Like Medina, "but with less fucks given…"
Recently, the controller of surfing history, Matt Warshaw, reposted an interview from 1997 with the former world number two Shane Beschen.
The interview, which appears on his subscriber only site Above the Roar and which you can read here if you agree to feed Warshaw three bucks a month, was recorded in 1997 at the Quiksilver G-Land contest.
Wait, 1997, Grajagan, familiar quotes? I wrote it! Well, not so much wrote, ’cause it ain’t literature just a bunch of questions transcribed.
I remember the interview well because just before I recorded it I’d asked my friend Tim Baker if he had anything I could throw at Shane. Tim who’d just been in Fiji said he’d seen Shane using his hand as a lever on his outside rail to control his speed in the tube. When I wrote up the story it felt like an unnecessary diversion to prefix that question with, And Tim Baker told me to ask you and so on, and I claimed it as my own observation. Much to Tim’s chagrin and, confirmation, perhaps, of every unpretty thought he’d ever had of me.
Anyway, it got me thinking about Shane Beschen, who is a week younger than his one-time rival Kelly. Beschen is the US rep for a German wave pool company (read here), has two shredders for kids (hit here), a real pretty, bikini-stuffing wife and, oowee, he still rip.
Beschen had a bit of the Bobby Martinez’ about him, poisoned by the feeling he never got the deals or results he deserved and quit the tour a few years too early.
BeachGrit: Did you enjoy Beschen’s surfing?
Warshaw: I lived in San Clemente from 1985 to 1990, three houses off T-Street, and watched Shane and that whole up-and-coming SC crew when they were kids. Any other beach in California, Shane would have been a god. But that place, that time, he was almost in the background. Matt Archbold was king, you couldn’t take your eyes off him, he was the best surfer in the state after Curren. Dino Andino was really hot, not as radical as Matt, but great flow, great style. Christian Fletcher of course. In that group, honestly, Shane was almost hard to see. A year or two later he started winning all the PSAA contests, partly cause his surfing improved while the other guys burned out, but also cause it turned out he was way more determined that the rest. Maybe that came from NOT being the guy everybody was watching. From not getting much attention. All of a sudden he was deadly. Super tactical in the water, incredible confidence. Paddles out against Slater at Huntington without a leash! But to answer your question, no, I didn’t especially enjoy Shane’s surfing—until the mid-‘90s, sitting on the during a Pipe Masters contest, and I realized that he’d become an amazingly good backside tuberider. One of the best. That was so impressive.
he was too sour about the tour, the judging, the whole show. Number four in the world in 1998, saying he felt “like a black person in South Africa 50 years ago, and all the judges are white.” Shit like that.
BeachGrit: Was he a genuine contender?
Yes. Shane could have won a title during Kelly’s sabbatical, but by that time he was too sour about the tour, the judging, the whole show. Number four in the world in 1998, saying he felt “like a black person in South Africa 50 years ago, and all the judges are white.” Shit like that. Kelly’s gone the next year, but Shane was cooked, he dropped to #24, and that was pretty much it.
BeachGrit: Tell me your recollection of the Slater-Beschen rivalry. It was short, yes?
I think Kelly respected Shane, probably didn’t love him, but never really viewed him as a rival. Kelly didn’t have a rival till Andy. Shane maybe was just as crazy competitive as Kelly—let’s say they were the two most competitive surfers of the ‘90s—but not on Kelly’s level talent-wise. I wonder if the ASP kept records for man-on-man. I’m guessing Shane hit rate against Kelly was around one in three. Better than just most other contenders, but no way enough to knock Kelly out. Minor rivalry.
Stone face, little tiny smile, staring us down, a well-deserved FUCK YOU to the whole crowd. It was awesome. The most gangster move I’ve ever seen at a contest.
BeachGrit: Do you think the peak of the rivalry was Kelly’s brutal use of the interference rule at the 1996 US Open? Kelly created quite some ruckus with that. I like Beschen’s quote, “Time heals almost all wounds.” Walk me through the final again. And, describe for me, how Beschen looked like on the dais afterwards.
I didn’t see that contest. The one I did see, and the look I remember during the trophy ceremony after, cause I’ve never seen anything like it, was 1994. The first US Open. Shane was leading Kelly in the final, and near the end Kelly got a decent one, raced it, got a cover-up, popped a neat little air, and the crowd went apeshit. I thought he got the score. Everybody thought he got the score. Except Shane and judges. So a few minutes later Shane and Kelly are up on stage and Shane gets his trophy, holds it over his head and looks out at all of us, the whole crowd, everybody who’d just been cheering Kelly, and he’s shooting lasers out of his eyes. Full Clint Eastwood. Stone face, little tiny smile, staring us down, a well-deserved FUCK YOU to the whole crowd. It was awesome. The most gangster move I’ve ever seen at a contest.
BeachGrit: That fantastic O’Neill ad in response to Kelly, “The next time I have him in a heat it’s going to be ALL OUT.” Worked out well, didn’t it.
Shane never forgave O’Neill for that.
BeachGrit: Beschen’s thirty-point heat at Kirra (three waves, three tens, best heat score in history). Wasn’t that just the funniest damn thing ever. The judges threw a ten at his first wave, which to a sober observer was probably an eight, and they had no choice but to throw tens at the next two waves which were markedly better.
It is a silly sport. I love pro surfing, but it is very silly. No harm done at Kirra. The right guy won the heat. But if you watch the video, it is pretty underwhelming.
BeachGrit: As the keeper of secrets and so forth, does it strike you as remarkable, over and over, that Shane Beschen, great surfer, but is long gone and yet Kelly Slater still captures our imagination?
Not at all. It is the pro surfer’s fate to not capture our imagination. One in a hundred will break the rule. Whither Dave MacAulay.
BeachGrit: And, just as remarkable, that every story about Shane Beschen ends up about Kelly Slater. Do you think Shane is thrilled?
I could never, ever get a read on Shane. He was always incredibly chill, which was so attractive. But later in his career he was so sour, complained all the time, and that was a turn-off. From a fan’s perspective, in the 1990s, he was the least-huggable pro of all — which maybe speaks well of him, Shane never put on act for our benefit. Kind of like Medina, but even less fucks given. On the other hand, he was hard guy to warm to, to cheer for. I can’t un-hear that comment about feeling like a black man in South Africa. On the other other hand, people who I know and like, who know and like Shane, think the world of him. I’d take their opinion over my own.