Let's eat Spam musubi!
Let's eat Spam musubi!

Advice: Missiles are really sneaky!

It's not like the movies!

I was on a sailboat yesterday, cruising past Palos Verdes and its hearty locals, when reports of imminent missile death popped onto Hawaiian cell phones. “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii.” the message read “Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”

Oh my heart went out to those dear islanders and I even wish that I was there to give them practical, functional advice for I have been missiled before and am filled with wisdom in such matters.

It was ten years ago now, Israel had just gone to war against Lebanon’s Hezbollah and I was there, alongside my best friends, we were young, starry-eyed boys with dreams of shaming Anderson Cooper in the war coverage game.

Getting into the country took some creativity. Beirut’s airport had been bombed useless along with the main arteries coming in and out and very few drivers wanted to risk the border run. Eventually we found a man in Jordan who agreed to take us to Beirut but he chickened out once we got close to Syria. Thankfully we found another man with a steelier nerve and he ferried us across.

I clearly remember the first bomb crater right at the border crossing. It was deep and half a charred truck smoldered in its bottom. We all looked and I thought, “Oh that trucker should have been paying better attention.”

In my mind, you see, I thought a man could hear the bombs and missiles falling or wooshing and also watch them fall from the sky and I thought the man with above average reflexes could avoid them. Like in movies, right? The bombs whistle and the missiles streak across the sky.

Later that evening, after we had rented an Audi A6 from a Beirut dealership, we went out into the countryside to try and find some missiles. The sun set as we drove around the hills and then…


The car shook and we killed the lights, catching our breaths. “What the hell?” I thought. “I didn’t hear that falling or whooshing. I didn’t see that.” We jumped out and another one hit a kilometer or so away.


I didn’t hear it falling or whooshing. I didn’t see it.

And then it hit me, figuratively of course. The bombs and missiles fly too high and too fast to be seen and the whooshing or whistling sound doesn’t exist. A figment of Hollywood’s imagination. Which made me think, “Oops.”

The rest of those three weeks of war many missiles hit and I didn’t hear or see any one of them coming.

Which brings us back to Hawaii. If there had been an incoming missile there would have been nothing anyone could do and so everyone should have just carried on eating Spam Musubi and drinking cold Heineken and enjoying the warm winter’s sun not trying to seek shelter.

Such practical wisdom, I think. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we get false cracked.

Missiles (and Grace) on A Saturday Morning

Ballistic missiles head for Hawaii. Then they don't.

(Earlier today, Hawaiians were told via SMS that they were under attack from ballistic missiles. Twenty minutes later another SMS let the terrified populace know it was a false alarm. “I hid in a basement and told my family how much I love them because I thought we might only have another five minutes to live,” wrote Jon Pyzel, shaper to John Florence. “I will never forget that feeling nor will I forgive the leadership that put us in that position.” Kelly Slater railed, “So how does this happen? Was it a FalseFlag to gauge public reaction? Did #NorthKorea hack the system for fun or was it #SteveHarvey?! What took 38 mins to correct that ‘mistake’ via follow up warning? Did a missile get launched and blown out of the sky and do we have Star Wars defense capabilities (or does space not exist and there are no satellites for the flat earth minded 😀)? Who has their finger on the text button to send out an alarm like that (never mind it being 8am to start your day like that)? And is Trump or Kim Jong-un the bigger antagonizer in this back and forth? It’s a weird little game people play with each other and other people’s lives.”

It’s these moments, when death looms, that the fragility of life and the importance of relationships and health, is put into sharp relief. Suddenly, money and bullshit don’t mean so much.

Printed below is a story I wrote for Warshaw’s book Zero Break: An Illustrated Collection of Surf Writing on the importance of grace. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to step away from the hammer and the blowtorch.)

Meet Michael. Twenty three. Perpetually untidy dark brown hair. Doesn’t work. Enjoys nothing more than sitting around with his pals filled by a lungful of pot smoke and watching the latest surf clips. Reads surf mags cover to cover and thinks all the girls in bikinis are pretty hot. An average surfer, you’d reckon.

He would be except Michael has never surfed. Never will. When he was nine he dived off a jetty and into a shallow sandbar. The impact crushed the vertebrae in his neck. Hasn’t felt a thing in his arms, torso, legs or, if you’re wondering, his dick for fourteen years. Lives in a Melbourne nursing home, shits and pisses in a bag that hangs over his wheelchair and that has to be emptied by the nurses he’d love to kiss, hold, fuck, if he could feel anything. He’ll probably die of the usual complications that afflict the paralysed, infection, liver malfunction, in twenty or so years. A good guy but prone, understandably, to depression and drug abuse.

He watches with quiet awe as surfers duckdive their boards. How incredible it must feel to have a wave pass over your back and to surface into the bright tropical sun. And how amazing it must be to view the world from inside the tube.

When he gets his hands on a long-form surf movie his life changes. The grim grey and metal surroundings of his ward fade away as he enters the cool blues and greens of the ocean. He watches with quiet awe as surfers duckdive their boards. How incredible it must feel to have a wave pass over your back and to surface into the bright tropical sun. And how amazing it must be to view the world from inside the tube.

At night he dreams that his body works. Dreams of paddling into a Grajagan boomer, the spray blinding him for a moment only to clear as his tail lifts and he drives down the face and begins his hunt for the tube.

Michael thinks about death a lot and would like to commit suicide. He is jealous that others have the luxury of being able to hold a gun or throw a rope over a rafter. He imagines dying will be like finally breaking the tape after an endurance race. He pictures a heaven, paradoxically he thinks God is a hoax, where his legs are strong and his arms power him and his surfboard through the water.

But when he wakes, he’s a man in a wheelchair. No magic cures.

Along with a few movies, I gave Mick a miniature plastic surfboard for Christmas. Another joy. He puts it on his table and uses a pen in his mouth to move it around, banking off imaginary wave sections like a tiny Kelly Slater.

His family doesn’t visit much anymore. More often than not, Mick’s a bit of a trial to be around. He knows that. He’ll cry at the smallest thing, like his seven-year-old cousin Lisa giving him a drawing she did in school and he’ll overreact if he thinks he’s being patronised. Mick regrets it after but it leaves everyone pretty upset.

Michael thinks about death a lot and would like to commit suicide. He is jealous that others have the luxury of being able to hold a gun or throw a rope over a rafter. He imagines dying will be like finally breaking the tape after an endurance race. He pictures a heaven, paradoxically he thinks God is a hoax, where his legs are strong and his arms power him and his surfboard through the water.

I write about Michael only to serve as a reminder of how lucky we are to be able to go surfing. Happiness, I’ll agree is relative, but I see guys slapping the water, yelling at everybody to fuck off, flicked boards, grommies throwing a fit because they lost a surf contest heat, punches thrown at even imagined slights and grown men nearly in tears because the wind or the tide is wrong and I think…

Jesus, if you only knew…

Great White
Happy Great White with children! Co-existence!

Revealed: Byron to Forster Crawling with Great Whites!

Two hundred and four Great Whites snatched by drumlines!

It’s been a quiet year on Australia’s blissfully hip North Coast, shark wise.

What had become the modern incarnation of the shark-ridden town Amity in Jaws, a swimmer snatched in waist-deep water, a surfer bitten in half, the town terrorised by Great Whites, had suddenly quieted.

Only one year ago, Dan Webber, the Ballina-based brother of shaper Greg, came up with the startling statistic that, if you surfed for one hour every day around Ballina and Byron, you had a ten percent chance of become shark meal.

(Read that here.) 

Did you wonder what had happened to all the Great Whites?

To find out, a pal of a pal tabulated a year’s worth of SMART (Shark-Management-Alert-in-Real-Time) drumlines statistics from the NSW Department of Fisheries.

(A little background: SMART drumlines have an anchor, a rope, a comms device linked to a satellite and a baited hook. Shark jumps on the hook. Out come the DPI. Nearly all sharks are caught alive and released one kilometre offshore. There’s fifty-five SMART drumlines deployed from Lennox to Forster.)

And oooeeee, they are startling statistics.

In 2016, in the entirety of Queensland, with its network of shark nets and baited hooks, six Great Whites were caught.

From December 2016 to Nov 2017, in the area from Lennox to Forster, a five hour’s drive, 204 Great Whites were caught compared to a dozen Tigers and four Bulls.

Two hundred and four. 

The overwhelming majority of these Great Whites were released alive.

Now, Great White ain’t dumb killing machines despite whatever propaganda you want to employ.

As the gorgeous friend of the Great White, Brinkley Davies, revealed here a few years back, give ’em a fright and you won’t see a White for months.


The question: Does traumatising a Great White on a hook create a beast fearful of human contact?

And if so, should we be out there beating a few more up?

Rumor: Maverick’s might run soon!

Are you not entertained?

Whew and what a day yesterday turned out to be. I am far too shy to listen but tell me, wherever you fall re. “winners” and “losers” of the debate, was the podcast (listen here) at least entertaining? At least mildly entertaining? I’ve been crowing my entire surf journalism career about how professional surfers should say what they really feel when a mic is pressed underneath their nose. That they should spew forth their passions even if their passions are only felt for a brief moment. Oh I know I am no professional surfer but who would I be if not even able to mirror what I so desire?

A bad example is what and as a husband of a wealthy wife and a father of an innocent little angel that is simply something I cannot allow myself to be.

You, of course, know the scene in Gladiator where Russell Crowe fights in the north African octagon, killing many men before throwing his sword at his captor and demanding to know if the audience was entertained while spitting derisively on the ground.

I want to be this except instead of strong, skinny. Except instead of killing many men, fumbling to silence one for a few moments. Except instead of throwing my sword at my captor, merely offering a silent prayer to the Gods of Surf Journalism (Nick Carroll and Matt Warshaw). Except instead of demanding to know, derisively, if you were entertained, meekly asking with an upward inflection at the end signifying that I really do want to know.

In any case, enough about that. It is time to entertain elsewhere and did you know that Maverick’s might run this Martin Luther King Jr. weekend? It’s true! The world’s fourth most famous big wave event, ripped from the hands of entrepreneur Griffin Guess by the WSL, appears on the verge. And let’s read from San Jose’s Mercury News.

A buzz has hit the Central Coast as organizers of the rebranded Mavericks big-wave surf contest have alerted competitors and others that the event could be held as early as Monday.

World Surfing League officials are monitoring a potentially large swell that is expected to pound the coastline after the weekend. They have targeted Monday or Tuesday as possible dates for the day-long event. Santa Cruz contestant Sarah Gerhardt said Thursday a decision wasn’t expected to be announced until later in the night.

WSL officials got the blackout date for the Martin Luther King holiday on Monday waived, said Sabrina Brennan, a San Mateo Harbor District commissioner.

But the contest traditionally is held in deal conditions: a day of big waves, clear sky and mild winter weather.

“I’m looking out the window wondering if it is going to clean up,” said Brennan, who lives on the bluffs above the famed surf break off of Pillar Point. “It looks pretty messy out there.”

The contest, now called the Mavericks Challenge, includes 24 men and for the first time a six-woman single heat. The event is the newest addition to the WSL’s Big Wave Tour and has a purse of $130,000.

The WSL took over the popular contest from Cartel Management, which declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy and canceled the event a year ago despite one of the state’s best surfing seasons in decades.

Damn it. Did I just cut and paste another press release?


Live debate: BeachGrit vs Stab!

A battle five days in the making!

You have now read the accounting of the physical altercation that happened today in bucolic San Clemente, California (click here). A town that is not known for violence, by the way, but rather happiness and open goodwill. A town that mirrors icons Richard M. Nixon and Christopher Ward. And now here is the podcast. I haven’t listened yet but from memory the salient bits, in no particular order, are:

1. Ashton saying two things at once. “I love/am inspired by/enjoy…” while also completely denigrating whatever it is that he’s talking about.

2. The abject paternalism Stab feels toward its readership.

3. (I would imagine) The hideously ugly tone of my rage-choked voice.

4. Ashton explaining what Stab means to him in gorgeously rococo language.

5. Me telling Ashton that I like Stab in the Dark.

6. Ashton telling me that Stab has broken every single story since he arrived.

6. Ashton saying there is no official policy at Stab not to talk about BeachGrit before saying there is an official policy at Stab not to talk about BeachGrit.

7. The 15-year-olds at Stab who get protected from vile commenter speech.

8. Ashton trying to parse surf media and claim that BeachGrit, Stab, Surfline etc. are all completely separate things that cannot be grouped together.

But take a few minutes and listen. More importantly tell me what you think. Am I borderline retarded chimp or is it not even borderline?

Did Ashton’s ridiculously mealy mouth sound worse in person or does it pour through the radio too?