Podcast: “I’m having an existential crisis!”

What does this all mean?

Can I confide something in you, earnestly and honestly? Oh you can mock me, of course, and maybe that’s exactly what I need. A good swift kick back to quintessential gen-x indifference but until then can I admit to you that I’m having an existential crisis?

I am!

And can’t quite put my finger on it. On what I’m feeling, though I know where the crisis came from. I was also recently injured, arm taken from socket, which will keep me landlocked for a few weeks and I finally have to get the surgery wherein doctors tie my arm in with rope. It used to come out all the time but hasn’t for about four years and now surgery. But that is not the reason for my existential crisis. I don’t quite know what, in fact, my crisis even is but feel it is definitely about surfing.

Like, the physical act of surfing and how it infects my entire life and what that all come to mean.

I am so consumed by the watery ballet that I can no longer type the words “during” or “surgery” without typing “durfing” or “surfgery.” Completely honestly. My fingers automatically put an “f” after the letters “ur.” Every time.

There is really, at this point, nothing else. Surfing. Durfing. Surfgery. Yet even after all these years, all this attention, I am still only ok at the physical act of surfing and not getting better. Growing up and doing it completely alone on a god-forsaken stretch of Oregon coast has infected badly. I didn’t have the privilege of watching ripping peers and emulating them. There was only me. And freezing cold closeouts. And a blooming poor style. And sharks.

What does this mean? Does it mean I took a wrong turn years ago and doubled and tripled down and now am so lost that there is no getting out? Was there something in this world that I was actually good at? Something I could have pursued and excelled in?

David Lee Scales, the consummate host, and I speak of these things here and also how shit The Inertia is, writing, Oregonian localism, whining in the face of danger, wetsuit caps, Damien Hobgood’s stickers and so much more. See the illustrated version here!

Listen here!

Willie hits the links...
Willie hits the links...

The Inertia: “Slater and Trump the same!”

Venice-adjacent's other website claims, "Both endorse death penalty!"

The Inertia is to surf journalism what sexually confused boys are to the eighth grade. Meekly trying to fit in but not knowing where. Saying loudly, “I like that too!” when everyone else has gone quiet. Wanting to wear a My Little Pony backpack but ending up in Green Bay Packers jersey and cut-off jean shorts. It is endearing but also sad. And Venice-adjacent’s definitive voice of surfing just outdid itself, angering its hero Kelly Slater in the process!

Yesterday, almost a week after the tragic attack in New York City which left many dead, The Inertia decided to weigh in on the death penalty, posting the following to Instagram:

“What befell the city of New York on Tuesday – Halloween day, no less – was nightmarish, to say the least. At least eight were killed, according to reports, when a lone truck driver intentionally plowed through a crowded bike lane area of Lower Manhattan. Officials have called the attack an act of terror. The culprit has since been apprehended and in the fallout, President Trump (@realdonaldtrump) has called for the death penalty. ‘NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!’ said Trump in a tweet. In a strange turn of events, Worldstar Hip Hop turned full debate moderator, posting a series of Trump’s tweets on Instagram with the caption, “#PresidentTrump advocates the death penalty following the #NYC truck attack…thoughts?” And among the more than 4,700 comments, @kellyslater himself decided to chime in. ‘There’s no real reason anyone who happily and proudly kills a bunch of innocent people with no remorse should continue the pleasure of life,’ said Kelly in a comment. Amid the hysteria in the comments alone, many of which call for hanging the culprit, 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, ‘in the public square,’ Kelly’s sentiment seems tame.”


It took a lot of work to tie Kelly Slater’s position on the death penalty to the position of Donald Trump but The Inertia did it! Oh their “followers” were not happy, leveling “Stay out of politics…” “You suck…” “Fire your interns…” “Unfollowing…” attacks. Even Kelly Slater jumped in, declaring:

You’ve taken liberties with the context of my comments. But keep up the click bait and sensationalistic headlines by trolling comment sections of other people’s accounts for (non) stories. I didn’t really take a stand with what or how I said this. It’s just a knee jerk reaction and considering I was a mile away with my daughter on the same sidewalk minutes after this happened, the proximity of it hit home. I would advocate tying him to a post in the middle of town and letting the public decide. Maybe that’s a better headline. Not sure leaving him in jail on our dime for an eternity is the answer.

Tying a murderer to a post in the middle of town and letting the public decide his fate is wonderfully medieval and The Inertia should have changed its headline but didn’t and doubled down on its sadness by responding:

As surfing’s consummate spokesperson, we hold the utmost respect for your opinion and endeavors. As such, your criticism definitely stings. We’ll use it as a nudge to continue to reevaluate and refine our evolving editorial process in the fast-moving world of modern media. That said, we do believe your opinions shared publicly on the most important (and sometimes tragic) events in American and global culture – even on social media – are newsworthy, and we respect your willingness to share those thoughts. If anything, it drives conversations forward among a group that otherwise might not discuss. Respectfully.

Oh hell. The Inertia‘s “editorial process” has been “refined” and “reevaluated” a lot lately. But please don’t change Zach and boys! You are the greatest you of all!

Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep little baaaby...
Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep little baaaby... | Photo: What Youth

Industry: Is Volcom on the block?

One-time surfwear giant maybe for sale soon!

As just recently reported by Business of Fashion and Boardistan, the French luxury conglomerate Kering has contracted illuminati bank Rothschild to sell German footwear manufacturer Puma, seeking a reported 7 billion dollars in return. What a mouthful! And why should we care? Well, the reasoning behind the proposed sale is that Kering, which owns Gucci, St. Laurent, Al McQueen, et. al. desires to get out of the athletic/streetwear game so it can focus solely on being fancy.

And what does this mean for Volcom, which the group purchased in 2011 for 600 million dollars? Will it be floated back on the market as well?

Ooooh let’s wonder!

I think probably yes and I think Oaktree Capital may purchase. Oaktree, in case you forgot, owns Billabong’s debt and Quiksilver. There have been rumors this year that the asset management firm might want to buy Rip Curl. If if if it did and if it bought Volcom too then do you think the United States government would come in and bust up the monopoly because of its vast surf power or do you think the United States government would scratch its head and say, “Ummmmm why are you doing this to yourself?”

How much do you think Volcom is worth?

How much would you buy it for?

What if, as part of the sale, Noa Deane and Mitch Coleborn would come and play lullabies for you each and every night?

Jordy Smith, happy…elevated… in his back zip O'Neill suit.

Faux/Real: The Back-Zip Wetsuit!

Ancient technology triumphs in wetsuit design.

If you would examine your current wetsuit, you’d find it to be a chest-zip or zipper-less suit. Am I right?

To get into these suits is a melodrama. You must squeeze your heft into a little hole, push one arm into a smaller hole, shimmy it up around your chest, fix first arm, then second, throw the flap over your head and so on. Its removal requires yogi-like dexterity.

Some years ago, all wetsuits came with a long zip from ass to neck. Entry was via a hole as big as your waist, not your neck, and the transaction was completed in a minute or less. It’s post-session removal was almost instant.

But then, partly through marketing (pressure on designers from their sales departments to give something new to push), partly through the need to create so-called advancements in technology (testing showed back zips were slightly more permeable than a neck entry), the back zip faded into memory.

A few weeks ago, I saw that Need Essentials had thrown a few back-zip steamers into their range. And, yesterday, while surfing with a pal in Leucadia he loaned me a one-year-old O’Neill Psychofreak with a back zip or, as its called by O’Neill, a “Zen Zip”.

It’s been a decade or so since I’d experienced the thrill of easily throwing on a suit. It was elevating.

And after the session, all it took to loose my torso into the sun was a one-handed rip of the neck closure and a yank of the zip.

I find the back zip so superior to either zipperless or the chest-zip that this hardly qualifies as faux or real.

But maybe I’m wrong.

Matt Warshaw, the author of “The Encyclopedia of Surfing,” called the antagonism toward Wavestormers “just the latest misguided frustration for surfers, who are always pissed off,” and said that it resembled the scorn that surfers had in the eighties for bodyboarding, then experiencing a boom. “You saw prime breaks like Off the Wall, on the North Shore, become nearly overtaken by bodyboarders,” he said. “It was like the killer bees were coming. You’d think there was going to be a civil war.”

“The Cult of the Costco Surfboard!”

The world's biggest-selling surfboard in The New Yorker.

In your most uproarious fantasy, did you ever imagine the biggest-selling surfboard in the world would be an eight-foot long softie from a membership-only warehouse retailer?

The Wavestorm costs one hundred and forty-nine dollars and ninety-nine cents and comes in a choice of two graphics (classic stripes or in the colours of the Ethiopian flag, red, yellow and green).

Over the past few years, the Wavestorm has been championed by very good surfers, notably Jamie O’Brien, in the sort of ironic gesture that often morphs into a general acceptance.

Like those ironic shakas you throw at pals that quickly replaces a wave. Like calling everyone “bro” for laughs until it becomes standardised.

Recently, The New Yorker examined the phenomenon in a story called “The Cult of the Costco Surfboard”.

Read a little.

Though it has been nipped, tucked, and stiffened over the years, the Wavestorm eight-footer has existed in roughly the same form since 2006. That’s when Matt Zilinskas, a former manager of the Boogie Board brand, and the Taiwanese businessman John Yeh, of AGIT Global—Boogie Board’s manufacturer—tweaked AGIT’s sandwich of expanded polystyrene foam and plastic to create a board for a surfer’s “first standup experience.” The Wavestorm, a high-volume, low-profit-margin play, was priced at a third of what most starter surfboards cost. By 2015, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that over half a million Wavestorms had been sold, and Costco was on pace to sell a hundred thousand that year alone. (Zilinskas calls those numbers “outrageous” but declined to provide more accurate figures.) In peak summer, they can be bought at nearly two hundred coastal Costco locations.


The Web is where the Wavestorm phenomenon has been most thoroughly documented. The Instagram account the Kook of the Day, which has over half a million subscribers, compiles surreptitiously snapped photos and footage of neophytes committing various style errors and surfing sins. In one shot, a Wavestormer wears board shorts over his wetsuit; in another, a person riding a hoverboard drags the tail of his Wavestorm though an intersection. One Kook of the Day staple is a shot of Wavestorm boards hastily shoved through the sunroof of some sedan, splayed like pickup sticks. A number of videos show Wavestormers face-planting in foot-high surf.

But not all social-media fodder over the Wavestorm has been as barbed. The Instagram account Team Wavestorm Official—which, despite its name, is not affiliated with the brand in any way—has more than twenty-three thousand followers, and enthusiastically cheers on Wavestorm riders, whom the account’s creator, Nate Rohner, calls “the outcasts of surfing.” There are photos of locals riding the budget boards on the thunderous waves of Makaha, a surf break near an economically depressed town in Oahu, and there are surfboard selfies taken by Mike Coots, a shark-attack victim who surfs on a Wavestorm because his prosthetic leg would damage a fibreglass board.

Read the entire story here. 

Questions: do you enjoy the democratising effect of cheap, easy-to-ride surfboards?

Do you own a Wavestorm?

Or are you such an insubordinate cuss your mood grows dark at the mention of Wavestorm?