Venice-adjacent mountain website, The Inertia, founder Zach Weisberg finally speaks his mind!
I went to a surf party last night in Laguna Beach and guess who was there? The famous cinematographer Eric Brandt. And guess who else? The Inertia founder and creative head Zach Weisberg.
The Zach Weisberg! From The Inertia!
And what are the odds? He came marching up to me with a forced smile on his face, stuck out his very small hand and said, “I’m Zach Weisberg.” And my heart soared. It is generally rare for people, and especially people in the surf industry, to directly approach their nemeses and I told Zach how happy I was at this chance meeting.
He had a photographer there with him and I said, “We must document this historic event.” He demurred with hurt feelings written on his face and sadness in his eyes, telling his photographer, “No. No pictures.”
I said, “Zach, this is your problem. You don’t have any fun. I am very sorry that I am not at all sorry that I make sport out of kicking your Inertia in its goads every chance I get but if you would just respond we would all have a lot more fun.”
He said, “What would we stand to gain from that? We would get nothing out of the exchange.”
And this greatly confused me. “You would get fun!” I responded though it was very clear our idea of fun was different.
The photographer stood to the side holding her camera with a crestfallen half-grin on her face. I couldn’t tell if she felt sorry for Zach or thought I was a dick but biting her tongue.
I continued, “Who do you think you are? The Washington Post? The Inertia may be bigger than BeachGrit but we are all tiny.”
He said, “But it would be like rewarding a bad dog… I’m sorry you’re not a bad dog but…”
And I said, “Yes! I’m a very bad dog. Incorrigible even. Responding may be the only thing that stops me though.”
He hemmed and hawed while I told him people don’t like The Inertia because it is like rocking up to your favorite surf spot and seeing a 30 student strong surf school on the sand doing their warmups ready to paddle out on the back third of their foam boards.
He seemed sad about this but then shared the most enlightening thing, saying, “When I was at Surfer, The New York Times was doing some stories on surf and it made me frustrated because some of the information was off. I thought, ‘If they’re going to do this they should do it right.’ So I called the Times and got to an editor and told him that I was with Surfer and they should use the magazine as a resource. The editor, though, told me, ‘Who are you to define someone else’s surf experience?’ And that was a great epiphany for me.”
I shrieked in horror. If a New York Times editor would have asked me, “Who are you to define someone else’s surf experience?” I would have slammed the phone down, gotten a plane, flown to JFK, gotten in a cab and gone straight to the paper’s Manhattan office. Once there I would find the editor, march up to him, show him my neck tan and my baby pterygium and said, “I’m Chas Smith. Who the hell are you?”
Surf culture is wonderful precisely because of its rigid definitions. Its archaic rules. It bizarre nuance that we learn over time. Its lineup etiquette. Its vocabulary. Its strut and its silliness. Its hours and hours, years and years, spent sitting in water. Paddling out in wind blown slop and pulling in to closeout tubs. Everyone is invited but, like Hell’s Angels, everyone has to get jumped in. We may be dumb, pointless, selfish, shallow and generally worthless but we have spent our lives becoming these things.
By removing any barrier to entry, by defining “surfer” as broadly as “someone who has, at least once, either ridden something in a body of water and/or thought about it” The Inertia takes the joy out of belonging.
That’s why it is a piece of shit and Zach Weisberg knows it. An indefensible piece of shit but God bless the man for having enough intestinal fortitude to shake my hand.