Mikala Jones, a victim/survivor! | Photo: Scotty Hammonds

Indo’s Been Bombing! (A Dual Meaning)

This escalates quickly...

Do you want the good news or bad news first?

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 to 9 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.

Anyways, have fun in Indo!

Opinion: Laird and Healey are wrong!

Does research mean anything?

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?

Fuck no.

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?

Fuck no.

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.

Healey: “Laird is right!”

"Not sexist, just nature," says world's second-greatest waterman… 

While I admit to taking too much pleasure in a good ol web beatup, in this case Laird Hamilton vs The World, it might be time to jam on the brakes with a little real talk.

Yesterday, Laird Hamilton, a man who lives in the ocean and whom, I think, we can safely call the greatest waterman ever, made a fairly innocuous comment to the gossip site TMZ. Blood attracts sharks. Ergo, it might be dangerous for a menstruating woman to swim.

Only women bleed, as they say.

Britain’s The Sun, a flashy tabloid, turned up the oil with their headline: Bloody Outrage, Spike in Great White Shark attacks caused by women on their period going swimming, surfing champion outrageously claims

The story, like every other one, was determined to find some connection between identity politics, sexism and so forth, with Laird’s honest opinion; an opinion formed from fifty years in the ocean.

Mark Healey, who actually swims with great white sharks unlike the key-jockeys at the Huff Post and the Sun (and BeachGrit), jumped onto our Instagram and wrote:

“The logic is that predators that are tuned to hunting mammals and have exponentially more powerful senses of smell than we do, pick up on that. The idea is, these predators would much rather follow a female animal that has or is giving birth so that they can get an easier/low-risk meal. The menstruation cycle likely triggers more of a response than just blood. I’ve seen it happen a handful of times while filming sharks and was able to know that the gals who the sharks wouldn’t leave alone were on their periods (yes, I asked). Not sexist, just nature.”

Who you going to believe?

Laird Hamilton and Kelly Slater pictured with two lightening rods.
Laird Hamilton and Kelly Slater pictured with two lightening rods.

Famous surfers love bad science!

Laird Hamilton and Kelly Slater agree! To soar your wings must be stitched from the gossamer of conspiracy!

And Laird-Gate has broken wide open. U.S. congresswoman Maxine Waters condemned the world’s most famous surfer today for suggesting that sharks single out women in the lineup and The Huffington Post is still as angry as their stepchild Zach Weisberg is with me. That Dead Whale at Trestles, a favorite BeachGrit commentator, smartly brought Kelly Slater, the world’s other most famous surfer, into the conversation, writing:

The Huffington Post piled on. “Turns out being one of the most admired surfers in the world doesn’t make you immune from promoting bad ― and blatantly false ― science.”

Kelly Slater’s immune system reigns on.

Except does it?

Robert Kelly Slater regularly promotes the widely debunked Chem Trail conspiracy along with the disputed notion that chia seeds are better to eat than spread onto ceramic statue heads.

Which makes me wonder. To be widely accepted by the entire non-surfing population as amazing and cool and admired does a surfer have to have a pocketful of bad – and blatantly false – science?

It seems that the answer is a definitive yes.

And we all want John John Florence to reach Huffington Post levels of fame don’t we? So what conspiracy should he promote?

Should he:

a) Claim that Jay-Z and Beyoncé are part of the global Illuminati.

b) Push that Zionists were the masterminds behind 9/11.

c) Believe that the moon landing was faked.

d) Say that JFK was killed by the CIA.

e) Promote the idea of a Deep State.

f) Tell anyone who will listen that Barack Obama is a non-U.S. citizen Muslim.

g) other

Let’s make John John Huffington Post famous together!

Rage: The masses turn on Laird!

Help our hero, Laird Hamilton, dig his way out of a public relations disaster!

Laird Hamilton was the most popular surfer in the entire world until he blamed shark attacks on women going surfing/swimming whilst menstruating. Specifically and unprompted, he said, “The biggest most common reason to be bitten is a woman with her period ummmm which people don’t even think about that. Uh obviously if a woman has her period then there’s…”

At this point a passing woman says, “What?” and you can see the terror in Laird’s eyes as he finishes off “…a lot of blood in the water.” before pivoting. “So, but, ummm mistaken identity…” etc. etc.

And do you think, right here, that Laird Hamilton knew that he had really made a mistake? That news media around the world would pounce?

The terror in his eyes says, “Yes!”

It took a few hours but the worm has turned.

The Sun called Laird’s opinion a “bloody outrage.” The Daily Mail provided real figures that debunked his claim. Even Laird Hamilton’s biggest fan site, The Inertia The Huffington Post, piled on.

Turns out being one of the most admired surfers in the world doesn’t make you immune from promoting bad ― and blatantly false ― science.

And now we get to play a fun public relations game called “What Should Laird Do Next?”

Should he:

a) Apologize profusely for his ignorance and donate money to the National Organization of Women.

b) Double down and dredge up a crackpot doctor to agree with his theory.

c) Enroll in a special education marine biology summer course.

d) Tweet that TMZ peddles fake news.

e) Sell Laird Hamilton sanitary napkins with patented SharkShield technology.

f) Admit that he has Asperger’s while claiming that Asperger’s is caused by eating “ass burgers.”

g) other

Winning suggestion will be delivered to Laird.