How to: Become a Fabulous Degenerate!

You already have one bad habit (surfing). Why not develop another?

Many people fall into bad habits and practice them absentmindedly with neither passion nor flair. They smoke, for example, and are sitting in a restaurant feeling vaguely satisfied but vaguely uneasy and so they get up from the table and step outside and light a cigarette.

No great pleasure comes to them, only a slight uptick in overall well-being because they did not choose this habit. This habit chose them. Maybe they were young children and their parents smoked and they emulated. Maybe they were in school and saw posters of James Dean and emulated. Maybe they were post-college and in da club and watched boom-chick-boom-chick-boom-chick smoke and emulated. Whichever the case, they all begin with emulation and end with chemical dependence. They do once, twice, three times and then Lady Nicotine reaches her yellow stained fingers into the ventral tegmentum and the result is as reptilian as it is bland.

Passion and flair require choice.

They require the practioner to think about what bad habit he or she would like to develop and then set about actively changing their very brain chemistry by do do doing that thing over and over.

My cousin was once an honorable man. He served in the military. He went to medical school and became a nurse. And then he started gambling. One thing led to another led to another led to him stealing chips from a table, to feed his bad habit, and going to jail. When he got out he started robbing banks to feed his bad habit and robbed 27 banks before getting caught.

And the best kind of bad habit? A gambling habit.

My cousin was once an honorable man. He served in the military. He went to medical school and became a nurse. And then he started gambling. One thing led to another led to another led to him stealing chips from a table, to feed his bad habit, and going to jail. When he got out he started robbing banks to feed his bad habit and robbed 27 banks before getting caught. When he got out again he promptly disappeared. I think he may be in Kathmandu but cannot be sure. In any case, living on the lam in Kathmandu as an ex-bank robber is very much better than being a nurse. Here’s how to develop your own habit:

Go to fabulous Las Vegas: If you learned anything from the previous column, how to live in the desert, you know that Las Vegas is the best part of the desert and this is because gambling. Gambling built luxurious hotels with fine thread-counted sheets. Gambling brings James Beard award winning chefs du cuisine and even Michelin starred ones to chic restaurants. Gambling. And so find your game. Play the roulette. Play black jack. Play craps. But end in the poker room. Poker is the only game to really get addicted to. It is too difficult to win or lose massive amounts of money at once in the other games. Also poker feels like a skill whereas roulette, black jack and craps all feel like luck. It is really all luck but who cares. Poker. But also thread count and James Beard.

Go back to Las Vegas but less fabulous: Cancel all trips that don’t involve Las Vegas or maybe Reno or Atlantic City. Spend more time in the smoky back rooms and less time in the thread count or with James Beard. Find the casinos that specialize in that game. They will not be the glitzy ones. They will be the obscure ones, away from the strip, and you will be shoulder to shoulder with pockmark face’d white men wearing trucker hats and double chins and picking $5 t-bone steaks from between their crooked teeth with small twigs. The external pleasures of beauty, comfort, fun are beginning to fade. The bad habit is beginning to form.

Don’t go back to Las Vegas or anywhere else: Find your local Indian casino, the one nearest your home, and settle down. The back rooms will be even smokier and the company less pleasant. You will now be shoulder to shoulder with wide Chinese men featuring dead faces and slacks from Hong Kong. Their breath will be so bad that if health workers could enter (they can’t because the casino is considered sovereign because it is Indian) the building would be condemned. The whole situation will be, in fact, so repugnant that lesser souls would vomit simply by entering where you spend six to seven hours each night ecstatically. Your eyes, burning red, see only one thing. Royal flush.

Go to jail: Except you usually do not see “royal flush” you see various shades of “bust” and your money dwindles and you devise a plan to get more money so you can continue to play. The bad habit is now fully set and wonderful. At first you gamble to get more money so you can gamble but then that somehow doesn’t work and so you steal a car. You, however, are not a car thief, you are a gambler, and so the police quickly find you and lock you up. After getting out you have even less money and so you gamble but then steal diamonds because they are smaller than cars and easier to conceal but, again, you are not a jewel thief, you are a gambler and so the police find you once again and once again lock you up.

Go to Kathmandu: Because there must be fantastic poker in Kathmandu or because you are trying to shake your bad habit in a place that has no poker and only slacks from Hong Kong. In any case, you are car thief jewel thief degenerate living near the roof of the world and isn’t that better than what you are right now?

Dane Reynolds' turns play havoc with my nerves!

How to: Surf Like An Animal!

Juice up your turns!

It’s the most visceral of surfing experiences. You feel it as much as you see it or hear it. Those rail-buried-to-the-nose cutback and hacks that hypnotise, and even scare just a little, as you paddle over a wave.

Airs are thrilling and easy to like, easy to understand. There’s a speed and there’s a push and a pull and maybe a huck.

But a cutback with fire, a hack that seeks to readjust the molecular formation of a moving piece of ocean?

Well, that’s something for the purists.

Here’s how you can get some…

1. Get the right board

Surfboard design is game of adding and subtracting. If you want extreme power, you’re going to have to lose some of that pop in the tail and the ability to squeeze into the most radical of curves. There’s only a few surfers in the world who’ve got a power-air game, John John, Jordy Smith and Dane Reynolds, if you want to know, but I’m presuming you aren’t in that same league. Talk to a shaper. Tell him you want to explode out of your turns. You’ll need more rail length, more thickness, a straighter rocker.

2. You need to be close to the pocket

I once asked a famous surfer, known for his iconic cutbacks, what the secret to his photogenic success was. He leant over, smiled, and said, “You have to be deep, deep in the pocket”.

Well, sure.

“But can you do that?” he asked.

I went out that afternoon, turned up the face of the wave but instead of hitting the lip, I straightened the front leg and flew into the best cutback of my life.

Who knew there was room for a cutback in such tight a spot? I’d never felt a turn so perfect and so vicious. And then it flew back and pierced my cheek, just missing my eyes.

3. Straighten your front leg

Kolohe’s dad, Dino, once a top pro himself, told me the secret to those beautiful frontside wraps that pleases top-level judges so much is  to “straighten the front leg.” Try it. Sounds easy. It ain’t.

4. Aggression

It takes a certain mindset to jam an entire rail into the face of a wave, and in the most critical part of that wave. Airs are a skateboard-esque dance of weighting and unweighting. Power requires violence.

5. Put on weight

Skinny kids aren’t going to shower the lineup with spray. If you want drama in your turns, put on weight, fat, muscle, it doesn’t matter. It’s a physics thing. Kolohe is one surfer whose spray arcs have doubled in the last five years.

Of course, ain’t no one like Dane.


Fabulous drawing of Matt Warshaw from a profile in the New Yorker. | Photo: Tom Bachtell/The New Yorker

Warshaw: “Poorest fuckers in surf most generous!”

Raises $60k to keep surf history archive online!

On New Year’s Day, the surf historian Matt Warshaw made a welcome announcement

“Out with a bang! BeachGrit just dropped 6K into the EOS fundraiser, and I’m shutting it down at $60,000. Spraying corks tonight!”

Three weeks ago, of course, it was a different story. The online history of surfing hung by a thread after Warshaw threatened to to pull his entire archive (The Encyclopedia of Surfing , History of Surfing, Above the Roar) unless thirty thousand dollars was donated immediately.

“It’s just kind of humiliating, to be 57 and making what I make,” Warshaw, who is capable of infinite melancholy but also a voluptuous flame, said. 

And now? Warshaw is waltzing around with sixty gee.

Let’s rap.

BeachGrit: Prior to launching the fundraiser were you shitting yourself? Were you like the lonely boy who throws a party catered with fine wines and meats and wonders if anyone will come?

Warshaw: It changed hour to hour. In the morning I’d be sure it was going to work, I’d save the site, all would be fine. But any little thing would trip me up. An anonymous comment on a thread somewhere, “Nobody subscribes to websites!” and I’d be fucked for the day.

Did you make a binding promise to your wife that if the money didn’t come in you’d really seek alternative employment?

I made that promise in 2011, with a 2012 deadline. Time was up. And yes, I was gonna go back to print. New versions of the books, magazine writing. I would have steered clear of the web, just out of bitterness.

If print publishing didn’t pan out, was there a plan C? What other talents do you have?

Early retirement. PTA dad.

And you romped it in! Can you describe the shape of your face when you told your wife that you made the required thirty k, that you doubled it? Did you resist an I-told-you-so smirk? Or no?

Two days into the drive I had $12,000 in donations. Jodi came home and I said “Look! Twelve thousand! We’re gonna make it!” Went downstairs, had a glass of wine, sat down to dinner, and while we’re eating I get a call from the EOS dev guy. Not the dev guy, but the head of the actual company that I hired last year. This swinging dick blue-chip company in Venice, charging me $110 an hour to code —everybody told me to hire the best dev guy possible, you end up saving money, and I did. So I answer the call, and the head of the company says, “Matt, I’ve got some really bad news,” and all I could think of was that my coder must have died, because what else could it be? “I’m so sorry, but your donation page has been set on ‘Test Mode’ the last two days.” Which meant that none of the 12K had processed. Back to zero. That was the closest I came to actually crying during this whole thing.

So what did you do?

Got in touch with all the people who’d donated, explained what happened, kinda played it for a laugh, and got the money back. Not all, but almost all. It took a few days, though.

And the dev company?

Fired. But only after the money was in the bag, and I had another guy lined up.

Did anyone in the surf industry apart from the surf media toss a few bones? The clothing brands? Any of the big board guys? The WSL?

Shaun Tomson donated. Tom Carroll donated. Randy Rarick donated big — he’s always been a great supporter of EOS. Sam McIntosh, Felipe Pomar, Sam George, Steve Hawk, Zach Weisberg, Brendon Thomas, Marcus Sanders, Phil Jarratt, Scott Hulet, Sean Doherty, they all gave. Amazing, the poorest fuckers in surf, the media people, were the most generous. Nothing from the brands. Zero. Nothing from the brands themselves, or maybe just two or three donations from people who work for the brands. That’s okay. It’s easy to say in hindsight, but EOS I think works better when it’s independent. The site doesn’t belong to the surf industry, in any way, shape or form. No donations, no ads, no brand presence at all. It looks and feels better that way, I think.

What’s the final tally? Sixty gees? How will this be distributed? Are you a put-in-the-bank drip-feed sorta guy or oowee-baby-gonna-be-a-helluva-Friday-night party pants?

Just over $60,000. Thirty to me for this year’s salary, 10 for site maintenance, and who knows how much into some bigger improvements. I just bought www.eos.surf, and all three sites are going to be collapsed into that domain. And a whole new paywall will go up before summer, where subscribers can name their own price to get on the site. Whatever’s left stays in the bank so I don’t panic this time next year.

Warshaw: “My favorite donor, good for one gee — my sweet mom.”

And do you have to do it all over again next year?

Probably, yeah, but not another life-or-death thing. More like an NPR annual fundraiser. Tote bags and coffee mugs and shit for new donors. It’ll be a pleasure after what I just went through.

"I want to eat your brains."
"I want to eat your brains."

Revenge: Stingrays go bananas!

The shark's cousin goes on a wild spree in Surf City, USA!

Yesterday found me in Jackson Hole, Wyoming’s local Boot Barn surrounded by hundreds, possibly thousands, of cowboy boots and have you ever owned a pair? I lusted heavily as an Oregonian child but my parents never folded and I was stuck in off-brand KangaROOS. I sometimes wonder how my trajectory would have been altered had I been gifted the cowboy boots I so longed for. Would I be an almost famous rodeo journalist? A serial philanderer?

I suppose I will never know and it is too late to change either career or fashion but there was a pair of boots in Boot Barn that caught my eye. They were made by El Dorado and featured a silver toe cap and rich gray, strangely bumpy leather.

I looked and it said they were made from the hide of a stingray.

This morning, maybe coincidentally maybe not, I read that over the New Year’s holiday weekend there were a record number of stingray stings in Huntington Beach, California. A whopping 73 if you can even believe it. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Officials say a new stingray injury record at Huntington Beach was reached when 73 people reported injuries in a single day.

Marine Safety Lt. Claude Panis tells the Orange County Register that in his 40 years of working as a lifeguard at the beach, he never saw so many stingray injuries reported to the level it reached on Friday.

Panis says the spike in stingray injuries is in part due to extreme low tides, small surf and warmish water in the low 60s along with holiday crowds in town and people off work and school.

On Thursday, 45 stingray injuries were reported to Huntington Beach lifeguards, a number also higher than usual.

Lifeguards plan to educate people on techniques to avoid being stung by rays.

We know, of course, to shuffle our feet when walking through the shallows but sometimes, especially when it is very good, I forget and run like an injured gazelle. Still, I have never been stung and would not like to be. Have you? Have you tasted the venomous dart?

I hear it really hurst.

Lovely Indonesian boy enjoys a relaxing cigarette after a day on the coalface of the Third World's bustling manufacturing industry. | Photo: Stories

Revealed! Made-in-Asia Surfboards cost $120!

A swinging little profit margin!

Do you remember the thunder five days ago when the Newport Beach shaper and artist Peter Schroff did yellow face on Instagram in protest at made-in-Asia surfboards?

“Ask our foundin fathers wud day think of chinese junk?” wrote Schroff.

I made a counter-riposte about a lovely Cambodian (or was it Vietnamese? I put a tailpad over the little label) board I’d received in lieu of cash from an advertiser.

Did it make any difference to me if the skilled hands were pink and freckled or smooth and polished brown? Of course not. Are we not all brothers, hewn from the same ancient tree, after all.

But I did wonder, what is the difference in raw cost between a surfboard made in Australia or the USA and one made in Thailand, Bali, Vietnam or China? I asked a friend, who is a world-renowned shaper, to break down the costs, and which you can examine here.

(All American dollars.)

Bali: PU/Polyester, $160.
China/Taiwan/Vietnam/Thailand: EPS/Epoxies, $150, probably less if you have the bulk buying power of someone like CobraA PU board costs $120.
USA: PU/Polyester, $275. EPS/Epoxy, $350-$375.
AustraliaPU/Polyester, $300. EPS/Epoxy, $450. 
The shaper did make several caveats: In Asia, you have to buy container minimums to get boards at a hundred or so apiece and you have too source ’em a year in advance.
Conversely, he says, the EPS foam used used in the USA/Australia is much better than the Asian version.