Verified: Surf is Anti-Depressive!

War vets find quietude in surf.

Surfing is a trivial pursuit. A sexy sabbatical from the monotony and minutiae of life.

Of course, there are tedious stories of How Surf Saved My Life and so on, mostly click-bait trash.

Then there is the rare occasion when surfing does pull a person, people, away from the darkness.

This Netflix film, which is called Resurface, is the story of how war veterans with post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD  (two out of every three vet gets hit with it, turn to surfing to steal a little joy out of lives ruined by the spectre of war-time atrocities.

“Surfing was on my bucket list. I was going to surf, and then go home and commit suicide,” says one.

He ain’t alone. Twenty two vets kill ’emselves every damn day.

Here, watch as men crippled, smashed, ruined by war find quietude in the water.

“When I caught that wave it wasn’t death and destruction and hell. The ocean is the one place I can go for peace.”


Confession: I don’t like short people!

I don't like their tubes and I don't like their turns.

(This piece first appeared on Breitbart News)

Call me racist but I don’t like watching short people surf and this goes from Adriana de Souza all the way to Silvana Lima. I don’t like their turns I don’t like their tubes I don’t like their little arms holding trophies at the end of contests. I don’t like any of it and this goes from Keanu Asing all the way to Tyler Wright.

Go ahead. Tell me I’m a giant sexist pig but I ain’t backing down.

Now, I don’t necessarily like watching tall people surf either and this goes all the way from Owen Wright to Chas Smith. We look like flimsy willows about to blow right over all elbows and assholes but short people are worse. They look like they are garden gnomes who have been glued to their boards.

Be my guest. Paint me a homophobe. It won’t stop the way I feel.

Because I feel that there should be professional surfing height limits like there are at Legoland. You must be over 70 inches and under 75 inches in order to take the ride (for men) and over 65 inches and under 70 inches (for women).

This would be more pleasing for everyone. We could all truly and genuinely enjoy the show. Sure it is not the “politically correct” opinion but it is the right one. And one worth being branded a xenophobe to hold.

Newport surfer Bobby Gumm.
Newport surfer Bobby Gumm.

Guaranteed*: Win a surf contest!

And fulfill your childhood dreams!

Late at night, long after the sun has gone down and you are laying in bed, do stray thoughts ever infect your mind? Like, do you ever think, “I wonder how it feels to be a professional surfing champion? To stand there, on the beach after vanquishing foes while the masses cheer. Hoisting a trophy. Being sprayed with champagne. Being forever known as a professional surfing champion…”

For sure you have, right? But then you sleep, wake, drink coffee, go surf and do a few hitchy cutbacks and think, “Well son of a bitch.” Champagne dreams evaporating into a cold, handicapped reality.

Well guess what. This Saturday and Sunday in Newport, Oregon there is an event you are guaranteed* to win. Let’s read about it!

In the competitive world of surfing, there’s a unique language. First, there’s the weather, which doesn’t necessarily mean rain or sunshine, but wind conditions, specifically the knots and direction. Then, swells, including height and direction, a big factor whether you’re a novice or advanced competitor. The swell dynamic is also important- choppy or smooth. Small waves are considered ankle busters. And, don’t forget the break- beach breaks put you on the sand. A barrel or a tube is considered the ultimate experience. Dumpers are not fun, they usually precipitate a wipeout.

Most important to any surfer is the ride and what he or she can do with it. The feeling of catching a ride or “taking the drop” down the face of a wave is exhilarating to any level of surfer. The combination of balance, stance, and agility can turn the experience from a drop to a masterful spin or aerial maneuver. This is why surfing draws all ages of men and women to gear up or enjoy the thrills of being a spectator.

The Oregon coast offers dynamic surfing opportunities. The rugged coastline, unparalleled views, and offshore winds create ideal conditions. With the right gear, surfers acclimate to the chilly 55 degree ocean temperatures.

On Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, the City of Newport Parks and Recreation will host the second annual Agate Beach Surf Classic for surfers of all levels. According to Mike Cavanaugh, Sports Coordinator for the City’s Parks and Recreation department,

“This is a one of a kind event. It is sponsored by the City in collaboration with private businesses. Most people have never seen this; surfing contests are usually put on by surf shops.”

Cavanaugh says the iconic headlands and vast coastline make Agate Beach a good location.

“Last year we had 92 contestants and we expect a good turnout again,” he stated. Agate Beach is also ideal for spectators.”

Cavanaugh encourages surfers to pre-register online at Fees are $40, or $50 onsite. “We want to be sure we can accommodate everyone,” he said. “Last year we had a huge boom of onsite registrations, so we had to change a few heats at the last minute.”

The competition is organized into the following divisions: Youth 12 & Under (with or without parent), Stand Up Paddleboard (non-age, non-gender), Junior Women 13-18 (long or shortboard), Men 19-49 (longboard), Pro/Am Men (shortboard), and Men 50+ in Honor of Bear Club Legends (long or shortboard).

Each division is broken down into heats. Saturday’s schedule will have sixteen 20-minute heats with four to six surfers per heat. There are two preliminary rounds for each heat. Organizers try to give surfers the most time available in the water to demonstrate their skills. Second rounds give people the benefit of competition, since conditions and sets vary. A competitor’s score is a lump sum of their first two rounds.

I surfed in Newport a few times as a wayward Oregonian youth. I saw some of the locals and while God blesses their hearts if you go, enter, surf you will guaranteed* win. And you will be a professional surfing champion for the rest of your life.

What is that worth to you?

*Margin of error is 50% in case you get eaten by a shark

Laird Hamilton young
Laird Hamilton, aged twenty four on the set of North Shore.

Laird: “I was a minority in a racially tense world!”

The world's greatest rhino chaster on his new biopic Take Every Wave…

Earlier today, a well-proportioned fifty-three-year-old Hawaiian-born man, a superhuman some might say, lighted up my telephone from his summer house in Malibu, California.

Laird Zerfas (later, Hamilton, when his mammy split from daddy and moved her and the boy to the North Shore where she married the big-waver Billy Hamilton) was born in an experimental salt-water sphere, was scouted as a model as a teenager and, later, turned the whole big-wave thing on the head with tow-surfing, foils and so on.

Malibu in summer is where Laird does his pre-season training: running, swimming, paddling, six, sometimes seven days a week.

Maui, in winter, is where Laird besieges his favourite big waves. Jaws etc.

Laird was calling to talk about the movie Take Every Wave: the life of Laird Hamilton, the biopic directed by Rory Kennedy, which is loosed into fifty American cinemas in two days.

In a few hours he’ll be fronting the US premiere (the movie’s world premiere was at Savage Cinema at the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain) perhaps even ditching the famous flip-flops-with-jeans look.

“I might go big and wear shoes!” he says.

Should you see Take Any Wave? Read the review here! 

Now let’s babble.

BeachGrit: In the trailer, ’cause, caveat, I ain’t seen the film, lost the link to the screener, you said the ocean was where you could get away from trouble on the land? What trouble?

Laird: I grew up a white guy in Hawaii and there was a certain level of …of…of…aggression… on the land. Or should I say, instead of aggression, a certain level of separation. I was a white guy in a dark guy’s world. I was an outsider, like I am in surfing, so it was a natural place for me. Some of my best friends are Hawaiians and some of the greatest and most beautiful people are Hawaiians. But when you’re a minority in a racially tense environment you get used to being an outcast. I think that shaped my life.

BeachGrit: Do you sympathise with the wretched treatment doled out to Afro-Americanos by the White Devil on the mainland? 

Laird: I sympathise. First of all, it makes me anti-racial. I always say I’m a human from earth. If you’re different we can talk about it. I am anti-racial. I have friends of all nationalities and I don’t discriminate.

BeachGrit: What’s the key to a remarkable life? 

Laird: You’ll never regret following your heart. You don’t always know if you’re going in the right direction but if you go with your heart and instincts it seems to pan out. At least for me.

BeachGrit: How honest is the film? 

Laird: It’s about as honest and open as I can be. I did twenty five hours of interviews with Rory Kennedy, the director, and she interviewed every person that she could and dug out archival footage and she made a story out of it. What she chooses to put in and what she chooses to take out, it’s all her and her skills. I did what I could to make a great film. Some people are quite surprised by it. But, is every single thing that happened to me in it? No. You couldn’t fit it all in a two-hour movie.

BeachGrit: What keeps you awake at night? 

Laird: The wellness of my children. Things that I desire keep me awake too. I’m kept awake by the inspirational as well as the fear based. But the things that are fear-based have to do with my family.

BeachGrit: Have you ever believed you were about to die? 

Laird: I have. Probably more than once. Most of ’em happened when I was really young.

BeachGrit: Can you recount a specific event? 

Laird: They blend together. I try not to give anything like that too much power.

BeachGrit: What’s failure to you? 

Laird: Not willing to try is a form of failure. The lack of an ability to say you’re sorry, there’s failure in that.

When I’m in danger, when I’m in a position of fear, I’m on high alert. It’s the most awake I can be in my life. My awareness, everything, peripheral vision, my senses are on maximum. Everything’s turned up.

BeachGrit: What’s fear to you? 

Laird: Fear is your imagination. Fear itself is an energy, an emotion that is very useful. Being scared is something else, however.

BeachGrit: How does fear manifest itself within you? 

Laird: When I’m in danger, when I’m in a position of fear, I’m on high alert. It’s the most awake I can be in my life. My awareness, everything, peripheral vision, my senses are on maximum. I’m assessing. Everything’s turned up. It’s a mode I go into. I’ve been there before and it’s got me through a lot of different situations.

BeachGrit: What would you change about your life? 

Laird: Nothing if it would stop me from being here, today, at this time. Listen, are there things I’m remorseful for? That I regret? Yeah, possibly. Everyone has that. But, if the changing of those things would change where I am, I wouldn’t change any of ‘em. Listen, at a certain point, having regrets is unhealthy anyway.

BeachGrit: This ain’t movie, but that damn hip you got sawn off and replaced a year ago. You’re awake in the operation and you go home without painkillers. Oowee, that’s tough.

Laird: It felt like a horse kick for three months. But it had gotten to the point where I could barely walk. I’d surf for two hours and then have to do two hours of mobility, soft-tissue work to get it neutral. I don’t mind hobbling around if I can perform in the ocean but it was starting to inhibit my ability in the water.

BeachGrit: Is watching your hip get sawn off and replaced with steel a fabulous experience? 

Laird: The doctor was covered in my blood, all over his mask. I could feel him yanking on me. I could feel pulsing as he was doing shit to my leg. It wasn’t pain because they did a spinal tap where they numb one leg. I called one of my buddies to talk during the operation for amusement,

BeachGrit: How y’feel now?

Laird: Phenomenal. I run the beach but I got other issues now. Other things that hurt, but not that.

BeachGrit: Take Every Wave is a life story. Describe your life. 

Laird: Listen, the film is full disclosure. Life is a rollercoaster and no matter what is perceived in the media, there’s a winter, a summer, a hurricane, a calm. Things happen. Experience happens. My life is no different.

And watch in weird 360!


Revealed: World’s Best Surf Town!

I'll cut the suspense! It's New York City!

(I’ll admit… it is late in the afternoon here and I am tired and not drunk buuuuuut never mind. I wanted to write something fresh and good buuuuuut… and while I was Googling “best surfing towns” I saw that Surfer just finished their honorable and serious but maybe a touch conservative list (Haleiwa, San Clemente etc.) and I also saw an old Stab piece from five years ago written by yours truly. No, the best surf town in the world is not Haleiwa. It is New York City. And right now it is pumping thanks to Maria. Please forgive the hotel/restaurant recommendations in the following. Five years ago = 1000 years ago in New York. Otherwise…. enjoy my lazy!)

New York is the only city on Earth that truly matters. Paris is grand and London is nice and Sydney is chic and Los Angeles is a dream and Cairo and Beijing and Helsinki and Tokyo but New York is New York and all other cities prostrate themselves before her.

New York is broken up in to five distinct neighbourhoods, called boroughs. Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. Rappers croon about the Bronx. Robert Mapplethorpe made very suggestive art in Queens. Staten Island stars in Good Fellas and hipsters have recently embraced Brooklyn but when Stab speaks of New York it only speaks of Manhattan.

Why here? To be frank, I don’t know. Young Jack Robinson’s father, when he gets your ear, will talk on and on about how the rocks in Western Australia have certain magnetic properties and those properties, when channelled and honed, will produce surfing phenoms like Taj Burrow and his son. He sounds off, but Taj is Taj and Jack is Jack just like New York is New York. Maybe Manhattan has particular chemical properties. Maybe the earth’s tilt focuses on the five boroughs and especially on Manhattan. Maybe who knows. But when you get off a plane in New York. When your train arrives you will feel it. There is the top tier and then there is New York. The food is the best. The hotels are the best. The art is the best. The shopping is the best. The architecture is the best. The streets are the best. The music is the best. The women are not the best. That is what Los Angeles is for.

Where to stay: There are too many places. The Standard, the Standard East Village, the Ace, the Jane, the Gansevoort but Stab chooses the Bowery above all else. It is located in the lower east side, which used to be grimy but is now so hip that it hurts. The Bowery will cost $400 or so dollars a night but it is worth the dent. The rooms are generous, in space, which is rare for New York. They have great old windows, some floor to ceiling that peek out over the city. In-room linens are comfortable. The public spaces are stripped down and built to party in a very sophisticated way. It makes great cocktails. Again, $400 a night may seem hefty but New York demands your dollar and will reward them with the best time. Do not stay cheap. Do not stay with friends. Do not stay cheap.

What to see: Manhattan has sights for days. Each little nook of the island is filled with treasure for the discovery. The meatpacking district is fine for higher-end shopping. Tribeca is fine for cocktails. The lower east side is fine for hip buys. Central park is fine for thoughtful meanders. Soho is fine for all of the above. Downtown is fine to watch Patrick Bateman go to work. Walk, don’t ride or even subway. In walking, you will discover the textural nuances of Manhattan. But you will not see any beautiful women. Unless you are in Soho and then you will see models.
The shivering, blinding contrast of life as a surfer in NYC. Early Autumn hits in water still trunk-able and…

Where to eat: Everywhere. There are too many places to eat in New York. It hurts the head to ponder possibility. Do not listen to the hip New York crowd. They will crow on and on about Momofuku or the newest this and the newest that. Their tastes have become spoiled by excess. They no longer know what actually tastes good. Start with Pastis in the meatpacking. Order a chilled Sancerre, oysters and a steak plus frittes. Go from there.

What to dodge: Do not set foot in Brooklyn. When in New York, the same hip crew that tells you to eat at Momofuku will also live in Brooklyn and tell you to stay in/visit Brooklyn. It is trendy. It is hip. It has better restaurants and more refined boutiques. And this hip crew may be right but for you, and for me, Manhattan is enough. Manhattan is, in fact, too much. And so do not confuse yourself by ultra hip Brooklyn. Leave it be.

Culture: The best museums in the world dot the island. The best museums and priceless works of art and also hipster hovel museums boasting the next Andy Warhol. Art is fabulous, art is divine, art can be dull. Season to taste. Broadway, literal Broadway, hails from New York. The latest most wow musical theatre. Musical theatre is the worst. Do not touch. Simply being in New York is enough culture. Soak in the surroundings. Don’t look shell-shocked. Look slightly jaded.

Work: Who knows? Waiting tables? Moving other people’s things out of their walk-up apartments into other walk-up apartments? Selling magazines from a rack? I don’t know what people do for work in New York. I don’t know how people have time for work with so much culture and fun around.
Surf: You will surf at Rockaway Beach and on Long Island. You will surf during Hurricane season and during the winter, if you feel like wearing a 5 mm wetsuit, a hood, booties and gloves. It will be shit, except for the three days a year surrounding the right hurricane. You will surf because it is a novelty to New Yorkers and you will get appropriate stares, nods of approval, questions. The models in Soho may even talk with you.

Weather: Cold in the winter, humid hot in the summer, perfect in the spring and fall. New Yorkers love it when seasons change and they are right. It is loveable. Enjoy the nuances of each. Dress appropriately for each. Dress appropriate always.

The Good and the Not-So-Good

+ If you can make it here, as they say, y’can make it anywhere. Truth is, having NYC on your CV makes interviewers just melt. Shit don’t stop in the Apple and now it even turns on in what used to be crummy burbs like Brooklyn. Waves, as y’mighta seen on the Quiksilver webcast, can be as good as anywhere. It’s also the centre of the universe, culturally and financially, which is pretty much the reason it got hit so hard and so well by fanatical muslims, so maybe that ain’t such a plus.

– Cold, inconsistent and when the novelty wears off, ain’t that diff to any other dirty big city.