Thirteen bucks will buy you commercial rights to this photo, now, formally, the most popular surf photo in the world. But who's the surfer? The photographer? The wave? | Photo: istock

Mystery: World’s Most Popular Surf Photo!

Solve the greatest puzzle in surf and win prize!

Have you ever wondered what the most enduring surf shot in the world might be? Is it a Brewer of Bunker Spreckels?

A Todd Glaser wavepool shot?

Andy Irons at Teahupoo or Tom Curren at Off The Wall by  Tom Servais? 

Nothing so obvious, of course.

The one surf photo that has dominated photo agencies, that blazes fire and foam in ad campaigns spruiking medicine and wave-pools and betting agencies and accessories and even on the cover of a book is a mysterious shot of an almost-tubed unnamed surfer by an unnamed photographer.

It is a photograph neither lovely nor noble but it does have one important characteristic.

It’s cheap.

Thirteen bucks will get you, and your company, full commercial use of this image.

As seen here:

world's most popular surf photo
Here, in a Bali surf shop advertising the surf accessories company Ocean and Earth. Photo by Chris Binns whose Facebook post caused a waterfall of appearances of the photo. 


As an inducement to visit Indonesian medical clinics. Photo by Peter Neely. 


At Denpasar airport! Photo by Kieran Burke

And in an artist’s impression of an Australian wavepool.

The first time I saw it, I figured it was an ordinary shot of either Phil Macdonald (because of the O and E ad) and, later, revised it to be a very, very bad shot of Dave Rastovich, perhaps an out of the noted Bill Morris. (“Not me,” said Billy.)

A very brief search found it on Getty Images, where you can view the entire series of tube avoidance. 

The question posed to the reader is this:

Who is the surfer?

Who is the photographer?

A sleeveless BeachGrit t-shirt (cut so it reveals enough skin for gals to be “sexy” but not so much as to appear “slutty” or “whorish” and for men it shows the curve of the upper pectoral and any protrusion of the latissimus dorsi) sent to your hovel to the first reader who obliterates the mystery.

Trending: Surfing officially “new golf!”

Buttdarters weep openly.

Cyclists all over the world were crying into their lattes this morning after receiving the bad news. For the past several years, cycling has claimed the coveted title of The New Golf. But now, the lycra-clad horde has been relegated by none other than surfing. If you imagine surfing as the purview of bohemians with beards, think again.

Surfing’s new status as the go-to pastime for rich men with too much time on their hands comes thanks to the efforts of eleven-time world champion Kelly Slater. It’s not surprising that Slater would chase the New Golf title for surfing, given his long-standing love for actual golf, the kind played on manicured lawns in scenic places. Chasing balls around the grass with a titanium stick has long been a favorite pastime of the world champion.

On Monday Slater cemented surfing’s status by inviting two professional golfers to play in his now-famous wave pool. According to the World Surf League, Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Adam Scott were the lucky golfers invited. They described the experience as “mind-blowing.” Golf, surfing, it’s all the same now.

Cycling lured the men who martini with promises of fitness and shiny carbon toys. You too can have sculpted, shaved quads, and wear tight, stretchy pants, cycling promised. You, well-off man with time and money to burn, can drop $20k on a shiny new carbon bicycle. You can even buy a better bicycle than your buddy and flaunt it on the next lunch ride. He’ll be so jealous.

But too bad you wasted all that money, because cycling is totally over. Now, it’s all about surfing. You’re going to have to trade your lycra for neoprene and your carbon composite bicycles for decidedly retro fiber glass surfboards. Don’t fret! You can still have carbon fins, so it’s not totally over for you. Instead of the joy of the open road, angry drivers, and winning the lunch ride, you’ll get to salt water up your nose and angry locals in your face.

If you really want to impress your rich bros, you can book a private session at Slater’s wave pool. Because he was so determined to transform surfing into the new golf, Slater built a wave pool. To be sure, Lemoore is considerably less exotic than cycling the Passo di Gavia or dropping a hole-in-one in Carmel. But really, anyone can do those things.

The wave pool is exclusive. And you, man with more money than sense, you love exclusive. You have no idea how to surf, but you didn’t know a derailleur from a doornail when you bought your first bike. Your bullet-proof confidence will serve you well in your fledgling pursuit of surfing stoke.

Even better you can quit shaving your legs, which your newly acquired trophy wife hates anyway. She also says she hates your spindly T-Rex arms, so you better start paddling as soon as possible. And you won’t make that annoying clicky-clacky sound when you visit your local coffee shop. You’ll be wearing flip flops and ordering a whole milk latte with extra chia seeds now.

Cyclists must now sadly accept that they’re no longer number one. Cycling, as past tense as Eisenhower. Surfing is the new golf — and if you don’t like it, blame Slater.

Bodysurfer pictured doing a trick.
Bodysurfer pictured doing a trick.

Da Hui event replaced by Bodysurfing Classic!

The Backdoor Shootout meets same fate as the Pipe Masters!

The city managers of Honolulu sure are up to some odd tricks. You remember the major brouhaha from a few months back wherein the World Surf League dreamed of beginning its season at Pipeline instead of ending and therefore applied for a slot in January as opposed to December. The City of Honolulu said, “No.” And I can’t recall the specific reasons but do remember something about missing deadlines.

As the dust settled, anyhow, the League let it slip that they are not the only ones having trouble securing permits. Da Hui, it was whispered, had lost its Backdoor Shootout too.

“Bullshit” I thought and promptly phoned Da Hui co-founder and all around good guy Eddie Rothman.

He indeed confirmed that there were some issues and did so with a laugh. You should re-read again here but taste an excerpt first.

They take it away every year. Every year we go back and get it. Every single year. They took away the Duke Kahanamoku Classic in favor of a bodysurfing event and they don’t care. The State of Hawaii does not care, at all, about the Hawaiian people and this is what they do every chance they get. You can fill out a permit in Hawaii…they don’t care if you lie or whatever you do. Last year the director, how’s this, she took away our contest. She said we didn’t get the permit on time, right? So the independent council came and deemed her actions an erroneous abuse of power and made her sign the permit back to us. After getting the permit back last year from the independent council she went and took it again. They’re a band of idiots. They are so stupid. And then again this year. We have this happen every year.

The idea of a bodysurfing event rolling over a surf event surprised me but the city managers of Honolulu must love bodysurfing because they have done it again, this time officially giving the Backdoor Shootout’s window to Alan Lennard and his Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic. Hawaii News Now picks up the story.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department has denied a permit for a popular North Shore surf contest that highlighted local surfers on epic waves.

Da Hui and its supporters are furious after the Backdoor Shootout was bumped from next year’s roster at Pipeline. The department gave the nod to a small bodysurfing contest that scored higher on its application.

Da Hui went to Instagram to complain that the permit was going to a single individual for a half-day contest. The man, Alan Lennard, plans to run the Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic, last held in 2011.

“I had no choice but to apply for multiple time slots to see if I could regain a time slot on the Ehukai calendar,” said Lennard.

The reaction on social media has been swift, with the majority supporting Da Hui. But both sides aren’t happy with the permitting process. Right now, Da Hui’s spokeswoman said the decisions are made by a panel of three non-surfers in the Parks Department. She wants the panelists to have more knowledge than what’s on paper.

“You actually have to go there and learn and kinda take into consideration what these contests are about and who it directly affects,” said Da Hui’s Mahina Chillingworth.

“The rules are complicated. They’re confusing. And my assessment is I don’t even see how they can really work,” said Lennard.

The city got 26 applications for contests next season, with 23 of them vying for Pipeline at around the same time. The Parks Department recently denied a schedule change from the World Surf League, which then threatened to pull out of Hawaii.

A spokesman for Mayor Kirk Caldwell said he’s still moving ahead to form an advisory committee of surfers and company representatives to create new guidelines to avoid future conflicts. But both sides are skeptical.

“I understand that the rules are going to be changed come 2019 and ’20, but what are we going to do right now?” said Chillingworth.

“He’s a lame duck mayor, so I’m not sure if this really will happen,” said Lennard.

Da Hui is appealing the decision. Caldwell’s spokesman said he will allow the process to continue through the Parks Department.

And I wonder if the World Surf League and Da Hui will team up to show the city how things work? If I was in charge, I think I would just paddle the Shootout out while the bodysurfers are in the water doing their event. Fun for everyone! But what would you do? Are you Team City or Team Country?

P.S. While searching for images of bodysurfing the below popped up. Apparently taking this sort of picture is called “bodysurfing” now. Who knew?

Willy Morris
Classic Willy Morris. Garish paint job on surfboard, good looks, power. | Photo: @warrenbolster

RIP WIlly Morris: “The opposite of savage!”

Surf farewells Tom Curren's early rival, the big, the beautiful Willy Morris… 

Yesterday, the noted Californian surfer Willy Morris, who was fifty-seven years old, died, which in turn led to an outpouring of social media tributes.

Kelly Slater said, “I really loved this guy and really looked up at him from a young age. He was Tom Curren’s biggest rival as a teenager. Tom’s dad even named his dog after Willy.”

Big ol Willy, who turned to fishing and repping after the pro surf game, was a star of Quiksilver’s Performers movies and, with his beefy good looks, an exciting figure in advertising. One surfer who competed against Willy is the Encyclopedia of Surfing’s Matt Warshaw. 

I recorded this little back and forth with Matt about Willy this morning.

BeachGrit: So, tell me a little about Willy. I remember, as a kid, a clear-eyed, freckled-nose beautiful young thing living in Perth and amazed by the world beyond my bedroom walls, this savage tearing it up in movies such as The Performers. He was a very good surfer, yes?

Willy was the opposite of savage. He was the nicest, warmest guy you’d ever want to meet. But, yes, he was a very good surfer.

I was talking on the phone before lunch with Jamie Brisick, about how when people die, everybody of course says nice things, even if the person who just passed was mostly a prick. The point being that when somebody like Willy dies, it’s so hard to convey the degree to which he was a warmer and more generous human being then pretty much all of the rest of us.

And ever so big!

He was medium-big as a kid, then just kept growing into his late teens and early 20s. The bigger Willy got, the better he surfed. Had a back foot made of solid lead. Surfed a little like Ian Cairns, but mostly I think Willy rode like this guy we all admired at Malibu, named Allen Sarlo. Allen wasn’t tall, but really thick, built like a linebacker, and was a graceful, ridiculously powerful surfer. He still is. Allen is still riding waves from Third Point all the way through the pier. Anyway, in the 1970s nobody at Malibu could touch Allen in terms of power. Then one summer, kind of out of the blue, I think this was 1980, Willy was crushing lips like Allen. It was great. He was still just a kid!

Did you guys surf against each other? What kinda competitor was he? Did he tear your head off?

In 1974, my last year of WSA Boys division, I got a letter saying I’d finished the year ranked #1. Then two weeks later I got another letter saying, oops, the Ventura district just ran two make-up contests, Willy won both, and he bumped me off as champ for the year. Which pissed me off not only because I was never #1, before or after, at anything, but Willy was 18 months younger, so I got beat by a child. Except you couldn’t be mad at Willy. It was impossible. I was talking on the phone before lunch with Jamie Brisick, about how when people die, everybody of course says nice things, even if the person who just passed was mostly a prick. The point being that when somebody like Willy dies, it’s so hard to convey the degree to which he was a warmer and more generous human being then pretty much all of the rest of us.

How far did he go as a pro surfer? Top sixteen?

No, I don’t think he even got close. Willy wasn’t a killer. He liked competing, but didn’t get off on destroying people in heats. That, and during the early- and mid-‘80s, when Willy was on tour, so many events were held in small crap waves, and he was just too big to have a chance against the little fellas. But he won the Katin Pro, I think in 1984, and beat most of the top tour guys to get there. That would have been his competitive highlight for sure.

What will you remember Willy for, as?

Willy and his big brother Steve were really tight, and the whole Morris family was into surfing; they’d load up the family van and drive to Mexico for a week or two. In the ‘70s that was so unusual, and so wonderful. I guess that was more common in Australia and Hawaii, but in California back then you almost never saw it. For the rest of us, surfing-wise, it was like our parents didn’t exist. For Willy and Steve, the surfing experience was very much a family thing, and thinking of Willy today it occurred to me just how lucky he was to have parents like that, and how the whole family in that sense was way ahead of their time. Willy told me once that surfing was never a rebellious thing for him, and that he loved that he got to share it with his folks.

He was fifty-five, fifty-six, same as you, do moments like this make you pause and consider your own mortality? If you were to vanish tomorrow, would you be happy with your life?

I’m good at dancing around it. I tell myself that if I’d been born in any other century I’d be 10 years gone already, things like that. Death hasn’t taken out anybody yet from my inner circle. Both of my parents are still alive. I walk around these days practically holding my breath, because I’ve been so lucky up to this point. It won’t last. As for myself, yes, at this point, age 57, I could not be happier. I’m a decent husband, and a good father. I got way more than my share of kicks in years past, and I’m proud of my work. I can’t think about dying, I can’t even imagine it, because my son is just eight years old. Raising him is the only really important thing to do. Apart from that, yes, the boxes are all checked.

Willy Morris, 1962 – 2018 from ENCYCLOPEDIA of SURFING on Vimeo.

Coming: Surf Ranch training center!

Move to California and learn to professional surf!

The World Surf League owns a lusty slice of Lemoore, California and guess who is thrilled? Everyone, of course, but mostly the bureaucrats who work for Kings County, California. Just imagine you were one of them. Previously your life marked by dull conversations with cattle ranchers and farmers. The most exciting event on the calendar is Hanford’s homecoming parade. The sun rises and sets, sure, but that is mostly all.

Mostly all until Kelly Slater backed his chic Airstream trailer into the lot fronting a vacated waterski lake. For it was then that excitement came to town. Excitement, thrills, big stars and bright lights.

And very new, big things are afoot  just reported in the local Hanford Sentinel:

Earlier this month the Kings County Planning Commission approved plans to not only take the Surf Ranch concept public but heard about expansion ideas well into 2026. An outline of the plans came in an environmental impact report.

The report offers a development time-line. The current permit allows only private use for the 155-acre site, including the year-round operation and maintenance of an existing wave generation system and water ski lake. The project was first approved in September 2015.

Daily operations and maintenance hours are between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., staffed by up to 15 people, including operations and maintenance, guest services, water safety, and security personnel. Existing structures include a design center, board room, three equipment room / storage shelters, a control tower, and four portable lifeguard stations.

To this point, the facility has been closed to the public and only available for use by staff and consultants involved in the research and development of the prototype wave system. Conditional Use Permit Application No. 17- 05 now allows the owner to open the facility to the public for private surfing lessons and programs and a limited number of annual professional invitational surfing events. A portion of the 155-acre site would be dedicated to the development of additional prototype wave generation systems.

For special events, up to six a year, the facility will be staffed by up to 30 people, including operations and maintenance, guest services, water safety, and security personnel. Attendance is estimated to be up to 50 guests per day. The applicant may also install up to six portable temporary lodging units for guests.

Also the facility will be authorized to host up to six professional surfing events per year, each approximately two to three days in duration (e.g. Friday-Sunday), the first of these events on May 5-6, 2018. Other activities that may occur in conjunction with these events include: ancillary musical performances, vending (food and alcoholic beverages), and limited tent and recreational vehicle camping. Temporary event infrastructure may include bleachers, music performance areas, sound equipment, and lighting equipment. Contracted services will include traffic control, security, temporary lighting, potable water, portable toilets, wash stations, and trash services for each event.

These special events will draw a big crowd – up to 8,000 guests per day. But the applicant expects that the May 5-6 event will be somewhat smaller, approximately 5,000 guests per day.

Parking for the inaugural event will be available at West Hills College in Lemoore and at the Tachi Palace in Kings County. The operator will provide shuttles between the event and these two locations. Parking for future events with up to 8,000 guests will be provided on site. General event hours of operation will be between 6 a.m. through 11 pm.

Phase 3 of the proposed permitted use of the Surf Ranch Project will allow development of up to seven proposed ancillary structures and up to two proposed prototype wave generation systems.

Each of the seven proposed structures will occupy up to 10,000 square feet and up to two-stories. They include:

Wave Operations Building – Building houses administrative program for support of wave operations functions, inclusive of offices, conference rooms, and event space.

High Performance Training Center – Facility include training rooms, lockers, offices, as well as equipment storage.

Surf Operations House – In support of surf related activities, the Surf Operations House includes a commercial kitchen component, lockers, storage, as well as public interfacing gathering spaces.

Multi-purpose Recreational Facility – The facility houses large flexible program which support the commercial activities related to Wave and – Surf Operations, in addition to back of house programmatic elements.

Wave Support Facility – Required building which houses equipment related to the operation of the Wave-Generating Machine.
Structures 1-5 – timeframe for construction to begin between 2018 to 2022. Construction timeframe for each structure will take approximately two to four months to complete.

Structures 6 and 7 – timeframe for construction to begin between 2020 to 2024. Construction timeframe for each structure will take approximately two to three months to complete. those structures are for a learning center and equipment/storage.

As for additional wave generations technology, Prototype 2 and Prototype 3 – timeframe for construction to begin between 2020 to 2026. Construction timeframe for each prototype will take approximately 6 to 12 months to complete.

A high performance training center.