Mitch became The King of Taiwan on one of his pal Jye Gudenswager's Gen4 sleds, a five-ten Allstar. | Photo: WSL

Mitch Parko is The King of Taiwan!

As one Parko star fades, another comes to snatch the limelight!

Yesterday, the Gold Coast surfer Mitch Parkinson, who was once proclaimed (by me) as the best ten-year-old surfer in the world, won a QS event in Taiwan.

The win delivered Mitchell, who is twenty-two years old and lives on the beach at Kirra with his model girlfriend Abbie Weir, ten thousand dollars and a seeded entry into the biggest qualifying events of 2018.

As Joel, his first cousin and not his uncle as most people think, likely exits in 2019 might we see a replacement Parkinson on tour?

Oh we must ask!

Thirteen years ago, Stab claimed you were the best ten-year-old surfer in the world. And now, look at you, The King of Taiwan! Did you see that one coming? 

Well, yeah, it’s great. I definitely don’t think I was the best ten-year-old in the world but to be labelled that was pretty sick. I think I’ve been underachieving my own expectations for the last two years.

Taiwan, real odd place, possibly the flash point that could drive world war three between the US and China. You like it there? Did the Taiwanese warm to you? 

Ha! Well, I didn’t really think about that stuff. History, as you might’ve guessed, isn’t my game. Me and Sheldon (Simkus, whom Mitch beat in the final) stayed with a family this year and it was really cool. We ate traditional food and surfed other waves also so I had a much better experience than the last time I came. A little hit of local culture will do that.

In the last five contests you’ve had a win, a second, and three fifths. Are you on the yellow brick road to becoming a big ol WCT surfer? 

I feel reignited with competing. I’ve become a lot more competitive now but I feel like I’m holding my emotions better. It’s what I want to do now.

Have you ever gone off surfing? Like, totally got the shits with it and were seriously considering something else? 

I went through a crazy year this year. At the start, I was completely burnt from contest surfing I wasn’t enjoying it. I was trying to balance working to fund my surfing and going to such shitty waves I just had to stop doing it. I needed some time off. Now after about six months off I find myself really hungry for it. I’ve got a great life and I really had time to think about what I want to do with it.

What’s it like being a twenty-something in Coolangatta? Do you feel young with the world at your feet or do you feel that time is slipping away, at least to do something dramatic with surfing? 

Coolangatta is a crazy place. They don’t call it the Cooly Vortex for no reason. There’s a lot of amazing surfers here that have all the ability in the world but just don’t seem to have the drive to make it. I’m only twenty-two so I know I’m still young but saying that I’ll blink and be thirty. I haven’t got any time to waste, how about we put it that way.

Joel talk to you about being a top-shelf pro? What does he tell you? 

He doesn’t really say to much to me about it. Joel’s different to most on tour. I think he does better when he is just having fun. The last time he won a contest I was with him in Bali and we were just having a ball over there, not super serious just surfing a lot and enjoying it. That’s a great way to compete.

Hard boiled! | Photo: Dr Don James

Warshaw: “Bourez a eunuch fainting on a daybed!”

But only when compared to ultra-stud Buzzy Trent!

You like a baited hook? They  don’t come better than surf historian Matt Warshaw describing Tahiti’s hard-shelled Michel Bourez to a “consumptive eunuch fainting on a daybed.”

Ridiculous, of course. But let’s get to context a little later.

Recently, Warshaw posted an excellent short piece by the big-wave pioneer Buzz Trent on women in surf. The story is fifty-four years old and moves, every so adroitly, from adoration to real talk.

I enjoy watching girls surf. There’s nothing more beautiful than a well-shaped girl riding a six-foot wave with the wind blowing through her hair. But one thing I can’t stand is girls riding (or attempting to ride) big waves. Why? Well, girls are intended to be feminine, and big-wave riding is definitely masculine. You see, girls are much more emotional than men and therefore have a greater tendency to panic. And panic can be extremely dangerous in big surf. I have seen exactly three women in the past who had taken off on big waves and then panicked. There is nothing in the world more ridiculous than a girl who dares to show off and then panics out. Girls are weaker than men and have a lessor chance for survival in giant wipeouts. Girls are better off and look more feminine riding average-sized waves.

I’ve seen many girls surfing … in fact, I know one or two who surf better than many men. Each girl surfer has her own style. Some surf gracefully; some surf more jerkily and perform well. And, of course, some surf like he-men. But to each day every girl who surfs, I give full credit.

Now, I’ve had a fascination with Buzzy, who died ten years ago in Hawaii, after reading an excellent profile in The Surfers Journal. My memory has faded a little and the story ain’t online, but Buzz was a pioneer of riding big waves on the North Shore, could run 100 yards in ten seconds, was an all-state running back and a Golden Gloves boxer.

I figure, time to fill in the blanks with Warshaw.

BeachGrit: You describe Buzz in your fabulous EOS as “hyper-masculine.” And that photogenic frame! Is there anyone among today’s top pros with his raw athleticism?

Warshaw: Michel Bourez. Except Michel is a consumptive eunuch fainting on a daybed by comparison.

What about the rest of surf history? Who is Buzzy’s match?

Tarzan Smith, this lunatic paddleboarder and street fighter from back in the Depression. And Zach Weisberg.

Zach? The founder of the “the world’s largest digital community in the surf, mountain, and outdoor space”?

I saw Zach recently, he looks like he just got sprung from ADX, he’s huge; he could bench 300 with Chas dancing on the bar.

Buzzy’s childhood was horrible. Dad abandoned the family, his sister fell down a well and died, Buzzy was in foster care for a couple of years. Just brutal. Surfing was a godsend.

BeachGrit: Could Zach haven taken Buzzy, at his peak? 

No way.

Could Tarzan Smith take Buzzy?

Oh man. I don’t know. That’s DC Universe business. Buzzy was the better athlete, strength-wise it’s probably a tossup, but Tarzan had a screw loose. My heart says Buzzy, but my gut says Tarzan.

Did he really, as Ricky Grigg, another big-waver say, kill a man in the ring? Or is that the typical of the exaggeration of that demographic?

I’ve heard that too, but I don’t know if it’s true. Buzzy never talked about it publicly. He was big on suffering, though. Being hard and tough was really important thing to him, and suffering was how you got there. Buzzy’s childhood was horrible in a lot of ways. Dad abandoned the family, his sister fell down a well and died, Buzzy was in foster care for a couple of years. Just brutal. Surfing was a godsend.

He was racist, for sure, and probably homophobic. Loved all things German, including, or maybe even especially, the German war efforts. I don’t know how much slack you cut a person like Buzzy, given the childhood he had, and the age he grew up in.

In that same article with Grigg it described a crash with his hang glider that I remember as sorta cosmic. Do you remember the details?

I think he flew into a water tank. Broke his back. He walked away from a lot of heavy things. My favorite one, and again, like the fight story, I’m not totally sure if it’s true — but my favorite one is that Buzzy got knocked off a high-rise while working construction, fell through air, grabbed onto an iron girder the next floor down, pulled himself up, walked back to his floor and kept working.

Buzzy, of course, came up with the aphorism “big waves aren’t measured in feet, but in increments of fear.” And did he really coin the term “gun” to describe a big-wave board?

“Elephant gun,” yeah. Buzzy wasn’t the first big-wave surfer, but he’s the guy who turned into theater. George Downing was the best when it got huge, but George did his thing and drove home without saying much. Buzzy kept the show going on land. “Increments of fear,” guns instead of surfboards, talking about Makaha and Waimea like they were battlefields. That’s all Buzzy. He invented the big-wave-man personality.

He also liked the words, “niggers”, and “faggots.” Was he a bad man or a man of his time?

He was racist, for sure, and probably homophobic. Loved all things German, including, or maybe even especially, the German war efforts. I don’t know how much slack you cut a person like Buzzy, given the childhood he had, and the age he grew up in.

We’re all going to get older. I can’t screw anymore. My prick doesn’t come up. It hangs down like a beat dog. But so what? I’ve fired that gun many times. It was a good gun. So the thing is, there comes a time, even in that, where you have to step down. You have to move on, or it gets ugly

Buzzy quit surfing in middle-age. Said he only liked big waves, done all he could etc. Is there a deeper story to it?

He didn’t like getting old, and didn’t want to be a lesser version of who he’d been. Here, I just found this quote from the interview he did with Ricky Grigg, in 2004. This might answer your question. “We’re in the twilight of our lives. Nothing beats age. Nothing. We’re all going to get older. I can’t screw anymore. My prick doesn’t come up. It hangs down like a beat dog. But so what? I’ve fired that gun many times. It was a good gun. So the thing is, there comes a time, even in that, where you have to step down. You have to move on, or it gets ugly. So I stepped down from that too.”

That ain’t gonna happen to me.

No kidding.


Question: Should Colapinto do a Taj?

Does skipping a year on tour create magic?

One of the grandest parts of the World Surf League season ending in Hawaii (RIP) is the poor surfers dropping from tour and the best youngsters getting kicked up to the bigs. Hope, as they say, springs eternal and we all have two months to wonder what these new sensations will bring. To ponder their relative skill versus the established field. To dream. Then Snapper hits and they lose and by Marg River we’ve not only forgotten the rookies’ names but even that they existed in the first place. Hope, as they also say, is a cruel joke.

And let’s meet 19-year-old sensation Griffin Colapinto! He has officially made the cut alongside Tomas Hermes and Will-i-am Cardoso and let’s read what the World Surf League has to say.

Both Hermes’ and Cardoso’s paths to the CT are compelling stories, full of passion, pain and perseverance, while Colapinto’s story is that of a rising surf prodigy. His prolific North Shore skill set could make him a perennial Triple Crown threat. Each surfer will be welcome additions to the Tour in their own right.

The two Brazilians’ “compelling stories full of passion, pain and perseverance” says to me that they are old, life-hardened and capable. The American “rising surf prodigy” makes me wonder if he should sit out a year before jumping in.

Just like the one-time surf prodigy from 30 years ago Taj Burrow!

Do you remember? No? Well that’s what the Encyclopedia of Surfing is for! (Subscribe here today and buy a subscription for your loved one as a gift!)

Burrow earned a coveted slot on the 1997 world pro circuit, which he turned down—the first and only surfer to do so—claiming that at 17 he was “too young to do the tour full-on.” The slender (5′ 9″, 140-pound) white-blond Australian had by that time distinguished himself as one of the world’s most exciting surfers, matching an electrifying aerial repertoire with impossibly cool-handed tuberiding skills, and directing all maneuvers out of a smooth, low, aerodynamic stance.

Burrow easily qualified for the 1998 world tour, and earned rookie-of-the-year honors on his way to a #12 year-end finish. The following season he won two world tour events and finished the year runner-up to fellow Australian Mark Occhilupo.

What a slick, confident move and I wonder if the combination of slick and confident gave young Taj the unquantifiable extra zing he needed to not only stay on tour but soar?

I wonder if young Griffin could break the Ewing curse and become relevant by saying, “thanks but no thanks?”

It seems worth a shot. Every non-Brazilian rookie since Taj has failed to meet even basic expectation.

Optics: How Surf Ranch event plays!

The mainstream media reacts!

If you have been watching or reading the news during this past year it is assured you have heard the word “optics” related to the way an event or situation appears. The “optics” of politicians dating teenaged girls, for example, is not great even though dating teenaged girls is not necessarily illegal. The “optics” of meeting with lots of Russians during a presidential campaign even though Russians are wonderfully interesting and not banned, per se, are not the best.

You get it.

And the “optics” of Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch replacing Lower Trestles on the upcoming World Surf League tour is not, I would imagine, how the powers wanted their exciting announcement to play in the public but that’s exactly how it is playing. Let’s read the Orange County Register!

Hurley Pro at Trestles removed from world tour, replaced by Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch.

The world’s best surfers won’t be battling at the cobblestone beach south of San Clemente, with the Hurley Pro and Swatch Women’s Pro at Lower Trestles replaced with a stop at Kelly Slater’s new man-made wave hundreds of miles away from the coast.

The Hurley Pro has long been a popular surf contest for local surf fans, who can get an up-close, front-row seat to the world’s best surfers.

Etc. Etc.

Surf Ranch replacing Lowers. An artificial wave replacing a real one. Man replacing God. Etc. Etc. And I don’t think this is exactly the case. I went off half-cocked the other day, writing that the WSL should be blamed for Lowers’ demise and, it should be, but my hurt obscured all the hardboiled surf journalism I did that day. Through hundreds of calls, emails, texts with tens of sources I baked it down to this.

The Hurley Pro was cut.

The Surf Ranch was added.

And they were two, unconnected, separate decisions based almost entirely on economics. And back to “optics”… would it not have played better to first add the Surf Ranch stop then a few weeks later cut Lowers?

Or would that have been dishonest?

What, do you think, was the asking price for title sponsorship of Lowers? I would have liked the World Surf League to hold a public auction. I know my partner Derek Rielly is not the biggest fan but I would have gone, raised my paddle and swapped my integrity if it could be saved and called the Hurley Pro brought to you by BeachGrit.

We would have had lots and lots of fun.

Will you look at this immense blue grotto!

Watch: When did skim get this good?

Skimboard virtuoso Brad Domke's board transfers at epic Cylinders.

I do love this permissive age of surfing, where anything goes, where the pompous certainty that surfing is only possible on six feet of fibreglass with three screws, has disappeared.

Recently, and completely through the medium of Instagram, I’ve become stimulated by the behaviour of the skimboarder, as practised, specifically, by Austin Keen and Brad Domke.

Domke, of course, needs very little introduction. He rides Nazaré, Puerto Escondido, Jaws and so forth on his little disc. And this three-and-a-half minute short of Domke castrating his surfboard by using it only to paddle into the wave before jumping onto his fifty-three-inch, flat-rockered, finless disc, will be difficult to remove from your consciousness.

The wave, if y’didn’t know, is Cylinders, an outrageous shorebreak in Newport, California. This day, says Domke, was the best he’s seen it in fifteen years.

“It’s days like these that (filmer) Dylan and I live for.”

Oh it’ll give you vertigo!