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!


What would drive a good surfer to ride switch, and nothing but switch, for an entire year? Disease! | Photo: @cheechonbeach

Tough: “I surfed switch for a year!”

Talented Santa Cruz goofyfooter switches stance for an entire year! Why?

I’m a thirty-two-year-old goofyfooter  from Santa Cruz, California. I was good enough to get free shit and swipe a little travel budget off sponsors, but not good enough to make a real living. Only Nat Young has done that.

Here’s Neal at Keramas, Bali, in 2008, as a goofyfooter. Photo: Hamish Humphries

For the past year I’ve been riding switch.

Only switch.

Here’s Neal as a naturalfooter in the summer of 2017, on holiday in Costa Rica. Photo: Cheechonbeach

Am I a masochist? Not exactly.

I’ve had severe neck, back, and hip arthritis that’s been giving me hell since I was eighteen. At first it was a degenerative disc disease, then it was Ankylosing Spondylitis (the auto-immune disease that Mitch Crews has), and even Lyme disease. I was doing intravenous antibiotics for a year!

My hips are the worst, bone-on-bone and covered in cysts. It’s clear that I have severe arthritis and widespread pain and fatigue, which has been dubbed “fibromyalgia”, but I reckon the doctors know fuck all so I’ve stopped worrying about the diagnosis and now concentrate my focus on managing the symptoms-which has been pretty much a full-time job.

After my second hip arthroscopy last November, where they shaved another bone spur off the head of my femur, I made a decision. As a goofyfooter, I pivot off my back left leg pretty hard. And the arthritis was so severe in my left hip that I decided to do an experiment to see if switching my stance for a whole year changed anything

Fuck, it was brutal.

Winter had just started and I was weak and fat from being laid up. I started like every surfer should: soft-Top. Longboard. Gun. Fun Board. I could barely pop up at first. The waves were starting to get going that winter and I was putting myself in some really dumb situations. Every wave I actually made were the early markers, then I transitioned into bottom turns, cutbacks, foam climbs.

Riding switch for a year, I discovered how hard it is to rewire your brain. It’s like writing in cursive with your non-dominant hand. It’s just so damn tough for most people. I found it as exciting to work on this handicap, even though I was getting consistently pummelled.

That’s about where I’m at now, spending as much time as I can on a surfboard with my left foot in front. I’m working on linking turns and trying to work on consistency through repetition. I’ve gotten a couple of sweet tubes on my forehand, but pig-dogging is awkward, so I’m workin’ on that.

My lowest moment was this summer in Costa Rica. I decided to bring a 70’s inspired Travis Reynolds 6’6” single fin to surf a heavy beachbreak. The single fin would have been sketchy going goofyfoot. Beautiful board, but Christ, I’ve never taken so many donuts. That’s when I started really second guessing my resolve.

Best moments?

I’ve had some barrels, some large waves, and survived a session at my favorite local slab. I think setting a goal, and sticking to it feels the best. It’s cool to step out of your comfort zone.

Riding switch for a year, I discovered how hard it is to rewire your brain. It’s like writing in cursive with your non-dominant hand. It’s just so damn tough for most people. I found it as exciting to work on this handicap, even though I was getting consistently pummelled.

I realized that there are ways to keeping surfing fresh, even with a body so torn up. I’ve been told by countless doctors to tone down, or even quit surfing, which is horrifying. So, ultimately, if I learn to switch at will, this may extend the shelf life of my surfing. I just need to learn to hold back when the surf gets hairy.

And let me say something, it feels… good… to be a kook again.

God, think of paddling out to overhead surf and committing to getting scrubbed across the reef nearly every time you surf. How is that not appealing?

Santa Cruz is a place where people can take you down and throw salt, so embracing being a kook is good for the ego.

I won’t lie. I was self-conscious about it at first.

All my friends know and have given me props and set waves, but it’s the blow-ins out in the water that get to me. They don’t know me, so they paddle around or burn me. That gets me riled up, so I have to remember that I’ve been doing the same things to kooks practically my whole life!

Full circle, man.

Gosh, says here I can buy a dang house in Nicaragua for a hundred k and have a pack of cleaners for ten bucks a day.

Dear BeachGrit: Thank you all!

It's is the day for love!

It is Thanksgiving morning in America, the time that most of us prepare bountiful feasts to share with our loved ones and ponder all of the many things for which we are grateful. I am grateful for getting my loved ones to agree to skip the bountiful feast (I hate turkey etc.) and I am grateful for you!

I am grateful for Derek Rielly because he is the best pal ever and makes BeachGrit sing.

I am grateful for Steve “longtom” Shearer because he makes me believe that surf writing can rival any other sort.

I am grateful for Negatron because he sets the tone for our conversation.

I am grateful for Julian’s Postie, mullet, turts, Chazz Michael Michaels, PacificNorthPest, OttoBeenThere, Wig’s Paddling Style, Mattysez, Building the Revolution, Nik Karol, Nick Carroll, Abscessed Lalama, dickie toledo, Ck T, Tired old guy, SleevePocket, stewie, Ami Lost, J H, Krill, Paulo De Tarso Duarte, pubes, Rusty Shackleford, Captain Clark, Twillsy, Angelo Pappas, david f, mybrothersajunkie, Nick D, nastrabrahmus, seven5seven6, ricmatic, Karl Von Fanningstadt, DrunkenAngel, thevoiceofnoreason and all the rest for making me smile each and every day.

I am grateful for The Inertia and Stab because of the never-ending stream of funny that flows from Venice-adjacent.

I am grateful for the World Surf League because it entertains on so many levels both purposefully and not.

I am grateful for Album surfboards and my sponsorship/pro surfer status.

I am grateful for the people because you showed me that I don’t need cold Michelob Ultra to be happy just Africanized trash bees and God’s too hot sun.

I am grateful for Joel Tudor’s black belt and Kelly Slater’s blue belt because I imagine they are difficult to earn.

I am grateful for Scott Hulet and The Surfer’s Journal because it makes surfing feel classy.

I am grateful for Matt Warshaw because without him surfing’s grand history would only stretch back to 2003.

I am grateful for my wife because, as the saying goes, behind every great surf journalist is a woman who accidentally married a surf journalist and somehow doesn’t leave him.

Thank you all and Happy Thanksgiving!

Rough justice straight from the Nathan Strom dispensary! | Photo: Derek Dunfee/@joeljitsu

News: Joel Tudor Angry Again!

"Go suck a dick!"

For a long there it was hard to beat the social media performance art of San Diego longboard virtuoso Joel Tudor.

His Instagram account @joeljitsu (Joel is a black belt grappler) is, or least was, a hive of incendiary opinion.

Do you remember, Bullfight: Joel Tudor vs Shawn Stussy? 

Blood Feud: Joel Tudor versus the World?

Blood Feud: Joel Tudor versus Kelly Slater? 

 Tudor: “Crying is for girls!” 

Never pompous, Joel, who is forty-one years old, had a refreshing lack of fear in his ferocity. Lately, his account had gone so quiet, free of any scalding bile, that I had simply stopped looking.

Earlier this morning, a pal alerted me to a new storm brewing. Accompanying an excellent Derek Dunfee photo of Nathan Strom colliding with a fellow longboarder, Joel wrote:

“Getting faded.”

Joel’s almost ninety thousand followers were, mostly, thrilled. Five thousand of ’em liked it. And the comments were, again mostly, positive.

“Free channels for you, brother.”

“Love it. Gotta teach the new kids about traffic control and ding repair.”

“Speed bump.”

And so on.

Then in stepped someone called @byronthekid, who threw a towel over the circle jerk.

“Really? He could not have gone up and above or down and around? It’s just surfing…fucking play time in the water. I am so tired of this egomaniacal mentality. It’s not tough, cool, or respectable. It’s just fucking stupid. I used to have a ton of respect for you Joel, but encouraging this kind of shit as a grown man? It’s lost on me. Rise above.”

This made Joel pleasingly angry.

Joel: “I didn’t ask your opinion nor do I give a fuck ….dude is lucky Nate can surf & was able to turn away avoiding conflict or injury- Nate did the right thing ….anyone who thinks differently is a kook who don’t understand the lineup….get the fuck outta the way!”

From @byronthekid: “No Joel, I know you don’t give a fuck. That’s point and that’s the sad part. I understand the lineup. Fuck I learned from guys like you, but making a spectacle of this shit gets old. In fact, you told me in the Cardiff parking lot about 12 years ago that this very mentality needs to change because kooks aren’t going anywhere and people are going to keep crowding the lineups. I guess you for got that. Keep on keepin’ on.”

The spigot was opened.

Another follower wrote:

“To much drug mr tudor, do you have always bad coment with the peoples, too much drugs you are crazzy, ex Champion you be tooo old need more education mr marihuana.”

Joel replied: “Go suck a dick!”

Back in form! And don’t it feel good!

Read the exchanges here, and thrill to Nathan Strom’s back and forthing too.