The bit about getting your first hit of surfing and then spending your life chasing that feeling, he's just done a switcheroo there, with "surfing" as a metaphor for drugs. That's how I hear it. So yeah, I got off to a bad start with Kissed by God.

Warshaw: “Kissed by God disturbed me!”

Surf historian Matt Warshaw lights up on the AI documentary…

Next Wednesday, the AI documentary Kissed by God makes its world premiere in Los Angeles. Honolulu gets a premiere on May 6. New York follows four days later. Tickets are being distributed through a sign-up process, some are giveaways. Click here to get in the mix. 

Now I ain’t one for exaggeration, I don’t think, and therefore tend to err on the sceptical side of the ledger. But Kissed by God? Anyone even vaguely related to the game of surfing won’t want to miss it and I urge you to find a screening at the first possible instance.

“I had a dying heroin addict husband,” says Lyndie Irons. You want to miss that sorta candour?

Much earlier today, the surf historian Matt Warshaw and I viewed our respective screeners and came at it, swords, opinions drawn.

BeachGrit: Kissed by God is a… masterly… wrenching back of the narrative of Andy Irons’ life (and death). All the pious finger-pointers are silenced by the diagnoses of bi-polar disease, a doc from Harvard adding credence even though he’d never met the star of the movie. And, of course, once a mental illness is identified no further criticism is allowed. But, tell me, do you think, egg before the chicken or the chicken before the egg? To wit, drugs before disease or disease before drugs? Or disease as a convenient spin? I know you’re not a doctor, neither am I, but as I said the other day, you can’t fly as high as Andy did and not land with a thud. 

Warshaw: Kissed by God is much much better than I thought it would be. On the other hand, it’s an Irons-family-approved project, so my expectations were low. In fact I turned it off after the opening bit, with all the stock slow-mo underwater shots, and Andy’s “kissed by god” monolouge in the voice over. I remember the Billabong promo when Andy’s “kissed by god” speech came out, I think it was right before it died  . . .  it was strange when I first saw it, and watching it again today, for me anyway, was just really disturbing. He’s got the drug sweats, he’s slurring, and you can tell he’s trying hard to, I don’t know, be better, to be well. But he’s kidding himself in that speech. Partly, anyway. And he’s kidding the rest of us too. The bit about getting your first hit of surfing and then spending your life chasing that feeling, he’s just done a switcheroo there, with “surfing” as a metaphor for drugs. That’s how I hear it. So yeah, I got off to a bad start with Kissed by God.

The bit about getting your first hit of surfing and then spending your life chasing that feeling, he’s just done a switcheroo there, with “surfing” as a metaphor for drugs. That’s how I hear it. So yeah, I got off to a bad start with Kissed by God.

BeachGrit: What compelled you to keep watching? 

Warshaw: Bruce comes onscreen, and thirty seconds later I’m all in. Bruce hedged a bet or two as well, but mostly he was incredibly honest and of course incredibly charismatic. He’s the heart and soul of the movie. And I’ll bet anything it was Bruce who pushed to make the movie as honest as it is. It’s not Brad Melelkain-level honest, and everybody involved with Kissed By God still owes Brad an apology. But my sense is that Bruce himself very much needed to unburdon himself, to get some more truth out there, and that he set the tone for all the other people talking onscreen.

BeachGrit; The static interview style of these sorts of documentaries usually bores me to tears. But, here, because it’s not a sing-song Andy-was-the-greatest-surfer-ever-hagiography, there’s an honesty I’ve never heard from the usual roll call of stars. Kelly saying Andy called him an old bald kook, adding, “Well, if this old bald kook beats you you’re going to be crushed.” Bruce is Bruce, not a damn word censored (“We were drug addicted monsters!”), Joel, Sunny, Lyndie, Mick. It’s almost as if they’re channelling AI. ‘Cause, not sure if you ever interviewed him, but if you asked a question he wasn’t going to festoon it with meaningless bunting. What are your favourite moments in the film? 

Warshaw: Probably, as you say, the moments where Andy himself is onscreen talking without a filter. The bit where they show the blank rehab intake form, with the all the drug history questions, and Andy’s hand-written answers show up onscreen one by one. 

“Do you consider yourself an addict?” 

Long pause. 


That was so powerful. What else? Fifteen years later, or whatever it is, Andy’s surfing holds up amazingly well. That was great to see. I’m not sure if “favorite” is the right word, but I was suprised to find out how fucked-up Andy was that first year on tour. The bipolar diagnosis and the heavy drug use. On the other hand, knowing that the Irons family knew that Andy was bipolar from that far back is…sad. More than sad. Bipolar people don’t get better without meds. Go off the meds and you’re a timebomb. Research bipolar disorder and that’s right there at the top of the page. When the movie rolls into 2010 I was just mad at everybody, anybody, who thought Andy should be back on tour. Friends, family, sponsors. The guy is bipolar AND an addict. You can argue that in the end it’s Andy’s decision, but I wanted to at least see somebody from his inner circle say “We blew it, he never should have been out there.” In other words, the movie goes further than I expected, but maybe it’s still too soon to for the full accounting.

What surprised you about Kissing God? I’ll tell you what surprised me, how losing at J-Bay in 2005 on what he thought was a bum call put him on the road to ruin. Which means the ASP judges killed AI. Am I drawing too long a bow here? 

I think you are, Derek. That section of the film was overcooked. They all get fucked by the judges. Kelly, Mick, Curren, Bugs, everybody. If J-Bay broke Andy, it’s cause he was ready to be broken. 

When the movie rolls into 2010 I was just mad at everybody, anybody, who thought Andy should be back on tour. Friends, family, sponsors. The guy is bipolar AND an addict. You can argue that in the end it’s Andy’s decision, but I wanted to at least see somebody from his inner circle say “We blew it, he never should have been out there.”

Oh, another surprise. I’d forgotten that in 2004 they won every contest between ‘em. That’s a rivalry. Compare AI and Kelly to Gabriel and John John. 

There’s no surfing rivalry to touch what Andy and Kelly had. Not before, not since. Whoever the contenders are, Gabe and Julian, Dora and Fain, take your pick, they’re all clustered together 25 miles behind Andy and Kelly.

Can you imagine if Andy had died in Padang in 1999? Or if he didn’t get picked up by Billabong, found a way to channel his genius, and become the juggernaut he was? Kelly may not have come back on the tour, there would’ve been no pool, probably no WSL, maybe no John John. His effect on professional surfing is profound. Yes? Or you want to argue agains that posit? 

No. I don’t have the imagination for the what-ifs. Can you imagine if the sperm to the left had busted Danielle’s egg instead of Andy? Etc etc. 

I’m going to say that Kissed by God is the among the top three surfing documentaries ever made, alongside Bustin’ Down the Door and Sea of Darkness, in no order etc. Where are you going to put it? 

Surfwise is the Andy-Kelly of surf documentaries. Nothing else is close. Surfwise is the only doc from our side of town that can step in the ring with Man on Wire or Hoop Dreams or The Thin Blue Line. Of course, I’m partial to old guys. Andy Irons is compelling, but Dorian Paskowitz in Surfwise took me for a real ride.

Scottish locals are thrilled to surf!

Arms race: Scotland to get Wavegarden!

Another territory ceded to Spanish innovation!

There was a time, not too long ago, when the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a race in building their nuclear arsenals. It was an amusing game with fun results though eventually the Soviets couldn’t afford to keep up and the whole country collapsed. We are now seeing a similar drama play out but this time between surf tank giants Kelly Slater Wave Company and Europe’s Wavegarden.

Which will win and which will collapse? Very difficult to say at this point. The KS Wave Co. seems to have a much better PR machine for it is Surf Ranch that gets millions of views online. But while people are watching Surf Ranch they are going to Wavegardens from Wales to Austin and now Scotland too.

For it was revealed today that Wavegarden Scotland is being developed in an old rock quarry near Edinburgh. Let’s learn!

Wavegarden Scotland View 03

The £10m project has been designed by landscape architects HarrisonStevens, with engineering and technical consultation provided by WSP, and planning and development advice by Colliers International.

Alongside a world-class surfing facility, Wavegarden Scotland also includes a surf school, self-catering luxury guest lodges, a waterfront café and restaurant, retail spaces and a snow-sports training jump.

Andy Hadden, the co-founder of Tartan Leisure, which is developing Wavegarden Scotland, said: “We believe that this facility will deliver many benefits for the local community and for Scotland by offering world-class adventure leisure amenities alongside a wonderful country park, for walkers, runners and cyclists to enjoy.

“Another very exciting aspect of Wavegarden Scotland is the opportunity to nurture surfing and sporting talent. With Scotland’s own surfing team starting to make a mark on the global surf scene, we hope to inspire the next generation of surfers, life guards, and active outdoor enthusiasts.”

So I am very excited about the snow-sports training jump, for one, and love the name Tartan Leisure, for two, and am very curious about Scotland’s surfing team which is starting to make a mark on the global surf scene.

We have a famous Scottish surfer here at BeachGrit, Mr. Chazz Michael Michaels, and do you think he is on Scotland’s surf team?

Very curious.

By the way, I went to Edinburgh once and liked the whisky and the creepy castle in the middle of town and… liked… the overall aesthetic.

Monster Energy: “We’re not against the War!”

Leading action sport drink gets political!

Branding and marketing are both funny exercises, don’t you think? For every iconic Nike “Just Do It” or Apple “Think Different” there is a soap commercial featuring a black woman washing with Dove until she becomes perfectly white…

…or McDonald’s featuring a boy wanting sex with a double cheeseburger.

Oh I completely understand. It is a rough business always trying to pry into the subconscious and affect purchasing decisions but Monster Energy drink has outdone them all with its latest Monster Energy Assault.

Remember, we live in the day and age of gun violence and unwanted sexual aggression. “Assault” might have been a… not great decision in the first place but the Monster marketing department doubled down by adding a short novel to the can. Would you like to read? Well duh!

At Monster we don’t get too hung up on politics. We’re not for “the War”, against “the War” or any war for that matter. We put the “camo” pattern on our new Monster Assault can because we think it looks cool. Plus it helps fire us up to fight the big multi-national companies who dominate the beverage business. We’ll leave the politics to the politicians and just keep doing what we do best — make the meanest energy drinks on the planet! Declare war on the ordinary! Grab a Monster Assault and VIVA LA REVOLUTION!

Ok first I thought Monster was against any war so why are they declaring one on “the ordinary” and “big multi-national companies who dominate the beverage business”? Second, Monster Energy is distributed by Coca-Cola. Third, what the hell is “the War”? Why is “the” lowercase and “War” capitalized?

Can you help?

Watch: Remake of surf movie classic Mad Wax!

Forty minutes shrunk to three!

Thirty years ago, or thereabouts, the surfing company Quiksilver released a kooky little fantasy surf flick called Mad Wax.

In that movie, the Australian surfer Ross Clarke-Jones, who was twenty, found a recipe for magic surf wax in a second-hand store, cooked it up, and used the wax to transport himself around the world.

The throwaway skits of Ross cooking the wax in his backyard and being transported hither and yon, stitched together footage of Ross, Tom Carroll and Gary Elkerton pursuing swells Australia and Hawaii. The band Gangajang provided a soundtrack that would become, if not iconic, recognisably Australian.

As well as providing the inspiration for the Adam Blakey-Ozzie Wright-produced film Doped Youth, Mad Wax has spawned this mini-spin-off by the soda company Red Bull.

The twist is clean enough.

Ross is fifty-one now, and looking like he hasn’t slept for one day in all of those intervening years. The magic wax is given to the teenager Caroline Marks, Nippon-Americano Kanoa Igarashi and the rutting Italian Leonardo Fioravanti. Marks provides footage from Trestles, including a fin-throw-to-reverse, Leo is in Hossegor and Kanoa is filmed around Ericeira, Portugal.

It ain’t a patch on the original, of course, but what can you accomplish in two-and-a-half minutes?

Big Brother: The WSL is watching you!

Watching you watch professional surfing!

Can I be very honest with you all right now? I am not a smart man. I spend the vast majority of each day bumbling around in a fog of surf tangents and narrative nonfiction book ideas that feel like pure genius for ten minutes. Like a book about all the different white supremacist groups in the United States and what sorts of parties they throw, how they let their hair down and cut loose called White Knights: Racism After Hours!


And so it is with great awe, and complete bafflement, that I “read” an interview this morning with the World Surf League’s Vice President of Marketing Mr. Chris Culbertson. Would you like a snippet?

What’s unique about surfing from a marketer’s standpoint? How is it different than, say, marketing football?

We don’t know when we will necessarily run an event. We’ll host an event over a two-week window and during that two-week window, we’ll probably run four to five days and it’s really dependent on weather, wind and wave quality. So the commissioners look at the conditions every morning and decide if they run or not. We don’t typically know until 15-20 minutes before an event that it’s going to happen that day.

Imagine the head of marketing for NFL not knowing until 15 minutes before the coin toss whether they’ll play a game that day. Because of this, we absolutely had to connect with our fans through digital channels and create a one-to-one connection in real time to let them know what was happening with competitions.

What was your business need?

We needed a way we could triangulate around all of that data, but there had to be this consolidated view. Our partners AnalyticsPros introduced us to Google’s BigQuery, which is where we could pull all of the data into an unstructured data lake with Google Analytics at the core of it.

So you’re creating your own attribution play in a sense.

We started to pull all the data into BigQuery from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, ad-serving partners – anywhere we felt we could inform strategic business decisions if we had that social data, as well as behavioral data from fans.

In many cases, you can’t understand within the walled gardens how the consumer behaves across those platforms, but what you can see are different variables that match up – such as time a certain campaign ran. Then there are looser variables you can match up that allows us to get a sense for how our fans are behaving in all these different places based on what’s happening with our products and marketing plans.

Why didn’t you go with a marketing cloud or more traditional data management setup?

I think for a traditional marketer or ecommerce company or retailer, [marketing clouds] have a framework set up that’s probably really easy to work in, but being an unpredictable digital media and sports-focused business, we needed a little more flexibility.


I am part owner of an online business (stop laughing) and did not understand one word of this because of my not smart problem. But it seems maybe like the World Surf League is catching our data? And… something?

Is this why there is a new and fabulous partnership with Facebook? Are we professional surf fans but Xs and Os? Or wait, I mean 0s and 1s? Not passionate evolved spiritualists?