surfer kook
Are you a beginner or low-level intermediate? Are you concerned about the difference a quarter of a litre in volume will make? Are you unsure about the foil on the free fins you were given with your board?

Quiz: Are kooks the new authority on boards?

Experts on fin foil and surfboard volume!

Lately, and much like the principals of this website, I’ve hit a fiscal wall. Gotta throw cash to make it, but while you’re waiting for the return salvo, times can get tough. As a way of feeding my more wolfish creditors I’ve begun liquidating my surfboard collection.

Nine Losts, a HS, a Genfour and a Slater Designs.

What moved the fastest? The Slater Designs flew off the online auction house within hours. I even flipped a noseless Lost V3 my kid brother had found on the curb for $80. One man came by for a Lost Short-Round that had been ridden twice. Three hundred bucks. A deal offered by a drowning man. One ding on the rail, a couple of heel dents. The man arrives and cusses me out for trying to rip him off and wasting his time.

I feel for the poor schlubs in surf stores who deal with this sorta bullshit all day. Volume has to be my most hated word this week. I had one guy write, “So I normally ride a 32L but this board is 31.4. I’m thinking this this board might be under-volumed for me.”

Rocker, contour, wide-point, rail profile, measurements within one-sixteenth of an inch… every single detail is forensically examined by these maybe-buyers.

Has the proliferation of design information on the internet created a hobby within a hobby?

Fins are now open season. A couple of buyers were analysing the profile, foil, material, and suitability to the board model of a set of fins that were being chucked in with the sale. These self-professed “low-level intermediates” were very serious about the workings of their rudders.

“Plastics are no good,” wrote one. “Are the TP1’s anything like the HS Ando fin or F8 Blackstix? From what I have researched today, I think it’s important to put a fin in the board that has least some of the desired qualities of what is recommend for that model to get the best out of it. I’m close to pulling the pin on this…”

The quest to differentiate boards via technicalities and buzz words has led to an army of beginner and intermediate surfers who blame these buzz words and other finer details on their lack of ability to bust a full-rotor or jam the fins.

I don’t have a problem with it per se. As long as the board sells.

But, I ask, and in all seriousness, what sort of wonderful experiences have you had with garage sale buyers?

Maybe you work in a store? What’s the wildest thing you’ve been told? And does the below-average surfer tend to exaggerate his ability?


Kelly and Giselle
Kelly Slater (right) pictured lounging on the beach with Tom Brady's wife.

Breaking: Kelly Slater in Super Bowl!

Singing "I like beer!"

In less than one week the National Football League will host the LII Super Bowl in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This year’s big game pits the dominant New England Patriots against the upstart Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are being led by second-string quarterback Nick Foles, who nobody likes, while the Patriots have Tom Brady under center. He is considered the greatest football player of all time with some considering him the greatest athlete of all time.

He is married to the Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen who once dated Kelly Slater.

Speaking of, Adweek reported just five minutes ago that the greatest surfer of all time will be in the Super Bowl too, appearing in a Michelob Ultra commercial starring the actor Chris Pratt.

“Michelob Ultra has always been a different beer,” said Liz Taylor, CCO at FCB Chicago, in a statement. “The beer for the fit. Who better to help us get that message across in an entertaining way on the world’s biggest advertising stage than an actor who embodies the ethos of the brand: Chris Pratt. He’s fit. He’s funny as hell. He loves beer.”

Pratt will star alongside famous athletes, including golfer Brooks Koepka, surfer Kelly Slater and runner Shalane Flanagan. Together, the group will sing along to a Michelob Ultra anthem: “I Like Beer” by country singer Jon Pardi.

Michelob Ultra, as you know, is the title sponsor of the World Surf League.

Here is the commercial that doesn’t have Kelly Slater singing “I like beer” but it will be posted as soon as available.

Would Derek and I look good serving Michelob Ultra when we get our bar gigs?

Help: Hire Derek Rielly and Chas Smith!

Thank you sir do you want another?

Do you own or manage a bar in Bondi/greater San Diego? Are you looking for highly motivated bartenders who can mix the classics while regaling clientele with the best surf industry stories ever? Then have I got a deal for you!

Derek Rielly and I are looking for bar gigs and would you permit me a brief moment of honesty? It is my favorite thing about what we have built. There are no secrets ever. Just warts, sunshine and honesty.

BeachGrit does not pay our bills. We write books for our livings funneling this website’s earnings to those who actually deserve it. But let me tell you something about writing books. It is a curse. Something that provides the greatest fulfillment but pays oddly. You get a chunk here, a chunk there, but if you aren’t the best financial planner (just take one look at me and Derek) then it is difficult to stretch appropriately.

And so here we are.

Both of us loathe embarrassing advertorial and feel it poisons the well. If we pumped it out it would kill this thing we love. Both of us are, also, too aware that your crowd-funding dollars are absolutely tapped.

So hire us to mix drinks at your bar! I promise it will be a good time and that your regulars will get better than average mojitos, skinny margaritas, whiskey sodas and surf industry rumors that haven’t hit the wire yet.

I’m totally not joking.

If interested email.

[email protected] (for Bondi)

[email protected] (for greater San Diego)

Two alley-oops and a multiplication of sudden, jagged hacks. A wave that redefined what a ten-point ride should be and brought into relief the necessity to reward something beyond perfect. | Photo: WSL

Shaun Tomson: “Filipe is surfing’s Jackson Pollock!”

Surfing great Shaun Tomson relives Filipe Toledo's game-changing ten at J-Bay!

It had been forty years since my world title, forty nine years since I first surfed J-Bay, and the WSL hired me to supply the colour commentary, the expert analysis for the event there. I’d do the morning show, I’d do the closing show and occasional live cross pieces.

They asked me where I wanted to sit. I told ‘em I wanted to set myself up in the competitors’ area.

I wanted to feel their energy.

When I’d driven up to J-Bay the week before, the first guy I saw was Filipe. The surf was small, three-to-four foot, and I’d never seen anyone go so fast. Ever. I thought, maybe it was because I hadn’t seen a lot of pro surfing firsthand recently, but even in comparison, the guy was surfing in another gear. If the other guys were on 100 octane, he was on nitro. As far as speed along the wave, there must be a 20 percent differential.

On the morning of Filipe’s game-changing ten, I was walking along the wooden walkway over the dunes and I could see this light north-westerly wind luffing into the competitors’ faces. It was the perfect wind for aerials and not the hard devil wind.

Filipe was surfing against Jordy and Julian. It was the best three air guys on tour, if you leave out John John. I’m thinking, man, there’s gong to be some fireworks.

Before the ten, Filipe nails a super-fast, super-high, mega-forehand rotation. He sticks it perfectly right at the top of the wave, the perfect position to continue on but then he catches a rail on a gouge, a very basic manoeuvre. It’s the only reason he doesn’t get a ten. After the air, you can see that the other competitors are a little shaken. Then Filipe wipes out and his peers realise he’s not invincible.

Okay, he’s fallen off. We can deal with with a nine.

The calm doesn’t last.

Ten minutes later Filipe does the biggest alley-oop I’ve ever seen, the biggest alley-oop anyone’s ever seen. Then he goes straight into the next one. It’s like the guy has no limiter. He’s got not perception of the way he should compete or the way other people expect him to compete.

Filipe re-wrote competition surfing on one wave.

I looked around me. Owen Wright’s mouth was on the bloody ground. Competitors didn’t know whether to erupt in applause or pull the dagger out of their hearts. It was one of those pivotal moments. I’ve seen a lot of them and that was one of those waves. It was an iconic wave. An instantly iconic wave. Not just because of the manoeuvre but because of the balls-out approach.

It’s as if he was a racing car driver and he hit a corner at 250 miles an hour. And after he sticks his second oop perfectly he unleashes this series of carves down the line. The guy is a speeding bullet that gets faster. He doesn’t lose velocity – he increases velocity. After that first oop he’d already got a ten.

Then he turned into something super human.

I looked around me. Owen Wright’s mouth was on the bloody ground. Competitors didn’t know whether to erupt in applause or pull the dagger out of their hearts. It was one of those pivotal moments. I’ve seen a lot of them and that was one of those waves. It was an iconic wave. An instantly iconic wave. Not just because of the manoeuvre but because of the balls-out approach.

For me, as fan, it was inspiring to see a new style of art unfold. It was Jackson Pollock, the famous abstract artist, gnarly.

You know what it reminded me of? I was in the South African army’s national service and I was a Jew. The Afrikaners didn’t like the Jews and we learned karate to fight them off. Karate is very much about honour, power and speed. Around the same time, Bruce Lee movies started coming out and so you had kung fu. Looking at Toledo, you could compare pro surfing with karate, and he as this ninja kung fu Bruce Lee master. He’s the ninja king.

And those turns after the second oop, man, they were sudden. His acceleration, not just his top-end speed, is so steep. He comes around a corner faster, tighter, and with a burst of speed unlike anyone.

You know what it reminded me of? I was in the South African army’s national service and I was a Jew. The Afrikaners didn’t like the Jews and we learned karate to fight them off. Karate is very much about honour, power and speed. Looking at Toledo, you could compare pro surfing with karate, and he as this ninja kung fu Bruce Lee master.

His challenge is  courage. He’s got the skill sets, but he’s gotta find that courage. That’s his weakness. Courage in big surf. You’re not born with it. You learn it by taking action. It will be interesting to see his development, if he’ll paddle over the ledge at Pipe, at Teahupoo.

But that’s in the future.

That one wave at J-Bay. It was sublime. It was art. It was a beautiful thing. It was a beautiful thing.

(Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Surfing Life‘s surfboard issue. Buy the magazine or subscribe here.)

Long Read: The State I Hate!

Florida once represented everything bad in surfing for me... and then I visited.

Almost ten years ago I had never really been to Florida but that didn’t stop me from hating it. I imagined it a cut-rate California. A trashy pit. Unchallenged prejudice is an ugly disease though and so I went and fell in love. Here is an old story of redemption.

We humans, we surfers, all carry with us many and varied prejudices. We carry them heavy like stones. We think that Newport’s 54th Street has been overrun by cheap, tattooed hipsters who are destroying the soul of surfing. Or we believe that riding a longboard is akin to getting fat and gross. Or we feel that SUPing is akin to admitting total failure in life. Our prejudices become fossilized and they alter where we surf, who we spend time with, the media we consume and how we move through the world. And yet all prejudices have a flip side. A set of beliefs that, equally heavy, prop up the opposing conclusion. That tattooed hipsters are surfing’s new, fresh soul, for instance. That riding a longboard shows the beautiful, lithe fluidity of man and wave becoming one. That SUPing is akin to admitting total failure in life (This is a simple fact, not a prejudice).

I carry my own prejudices and I have carried one, in particular, for as long as I have been aware of surf as its own culture. It is a large stone, with an art deco motif painted teal and orange. It is that Florida is horrible. That Florida is the bane of surfing culture.

I came to this conclusion growing up on the West Coast. California provided the parameters for what was cool. Florida seemed so far away and so weird. Its waves were small. Its pastimes, like fishing and hunting and maybe even being racist, did not match my own. I did not understand Florida and thus I came to loathe Florida.

And then one day, I thought, “OK. Enough. I will go and test my supposition that Florida is the worst state in our union and see if it is found wanting. I will go to the state I hate.” I landed in Orlando and rented a Fiat and I drove through 2,500 miles of swamp, seniors and Cuban expats. I drove through country music radio stations and merengue radio stations. I drove. And surfed. And spent time with real Floridians and experienced first hand the state that I hate. And at times the stone of my prejudice grew larger.

There were so many people in Florida that reinforced my distain. The wild Cuban refugees in the south that bellow for an attack on an ancient man who lives off their shore. The gun-toting rednecks in the north that bellow for the return of the Confederacy. The grandmas and grandpas in the middle that can’t bellow, because they’ve lost their voices, but whisper for increased Medicare spending. And dispersed throughout this madness are naked men who eat other homeless men’s faces, 92-year-old women who shoot at their neighbors for refusing to kiss them and ice cream shops that use Ku Klux Klansmen for mascots. Floridians are off their nuts in a way I have never experienced “crazy” before. It is as if God shook the United States of America and the worst of the weird fell into Florida.

But despite the degenerates, there were people I met in Florida who were as good as the face eaters are bad. People that caused the stone of my prejudice to slowly crack.

Southern hospitality is a cliché as old as drinking mint juleps dressed in seersucker, but my goodness if it ain’t real. Sterling Spencer is an exemplary model. I met Sterling in his hometown of Pensacola, deep in Florida’s Panhandle. The Panhandle, also known as “The Redneck Riviera,” or “Lower Alabama,” is exactly what one would expect.

Sterling met me on the beach as the sun slid down the sky, with an extra surfboard chosen just for me and a smile. I didn’t need his board. I had a fresh …Lost Bottom Feeder. But the thoughtfulness was delightful. Sterling paddled me out into the remnants of Hurricane Isaac and laughed me into some of the best waves of the evening. He introduced me to his friends in the lineup and they all shared with benevolence and stoke.

And beauty spread out all around us. I was shocked, in fact, by how beautiful Florida is. She is a stunner and awesomely swampy. Spanish moss dangles from broad-branched trees sinking their roots into shallow waters. Birds fly low and eat humping bugs called love bugs. I did not picture Florida, entirely, as a swamp, but I like that it is. I like picturing Ponce de León’s men dying of malaria.

After our surf, Sterling and his lovely wife took me out to experience “real cracker action.” They frequented neither of the ramshackle establishments we graced that night and, in fact, it was quite a hassle for them. Old friends still living a high school dream continuously approached them, spitting drunken nonsense into their faces, but they took it all and took it so I could feel genuine Panhandle fun. Later still, when the 3AM hour drew nigh, Sterling’s lovely wife refused to let me drive away and made me the most pleasant guest bed in their neat beachfront townhouse instead.

The following morning I drove off into a humid haze on the way to visit Shea Lopez. I have reason to believe that Shea is not the greatest of “Chas Smith” fans but he reached out, nonetheless, and invited me to the Lopez family reunion and go I did. And it was a real family reunion, too, featuring aunts, uncles, cousins and cousins. Kids bounced off the walls for hours upon hours. I was the only outlier, but I was treated like family. I was fed fried chicken straight from Cory Lopez’s grill. We stood in his backyard and gazed out and the sun, again, slid down the sky. Instagram has taught me to hate sunsets but Florida taught me to love them again. All the colors of the orange, red and yellow palette are employed with reckless abandon. The sky glows love. I was happy. And left happy to go further south still. To Miami. But along the way I stopped in CJ and Damo Hobgood’s hometown to meet Jamie Tworkowski.

Jamie founded the suicide prevention nonprofit To Write Love on Her Arms, which also happens to be CJ Hobgood’s sponsor. How great is that? A nonprofit sponsoring a surfer? Maybe the greatest. He invited me to surf Sebastian Inlet with him, introducing me to a wave that used to be legendary as well as its crusty locals. I was accepted in their warm Southern embrace. I felt loved. The sand on the beach was the whitest I had ever seen and the ocean felt like a bathtub. The waves were not great, maybe two feet, but I realized that when the sand is the whitest and when the water is a bathtub, surfing feels like a dream. Even in two feet.

After sharing chicken-fried steak and a cold beer with Jamie, I drove to Miami. And thought about the people here. Sterling, Shea and Jamie represent the good. Open, honest, giving, kind, sincere. Model Southerners. Model human beings. They could each, also, be models. Handsome.

Florida is home to the best of the best. Home to people who, when the lunatics grow exhausting, are there to take you into their homes and families and hearts. The worst and the best. No lukewarm in Florida. No Ohio blandness. And, in really experiencing this lack of blandness, the stone of my prejudice became dust and blew away. Florida is no longer “The State I Hate.” It is now and forever, affectionately, “Fucked Up.”