hoards just to avoid any physical business.

I know you’re a man of distinction, owner of horn-rimmed glasses, live in a fog of perpetual white guilt there in Seattle, but no man is immune from our caveman past. Reveal, for me, those times when you’ve had to tamper down a burning desire to kill someone…

I was cuckolded by a Kennedy, RFK’s youngest if memory serves. Never met him, but he picked the phone up one morning when I called my girlfriend, and it stove in my world, and for a year or so after I spun out some pretty elaborate torture fantasies.

Kevin and I face off, and I’m sort of talking to him, not particularly worried, thinking it ain’t gonna happen, and next thing I’m my hands and knees, glasses sliding across the sidewalk, bottom lip burst open. One punch done. My pals who were supposed to jump in I guess were as surprised as I was, and faded into the crowd.

Ever put your fists up?

No. Almost. A guy I knew thought I was hitting on his girl at a party, and he called me out. Couple of friends were in my ear right away saying, “Hey man, don’t worry, if Kevin swings we’ll jump him.” So out we all go to the driveway. Kevin and I face off, and I’m sort of talking to him, not particularly worried, thinking it ain’t gonna happen, and next thing I’m my hands and knees, glasses sliding across the sidewalk, bottom lip burst open. One punch done. My pals who were supposed to jump in I guess were as surprised as I was, and faded into the crowd. Kevin and I had always been friendly, we’d surfed together a hundred times, and a couple days later he figured out that I wasn’t in fact hitting on his girl, it was somebody else. This was Manhattan Beach, 1982, and Kevin was an aspiring coke dealer. So next time he sees me, he fall over himself apologizing, and sets me up with a huge bump. For two years after that, ever time we ran into each other at a party, it was off to the bathroom. He overcompensated, if anything.

Historically, who are surfing’s most lively brawlers?
Johnny-Boy Gomes would be the most famous. Some of the Narrabeen guys in the ’70s, but we’d have to ask Nick Carroll about that. California surfer Gene “Tarzan” Smith, back in the ‘30s and ‘40s, was pretty dedicated to knocking heads. I believe he went out expressly looking to fight, the way other guys go out looking for pussy. Brock Little had a bit of that in him too, although I never saw it. Brock was so good at separating the different sides of his life.

Can you list Sunny Garcia’s most golden moments?
There’s a clip online of Sunny slapping Neco Padaratz’s head at Pipe, then chasing him up the beach into the bushes. I like that one because, like the story I just told, Sunny and Neco ended up friends. The fight at Burleigh (second clip below) hd something to do with Sunny’s kid. I don’t recall exactly. But anything having to do with your child puts violence in a different light. Somebody fucks your kid, right or wrong, all bets are off.

Is there a particular culture that celebrates surf fights? I know the Balinese do like a raucous gang bang, so to speak. Whereas the French will throw their arms up in the air, but rarely throw a punch.
I’m so afraid of fighting, or even being around it, that I won’t surf places that have a reputation for violence. I’m a short drive away from one of the greatest point breaks in the world, in Oregon, but the locals make the Bay Boys look like angry toddlers, so I’ll never surf there. Velzyland, back when I used to go to Hawaii, I would paddle out at daybreak then paddle in as soon the first local showed up. On the other hand, all my life I’ve cozied up to the enforcers at my local break. Never had anybody actually fight on my behalf, but I’d get mouthy now and then knowing that the gnarly guy a few yards to my right would jump in if necessary. Unlike my buddies at that party. Fuck, it is all pretty caveman out there in the water, still, isn’t it? Pussy cavemen were no doubt looking for protection from the local heavies just the way I did at Taraval Street, in San Francisco. Whatever gets you more waves, I guess.

All my life I’ve cozied up to the enforcers at my local break. Never had anybody actually fight on my behalf, but I’d get mouthy now and then knowing that the gnarly guy a few yards to my right would jump in if necessary.

Does it ever surprise you how… few… fights there are in the water? Why? Are we, essentially, cowards?
It does surprise me. We puff our chests a lot, and talk shit, but I’ve been surfing coming up on 50 years and can count on one hand the number of fights I’ve seen. Maybe two hands.

What would it take, right now, for you to punch someone in the water?
Nothing could make me throw a punch in the water. A half-century of personal surfing non-violence is what I’m shooting for.

But he sure can surf!
But he sure can surf! | Photo: Hurley

Revealed: Rob Machado can’t swim!

The world's most handsome goofy foot admits to a deeply hidden secret!

Some of my favorite days of the month are when I bump into Rob Machado at the market. Both of us shopping. Him growing more and more regal with age. Me with two bottles of vodka in my cart and packages of nitrate-free salami.

I bumped into him last evening at the market. Rob’s smile, if you have never seen it up close, is like the Buddha’s. Serene. Peaceful. Content. I asked him, “Do you think it is better to be dumb and know that you are dumb or to be dumb and not know it?”

The conversation turned, slightly, toward having enough general sense to be able to survive. Rob said, “I don’t even know how to swim but if you drop me at second reef Pipe I’m sure I’ll figure out how to get to the beach.”

“Really?” I responded “You really don’t know how to swim?”

“I mean kind of…” he said, “…but not well at all.”

And how’s that. Rob Machado can’t swim well. He is a Pipeline Master.

My take away? It is 2017 and we can be whatever we want to be. Spread those wings and soar!

The 20 Best Surfers in the World (Part 4)!

The final torrid instalment!

Find out why Jordy Smith needs to learn the true meaning of jihad. Why Gabriel Medina’s backflip was evidence of “tectonic stasis rather than progress”. Why the public is a bitch and how it relates to Dane Reynolds. How Kelly Slater accidentally represents the dark side of capitalism and why John John Florence is the necessary catalyst for a renewed tour.

5. Jordy Smith

According to Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the chief architect of salafi jihadism, America is the most decadent culture in human history, obsessed by the pursuit of wealth and luxury, corrupted by a depth of moral licentiousness never before seen. On pain of beheading I respectfully disagree.

I’m sick to death of writing that Jordy has no ticker. You can imagine a thousand pathways to a world title for Jordy but none of them involve winning a showdown at real Pipe.

I find Americans just about the stoutest and staunchest citizens on Earth. My only beef is when Americans use the word cunt. From puritan mouths it sounds queer and mean. It’s a convict term of endearment and it should remain so. That digression because I’m sick to death of writing that Jordy has no ticker. You can imagine a thousand pathways to a world title for Jordy but none of them involve winning a showdown at real Pipe.

Al-Zawahiri’s other intellectual achievement was the sanctification of what he terms “matrydom operations”, a concept our beloved South African/American could borrow when it comes to hucking the ledge at Pipe. Am I saying Jordy needs a bit of jihad in his soul to stiffen his resolve? I guess I am.

4. Gabs Medina

I know people are going to call me a glass half-empty miserable son of a bitch, even though I’m not. In real life I’m cheerful as a sky full of swallows. But I saw the Medina Rio backflip (what, forgotten already?) as a sign of tectonic stasis rather than progress. Flynn Novak pulled it off around the end of the last Ice Age, way back in 2010. That was the era of Kai Neville and the Kustom Airstrike, if you recall. Boat-load of the best progressive surfers on the planet in Indo with Kai cutting edits from it. Hard to believe they haven’t live streamed one like it yet.

Competitively, it was the last opening for a true progressive vision of the sport to emerge. Dane had effectively welded an avant-garde amalgamation of tail-high aerial surfing to brutal power hacks, Kelly had risen to the challenge, bringing new lines and fresh approaches to old venues. Natural heirs like Julian Wilson, Owen Wright and Jordy Smith were ready to punch through the hole into a radical future.

My heart pains to say that judges faced with radical choice cowardly turned back to the conservatism of traditional Aussie power surfing. Dane quit. The historical opening closed. We got Parkinson, Fanning and De Souza. Parker’s Dead Ball Era. In that context Medina could be the last best hope for a radical recurrence.

3. Dane Reynolds

Seen from the perspective of an omniscient, omnipresent narrator Dane’s career shimmers as the ultimate rock-n-roll swindle. Quit the tour on a high and slit the throat of the Quiksilver fatted calf with the biggest payday in history. One that forced the hand of CEO Andrew Mooney to turn away from “athletes”, make Kelly an offer he couldn’t accept and left a bloodless corpse to be picked apart by the vultures of predatory capitalism.

How to kill a company, by Dane Reynolds. Chapter 11: Redemption. Did you thrill,while watching Ch 11, to realise the wilderness hadn’t been empty save cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon but was in fact a dark night of the soul and Dane was now happy and on the other side?

Did you think, like I, that those good ole Ventucky boys Dane grew up with were reading from the book of Right-On when they proclaimed pro surfing as an aberration, a weeping syphilitic chancre on the flaccid cock of modern surfing?

The public are bitches. They turn on you in a heartbeat. In each of us lives a person who wants to be loved for himself or herself and not for his or her abilities, or even qualities. Value per se, intrinsic. A dangerously anti-instrumental, anti-capital orientation. Therein lies the motivation for Ch 11.

I understand panic attacks at pro surfing contests, having suffered a similar malaise for years. It’s a mark of exquisite taste that a man should feel spiritual and physical death descend at these events. Is it now too much to ask that Dane lets C-Kat bring the weird with the falcons and gives us what we want, what we desire from the WSL but rarely receive: raw, elegant brutality, no insipid 75% compromise, innovation? In short, the best surfing in the world. You’re no huckster Dane, so the question is: Is you is or is you ain’t going to bring the fucking gas money for the rest of the trip?

Sincerely L. Tom.

Chapter 11 from Marine Layer on Vimeo.

2. Kelly Slater

Capitalism is an insatiable bitch, is it not comrades? Despite being a digital entrepreneur and a sub-human redneck wastrel I hate it intensely*, more than Noam Chomsky, more than Naomi Klein, more than Yanis Varoufakis, more than Bernie, more even than all the nude hippies in Morning of the Earth smoking chillums in the cave at Ulus.

In the future, the one percent are going to own everything and milk us dry, charging fees on everything. They’re going to shred us all into tiny atomized monsters fighting each other in a bottom-feeding frenzy for scraps of paper trickling down through the gig economy.

The future is five minutes ago in the USA, five minutes away in Oz. Granted, hating capitalism is a fashionable shape to throw in public, one Kelly Slater loves to strike. He loves to swing for the fences with Monsanto who, after all, did nothing more than democratise GM seeds (true). They took jah’s seed and privatised it for profit, he took jah’s wave and did the same thing, in a process he described as “spiritual”.

Funny what folks find anti-depressive. Dark visions thrill me. When I’m down I love to imagine the smoking ruins of capitalism are nigh and the four horsemen wielding burning Merricks are galloping over the hill ready to storm the hated symbol of corporate oppression: the Slater Wave Tub. The blade falls and the surfing prole hoists the white flag of freedom.

Suited greedheads have been eyeing off surfing since the eighties, the seventies even, but we never imagined the person delivering the Judas kiss would be the greatest surfer of all time. Slater has finally achieved what business has yearned for but never been able to achieve: he’s turned the essence of the surfing experience, riding a wave, into a pure transaction. A wave as good to be sold in the free market for profit.

For that, for feeding what was left alive of surfing to the bitch of capitalism, and on behalf of the surfing prole I say: fuck you very much Kelly. Kelly’s legacy is now set in stone, hitched to the wavepool wagon for good or ill.

In the interim, while history arms itself against the rise of the wave-machines and their “unforeseen consequences”, there is a more pressing issue for Kelly to deal with: one last swing at a Title in 2017. Chances? Depends on Snapper. He can’t afford to be dead in the water after the Aussie Leg.

*Still available for freelance gigs. Special South Pacific and wave-tub rates available now! Call me Kelly!

1. JJF

I love it when a writer handles his subject with a cool, light touch, wields the scalpel so deftly the subject doesn’t even feel the hot sting of the blade. But I love it more when passion for the subject overwhelms them, when they lose restraint and start bludgeoning everything in sight like a viking on an orgiastic rampage. That is character. True Character. Like Dell on Israel, Chas on Yemen and Rory on Costco workers.

As for writers, same for musicians and surfers. When they let loose, when are they completely overcome in the moment is when the real shit happens. That’s why watching JJF in Rio and in the Portugal Final was so viscerally satisfying. There was no holding back. No “mind.”

How’d you like your world champ’s year? This’ll be as popular as a turd in the sangria bowl but I found it a tad… under-cooked. The biggest tour cheerleaders would find it hard to spin a narrative claiming the tour brings out the best in JJF. Low-energy lineups orphan his surfing in a haze of opioid indifference.

He sits there, and he waits, and he sits. As for Fiji, apart from round three did he not underwhelm, slightly but ever so surely? Well-beaten twice in succession in perfect six-to-eight-foot surf by Matt Wilko.

More than Pipe, more than Teahupoo, more than any other reefbreak in the world, CB demands a cerebral approach, a constant thinking and rethinking that just seemed to be beyond JJF. Easily surrendered to Fanning in the J-Bay Final, Slater at Chopes.

What he has is the inverse of what Damien Jurado sang about in Return to Maraqopa: Out there is nowhere but inside is endless-taking up room till you run out of space. He has endless space out there but inside is limited.

An algorithm can’t create now, or ever, the kind of surf which elevates him from the amazing to the sublime. What he did in the chaos of Rio, in Portugal, at Pipeline is a supra-intelligent transcending of chaos.

The tour must be restructured, in format and location, to do justice to the talent or suffer the slow burn of potential greatness dying on the vine. The Slater Era is dead. The JJF Era must proceed in a different biosphere. He is the greatest argument for renewal.