WSL ambassador of stoke and leisure seen lounging not on the North Shore.

Missing: WSL ambassador of S & L!

These are dangerous political times.

We live in the most fraught political times with coups and rumors of coups reverberating around the globe. Prime ministers issues veiled disappointment missives to presidents. Supreme leaders building intercontinental ballistic missiles. Ambassadors stabbing in the back and getting stabbed in the back. Ambassadors getting disappeared.

And you recall when the World Surf League scoured the United States, western Europe and Australia for their ambassadorship just a few months ago. A man by the name of Zach Brown rose to the top of a unicolored field and was declared victor. He would be flown to Hawaii and become a bridge, if you will, between the powers and the people. Our ambassador of stoke and leisure.

Except it appears he has gone missing.

The World Surf League website has no stories from him and he appears nowhere as if scrubbed by Stalin’s archivists. The World Surf League instagram account has videos from Renato H. and Kolohe A. but nothing but nothing from their ambassador and not even anything from their lieutenant ambassador. The World Surf League broadcast has been taken off air the last four days.

And I am now worried for Zach Brown. Oahu’s North Shore is a violent, mad place where asymmetrical retaliation is the only rule. Could Zach have not removed slippahs prior to entry to the Oakley House? Might he now be pushing up pineapples, as they say?

Or maybe Zach returned a shaka with a shaka when he should have used a diminutive open-handed wave while keeping his eyes down instead? Could he now be wearing coral boots, as they say?

I don’t know. I just don’t know. Zach? If you are reading this please let us all know in the comments.

I’m worried.


My life? It isn’t easy to explain. It has not been the rip-roaring spectacular I fancied it would be, but neither have I burrowed around with the sand crabs.

“My life resembles an off-the-rack Tomo!”

Wild fluctuations, more ups than downs, gradually trending toward a major crash at some point… 

The sun has come up and I am sitting by a beach that is foggy with the breath of a life gone by. I’m a sight this morning: an Independent Surf Co. wetsuit pulled down to my waist, an old cable knit Etro sweater that I’m dreading to take off. It still amazes me that I haven’t been warm since George W. Bush was president. I wonder if this is how it is for everyone my age.

A Mayhem Short Round 5’9” 20” x 2.38 carrying some 30.71 liters rests at my feet.

My life? It isn’t easy to explain.

It has not been the rip-roaring spectacular I fancied it would be, but neither have I burrowed around with the sand crabs. I suppose it has most resembled a brand new off the rack Tomo: wild fluctuations, more ups than downs, and gradually trending toward a major crash at some point sooner than later. A risky buy, a potentially disastrous buy, and I’ve learned that not everyone can say this about his life. But I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough.

The romantics would call this a love story, the cynics would call it a tragedy. In my mind it’s a little bit of both, and no matter how you choose to view it in the end, it does not change the fact that it involves a great deal of my life and the path I’ve chosen to follow. I have no complaints about my path and the places it has taken me; enough complaints to fill a circus tent about other things, maybe, but the path I’ve chosen has always been the right one, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Love. 

I was ten when the emotion climbed through my window and made a birdhouse in my soul. Sleeping on the floor in my cousin’s San Diego home wrapped tight in a blanket, the morning light had started to shine and fell upon a rocket ship propped in the corner.

A rainbow thruster with the words Hawaiian Island Creations written in a bubbly font down the centre. Two fins on the bottom. I rubbed my eyes and looked again. It was magnificent.

I have no complaints about my path and the places it has taken me; enough complaints to fill a circus tent about other things, maybe, but the path I’ve chosen has always been the right one, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Later that day we went to the beach and Hawaiian Island Creations came with us, its round rail bumping my shoulder when we went around corners. My cousin asked if I wanted to try it and I did very much. I picked it up gently and carried it toward the whitewash. I can’t recall much about the actual surf experience but I remember carrying the board with all clarity. It made me someone and I would need one for the rest of my life.

Since I lived in coastal Oregon, I realised the odds, and science, were against me. There was so surf shop in my hometown. No surfer that I was aware of. But science is not the total answer; this I know, this I have learned in my lifetime. And that leaves me with the belief that miracles, no matter how inexplicable or unbelievable, are real and can occur without regard to the natural order of things.

My cousin gave me Hawaiian Island Creation when we left because it was my birthday and I couldn’t not believe it. The greatest gift of my entire life. I was a surfer but more importantly I had a surfboard.

I cherished it for three years, carefully taking the wax off with some citrus scented spray and reapplying in slow circles until I started to read surf magazines as well and recognised that my Hawaiian Island Creation came from the early 1980s and it was now the early 1990s. Kelly Slater and his Momentum crew were the happening thing and their rocket ships looked different than mine. Pure white, as thin as a razor and with enough rocker to make them appear like Oriental shoes.

At night I would dream of nothing else and then my birthday found me, once again, in San Diego and I was gifted a 6’4″, 17” pure white Nev with a nose pointed toward the sun and a tail that did too. I wanted to hug it except pressure dings were a real and present danger so I wrapped it in a blanket for the ride back to coastal Oregon and made sure my aggressively clumsy older sister and vicious younger brother not so much as looked at it. It was exactly perfect. It gave my heart momentum and while utterly impractical for the freezing cold, dumpy coastal Oregon surf I did not care. How could I care? Is love ever practical? No. Never. That is one of its true beauties and so I would bob in the freezing cold dumps on my potato chip and waste precious time not learning to surf well so I could feel inspired.

Time yellows all things and I moved from Nev to some retro single fin, quite by accident, to college in Southern California and a custom shaped, epoxy Rockin Fig from Huntington Beach, California.

Is love ever practical? No. Never. That is one of its true beauties and so I would bob in the freezing cold dumps on my potato chip and waste precious time not learning to surf well so I could feel inspired.

There I stood in the office explaining to the shaper what I wanted, which was again very thin and very pointy. A thruster because quads were not a thing yet. With epoxy because it could be even thinner and pointer that way. I wanted it as thin and pointy and light as possible and I’m sure the shaper looked at me confused but I was paying for it, full price, and I am certain he could tell that subtle mistakes would not be noticed.

I waited patiently for a month, two even. Counting the hours. Counting the minutes. Until one day my phone rang and the words carried me straight to Mount Olympus.

“It’s ready.”

Begging a ride down to Huntington Beach, I strode breathless into the shop and there it was. Waiting. Made by the hand of God for me and me alone. With me in mind. My specifications. There was none like it on the face of the earth and the handpicked Rockin Fig logo, an angry pirate skull with crossed sabres underneath and mine alone. I picked it up. It was as thin as a Pringle and as light as canned air.

Oh how I thrilled and surfed every moment that I could, cutting class, coming back late, going at the crack of dawn. Me n Rockin Fig together forever. Oh sure the board hampered my learning even more than Nev had but what did I care? Epoxy was the future and I was riding it like a carpet. Or at least riding it like a carpet when I could muscle the canned air over the falls and into a wave.

It was a beautiful board. A work of art and I would have it to this day except I don’t. It became a relic somewhere along the way and I began traveling the world. Not for surf but for adventure. First a semester in Egypt, then a return trip which was supposed to take me and two wonderful friends from Egypt to Jordan to Syria to Jordan to Israel to Jordan to Egypt since crossing into Israel from any country other than Jordan was not possible in those days.

Except I fell ill in Aqaba, Jordan, the town taken from the rear by the great Lawrence of Arabia, and spent the week hooked up to an IV in a very white hospital. White like Nev and like Rockin Fig and I began to lust for surf once again.

Soon after graduation the twin towers in New York City fell it was time to put everything together. My friends and I devised a plan to surf where no one had ever surfed before. Yemen. Where Osama Bin Laden had devised a plan to fall the twin towers in New York City. We planned and planned and a few noble souls even stepped up in order to provide tools for our trip, among them the great John Carper. He gifted each of us two boards and I couldn’t begin to believe it. I was sponsored! A sponsored surfer!

We went to his Costa Mesa warehouse and I picked my two off the rack. One flatter, wider and shorter than anything I had ever ridden. The other traditionally me. 6’2” 18.5” x 2.35”. I spent the night before we left carefully affixing a giant Che Guevara sticker near its nose.

And we traversed every inch of Yemen over three long months. The boards were, of course, admired everywhere we went. No white people had ever dawned certain of the country’s most remote corners much less surfboards and the fishermen ooh’d and ahh’d at their potential.

The trip changed my life and now I am a professional surf journalist and now I have many surfboards but walking into a warehouse with blanks stacked up to the sky and getting to pull and new board off a rack has never lost its charm. I am foolish, an old man in love, a dreamer who dreams of nothing but holding surfboards whenever I can. I am a sinner with many faults and a man who believes in magic, but I am too old to change and too old to care.


Reckoning: “You’re all fucktards!”

Will the cultural reckoning ever reach surf?

I wanted to write about Pipeline this morning but it didn’t run again which left me perusing the news whilst nibbling a piece of avocado toast. I read about documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock outing himself as a possible rapist and philanderer. I read how Texan Republican representative Blake Farenthold abused his staff by calling them “fucktards.” He will now have to step down and probably enter some sort of program.

And I wondered if any actors, politicians, musicians, public personalities quietly frequent surf comment forums?

Like, “fucktard” doesn’t even get you in most doors. Maybe at The Inertia if anyone commented there but nowhere else. And I continued to wonder if the current cultural reckoning will ever come to surf or do you think it will run out of steam at, say, the National Hockey League?

Is our little world too nasty, too corrupt, to rude, demeaning, ugly for anyone to even start #metoo-ing? The fact that The Inertia hasn’t written a major expose on surf complicity is just shocking. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe they are also complicit. I couldn’t tell because when I tried to visit that website just now it wouldn’t load.

So long net neutrality!

(I read about that too and know lots of people are crying about it but can’t get out of my heat that if it’s bad for The Inertia then it’s good for me!)


Rumor: Quiksilver buys Billabong x RVCA!

Buy the t-shirt, take the ride!

Oh I know this rumor has been floating around for a few months, even finding seed at The Inertia and Stab now but my sources tell me it’s almost officially official. That Quiksilver has closed out purchase of Billabong which includes MMA brand RVCA. And not really Quiksilver but Oaktree capital. Shall we dig into this sordid affair? Let’s!

You recall that Australian surf giant Billabong was the first of the surf brands to really really really fall on hard times. Their untethered buying spree (Nixon, RadGnar, YoYo Beats, Icezzzcreamzzz, etc.) did not turn out as planned when cocaine fueled the days and cocaine fueled the nights. Thus, Billabong was left in a very precarious position. Their debt and mistakes were scooped up, in form of a loan, by investment group Oaktree Capital, leaving Billabong to limp along with brands RVCA, SupaFly, JZM and CNTMTHRFCKR.

Then you recall that Quiksilver went full on bankrupt with the same Oaktree Capital ushering the brand out of protected lack of money.

So. Oaktree Capital basically “owns” Quiksilver and Quiksilver is buying Billabong x etc. How’s that?

Do you remember when the fantastic Malibu brand Brothers’ Marshall did their QuikBongRip t-shirts and when they got taken down under threat of lawsuit?

Wait. Have I written this story already last year? Do you remember reading it? I vaguely remember writing it.

P.S. Real quick. I’ve wondered about this for years. Who in hell buys a Maserati? That photo is from Stab and so maybe Stab people dream in Maserati? I don’t get it. At all. Maserati. Very unfortunate.


"Sometimes your mind can tell you one thing and then you get on something and it can be the best board you’ve ridden. You have to feel it out without judgement." | Photo: Steve Sherman/@tsherms

Slater: “This is my fav hunk of foam!”

A very pretty, contest-winning five-ten from the champ’s eponymous label… 

Last September, Kelly Slater grabbed perhaps the final win of his three-decade career, combo-ing John John Florence in the final of the Tahiti Pro.

Kelly included a 9.77 and a 9.90 in his heat total of 19.67. It was Kelly’s fifty-fifth contest win.

And the surfboard he won the event on, which is called The Gamma, is Kelly’s “utility short board” design. It means he can ride ‘em in a variety of conditions. Kelly keeps a a quiver of Gammas in one-inch increments from 5’9” to 6’1”.

However, this version, a 5’10” x 18 3/8” x 2 5/16th, just shone from the batch. A touch shorter a little more beef for getting it over the ledge.

I ask Kelly, who is at the Slater Designs factory in Carlsbad, just north of San Diego, what specific pleasures it has given him?

A wave, a turn?

“I won Teahupoo and got a twenty-point heat on it. What else do you need?” he says.

Were you intimately involved in its design?

“I wasn’t in the shaping bay but I did verbally design the board and worked through a few renditions of it to get to this.”

Were you immediately thrilled, or were you displeased, by its appearance?

“Yeah, well, if you don’t like what a board looks like you don’t pick it up and ride it. So…yes! I’ve had the board for over a year now but I retired it after that contest because I was waiting to use it in similar waves again.”

Can you tell if a board is going to be good before you ride it?

“I feel like I can, but that said, I had a board recently that was an early version of the Gamma, one of the first iterations of it. And at the time I was putting a little more foam in my boards, more volume, and this one felt too fine so I didn’t touch it for two years. And then I rode it recently and it felt amazing. Sometimes your mind can tell you one thing and then you get on something and it can be the best board you’ve ridden. You have to feel it out without judgement.”

When you stood up on that first wave of Teahupoo on it, did it feel special?

“That’s the secret to a good board is that feels like it jumps on you,” says Kelly. “It feels like it moves where you want to so you don’t really have to think about it. I haven’t ridden that board since Teahupoo last year, I might’ve ridden it in France briefly, but yeah, I got on it and it was one of those surfboards that went wherever I thought and I was able to make a lot of waves that for whatever reason I didn’t think I was going to make, busting through the foam or whatever.”

Tell me some of the specifics of the design.

“It’s a steady rocker. A continuous rocker. It has a single concave so that flattens the rocker in the centre. It’s a standardised board for what people are doing but the trick is in the rocker and working out, over time,  the concave so you don’t get too much lift in the tail. It’s about finding balance in the curve and the lift.”

You treat this board real good? In cotton wool?

“It’s a weird thing,” says Kelly. “You win a contest on a board and you want to keep that thing on ice but at the same time if you’re not riding it consistently then you don’t know all the little intricacies that made it so good. So you gotta beat up a board to be in tune with it. That’s the Good Surfboard  Dilemma for us.”

I got a little cash. How much to buy?

“How much you got,” says Kelly. “You gotta start negotiating sonewhere. How much you got?”

Not much! I gave it all to Matt Warshaw!

(Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Surfing Life’s surfboard issue, number 338. Buy it or subscribe here.)