StabStitch: Surf over in foreseeable future!

Australia's one time leading surf retailer says the dream has died!

Oh you have thrilled and cried with each wrinkle in the grand SurfStitch drama. Do you remember when the Australian online surf retailer was valued at tons of dollars, maybe even multiple millions, and bought Stab for 10 million?

The highest times!

Sure there were some who questioned the move and even wondered if SurfStitch was buying Stab for such a premium in order to mask operating losses and keep share prices higher and drain cash from company which could then be used to co-fund the bid to re-privatise — wash the money and put it toward repurchase.

But those were just haters!

SurfStitch only had the purest of intentions on their buying spree. Stab is totally worth 10 million! Probably more! In any case, SurfStitch has fallen on the hardest times back home in Australia and has closed down its north American operations entirely. Should we read a quote from a SurfStitch executive?

“The work to transform our business model; through improved operational capabilities, enriched customer engagement and a reduced cost base; is going well. However, the retail environment has made it difficult to deliver the planned sales and gross margin improvements as quickly as we would like, resulting in the revised forecast for the group’s underlying EBITDA.”

The company also announced it would be closing its North American operations by January 2018, noting the region…

“…continued to be unprofitable for the foreseeable future”.

Well hell.

I live in North America. Is surf officially done forever here? Will we all have to hang up our tools and head back into the salt mines?

Hell. That doesn’t sound very fun.

But, when I die, can you please ensure that “unprofitable for the foreseeable future” is chiseled into my headstone?


Breaking: ISA seeks to destroy surfing!

The International Surfing Association just became enemy number 1!

The International Surfing Association, founded in the middle 1960s, is the “world governing body” of surfing according to the International Olympic Committee. You may recall earlier this year when the ISA won surfing’s acceptance into the 2020 Tokyo games. Much back slapping and guffawing. I’ll even admit that, while on the surface I pretended surfing in the Olympics was super dumb in my heart I cheered. Surfing in the Olympics will provide at least three laughs here on BeachGrit.

At least!

And so I made emotional peace with the ISA and its bow tie wearing president Fernando Aguerre … until this morning.

The Association, you see, is currently in a protracted fight with the International Canoe Federation to keep stand-up paddleboarding.

You read that right! Fighting to KEEP stand-up.

The Associated Press reports:

The governing bodies of surfing and canoeing will go to court for control of stand up paddle boarding, a sport that is seen as a future candidate for the Olympic program.

The International Surfing Association says the Court of Arbitration for Sport has been asked to mediate in its dispute with the International Canoe Federation. No timetable for a ruling was suggested.

Stand up paddle blends elements of surfing and kayaking. Athletes stand on a board and generate speed by powering a paddle through the water.

The dispute continues a trend of established Olympic sports bodies seeking control of newer, youth-focused disciplines.

The world gymnastics body has been trying to incorporate parkour, which combines running, climbing and acrobatics across urban architecture.

This is our chance to rid ourselves of this hideous curse Laird Hamilton wrought. It is our chance to be forever done with the SUP and it boils my blood, just boils it all the way that the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is being squandered.

Give that shit to International Canoeing! Pay them to take it!

Oooooooh I’m mad. So mad that if I was at an International Surfing Association banquet right now, or like the Surfer Poll awards, I would go to the stage, drunkenly sway from side to side, then lean into the mic and say, “Fuck the ISA.”

That’s how mad I am.

Be a urine donor today! | Photo: Internet

Job: Get Paid to Pee on Trump!

Russian prostitutes need not apply!

Are you a man or maybe a woman? Have you experience as a lifeguard or collegiate swimmer? Is there, somewhere deep in your loins, a burning desire to pee on current or future Presidents of the United States of America?

Boy do I have a job for you!

I recently stumbled upon an article in the Virginian Pilot that spoke of a wonderful employment opportunity. The official job title is Secret Service Water Rescue Agent and it could be perfect for me or you! Let’s read more:

Five of the agents lined up behind five 2-foot-long orange rescue buoys and pairs of swim fins propped in the sand.

Yeatts, director of Kitty Hawk Ocean Rescue, counted down: “One, two, three, go!”

The agents grabbed their gear and sprinted into the surf. One tripped and fell but quickly recovered. All struggled to slip on the fins as waves broke across their backs. Instructors representing victims stood in chest-deep water about 100 yards offshore.

“We don’t make it easy on them,” said Sean Donlon, a special agent and water rescue instructor. “The protectee does not care how much training we have – he just wants to be rescued.”

In a real emergency, the victim could be former presidents George H.W. Bush, who loves boating at the family property in Kennebunkport, Maine, or Barack Obama, who loves to body surf in the large waves in Hawaii where he grew up, or a member of Donald Trump’s family at Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla.

These agents exchange dark suits and earpieces for swimsuits and sunscreen. They pull duty on beaches in Hawaii or Tahiti rather than wearing a bulletproof vest while guarding a motorcade in the middle of a crowded city. A regular detail of agents guards the person being protected at the same time the water-rescue agents also keep watch, Donlon said.

And how does that sound? Being stationed in Hawaii or Tahiti or Mar-a-Lago with the off-chance of saving a United States President or at least one his family members? I think it sounds pretty good but, to be fair, the chances of acceptance are slim.

“This is one of the most demanding fields of Secret Service training,” Donlon said.

Three weeks and three days of intense instruction and tests begin at a Washington, D.C., pool. Some don’t pass the initial swim test of covering 800 meters in 16 minutes or the requirement to swim a length of a 25-meter pool underwater four separate times with a minute break between laps.

Many of the trainees have been lifeguards or college swimmers. Most are in their mid-30s with experience as an agent, Special Agent Scott Healy said.

Of the 3,200 Secret Service agents stationed around the globe, 75 serve on the water-rescue detail, Donlon said. Typically, about 10 percent are women.

I know what you’re thinking. With such a small window of opportunity and grueling training program, would this job be truly worth pursuing? The answer is yes, my friends. And here’s why, via the Virginian Pilot:

Next fall, the same group learns emergency medical treatment, a first for Secret Service agents. They will learn how to handle spinal injuries and heart attacks as well as jellyfish stings.

…Did you catch that last bit? Learn how to handle… jellyfish stings?

And we surfers, perhaps more than any group on this planet, know how to “handle” jellyfish stings. Surely I needn’t remind that it involves a localized zip and release.

And can you imagine just whipping it out and spraying Donald Trump with your golden shower? Could there be a job any sweeter, if incredibly ironic, to get paid for in this world?

I know what you’re going to say. That there are “scientists” who insist peeing on a jellyfish sting doesn’t actually work, that it may actually be detrimental to the burning wound. But what the hell do they know?

These are the same people that scream about “global warming” when, just last week, it was a frigid 52 degrees in Southern California. Southern California! Good try, Al Gore.

I’ll start my training regiment tomorrow. Who’s with me?

Huma’s Tears, you listening?

This image, I believe, is the best portrait ever taken of a professional surfer at his peak. The light, the body, the spartan room. It was shot by the American journalist Matt George in 1984 at Occ's Cronulla apartment. | Photo: Matt George

Crossdressing: “I liked it!” says Occ.

Who doesn't?

The old adage, they don’t make ’em like they used to, can be best applied to the former world champion Mark Occhilupo.

The story hardly needs to be retold, but let’s recap in one sentence: Eighties surf prodigy explodes onto tour, finds drugs, gets fat and goes, briefly, mad, resurrects, wins a title, and becomes surfing’s most beloved icon. A walking paradox of naiveté and complexity.

Occ’s surfing at Bells in 1997 has yet to be bettered.

A few years ago, Mick Fanning told Coastalwatch:  “To this day I’ve never seen someone dominate an event like Occy did the Skins. He didn’t have one dud heat. His surfing was so much faster and bigger than anyone else out there and all the top pros were in it, including Kelly. I definitely haven’t seen a backhand as strong at Bells since. Occ’s waves in the Skins would still be getting near-perfect scores in World Tour heats today and it was 17 years ago.”

Want more? Ask Matt Warshaw.

And when Occ, who is now fifty one years old, married thrice and father to three sons and stepfather to, I think, seven kids, is on he takes the interview to beautiful heights.

In this piece with reporter Hamish McLachlan from Melbourne’s Herald Sun, mostly to push the wave pool company he’s ambassador for, Occ covers his childhood, the fat and crazy phase, how his sisters used to dress him like a doll (“I liked it”), the marriages, the kids, getting into the USA without a passport and a few other fine stories.


You’re the youngest of four, and the only boy. Were you used as a mannequin by your sisters?

MO: Yes. They used to dress me up, put make up on me, put dresses on me, the whole lot. It wasn’t very fair. At the same time though, I kind of liked it. When I was four or five they got me a kilt, so I used to wear that around. I’ve grown out of it now.

HM: You’re not doing any cross-dressing now?

MO: No, no. I’m all good now.

What did the tour look like year by year, month by month as a young single teenager?

MO: Wowee, it was pretty intense back then! It was fun, but it was a grind at the same time. I didn’t realise that at the start because it just looked so good. Back then, it was just going from the hotel room, to the beach, and back again. It wasn’t that safe back then either. While I was over there, I realised that it wasn’t even that organised. I’d be going to California and there’d be raging parties around. Then off to Japan, then Europe, to Brazil, because back then we had twenty odd events in a single year. I was actually in the top 3 in the world for the first few years. I never really dropped out of the top ten, but I was homesick, and I just wanted to go home.

Did you think you would surf professionally again?

MO: I didn’t really think about the future, to be honest. I was way too young to retire, only in my early 20s. I just didn’t think about the long term, and thought at the time that I was homesick. I missed my friends, I missed my mum and dad, my sisters, and I just wanted to be back home, so that’s what I did, and I didn’t really tell anyone. I had to make a phone call when I got home and tell the founder and owner of Billabong, Gordon Merchant. That was a scary phone call! He understood though. He was fantastic. He still paid me the same wage, and a very good one at that.

Another child at 50 is one of the great performances of all time. Forget the World Championship in ‘99!

MO:(laughs) Thank you. It was just so cool. This is my girls sixth child, and my third boy. We’ve got one big happy family. All the kids surf, and it’s really funny because our new child has brought everyone closer. Our youngest are both 10, and they’re in the same class. They’re best mates, and my fourteen-year-old used to go out with her thirteen-year-old. They don’t anymore, but they did before we first met. They’re all in the same school, and they all surf. The funniest thing is that my two boys are dark, because my ex-wife Mae’s parents were Filipino. She’s dark, and my kids are dark. They’ve got her coloured skin. My fiancé’s ex was Tongan, so all her kids are dark as well. We get some funny looks when we’re all in a mall, cruising around with seven dark kids all around us. Now we’ve got little Jasper, and he’s going to feel a bit strange when he grows up because he’s going to go, what happened here? How come I’m light, and everyone else is dark?

Read the entire interview here.


A screen grab from Stab's Pop Rocks. The high water mark of surf journalism.
A screen grab from Stab's Pop Rocks. The high water mark of surf journalism.

Time: “A merciless mauling awaits!”

A forgotten issue of Time magazine from 1963 challenges perceptions!

And I have written it more than once, here, that we are in a golden era of surf journalism. Don’t you agree? Warshaw’s historical surf empire has wings, Doherty and Longtom are trading gorgeous swipes. Finnegan won a Pulitzer for the tales of his surfing life, Carroll’s work in both longer form and shorter comment section blurbs is near art, etc. etc.

I am happy to be alive to witness this epoch, this gorgeous epoch, but just moments ago I saw a Time magazine feature from 1963 on surfing in Hawaii. Should we read together?

The men who ride the big ones in Hawaii actually ski down the shoulder of a wave away from the curl… They call the first breathtaking schuss ‘taking the drop.’ Their boards accelerate up to 35 mph so rapidly that they kick up waves like speedboats. And a merciless mauling awaits the unfortunate who doesn’t complete his ride. He is driven downward by the appalling maelstrom, tossed around, sucked back down and frequently, after fighting up for a desperate gulp of air, hammered down again by the next wave.

The pictures that accompanied (here) were fabulous but that writing. It sings and is maybe better than anything I have ever written in my whole life. Maybe better than anything that has been written in the last ten years.

And all of a sudden I felt sad.

Is this not the golden era of surf journalism? Did I miss the high water mark and am I merely splashing in dirty puddles with other grown men who only write in surf because we are entirely unemployable elsewhere?

So sad.

But then I re-read Stab magazine’s Pop Rocks from 14 months ago…

Malia Ward and her Moms Jacqueline Miller lead a truly fabulous existence. After parting ways with San Clemente surf royalty baby-daddy Chris Ward, Jacqueline entered a relationship that saw her and Malia living in a five storey house with a private beach in Corona Del Mar, California. Malia and Moms are bff’s and spend their time travelling in style (private jets, limos, for real!) to the Pro Junior contests at which Malia’s continuing the Ward surfing legacy. We thought it’d be totally cute to shoot a girls day at home, and pay tribute to the neon-saturated nineties when Jacqueline was Malia’s age (18!) To capture the ‘pop’ of this cheeky duo there was only one man. The CobraSnake. The Cobra likes it straight up. No airbrush, no photoshop. Raw. Come and sniff the sweet smell of perfume, the other half sure knows how to live!

I re-read it and knew for a fact, for an indisputable fact, that we are in a golden era of surf journalism.

Suck a fat one 1963.