Once, when I was a little boy, I came to southern California to visit my cousins and it was my birthday. My uncle took me to a surf shop, mystical in my young Oregonian eyes, and said, “Pick whatever you want.” I picked a Surfer magazine (because it must have been assumed that surfboards, wetsuits, etc. were not included in his generous offer). And now I sometimes write for Surfer magazine under The Weekly Grit! moniker.
Would you permit me to be honest with you for just one moment? A little real talk? I am neither a scientist nor mathematically inclined. If doctors were allowed to study my brain they would discover synapses coated with bourbon firing vague memories borrowed from Sex and the City episodes (Chas Smith playing the role of Carrie Bradshaw, of course). If they peered deeper, they would stumble upon an above average Mark-Occhilupo-singing-karaoke impression. Nowhere would they find “science” or “math.”
And then guess what? I totally reveal the entire patent to Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch!
After that I basically describe the mechanics of Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch because a magical being sent me the ENTIRE patent for the thing. And also come over to my house and help me dig the Wave Corral. The commenters at Surfer think I’ve helped lead to the demise of that proud title and tell me my brain is full of used condoms so I don’t think they’re coming.
Did you, like me, think that Malibu was a mostly exclusive Los Angeles beach enclave where starlets ran away from sexually menacing producers whilst trying to find valet tickets in Hermes birkins? Where money managers and Russian oligarchs winked at each other over well-manicured hedges, the money managers sipping 30 year old Scotches and the Russian oligarchs half-watch two 30 year old Scotsmen perform a Braveheart themed sex fetish show?
Did you, like me, think it was for the rich and the very rich?
Oh, I’m no Malibu virgin. I have spent nights among the rich and very rich at Little Dume (before I became one of the people of course). I have dined at Nobu and celebrated art in architectural masterpieces nestled in Malibu’s bucolic hills but apparently I missed the gritty war between rough n tumble locals and the wealthy blow-ins.
And let’s turn to Money Week Magazine for the rest of the story!
The wealthy newcomers to the sport are not, however, content with taking over a pastime that has long been the preserve of hippies – they’re also taking over their homes in Malibu, says Alix Sharkey in Condé Nast Traveller.
The “Bu” – to use its old surfer nick-name – still has that “unreal” quality: “nothing can match that moment when you stand at the ocean’s edge, cool spume rushing up the hot sand and over your toes, the roar of surf pierced by crying gulls, Catalina Island shimmering in the haze [as] you spot a pod of gleaming dolphins… [cresting] the waves”. But the California surfing spot is also increasingly becoming “a byword for moneyed privilege, home to single-name A-listers such as Streisand, Dylan, Hanks and Gaga”.
The locals aren’t taking this lying down, says Skylar Peak, Malibu’s 33-year-old mayor and a passionate surfer. “It’s not this ‘Hollywood on the Ocean’ that people imagine,” he says. “There’s a rawness to the culture, a true sense of community, and a deep love of nature.” Fleeing the wealthy hordes, “the cool people” moved to Point Dume, Khalil Rafati, founder of fashionable smoothie outlets SunLife Organics, tells Sharkey. “It still has that laid back, old Malibu vibe. Meaning, the more dressed up you are, the less money you really have.”
Ok. I’m can’t joke around anymore. I can’t believe that Malibu has a mayor named “Skylar” and that he’s a man. Hahaha! And the “fashionable smoothie outlet!” Hahahahaha! I’m dying!
That place is seriously retarded.
Quiz: Will you be an “intermediate” surfer forever?
And is it possible to ever break through and become… a good surfer? If so, how?
Many years ago, the pioneering pro surfer Mark Warren admitted that he was “a kook forever.” He wasn’t even close to being a kook, at least beyond his teenage years, but his admission revealed the fear that stalks us all.
I know it and it tears me in two.
Despite everything, despite years of pouring blood and tears into the game, despite the best surfboards, front-row seats to the best surfing and endless counsel I have never been able to progress beyond “intermediate” surfer.
I can fake it a little.
I know how to make a photo work. Arms in the air, twisting of torso etc. But I ain’t no better than “intermediate.”
The truth is, unless you hit contests early, or grew up by the beach, you never developed the muscle memory that shows in the good, instinctive surfer.
A kick in the head? Yeah it is.
The whole you’ll-never-be-better-than-an-intermediate-surfer theory comes from Chas Smith and David Lee Scales’ podcast series on Surf Splendor’s The Weekly Grit, and which was posted here under the headline “I’m Having An Existential Crisis!”
I didn’t listen to the damn thing until yesterday and my blood ran cold. Chas spoke about a depression that came from the futility of persisting with a sport he’ll never get any better at.
Should a man continue to waste his time operating at such an emotionally ruinous level?
Then came the question, Is it better to look good on a wave or feel good on a wave?
Who even needs to think about such a thing? Of course, you want to look good. Feeling good, while looking horrible, is a night terror.
Questions: Do you agree with the hypothesis? Are we, as average men, doomed to be “intermediates” forever?
And what range of “intermediate” surfers are there? Low-level intermediate, good-intermediate, advanced-intermediate, and what separates us?
Low-level: can paddle into a wave, race along, do a cutback, maybe stay on his board during a floater and a close-out re-entry.
Good: The above, with the added bonus of frontside tubes, floaters made, with the occasional lip hit.
Advanced: The above, but has landed a few airs, ridden out of a reverse, can backside tube ride.
And tell me: is it possible to ever break through and become… good?
I will admit to you now that I feel lucky every single time my byline appears in The Surfer’s Journal. Scott Hulet and co. continue to produce a masterful product. One that simply shines and in the latest issue I am allowed to chat with the one and only Michael Tomson. We’ve done much, here at BeachGrit, with the most fantastic character the surf industry ever produced. Who could forget this video?
Not you, of course, but anyhow now Michael Tomson is also in the latest Journal. Should we read one quote?
Chas Smith: Where did surf go wrong?
Michael Tomson: You mean why is the surf industry on its ass right now? That’s a big question for which there’s no short answer. But I think you have to start with why the industry was booming before it tripped and fell. From 1998 to 2008 the industry went through a period of unprecedented growth. There were more people surfing than ever, longboards were happening, women were in the water along with old people, kids, and anyone game enough to paddle out.
Along with that surge in participants came an influx of new brands. It wasn’t surfing anymore, it was “boardsports.” The tribe even had Hollywood signed up for the program. Blue Crush came out, there was Fuel TV, and a lot of scripts “in development.” Retailers were supporting this new surf handle and allocating large amounts of floor space to the new movement. Quiksilver and Billabong were hitting sales levels in the billions and both were on an acquisition spree buying brands and buying the retailers who could showcase those brands. It was reckless investing, corporate swagger at its finest, and to the uninformed it looked like the surf industry was heading towards an impossibly bright future.
Which of course it wasn’t. What nobody was considering was the consumer and the speed with which tastes change. Kids left the party, particularly mall kids, to whom surf product became a turn off—it just wasn’t as sexy as technology, which is where most kids were (and still are) spending their money. Then on top of that, by the time 2008 rolled around, the real estate market had capsized and the global financial crisis was in full swing leaving the surf industry, as we once knew it, in a desperate fight for survival. What used to be the ultimate career lifestyle became a shit show of broken dreams. The surf industry managed to survive the great clean out, the epic reality check, but not without a host of bankruptcies and reorganizations and today it faces a different set of problems, that being the internet and the changing nature of the way consumers buy products—meaning on their phones and not in stores.
Once upon a time, the great then editor-in-chief of Surfing magazine Taylor Paul and I hopped a last second red-eye flight to New York in order to attend the New York Surf Film Festival and meet potential New Jersey writer Brendan Buckley. It was autumn, if I recall, the perfect time for a weekend in the city with a touch of crisp in the air and Gucci’s window display featuring the latest in shearling-lined slippers. Or maybe it was summer, the perfect time for a weekend in the city with its languid humidity and Saint Laurent’s window display featuring a provocative mannequin wearing nothing but hot pink asymmetrical earrings.
In either case, it was the perfect time for a weekend in the city and of course neither Taylor Paul nor I brought a surfboard. What sort of masochist does that? Trying to jam a coffin into a Lincoln Towncar, knocking working women over on the sidewalk. Bringing surfboards to New York is not cool. It is a total pain and Taylor Paul and I may be many things but neither of us is a pain.
As fate would have it, though, some magical swell showed up. A swell that could not be ignored. What were we to do? The only option was to break into Balaram Stack’s beachfront home, steal two of his miniature high performance surfboards, get caught by his mom, have her turn out to be wonderfully understanding and giving us a ride to the surf, surfing.
But what if Balaram Stack’s mom had been normal? The sort of mom that named her son “Joe” instead of after a Hindu deity? Well Taylor Paul and I would have gone to jail is what and would have been forced to join a skinhead gang and eventually move to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho after our release fathering many white power’d children and contributing to the caustic tone in today’s American politic. Very horrible.
Well, eight years later, and as fate would also have it, Taylor Paul is part of a brand new company that seeks to put an end to jail radicalization and bring us all together. It is called Awayco and is the solution for surf travel!
The concept is delightfully simple. Traveling with surfboards is generally a pain and/or very expensive. Rental boards are always ancient tuff-lite eggs or fifteen year old 6’4 Xanadus. Awayco, in partnership with local surf shops, offers a range of new-ish high performance surfboards from reputable shapers. For a sixty dollar a month subscription you simply go to Awayco’s website, book the board you want, head to the shop, grab it and surf. Swell’s coming up? Take the board back and swap for a step-up! Your child wants a turn? Take the board back and swap for foamie! And on and on and on endlessly. You can even use the service at home! Demo days are usually very bad and crowded but trying to boards is fun and exciting. As part of Awayco you can head to your local shop and try that strange fish or low-volume’d rocket.
Wonderful! But let’s talk to Taylor Paul about!
So we’re beginning our soft launch late November. The founder of the company grew up in a beach town next to Ace Buchan (who is also a principal in the the company). He later became a product manager at Google but always dreamed of this project, being able to travel anywhere in the world and have the perfect board available when you get there. It sucks traveling with boards and the rental boards at most places suck. Sometimes you want to bring a board but if you have kids, strollers, lots of luggage it’s just not possible. Or sometimes you are going on a trip where surf is just part of what you’re doing, like traveling in Europe, and you don’t want to be stuck with your boards the entire time.
The other part of what we offer is when you’re home. So many surfers are on the wrong board out there. They decide what they want, spend 800 dollars and if it is wrong they are stuck surfing it for a few years because they can’t afford another. I’ll tell you, I have ridden so many new boards through the program and have realized so much. Plus it’s awesome to ride new boards.
It’s 60 bucks a month and you can ride as many boards as you want, or keep one board for five days. We’re working with fantastic shops and with great shapers. Hayden, Channel Islands, Firewire, Slater Designs, JS, etc. Starting off we’ll be in the Sydney area, Byron, Bali, North County San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Cruz and we’ll expand from there, both what we offer and where you can get it.
It’s a solid group of people working and has been so interesting and also a lot of fun.
I must say, the whole idea sounds simply perfect. The sort of thing that we all wonder how we lived without and come late November (when the service is officially available) we will sing songs of praise.
Read everything you need to know HERE, sign up and stay out of skinhead prison gangs and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho!