Just in: Twelve-Foot White Closes Main Break!

Margaret River overheats with shark fever!

If you live in Margaret River, you’ll know how goodhow big… Saturday was. Ten-to-twelve feet in the morning with twenty-footers hammering reefs by the afternoon.

The pro surfer turned real estate agent Mitch Thorson, ranked #16 in the mid-eighties and noted for his jams in big waves, had just cleared up an auction, grabbed his surfing equipment and had headed to Main Break, Margs, he says, “to sit on the shoulder and watch some big ones… it was genuine Hawaiian sorta shit. It was as close to as good and as big as it gets.”

But when Mitch, who is fifty three years old, arrived he was greeted by an empty lineup. A friend stuck his head in his window and told him a Great White “as wide as those Fiats yuppies drive” had swum through the lineup, mowing through salmon. Twice the White had been seen. The entire lineup paddled in.

The Western Australian salmon, of course, and as has been previously explained, gather around Cape Leeuwin and Busselton to “spawn when the eastward flowing Leeuwin Current is strongest, and eastward-directed winds are dominant, enabling transport of pelagic larvae to the south-east.”

Which normally isn’t enough to clear the water around these parts.

Mitch knew it was serious when one surfer, a South Australian transplant who’d stayed out when his pal Rob Bruce was bumped off his board by a Bronze Whaler last week, beached it.

“When I heard that, I knew it was for real,” says Mitch. “He’s never scared.”

Shortly after, an officer from the Department of Fisheries came up, wrote his message on the now ubiquitous shark sign (above) and advised surfers not to enter the water.

A marine biologist pal of Mitch’s describes the shark fever as being directly related to the hundreds of whales floating through lineups and washing onto beaches. “It’s like when you walk into a chook pen and you’re hanging out with the chooks, they’re chilling out and cruising around you, but when you throw pellets on the ground they go berserk. That’s what the shark behaviour is at the moment.”

On the day two surfers were attacked by sharks around Gracetown, a shark watch helicopter crew member says he saw fifteen large sharks between North Point and Kilcarnup.

Mitch did go surfing on Saturday, his ten-three turned into a longboard instead of an elephant chaser, sliding along waist-high reforms in front of the Gnarabup cafe with “women, children and guys with their girlfriends.”

“A one-foot little roller, riding these rolly polly little things that go for a hundred yards. But it was nice to go surfing. I haven’t been surfing much.”

Dinner's on me, brothers!
Dinner's on me, brothers!

Proof: Women surfers earn more than men!

But only in Australia!

This is very obviously The Year of the Woman and finally. For eons upon eons upon eons ladies have been dealt a bummer hand. Like, since the beginning of mankind even. For eons they have been the unwilling object of Harvey Weinstein’s advances. For eons they have had to wear bras. For eons they have been paid less than their male counterparts for the same exact work.

Until today.

For it is in this Year of the Woman that they finally finally finally make more than Adriano de Souza. Or wait, I’m sorry, more than Mikey Wright because this miracle is only happening in Australia. Shall we together together from Australia’s tax office releases?

As with all data, it’s worth keeping in mind the fine print:

-The data covers the 2015-16 financial year and was released by the Australian Tax Office today.
-These figures look at the earnings of 16 million Australians, based on what they declare on their tax returns, including what job they work in.
-The data does not take into account whether someone is working part-time or full-time; therefore if more women than men in a given occupation work part-time, for example, that affects the averages.

The greatest difference in female versus male average taxable income was for an occupation category the ATO labelled “state governors”, but which is defined more broadly as “legislators not classified under other occupations”, and which includes Aboriginal Community Council Members and Aboriginal Land Councillors.

Six women and 19 men listed that category as their occupation, with the women having taxable incomes of $286,676 and the men $169,148.

Female futures traders had an average taxable income of $388,681 compared with $300,923.

The 22 female surfers ($68,178) had higher taxable incomes than the 81 male surfers ($40,396).

And the 18 female goat farmers ($66,127) earn more than their 22 male counterparts ($44,495).

So mostly men still make more than women except in the fields of futures trading, goat farming and professional surfing.

Good company.

Great company.

Just in: Australians can’t pronounce “Australia!”

What are you looking at "American"?

The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan are right around the corner and how excited are you for the jingoistic bacchanal? The correct answer is “very” and you are not alone. Professional surfer Kanoa Igarashi is so excited that he changed his nationality to Japanese from American and don’t you think it is funny that Americans call themselves “American?” I mean, there are 23 different countries in North, Central and South America with each having an equal claim to the “America” moniker.

I mean, not “equal” the America we call America has much more money and a much larger military than the other 22 combined but still. Funny. But not as funny as Australians not being able to pronounce the word “Australia.”

In a gorgeously written piece, author Tiger Webb walks though the historical and modern troubles Australians have with Australia. And let us read.

Towards the tail end of 1933, Londoners realised something strange: BBC announcers seemed to take multiple approaches to pronouncing the word Australia.

In one, the first syllable rhymed with the title of Patrick White’s then-unpublished Voss. In the other, the first syllable resembled the vowel sound in ore.

This state of chaos terrified the British public so much that newspapers lobbied the BBC to go with (their orthography) Osstralia.

Actual Australians, hearing of this debate, argued for a third way.

“I agree that Australia should not be pronounced Orestralia,” said the Reverend GE Hale, a lecturer in public speaking at the Workers’ Educational Association of Adelaide.

“But neither should it be pronounced Osstralia.”

For Hale, there was a third way — closer to Orestralia, but without stress on the first syllable. Orstralia.

That this great country had not settled on a single pronunciation of its own name, even 30 years after Federation, didn’t seem to faze its residents.

On the contrary: there is some evidence to suggest that speakers of Australian English used these variant pronunciations as a handy form of social marker.

In his autobiography, the writer Hal Porter observed that he was “an unmistakable Australian, albeit of the Awstralian rather than the Osstralian variety”.

Porter’s remarks on the Australian accent, written in 1963, neatly mirror today’s anxieties around pronunciation.

So? How do you pronounce? Having received my graduate degree in Applied Linguists I’ll tell you it doesn’t matter. Language is as language does but maybe you think one way is right and the others are silly. So are you an Osstralia gal, an Orestralia gal or an Orstralia gal?


"I thought it was a really low act on behalf of those guys," says Tim Winton.

Famous author: “Italo, Gabriel weak, conniving!”

Tim Winton says, "It's amazing how cowardly those guys were."

Two days ago, the celebrated Australian writer Tim Winton appeared on a youth network talk show for a few reasons: to pimp a new book and talk about “toxic masculinity” with a brief detour into the film adaption of his surf novel Breath.

Winton, who is fifty seven years old and lives in a suburb of Perth, Western Australia, regards the modern man as something a little diminished.

“As someone who’s surfed all over the world and with the machismo and bravado of Brazilians in particular, I thought it was amazing how cowardly those guys were,” he said

“I wonder what kind of sooks men are… (if they) can’t hear any form of criticism without needing cotton wool or wearing a special helmet,” he said.

Winton grew up surfing around the south-west and says he wasn’t impressed when the Brazilians Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira applied a little pressure to the WSL to cancel the Margaret River Pro.

“As someone who’s surfed all over the world and with the machismo and bravado of Brazilians in particular, I thought it was amazing how cowardly those guys were,” he said. “Look, not everybody wants to be in the water the day after two guys have failed the taste test around the corner, but I thought it was a really low act on behalf of those two guys. Because, also, there’s a professional aspect to that. They’ve just given themselves a professional advantage in the competition. At one level it was weak of them. At another level it was conniving.”

Winton suggested a chlorinated future would better suit the pair. 

“I just think  if you want to go swimming in a dead ocean, go to a pool, go to a wave pool. If you want to be part of something that’s alive, and that’s what surfing is to most of us, then you’ve gotta be prepared, you’re doing that in a living ecosystem. If you want to kill all the sharks you’re just going to kill the oceans. It’s one of the few places in the world where there are actually real waves.”

(Here, the host jumped in. “And it was ripping!”)

“Yeah, so they can go back to surfing dirty onshore beach slop in water somewhere else and that’ll be surfing. Finally we get something to look at and they don’t want to go out.”

Listen here (back third of the show.) 

Global warming: More, bigger waves coming!

We are unreflective scholars of the divine!

You well know that our earth’s atmosphere is toasting up due an over-abundance of carbon emissions etc. and do you feel bad, resolute or resigned? I’m somewhere between resigned and indifferent. It is a bummer that we humans are such… consumers but it bothers me at an aesthetic level more than a ecological one. Like people who buy delightfully small homes in moderate climates then tear them down and build monstrosities.

Very gauche.

But at least as far as our surfing is concerned global warming holds promise or so declares The New York Times. In a review of four “ocean lifestyle” books the promise is clear. Future storms will be more severe and create more waves. And let’s read one review together?

But “debate rages,” the oceanographer Eelco J. Rohling writes in THE OCEANS: A Deep History (Princeton University, $29.95), “over whether we will see a stormier atmosphere in general, or perhaps fewer but bigger storms.”

But “debate rages,” the oceanographer Eelco J. Rohling writes in THE OCEANS: A Deep History (Princeton University, $29.95), “over whether we will see a stormier atmosphere in general, or perhaps fewer but bigger storms.”Paleoceanography, Rohling’s area of expertise, is the study of ancient oceans and ancient climates as they changed and developed together over geologic time. It involves analyzing data like layers of sediment taken from the seabed. Much alarming information can be learned this way, as Rohling demonstrates, about how today’s oceans are likely to respond to climate change — with greater acidification, sea-level rise, mass extinction and so forth. But because storms leave no geological record, the precise effect of global warming on hurricanes is harder to gauge.

Still, Rohling is confident that the combination of rising sea levels and some form of increased storm intensity “spells doom” for the world’s coastal regions. For surfers, rooting for hurricane swell may be increasingly difficult to rationalize.

Not difficult for me to rationalize. I’m a surfer! And so are you.

The same piece poetically declares.

In September, Hurricanes Irma and Maria posed this question with some vividness, producing the best run of swell seen in years along the East Coast while unleashing chaos and devastation down in the Caribbean. Surfers, to judge from the throngs who gleefully paddled out from Florida to New England, make for unreflective scholars of the divine.