I woke this morning to troubling news. Zach Weisberg and his merry band of “thinking surfers” at your other favorite Venice-adjacent surf website is attempting a coup. Attempting to co-opt surf history in an effort to re-write the narrative, I’d imagine. Matt Warshaw’s epic Encyclopedia of Surfing and History of Surfing are in deep financial straits, you see, and need of a few more subscribers to stay solvent. Zach, in a coldly calculating move, saw his chance to strike.
In an open letter, he wrote:
As someone who understands how challenging managing the vagaries of business for a digital-based editorial outlet in the surf and outdoor space can be, I refuse to allow the Encyclopedia of Surfing to exit Google’s fiber optics without a fight. And I’m optimistic that with a call to arms of this magnitude – with this much on the line for folks truly passionate about the history of the most fun thing to do on earth – surfers will unite, pony up a few bucks, and let Matt Warshaw (and the work he’s done on our behalf) know that it is appreciated and will live to see another day.
We cannot let this bald cynicism stand. If “thinking surfers” save both the Encyclopedia and History of surfing then they will effectively have the ability to transform our shared past into a “woke” version of themselves. Troubling episodes, like the very first production surfboards being called “swastikas” and Michel Bourez being described as “a eunuch fainting on a daybed” will be disappeared, replaced by “good vibes.”
Triggering words or phrases like “cunt” and “BeachGrit” will be forgotten forever.
It will be a Stalinist erasing and the ocean will soon fill with happy people on all manner of SUP and longboard attempting to “share the stoke” and “live aloha everyday.”
The only thing standing between that reality and our current racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, angry one is you.
Earlier today, after much hustling, the writer Longtom aka Steve Shearer aka the man who drives the bus from Ballina airport to Byron Bay (I think), emailed his pre-Pipe Power Rankings.
It is a vital analysis of the top 13. Why thirteen?
“I honestly think 13 is all I’ve got, unlucky for some,” he said. ” (Although) there’s meat on the bone.”
“Soft target for dickhead critics like me who see him as the inevitable result of a broken down Qualifying system that too often rewards mediocrity and produces surfers ill prepared for real surfing at real locations.”
“He’s a passive-aggressor not scared to have his throat throttled. A rare quality.”
“Don’t worry it’s an open secret. Don’t be shy. Come on in and make yourself known. Don’t treat us like Speaker did, like a piece of shit on your shoe.”
“He was the victim of the fickle fashion of the judging panel and roll with Lester Bangs call on that: fashion is fascism.”
Here’s the first seven; the top six will drop tomoz!
7. Mick Fanning
Current WCT rating: 12
Hard to see, when Team Fanning rolls the videotape on 2017, where it went wrong. Performance-wise, he surfed better than ever. Sharper, harder, more precise, if that is even possible. At Snapper, at Bells, J-Bay, Trestles and Europe. Coupla soft patches here and there and that rock -solid mind-game just seemed a little more porous and susceptible to outside influences seeping in.
More than anything he just seemed a touch on the nose with the judging panel, god knows why, it’s not like there was any performance revolution happening other than the one John Florence was laying down. I say he was the victim of the fickle fashion of the judging panel and roll with Lester Bangs call on that: fashion is fascism.
8. Kanoa Igarashi
Current WCT rating: 20
Soft target for dickhead critics like me who see him as the inevitable result of a broken down qualifying system that too often rewards mediocrity and produces surfers ill-prepared for real surfing at real locations.
Pro surfing is a kind of language and to succeed surfers must develop and be able to communicate a dialect understandable to a judging panel first, and to the surfing fan base as a secondary priority. Kanoa has developed just this type of dialect, based not on surfing performance but a weird type of toughness.
Example: the biffs with Stu Kennedy. There are other examples. He’s a passive-aggressor not scared to have his throat throttled. A rare quality. While the danger for the pro surfer is the language they speak stops making sense, the danger for the critic is the internet never forgets and sooner or later they’ll be hoist on their own petard, swinging in the breeze, a witness to their own digital execution. That’ll be me if Kanoa goes one better at Pipeline this year. Kanoa takes toughness, a late-drop-to-drainer at Supertubos and last year’s runner-up finish into Pipeline as a below the radar stalking horse.
9. Owen Wright
Current WCT rating: 5
It has been a topsy-turvy year with a group of title contenders clumped at the top and differing event winners. But if we can just talk honestly among friends for a brief moment, this is nothing more than a visual trick of the light. A “sliding doors” artefact produced by some key judging calls at certain junctures.
Owen was the beneficiary, then on the rough end of the pineapple of some of these calls. 2018, as currently structured, looks a write-off for O. 2019, with a start at Pipe and a finish in Indo, looks a much smarter bet.
10. Matt Wilkinson
Current WCT rating: 6
Pretending something is something, when it’s not something – eg surfing is a counter-cultural act or a mainstream sport – is something that surfing does better than anyone. It’s something surfing, pro surfing especially, can truly be proud of.
To maintain a fiction for a prolonged period of time, when all facts point in the opposite direction, takes the unified efforts of a lot of talented people. That should be the Mission Statement of the WSL. You think I am fucking with you? I am not fucking with you. What does this have to do with Matt Wilkinson? Hang on a sec, I am trying to figure it out. Something, something World Title contender. Kind of, but not really. Close enough?
11. Kelly Slater
Current WCT rating: 29
For my sins God made me a surf writer, but , Inshallah, gave me the mephistophelian figure of Kelly Slater to write about. God is great. I was on the beach at Pipe when he won his first title, tripping balls on some very high grade LSD that my gal and her mainland boyfriend had brought over from the Sunset district.
Do you remember the day? It was glorious and now here is little Kelly from Florida, Jimmy Slade, almost forty-six years old and maybe about to surf in his last Pipe Masters, maybe surf his last heats, ready to revolutionise the surf game with his power hungry tubs full of very expensive, very exclusive perfect waves.
Be honest now. Are you with him or agin him? This late career tilt at the uber-rich, the one percenters, is a high stakes play, is it not? Oh, the rewards, I mean the money, is there if you can make the cut but if you lose the love of the people, then what?
We remember Ali for what he stood for and Mayweather just seems like a vicious greed head despite the better record. I want to love but the mention of the name Kelly Slater is now as likely to draw a snarl as a smile. Chances at Pipe? Looking into the forecast, I see a weak blocking pattern with a pinched jetstream cutting off storm development for Pipe.
Ergo, small weak Backdoor. For Kelly, not good.
12. Filipe Toledo
Current WCT rating: 9
No Cloudbreak, wavepool at the crunch end of the season. If 2018 can’t see Jesus’s favourite water walker reigning supreme then 2019 with the tour starting at Pipe looks increasingly unlikely to. La Nina Hawaii means small Backdoor likely so an Holy Toledo Pipe Master is on the cards.
13. Sophie Goldschmidt
Current WCT rating: CEO
Big fan, massive fan, so far in these early, early days. Something needed to be done, something radical. Couldn’t keep trundling out the same old sow with a different lipstick year after year. And whether or not she is the architect of the changes (Dave Prodan could not confirm by email), she is overseeing it. It’s on her watch.
It’s a tour structure (2019) that fits, by design or coincidence, the talent, skill set and aspiration of a John Florence dynasty, in the same way that the current tour schedule was tailor-made for Slater dominance. The Pipe opening, then the Australian leg, finishing in Indonesia. Couldn’t design it any better. For that reason alone, I support it.
Hi Soph, I see you! Sneaking a little peek at the Grit to see what the plebs are muttering about? Don’t worry it’s an open secret. Prodan is on here all the time. Don’t be shy. Come on in and make yourself known. Don’t treat us like Speaker did, like a piece of shit on your shoe. Don’t talk over us, try and go behind our backs, circumvent us.
As for politics, as for Pro Sports: You lose your base, you lose everything. A basic fact pro surfing has never understood. You don’t get our buy in, as the jargon goes and you’ll be looking over your shoulder, very, very quickly.
After reading your press call I now know, we all know, and we know you know we know that you don’t know what the fuck you are talking about. But that’s fine. We’ll all muddle along on Dirk’s scratch for a while longer. Just get Cloudbreak back on tour for 2019.
By the way, you seem to have…um… mislaid my welcome email. The one that Carroll got and Chas. It’s nice to be friendly to people on the way up, even to dirtbags like me. We have long memories. As long as geological time. Pro Surfing CEO’s pass like lightning in a summer sky to us, flashes in the phenomenal world, as the Buddha says.
We outlast you and we write your epitaphs. If you want to make right, you know where to send it. I’ll take it handwritten thanks.
Last evening, after the day’s work was done, I settled down with a bit of bourbon and my half-broken laptop in order to catch up on the surf news. This has become somewhat of a ritual for me and mirrors my childhood wind-down except back then it was milk and The Dukes of Hazzard, The A-Team or Happy Days. Small joys. Little pleasures.
I started, as is my wont, at worldsurfleague.com where a women’s longboard event from Taiwan was playing. I watched ten minutes of a heat both marveling at the quality of Taiwanese surf and thinking about longboarding. What a strange dinosaur it is. Like the sturgeon. Or the goblin shark.
I then moved on to stabmag.com and read the loquaciously titled “Albee Layer Politely Lobs Hands Grenade at The Surfer Poll Awards” wherein ex-BeachGrit contributor Michael Ciaramella was on a very bizarre traipse, criticizing Surfer magazine, the Surfer Poll Awards, surfers in general, John John Florence, straight airs, Julian Wilson, and his stablemate Ashton Goggans. Let’s read a snippet?
…with the exception of the actual Surfer Poll award, the rest of the winners are decided directly by Surfer staff members, which is, obviously, a cause for debate. Because who are these people, really? Surfers, just like you and I, who have inherently flawed opinions, just like you and I. They don’t surf nearly as well as the world’s best waveriders, which is fine, but then how can they claim to hold the “authoritative voice” on this year’s best movie, performance, and goddamn progressive maneuver? To give some context into the magnitude of this issue, Surfer’s most progressive surfer/employee* of the last few years was Ashton Goggans, who is now with Stab. From firsthand experience I can tell you Bong-hands is not very progressive. Comfortable with sexual fluidity? Sure. But an aerial wizard he is not. 😉
He goes on to repeatedly call Surfer’s staff “Bible thumpers” etc. and while I applauded the effort, attempting to draw others into a war of words, liddle Mickey Ciaramella’s barbs all felt very foreign. Very strange. Uncomfortable even. Like listening to a non-native speaker get really hot about some subject and passionately debate his position in halting English. Or someone who has never cursed in her life unleashing a string of full-throated vitriol.
The same feeling I had in my childhood when The Dukes of Hazzard, The A-Team or Happy Days would introduce far left-of-field plot lines when viewership was sagging in order to get attention. Like when Boss Hogg and the Duke boys became great friends. Or when the Fonz jumped a shark while water skiing.
It made me wonder if maybe Stab should just stay in its lane, publishing mid-2000s style party photos and wondering where all its Facebook “likes” disappeared to, or if the boys should take a course on “How to correctly agitate the competition.”?
What do you think? Which Stab would you like to see?
If you’ve ever started a biz with a friend, you’ll know the trajectory: loveful and trusting at first, some sort of gloomy adolescence before it ends in a trail of slime.
In the summer of 2013 I was working as the writer, editor and photo editor, of Stab magazine, a print title I’d started in 2003 with Sam McIntosh.
(We’d start the online version, stabmag.com, a few years later.)
I’d cashed out of the biz a few years before 2013 but had stayed on as master and commander of a little ship that, while apparently influential in a cultural sense, rarely sold more than two thousand copies an issue.
Soon, advertising began to disappear and the health not just of Stab, but of all print titles, went into a death spiral. I was of the belief that, before long, a paper magazine would become a curio like slide film or vinyl – for the enthusiast but no longer mass market.
There was the argument that people liked to hold a magazine in their hands, which was true, but without advertising to support the expensive process, it wasn’t possible for a magazine to exist.
I remembered how fast digital photography had killed film. And not just the process, but the sudden obsolescence of all the people involved, from specialists who’d scan the film images on expensive machines to the pre-press division within each magazine that was needed to make the whole thing print ready.
Meanwhile, I watched the traffic of Stab online begin to soar. A story I wrote immediately after Andy Irons’ death took traffic beyond 10,000 sessions in a day for the first time.
I began to tire of print.
Of the long lead time between writing a story and seeing it designed (I’d keep looking over the shoulder of the designer to see if he’d opened the Word file yet. Usually it took a week or more for him to get to it), to getting it proofed, having it printed, and arriving in magazine form. There was that small fritz of excitement of holding the magazine for the first time although there was rarely any feedback, good or bad, except for the time Chas Smith was called “a fucking Jew” by Mick Fanning. We printed the exchange and the magazine lost a quarter of a million dollars in yearly ad revenue.
Worse, everything inside the magazine was so old. Sometimes two months had passed between interview and publication.
In contrast, a story written online would be published immediately and, within minutes, lanced with feedback. One of the profoundly equalising things about the internet is that it doesn’t matter if you’re Apple, the New York Times or BeachGrit, we all occupy the same screen space on a person’s phone or computer.
I knew I had to peg out my claim with a new website.
After selling out of Stab, I’d gone out looking for greener pastures. These included mainstream journalism (two hundred and ten columns for Fairfax Press over five years) and a water tax biz. Neither of ‘em thrilled me like surf thrilled.
So it had to be a surf website. A reboot of Stab but this time a little more Vice (old-school Gav McInnes Vice not SJW Shane Smith Vice) with a slightly cultural bent. Lighter but deeper.
The name came quickly.
It had to have the word Beach in the title. (Surf is so overused.)
It had to allude to a light, loose and libertine approach.
A very good designer pal called Jeremy Hancock created the logos.
A company in Poland built the site for six thousand dollars.
I spoke to my best friend Chas Smith in Los Angeles about using all his previous works for Stab to load up the site. In return, he would become a part-owner and editor. (Soon, he would become the voice of BeachGrit.)
I wanted to launch with a hundred or so stories plugged into the back end. (As of July 2017, there have been 3150 published stories.)
Chas recommended we partner with the Santa Barbara photographer Morgan Maassen as our filmer and photographer because of his excellent social reach.
There would be no business plan except to write, laugh a little and, maybe, somewhere down the line, advertising might give Chas, Morgan and I a small stipend.
I flew to LA in July 2014 and we shot two short videos with Morgan. I wrote with Chas at his kitchen table, drinking vodka margaritas and, at one point, smoking some terrific medicinal marijuana that left me white-faced and holding onto the bench lest I spin off the curvature of the earth.
At some point, my finger hovered over the publish button.
Quote: “I know my breasts, small as plums, would win no blue ribbons,” Balaram Stack might write if he was inclined to poetry. “But in your hands they tremble and fill with song like plump, white birds.”
Three years on, we’ve had another biz partner, Rory Parker, an unemployed Californian who’d moved to Kauai with his lawyer wife and therefore had time on his hands to write every day for two years for his chunk of the biz, three writers who found lucrative employment at Stab (Ali Klinkenberg, Michael Ciaramella and Ashton Goggans). Our launch partner Morgan Maassen disappeared shortly after BeachGrit was launched and therefore didn’t hit the KPIs needed to secure his piece of the business.
BeachGrit’s traffic has grown from seven hundred and twenty reads on opening day to the occasional 20k spike.
There is a small, though not insignificant, revenue stream, although both Chas and I took on book projects this year (he, Surfing and Cocaine: A Love Story and, me, Wednesdays with Bob, a series of interviews with the Australian prime minster Bob Hawke) to keep the home fires burning.
Our manifesto, even after three years, remains the same.
Let me repeat.
We at BeachGrit take surfing like we take life. As anti-depressive! We believe that surfers are in sore need of new standards which will release him from his confusion and place him once again in fruitful communion with the depths of surfing. BeachGrit is loose but we lead with a libertine moral code. We challenge you not to be tempted by our fast-flowing suction! Whatever you think of us, of our writers, and of our swinging attitudes, we promise you’ll never be bored.
This year’s women’s tour race, heading into the final event of the year in Maui, is far more exciting than the men’s. We know that John John is going to win. They could give him the trophy right now and even Brazil would collectively shrug and say, “No próximo ano, destruiremos o diabo colonizador, mas este ano … sim. O garoto loiro nos pegou.” But the women. Oh the women are neck and neck.
Sally Fitzgibbons leads Tyler Wright by a score of 52900 to 51200. A virtual tie with Courtney Conologue nipping at their heels. Sally and Tyler are, of course, Australian and you would think the nation would be split in its allegiance but apparently it is not. Apparently all of the sporting stars have broken in favor of Fitz and let’s read Australia’s Daily Telegraph.
Sally Pearson. Layne Beachley, the Jillaroos, Socceroos, Southern Stars and Matildas. Name an Australian sporting great or team and Sally Fitzgibbons has them in her corner as she prepares for the biggest fight of her career.
The Australian surfer is drawing inspirations from the recent performances of Australia’s top sporting women, men and teams — and a few legends from the past — as she chases a debut world crown after a decade of trying.
While main rival Wright opted to relocate to Hawaii weeks in advance of the showdown, Fitzgibbons says she was able to train uninterrupted on the NSW south coast in a perfect preparation for the finale.
Wright is the defending champion in Maui and with her two worst results calculated into her scorecard holds a narrow lad over Fitzgibbons and Conlogue.
The least complicated way for Fitzgibbons, Wright or Conlogue to win the world title is to win the Maui Pro.
If Fitzgibbons or Wright both finish third in Maui and Conlogue fails to advance into the final, Wright will defend her world crown.
If Fitzgibbons and Wright finish fifth, Conlogue doesn’t advance past the quarters and neither Stephanie Gilmore or Carissa Moore win the event, Wright will again defend her crown.
“Name a Australian sporting great or team and Sally Fitzgibbons has them in her corner.” How do you think this makes Tyler Wright feel? Do you think it makes her want to emigrate and leave those rude bastards behind? What country do you think she should take her talents to and call home?