Chas Smith (left) and Taylor Paul (right) and Balaram Stack's boards and trunks.

Finally: The solution for surf travel!

Kiss airline baggage fees goodbye!

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!

Slater and Fincham have been working together since 2006 on what, ultimately, became the Surf Ranch, a 700 metre by 150 metre private wave tank. | Photo: Jon Cohen

Meet: The genius who invented Surf Ranch!

USC scientist Adam Fincham and how he breathed life into Slater's outrageous dream.

For the past several, I don’t know, years, I’ve been trying to swing an interview with Adam Fincham, the genius who brought Kelly Slater’s dream of a barreling wave pool into relief.

Fincham is a Research Associate Professor at University of Southern California and has worked with Kelly since 2006 to create a masterpiece of bathymetry on the outskirts of a lousy cotton-farming town four hours north-east of Los Angeles.

Today, in, and via the keystrokes of staff writer Jon Cohen, we get to examine the Slater-Fincham pool, and the “obsessive compulsive” pair’s relationship, in detail.

Let’s read a little

In 2006, Slater, the world’s most famous surfer, approached Fincham, who took on the challenge of mimicking nature in a tank. “I had no idea who he was,” says Fincham, who grew up in Jamaica and began surfing only when he came to USC. To develop the wave, Slater founded his own eponymously named company, which promptly hired Fincham.

They began in a laboratory wave tank. Whereas many wave pools use paddles, plungers, caissons, or other strategies to effectively throw water into the air, Fincham’s team designed a hydrofoil that is partially submerged in water. As it cuts through the pool, the hydrofoil moves water to the side (but not upward) and then pulls back on the forming wave to “recover” some of the water it pushed away. The result is what physicists call a solitary wave, or soliton, that mimics an individual swell in the open ocean.

Then Slater’s surfing experience came in.

“It was [Fincham’s] job to figure out how to make that swell, and it was my job to figure out how to break that swell,” he says. It takes a shallow “reef” of just the right shape to turn a swell into a surfing wave. To fine-tune the shape of the pool bottom, the team relied on Slater’s input and on massively parallel supercomputers that often had to run for weeks at a time to complete a simulation. In silico, a wave is a mesh of millions of cells that represent air and fluid.

Computations for each of the cells and how they interact with each other simulate the evolving wave as it develops a face and a barrel. The computations are “mathematically horrendous,” says Geoffrey Spedding, a USC fluid mechanics specialist who has collaborated with Fincham but had little input on this project.

Fincham’s team transferred the lab findings to the Surf Ranch, a rectangular pool that was originally an artificial water skiing lake. The hydrofoil—imagine a vertically oriented, curved, stubby airplane wing—sits in water a few meters deep. It’s attached to a contraption that’s the size of a few train cars and, with the help of more than 150 truck tires and cables, runs down a track for the length of the pool at up to 30 kilometers per hour. This creates a soliton that stands more than 2 meters tall. The pool’s bottom, which has the springy feel of a yoga mat, has different slopes in different parts, and the contours determine when and how the soliton breaks. The patents also describe “actuators” in the hydrofoil that make it possible to adjust the size and shape of the wave to suit different skill levels.


The hydrofoil moves up the pool to create a wave that breaks from right to left. Giant gutters serve as dampers to reduce the seiching and limit bounce back from the walls that border the pool, but it takes 3 minutes for the waters to calm. Then the hydrofoil travels back down the pool and forms a wave that breaks in the opposite direction. The ride can last for a ridiculously long 50 seconds, and the wave alternates between big faces to carve on and barreling sections. Onlookers hooted wildly during that September contest when Stephanie Gilmore, who has won the women’s title six times, stayed in the barrel for an astonishing 14 seconds.

And the future?

Slater envisions that wealthy surfers might want to buy into luxury, private resorts built around a wave, similar to the Discovery Land Company’s high-end golf communities around the world.

Like this, sorta.


Pay to stay at gorgeous resort and surf all day in private tank!

Not that everyone’s convinced.

Some see a multimillion-dollar novelty project that’s commercially doomed. “The wave is fantastic, epic, everyone would love to surf it for sure,” says Tom Lochtefeld, a San Diego, California, inventor whose company Wave Loch produces the FlowRider, a “sheet” of water ridden on what looks like a snowboard. “But it’s an evolutionary dinosaur.”

Read the rest of the story here. 

Breaking: DC releases ugliest shoe ever!

So bad that it's still bad!

Do you remember when shoe brand DC ruled action sports? Oh they had it all! A sexy roster, feat. Bruce Irons, Dane Reynolds, Danny Way, Steve Berra, fat tongues, cubic zirconia encrusted rings, parties, parties, parties… but then the brand fell on hard times. Action sports became… less cool along with parties and cubic zirconia but the brand didn’t go out of business because inertia is a real thing, not just a horrible outdoor website in Venice-adjacent.

Do you know what “inertia” actually means?

“A tendency to do nothing or remain unchanged.”

So yeah, since DC was already in business it is easiest for it just to stay in business and also to flip the calendar back to 1996. Would you like to see a picture of DC’s latest shoe?


It is apparently a collaboration with Dime (I don’t know what “Dime” is) but doesn’t it feel to early for this? Like… by a century?

Revealed: Noa Deane still surfs!

It's a Christmas miracle two months early!

I know that you are rude and caustic and asshole (my daughter uses “asshole” as an adjective and it is so much more brilliant. “Look at that asshole car…” “That man is asshole…” etc.) but I love Noa Deane and was very sad when he stopped surfing. Oh, I didn’t know (officially) that he stopped but assumed since he did not appear to be surfing anywhere anymore. But guess what assuming makes? It makes me asshole and you asshole.

And Noa Deane still surfs!

I have no idea how old he is but trust there is some milage left on those tires and would like him to rip some shitties (what does that mean?) before he Danes out because… I like the boy. I like his girly face. I like his weight issues. I like his guitar riffs and I like his spunk (not that spunk either and stop being asshole). I’ve liked him ever since he stepped onto Turtle Bay’s embarrassingly awful stage and said, “Fuck the WSL!”

But mostly I like his surfing. I really really do and he just released a banger.

Should we watch?


CANDLE. from noa deane on Vimeo.

"Kelly’s wave is longer and probably a better wave over the distance but ours will be shorter and punchier and there'll be more of 'em," says Dart. "Occ and I sat at the Snapper Rocks surf club and, our rides, which are twenty seconds, are the equivalent of Snapper Rocks through to Little Marley. When you see the prototype down in Melbourne, it actually makes sense, as opposed to pushing huge volumes of water with Thomas the Tank Engine. Commercially, this actually makes sense. His, and Wavegarden, is a huge boat wash, essentially. Ours replicates a mini-tsunami."

Soon: Full-sized proto of Occy’s pool!

Hole dug for full-sized prototype of Occy's tank at secret Queensland location!

Back in May, the former world champion Mark Occhilupo was revealed as the ambassador for yet another wavepool company, this one called Surf Lakes.

(Read that here.)

And, yesterday, Barton Lynch, the world champ and noted commentator and coach, was also wheeled out to spruik Surf Lakes, a company created by the Queensland mining engineer Aaron Trevis.

Travis’ eureka moment came when he was skimming rocks in a lake with his kids. Noticing the little waves the rocks caused, he wondered if he could make it happen on a bigger scale.

Like the rest, Surf Lakes promises the world: “Revolutionary”, “closely mimics natural ocean waves”, “lowest energy cost per wave”, “2400 waves an hour.”

According to the company’s PR release in May, a proof-of-concept prototype had been built in an outer Melbourne suburb and, somewhere in Queensland, shovels were out for the full-sized version with a late 2017 opening.

Now, what happens when these sorta stories come out is that we, the media, jump on the story, rewrite the press release, collect our clicks and our social spikes, and move on.

I figured, given its imminent unveiling, a little call might be order.

As it happens, the media guy is a former Tracks editor called Wayne Dart. He says the hole, which is 350 metres long by 250 metres wide, has been dug, but won’t, can’t, say where it is in Queensland ’cause, already, locals have been sniffing around, peering over the fence and so on.

The way the pool works, he says, is there’s a peak setup on each edge, where a circular swell creates four peaks or eight waves at once. A wave every six seconds.

When you see the prototype down in Melbourne, it actually makes sense, as opposed to pushing huge volumes of water with Thomas the Tank Engine. Commercially, this actually makes sense. His, and Wavegarden, is a huge boat wash, essentially. Ours replicates a mini-tsunami.”

“Kelly’s wave is longer and probably a better wave over the distance but ours will be shorter and punchier and there’ll be more of ’em,” says Dart. “Occ and I sat at the Snapper Rocks surf club and, our rides, which are twenty seconds, are the equivalent of Snapper Rocks through to Little Marley. When you see the prototype down in Melbourne, it actually makes sense, as opposed to pushing huge volumes of water with Thomas the Tank Engine. Commercially, this actually makes sense. His, and Wavegarden, is a huge boat wash, essentially. Ours replicates a mini-tsunami.”

He tells me we’ll get our first look in March 2018. Occ’s going to split the first peak with his kid Jay; Barton is on the second.

Will BL be bummed he’s not on the first peak?

“He only has to wait six seconds,” says Dart.

Neither of ’em are going to be the first to ride out, howevs.

“That’ll be the engineers,” he says.