Kev at Gnaraloo, back when he was in his breezy sixities. | Photo: Kevin Merifield/surfingdownsouth.com.au

Quiz: How long will you surf for?

What's going to be your sign-off age? Or will you ride this thing into the grave?

You ever wonder what’s going to be your sign-off age? The day when surfing gets too hard physically, when the bones ache too much or your seized hips ruin any mobility?

What’s it it going to be? Sixty? Seventy? Eighty?

No matter how you play it, your days are numbered. I know a few old coots, most in their sixties, one a little over seventy, still dragging ’emselves into the water. The impressive thing is, none of ’em ride longboards even if it would mean more waves and a better experience. Instead, they persist with twin-fins and slightly thicker seven-o’s. It’s an impressive middle-finger jammed in the face of the whole surf-is-youth notion.

Recently, the Australian Broadcasting Commission profiled the just-turned-eighty-year-old Kevin Merifield, a pal of Taj Burrow.

“Surfing at 80 has to be every surfer’s goal,” Taj told the ABC. “Kev is a legend and he’s right — it’s all about getting out there, getting wet and talking shit with your boys.

Despite having to ride prone due to a loss of equilibrium brought on by an ear injury, Merifield ain’t afraid to hit decent-sized Margaret River for a three-hour session.

“That view is part of the reason that’s kept me going for so long,” Merifield said in a story by the fabulous sometime BeachGrit writer Anthony Pancia. “You come around the corner on a day like today and catch your first glimpse of those magnificent lines of waves. Your heart just starts racing. There’s nothing quite like it.”

How do you keep backing it up, even at such an advanced age?

“Obviously, you’ve also got to try and look after the old body and keep it moving,” he said.

You?

How long are you going to persist? What will it take for you to hang up the boots? What’s the deal breaker?

Or are you going to ride this thing into the grave?

 


Politics: California to secede from USA?

And surfing is the wedge!

Yesterday you read right here (cribbed from… I can’t even remember anymore) the announcement that two California congressmen are pushing a bill through the bureaucracy that establishes surfing as California’s official sport.

Now, these two congressmens happened to be democrats, which didn’t even register with me seeing that California is 99% democrat but today the globalist publication Quartzy published a piece pointing to the potential vicious underbelly of the movement. And now to the horse’s mouth.

California is continuing to distance itself culturally and philosophically from much of the geographical US. The state greeted 2018 by enshrining new protections for undocumented immigrants, tougher gun laws, and recreational marijuana. These positions are all out of step with this moment in US politics. Now, the state is set to declare surfing its official sport.

State assembly members Al Muratsuchi and Ian Calderon introduced a bill on Jan. 15 that would make surfing California’s official pastime. “Nothing represents the California Dream better than surfing—riding the waves and living in harmony with the beautiful beaches and ocean of our Golden State,” Muratsuchi wrote in an statement.

Not that long ago, surfing was derided as a dead-end sport for losers (Jeff Spicoli, anyone?). Not anymore. Now, it’s a $6 billion industry, supporting a pastime enjoyed by millions in the US, from professionals to drop outs. Calderon, the assemblyman co-sponsoring the bill, says he’s a life long surfer. The sport (or way of life, as some have it) has churned out cultural icons from the Beach Boys to Gidget, and prominent professional surfers from Kelly Slater to Layne Beachley. William Finnegan’s 2015 book about surfing, Barbarian Days, won a Pulitzer Prize.

If California votes to pass the bill, it would be another step in the state’s long-standing march away from a mainstream culture that defines most other parts of the country. California’s more restless residents are even launching campaigns to secede from the US on the basis that, according to advocates such as Yes California, the state is culturally distinct from the rest of the country.

And, of course, some US states just like adopting sports as their standard bearers. North Carolina has NASCAR, Alaska has dog mushing, Minnesota has ice hockey, and South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming all list rodeo as their official sports.

So? Do you really believe that surfing will be the wedge that causes the United States’ second civil war? Will you join up Johnny Reb?


The proposed Wavegarden tank at Sevran, what you might call a "gritty" suburb in north-east Paris.

Olympic Blood Feud: Wavegarden vs Surf Ranch!

Paris Olympics to use Wavegarden Cove?

In a mostly ignored piece of news in December, it was announced that the city of Paris, which is holding the 2024 Olympics, will build a Wavegarden Cove as part of a multi-billion-dollar revitalisation of the city.

The Cove will form part of the Terre d’Eaux Project in Sevran, one of Paris’ poorest suburbs, one of those famously “gritty” banlieues

Surfers Village picked up the story, propaganda, whatever it was. In an interview with Baptiste Caulonqueon, a former Rip Curl GM who’s involved in the Terre d’Eaux project, he said, “Once surfing and para-surfing is scheduled for certain for 2024 Olympics in Paris, there is a fair chance that Terre d’Eaux will apply to host these events as the Cove offers world class waves in great numbers and Sevran is located at the very heart of the Olympic village.”

Y’hear that?

Surfing. Olympics. Wavegarden.

Now here’s where it gets interesting.

Our source says the WSL is scouting land in Japan to build a KSWC Surf Ranch in an attempt to prove to the IOC that it would be a better alternative to the beachbreaks and jetties of Shida, just outside Tokyo.

And that the WCT event at the Surf Ranch in September has been designed to show the IOC how it’ll all work.

If the play doesn’t work, or if the pool can’t be built in time and Wavegarden Cove steals the Paris games and becomes the first wavepool ever used in the Olympics, how’s that going to impact on the KSWC biz model?

Meanwhile, a player in the French surf industry is scouting for land out the back of Hossegor for a Surf Ranch.

Pools everywhere!

“Talk about a blood feud coming up,” says our source.


Confession: My favorite shithole!

"Being a terrorist is a pain in the ass when you aren't spreading terror.”

There is a country, no bigger than greater Chicago, abutting Africa’s horn that appears unremarkable at first glance save its obscene heat, molten lava that regularly bursts through an exceptionally thin crust and being the eponymous star of a poorly received Elmore Leonard novel. If Leonard taught us anything, though, even in his poorly received novels, it is that first glances are never to be trusted.

The fates have tilted Djibouti in such a way as to catch the all the valuable detritus falling from an utterly destroyed Middle East. Or maybe it wasn’t the fates but rather the French. They first saw the strategic importance of this 800 square mile bay at the mouth of the Red Sea and carved it off of Somalia in the mid-1800s. They are still here, making up the country’s largest military force outside of France, wearing short shorts, smoking Gauloises, cursing the heat but have been joined in the past decade by the rest of the world.

The U.S. base occupies Camp Lemonnire, pronounced “Lemon Air” in open derision of the French, just to the south of Djibouti International Airport. It is the United States’ only facility in Africa and houses the joystick pilots who conduct drone strikes on Somali al-Shabab and Yemeni al-Qaeda to the south and east.

France’s European Union frenemies, the Spanish and the Germans, have mustered a few thousand anti-piracy troops. The Germans are billeted at the worst Sheraton on earth, a stinking husk of 1980s grandeur, while the Spanish are billeted at the much nicer Kempinski across. And how must it rankle those Germans to have to bolster the entire Spanish economy while hearing about the crab legs their pirate hunters eat for breakfast.

The Japanese, claiming “maritime nation” status have deployed their own anti-piracy forces that also stay at the Kempinski, away from the Germans, naturally, and near better wi-fi. Their operating base pushes up against the older part of town and is that country’s first overseas military presence since World War II and while they do ostensibly hunt for pirates their navy men mostly guard Japanese fishing ships trolling illegally for sea snails in the Red Sea to satisfy the homeland’s kink for strange ocean fare.

The Chinese, not to be outdone, will open their first overseas military base in six months. The boxy facility that will eventually house some 3000 troops is being built around the bend from American, European and Japanese stations but near new Russian and Saudi positions. They too promise to fight piracy and monitor the situation across the sea on the Arabian peninsula but also seek to expand their growing influence in eastern Africa and, of course, troll illegally for sea snails but also hunt for sunken treasure.

The Russians have protested all these moves at the United Nations, the Saudis have claimed all of this is falling within their sphere of influence, the Americans have flexed by adding more warships and buzzing Chinese islands half way around the world and the French have shrugged while ordering another round of Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes 1998.

It is a mad geo-political ragout. Cold allies and hot adversaries each run live weapon drills and carry out top-secret missions within spitting distance of each other. After hours those who can get day passes mingle in the decrepit, portico’d town center drinking Heineken in shabby joints, where Ethiopian girls shimmy and pimps offer their services for a night, glaring at each other while melting in oven like-heat.

Looking on, drinking surprisingly more expensive Ethiopian beer, are the Somali pirates put out of business by the anti-piracy gold rush. They have been portrayed many different ways by many different visionaries. Paul Greengrass, director of the Tom Hanks vehicle Captain Phillips showed them to be scarily incompetent. Elmore Leonard decided flashy and filled with gold-toothed personality was more apt. I assume neither had ever actually met a pirate nor been to Somalia. The ones I had come in contact with were vacant. Not evil, per se, but without an inborn appreciation of human life. They pirated because it was there, I figure, and once the odds became silly gave it up. I was hanging out with one and wanted to go to a place with internet to check a Los Angeles Dodgers score. He did not want me to so cocked his AK-47 and pointed it at my head. An outlandish response, in my estimation, but not in his.

And even though the pirate is underemployed today, he might not be tomorrow. The non-profit group Oceans Beyond Pirates claims piracy is rebounding but now the targets are smaller private vessels. He is also branching into an increasingly lucrative heroin both hijacking ships carrying product and acting as a middleman, getting product on to cargo ships in Djibouti’s main port bound for Europe and the United States.

Away from the sex, beer and heroin, tucked into chicken restaurants in the crummier part of town, but still plotting the west’s downfall, are Yemeni al-Qaeda put out of home by American drone strikes. Yemen is only 90 miles across the Bab al-Mandab from Djibouti and dhows carrying refugees smashed during the past five years sail to camps in Obok, just across the bay from Djibouti-ville, twice a day. Over 250,00 are there now, mostly from the north and west of the country, waiting for peace. The bulk of the damage inflicted upon their lives comes from Saudi military, the third largest spender in the world after America and China dropping over 87 billion dollars a year on airplanes, tanks and bombs that, until last year, went unused.

The Yemenis running free through the rest of the country, though, are from al-Qaeda held territories in the coastal south. They have been in Djibouti for years and their network is deep and their roots are strong and for the first time since the 1990s Gulf War, back when al-Qaeda was but a glimmer in Osama bin Laden’s eye, the world’s militaries have come to them.

It is a wild underworld bouillabaisse where the old adage the enemy of my enemy is my friend somehow falls apart. The enemy of anyone’s enemy is also an enemy.

Like magic.


Surfing California’s official sport!

Nothing represents the California Dream better than surfing...

I know many of you live here in California and have you ever been jealous of Australia? Oh not its love of public singing and liberal relationship with beer, though that too, but with the fact that surfing is the country’s official sport? I’ve never known exactly what that means but know more now after reading Maurice Cole’s masterpiece. All in all it seems to create wonderful dramas and scandals. Something surfing in California needs very much more of.

Which is why my heart leapt last evening when the great Matt Warshaw sent to me bill AB1972 being advanced through California’s congress by Rep. Al Muratsuchi from Torrance and Ian Calderon from Whittier that establishes surfing as the state’s official sport. Let’s read!

“Nothing represents the California Dream better than surfing — riding the waves and living in harmony with the beautiful beaches and ocean of our Golden State. Surfing in California has a rich history and culture. The surfing lifestyle attracts people from all around the world and generates over $6 billion in annual retail sales. Surfing is an iconic California sport and an important part of the multibillion dollar California coastal economy, particularly in the tourism and recreation industries. For these reasons, I am proud to introduce a bill that would make surfing California’s official sport,” said Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance).

“I’m proud to join Assemblymember Muratsuchi in designating surfing as our state sport,” stated Majority Leader Ian Calderon. “Growing up surfing not only had a significant impact on who I am as a person, but also taught me at a young age to appreciate and cherish our beautiful coastline that we are so fortunate to have here in California.”

Now, how thrilled are you that California Surfing™ is basically here? Gimme drama! Gimme scandal! Gimme Stormy Daniels!