Chas and David in easier times.

Podcast: “Chas didn’t get fired!”

A miracle in modern entertainment!

I met with David Lee Scales this morning, host of the fantastic Surf Splendor network, and it surprised me. Oh I’ve known David professionally for a few years now but brought down a world of hurt when, three weeks ago, I decided to jump across a reclaimed wood and steel coffee table at Stab editor Ashton Goggans.

The reaction was fierce.

Surf podcast enthusiasts took to David’s website demanding retirement of the show, insisting that it was low garbage and not worthy of sharing airspace with the likes of Jamie Brisick and Matt Warshaw.

Of course they were right but David must have a healthy appetite for the tawdry and so here we are again. I don’t know if this episode is good but it felt good chatting about surf again and, if you choose to listen, there are some valuable nuggets inside. Like, to whom the Adjunct Professor‘s computer actually belongs. Have you been wondering? Has it been keeping you up at night? And that the World Surf League forgot to fill out the proper paperwork in Oahu and may lose their window on the North Shore.

Can you imagine a tour without Pipeline? But can you really?

We also talk Yo-Yo Ma, herbal infusions, the power of positive thinking and masturbation.

Just kidding (except we do talk about masturbation).

Listen now!


News: Shit hits the fan in the Maldives!

State of emergency declared in sweet little island nation… 

If you like soft, pretty waves, you’ve probably thrown yourself into a trip to the Maldives. You know it as a peaceful sorta joint, brimful of honeymooners in their over-the-water bungalows, and surf tourists, jamming wide boards over the turquoise waves.

But underneath the glamorous facade of this Indian island archipelago of 400,000 people, is a country where its radicalised youth are flying off to fight for ISIS in Syria and its government, a feisty opposition and the Supreme Court are all locked in a battle for power.

Yesterday, the country’s president Abdulla Yameen declared a 15-day state of emergency after claiming a Supreme Court ruling that overturned terrorism convictions against nine of his opponents was illegal.

According to Al-Jazerra, “Soldiers and police in riot gear set up barricades and cordoned off the streets leading to the court building, according to witnesses, as police used pepper spray to disperse protesters outside the court.”

Security forces then swooped on two Supreme Court judges and an opposition leader

“President Yameen, who critics accuse of corruption, misrule and rights abuses, has also suspended the country’s parliament, where the opposition have a majority.

“Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s exiled former president, called the state of emergency ‘tantamount to a declaration of martial law in the Maldives’.”

Of course, if you’re like me, correction, like Chas, you might dig a little fireworks on your annual vacay. Better than sitting in that cube pecking at keys, no?

Book here! Thirty percent off etc. 


The launchpad for Jamie O's ultimately futile 10-point ride in the final

Pipe: “Who the fuck watches a WQS event?”

Epic…epic… finals day at the Volcom Pro… 

Who the fuck watches a QS event? No one and nobody unless it’s at Pipeline in February.

And wut?! RedBull TV webcast? Wut!? Aren’t RedBull and the WSL at war and have been for ever over webcast rights, product placement etc etc? Volcom, Wassel, Cote, Vaughan Blakey, Kaipo in the booth, four-man heats at perfect Pipe: when you see how it can be done, how it should be done, it doesn’t seem too hard a brew to get right, too difficult a concept to wrap your head around.

As an antidote to Sophie’s Vision, the WaveTub and Facebook it had more impact than a missile launch over the Pacific.

They did it good, they did it right. More raw, more loose. And in glacial blue Pipeline tubes brushed clean by a light Kona breeze local boy Josh Moniz stole it from under the nose of Jamie O’Brien who bagged a perfect 10 in the final. Epic sport.

As pro surfing readies to embrace an artificial future the words of Albert Camus call across the ages: “On the day when crime puts on the apparel of innocence, through a curious reversal peculiar to our age, it is innocence that is called on to justify itself.”

Was Sophie watching? The Final Day of the Volcom Pipe Pro was burning oil poured from the turrets all over the new WSL strategy, crafted, as it were, by non-surfers, non True Believers, suits without a scintilla of comprehension about the Pro Surfing Project and what it could and should stand for. The gooey burnt stinking mess leftover should be picked up and fed to pigs.

Except it was Pipeline and “ocean surfing” that was called upon to justify itself.

As a template for a tour beginning it justified itself. As an ending to the Tour it needs no justification. But was Sophie watching? The Final Day of the Volcom Pipe Pro was burning oil poured from the turrets all over the new WSL strategy, crafted, as it were, by non-surfers, non True Believers, suits without a scintilla of comprehension about the Pro Surfing Project and what it could and should stand for. The gooey burnt stinking mess leftover should be picked up and fed to pigs.

But it won’t be.

First heat I watched was stacked. Mason Ho, Jacky Robinson, Evan Valiere. Clean ultra-nugs were there for the taking on First Reef. It looked shallow, it looked super heavy. Focus and compression. Mason skitzed out on a bottom turn and took a lip to the back of the head. Pops Ho was on the beach with a longer backup board but Mason was lost for rhythm and got knocked. Jacky Robinson, Australian surfing’s Great White Hope stuck in the mire of the eternal trench warfare of the QS, looked super. Delicate line adjustments in the heaviest pits. Very calm. His post heat presser showed him to be fruity and composed, a laconic Mason Ho with a bowl cut.

I don’t call Noa Deane a punk princess lightly. I greatly fear his Dad Wayne slapping me in the head next time I surf Kirra and I have nothing but warm heartedness towards his Mum Colleen. Before a trip to Hawaii, she gave me a twenty-spot greenback and I have never forgotten the gesture.

The world’s favourite cherubic punk princess followed, along with Soli Bailey, another talent sucked into the vortex of the QS with no end in sight. I don’t call Noa Deane a punk princess lightly. I greatly fear his Dad Wayne slapping me in the head next time I surf Kirra and I have nothing but warm heartedness towards his Mum Colleen. Before a trip to Hawaii, she gave me a twenty-spot greenback and I have never forgotten the gesture. In fact I still have the twenty spot. At the time, the little tow-headed kid in nappies was surfing a palm frond down the steep incline in the back yard. He’s gunna be a good surfer, this kid, said Wayne. That was Noa.

Soli was also in nappies. Used to bounce him on my knee. And hang foul with his old man Andy “Sweaty Boy” Bailey. Deadset diamond of a man. Sweaty Boy got himself kicked out of his digs, that slum in Backyards, after leaving a turkey in the oven until a burnt crisp, cutting power to the slum and shutting down Thanksgiving for most of Sunset Beach. Noa, Soli, Jacky Robinson, JOB, Mitch Parkinson, Josh Moniz prove the truism that the best surfing lineages are dynastic, handed down through family lines and not bureaucratic, which is the hole Australia finds itself pouring money into. Soli got unlucky in a 25-minute heat that roared past. He can win at Pipe, he can win at Teahupoo, he could win at J-Bay.

But he can’t get out of the QS.

If you do nothing else go look at Finn McGill on the heat analyser. I have no idea how old he is, except he must be young because he just won the Junior World Championships at Kiama and in so doing kicked Australian surfing in the nuts so hard it might be singing falsetto for a generation. No  grab-backside steez under heavy lips, Backdoor bombs. Before he can legally buy a Michelob Ultra in America he could win any CT heat at Pipe, right now.

The results page is gone and my notes are a mess. At some point I ordered Elements of Style off Amazon. The 1918 first Edition by William Strunk Jnr. Not because I wanted to learn how to write, but because Chas told some guy to shove it up his ass on Facebook, in defence of Matt Warshaw, I think. It can only be a matter of time until some prick tells me to read the Elements of Style and when he or she does I will now be ready to rumble.

Someone who had an abundance of the elements of style was Cam Richards. Heard of him? Yeah, me neither. Some stud from South Carolina with a square jaw, a thousand-yard stare and a penchant for whipping it under the lip on ten foot bombs at Pipe. If you missed the coverage check the late swing on a bomb in quarter-final numbering. Nutz.

Joan Duru shot like a human torpedo from the bowels of one of the best tuberides of the day for a non make. He was great. He was better than great, he was original.  Jack Robinson, broke one then two boards in quarter-final two to end his campaign. Dad Trev was there with the back-ups. He looked sober as a judge but if he had a few Michelobs on SuperBowl Sunday, who am I to judge? How can you say to your brother  ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 

Sophie were you watching?

Maybe if the WSL goes too far out on the limb chasing Middle American UFC audiences and ends up turning Pro Surfing into the equivalent of an  abandoned fairground then Redbull could be there to pick up the pieces and start afresh. It wouldn’t be the strangest piece of speculation.

Between Facebook and Redbull I’d say Redbull is clearly the lesser of two evils but more than that, their coverage of Pro Surfing just seems…..right. Sure, they ham it up and lay it on thick but at least the cheese is raw, Wassel is a genius and the coverage is top notch.

Maybe if the WSL goes too far out on the limb chasing Middle American UFC audiences and ends up turning Pro Surfing into the equivalent of an  abandoned fairground then Redbull could be there to pick up the pieces and start afresh. It wouldn’t be the strangest piece of speculation.

Meanwhile the finals ran in perfect Pipe. Jamie O’Brien got a couple of note perfect but for him low difficulty rides while Cam Richards and Wes Dantas, who had been surfing with an incredibly unorthodox approach, took donuts and languished. Josh Moniz got on the board with a delectable peach that a skilled rec surfer could almost imagine spiking. Minutes ticked down with Jamie in the lead, a set stood up perfectly deep on first reef and he took it to the canvas for a 10-point ride. It looked done and dusted until Josh got spat from a highly compressed chamber with minutes to go. Not quite as dramatic as JJF’s last-second Backdoor wave to beat Jamie in 2011, but not far off.

Game over. Epic spectacle.

Did you watch Sophie? Did you comprehend?

It would have been a nice moment to show your face, maybe hand over the trophy and bask in the ohana of the Moniz family. You lose the goodwill of the North Shore and you’ve lost everything.

(Watch Jamie O’s ten at the three-hour-nineteenish minute mark, Josh Moniz’s game-winning touchdown five minute later…)

(And here’s Peter King’s #TourNote take on the event.)


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.)