I have known of professional surfer Devon Howard for some time but never really considered him until just months ago when podcast impresario David Lee Scales mentioned to me that Devon loves egg shaped surfboards. “He argues that they work very well in the right conditions…” David Lee said and that was enough to absolutely infuriate me.
Eggs, you see, are my third least favorite thing to see in any lineup. The first is SUP, second is high performance longboard, third is egg. To my mind eggs exist solely for overweight 50 year-olds to catch waves they should not catch. A baby-boom’d crutch. Like Viagra.
And so there I sat, infuriated, hissing the name “Devon Howard” under my breath like Seinfeld hissed the name “Newman.”
And then I met the man for beer and salad and could not have been more pleased. Devon moves through the world much like the Rajneesh. A sort of benevolence radiates. He is well-spoken, intelligent, funny and best of all has a rhino thick skin. Not literally, of course, his skin did not even show any ugly cancers, but metaphorically. He gets it. He gets it all.
It was, therefore, with great pleasure that I spent two hours listening to him during the course of the bi-weekly recording of the podcast Grit!
I recommend you to listen too and if you need a nudge, here you go. Devon loves Hypto-Kryptos, Mossimo denim from Target and homemade sunscreen. Devon hates if you try to talk with him, or with anyone else, in the line-up.
I dare you to paddle over and say “hi.”
Price comparison: Indies Trader III vs Surf Ranch!
Two weeks in the Ments on one of the best charter boats in the biz? Or two days at the Pool? Same price!
Three days ago, the price structure for hiring the Slater-Mincham pool was revealed, $11.5k per person for two days of lake surfing. This included video, coaching, food and access to the Surf Ranch, a masterpiece of man-made bathymetry, in Lemoore, a lousy cotton-farming town four hours north-east of Los Angeles.
As Chas Smith calculated, at eight waves a day, it costs $718.75 per wave.
Today, pricing for this year’s charters on the Indies Trader III, one of the sexiest boats in the Mentawai island chain, was revealed. As a comparison to Surf Ranch, it makes for an interesting philosophical back and forthing.
To hire the whole damn boat, eight surfers max, for two weeks, with all food (“qualified chef with no expense spared on food quality”), all drinks (yeah, booze too), airport transfers and airport porters, staterooms with queen beds and ensuite for two of the surfers and three twin-share cabins for the rest, plus internet, dive gear, boards, fishing, kiting, SUP, whatever, is $US64,383.
Divide by eight surfers.
Each man, or lady, pays $US8047.
Two weeks. Mentawais. One of the two best boats in the chain (the other is the former Indies Trader IV, now the Ratu Motu) and, if you add in a biz-class airfare, it costs the same as two days at Surf Ranch.
Now. Let’s play fantasy surfer.
If you had eleven-gees, how would you spend it?
On a little drive to Lemoore and eight waves?
Or on an Indonesian odyssey? How many waves you going to catch in two weeks?
Background. When BeachGrit was launched we planned on having a surf betting component. We’d partner up with a betting house and make it easy to win, and lose, on surf events, world titles, odd combinations (first surfer to score a ten, first surfer to get injured etc), scooping a percentage of the losses. Didn’t happen ’cause betting houses only persist with surfing because it’s the gateway sport that, eventually, can lead to you throwing your salary away on horses.
Recently, we climbed into bed with Palmerbet, and as part of our push into gambling we thought it would be a fine idea to use our contacts to try and make a smallish fortune out of surf. We’d document each event’s wagers and amounts won and lost. We’d begin with ten k and turn it into seventy by December.
The title of the story was going to be, “How I Made $60k Betting on Surf!”
Two weeks earlier, I’d interviewed the Volcom team manager Matt Bemrose, who’d won Surfer magazine’s Fantasy Surfer at his first attempt. He said betting with cash was almost cheating because “you know everyone so well. You’re at the event, you know who’s looking good, you know who’s got a magic board under their feet. This year, for example, I’m going to Snapper early to get a good look at the guys. You can see, immediately, who’s been working on shit in the off-season. Filipe, last year, it was obvious he’d been working on his rail game, that extension. He was thirty-percent better.”
Who doesn’t want the insider track?
I could almost smell the baby powder scent of the celebratory bubble bath.
Just as we were about to launch, with inside contacts all lined up, the WSL sent an email to athletes warning ’em that if anyone in their entourage, from coach to team manager, was found offering tips…insider trading… they’d face not just the punishments offered under Article 173 of the WSL rule book (suspension, expulsion, a fine five times “the highest amount able to be won from the violating activity whether any benefit was received or not”) but a visit from the Australian Federal Police.
Want to know what that means? Well, in 2011, “the Australian Sports Ministers (both Federal and State) endorsed the ‘National Policy on Match-Fixing in Sport’. The aim of the Policy was to protect the integrity of Australian sport and encourage all governments to address the issue of inappropriate and fraudulent sports betting and match-fixing activities.”
In NSW, you’ll enjoy a prison term of up to two years for passing on along “inside information” for the purpose of betting and up to ten years… a fucking decade of trying to avoid psychos with shivs and angry sodomites… for throwing a heat to make a little play money.
Our contacts in the game tell us that over the past few months representatives of the WSL have met with at least two of the biggest sporting bet co’s in Australia.
To warn them of their distaste for gambling and to shoo them away from the unimpeachable sport of surf?
Or to see, like us, if there’s money to be made?
A text message cat-and-mouse game with the WSL’s Dave Prodan went like this:
“Has the WSL banned team mangers from surf betting? And has the WSL been in talks with one of more betting agencies?”
“Don’t leave me hanging!”
One day later.
“Sorry, Derek, I don’t have those answers for you. I’m in office today and look them up.”
Three days later.
“Sportsbet! Start at Snapper? No comment?”
“Start at Snapper?”
“The Sportsbet partnership!”
“With the WSL?”
“Not that I’m aware of, possible, but no partnership.”
When you see fashion/music/media appropriating surf do you care? I remember, as a high school boy, seething at classmates who wore T&C/Quiksilver/Billabong but didn’t surf. “Poseurs…” I would hiss. “No good stinkin poseurs in poseur shirts acting like full on poseurs.” I thought surfing meant something, you see, and I thought that only those who actually did the something should be rewarded with public praise and day-glo gorillas.
This was costal Oregon in the early 1990s so who knows how real surfers in Orange County, California and Bondi, Australia thought about non-surfers wearing surf clothing but when I moved to Orange County for college I stopped caring.
Anyhow, last year Thrasher caught on bigly with everyone from Justin Bieber to your mom’s third husband and skaters were furious about, crowing about cultural appropriation. Fashion analysts warned that surf would be next and they were right. But are surfers furious? A new wonderful interview with OuterKnown’s designer John Moore suggests, “No!”
Surfing and fashion certainly aren’t strangers to one another and have existed hand-in-hand for decades. John Moore, the founder and chief creative officer of Kelly Slater’s Kering-backed lifestyle brand Outerknown, says he’s watched brands reference surf culture on the runway for as long as he’s been paying attention. Surf brands, too, have always taken note of what happens in fashion, though according to Moore, many of them probably wouldn’t admit it. The appropriation and love, he notes, goes both ways, and has for years. Remember the Chanel-branded surfboard made famous by Gisele Bündchen in 2014?
Moore also calls out designers like Proenza Schouler and Hedi Slimane who often toy with both surf and skate style. One of Moore’s favorite-ever collections is Raf Simons’s “Black Palms” range from Spring 1998. Only Simons’s second-ever runway show, the presentation took place in a parking garage in Paris’s stylish Bastille neighborhood with a soundtrack made up of extra-booming rave jams. Of the clothes, Moore offered: “Those palm graphics are indelibly stamped in my mind.”
What’s important about so-called “surf style,” though, is that it isn’t just one thing, despite the tropical, Polynesian imagery that represents the sport’s birthplace and remains most associated with it today. It’s what Thaddeus O’Neil, a designer of loungey, unisex playwear and of CFDA Fashion Incubator acclaim, instead calls a “sartorial mash-up.” He of all people working in capital-F “Fashion” would know, having spent his childhood on Eastern Long Island surfing with his dad. (“These days, I try to not miss a swell,” he says. “New York gets good waves, but it’s also very fickle — so you take what the sea will give you when she gives it to you.”) If he gets to surf three times a week, he says, it’s Shangri-La.
“Surfers have adopted different prosaic clothes and integrated them into what has become, over time, a coherent and recognizable style,” says O’Neil. “Surfing has simply proven the most powerfully iconic cultural vehicle for those motifs.”
Surf garb cycles through trends just as ready-to-wear does. Moore explains that in the 1950s, surfing was a subculture defined by stripes, blue jeans and made-to-order trunks. By the ’60s, clean, slim and colorful silhouettes took over, followed by the “soulful, psychedelic” influences of the ’70s and fluorescent, big-logoed designs of the ’80s. Then, things “went south” in the ’90s, when everything got baggy and all production went overseas.
“The common denominator across all eras in the evolution of surf style is that surfing has always been about this intangible cool,” says Moore. “And today, all designers and brands search for it. This idea of ‘effortless fashion’ or an ‘I just threw this on’ vibe — surfers would laugh at these descriptors because that’s just how they are every day.”
Mmmmmm the appropriation and love does go both ways, I think. Anytime I see a major label playing with a surf motif it delights me to no end and I even purchase from time to time. But what about you? Do you care?
Rabbit Bartholomew says, "I do not want to read this book!"
If you know surfing, you’ll know the name Ian Cairns, aman with the physique of a comic-book hero (nicknamed Kanga) who ruled big waves, who was pivotal in the creation of a world tour, who would launch the ASP after tearing the game off the IPS’s Fred Hemmings and whose thin-eyed stare could give a man stomach cramps.
For the past three years, Ian, who is sixty-five, has been working with the Ireland-based writer Wayne Murphy on a two-volume memoir called Kanga: the trials and triumphs of Ian Cairns. Ian chose Wayne, a former contest judge and pioneer of waves in Western Australia, to write the books because, a, “because I wanted someone from WA to write this thing because it’s important he knows that when you’re from Western Australia you have a chip on your shoulder”, b,”because he wasn’t a conventional surf writer. I wanted a different look at things” and, c, “because he pested the crap out of me.”
Volume one, which is 544 pages long or 155,000 words, charts his childhood, growing up surfing in Western Australia, having the dream of making a living out of it right through the conclusion of 1976 and the introduction of the world circuit. Volume two is where it gets interesting… dirty. The creation of the Bronzed Aussies. His role in the Hollywood movie Big Wednesday. Winning the World Cup. The launch of the OP Pro. The launch of the ASP. WSL and the future of surfing.
Earlier today, I called Kanga, who lives in Laguna Beach with his former pro surfer wife Alisa and twin teenage boys, to talk about the book, the direction of pro surfing under the private ownership of the WSL, why he doesn’t give, as Nick Carroll says, “a flying fuck whether you liked him or not”, about testifying in court against Da Hui’s Eddie Rothman and to ask why Rabbit Bartholomew, his peer and also a titan of the sport, says, “I do not want to read this book.”
About the WSL and the sport’s direction, he says, “We watch all these moments, Paul Speaker and his treatment of surfing, the disenfranchisement of the surf industry from the WSL direction, hiring an Englishwoman, a former tennis and rugby executive, to run surfing – in terms of painting a picture of what my perfect vision would be, it may not align with what the WSL direction is.
“I really struggle with the concept of it being a full-blown league sport ala tennis and football and NBA,” says Ian. “As surfers, we all do it for lifestyle and spiritual reasons. Look at the comments on your articles. The gulf between the presentation of the WSL and what the average surf fan thinks is so great. The concept that you can find salvation for the economic reality of WSL in attracting more non-surfers to support sponsors, to me, is the exact opposite of what it should be. I’ve got a screen-grab of an article that says World Wrestling Entertainment made 850 million bucks last year. They have one-and-a-half million people pay ten bucks a month to subscribe to their channel. These are wrestling enthusiasts. They’re clear on who their audience is. I don’t see that clarity coming out of the WSL.”
On Rabbit, who said, when asked for a testimonial, “Ian’s life seriously impacted on me and many other people, for better, and worse. I do not want to read this book”.
“Well… you know… that’s Rabbit’s problem,” says Ian. “It’s not my problem. When he was a nobody and I was beginning to be someone, I let him be my caddy. He was my sidekick. He thinks I soured his relationship with people in Hawaii. He needs to look at his own actions. When we were looking for a new executive director of the ASP, I was the guy who proposed Rabbit. I knew the ASP needed a surfer at the helm. I fought hard for him. Rabbit was a great surfer, we were ultra-close buddies back in the early seventies and we had to go through the turmoil to change the world. If we look at the good times and the things we achieved we gotta high-five each other. What a great time we’ve had!”
On Mark Richards, the four-time world champ who said, “Kanga didn’t start the ASP for the benefit of Ian Cairns. He did it for the benefit of pro surfing.
“This is consistent with how sport was in the years that I grew up,” says Ian. “Sporting clubs were owned by the members not billionaires. When I left the ASP I left with nothing but the satisfaction of putting pro surfing on the correct path.”
About not giving a flying fuck.
“Everyone in some sense is concerned about what people think of them. But I wake up in the morning and I think, what am I going to today? How can I do all these things that are crazy and cool and how can it benefit my family, my friends and all of this? The moment you start to think about these things you move forward and all those criticisms, which are about what you did yesterday, don’t matter. If you’re thinking about the future, you’re already one step ahead of the critics. Do I want to be disliked? No! Do I want to be focussed on coming up with some awesome idea tomorrow? That’s what I want to do.”
As for his 1987 testimony against Da Hui founder Eddie Rothman, who was indicted on racketeering and drug distribution charges, which prompted his former Bronzed Aussie pal Pete Townend to say, “I thought he was fucken nuts,” Ian says: “This is just ethics 101. Myself, and many many other people, have been tortured and harassed by Eddie and the Hui for decades. And the truth is, Hawaii is an amazing place. I have many friends in Hawaii. But I just hated the idea of gangs, I hate the involvement of drugs in surfing and I hate the involvement the idea of strong-arm tactics to stop people from doing things. I do think there are issues, and I’ve reached out on a number of times to Eddie, to say, ‘Why don’t we work together to help the plight of Hawaiian surfers? Let’s take the gravitas that we both have in surfing and do something really positive with it. Let’s not bitch and moan about the past, let’s talk about what we can do in the future.'”
When asked for a quote for the book, Eddie Rothman said, “Why would I want to talk about Ian Cairns? That fucker kept me in jail.”
“The fucked up things I had to suffer through… What does he expect? For me to get down on my jones and kiss his arse? Or to fight back? Which is what I did. ”