rob-henry
Melbourne surfer Rob Henry, eight years living in the Ments. Went there to film, ended up farming coconuts. "I learnt so much, I learnt how little is needed to be happy. It certainly doesn’t come from anything material. It’s really within yourself and your relationships with family and friends, and I think with any Indigenous culture that’s why they’ve been able to survive for tens of thousands of years."

Surfer spends eight years in Mentawai village!

Goes to film, ends up farming coconuts… 

What’s your experience of the Mentawai Islands, those beautiful objects unveiled to the world by the surf pioneer Martin Daly and the retinue of famous guests on his boat, the Indies Trader, back in the early nineties?

Let me guess.

You get waves. You drink beer.

If it’s flat the skipper takes you up river to see how the little brown fellas still live. You’re delighted by how primitive it all is, throw a small amount of cash at souvenirs you don’t want (Who can say no to those pleading brown eyes?), and scurry back to the air-conditioning and movies of your floating palace.

I remember, once, throwing a terrific tantrum when the waiter on my vessel attempted to serve my afternoon gin and tonic with the portions askew. (Too little gin, an abundance of warm tonic.)

One surfer who didn’t follow the usual behavioural pattern of visitors to the Ments was Rob Henry, a surfer from Melbourne. He went there filming, met a local and was entranced by the whole indigenous trip, went native himself.

As reported by the ABC,

“There was a young Mentawai named Andy who had been working at the resort for a year, and he just had this incredible connection to the land and what I thought might be to his culture and freedom in his eyes that was something I had not seen in a long time.”

Rob soon found himself in a remote village farming coconuts, living with a community who didn’t speak English.

“I was interested in finding a village that was as far removed from the tourism as possible. At the time I didn’t know much about the culture or the area.

“I didn’t know the language either. I was directed to this particular village, so I arrived there and it was incredibly overwhelming and frightening and challenging.”

Rob eventually learned the native language and embedded himself in the community. He learnt more about the tribe’s traditional belief system, Arat Sabulungan.

“They believe that all natural things have a spirit and if a human was to pass away, their spirit would go out into nature and become part of nature.”

The Mentawai culture became threatened after 1945, when Indonesia gained independence. The new Government forced the Mentawai to abandon their traditional beliefs, and select one of its official religions instead: Islam, Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism or Buddhism.

The decades that followed eroded away the traditional Mentawai way of life, creating a new generation of Mentawai without the full knowledge of their Indigenous culture and beliefs.

“It is being lost,” Rob says, “It’s still alive within the elders, and it skipped one or two generations, a lot of Mentawai – particularly the elders still have this knowledge – and they want to pass this on to the next generations.”

Mentawai are now able to live freely, but the effects of a “skipped generation” have been profound, Rob says. He hopes his documentary As Worlds Divide, filmed over eight years, will help to shine a light on the Mentawai community.

“I learnt so much, I learnt how little is needed to be happy. It certainly doesn’t come from anything material. It’s really within yourself and your relationships with family and friends, and I think with any Indigenous culture that’s why they’ve been able to survive for tens of thousands of years.”

It’s a beautiful story.

Spend ten bucks and buy the documentary here. 

 


Uncovered: Love letters to Hawaii!

How much do you miss our ex-overlord WSL CEO Paul Speaker?

(Recent and uncovered correspondence from the World Surf League’s ex-CEO Paul Speaker!)

 

From the desk of Paul Speaker
Former CEO of the World Surf League

To: Hawaiian locals
c/o Ted’s Bakery, North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii

Aloha friends and honi ko’u ‘elemu to you all or as we mainlanders say, a very warm and sincere greetings.

Well, it is that time of year again, the Vans Triple Crown of Professional Surfing on Oahu’s North Shore and boy I just couldn’t be more excited. From the opening “hooter” of Hale’iwa to the final “bomb” at the Banzai Pipeline, the “seven-mile miracle” is the place for all true surfers to be and the place all surf enthusiasts dream about. This is our okole puka, our crowning achievement, and billions around the globe are watching thanks to you, the kanapapiki. The heart, soul and history of this our beloved sport. Us the Hawai’ian people.

These are exciting days to be sure and I am very humbled to have brought trillions of surf fans into the World Surf League fold. As some of you may have heard, however, I stepped down as Chief Executive Officer late last year. Oh it was an excruciating decision that took many thoughts and prayers from my family, the surf community and me but we all felt that professional surfing has been left in the best possible place with quadrillion fans waiting to “root” their favorite surfer.

I write today to let you know of my intentions of purchasing a house near Sunset Beach. My time in and around the “sport of kings” taught me that there is no better place, no wahine ho’okamakama, than your sacred land and my family and I will be honored to settle our heu lalo with you.

As it happens, I have heard from various groups through the “coconut wireless” that we are dissatisfied with the number of wildcards in the Pipeline Pro presented by Billabong and Honoring Andy Irons. Allow me to help. Since I will soon be a local it is my profound honor to surf in the opening rounds for our native island riding the traditional muli pala kukae. It is the very least I can do for all the mahalo you have shown me.

I look forward to “throwing shakas” with you all soon and until then, waiu oluheluhe or as we mainlanders say, live long and prosper.

Aloha,

“Braddah” P.S.


Wavegarden sells “large stake” to Israeli billionaire!

WeWork tosses its keys into the wavepool bowl!

Let me ask you something. If you were a phenomenally rich surfer, a billionaire, say, and wave pools were starting to be a thing and you could buy any of ’em you wanted, where would you park your cash?

Surf Ranch?

It ain’t even a question.

I’d send my driver up to Lemoore in my Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II, tell him to kick down the cedar gates, piss in the jacuzzi, toss the WSL a cheque, tell Raimana to stoke up the ski, kick the engine of that train over and get the foil moving and be done with it.

But, as revealed by the Wall Street Journal a few days ago, the company part-owned by the Israeli-born billionaire, and surfer, Adam Neumann, which is called WeWork and makes its cash by renting office space, gussying it all up and sub-letting it, bought a “large stake” in Wavegarden last year.

Wavegarden.

The brave little pool that showed the world it was possible to create an artificial wave that didn’t suck. But had to watch as an Associate Professor at the University of Southern California, Adam Fincham, and the greatest-surfer-ever, Kelly Slater, combined to build Surf Ranch.

This?

Or this?


Twice as good? Ten times?

How hard it is to judge such a thing.

As Matt Warshaw posited at the time of the Surf Ranch’s reveal, “The bit at the end of the vid where Kelly parks in the tube, all I could think of was, I’ve never seen anything like that except maybe Barra. And Barra is hot and sticky and crowded, and where’s my passport, and where do you stay, and who’s renting the car, while this wave . . . fuck! I don’t know. Do I want to surf it? I don’t know. Yes. Yes, of course I want to surf it.”

Now, the question here, of course, is whether Neumann bought the tank because of its commercial viability or because he got into the game too early?

And the Webber pool!

Surely, he’s heard of the mythical tank fermenting somewhere in Queensland.


New WSL Ambassador of Stoke and Leisure Mr. Zach Brown!
New WSL Ambassador of Stoke and Leisure Mr. Zach Brown!

The Inertia: “No more white males!”

Venice-adjacent's other online surf source ties itself into racist knots!

When it rains it sure does pour up near Venice, California. Yesterday, Stab magazine decided it was a good idea to claim that Oahu’s North Shore no longer has any “hellmen” and that the whole place is generally overrated. The piece was chased, a few hours later, by a celebration of “underground North Shore charging” on Instagram in hopes, I would imagine, that all would be forgotten. Oops!

And today neighbor The Inertia delivers an racially tinged response to the World Surf League officially choosing its Ambassador of Stoke and Leisure titled Opinion: I Wish a White, Male Wasn’t Chosen for Ambassador of Stoke and Leisure. Ooo-ee!

Let’s read the best bits!

But for the love of Zeus, I don’t think an ostensibly privileged white dude should have been handed the cushiest dream job imaginable in our already moneyed, white, male world. Or have been chosen as the new face gaining instant access to the WSL’s 6.5 million Facebook followers, 2.6 million Instagram followers, and Lord knows how many minutes of broadcast time when the waves get lully during the Triple Crown. (To be sure, this criticism comes from a white male, privileged enough to have been taught to write at fancy schools — though obviously, that’s no indicator of quality!)

But how badly do we need another guy who, though he’s from landlocked Tennessee (which in itself offers a form of diversity worth noting) looks like he was plucked straight from the shores of privileged, white Orange County? Or Sydney? A guy virtually indistinguishable from 10,000 other white guys within a quarter mile of Highway 1 as we speak?

Think of all the places that surfing touches in this magnificent world that aren’t California or Australia — Sri Lanka, Samoa, Namibia, Cape Verde, Peru. Think of the things we might learn from those surfers. Think of the people who’s lives have been touched by surfing — and whose life experience is nothing like Brown’s.

Brown and the WSL didn’t reply to requests for a comment on this article, so I’m not sure why Brown was chosen, or what kind of applicants the league received. To the WSL’s credit, there were eight finalists, and three of those were women. The other five were white guys. As someone who believes surf media would benefit immensely from a pulse of diversity, there were essentially only three correct choices of those remaining. While Zach is the (white) man, he’s the wrong option for a resource-rich media machine hoping to expand the appeal of surfing by speaking to new audiences.

I’m sure the new Ambassador of Stoke and Leisure will do a marvelous job, and I sincerely wish him the best. I just wish this clever opportunity was used to earnestly usher in a new wave of voices. Someday, hopefully, it will.

It is all very good, no? My favorite part is that the white Ambassador of Stoke and Leisure is named “Brown.” Or that the piece was written by a “white male, privileged enough to have been taught to write at fancy schools.” Or that Zach Brown (pictured above) looks like he has been “plucked straight from the shores of privileged, white Orange County? Or Sydney?” (take a good, long look at Zach. I think maybe The Inertia has never been to coastal Orange County or Sydney.) Or that he is “virtually indistinguishable from 10,000 other white guys.” Or that the WSL is a “resource-rich media machine.” Or…. I could go on all day but what about you? What’s your favorite part?

Also, do you love identity politics as much as The Inertia?

That was a trick question. Nobody, not even Huffington herself, loves identity politics as much as The Inertia.

Except maybe Stab which has taken to offering lots of longboarding videos on its site lately.


The North Shore (dressed in American flag pants) shames Stab magazine.
The North Shore (dressed in American flag pants) shames Stab magazine.

Breaking: Stab loses its nerve!

Stab's blood feud against North Shore "hellmen" comes to a sudden end!

This morning I read a story on Stab titled “Has Mainstream Surfing Outgrown the North Shore?” which was a very cruel takedown of everything that happens on Oahu’s upper half. It criticized the waves, accommodations, relevance and that was before lighting in to the North Shore locals and asking where the hell the tough men have all gone. Would you like read again? I do!

And speaking of hellmen, where have they all gone? The characters that once made the North Shore such a rich tapestry of human eccentricity fade into the mists of time. Guys like Alec “Ace” Coole, Marvin Foster, Ronnie Burns, and of course, Todd Chesser, all added their own uniqueness to the local North Shore scene. Those are hard shoes to fill, even for cool cats like Mark Healey or Makua Rothman. The North Shore’s always been at its best when it’s been a crossroads of humanity.

Whoa for the second time!

A shot across the North Shore’s bow if I’ve ever seen one and very bold especially since it was launched from somewhere just outside Venice, California and very near, maybe inside the same office complex as The Inertia. Has Stab never heard of the Rothmans? The Florences? The Aaron Golds? Apparently not and what a blood feud!

Of course I wrote about it and illustrated my bewilderment on Instagram.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bbhp2UelknQ/?taken-by=reportsfromhell

Well, some seven hours later Stab posted the same exact clip in apparent complete capitulation. How embarrassing!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BbiWvJFgjdn/?taken-by=stab

It is one thing to take a stand but quite another thing to stay there. Stab apparently loves to drink some of partner The Inertia’s kombucha and then get all bold but when the 1.5% alcohol by volume buzz wears off and reality sinks in telling the North Shore that it has no worthy surfers doesn’t seem like such a good idea. Exactly like The Inertia! Apparently capitulation is du jour in Venice-adjacent (hereto known as Vajacent).

Never has a blood feud come to such a swift ending. And, quickly, what do you think Stab writers will be doing this year when/if they head to the rock?

Maybe… not surfing? Or do you think the instant bended knee will work?