Rick Rasmussen

Rasmussen: “Killed in the Ghetto!”

Matt Warshaw on the seventies surf god Rick Rasmussen…

Earlier today, the Encyclopedia of Surfing dropped one hell of a story. The life and death of seventies surf god Rick Rasmussen, killed in a New York drug deal. The story, called The Cadet and The Surfer, and reprinted from a 1982 issue of New York magazine, follows the parallels lives of a black kid in Harlem who ends up getting out of the ghetto and studying at West Point and a preternaturally talented surfer who chases drug cash into the ghetto and dies.


When Rick and the cabdriver returned to the street, they were still arguing. Rick apparently decided that he was about to be robbed. Jacquie had given Rick a gold Rolex for his birthday, and now she heard him say to the cabdriver, “Don’t take my watch.” Then she heard Rick lower his voice and say to her, “Lock the door.” Rick ran around to the other side of the Mercedes. A figure circled around the rear of the car. Jacquie remembers that Rick raised his arm and said, “Just don’t shoot my girl.” Hearing a shot, Jacquie dived to the floor of the car. She looked up and saw a gun pointed at her. She put her hands over her face, waiting for a second shot. She heard a voice say, “Get the girl.” Then she heard a second voice say, “No, let’s just get out of here.” After the cab drove away, Jacquie got out of the Mercedes. Rick was lying on the pavement with a three-inch hole next to his left eye. 

Rick Rasmussen. Best surfer from New York ever? That’s the legend. And who else to ask to ratify such a legend than Matt Warshaw? Let’s rap.

BeachGrit: So Rick, Ricky, the Raz. One of a kind surfer? Or is the legend a little gilded?
Warshaw: Hot, hot, hot. West Coast surfers, and a lot of East Coasters too, at the time, were really into being soulful and smooth, people riding pintails at their local beachbreak, feet together, dumb stuff like that. Rasmussen was aggro, stylish and aggro both, pushed his turns, went square off the top, and charged big Pipe as soon as he got to Hawaii. And like all the other dead surfers we’ve been talking about lately, had the charisma set on stun. Perfect surfer-blond hair, big Paul Newman smile, money in pocket, good taste in cars. I’d have to look it up, but I’m sure Rick was among the Top 10 most-laid surfers of the mid-70s.

BeachGrit: You would’ve been a kid in his prime, what was the vibe like?
Warshaw: When Rick won the 1974 US Titles, I was 14. Super-bummed cause I didn’t make the West Coast squad in boys division. Mark Levy, the guy who ended up winning juniors, went to my high school. Incredible surfer, like Rick, maybe even better—got a 3rd or a 5th in one of the first IPS contests, then quit and went to college instead. So the vibe that year — in South Bay we had this incredible surfer, Mark Levy, plus Mike Purpus, and here’s Rasmussen coming on strong from the other side of the country, and Bertlemann is going full Rubberman in Hawaii, plus we’ve seen MP in a surf movie or two, so it was like . . . we don’t have to ride pintails any more! Let’s surf like the kids we are! It was liberating. It was a turning point.

Like all the other dead surfers we’ve been talking about lately, had the charisma set on stun. Perfect surfer-blond hair, big Paul Newman smile, money in pocket, good taste in cars. I’d have to look it up, but I’m sure Rick was among the Top 10 most-laid surfers of the mid-70s.

BeachGrit: What was Ricky’s signature on a wave?
Warshaw: The picture that kind of made him famous, shot during the ’74 Titles, he’s coming out of a nice fast Cape Hatteras tube while hanging five. It’s more a style shot. Shows his versatility, but doesn’t really capture the way he attacked. Rick’s signature move was a forehand off the lip. Difficult on a block-railed single-fin, but he managed. He rode better over the next couple of years, after Jack Shipley loaded him up with free Lightning Bolts.

BeachGrit: He went to G-Land with Lopez and co, yeah? How did he compare to that crowd?
Warshaw: Not sure if he went with Lopez, but was one of the early guys there, yes. So he had a bit more zing off the top then Gerry, but was never going to snatch the pebble from the masters hand in terms of tuberiding. Lopez probably did his very best surfing at G-land in those early years. Raz couldn’t touch him. Nobody could.

BeachGrit: Handsome motherfucker, too. Talk to me about his glamour. The looks, the Merc, the Rolex.
Warshaw: I don’t know what the deal was in terms of family money. Some there, I think. But in ’74, when Rick was champ, he was scruffy-cool. Shirtless, trunks, beat to shit board. The board he won the contest on must have a year old, it had big brown patches on the bottom, looked like something you’d buy at a garage sale. Three or four years later, he’s cashed-up in a big way, dressing like Jagger, fine cars, all of it. And that’s just straight-up drug money.

BeachGrit: In that story about Raz and the West Point kid, sounds like his gal liked dick. Y’read that bit where she invites the black stud to Long Beach? Is that what you read into that passage, too?
Warshaw: The ‘70s and early ‘80s. Everybody was fucking everybody. Herpes couldn’t stop us. HIV did.

BeachGrit: How did the surf gang react when he was shot? Do you remember hearing about it?
Warshaw: The surf mags covered it only in passing. The surf media was so bad at stuff like that back then. A couple years before Rick was shot, Butch Van Artsdalen died from complete internal shutdown due to long-term alcoholism, and the mags didn’t even mention the cause of death. Guy was 38 years old. Full-page article, and no mention of how or why he died. The reason I posted that New York magazine piece is that it’s the only full treatment I could fine on Rick’s life and death.

BeachGrit: Rasmussen got a legacy?
Warshaw: Charisma kills? Between him and Bunker and Jay Adams, it’s like, if you’re the most radical guy in town, with a great smile, and you got the world on a string at 18, you’re doomed.

Question: Where do the ultra-rich surf?

The great Jamie Brisick explores!

Today Donald J. Trump is being sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America and I only mention because he is very rich. If he surfed where would he go? How would he go? Would he buy property at The Ranch? Jump off a yacht? Go the the Four Seasons Maldives?

So many options! Thankfully the great Jamie Brisick explores some of them in today’s Wall Street Journal. I don’t mention Mr. Brisick here nearly as much as I should. He is one of the few surf voices that matter. An artist. And I will mention him more moving forward.

In any case, let’s read the beginning of his Journal piece. It is helpful and good.

AS I CLIMBED out of the bathtub-warm Indian Ocean and onto the deck of a motorboat, one man grabbed my surfboard, another handed me a bottle of chilled water and a third doused me in fresh water then handed me a fluffy white towel. Before I finished drying off, a fourth man offered me a plate of sliced cold coconut. I felt like a cross between a prizefighter in his corner and a starlet between takes on a film.

The Four Seasons Maldives.

It wasn’t always like this. As a lifelong surf traveler and a professional surfer from 1986 to 1991, I’ve spent untold hours sleeping on couches, dining at 7-Elevens and getting stuck on potholed dirt roads in poor countries. That was par for the course—surf trips meant roughing it. But evidence is mounting that surfing’s demographics have shifted. Shiny new Audis and Range Rovers have replaced the rusty pickups and vans that once filled the parking lots at popular breaks in San Diego and Montauk, N.Y. An investment banker friend recently referred to the “Wall Street surf season” without irony (meaning spring days when, thanks to daylight savings, stockbrokers can race to the surf before nightfall). There is a Middle Eastern prince who can tell you which Oahu North Shore spot to hit at high tide when a 6-foot swell rolls in from the west.

“About 10 years ago the market started shifting,” said Ross Phillips, founder of Tropicsurf, a surf outfitter that runs bespoke tours in the Maldives, Indonesia, Australia, Fiji and other countries. “A good portion of our clients were baby boomers who’d been in the office for 20 years and come back to surfing through the popularity of longboarding,” he said, referring to the larger, more stable surfboards. “At the end of our surf trips I’d ask ‘How can we improve our service?’ They’d say ‘air conditioning’ or ‘fillet steak instead of rice and curry every night.’ There was this call to make the quality of the trip better.”

Finish here!

Come hither or go thither?
Come hither or go thither?

The Inertia: “Female surfers dangerous!”

Alt-right mountain blog singles out half of the population!

Venice-adjacent’s alt-right The Inertia has been accused of overt racism many times but today they went after women too. The sometime surf website reported just hours ago:

Turns out the vibes were not all aloha at Lunada Bay during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day protest meant to end localism at the righthand point. A female surfer believed to be a Palos Verdes local was apparently dropping in and attempting to run visiting surfers into rocks, according to video footage obtained by The Inertia.

Two women repeatedly perpetrated these aggressive shenanigans, according to Victor Otten, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the federal class action lawsuit against the Bay Boys. Otten was not at the event, but speaks on behalf of his clients.

“A female surfer attempted to spear my client Ken Claypool in the face with her surfboard,” Otten said in an email. “There was also another local girl in the water intentionally dropping in on visiting surfers attempting to drive them into the rocks. As the link to the video shows, these two women spent the day harassing visiting surfers and intentionally putting them in danger.”

A female surfer? Attempting to run visiting surfers into the rocks? Aggressive shenanigans? Face spearing?

For shame The Inertia! For shame singling out women surfers as perpetrators of lineup violence! Watch the video for yourself and gauge if there was purposeful rock pushing and face spearing by the fairer sex in video footage obtained by The Inertia (below).

For shame!

Kelly Slater certainly doesn't need a surf journal. His mind is a steel trap.
Kelly Slater certainly doesn't need a surf journal. His mind is a steel trap.

Question: Are you a scientific surfer?

Lewis Samuels' wonderful surf journal is put on display!

And I am finally just home from Japan. Tokyo. Shabu shabu. Kawaii. Pow. Etc. My brain is wrapped in a blanket stitched of lag. It feels as if I’m swimming through the world very slowly. Stuck in deep molasses. Maybe a ponzu reduction.

In any case, this general malaise found me scrolling through Instagram very early in the morning and do you know what I saw? Do you know what impressed me greatly?

The great Lewis Samuels’ surf log!

Just look at it! Look at it in all of its glory.

He writes:

My surf journal from January 1992 – twenty five years ago. Includes earnest statements such as “2-3′ EPIC tubes” and “caught as many lefts today as @natemccarthy”

If you zoom in you can make out some phrases like:

January 8th: Go wide in tube as strong watches, then speed then second section…


January 9th: A pristine day of surfing…

And it impressed me greatly because of the seriousness with which surfing is taken. It is no frivolous pursuit. It is a science, here. A series of noted experiments. And it made me think of how much better at surfing Lewis is than me and also make me wonder if what separates us is this level of exactitude.

My memory being bad and such, every time I go surfing it is like the first time. My body retains enough memory for me not to look overtly foolish (I hope anyhow) but my mind is a blank and shallow landscape. An empty pool. Thus progression stalls. I have fun but the same sort of fun every time I surf (I think anyhow).

How do you approach your surfing? With the eye of a surgeon or the eye of an drunk?

Should we all keep surf journals and see if we can improve our skill?

Will Mick Fanning Retire?

Taylor Paul seeks a finite answer from the 3x champ!

Ever since Fanning’s fateful 2015, the surfing public has been left to wonder about the path of Mick’s professional career. Will he fuck off and travel the world, trading beers and tubes across the five oceans and seven seas, or will Lightning strike a fourth time?

Mick has relentlessly shirked this question for the past year and for good reason — he’s not sure himself. Well, at least he wasn’t at the time. But according to this wonderful article by ex-Surfing-editor Taylor Paul, Mick should have made up his mind by now! Here’s a snippet:

Right now, I’m interviewing Mick in our hotel, and he’s giving me the answers you’ve read above. He’s thoughtful and well-spoken in his responses, the consummate professional until — ping! — his phone announces a text message after I ask him whether he’s accomplished everything he wants to in surfing. He pulls out his phone to silence it, but looks at the screen first.

“It’s John,” he says. As in, recently-crowned world champ John John Florence. “I texted him yesterday and he just wrote me back.”

“What’d he say?” I ask.

“Umm…” Mick swipes his finger across the screen and reads quickly, almost bashful, “He said, ‘Thanks for the text. I’m so stoked. Couldn’t be happier. Thanks for inspiring me. I’ve learned a lot from watching you and can’t wait to learn more. Hope you’re scoring waves and enjoying the year.’”

“That’s awesome,” I say.

“Um…yeah…” Mick’s looking down, his wheels are turning. I don’t know what he’s thinking, but I know what I’m thinking — I wonder if John would have won if Mick had been there. After a few moments, he looks up at me, “What were we talking about again?”

Tonight we’ll see The Lumineers in concert. Tomorrow we’ll leave. Mick will go to London for a few days to rendezvous with Parko, Alain Riou and Ben Howard. Then he’ll go to Amsterdam for a week. By himself. He’ll work on a book project, he’ll wander the city, he’ll be invisible. Then he will go to Norway to surf beneath the northern lights. Two weeks later, I’ll bump into him in the Dubai airport on his way home, the place where he’s going to “sit with it” and make the right decision. He’s pale and unshaven. He buys me a coffee and we talk for while. He doesn’t mention the tour and I don’t ask. He just wants to know how I’m doing.

You can read it all here.

Soooo that was like three months ago. Which means Mick should probably have an answer by now, right?

Whilst we await his final decision, why don’t you take a few minutes to watch Mick’s triumphant return to his Irish homeland. It’s got good surfing, cinematography, insight, etc.