Me. Amongst the people during happier times.
Me. Amongst the people during happier times. | Photo: The one and only Steve Sherman

Hurley Pro Interlude: “The wages of sin!”

What happens when there is too much bawdy downmarket fun? Come and learn a lesson.

Yesterday was my second full day with the people and what a day it was. I’ve become addicted to the scent of paraben-laced spray-on sunscreens. The eau de McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches. We are the same, you and me. From the tips of our sun kissed hair to the soles of our Gucci loafers. And as I left Lower Trestles parking lot I wanted to be with you more. To know the innermost secrets of your proletarian heart.

But where do you go? McDonalds? I wasn’t hungry having feasted on the bread of the people all day and also almond butter and organic raspberry jelly organic bread sandwiches. But I was thirsty. Yes, extraordinarily thirsty having stood shoulder to shoulder with you plus our Brazilian brothers and sisters in the blazing sun. And having eaten an almond butter and organic raspberry jelly organic bread sandwich.

We all turned our reddening necks, from time to time, and watched the VIP set sip daintily from a never drying fount of Michelob Ultra in their shaded villa but there was none for us. Only the occasional spray from Ace Buchan’s backhand turns.

But now where do you drink? Taverns right? Saloons? Well there is a saloon very near my home named The Saloon and that’s where I headed, pushing though the door and into a delightfully rustic interior expecting to enter the very center of bawdy, downmarket fun. Like that scene in Titanic where Kate Winslet realizes how free poor people are.

But you weren’t there. The Saloon was, in fact, empty except for a very fine man with wonderful taste in preschools who works for Surfer magazine. We drank Coopers. None of that fancy Michelob Ultra stuff. Coopers. Coopers after Coopers after Coopers.

When I woke up in the morning my head pounded. My eyes were red. My head pounded. Did I already say that? But the people go to work hungover after nights of bawdy downmarket fun and so off to Lower Trestles I went.

I got there late, missing out on $20 parking and having to park near Carl’s Jr thus walking for 30 minutes in the blazing sun. Still, how could I let one minor inconvenience sour my mood? The people pick grapes in this blazing sun before attending surf contests. They scrub Porsches clean in local car washes in this blazing sun. And so I cuffed my Comme des Garçons trousers and sallied forth, down the dirt, through the reeds, back to you.

While I was walking Fred Morais was in the water beating Zeke Lau. Fred Morais is a blue collar name but the beach announcer kept saying, “There goes Frederico Morais again laying down his patented long drawn out rail carves…”

One of the great pleasures in attending live surf events is the beach announcers. They are often funnier than the broadcast announcers and don’t jibber quite as much. And I liked Fred Morais’s good working class name but it frustrated me that he patented the long drawn out rail carve. It seems a very 1% thing to do. How do you think he collects money on those surfers who infringe upon his property? Does he fine them per long drawn out rail carve? And how did he secure that patent ahead of Tom Curren et. al.?

My head pounded and I had many questions as I posted up next to a trash can filled with Africanized bees. My eyes burned as the sun pierced my Tom Ford lenses. The people, all around me, cheering now for Wiggolly Dantas but also imploring Ace Buchan to cool them with the spray from his backhand turn started to ring my ears, along with the angry buzz of Africanized trash bees, and I needed a quick break so walked aimlessly toward the media tent some 5 miles down the beach and inside one of San Onofre’s nuclear power reactors.

I had no intention of actually entering the media tent but old habits die hard yet as I was walking I saw signs for the Hurley Surf Club. Now of course this sounds exclusive and elitist but when I arrived discovered that Hurley provides an onsite school, free of charge, for children set on becoming professional surfers.

That’s right free. A Bernie Sanders dream come true.

Beanbag chairs are scattered on the floor and white boards intermix with big screen televisions on the walls. Instructors pause videos of the live action and show the children, sitting everywhere in half-stripped wetsuits and trunks, where the surfers legs are, where their arms are, where their eyes are looking. There is also video of the children shot just moments earlier and the instructors give real time analysis.

My heart melted.

An institution for the people’s children! For the fruit of the working class!

I pressed in further. Every boy and girl was staring at the screen, taking it all in, learning. Loving it. Loving learning. I have never seen a better thing at a surf contest. No not ever. A room packed with hungry learners being gifted a free education.

And I pressed in further still, almost stepping on one young boy. He looked at me with horror in his eyes. All of them did. “Let them stare…” I said to myself “…let them feast their eyes upon me. Hungover, red-eyed, sweaty. Let them absorb what they will become if they drop out of professional surf school and become a surf journalist instead. Let them gaze upon me and let them smell the Coopers on my breath. For this is what happens, children, when bawdy downmarket fun gets in the way of a proper education.”

And I stayed there for much of the day, sunk in a beanbag chair, missing the rest of the action.

I'm a bodyboarder. Funny, huh. I used to compete and still do from time to time. And with that whole thing... the shove and splash... I would never do that to one of the local guys. To the Gudangs or anyone. But you can't just blow in and do that. Gabby's got a reputation you know? You gotta baptize the savages."

Interview: “I Splashed Gabriel Medina!”

Meet the man who "baptized" Gab Medina!

Heroes aren’t born they are made. They are made one hammer swing at a time. One CPR chest compression. One throw, one catch, one epic splash.

Oh you saw.

You saw Gabriel Medina one Saturday morning in San Clemente dropping in on a strong-jawed man. You saw the strong jawed man not give up but rather race down the line trying to catch up. You saw Gabriel’s air reverse and then you saw the splash. Maybe even felt the splash.

It was epic.

But let us speak with John from San Clemente. Let us ask him how it felt.

“Yeah, it was a pretty crowded day. Saturday morning just piled out. I was messing around on my log. Gab paddled out after I caught about three waves and just sat right behind me. I went and then he dropped in. I could tell he saw me. At first I thought I could catch up and spear him off his board. I’m kind of half back then he did that stupid air reverse and we both went down. When we popped up I laid into him. Checked him. He didn’t react at all when I shoved him and I was saying stuff in his face too. No reaction though.

“I lost my board and had to go in and get it. Had a feeling people were filming so when I paddled back out I thought I’ve got to blast him. I have lived in San Clemente my whole life. Everybody thought that clip was at Lowers but I never surf there. It was at T-Street. I was surfing the log that day but primarily I’m a bodyboarder. Funny, huh. I used to compete and still do from time to time. And with that whole thing… the shove and splash… I would never do that to one of the local guys. To the Gudangs or anyone. But you can’t just blow in and do that. Gabby’s got a reputation you know? You gotta baptize the savages.”

Shortly after the interview, John texted the following bullet points.

1.) I can’t believe the responses on social media!
2.) I identify mostly as a bodyboarder and resort to surfing as another challenge when the waves are too small to drag.
3.) I was purposely trying to catch up with him to go for the tackle, kinda bummed I didn’t…the clip would have been way cooler!
4.) When I kicked out and he didn’t land the rev, I shoved him and wrote him off, lost my board then paddled back out for the splash.
5.) Gabe played dumb the whole time. Said he thought I was going left.
6.) Surfing sucks.

Now, watch as Gabriel runs over a surfer at Lowers.

Watch Gabriel do air on man!

John. A hero from through eternity.

John. My favorite surfer.

Lakey Peterson
Ms Peterson takes her air skills, honed in Mexico with Filipe Toledo, into the main game at Trestles. An 8.83 for this grabbed air reverse. | Photo: WSL

Trestles: Riss and Lakey Go Into Orbit!

Do we stand on the precipice of a new era in women's surfing?

Earlier this year you’ll remember, or maybe you won’t, memories ain’t what they used to be, BeachGrit flew Lakey Peterson to Mex to enjoy personal aerial tuition with Filipe Toledo.

Along with another coach, Huntington Beach’s Brett Simpson, and iPads with the Hurley Surf Coach app, and GoPros affixed hither and yon, and a Karma patrolling the sky, we had four days to coach, and coax, Santa Babs’ Lakey Peterson into the biggest huck ever by a girl.

Get a little taste, here.

And here.

Today at the Swatch Pro, Ms Peterson, who is twenty four years old and has a velvet complexion, drew on her newly learned skills to perform a grab-rail air-reverse and score an 8.83.  It wasn’t the prettiest air, something that would have accomplished male surfers dragging the clip into the trash, but it glowed starkly against the safety turns that define women’s surfing.

Watch here. First scoring wave (click on the little green bubble.) 

Maybe there was a little sugar floating in the warm air ’cause in the previous round, fellow Hurley team rider Carissa Moore, who was our initial pick for the Mex project, scooped a clean air-rev, a 7.73.  A score which indicates the judges thought the wave good, though not excellent.

Watch that here. Second green bubble. 

Do we stand on the precipice of a new era in women’s performance? Will risk enter the game or will waves like the 7.70 Carissa’s opponent, Malia Manuel, got for a couple of turns (second scoring wave on the heat analyser) be enough incentive to keep playing it safe?

Ryan Callinan
I would swap any ability I have for writing, as well as a substantial cash amount to be able to surf like Ryan Callinan, here. | Photo: Billabong

Surf Quiz: What would you give up to be a pro?

What would you swap for pro-level surf skills?

A week or so ago, I had an interesting back and forth with the little pro surfer gal Sabre Norris. The kid is sharper than most adults and has a curiosity that never dulls. Twelve years old. What an interesting life she’s creating for herself.

After I’d sent Sabre a critique of her story about going snowboarding for the first time, she wrote:

“You are lucky that you can just look at the writing and you know how to make it better. That’s an easy thing for you. It’s kind of like a secret talent because if you just saw you walking in the street you wouldn’t know that that talent lived inside you. I always think that’s interesting, you know if you just see a random person and you wonder if they have a secret talent and what it might be?”

Then she asked: “Would you swap your talent of writing for say Ryan Callinan (a surfer who is not on tour but really good still) surf ability?”

As it happens, I’m contemptuous of my writing. I find it derivative, lazy, misses important points, my own opinion is clouded by my inability to express clearly, I bury the lead (this story included) and I make people angry when I don’t mean to.

So, yes, Sabre, I would happily hand over the keys to whatever it is that comes out of these fingers just to feel the wind in my hair like Ryan Callinan. I would also include a substantial cash amount.

Just the fantasy of being Ryan has me panting and threatening hospitalisation from nervous exhaustion.

Am I alone in these fantasies?

Would you give up your primary skill to be a pro surfer?


Your cute wife?

Stu Kennedy
This heat thrilled and mostly because Ace surfed on his backhand and Stu slapped the water with anger in his veins. Not Kolohe-style anger but an off-kilter Australian version. He was so angry at the judges. So mad. He surfed, from my perspective in the dirt, better than Ace but that's mostly because I don't like goofy feets. I like regular. Regular blue collar men.

Hurley Pro Day 2: “Anger in their veins!”

Water slapping, locker smashing! Oowee, little waves and big passion!

I am standing again on the dirt in the sun facing Lower Trestles. A man of the people. A surf populist.

Yesterday, in case you missed, I was given a revelation. A truth as profound as the Buddha’s. Oh I didn’t need a Bodhi tree nor a cave in the desert. All I needed was the god forsaken media tent that was positioned on top of spent nuclear fuel 3.5 miles south of the actual Hurley Pro event site. For it was there that a whisper entered my heart saying, “Forget the small comforts. Forget the elites. Forget the free Michelob Ultra and chicken caesar salad wraps and shade from tents. Get thee amongst the people. Be one with them.”

And I heeded the whisper’s call.

How invigorating it felt to stand shoulder to shoulder with you, your faded Brazilian flag lapping at my shoulder, your eager shouts when Italo flies into the oncoming section.

I was so invigorated that I woke up, made a peanut butter* and jelly sandwich, cut it in half and put it in two brown paper bags. One for Hurley’s Evan Slater and one for me.

Working man’s food. The bread of the people.

And here I am again, the dirt silently coating my Louis Vuitton drivers. The sun so hot that I must flip the collar on my Dior button up lest I get a red neck.

And I’m sorry. You, at home, working hard jobs for near minimum wage also want to hear about the surf action. Oh it is my pleasure to describe.

Round 2

Heat 4 (Kerr vs. O’Leary)

Very little makes me happier than Josh Kerr heat victories. He is such a wonderful man, kind, fun, a good father and an amazing surfer. He has invented surf moves (the club sandwich) all by himself. He doesn’t win often but he did today and against an Irishmen, who are having a rough couple months in competitive surfing/boxing.

Heat 5 (Jadson vs. Kolohe)

Kolohe dropped anchor, as they say, and didn’t catch many waves. Jadson won and normally I would have been cheering this outcome. Jadson drives a car of the people. An old, beat RAV-4 with the word “limited” on one front fender and it being damaged to “limit” on the other front fender. He is us. But I love Kolohe and Kolohe became us in the locker room afterward by beating his locker senseless. The World Surf League cameraman was too chicken to stay fixed on the shot, or so I am told, and Joe Turpel was too chicken to dip in for a quick interview but Kolohe… be proud! This rage will serve you well in Europe. Bottle it and smash it into those continental faces like America of old did.

Heat 6 (Pupo vs. Michel)


Heat 7 (Joan vs. Nat)


Heat 8 (Buchan vs. Stu)

This heat thrilled and mostly because Ace surfed on his backhand and Stu slapped the water with anger in his veins. Not Kolohe-style anger but an off-kilter Australian version. He was so angry at the judges. So mad. He surfed, from my perspective in the dirt, better than Ace but that’s mostly because I don’t like goofy feets. I like regular. Regular blue collar men. And I should like Stu Kennedy. Right Longtom? I should? But I can’t get over the “Kennedy.” All I smell is Hyannis Port. “Kennedy.” The elite of the elite. Right Longtom?

Heat 9 (Dantas vs. Leo)

Leo lost and Wiggolly won in large part because of his paddling style. He got to waves quicker. Uglier but quicker. And sometimes Wiggolly’s Paddling Style is all you need.

Heat 10 (Kanoa vs. Caio)

Young Igarashi did not surf well but he won and, for my three hard-earned dollar bills, the fact that he is still in the event should scare the rest of the field. He knows small waves. He knows how to hop and jive. If the fates smile he could walk away with a victory and leave the John Johns and the Jordys in a world of “trouble.”

Heat 11 (Italo vs. Jack)

The beach announcer was talking about how much Jack Freestone and Mick Fanning were hanging out and giving each other tips during the heat. Mick was seated in the VIP athlete area and his jaw was set strong and his face was seeming to redden. He did not seem to be enjoying the scrutiny. Or maybe it was just my imagination. Maybe just the way it looked from the water’s edge.

Heat 12 (Zeke vs. Ian G.)


I turn around and look up at the 1%. At those VIPs and VVIPs in the athlete guest and WSL and athlete area. Covered by parasols. Drinking Michelob Ultra. Separate and separated.

“Look…” I hear one of the wonderful people standing beside me say, also looking up at the privileged. “…there’s Crooked Jessi.”

I wipe the sweat from my eyes and see the WSL’s commissioner Jessi Miley-Dyer so high up in her gilded tower that she’s almost in the clouds.

“Lock her up! Lock her up!”

The chant begins rumbling through the crowd. I don’t know what she should be locked up for and try to intercede on her behalf. “People…” I say “…Jessi Miley-Cyrus is a beautiful soul. She is kind and gentle, smart and fun, and she surfs very well.”

But the people are not in a listening mood. I hear something about the gall of dropping “e” from “Jessie.” Something about coastal elites and their love of hyphenated last names but am certain that if Jessi Miley-Dyer just came down from the exclusive places and graced us with her presence whatever misstep would be forgiven.

The people may not be in a listening mood but they are gentle of spirit.

* There was actually no peanut butter in the house this morning so my sandwich was made from $20 live almond butter.