I wanted to do one full week of coverage on Laird Hamilton telling TMZ that sharks attack because women are menstruating but I only made it for two days. Long enough to be able to write menstruating without having to Google its spelling but not long enough to set any tangible record.
Still, pretty good. But really, more than anything, I have been waiting patiently for The Inertia‘s take on the incident. Venice-adjacent sometime-white water rafting blog has a totally un-ironic lefty streak and I was dying for them to jump in all indignant and shred dear Laird for being a misogynistic creep.
But then again, would they? Laird Hamilton and his hydrofoil/SUP/super food non-dairy creamer represents everything The Inertia holds dear. Would they, instead of castigating their hero blame TMZ for misrepresenting an honest, albeit naive, opinion?
I waited and waited and waited and then just this minute right now found their take on Laird-gate buried deep in their feed. It read:
We’re not quite sure where this came from, and TMZ has a reputation for pulling out the worst quotes when its reporters stick mics in people’s faces, but this nugget from Laird Hamilton on how woman experiencing their menstrual cycle are at a greater risk of being bitten by a shark is a head scratcher. Hard to find any evidence to back that up. So we’ll just leave this here.
That’s it and I haven’t been this let down since thieves broke into my family home when I was eleven years old and stole most of the presents from under the Christmas tree.
WHAT SPINELESS FUCKING PUSSIES!
I mean, I knew Zach Weisberg and crew were spineless and I guess I knew they were pussies but COME ON! For once, just once, grow a fucking pair of BALLS. Pick a FUCKING side!
One of you Inertia bastards better explain how you let this story fall so flat or I’m storming the office and NOT bringing any paleo granola bars with me.
And do you recall, just two months ago, when I told you that I surfed perfect Cloudbreak very poorly but witnessed a young Harry Bryant break his hymen in heroic fashion?
No? Well it happened. And finally the proof has surfaced.
If you’ve ever surfed Cloudbreak, you know how difficult of a wave it is. The good ones look like closeouts, the closeouts look like closeouts, and the bad ones look like the wave of your life. It’s confusing as hell, but somehow, on his maiden voyage to Fiji, Harry Bryant was baking cakes in industrial-sized ovens.
His last wave I saw from our boat. I even have a shitty iPhone clip of the damn thing. Seeing a wave like that in real life is pretty surreal. After a certain point, generally around the eight-second mark of the barrel, it seems simultaneously impossible and inevitable that he’s gonna come flying out the end of it.
The big day was pretty hit-or-miss, but Harry handled himself with courage and aplomb. Often picking off waves down the reef, the out-the-back crew would collectively shake its heads every time a cheer from the channel was matched with a blonde-dyed-pink head flying over the shoulder.
Amongst a healthy crew of pros and Cloudbreak specialists, Harry owned that swell. As Ryan Hipwood called it, “I don’t think the kid’s fallen off his board all day.”
Which leads me to this question, readers:
Have you ever been THE guy? The one who gets all the best waves in a premier session and is lauded by the crew for a week straight?
Just kiddin! But I am proud of how tightly I grabbed him by the pussy and how absurdly long I held on. That was, like, two full days of nothin but Laird. A personal best and it will be difficult to surpass even by sometime yoga instructional website The Inertia.
But let us move away from Laird’s doctoral thesis and into his home town of Malibu! There is a new YouTube serial called Malibu Surf which… ummmm… I’ll let the show’s creator tell you.
“Imagine a world where 4 beautiful boys, 4 beautiful girls, surf, sand, drama and romance are the norm! This is real life for Rio, Joey, Ally, Jacob, Keaton, Courtney, Sofia and Sean. They all live in Malibu, CA and spend their days lying on the beach or surfing and their nights causing mischief in Malibu or going to parties. Some of them are friends…some of them are frenemies… but all of them live in a world where it’s a surfers paradise!”
I’ll admit I was slightly confused when I first read because it is not Surfers Paradise and has nothing to do with Australia’s Gold Coast. It is Malibu. And it opens with one girl asking another girl, “What’s Maui like? I’ve never been there.” And her answering, “It’s so different than here. Like, it’s kind of the same how everyone knows everyone here but the surfing is so much more corporate here.” And the the first one says, “Yeah, if you don’t have a sponsor you’re kinda out.”
Fucking corporate Malibu surf scene with all its sponsored groms.
This is a question that’s presumably been around for ages, and for good reason — the answer says a lot about a person.
Me? I’ll take the bad news every time. The same way that I’ll eat my least favorite foods first and wait an hour for a set on a pumping swell.
I prefer starting low and attaining something positive down the line to a fleeting moment of happiness followed shortly by despair. The promise of upward momentum puts my mind at ease.
But for the sake of this article, I’m going to defy my personal preference. I’ll deliver the good news about Indonesia first, followed by the very bad news, because it’s important to my message.
The good news: Indo has been bombing!
Indonesia was recently pegged with a colorful blob and the islands jumped for joy. Sumbawa, Lombok, Bali, Java, Sumatra and every little reef pass in between went ballistic for three days straight. Below is a clip from Nias — one of the better zones from the swell.
So that happened over a week ago, but waves continue to batter the archipelago from a series of Southern Ocean lows. Speaking of which, how’s this triple-up headed that way next week? Book your tickets, Aussie friends!
Or maybe don’t. Because, well…
The bad news: Indonesia, specifically its capital Jakarta, was the site of a terrorist attack yesterday evening. Two suicide bombers, three cops dead, a number of civilians injured, and widespread panic is what most reports are stating.
According to9 News Perth, officials are warning people in high tourist areas, especially Kuta and Seminyak in Bali, to be extremely cautious at this time. “The Department of Foreign Affairs has issued an updated travel warning, reminding holiday visitors to be vigilant,” the report says.
And dammit, this is a tricky one. Not the Indo event specifically, but the whole Islam/terrorist thing.
First of all, I feel it’s pointless to waste your time worrying about being hit by an attack. Much like with sharks, if it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen. Of course there are things you can do to lessen your odds of becoming a victim, like avoiding high risk areas (major cities/Reunion Island/Ariana Grande concerts/SoCal), but at the end of the day you can’t let fear handicap the most enjoyable parts of your life.
The more I think about it, the more connections I see between terrorist organizations and sharks.
For instance, there’s a group (conservatives) who want to destroy them at all costs. It’s somewhat noble, in the sense that they’re trying to protect “innocent” lives, but the means of achieving their goals are often shortsighted, inhumane, or downright impossible (how many sharks are you going to kill, and what happens if you do fuck up the food chain? How do you defeat terrorism, when the very act of bombing people in these regions only multiplies their number of adherents?)
Then there’s the other side (liberals). They find it repugnant to cast blame on Muslims or sharks but totally acceptable to cast blame on those who cast blame on Muslims or sharks. They don’t have any real answers, other than the cold, hard fact that they retain the moral high ground on any and all issues. In their eyes, doing nothing is often better than doing something drastic. (Don’t kill sharks, don’t bomb the Middle East/blame Islam, because it’s “immoral” and the repercussions could be worse than the issues at hand.)
Then there’s the concept of what a “terrorist” even is.
I once took a class on terrorism (in Australia, no less!) that opened my eyes to the concept of perspective. It made me reconsider several truths that I once held self-evident.
For instance, is an ISIS member a terrorist because he beheads American POWs or makes a bomb out of himself, with hopes of taking civilians’ lives along with his own? Is a shark a terrorist because it occasionally eats people?
The easy answer, the most emotionally-charged answer, is yes. Their disregard for our western values/aquatic playtime is unjustifiable, their murderous tendencies inhumane.
But let’s take a second to really think about it.
Imagine you were (like me) born in 1993, but instead of suburban Pennsylvania you were raised in bumblefuck Afghanistan. At the age of eight, your country was bombed and ransacked by the West as a result of the 9/11 attacks — an atrocity perpetrated by exactly zero Afghan pilots. For years you watched these Western nations bomb your home, take over your villages, and disrupt your political system. Innocent friends and family killed in the pursuit of “justice”.
So, assuming that you come from a group the West deemed as unscrupulous and were treated as such, are you a terrorist for fighting back against the intruders in any way possible? Even if it means killing innocent people to strike fear in the Western world — the only means of power you really have?
Put yourself in that position. Feel the bomb-blown sand in your eyes, hair, teeth. The stillness of a once-familiar corpse at your feet. How would you react?
I’m not saying you’d be right to retaliate, but how can someone take the definitive stance that you’d be wrong for aligning with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or even ISIS? That you’re bloody pissed at what the West has done to your people, your home?
This is one mediocre example of a simple, if under-appreciated sentiment: terrorism is in the eye of the victim. To many Middle Easterners, we’re saviors. To others, we’re the terrorists.
You can argue that our intentions are more noble or our means more moral than the ISISes of the world, but they probably feel just as justified in their own minds. A man in the sky told them so.
In essence, we’re killing over ideologies (and oil), they’re killing over ideologies. The idea that the West maintains a monopoly over “legitimate” violence is ludicrous.
Now, sharks are slightly different because, well, they’re not human. Sad as it may be, I can’t justify giving sharks equal and empathetical treatment to a person. Even a member of a “terrorist” organization. Darwin’s rules, not mine.
That said, I do care about the ecosystem and sharks’ role in it. If a few people gotta die to maintain the balance of the ocean, that’s cool with me. If we can kill a few sharks (and save people) without affecting the overall ecosystem, I’m cool with that too.
The problem is, it’s difficult to achieve objective scientific answers for these types of questions. Much like it’s difficult to discern the effects of “terrorist” eradication.
As a younger man I spent copious amounts of time in the middle east. Lebanon, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Egypt, Palestine and with terrorists. Or at least what we here in the west define as “terrorists.” Hezbollah, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Hamas, Al-Qaeda, The Muslim Brotherhood, etc. I drank tea, chatted, laughed, argued, disagreed and was once nabbed and thrown into a blood-stained dungeon then interrogated for almost ever.
Do I know what’s going on in the mind of a terrorist?
Do Laird Hamilton and Mark Healey, who have spent copious amounts of time in the ocean and with sharks, know what’s going on in the mind of that predator?
Their claim that menstruation leads to an uptick in shark attack because it kind of makes sense and/or they have seen sharks sniffing girls in the water has simply not been corroborated by any study whatsoever. Zero studies. None. And shall we read from a shark doctor on Broadly?
We asked Dr. Tricia Meredith, who literally wrote the book on the olfactory response of sharks. For her dissertation, she hooked sharks up to a device that introduced controlled amounts of prey odors (smells associated with a shark’s next meal) into a shark’s nose, then measured the electrical impulses in their nasal cavity. She weakened the concentration of these prey odors to determine how diffuse an odor a shark could still pick up. Dr. Meredith found that sharks can detect prey odors as minute as one part per billion—still superhuman, but not better than other fish with similar schnozzes. One part per billion is roughly the background scent level of the ocean. If a shark’s sense of smell was any better they would be flooded with stimulus, the olfactory equivalent of those people who can’t deal with the sound of chewing.
There is one sensory arena where sharks excel, but it isn’t smell. Sharks are incredibly electroreceptive, meaning they can detect teeny tiny electromagnetic fields in water. Sharks possess a science fiction-y and awesomely-named organ called the ampullae of Lorenzini, which are pores, located on the snout, that end in jelly-filled bulbs. These bulbs contain nerves that detect electric fields in the water as small as five millionths of a volt per centimeter. Sharks use the ampullae of Lorenzini to navigate the ocean and detect prey. All ocean-dwelling animals emit an electrical field: Muscle contractions release bioelectricity, and, as Dr. Kajiura says, “any animal in the ocean with a thin, leaky mucus membrane acts as a battery in seawater,” because of the differing pH levels inside and outside the animal. Dr. Kajiura was talking about gills, but “thin, leaky mucus membrane” could also double as the least sexy description of a vagina ever (and that’s including Martin Lawrence’s infamous SNL monologue).
So there you go. Maybe Laird and Healey are right. Maybe they have some kind of sixth sense born of time spent in the ocean and know what sharks are really thinking. Maybe the right study hasn’t been conducted yet.
And maybe I’ll be able to predict ISIS’s next move.