It has been seven years since the Hawaiian legend Andy Irons left this mortal coil and it’s wild how fast time flies. It seems like just yesterday he was on the comeback trail and just two days ago that he was challenging the dominance of one Kelly Slater. Standing straight as an arrow in massive Teahupo’o pits. Hoisting world championship cuts over his handsome visage.
His story is equal measure beauty and tragedy and it is why most of the surf media remembers him every year on the day he died. BeachGrit did not yesterday because Derek and I were together and surfing. Stab did, asking both Kelly Slater and Mason Ho for some thoughts and let’s read Kelly’s.
We were at dinner [Gold Coast, 2008] and he was asking me and my girl about food and what we make. I told him we made almond milk, and he was baffled that I knew how to make it. It nearly didn’t compute with him. I was supposed to make him some but he never came by on that trip.
In Stab’s supple hands everything becomes high art and this is beat poetry. Here, let me play some jazz and then let’s read again.
We were at dinner [Gold Coast, 2008] and he was asking me and my girl about food and what we make.
"No difference between pro surfer and pro tennis player!"
When was the last surf film you’ve watched and been very very excited about? For me, I can tell you, it was just two days ago when I watched Vaughn Blakey’s near epic Scary Good. But what about a bigger surf film? One that transcended our little bubble and had boys and girls from Topeka dreaming? Like Big Wednesday, The Endless Summer, etc. Maybe not since the 1970s. Ooo-ee, that’s a dry spell.
But why? What happened to us? Are we patently uncool now? Thankfully The Guardian asked the legendary Jamie Brisick. And let’s read:
In the past decade, however, audiences appear to have lost interest, leaving surf films to flounder: the 2015 Point Break remake from Fast and the Furious cinematographer Ericson Core was critically pummelled, while Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson’s 2008 movie Surfer, Dude belly-flopped at the box office. Part of the reason is that these days surfing no longer has a subcultural lure that lends itself to good storytelling. It is now a broad, mass-participation sport. “If you watch surf films made before 1996 you see a lot of people out of work,” says the writer, former US pro surfer and ex-editor of Surfing magazine, Jamie Brisick. “Back then, you didn’t know when you were going to get the good waves. Everyone was waiting around, because they don’t want to miss the surf.”
The arrival of accurate wave forecasting also allowed for greater career opportunities. “Surfers could plan their week,” says Brisick. “It became less time-consuming than it once was, and much more of a big business. Now there’s not much difference between a pro surfer and pro tennis player.” If surfing was now big business, it no longer worked as cinematic shorthand for “romantic outsiderdom”, nor as the perfect setting for the dangerous, outcast protagonist.
Well hell. That’s pretty depressive. But wait. I don’t think Mr. Brisick has fully explored my turn as a pro surf writer. I feel there is all kinds of romantic outsiderdom for me to discover. I also feel I can be a very dangerous, outcast antagonist.
(It is a gloomy fall day in Cardiff by the Sea. The reef is pumping but filled with all sorts of longer boards and SUPs. A solitary figure stands in the parking lot with a 5’10 19.25 under one arm and a computer/wireless keyboard under the other since his computer’s keyboard doesn’t work anymore because it got drowned in booze. A teenaged boy rides by on an electric bicycle)
You read right here, 5 months ago, that the Canoe Federation and the International Surfing Federation are in a protracted fight to keep SUP.
As in to have and to hold.
And I have no idea what ISF president Fernando Aguerre is thinking. This is our chance. This is our opportunity to cut out the cancer and be freed forever from a horrible curse. This is our moment yet somehow he is misguided. Let us read from the Canadian Broadcast Corporation:
The Canoe Federation thinks it’s the obvious choice, since SUP requires a paddle. “ICF statutes state clearly that a person using a paddle as a main form of propulsion whilst on a craft in water is canoeing, paddling,” International Canoe Federation secretary general Ian Toulson told Reuters in April.
The Surfing Association folks say it’s not as simple as that, it’s more nuanced.
“This is not a canoe. This is not a kayak,” International Surfing Association president Fernando Aguerre told NPR in June.
“Sure, it may look similar. But you know, you can play soccer with a basketball and you can play soccer with a volleyball, but they’re not the same sport.”
And dear Olympic committee, allow me to weigh in for surfers everywhere. I have no idea what Mr. Aguerre’s analogy is trying to get at but SUP is not surfing. It is canoeing and the moniker has already been changed to SUCing by the real surfers here on BeachGrit.
Have you been to Florida? I have and driving from base to tip of that generally sweaty phallus altered my deep-seated prejudices. Altered them to the point where, preparing to leave for home I thought, “If someone held a gun to my head and said, ‘You are moving to Florida, cunt*.’ I wouldn’t even be upset.”
Before touching down in Orlando, I thought Florida was home to Castro-hating Cubans, Confederate flag-loving crackers, hurricanes, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Ernest Hemingway’s cats and very small surf. Oh, of course I was right but it is also home to so much more. The Scientology Sea-Org headquarters, strip clubs, Cracker Barrels, the University of Florida and Florida State University, Ron Jon Surf Shops, a statue of Kelly Slater and so much more.
But speaking of that statue of Kelly Slater, you know that he hails from Cocoa Beach some few minutes north of Melbourne, which is where the Hobgoods are from (I think) and some few minutes south of New Burna, where Aaron Cormican is from, which is almost near Ormond Beach, where Lisa Andersen is from, and I could pretty much go on all day.
And how so many good surfers in Florida? The surf is very small and also not good. How such star power?
Well, I was told a story today from someone who knows Kelly Slater well. This person said, “Kelly says the reason that surfers from Florida are so good is because the waves are super fast and dumpy and so you have to pop to your feet crazy quick to even have a chance to get down the line. Florida surfers have this ability better than any other surfers and it translates to Pipeline and everywhere else he says…”
Now, I have no way of knowing if Kelly really said this or something like this or if the person was confused. I plan on asking him but in the meantime, do you think it is true? Is it why Kelly is a Pipe Master? Why the Hobgoods are untouchable in the heaviest Indonesian reef passes?
Should we all move to Florida even without guns pressed to our heads or getting called “cunt*”?
Watch, and hear, Dane Reynolds sing Piss In My Mouth!
In case you’re not aware, Vaughan Blakey is the deeply talented older brother of the WSL commentator Ronnie. He is also the co-frontman, alongside Ozzie Wright, of the band, Goons of Doom, and makes a living as the editor of the Australian magazine, Surfing World.
Recently, Vaughan, in his position as editor, and along with Danny Johnson who is the art director of the magazine, created a movie called Scary Good. It is Vaughan’s secret major feature, and his first since Doped Youth in 2004.
Could Doped Youth be improved upon?
It’s been almost a decade-and-a-half but Vaughan, and Mr Johnson, have made a movie so good it left me gasping like a fish. Watching Scary Good I was unable to feel the usual emotions of envy and jealousy because it was a creation beyond anything I could’ve made.
The scenario is simple: bring musically inclined surfers, along with a producer and actual band people, to a remote beach house. Make music. Make surf.
It costs eight dollars to buy (link at the bottom), which feels too cheap.
Note: it is the first movie I’ve bought since Kai Neville’s Cluster a year or two ago.
Yesterday, I spoke with Vaughan about the film.
BeachGrit: Whose idea?
Vaughan: I guess it was my idea, but the genius of the movie is all Danny Johnson. He was the poor bastard who spent three months locked in a room cutting the thing up. Full freak effort. Concept-wise it was a bit of a carry-on from movies and styles the both of us have always loved. Real Axe and Nix Nic Nooley and all Toby Cregan’s clips capture such a rad rawness. Andrew Kidman has always scored his own movies like Litmus and Glass Love, and then with Doped Youth we had no budget for music so we made up a fair bit of that soundtrack ourselves or asked our friends who were bands to give us music. But we were definitely amped to see if we could do it all in one surf trip, surf and score, which I’m pretty sure hadn’t been done. So we got the house, fitted it out with a recording studio, invited everyone we knew who could play Smoke on the Water on one guitar string and prayed for waves and in the end it turned out so much better than we could have hoped for. When I sent the final movie to Taylor Steele I told him it was a bit like Shelter but with a house full of roaring drunk, foul mouthed Aussies.
We got fucking death threats just for being in that zone. One day the guy behind the counter at the servo says, “Are you part of that surf mag trip? There was a mob in here earlier threatening to come up the house and bash you guys. You better watch out.” I gave him the address and told him to send ’em up but our crew never got challenged by anyone face-to-face the whole time.
BeachGrit: Tell me how you were received by local surfers? Were they pleased to have such a cultural awakening in their little, and let’s just say…nameless… town?
We were there for 10 days and mate we got fucking death threats just for being in that zone. I went to the servo down the road one day and the guy behind the counter says, “Are you part of that surf mag trip? There was a mob in here earlier threatening to come up the house and bash you guys. You better watch out.” I gave him the address and told him to send ’em up but our crew never got challenged by anyone face-to-face the whole time. We surfed all the worst waves on the best days and didn’t blow out a single spot so… fuck it. We did have around 75 people swing by the house though, including heaps of friendly locals which was the sickest. Crew came and went, musos, celebrities, full mixed bag, but we really built the whole week around Wash – Creed, Ellis and Beau’s band, cause fuck man, they have so much muscle in the surf and with their music and they’re the best lads you’ll ever meet to boot.
You were right about Creed. He is an animal! And his song, Johnny is a Kung Fu Master, sings!
Candy is the most magic human. Big heart, beautiful brain, interested in everyone and everything, loves his music, sounds like Barry White and surfs like Black Dynamite.
I like this exchange in the film.
Creed: How ya feeling?
Beau: Pretty shit.
Creed: A few comedowns in the morning.
Beau: So weird. I feel so weird.
Creed: I’m real…lost… right now.
Beau: I feel like such a loser.
Creed: Fuck, I don’t know, ay. I felt all sad all of a sudden and now I’m just walking around…
It all feels very real. Was that scripted?
One hundred percent legit. We did do a couple of skits like Asher Wales on the bongo but most of them ended up getting cut. We had mics on crew at different times during the days and nights and most of what you see is exactly as it happened. The drinking, smoking and swearing like motherfuckers, it’s just what kids do in that tiny little window of their lives when they get to enjoy complete freedom and that obviously comes with a few downtimes, especially after 10 days of ripping in. It wasn’t for us to judge or censor or edit that stuff. Our only goal was to make sure we had sick songs and that the energy of the week was represented as accurately as possible in the final cut because it was one of the best times I’ve ever had on a surf trip and a big part of that was because everyone was so comfortable and free to be themselves. Not a single surfer missed an early either. Not once.
How about the big left! Tell me more. Haz Bryant was very sad afterwards with his sore head.
That was day one. Hazza (Harry Bryant) and Otto (Kai Otton) were onto it cause they spend a lot of time down there but everyone else was just settling in. My favourite thing about that session is how stoked Hazza is on his big boned air off the back of the wave. Gets a 10-foot pit and smashes his head on a rock but he’s more pumped on tweaking his throwaway! And the Wash song is a banger.
Who did the Sex with a Guy song? It’s brilliant! Sexing for hours!
That was the first song recorded. It’s by a dude named Josh Rawai and he is a messed up totally awesome guitarist. They tracked that on the first night, pretty much took over the studio. But we weren’t there for great musos to play. We were there to see if the surfers we’d invited could make a half-decent album, so that was Josh’s only contribution at the house. He nailed it though.
The Former boys came up late and were on the biggest Bubbler crusade. Drawing dicks weeing into mouths in the dirt on all the car windscreens and stuff. It was the theme of the night but pretty sure nobody actually went there.
Did you ever think you’d have Dane Reynolds singing, “Piss in my mouth!”
It’s funny the things you say after a couple of beers. That was the one big blow-out night of the whole trip and I remember saying to Dane “Mate everyone I know with twins looks so tired all the time!” Ha! The girls weren’t even born yet. That was a big party though. The Former boys came up late and were on the biggest Bubbler crusade. Drawing dicks weeing into mouths in the dirt on all the car windscreens and stuff. It was the theme of the night but pretty sure nobody actually went there.
I loved the song Set the Bar Low to Achieve your Goals too. Did you?
Sooo much. That’s Vinnie. What a legend. You should see his band The Cloacas. Wild little teenage muscle-men from the Sunny Coast. Bowl cuts, mohawks and they play in boardies with no shirts on and no tatts! Jake Vincent and his sister Jaleesa are the surprise stars of the movie. Sick surfers, super free-spirited, kind and enthusiastic and wild without being reckless. Dunno, there’s something about the generation of kids between 18 and 25 right now that is so upbeat and refreshing. They honestly don’t seem to care that people might get offended by the way they choose to have fun. Such a healthy way to live. People getting offended is the new cancer.
The comedic opening is clever, very dry. Scripted or no?
Crafted but not scripted. We wanted to start with a bit of banter with Creedo and Beauy, all them by the way, and then out of nowhere drop in a full blown, full frame dick shot, make it known right from the start this is not a kid’s movie and not a movie that’s been made with any consideration of the easily offended. We kinda only got halfway there with the opening shot but the energy of it is all real, the whole movie is just how it all happened. And the soundtrack blows my mind.
Who is that little ragamuffin with the blond bowl, real mouthy? She surfs so good.
Jaleesa Vincent from the Sunny Coast. That zone is the punk rock capital of Australia right now man and Jelly Bean is gonna change women’s surfing. She’ll be the first of her kind in the same spirit as Fletcher/Ozzie/Dane, a full creative culture shifter built upon a foundation of fully ripping.
I think, best surfer movie, as in cultural document, since Cluster. Tell me your thoughts.
Around day eight of the trip Danny and I kinda grabbed each other and had this full-on lightning bolt moment. I was like “Fuck man, it’s like we’re making Morning of the Earth or some shit!” It felt like we were capturing something way bigger than the film itself. Don’t get me wrong, a huge stupid call and we were drunk as hell, but at its heart Morning of the Earth is a document that captures perfectly the counter-culture mood of its time by showcasing the lifestyle choices the surfers were becoming passionate about. That’s what it felt like we were doing, only instead of Simple Ben and free range chickens and veggie gardens we had Battle of the Bowls, cartons of mangoes and packets of Champion Ruby. I dunno how this thing will stand up over time, but I can definitely sleep at night knowing it’s as real as shit gets in the age of “authenticity” being the most flayed word in the English language.