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.
“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?
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.
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.
Come and listen to the longest podcast in surf's history!
You are well aware, at this point, that I am one half of a biweekly podcast that is part of the Surf Splendor Network. It is called Grit! and hosted by the note perfect David Lee Scales who is actually and truly named after David Lee Roth. You probably also know that podcasts are not my natural environment. I love the written word. Love to sit down at the computer and punch away.
Podcasts are so… long. So… talky. Oh, sure, men like J.P. Currie can’t get enough, raving:
Painful. Chas – stick to words on a page, paper or web. That way I can read them in something other than monotone drone. You’re a ball hair away from Spicoli. David – stick to earnestness and interviews. I know Chas makes you swoon and you’re elated to be hanging with the cool kids, but you’re trying too hard.
But still. I feel like I’m finding my feet. I always feel like shorter is better but people who listen to podcasts want long so do you know what I did? I went and tried to break the medium. To test not only your patience but your sanity as well.
And here Mr. David Lee Scales and Mr. Chas Smith present the first three hour long podcast in surfing’s long and illustrious history.
What could possibly be talked about for three hours?
Gerry Lopez not getting barreled at Kelly Slater’s wave pool, leather-lined sneakers, Tom Carroll’s Gath helmet, ummmm ukulele playing, vodka, asymmetrical surfboards, uhhhhh and how much I hate egg shaped surfboards. (visit surfspendorpodcast.com for a visual guide!)
I dare you listen to all three hours. Defy you even. I bet you can’t. I bet your will isn’t strong enough. I bet you give up when trying to jog. I bet you can only ride your bike for two miles.
What would you do? Like, spell out your reaction moment by moment if he dropped in right in front of you and proceeded to do some air or something that would certainly be shaming but not, like, the best thing you have ever seen in your entire life.
This is important.
And it is important because it happens all the time at waves many of us surf regularly.
2. Australia’s Gold Coast
Do you like that? Do you like how I expanded from wave (Lowers) to region (Gold Coast) to country (Brazil) to continent (Europe)?
I did. I thought that was very funny.
But back to Gabs. He does this sort of thing all the time and easy to say, “Ooooh I’d punch him in the face!” But he never gets punched in the face. He gets splashed then paddled away from. So be honest. What would you do if Gabriel Medina snaked you?
Filipe Toledo reconfirms newly anointed position as best surfer in the world…
I went to the Hurley Pro this morning and it changed my life. Things were already shifting when I got out of bed much much too early, though I hadn’t understood its gravity right away. I logged on to my computer, which is the norm, and saw that Stab magazine was disappearing their message board.
“What?” I said to myself, not quite believing.
But it was true and my heart began to pound. Those who comment are our life blood. They are the what make surfing entertaining out of the water. They are the people and we here at BeachGrit will never let the people down. This is your place.
So I wrote a poem about how much I love you and then drove to Lower Trestles. I parked, things were normal. I walked down the trail, things were normal. I went to the media tent to pick up my credential, things were normal. And then all of a sudden they weren’t.
The press tent, you see, was set so far away from the action that it was, truly, impossible to see from inside it. It was basically looking straight out at Middles and so the press was served a steady diet of funboard riding. No professional surfing for you. And right then it hit me like White Lightening. The press shouldn’t have a tent at all. The press should not have access to any VIP areas or anywhere comfortable/elite/exclusive.
The press should be with the people. All of a sudden I wanted to be with the people and decided to to shun the hoity-toity, to shun the free Michelob Ultra, to shun the velvet rope and set up camp in the hot sun. With you.
Oh I used to crave the exclusivity. To walk by the masses, past the security guard and into the shade where only select few roamed. I loved to glad-hand the surfers, their coaches, brand ambassadors, etc. But I have done that enough. I am a changed man and from now on going to make the surfers, coaches, brand ambassadors come to me outside under the hot sun.
I am transformed as a surf populist!
And now to the action. Don’t forget to add your thoughts in the comments below.
Heat 1 (ADS vs. Pupo vs. Dantas)
The surf was very slow but the Little Plumber was swinging. It is impossible to ignore his pluck and he took his competition handily. I watched this one from home.
Heat 2 (Julian vs. Caio vs. Jadson)
I was walking from parking lot, over trestle, through marshland and then to the beach during this heat though when the very wonderful professional skier from Santa Cruz Cody Townsend informed me that Julian won I nodded and said, “It is good and right for him to do.”
Heat 3 (Flores vs. Owen vs. Kerr)
I must have still been walking because I missed entirely. The scoreline makes it look sleepy with Flores winning and Mr. Owen Wright logging a 12.63 total. Was it sleepy?
Heat 4 (Bede vs. Wilko vs. Ethan Ewing)
I was near the press tent for this one. Far far removed from the kingdom of heaven. Adjacent to where there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Wilko’s backside attack, while ugly, is effective. All limbs and butts and spray. He lost though to Bede. I didn’t know it was Bede because I was far far removed. I knew it was Ethan Ewing. He got out of the water near me. Maybe thinking about becoming a surf journalist himself.
Heat 5 (John John vs. Italo vs. Hiroto)
I had moved into position. Directly in front of the VIP tent. Outside in the blazing sun. And it was here I watched John John come back from the ashes. Maybe Ross Williams had given him a talkin’ to. Maybe he just decided it was time to be champion again. Faced with 3 foot Lowers and a 2 foot Japanese man he should have been dusted but there he pitched airs and there he whipped his board around like a five iron frenzy. Ooo-ee it was something to behold and you liked. You cheered. I was standing with the great Dave Prodan now, and Nate Yeomans who represents Lost surfboards. I looked at him and said, “It makes a man want a Pyzel.” No disagreement was leveled. John for the win.
Heat 6 (Jordy vs. Ian Gouveia vs. Evan Geiselman)
The heat of the day was beating all of us on the head. So hot. No shade. No Michelob Ultra but who needs Michelob Ultra when you are feasting on the bread of the people? Aish Baladi is what they call it in Egypt. The bread of the people. Jordy Smith won and stays in his Jeep Leaderboard Yellow Jersey for now but John John is coming and Julian Wilson follows on a pale white sled.
Heat 7 (Gabby vs. Nat vs. Ace)
Hotter still. A heatwave in September which is not at all uncommon and even expected. I wore jeans and Saint Laurent sneakers with leather linings that you will see when the next Surf Splendor episode of Grit! drops. Hot. I had passed Nat in the parking lot but didn’t say “hi” because I was too busy saying “hi” to Michael Ho. I wonder if that happens a lot to Nat. Gabby won by air.
Heat 8 (Connor vs. Stu vs. Parko)
Parko doesn’t care anymore. He is on an official retirement tour and bagging 4.66 totals as celebration. The ultimate gluttony. Connor looked starving. Each turn was almost too severe and I realized, watching, hot, that such a thing exists. Like, too much oomph. Lots of spray and the judges liked but they should watch from where I was standing. They should be wearing Saint Laurent sneakers with leather linings and getting hot feet just like the people. Just like you. Then they would have scored him lower but he still would have smoked Joel Parkinson’s Disease.
Heat 9 (Filipe vs. Leo vs. Joan)
Hot as hell and near it too because I moved close to the media tent. Not in it. No. The media slime can gnash their own teeth. Just near it for a change of scenery and Filipe. He is good enough to make even shit bag bastards feel the dip of fresh. He surfs small bad waves so effortlessly and does such big good things upon them. Do you remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus in the Bible? Let us read:
Luke 16:19-26 There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ 25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
So I am the rich man and Lazarus is Filipe but in this updated version I was cooled by his air rotations and his fine victory.
Heat 10 (Seabass vs. O’Leary vs. Igarashi)
Does Seb Zietz surprise you? He always does me though shouldn’t anymore. He is a man with an extra thumb that wins contest. Plain and simple. Kanoa, on the other hand, I expected far more from. He just won the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach for pity’s sake. How do you not carry that continental momentum with you into Lowers? Or wait. Did Hiroto win the U.S. Open of Surfing? Either way.
Heat 11 (Fred vs. Freestone vs. Kolohe)
I’ll admit I left. I went to my job like the rest of you. Like people who can’t sit around the beach all day drinking Michelob Ultra because they have to put the bread of the people on the table each night. The wind had come up and, frankly, I thought they were going to push the pause button. There is no pause button on my message of economic nationalism though so away I walked, back through the reeds. I want Kolohe to win but he didn’t.
Heat 12 (Mick vs. Zeke vs. Michel)
Unless you make me care I don’t. I was driving and listening to a story on the radio about corruption in the garment industry. Not about Rip Curl but maybe should have been.
Heat 1 (Geiselmen vs. Wilko)
I watched this one on my computer while working in my garage. Grease under my fingernails which happen to be painted purple at the moment but not from Former’s nailpolish for men collection. No, a purple done up by my four-year-old daughter. This really puts a fork in Wilko’s efforts, I believe. I am not calling him out, only a fool would, but is a fade down the stretch becoming his signature?
Heat 2 (Hiroto vs. Wright)
If I was a professional surfer at Lowers and it was small and I was tall and blonde and was surfing against a tiny Japanese I would be terrified. I would be so terrified that I wouldn’t paddle out and instead hide near one of the tents or near the porta-potties. John John was not terrified. He smashed Mr. Ohhara like… well I don’t want to be crass but like one of two certain Japanese cities. Owen didn’t look terrified either but Hiroto found his groove and one two three o’clock rock bagged an 8.90 with 10 minutes left that felt like a knife. Owen bobbed lost. And then lost.
Heat 3 (Parko vs. Ewing)
Retirement gift heat restart. Parko loses to a skinny big-nosed boy with pimples.