Everyone at What Youth was terrified it might jeopardize their chance by associating with me. It was not a popular decision. | Photo: Scott Chenoweth

Meet: The Man Who Said No to Surf Ranch!

"It was not a popular decision…"

Last September, Travis Ferré, the thirty-something co-founder of What Youth magazine, wrote an anti-Surf Ranch piece in response to the WSL barring surf media from its Future Classic event there.

“The way this whole wave-pool-WSL thing has been introduced to the world feels slimy. Elitist and weird. And while I can’t argue that riding it, watching it and the general excitement around the whole thing is noteworthy, I get the same quesy feeling I get around private golf courses and churches. Or when I hear the awkward clop of flip flops. I just don’t think I can buy into this cultish wave pool culture. I’m happy to stick to what I’ve got in the ocean.”

BeachGrit‘s Chas Smith was equally pained.

“I hate it and hate it honestly and truly and with everything in me. Seriously. Much of what I write here flips between semi and hyper ironic but that fucking wave pool. Ooooooh. I want, as I said on the Grit! podcast, for Kim Jong Un to sic his hydrogen bombs upon it.

Derek Rielly loves it. Loves it to the point of lusty tears. Loves it and would give up on most everything to be able to surf it everyday.

Who is right?

I am.”

Of course, virtue never tested is no virtue at all, as they say.

So when the WSL’s Dave Prodan started sending text messages inviting anyone with any sort of involvement in the surf media to surf the pool, most critics made a swift switcharoo.

Everyone except Travis.

Yesterday I asked Travis to reflect upon his decision.

BeachGrit: Were you, or were you not, invited to play in the Surf Ranch? 

Travis: I was invited! At the time, I didn’t know it was a full-blown media pool party, but I did get the invite from the wonderful people at WSL who didn’t want me to feel left out and offered an opportunity to scope it, despite my critical initial take. I was personally invited by Dave Prodan. And I fucking love Dave Prodan. He’s a dude who works for the WSL who still believes in the “magic” of surfing — be it marketing magic or surf magic or general surf lore magic. He understands it. And he’s a great guy to surf with and share a beer with. He understands his job and does it with passion but does not live with blinders on. He is the only person maybe who speaks my language at WSL I think but I’m not entirely sure. I thought it was very nice for him to reach out. My initial reaction certainly didn’t warrant any special invites. I actually did not know at the time, however, that I’d be joined by the wonderful guest list that included lots of friends in the media world, including you and Chas. Might have been worth the trip just to have a drink with you guys and converse with some pals in Lemoore, CA.

What was your response? 

I said that I wasn’t going to surf it — but maybe I’d consider checking it out or possibly send a proxy in my place, but I quickly forgot and just didn’t follow up. (A few of the crew at What Youth are psyched to check it out and I don’t wanna spoil their chances, so hopefully they can go do the surfin’ slip ‘n’ slide if the opportunity presents itself.) I have my opinions of it, and am obviously not as sold on it being the future of surfing or anything. But that doesn’t mean someone at What Youth isn’t psyched to tuck into one.

What was the WSL’s response to your response?

They offered me to send someone else, but like I said, I didn’t really follow up or think much about it after that.

Why did you dig your heels in? Weren’t you curious? Was the thought of being seen as hypocritical to much to bear? 

I actually really want to throw a party there. There is definitely fun to be had. I’m thinking bands and fireworks and rails and ridiculous elements that make the lunacy of a wave pool more bearable. My general curiosity has been quenched by watching people ride it those first few days. It’s impressive for a few waves, but once you’ve kind of seen most of the scenarios play out, it gets a little old. One of my favorite parts of surfing is the ceaseless wonder I get staring at the sea. Looking for peculiar instances or situations or moments or sections pop up and then the subsequent chase to find those things to stare at. Been doing it since day one. I’m a dumb romantic. Just the other day I spoke with Mason Ho and he said he loves rocks in the ocean because they present unique situations around them for rebounds or waves or opportunities. Things you can’t forecast. I like all the silly stuff that happens before and after surfing more than standing on a wave. The pursuit of new places or things. It all boils down to me hating that human nature feels we have to harness and contain everything. Surfing was pretty cool: a pursuit in nature that was spontaneous and weird and free and you could travel and search out. But you can also use it to dial in a certain location, learning moods and nuances that only that spot has. I hate the idea of mechanizing or harnessing it. Also, the pool has been pretty well surfed out by now in my opinion. Can you get deeper? I’m sure there will be some crazy tricks done in there. Will they get the same credit? I dunno. If you listen to surfers talk about it, all they wanna do now is “make it bigger” or “add sections” and you’re like, “Duh, that’s what makes being a surfer so interesting!” All the pursuits to find unique things to experience in the ocean! Now you have to ride a skim board or do an Al Knost layback in the pit to make it interesting. And we’ve only known it exists for a few months now. I find the fact that it already takes gimmicks to make it interesting should be noted. That once the initial shock and awe of a cool man-made wave wears off, what are we left with? I really hate gimmicky things.

While the rest of his surf media pals were being torn to emotional pieces by Surf Ranch, Trav was in South Carolina shooting guns and catching (little) man-eating sharks!

Do you really think surf pools are that bad?

No, they’re not bad. They just take out every layer of surfing that I love. The stuff you can’t explain. The magic. I categorize it the same as a water slide. They’re fun as hell, but it’s not something you base your life around. And surfing can be that. It has enough weird nuance and culture and magic in it that you can actually base a life around it. I’ve been around this planet we got and most of the opportunities presented themselves because back in my mind I was trying to surf somewhere. Wave pools remind me of indoor skydiving, hunting in a pen, fishing in a bucket or virtual porn or something. Maybe “fun” but it ain’t the real thing. I hate the human nature that encourages us to harness and control and contain the purest of pursuits. Wave pools play into that same condition. I don’t doubt the fun and the technology is amazing and I hope some people who maybe never would surf can get some element of the thrill. But there is no chance it replaces the daily struggle to wiggle at your homebreak or wander the globe or chuck a duck dive or feel a current or chop hop a rock and surf in new places in a new ocean or sea. That’s the jazz I love.

Did friends, work pals support your decision? 

No not at all. They were terrified it might jeopardize their chance by associating with me. It was not a popular decision.

What did you do on the day you were supposed to be there? 

I had to go back in my phone and see. But it appears it happened around November 2 which is around the time I was in South Carolina filming a piece on Cam Richards. Our most recent Fairly Normal vid. Quite a fun trip. Shot my first gun. Caught a shark. And dove into southern culture head on. One of the most fascinating trips I’ve ever been on.

Fairly Normal: Cam Richards from What Youth on Vimeo.

Three months on, reading about it everywhere, what’s your position now? 

Sounds like it was a blast. Like hearing about someone going to a fun wedding you didn’t attend. I won’t and didn’t lose any sleep honestly though. I literally live next door to Chris Cote and he showed me his very well-surfed backhand wave and barrel one morning and it was cool! I was stoked to see him shred it, but I didn’t feel any different. I love surfing shitty waves. I love surfing good waves. But it’s the in-between it all that I love most.



Malibu's iconic Brothers' Marshall!
Malibu's iconic Brothers' Marshall!

Celebrate: Malibu officially historic!

"The place surf culture started!"

I’ve got a busy day planned which includes lunch, some light editing and getting a teardrop tattooed just below my left eye but before all that I think it is important to bring you the news that Malibu is the first surf spot in the United States to officially join the Register of Historic Places.

Malibu beat out Waikiki, Huntington Beach, Santa Cruz and New Smyrna for the honor and maybe this should not come as a surprise seeing that Malibu’s city planner calls it “the place surf culture started.”

The designation, including Malibu Pier, Surfrider Beach, Malibu Lagoon State Beach and surf breaks at First, Second and Third Points, means the area is able to receive tax incentives and grants that go toward its preservation. In receiving the honor Malibu had to prove it was old enough to be considered “historic” and has remained unchanged for the most part and has some historical significance.

Those do not seem like overly arduous hurdles to clear and I would also like to nominate Georges in Cardiff by the Sea. It seems old and unchanged plus I once shared a surf there with Damo Hobgood and had a historic amount of fun.

Back to my teardrop tattoo, I know they traditionally come in black but I was thinking mine would look good in pink. What do you think?


The editor of Stab magazine, Mr Ashton Goggans, who is 32. | Photo: @Facebook

Stab ed tells police: “Chas Smith assaulted me!”

Ashton Goggans visits Orange County PD to press criminal charges!

Shortly after 10:30 in the morning, January 11, 2018, the surf journalist Chas Smith, aged forty-one, lunged across a reclaimed wood and brushed nickel coffee table toward Stab magazine’s Ashton Goggans, born some thirty-two odd years ago.

The unusual occurrence took place at the Surfrider Foundation offices high up one of San Clemente’s many winding suburban hills. David Lee Scales, host of a popular surf podcast network, had invited both men debate the relative merits of their online surf publications, Smith with BeachGrit and Goggans, with the aforementioned Stab.

The lunge, which was really more of a hurtle, brought Smith face to face with Goggans. He had grown increasingly agitated during the course of the debate with the high register of Goggans’ voice as well as its combination of ingratiating and demeaning statements. To Smith’s mind, Goggans could shift instantaneously from false praise to bald-faced condescension genuinely believing each one of his pirouettes. There he sat uncomfortably in his seat trying to make bold counter-points but being stymied by his own lack of verbal dexterity.

Then, just over thirty minutes into the podcast, Goggans brought up Smith’s wife. He claimed the only reason Smith was able to write the way he did was because Smith’s wife was wealthy and supported him. Smith felt his blood reach a boiling point. He was tired of the stilted narrative that a wealthy woman would gladly suffer any fool for the sake of companionship.

“When a husband makes more than his wife nobody says anything,” Smith thought, “but when a wife makes more than her husband all of a sudden she is a sugar mama?”

Smith warned Goggans to shut his mouth, Goggans persisted and Smith launched out of his chair.

Scales described, on the podcast, as Smith having “his hands around Goggans’ neck” but in truth it was more akin to a slap with an empty silken glove. Smith fumbled and missed, grabbing a handful of shirt while Goggans staggered forward. The two were easily separated by Scales and continued debating bringing the embarrassing episode to conclusion 40 minutes later.

A photograph taken shortly after the alleged assault. Chas, at left, Ashton, right.

Smith drove home, heart still pounding, but as the adrenaline receded he realized what a poor job he had done and was fundamentally embarrassed. He had warned Goggans to shut his mouth but when push actually came to shove, as it were, he had failed horribly. What’s more he had sounded like a dolt. He had done a poor job all around and was sad but hoped the episode provided some small entertainment for others.

Three weeks later, Ashton Goggans went into the Orange County Police Department in order to press assault charges against Chas Smith.

Detectives interviewed Smith, Scales and the people who work in the Surfrider’s San Clemente office. The case may still go to trial but Chas Smith doesn’t care.

Instantly his fumble looks fierce and vicious. Instantly Ashton Goggans looks exactly like what he is. A man concerned with proper civic decorum.

The thing I’d found while surfing this board elsewhere, and the reason I am scared of it, is that under a certain wave-speed, it doesn’t work. The water won’t get through the channels. It has no feel. You have to stand back on the fin and swing it like a mattock… Yet the few times I’d ridden it in surf capable of pushing it to speed, the thing would just lift off like some sort of aquatic Scramjet.

Board Review: Nick Carroll on the “Scramjet”!

No it’s not a fucken model name! It's a ten-channel single fin!

I have so many surfboards. I didn’t once. Nobody did when we were kids. I went to Margaret River for the Aussie Titles with a 6’0” and a 6’3”. Quiver!

I stayed in a shitty caravan in the Margarets camping ground with John and Rob Harris and Glen Winton. At the pre-contest meeting Tommy Peterson drank three bottles of Bundaberg rum. It rained a lot. It was 1978.

Col Smith won the contest. Colin Smith of Redhead, NSW. I could not believe there were two Col Smiths and they were both goofyfooters and could both surf so fucking briliiantly. Col Smith Narrabeen was all vertical power and arms and legs, and long blond hair and a mouth full of busted up teeth. Colin Smith Redhead had short dark hair, crinkly smiling eyes, perfect teeth, and one of the most fantastically graceful surfing styles I’ve ever witnessed.

Colin was extroverted and gleaming, yet never above himself.

Smithy rode “bee-tail” six-channel, single-fin boards made by Jim Pollard and then by Phil Fraser, and then eventually by Phil Myers of Lennox Head. He blew minds in Hawaii, won the Pro Class Trials at Sunset, surfed superbly at Pipe. The North Shore crew drooled over those boards.

He made friends with all of us kids, well, it felt like we were kids, even though Col was only a couple of years older than us. That was surfing at the time, when a small, poor NSW ex-mining town at the end of a potholed coast road could produce someone who was the surfing equivalent of a rock star.

Smithy rode “bee-tail” six-channel, single-fin boards made by Jim Pollard and then by Phil Fraser, and then eventually by Phil Myers of Lennox Head. He blew minds in Hawaii, won the Pro Class Trials at Sunset, surfed superbly at Pipe. The North Shore crew drooled over those boards.

Col and Allan Byrne were automatically mates. So many of the things they loved and respected in surfing were the same. They loved good hollow surf and they respected people who rode it well. They were schemers, but in a good way. Together they squared up Jim’s rounded-out channels and perfected the modern clinker-style design. Col told us about the ten-channels he was doing with Phil Myers. Trying to understand surfing, I sat at their feet and listened to their stories, usually under the influence of some sort of hashish.

Col died of cancer at the age of 31 in Margarets after going back there for the last 18 months of his life. He left us a son, Rique, who is a fantastic surfer in his own right. I dunno if AB ever quite got over it, or Phil.

Anyway, 20 years later I started hounded AB to make me an eight channel. I’d been riding the sixes for ages but I could remember Col saying to us, “Mate, the more channels, the better they go.” AB knew it, but he wouldn’t go there.

“Once you’ve got one, everyone’ll want one,” he said, “and then I’ll be fucked!”

Then AB died for chrissake.

A couple of years after that I saw Rique had got hold of one of Col’s old ten channels and was tearing the bag out of Jakes Point on it. I also saw it was a Free Flight — Phil Myers’s brand.

Cut to Phil making me a 6’5” x 183/4” x 23/4” ten-channel, single-fin pintail, as close as he could to the board Smithy had passed on to Rique.

I have a lot of boards but this is the only one that scares me. It has almost no rocker beyond a third back from the nose. There is also barely any outline curve thanks to the channel exit points and low width. There is no freebie pick-up speed from side fins. It is completely unforgiving of any error.

I took it to J-Bay and rode my best wave of the year, and did nothing on that wave other than four simple turns, base to lip to base to lip. That was it.

This was the arvo of the day Kelly busted his foot. I can’t remember why they pulled the contest so early that day. The wind swung a bit more southerly, sideshore on the Boneyard section, or maybe there was a pseudo-shark, I dunno.

I took the board and ran around the back side of Boneyard where the whole beach was closing out in pluming six foot-plus bombs, figuring to paddle out while they finished the last heat of the arvo.

The paddle-out was work, but not difficult work. It shook me up enough to put me into the right headspace for this incredible location, with which I was just coming to grips.

Maybe five people out up top, including Louie Egan and Tom Whitaker. Early finishes always lead to coach-froth; the coaches watch too many heats and go quietly mad. Louie and Tom got waves, and I back-paddled a bit higher into the Boneyard peak and a solid six foot wave appeared — long tapering wall, windblown in the lip, easy paddle-in.

The thing I’d found while surfing this board elsewhere, and the reason I am scared of it, is that under a certain wave-speed, it doesn’t work. The water won’t get through the channels. It has no feel. You have to stand back on the fin and swing it like a mattock. I had many memories of single fins, the way they tend to draw short in turns and are slow to gain speed off the mark, but low-speed clunkiness wasn’t one of those memories. Yet the few times I’d ridden it in surf capable of pushing it to speed, the thing would just lift off like some sort of aquatic Scramjet.

I had such high hopes of it here!

But what if it didn’t break through?

What if it just wobbled on those channels, underpaced and underpowered?

Pointless concern at Jeffreys Bay.

I took off at a slight angle and let the board run downhill at maybe 45 degrees to the wave line. The wave lurched and stood up, and just like that the board went into Scramjet mode. With no side-fins asking me to turn, it felt like I was riding on air, effortless, in a full flying glide. I compressed slightly into the wave base and tilted the board just a little bit on to its inside rail, not wanting to over-pressure it at full speed — single-fin adherents won’t tell you this, but singlies don’t typically feel the inside edge of a turn very well, you have to wait for the fin to anchor the turn before you push. In this case the ten channel went into the turn instantly and with no resistance whatsoever, so cleanly it felt like nothing was happening, but it was happening, because I could feel every molecule of water running down the edges of the channels — an incredible sense of connection with the wave.

By this time we were about to enter Supertubes and I could see the jetski guy driving on the shoulder trying to get my attention, so just rode the Scramjet out off the back and into clear water.  Four turns, 150 metres.

The board leaped off the wave base and went up the face at fantastic speed. I kept the angle quite low and put my eyes on the next section, which already rose off the reef some way ahead. I felt absolutely no concern about the distance involved. The top turn was less sensitised than the bottom turn, thanks to the curve in the wave face. You’ll have had the feeling of pressure on that curve pushing you forward and down. All I had to do was shift a little weight back over the right heel, and the board and the wave did the rest. If anything, it came out of the top faster than it went in. I had to settle myself so as not to scream, or overpower the next turn, a long snowboardy base line chatter of a thing. I felt the board asking me to be patient in this turn: just stay low, it said, you can decompress and take the brakes off once we’re heading back up. I did as it requested and it sprang out of the turn again and straightened the line so we were flying along parallel to the lip.

By this time we were about to enter Supertubes and I could see the jetski guy driving on the shoulder trying to get my attention, so just rode the Scramjet out off the back and into clear water.  Four turns, 150 metres.

No wonder Col used to ride ‘em.

Despite its restrictions this is a unique surfboard in my experience. I do have to discipline myself into riding it only when Scramjet Mode is available. To make sure I do this, I got Phil to make me a 6’1” version, a little wider with more outline curve and a little more vee — sort of a spine, though up from the fin, not behind it. This board is sweet and can be ridden happily in a three foot rip bowl.

I don’t get a feeling of Col from it, but then again I’m not a goofyfoot.

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.