ross clarke jones

Help: Ross Clarke-Jones nearly drowns!

A legend nearly snuffed out at Nazaré!

Very few thing in life are eternal and even fewer things in surfing. There’s pretty much only Waikiki and Ross Clarke-Jones. The “sleepy-eyed surfer from Avoca, New South Wales” as Matt Warshaw describes in his epic Encyclopedia of Surfing has been a part of our landscape since the beginning of memory. I’ve asked some of the oldest surfers I know if they recall a time before Ross Clarke-Jones. Each paused, looked into space for a moment and then responded, “No.”

Mr. Clarke-Jones is mostly famous for his big wave prowess and yesterday the Portuguese wave called Nazaré almost stole his life. As told to The Guardian:

I caught my first wave on the second peak, which I went right. Bailing off the wave, I was pulled under the water for about 30 seconds, using my Quiksilver Airlift to inflate me to the surface. I came up looking directly at the cave and rocks. Clutching to the rocks, I stayed there for a minute to get my breath back and to orientate myself. As I watched the set coming towards me, I waited then scrambled to the cliff to start scaling the 30-metre sheer drop up.

You know what you sign up for when you surf Nazaré; I always have a hell of a time, but this was a nice reminder that you never take it for granted. Especially on the smaller days like today where you can get complacent … it was a big mistake.

Observers looked on in horror as the brave surfer was bashed against the rocks and washed into an area that made it impossible to rescue him. There were five skis circling, trying to help. One of the drivers, Axi Muniain, said:

This is the first time I’ve seen someone get caught in this zone. There were five of us on jetskis trying to find him and we couldn’t reach him, or even see him.

I personally think that there aren’t many surfers that could have gotten themselves out of this situation. It was RCJ’s age and wave knowledge that saved him. He used the waves and water to his advantage.

The day has left Mr. Clarke with a concussion and possible broken leg but still very much alive. Watch the thrilling saga here and imagine yourself in that spot. How would it have gone for you?

Britt Merrick
"A surfboard can't just…work… it has to be beautiful."

Britt Merrick on: Shaping and “The Gift of Tongues!”

Santa Barbara shaper on the divine nature of surfboards…

Don’t you love a family biz? It’s an increasingly rare, and possibly archaic, concept where short-term profits are ignored for the creation of a legacy and where quality, not cash, counts as success.

Now let’s be clear. Channel Islands Surfboards is an almost-fifty-year-old surfboard company that was created by Al Merrick in 1969, but it ain’t a family biz anymore. Snowboard giant Burton ate it up in 2006.

What keeps it homely is the continued presence of Al’s son, Britt, as a shaper and designer. In this short profile of Merrick Jnr, made by the surf hire start-up Awayco, we find the up-beat shaper talking about the beginnings of CI,

“I don’t have any memories that pre-date surfboards. Both my parents worked there full-time and had second jobs. Dad would hand-shape each board, glass it and mom would sell it out the front.”

The joy of the biz,

“We love surfing and we love surfers and we’re all united by this experience of riding waves.”


“Shaping is pure art. Every board I shape, it’s…it’s… deeply connected from my heart… It can’t just work, it has to be beautiful… I was shaping this morning, the sun was up and I was working on a hand-shape and working hard on it… but I was so pleased with how beautiful it was.”

Britt, who is forty five years old and a pastor with the Reality Church (watch his sermons on ‘The Gift of Tongues’ and ‘The Gift of Prophecy’ here),  sums up the building of surfboards thus:

“We’re not making widgets, we’re making this thing we love.”

Heavenly, yes?


Australian surfing a “lawless backwater!”

Rampant egos explode without regard!

We are living in chaotic times and while there is much hyperbolic wailing and gnashing of teeths they don’t seem historically chaotic do they? I mean, let’s get real serious for a moment. Let’s put down the placards and step away from the Facebook forums and just get real serious. The third reich ain’t gobbling up Europe, Genghis Khan ain’t standing outside the wall, the Black Plague ain’t wiping out a third of the global population.

Oh sure, a sort of vicious populism is on the rise discombobulating some surfers and sending them to the police’s arms in order to find comfort but maybe these are the smart ones? For a report out of Australia suggests that the ocean is turning uncompromisingly violent.

A bodysurfer in Newcastle, Australia (just two hours north from Bondi) was recently run over by a surfboard between the flags (what we would call “blackball” here in America) and given 30 stitches in his face.

That is a lot of stitches and also prompted soul searching in the local Newcastle Herald:

Urban surf breaks populated by boardriders are largely lawless spaces where rampant individualism and egos regularly explode without regard for others. Despite the marketing malarkey promoting notions of camaraderie and brotherhood, urban surf breaks are not a place for the meek and mild locking arms and humming Kumbaya. As the population of boardriders explodes, and the variety of surfcraft increases, the safe space between the flags will continue to be viewed as fair game by boardriders who view swimmers as mere speed bumps.


“Largely lawless spaces where rampant individualism and egos regularly explode without regard to others…” is going to be enshrined in my Constitution if I ever start a country.

Wait… what were we talking about again?

Trending: “Help, police! He pushed me!”

The unfortunate Stabification of surf.

Yesterday’s lamest surf assault has got me feeling very guilty and partially responsible for trending behavior that is very unbecoming. It appears that going to the police after being shoved is perceived as the proper thing to do and I must apologize for this aberration. For it was one bright morning, over a month and a half ago, that I leapt a reclaimed wood and brushed nickel coffee table toward Stab magazine’s Ashton Goggans in order to silence him.

The leap ended with the desired result though very embarrassingly. A jostly non-fight that would have made a very overweight four-year-old redhead cringe while looking away.

Two weeks later Mr. Goggans contacted the Orange County Sheriff’s Dept. in order to file assault charges.

Now, I just assumed that going to the police for anything at all was a matter of last resort and was deeply confused by Mr. Goggans’ action though also shrugged and thought, “I suppose that’s how they do things over at Stab magazine.”

But this new lamest surf assault forces me to stop and take a personal accounting. My behavior must have been so embarrassing that, to some, Mr. Goggans’ police response was appropriate.

And for this I am truly sorry.

Truly truly sorry.

I hope I didn’t break surfing forever. I hope the kids can right this ship and that, generations from now, some crusty local is screaming at an interloper in a parking lot with no fear of legal reprisal.

For I have a dream that one day down in Florida — with its vicious racists, with its Governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification — one day right there in Florida, little surf boys and surf girls will be able to call each other “barney” and “kook” and tell each other to “beat it.”

I have a dream that one day every seedy left and unloved right will be allowed shoves and slaps and knocks on the head.

I HAVE A DREAM that one day ANYBODY can be that crusty local no matter the color of his skin or religious creed, amen?


surf fight
"You can just tackle someone in the United States."

Surf fight update: “Why I went to the police!

"I did what I had to do to protect myself," says longboarder after lame surf fight.

Yesterday, BeachGrit reported on the world’s lamest surf fight, an incident that led to one surfer being cuffed and arrested and facing possible jail time on assault charges. Various Instagram and Facebook accounts posted video of the incident, a light collision on a two-foot peak at First Jetty in Virginia Beach.

Refresh your memory here. 

This morning, I spoke to Jordan Montgomery, the twenty-year-old longboarder in the video about what happened and why he filed charges.

First, said Jordan, the other guy didn’t teach him to surf.

“My father did. I don’t know where he got the perception he taught me to surf,” he said.

Second, he’s had “ongoing problems” with Alex after an incident when he was ten years old. No charges were pressed then. Jordan doesn’t want to talk about that incident in cases it prejudices the case against Alex.

“This happened so fast. I felt his hands on me! He was tackling me out of aggression. Surfing shouldn’t be a scapegoat for violence.”

And the collision?

“It was five-thirty, low light, dusk. He stood up and jumped at me. He put his hands on my shoulders and I grabbed him and rotated him. I was confused, like, dude why are you tackling me on a one-foot wave? He didn’t punch me in the face. You can see in the video he doesn’t push me off the board, but his  hands hit me in the bottom of the neck and chin area. I felt it! He laid a hand on me and in the United States you can do that. Surfing is a recreational sport and I’ve been surfing for fourteen years. I’m not a kook. I rode for Hurley for ten years… I’ve done all the Rip Curl GromSearches, NSSAs. I know what the hell I’m doing! This happened so fast. I felt his hands on me! He was tackling me out of aggression. Surfing shouldn’t be a scapegoat for violence.”

Afterwards, he said Alex announced to the lineup, “All you bitch-ass longboarders, if you go right I’ll kick your ass!”

“When it comes down to people threatening me, I’m not going to fight in the parking lot,” said Jordan. “It’s not how I roll. He could definitely kick my ass. I’m not going to fight the guy.”

Initially, Jordan said he didn’t go to the police and only did so when social media lit up over the video and he “didn’t feel safe.”

“There were 190 comments (on Instagram and Facebook) and the majority were threatening towards me, saying things like, ‘Let’s find this kid and break his face’ and ‘Let’s swell his eye shut’ and ‘I hope his tires get slashed’. All these unstable, random people. I was worried about all the people he’s told to hurt me.”

Jordan says he was forced to make the assault charge (simple assault and not battery, he said) so he could get a restraining order.

“There were 190 comments (on Instagram and Facebook) and the majority were threatening towards me, saying things like, ‘Let’s find this kid and break his face’ and ‘Let’s swell his eye shut’ and ‘I hope his tires get slashed’. All these unstable, random people. I was worried about all the people he’s told to hurt me.”

“I was just protecting myself. To get the restraining order, you have to get someone into the process. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s what society tells you to do. I didn’t feel safe and I went to law enforcement.”

Jordan told me he planned to tell the court he doesn’t want Alex jailed and that he just wanted to keep a little legally mandated space between the two of ’em.

“I’m not trying to get him in trouble. I probably went a little over bounds. I did what I had to do to protect myself.”