Travel: “Rendezvous with a grand piano!”

Settle in for a wonderful Balinese tale!

The other day, on a what I’m certain was a pointless story, a man by the name of Dogsnuts made a comment so wonderful I simply responded “You’re hired.” Two days ago he sent in one of the better, funner, surf travel stories I have ever read. Simple, straight… wonderful! And without further ado, I present… Kristopher “Dogsnuts” McDonald!

We’ve all been there, chasing waves across the vast archipelago of Indonesia. Truly unseaworthy crafts and dilapidated planes both piloted by total cowboys really keen to find where the edge actually is. I once took a flight on a domestic Garuda bird who’s door was threatening rattle off from the plane, the flight attendants ingenuously stuffing the seal with damp toilet paper. They legit paper mached the fucking plane together.

Idyllic settings and total despair.

Lovely hosts and crooked cops.

Perfect waves and the risks getting them.

So when my no longer surfing friends decided on quick New Years Eve party inspired trip to Bali I was all in. Of course I was taking boards, but being the off season there was no way I was chasing waves. This program was set to be a serious piss drinking and fully unashamedly Aussie idiotic trashathon. Set amongst the best party spot in the entrapment of Kuta, Troppo Zone was a free for all. You want to bartend? You want to chase the staff around with the electric fly swat? You want to set your favourite ever bar essentially made from kindling on fire with errant fireworks? You want to wrestle the guitar off Wayan and guide the band through a total rock set of songs they barely know of? And for our loosest member Vuka, who we propped up in the pool comatosed with a beer in hand full Weekend At Burnies style…….Do you want to do centurion shots (one a minute for a hundred minutes) of Midori Illusions for breakfast on New Years Day until you vomit and urinate on the establishment’s temple?

Feel free.

We could do no wrong. At the end of the day we were jovial pranksters only hurting ourselves. But the hurt was really building, bodily functions became a running joke. I never knew if I’d be hydrated again. Somewhat fortuitously I had booked two nights in Sanur at a flash hotel for three of us, proving to be a great half time moment to recover. However with us lunatics we quickly became the half time show. Loud and boisterous amongst the retirees and polite Asian tourists we were avoided like the annoying travellers we were.

So it raised a few eyebrows when I got up from dinner at the five star hotels restaurant to try my drunken hand at the completely beautiful white grand piano. I’m not a showy guy, quite the opposite so my friends had no idea that in the months leading up to the trip I’d been teaching myself piano by ear, just a bastardised attack of classical shit I’d made up in my head and a few Tool riffs thrown in for my own amusement. Some bluesy stuff. And a particularly dark piece I’d been giving my all for to finish off. I had kept the piano playing on the down low like a dirty secret. It was embarrassing to me. When I finished my “show” I was astounded to get a healthy applause from everyone dining, some even stood and clapped and thanked me.  Alcohol had won the day.

The next morning after a hellish sleep broken by beer farts and a giant wet rat running across us several times I made a vow to go at least a night sober. Jeff was on the balcony already having can of fizzy orange and vodka, informing me of some nice rights peeling down the reef. We decided that it must be Sanur Reef and with it looking better and better by the minute with few souls out I was wildly getting my shit together.

I avoided the boat rides out, I paddled the long distance like some kind of penance. The water is bloody cold at times through the Bali/Lombok straight, it got me awake pretty quick. Positioning myself in the growing crowd I found the local crew equally as cold. I did all of the typical tourist moves, paddling for the wrong waves, allowing myself to be relentlessly snaked, drifting away from the peak for some scraps only to end up on shit waves and dry reef. And last but not least my all time pet hate.

Getting in the fucking way.

I was totally kooking it. The locals knew it and being the only whitey they did not let me catch one wave. Purposely they’d burn me on waves they didn’t even want. It was frustrating but quite funny. Their wave, their rules. I decided I’d wait it out and at least catch one decent wave from the premium position. With many waves in the sets I’d wait until everyone stroked into a dreamy peak, every single time I was left by myself for a chance at a wave the set would finish. Eight people waiting?  Seven wave set. Ten people waiting? Nine wave set. This went on for a long time. The pack would hunt me, getting position and mobbing me before any more waves arrived.

Briefly alone again I saw an odd lump of water, it didn’t look like anything significant but it obscured something behind it, a bigger lump chasing it, trying to overtake an cannibalise the smaller swell. The pack was racing and screaming at me and I felt that stinging anxiety I get of missing my chance. Fuck it, I will attack this wave and fuck it up on my own terms.  Everyone was their best to mess me up, but they couldn’t catch it, it broke so deep and in such an A frame it was me in contention only. Now admittedly I’m not the greatest ever surfer, but after my speedy elevator drop and a steaming race out onto the rather flat shoulder a gave my all at one turn, a fast roundhouse back into the big peak I’d taken off on.

One good turn, job done I thought.

But as I hit the peak and coming around something was special was happening, the double up came to life and it would have appeared as though I was highly skilled and knew exactly what I was doing. This wave of two swells truly became one, draining so very hard on the very visable reef that falling was not an option. That was hospital.

In an instant I was completely and utterly shacked, going at top speed. I estimate at one stage at least being 20ft deep and still watching a section loom down the line, as soon as I got to that I was double backdooring it at an even greater speed.  Throughout all this the entire line up were losing their shit, pointing and screaming in actual delight. Everyone I spotted on this journey was as happy as me.

Then things got ridiculous.

I cannot overstate how draining and square this wave got, at such a speed and sitting mid face on this now double overhead bomb I had what only felt like millimetres of rail and one fin engaged in the water. I felt as if I was without gravity and suspended in time. As I was sitting mid face still very very deep I became aware of an odd sensation, I was getting incrementally tilted forward, little tail lifts it turns out from a speeding foamball. Eventually and evenly I was perched on a 45 degree angle purely riding only the front of the foamball, like a dead set fucking Monkey Magic on his cloud. The brief eye contact I with another surfer during this particular moment I’ll never forget.

And not one droplet of water hit me.

Things were coming to an end, a section ahead looked like a gamble and I been buried deep for a long ride. I saw one doggy door exit and with a speedy slingshot departure from the foamball I took it. Still drawing hard on the reef I was nearly wrong footed, having to actually go uphill out of the trough and pop an olly and stomp it onto the true flats. I’d done it, but now to ride out this whitewater explosion for max street cred.  It died down and I was taking this one in as far as I could, I felt something like a gravitational pull and peeking over the back of the diminishing wave I saw the entire crowd waiting and watching with craned necks.

Had I’d made it?

I let them know with joyful fully extended double salute and hollered “Fuck yeah!”  They erupted and I was applauded for the second time in twelve hours.

Good times.

I’ll be forever grateful to the locals that hounded me and put me in that situation.

Back at the pool I was buzzing and swimming around on my board like a dick having a good laugh with the boys. The only way to calm down and get centred was a big feed washed down by a lot of beer and a rendezvous with that beautiful white grand piano. I often think of it, and then ultimately the wave and vice versa.

Aim big, every dog has its day.

Does that jacket and sparkly Simon Anderson not reek of affluence? | Photo: @mikecoots

Mike Coots: the Richest Man in Surf!

When shark attacks are commodified...

You know Mike Coots, the haole-Hawaiian who lost his leg to a tiger (shark) at eighteen. Punched it in the schnoz, survived.

You may also know that Mike has become a leader in the shark conservationist movement. He’s spent a good chunk of his life opposing those who want to kill sharks for (fin) consumption or cull them for the sake of human safety. He even continues to swim with the fuckers!

Conservationist ideology is generally regarded as ‘moralistic’ by the larger oceanic community, but a new business venture has brought doubt to the virtue of Coots’ motives.

The Coots Boot™ is a prosthetic leg designed specifically for surfing. It has a dual-hinge format so the rider can set their boot on Standard for down-the-line surfing or Tucked for pigdogging crazy backside drainers. Mike has proven the Boot’s functionality in sparkling temples across the world.

If can, can. If no can, still can!

A post shared by Mike Coots (@mikecoots) on

Coots Boot™ was introduced in 2014 and has produced massive numbers in Hawaii, South Africa, Reunion Island, Western, Eastern and Southern Australia, and New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Business Insider estimated that Mike Coots will be the first surf-made billionaire by 2020, should current shark trends continue.

And doesn’t this ring dubious to Coots’ conservationist efforts? Without sharks there are no bites, and without bites there is no Coots Boot™. Tic tac toe, bingo!

Which makes me wonder: is Coots a capital-hounding right-winger masked as a Greeny? More importantly, is there any facet of this world not riddled with corruption and greed? We have commodified the shark attack for heaven’s sake!

john john margaret river
Hemingway, in his extended essay for Life magazine about bullfighting titled The Dangerous Summer was revulsed by the half-bull, the showy passes that lacked emotion and dignity. He would've turned his back on the surfing this morning at Margaret River for similar reasons. Except John Florence. | Photo: WSL

“John John Justifies Margaret River!”

The Hawaiian world champion John John Florence wins Drug Aware Pro at Margaret River…

How do you like your truth? You like it sweet and light, dancing around like a butterfly in the morning light gently pollinating supplicant flowers, a fairytale, a religion. Isn’t it illusions that make us happy, that make life worthwhile? That bind us together. Why even truth? Why not untruth?

I only ask because I want to believe a certain story, even if it is illusion, but truth keeps dropping out of the sky on me like a 200 pound gorilla.

Like that feeding frenzy, “surface action” dropped out of the sky during the Kolohe/Filipe semi-final, disrupting the WSL tourism promotion.

Australian salmon, Arripis Trutta, no relation to the Pacific or Atlantic salmon, terrible eating for humans, but universally recognised by science as the favourite food of the Great White shark.

It was one of two phenomena which could defeat John John. A force of nature, the other, himself. Putting an arm-bar on a slab of West Australian limestone reef at speed could’ve taken him out. No-one else competing could have. Other surfers seemed irritants in the way of watching John do his thing. He found a way to up the normal conservative percentage from Pottz’ favoured 75 to 85-90% , by carving turns harder, at sharper angles, with greater variety and rotation. He embarrassed the field this tournament.

You can’t remember anything else from this comp can you? Maybe Owen wearing that wave on the head. Maybe some sour grapes from our favourite Assyrian conspiracy theorist (Kelly). John John blacked out the sun. The rest was a boring distraction.

Hemingway, in his extended essay for Life magazine about bullfighting titled The Dangerous Summer was revulsed by the half-bull, the showy passes that lacked emotion and dignity. He would’ve turned his back on the surfing this morning at Margaret River for similar reasons. Except John Florence.

Question for the WSL and Dirk Ziff: what if John has the Title wrapped up by Tahiti? Pull the pin to save money? A slam dunk title by California is not a fantasy.

The quarter-finals were dull. Owen couldn’t catch a wave and lost a fin on the only one he did. Everyone bar John surfed flat, off the tail. Hemingway, in his extended essay for Life magazine about bullfighting titled The Dangerous Summer was revulsed by the half-bull, the showy passes that lacked emotion and dignity. He would’ve turned his back on the surfing this morning at Margaret River for similar reasons. Except John Florence. Like Ronnie Blakey, John’s surfing would’ve moved him to tears.

Jordy was the only one who could’ve bought game to Florence but he was cruelled by the judges’ massive over-score for Kolohe’s tube-rides which left him in combination. Tube-rides were like dog shit on your shoe at Snapper. At Margies they were paid like Saudi Arms dealers. Which is to say, big-time.

Half-hour intermission digression. Have you read the Russian masterpiece Crime and Punishment by the incomparable Doestoevsky? A young man, Raskolnikov, commits the perfect crime and convinces himself that his motive is to benefit mankind.

The novel tracks his journey through living with guilt and lies and the extent of the psychological fortress he has to build to endure it. Could you imagine a victimless crime in surfing, witnessed by many, covered up and a completely false story erected to propel the perpetrator/victim onwards, into recovery and redemption?

Would such a thing even be a crime?

Even if the lies erected eventually became truth in the minds of those who relied upon them? If they became some strange, external foreign land they had never travelled to. What would be the value of truth in such a situation? Or even of digging for it? Wouldn’t the illusion have more value as a whole? Wouldn’t it allow, as Crime and Punishment so beautifully ends by “the account of a man’s gradual renewal, the account of his gradual regeneration, his gradual transition from one world to another, his acquaintance with a new, hitherto completely unknown reality”.

The Final. I killed another ten minutes before the final trying to establish whether Margies was getting the chop next year. Surfing WA who are the intermediaries responsible for the licence refused to comment, saying it “would be conjecture” to make any comment. If it was on, you’d confirm wouldn’t you?

The difference in performance between Florence and Andino –  Florence and everyone else – was deeper than an Andean valley. It’s hard to see how it can be bridged this year, if and this is the big If, Florence stays healthy.

I emailed 2017 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature and WSL media genius Dave Prodan to ask him if Margs was on the tour roster next year. There was no response at time of writing.

A four-point spread favouring Florence on the opening exchange in rare, glassed-out conditions seemed fair enough. Combination following the opening was also realpolitik. Andino’s top turns looked trebly and low bit rate. An Mp3 played out of an iPhone compared to Florences’ full Marshall stack.The difference in performance between Florence and Andino –  Florence and everyone else – was deeper than an Andean valley. It’s hard to see how it can be bridged this year, if and this is the big If, Florence stays healthy.

Generational surfing speaks to a perfect embodiment as to how a wave can and should be surfed. Curren had it, Dane had it. The only unimpeachable justification for Pro Surfing is to discover it and showcase it.

John John Florence has had it this whole event. His surfing alone justifies Margaret River as a CT tour stop. It almost justifies the whole tour.

Parko claims Rasta "best surfer ever". What do you think?

Another Film: Keith Malloy’s ‘Fishpeople’

Sick of docos yet? Hopefully no!

If Cyrus Sutton’s GMO-illucidating piece piled-on the melancholy, allow this film by Keith Malloy to perk you right back up! It’s called Fishpeople and seeks to demonstrate how people use the sea to survive and thrive on this pale blue dot.

There are six main characters in this film: a free-diver/spear-fisher lass (not Rory Parker), an endurance swimmer, a water photog, a surf philanthropist, and two surfers (Rasta and Matahi Drollet).

Some of the stories are more interesting, more touching, than others. I particularly liked Rasta’s tale, both for his seamless surfing (Parko claims best in the world!) and universal understanding. Maybe Dave’s a little hippy-dippy, but the man is dripping with enlightenment.

Watching this brought me back to my most recent post on surfing and kids. If the ocean does that much to help people cope with the trials and tragedies of their everyday life, then shouldn’t parents be the ones surfing the most? I can’t imagine how liberating it’d feel to jump in the water after spending all night consoling a three-year-old with a tummy ache.

Maybe you could use Fishpeople to explain to your partner and child that you don’t want to surf, you need to surf. For like, scientific/humanitarian/sanity purposes. I don’t know, maybe worth a try?

Check here to see if Fishpeople will be premiering in a city near you!

Santa Cruz locals try to save shark!

But what would you do?

Ain’t man a glorious creature! So savage yet so kind. So hard yet so soft. So self consumed and yet so selfless and a multitude of other contradictions. His better side was on display in Santa Cruz, California yesterday as an angry beast washed up on shore and surf legends Osh Bartlett and Anthony Tashnick tried valiantly to drag him back out to the ocean.

Instagram photo @redn831
Instagram photo @redn831

But what would you do if such a thing happened at your local? Would you let the animal suffocate whilst thinking, “My odds just got a little better!” Or would you too rush in to save?

The shark was 8-10 feet in length according to Grind TV and shark scientists in the area determined that he must be sick or injured. Apparently it is still stuck and the kind folk are headed back out this morning to give it another go. God bless Santa Cruz!