Warshaw as a beautifully cut aqua-boy in 1972! | Photo: courtesy Matt Warshaw

Warshaw: “It’s just kind of humiliating!”

"At some point, when the money is flatlining, you gotta say the market has spoken and get out."

Two days ago, the custodian of recorded surf history, Mr Matt Warshaw, announced he would quit and take his archive with him if thirty thousand dollars wasn’t donated immediately.

Thirty k seemed a very arbitrary number, a figure pulled from the jaunty cap of a boy who’d shift, suddenly, from adorable to jaded.

What happened? How did we suddenly find Warshaw on the precipice?

I had to ask.

BeachGrit: What precipitated this sudden lunge for thirty gees? Did your wife say you’d have to go out and get a real job if you didn’t make some cash?

Warshaw: Jodi and I made a deal in 2011 that EOS had to be in the black — expenses paid, me earning 30K a year minimum — by 2012, or I go back to print. I got five extra years. But here we are. Time’s up.

It’s humiliating to be 57 and making what I make. It feels like a judgement. EOS, I think, does a such a good job at showing the world of surf in full. Look at us, maybe the most fucked-up wonderful interesting thing on the planet, it’s all here on the three sites I’ve made, in photos, video, and words — and for building that I get less than I did as a SURFER intern in 1985.

Does it feel a little odd that you, the custodian of the sport’s history, one of the sharpest writers in the game, can’t peel off a living from a multi-billion dollar industry?

Well, you and I made that decision a long time ago, right? Anybody who’s ever asked me about going into surf writing, I say some version of “keep your day job,” or “marry well.” In 2017 you’d have to do both. But I love the work. Ever since the sites went up; this is the happiest I’ve ever been just in terms of doing the job. Not just the writing, but doing video and working on photos and all the back-and-forth with readers. I literally throw the covers off in the morning and run to the computer. I will happily do what I’m doing for 30K a year. But less than that — and I don’t know why 30K seems like the magic number —but less than that and my mind wanders to the place you mention, to a darker place. It’s just kind of humiliating, to be 57 and making what I make. It feels like a judgement. EOS, I think, does a such a good job at showing the world of surf in full. Look at us, maybe the most fucked-up wonderful interesting thing on the planet, it’s all here on the three sites I’ve made, in photos, video, and words — and for building that I get less than I did as a SURFER intern in 1985. It’s humbling. When I step away from the computer a few hours and think about it, I can get depressed.

Anyway, why thirty grand? It’s a very arbitrary number… 

The subscribers I have right now, as it happens, pay just enough to cover EOS expenses. The 30K will go to payroll. Which is me.

Two days in, what’s the balance?

Two days in, 12 grand. Which is great, more than I expected. But these things burn hot at first, and cool off really fast. The numbers are going to drop today, I’m sure. The trick will be holding some momentum for the rest of the month.

What if you hit 20? That enough to keep it going?

Before pulling the plug I’d probably get in touch with subscribers and see what they think of a rate hike, from say three to five buck a month, something like that. That idea actually came from a subscriber. But I don’t really know. At some point, when the numbers are low enough, when the money is flatlining, I think you gotta say the market has spoken and get out.

What happens, like seriously, if you don’t get enough cash? What’s going to happen? Are you going to pull it offline? Would it turn into a print product? 

The last real money I made, $125K, was the advance I got for History of Surfing. Which I think was 12 years ago, and I know book publishing is the sick man of media, but I’ll go back anyway and make deals for EOS and HOS. Whatever I can get. Those are the two projects I feel really strongly about. I’d much rather have them online, but they’re still in print already, and if I can do new editions to keep them circulating, that’s fine.

Who’s dropped the biggest donation so far and how much?

Sam McIntosh, one-thou. It came in like three minutes after the donation button went live.

Sam always was a generous boy, and I certainly don’t mean it in the facetious way it might be taken. Anyway, we’ll match it, wait…one…thousand…dollars? How about we drop five c-notes into your hole when a certain 120-day overdue invoice gets paid?

Maybe not in my hole, but yes!

Now, you said, Jodi, your wife, gorgeous thing by the way (how’d you land someone so terrific and ripe?) gave you until 2012, and then gifted five more years. Did she come home from her serious job one day recently, see you in your pyjamas and dipping biscuits into your bowl of Lucky Charms and…fuck this?

She’s not much for the salty language, and I was wearing my Team Body Glove track suit, but in so many words, yes.

In September, you said, in regards to Surf Ranch, that we’d traded “magic for perfection.” With the passage of time, and obviously further contemplation, what’s your current position?

Upon closer inspection, my current position is . . . Kelly Slater could solve EOS’ financial problems with one click. Let’s you and I make a date to talk about the Surf Ranch on February 1. Full disclosure. Deal?

Describe your current mood.
Tyler Wright when the donations comes in. Sally Fitz the rest of the time.

And listen to Warshaw perform on this very good podcast here.


Kong at Sunset a real long time ago. | Photo: Encyclopedia of Surfing

Mr Sunset: “Why the six-fucking-sixes?”

Gary "Kong" Elkerton unloads on paltry sleds… 

Yesterday morning, two-time Sunset winner Gary “Kong” Elkerton, unloaded on the equipment choice of competitors in this year’s event.

“10 foot plus Sunset Beach and everyone is on 6,6s sitting on the inside while 10 foot bombs are going off out the back,” Kong posted on Facebook and to, mostly, enthusiastic approval.

Kong, who is a three-time runner-up to the world title, two-time Triple Crown winner and three-times Masters world champion, is fifty-three years old and lives in the Sunshine Coast suburb of Yaroomba.

Until recently, he owned and ran a swim school, Kong for Kids, at Billinudgel on the NSW North Coast. Last year, he bought the Sunshine Coast license for what he says is a revolutionary concrete sealing biz which was developed by a Hawaiian pal, Brian Kissenberger, who he happened to bump into on the Gold Coast.

Once the decks were cleared of small talk, I said, Mr Sunset, why are you so incensed by equipment choice?

Kong groans and, momentarily, stutters.

“Oh, fuck…fuck… where do I start… I just… I just… they’re sitting on six-sixes on the inside and not paddling out the back and getting the bombs. I think Wilko might’ve read my post because he had a go on a seven-six and he showed exactly what could be done. He looked absolutely solid. I was pulling my hair out. I was frustrated, watching these twelve-to-fifteen-foot bombs out the back and guys are taking off in the whitewater and trying to get to their feet.”


“The judges need to score a wave higher if it’s caught out the back. I watched a young Hawaiian paddle way, way outside, caught a wave off the button, a goofyfooter, did three turns on the inside and got a seven. I don’t know if any of the judges have ever been out at Sunset. It’s so much more difficult negotiating that west and north swell peak out the back when it connects together. It should be merited higher. And that would change the way it’s being surfed.”

Kong puts a lot of store on Sunset. It ain’t always the most photogenic wave, although it can be, but it challenges a surfer like no other wave, he says.

“I’m still blown away that it’s only a qualifying event. Kelly’s never won there and how many times has he tried? It’s the most demanding wave on the planet, bar none.”

I ask Kong to defend his outrageous claim.

“The way the reef contour is and the manner in which the west swell connects with the north swell and it makes this surging peak. There’s so much water, a football field of water meeting together. And to get into the correct spot, to get into what the lifeguard Darrick Doerner calls The Saddle, you’ve got to have your lineups completely covered. It’s not like Pipe where you take off behind the boil to get barrelled. Equipment is everything there. And to negotiate all that, there’s no other wave on the planet like it.”

And how should the wave be ridden according to Kong?

“At that size, I’d ride an eight-o. I’d get in the saddle, negotiate the big drop, big bottom turn, fade and load up on the inside… where they’re taking off on the six-sixes.”

A dirty laugh.

“That’s what I would’ve been doing. Not saying I’d do it now.”

Watch Kong at Sunset here. 

And, here, highlights from yesterday.

Young Jack Robinson seen here driving an Uber.
Young Jack Robinson seen here driving an Uber. | Photo: WSL

Help: I made the CT and lost everything!

Is the Championship Tour where young dreams go to die?

Getting on the World Championship Tour is the dream of every blue-blooded young professional surfer. He has grown watching his heroes Taj Burrow, Joel Parkinson, John John Florence, maybe even Adriano de Souza, travel the world, surfing iconic waves, winning, laughing, smiling. And he decided to follow in their footsteps, through junior events then low-point Qualifying Tour events before the stars align and he makes the cut. Makes it into the very exclusive club.

Now his jersey will be hanging in a Gold Coast locker and the thrill is just beginning.

Except it is not. Little does the blue-blooded young professional surfer know, but now he must work two full time jobs, toiling on both the Championship Tour and the Qualifying Tour in order to make ends meet. The dream basically turning into a lower-middle class American reality. Morning shifts at the fertilizer plant. Evening shifts driving an Uber.

What a royal bummer and let’s let last year’s budding flower/this year’s wilted weed Patrick Ewing give advice to Griffin Colapinto:

“I’d say just have fun on Tour, but focus on the QS. I wish I would have done that this year but I was too busy focusing on the CT just trying to get heat wins. If I could’ve got a good start on the QS early in the year I wouldn’t be in this position.”

What a giant downer having a “fun” job and a “real” job. Where is the time to kick it with friends at the mall? To go to house parties and whisper about who might be hiding half a beer? It seems a real rip-off, making the Championship Tour and losing everything.

I suppose, at the end, blue-blooded young professional surfers are just like us. Except for those who count Adriano de Souza as their hero. Working two jobs instead of five would feel like a vacation for them.

Breaking: SurfStitch buys Depactus!

Australia's most intelligent company strikes again!

Your favorite online Australian surfwear retailer is back in the news with a stunning counter punch. SurfStitch, former parent company of Stab and FCS, was looking very on the ropes just weeks ago. Punch drunk. Getting sued by investors, stock frozen, owners of Stab. It seemed that a knockout was minutes away but suddenly, and without warning, Stab bought itself back for free and then just seconds ago it was revealed that the company purchased the surfwear brand Depactus.

What thrills!

You may recall Depactus from… when… ummm… the brainchild of… wait was it Luke Egan or Luke Munro? And camping gear? Did Depactus make camping gear? I’m sorry. I’m writing the prologue to book right now and not the detailed surf journalist you’ve come to know and love.

In any case, Depactus then was rumored to have folded. Derek Rielly wrote two years ago:

Word on the street is Depactus is done. The MEPs (Men of Extraordinary Pursuits) are actively seeking alternative sponsorships and the reason for its failure?
We’re told the brand was marked by three major flaws.
-Big salaries right out of the gate.
-Branding that was tone deaf to the consumer. Depactus came in high-end and expensive where Salty Crew, who is killing it, came in low, came in blue-collar. Same waterman-fisherman-surfer vibe but more authentic and value oriented.
-Bold spending. Big ad agency employed, designers, staff and the most delicious trade show fit-outs seen in a while.

And the world moved on. Except SurfStitch, the company that reeks of value, of good decision-making, saw an opportunity to strike it rich and scooped Depactus up for… I have no idea. Nothing?

Some questions.

How was SurfStitch aware that Depactus had not totally died? Do you think the SurfStitch x Depactus relationship will fare better than the SurfStitch x Stab one? Will Depactus go out and sponsor more Men of Extraordinary Pursuits? If SurfStitch came to your house looking to buy you would you flee or ask, “How much you got?”

Gabriel Medina Wins Portugal

Power Rankings: “How’s John Sleeping?”

“Hi John, it's me Gabriel, I coming for you. How you like me now?”

As you lay in bed, erotically musing before trying to go to sleep, has your mind slipped to… the tour? The world title? Pipeline, and so forth?

Yesterday, the writer Longtom, gave us part one of his pre-Pipe Power Rankings.

Today, the top six.

A surprise? Compliant?

Pertinent quotes:

“Passion thrills but also kills.”

“No ticker, can’t close, choker, safety surfer extraordinaire etc etc.”

“Maybe life is just too good to justify the emotional hunger for a world title. Nothing in his personality requires it, in the same way Taj was happy enough without it, and hence he never really puts himself on the line for it, for long enough to give himself a realistic shot.”

1. Gabriel Medina

Current rating: #2

Gabriel Medina Wins Portugal

Straight up analysis: Gabe has a greater tactical range going into Pipe. Three strategies present themselves. First, if it’s bombing First Reef Pipe Gabe can roam the ledge and deep-throat bombs, with cleaner mid-sized waves his speciality. No falls. The so-called Teahupoo strategy. Second, if it’s ratty he can find scores in the air in a way that John can’t, or more likely won’t due to his pedigree and deeply ingrained habits at Pipe.

Third, in overlapping four-man heats he can employ the “rabid dog” strategy he used in Portugese closeouts. Roaming the lineup and savaging anything that moves, not scared to fall, putting scoreboard pressure on opponents too locked into patient strategies ala John Florence.

2. John John Florence

Current rating: #1


Hows’ John sleeping these days? Waking in the middle of night with his own Latin Incubus in the shape of Gabriel Medina spooning him and whispering sweet nothings into his ear.

“Hi John, it’s me Gabriel, I coming for you. How you like me now?”

And no matter how deep the preternatural calm that emanates from John descends into the psyche, all that “Oh it’s so fun. It’s fun being the leader. I’m really enjoying it. Nah, I’m not thinking of the World Title.” That presence of Gabriel and a whole year of red-hot favoritism, undeniably justified, will have to be quarantined for whole chunks of time moving slow as magma in the most intense pressure situation imaginable. If he falters here then we all stand down from the dream of a John Florence dynasty. That is a heavy burden to carry. At 25 he has to win back-to-back before embarking on a revamped tour in 2019 that appears to be tailor-made for his dominance.

3. Kolohe Andino

Current rating: #8

Kolohe Andino’s damp tongue.

Preparation is key to any endeavour of excellence and to prepare for these power rankings I  made a pilgrimage to visit my friend and mentor Derek Hynd. Hynd commands a compound in the hills behind Byron Bay, part Mad Max, part Blade Runner techno-futurism. Derek was enthused about plans to shake the foundations of Pro Surfing, another story for a different time but had equal froth for Kolohe’s European performances. His make rate and top turns in particular.

In his words: “How refreshing to see custard served up instead of muck”.

Which I took to mean: His surfing was creamy, “tasty” to the eye, and composed of an internal consistency which kept it together but fluid enough to fit the shape of any oceanic container. How did you read it?  All the passion, the sporting fervour and chickenwing claims might have served him well in Europe but look like ballast for Pipe.  Passion thrills but also kills. Clean mind better.

4. Jordy Smith

Current rating: #3

Photo Jack English
Photo @seaofseven

Not once in my career as a surf-writer have I missed an opportunity to sink the boot into the over-sized date of Jordy Smith of Durban, Republic of South Africa. No ticker, can’t close, choker, safety surfer extraordinaire etc etc.

But something has shifted deep within, maybe that photo where Jordy, walking past the autograph hungry throngs at Peniche with a face twisted in a grimace of self-disgust and disappointment, was the catalyst.

Maybe it was a dream last night. A loud noise, maybe a pawpaw rolling down the roof, or a chicken in it’s death throes as a python extinguished the last flame of life. Sitting bolt upright in thrall to a vision: masked Jordy at the door, wielding a machete. Raising it above his head “the shit talking ceases now bru” before bringing the blade down with the final blow.

Safety surfing infuriates me, does it you Jordy? In your heart of hearts? Come now Mr Smith, we’re not so different, me and you. You, the subject of a high priced bidding war between surf industry titans as a teenager. Me, the subject of a furious bidding war between Stab and BeachGrit. Both trained seals trying to entertain an audience that can turn on you with sudden and unexplained viciousness.

“Heres’ the thing,” said Ross Williams: Jordy Smith is still a mathematical chance for this World Title. You feel that bile rising in the throat when you read this Jords, the involuntary fist clench, the feeling of luxuriousness as the blade comes down on the faceless critics. Start there. Swing that blade. Take that title and shut me the fuck up. I’ll give you a 500 word written apology FOC, written the very next day if you claim the Title at Pipeline.

Not enough? Swing by for a double date with Greg Webber and sink the boot in in person. Character is destiny.

5. Miguel Pupo

Current rating: #23

Miggy, Miggy, miggy. We need a talk. We had you pegged as the missing link, the one who was going to banish style stereotypes of Brazilian surfers forever into the wilderness. The one who could link the past with the future. I pegged you as the Brazilian Gerry Lopez, a trope shamelessly appropriated by Martin Potter. You have a problem with the mind? A lack of confidence that seeps into the bones and makes nerves short circuit at the worst times? You need some help. I know a guy, an underwater guy who is available for coaching. A family man, like yourself. Will work on a no result/no fee basis. Send plane tickets for Pipe Post Restante Lennox Head. Let’s give it the ol college try eh and let the real Miguel Pupo loose on the world. We saw more than glimpses of him in Europe, which makes the spectre of possible relegation a bitter pill to swallow.

6. Julian Wilson

Current rating: #4

What’s he done to deserve a world title, the objective critic cries. Too much inconsistency and apart from the finals against Gabe in Tahiti, not a single barnstorming performance which would justify a world title. But there he is, standing patiently in a queue behind Jordy Smith, or is it in front? These world title calculations always perplex me, waiting for everyone else in front to fall over.

Maybe life is just too good to Julian to justify the emotional hunger for a world title. Nothing in his personality requires it, in the same way Taj was happy enough without it, and hence he never really puts himself on the line for it, for long enough to give himself a realistic shot.

He says he wants it, but observed carefully over a year, his actions betray his words.