Really Exclusive: Tank for Melbourne ’19!

Journalism is the most criminal enterprise that man has ever undertaken Mush. Pure theatre.

My life has become very strange. I wade through the world, one-armed and milky headed even though I’ve cut off the opioids. Sober. Stone cold sober. Everything looks different, not better or worse just… strange. Odd. I watch TV and can’t suss out if they’re really true. I read pieces on the Internet and know they must be false. Like yesterday. Fate found me at The Inertia-lite safe space lifestyle website Stab reading a story titled Exclusive: Stab Interrogates the Man Behind Australia’s First Wavepool.

It featured a baby oil massage with the URBNSURF founder Andrew Ross, who is opening Australia’s first tank in Melbourne next year and my milky head thought, “Andrew Ross?” It sounded familiar somehow and so I dipped into our archives and, yes, there it was from three years ago. BeachGrit was just a naughty little baby then and so you didn’t read but here for you now, from the hand of Derek Rielly.

If you saw the Snowdonia Wavegarden footage that’s been everywhere, you probably thought, when’s that fun little burger coming to my part of the world?

I live in Australia (BeachGrit has bureaus in San Francisco, San Diego, Kauai and Sydney) and got in touch with the former lawyer and investment banker, Andrew Ross, who bought the rights to Wavegarden on my piece of turf.

A few questions, none of ’em real hard.

Is Australia getting wave tanks? When? And where?

Andrew Ross, from what I can tell from the one phone call to Western Australia where he lives and where the company that he set up, Wave Park Group, is based, is an over-achiever whose giddy list of achievements, included some kind of interaction with the billionaire Richard Branson, during a year off he’d taken after running some of the biggest companies in the country.

This is where Wavegarden kicks in. When he had that year off a few years ago, it was because he’d just hit 40, had a kid, wanted to travel, surf and find some kind of inspiration for the next half of his working life.

At some point, he figured he’d like to have a swing at a surfing-based biz.

“I’ve never been associated with the surf industry,” he says. “But I’m a 35-year hardcore surfer, all my mates, we know what surfing is about, we all go to the Ments each year.”

Ross liked the aroma of the new wave pools that were suddenly appearing, in theoretical form, everywhere. He’d seen the Webber pool and got in touch with Greg Webber. Then Kelly Slater’s “people.” When he was over in Europe, he swung by the Basque country to surf the Wavegarden lagoon, its proto testing pond.

He got in and, yeah, it one of those moments he says.

Taj Burrow was surfing the right (stars!), he was surfing the left, he kicked out and told Wavegarden, “I’m writing you a cheque. This is fucking amazing.”

Ross created the company Wave Park Group, brought in pals with various complimentary skills, and made a goal to create 10 Australian Wavegardens in 10 years. Ambitious?

Baby, he’s an investment banker. It seems positively… bearish!

The website, (click here), reeks of corporate-speak, howevs, which stings the eyes. It’s like one of those forms you get when a new CEO swings into your company and he wants to know the company’s mission, it’s vision and values, all those things that are totally mainlined in the corporate world.

Whatever, it’s only the meaningless platitudes companies throw on their sites to fill the obvious gap of not having a product yet. But maybe soon!

Ross, who’s just been to three cities in three days, says he doesn’t want to make any premature announcements, ’cause that leads to disappointment, and he’s right, and won’t until the first site is secured and the Development Approval has gone through whatever regional planning authority it’s dealing with.

That said, “we’d be disappointed if we don’t have something to people within 12 months, potentially quite a bit shorter than that,” he says.

What interests me, is the parks are going to be owned by Wave Park.

He ain’t sub-letting the Wavegarden technology.

They’ll buy or lease the site, buy all the Wavegarden pieces that’ll then be shipped to Australia, it’ll all get put together, a few months of testing, and away it goes.

What did Mr. Ross feel? Well, he came into our naughty baby comments, if you can believe, and said:

Hi Derek, that’s sort of accurate – but I’m not sure I’m “a hardcore surfer” that “knows what surfing’s about”. I certainly haven’t run some of the biggest companies in Australia. But I have loved surfing all my life, I have two young kids that are just learning to surf, and I feel totally stoked to now be involved in a business that, for me, is a bit of a culmination of all the different work I’ve done to this point. I’m happy to have a proper chat if you want to get a better idea about what we have planned. Cheers, Andrew (PS – loved all of the stories you wrote on Aquabumps for Uge’s last Ment’s trip).

To which Derek responded:

…oh, I did feel very grateful to Eugene for sliding me onto that once-in-a-lifetime voyage, on a boat as high as the Sacré Coeur and even more beautiful, at the last minute, hence the time put into those stories.

To clarify those other points, first, about you being involved in some of Australia’s biggest companies, my notes say: “Used to run big ASX listed companies.” I extrapolated from that, one, that if a company is on the Australian Stock Exchange, it’s already among the top 2000 companies in the country. And, add a little oil in the mix, and it’s gotta be top 500. Possibly too long a bow to draw, yeah.

Two, you can blame the other bit on the harshness of the printed quote, the lack of nuance of type on screen. It’s exactly as you said it, howevs.

If there’s more to add to the story, I’ll happily snatch more quotes. Journalism is the most criminal enterprise that man has ever undertaken Mush. Pure theatre.

I spent the rest of the day chuckling to myself. Just doddering around one-armed and chuckling. It’s good, no? Also, I have not read this discussed anywhere but feel it is pertinent. The tank is being built near Melbourne’s airport which happens to be 3000000 kilometers away from Melbourne proper so they should probably say “near Sydney” instead. Just my two cents.

Mason Ho Japan
Mason Ho curves under the stairs.

Mason Ho, Tom Curren in “A Salty Jap Bath!”

See Mason Ho's strong spine and Tom Curren's upright turns!

How about this? In six months, little Mason Ho, the kinetic kid who winks at life, baby boy of Michael, who Dane Reynolds calls “the king of stoney surfing”, will turn… thirty.

Tom Curren, meanwhile, father of style, three-time world champion, is well into his sixth decade.

A wave of reality just swooped over me. You? 

Through the hourglass go the sands of time etc.

All of which makes this five-minute clip, made by their sponsor Rip Curl, with its almost ninety years of combined surf-expertise, quite the thing.

The story, such as it is, goes like this: Mason and Tom visit Japan. It begins relatively poor, in soft lefts, but the upright turns of Tom Curren and his ability to avoid any extraneous moment makes it shine.

The skateboarding of Mason tests the nerve. Like a shopping trolley pushed down a hill you wait for the inevitable wobble and fall.

The highlight, and it’s worth persisting for, is Mason’s fiendish layback tube. He climbs over the ledge, into the void and curves under the stairs, reclined as the door opens.

It’s at the four-ish minute mark, if you don’t want the mostly filler.

Music ain’t bad either. You might clap along with your hands.

pope surfing
Sexy Pope!

Theology: Catholics Ban Surfing!

Should Catholic schoolboys be fed to sharks? A theological conundrum!

Don’t it feel good to have a provocative religion-based headline. I remember when it was the thing of anyone who regarded themselves as “edgy” to stick the boot into the Catholic Church. It peaked, I think, when an artist, Andrew Serranos, submerged a crucifix in a beaker of his post-modernist pee-pee and called it Piss Christ.  He even talked his way into a five-gee grant from a US-taxyapyer funded agency.

Good times.

Of course, with the arrival of the whole Islam thing, when even as people are beheaded in the streets and machine-gunned in their offices, the rest of us tie ourselves into knots to exhibit our tolerance, it has shut the door on taunting religions. Sometimes they bite back, literally, and often via various legal avenues.

Anyway, it was revealed by the Northern Star newspaper, recently, that “surfing will be banned at all Catholic schools on the North Coast for the foreseeable future.

THE Catholic Diocese of Lismore, which controls all Catholic schools from Port Macquarie to the Queensland border, has issued a ban on all open ocean surfing and surf lifesaving in response to the threat of “shark encounters”.

A memo announcing the ban was sent to principals by Director of Catholic Schools David Condon on February

1.It stated that the Catholic Schools Office had recently sought an independent risk assessment of parish schools conducting surfing and surf lifesaving in open waters, “specifically in relation to potential shark interactions”.

“After consultation with the Catholic Schools Council, it has been determined that all Diocesan surfing, and Diocesan surf lifesaving in open waters conducted under the auspices of the Catholic Schools Office, will cease in 2018,” the memo said.

At this stage it is unknown who conducted the independent risk assessment, nor what criteria were used.

The door was left open however for schools to conduct their own “independent assessments” of the risk.

The memo listed three recommendations if schools opted to continue with ocean activities:

1. Events to be held at beaches protected with either nets or smart drumlines

2. Drones to be used at events

3. If no nets or smart drum lines are present, then the event should not proceed.

The memo emerges at the same time a new CSIRO report using world first genetic analysis estimated there were almost 5500 white sharks living off Australia’s East Coast.

The estimate came with a huge margin for error, with the real number considered in the report as being anywhere from 2900 sharks to 12,800 sharks.

(The latter number if you’re lazy at maths like BeachGrit)

Do you like irony being spooned to you like this?

That a religion built around the concept of a heaven and the notion that the hand of God is in every creature, that to die, i.e. go to heaven after being eaten by God’s creature, could somehow be a bad thing?

Wouldn’t a little Catholic boy tossed into the mouth of a Great White be the completion of some sort of divine circle of life?

"Suck my 4.35, world!"
"Suck my 4.35, world!"

How To: Become an Olympic Surfer!

Determination and really gaming the system!

Now, as you are most certainly aware, the Winter Olympics in PyongYang are rounding the bend to their conclusion. The Games kicked off almost two weeks ago producing spills, chills and feel good moments.

They have also produced a touch of controversy and let’s us, for a moment, consider the saga of Liz Swaney.

The American skied in the freestyle halfpipe event for the central European nation of Hungary and left the crowd speechless by doing zero tricks, just back and forth and back and forth.

How did she end up at the Olympics and on national television?

CBS Sports reporter Pete Blackburn says, “It was a combination of determination and really gaming the system. The field is not very deep in the women’s halfpipe, so she was she was able to enter events in which there were 30 or less competitors, and if you earn a top-30 finish in a World Cup event you score points through the International Ski Federation.”

Simple but polarizing. A percentage of the viewing public felt cold rage at Swaney’s performance, thinking it mocked the hard work other athletes put in. A percentage of the viewing public felt warm happiness, thinking Eddie the Eagle type human stories are exactly what makes the Olympics special.

All fine and good but we don’t care about freestyle skiing, do we. No, we care about Olympic surfing and this is going to for sure happen in the event’s inaugural run at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Some Zoltan Torkos character is going to figure out that Greece, say, doesn’t have any good surfers, jump through Olympic Committee hoops and voila make it to the Olympics where the television studios will produce a feel-good segment on his fish-out-of-water story.

In three years, Zoltan the Great will hit theaters starring Dexter Holland (as Zoltan) and Brendan Fraser (as his coach) and the question I have for you is will you go see it or will you wait for it to be On Demand?

Also, it doesn’t have to be Zoltan Torkos who “determinedly games the system.” It could be you. To be later played by Rob Schneider in the yet-to-be-named film.

Do you have Olympic dreams? What is going to be the name of your film?

Literature: Of Sharks and Mediocrity!

What happens when the bitey fish swims by?

There was a shark in the line-up today.

I didn’t actually see it, mind you. But the four guys sitting at the top of the point came in to the beach in a hurry. One of them made the international sign of oh hey, we saw something big out there, with his hands. I figured I’d go find out what was up. I didn’t want to be the only one sitting out there, dangling my feet into the depths.

Here whitey, whitey, come and get ittttt.

You are probably braver than I am. You’d probably all just sit out there like, whatever. And keep catching waves and making turns and generally looking rad. I have trouble looking rad when there are bitey fish around.

My approach to sharks on the whole is to pretend they don’t exist. Like, la la la, what even is a shark. I’ve definitely been places where they like to hang out, but what I can’t see doesn’t matter, is what I always say. I just fixate on the crabs and it’s totally fine.

But the dudes were convinced it was eight feet, which is a lot of bitey fish to ignore. It’s unusual, but not out of the question for an eight footer to be loafing around the joint. There’ve been a few verified sightings over the winter.

Then there’s the apocalyptic run-off, which the big fish apparently enjoy. Mmm, pollution and bacteria, nom nom nom. I’ve personally progressed to the point of ignoring the water quality reports altogether. Fecal coliform? Whatevs. I’m sure it’s totally fine.

An editor made me write a story once about the dangers of surfing in run-off. I felt like maybe he knew me a little too well. I learned about all the gross bacteria out there. Actual MD’s told me all about it. I tried to behave! But all that’s ended now. I’ve managed to mostly forget all the stuff they told me, which is an internet writer’s best talent. What? I wrote that? No way.

So after the shark thing, I wandered down the beach and paddled out again where there were a few more humans. Herd instinct, you know. I knew I could count on the longboarders to sit halfway out to sea, so that any big fish would check them out first.

If I have to surf with longboards, I might as well put them to work. Y’all sit out there and distract the sharks! I’ll just do some surfing right here. No, you’re good! You’re not missing anything. Just surfing.

I was trying to surf my dumb shortboard, finally. It’s been a shit winter around here. Anyone in the audience who lives here in California, south of Point Conception is nodding along with me, right now. I’m pretty sure we could count the number of good days this winter on one hand. It’s been flat. The flattest.

Over the weekend, we sat in the lineup and stared at the horizon. And stared. And stared some more. A passing whale farted. The entire lineup paddled like it was the dying seconds of a Pipe Masters (RIP) heat. That’s pretty much been the winter right there. Little wonder I can barely remember what my shortboard looks like. It’s white I think? Also, thin. I think it has some fins on it, maybe.

But today there was windswell and the buoy numbers were actually in double-digits. It was astonishing! So I grabbed my do-everything shortboard, designed for not quite awesome surf. It is white and thin and beautiful. It has blue fins, which I’m pretty sure make it faster. Also, yes, I did partly choose them for the color, because why the hell not.

The surf was shit-slop windswell that looked better than it was. Also it was freezing and upwelled. The shark was probably the highlight of the whole thing. It certainly wasn’t my surfing.

But I have broken up with my soft top at last. It’s over between us. It was fun, but it wasn’t really meant to last. From now on, it’s foam and fiber glass only. And three fins! I am again enamored of three fins. Oh I hear you taunting me. You’re saying I’ll be back, begging for some of that sweet soft top love as soon as the next flat spell comes around.

Nope. It’s not going to happen. I’m standing firm.

Fuck, maybe I’ll buy a midlength.