The author illustrates how it's possible for a lousy surfer to get a semi-non embarrassing surf shot.

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?

I think,

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?

If so, how?

Surf: “Shitshow of broken dreams!”

The always fabulous Michael Tomson weighs in!

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.

Read the rest here!

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