This is the dream, of course. Coiled up with a pretty thing in a timber accented van, tailgate opened to reveal startling vista.

Watch: #Vanlife for old men!

Not all surfers living in vans are pretty things blogging for cash.

The images of #Vanlife that ripple across our little telephone screens ignite an insatiable fire, equal parts lust, travel, freedom.

Do you remember when The New Yorker wrote about all these pretty surfers laying around undressed in camper vans, doors open to reveal startlingly beautiful vistas?

Like this?

The reality of #vanlife, of life, is vastly different.

If, at a certain point, and age, you’re living in a van, it’s not because you blog for cash and have a gorgeous thing to share it with.

It ain’t #van life. It’s living in a van. No hashtags.

The job disappears. You get divorced. Maybe you make a bad decision, get in fight, a lover’s spat turns into a court case, and you spend a year or so in the can.

All the money goes. It ain’t easy to cover rent. So you figure you’ll spend a few weeks in your car until the storm passes and life rights itself.

But it doesn’t.

And then you start to like the freedom that only hitting the bottom can bring. Work when necessary, as little as possible if we’re going to be honest, and days spent swept up by the ocean, not by the office cube.

Like Bob, here, who lives in the most rudimentary of vans and calls the Avalon beachfront carpark home.

I wouldn’t call this film an inspiring call to arms, more a terrifying example of what happens if you don’t get your shit together while you’re young.

And, yet, as a document of a man trying to get by in life as best he can, handed lemons, makes the metaphorical lemonade stand, it really is quite beautiful.


Zach Weisberg (in all white) exports his favorite surf move.
Zach Weisberg (in all white) exports his favorite surf move.

Pocket Shaka: Buy or Sell?

Should a new craze be sweeping the surf world?

If you listened to the latest Grit! podcast (Do now here! It is noted not surf journalist J.P. Currie approved!)  you know my position on the shaka. I find it a wonderful bond that ties all surfers together and should be used by us regularly and exclusively. Oh sure it is uncomfortable when you first start but that’s what irony is for. Toss ironically until it becomes second nature.

I also broadcasted my position on the pocket shaka or the “poka” which is used by Zach Weisberg of Venice-adjacent’s favorite longboard skateboard website The Inertia.

If memory serves I called it, “A pathetic attempt to be both edgy and impossibly short at the same time…”

Or something.

But now I’m rethinking. Should we be doing this every time we put our hands in our impossibly small pockets?

Is the poka a buy or is it a sell?

These gun trucks were very common outside the capital and I still dream about bringing one here.
These gun trucks were very common outside the capital and I still dream about bringing one here.

Yemen: Killer in the Streets!

Chapter 5: Boys acquire Landcruisers and watch Sean Paul.

(I am writing a series about Yemen because what is currently happening there is terrible beyond. My inaction disgusts me and so I am going to introduce you to to the country because… the place, people, culture all deserve to be saved. Catch up, if you wish, on the links below…)


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

One of Yemen’s most celebrated pastime, prior to getting bombed, was kidnapping foreigners and ransoming them back to family/business/country or origin. It was a pure financial play, not religious or political, and the kidnapers seemed to know the market value well, never going bananas and, say, asking for millions of dollars for a teacher or hundreds of thousands for a journalist.

A new road was needed through town so a person would be borrowed and the road would get built. A new well? Borrow and build. It was part of the ebb and flow of daily life with Yemenis even kidnapping other Yemenis, and generally fun for all. Foreigners who were kidnapped discussed the hospitality of their hosts, marveling about the one-of-a-kind experience they were afforded.

And it was with this in the back of our minds that we spent those first few days wandering the streets of Sana’a with neither passport nor any real way to leave town. Yemen was as tribal then as it is now with the central government maintaining only the loosest control outside of the capital. Still, Yemeni troops were spread from one edge of the country to the other and in order to travel one had to have permission slips for each region from the government.

But Sana’a was fantastically magical enough to hold our attention. The old city was an almost untouched medieval throwback. Donkeys navigated the maze-like pathways between ancient towers. Men sat in the shade chewing qat. Women didn’t exist. I had been to the Middle East twice before. I had climbed the great pyramids in Egypt (totally illegally and a wonderful story). I had climbed Mt. Sinai before dawn and watched the sun come up. I had hospitaled in Aqaba for an entire week. I thought I was an Orientalist expert but Sana’a forever altered what I deemed “exotic.”

We found the Arabic school J. was “attending” in order to fill out the rest of our travel budget via UCLA scholarship. It was the same that Johnny Walker Lindh attended for a year before running off to Afghanistan in order to fight the infidel invaders in 2002. Do you remember him? The “American Taliban?” He was grabbed by the Afghan Northern Forces in the city of Kuduz, tried by military tribunal, convicted of conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, providing material support for terrorist organizations, etc. and currently serving his sentence in Terre Haute, Indiana until 2020 or such.

One of J.’s Islamic Studies classmates was also attending. A wonderfully eclectic boy who wore Blue Blockers and vintage Jean-Paul Gaultier sandals and was dating a Japanese diplomat who worked in Yemen’s Japanese embassy. He had a camera and so we gang-pressed him into service as a “surf photographer.” Who needs academia when you’ve got surf?

We found the Iraqi embassy, around the corner from the apartment we were staying, and wondered if Saddam Hussein might be hiding out. He had just been deposed and it would have made perfect sense for him to end run to Yemen and wait for George W. Bush not to find his weapons of mass and then apologize. I knocked on its door and the guard angrily shoed us away.

We sat in our mafraj and chewed qat ourselves. The leaf is such a staple of Yemeni lives that even the smallest home is outfitted with a room dedicated to its enjoyment. The mafraj is an open space with cushions pushed against each wall for lounging. The leaf is grown in Yemen’s highlands at the same elevations as coffee. The supple shoots are harvested, wrapped in plastic and sold in qat souqs. The growers and sellers are as dedicated to their craft as viticulturists and sommeliers are theirs. Good qat is expensive even by American standards and our new photographer insisted that we bought good qat since he had developed a full on addiction.

We waited for H.

And then after five days he arrived, calling in the afternoon and apologizing for being held up in Dubai. He said would pick us up for dinner that evening and before we finished our daily music video binge (music video channels are the best in the Middle East. Between Lebanon, Egypt, Bahrain and Qatar there is a steady diet of European club hits, forgotten American gems, Bollywood bangers and flabby Lebanese weirdness) he was there in a cloud of brand new black Mercedes G-Wagon smoke. He told us in his odd Rhode Island meets Dubai accent that we were going to sushi and sped though the streets while showing us a brand new black Uzi he kept under his seat in a neat briefcase.

“Sushi?” I thought.

But it was good and maybe had something to do with the Japanese Embassy. H. was maybe 40, tall, thin, paired awkwardly brand new designer jeans with crisp button-ups and seemed neither surprised nor dismayed by our plan to surf his country’s coast. He told us some of the provinces were basically lawless and that the government wasn’t issuing permission for foreigners to travel them but… “no problem. I’ll get permission for you. And I’ll send my two best bodyguards along. How many Landcruisers will you need?” We told him one and that we didn’t need any bodyguards. He insisted on two bodyguards and two Landcruisers. We told him our whopping budget was something like $3,000 for three months.

“Guuuuuys…you’re guests. It’s no problem…” he said and then ate a bite of delicately seasoned cat tongue. “…Come to my house tomorrow and you can get on the road.”

Ill-fitting hats just one of the many similarities tween surf and cricket!

Vindicated: Surfing most like cricket!

The two sports almost mirror images of each other!

For years I have been telling anyone who will listen that the closest sport to professional surfing is test cricket. Both go on for days. Both have byzantine rules that confound outsiders. Professional surfers have two balls (most of them on the men’s side) and cricket uses two bails.


I could go on all day but you get it and I’ve always wondered why no cricket stars are also surfers, since the bails n stuff would come so naturally.

Well, I’ve just found the missing link! M. Vijay from India! Let’s read about him in The Hindu!

The thrill of the wind, the sea, and the waves beckoned him. Trying his hand at a different sport, Murali Vijay enjoyed the freshness and freedom that surfing provided.

Surfing put him in the middle of nature where he could ride the waves and listen to the rhythm of the sea. Vijay found the experience “relaxing”.

The star Indian opener was at the Covelong surfing, music and yoga festival, around 20 km from Mahabalipuram on Saturday. And he was buzzing around.

Asked to draw a parallel between cricket and surfing, Vijay said, “It’s the rush of adrenaline. When you are playing high-pressure games, you cannot do exactly what you think, you just don’t have the time — much like countering and conquering a wave. You keep your mind blank, be more reactive than proactive.”

If there is one thing that I truly enjoy in this world its the way Indians use English. If there is another thing it is being right and I am so happy to be proven right re. professional surfing and cricket being twin sisters.

Should the surfers on the World Surf League form a cricket squad? Who would be the bowler? Who would be the wicket keeper?

A little surf Olympian in the making!

Australia spends $6 mill on Surf Olympic Gold!

Sensible allocation of funds or comical extravagance?

If you were a president, prime minister, how would you allocate your country’s precious dollars?

Would you, like the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teddy Mbasogo, buy houses in Malibu and Michael Jackson memorabilia? Or would you splash out on a 130 mill crib in the middle of Paris like Gabon’s dashing prez, Ali Bongo? All while your people die in the streets and so forth.

The Australian government, a slightly conservative one at the moment if you were wondering, has always been prone to throwing cash at sport.

It’s a little country and the people, who have the mental agility of a giant prawn for the most, become terrifyingly elevated by Olympic gold medals.

Therefore, today’s announcement that the NSW state and federal governments had puked six million dollars at the High Performance Surf Centre at Casuarina, just across the border from Coolangatta, raised zero eyebrows.

Let’s go the newspaper of note, the Gold Coast Bulletin, for the story:

SEVEN-TIME world surfing champion Layne Beachley is confident Surfing Australia’s multimillion-dollar High Performance Centre expansion can create a gold rush for the 2020 Olympics and beyond.

The surfing Australia chairperson was on hand with World Tour professional Bede Durbidge, up-and-coming Tweed superstar Zahli Kelly and dignitaries at the Casuarina based centre on Tuesday to turn the first sod of soil on the $6 million upgrade.

With surfing set to make its Olympics debut in 2020, Beachley said the major expansion would set Australia up for sustained success in Tokyo and beyond.

“It (expansion) signals the turning of the tide for this organisation. We’re going to go to a benchmark facility we anticipate is going to bring home a whole host of gold medals in the future,” she said.

“We are confident that we will be ensuring athletes are provided with the opportunities for success.”

Works on the project – generated by $2.536 million in funding through the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions Fund, and $3 million from the NSW Government – begin on Wednesday and are expected to be completed in July, 2018.

New facilities will include underground parking for 18 vehicles, a bigger and better AIS Aerial Surf Skate Training Facility, an improved and expanded world class gymnasium, 100 seat auditoriums, expanded treatment facilities, and 11 new accommodation rooms.

Wow, right?

I have mixed thoughts about flashy government spending.

One, the money’s going to be pissed up against a wall anyway so why not have a good time? Six mill is peanuts when your budget is 500 billion a year.

Conversely, I also believe that each dollar is as precious as gold and must only be spent on those things that really matter, health, education, defence and so on.

Oh I’m lost!

Therefore, I seek your counsel:

Do you think six million dollars spent on the off chance an Australian might win a gold medal at the 2020 Olympic Games in the category of surf is a sensible allocation of government funds?

Or comical in its pointless extravagance?