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Sexy Pope!

Theology: Catholics Ban Surfing!

Should Catholic schoolboys be fed to sharks? A theological conundrum!

Don’t it feel good to have a provocative religion-based headline. I remember when it was the thing of anyone who regarded themselves as “edgy” to stick the boot into the Catholic Church. It peaked, I think, when an artist, Andrew Serranos, submerged a crucifix in a beaker of his post-modernist pee-pee and called it Piss Christ.  He even talked his way into a five-gee grant from a US-taxyapyer funded agency.

Good times.

Of course, with the arrival of the whole Islam thing, when even as people are beheaded in the streets and machine-gunned in their offices, the rest of us tie ourselves into knots to exhibit our tolerance, it has shut the door on taunting religions. Sometimes they bite back, literally, and often via various legal avenues.

Anyway, it was revealed by the Northern Star newspaper, recently, that “surfing will be banned at all Catholic schools on the North Coast for the foreseeable future.

THE Catholic Diocese of Lismore, which controls all Catholic schools from Port Macquarie to the Queensland border, has issued a ban on all open ocean surfing and surf lifesaving in response to the threat of “shark encounters”.

A memo announcing the ban was sent to principals by Director of Catholic Schools David Condon on February

1.It stated that the Catholic Schools Office had recently sought an independent risk assessment of parish schools conducting surfing and surf lifesaving in open waters, “specifically in relation to potential shark interactions”.

“After consultation with the Catholic Schools Council, it has been determined that all Diocesan surfing, and Diocesan surf lifesaving in open waters conducted under the auspices of the Catholic Schools Office, will cease in 2018,” the memo said.

At this stage it is unknown who conducted the independent risk assessment, nor what criteria were used.

The door was left open however for schools to conduct their own “independent assessments” of the risk.

The memo listed three recommendations if schools opted to continue with ocean activities:

1. Events to be held at beaches protected with either nets or smart drumlines

2. Drones to be used at events

3. If no nets or smart drum lines are present, then the event should not proceed.

The memo emerges at the same time a new CSIRO report using world first genetic analysis estimated there were almost 5500 white sharks living off Australia’s East Coast.

The estimate came with a huge margin for error, with the real number considered in the report as being anywhere from 2900 sharks to 12,800 sharks.

(The latter number if you’re lazy at maths like BeachGrit)

Do you like irony being spooned to you like this?

That a religion built around the concept of a heaven and the notion that the hand of God is in every creature, that to die, i.e. go to heaven after being eaten by God’s creature, could somehow be a bad thing?

Wouldn’t a little Catholic boy tossed into the mouth of a Great White be the completion of some sort of divine circle of life?

"Suck my 4.35, world!"
"Suck my 4.35, world!"

How To: Become an Olympic Surfer!

Determination and really gaming the system!

Now, as you are most certainly aware, the Winter Olympics in PyongYang are rounding the bend to their conclusion. The Games kicked off almost two weeks ago producing spills, chills and feel good moments.

They have also produced a touch of controversy and let’s us, for a moment, consider the saga of Liz Swaney.

The American skied in the freestyle halfpipe event for the central European nation of Hungary and left the crowd speechless by doing zero tricks, just back and forth and back and forth.

How did she end up at the Olympics and on national television?

CBS Sports reporter Pete Blackburn says, “It was a combination of determination and really gaming the system. The field is not very deep in the women’s halfpipe, so she was she was able to enter events in which there were 30 or less competitors, and if you earn a top-30 finish in a World Cup event you score points through the International Ski Federation.”

Simple but polarizing. A percentage of the viewing public felt cold rage at Swaney’s performance, thinking it mocked the hard work other athletes put in. A percentage of the viewing public felt warm happiness, thinking Eddie the Eagle type human stories are exactly what makes the Olympics special.

All fine and good but we don’t care about freestyle skiing, do we. No, we care about Olympic surfing and this is going to for sure happen in the event’s inaugural run at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Some Zoltan Torkos character is going to figure out that Greece, say, doesn’t have any good surfers, jump through Olympic Committee hoops and voila make it to the Olympics where the television studios will produce a feel-good segment on his fish-out-of-water story.

In three years, Zoltan the Great will hit theaters starring Dexter Holland (as Zoltan) and Brendan Fraser (as his coach) and the question I have for you is will you go see it or will you wait for it to be On Demand?

Also, it doesn’t have to be Zoltan Torkos who “determinedly games the system.” It could be you. To be later played by Rob Schneider in the yet-to-be-named film.

Do you have Olympic dreams? What is going to be the name of your film?

Literature: Of Sharks and Mediocrity!

What happens when the bitey fish swims by?

There was a shark in the line-up today.

I didn’t actually see it, mind you. But the four guys sitting at the top of the point came in to the beach in a hurry. One of them made the international sign of oh hey, we saw something big out there, with his hands. I figured I’d go find out what was up. I didn’t want to be the only one sitting out there, dangling my feet into the depths.

Here whitey, whitey, come and get ittttt.

You are probably braver than I am. You’d probably all just sit out there like, whatever. And keep catching waves and making turns and generally looking rad. I have trouble looking rad when there are bitey fish around.

My approach to sharks on the whole is to pretend they don’t exist. Like, la la la, what even is a shark. I’ve definitely been places where they like to hang out, but what I can’t see doesn’t matter, is what I always say. I just fixate on the crabs and it’s totally fine.

But the dudes were convinced it was eight feet, which is a lot of bitey fish to ignore. It’s unusual, but not out of the question for an eight footer to be loafing around the joint. There’ve been a few verified sightings over the winter.

Then there’s the apocalyptic run-off, which the big fish apparently enjoy. Mmm, pollution and bacteria, nom nom nom. I’ve personally progressed to the point of ignoring the water quality reports altogether. Fecal coliform? Whatevs. I’m sure it’s totally fine.

An editor made me write a story once about the dangers of surfing in run-off. I felt like maybe he knew me a little too well. I learned about all the gross bacteria out there. Actual MD’s told me all about it. I tried to behave! But all that’s ended now. I’ve managed to mostly forget all the stuff they told me, which is an internet writer’s best talent. What? I wrote that? No way.

So after the shark thing, I wandered down the beach and paddled out again where there were a few more humans. Herd instinct, you know. I knew I could count on the longboarders to sit halfway out to sea, so that any big fish would check them out first.

If I have to surf with longboards, I might as well put them to work. Y’all sit out there and distract the sharks! I’ll just do some surfing right here. No, you’re good! You’re not missing anything. Just surfing.

I was trying to surf my dumb shortboard, finally. It’s been a shit winter around here. Anyone in the audience who lives here in California, south of Point Conception is nodding along with me, right now. I’m pretty sure we could count the number of good days this winter on one hand. It’s been flat. The flattest.

Over the weekend, we sat in the lineup and stared at the horizon. And stared. And stared some more. A passing whale farted. The entire lineup paddled like it was the dying seconds of a Pipe Masters (RIP) heat. That’s pretty much been the winter right there. Little wonder I can barely remember what my shortboard looks like. It’s white I think? Also, thin. I think it has some fins on it, maybe.

But today there was windswell and the buoy numbers were actually in double-digits. It was astonishing! So I grabbed my do-everything shortboard, designed for not quite awesome surf. It is white and thin and beautiful. It has blue fins, which I’m pretty sure make it faster. Also, yes, I did partly choose them for the color, because why the hell not.

The surf was shit-slop windswell that looked better than it was. Also it was freezing and upwelled. The shark was probably the highlight of the whole thing. It certainly wasn’t my surfing.

But I have broken up with my soft top at last. It’s over between us. It was fun, but it wasn’t really meant to last. From now on, it’s foam and fiber glass only. And three fins! I am again enamored of three fins. Oh I hear you taunting me. You’re saying I’ll be back, begging for some of that sweet soft top love as soon as the next flat spell comes around.

Nope. It’s not going to happen. I’m standing firm.

Fuck, maybe I’ll buy a midlength.

Meet: The Moroccan who smashed Dorian!

And watch a lineup that will make you drool!

If you have ever been to Morocco then you know what an absolute treasure the country is. From its perfectly orientalist bazaars to its faboosh  Yves St. Laurent villas to its cuisine to its hashish to is oranges, mint, Abd el-Krim all the way to its luscious pointbreaks. Reeling, peeling pointbreaks. Juicy frooty pointbreaks.

It is a fairytale land. A magical paradise and if you have ever been then you know and, when you see videos of, miss.

I saw a video today and missed. It features an impeccably cool cat by the name Abdel El Harim. He is a local legend, having competed on the World Qualifying Series and beating Shane Dorian in a heat at Pipeline. More importantly, these days, he is taking hard-on-their-luck Moroccan kids from the mean streets, feeding them and taking them surfing.

A fine man with fine impulses.

Can you imagine a better way to spend your time? Beating Shane Dorian in his own backyard then helping troubled youth in your own?

I can’t.

Hello Facebook, Goodbye Surfing!

Surfing's ultimate sell-out?

I hate everything about Facebook. I hate that it leeches away time and energy. I hate that it allows people to live shadow lives, cultivate false personas, or justify hateful behaviour by forming hateful allegiances with hateful strangers.

And I hate that Facebook owns the data of so many people, just as it now owns professional surfing.

I’m sure the WSL considered a subscription model to let us watch events, but obviously they’ve dismissed it as not viable at this stage. It’s probably the right decision for them, but not for me. Outsourcing broadcast and tech expertise and mainlining to millions of potential viewers is likely a “smart” move, but it doesn’t feel like the right one. I would gladly pay to keep surfing free from the shackles of tech behemoths and Big Data.

In my mind the marriage between the WSL and Facebook is surfing’s ultimate sell-out and I can’t believe more people don’t see that.

I gave up on Facebook a while back. It was making me angry and condescending. It was sapping my hope, and it was casting a gloomy net of opinion and judgement over family and friends.

Facebook stokes the embers of the worst versions of ourselves, the ones we push back in daily life and polite company. It is a platform to hoist our human failings for the world to see – greed, vanity, deceit, jealousy, bitterness, obsession with the self…you name it.

I object to people “liking” tragedy and serious illness, just as much as I object to them spraying love hearts and thumbs up emojis at blatant attention seeking and cries for help.

Recently a young boy from my town was killed in a car crash. I watched as the community clambered over each other in comment threads and faux heartbreak posts to grieve the hardest and fastest. A race to see who could get the most likes for a pithy post about a 17-year-old boy, smashed against a tree on a singletrack road. And I watched as the dead boy’s brother stumbled through some awkward posts of his own, unable to find the words or the will to grieve publically for his little brother, yet carried on a tide of competition to see who could be the most sympathetic, the most hurt. Some things are best kept private.

Declarations of love on FB are just as bad. I don’t think it would be a stretch to map the correlation between the professed happiness of a couple on FB and their actual happiness. Touting your wonderous union online is absolutely the death knells of that relationship.

People actually define themselves by their FB posts. I know a guy who came back from a snowboarding trip genuinely downbeat because “Facebook didn’t really make it look as good as it was”.

I know another guy, who, when his old man died, was told by FB that his dad’s profile page could and would not be removed. It had to stay there, frozen in the ether, his father’s memory presided over by grief tourists.

I shudder at the idea of being defined by things that I once posted on Facebook. I imagine dying tomorrow, and then, when my son is old enough, him trying to build a picture of his father based on look-at-me posts and vitriolic commentary I’ve been sucked into online. Better not to engage at all, I think. Better to opt out.

Which is what I did some months ago now. I know my page is still there, on an algorithmic hair trigger, ready to launch once more should I accidentally make an errant log in. But I haven’t so far, and I don’t intend to. Not even for surfing.

I haven’t missed FB. I find myself lagging on the occasional water cooler conversation, but that hardly matters. I can enjoy genuine interactions these days. Conversations with friends (you know, actual friends) that aren’t pre-loaded with pre-conceptions. It takes a moment or two for people to catch on. It takes a second for them to rediscover face-to-face engagement. After we’ve got by the statutory “Oh, so you didn’t see that on FB?”, conversations can actually feel real again.

So it’s against this background that I’ll bid adieu to watching pro surfing. On principle I can’t accept the union with FB. I understand it, sure. I understand that it’s a financial decision and a business decision and yet another decision in pursuit of pro surfing’s white whale – the mainstream audience – but I will not step aboard.

I love professional surfing, as dubiously entertaining as it may be.

But I will not sell myself or my data to Facebook in order to watch it, even for free.