If you're going to talk airs, who else y'gonna illustrate the story with? Here's another photo of Fizzy T from BeachGrit's trip to Mex in February that yielded a four-part video instructional series and a three-minute expressionist clip. | Photo: Jack Boston

Quiz: Why cripple yourself for an air?

Is the risk of injury worth the joy of soaring through the air? Our man says yes!

Thanks to a recent injury, I spent my day filming my friends from a channel-bound boogie board. Three hours of dodging kooks and diving under sets was more fun than I’d imagined it would be, but nowhere near the fun of riding waves for myself.

I must admit that, in a moment of weakness, I forgot about my crippled limb and pulled into one running double-up that slipped beneath the crowd. As surfers, there are some things we’ll never be able to pass up and a one-foot belly barrel is surprisingly high on my list.

Another, it would seem, is a perky ramp.

Ever since I was a kid, airs have been a source of excitement in my life. I’ve never been good at them, but in recent years I’ve made significant strides in technique and consistency. It’s still probably the weakest part of my game, but beyond threading barrels, airs are my favorite thing to do on (off?) a wave.

They’re also very dangerous.

Anytime your board loses traction with the water, the risk level increases exponentially. In a frictionless medium, there’s nothing to stop your stick from flipping over and exposing flesh-hungry fins. There’s also the nose, rails, and tail to worry about with even the slightest glitch in flight.

And even if you accomplish a flawless jump, terrible injury can occur when re-engaging with the wave.

Busted ankles and knees plague the world’s best surfers and it’s no coincidence. Considering the heights they regularly fall from and the uneven platforms they tend to land on, it’s a miracle they’re not injured 300 days of the year.

In the past five years, I’ve suffered three major surf-related injuries. A high-ankle sprain (air), a fractured vertebrae (attempted barrel, but technically just a failed drop), and now some sort of ACL tear (air).

I imagine the statistics of most aerially-inclined surfers would be similar. They probably have a higher injury rate than “big-wave” or “barrel  guys”.

Which raises the question: are airs worth it? That is, worth the risk of bodily harm, time out of the water, and the psychological trauma caused by serious injury?

I just can’t imagine soiling a perfect ramp with a layback or something lame like that.* Much like with barrels, some waves are truly made for flight. Avoiding an invitation to soar is only marginally better than dodging a tube.

My dad has a strong opinion on the matter. “You gotta stop with the airs,” he told me, after my most recent incident. “Just stick to riding the wave. Airs can’t be that fun.”

But aren’t they? I think they are.

At least I think I think they are.

I just can’t imagine soiling a perfect ramp with a layback or something lame like that.* Much like with barrels, some waves are truly made for flight. Avoiding an invitation to soar is only marginally better than dodging a tube.

So, readers, please help a young man in need. The day I can surf again, whenever that may be, should I earnestly avoid flight?

Do I banish airs once and for all in order to extend my body’s shelf life?

Or should I continue to bet against the house, if only for the sake of feeling God’s breath beneath my fins?

*Not all laybacks are lame, but mine definitely are.

Watch: Filipe Toledo get jazzy!

The most vital short film you'll ever see of Fizzy T!

Much earlier this year, I holidayed with Filipe Toledo at a Mexican beach town where takeaway chicken is home delivered in dripping plastic bags (three dollars, generous meal for six) and jetskis cost $US650 a day to hire (discounted price for BeachGrit.)

I’ve written about this special vacation so many times I thought my fingers might pop. 

The vay-cay was a stunning success (brown skin, golden sunsets, some late nights) and although I don’t believe I enter Filipe’s thoughts as often he enters mine, a connection was established.

This morning, the San Francisco-based filmmaker who cut the four films we made about the trip, emailed me a cut of Filipe’s surfing from the trip. I was slow to click on the link because, I felt, every wave worth something had been already been shown.

I’d composed a rejection letter in my head (too long after the trip, clips already seen) when I figured, as a pal, I should actually watch.

And, oh, Jackie, this is… jazzy.

You have to watch!

Remember the confected rivalry 'tween Dane and Jordy? | Photo: x-games

5 Outrageous Surf Media Lies (Part One)

The first in a maybe endless series!

Parents, politicians, coaches and teachers lie to protect their disciples from the harshness of reality and keep them interested.

Surf mags/surf industry are our surrogates.

#1 Dane vs. Jordy. Remember? 2008(ish)? Fresh off the heels of a Kelly/Andy rivalry, the surf media’s need for a new conflict was akin to a Calcutta native looking for Filet Mignon on the Ganges. Trying to get these two to be rivals was like trying to get Switzerland and Canada to start World War Three armed with Swiss army knives and Molson. Dane really only cared about “not caring” (seems exhausting) and Jordy was too enchanted by the indifference of The Great Dane. There is a cautionary tale here: As Former becomes formerly relevant, and Dane slowly but painfully realises he will have to become what he hated in order to pay the bills, the spotlight of the tour, with all it’s faults, has kept Jordy in the spotlight.

#2 Alaia surfboards. Jerry Sienfeld once said he could not understand how the Chinese continue to use chopsticks when they have seen the fork in action. Alias and chopsticks are made from comparable materials, both with similar degrees of failed Western usage and far too familiar painful results.

#3 Still shots of “perfect” waves: Ask Hugh Hefner, when looking for talent and the well runs dry, pick someone off the street and paint it with an airbrush. Western culture is perfect at selling things that look great on the surface but are empty on the inside. After all, we invented the used car salesman and Kim Kardashian. If surf mags had to reimburse readers for every surf trip they inspired from cover shots they would have a deficit that would give Donald Trump a nose bleed.

#4 Van Life: It’s hard making homeless and smelly look cool. Turns out, after reading countless articles about van life, it’s impossible. After the initial ‘Wow, looks cool’ wears off, there is the tedious reality of living out of a van, knowing that somewhere your parents wished they had never spent that 100k on university. There’s an upside to #vanlife. Simple amenities like smelling clean, going to the bathroom, cooking food, watching TV and living like a human being 9000 years removed from the stone age are suddenly, starkly appreciated.

#ad We collaborate with @kettlebrand to fund our lifestyle. Vanlife isn’t free. Food. Fuel. Student debt. An energy exchange is necessary to thrive, and we work hard to live the dream. Our income on the road also comes from web development, mountain biking guiding and farming. + Influencer marketing is new yet by 2020 is expected to be worth $10 billion. This is $10 billion essentially diverted from mainstream media into the pockets of individuals. + I wonder how this shift will affect demand. Will capitalism help steer us away from the current trajectory of self destruction by shifting demand towards products aligned with human and environmental health? What do you think? + We collaborate with Kettle Brand because they support biodiesel, solar power, wind power, green building, sustainable packaging, wetland and prairie stewardship and community giving. And their chips do something wild to our taste buds. #liveflavorfully

A post shared by Emily + Corey + Pup Penny Rose (@wheresmyofficenow) on

#5 Indo boards: Would college dorm rooms of the nineties exist without these? Every time I take my son to the park and see him on a seesaw I thank God for the past inner strength to resist the impulse buy of the Indo board. It’s the front toothless, confederate flag wielding, inbred third cousin of the Alaia.


Prediction: Jordy Smith will win title!

Current world number 3 is soaring!

How long has it been since the last World Surf League Championship Tour event? Eight months? Three years? I have no idea and am lost in an endless depressive cycle. Oh I know that BeachGrit is anti-depressive and I do my best to lift my head off the pillow each morning and bring you good cheer but inside I am a dried up prune.

I went to the World Surf League website just this very minute to see if I might have somehow missed J-Bay and was greeted with the above picture of Jordy Smith who appears to be surfing in the Ballito Pro which seems to be in South Africa.

The day’s wrap reads, in part:

“It’s always great to do this event, there’s nothing like the QS guys to keep you on your toes, they’re the hungriest competitors,” Jordy said. “I saw Josh’s last air and told him if he made that it would have been in the nines, but apparently he slipped off his back foot right at the end, so fortunate for me. He’s a great surfer and I’m sure he’s going to have some big results this year.”

Watch here.

But more to the point is that air and the way it looks when photographed. Would you like to know what it looks like to me?

A championship.

Currently Jordy is number 3 in the world and my money is for him to slide up to number 1 by the Corona Pro J-Bay’s end and for him to stay there for the rest of the year.

How will a Jordy Smith championship make you feel?

Will Jordy v John John be the rivalry that thrills us into the future?

Supernatural: The BeachGrit curse!

Is someone casting dark spells on BeachGrit writers?

(Ed. note: In my rusty memory Rory Parker was always hurting himself and having surgery. Our Michael Kocher was killed by policemen. Now poor Michael Ciaramella is laid low. Do you believe in the supernatural? Could there possibly be a BeachGrit curse? And if yes, who conjured this dark force?)

The goal was to arrive at Marbella, a surf break forty-five minutes from our Playa Negra domicile, by first light. That meant a 4:45 wake-up and 5:15 departure.

A night of Cacique (a sugar cane liquor) and Snappa (a terrible drinking game) put us slightly behind schedule. Costa Rica will do that to you.

After an hour of waking up, then re-waking up my debilitated pals, the truck was packed and we were off.

To cut time, we took a local shortcut — one that involved weaving through cattle, romping over potholes and crossing a small river. The only obstacle we hadn’t accounted for was a fallen tree blocking our path.

By the time we’d encountered the natural roadblock, we were too far into the shortcut to head back. Fifteen minutes to Marbella through the tree, an hour if we were to turn around.

Our Nissan Navara fit just under the main trunk, but one of the core branches — a solid two feet in diameter and thirty in length — was directly in our path.

After short deliberation, a decision was made. We would move the thousand-pound piece of lumber in order to clear a path for our vehicle.

We got low, counted down from three and, PUUUUUSH!


A new idea; Two of us would lift while the others would drive the trunk forward with all of their body weight.

It worked, if slightly.

Each countdown resulted in an inch, maybe two inches of progress. A couple times when we lifted, the tree would swing back and we’d lose six inches all at once. Twenty minutes later, muddied and scraped from neck to heel, we’d moved the tree just enough to slip our 4×4 through the gap.

We laughed. We cried. We mocked the petty piece of lumber and were swiftly on our way.

As far as I was concerned, the day was already a success. A surf session would be great to wash off the dirt and sweat, but this tree endeavor had already achieved my daily entertainment quota.

With the morning commute behind us, we arrived at Playa Marbella to find clean, chest-high wedges breaking up and down the beach. Mesmerized by the sight, we pointed and squawked like amateur birdwatchers. Within minutes our feet were clean of mud and coated instead with Mr. Zog’s white goo.

The session went how sessions go — some good waves, some bad waves, always clinging to the hope that something bigger or better was looming out the back. Nearly three hours into my surf, about the time you’d start looking for a wave in, I found the lump I’d spent all day searching for.

Head high on take off, with a valley in the center and another hump forming down the line — the wave implored me to soar. If not implored me, then taunted me, in a ‘you won’t hit this, you pussy’ kind of way.

My friends were watching from out the back. I had no choice.

Launching off the lip, I felt my feet disconnect from the board momentarily, before regaining traction a foot closer to the nose. The air wasn’t exceptionally high, but I covered a decent amount ground and was set to land at the point of impact.

The initial landing was soft enough, but with the weight of the explosion from the crashing swell, I figured I’d be engulfed by whitewater and bucked from my board.

Turns out I was half right.

Rather than being overtaken by fluffy clouds and kindly deposited into the abyss, the explosion sent the nose of my board skyward, taking my front foot along with it. This pushed my front knee inward, toward the deck of my surfboard — a maneuver well outside my range of motion. I felt the sensations of a pop, then pain, then despair, in that order.

Still underwater, I knew something bad had happened. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to come up — not in a suicidal way, it’s just that breaching the surface meant facing the reality of a blown surf trip, if not something much worse.

I was able to hobble back to the car, but by the time we’d arrived home, I couldn’t put an ounce of my weight on my left foot. I couldn’t even straighten my leg.

My initial plan was to wait it out, to see if my knee would improve on its own. I spent the next 36 hours laid up in bed, occasionally hopping around the house to piss or get an ice pack. It didn’t help one bit, and I feared my knee could get worse without proper treatment.

The next day I saw an orthopedic surgeon (travel insurance FTW) who put me through X-rays and and MRI. Results showed a bone bruise, a sprained MCL and a nearly-severed ACL.

Might need surgery, he told me, might not. Said I should rehab it for a week then see a specialist in the States.

I’ve learned that surgery would put me out of the water for four months, but I wouldn’t be at 100% for at least seven.

If no surgery, it’s anyone’s guess how long the recovery will take, but it’ll be at least a few months until my knee is strong enough to withstand legitimate athletic activity.

So, that’s my current reality. No more surfing, no more traveling, no more bees, and definitely no Namibia for the foreseeable future.

Oh, and to top it all off, I have to move all my shit into a new house by the end of this month.

And to think a tree was once my biggest problem.

Zach Weisberg is that you? Morgan Williamson you too?
Zach Weisberg is that you? Morgan Williamson you too?