Surfers dramatically reduced! One-day events! Maybe a private jet like the Rolling Stones!
In twelve hours, the greatest assemblage of surfing talent ever will leave their five-hundred-dollar-a-night houses and hotel rooms and stare at two-foot Lowers.
The contest will be called off and the surfers will return to their temporary homes to attend to Facebook, Instagram and Netflix. Some will hit golf balls. Others will go bowling. The hundred or so workers busy with broadcast, construction and hospitality duties will be sent home and a skeleton crew of security will be left to fend off barbarian fans.
This will go on for around one week until a rideable swell arrives and the contest begins. But it will begin, as it must for there are thirty six surfers, with a numbing six hours of non-elimination heats.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Time and money wasted. Core fans bored. Non-core fans not interested.
What’s right with this picture?
The best surfers in the world. Dazzling infrastructure. Slick broadcasting. A sugar daddy who don’t mind being fifty mill in the hole.
The answers will define pro surfing beyond the transitory years of 2017 and 2018.
Pro surfing, and the WSL knows it, can’t continue in its antiquated form.
I was spitballing my ideas for an improved tour, the one-day event, a dozen surfers, an event every month, a private jet to take the whole show to meet a swell at Teahupoo, at Fiji, with a WSL employee and he nodded his head vigorously.
“Yes, yes, we know, we know. There’s going to be changes,” he said. “You’ll be very surprised.”
Can you imagine how fabulous pro surfing would be if a WSL-branded jet flew a dozen of the best to ten-foot Teahupoo?
And you…knew… the event was on so you could arrange to drop everything a couple of days before?
No dozen unimportant heats before the real action began?
No Renato or Kieren Perrow looking sad into the camera and telling us competition is off for the day or, worse, on stand-by leaving the viewer in purgatory.
The best surfers actually in the best waves? And with all the filler removed?
It’d be like the Kelly-John John semi at Teahupoo over and over again.
Tell me pro surfing won’t soar.
Tell me the ink of the WSL ledger won’t colour red to black.
Chapter 7: Boys get in to trouble they never ever saw coming.
(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 right here… Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6)
We woke early the next morning with a hot Arabian sun cooking our repurposed British Empire outpost and was it all just a mirage? Just a dream? Had we really surfed in Yemen? I left our room, which opened directly to a patch of grass that fronted the beach, and squinted. There they were. Waves. Still breaking out the front. Little shitty Huntington Beach waves but waves but in Aden.
We surfed again but without the relish of that surf less than twelve hours earlier. It was fun and yet the thrill was gone and ain’t that the damndest thing about being a surfer. “Fun” gets downgraded to “whatever” within twelve hours no matter how exotic. I don’t know, maybe things are different for John John Florence and his endless waves better than the ones before but for me, and I would imagine you, the memories don’t generally stick. Yesterday’s triumph is merely today’s lack.
Yesterday’s beautiful revelation merely today’s waist high slappers. Nevertheless, we did our best to get usable images for Surfer magazine. I was, in the back of my Oregonian mind, still thinking that our ability might carry the upcoming feature. That one of us would somehow do a turn just good enough to be confused for… Brian Conley or some other D grade pro. Obviously laughable in the clear light of today but back then I still believed that physical ability could be willed.
After an hour of bogged turns and ugh, Major Ghamdan al-Shoefy waded out to us in the lineup clutching something in his hand that he was determined to keep dry. He was a highlander and not used to the ocean but undeterred. And when he got close we could see it was a plastic photo album. He opened it with pride and began to flip through image after image of his victory last night. No, not over Al-Qaeda but over Islamic morality. He had somehow found a one-hour film developer who had printed pictures of him and two hookers caught in the least sexy, most fully clothed tryst of all time. Picture after picture of two soup cans and Major Ghamdan drinking Johnny Walker and lounging in comfortable t-shirts and sweats.
It was somehow the perfect end to Aden and we paddled in, packed our board coffins and told him it was time to press on. He seemed disappointed. Like, to the best of his understanding we had found what we were looking for in Aden and would spend the month there “surfing” while he tasted its fruits.
He dragged his feet for a while but eventually we were back on the road, leaving the Aden governorate and entering the Abyan. Where Aden felt mountainous and wild, Abyan felt barren and raw. Rocky sand and scrub. Like driving to Las Vegas.
We kept our eyes out the window, scouring the coastline. There was little variation and it seemed as if the continental shelf must decline very gradually. Waves, but not as good as Aden. Or maybe as good but no better. We passed though smaller and smaller towns featuring the ubiquitous small garage, small chicken restaurant, small convenience store selling delicious Nougoum candy bars and Bower Horse energy drinks. I think “nougoum” meant “stars” or “galaxy” and “Bower” was supposed to be “Power” but Arabic script doesn’t have a version of “P.”
And in one decided to stop and surf just because. We were maybe three hours outside of Aden and a complete novelty. There was no tourism here. No business. No oil. No port. No reason for four white boys and two Maribian Yemenis to be kicking around. People started gathering as we pulled our boards down from the Landcruiser, followed us as we made our way to the beach and posted up in an open structure used to gut fish. To watch.
The water was warm but a treat when juxtaposed against the pounding heat of the day. The waves were almost non-existent but, again, it felt good to be pioneering. It felt good to surfing in Yemen. After one weak hop down the line I looked up and saw the town taking it in. I may never be as good as Brian Conley but for that brief moment I was the best surfer anyone there had ever seen.
After finishing, we posted up in a small chicken restaurant with our folded Yemeni map and discussed waves and surf with a few of the local fishermen, trying to see if there was anything along their stretch of flat coast. They didn’t seem to think much. Then we pointed to a series of maybe promising jagged bays near a town called Bi’r Ali some 200 km away and suddenly the room got animated. Many clucks and low whistles.
Ghamdan began arguing with one. His brother Hunein with another. Much waving of arms and gesturing toward us, the map, the ocean, back toward us. Eventually Ghamdan broke from the pack and explained that we would soon be leaving Abyan and entering the Shabwah Governorate, a famously lawless region that was, apparently having some sort of trouble. Our moving on was very ill-advised. He also didn’t think the checkpoints would let us through.
We argued back, just as vigorously, in our silly academic plus Egyptian Arabic, that stalling wasn’t an option. We had to move on. Had to. No choice. None. And we argued until he shrugged his shoulders half-heartedly and wandered back to the Landcruiser cleaning his teeth with a little twig called miswak. We followed with our JC surfboards in our Ocean Pacific trunks which in Arabic would have been Ocean Bacific.
The fishermen just shook their heads.
One hour later the paved road ended and it just us and the dirt and the sea. Three hours later when the sun was just above the horizon we reached the checkpoint heading into Shabwah. The word sounded nice. Shabwah. It sounded unhinged. In Yemen’s 2015 civil war, Shabwah was a giant battleground where the northern Houthi rebels fought viciously against a group of southerners. The southerners won and, a decade later one of their proud fighters would sail our boat from Aden, though a Saudi/US blockade to us in Djibouti. But that is a story for another time.
That day, in 2003, the soldier manning the gate looked at us, read our permission slip and said, “La.” No. We told him it was of great importance and he went and got his superior. Two hours after that, many phone calls, much argument we were told we could go inland and spend the night in a town named Ataq. Pronounced “Attack.” This was only a partial victory. We were being allowed in to Shabwah but were missing some 50 km of coast since we’d have to go inland then head back to the coast on a different road. We fought more but by this time it was dark and we were tired.
Our Landcruiser bent away from the coast and we felt like we had somehow let our mission down. The drive to Ataq was, anyhow, beautiful or looked beautiful in the moonlight. Boulders and interesting trees and hard curves. Goats. Maybe this is the way things were supposed to go? But damn it. We found a cinder block hotel with a neon green sign and figured we’d weep over that 50 km of lost coastline in the morning.
If we only knew at that very moment a swarm of Al-Qaeda were in the hills just kilometers in front of Ataq rushing to grab us and a battalion of Yemeni government troops were just kilometers behind us rushing to meet them.
Great inventor has a prediction that should scare you!
Elon Musk is likely the most famous engineer in the world and the second most famous South African (after Jordy Smith). He is best known for giving the electric car company TESLA its wings and founded Space-X, co-founded PayPal, etc.
He is a prescient man so when speaking about the future and how it will look, people listen.
Yesterday he spoke about the beginning of World War III.
Of course there is much paranoia as North Korea ramps up its nuclear testing and intercontinental ballistic missile launching but Mr. Musk declared Kim Jong Un and co. to be very low on the things we need to worry about.
Instead, we need to worry about artificial intelligence.
“China, Russia, soon all countries [with] strong computer science. Competition for AI superiority at national level most likely cause of World War III imo,” he tweeted and then went on to describe how computers might destroy other countries if they calculate a preemptive strike increases odds of survival.
All I could think about was Steve Shearer aka Longtom fighting Greg Webber. Of Wavegarden and Kelly Slater Surf Co. and The Cove and even Flowrider. There is more heat around pools these days than AI and I could very easily see a war between them that quickly spins out of hand.
How far would Kelly Slater go to protect his intellectual property? He didn’t even blink when needing to destroy Adriano de Souza’s world title. How much farther could he go?
If you had to back a winner which would you choose? Kelly’s is barrel but Greg says his is more barrel but Longtom says they’re all going to die slow painful deaths (radiation poisoning?) which leads me to feel Wavegarden.
In the almost two years since Kelly Slater revealed his wave pool, barely a critical word has been said or written.
A heady mix of mystery (invite-only, use of non-disclosure agreements) and drip-fed video clips has brought the desire to see, to surf, Slater’s pool to a fever pitch.
One man who has maintained a constant attack is the Australian shaper Greg Webber, whose own design he claims is vastly superior not just to Kelly’s tank but also to the Spanish-made Wavegarden, the only company to have commercially operating pools.
Greg says that once the curtain pulls back on his pool, Wavegarden will be destroyed (their design will be “redundant”, their response to his pool “fucking horrified) and people will become bored by the unchangeability of Slater’s “stunningly perfect tube”.
So, and drum roll here, the secret to Webber’s pool?
As revealed on the forum boards of the Australian surf forecast site Swellnet, and forwarded to BeachGrit‘s attention by reader William Healy Strömgren, Greg is going to use a series of underwater jets to create reverse thrust.
A rip bowl!
“A reverse current is induced by water jets throughout the pool basin to either negate the current or provide a reverse current to enhance the wave steepness,” says Greg. “It becomes a tool for wave shaping. Any wave pool with a high wave rate will either have to stretch out their waves like the cove does (which then decreases wave height quickly) or they’ll have to use a reverse current. Only one wave pool maker has the patent on that.”
Sexy enough for you?
Of course, not everyone is convinced.
Steve Shearer aka Longtom, famous here for his peerless contest reports, writes:
Hopefully, these things will turn out to be the white elephants they always have been and will die a slow and painful death so that they never rear their ugly, concrete filled heads again.
To which Greg replied:
Are you too scared to say all this to my face. My name is there and I have the guts to put my name behind my words. You bitch on like a chick and hide at the same time. That’s the flaw in all these forums. Virtually none of the whinging and slagging would happen face to face.
Offending Instagram post disappeared after righteous shout!
Are you aware of the “social justice warrior” phenomenon? Even if you have never read or heard the term SJW you feel his impact almost daily. The Urban Dictionary defines:
Social Justice Warrior: A pejorative term for an individual who repeatedly and vehemently engages in arguments on social justice on the Internet, often in a shallow or not well-thought-out way, for the purpose of raising their own personal reputation. A social justice warrior, or SJW, does not necessarily strongly believe all that they say, or even care about the groups they are fighting on behalf of.
Well, this morning I decided to try on the Social Justice Warrior’s high-waisted jeans and take them out for a spin.
Surfer magazine, the grandest daddy in our game, posted a I’m sure well-meaning but extremely poorly worded Instagram, you see. It featured a picture of Luke Davis in a Nigerian barrel with the caption.
The country of Nigeria has always been synonymous with the darker parts of humanity. But a small coastal village is changing the image of the country one wave at a time. Join @lukedavisthegrey and photographer @alanvangysen on their journey to Nigeria. For the full “Lagoisan Oasis” article from our most recent issue, click the link in bio. #SURFERphotos
“The darker parts of humanity.” Uh-oh! I adjusted my belt, resting inches below my nipples, and let Surfer taste the bitter gall of posting overtly racist things to social media. (Read here!)
Well, within two short hours the post was ripped down and replaced by this one.
“The darker parts of humanity” replaced by “militant conflict, terrorism and kidnappings.” Sure throwing an entire country under the bus by making it synonymous with three specific evils is definitely worse than the confused “darker parts of humanity” phrase but isn’t that the SJW’s job? To take something semi-innocuous and really catch it on fire?
As I gazed at my reflection in the mirror, having been a victorious Social Justice Warrior for the very first time. Jeans high, cardigan baggy, glasses fogged by righteous indignation. And I felt… good.