Long Read: Good Luck, California (part 1)!

Come and wander.

We sat around the table at a deli in a strip mall that looked like every other strip in Southern California. There wasn’t a Starbucks. The Starbucks was across the street. But there were sandwiches and Mexican Coke, which is as much a marker of the place as the strip malls and the stucco.

The talk was of surf trips, about all the places we’ve been. There’s always an element of posturing to these conversations. I already knew that I couldn’t win.

The talk eddied around me and I slid into a daydream. Island reefs, Infinite points. Always backlit. Always off-shore. I sent my friend live updates. Well, I guess I’ve been to Rincon once or twice, I tell her. Yeah, travel is expensive, she says. We pay rent in an expensive town in coastal California. Who has money left for tropical islands. Not us, not really.

Our lives follow the rhythm of the seasons. We track the tides and the swell angles and we stalk that one sandbar as it’s pushed down the coast by the ocean’s whim. We carry snapshot memories and an infinite supply of inside jokes.

One day you watch amazed as the sun gleam through the back of perfect waves like a cat’s glowing eye. There’s early morning donut runs. There’s the local who slides down the line, looking the same every time, completely emotionless. We call him Bernie. And sometimes you get skunked and lie in the sand, laughing at nothing at all.

It’s not that I don’t like travel and adventure. I’m a fan of both of these things. In fact, I’d actually been on a surf trip a few weeks previously.

I’d been drawn by a destination that looked improbable, but intriguing. More importantly, I’d sold a story, the get out of jail free card of freelance life. I packed a puffy jacket, my thickest neoprene — not very thick, actually — and a beanie. I assembled my instant journalist kit of digital recorder, Moleskine, and pencil. I felt totally ready for anything. Good luck, California.

I flew up the map, arriving in Seattle on the kind of bright day that isn’t supposed to happen there, but actually does. The water glinted, the sky was perfect blue. I wasn’t fooled. Those trees didn’t grow tall and green without rain. I spent the afternoon putting my reporter kit to work and ate dinner in the misguided hope that traffic would end. It didn’t, but I didn’t know that yet. Delusions are comfortable and the dessert was delicious.

I began driving westward as the setting sun turned the cityscape golden, momentarily distracting me from the sea of brakelights ahead. I got in line. It inchwormed along, past the city center, and the old brewery, and the baseball stadium, lit up for a night game. Mount Rainier blushed and went dark. The traffic pushed like the tide. I waded patiently.

You’ll be wondering about the surfing part. By this point, so was I. There was a coast out there somewhere. I wondered if I would ever get to it. I stopped at a gas station for snacks, my beanie pulled down low and my hair tucked under my jacket. Anything to go unnoticed.

The road split, north and west. I squinted helplessly at the unlit road signs. It was as though someone had spray-painted locals only across them. You can surf here, if you can find it.

I couldn’t see shit. I turned west, chasing a pendant moon that swung toward the horizon. The trees, black against a blacker sky, mocked me like they were in on the joke. Good luck, California.

At length, I made it to Inverness and missed my turn. Lost, again. Dark store windows stared me down. I worked to decipher the roads in my phone’s glowing square. There was no one to ask for directions, even if I’d dared. I wasn’t about to admit that I was lost out here. I picked a road and hoped for the best. It arced gently westward, which felt reassuring.

I smelled a hint of salt air. Maybe it was my imagination, but I chose to believe I was finally getting somewhere. The road narrowed and turned. The moon inched closer to the horizon, ready to give up on my chances. Mailboxes peaked out of the trees at random, a rare sign of life.

An oncoming car passed and disappeared. I turned the music louder to fill the empty space it left behind. You have no control/You are not in command. I pulled my beanie lower and drove faster. Good luck, California.

Watch: A wetsuit rap video!

"Blind stitch, hollow fiber, double glue..."

I had a long discussion with wonderful friend David Lee Scales, just the other day, about wetsuits. Hollow fiber, seamless, zipperless, wetsuits. Carbon woven, heat sealed, thermonuclear wetsuits. Psychofreak, psycho one, psycho tech wetsuits. And I thought, on my drive home, “You know, we really don’t think about wetsuits enough. They are surfing’s unsung hero. Our Stephen Breyers. Our Tenzig Norgays. Our Georg Konrad Morgens.”

Without wetsuits surfing would be, for most of us, an uncomfortable pastime during most of the year. We take for granted that we can surf in any temperature water thanks to 3/2, 4/3, straight 5 wetsuits. We don’t even think about being warm or warm-ish when we surf.

A fantastic product by any account. Maybe even more important than wax. Definitely more important than leg ropes.

Yet still unsung.

Until now.


Mic drop.

Filipe Toledo
Filipe Toledo surfs as if some higher tyrant has elevated his ability. Jesus Cristo!

Watch: Filipe Toledo in “Divine Hammer”!

A short film featuring Filipe Toledo with cameos by the ever-wonderful Jesus Cristo!

It’s no secret that Filipe Toledo, like ninety percent of his fellow Brazilians, is powered by the divine hand of a Christian god. If you were to examine his right deltoid and bicep you’d be pleased to see a slightly scaled down portrait of Jesus Cristo, the son of god etc.

In this two-and-a-half-minute short by Bruno Baroni, and which features Filipe in Portugal, it begins with enough Biblical imagery to swing even a fallen apostate like me. The purity of the nun, the silhouette of Christ, the monks…

…but here comes a beat…

Filipe arrives at a beach.

…and full rote, almost full rote, backside tube, rote, big lay-down carve, tube, straight air, lofty rote, hack, hack, hack, hack, rote, fast spin and so on.

It isn’t Mean Streets but it does give a momentary rush.



Gabriel Medina, winner of the Future Classic.
Gabriel Medina, winner of the Future Classic.

Just in: Surf Ranch event on 2018 Tour!

It's a divine act!

Did y’see it coming? Half-an-hour ago, the WCT announced the not-so-surprising news that a little cotton farming town four hours north-east of Los Angeles would become a stop on the 2018 WCT schedule.

Lemoore, or L’Amour if you believe in love, is the home, of course, to Surf Ranch, the Slater-Fincham wave pool. As per the presser,

Since coming online in December 2015, the WSL Surf Ranch Facility in Lemoore, California has undergone constant refinement and evolution of its technology. A test event this year in September delivered very positive results in terms of competitive experience and the overwhelmingly supportive feedback from surfers training there throughout the season has encouraged the WSL to pursue an event at the facility in 2018.
“The experience of competing at Surf Ranch is pretty extraordinary,” Adrian Buchan, CT competitor and athlete representative, said. “What the team has created is hard to fathom at first – a perfect, 400-yard-long, bi-directional wave in the middle of rural California. I have no doubt that both the quality of the wave and the experience is befitting of hosting a world-class CT event.

“We’re only scratching the surface of how this technology can be applied and it is completely game-changing for the sport,” Sophie Goldschmidt, WSL CEO, said. 

The rest of the 2018 tour will be announced next week and, meanwhile, the ocean, which I believe still has some validity, will host the tour finale, the Pipeline Masters.

Triumph: Rip-Current Rory rides again!

Come and be accidentally and totally seriously inspired!

I was made aware of this story last week but somehow, between making fun of Stab, making fun of The Inertia and even dusting off ol’ Paul Speaker and making fun of him, it fell through the cracks. For this, I am deeply sorry. Rip-Current Rory exhibits the can-do spirit, the anti-depressive joie de vivre for which BeachGrit is known around the world.

You recall the basics. A young Scottish man (henceforth known as Rip-Current Rory) went for a surf at his home break. He was caught in a rip-current and pulled all the way to Ireland, spending many hours clinging to his yellowed board in the freezing seas and pondering death. Eventually he was saved and he vowed never to surf again, such wonderful advice for every surfer except for you and for me.

Later, he caveated his “never surf again” pledge by saying he would only go surfing IF he was with a large group, wearing a GPS tracking device and having someone waiting for him on the beach.

The good people at Surf Snowdonia, Wales’ most famous wave which also happens to break in a swimming pool, thought, “What if we invite the young man here? The farthest he could get pulled would be Cardiff and that’s only if he hopped a cab…”

Well, miracle beyond miracle, Rip-Current Rory accepted their offer! How was his time? Let’s turn to Welsh News Now:

When asked how his first experience back in the water was, Mr Bryce describes it as “fun”. “Nothing’s changed, it’s still surfing and that’s something I’ve been enjoying for four years,” he says.”What happened was because I was reckless. I went out on my own, it was poor planning, there was bad conditions – it was frankly just reckless.

“This is safe – I’m with people, it’s not in the open sea. There’s no reason to be scared of it because it’s like a pool.

Changing his tune, Mr Bryce now sees the pool as the first step in his road back to the ocean. “That will be with people, in safe conditions and it’s just going to be building it back up,” he says. “I could never go back into the sea on my own. That’s not changed, I could never do that. One, it’s unsafe, people shouldn’t be doing it anyway.

“And two, it’s terrifying. It would be terrifying for me to do that. Whereas this in the sea with friends, I think will be fine.”

Wipe those tears and watch:

Wow. I was still in making fun mood but now I feel like a complete asshole. That was, very seriously, the most inspirational surf short I’ve maybe ever seen. I’ve tried to cut out all the soft spots in my heart but, damn it, Rip-Current Rory got me good.