Oh how I wish I charged like this wahine!

The Pains of Chasing a Swell!

Physical pain is excruciating, but it's the emotional wounds that truly break a man!

Sometimes you track a swell quarter-way ‘round the world and everything goes right. The waves produce, the winds are light, the sun is out and you put on the performance of a lifetime. Then a filmer captures your best ride of the trip and you manage to seduce a local temptress, only to put on the second-best performance of your life. This is what we all dream of, no?

Well that’s never happened to me. Oftentimes one or two or maybe three of the criteria persist, but to expect a perfect sweep would be delusional. In reality, most of us are lucky to get one or two memorable waves on these ventures, as the terrifying and perplexing realities of foreign surf travel are enough to throw even some pros for a loop.

For two-and-a-half days the waves were absolutely flawless in Fiji. Long period, immaculately angled swell was met with soft offshores, the results of which were the most imacculate waves I’ve seen. The best of the bunch were trading their time between getting one exceptionally long barrel, or two-to-three medium length barrels per wave. The mediocre guys settled for a few stand-tall sections and fire-hose spits.

I was happy with my performance on day one. I got five waves that were better than anything I’d caught in California this season, and one of them was a proper bomb. I even have some (blurry) photographic evidence, which will be cool to show my grandkids someday. It’s amazing how, in a historical context, a photo can change someone’s legend from from pussy to pirate, just like that.

Like, what if Eddie Aikau only caught one big wave in his life? What if the Tiananmen protester just had to go back and pick up his wallet real quick? What if Trump didn’t have the most widely-attended inauguration of all time? Photographic folk-lore is powerful.

Day two was big — that in-between big where Cloudbreak isn’t quite on the outer reef, but it isn’t really on the first reef either. You can either sit way out the back and stroke into a rolly one, or sit on the ledge and hope to nab an insider before getting the sets on your head. Cat and mouse, as they say.

For the pros, especially the Hawaiians, this was no big deal. These guys handle poundings at Jaws, so a few second-reefers at Thundercloud probably doesn’t scare them much. As I watched from the boat, these boys (along with a few equally brave boatmen) consistently nabbed long, running, double-up tubes from takeoff to kickout. It was beautiful and terrifying.

Eventually I worked up the courage to paddle out. Upon entering the lineup, a medium one swung wide and came right to me. I was deep, and late, but I had chance. I swung around and started grinding toward the tower until I saw the line stretch out and felt my tail begin to lift. At this point I made the biggest mistake of my day — I pulled back.

Now, granted, according to people who were watching this from the shoulder, there’s almost no chance I would have made it. But had I gone, I have a feeling the rest of my session would have played out differently. Had I just taken that initial pounding, I would have been freed from the fear and able to enjoy myself from there on out.

The rest of my session was spent getting paddled around (another unfortunate result of pulling back), wearing wash-throughs on the head, and misreading the two very good waves I caught. I’ve learned that Cloudbreak is a difficult wave to understand for any newcomer, but on your backhand it’s another level. I returned to the boat three hours later exhausted and ashamed.

On the last day the swell had died considerably, though there were still a few gems to be had. I made a conscious decision to paddle to the top of the point, wait my turn, and get at least one screamer to wash away yesterday’s disappointment (classic Slater move).

On my best two waves, I was burnt to a crisp by a couple of the visiting pros. I guess some of them were on ‘shrooms and just fucking around in the relatively playful surf. Though playful for them can be world-class to the rest of us.

The swell is now gone, so I’ve decided to sit the day out and address my wounds — both physical and emotional. I’ve got New-Skin for the reef cuts and this article for my aching heart.

But please don’t mistake this tale as a general complaint. First of all, I understand I’m unjustifiably fortunate to even have this opportunity. Second, I’m actually glad I’ve yet to have the ‘perfect’ trip. Because where do you go from there? I never want to score so hard that I end up thinking, the forecast looks fun, but how could it live up to Pohnpei in 2015?

No, I’d rather continue on my path of half-successful ventures with maximum levels of froth, rather than having already hit my apex moment. Much like with food and sex, the anticipation of sterling surf is often, if not always, greater than reality. If you kill the possibility of improvement, you’re stripping yourself of the most exciting part.

Just in: Jordy insults entire generation!

South African star Jordy Smith declares war!

Did you love Jordy Smith’s new movie Just Now? Oh and you should! It is a feast for the eyes feat. Namibia, South Africa, Jordy’s banging car + prog surfing. It is a feast for the ears feat. Motley Crew’s Girls, Girls, Girls + Guns n’ Roses’ Knockin on Heaven’s Door + Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song + Nirvana’s Nothing Els Matters.

Wait just a second.

Who in hell is Motley Crew? A new cover band? A South African only act like The Sugarman? You don’t think Jordy means Mötley Crüe do you? He couldn’t possibly. It would be the rudest thing a man could do, spelling their carefully constructed name “Motley Crew.”

And Nirvana’s Nothing Els Matters? Nirvana’s? Hmmmmmmmm. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I think the band Metallica once covered the Nirvana banger Smells Like Teen Spirit but…….. I don’t think Nirvana ever smashed out Nothing Els Matters. Or Nothing Else Matters either. And they DEFINITELY didn’t smash out the version Jordy used in his film CLEARLY starring James Hetfield’s soaring vibrato.

And this one is far worse than bastardizing Mötley Crüe. This one is basically unforgivable to my entire generation (X). I saw Nirvana play in a high school gym in Salem, Oregon and it changed my life. The football kids listened to Metallica. Future surf journalists and homeless people listened to Nirvana.

I’m going to mosh into Jordy next time I see him. I am going to mosh into him real good.

(Watch here!)

Speed, power, flow, innovation and degree of difficulty!

Watch: Your Daily Dose of Yago!

Name ten people who surf better... y'can't!

I almost posted this video of Brazilian charge-dog Diego Santos, as his tubular prowess is truly something to behold. But then I thought, no. Yago is better.

And so what if this video is an advert for a skateboard company, and half the clips are artsy sidewalk carves? The surfing clips are B-grade Yago, which is like, A-grade anyone else.

It’s true, I’m a Dora fanboy. His style, technique, and progressive flair are too hot to ignore. And it ain’t just me! I’ve heard that freesurf guys hate going on trips with him because he sticks absolutely everything, but also love going on trips with him because he’s a legend of a human.

Despite the fact he could easily thrive in the freesurfing realm, Yago has opted to pursue the QS in order to earn a spot on the top thirty-four. So far he’s doing alright for himself, with a win at a QS 6,000 that’s put him in the number two slot on the season. He’ll need much more come Sunset, though.

Yago’s one of those guys who I’d love to see on Tour, but I wouldn’t wanna lose his freesurfing talents in the process. The harsh reality is that if you want to succeed on the CT, you’ve gotta do everything in your power to make heats. That means avoiding injury and learning to surf consistently conservatively. And to lose Yago’s je ne sais quoi would be a damn shame.

Anyways, the clip!

Man Hit by 20-Foot White Rides Again!

Loses leg in attack. Gets a plastic stilt and surfs again! What spirit!

I doubt if there’s a more beautiful creature in the ocean than the White Pointer, the Great White, White Death. Those formidable teeth resting on the glistening red underlip, the beauty of her white underbody, the roundness of her girth.

Closer inspection of such titanic beauty, of course, is never wise.

Two years ago, South Australian surfer Chris Blowes was surfing an easy wave called The Right near Port Lincoln, a tuna fishing town on the Eyre Peninsula. Plenty of fish. Plenty of sharks.

Chris, who was twenty six, was sitting upright on his board among a pack of a dozen guys, a few metres from rocks, when what witnesses described as a 20-foot great white attacked and swam away with his leg and surfboard.

‘I was just watching the shark go out to the ocean with his board still attached. Obviously the shark still had his leg and he was still swimming around with it,’ one surfer told the Adelaide Advertiser.

“I remember being its mouth,” he said. “All those thoughts come rushing through your head … ‘I don’t want to die … I don’t want to die’.”

Pals rescued Chris before the twenty-footer could have another swing and used leashes as a tourniquet. Chris’ heart stopped for an hour-and-a-half, clinically dead, etc.

He survived, and now shuttles around on the one remaining stilt.

But that don’t mean he can’t shred, or at least wet his five remaining toes.

Now, we see Chris, twenty eight, surfing with the prosthetic leg that was a gift from the local community. (A Facebook page Chris Blowes Support was set up to raise cash.)

It’s a helluva thing, don’t you think?

Would you get back in the drink after a Great White had swum off with your leg (and your sled) and you were laying on the beach without a pulse?

Surf journalist pictured after finishing wonderful interview with Kai Otton.
Surf journalist pictured after finishing wonderful interview with Kai Otton.

Surf journalism: “An invincible summer!”

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Our dear Michael Ciaramella posted a recent bit where he exhorted us all to Watch: Our Competitor’s Film! I wondered, when I read the headline who our competitor was, clicked on and saw that it was What Youth. “But oh!” I thought to myself. “What Youth is not our competition. We’re fellow travelers! Just like Milo Yiannopoulos and the alt-right!”

And it is true. What Youth and The Surfer’s Journal bookend all that is good in surfing. The boys stitch together brilliant magazines, each and every one a treasure and sometimes I get to come and play too. The  below appears, in full, in What Youth issue 17 which feat. the beautiful Chippa Wilson on cover. It deals with career choices.

Buy the issue here! And read a little taste here!

I once dreamed of throwing off this empty yoke. Of finishing with surf and taking up only journalism and meaning something again. I went to Ukraine right after Kiev’s population burned the city center to the ground in protest of a government linked too closely to Russia. An angry mist hung in the air and angry Ukrainians manned make-shift bunkers, waiting to fight to the death for what they believed. It meant something. It meant life or death. It was important.

I chatted with Bernie Sander’s chief of staff as that movement was cranking to full volume last year. He spoke of the dreams, hopes, perils of America’s youth. He spoke of what could be done, politically, to create a bright future or at least a future the kids could be proud of. He spoke of fear, terror, health care, free university education, music, art, literature and it was important.

I interviewed with General David Petraeus on stage at a hedge fund conference in front of millionaires and billionaires waiting to invest trillions. He was once a general and once the director of the CIA and had a widely reported affair with a reporter. A journalist! And we went back and forth about China and Saudi Arabia and Osama bin Laden and ISIS and gas prices and security. The weight of the investing world hinged on our conversation. Whole markets ready to rise or fall. It was important.

And then I came back to surfing. To surfing journalism. I left Ukraine, I didn’t even write up the Bernie story and I laughed with David Petraeus. Why? To be honest I don’t really know. But what is knowledge? I gots none! I feel there is some magic in this absurd. In this surfing.

French Algerian author Albert Camus wrote so much about it. He was not a surf journalist but wrote the absurd is man’s great fight. That none of this means anything but it is our greatest struggle to make sense of it.
He wrote about pushing stones up hills that continue to roll down and we continue to push them back up. He wrote about the emptiness. The terrible feeling that nothing is actually important. He wrote, “At any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face.”

But do you know what he also wrote?

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

Now that’s what I’m talking about. Surf journalism. The invincible summer.