SUP: The worst ever surf derivative?

If I had to either SUP or not surf again I would not surf again.

The first time I ever saw a stand-up paddleboard was on the North Shore of Hawaii back in the winter of 2006. I was staying in a home just down the road from Waimea and there was some wave far out the back. It looked maybe fun but also far. Next to the home was a monstrous looking flat boat, maybe fifteen feet and five inches thick, with full deck traction and only one paddle.

I asked the owner, “What sort of boat is this and why does it only have one paddle?”

He said, “It is not a boat it’s a surfboard. A stand-up paddleboard. You stand up and paddle.”

I asked if I could stand up and paddle to the wave breaking on a reef out the back and he said, “Sure.”

A few minutes later I was dragging one of the heaviest things I had ever lifted down to the beach. An hour after that, sweaty and sore (sorry for the “soar.” What a blunder!), I was standing up and paddling out to sea. It wasn’t so difficult, just slightly awkward and not very fun but I was committed and soon reached the wave. It was a hollow little thing breaking over very shallow reef. I paddled into position and took off. I kind of bottom turned, mowed down the line then got too high and dropped onto the rocks.


Worse, the thing was attached to my leg and weighed more than me so continued to drag me across the shoal. When I finally collected myself and took inventory I discovered bloody hip, top of foot and elbow plus a half broken fin on the vessel. It was at that moment that I understood the stand-up paddleboard to be the worst ever derivative of the surfboard and have glared at every one that passes me on either road or out at sea.

The SUP has been around now for a while and continues evolving. From SUP yoga to The Inertia to a SUP rowboat. It has finally found its other paddle.

But am I wrong? Do you think there is a worse derivation of surfing?

Maybe high performance longboarding?

Which is worse, the SUP or high performance longboarding?

Is #VanLife for you? A new lineup every day? Returning to a giant bed to de-salt with a lavish of tongues? | Photo: Jeff Minton/The New Yorker

#VanLife sexy in The New Yorker!

Who knew surfers doin' the #VanLife thing could be this elevating!

The resilience of America and its citizens never fails to elevate. Where else but, say, Bangladesh or Romania, can a man work fifty hours a week and not earn enough to provide a roof over the head of his family?

Hence America’s living-in-car culture.

Some of my best friends, gainfully employed, have taken, at various points, to habitat in their little Japanese saloons and hatches. If America has the highest rate of incarceration in the world it can also claim to have the highest rate of in-car-ceration.

Get it? Yeah.

Anyway, a spin-off of the Car Dream is #VanLife where surfers, mostly, deck out a Ford Sprinter or VW Vanagon and live the nomadic dream of moving from beach to beach. Each day a new lineup, a new scene, a new angle on the swell, the sun.

What thrills me, and I suppose I’m not alone, is surfing your ass off and then returning to what is, effectively, a giant bed and licking the salt off your lover’s thighs while you do a switcharoo and flop the old hoagie in her face. Oh, that might be life’s greatest pleasure.

In the April 24 issue of The New Yorker Rachel Monroe has a cut a piece out of the life-of-the-road dream. The story is called #VanLife, The Bohemian Media Movement. Like all stories in The New Yorker it is written in the most compelling and authoritative manner.

Let’s excerpt a little:

Emily King and Corey Smith had been dating for five months when they took a trip to Central America, in February, 2012. At a surf resort in Nicaragua, Smith helped a lanky American named Foster Huntington repair the dings in his board. When the waves were choppy, the three congregated in the resort’s hammock zone, where the Wi-Fi signal was strongest. One afternoon, Huntington listened to the couple have a small argument. Something about their fond irritation made him think that they’d be suited to spending long periods of time together in a confined space. “You guys would be great in a van,” he told them.

The year before, Huntington had given up his apartment in New York and his job as a designer at Ralph Lauren, and moved into a 1987 Volkswagen Syncro. He spent his days surfing, exploring, and taking pictures of his van parked in picturesque locations along the California coast. It was the early days of Instagram, and, over time, Huntington accumulated more than a million followers. He represented a new kind of social-media celebrity, someone famous not for starring in movies or recording hit songs but for documenting an enviable life. “My inspiration,” went a typical comment on one of his posts. “God I wish my life was that free and easy and amazing.” Huntington tagged his posts with phrases like #homeiswhereyouparkit and #livesimply, but the tag he used most often was #vanlife.

 King and Smith left Nicaragua for Costa Rica, but the idea of the van stuck with them. King, a telegenic former business student, had quit her job at a Sotheby’s branch when she realized that she was unhappy. Smith, a competitive mountain biker and the manager of a kayak store, had never had a traditional office job. They figured they could live cheaply in a van while placing what they loved—travelling, surfing, mountain biking—at the center of their lives. When King found out that she’d been hired for a Web-development job that didn’t require her presence in an office, it suddenly seemed feasible.

King and Smith, who are thirty-two and thirty-one, respectively, had grown up watching “Saturday Night Live” sketches in which a sweaty, frantic Chris Farley character ranted, “I am thirty-five years old, I am divorced, and I live in a van down by the river!” But, the way Huntington described it, living in a vehicle sounded not pathetic but romantic. “I remember coming home and telling my mom, ‘I have something to tell you,’ ” King said. “She thought I was going to say we were getting married or having a baby. But I said, ‘We’re going to live in a van.’ ”

Is #VanLife really the dream it’s painted to be on Instagram?

Ken Ilgunas spent most of two years living in a van when he was a graduate student at Duke University in order to avoid racking up debt, an experience he chronicled in a book called “Walden on Wheels,” published in 2013. Living in a van makes you thriftier and more self-reliant, Ilgunas told me. You learn to live with discomfort, a quality that he doesn’t see in the Instagram version of vanlife. “My van never looked like anything out of a Wes Anderson film,” he said. “It was difficult for me to wash my cooking pots. For a couple of weeks, I had mice living in my ceiling upholstery. There were times the van got so hot I thought I would die if I took a nap. And it was lonely. Just knowing that I would have to tell women where I lived deterred even the thought of dating.” In contrast, the vans on Instagram look like “aesthetically pleasing jewelry boxes,” Ilgunas said. “Usually with one or two good-looking people sprawled out in bed in front of a California beach.”

Read the rest and the in-between bits here! 

And learn how to build your own van, the brain spawn of the lovely Cyrus Sutton!

(Click here.)

Surfing's greatest maneuver or definitely?

The Rebirth of the Superman!

Kelly did one, why can't I?

STAB‘s most entertaining writer Brenden Buckley recently penned a piece “The Death of the Superman” in which he investigated the architects and assassins of surfing’s most notorious maneuver.

Read some of it here!

None of the air show crew had full-time filmers. What you’d see is what you’d see. So, you’d go to an airshow and see people trying everything they could in three-foot ramps. The waves were perfect for such an event, but there’s only so much a man can do on a wave like that. Anyway, somewhere in the progressive haze of the airshow generation, the Superman was first stuck.

According to Troy Brooks, Timmy Curran was the first person to do it. But according to me, Brooko is the king of them. Nobody’s men were as super as his. I asked him how they were born.

“I think in any sport, everybody wants to be the first person to do something. And back then, it was all about grabs.” 

Buckley went on to ask Albee Layer, esteemed big-waver and aerial aficionado, why the Superman is now considered lame.

“Honestly, the only reason they went away is because people started doing small ones. I think Jordy killed the Superman for all of us [laughs],” Layer told him.

So this is somewhat interesting but why, you might be wondering, did I just copy/paste another man’s article on our site? Aside from the fact that I tend to mirror writing techniques from Chas and Derek, this article spawned an amusing interaction between my girlfriend and me.

“Are supermans like.. the hardest air someone can do on a surfboard?” she asked.

“Hahaha no, they’re like… pretty easy.”

“Have you ever done one?”

“Nah, I’ve never really tried.”

“Yeah because they’re hard.”

“No… because I just never wanted to. They’re not that hard.”

“Then do one.”



And so a bet was born. I have one month to complete a superman or else cook a week’s worth of dinners like some sort of domesticated woman. If I win she surfs five times next month (her Cost Rican blood can’t handle the middling chill of SoCal’s brine).

I’m gonna feel it out over the first week, try to get the grab and extension part down, but if I’m really struggling I may hit up Mr. Buckley for some advice. It’ll be like Hurley Surf Club for dickhead writers! But seriously, Buckley knows what he’s talking about when it comes to punts.

I once saw Buck, in the dying minutes of heat, pull a superman so small that the judges had to use the only available replay system (a local guy shot it on a digital camera) to confirm that his board did actually exit the water at some point.

Embarrassed by the mediocre completion, Buckley told the judges, “Just give it to Ian. That was so gay.” Such a thing was acceptable to say in New Jersey 2007. Probably even New Jersey 2017.

Pictures confirmed B’s fins (at least two of them) had left the water for a fraction of a second. He was granted a four-point ride and the unwanted heat win.

A fun anecdote, but now back to me!

If all goes well, kids around the country, the world, will be inspired by my efforts in the field of progression (regression?). Supermans (supermen?) will be reborn and I alone will be to thank (blame?).

I’ll keep you updated.

Thanks for the memories, Trestles!
Thanks for the memories, Trestles!

Science: Trestles set to disappear!

But not before The Hurley Pro (fingers crossed)!

The United States of America has one stop on the magnificent World Surf League Championship Tour and it is Lower Trestles. Do you enjoy surfing there? Braving the mad pack of Brazilians? Staking your claim on California’s high performance wave? Making air reverses?

Well you better get your fill now because The Smithsonian says it is going away along with The Wedge, Topanga and Santa Cruz. Let’s read?

It may seem that stronger storms and swells would be a boon to surfers. But as with many aspects of living in a changing climate, the outlook is far more complicated.

As a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey predicts, by 2100 many of Southern California’s most popular surfing spots could be subsumed beneath rising seas. Others could simply wash away.

Beaches are not static places. The very action of the waves that formed them, pulverizing rocks into sand over eons, can unmake them, reports Ramin Skibba for Hakai Magazine. “In Southern California, winter storms and heavy surf pull sand away, and summer waves and sediment from rivers gradually bring it back,” Skibba writes.

Climate change could alter that balance, the new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, suggests. In the next eight decades, Southern California may have to deal with a sea level rise of between 3.3 and 6.5 feet that could erode 31 to 67 percent of the region’s beaches, the researchers say.

That would be a loss for surfers that seek out long, scenic rides at Topanga, the bizarre and brutal break called “The Wedge” at Newport or the classic and beloved “Lower Trestles” outside of San Clemente. (All make Surfer Today’s list of the best Southern California surf spots.) Surf spots where waves break at low tide may disappear when the sea level rises. Spots where waves break at high tide will only break at low tide. ​

Those measures might prevent some beach erosion, but they don’t have surfer’s needs in mind. For The Inertia, an online surfing community, surfer and scientist Shawn Kelly explains the serious effects climate chance will have on the sport. He brings his authority as a…

Wait just a damned second. The Inertia? How did those kooky bastards weasel into my morning? Well now I don’t know what to believe and, to be honest, am inclined to discount this entire “sea level rise” thing altogether.

The Inertia for Pete’s sake. I mean, seriously. The Inertia. First the pride of Venice-adjacent tries to take the fun out of weed and now this? Now this?

Sons of bitches. Sons of damned bitches.

Tom Carroll, Shark Shield's dazzling ambassador. | Photo: Shark Shield

Coming: Subsidised shark repellants!

Two hundred dollars of government cash towards your new Shark Shield.

You might’ve heard that sleepy ol Western Australia has a Great White problem. One attack, two attacks, fifteen deaths since 2000. All presumed to be hits by Great Whites, a species that’s been protected since, oh, 1999.

Quick question: How many surfers were killed by sharks in Western Australia prior to 2004?

Did you get it?

(The answer is zero.)

The latest was a seventeen-year-old kid surfing with her dad. Leg bitten off at the hip. Bled out on the beach in front of her family while an off-duty nurse pounded her heart. Further evidence, if any was necessary, that there abounds a healthy stock of Great White sharks in the Indian Ocean.

Maybe there always was.

As reported by the fabulous, bass-voiced Fred Pawle in The Australian today

The protection of great white sharks was introduced in Australia when nobody in the world knew the species’ global population, says one of the co-­authors of the federal government’s plan to replenish the species in 2002. 

One could argue that this is still the case. Despite decades of expen­sive research, precious little is known about shark abundance and behaviour, which is why every time there is an attack we have the same futile debate.

It gets worse. It turns out Australia was emphatically told the debate was ill-­informed in 2004, when a Japanese fishing ­official strongly objected to our successful application to increase worldwide protection of great whites. The ­official argued that the application was based on insufficient evidence and failed to consider the potential of increasing attacks on people.

At a meeting of the 22 Australian researchers contributing to the Great White Recovery Plan in 2002, the CSIRO’s chief shark ­researcher at the time, John Stevens, who has since retired, was asked whether he knew the size of the species’ global population.

“He was not in a position to ­answer it because the research had not been done,” says Geoff ­McPherson, who represented the Queensland Department of Primary Industries at the meeting.


Such pessimism about the dangers of sharks, and the pragmatism to deal with them, were not on display at the Senate hearing in Perth yesterday. “We are both fearful and fascinated by our monsters,” professor Jessica Meeuwig, of the University of Western Australia, told the hearing.

She said the fear was based on the prospect of becoming prey, and the fascination was an attempt to avoid doing so. She attributed these survival instincts to our “lower brains”.

She then said lethal methods for managing sharks were “dumb … ineffective, counter-productive, woefully arrogant and socially shortsighted”. She cited “good data” from Queensland, NSW and Hawaii that “shows there has been no reduction in the incidents of ­attacks” when lethal methods, such as nets and drum lines, are used.

The data suggests this is not the case. In Queensland, there has been one fatality at a protected beach in 50 years; the same applies to NSW, where nets were first ­installed in 1936.

When the Federal Government told the new left-wing government of WA they should prioritise humans over sharks they were hit with the old “killing sharks won’t save lives” line.

Same story. Same results.

Anyway, it remains a helluva problem. Great Whites are killing kids, tourism and a lifestyle that defines a state where its inhabitants squat on the edge of the Simpson desert.

It didn’t help that Filipe Toledo and Kolohe Andino were dragged out of the water by jetskis at the government-sponsored Margaret River Pro when the water suddenly boiled in a feeding frenzy. Not that you would’ve known there was the potential for Jeffreys Bay redux.

“Surface action” is the new euphemism for “shark”. Cue Margaret River tourism ad.

But politics, especially of the left-leaning variety, means any kind of tough decision is going to be an impossible sell. If the government won’t allow nets and won’t allow sharks to be fished, what can they do?

How about subsidising shark repellants such as the Shark Shield? Six hundred bucks built into your Ocean Earth tailpad. 

Do they work? Depends who you talk to.

Shark Shield says yes.

Anecdotal evidence suggests a generous maybe.

But, what the hell, it’s the appearance of the government doing something eco-friendly and tech-forward that matters.

And do you wonder how they’ll police the subsidy? Do you need to have a WA address?

Shark Shield managing director Lyndsay Lyon, meanwhile, is doing brisk business even before the subsidy comes into effect. He’s sold six hundred in the last four months.