The look of a champion.
The look of a champion.

Championship: Is this Julian Wilson’s year?

The sneaky slider from Coolum is poised to make history!

There has been so much brouhaha surrounding this year’s World Surf League Champion’s Tour that traditional storylines are becoming lost in the weeds. Early on we had a major realignment, dropping Fiji, Trestles, Pipeline (I think) and introducing Lemoore. Mick Fanning retired in an emotionally touching Bells’ final. Sharks interrupting Margaret River. The ultimate disappointment of professional competitive wave pool surfing. Uluwatu becoming Western Australia’s Tourism Board’s new property, etc.

So many head twisting turns that it has been impossible to focus on the simple. Like, is this finally the year Julian Wilson takes home the number one trophy?

I have predicted his ascent to the very top since BeachGrit first launched some four years ago and have been stymied each. But is this his time?

It seems so. There he sits atop the Jeep Leaderboard wearing the yellow jersey. He has performed well in Brazil, still in the quarterfinals. His nearest competition, Italo Ferreira has been bumped out. Mick Fanning is now retired (emotionally touching) and the rest of the Brazilians are rabidly hungry, surfing incredibly but… I just don’t know. This feels like Julian Wilson’s year. He is a father now, as you know, and this father knows the powerful wings a child lends.

So what do you think? Sport’s gambling is basically legal now in the United States of America. Hopefully at this time next year I can wander down to my local bar and plop down $100 on Julian Wilson but this year at this time I’m stuck with mere theoreticals.

But theoretically let’s say Julian makes it to the semis in Brazil before being clubbed by Filipe. Then off they all go to Keramas and tell me there ain’t a better wave in the world suited to Julian’s game than Bali’s favorite playground. Let’s say semis and then J-Bay where Julian has been a regular finalist plus has bonus shark power™ from that incident a few years back. Chopes, France, Portugal are all quarters or above for the boy. Right? Then Pipe* and it is difficult to imagine another hoisting that number one trophy.

Tell me I’m wrong. I bet you can’t. I bet you $100 you can’t.*

*a theoretical $100 until next year.

He stood in the chest deep water and breathed. Not steady, compose-yourself breaths, but deep, theatrical Wim Hof breaths. He had soft eyes which alluded to intense focus but was actually flirtation. This is my moment, this is me, this is what I do...went the internal monologue...likely to a pounding backdrop of: LOOK AT ME. LOOK AT ME. LOOK. AT. ME.

Just in: Brazil shits on Kelly Slater!

The caipirinhas are going to taste twice as sweet down there tonight.

For years the greatest surfer to ever live, Kelly Slater, has treated the country of Brazil very poorly. He has mostly refused to travel to there for professional surf competition or romantic rendezvous though he once dated crown jewel of Três de Maio, Rio Grande do Sul, Gisele Bündchen. He gladly takes the mulligan even when in actual World Surf League Championship Tour Jeep Leaderboard Yellow Jersey contention instead of flying LATAM south and east.

Yes, Kelly Slater’s disdain for both order and progress is well known and part of me wonders if this past month’s Founders’ Cup event at Lemoore, California’s Surf Ranch was held mere days before the Oi Rio Pro waiting period because he couldn’t but help twisting the knife, assuming that Rio would be uninspiring and his own Surf Ranch would continue an unfettered publicity run.

The future of surfing etc.

Well hmmm. By all accounts Surf Ranch competition is wanting and the almost wrapped Rio Pro is a revelation. Can we read a snippet from Nick Carroll the world’s current best surf writer (now that Tom Wolfe is dead)?

Well, how about that? Barrinha just kicked the shit out of the pool.

Best men’s round one of the year. Free, unpredictable surfing, just the way we know it to be.

There were lame heats and almost brilliant ones. There were peelers and heaving backwashy ones and sharp-edged little beauties. People did free-form things on closeouts. The two closing rides of JJF’s and the Mongrel’s in their round one heat obliterated everything done last weekend in Lemoore. Hell, the Mongrel’s free-fall off the lip move did that on its own.

Watching it, I kept thinking, “Maybe this is just me.” After all, I am an Australian surfer, thus my surfing eye is a sucker for five foot rock-wall wedged up beachies. It’s DNA for chrissake.

But then I thought, “Who ISN’T a sucker for five foot rock-wall wedged up beachies?” Anyone who doesn’t like that stuff doesn’t like life.

I don’t believe in karma but I do believe in Brazil and apparently in order and progress too. The caipirinhas are going to taste twice as sweet down there tonight.

Ding dong the witch is dead etc.

Filipe Toledo perfect ten
"Upside down, fifteen, sixteen feet across, four or five feet above the lip, fully inverted, 540 with a perfect landing. That was as snowboard as it gets when you’re surfing," says the commentator Chris Cote.

Cote: “Filipe just landed the air of the year!”

Chris Cote and Kaipo Guerrero analyse Filipe's ten-pointer in Brazil…

A short while ago, the Brazilian Filipe Toledo scored a raft of perfect tens with what the commentator Chris Cote just described to me as “an upside-down, fifteen, sixteen feet across, four or five feet above the lip, fully inverted, 540 with a perfect landing. That was as snowboard as surfing gets.”

Cote, who is a guest commentator in Rio although his terrific performance there and at the Founders Cup suggests he will be joining the roster full-time, was enjoying a hamburger dinner in Rio with Kaipo Guerrero when asked to discuss the manoeuvre.

He coils it up like a cobra and you know he’s going to strike and you know it’s going to be crazy. You become speechless even as he winds up. You have no choice but to get excited. The electricity flows.”

“I was in the booth with Pottz and (Brazilian tour rookie) Jesse Mendes at the time. And it freaked everybody out. One thing about Filipe that’s incredible is the way he telegraphs his airs. He coils it up like a cobra and you know he’s going to strike and you know it’s going to be crazy. You become speechless even as he winds up. You have no choice but to get excited. The electricity flows.”

I suggest to Cote that the air could’ve been a career-ender given his brutal on-the-flats landing. Filipe could’ve buckled both legs.

“Oh yeah, but he doesn’t think like that. He doesn’t think he’s going to fall. The way that he landed in the flats it equates to a skater doing a trick down fifteen stairs. It’s about the same distance. There’s a famous skate spot called El Toro, twenty something stairs, and it became the benchmark of landing a skate trick. People are always breaking boards and their ankles. With Filipe, you gotta look at how high he was above the wave. You figure it’s a four or six-foot wave, he was four or six feet above that wave, that’s at least twelve feet he’s coming from to the flats. That in itself is crazy. He’s almost upside down and he lands it. It’s like a snowboarder landing in the flats in a half pipe. And there was no bobble. It didn’t affect him. He had the perfect spring right when he landed.”

How was the reaction in the commentary booth?

“Jesse had to cough and he looked down right when it happened and he looked up and asked, ‘What just happened?’ He went silent too, but again, it’s Filipe so it’s not surprising to anybody when he does something like that. It’s shocking in the moment but it’s not surprising.”

“That wave will solve any discussion about the scale being set to the mid-range,” says Cote. “It was an easy ten across the board, there was maybe one nine-nine, but the perfect ten score came a second or two after he landed it.”

Nearby Cote, and also eating dinner, are the WSL judges.

“That wave will solve any discussion about the scale being set to the mid-range,” says Cote. “It was an easy ten across the board, there was maybe one nine-nine, but the perfect ten score came a second or two after he landed it.”

How does it compare to Filipe’s ten in the pool?

“Oh I mean, twice as high, twice as far and the wave was twice as big. Until they can make pools six feet there’s no comparison although those guys will figure it out.”

And compared to his backside huck against John John in France two years ago?

“Today’s air was more controlled and cleaner,” says Cote. “That was a silent sniper shot. This is the air of the year on tour.”

In the background, Kaipo hollers that Seth Moniz’s air at Waco is better. Does he say ‘mo bettah?’ I’m unsure.

I ask Kaipo to analyse. “It’s like comparing grass court over a clay court. It’s different. We don’t know how many attempts Seth needed to make his air. We do know how many Filipe made. One. There it is.”

And the ambience on the beach?

“Everyone jumped out of their seats in the competitor’s area. On the beach, men, women, children, grandpas, aunties, everyone jumped up.”

What’s most interesting about the air is Filipe had already won the heat. This was a little theatre for the crowd.

“You gotta put everything in context,” says Kaipo. “Whether it’s a get-a-score air or a victory-lap air. There’s a difference mentally between the get-a-score air and the victory-lap air. A victory lap allows you free your mind.”

Still, says Cote, “John John is the best in the air, hands down.”

Protest: “No beachboys, no aloha!”

A piece of surf history is threatened!

As surfers, we are metaphysically connected to the Hawaiian islands and all that happens thereupon. To all the happy good days and shave ice and plate lunch. To all the darkened troubled days with floods or lava flows or contract disputes and right now there is a doozy taking place on the sands of Waikiki for it is there that the famed beachboys are being threatened with extinction.

And who are the famed beachboys you ask? Matt Warshaw answers in his masterpiece the Encyclopedia of Surfing (subscribe here!)

Lionized and mythologized band of easygoing Hawaiian surfer/waterman/hustlers who worked and lounged on the beach at Waikiki in the early and middle 20th century. The beachboy was both a cause and byproduct of the booming Hawaiian tourist trade; he earned a living primarily by lifeguarding and giving surf lessons and canoe rides, and spent his free time surfing, swimming, fishing, and playing music.

If you have been to Waikiki you have certainly seen the beachboys in action and you may even know one or two personally. Now, though, this rich history is being imperiled by a dive operation and let us read from Honolulu’s Star-Advertiser for more.

Supporters of two operators of Waikiki beachboys stands held a peaceful protest this morning after the city ordered them to vacate their concessions.

The order comes after the city awarded Dive Oahu last month a five-year contract to operate two beachboy stands on Kuhio Beach. Despite orders, Star Beachboys and Hawaiian Oceans continued operations this morning.

More than 50 people converged in front of the Duke Kahanamoku statue at about 6:30 a.m. today where some held signs that said “Save Our Beach Boys” and “No beach boys, no Aloha.”

The operators are disputing the way the contract was issued by the city. Aaron Rutledge of Star Beachboys said, “It’s nothing against the new company. It’s not his fault. The city should not have qualified a scuba diving company for a beachboy concession. It’s common sense.”

Among the supporters at the protest was legendary waterman Richard “Buffalo” Keaulana who said beachboys have a vast knowledge of the ocean.

“We were born by the water,” he said. “We share what we know and we know the water.”

The dive operation that took over the concessions, named Dive Oahu, had its Instagram overrun by beachboy supporters but have since cleaned the comments. More to come as things develop.

cocaine and surfing
The Australian cover of Cocaine and Surfing by Charlie Smith. Out June 12. Pre-order now etc.

Review: Cocaine and Surfing, a love story!

A compulsive, religious experience…

On June 12, the second book from BeachGrit‘s Charlie Smith, which is called Cocaine and Surfing, a Love Story, will be released.

Last week, its author asked readers to pre-order the volume to ensure the words Cocaine and Surfing are inked in the New York Times bestseller list. 

Cocaine is a drug that makes men swoop their heads like ravenous babies on a nipple. I’ve always joked about its viagra-like effect on women. I’ve watched normally sane gals end up with the most fetid cocks in their mouths, in even worse toilet stalls, because a man had given ’em a few dirty white lines (or the reverse, hoiked up on toilet as the man licked a trail to their pubic enclave.)

The nineties and early 2000s, when I cut my teeth on surf writing, was a golden age of coke use. For a time there, you could become almost any pro surfer’s best friend if you waved a little plastic bag under their twitching snouts.

Once on the North Shore, I sat on a sixty-year-old man’s bed shivering after inhaling the biggest line of cocaine I’d ever seen. I crawled into a foetal ball and asked God not to let my heart break.

Cocaine and Surfing, a love story, is a clever title, I think. It is outrageous,  and promises the revelation of fantastic secrets. The biggest untold drug story within pro surfing isn’t Andy and his opioids but the coke seizure that nearly stole one of surfing’s sweetest stars – and this book goes after it.

Does he find, reveal or do the doors close?

Because of my personal bias, I can’t review the book with any critical objectivity. Instead, I’d like to reprint my favourite parts, which you can read below.


Drugs and surfing, especially cocaine, felt synonymous with professional surfing those eight-odd years ago. It still does. It’s always snowing in Orange County, or so they say, and I look at Sophie. She is listening intently to the head of water safety at a perfect man-made wave, trying to turn this professional surfing into a proper sport while also respecting its past, God bless her, but as long as I’m around, that ain’t happening. Surfing, at its core, is an unruly, fouled, smutty disaster. Its past littered with felons, smugglers, addicts,narcissists, and creeps. Its present defined by crusty surf journalists and surf photographers. Its future a certain disaster – but it is our disaster. Our glorious disaster.


I was a ‘retained writer’ at Surfing for a few years back when ‘retainers’ still existed, then the ‘editor-at-living-large’ for a few more years – a mostly pretend title that suited my mostly pretend contributions. I always brought the absolute worst ideas to the table. Like dedicating an entire issue to the graphic designer’s son because his name was Pablo and he had an amazing blonde afro. Or rerunning issues from ten years ago word for word and seeing if anyone noticed. My high watermark, probably, was going to Florida and sneaking into the 2012 Republican National Convention by promising some drunk southern party boss the surf vote, then writing a story about Mitt Romney’s mouth.


I’d just got done asking an intern who works for the extreme sport sock company Stance if she has any cocaine. She said no while looking at me like I was a total idiot by subverting the social order. I was supposed to be telling her I had cocaine. Stance is one of the only companies thriving in the surf space, though, so I thought it was a fair question.


The conversation returns to Agenda and some rumor swirling about two middle-aged Australians who are buying up surf properties for way more than they are worth. They bought a removable fin company, a wave forecasting website, and a fake version of BeachGrit called Stab.


‘Bruh, I was paranoid when you were there because I had just done so much coke. Like a ridiculous amount. I’m not afraid of the industry.’


I see the smashed plate-glass windows, the empty places where guitars once were, drawers torn out of dressers and thrown on the bed, empty Rolex boxes. ‘Those are the Rolex boxes, and, uh oh, there is the cocaine.’


Surfers could just open a board, fill it up with coke, and make a shit ton of money. More money than they ever even dreamed possible. Smuggling. That’s why they keep their mouths shut. Smuggling is surfing’s DNA root.


His plan was simple. Cocaine was cheap in the United States, thanks to Ollie and my Uncle Dave, but it was expensive in Australia. Heroin, on the other hand, was cheap in Australia but expensive in the United States. Hakman did the rudimentary math and decided to bene t from this economic peculiarity.


‘I was very meticulous about how much I took. I’d never put more in to get a little higher. It’s the greed involved that never really affected me. People think once they’ve got this high, if they take some more they’re going to get a little higher. there’s no such thing. Especially with cocaine.’


‘I loved to watch him surf, but our friendship was built on our shared love of good writing, magazine design concepts and, it has to be said, the devil’s dandruff.’


‘I don’t give a shit. What happened happened. So what. Sue me. I’ve already paid my price. It’s cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars.’


And so on.


But here’s my fav quote. From Charlie’s first wife.


‘He’d spent the past two years of their happy marriage fucking his barely legal-age student, that he sold the house they’d bought as newlyweds and kept the money, that he didn’t even wait until their divorce was final to remarry and have a baby.’

Pre-order here! (USA and elsewhere)

Here for Australians.