Here, Christian Fletcher, right, and the patron saint of young surfers everywhere, Mr John John Florence.

Audio: Christian Fletcher V BeachGrit!

Christian Fletcher debates with Michael Ciaramella!

To read the lead up to this heated debate, click here!

So there I was, sitting in the middle of Pepi’s Sports Bar in Capo Beach, CA, with the entire crowd looking at me.

They were ready to witness a slaughtering. My slaughtering. At the hands of their beloved, if slightly psychotic hometown hero, Christian Fletcher.

Christian didn’t like some things I wrote about him. In fact he thought that journalists, or “mag fags” as he calls them, were by in large pussies. That we took things out of context and avoided interaction with our very subjects. That we sensationalized and opined on topics which we didn’t fully understand.

He’s not wrong.

And it was my time to pay for these sins, via a presidential-style-debate about grom abuse, in front of his home crowd. His friends and family. A constituency loyal to the point of tattooing Christian’s namesake on their half-shaven domes. Does Slater even have that?

Ya Pitt @chrisname this dude is serious!!

A post shared by Christian Fletcher (@christianfletcherlives) on

I was Bernie Sanders at a Trump rally. A non-Herbie longboarder at Lowers. My destruction was not just expected, but a foregone conclusion. Still, I had to hold my ground.

Christian took a seat beside me and grabbed the mic. The rest is history.

I’ll let you decide for yourselves how the debate went, but I have something to say about how it ended.

Christian threw out a few baseless insults (You’re fucking retarded, You aren’t even a fucking American), after which I was pulled from my seat by Christian’s bouncers.

These guys didn’t even work at the bar, they were just there “in case you get a little lippy” (Christian’s words). The crowd cheered wildly as I was yanked from center stage.

While being helped out the door, one of Christian’s boys stopped to tell me something.

“Don’t worry man,” he said. “It’s all part of the show.”

That made me feel a little better.

After being removed, I went for a walk around the block to consider the night’s events. Once I’d pieced it all together and realized it wasn’t just a weird dream, that everything I’ve written did in fact take place, a tremendous laugh came over me.

Then I called Christian to see if he’d like a goodnight kiss. In reflection I realized he had been, mostly, a gracious and welcoming host. Sadly there was no answer.

Before driving off, I sent him a text. “Thanks for the wonderful evening,” it said. “Hope to see you soon!” He didn’t respond to that one either.

I’m still not sure if Christian Fletcher hates my guts, or if this entire operation was his idea of fun. Of boyish camaraderie. Of testing my limits…

Either way, we’ll always have Pepi’s.

Editor’s note: if anyone was at Pepi’s that evening or knows someone with pictures or video of the event (especially JP Van Swae), please send them our way! 


Can't you just smell the chlorine and piss? | Photo: Wavegarden

Watch: Wavegarden Made a Toob!

Toob for you, toob for me!

Wavepools, they’re everywhere.

It’s honestly hard to keep track of all the different sites and techs available today. Whether or not they’re functional, whether they look fun to ride.

The most recent uptake in wave pools started with Wavegarden’s Snowdonia a few years back. It was a small, long, rippable right-and-left-hander, depending upon which side of the median you’d chosen. Albee Layer won a contest there but then I think it shut down due to mechanical issues.

Then came Kelly’s pool. It was leagues better than anything we’d ever seen, maybe even believed possible. Head high-ish and with the possibility of a 20+ second barrel. So how would Wavegarden respond? Most importantly, would they be able to make a human-sized toob?

Well, a year-and-a-half later, they finally dropped this:

The trailer above looks at Wavegarden’s newest tech — something they call “The Cove”. The full release will happen in a few days, but let’s talk about what we’ve learned from the teaser.

The water: it looks like the same combination of water, chlorine and piss that you’d find at the local water park. I’m not entirely sure why, but to me this is a turn off. I’ll take Slater’s chocolate pits over this blatant falsity any day.

The surfer: Who the fuck is that? I mean, he can surf, but how hard could it be to get a recognizable face behind your product? You only get one chance at a first impression, and I’d consider this one blown. Imagine if it were John John! Oh Kelly, he’d’a been livid.

The wave: It’s honestly tough to tell. When we first saw Kelly’s wave, it was from a “beach” angle, which told us everything we needed to know about size, shape, and length. This clip is mostly water shots of chest high tubes and turns, so it’s hard to call. Something tells me it’s a little smaller and not quite as perfect as Kelly’s joint. Still looks hell fun.

The upside: according to Wavegarden, The Cove can produce 1,000 waves in an hour. This shatters Slater’s pool and creates a truly profitable business platform. Also they can apparently make rights and lefts, plus control wave shape. Pretty revolutionary stuff going on over there.

P.S. Kelly and Wavegarden: I’m free whenever to test both waves and give an honest review! You know, for the people.


Symbiosis: Laird teaches Jim to SUP!

Laird Hamilton and Jimmy Buffett are two peas in a pod!

Much of our world exists in sharp discord. Non-aligning puzzle pieces jammed together. Awkward alliances. Forced marriages. And so it is the biggest breath of fresh air when two things just go together like… peanut butter and jelly.

May I present the new peanut butter and jelly.

Laird n Jimmy!

I read this story in the San Diego Tribune, between shark attack tales (more of those later), and felt my spirit soar. Let me anti-depress you too!

Now, if you’re a longtime surfer (as the 70-year-old Buffett is) who’s looking to try riding waves on a stand-up board (as Buffett was a decade ago), you might think about getting a board designed by the world-class waterman Laird Hamilton, who essentially launched the modern SUP phenomenon.

If you’re the actual Jimmy Buffett, you go ahead and buy the Laird board — and then have Hamilton himself teach you how to use it.

Surfing on an SUP can seem at times like some kind of political act — there still tends to be something between grudging acceptance and full-on friction between SUP’ers and original-recipe surfers, depending on where one paddles out.

But if you’re Buffett, you just go with the flow and enjoy the advantages that the universe, the elements and Laird Hamilton have blessed you with.

Buffett told the interviewer:

“I’ve probably been doing (SUP surfing) for 10 years, because it was the new new thing, and I surf mainly in the summer up in Montauk on the East Coast. There was like a Laird Hamilton 12-footer, so I bought one and I had no clue what to do with it.

You go out in the water and you watch the kids do it. And the first thing they told me was, get your balance on a lake and then go out. Long story short, I went out to a wedding in Malibu and ran into Laird, and so Laird actually taught me how to ride the board. And then I was hooked.”

He also said:

“Do we get more waves quicker? Well, that is true, so na na na na na na! (Laughs). But I’m gonna watch the local break and make sure I’m in the (right) pack.

The more territorial place out there is Old Man’s in San Onofre. It’s like being put in the corner in school. “Stay down there, you f—in’ stand-up people. Don’t ever come up here by us!”

And did you have any idea that Old Man’s was so… aggressive? Me neither! Read the rest of the story here and feel your insides smile!

Are you a parrothead? Have you ever eaten a Cheeseburger in Paradise? Will you burn the next SUP you see whilst humming Margaritaville?


(dramatization)

“Tagging Whites Turns ‘Em Into Killers?”

Tagging is trauma! And it might be making 'em bite… 

You know how Great Whites are tagged? They’re either dragged aboard a boat in a sling and jabbed with the satellite tracker or it gets stuck into the fish via a harpoon.

Great Whites ain’t dumb. They’re going to go searching for the son of a bitch who knifed ’em.

You tag ’em, they’re going to come back and bite.

At least that’s the theory in a story that appeared in The Australian recently, a story written by the surfer Fred Pawle, and backed by compelling evidence.

And let’s be honest, Fred is more than happy to call a spade a spade.

One common factor in six of the attacks is that they occurred within or adjacent to areas where researchers are tagging sharks or dive-boat operators are trying to turn them into tourist attractions.

In the story, Better to cull sharks than stir them up with tagsFred reports:

“There have been seven serious shark attacks reported around the world in the past month. Three were fatal: surfer Laeticia Brouwer, 17, in Esperance; surfer Adrien Dubosc, 30, at Reunion Island; and Austrian diving instructor Leopold Mairhuber, 68, in South Africa. Of the other four, one involved a partial leg amputation (Kauai, Hawaii) and a near fatal bite to the thigh (southern California).

“One common factor in six of the attacks is that they occurred within or adjacent to areas where researchers are tagging sharks or dive-boat operators are trying to turn them into tourist attractions.

“It hardly bears repeating that none of them occurred in Queensland, where a program of nets and drum lines has been keeping ocean lovers safe for 55 years.

“Brouwer was attacked at a beach near Esperance, 80km from Salisbury island, where an Australian researcher, working with filmmakers commissioned by the US Discovery Channel, had been tagging sharks, with state government approval, two months ear­lier. Esperance also is one of the sites where the CSIRO and the West Australian Department of Fisheries have tagged great whites through the years. In 2014, surfer Sean Pollard was attacked by two sharks there, losing one arm and a forearm. Two sharks, one tagged, were caught and destroyed.

“The DoF has said repeatedly it is “unknown” whether the tagged shark was involved in the attack.

“The tagging program in Western Australia was initiated because of the increase in attacks, says Rick Fletcher of the Department of Fisheries. It was “funded to investigate the series of attacks that had occurred in 2012”, he says.

“The NSW DPI’s main tagging program is off Ballina. There have been five serious attacks (two fatal) and scores of close encounters in the area in the past three years. Asked if the department has considered if there is a causal relationship, the DPI also says its program has been in response to attacks.

“In Reunion Island, however, where the first of nine fatal attacks began in 2011, the same year as a two-year tagging program, local surfers are critical of the response by researchers.

“Tagging is trauma,” says protester Jean Nativel. “And the ones that have been hooked are very difficult to recapture. We have tagged 80 monsters and released them in front of the beaches to watch if they are going to attack. And they have. If these sharks were fished instead of tagged, we would have saved lives.”

And,

“Byron Bay council, one of the organisations invited to address the inquiry, last year embraced its own method to deal with the problem — Shark Watch, a program developed in Cape Town, South Africa, involving people sitting on towers staring at the water. The program was launched last year with the endorsement of state MP Tamara Smith, and the promise of $11,000 from the council.

Tagging is trauma,” says protester Jean Nativel. “And the ones that have been hooked are very difficult to recapture. We have tagged 80 monsters and released them in front of the beaches to watch if they are going to attack. And they have.

“Byron Bay mayor Simon Richardson tells Inquirer the program has been put on hold after problems caused by Cyclone Debbie and will “recommence shortly”.

“Surfing Australia chief executive Andrew Stark told the Senate inquiry that such surveillance methods were useless anyway. When pro surfer Mick Fanning was attacked in South Africa in 2015, it was live on TV, he said. “There was more surveillance than you could imagine. There were 10 cameras, thousands of people on the beach, spotters, and people looking straight at him … and no one saw that great white shark.”

“Stark said surfers felt safer 80km north, in Queensland. “I know of many surfers that used to travel down here to surf in Byron and northern NSW that stay on the Gold Coast now because they feel inherently safer,” he said.

You biting Fred’s theory? That tagging is creating a generation of unamused Great Whites? That the feel-good thing of watching sharks appear as blips on computer screens might be killing people?

Oowee, it’s a hell of a posit.


Prom King got one over on me! | Photo: What Youth

I Spent the Night with Christian Fletcher!

And lived to tell the tale!

The other day I wrote a highly debated, virally shared article about Christian Fletcher’s stance on grom abuse. I agreed with some of his points but diverged wildly from others. While some commended my stance, the vast majority of readers shared his views.

Then Christian, having read the post and disagreed with my beliefs, went so far as to create a Disqus account and unleash another couple of comments on the subject. They read:

I guess there is something more!!!
Hey Mikey, if you would have taken a stance in front of me I probably would have shoved my fluorescent colored dildo right up your geriatric wrinkled old ass, you fuckin kook!!!
For the record I’m not looking to be a role model unless you want to set an example of exactly what not to do or quickest way to ruin your career, but those were the CHOICES I made and I wouldn’t change a thing. As far as the kids go, you don’t see little leaguer’s on the field with the Houston Astro’s do you ? Or maybe you do with those thick glasses of yours!! Do you see Pop Warner kids on the field with the New Orleans Saints ? NO because a big pissed off mother fukker like Kyle Turley would be ripping off more than just THIER HELMET!!! Now that is the same reason they should not be in the lineup at Trestles especially when San-O is right there or Doheny etc. oh sorry that’s probably where you surf if you do surf or are you one of those lames that just sits around and writes about it and as far as calling the cops that is completely unforgivable!!
IF YOU CANT HANDLE THE HEAT, THEN GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN!!! CF

And then…

After reading some of these comments I would like to let all you people who think you know me understand a thing or two about me. I was not bullied nor was my dad a prick but he was more like a Nobel peace prize winning mother fucking professor!! I was taught by the best how to deal with this world full bullies bitches and snitches and not fall prey to bullshit they try to bombard me with! Thanks dad and mom I love you guys for bringing me up right and teaching me how to deal with all these Lames!!!!! Don’t worry , I don’t feel special though cause my dad will drop in on you too!!! Hahahahahaha

In the first comment Christian was confused by my author avatar, an iconic photo of the late, great Jacques Cousteau, but with the rest of his message he was quite clear: he’s not a role model, kids don’t belong in “professional playing fields”, and his parents brought him up right.

While I still didn’t agree with everything Christian had to say, I was encouraged that my writing had caught his eye and wondered if he’d be interested in a legitimate interview.

After a playful text exchange, Christian made it clear that he didn’t want to talk unless he was getting paid. I poked the bear with a few sharpened twigs and eventually he rang me.

“What’s up, dork?” was the first thing I heard.

He followed with a request that I meet him in his hometown of Capo Beach. Startled by his boldness, I asked why we couldn’t conduct the interview via telephone.

“It’ not like we have to film it or anything,” I explained.

“Yeah we do,” he replied.

“We do? Welllll, ummmm, I have some stuff going on tonight, but let me see if I can figure something out. I’ll hit you back.”

Of course I had absolutely nothing going on, but the voice of Christian Fletcher had well and truly spooked me. I called Chas, my motivational guru, for advice.

“Go!” he said. “This is great! You have to go.”

“Do you think he’ll like… do something?”

“Christian? No! He just likes to fuck with people. I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of him beating someone up. You’ll be fine. Plus, if he does do something, it’ll just make for a better story.”

Greeeeat.

I called Christian back to confirm our date. He texted the address of his local haunt, Pepi’s Sports Bar in Capo Beach.

A public place, I thought. That’s good! Safe!

I arrived first at Pepi’s. Three minutes early to be exact, but Christian wouldn’t show for another thirty. I spent that time searching for potential fire escapes should something go terribly wrong and sipping a Modelo for courage.

I also noticed that Andrew Doheny was in house. Colin Moran too. A flyer on the wall told me that Metal Neck’s Bangover II would be premiering tonight, along with a performance from a local band. I was starting to realize that Christian had systemically taken me out of my comfort zone and placed me in his own.

Then he walked in. Average height, deeply tanned skin and doting a beautifully cut suit and tie. This is how I found Christian Fletcher. I walked up and introduced myself, told him it was nice he’d dressed up for the occasion.

“What, this?” he asked. “I wear this when I go to the beach. I wear a suit and tie everywhere.”

He leaned in.

“So look man, I know you want to do this interview, but I really think I should be getting a cut of the profits. I mean, you’re getting paid for this, right?”

“I guess technically, but not specifically for this piece. I just get paid on a monthly basis, and it’s not very much.”

“So what? People in all other sports get paid to give interviews. Basketball, Football.. whatever!”

“But you do know the difference between those sports and surfing, right? Like… the money…”

“Yeah well, there’s money in the surfing industry too.”

“Not journalism,” I laughed.

“Yeah well not for athletes either. You know most of us have to work day jobs just to keep this gig going?”

“Do you have a day job?”

“Hell yeah I have a day job. Do you want to see what I do for a day job?”

“Yes!”

Next I knew we were crossing the street toward a shady building with a motorcycle out front. Christian walked up the driveway and opened the door.

“Come on in,” he said, holding the door like a Southern gent.

Inside was an assemblage of Christian’s favorite things. There were his surfboards, hand-built motorcycles, a pool table made from “Belgian felt”, knives (the one he’s been bringing out to Trestles since the shark epidemic began), and family heirlooms.

“This is my work station,” he told me. “This is where I make my boards. My fluorescent dildos, as you call them.” Christian said this in jest, but I could tell he disliked my artistic rendering of his aquatic pleasure toys.

“It takes fuckin’ forever to make these things,” he explained. “There’s so many different components and layers to ‘em.”

Christian proceeded to show me a collection of his fluorescent dildos, thoroughly explaining the intricacies of design and theory that make his crafts the best in the world.

“My boards basically have everything that shapers will tell you is bad. People say you want a lot of foam under the chest, my boards have less than two inches. They say you don’t want a thick tail, my boards have thick ass tails. But there’s a method to the madness.”

“For example?”

“For example, my boards are ergonomically correct. The concave deck fits the curve of your body. Also, all the thickness is near the rails, not the center. This makes board extremely well-balanced. Then obviously we had to offset the concave deck by adding concave rails, because if the rail line is above your feet, water will spill all over your board. But the concave rails account for that. The sharp edge is the true rail. ”

When I asked if any pros were riding them, he responded with vigor.

“Yeah you know Droid has tried them, Ford Archbold, Dane Gudauskas actually bought one, and then I made one for Kelly. He’s the only person who got a free one, but then I took it back. I told him he better not copy my design in any of his boards, and then what do you know, I start seeing some of my ideas in the stuff he’s making.”

Christian’s proudest moment came when the room went dark. He proceeded to illuminate black lights so I could witness, through movie theater 3-D glasses, the true magic of his craft.

“You see that?” as he pointed out the rails. “Oh and that!” while he shoved a fin box in my face.

Every board Christian makes is airbrushed with glow-in-the-dark paint. The way he layers the designs creates an incredible effect when exposed to UV-A. Fin boxes pop, deck lams dive and colors jump in every direction. This was, very clearly, the coolest deck art I’d ever seen.

Once satisfied that I’d gained an appreciation for his craft, Christian decided we should head back to the bar. He tossed me a motorcycle helmet – army style with a flimsy cloth chin strap – and told me to hop on the back of his hog. It was only a block away, but riding bitch on Christian Fletcher’s bike felt pretty damn legit.

When we returned to the bar, Christian started introducing me to people. Some surfers, some business partners, some very, very large men who would turn out to be personalized bouncers.

“Oh shit! You’re that writer?” most of them asked. “Man, I really laid into you. I feel like you just don’t get it, man. But I’m glad you showed up tonight.”

Christian and I shared a couple beers and shots (despite that he’s allergic to alcohol — a “blessing”, as he sees it), then he left to chat with some friends. “After they finish the movie, we’ll do the full interview,” he assured me.

I spent the next hour sipping on water and watching The Bangover II. Eventually the film ended and Christian reappeared.

“You ready?” he asked.

“Yeah, where should we go?”

“What do you mean? We’re doing it right here,” he said, pointing to the center of the bar, where two seats and a microphone had been arranged.

Finally it dawned on me. Christian had planned this whole night around my arrival. Not the Metal Neck gig, that was already happening, but the time and place and attendance of his cronies had all been carefully coordinated. He was attempting to embarrass me. To deliver vengeance for the hurtful words I’d spread! And he would do it in front of the entire bar.

It seemed everyone there, besides me, knew this was going to happen. For another Surf’s Up reference, I was Chicken Joe, being obliviously captured by the natives. All this time I thought they were treating me with kindness and respect, they were actually seasoning my ego for a roast du Ciaramella!

Even an ex-Surfer Mag photog, who I think I’ve met before but can’t remember from where, was ready to roll with his tripod and camera on center stage. This moment was to be immortalized for posterity’s sake. No one takes on Christian Fletcher and lives to tell the tale.

At this point it was too late to back out. My only option was to face off with Christian Fletcher, presidential-debate-style, in the middle of his hometown bar, in front of all his friends.

While sitting in my chair, waiting for the fun to begin, Droid tossed a sarcastic dart across the room.

“Hey Mike, good luck!”

Thumbs up, dude!

Then Christian took his seat, and the camera phones started rolling. I hit record as well.

Game on, motherfucker.

Click here for Part 3!