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. 


Dead: the world’s greatest surf writer!

"So fucken slick," says Nick Carroll.

Depending on your love of literature you may, or may not, know, or care, that Tom Wolfe has died, aged eighty-eight. 

That name mean anything?

If you’re a fan of the better surf writers, Nick Carroll and so on, you owe a little something to the father of New Journalism, a style of writing that brought the writer, and the dramatic techniques favoured by the novelist, into straight journalism. Its arrival was as exciting as colour television.

Years back, when I got my first job at Surfing Life, I figured I better learn how to write (I’d cribbed stories out of old Tracks magazines and presented ’em as samples of my work) and I’d remembered Nick had listed his favourite writers: Hunter ST, Earn Hemingway, Ev Waugh, John Steinbeck and…Tom Wolfe.

Over the course of the year, I read most of their books. Hunter for gonz, Hemingway for muscular writing, Waugh for satire, Steinbeck for storytelling and Tom Wolfe for reporting.

And exclamation marks. Want to know the source of our exclamation marks? Blame Tom Wolfe! Of course! (And the use of “Of course!”)

And, in case you didn’t know, Tom Wolfe got into a little surf writing himself. In 1968 he wrote an essay called The Pump House Gang (which was included in a book of essays of the same name) where he wrote about a gang of La Jolla surfers.

An excerpt:

The [surfers] are not exactly off in a world of their own, they are and they aren’t. What it is, they float right through the real world, but it can’t touch them. They do these things, like the time they went to Malibu, and there was this party in some guy’s apartment, and there wasn’t enough legal parking space for everybody, and so somebody went out and painted the red curbs white and everybody parked. Then the cops came. Everybody ran out. At [a party] in Manhattan Beach . . . somebody decided to put a hole through one wall, and everybody else decided to see if they could make it bigger. Everybody was stoned out of their hulking gourds, and it got to be about 3:30 a.m. and everybody decided to go see the riots. These were the riots in Watts. The Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union were all saying, WATTS NO-MAN’S LAND, but naturally nobody believed that. Watts was a blast, and the Pump House gang was immune to the trembling gourd panic rattles of the LA Times.

According to the Encyclopedia of Surfing, after the story came out La Jolla locals spray-painted “Tom Wolfe is a dork” across the cement beachfront pump house structure that gives the story its title.

Surfer magazine later called “The Pump House Gang” a “bit of low-rent pop sociology,” but acknowledged that the Windansea surfers, who once dressed up as Nazi storm troopers and goose-stepped down to the beach for a laugh, were in fact viewed as “savages” by the rest of California surf society.

Earlier today, I asked Nick Carroll, whose early work used many of Tom Wolfe’s New Journalism techniques and whose influence across surf writing is without equal, why he was so into Wolfe.

“I just got excited by that whole genre of magazine writing of the 1960s, it felt a bit musical to me in a way, like an injection of flow and energy and emotion into the culture and how it was being observed. Like it was putting new things at centre stage. Above all it felt American to me, like it was describing a bigger and more viscerally entertaining world. So much lively curiosity!

“Plus so fucken slick and skilled with the language. Writers observing closely and doing the best work of their lives.
“I really paid attention, especially to Wolfe’s introduction to the collected volume, The New Journalism, which included a lot of the best operators in the field. It’s basically a journalism primer. Like you don’t have to do four years of “Journalism” at Uni, you can just read that, then go and practice it.
“I’ve since done a lot more reading and you can see New Journalism going on in writing for many years before the New Journalism. I think almost all good writing is partly journalism, because almost all good writing relies on the observant eye and ear. I’ve also seen how journalists like Truman Capote with In Cold Blood and John Hersey with his amazing account of the Hiroshima atom bombing and its aftermath kind of outclassed most of the New Journalists, Wolfe included.
The Pump House Gang was interesting but not as interesting as some of the car racing stuff. The Right Stuff was all time I thought.
“The big thing about Wolfe, Gay Talese, and most of the NJs is that they were still mostly classically trained journos, they were never post-modern about things, they were actually interested and curious in the subject, not just in their reaction to the subject. They wanted to get hold of both — to describe what people were actually up to. Not just what they thought those people were up to, or would like them to be up to, which is the modern “commentary” trend. You can’t beat actual interest in people.
“In surf writing now, I think it’s actually a pretty dynamic time but I don’t see much Wolfean prose, the detailed observation and curiosity isn’t quite there in a lot of otherwise very entertaining stuff. It’s a fucking high bar though, and surfing’s not as new as it used to be! It’s hard to find anything new to write about.”

southport seaway sharks
"A pack of bull sharks are seen scouring the sea floor while the boardriders who paddle across to South Stradbroke Island are blissfully unaware of what lies beneath." | Photo: Ian Banks/Gold Coast Bulletin

Yike: See the World’s Sharkiest Paddle!

Wall to wall bull sharks…

You heard of South Straddie? You know the name, right? That man-made collection of often outrageously good beachbreaks on the north side of the Southport Seaway on Queensland’s Gold Coast?

In a north-west wind, and with even just a little swell, whee-baby.

Getting there ain’t as simple as parking a car, suiting up and paddling off the beach, howevs. Between you and the waves is a two hundred metre paddle across what is, according to rumour, a shark-filled body of water between the two rock groynes.


You either pay five bucks or whatever it is and get the ferry (con: you feel like a sissy to travel two hundred metres in a boat) or you take your panties off and jump in, dodge the fishing trawlers, and get there yourself.

I lived on that otherwise god-forsaken coast for a decade and, most mornings, I’d drive thirty minutes north to the seaway, dive in and get an hour of thin-lipped cabanas before work. Early in my tenure there, if I didn’t have a pal to paddle across with, I’d tail a couple of other surfers. Before long, I was solo, but still very scared.

Once, as a surf magazine prank, we made a pro surfer swim across the channel with a fish tied to his leg.

So how sharky is the seaway paddle?

As revealed by the Gold Coast Bulletin yesterday, the joint really is crawling with bull sharks.

It is a picture that would strike terror into anyone who frequents the waters near the Gold Coast Seaway.

A pack of bull sharks are seen scouring the sea floor while the boardriders who paddle across to South Stradbroke Island are blissfully unaware of what lies beneath.

But a veteran Gold Coast diver believes the photo should be celebrated, not feared.

Ian Banks took the amazing image while on a solo dive outside the mouth of the seaway last Monday.

“This photo shows that the seaway has a healthy ecosystem of marine life,” he said.

“The area is a gathering point not just for sharks but rays and fish too.”

Stingrays, don’t mind those.

The 60-year-old now lists the seaway as his favourite place to dive.

“It is a very special place,” he said.

“From a diving point a view it is the best mainland shore dive in any city in Australia.

“There’s not one reef in this area that comes within one per cent of the big fish that the Seaway has.”

Ain’t that reassuring.


Not Now!
Not Now!

The day the World Surf League told me to beat it!

The gravy train has derailed!

It is day five of the Oi Rio Pro or at least I think it is. Much like Kelly Slater our coverage of the event has gone missing. It would be impossibly rude to make Longtom wake up in the middle of a Byron night to watch the world’s better surfers dance in Brazil and so this morning, after receiving a text from Nobel Prize winner Jamie Tworkowski* that Gerry Lopez was on the mic and performing admirably, I decided to take the contest duties upon myself.

I sat down on a corinthian leather stool, breathed deeply through my nose and pressed into the browser and there I was, or almost because then I had to press the “watch” button. I thought, after pressing, that Adriano de Souza’s face would pop onto my screen but instead the above window and the words, “Just sign up to watch live. It’s free.” followed by the standard “Continue with Facebook” “Continue with Google” and then, inexplicably, “we won’t post anything without asking.”

Post what without asking? My mind whirled into Cambridge Analytica territory. What on earth does the WSL want to post? Personality quizzes for my friends? Pleas for help? No, it was already too stressful so I pressed the “Not Now” option nestled into the left corner.

This took me back to the beginning and I pressed watch and was again taken to the “Continue with Facebook” “Continue with Google” “we won’t post anything without asking.”

Again and again and again. The same loop. There was no way out and I smashed “Not Now” more vigorously each and every time, sweat starting to bead on my forehead. I’ve downloaded your app, WSL. I’ve given you the better part of my youth but you want more. Always more. Why can’t you listen to my “Not Now”? Why can’t you respect my body and my choices? Why is “Not Now” not really an option?

I finally gave up, exhausted, without any professional surfing to soothe my soul.

So. Who is doing good? Is Gerry Lopez a sweet addition to the team? What about Chris Cote? Who did Chris replace anyhow? Is Julian Wilson still in the Jeep Leaderboard Yellow Jersey? More questions to come.

* I once had dinner with Emily Ratajkowski. She was a fine conversationalist and I thought her and Jamie Tworkowski would cut a striking figure and that they should get married and hyphenate Jamie and Emily Ratajkowski-Tworkowski. I was drinking Moscow Mules at that dinner out of a paper straw.