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.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BhaXJ1ygOH2/?hl=en&taken-by=kellyslater

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.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BhaxwglHkbR/?hl=en&taken-by=toddmessick

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.

Hmmmmm.


"I’m not playing grab ass. I am a core surfer, blood in and blood out. As a local, I run the show. If you want to come down to busted stick beach and test me, then come down and test me. This is my pipeline." | Photo: @ocinstanews

Meet: Hair-yanking super-local Unkle Tito!

"I am a core surfer, blood in and blood out," says Chad "Unkle Tito" Towersey.

Yesterday, if you had scrolled through the IG accounts of Reports from Hell, Kook of the Day and BeachGrit you would’ve screamed with delight, or become anguished beyond words, at the following clip that had been pulled from OcInstaNews. 

Hair-pulling puppy love! Such brisk action! A scurrilous farce! @ocinstanews

A post shared by Beach Grit (@beach_grit) on

In the little featurette we see  Chad “Unkle Tito” Towersey, who is thirty-seven years old and a fifth-generation Newport Beach, California local, deal with a drop-in with a yank of the hair. In the shallows, the drop-in behaves in a conciliatory manner but Towersey continues to rebel against the injustice.

According to Towersey’s live post of the event, the red-headed Rasta said, “Hey man, this is my wave I’ve been waiting for this one.”

Towersey responded:

“You know who’s a loc dog and who’s not by the way they paddle out and look at you. If I don’t know who you are, you can’t be a doinker at my local spot. The first wave came right to me. He burns me on this day. I knew the camera was filming and I came right up on this guy on my Russell love muscle surfboard. I have the quad fins so it wasn’t too hard to catch up. I’m not playing grab ass. I am a core surfer, blood in and blood out. As a local, I run the show. If you want to come down to busted stick beach and test me, then come down and test me. This is my pipeline. I’m not going to let any doinker tell me it is his wave at my spot. I grew up with localism in my generation. I don’t care how big it is. Surfing is about being a savage and getting barrelled. Surfing to me is about regulating doinkers at your spot.”

And, earlier today, posting live, Towersey said, and referring to himself in the third person, “It looked like a six-foot-on girl. Unkle Tito pulled his hair and took him down to Chinatown.”

The last time Towersey’s Instagram page, OcInstaNews, was on blast was for starting a schoolyard trend of calling cyclists, “butt darts” and pretending to shoot ’em, which upset local bicycle enthusiasts.

From the Orange County Register:

Tony Petros has seen a lot as a cyclist and former Newport Beach city councilman.

But he’s not likely to forget a recent Wednesday evening ride on Pacific Coast Highway by Mariner’s Mile, when a pickup truck jumped from the leftmost lane and toward his bicycle.

“Young kids started screaming (‘butt dart’) at me,” Petros said. “They kept doing it, and it wasn’t funny.”

The “butt dart” stunt — an act of pointing a finger gun, making a shooting noise and yelling at cyclists — has gained traction recently on social media. As silly as the act may seem, Orange County cyclists say it has them intimidated.

Now, a law firm is considering filing a harassment suit on behalf of several affected cyclists against Chad Towersey, the man who started it all.

“What we want is for (Towersey) to denounce this,” said Gven Sariol, a cycling safety advocate at the Sariol Legal firm in Santa Ana.

Towersey said he’s actually performing the stunt, and recording it, as a way to promote safe bicycling: “Please ride safe and obey the rules of the road — That is all we ask,” he wrote in a caption for an Instagram post.

He declined to comment further.

Towersey operates the website ocinstanews, which has about 9,000 followers on Instagram. He calls himself “a home grown California kid in a grown man’s body delivering real news with real problems,” although his videos mostly document his antics.

He has been doing “butt dart” stunts at least since May, and some of his followers have joined him.

There are no state or local regulations against the act. Law requires that drivers must leave at least three feet of space as they pass cyclists, but there is no other regulation against drivers or pedestrians harassing cyclists.

California Highway Patrol officer Josh Nelson said it’s difficult to cite someone simply for yelling.

“Everyone would be arrested,” Nelson said.

Towersey later apologised.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BbUjszbgBSy/?hl=en&taken-by=ocinstanews

 


Miracle: Mick Fanning signals un-retirement!

Could white lightening really strike again?

Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday 3x world champ stood on Bells Beach sands, second place in the event but first in the hearts of the entire world? Oh how the tears flowed. How they rolled down pink and brown cheeks, splashing onto the seams of various Rip Curl products. Mick Fanning had announced months ago that it would be his last event as a professional surfer on the World Championship Tour but it didn’t seem real until it was over and his retirement was made official.

We wouldn’t have him anymore. We wouldn’t have his speed, his power, his flow and the, instantly, tour didn’t feel quite so boisterous anymore.

But guess what? Mick Fanning might be coming back! Like for any top-tier performer, it is nearly impossible to stay all the way away. The thrill of victory, agony of defeat are addicting. Nearly impossible to leave behind. And let us turn to Australia’s Associated Press for more.

Mick Fanning says a future Commonwealth Games surfing debut rests heavily on the location, and a host country’s financial ability to build wave pools in the absence of actual surf.

With the Margaret River Pro about to kick off without him, the newly retired Australian surfing legend turned his hand to coaching at Kirra Beach on Wednesday, giving Anna Meares, Chad le Clos and Jess Gallagher a surfing lesson they won’t forget anytime soon.

The three-time world champion assured it wasn’t part of a ploy to push for his sport’s inclusion at Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and beyond.

“It’s one of those things: If we have the right locations and stuff like that it’s great,” Fanning said.

“We don’t want to be surfing terrible little waves because I think that would hinder the sport.

“You go to these places that don’t have waves and then if you’re going to put in money just for a wave pool it’s expensive.

“But in saying that, if we get wave pools all around the world you could easily do an event in any of those places.

“If we got there one day that would be awesome.”

It remains unclear why Fanning chose to speak using the “royal we” but no matter. Isn’t it exciting? I wonder why he would choose the Commonwealth Games though. Is it because he has Irish heritage and could surf for Ireland? Also, he seems very very very excited about pools. Do you think he owns a retirement home in Lemoore? I mean an un-retirement home?


“The designs we have tested have been 100 per cent successful in preventing Great white sharks from attacking,” Professor Nathan Hart, associate professor of comparative neurophysiology at Macquarie, said in an interview with The Australian newspaper.  | Photo: Nathan Hart/Macquarie University

Breakthrough: Anti-Great White device “100% successful!”

God, it's so…damn…simple!

If you live in San Clemente or Margaret River or Esperance or Cape Town or San Francisco or Byron Bay and so forth, you might be interested in a scientific breakthrough that has been proven to ward off Great White sharks.

Researchers from Australia’s Macquarie University have discovered that if LED lights are affixed to the bottom of a surfboard and in a certain pattern, Great Whites will avoid it.

“The designs we have tested have been 100 per cent successful in preventing Great white sharks from attacking,” Professor Nathan Hart, associate professor of comparative neurophysiology at Macquarie, said in an interview with The Australian newspaper. 

“(It’s) a strategy of counter-illumination, to break up the silhouette of a surfer as seen from below by a shark, and hopefully use this to prevent sharks from coming up and investigating people on the boards,” Hart told the state-owned radio station Triple J.  “From the shark’s perspective, when they look up they see a silhouette, [human surfers] look a lot like their natural prey, which is seals. If we can break up the outline of that seal shape on the surface, we’ll make the object much less enticing for the shark to investigate, because they’re going to know it’s not their usual prey.”

The idea, like most good ones, comes from the undersea kingdom itself.

“This strategy is a common strategy used by midwater fish, which are trying to avoid predators swimming below them. Some of these fish have light emitting organs on their underside, which put out light and help them to camouflage themselves from the light coming from above. Technology and engineering take inspiration from nature, so we’re really trying to use that inspiration that has evolved over many millions of years, and apply that to a very modern problem.”

Hart, and his post-doctoral researcher Laura Ryan pal, used foam cut-outs of seals, a Great White favourite, to test the light setup in South Africa.

“What we do is take seal shaped foam as decoys. One that has lights on it, which is our test, and one that doesn’t which is our control. And then in a controlled way, we pull these behind a boat, and see which one the shark comes up and breaches on.  So far with our testing, we’ve tried a few designs, we know some things that don’t work, but we’ve come up with at least two different designs which work extremely well, and the sharks essentially don’t touch it all.”

So when’s the light pack coming out?

Hart says it’ll be at least another eighteen months. They’ve gotta check to make sure it doesn’t attract any other sharks, bulls, tigers, makos, etc.

You want your board to look like a jacked-up Hyundai?

I think, maybe worth it.