It's all fun and games until the ball lands on your name...
The greatest ever of our artists died when they hit twenty seven years of age. Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Basquiat, Brian Jones, etc. etc. etc. It’s such a thing that universities do studies on the likelihood of musicians dying at 27 and there is such thing as a 27 Forever Club.
And sad etc. etc. etc. but also these artists are the forever in the stars because they died at 27. And were brilliant, too great for us, smelled like teen spirit. So let us examine, in a cold analytical light, which surfers would be better of in the 27 Forever Club.
Dane Reynolds: Obvs.
Craig Anderson: Ship has long sailed. And 27 would have been right at his Kandui Hypto ride. Legend forever!
Dion Agius: The mausoleum in Tasmania would be a work of absolute art.
Creed McTaggart: Live fast, die at 27. Go go go!
Noa Deane: There’s still hope.
Nat Young: Should have died when he was 12.
Chris Ward: Despite best attempts…
Adriano de Souza: He would never won that world title and Kelly would have never made a wave pool.
We’re a little late to jump on the short Dream Bars by filmmaker Perry Gershkow but it’s something you’ll like, if you haven’t seen it already. It features the one-time WCT surfer Nat Young and current world number four Kolohe Andino hitting sand banks near the Californian city of Saint Frank.
It’s an interesting study. Do you remember when Nat soared on the ratings while his pal Kolohe stammered and everyone said he’d never make it but he persisted and now he looms as an almost-title contender? The contrast between the two is marked. Different stances, yeah, but while one jitterbugs and works himself up into something of a panic on a wave, the other draws an almost old fashioned line.
Last night was the much-too-late SoCal premiere of Distance Between Dreams, a Red Bull film about the trials and tribulations of big wave surfing ft. Ian Walsh and co. Despite the movie’s releases in November, December, and January, I had never seen it. Below is an honest review.
When I was working for Surfing, I’d written that DBD could be the surf movie that surpasses Step into Liquid in terms of mass appeal. That concept was ill-conceived as it failed to recognize how alienating the movie would be, in the sense that it gives no hope to the average land-lubber. Instead of uplifting stories about the Dale Websters of the world, DBD focuses on waves that most of us would never fake a paddle at. Plus, this film lacks the one key component to any true surf blockbuster: Laird!
I asked my girlfriend, a decent surfer but more of a lay-person than not, her opinion of the film. She said she enjoyed but that big waves aren’t really her thing, as it gets a little old watching guys take the same drop over and over. “It’s probably the biggest adrenaline rush in the world,” she explained, “but watching Jaws second-hand gets monotonous.” Her favorite part of DBD was John threading South Pacific tubes and delivering hacks meaner than a drunk, machete-wielding, scorned Mexican lover.
But the Beach Grit community don’t pay no mind to the masses. We are the bourgeoisie of the surf world… not financially of course but in terms of self-importance! And in that spirit I, your humble servant, deliver this report on the actual quality of Ian Walsh’s film: it was pretty good (probably much better at La Paloma than it would be in your cubicles of cynicism) but I’ll likely never watch it again.
The movie is impressive in its production quality, but I’m not a fan of the whole Redbull aesthetic (over-dramatization of peak moments, complete with added wave-crashing audio and the like). Ian Walsh was a wonderful protagonist, being that he is intelligent (high school valedictorian!), handsome, driven and an exceptional talent. The accompanying cast includes a laundry list of the best big wave surfers in the world, Ian’s affable flock of brothers, and John Florence. On paper it’s an easy success, but I do side with my girlfriend in that there’s only so much Peahi a person can take.
This is no criticism of Ian or Shane or Greg’s ability and drive. These guys are genuine role models in and out of the water, and I have a surplus of respect for everything they do. But while the movie is well-made and their surfing very brave, that stink-bug stance really drags you down after a while.
After the film I escaped through a side door and found Ian in conversation with a faceless Redbull teamer. I shook Ian’s hand and told him “good job” because he deserved it. In return I received a firm grip and a heartfelt, eye-contacted “thank you”. Despite having the world wrapped around his finger and Red Bull dollars coming out of his ears, Ian appears to be a good guy with valiant intentions. Although it wasn’t my favorite film, Distance Between Dreams brings useful insight to two wonderful surf families: the genetically-bound Walshes and the bloodless but nonetheless impermeable big wave brothers.
Every single wave exposed on film becomes a surf ghetto. True or true?
How about this absolute truth? Every single wave revealed for the first time on film has become a surf ghetto. Don’t matter how good you hide where it is. No exceptions.
Count ’em: Bali. The Mentawais. Namibia. Hossegor. Morocco. Fiji. Puerto Escondido. Overrun with sonsofbitches in their so-called “camps” with nothing else to talk about except waves ridden, how many seconds behind the curtin they’re logging and where their next tubefest is going to be.
First, the explorers will come. Then, the tour guides. Then, you and me.
Watching the lights flash all over that empty point reminded me of another wave The Search illuminated. Do you remember when The Rip Curl Search Pro went to Barra de la Cruz or, as it was coyly named, “La Jolla”, in 2006?
It was the surf contest that affirmed everything good about the game. An impossibly perfect sandbottom point most people had no idea existed. Professionals who’d been everywhere calling it the best wave they’d ever surfed, the best contest ever. Best-evers dripping through the floor. Andy Irons, who won the event, nailing the biggest frontside air in competition. The longest tubes seen in an event since Kirra was a thing.
The world watched the live webcast with mouths agape.
The contest rewrote the expectation of what a perfect wave might look like. It’s doubtful there was a regular footer on earth who didn’t make kind of vague plan to ride the joint before they expired.
And, soon, the crowds arrive at the little town mid-way between Puerto Escondido and Salina Cruz. The council built a cabana and bathrooms on the beach for the influx of visitors. The coastal road was gated and an entry fee levied.
Tourism. Jobs. Money. Who could argue with the capitalist ideal of the free market bringing wealth to the poor?
Citizens were becoming proud of their little town. The beach cabaña evolved into a symbol of their new economy. So when not long after the contest the historically wild river mouth that emptied near the point began to threaten the cabaña with erosion, Barra’s council decided to move the entire river to the east. According to a local surfer named Cesar, this is when sand began to disappear from the break. The river, Cesar indicated in hindsight, was the source of the wave’s magic. Without a periodic infusion of river sand, a hole soon began to develop in the sandbar. A tropical cyclone exacerbated the situation, and by 2010 the most phenomenal sand point the pro tour had ever seen was a shadow of its former self.
The town council, meanwhile, citing the prohibitive expense of the cabaña, refused to return the river to its original course.
Visiting surfers would show up, take a look at the wounded pointbreak, and head down to the newest surf-world hotspot: Salina Cruz.
Tourism business disappeared as steadily as the sand.
Mick Fanning’s gorgeous wave has been my favorite surf development of the week. Maybe even my favorite surf development of the month. Not only was the video dreamy, not only did it spark such wonderful visions in such generally pessimistic times, not only did it create some fine debate but it also midwifed some wonderful surf writing!
Every time this happens, I think, “That has to be the last one.” At this point, with surfers everywhere and Google Maps and cameras in every pocket, I can’t believe this waves keep turning up. How many more? I guess, like you say, if they’re ephemeral, then unlimited. Best wave in the world today, closeout next month. And vice versa.
…but then Sam George. THE Sam George came out of the woodwork and threw down! He punched Matt Warshaw right in the mouth! Let’s read from Surfline!
Now what does this tale of cinematic license have to do with the estimable Matt Warshaw’s very transparent case of head-high, sand-bottom tube envy? Simply this: Fanning’s “discovery” is no discovery at all. As in virtually every single case of surf spot outing, no contracted film crew accompanied by a professional surfer has ever discovered an epic new wave.