Confession: “I rode a fish all fishy!”

"But suddenly, my arms were above my head and I had no idea how they got there."

Yesterday I drank coffee with Chas, or rather, he drank tea meticulously steeped by a cheerful barista and I drank espresso brewed ristretto and a small glass of mineral water.

He did not wear the ectomorph pants, which was disappointing, but he did wear the YSL moccasins (ed. note: They are Louis Vuitton) which looked sinfully comfortable. Surely, there are laws against such things. I wore Volcom, Amuse, and Reef flip flops, because I am nothing if not a caricature of myself.

We sat in the Southern California shade in our ripped jeans and talked predictably of writing and surfboards. Beautiful west swell lines wrapped around the reefs just beyond our peripheral vision. It was postcard California.

I said I’d surfed Swamis the previous day. I rode my fish (sorry, not sorry DR!) which is blue and terribly cute with its fancy wood fins. One of the fins has a tiny chip after a bad decision at low-tide Malibu. In truth, I’m not terribly good at surfing the fish. My frail girlish frame can’t sink any part of it and it skims along the surface of things with a mind of its own.

As the smart stalkers among you already know (hi), I live in Santa Barbara. We surf point breaks, generally. When I first started surfing Rincon, it was something of a mystery to me. Oh, I could see that long line of water stretching to infinity. It felt like I had all the time in the world, and yet, never enough. I consistently blew sections, flapping like a flightless bird, falling behind, falling ahead, falling.

One of the most generous people I’ve ever met in a lineup, Kim Mearig one day told me that the secret to the thing is just to get down the line. Just get down the line. The advice sounded so obvious as to be useless. Well, duh. If I could get down the line, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

But eventually, I came to understand. She meant that you have to learn to let the wave do the work for you. The speed you need, it’s right there in front of you. The wave will always tell us what to do, if only we can read the story it’s writing for us. Maybe someday if I do this thing long enough, I’ll achieve that rare effortless grace of someone like Kim. Probably not, but there’s joy in the trying.

So there I was at Swamis, sliding along, drawing lazy fish loops. I’d scooped up an in-betweener under the longboarders who’d been drawn outside by a set. This is my signature move and I use it relentlessly. A section popped up and I could see there wasn’t much left to this thing. I told my fish to go up, which it obediently did. I was hoping to eek out just enough speed for one more turn before it all ended.

And then I was up there, skimming along the top of the wave. I felt good up there, riding my cute blue fish with the fancy fins. But suddenly, my arms were above my head and I had no idea how they got there. It was as though they weren’t even attached to my body anymore.

I also felt a weird urge to cross step which was super scary. I firmly reminded myself that I am neither Mason Ho nor Ryan Burch and my feet need to stay the fuck where they belonged.

I looked around furtively, hoping that no one had noticed. But I couldn’t help but think someone up there on the cliff was wondering what the hell was up with the weirdo chick on the fish. What is she doing with her arms. Why are they up in the air like that. I have no answer to these questions.

I thought I was the only one who’d experienced this bizarre arm thing, but then Chas admitted that it had happened to him. We vowed to create a support group for people like us. Hello, I once lost control of my arms while surfing a fish. I don’t know how it happened.

There was more talk about surfing and some writerly trash talk. Throwing shade in the shade. Then the coffee was gone, the tea drained, and it was time to go.

I took a long, lingering look at those magic green lines. Then, dreaming of Rincon at sunset, I drove north toward home.

Hiroto Ohara (pictured) | Photo: WSL

Olympics: Japan early favorite for gold!

A super team in the making!

The Winter Olympics commence today in PyeongChang, Korea. It will be a time of great cheer and veiled jingoism. I will catch as many events as I can, including but not limited to biathlon, curling, the 70m long jump, the 90m long jump and ice dancing.

Eighteen months from now, the Summer Olympics will kick off in nearby Tokyo, Japan. The 2020 Games will mark surfing’s debut and the host nation is the early favorite to bring home the gold. The Japan Times reports:

Twenty-year-old surfer Kanoa Igarashi, a dual citizen of Japan and the United States, has been named to the Japan national team for the first time, the Nippon Surfing Association said Tuesday.

Along with 55 other men, including 2015 U.S. Open of Surfing winner Hiroto Ohara, and 26 women, Igarashi will represent Japan in surfing events in the 2018 season as he seeks a place in the team at the 2020 Tokyo Games when the sport makes its Olympic debut.

Kanoa Igarashi and Hiroto Ohara have both won the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, conditions that likely mirror the Japanese beach breaks. Igarashi and Ohara also have a combined height of 2m and will be able to do many acrobatic maneuvers inside the Slater-Fincham barrel if the Olympic committee decides to hold the event at a wave tank.

I think the combo may well be unbeatable, easy favorites for gold and silver. I think Brazil will take bronze.

If you have a shred of decency, self-respect and pride in your skill set, then the Ghost is worth the effort to figure  out. You can do the best surfing in your life on it. Big call, but true. If you've given up or were never there then walk on by. This board has nothing for you, and that's no judgement on your worth as a human being. | Photo: WSL

Board review: Longtom on the Pyzel Ghost!

It's not a motherfucking fun board and it's not a crutch.

On November 18, 2017, I took possession of a Pyzel Ghost from TC glasshouse Ourimbah Drive Tweed Heads. Six feet one inches, stock dims.

It was the long awaited denouement of a complex cash and scrip deal hammered out via text message and electronic mail with BeachGrit principal Derek Rielly, part payment for coverage of the Grand Slam leg of the WSL championship Tour, honoured in it’s entirety in August. A deal a lot of people seem to think is tantamount to receiving a free board.

To wit: last week driving a bus down the main drag of Byron Bay a little car tried to nose in front of me. I put the window down.

“Where the fuck do you think you’re going mate ?”

The driver put his window down. It was my derro mate Sticko talking in his derro drawl, “Shep, heard you got a free Ghost you sick cunt, how fucking sick is that? Sick!”

I stopped the bus in heavy traffic opposite the Great Northern hotel and got out, hugged it out with Sticko who resembles Nick Nolte on a three-day coke binge but with a leonine mane, no body fat and a proper air game.

“Now Sticko,” I said, “the truth of that matter is that I worked my arse off for that board, it owes me nothing nor I it. Comprende?”

You don’t have derros in America. They are a particular species of Australian surf animal. Entrepreneurial by nature, not averse to corner cutting,  bent schemes, Third World cash-only payments etc. By and large critics and outcasts of consumer capitalism by temperament and desire.

My people.

I only offer the preamble in the interests of full transparency. While Jon Pyzel seems like good  people, he doesn’t know me from a bar of soap. And I wouldn’t even know where to buy a Ghost, let alone spruik a link.

Like me, you covet a Ghost for the simple fact of JJF at Margaret River last year and what he did there on that board. From that followed the completely natural question: “Could there be something in that for me?”

I shall tell you how it goes for a recreational surfer of competent but wholly unremarkable skill set. You can draw an honest conclusion about whether it should be part of your future.

First thoughts. The board is a clean-curved widepoint forwards round pin. Nothing special there. Wide-point forward boards have been back in vogue since Kelly’s Deep Six victory at Pipeline. If you have a skerrick of historical appreciation for the single fin line, or any muscle memory of one, then widepoint forward feels better than sex on the bottom turn. You put the front foot down and lean and you feel the ride. The rails are foiled, the thickness is hidden. All this you can see from the photos.

If you can’t come to grips with that rocker curve, you can’t surf this board. That sounds harsh to modern ears tuned to inclusive language but it’s true.

What you can’t see is the rocker curve. Which is the special sauce.

You feel it as soon as you put it under your arm. The rocker curve cuts hard into the forward outline in a very distinctive way just in front of the chest. A recognisably Hawaiian curve, with a long sloping rocker curve out the aft end. If you can’t come to grips with that rocker curve, you can’t surf this board. That sounds harsh to modern ears tuned to inclusive language but it’s true.

It says on the website the board is a daily driver. It ain’t a daily driver (with exceptions). It’s a board for good waves. A Grit commenter who left after the Adjunct Professor IP reveal fiasco, Ghost of Super Jnr, said a “Man’s reach should exceed his grasp” and that applies perfectly to the Ghost. You reach for it at the limit of your skill set. It’s not a motherfucking fun board, it’s not a crutch.That rocker curve and area reduction in the outline curve needs a lot of board speed to get loaded up. I got it for good point surf and in the weeks after I took possession good point surf came my way.

You reach for it at the limit of your skill set. It’s not a motherfucking fun board, it’s not a crutch.That rocker curve and area reduction in the outline curve needs a lot of board speed to get loaded up. I got it for good point surf and in the weeks after I took possession good Point surf came my way.

It took some time to calm down and learn to ride the board properly. You can’t surf it off the fins, outline or rails. You have to relax into the rocker curve. Every turn. When you get that right, it feels like a 12-inch bubba blade slicing through the shoulder of a hundred pound yellowfin. A sense of ease and power and mass shifting.

I’ve always worked with fish, catching or processing. I’m not some pissant 2 per center. I’ve done my time. Salmon and halibut in Alaska, some crabs. Trawlers in the Gulf, wetliners out of Kalbarri, deep dropping on the shelf. It’s hard, bloody work but you can get paid without a visa. Mostly cash. I cut and humped tuna and marlin in Guam. A warehouse full of frozen carcasses, truckloads coming in off the longliners and purse seiners. Complete rape and pillage of the Ocean. Boss was a sadistic Serb whose favourite game was to get you to help him in the midday sun while he angle grinded metal and cover you in burning hot metal shards. Sacked me when  I cooked his truck full of tuna. I went back the next day to collect my pay and he stood there with his angle grinder and told me to turn around and run before he ground my legs off and threw me in the deep freeze.

It feels like a 12-inch bubba blade slicing through the shoulder of a hundred pound yellowfin. A sense of ease and power and mass shifting.

I backed it up to a safe distance, flipped him the bird, turned on my heels and jogged home. Didn’t need the fucken money anyhow. My gal was a Femme Nous dancer bringing home shopping bags full of greenbacks stripping for US Marines. I went back to sitting on the rooftop drinking sixers of San Miguel and smoking Gudam Gurangs. Corrodes the soul, comrades. But, it works.

Point of the digression: you cut that tuna the right way or the wrong way. There is no in-between. And it’s the same with the Ghost. It’s an easy enough board to ride, but it’s a hard board to ride right. It demands precision. Flub the turn and it saps the confidence. You need to go in soft and come out hard.

Early days were bedevilled by flubbed turns on the Ghost. At times to the point of despair.

“What the fuck is going on here!” I have cried out, more than once.

But I have learnt to relax and let the rocker do the work, then add the extra foam in the split once the turn is done. By and large I have learned to tame this board.

Early in the review, I asked the reader to consider reaching up for the board. I place one caveat on that. If you are over 40 and raising your seed, guy or gal, and/or have anything like adult obligations then add one inch. Or even two. With the fine foil you won’t notice it.

Volume measurements have led to the biggest misconceptions and false coinage in surfboard design history. They speak to a deeper misunderstanding of what the surfboard is and what it does. It has a dualistic nature. At low speed, ie when paddling it’s a displacement hull. It goes through the water and is subject to hydrostatic forces of which buoyancy is the key measure. Ergo, volume matters for paddling.

When riding a wave it’s a planing hull and subject to the entirely different hydrodynamic forces, equations of which depend on surface area, pressure and velocity. Ergo, bottom contours, rail foil and rocker/outline matter for wave riding.

The crux of the Ghost, to crack the technical nut, is the ease with which it breaks from the hydrostatic to the hydrodynamic. That is, when catching a wave it goes from low speed to planing incredibly easily and effectively. It knifes into a late drop better than any board I’ve ridden.

If that means something to you, good waves are in your present or near future and you have a shred of decency, self-respect and pride in your skill set, then the Ghost is worth the effort to figure  out. You can do the best surfing in your life on it. Big call, but true. If you’ve given up or were never there then walk on by. This board has nothing for you, and that’s no judgement on your worth as a human being.

To quote Terry Fitzgerald: “Optimising experience is in effect a commitment to multiple surfboards and varied approach. For those who enjoy the thrill of riding a wave, pro-model equipment is one link to the dream of surfing a perfect wave”.

Video to come.

Breaking: WSL loses in Hawaii!

But only for now. The future is bright!

We are living in weird times. The far left loves the FBI, populists love corporate tax relief and the World Surf League was not able to grease Honolulu’s civic wheel enough to move its Pipeline Masters permit to January for the 2019 season. Would you like me to recap?

Earlier this month it was revealed that the WSL missed its filing deadline in order change its current permitted window from mid-December to mid-January for 2019. This is necessary, of course, for the new-look tour which begins in Hawaii and ends in Indonesia with stops at not Trestles and Surf Ranch along the way. Honolulu’s mayor, Kirk Caldwell, took a hard line initially, press releasing his displeasure at the WSL’s strong-arm tactics.

WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt flew to Hawaii in order to work out details but today, Mr. Caldwell rejected the bid in the name of “fairness.”

“Please know the city fully appreciates the economic spending the WSL brings to the islands, but as I’ve stated, this is an issue about fairness, not about money. You have stated that the changes are minor, and if this is truly the case, we are perplexed that you would jeopardize your relationship to Hawaii on a minor change. I sincerely hope the WSL will continue to hold events in Hawaii, the birthplace of the sport of surfing.”

What happens now? Everything will get fixed and quick is what.

Of course this story can be rolled and spun and chewed as WSL incompetence and/or Honolulu greed and/or some fat transplant’s chance to riff on “the way things are done on the islands” but really who the hell cares? Professional surfing is an important economic/cultural driver in Hawaii. The World Surf League is the only organized multilateral representation of professional surfing. The two will very soon work out a proper way forward and that will be the end.

But we do live in weird times so I’ve already read lots of surf media posts punctuating the importance of getting paperwork in on time and playing by the rules etc. What the hell is that?

The only thing I want is more local wildcards in the Pipeline Masters. I want Honolulu to press its momentary advantage and stick 30 of ’em in there. Don’t you?

Viva Jamie O!

All she needs is your surfboard and then you're rich!

Invest: New opportunity in surf!

Don't let this trend pass you by!

Are you, like me, easily lulled into complacency? Expecting that nothing is going to really change, that the status quo has too much inertia? Then one day as you are doing your normal routine you realize BAM some great shift has occurred and you were too slow, to dense, to see it coming?

Like Bitcoin. I remember first hearing about the cryptocurrency a few years ago and thought, “Lame-o. Now computer nerds can have something to trade when they’re not trading Dungeons and Dragons stuff.” And then I was left behind, the river of progression sweeping past as I entertained myself with dated caricatures.

I don’t want to be backward and so this morning I read of a new currency trading in Australia and thought it would be remiss not to at least bring it to your attention.

Self-portraits of Chinese people surfing have become valuable commodities.

The Newcastle Herald reports:

“For Australians, splashing in the water is something we’ve done since we were kids. For Chinese visitors, however, it is something unique and can be very daunting,” says Dr Gardiner.

She says they want to experience the surf and have a quintessential Gold Coast holiday.

“From a tourism perspective, being able to get an amazing photo of (themselves) riding a wave on a surfboard that they can share with their friends in China is by far the most sought-after Australian experience,” she says.

“It even tops a photo with a koala.”

And can you imagine that? I bet the “photo with koala” industry in Australia does very well, generating millions of dollars of revenue and hundreds of jobs. You don’t have a koala but you do have a surfboard and a phone. What’s stopping you from cutting off a slice of this new pie? There would be some danger, I suppose, in approaching what you imagine to be a Chinese man with with your board and phone and have that Chinese man turn out to be Peter Schroff but fortune favors the bold.

Don’t be sitting at home when your neighbor becomes the multi-millionaire Chinese Surfing Selfie King.

Go forth and prosper.