Back To Top
Beach Grit

Review: Cocaine and Surfing, a love story!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

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.