Holy Grail
"The concept of the long tail is to create hold and to give you that connection to a wave face that draws you upwards. I knew it could be insane in small waves but I knew I had to cut off the tail.” | Photo: Josh Tabone

Hayden Cox on “The Delights of Damnation!”

Names surfboard after important religious artefact! Can you guess?

The surfboard designer Hayden Cox, who is a sunny faced thirty-five, arrives for the interview carrying three gorgeously brazen surfboards. One is an all-black eight-foot-six gun, a scaled-down version of a nine-six he’d made for the Narrabeen big-wave surfer Ben Wilkinson to ride at Jaws, and early and final versions of his new model the Holy Grail, one a five-six, the other a five-seven.  

The original Holy Grail, as if needs to be explained to our theologically aware readership, was the cup that Joseph used to collect Jesus’ blood as he died upon a wooden cross during his crucifixion in 33 AD. His death would later become a public holiday in Judeo-Christian societies. (Good Friday.)

I remember, two-ish years ago, when Hayden told me the name. I thought it divine, literally. Hayden was worried that he’d get himself a little heat for its religious overtones, another surf media person had said as much, but as I said to Hayden, live a little, risk eternal damnation. There’s worse things.

Hayden’s here to explain his kink for rail curvature, or side-cuts if we’re to be specific, and how he says he can build a board that has all the easy-paddling and stability of what you might call, in hushed tones a fun board, but with a radical high-performance back end. Think, a car you can easily drive in traffic but still loose on the track. 

The inspiration for the side-cuts, and it’s the reason the eight-six is arranged on my terrace next to the Holy Grails, is it came from solving the problem of Ben Wilkinson wanting a board he could turn mid-face at Jaws. 

“We always talked about how you could get big-wave board to surf with all that speed but have enough curve to do a big hack underneath the lip,” says Hayden. “And it took me two years of thinking, on a million plane rides, visualising what the board could be and then it came to me. I gotta use side cuts. I gotta use a fast, straight rocker down the centre of the board put the curve in the rail line so as soon as he tilts the board on a mid-face bottom bottom turn, you want that rail line curve to draw you up the face. And when you flatten the board you’re on the flatter centreline rocker.” 

A clarification. 

Hayden ain’t saying he invented the concept of side-cuts. First, you’ll see ‘em on snowboards. Second, they’ve been around since the late seventies, and mostly on twin-fins. Hayden says he was turned onto the concept of side-cuts, and it’s a concept he first introduced commercially with his Psychedelic Germ model, via conversations with the shaper Mick Mackie.

“He’s an absolute chilled legend,” says Hayden. “He loves a good chat about how boards ride and how they flex.” 

Now let’s get into more theory. Hayden picks up a basketball and shows how the black channels intersect, at one point resembling a rounded pin tail. 

“People need to understand that there’s different parts of the board you surf on different parts of the wave,” he says. “And the concept is that when you surf horizontally on a wave, which is across the wave, you’ll surf on the centreline rocker. As you know, the theory goes that the more rocker you have the more manoeuvrable the board and the more sensitive it is in the pocket. And the flatter the rocker, the more lateral the board surfs and the faster is moves across the wave, but you lose the ability to turn in the pocket.”

Side-cuts give you a hit each way. 

“Where it translate to the surfer,” says Hayden, “is the fact that now you have a really straight centreline rocker, which you feel when you surf horizontally, and that’s giving you flow and speed. But when you tilt the board on rail, now you’re surfing on the rail-line rocker which has all the curve late off the back foot.”

In his thinking, in his experimentation, Hayden rode a five-seven at big Nias. The design is an early version of the Holy Grail, fins well forward and with the side-cuts kicking in, dramatically, a dozen inches off the tail. 

“I’m not going to surf Jaws but Nias is a big, open face,” says Hayden. “I felt that speed and that flow and that turning ability when you hit the rail line that curvature coming into play. But even with fifteen-foot faces I felt like it was only just starting to come to life. The concept of the long tail is to create hold and to give you that connection to a wave face that draws you upwards. I knew it could be insane in small waves but I knew I had to cut off the tail.” 

The result is the finished Holy Grail. 

“In small waves that’s the evolution. You don’t want the hold. The outline and the amount of that curvature was put into the rail line to suit everything from shoulder high faces, three foot, up until, shit, I’ve surfed it into good twelve-foot faces, South Coast sorta stuff,” says Hayden. 

Three foot, double overhead. 

One board.

Hayden picks up the basketball, spins it. 

“Maybe I should’ve called it the Spaulding,” he says. 

Surf Ranch and the Great White Conspiracy!

What does it all mean, man?

I went to bed last night in New Jersey with the news that the World Surf League had cancelled the Margaret River Pro due shark activity. When I woke up this morning, still in New Jersey, Margaret River remains cancelled. The agony caused to presenting sponsor Western Australia’s Tourism Board and the World Surf League was detailed marvelously by the current best surf journalist in the world.

Agony ain’t the half of it for the tourism board. I believe this will go down as the worst public relations spend in history, knocking the 1930s campaign “Pedophiles love Pepsi!” from its perch.

For the league, though, this momentary sniff of embarrassment will be almost instantly replaced by the scent of cow turds. By the scent of farm laborer fears. By the scent of Immigration and Customs Enforcement SUV vanil-a-roma air fresheners. By the scent of Indian gaming parlors. By the scent of Lemoore, California.

And ain’t it just a neat coincidence that the next event, though not officially “an event”, is Founders Cup at Surf Ranch. A converted water ski lake some hundred miles from the nearest great white shark. A place that doesn’t have flat spells. A place that can charge 5000 people an admission fee. Like a dude ranch with surf. Surf Ranch.

The World Surf League’s financial way forward is undoubtedly the pool. It will showcase, sell, build and promote. The Championship Tour acts as a loss leader. The ocean as the biggest competitor. It is almost as if the League held the Margaret River event during salmon spawning season on purpose. Almost as if those dead whales were placed strategically around the event site. Almost as if certain Brazilian competitors were pushed forward with fear-filled social media messages.

And here, right here, in a nutshell, is why no conspiracy on earth is actually true. Conspiracies take many people working toward a common but largely secret goal all while keeping their mouths shut. They take unbelievable planning, coordination and skill. After completed they take a level of candor not seen since… since… since ever.

Can you imagine this level of institutional dexterity from Joe Turpel and 1989 World Champion Martin “Pottz” Potter? From His Honorable Judge Pritamo and CEO Sophie G.?


I can’t and I can’t imagine it from any other bureaucracy on earth either. Chem trails, 9/11 as an inside job, flat earth, radio ID chips being stuck in people, etc. have all effectively been rendered silly by the World Surf League’s general incompetence. Because the World Surf League’s general incompetence is the same as yours and mine and alls people everywhere. I mean, maybe a little more marked but…

It is funny, in the end, that the potential for any conspiracy theory to be true has been undone by Kelly Slater.

Isn’t it?

Opinion: “We are ghoulish, we do crave blood!”

Why can't we just admit it?

What an absolute fine little mess the Australian leg ended in. The best of times or the worst of times? Too early to tell but if you are in audience growth mode the media coverage has been, as they say, total and global.

Problem is, of course,  saturation media coverage for calling off the comp due to unacceptable risk of shark attack doesn’t gel too well with the WA Government’s stated reason to back the event.

From this year’s breathless presser released by the Tourism Minister Paul Papalia: Tens of thousands of spectators are expected to watch the 2018 Margaret River Pro at the world-class facilities at Surfers Point, and millions of viewers via global broadcasts, showcasing the stunning region to the world. 

Y’got the showcase all right, Pauly. A stoner from Denmark showcased what a direct strike from a White looks like and didn’t even break a sweat. You can bet that played well on Frank Gallagher’s big screen in Manchester*, “Oi, fook that WA shite luv, fookin sharks eatin’ people on the fookin’ beach, lets go back to Lanzarote”

You can’t blame Sophie for  swerving first in a game of international chicken with the world’s most ferocious click-bait generator. Maybe she knew, maybe she was told: there was no good outcome. No acceptable optics. No happy ending.

Pauly didn’t sound so chuffed this morning after the cancellation especially after he moved heaven and earth to tow the whale off the beach and bring in the heavy reinforcements in the form of a 20-metre fisheries vessel from the Abrolhos Islands (a 12-hour steam away, with a pretty fuel bill) to back up the WSL, as well as provide back up staff and constant aerial surveillance. He was pretty keen to let it be known it wasn’t the State Government who blinked. 

But you can’t blame Sophie for  swerving first in a game of international chicken with the world’s most ferocious click-bait generator. She heroically avoided corpo-speak in the statement announcing the cancellation and maybe she knew, maybe she was told: there was no good outcome. No acceptable optics. No happy ending.

The forecast was dire. A frothing pack of international media would have seen Margs set up like the Battle of the Coral Sea – helicopters, vessels circling, skis everywhere – each journalist praying in her blackest heart of hearts that the unthinkable might happen in real time on live broadcast.

What a story that would be. It would likely, as Gabe Medina said today, “Finish the sport”.  Sophie would have to fall on her sword immediately, KP too. Probably the whole management team gone. 

Nope. She had to bomb the village to save it.

Margs is gone. But it was probably gone already. Oh, they’ll honour the contract for next year, sans Medina who has already said he is never coming back, sans Italo too and probably a sizeable part of the Brazilian contingent, which is half the CT. It won’t be a good look, trying to promote tourism in the region when half the surfers on tour refuse to show and the dream of using pro surfing as a locomotive to pull the wagon of tourism promotion will be gone for good.

Only question is whether the contagion will spread to the other Australian events. Bells is solid, Snapper looks shaky.

“The Margaret River Pro will not only deliver significant national and international media coverage of the State throughout the global broadcast, it will also inject millions into the economy by attracting visitors to the State.”  Phhhoooooooooo. Ashes in the wind now.  Foxy liberal shadow minister for Tourism Libby Mettam said, “The damage of today’s cancellation to our economy and reputation will take years to rebuild”.

She called the cancellation of the event a “disaster for WA Tourism”. Not even Joe Turpel could spin fairy floss out of that lump of turd, although I would love to see him give it the old college try.

Terrible irony is, we are ghoulish, we do crave blood and the thought of wild animals tearing us apart thrills like no other concept. Why can’t we just admit it, to borrow the chorus of Tool’s Vicarious. We won’t give pause until the blood is flowing. That would give pro surfing the audience it craves. There’s already proof of concept. It would take a very, very brave CEO to move in that direction though and now Sophie has blinked once and put surfer safety as a non-negotiable it’s going to make backing Pro Surfing at any shark hot-spot a very risky commercial decision. What suits call “sovereign risk” will now weigh on the sport. 

We’re halfway down the rabbit hole to Sophie’s beloved “wave systems” future and mother nature is kicking us up the arse to get there quicker. Maybe that is what has felt so strange about this Aussie leg: it’s like the future is huffing and puffing to blow the house down and everyone, surfers, judges fans seem caught in a kind of future shock.

Don’t it feel weird?

We’re halfway down the rabbit hole to Sophie’s beloved “wave systems” future and mother nature is kicking us up the arse to get there quicker. Maybe that is what has felt so strange about this Aussie leg: it’s like the future is huffing and puffing to blow the house down and everyone, surfers, judges fans seem caught in a kind of future shock. No one seems to know what to do. Kelly Slater said the contest should have gone on but he himself described a moment of existential panic when he first spied his wave pool dishing up perfect waves: “In some weird sense this is like a nuclear bomb, is this something we shouldn’t have?” He has created the conditions where a viable alternative to the ocean now exists, where an unthinkable option to turn away from the ocean like the WSL took today is feasible and even makes a kind of strategic sense. 

I was going to offer some analysis of the Aus leg as a whole but it seems pointless. Italo was the form surfer and he wears the yellow jersey, so there is that. John has been mugged by reality and is caught in a world of weird that no-one in Team Florence would have anticipated in their worst nightmares. The rest seem like a bag of marbles flung across the floor. All you can say is that where they are now is not where they will be at the end of the year.

You could say the same thing about Pro Surfing. 

* According to a WA Tourism fact sheet visitors from UK make up the largest contingent of OS visitors and they love bronzing the rig at the beach and are petrified of sharks (pers obs).

From the WSL: "Current circumstances are very unusual and troubling, and we have decided that the elevated risk during this season’s Margaret River Pro has crossed the threshold for what is acceptable."

Breaking: Margaret River Pro cancelled!

See y'later WA and thanks for the laughs… 

Well, how about that?

After yesterday’s twin Great White attacks, and with beaches still closed around Margaret River, the WSL has cancelled the Margaret River Pro.

“The WSL has made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of the Margaret River Pro, as a result of exceptional circumstances surrounding this season’s event regarding sharks and the safety of our surfers. This decision has been reached after many hours of consultation with a variety of stakeholders and experts.

“The WSL puts the highest premium on safety. This cannot be just talk, and it cannot be compromised. Surfing is a sport that carries various forms of risk, and is unique in that wild animals inhabit our performance environment. Sharks are an occasional reality of WSL competitions, and of surfing in general. Everyone associated with our sport knows that. There have been incidents in the past – and it’s possible that there will be incidents in the future – which did not (and will not) result in the cancellation of an event. However, current circumstances are very unusual and troubling, and we have decided that the elevated risk during this season’s Margaret River Pro has crossed the threshold for what is acceptable.”

In a press release from the company’s CEO Sophie Goldschmidt:

On April 16th (local time), two separate shark attacks occurred at nearby Gracetown – approximately 6 kilometers away from the primary event site at Main Break. The presence of beached whales in the area has attracted sharks and contributed to the aggression of their behavior, which, experts agree, has increased the possibility of further attacks. These findings have resulted in nearby locations being closed to surfing and swimming.

We are committed to being as prepared as possible for what nature throws at us. The WSL maintains strong and constantly-improving safety, monitoring and support infrastructure and protocols, and we would normally have a high degree of confidence in our ability to protect our athletes. However, the threshold has been crossed for the organization and if we decided to continue the event under the current circumstances, and something terrible were to take place, we would never forgive ourselves.

We are painfully aware that this decision will have commercial ramifications for the local community, and will disappoint some of our partners, fans and athletes. We sincerely regret that.

Our competitive structure allows for points distribution in the event of a cancellation. However, we are not giving up yet on somehow completing both men’s and women’s competition this year, and will communicate our thoughts on that when we know more.

Margaret River is a special venue, with incredible partners. It has produced many memorable moments over the years, and at the moment we have no plans not to return in the future.

We appreciate that not everyone will agree with this decision, but hope that they will respect it. Athlete safety will always be our absolute priority and we thank the local community, our partners and our surfers for supporting the decision.

Thank you for your understanding,
Sophie Goldschmidt

As for points, an event re-run etc.

“The cancellation of the Margaret River Pro will see points distributed per the WSL rulebook, but organizers have not ruled out potentially completing the events elsewhere during the season.”

shark attack
"He's gone!" Western Australian Jason Longgrass, 41, hit by Great White at Lefthanders, near North Point.

Watch: Footage of yesterday’s Great White attack!

"Oh my god! Holy fuck! He's gone!"

Ever wondered what it would look like if a pal was hit by a Great White? Well, here’s a little poem of the sea – just-released phone footage of yesterday’s second Great White attack near Margaret River.

It isn’t entirely pleasant viewing, although the surfer, Jason Longgrass’s survival, lack of substantial wounds and excellent post-attack interview do lighten the mood.

“Shark! Oh my god… holy fuck!… he’s gone…” says one spectator before, “No he’s swimming, he’s swimming, come on mate chopper’s coming back. Chopper’s coming back.”

Watch here!