Hey pro surfer, wanna get rich?

Coca-Cola wants to make your dreams come true!

Yesterday morning you read the earth-shattering story, pulled from the pages of Hollywood’s leading trade publication, detailing the myriad changes coming to professional surfing. As recap, the World Surf League’s $30 million dollar deal with Facebook means the WSL app, that you reluctantly downloaded just over a year ago, is now obsolete. Also, the League is building a tank in Tokyo that will be ready for the 2020 Summer Games and that professional surfing under the floodlights is a brave new reality.

While we will be digesting all of this over the coming months, the $30 million dollar figure stuck out to me immediately. It seems like a lot of money. Not too much money but a lot of money, right? Like, what would you do with $30 million dollars? Would you make wise investments? Squander it foolishly? Buy a home in the hills? Give it all away and move to an ashram?

What about $3500 dollars? Would you replace your brakes? Take the wife out to Outback Steakhouse and order the Bloomin’ Onion AND the Kookaburra Wings?

Well, unbuckle your belt, boy, and tell the wife to wear her stretchy pants because dreams do come true!

Florida Today is reporting:

Pro-level surfers ages 18 to 40 for men and women are needed for a Coca-Cola commercial. Pay compensation is $3,500 per person, according to a release by Bonnie King, film commissioner for the Space Coast Film and Television Office. Submit a head shot and one full-length picture to casting director Pearl Rojo at [email protected]

Boom. Like that. And while your initial response may be, “But I’m not a pro surfer…” remember. We’re all pro surfers. 

If you are not quite in the mood to be rich (and possibly famous) feel free to sent Pearl Rojo someone else here’s headshot/full-length length picture.


When it comes to Firewire and Tomo it's a fair question to ask: who made who? Firewire was struggling, looking for investment (taken on by Kelly Slater eventually) and drifting down a path of over-sized grovel boards for intermediates. It was a company haemorrhaging credibility in the high-performance space. Tomo elbowed aside the Sweet Potato with the Vanguard, the Evo and now the Slater designs Sci-Fi and Omni and the market lapped it up. | Photo: @tsherms/Steve Sherman

Buy A Chainsaw And Attack the C**T!

Designer of boards for Kelly, Dan Thomson, and the influence of his pops, Mark…

Bike. Surf pumping at the point. Monday morning mid morning. Pandanus palm mark carcass. Life outside the mainstream work-a-day culture. Backyard high tech…

Monday morning a couple of weeks ago, late winter to be precise. What are you up to? Making an honest living somewhere? Trading your time/labour/expertise in exchange for a handful of shekels to help pay for the sky high cost of living near the ocean?

Probably.

Dan “Tomo” Thomson is at work too or at least riding home from work. Peddling a bike along the dirt track underneath the whistling she-oaks beside the frogs croaking in the swamp that lays just behind the basalt boulders of Lennox Point. Under the arm, some new foam-and-fibreglass creation has been put on the test track. Something that justifies the term work for a shaper/designer, maybe Australia’s best, certainly the most innovative.

There hasn’t been anything as radical in form and concept as the “Modern Planing Hull” since the shortboard revolution. This one has the parallel outline with a pulled in tail and a quad setup. It looks fast with a ton of control built into the engine room. And I know it works because I just spent an hour watching Daniel put it all over the six-foot walls roping down the Point.

“Shaping started slowly for him. His brain was strong and he knew what he wanted but the hands couldn’t translate what was in his head. It took time.” Mark Thompson,.

I’m not the only one watching. Stretched out across a rock beside a cave-like clump of pandanus palms the father of Daniel Thomson, Mark, is baking like a lizard in the winter sun, a look of deep contentment etched across his face. Yeah, Dan’s doing OK. Hit the big-time with Firewire and his collaborations with Slater. And Mark’s enjoying every second of his son’s success.

Dan’s position at the vanguard of surfer-shapers and shaper-designers, somehow who is as comfortable flaring fins along the coping as they are experimenting with the possibilities of shape and the limits of space age materials, isn’t an accident. He’s no Johnny Come Lately. He’s not some dude who, with a flare for marketing and a partner who could build a website, learnt the intricacies of AKU shaper before he could swing a planer. No, you could say he’s been groomed for this for a long time, maybe since birth.

The upbringing was, how to put it, unorthodox. Mark is an unconventional man and the family compound, a sprawling hippy-type affair nestled in rainforest at the base of Broken Head was about as far from the typical nine-to-five urban upbringing as you could get. The Byron-Ballina area was then, and still is, at the forefront of design experimentation .

Mark says he and Dan “cycled through every design you could think of: singles, twins, concaves, no-nose thrusters. It was nothing to ride something at Broken Head and snap it in the tube, go home, shape another one and come back to the Point the next day to test it. That’s what Daniel grew up exposed to. But it wasn’t easy for him. I was fucking hard on him.”

“The area was just fizzing with everything,” says Mark. “From Al Byrne’s channels to McCoy’s Lazer Zaps to twinnies – we just grew up through that whole change and we were just doing everything we could. There was nothing out of bounds and there were no rules. Daniel was wandering around watching me shape surfboards since he was in nappies,” says Mark while we stretch out on rocks post surf at the Point. “I’d give him a block of foam and a surform and set him up under a tree and tell him to shape something just to get him out of my hair so I could get my work done.”

Mark says he and Dan “cycled through every design you could think of: singles, twins, concaves, no-nose thrusters. It was nothing to ride something at Broken Head and snap it in the tube, go home, shape another one and come back to the Point the next day to test it. That’s what Daniel grew up exposed to. But it wasn’t easy for him. I was fucking hard on him.”

tomo-sherm
“You could say he’s been groomed for this for a long time, maybe since birth.” Photo [email protected]/Steve Sherman

He laughs, uproariously, head tilted back with a mane held in place by an old school sun visor. With a missing front tooth and built like a water buffalo you can imagine the old man would have cut an intimidating figure to a young kid.

At 15 Dan was up to his neck in the Junior Series as an aspiring pro surfer, a contemporary and peer of Fanning, Parko and Dean Morrison. As a country kid from the rainforest he seemed to lack the mongrel required to make the cut.

“Dan rang me looking for advice about shaping a board from a block of foam for SacredCraft and I told him: Just go down to the hardware and buy a chainsaw and fucking attack the cunt. So he did. Won board of the show.” Mark Thompson.

“As soon as that singlet went over his head his brain went to scrambled eggs. If they hassled him he’d be like Curren: he’d paddle up the beach trying to get away from them,” says Mark. “He wanted the best boards and I was always pushing him to be responsible to think about what he wanted. If he broke his boards and came to me – I need a new board Dad – I’d say, well you know where the fucking shaping room is, there’s blanks in there. If he went in there and did it, I’d always go and detail it for him. Shaping started slowly for him. His brain was strong and he knew what he wanted but the hands couldn’t translate what was in his head. It took time. I always knew Daniel was going to be a late bloomer. He got a lot of information at a very young age. I knew it was going to take time to digest that knowledge and put it all together”.

Curren. 

Everyone needs a break, something or someone to crack the world wide open and for Dan it came in the form of a Californian looking to make connections between proto-typical shaper Bob Simmons and the fish design undergoing a modern resurgence, a bookish bear of a man name of Richard Kenvin.

Richard hired Mark as a cinematographer with Rasta as talent but when Rasta couldn’t make it Daniel was subbed in. Initially, the project, called Hydrodynamica, failed to inspire the Thomson clan.

“I wasn’t that interested,”,says Mark, “because I looked at the boards and thought: What’s this 1960’s shit. At the time, I had stringerless XTR carbon flex-tails. Power-drive fins.  Really, really advanced shit. But when Richard explained Bob Simmons maths and the hydrodynamic principles, I thought that makes sense. Now I’m interested.”

The footage of the unknown kid from Lennox Head ripping it up on the San Diego Fish went back to the States creating a buzz as the fish reached a peak in popularity. Dan could’ve stayed in the comfortable bubble of Lennox but he put his sack on the line and shipped himself off to California with 300 bucks in his back pocket to make a go of it as a shaper-designer.

Growing up surrounded by a dominant father and giants of the design world had it’s advantages but with so many tall trees surrounding him Dan felt a need to find his own space and sunshine.

The footage of the unknown kid from Lennox Head ripping it up on the San Diego Fish went back to the States creating a buzz as the fish reached a peak in popularity. Dan could’ve stayed in the comfortable bubble of Lennox but he put his sack on the line and shipped himself off to California with 300 bucks in his back pocket to make a go of it as a shaper-designer.

“I had to get out his shadow,” Dan says, “so I took my own path with the fish.”

Innovation wasn’t long coming. An irony: that the path to the most radical transformation of the shortboard for 50 years came via the lineage of the San Diego fish, the ultimate symbol of hipster retro fashion.

While Mark found inspiration in nature and universal geometry, Dan was surrounded by the high-tech world of California and saw design principles in science and technology. Military aircraft, with their sawn off sharp angles and drag free surfaces became design templates for the fish to become harder, more modern, more angular and high performance under Dan’s planer.

The Sacred Craft Shape-Off, a trade-show competition between shapers, put Dans’ credentials and upbringing centre stage.

“I’d always taught him how to attack foam,” says Mark from the verandah of the Lennox family home overlooking a North Coast pointbreak. “Dan rang me looking for advice about shaping a board from a block of foam for SacredCraft and I told him: Just go down to the hardware and buy a chainsaw and fucking attack the cunt. So he did. Won board of the show.”

Dan was surrounded by the high-tech world of California and saw design principles in science and technology. Military aircraft, with their sawn off sharp angles and drag free surfaces became design templates for the fish to become harder, more modern, more angular and high performance under Dan’s planer.

While the Fish was relentlessly and ruthlessly modernised by the country kid in the heart of California, almost a perfect mirror of the historical moment when the Californian Greenough presented the vision of the future to the longboard riding Aussies, the great leap forwards to the Modern Planing Hull was incubated in darkness.

Dan’s relationship with his American gal and mother of their child foundered and went sour and in the throes of that misery Dan went into the shaping bay and let loose with a white hot burst of creativity. Those boards, radically different to anything else, with a kiteboard aesthetic, were tested at Lennox Point. I saw them being ridden, in the early stages. Bizarre looking, thin, narrow, short. But it was immediately obvious that the “planing” in the planing hull was incredibly efficient. Effortless speed. According to Mark those boards, the future, or the radical present, then sat in a cupboard. Unseen.

Dan’s relationship with his American gal and mother of their child foundered and went sour and in the throes of that misery Dan went into the shaping bay and let loose with a white hot burst of creativity.

That is, until they were launched at a trade show in the states.

Which brings us to the next great juncture in the Dan Tomo story: the linking up with technology platform Firewire to mass-produce the Modern Planing Hull.

When it comes to Firewire and Tomo it’s a fair question to ask: who made who? Firewire was struggling, looking for investment (taken on by Kelly Slater eventually) and drifting down a path of over-sized grovel boards for intermediates. It was a company haemorrhaging credibility in the high-performance space. Tomo elbowed aside the Sweet Potato with the Vanguard, the Evo and now the Slater designs Sci-Fi and Omni and the market lapped it up.

Firewire CEO Mark Price confirms Dan Tomo has been the highest-selling designer for Firewire since he came on board.

Of course, the benefit flows both ways. The royalty cheques mean Dan can afford to be riding his bike back from the Point with a new design under arm at 10 am on a Monday morning, a Hydrodynamic Architect ready to take theories from wherever he can find them and translate that into the continuing progression of the modern shortboard.

Just like his father taught him.

(Editor’s note: I commissioned this story for an issue of Surfing Life, a surfboard themed issue. If there are any good guys left in this topsy-turvy old world, it’s the owners of Surfing Life and White Horses, two print mags bought from their corporate owners and run by surfers for no other reason than a desire to not let their babies die.)

 


Rich: WSL gets 30 million dollars!

No more WSL app, surfing in tank at 2020 Olympics and more!

I apologize deeply for yesterday’s silence. I’ve got a story coming that is going to make you laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh but have to sort out some details first. In the meantime, it’s a good thing that BeachGrit’s still around because otherwise you’d have to pay Stab 20 cents for its new premium service to learn that the World Surf League will make 30 million dollars from its new Facebook deal.

Thirty million dollars!

And let me cut and paste some bits from Variety for you here and free.

Facebook, which is moving aggressively into the business of live sports, locked up a two-year agreement last week with the World Surf League.

The deal brings more than $30 million in licensing revenues to the league, and also comes at a pivotal moment in the history of professional surfing. Last fall, the WSL held an event at the Kelly Slater Wave Pool, a facility in Lemoore, Calif., that creates artificial waves. The league is now working to build several similar facilities around the world in hopes of making the sport less dependent on ocean currents and more amenable to TV viewing.

Some of the more salient bits of the interview with WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt.

-Surfing is not available on American TV, though the league does have agreements in other territories, including Australia and Brazil. Since its rebranding a few years ago, the league has fashioned itself as being “digital first” — offering its events on YouTube and through its mobile app. Last year, the WSL signed a non-exclusive deal with Facebook. The new agreement provides for exclusivity, meaning that live events will no longer be available on the WSL app.

-In addition to the scheduling issue, the wave pool will allow the WSL to create its own stadiums, bringing spectators much closer to the action than they would be if they were standing on the beach. The predictability of the waves will also open up the possibilities for camera angles. The league can also host nighttime events, with floodlighting to illuminate the surfers.

-The WSL’s moves have riled some traditionalists who see surfing as a spiritual communion with the ocean. Goldschmidt is careful to stress the league’s support for ocean conservation efforts, and also emphasizes that ocean surfing is not going away.

-“It’s not about wave systems or the ocean,” she says. “I think we can have our cake and eat it too. The values and culture of the sport have never been more important, but we can be innovative and push the boundaries.”

-The WSL has broken ground on a second wave facility in Florida, and has plans to build more in Japan and Europe. Surfing will be in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, which the WSL sees as an opportunity for a broader audience.

-“We’re planning to build a wave system (in Tokyo) in time,” for the games, Goldschmidt says. “Maybe there’s a chance they’ll do it in the wave system.”

So, no more WSL app, the future of professional surfing is the pool and they 2020 Olympics are going to be its grand showcase. Right? But who are these traditionalists who see surfing as a spiritual communion with the ocean? They sound like bastards to me.

And that’s big news right there. Ultra premium for free!


Noted shaper charged after man’s death

A sad coda to noted surfer Tony Hardy's life… 

If you live around Margaret River, you’ll know the shaper Tony Hardy and his brood. Amazing surf family. Tony is pops to surfer-bodyboarders Gene, Ryan, Brett and Josh.

All of ’em except Josh have won a State surfing title. Even his granddaughter Willow scooped one up this year to go alongside her two Small Fries crowns.

But Tony doesn’t surf much anymore, blames age, injuries. Hangs out at Nathan Rose’s surfboard factory, the joint Maurice Cole built in 1995. Uses the shower when he needs to.

“He’s ruled a line through surfing,” says one Margaret River surfer.

Tony, who is sixty-seven, is what you’d call, in polite company, an eccentric. You’ll see him at Main Break, Margaret River, the wave he owned in the seventies, trimming the pig-face that has grown over the footpath. Or stopped at the side of the road in Margs with his shears trimming the bush.

On Tuesday afternoon, Tony allegedly got into a fight with his ex-wife’s husband and belted him around so badly with a paint roller (allegedly) he had to be flown to Perth via the Flying Doc service to treat his life-threatening injuries. Tony’s ex-wife was also hospitalised for injuries.

The cops caught Tony hiding in bushland later in the afternoon.

Homicide squad detectives say charges of causing grievous bodily harm and aggravated assault occasioning bodily harm may be upgraded.

More here. 


Surf Ranch is a Satanic Mirror!

It shows you who and what you are but the worst possible version.

Surf Ranch that fucking Surf Ranch. That God forsaken lake in the middle of California and right near my ex-wife’s hometown Surf Ranch. With the Indian casino around the corner and a fence surrounding the environmentally friendly mulch and wood chip landscaping Surf Ranch. The parking lot that still had professional surfers’ name placards in front of the spaces Surf Ranch with one or maybe two Tesla power stations Surf Ranch.

Do you want to know where I parked? In Mick Fanning’s spot. Do you want to know what happened to me later in the day on wave number four? I dislocated my shoulder for the 25th-ish time in my life and am headed to major surgery in two weeks. Where the doctor saws part of my shoulder bone off, flips it upside down and screws it back in so the muscle runs across the ball joint and helps keep everything in place.

Mick Fanning that fucking Mick Fanning.

Longtom asked in the comments of the initial Surf Ranch post, “Couldn’t you fake fire and fury for the people?” Shame washed over me. Shame followed by exhaustion. I am exhausted of thinking about Surf Ranch and looking at Surf Ranch and hearing the damned words Surf Ranch but he is right. Exhaustion is not an excuse to perform surf journalism poorly and so here I am, mustering the bile that rotted in my throat as Derek and I drove south that evening.

Surf Ranch that fucking Surf Ranch is not a pornography, as previously described, nor is it a hooker. Those two are built purely to give you exactly what you want. To reflect back what you imagine yourself to be. Surf Ranch is exactly opposite. It shows you who and what you are but the worst possible version. A horrible, satanic mirror and allow me to explain. I never not once in my entire life imagined myself a “good” surfer.

I surf.

I like to surf.

And that is all. I have also never cared. I love to write and some of the grandest writers of all time are failed bullfighters, boxers, baseball players, dancers. I am a failed surfer but Surf Ranch, oh Surf Ranch, it makes you more than a failure. It makes you a fraud.

Shall I describe? You paddle out with three other friends and line up along a fence. The man in front has priority. The man behind him second priority. Etc. The pool is calm and warm enough and you have one thought banging in your head.

DO NOT BLOW THE TAKE OFF.

You’ve taken off on thousands of waves in your life. Hundreds of thousands. So why are you even worried? But you are worried because this is not a wave this is Surf Ranch and then the countdown begins. A voice shouting across the water “One minute until wave!” One minute until wave? How often do you get a warning in the ocean like that? Never. Never especially if you are me.

That minute is eternal. You think DO NOT BLOW THE TAKEOFF. And you think DO NOT THINK DO NOT BLOW THE TAKE OFF. And you think DO NOT THINK DO NOT THINK DO NOT BLOW THE TAKEOFF. And then the plow whirs to life. It is not as loud as you would imagine. Not quite industrial but definitely mechanical and it whirs and the wave starts breaking on the shoal at the side of the pool very counter-intuitively. It is breaking over there and then the swell starts gurgling toward you and your heart is pounding DO NOT BLOW THE TAKEOFF as you paddle toward one of the flag poles at the distant end of the pool in the exact opposite way that you would normally paddle. Counter-intuitive.

The wave is there. You paddle. You stand. You did not blow the takeoff but now here it is racing before you. The famed Surf Ranch. The marvelous Surf Ranch and your legs move like they almost should and your arms move like they almost should but it is not right because you are not right. Everything is perfect as far as the wave is concerned but you are a halting, stuttering mess of conservatism and trepidation. You are you but you are the absolute worst possible version of you. The satanic version. The fraudulent version. And you surf the entire wave that way knowing you have five maybe six more chances to fix yourself.

But there is no fixing yourself. Fixing yourself takes years and years and years in heavy therapy. It does not happen in one hour at Surf Ranch.

Every single surf journalist was depressed afterward. Morbidly depressed. You could feel it in their energy. See it on their faces. Every single God forsaken surf journalist except Chris Cote (he surfed the wave better than Kelly Slater) and Vaughn Blakey (he created a new sort of tall man art form).

Every single other one though. Oh they all surfed well enough, Pete Taras and Todd Prodanovich stand out in my memory, but every one depressed and if they say no they are lying. I was there. I saw and felt with my arm dangling loose and dead Surf Ranch. Nick Carroll? You were depressed. Sean Doherty? You were depressed. You were all depressed except Chris Cote and Vaughn Blakey and maybe Pete Taras and Todd Prodanovich.

But would you like to know my proudest moment? I paddled for a left and did not blow the takeoff and was cruising down the line with my legs and arms moving almost like they should. Midway down the pool I got bored, thought “fuck this Surf Ranch” and kicked out. One of the very fine lifeguards, I think he is also a lifeguard for Maverick’s, pulled up to me on the ski and asked, “Is everything all right?”

I responded, “Yes.”

He said, “You had a lot more wave there.”

I told him, “Yeah, I got bored.”

He said, “You were the first person I have ever seen kick out.”

I smiled and then, one wave later, my arm was taken from its shoulder socket. Of course I was only bored because my lack of skill was fully exposed. My heart beating FRAUD FRAUD FRAUD not only to you but to me but to hell with it all. That’s what I think now, months removed.

To hell with it. It would all be kind of fun if you were a billionaire who could build your own or a millionaire who could rent one for the weekend with your four best friends but you are neither and so to hell with Surf Ranch.

Fucking Surf Ranch.