Kelly Slater employs a Hemingway exit strategy: Reynolds a little Jean Paul Sartre.

Theory: Pro Surfer Exit Strategies!

Great literature explains retirement strategies of best surfers.

A literature teacher once told me, “All the original plots have already been done. The modern stuff is just a new way to tell an old tale.”

Example. Beowulf as Superman.

If the World tour is the spotlight, then every player needs a way to exit stage.

Let’s examine!

The Dane Reynolds/Jean-Paul Sartre (No) Exit strategy:

Treat yourself to a copy of Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit. Thirty-eight pages of pure emptiness that will leave you hollower than a trust fund kid’s responsibilities.

Five sentence synopsis: Three people (who realize they are dead) locked in a room. It’s furnished in Second Empire style (think red velvet couches/chairs and long drapes – ouch), with no windows and one door. They realize they are in hell and wonder where the torture devices are. Pleasant conversations quickly escalate to arguments and screaming matches. They soon realize hell is… other people. ( Or maybe a room furnished in Second Empire style.)

Dane saw a room with no future. His hell was five people locked in a tower with torture devices numbered on a scale from 1-10. Or maybe he just couldn’t appreciate the bliss of spending 18 hours in transit only to be judged in 30 minutes on your two best good deeds. Either way, he showed other worker bees there is life outside the hive and honey can be found through two-minute Vimeo clips.

The Kelly Slater/Ernest Hemingway Old man and the Sea strategy:

The Old man and the Sea was Hemingway’s 100-page suicide note. (He killed himself via shotgun after winning the Nobel prize for the book shortly after.)

The old fisherman had plenty of success, but in recent months hit a string of bad luck. He eventually lands a huge marlin. He can’t fit it in the boat, so he straps it to the side of his skiff only to have sharks tear it apart piece by piece on the way back to shore. He returns left only with the skeleton to prove that he caught it. No glory.

If Kelly were to write us a farewell note, at this point, it would be the length of War and Peace. The GOAT has caught 55 trophy fish, and has also had a run of bad luck. His sharks take bites via Twitter and claim his boards are skeletons under his feet. In the end, the Cuban fisherman dreams of seeing lions on an African beach. Our king dreams of subduing young lions on beaches through cold stares before heats. Regardless of his current relevancy, when the GOAT leaves, he takes a piece of every surf fan with him.

And the WSL ship takes on water.

The bottom third/blue-collar/desperate immigrants/The Grapes of Wrath exit theory:

If the last 12 seeds of the tour needed an anthem, then John Steinbeck is their maestro. Stienbeck’s novel tells the story of desperate migrant blue-collar workers who seek a better life as field hands in California only to find the state oversupplied with labor and harsh working conditions.

Did Steinbeck ever surf windblown two-foot slop in Japan? QS groveling could be the equivalent of picking grapes in a California pasture, but the end result for our laborers is far more glamorous. When they hit the game there are plenty of harsh working conditions via low seeds and lack of experience. You gotta toil and sweat to make it out of the helpers’ quarters. If not, there is no shame in saying you made the spotlight, broke some hearts, and got sent home.

It makes for great campfire stories with the grandkids at the Drew Courtney home.

Shane Besehen US Open
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.

Warshaw: “The least huggable pro of all!”

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.

Wanna reminisce?

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.

(Watch here!)

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.

(Watch here.)

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.

Faux/Real: Leashless logging!

Are you a cosmic minimalist?

Why did you pick up a surfboard and get into the game? Maybe you wanted to sex a tan girl, maybe you wanted to tame the ocean.

Or, maybe, like me, you were attracted by the sport’s cosmic minimalism. Get a board and you have the key to unlocking a lifetime of dazzling experiences, incomprehensible mysteries revealed and so on.

If I can surf in trunks, and if I can avoid wearing a legrope, I will. Me, a board and a wave. It don’t get much better.

But I take ditching the leash seriously. Surf’s gotta be kinda empty and with no bumps on the face to surprise. For the duration of the session, I straighten out holding both rails and there are no flyaway airs.

I figure, we’re all citizens of the earth. Sometimes you gotta smother your own pleasures for the good of the whole.

For the past five or so years, a substrata of surfers have been pushing the retro logging thing to its authentic roots by completely shucking the leash. Look at the tail on the hipper looking logs kicking around and there won’t even be a plug to tie a leash onto.

But who can blame ’em, these beautiful boys in their billowing shirts and with the long balayaged hair? It’s like installing retractable seatbelts in that sixties wagon. Yeah, it’d make it safer, but it kills the vibe and the aesthetic.

Of course, flying through the windscreen of your old wagon kills nobody but you; a leashless ten-footer bisecting the face of a kid riding a softie in the shore break, well, that’s an issue, I suppose.

And so I wonder,

Does the thrill of leashless logging outweigh the smallish chance of someone else getting hit? And a stud who does get a face shot, isn’t he partially responsible for not diving under the loose board? Perhaps it might be a wakeup call, an incentive to examine the lineup more carefully?

And doesn’t a surfer who ride leashless have an incentive to not wipeout and, ergo, becomes a better surfer?

So, Real?

Or no?


Do we stand on the precipice of a bold new form of surfing, Olympic style?

Olympics: Are we living in end times?

Does surf in the Olympics represent the start of something entirely new, something beautiful? Or no?

Remember God and his son Jesus, lord and savior of mankind etc? We crucified him!

But we’d never repeat our folly in crucifying a true love. Correct?

Ah, but here we go again,

It’s the Olympics, and it’s on television.

Don’t look away. The blood of surfing is on your hands.

You pushed for surfing in Shidashit, Japan. When you led the charge, you were just thinking of marketing and money and self.

Wait, what? This wasn’t you? You, the lower-middle-class youth. You, the owner of the two-board quiver.  You, the 7-11 shift manager.

Sorry, I had you confused with the International Surfing Association (ISA). This is the governing body that includes representation from such wave-rich nations as Poland and Slovenia, who pushed, along with industry made-men and wiseguys, for l’entrée magnifique of surfing in the 2020 Summer Games.

They did this for you — not themselves— so you could line your pockets with boardshort sales and wavepool sales and anything-remotely-related to surfing sales.

Altruistic, isn’t it?

After the the viewing of surfing in the 2020 games, you’ll get a cut, right? You, the Saturday morning shoulder-hopper. You the consumer. You, the casual PCP user. (No offence. Just being honest.)

Yet you, Pontius, like me, are going to watch every damning second as Surf Fever 2.0 infects every living creature within flying distance of a shoreline.

But, maybe you— like the heathen you are —can consider some upsides to the big show in 2020.

Imagine the opening ceremony as Kainoa Igarashi marches into Olympic stadium donning his Hilfiger-designed red, white, and blue wetsuit, waving his oversized cowboy hat to the world.

And how wonderfully ridiculous will it be to have Miguel Pupo’s name, after he claims gold, scrolled in 96 point Helvetica Bold across a box of Wheaties.

What are you eating, Timmy?

“PUPO! Mom”

I would trade the day to hear this popping out of the mouths of emergent young readers everywhere.

Finally, fast forward to 2024, where Olympic surfing will truly hit its stride. Mixed doubles are a certainty as is the revealing of a new, true beauty: Rhythmic surfing. Picture Jordy elegantly dancing across the face of a freshly fallen wave with a perfectly swirling, twirling ribbon trailing in tow.

End times? Or the beginning of something entirely new?    

Big-wave Joust: Natxo Gonzalez vs Mick Fanning

Who surfs Ireland's big waves with more gusto, Spanish kid or adored world champ?

Recent footage has emerged of Natxo Gonzalez, a young charger famous for beating the world’s best big-wave pros at heavy Punta de los Lobos when he was just 17, surfing the same Irish slabs that inspired Mick to return to professional surfing.

Who does it better?

Oh let’s examine!

For starters, they both make the same mistake at the same spot — 1.59 (Natxo) and 2.35 (Mick).

Aileens, as the wave is called, looks as if it’s going to let them out, they relax, then right on cue the end section turns into a guillotine.

In terms of makes Natxo comes off best, getting significantly deeper than Mick who, after his initial fall, surfs as though he were at The Cave (the infamous Portuguese barrel that even Kelly can’t get deep at).

However, Natxo continues to flirt, eventually getting spat out of a few just as deep as his wipeout. Mick then surfs a glassy, mini version of Mullaghmore, which I find infinitely more appealing (but far less impressive) than Natxo’s XL antics at Ireland’s premiere big wave.

My favorite part is when Mick talks about how how stressful it is to book accommodation. Closely followed by the realisation that Natxo and his pals would’ve scored almost the exact same waves if they’d just stayed at home (see Rona Puta and Mundaka).

But enough about me, who did you prefer?

Is it easier to get deep backside or frontside? A

And when are we going to see Filipe or John land a full rotor at Aileens?