Two titans of surf journalism elevate the blood feud!
Is there anything better than a true duel between equals at the height of their powers? Iron sharpening iron so that each side positively glimmers? Oh we are the lucky ones who have witnessed Magic vs. Bird, Manet vs. Duranty, Hamilton vs. Burr. These clashes are bigger than mere blood feuds. They are art and exceedingly rare though I do believe we stumbled upon one in Fiji and no I am not referring to Wilko vs. Connor Leary or whatever the hell that person’s name was.
I am referring to the great Sean Doherty vs. our very own Steve “longtom” Shearer!
The two traded blow with their contest coverage and not in the way that I pound The Inertia’s Zach Weisberg with a brick whilst he turns to vanilla pudding in the corner.
They danced around each other, each holding noble swords, parrying, retreating, testing defense, noting offense.
And it was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant to behold.
Let me submit two examples from the week.
From Sean Doherty on Coastalwatch:
Out fishing the other day here in Fiji, I’d heard a story about a mutual friend pulling in a yellowfin, slicing it open as it fluttered on the deck, cutting out its beating heart, eating it, then discovering – if only in his own mind – that he now possessed some kind of primal animistic power, which manifested most potently out in the surf. He was suddenly the tuna god. I thought at the time as a winning strategy here in Fiji it would be without peer. The story alone would ensure you’d have the peak to yourself. Whatever supernatural powers you assumed would simply be a bonus.
The fish to their credit have been on the chew. We filled The Duck – Namotu’s fishing tender –with wahoo and mahi yesterday, a couple of rainbow runners and one sad, scaly, foul-hooked longtom.
Totally a dig at longtom! And then Sean went on to detail his surfs, chats, coffees etc. with industry notables (Renato Hickel, Borg Garcia, etc.) and then poetic contest coverage.
Never to be outdone and especially after being called sad, scaly and foul-hooked, Steve Shearer performed an arrêt à bon temps on BeachGrit:
Goddamm it, I just wasted a half hour on this tight deadline thumbing my paperback copy of Hunter Thompson’s greatest book, The Great Shark Hunt, looking for the quote where Hunter describes just this clubby band of insider journalists and how they end up becoming good Germans and useful idiots.
Ah, here it is! Take it away Hunter.
“The most consistent and ultimately damaging failure of surf* journalism in America has it’s roots in the clubby/cocktail personal relationships that inevitably develop between politicians and journalists… When professional antagonists become after hours drinking buddies they are not likely to turn each other in… especially not for minor infractions of rules that neither side takes seriously; and on the rare occasions when minor infractions suddenly become major there is panic at both ends”.
And if I may boil the nut of this feud down to this root. Doherty is from the school that you must be friendly with subjects, in order to glean any insight. Shearer argues that chumminess equals failure.
I believe both to be equally true. In this cloistered surf you must know people in order to get anything. But if you write about what you know you soon lose access and then lose anything to say. It is easy to drink beer with the brands, write cloying phrases about the surfers and stick around. It is just as easy to flamethrow then sit at home and snipe without ever coming face to face with those you demean.
The best surf writing somehow, in some way, dances between these two poles. I submit Fred Pawle’s King of Queens as one example and Matt Warshaw’s response to Reno as another. But these flashes are rarer than they should be. Maybe because we’re all a little lazy right now, occupying our lanes, observing but not engaging.
Sean vs. Steve over Fiji made me realize that we could have a potential Ali vs. Frasier, McEnroe vs. Borg, Michel Jackson vs. M.C. Hammer. We would all have the honor of witnessing. The game could be forever raised.
And I need them to cross swords again.
So Sean Doherty, I slap thee with a lambskin riding glove (made by Hermes and on behalf of Steve “longtom” Shearer who can only afford pleather work gloves because BeachGrit didn’t sell for 35 million yesterday). Do you accept?
Respond on your Coastalwatch before sun down (J-Bay) and if you don’t accept I’m coming after you with my brick.