The best ever? | Photo: Dick Hoole

Book Review: Sean Doherty’s ‘MP’

The King of Kirra!

It only took me six months, but I’ve finally closed Sean Doherty’s MP: The Life of Michael Peterson. The book is a biographical homage to Australia’s enigmatic surf hero, Michael Peterson.

A summary:

Michael’s life was the product of a harrowing assault. A three-man gang-rape against 19-year-old Joan Peterson. Joan kept the truth of Michael’s origins a secret for most of his life, to “protect him”.

Despite MP’s ill begotten conception, the man was destined for greatness. A physical specimen and handsome to boot, young MP plowed his way through hordes of Australia’s barely-legal beauties. He continued this trend into his late-twenties.

But in the grand scheme of things, women were tertiary on Michael’s list of favorite pastimes. There was an unbreakable tie for first between surfing and marijuana. The weed calmed his mind while the surfing electrified his soul.

Michael’s performances at his home break were revolutionary to the point that he became known as the King of Kirra. Not long after, he was considered the best surfer in Australia, and briefly, the world.

While Michael’s successes grew his legend, they also spawned his demons. Contest winnings meant money for drugs, and weed quickly became an insufficient high. At the time the Goldcoast was in the midst of a minor heroin explosion, and Michael lived well within the blast radius.

And while dope is enough to do most people in, for Michael, the worst side effect was the awakening of a sleeping giant — schizophrenia.

The downfall of Michael Peterson was a long and and grueling process. He got worse, he got better, then got worse again but the trajectory was always trending downward. Eventually Michael went to jail, then a psych ward, then his mom’s house, then a bunch of other psych wards then his mom’s house again. He died in 2012 at the age of 60.

This is a very very VERY condensed version of Doherty’s tale but surely you get the gist. Incredibly talented and troubled man takes on the world and goes down swinging. Wonderful!

I found this telling of MP’s life story to be extremely honest and thorough. No one could accuse Doherty of over-writing the biography, as it falls into a very simplistic structure and diction, but he concluded the book beautifully. Tied together all the loose ends and showed his true ability as a thinker and scribe.

If you’re looking for a mind-blowing piece of literature, this book is not for you. If you want to learn a shitload about Australian surfing history and the man the Mick Fanning calls God, read MP.

Now, there’s just one thing I must get off my chest.

Pretty much everyone in the book says MP was the best surfer they’d ever seen. That his speed and tube riding and carves were entirely unmatched. To this day, Michael is considered maybe the best to ever ride Kirra. Yet, whenever I see videos of MP, he looks… very average. Off-balance and erratic. Not someone I’d care to watch surf.

I realize it was a different time period with different standards, but I can easily appreciate the abilities of same-era surfers MR and Rabbit Bartholomew.

So am I blind or stupid or all three?

Just in: Surfer Dies at Sandon Point

Man dragged dead from water at popular righthander.

If you’re on Australia’s south-east coast right now, you’re being lit by a fine six-to-eight-foot swell. A south-west wind, which is offshore in these parts, is keeping the dirt off before the expected sea breeze at noon.

A little size can have its drawbacks, however.

Earlier this morning, a surfer was pulled from the water at Sandon Point, a long, B-plus righthander near Wollongong. Other surfers saw the man, who was sixty five, floating face down in the water at 7:15 am and dragged him to the beach over one of surfing’s more difficult rock exits.

Despite resuscitation attempts, the man died at the scene. The cause of death is unknown. i.e. heart attack, hit by his board etc.

Whenever I hear about these events, I’m struck by a couple of feelings. Likely, the guy’s got a wife and grown kids, whose own lives have suddenly changed forever. Very sad.

But I also get a sense that, what, sixty-five, well, that ain’t a bad run. And better to die embraced by the ocean than confusedly wandering the halls of a dementia unit thirty years hence.

Oh the brevity of life.

As Seneca wrote a couple of thousand years ago: “You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last.” 

World’s most surprising school!

Feat. sandwiches, sunscreen, rash guards and...... guess who else?

Magazine writers from the majors and mid-majors (Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair, etc.) generally attend surf schools at least every other year around summer time and then publish stories of their learnings. I have never once been surprised by one of these stories until I read Jennifer Kester’s newest offering in this week’s Forbes. Would you like to be surprised too? Let’s read together!

My goal was minimal: Don’t drown. Sure, it was a low bar to set, but during the drive from the new Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina on the west coast of the island to meet my surf instructor on the northern part, I envisioned best-case scenarios that included slipping on the board and cracking my head. I didn’t even care if I managed to stand up on the board.

While I’m an adequate swimmer, I had never climbed on a surfboard and wasn’t sure that my first time should be in the same waters that draw professional surfers worldwide to participate in competitions as fierce as the waves.

For added pressure, my instructor was Makua Rothman, the World Surf League’s 2015 Big Wave world champion. He entered his first surf contest when he was three years old, at 18 caught a 66-foot wave to win the Billabong XXL World Challenge and at 23 scooped up the O’Neill World Cup and the World Tow-In title.

His connection to the water and land goes further than his many accomplishments. The 32-year-old was born for this: his full first name is Makuakai, which means “guardian of the sea,” and he’s the 12th great-grandson of King Kamehameha, the ruler who first united all of the Hawaiian Islands into a single kingdom.

It was inevitable that I would embarrass myself in front of one of the sport’s best athletes. Why wasn’t I paired with a kiddie instructor?

What a fabulous turn! Makua Rothman, the 12th great-grandson of King Kamehameha and, more impressively, oldest son of the great Eddie Rothman playing the role of hunky surf stud! Let’s read a little more!

Next, I waited belly down on the board next to Rothman for the right wave. As I relaxed on the board over the undulating waves and chatted, I almost forgot why I was there. Then Rothman suddenly yelled, “Go!”

I scrambled and started paddling, and as I felt the wave lift me up, I clumsily hoisted myself onto the board. Almost slipping, I somehow regained my balance and then firmly planted my feet in the position with my arms outstretched, as Rothman showed me. I rode the gentle wave, and it was exhilarating.

It all happened so fast, I didn’t get a chance to overthink my movements. And after the wave unfurled, I ungracefully crumbled into the water. But I was astounded that I surfed on my first try. In just minutes, it was over. I was done as far as I was concerned.

Then Rothman sidled up beside me on his surfboard and said, “Great job! Next time, you’ll ride the wave all the way to the shore.”

Next time? I was dumbstruck. Didn’t he realize that was just a fluke?

It goes on and is brilliant in that it is completely unexpected. And you should finish it all here all by yourself!

This can('t) be you!

Join: The BeachGrit Betting Game!

Win small, lose big!

Step right up, folks! I’ve got a game you simply cannot resist (so long as you’re overly-confident in your betting abilities and under-equipped in scam detection)!

As you hopefully know, the men’s world title race has gained new traction since the conclusion of Oi Pro. Thanks to an early exit from world number one, the quest for the cup has been blown wide open. Let’s look at the numbers.

By winning in Saquarema, Adriano put a 10,000-point down payment on his annual CT investment, leaving him with 24,000 points and a share of second place. Tied with ADS are Jordy and Owen Wright whom, alongside the plumber, have identical placings across the four events this season (1,5,5,9, in no particular order).

In first, by no more than a curly blonde chin-pube, is reigning world champ John Florence. He sits at 24,750 points — less than one heat of difference for all incense and porpoises.

The next suitor is Matt Wilkinson, who sits with a measly 16,750 points. He’s not technically out of the race, but was he ever really in it to begin with?

With all of this in mind, I have one simple question:

1. Who will win the 2017 WSL world title?
1(a). How much skin are you willing to peel for your pick?

The following odds have been designed with historical data, surfers’ abilities at certain locations, and WSL judging/storyline biases in mind:

Jordy: 100 to 1
Adriano: 25 to 1
Owen: 10 to 1
John John: .75 to 1
Slater: 1 to BeachGrit ownership for a day. (Write whatever you want!)
Other: 1 to an all-expenses paid, private getaway with Rory Parker! (wife not included)

All bets can be made to my personal PayPal account. Inquire for details.

The lovely form of a beached ten-foot tiger.

“Ignoble massacre” of Reunion’s sharks!

Or maybe a non-emotional response to a spiralling problem?

It’s been a busy few months on pretty Reunion Island. First, back to back fatal shark attacks which prompted the article Shark Phobia is Justified and the  posit that if driving a car was, as the stats are always being quoted, more dangerous than surfing, there should’ve been 100,000 car deaths on the little island.

In April, a suspected Islamist opened fired on cops after his apartment was raided (weapons and the ingredients for molotov cocktails found). A neighbour said she had noticed the recent convert to Islam had grown a luxurious new beard.

And, last Thursday, five sharks, three bulls and two tigers ranging from six to twelve feet, were caught off  Saint-Pierre (the bulls) and Saint-Gille, the tigers.

No controversy in that piece of news, am I right? The joint’s crawling with tigers and bulls, neither fish in danger of vanishing.

Even Kelly Slater, who ain’t one for the knee-jerk killin’ of sea creatures, suggested it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to manage the island’s shark population. 

“Honestly, I won’t be popular for saying this but there needs to be a serious cull on Reunion and it should happen everyday. If the whole world had these rates of attack nobody would use the ocean and literally millions of people would be dying like this.”

But, oowee, folks lit up when the photos of the beached fish were published online. A Facebook page called Contre la pêche des requins à la Réunion (Against Fishing Sharks on Reunion), which counts a healthy 12,692 likes, wrote:

“5 Sharks massacres in the one day of 18 may. !!!!!
Spread, share en masse l image of l ignoble massacre committed by the state has the reunion French in this moment. Amazing share in a few hours. Thank you, thank you for the sharks and for the meeting, continue even louder, share we must show that the people of réunion and those who support them refuse this heinous massacre, paid for with your taxes that a minority of surfers saint gillois imposes upon them, with the complicity of the State.”

That piece was shared 5044 times and stimulated close to two hundred comments, mostly of the it’s-their-turf-surf-at-your-own-risk variety.

What an emotional and divisive issue it is.

Reunion is an  island where surfing and swimming is banned unless there are shark spotters in place, and nets serve as protection on a couple of beaches. Go surf and getting your leg or arm torn off and bleeding out before your buddies can get your stump back to the beach isn’t just an abstract concern.

It’s also an island run by the mother ship in Paris.

Wrap the bourgeoise Parisian’s feel-good vibes for sharks around the actual residents’ valid fears and you hit a wall.


Let’s imagine it’s you, and not Emmanuel Macron, in the Presidential Palace. You greet representatives from Reunion in your office who ask for the marine park listing to be removed.

They show you photos of little Eli Canestri, one of the island’s best young surfers, who died surfing four years ago.

“Despite the ban in place and the instructions of his coach, how could one forbid a young boy of 13 from pursuing his passion when one lives on an island surrounded by the ocean and these magnificent waves,” the president of the French  Surfing Federation, Jean Luc Arassus, said at the time.

Or the barely teenage girl bitten in half swimming five metres from shore.

And photos of the seven other surfers dead because of what is clearly an overpopulation of sharks.

Would you remove the marine park listing?

Or would you capitulate to the position that the bull and tiger shark are sacred animals and must be protected at all costs?

All costs.