A squishy Gabriel Medina sandwich at Lemoore, CA.

Dear Surfing: Who are you?

Are you the WSL or The Surf Ranch? Are you Indonesia or are you Hawaii? Lemoore?

I used to love you but now I am unhappy.

I am confused. I am very, deeply confused. I don’t know what to believe!

There are sharks and wave pools and Olympics and there is of course the World Surf League. I miss the way you used to be. I miss when I could go surfing and just go surfing. I don’t like thinking about the state you’re in because it makes me sad.

But have you changed or I?

I always knew there were sharks. But why do I now spend as much time gazing at my dangling feet as I do on the horizon? I am waiting for a set or I am waiting to die and neither come fast enough. I want ultimate pleasure or I want it all to end. I won’t live in a paradigm of waves and shadows. Fuck anxiety.

I was once utterly desperate for a wave pool in my hometown.  I craved one in a similar way that I imagine Barton Lynch craving anything, with froth dripping from every pore of my being. I was sick of getting skunked. I needed infinite perfection.

I just don’t know you anymore, surfing. You’re in a bad place but I think everyone is confused about where that place that is. Fuck the Olympics, right? Fuck corporate competition. In fact, fuck competing all together.

But then I started reading things and in a series of articles Chas Smith reminded me that nothing in this world can ever be perfect.  The thing that I had been wishing for may very well be the source of all evil.

But ultimately he just confused me because I would very much like to surf a wave pool but I would also very much like Kim Jong-Un to point his missiles towards Lemoore.

I just don’t know you anymore, surfing. You’re in a bad place but I think everyone is confused about where that place that is. Fuck the Olympics, right? Fuck corporate competition. In fact, fuck competing all together.

But surfing, you are the greatest competition! You’re Kelly vs. Andy. You’re Occy vs. Curren. You’re Hawaiians vs. Haoles.

Well, At least you were.

From where I’m sitting, you have never been less competitive. You are dull. The tour is boring. Contrary to the suggestions of the commentary team, claiming a chop-hop on a 2ft wave does not count as passion. There are no rivalries. There is only gracious losing and gracious winning and nothing more. Aside from John, there is more talent off tour. And the fact that the waves are shit throughout every contest period is no factor of chance. No, it is a sign from god that something is very very wrong.

So, surfing, who are you?

Are you the WSL or The Surf Ranch?

Are you Indonesia or are you Hawaii? Australia?

Lemoore? God, I hope you aren’t Lemoore.

Are you competitive or are you free?

Are you the Olympics or are you the Volcom Pipe Pro?

Stab or BeachGrit?

Are you all or none of the above?

Do you actually exist?

Or have we, the people, taken you places you were never meant to go?

Have we created a monster out of something so pure?


The sort of turn that could fill a chapter in a book.

Watch: Filipe Toledo in “Salvador”!

A branch of lightning comes to El Salvador's famous righthand point, Punta Roca…

Dirty, tortured, gorgeous El Salvador. Set afire for a dozen years through the eighties and nineties with a left vs right civil war that spawned such fiendish crimes as “death squads” and the interference of the Reagan government for whom communism was worse than any sort of human rights indecency.

Of course, now…now… the smallest country in Central America lives in… well, it ain’t what you’d call peace. Its capital, San Salvador, has the third-highest murder rate in the world, a hundred people killed in every one hundred thousand.

LA? Six. Sydney? One. Those tattooed boys like to gang bang in El Sal. 

On the upside, the joint is a shortish flight from the US and they use US dollars. And in the not-so-little town of La Libertad there is the righthand, sandbottom point Punta Roca, popular with mostly American surfers since the seventies (a ton of the surf scenes in John Milius’ Big Wednesday were shot there). Earthquakes, shitty water, malaria and so forth complete the picture.

For a kinetic hot-rod like Filipe Toledo, who is twenty two and who owned Jeffreys Bay last year, the soft point is a wave where he can charge to and fro, upturning his surfboard and surfing as fast as a dog racing through a cathedral.

I would suggest, as a primer for how to rip a point wave, you might like to watch this latest edit by Filipe’s filmer Bruno Baroni…

 


Really Exclusive: Tank for Melbourne ’19!

Journalism is the most criminal enterprise that man has ever undertaken Mush. Pure theatre.

My life has become very strange. I wade through the world, one-armed and milky headed even though I’ve cut off the opioids. Sober. Stone cold sober. Everything looks different, not better or worse just… strange. Odd. I watch TV and can’t suss out if they’re really true. I read pieces on the Internet and know they must be false. Like yesterday. Fate found me at The Inertia-lite safe space lifestyle website Stab reading a story titled Exclusive: Stab Interrogates the Man Behind Australia’s First Wavepool.

It featured a baby oil massage with the URBNSURF founder Andrew Ross, who is opening Australia’s first tank in Melbourne next year and my milky head thought, “Andrew Ross?” It sounded familiar somehow and so I dipped into our archives and, yes, there it was from three years ago. BeachGrit was just a naughty little baby then and so you didn’t read but here for you now, from the hand of Derek Rielly.

If you saw the Snowdonia Wavegarden footage that’s been everywhere, you probably thought, when’s that fun little burger coming to my part of the world?

I live in Australia (BeachGrit has bureaus in San Francisco, San Diego, Kauai and Sydney) and got in touch with the former lawyer and investment banker, Andrew Ross, who bought the rights to Wavegarden on my piece of turf.

A few questions, none of ’em real hard.

Is Australia getting wave tanks? When? And where?

Andrew Ross, from what I can tell from the one phone call to Western Australia where he lives and where the company that he set up, Wave Park Group, is based, is an over-achiever whose giddy list of achievements, included some kind of interaction with the billionaire Richard Branson, during a year off he’d taken after running some of the biggest companies in the country.

This is where Wavegarden kicks in. When he had that year off a few years ago, it was because he’d just hit 40, had a kid, wanted to travel, surf and find some kind of inspiration for the next half of his working life.

At some point, he figured he’d like to have a swing at a surfing-based biz.

“I’ve never been associated with the surf industry,” he says. “But I’m a 35-year hardcore surfer, all my mates, we know what surfing is about, we all go to the Ments each year.”

Ross liked the aroma of the new wave pools that were suddenly appearing, in theoretical form, everywhere. He’d seen the Webber pool and got in touch with Greg Webber. Then Kelly Slater’s “people.” When he was over in Europe, he swung by the Basque country to surf the Wavegarden lagoon, its proto testing pond.

He got in and, yeah, it one of those moments he says.

Taj Burrow was surfing the right (stars!), he was surfing the left, he kicked out and told Wavegarden, “I’m writing you a cheque. This is fucking amazing.”

Ross created the company Wave Park Group, brought in pals with various complimentary skills, and made a goal to create 10 Australian Wavegardens in 10 years. Ambitious?

Baby, he’s an investment banker. It seems positively… bearish!

The website, (click here), reeks of corporate-speak, howevs, which stings the eyes. It’s like one of those forms you get when a new CEO swings into your company and he wants to know the company’s mission, it’s vision and values, all those things that are totally mainlined in the corporate world.

Whatever, it’s only the meaningless platitudes companies throw on their sites to fill the obvious gap of not having a product yet. But maybe soon!

Ross, who’s just been to three cities in three days, says he doesn’t want to make any premature announcements, ’cause that leads to disappointment, and he’s right, and won’t until the first site is secured and the Development Approval has gone through whatever regional planning authority it’s dealing with.

That said, “we’d be disappointed if we don’t have something to people within 12 months, potentially quite a bit shorter than that,” he says.

What interests me, is the parks are going to be owned by Wave Park.

He ain’t sub-letting the Wavegarden technology.

They’ll buy or lease the site, buy all the Wavegarden pieces that’ll then be shipped to Australia, it’ll all get put together, a few months of testing, and away it goes.

What did Mr. Ross feel? Well, he came into our naughty baby comments, if you can believe, and said:

Hi Derek, that’s sort of accurate – but I’m not sure I’m “a hardcore surfer” that “knows what surfing’s about”. I certainly haven’t run some of the biggest companies in Australia. But I have loved surfing all my life, I have two young kids that are just learning to surf, and I feel totally stoked to now be involved in a business that, for me, is a bit of a culmination of all the different work I’ve done to this point. I’m happy to have a proper chat if you want to get a better idea about what we have planned. Cheers, Andrew (PS – loved all of the stories you wrote on Aquabumps for Uge’s last Ment’s trip).

To which Derek responded:

…oh, I did feel very grateful to Eugene for sliding me onto that once-in-a-lifetime voyage, on a boat as high as the Sacré Coeur and even more beautiful, at the last minute, hence the time put into those stories.

To clarify those other points, first, about you being involved in some of Australia’s biggest companies, my notes say: “Used to run big ASX listed companies.” I extrapolated from that, one, that if a company is on the Australian Stock Exchange, it’s already among the top 2000 companies in the country. And, add a little oil in the mix, and it’s gotta be top 500. Possibly too long a bow to draw, yeah.

Two, you can blame the other bit on the harshness of the printed quote, the lack of nuance of type on screen. It’s exactly as you said it, howevs.

If there’s more to add to the story, I’ll happily snatch more quotes. Journalism is the most criminal enterprise that man has ever undertaken Mush. Pure theatre.

I spent the rest of the day chuckling to myself. Just doddering around one-armed and chuckling. It’s good, no? Also, I have not read this discussed anywhere but feel it is pertinent. The tank is being built near Melbourne’s airport which happens to be 3000000 kilometers away from Melbourne proper so they should probably say “near Sydney” instead. Just my two cents.


Mason Ho curves under the stairs.

Mason Ho, Tom Curren in “A Salty Jap Bath!”

See Mason Ho's strong spine and Tom Curren's upright turns!

How about this? In six months, little Mason Ho, the kinetic kid who winks at life, baby boy of Michael, who Dane Reynolds calls “the king of stoney surfing”, will turn… thirty.

Tom Curren, meanwhile, father of style, three-time world champion, is well into his sixth decade.

A wave of reality just swooped over me. You? 

Through the hourglass go the sands of time etc.

All of which makes this five-minute clip, made by their sponsor Rip Curl, with its almost ninety years of combined surf-expertise, quite the thing.

The story, such as it is, goes like this: Mason and Tom visit Japan. It begins relatively poor, in soft lefts, but the upright turns of Tom Curren and his ability to avoid any extraneous moment makes it shine.

The skateboarding of Mason tests the nerve. Like a shopping trolley pushed down a hill you wait for the inevitable wobble and fall.

The highlight, and it’s worth persisting for, is Mason’s fiendish layback tube. He climbs over the ledge, into the void and curves under the stairs, reclined as the door opens.

It’s at the four-ish minute mark, if you don’t want the mostly filler.

Music ain’t bad either. You might clap along with your hands.


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?