Locals protest at Playa Paunch in Bocas del Toro, Panama | Photo: @redfrogbungalows

Help: Panama Surf Break Under Siege!

On World Ocean Day no less!

Do you know why we can’t have nice things, like affordable health care and waves without piers running through them? It’s because certain super-wealthy individuals feel the need to exponentially increase their wealth even when, nay, especially when it comes at the expense of the people.

They are greedy sons of bitches and all of us know it. Unfortunately, these rich bastards have the upper hand in pretty much every situation, on account of all that goddamn money.

This theme rings true throughout history, but even today, World Ocean Day, we find the same problem in Bocas del Toro, Panama. I’ll let this Instagram post explain:

And don’t this just grind your gears? Me yes.

If you haven’t already forgotten, I took a trip to the Caribbean archipelago in March. The wave they’re referencing, Playa Paunch, is one of the most consistent in the region. When small, it’s a rippable A-framing reef break. When big, it’s a proper left-hand slab. Like Greenbush without all the perfect.

I got my best wave of the trip there.

What you’re seeing in this photo is the initial rebar being planted in the reef. This is actually the portion of the wave where you paddle out. After walking across the reef for 20 meters, there’s a small keyhole that allows you to shoot into the channel. The pier looks like it will sit smack on top of it.

By my calculations, a pier built on this part of the reef will need to be tall like giraffe and strong like ox. When the swell’s up, even the “channel” has rogue waves in the six-to-eight foot range. Something tells me they’re not quite prepared for that.

Still, let’s play a little game of potential Pros and Cons to Paunch’s new installment.

– A place to dock boats
– A place to paddle in/out from (the reef walk, in all honesty, sucks balls)
– A place for spectators/filmers
– A place with legitimate earning potential (charge boats, surfers, hell, throw a little bar on the joint!) that could benefit the local community

– Could potentially ruin the surf break
– Will damage the reef
– Eyesore
– May not benefit the local community whatsoever

Local surfers and even Kelly Slater seem to be against the pier, which I get, but maybe it’s not all bad? Like how do they really know it will ruin the surf? And who is this greedy nemesis they so mockingly mention?

If the locals are right that the construction is illegal, they have every right to bitch, moan, protest and maybe even beat some people up (I’m not privy on Panamanian property rights). If not, well, maybe it’s worth talking to an expert to discern the validity of their claims.

Like, would a pier really not help the local community at all? And would the wave actually be ruined by a channel-bound pier? This is a reef break after all, so I can’t imagine how the size or quality of the surf would be affected by a non-swell-blocking structure. But then what the hell do I know?

Is anybody connected with a lawyer/business owner/oceanographer from Bocas del Toro?

And wetsuits make the most elegant fight suits!

Surf Quiz: What Would You Do?

Man stabs you in face with board. Do you jam it back into his kisser or flee to the cops?

Four days ago, or thereabouts, a fight took place in the surf at Broken Head, near Byron Bay.

That ain’t a surprise. For all it’s commitment-free sex and the well-oiled bodies and no bras for the ladies and water so warm it’s like sloshing around in a tepid bath, the idyll stumbles when it comes to surfing.

It crowded.

And fights happen.

And so, at Broken Head, one surfer hit another surfer in the face with his board. From Byron’s local newspaper, the Northern Star.

Police said the accused 29-year-old pushed the pointy end of his surfboard into another man’s face, causing him facial injuries that bled.

The victim left the surf to contact police, who arrived shortly after to find the accused in the surf.

Upon exiting, he was charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm, which in NSW carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

(Of course, unless the stabber has a roll call of offences or the stabbee lost an eyeball, or he black, a fine and a suspended sentence is the most likely outcome.)

Is it ever okay to go to war over something as dumb and pointless as surfing? Conversely, is it okay to go running to the cops when things get a little heated?

Let’s examine.

Scenario #1.

It’s a four-foot point. Crowded. But you can get the occasional runner every half an hour or so. You’ve played it good. You waited your turn for the sets. You’ve called a few people you don’t know into waves and you’re feeling real happy about surfing, life, the world, humanity.

Then, as you paddle into a dreamy set, and as the pack parts ’cause they know you’ve done your time, one determined surfer looks at you in the eye and windmills into your wave from the shoulder. He shimmies and jerks and attempts an aerial and lands on your back.

You surface and he tells you that you are “a fucking kook”.

What do you do?

Scenario #2

You’ve just landed into an Australia summer from gloomy England. You unpack your Bic mini-Malibu wahine on the beach and climb into your lycra sun protection suit.

You can hardly believe your luck. It’s crowded but no one surfs nearly as good as you. You’re only out for three minutes when you deftly out-paddle the pack and, despite there being a local on the inside whom you’d noticed earlier letting waves go unridden without challenging anyone, you go, go, go. First a slash, then a kaboosh, a yahoo and then, as your own flourish, one for the ladies on the beach and the studs out the back, you soar to the heavens.

You surface to find the local staring obstinately at you. Oh you let him have it.

“Fucking Aussie kook-man”, “I challenged the wave more than you and therefore the wave was mine”, and so forth.

He responds by stabbing you in the face with his surfboard.

Do you, a, jam it straight back into his kisser, like, right into his puss, or do you run off to the police?

Volcom: “Do a cutback on the war budget!”

French streetwear brand jumps into the political fray!

Did you spend your morning watching former FBI director James Comey answer questions about Donald J. Trump? It was billed as “must-see TV” a “political superbowl” and “like the NCAA men’s basketball tournament” though in reality it was none of these things. It was dry like tinder and echoey like a canyon.

Do you now have Donald J. fatigue or can you not get enough? Do you wake up and Google MAGA or Dump Trump or are you generally ambivalent?

Do you sometimes wish a surf brand would get into the game an make a t-shirt for you to wear at rallies (either pro something or con something) or even just to sit around the house watching Fox and Friends?

Well guess what? We live in the future where all you desires are almost immediately gratified!

Volcom has just released a limited-edition political series under the tag Cancel History Stop Hatred.

T-shirts feature two hands shaking, one sporting a gag buzzer, above the words “American politics.”

Another says, “Can we please get some peace and quiet around here?” and has two fingers making a victory sign.

Another says “Do a cutback on the war budget”

By “war budget” do you think Volcom means “military spending” or is the brand referring to some specific “war budget” it would like to see cut back?

Wouldn’t it be deliciously cruel if the shirt was referencing the War on Poverty’s budget and cost $1500.00 and stitched with gold-dipped yarn and the dashed hopes and dreams of the homeless? And also had a pocket for opioids?

I suppose that’s why you visit BeachGrit but can’t you just pretend, for one moment, that you have a heart?

Shop here!

Reno: “Snarling mess, spewing threats!”

Shaper Reno Abellira details his fight with another shaping great… 

Three days ago, we were gifted a fine blood feud between the master shaper Reno Abellira, and surf historian and former Surfer magazine editor, Matt Warshaw.

A combined age of one hundred twenty years! Walking frames at twenty paces etc.

Towards the end of that piece, I mentioned a little push-and-shoving that may’ve happened between Reno and another very well-known shaper in San Clemente.

Today, Reno responds in an exquisitely written open letter to BeachGrit. Note: the name of the other shaper has been removed because, oowee, we’ll be spending the next five years in court defending a defamation suit if we threw his name into the mix. (He was contacted but didn’t want to respond publicly .)

Let us have it, Reno.

Dear BeachGrit and Mr.D Rielly,

What is it about the Australian press that is still mired in muckraking sensationalist yellow journalism, only now it is an online less editable version of sports print and the venerably published (ASL an ASW) magazines of yore.

It is my firm impression that the only surf journalist of the whole lot of of current wannabes is still me ol china that wily codger Phil (the “Thrill”) Jarratt, God bless ‘im always.

As to the due diligence Warshaw lacked in his bio of me in EOS, was more than just the part regarding my Dad. To wit: my first surfing experience was as a toddler at two-and-a-half with my beloved uncle Kui Lee who was then an active Beachboy at Waikiki. Never forgot the sounds/vibrations of the chatter of the water under the board as he stroked out to the lineup at four-foot Canoes. He pulled me to my feet briefly the swung above his shoulder to make my simulate flight above him. That was the start not at four years old.

I was twelve when my mother insisted that my father buy my first board, a navy blue pigment paneled real Honolulu made Dale Velzy not 11 years old. I won $600.00 as Champ for the Hawaii nosedriding contest not a measly $200.00 as published in EOS.

Promptly bought a $300.00 round trip ticket to attend the ’66 World comp in San Diego as a Hawaii team alternate. My 5’7″ fish I brought to OZ as part of my six board quiver in ’75 and ’76 did not have keel fins (hated them and thought they tracked way too much) but had a template that had more of a normal pivot outline placed near the fluted wings in that design.

I don’t know what Warshaw means by saying I was “well removed from the surf scene by the “80’s” as I continued to actively compete in all of the pro events on the N.Shore. My last Duke event was in ’84 (if you count back from that one I had the honor of 12 previous invitations) 13 Duke trophies in total.

I was invited to all the Pipeline Master’s from it’s inception in’71 through ’83. I stopped traveling to compete in’80 with the arrival of my one and only child Reno Michael Abellira.

Unfortunately, less than a year later I went through a devastating separation/very public divorce on the N. Shore from my wife of 15 years when I promptly became a single parent for the duration of his childhood.

Once and for all I never “disappeared for several months fleeing Prosecution or the Authorities at all ever.” In ’92, I was indicted along with seven other men for three counts for the Federal crimes of racketeering (the RICO Act) specifically Possession with Intent to distribute of four kilos of Cocaine and over 27 pounds of marijuana that had been control delivered by the U.S Postal Service and D.E.A agents to an address in suburban Honolulu.

At that moment in time, I was living what one might consider a happy existence on upcountry Maui. The notice for my arraignment was pinned to my refrigerator in my Haiku cottage. It read “if you know what is good for you, you will be present in Honolulu Federal court by noon the following day” of which I did after hastily hiring a lawyer that afternoon.

Unfortunately again, the Honolulu Advertiser had a column that mentioned on page four the arrest and apprehension of the seven Oahu men. The last sentence of which said “still at large is former surfing champion, Reno Abellira.” Friends read me that column that afternoon and from there the rumor mill via the “Coconut Wireless” spewed like a scene Dante’s Inferno.

Apparently a dear friend laughingly mentioned to his inner circle of devotees that wouldn’t it be amusing if Reno got busted at the airport on the lam dressed as a woman with the kilos I was running with stuffed in my brassiere! Mahalo so much!

That mushroomed and bloomed to dark truth for most of the surfing world where the surf mags (notably Surfing who had an intern send an APB for my capture immediately) I say once and for all, I was never ever dressed as a woman running from the law.

The Honolulu news anchor Tina Shelton immediately made me the kingpin of the drug ring for the sake of color on the news. Inside Halawa prison high-security pod (where all FederaI detainees were housed for the lack of a Fed prison in Hawaii at all at the time) watched myself dropping in at the Bay and in front of the court building in a suit with my attorney for weeks.

Bottom line? I was acquitted (found innocent) of all three counts of the indictment nine-and-a-half months later at trial (the jury did however find me guilty of simple possession) as I did admit in open court testimony to drug use during the time period. It is no excuse, but who of the surfing crowd did not party in the eighties I ask?

On the day of my acquittal I was released a free man yet the only other indictee was found guilty on his counts and sent to lockup for 14 years. Nothing in the paper or the news of the acquittal itself. Rumors swirled on that I had turned snitch to get out yet everything that happened is a matter of legal and public record.

My clothing royalty agreement lasted six years from ’75 to ’81. Short-lived does not describe appropriately my venture there. How long was Warshaw’s editor job at Surfer I ask? Two maybe three years? That is perfectly short lived compared to Paul Holmes who did nine or ten years at the helm of surfing’s Bible.

I found him in wet snoring mess in the middle of the day in an overheated Kombi bus. Slapped him on the butt which awoke this snarling mess of swinging arms and spewing threats of “I almost knocked my wife out for doing the same by waking me like that!! You fucker!”

Is Brutus one of your sources for the supposed shoving match between the unnamed other master shaper Derek? It is in fact (censored) whose poor bi-polar and violent behavior goes unmedicated and unchecked with doses of wine filled snap outs to this old friend who showed concern when I found him in wet snoring mess in the middle of the day in an overheated Kombi bus. Slapped him on the butt which awoke this snarling mess of swinging arms and spewing threats of “I almost knocked my wife out for doing the same by waking me like that!! You fucker!”

Slams the door and nearly crushes my fingers in the doing, climbs spastically into the driver seat and spins out of the parking lot. The day before this I had been giving him a lomi-lomi percussion massage in his borrowed office from another master shaper who is truly that and more. We had shared dinner the very evening previous.

Two days later I went to check in on him and growled and sneered at me that I had told certain people I work with to fuck off. A total and complete fabrication from his dementia but that he nonetheless forwarded as true. So yes we argued in private in his borrowed shaping room from said master shaper and it came to a head when I asked for an apology as a man and and old dear friend. He screamed at me to fuck off repeatedly as he shook his fists in my face at close range and told him yes he had better think twice about coming to Hawaii

I turned to leave and here is the kicker. He elbowed me in the back full force I am about 135 pounds and (censored) has now at least 50 pounds above that. I was thrown forward but did not hit the floor or stumble with him at my back still screaming to fuck off.

(Censored) is not a well puppy and truth be said he is no master shaper at all. He cannot shape a decent gun from a blank if you paid him. They are all program files he has someone else do for him.

Brutus you spineless wimp, print a real picture of yourself instead of the shadow figure you have going on. Either that or stop hiding behind (Censored)’s skirt unless that is where you really belong ?

Waves of Truth, Reno Abellira.

Wild? Yes. Ginger? Yes. But put this man near a tube and watch the fuck out!

Watch: Mick Campbell Still a Legend!

If there is one thing I love more than a fat-man shredder it is an old-man shredder.

Just today, Stab released footage from a Restaurants super session featuring not one but TWO legends of our sport (and commentary team) surfing much better than I. Barton Lynch, 53, and Martin Potter, 51, were tearing the left-hander to shreds. Tubes, pocket jams, even fin drifts could be seen and all of it with style and grace.

Even if it pokes at my insecurities, I fucking love it when an old guy rips a wave to pieces. Not only is it badass, but it give me hope for a future of eternal shredding.

Later in the day, I stumbled upon the video below. It features Indonesia’s giant lefthander, Kandui, on its best day of the season. Portuguese prince Nic Von Rupp threads a few, some randoms get their clocks cleaned, but then… oh dear, just watch!

And did you see him? The bald and bearded man deep inside a four-section tube? That’s Aussie surf star Mick Campbell!

Let’s reminisce with thanks to the Encyclopedia of Surfing:

Fiery, well-freckled from New South Wales, Australia; world-ranked #2 in 1998. Campbell was born (1974) and raised in Port Macquaire, began surfing at age nine, placed fifth in the 1993 Pro Junior contest, and in 1997 was the world pro circuit’s rookie of the year. Campbell and good friend Danny Wills were the most physically fit surfers of the late ’90s, as both were trained by Sydney rugby drillmaster Rob Rowland-Smith; Campbell used fitness, consistency and determination, rather than inborn surfing genius, to, as surf journalist Derek Hynd put it, “rip every pro off the ladder, one by one.”

Campbell led the world tour ratings going into the 1998 Pipeline Masters, the final contest of the season, but faltered badly in the second round, scoring a total of 1.9 points and allowing reigning world champion Kelly Slater to pass him for the title. Slater’s margin of victory over Campbell—a mere 38 points after an entire season’s worth of competition—remains the smallest on record.

You can read the rest of his entry here (including a fight scene with the late, great AI!) for a minimal fee of three dollars. Three dollars! Don’t be a tight ass.

Considering he’s younger than Slater, I suppose I can’t really call Mick old. But since I haven’t seen anything from the man in almost a decade, the fact that he remains the best surfer at a premier wave on a premier swell was a genuine surprise.

Mick’s low-but-not-squatty stance, his read on the wave, his minute body movements — you can’t teach that, and apparently you can’t forget it either. I hope one day to get a barrel like his last, but I wouldn’t bet any significant sum on it. Mick Campbell is still a legend.

Which got me thinking, readers, who’s your favorite old-ish man shredder (40 and up)? Do they stoke you?