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Warshaw: “This surf film changed my life!”

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Wipe everything but Riding Giants off my hard-drive says king of surf history!

A word about Matt Warshaw. He don’t exaggerate. So when the former Z-Boys skater-surfer and mag editor turned surf historian says a surf movie changed his life and the movie is Stacey Peralta’s 2004 mainstream documentary, Riding Giants, well, don’t it just make you distend your nostrils.

A call here, a call there, emails back and forth.

Now let’s reveal Warshaw’s reasons why Riding Giants is his perennnial candy.

BeachGrit: Tell me: how did the most unappealing member of the otherwise cock-swinging Zephyr skate team, stringy haired Stacey Peralta, become the king of surf documentaries?

Warshaw: Stacy and I weren’t quite the Z-Boy charity cases, but almost. Like we had maybe half the talent and one-quarter the charisma of Jay Adams and Tony Alva. Those guys looked fast and stylish in any situation, cool as fuck just walking into the kitchen to make a sandwich. Me and Stacy, it was pretty much down to our awesome long hair, and the fact that we tried harder, surfed longer, practised more, until we were at least not embarrassing ourself around our betters. To be close to greatness, but not great yourself, and to know that you’re not great, and hate that terrible fact — is exactly what you want for long-term success. Stacy is fucking relentless. His work ethic is off the chart. He surrounds himself with the best people. He backdoored his way to greatness, and I say that with the utmost respect, cause I know how much effort it took.

BeachGrit: Y’think Riding Giants matters?
Warshaw: Endless Summer, Riding Giants and Surfwise. Wipe every surf movie off my hard drive, but leave those three.

Stacy is fucking relentless. His work ethic is off the chart. He surrounds himself with the best people. He backdoored his way to greatness, and I say that with the utmost respect, cause I know how much effort it took.

BeachGrit: Riding Giants serves, to me, as a textbook to remind us how Laird and Darrick and the rest of the “Strapped Boys” opened the door to Jaws and so forth. Paint a little picture, for me, of the effect tow had on surfing in the late nineties…
Warshaw: Big-wave surfing never changed. Ever. For so many years. Which in a way was fine, because it was so knife-edge, so simple. Just the huge wall, and all you’re trying to do is track it down, catch it, get to your feet, and make it to the bottom. That was the whole deal, from the early ‘50s to the early ‘90s, and it was so hard to do, and there was a limit to how big you could go. Like, 25 feet, 30 feet, whatever you want to call it. But you know, it was also kind of boring too. The rest of surfing advanced by leaps and bounds, while the big-wave deal is pretty much the same year after year, decade after decade. Tow surfing, and Laird especially, as soon they ditched the Zodiac and went with skis, and made the boards tiny — I mean, “next level” doesn’t even begin to describe it. It look animated. It looked fake. And it happened so fast, two years, maybe three, and not only are they riding waves half again bigger than anything ever ridden, but Laird was carving Jaws like it was six-foot Honolua. It made you dizzy to watch. It made me insanely jealous in a way that traditional big-wave surfing never did, because they were surfing, not just surviving. I do think something was lost in that it was so easy to catch waves, and because suddenly they were riding a hundred big waves for every one big wave ridden in the ‘80s. But for a couple years there we were all just kind of stunned.

To be close to greatness, but not great yourself, and to know that you’re not great, and hate that terrible fact — is exactly what you want for long-term success.

BeachGrit: Speaking of Laird, isn’t it a mark of how far big-waving has come when his famous millennial wave at Teahupoo looks almost… easy.
Warshaw: It’s like Phil Edwards’ first wave at Pipe, which was the millennial wave of it’s time, and you watch it now and it’s really just a nice easy chip-in six-footer.

Tow surfing? I mean, “next level” doesn’t even begin to describe it. It look animated. It looked fake. And it happened so fast, two years, maybe three, and not only are they riding waves half again bigger than anything ever ridden, but Laird was carving Jaws like it was six-foot Honolua. It made you dizzy to watch. It made me insanely jealous in a way that traditional big-wave surfing never did

BeachGrit: And isn’t Laird fabulous in front of the camera, the way he sits, silent, after the wave, soaked in his cosmic awesomeness.
Warshaw: I entertain the same little fantasy with Laird as I do with Kelly, which is, How cool would it have been to just hang it up right there, right at the very fucking top?

BeachGrit:What’s with the fantasy of quitting at the top of your game? Isn’t it better to go down in flames of shame long past your use-by date? And tell, when is Kelly’s use-by date? Has it arrived, when did it happen, or is it still to come?
Warshaw: Mark Richards won his fourth title, leaned into the mic at the awards banquet and said he was “done busting down doors,” waved goodbye, flew home to marry his girlfriend and start a family and get on with his life That level of classiness imprinted on me in a big way. I once wrote that Kelly should have quit after number 10, then felt stupid cause he got number 11. But lately I’m thinking, yeah, he should have pulled an MR after 10. A nice round number.

BeachGrit: Do you have a favourite quote within? Mine is Greg Noll’s, you have a fifty-fifty chance of dying, when you surf big waves. Was Greg always the crown prince of hyperbole?

Warshaw: Untouchable. The first section of Riding Giants, Greg’s section, to me is so much better than Jeff Clark’s section and Laird’s section. Some little part of me is laughing at how high Noll’s ratio of bullshit is, but mostly I’m just grateful to be along for the ride. I remember interviewing him in the ‘80s about that famous big day at Makaha and he’s telling me about how he’s sitting in the lineup, all alone, and the waves grinding down the coast from Keana Point towards him, so huge that the water droplets on his board were dancing. I mean, he’s gone full Jurassic Park, years before Jurassic Park. Greg Noll is a huge blowhard, and I love him to death.

BeachGrit: Tell me: any historical inaccuracies?
Warshaw: Yeah, but not worth listing. Stacy made the choice to not include like 97% of all big-wave riders. It was pretty much just Greg, Jeff, and Laird. But that’s partly why the film worked so well, by focusing in on just three surfers.

BeachGrit: Riding Giants was made in 2004. Also tell me, the most significant moments in big-wave since.
Warshaw: All the slab insanity. The huge Cloudbreak Day, during the CT contest, a few years back. And then of course eight or ten Shane Dorian waves, which together are my favorite big-wave thing of the past 10 years, probably because Dorian’s approach is old and new at the same time. Take Greg Noll plus Brock plus Slater – that’s Shane Dorian.

Real Gear Guide: Best surf beers!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Tired of milquetoast reviews? Get ready for the truth!

You have, through the course of your surfing life, read tens of gear guides. Maybe even hundreds. Wetsuits, trunks, fins, boards, leashes, wax, sunscreen, surf camp, surf charter, etc. And magically each wetsuit, trunk, fin, board, leash, wax sunscreen, surf camp, surf charter, etc. are exemplary.

Glowing reviews for all!

And it is very clearly bullshit.

Some wetsuits ain’t worth the $99 sale rack they’re hanging on. Some trunks are very lame. Some fins pop out when you are trying to win the Drug Aware Pro, some leashes snap, some wax freezes up + melts, some sunscreen leaves you looking whiteface, some surf camps have mosquitos, some surf charters sink with the captain fleeing by jetski. Etc.

It is well past time for an honest review of the things we use most. Which is best but more importantly which is worst.

And let’s start with beer! Michelob Ultra just signed on to the World Surf League so it seems a very appropriate place to begin don’t you think? I do and got to drankin. Here in all drunken honesty is the truth:

(Note. We will be using the WSL’s judging scale.)

St. Archer Blonde Ale: St. Archer began a full on movement of surfers investing in or starting beer companies. Just ask Mick, Joel and Mick and Bede and is Mick even invested in Balter? It don’t matter because it is a rip off of St. Archer that doesn’t get sent to the United States. But back to St. Archer. Many surfers are/were invested including Taylor Knox, Nate Yeomans and a shopping cart full of others. I selected the Blonde Ale because it is the closest the company makes to a “normal” beer. But it ain’t normal. It is heavy, thick, delicious, heavy, thick. I drank a sip and then drank another and then drank a whole big bottle, smacking my lips the entire time but then felt full and thick and heavy. St. Archer should stop pretending to be a fancy microbrew and start pretending to be easy. It should stop trying. 5.57

Michelob Ultra: I wanted to hate it. I wanted to taste and have to spit because of disgusting yuck in my mouth but the newest addition to the World Surf League’s stellar sponsorship roster actually tasted great if it was water. I’m serious! It tastes way better than San Diego’s tap water and pretty much the same as Dasani. Easy to drink, clean and tasteless. If you hate beer but like to drink lots of water and get slightly buzzed this is the beer for you! 8.94 (as water) 5.32 (as beer)

Corona: This Mexican beer has probably spent more time trying to associate itself with the “surf lifestyle” than almost any other. Luke Stedman might have been a pitch man at one point and for sure that handsome Jarrad Howse. It is, or at least used to be, a massive thing in Australia which always confused me greatly. Australia has James Boag! Why bother with the worst of the Mexican beers? But tasting it with an open mind for this guide I understood its appeal. It honestly tastes like sunshine. Cold, easy, sunshine. It is still the worst of the Mexican beers and the lime should be kept out. But a limeless Coronita is almost in the surf beer excellent range. 7.75

Heineken: Hawaii’s favorite beer! It should be Primo but it’s not. It’s Da Green Ones and how do Da Green Ones taste? Unfortunately like an Amsterdam youth hostel. Fun at first. A little off in the middle. Downright bummer at the end. But maybe that’s because I’ve actually been to an Amsterdam youth hostel (I was very youth). There’s a lot happening inside a Heineken. It wants you to know it is real but also wants you to sip easy. This dichotomy almost works. It is the Kolohe Andino of beer. 6.39

Bud Light Lime: Bud Light Lime sponsored a surf series or two back in the day. The powers in St. Louis, I’m assuming, thought it was the lime that gave Corona its kick and tasked their scientists with developing a carcinogenic “lime flavor” in order to snag the elusive surf market. They were wrong. There is no such thing as the surf market and lime actually ruins Corona and Bud Light Lime is gross. 2.45

Balter: I have no idea. It ain’t sold in America but since they copied St. Archer 5.56

James Boag: Why the hell isn’t the entire world drinking James Boag? Dion Agius? Are you? Both are from Tasmania! Flavorful yet crisp. Boozy yet non-filling. James Boag is a John John Florence air that puts the final nail in Joel Parkinson’s coffin. (Is Joel Parkinson an investor in Balter?) James Boag for the yellow jersey. 8.93

To recap, James Boag rings the bell. Corona gets its face painted by an Aborigine too and gets a mini bell.

Shhhhhhh it's a Hinano not a James Boag but Kelly Slater would never know the difference...

Shhhhhhh it’s a Hinano not a James Boag but Kelly Slater would never know the difference…

Shark attack: Truth vs. Fiction!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Are you more scared or less scared to surf in southern California?

More details have been released about the woman attacked by a shark at the surf break Church between San Onofre and Lowers and they are heartbreaking. She is a mother of three children from Vista, California. Her mother has set up a GoFundMe (donate here!) where she explains the physical damage:

Leeanne was swimming at San Onofre state beach on April 29th 2017 and was attacted by a shark. It tore her right back leg from her glute to her knee. The Doctors also say that she drowned when the shark pulled her under. She’s now in Scripps Memorial Hospital fighting for her life. She is a single mom with three young children who depend on her.

Brutal but the details surrounding the attack itself remain murky. Initial rumor had it that she was simply wading in the water wearing swim fins. Some even had it that she was cruising the shorebreak on a Boogie. Another rumor today had it that she was trying to rescue and injured baby seal.

I heard last night from a crew of very fine San Clemente locals that she actually was on the beach. Her male friend was on a SUP and out the back. She  wanted to go visit him so kicked out past the surf on a Boogie. When she got there a baby seal jumped, very scared, onto the nose of her male friend’s SUP. At that point she turned to swim back in and was grabbed.

Doesn’t this seem very far fetched? It does to me. Like, surfers trying to find justification for why they won’t get attacked.

Do you have any more information about this attack? Did you see the drone images of all the sharks hanging out in southern Orange County?

Yikes or who cares?

Freedom: Surf icon released from jail!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Kevin Reed is let go and all charges for murder are dropped!

Yesterday, if you happened to swing by, you read the very tragic story of Kevin Callaghan née Reed, an iconic Santa Cruz surfer and the first man, maybe, to ever kick an air.

He had fallen upon hard times and was living on the beach where he was arrested on suspicion of murdering another homeless man. Legendary Santa Cruz shaper Bob Pearson commented:

“You drive by homeless, you hear it a bunch of times: Don’t judge the people, you don’t know who he is, who she is, where they’re from, what happened to them and what’s going on in their life,” Pearson said. “I’m sure he has been judged wrong by a lot, a lot of people. It’s unfortunate, some people just fall through the cracks.”

Well today there is a bit of good news for Mr. Callaghan. He has been released from jail without any charges being filed! Let’s read in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

A 58-year-old Santa Cruz man and well-known surfing pioneer arrested on suspicion of murder Sunday morning was released and all charges dropped on Tuesday.

“After careful review of the evidence submitted by the Santa Cruz Police Department, and autopsy findings provided by the Sheriff’s Coroner’s office, the District Attorney’s Office has determined there is insufficient evidence to charge Kevin Callahan regarding the death of Steven Lee. Kevin Callahan has since been released from custody,” according to a release from the Santa Cruz County District Attorneys Office on Tuesday.

Santa Cruz police have reclassified of Lee’s demise as a “suspicious death” and consider Callahan a “person of interest,” department spokeswoman Joyce Blaschke said Tuesday. Callahan previously went by the name Kevin Reed.

Blaschke said the department stands by the District Attorney’s Office and its “sound decision” to release Callahan. However, Callahan’s arrest, she said, was based on probable cause, including his own admissions, witness reports, evidence of an apparent struggle around Lee’s body and Callahan’s proximity to the body the next morning.

“At this point, because the coroner’s report is inconclusive. There isn’t a conclusive cause of death. We can’t rule it a homicide because we don’t know how or why he died,” Blaschke said. “This all hinges on the coroner’s report. It makes sense as part of our legal process that we would err on the side of caution.”

A very fine turn of events.

 

Dion Agius: “This is just ridiculous!”

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Is the World Surf League fat shaming one of its stars?

Pioneering professional surfer from Tasmania Dion Agius is mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore. A few hours ago he took to Instagram and poured fire on the World Surf League, posting a still from the WSL’s latest Brazil promotion and writing:

Is this really for real. What on earth is @wsl trying to turn surfing into? Who is approving this? 195 lbs of BOOM? Have a look at the latest Instagram clip promoting the next Brazil event and tell me this shit isn’t getting out of hand.

I sprinted to the League’s feed and watched the video.

“Hey John, good news! Yellow jersey. Bad news… These guys want it and they’re comin’ after you with 194 lbs of boom, high flying wizardry, relentless fight. oh and… there are 29 focused, gritty, hungry, sharp warriors chasing you too. So watch out in Brazil.”

And Dion is right. Fat shaming Jordy Smith would be inappropriate in any context but it feels particularly inappropriate wrapped in strange neo-dubstep.