The Australian Harry Bryant, who flew to Los Angeles to join What Youth on their reader-funded road trip.

What Youth: “Advertorials make our skin crawl!”

Newport surf media house holds cup out to readers to fund surf movie!

Seven years ago or thereabouts, the creative muscle behind Surfing magazine flew the coop and started What Youth, a print mag and online portal.

The high-volume and heavily advertising-reliant Surfing never recovered from the desertion and, one year ago, was officially spiked. 

Chalk one up for the brave independent, yes?

Maybe no.

Recently, What Youth, who get their money from making well-crafted, sponsor-funded online shorts, creating a gorgeous office in Newport and providing salaries for half a dozen people and so forth, held its cup out to the readers. 

“We need your help. We’re embarking on the first surf trip for our new film. And that means we need some money,” the magazine’s editor and co-founder Travis Ferré wrote on Kickstarter. Wetsuits, signed photographs and a surfboard were offered to benefactors.

With thirty four hours to go, $US5,500 had been pledged.

All that, the public cry for cash, for five gees?

Is What Youth, a cultural arbiter unlike any other in surf, whose movies turned Chippa Wilson, Nate Tyler, Creed McTaggart, Mitch Coleborn and Noa Deane into stars, on its knees financially?

“This is honestly less about tough times, and more about wanting to create good times,” says Travis, who is thirty five years old but presents as someone more like twenty nine. “Crowd funding has always been in the back of my mind as an interesting experiment… I’ve also always thought our audience as a whole was more participatory. And I love the idea of them being involved in producing something with us. Something our style. Not just a reader poll or something. Like, literally help us get somewhere.”

If you were to point a camera at Travis, right now, you’d find him piloting a fifteen-seater Ford Econoline with two seats taken out to fit in surfboards and cameras. The Australians Harry Bryant and Mitch Coleborn are in the van, along with the Newport surfer Colin Moran. They are somewhere on Interstate 5, between Los Angeles and Santa Cruz.

“Just passed a slaughterhouse,” says Travis.

BeachGrit: Tell me everything about the movie, who, where, how long, why? 

Travis: At this stage, this trip is that first backfire as you warm the car up for a long journey. We’ll see how this goes, log some clips, set a mood and the rest will take shape after that. All goes well, What Youth will have a full-length movie that will come out before then end of the year. The response to this has been overwhelmingly positive though, so I like the opportunities it sets up. This was dialed in over a margarita the other night and by the next day we went for it. So we’ll go nail this, hunt ramps and see what happens next.

Is it a hipper version of Drive-Thru California? 

No, we’ll make something from this trip (maybe something of a prequel) that may have that vibe I suppose, but we’re chasing a bigger project and this will just be the first of many excursions this year. Call this the pilot.

I see two sorts of surf media biz models, those who’ll do any sort of advertorial for money no matter how demeaning (to advertiser and website) and others, like you, and Warshaw too, who don’t do anything by halves. What’s your ethos re: advertorial? Would you, for instance, knock out a few hundred words and a thirty-second half-assed short for five gees? Would you generate a little fake news, say, ten best whatevers, at five hundred a shot? Or does that make your skin crawl?

Your examples above do make my skin crawl a bit, but I’ve found ways that you can actually change “advertorial” to a far less offensive word. More like a collaboration. Or partnership. We’re more set in our ways of working to create valuable franchises like “Fairly Normal”, “Afternoon Interviews”, What Youth short films, and some new freesurfing based projects like What Youth Parts that I think it will be a way to collaborate and elevate surfers and their personalities alongside brands who support them and us… It’s a long play, but we’re in this for the long haul, not the quick buck, and hopefully we’ve established that by now. We have a long history now of declined credit cards and well-executed projects. So we’ll make it work one way or another.

You can’t manufacture something like the act of surfing. Surfing is about so much more than riding on a wave. And that sounds dumb and cheesy, but it really is. I think we try to show that mysterious magical part at What Youth — that strange universe that surfing introduces us to that’s important.

Do you still make a print mag? If yes, is it long for this world? Do you lose money with every issue? 

Yeah, we still make a print mag. We actually gave the last one away for free and it was gone in two hours. We don’t get rich off making an expensive coffee table style magazine, and no, the magazine is not exactly the future of media, but it’s also the instigator of a lot of rad things we do. We love celebrating them when they come out, it’s also a tangible thing that drives the whole operation. I call it a wash financially, but it definitely creates value for us, even if it’s not monetary.

We still make a print mag. We don’t get rich off making an expensive coffee table style magazine, and no, the magazine is not exactly the future of media, but it’s also the instigator of a lot of rad things we do. It’s a wash financially.

You refused an invite to the Surf Ranch! Tell me why! And did it hurt, even just a little? 

There is no doubt in my mind riding that wave is “fun.” And there is no doubt that there could be some insanely fun and rad things we could (and hell, hopefully we will) do at that venue — both on the wave and as an event space — but for me it still represents the bottling up of something that should not and cannot be bottled up. You can’t manufacture something like the act of surfing. Surfing is about so much more than riding on a wave. And that sounds dumb and cheesy, but it really is. I think we try to show that mysterious magical part at What Youth — that strange universe that surfing introduces us to that’s important. The people, places and weird things I’ll never be able to explain quite right are what it’s about. And being okay with that is okay too.

Is it fun to have principles?

Absolutely not.

Mavs: The Khloé Kardashian of waves!

Gets attention but for mostly for slightly awkward missteps and also marries odd men!

My goodness gracious me, this Martin Luther King Jr. weekend was alive with big wave spirit. All the social medias were pumping out photo after photo, video after video of men defying the odds. Conquering the sea. Jaws saw record wave heights, according to Albee Layer, but also featured wild crowding and minimal water safety. The Maui local took to Instagram after decrying the dangers associated with a fever pitch of popularity.

Pipeline was fabulous, Waimea looked classic and hosted Kelly Slater, island outer reefs hosted Nathan Florence but what about Maverick’s? Oh, everything was seeming almost perfect for the World Surf League to run its event but then winds went wrong and the swell wasn’t quite right and in the end nothing happened and the eyes of the globe danced to other corners.

Which made me wonder. If big waves are like the Kardashians which is who? I think:

Jaws = Kim Kardashian: Right? I mean, it is very hard to argue that Jaws is not the most photogenic and talked about big wave in the world right now. She gets all the attention and figures out new ways to stay relevant.

Waimea = Kris Jenner: The mama of all big waves. An ageless classic.

Teahupoo = Kourtney Kardashian: Quietly goes about its business from year to year without much change.

Nazaré = Scott Disick: Kourney Kardashian’s ex-husband (I think) manages to stay in the spotlight but many question if there’s any substance.

Punta de Lobos =  Cassandra Marino: Only four people know that Cassandra is a Kardashian step-sister. Only three people know that Punta de Lobos, in Chilé, is a big wave.

Todos Santos = Rob Kardashian: Remember Todos Santos? It used to get lots of covers etc. but then everyone forgot it was a big wave and stopped paying attention.

Pipeline = Caitlyn Jenner: Not generally considered a big wave but so famous it can choose whatever it wants to be.

Maverick’s = Khloé Kardashian: Gets attention but for mostly for slightly awkward missteps and also marries odd men.

Shipsterns = Kanye West: Very strange.

Find a lake or whatever deeper than four metres and you can stick your portable wave pool on it!

Shrewd: A portable floating wave pool!

Two weeks to build, comes in big box, stick it on lake or river!

Want a portable wave tank? Twenty-five metres long, thirteen wide? Drag it anywhere, takes two weeks to assemble (the parts come in a container), use river water, lake water whatever and it costs something like a hundred bucks a day in electricity to run?

Zero water consumption, low power bills?

Now that sounds like a biz that works.

Lately, you might’ve got the feeling that wave pools are the new arms race.

It’s the Slater-Finchim tank vs Webber vs American Wave Machines vs Wavegarden vs Surf Lakes and so on. Each pool slightly different, each with its own imitation of ol’ ma nature.

Who’ll win? Who’ll be dashed upon the rocks of insolvency? Will all of ’em prove to be monstrous white elephants, destined to become creepy concrete pits when the surfers don’t come?

A slightly different angle on the game are the German companies, City Wave and Unit Park Tech. The Germans are into the standing wave model, the sort pioneered by the American Tom Lochtefeld and his Flowrider. Tom’s been in the game since the eighties, opening that first Flowrider in Texas in 1991. He knows the central problem to wavepools. They cost too much to build, and way too much to run.

And the Germans, who usually get their first taste of surf riding stationary river waves, aren’t adverse to the idea of this kinda tank.

The Unit Surf Pool, by Unit Park Tech, is, according to the PR, “a floating surf pool construction that brings a surfable deepwater wave to any body of standing water… it operates on a natural body of water which translates to an endless water supply and no need for chemical water treatment.”

It’s a good sell.

Here’s how it works. Pumps bring the water up from the river, the lake, whatevs. Water flows down the ramp, jets or “hydraulic jump phenomenon” push it back up.

The first commercial version is at a joint called Surf Langenfeld between Dusseldorf and Cologne where the Unit Park Tech HQ is (history lesson: Cologne was one of the heaviest bombed cities in World War II, almost the entire population evaporated or evacuated).

Now, you’re not going to detour to Germany to jump on the damn thing, in case you’re wondering it’s 34 Euro an hour to ride, but it does show there’s a quick-to-build, cheap alternative to the magnificent $20 million-plus structures being shopped around.

Watch here.

The world's first floating #surfpool by UNIT Parktech – located at Surf Langenfeld! Check out surf-pool.com for more info!

Posted by UNIT Parktech on Saturday, 13 January 2018


Surfers pictured taking a break.
Surfers pictured taking a break.

Surfers cause “post-antibiotic apocalypse!”

The end is nigh!

When you picture the future, in your mind’s eye, is it rosy and hopeful or dark and stormy? Like, stormy not in a passing squall kind of way but in a eath-hasn’t-seen-the-sun-for-decades-because-toxi-pollution-clouds-cover-everything-and-spew-acid? Well, if you are the former you should probably transition to the latter and especially since you are a surfer.

A new study out of England reveals that UK surfers are three times more likely than the non-surfers to house antibiotic resistant superbugs in their guts which can pollute the rest of the body’s natural business and also breed and multiply and pass on to others.

The Independent reports:

Researchers from the University of Exeter said surfers swallow ten times more seawater than swimmers and bacteria from sewage runoff can get into the body, despite coastal cleanliness improvements.

Worryingly, surfers were also much more likely to be carrying bacteria which are able to pass on resistance DNA to other bugs in the body.

“This research is the first of its kind to identify an association between surfing and gut colonisation by antibiotic resistant bacteria,” said Dr Anne Leonard, of the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the research.

The increasing prevalence of drug resistance in bacteria has led to England’s chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, to warn of an approaching “post-antibiotic apocalypse”.

The story goes on to talk about the general dangers of drug-resistant bugs and how humanity is basically going to get wiped off the the planet and all thanks to surfers.

So, I guess at the end, the dystopia will having nothing to do with acid rain. Even bringing that scenario up likely shows my age but can we have some real talk? Do any of these pandemic scares worry you in the slightest? Do you read stories like this, think back on all the hundreds of times you surfed in brown muck and shrug or are you heading out to your garage, right now, to torch all your boards?

Do you re-think your life choices ever?

A wave so good it'll fill your eyes with happy tears!

(Hot) Rumour: Surf Ranch for Sydney!

Solid negotiations afoot!

A couple of years ago I interviewed the investment banker Andrew Ross, a nice man who planned to sprinkle Wavegardens across Australia.

Andrew had a giddy list of achievements, including some sort of interaction with the billionaire Richard Branson, but those pools, Melbourne promised to be working by late 2017 etc, sure are slow in coming.

Now, if I was planning on opening a Wavegarden, sweet little burgers but nothing life changing, I’d be looking over my shoulder hoping to hell the Slater-Finchim pool wasn’t coming anytime soon.


Yesterday afternoon, my telephone lit up with details of “solid negotiations” between KS Wave Pool Co and “a landholder outside Wollongong and western Sydney.”

The sender included more details, enough to prove the rumour had legs, the owner of the dirt and so on, but which I had to agree to keep off the record.

I was so thrilled I undid all the buttons on my jacket just to give my fluttering diaphragm room to spasm.

A message to the WSL was returned with the somewhat cryptic, “As one would imagine, the interest in the tech is widespread so it wouldn’t surprise me if there has been some level of conversation.”

The biz model of the Slater-Finchim pool is different to Wavegarden, Webber and Surf Lake. Instead of relying on thousands of punters paying sixty bucks a session, KS Wave Co plans on building resorts around their pool, the theory being monied surfers would happily sling five hundred bucks or more a night in return for private pool sessions.

Gonna happen? You know the KS Wave Co don’t fuck around.

Money. Muscle. Influence. Celebrity.