Elio Canestri
The teenage surfer Elio Canestri, killed by a shark on Reunion Island.

Relax: It’s ok to kill bull sharks!

Surfing banned on Reunion because of non-threatened fish. Absurd?

The bull shark is a real son of a bitch. Eats anything. Dogs. People. Turtles. Dolphins. Other bull sharks. Won’t let go either. You can belt it in the snout, jam your fingers into its eyes, rip at its gills, but it ain’t gonna release those jaws. The bull, or zambezi or whatever you want to call it, is indestructible. Lives anywhere, freshwater, saltwater, ocean, river, shallow, deep.

Endangered? Threatened? Not even close.

On a scale of one to seven, with seven being extinct, the bull shark comes in at the second-lowest rung, Not Threatened, just above Least Concern.

Oh you’ll find them everywhere. Up the Mississippi, in the Gold Coast waterways, Sydney Harbour, in the Amazon, Maryland etc, and, pointedly, as masters of the marine reserve in Reunion Island.

Reunion is a pretty volcanic island of almost one million people off the east coast of Africa. Lives off sugar exports, mostly, as well as the benevolent hand of the largely socialist French state. Richest island in the Indian Ocean.

A decade ago, a twenty-kilometre marine reserve was created along Reunion’s west coast. Preserve the environment? A no-brainer, right? Except like a lot of well-intentioned government policies, this one loosed a hell of a problem.

As Jeremy Flores told me a couple of years back after a rash of fatal shark attacks.

“From generation to generation there were always fishermen and then people from overseas, environmentalists, came and they stopped fishing in a 10-kilometre area where all the shark attacks are now happening… By the time they stopped fishing the sharks didn’t have anything to fear anymore so they started coming and now it’s dead territory. They ate everything. There is no more life. There is no more turtles. There is no more fish. No more nothing. No more reef sharks. Because the bull sharks have eaten everything. And now, because there’s nothing left to eat, it’s the surfers”

The movie Jaws? It was based on a two-week period on the Jersey Shore in 1916 when it was most likely bull sharks (or maybe Whites) fatally attacked four swimmers.

The situation on the ground in Reunion is loony. Surfing is banned on all but two netted beaches. Swim or surf outside of the nets and there’s a good chance you’ll die.

The teenage kids of some pals of mine have RIP this and RIP that scrawled in texta all over their schoolbags. It took me a while to realise they weren’t saying their pals were shredders but had been killed by sharks.

You heard, read, the hysteria after Kelly Slater gently suggested it wouldn’t be the end of the world to fish bull sharks after Reunion’s twentieth shark attack since 2011, eight of ‘em fatal.

“I won’t be popular for saying this, but there needs to be a serious cull on Réunion and it should happen every day,” said Slater. “There is a clear imbalance happening in the ocean there. If the whole world had these rates of attack nobody would use the ocean and millions of people would be dying like this. The French government needs to figure this out ASAP.”


When Elio Canestri was killed in 2014, I called Jeremy again.

“All these sharks, bro, fuck, it’s the real deal,” said the Reunion-born WSL surfer. “Perfect waves. Sunny day. Eight kids in the water and the shark attacked in the middle of everyone. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine how those kids feel?”

Jeremy’s mom phoned him an hour after the attack. Her friend lives in front of the break. Saw everything.

I can’t tell you how many times I surfed that place by myself,” said Jeremy. “When I heard it was a young kid, thirteen years old, I started shaking. I could picture myself at the same age, frothing with all my friends, just trying to get a surf. On Reunion, it’s a small surfing community, everyone knows each other, and I’ve lost some really close brothers to shark attacks, but this time, to be a thirteen-year-old, one of the best surfers on the island, with all his life in front of him. To die like that, so young, is terrible.”

The following year, Jeremy flew to Reunion for two weeks to see old pals and family. The surf pumped. And he didn’t touch his surfboard.

“It wasn’t worth it to take the risk. It took a long time for people to realise how bad the situation is. People thought it was like everywhere in the world. But, right now, we have the world record for attack.

Jeremy ain’t down for environmental slaughter, he loves the ocean, and said he’s “aware that sharks are everywhere and that I could get attacked. But on Reunion Island, “it’s a 50-50 proposition.”

From a local.

“There are so many sharks in the water, it is traumatic,” said Gilbert Pouzet, 55, who has surfed in Réunion for 30 years, told the IB Times. “Sometimes, I go down to the waves and I am not sure whether to go in the water or not; 80 percent of the time I go back home. Most of the time they strike from the side and take your hip and leg. They sever the femoral artery so you bleed to death in two minutes. The tiger shark will sometimes take an arm or a piece of leg and go away. But the bull shark becomes mad and finishes you off. When the bull sharks attack, they come to kill.”

Of course, in a world where everyone signals their virtue on Facebook and whatever else, Slater’s balanced, and intelligent, response, was twisted to mean he demanded the worldwide eradication of sharks.

He didn’t. No one does.

But on Reunion where a non-threatened fish has the population standing terrified on the shoreline, and grommets killed when they sneak off for a surf, the greatest absurdity is it’s even an issue to fish bull sharks in the marine reserve.

They’re fished everywhere else. Australia. The US. Africa. Everywhere. Killed. No tears. No snowflakes weeping over their status updates on Facebook.

Even better,  the bull shark tastes good, as long as you skin ‘em quick before the ammonia is released. Cook in garlic butter and ginger, wrap in alfoil, serve with a crisp Margaret River white.

Kalani David
"It’s been a pretty crazy ride. For a while I was on all this medicine that was making me act without thinking. That was a weird time, but it’s over now. Done." | Photo: Vans

Kalani David found in Panama Jungle!

Surf and skate prodigy back surfing, post-heart surgery, in Bocas del Toro!

Recently I took a cab, boarded a plane, took a cab, then boarded another plane to the Caribbean archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Panama. The trip was designed for the sake of surf and to earn another big, red pin on my proverbial world map. I spent my first day, yesterday, finding a place to stay and dealing with a quirky if slightly disconcerting hostel owner/roommate. The following week should be interesting.

This morning was my first session at Bocas’ most notorious break, Playa Bluff, a wave that would send me home with a broken board and a disproportionate sand-to-orifice ratio. But before that, in fact just before the noted splintering of my sled, something amazing happened. While performing my twice-minutely scan of the beach (bags seem to walk away when left unattended in Central Am.), I saw a young man running down the beach.

His on-land presence was telling. Fast, focused, committed.My instincts screamed “good surfer”.

No one runs into a four-foot shorebreak like that unless they know what they’re doing, and how they’re gonna do it.

When he gained the lineup, maybe fifty meters from me, the guy turned on the first wave that came his way. It was a chunky, ugly closeout. No way he goes. He went. Finally emerging from the brine, he gathered his board and did it again, and again. I inched towards him.

Who is this lunatic? Closer and closer I crept until – Aha!

Kalani freaking David! Surfing a lonely, awful-looking Panamanian peak well past the groomed morning hours! What are the odds?

On top of being surprising, the Hawaiian’s presence was, to me, strangely coincidental. I’ve been trying to get a hold of Kalani since his heart surgery back in January.

Aside from that debacle, he’s recently launched a new website, lost his sponsor of eleven years, and his Instagram has raised some personal questions that I’ve been dying to ask.

I am oh-so-positive that Kalani has an interesting story to tell, and this chance encounter was my best opportunity to make it happen. A cursory chat in the lineup fortified my beliefs.

I’m still at risk of having seizures – I actually had one on the plane ride over here. So surfing is yeah… a little sketchy I guess.

What are you doing here?!  

I just drove down from Costa Rica. I was visiting my family there, and my sister and I decided to come over here for the swell. 

How’s the whole heart situation?

It’s been a pretty crazy ride. For a while I was on all this medicine that was making me act without thinking. That was a weird time, but it’s over now. Done. 

(Kalani catches another shitty wave and returns)

Sorry, I haven’t surfed much lately so I’m all wired. 

Are you fully cured? Like, is it safe for you to be surfing?

I mean it’s definitley better, but I’m still at risk of having seizures – I actually had one on the plane ride over here. So surfing is yeah… a little sketchy I guess. 

After promising me an interview over the next few days, Kalani took one more closeout and snapped his spanking-new Lee Stacey. At the rate he was going, it was inevitable.

Kalani David from Chad Christensen on Vimeo.

Wilson: “You could put rails in there!”

Julian Wilson discusses winning it all and also maybe losing it all!

I have called Julian Wilson to win the title for three years running, I think. Oh he has it all… Fearless in bigger waves, still above average air game, experience, the last threads of youth, style, etc. All the markings of a potential champion and yet the grand prize has eluded him

Could this be the year?

He gave a nice interview to Australia’s Yahoo7 news about maybe. Let’s read!

I am past just ‘taking it as it comes.’ I feel like I have had some really good years on tour and I have learnt a lot and I just really want to go for that world title now. It is really what motivates me, I know it is achievable and I just want to apply myself as much as possible to get that goal.

I feel like for myself (the world title) is more achievable than ever. That’s the main thing, if I believe in it and I can see it happening, that’s when you get closer to it and I have that feeling now more than ever. It’s very much about consistency. I think I have had five finals in the last two years without a win. Obviously getting a win is a great goal to have but it is all about that consistency.

I feel like I am comfortable enough at all the stops on the tour to be making heats and beating those guys and giving myself a really good opportunity of getting that No.1 goal.

And that sounds like a winner talking, don’t it? Sounds like he’s got his head screwed on tight. There was only one little part of the interview at the end that left me wondering. When asked about Kelly Slater still being on Tour he segued into the pool in Tulare County.

Obviously the whole world has seen the quality of that wave, it would be a great addition to the tour. WSL has gone and bought the rights from Kelly so they are looking at it and planning for it and I would love to compete on a platform that was consistent. You could put rails in there and do rail slides and airs. There is so much exciting stuff that could be done there.

And haven’t we learned anything from Chris Coté and his patented Rail of Death? Are we doomed to repeat our ghastliest errors? Our gravest mistakes?

Or wait. I can’t remember. Was the ROD fun and awesome? More on this developing story as it breaks.


Maddo: “I should’ve run the prick over!”

Robbie Maddison on Big Wave Tour VP Gary Linden after failed Todos attempt.

You saw it. In 2014, the Australian motorcycle rider Robbie Maddison rode a KTM250 with skis at Teahupoo. At one point he hit a west bomb, one of those kinky straight-into-the-barrel waves only the best surfers dare challenge. And nearly died. Six waves on the head. Underwater for two. In full moto gear.

Absurd, but beautifully absurd. Whatever your take, dumb, wonderful, you watched it.

Rob, who is thirty six years old, also holds the world record for jumps (three hundred and fifty feet) and once leapt onto the Arc de Triomphe at the Paris Casino in Las Vegas and back down onto the strip. A man who knows how to grip a pair of handlebars.

Since Teahupoo, Robbie has spent the last three years working on the idea of lassoing a bomb at either Cloudbreak or Todos Santos. Fiji was out of his one hundred and fifty thousand dollar budget so he went for the Todos, Mex, option.

We wrote about it a few days ago, first, taking one side (story pulled after threat of defamation suit), then jumping on the other side.

Earlier today, I called Rob to run me through his version. He tells me, oowee, it ain’t easy creating these viral events. Teahupoo hit twenty-five million views, sure, but money flows through your fingers on these things. Everything costs and it’s not as if you can just film it on your iPhone.

“Trying to plan and pull it off, it was a fucking nightmare,” he says.

But he did all the meetings in LA with sponsor Samsung (the Samsung Gear S3 watch was used to track the weather, to track speeds, his route, monitor his heart rate – fast) and media partner ViceHe sorted all the permits. Jumped through all the hoops of planning.

Organised directors, film crew, whatever else y’need for the creation of such a wild event. And when the swell hit, and the winds looked good, his crew hit the joint.

But, a storm. The port gets shut down. By the time he gets to the famous deep-water righthander, the swell has dropped significantly, the wind is blowing ruffles. Ten-to-twelve foot has turned into six-ish.

And waiting out the back is the Big Wave Tour VP Mr Gary Linden, from San Diego, and his pal Vincente Ya. Rob says the pair tell him he ain’t catching shit. Today, tomorrow or the next day. That they’ll block any attempts at catching, says he doesn’t have the permits anyway.

Robbie Maddison’s permit to moto Todos.

“I sat out there for three hours pleading to catch a wave,” says Rob. “I know the mentality of dickhead surfers who carry on like fuckwits… I grew up surfing. I understand about being respectful. I offered to pay ’em. Eventually the government officials came out and told me I could make a citizen’s arrest if I wanted.

“I’m out there doing business and them, in their beach culture shallow-mindedness stood in the way of a cool project,” says Rob, adding he’s caught a grand total of four waves in three years. “I hope this affects Gary’s relationship with the WSL. He’s been a prick about this. Out of line. He doesn’t own the place and he’s just a fucking old school guy that’s afraid of change. These guys are saying no to motorised equipment. I’ve seen video of Gary Linden being towed. He’s a fucking prick… It’s hard to get the right conditions at Todos and it’s not like I didn’t plan it right or wasn’t on top of my shit. I just had this hundreds of thousands of dollars project ruined by two individuals.”

Eventually, towards sunset, Rob announces, “We’re fucking doing it. By then the wind came ups the tide filled in, it just turned to shit. Looked six foot.”

Still, he tries: “It’s so hard to catch  a wave on a motorcycle, man. I got the one wave, right on sunset, and to catch a wave you gotta point the bow of the boat directly into the swell. I came down the ramp, and it’s gotta be perfect timing, and the boat was on a bit of a angle, the running ramp didn’t stay true, made me veer right, and I went from flat-out in third gear to a complete stop. Tore my high-tensile steel handlebars off my bike. The imapact was massive.”


“I should’ve run the prick over,” says Rob. “I spent 150 thousand dollars out of my own pocket. Now I’m sitting here realising I would’ve been better off being an electrician these last three years.”

Is he going to do it again? Maybe Cloudbreak, where he says he would’ve been welcomed?

“I want to, but the sour way this ended it may never happen again.”

News: Slater “brainwashed” you!

Greatest-ever turns surfers from drug and sex fiends into Gaia-worshipping hypocrites!

Don’t we exist in a golden age of opinion? With a few  clicks and swipes we announce ourselves on our little social forums as experts on everything from the political machinations of foreign countries to breakthrough medical cures (cannabis oil) to the technical and tactical mistakes of our favourite surfers.

All that hoopla re: Kelly and the sharks? Oowee. None of us know shit.

Kelly was fool enough to open a debate on the bedevilled subject in an attempt to share information and got showered in insults.

In the Slater era, surfing has transformed from a sybaritic subculture to a pastime pursued by way too many brainwashed Gaia-worshippers who liberally accuse others of hypocrisy between loading their toxic surfboards onto planes and flying to remote tropical destinations, where their western habits are quickly in conflict with the supposedly natural attractions.

Now, as Fred Pawle posits in The Australian, Kelly has brainwashed us all.

Fred writes, “Ever since he burst onto the scene in 1990, aged 18, Slater has been the thinking person’s surfer. When he became the subject of the most frenzied sponsorship battle in surfing history, he chose to go back to finish high school in Florida.

“A lot of guys that start to make money think that they don’t need anything else,” he said at the time. “I don’t look at it that way. High school isn’t a hard thing to do. It keeps your mind in gear.”

This, at a time when the pro tour was a teenage hedonist’s paradise of women, drugs, money and waves. Slater eschewed all that, and single-handedly raised surfing out of its prolonged juvenile delinquency.

But his influence might have been too strong, even for him. In the Slater era, surfing has transformed from a sybaritic subculture to a pastime pursued by way too many brainwashed Gaia-worshippers who liberally accuse others of hypocrisy between loading their toxic surfboards onto planes and flying to remote tropical destinations, where their western habits are quickly in conflict with the supposedly natural attractions.

Slater’s high-school diploma could never have prepared him for the phenomenon of millions of surfers becoming enamoured by the very creatures that would eat them, and spewing vitriol at even fellow surfers for daring to espouse a different opinion. It’s as if some surfers have forgotten their own contribution to the collective happiness of mankind, or how lucky they are to be surfers at all.

Slater himself has often been the figurehead for all this misanthropy and self-flagellation. He even once endorsed Sea Shepherd, the radical group that more than any other backs the preservation of sharks, at the expense of surfers’ limbs and lives.”

Have you been brainwashed by Kelly? Do you hear a humming sound when he appears on television or your computer screen? Proof!

You can click here to read the front and tail of this story but it’s hiding behind a paywall…