Griffin Colapinto
Kelly's remarkable tank: 700 metres long by 150 metres wide. And how does he tweak? By upping or lowering the volume of water and changing the angle of the foil. Griffin Colapinto, post-renovation.

Wow: How Kelly improved Surf Ranch!

It ain't what y'think… 

It’s hardly news by now that Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch was closed in November for what you would’ve supposed to be a bathymetric renovation. Raise the vinyl-covered bottom a little here, a little there, make it hollower, faster and so forth.

It reopened a couple of weeks ago with its usual drip-feed of footage, the most significant, or exciting, tour rookie Griffin Colapinto’s tuberiding (and clean fin-throw to tube) there.

But what was presumably a makeover of the man-made sea’s bottom was actually nothing of the sort. The bottom is static.

Instead, says Kelly, it’s “tuning of speeds and water depths. Just like a pool or lake, water depth just changes by taking out or adding water. Speed of wave matches the foil and whatever angle it comes off the foil.”

Get that? A little more volume in the pool, change the angle of the foil.

And the tube of Griff? Is the shape and length of the tube different?

“Not real different. It was probably a first wave after long pause and super calm. I was surprised he made it ’cause he was so deep. Really cool.”

Does USC scientist, Adam Fincham, the man who, in 2006, began to breathe life into Kelly’s outrageous dream with the use of parallel super computers, oversee these changes?

“He’s constantly helping with tweaks,” says Kelly. “He’s committed to making sure waves are consistently working right.”

I wondered, how many waves has Kelly caught in the pool?

“Not as many as you’d assume,” he says. “I generally surf less than anyone on days I’m there. Last week I probably surfed a half or third of what the other guys were surfing, maybe even less.”

When I was at the joint, I was struck by two things: the size of the pool – almost as long as Bondi Beach or 700 metres – and the empty man-made lake next to it. Back when Kelly and co bought the current lake in the first place, the owner who is a keen wakeboarder, I was told, wanted to retain one of ’em.

If he’d sold, would Surf Ranch have been twice and wide?

Bigger, hollower?

“The sheer scale freaked us out enough with just one,” says Kelly. “We just didn’t all the possibilities of future design.”

Dylan McWilliams
A fly's paradise. Dylan McWilliams' bear (left) and shark wounds.

Bodyboarder survives shark, bear and rattlesnake attacks!

 "I still go hiking, I still catch rattle snakes, and I will still swim in the ocean."

There is little that gives me as much pleasure as he shit and the bickerings of the human world. I have tabloid fever bad and it is reflected, I think, in my choice of stories.

Earlier today, it was reported by every major news agency that Colorado man Dylan McWilliams, a part-time bodyboarder and “outdoor enthusiast”, had been hit by a tiger shark while on his lid in Kauai.

“I saw the shark underneath me. I started kicking at it – I know I hit it at least once –and swam to shore as quickly as I could,” Dyan told the BBC. “I didn’t know if I lost half my leg or what.”

Last July, while sleeping outdoors on a camping trip, Dylan, who is twenty years old, woke up with his head in the jaws of a bear.

“This black bear grabbed me by the back of the head, and I was fighting back, poking it in the eye until it let me go.” After stomping on Dylan the 300 pound bear walked off. Later, it was caught by park authorities where tests confirmed Dylan’s blood was under the bear’s fingernails. The animal was subsequently destroyed.

And three years ago, Dylan was attacked by a rattler while hiking in Utah.

“I was walking down a trail and I thought I kicked a cactus but couldn’t see one, and then saw a rattlesnake all coiled up. There was a little venom so I did get a bit sick for a couple of days. We have to respect [animals’] boundaries but I don’t think I was invading or provoking any of the attacks – they just happened.”

After the three-pack of bites, Dylan says he’s still enthral to the poetry of nature.

“I still go hiking, I still catch rattle snakes, and I will still swim in the ocean.”


Momentum: Surfers “forever reshape world!”

Turn the dial to 11!

As you may, or may not, know I have spent the past two-ish years working on a documentary about the wonderful Lisa Andersen. During this period I have thought constantly about documentary films. About what makes them good and what makes them bad. About triumphs and pitfalls. It is a deceivingly difficult genre, I think. The narrative seemingly writes itself but each decision along the way colors the truth and either alters or focuses history.

My favorite documentary of all time is The Kid Stays in the Picture.

My favorite documentary of the year is Wild, Wild Country.

They are as brilliant as they are beautiful and if you have not watched I highly recommend.

My least favorite documentary is any that falls headfirst into hyperbole. Sport’s documentaries are particularly plagued by this disease. On the field exploits somehow get magnified through the camera lens and turn into momentous, earth shattering, never-before-seen-or-imagined events. Athletes turn into world re-shapers. It is unfortunate, I think, because the amplification of everything to “totally, once-in-a-millenia amazing!” means that nothing is totally amazing. When the dial is constantly at 11 where else can it go?

And so it is with a bit of wincing that I anticipate the upcoming Momentum Generation documentary. You, of course, watched the original surf films by Taylor Steele and starring Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Ross Williams, Paul Roach, Benji Weatherly, Shane Dorian etc. For surfers, these films form an important part of the canon but let us read a touch from Rolling Stone, who interviewed some of the boys while they play in New York.

A crew of surfers who helped change the sport tumble into each other’s company in a new clip from Momentum Generation, a documentary executive-produced by Robert Redford (among others), that’s set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The film tracks the rise of athletes who eventually “win world titles and forever reshape worldwide culture in the 1990s and beyond,” according to a statement from the directors, Jeff and Michael Zimbalist.

In the Momentum Generation teaser, the surfers come together as a group for the first time. “We all knew each other from surfing different amateur events,” Rob Machado says. “But it wasn’t until we stayed at Benji’s house that we became a posse.”

The fact that Benji Weatherley had a house ideally situated for surfing was actually accidental. “My mom and dad split up,” he remembers in the film. “She went to Hawaii on vacation. She came back and said, ‘hey boys, get in the car, we’re moving to Hawaii.’ And it happened to be the north shore of Oahu.”

“We didn’t even know that Pipeline and Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach [all popular surfing destinations] were down there,” Weatherley’s mother adds. “This was how naïve we were.”

That changed quickly. Ross Williams and Shane Dorian were two of the first surfers to start visiting Weatherley’s house regularly. Soon the group of aspiring stars ballooned to include Kelly Slater, who went on to win 11 World Surf League world championships, Taylor Knox, a member of the Surfing Hall of Fame, and many others.

Oh I want to see, I want to like, but the director quote, “…forever reshape worldwide culture in the 1990s and beyond…” worries me. Did Benji et. al. really forever reshape worldwide culture in the 1990s and beyond? Do mothers in Tibet’s isolated mountain villages name their sons Conan Hayes Namgayl Wangchuk? Do fathers in the Congo’s dense jungle regale their daughters with stories of a longhaired man named Donovan Frankenreiter? Has anyone, literally anyone, on earth who is not a surfer and/or related to a surfer ever heard of Ross Williams?

Or am I just being a picky bastard?

You tell me!

Meet and greet with Brazil's biggest stars, world champ Gabriel Medina and maybe 2018 champ Filipe Toledo! | Photo: @tsherms

Buy: Ultra-VIP tickets for Rio Pro!

Six hundred bucks buys three-day "privileged" pass with meet-and-greets and all the booze you can drink…

Are you packing for Rio? For tour event number four?

Are you willing to raise the coffin lid of your Californian boredom with a shrivelled white hand to go to the city where, as Vincent Cassel, said, “People still live with “a big charge of poetry on a daily basis?”

Forget museums, it’s a beach. 

And, as revealed today by the Brazilian promotions company IMR MKT, you can buy access to an ultra-VIP “and privileged” area for as little as $US230 per day (rounds one to three) and up to $US340 for the quarters through to the final.

You want the whole event in your gilded cage? A little less than $US600.

IMR MKT, whose social media footprint is as light as a mouse which does ring a faint alarm bell, promises,

An open bar with beer, soda and snacks.

A meet-and-gree with professional athletes.

A tour of the contest site.

Exclusive photo wiht the trophy.

Photo in the podium area.


Exclusive awards area. 

An open bar with beer, soda and snacks. (Just in case you missed it.)

It sure beats the theatre of the “media area” where anyone with a pen and laptop is shunted away from meaningful or even accidental contact with “professional athletes”.

How about you?

Would you peel off a couple of c-notes for a day at the beach, with the beer, the soda, the snacks and the meet-and-greet?

And what would you say in your meet-and-greet?

And who would you enjoy being met and greeted by?

Click here to buy. 

pork roll (left) and Spam musubi (right) locked in a deadly battle.
pork roll (left) and Spam musubi (right) locked in a deadly battle.

Blood Feud: Pork Roll vs. Spam Musubi!

The winner will change our game.

A better part about traveling, as you well know, is discovering regional traditions. The particular music or architectural quirks. Ways of saying hello or goodbye. Food and drinks that exist few other places. I am currently in New Jersey working on an up coming BeachGrit wetsuit tale with locally famous surfer Tommy Ihnken and he insisted that I eat a pork roll this morning for breakfast. Now, I did not know what a pork roll was nor had I ever heard of it but when the diner lady laid it on the laminate tabletop I was pleasantly surprised.

More than pleasantly surprised even. The pork roll is a New Jersey delicacy that pairs egg, cheese and a roll with what appears to be Spam. I dumped a little hot sauce on the side, took a bite and almost fell out of my plasticine chair. The American cheese, melting over the processed pork was perfection and I had not been so smitten since… since… since Foodland on the North Shore some fifteen years earlier.

For it was then and it was there that I reached a younger hand under the warming lights and pulled the warm Saran wrapped Spam musubi into my heart and into my life. Spam musubi, for the uninitiated, features a bed of rice and a bit of seaweed wrapping holding a lightly teriyaki seasoned piece of Spam. That first bite, all crispy and salty, brought tears to my eyes and I thought I had discovered culinary heaven.

But now, some fifteen years later, I am locked in an ugly quandary. Which one is better? New Jersey’s pork roll or Hawaii’s Spam musubi? Which holds the crown for Best Pork(ish) Product on Earth?

I am lost. I am stuck. Can you help me decide? I think whichever wins is also The Official Snack of Surfers Everywhere (excluding Israel, Indonesia, Morocco, etc.)