Obama: The New Laird!

Ex-POTUS discovers new thrill-seeking passion

Being Pres ain’t easy. You’ve gotta wake up early, sign hundreds of executive orders every single day, and work tirelessly to appease and unite 300 million people, most of whom hate each other more than they love guns and socialism, respectively.

This means little time for hobbies — besides like 300 rounds of golf but who’s counting?

Since his tenure came to a close, Obama has taken a much-needed vacation to the British Virgin Islands, a small Caribbean archipelago known for it’s cerulean waters and yummy rummy cocktails. But between the Man Tais and family time, Bruddah B has taken up friend Richard Branson’s offer of kitesurfing the equatorial gales. And I’ll be damned if our ex-Pres doesn’t show a little Hawaiian know-how!

With his back straight and knees creased just so, Barack looks on course to become another unwanting Technique Critique recipient in short time. Plus, if he’s got this much ability in his first go, imagine what he’ll be doing with a few years experience under his Beach Grit boardies (Derek, get this man a pair. He rocks ’em short!). I reckon he’ll be whipping into solid swells, perhaps on a foilboard, perhaps in the tube, perhaps getting super duper ripped and nutritional and perhaps eclipsing Laird Hamilton as surfing’s one true leader.

At just fifty-five, B’s got almost half a lifetime ahead of him. And wouldn’t it make sense for him to dedicate the latter stages to surf? It’s a healthy, anti-depressive activity that brings out the best in everyone, proven especially by the Beach Grit commentary section. Hell, maybe Obama’ll even start reading the site. That’d be something!

Nothing more absurd than surf journalist!

I get back into a surf event broadcast booth! Kind of!

I was once allowed into a World Surf League booth to call live surfing action. It was also, and maybe coincidentally, the last time. My memories are fuzzy but there was much early morning beer and many swears. And heavy reprimands later. But oh it was the time of my life!

Two-ish days ago I got to relive thanks to Red Bull.

And have you been listening to The Other Guys on the Volcom Pipe Pro broadcast? It is such a wonderful thing! Red Bull has the main booth feat. standards Sal Mas, Ross Williams, etc. They call the action normal. But if you ain’t in the mood for normal you can click to another feed which matches the action but has a freer format.

Chris Binns and Taylor Paul host and it is fun, interesting, good. Like chatting with pals!

And somehow I got to chat too. I was told by a wonderful friend at Red Bull that I was going to get called in. I chuckled and said, “Sure.”

It took some days and then 4 extra hours to convince the powers that I wouldn’t get everyone fired/sued/slapped/killed but he did it and I was called in! 4 hours later than scheduled. I was not drunk but at Legoland with a 4 year old which is very similar.

In any case, you can listen here, at the 1:00 mark or something middley, but more importantly it is a really great idea, don’t you think, to have separate audio feeds? Where if Joe Turpel is dripping too much honey in your ear you can flip over and get someone else? Maybe someone like Steve Shearer or Nick Carroll? And if the World Surf League was as smart as Red Bull they would hire Steve Shearer and Nick Carroll to be their other guys.

Mason Ho Keeps His Promise!

Young Hawaiian learns the true meaning of capitalism

I’d never been to the Surfer Poll Awards before this year. I rode there in the back of an old pick-up, beer in hand, wondering what it’d be like to sit in a room full of my heroes.

The night was mostly underwhelming, except for Mason Ho.

During the ceremony Mason won a couple awards: “Best Series” and the “AI Breakthrough Performer”. After receiving two rounds of congratulatory hugs and symbolic plastic surfboards, Mason took the mic to thank those who have inspired and helped him along the way. This of course includes his sponsors Rip Curl, …Lost, and — I’ll let him explain the rest.

The comedy! The candor! For those of you who can’t/won’t watch the clip, here’s the rough transcript:

I’d like to thank my sponsors again: Rip Curl — I never do that, ever, so it’s pretty cool — ummm Rip Curl and …Lost and Arnette and Etnies… but those two need to work on the contracts ’cause I’ve got other cooooool, super cool companies lookin’ for me. And then ummm, yup. So you better get that contract through, I know you seen my email this morning.

Now that I’m looking at it, Mason’s speech comes off a bit… Trumpish. Not in the overwhelmingly ignorant sense, but that his mind is spinning three times too fast, rendering him incapable of formulating a single, cohesive thought. But hell, it made perfect sense in the moment and was easily the highlight of the event. Also Mason wasn’t kidding!

Just one hour ago, Mr. Ho released an IG post announcing his inclusion to the Reef team. AKA buh-bye Etnies! AKA hello beer-popping slippahs!

This announcement filled me with joy, for the fact that we’ll be seeing even more of the globetrotting Hawaiian in 2017. When you combine Reef’s slogan of Just Passing Through with Rip Curl’s biggest property The Search, it’s fair to assume Mason’s year will be spent anywhere and everywhere waves go boom.

Start stocking up on bandwidth, the edits are coming!

Laird Hamilton Anthony Walsh
You can fairly claim to've developed fine tuberiding skills when you're employed to get barrelled behind Laird Hamilton at Teahupoo. | Photo: Anthony Walsh

How to: Make Cash Getting Tubed!

Anthony Walsh earns a fine living chasing go-behind tubes!

There are two reasons why Anthony Paul Walsh impresses the hell out of me. First, he’ll have a swing at anything that barrels. His caves at Namibia, Pipe, Teahupoo and Mexico are scarcely believable.

Second: through a work ethic that belies his messy sun-wracked hair and gorilla chest and outfits of boxy tees and trunks that disappear the shins, he’s created a career that revolves around snatching point-of-view angles of his, and others’, tubes.

Let’s reminisce a little. Here’s Namibia.

And this, shot with a backpack cam at Teahupoo five years ago with the then revolutionary GoPro Hero3. It was the first time a tube had been captured underwater and above water on the same camera. “That was what was crazy, the focus underwater and above water. I remember, sitting down with Brad Schmidt, watching the footage in a mosquito net in Tahiti, and we yelled so loud, people could hear us next door screaming. Kelly Slater was on that trip too. He didn’t want to use the backpack mount and that night we showed him the footage and he said, ‘Ok, you gotta set it up for me now!’ The next day the swell died, and he never got a good shot.” Images pulled from the sequence became GoPro billboards worldwide, including at Los Angeles International Airport.

Even better, ever since he started shooting point of view in 2007 because no photographers lived in his home town and him and his brother wanted to get shots for their sponsors, he’s made himself one of the few experts in the game. Brian Coneley, the American surfer whose lipstick cam and hand-held camera barrel shots redefined the POV game with his movies My Eyes Won’t Dry (1, 2 and 3), is the pioneer of the genre, and it was Coneley’s work that convinced Walsh to build his own water housings. He would run a cable from the housing, to his hand and tape it to his finger to fire the camera.

But from GoPro 3 onwards, Walsh, who is thirty-three and a veteran of seventeen Hawaiian winters where he now lives, became GoPro’s star Research and Development guy and an essential ingredient in surf trips involving the company’s surfers. On BeachGrit‘s little run down to mainland Mexico to accelerate the progression of women’ surfing by ten years in four days, he was a magic show of Gimbals, drones, virtual reality and GoPro5’s.

What the rest of the freakshow don’t catch, he gets. He’ll surf behind, above, get tubed, whatever it takes.

“It’s so funny,” he says when we talk about the absurdity of a job that requires him to monitor swell forecasts and to find places to get tubed. “I sit there when I’m on on my surf trips, and I’ve got a GoPro on, and I just laugh to myself. I get to go where I want to go, when I want to go and get barrelled. It’s as fantastic as it is ridiculous.”

Unrelated to the piece but how amazing does Jordy look here?
Unrelated to the piece but how amazing does Jordy look here?

Hearsay: WSL to cut tour events!

Two whole events to maybe hit floor along with some surfers!

Nick Carroll is a great pleasure to read. Oh of course his comments here sparkle but I forgot what the man can do longer form. His connected insider knowledge mingling with a wry “but-none-of-this-really-matters…” wink is exactly right. I daresay it is the near perfect for surf journalism.

Speaking of surf journalists who is your favorite? Who writes the best straight reportage in the space?

I used to think that anyone could do it and do it well, if this emptiness is really what they wanted for their lives, but have been around long enough to see embarrassing failures. Men who so obviously wanted to be loved, respected and included in the club but failed to garner even a passing glance much less an invitation. Like… the ex-ASL editor Wayne Garvey or… that one guy who wrote for Water.

But back to Nick. My goodness gracious. He has quite basically crafted the game in his image and today’s piece in CoastalWatch is brimming with information but the bit that thrilled me most was this…

One source spelled it out pretty clearly. “I think you can expect some real reductions on the CT next year (in 2018). It’s funny, because surfing itself is growing right now, but (pro) surfing might actually be gonna shrink.”

The source foreshadowed a move to a reduced CT event list of perhaps eight events, with a reduced surfer roster and a two-day format, tuned to social media rather than onsite crowds. “No more big crowd events. Maybe Bells will make it as a legacy event, but others, Rio, maybe the Hurley Pro, will go.”

You might expect the surfers to kick back at a reduction in CT numbers. But what are their options? They don’t own this show any more. Only one surfer sits on the WSL board, and only one surf industry rep, Pat O’Connell. The need to cut back won’t be coming as a surprise to them.

And if this is true then we all might have two victories in one year! First, Paul Speaker gets rode out on a rail and now this! Events that actually finish in one swell window! Can your mind even fathom?

In truth, I have no idea why this didn’t happen during the ASP to WSL rebrand but if it is indeed happening now it is a good thing. A great thing even.

Also, which events would you cut off tour if you had the keys?