Luke Stedman (left) pictured giving a surf lesson. You too can have this for $90.

Son of a bitch: The WSL tricked me!

A new level experience that I crave!

So yesterday evening I came home after a day’s “work” and flipped my computer open, per the norm, to see if anything funny had happened in surf that I could joke about. A chilled Sauvignon from Marlborough, freshly poured into a small glass at my right hand. I poked about the usual spots not finding chuckles before retreating to my inbox and there glowed an email from Nick Carroll.

He had forwarded along a press release, see, from the World Surf League titled Airbnb & World Surf League Team Up to Offer Hundreds of New Experiences in 20+ Unique Surf Destinations and I felt the giggles rising as I read.

There’s nothing like a dose of surf, sand, and waves to help cleanse the spirit, reconnect with nature and get you out of your comfort zone. Much like diving into an unknown destination, surfing can be intimidating at first – but once you get in the groove, the adrenaline rush can lead to a lifelong love affair.

Airbnb travelers are no exception. In fact, surfing is among the most popular reasons to travel, reiterating the upward trend of passion-based travel, made easier with 10,000 Experiences now available to book via Airbnb.

I took a sip of wine before continuing, smile spreading from ear to ear.

“Surfing, as a sport and a culture, is synonymous with breaking new ground and traversing uncharted waters so it’s a natural fit to be partnering with Airbnb in this incredible new engagement,” Sophie Goldschmidt, WSL CEO, said. “Championing experiences in the surfing and outdoor space is something both the WSL and Airbnb are very excited about moving forward. The potential to spread the stoke of surfing across the world, and give people experiences that will last a lifetime, is enormous. With Airbnb we are confident we can take surfing to a new level.”

Airbnb + WSL + surfing = New Level. And the mirth bubbled right to the surface. I skimmed down to where the “experiences” were listed ready to explode.

– Edouard & Antoine Delpero Surf School (Biarritz, France). Learn to surf or fine-tune your technique with the Delpero brothers at the major surfing destination in the heart of Basque country.
– Girls on Board Surf School (Phillip Island, Australia). Led by Jess Laing, Girls on Board will take you surfing at stunning Phillip Island.
– Surf Coaching with Leo Neves (Saquarema, Brazil). WSL veteran Leo Neves will take your surfing to the next level. Hone your skills with pro tips and video analysis.
– Learn to Surf with Luke Stedman & Damien Fahrenfort (Venice, Calif.). WSL veterans Luke Stedman and Damien Fahrenfort will teach you how to surf in classic California conditions.

Hold on right there. Luke Stedman and Dam Fahrenfort? Those are two of my favorite people in all of surf. I hurriedly clicked and lo and behold.

Hi, our names are Damien Fahrenfort & Luke Stedman! Join us on an experience of a lifetime! It’s said the best surfers in the water are the ones having the most fun. While we’re both ISA certified, what’s really equipped us with the skills to teach is competing against the world’s best for over 10 years. Yes, we’ve both surfed against Kelly Slater, he won;)

Both 3rd generation surfers we’ve dedicated our lives to surfing and traveling the globe. These days, nothing gets us more stoked than seeing people stand up on their first wave and enjoying the ocean like we have for over 20 years.

Son of a bitch. The experience costs a mere 90 bucks to hang out with Steds and Dooma for 2 hours. The honest to goodness deal of a lifetime and I’m signing up right now. If you want to join me click here. Seriously new level.


"I've spent so much of my life trying to score tubes - making shitty, selfish decisions that often only eventuate in scant rewards, 2-second head dips. So the idea that a lucky few could now go sit in a mechanical barrel for 30 seconds both horrified me and turned me on, and it horrified me that it turned me on. The roll of money in all of it bothered me too. Living in the Bay Area, a fair few people I know have gotten filthy rich, and I've consoled myself with the notion that I've gotten more barreled than they have. So it irked me that rich fuckwits could literally own waves like that now, available on demand. And a part of me wished I'd played my cards right and made fuck-you money, just so I could be the rich fuckwit with a left like that in my backyard."

Lewis Samuels: “It irked me rich fuckwits could own waves like that!”

The noted polemicist examines the implications of Surf Ranch!

Some years ago, five perhaps, I spent a night with the one-time most notorious surf writer in the world, Lewis Samuels, then in his late-thirties.
I fed Lewis pastry and crème patissiere straight from the spoon which he described as “gay”. Soon, his mouth was open and he was begging for the eclair, greedily rimming the spoon. He wore a red flannel shirt, some sort of oversized pants and rectangular spectacles usually worn by English women who search for romance in Kenya.
Yesterday, Lew had a story about the Slater-Fincham Surf Ranch published in the American edition of Esquire magazine. It is called “Can Kelly Slater’s ‘Perfect Wave’ Save Pro Surfing” and it is, as if it has to be said, a sharply written four-and-a-half-thousand words.
Click here to read. 
Earlier today, I engaged Lewis, who is now forty-one, married with two children and (still) works at the noted search engine Google, in a back and forth about the story and the pool.
Before you rode the pool, what was your take on the joint? 
Lewis: Seeing that reveal video for the first time was a “holy shit” moment for me, as it was for most surfers. I’m fairly obsessed with tubes, and I found the perfection of that lip line haunting. I’ve spent so much of my life trying to score tubes – making shitty, selfish decisions that often only eventuate in scant rewards, two-second head dips. So the idea that a lucky few could now go sit in a mechanical barrel for 30 seconds both horrified me and turned me on, and it horrified me that it turned me on. The roll of money in all of it bothered me too. Living in the Bay Area, a fair few people I know have gotten filthy rich, and I’ve consoled myself with the notion that I’ve gotten more barreled than they have. So it irked me that rich fuckwits could literally own waves like that now, available on demand. And a part of me wished I’d played my cards right and made fuck-you money, just so I could be the rich fuckwit with a left like that in my backyard.
The roll of money in all of it bothered me too. Living in the Bay Area, a fair few people I know have gotten filthy rich, and I’ve consoled myself with the notion that I’ve gotten more barreled than they have. So it irked me that rich fuckwits could literally own waves like that now, available on demand.
 
Did you have discussions with anyone about it? 
Who didn’t? For the last couple years it’s been Trump and the wavepool. What else is there to talk about? Because I know Kelly, people kept asking me if I was going to get to surf it. Then Esquire called and asked me if I wanted to do the article, almost two years ago, so there was plenty of time to talk about it while Esquire worked with Kelly’s PR team to get me in there. Luckily they’d built a left by then.
I do think that something is being subtracted from surfing simply by that wave being in existence. In the long run, we might get more out of it than it takes away. But we are losing something – it makes real waves feel less miraculous.

Now, and even reading between the lines in the story, I’m still not entirely sure how you…feel… about the pool. Are you a end of days kinda gal like Matt Warshaw, a goodbye-pro-contests-in-beachbreaks like me or somewhere in between? 

Honestly, I’m still not sure how I feel about it either, even after getting to surf it, and after discussing it ad nauseam with man, beast, and Slater. We live in polarized times, and it seems like most surfers either love or hate the idea of the Surf Ranch. I challenge the notion that I have to be in one camp or the other. It was fun as shit to get to surf it, and I’d love to get in enough days there to really dial in my surfing. But for most everyone it’s just something you watch other people do. I’m certainly not a purist to the extent that I think they’re better off holding the Olympics in Japanese beachbreak. Now that the genie is out of the bottle, I’d rather see them use the pool for the Olympics. But I’m still coming to terms with what it means for surfing, and for me. I know the WSL line is that wavepools are an addition, and they’re not meant to replace surfing as we know it. But I do think that something is being subtracted from surfing simply by that wave being in existence. In the long run, we might get more out of it than it takes away. But we are losing something – it makes real waves feel less miraculous.
 
You write of not knowing whether to feel free or stripped of your identity. Have you examined this thought further? 

Yeah, I feel a bit of both. It is freeing to be stripped of your identity. Have you ever talked to Warshaw about how happy he claims to be now that he quit surfing? For 25 years I’ve been really caught up with getting good waves and I’ve made myself miserable when I miss good waves. It really eats at me. And perhaps it’s better to let go of that identity, particularly now that the Surf Ranch barfs out 100 perfect barrels every day. Good surf means less to me than it used to, and I think that’s healthy.

 
I think it was Warshaw who told me Slater said you’d had enough after your long tube, which you describe as so easy all you had to do was hang on. Did it give you a thrill like an ocean tube? Was it a worthy facsimile of the sea?
Yeah, Slater told me to get out after that one. He felt certain I wasn’t going to do any better than that. And yes, it gave me that thrill like the real thing. Not all the waves are the same in the pool, and that wave was inexplicably better than the rest of the ones I caught. But part of the thrill was just the bizarre circumstances – Raimana and Kaiborg screaming at me from the jetski, Slater watching from the deck – it’s a lot of pressure surfing in the pool, and I was relieved to have gotten a lucky one and not blown it. Or maybe Slater was just sick of me surfing his wave, a sentiment I’m sure your gracious readers will be kind enough to voice in ensuing comments.
I felt compelled to cleanse myself in a wild, untamed ocean; be part of a natural environment again, seals, sharks and all.
Your story concludes, poetically, with you staring at the horizon. Tell me your thoughts as you watched the sun rise, a happy seal swishing about. 
Do I detect a dash of that brilliant, patented Rielly sarcasm in the wording of your question? It makes it difficult to provide an earnest answer. I doubt I was thinking about much. After leaving the Surf Ranch the previous night, I was running on fumes – a couple hours of sleep, more hours of driving, and a lot of expended adrenaline. I felt compelled to cleanse myself in a wild, untamed ocean; be part of a natural environment again, seals, sharks and all. Ironically enough, driving to the beach in the darkness that morning, I hit a deer with my car. It staggered off into the trees, leaving blood and tufts of fur in my mangled fender. I’ll never know whether it somehow survived, or simply wandered off into the night to die alone, felled by a machine it did not ask for or understand.

Ain't too many joints in the world as pretty as Uluwatu, as evidenced in this gorgeous photo by the American photographer turned Bali expat Nate Lawrence, editor of the excellent Bali Belly magazine. | Photo: nate lawrence

Margaret River Pro to finish at Ulutwatu!

After Keramas wraps, the tour moves to the Bukit…

In a surprise announcement earlier today, the WSL said it will finish the doomed Margaret River Pro at Uluwatu in Bali, Indonesia.

“The event will commence within 48 hours after the conclusion of the Corona Bali Pro at Keramas, and finish no later than June 13th, 2018,” reads the presser. “In the men’s event, 24 competitors remain in the field and competition will recommence with Round 3. In the women’s event, eight competitors remain in the field and competition will recommence with the Quarterfinals.”

The company’s CEO, Sophie Goldschmidt, said, “We felt that the shark activity that prompted the event cancellation had not significantly improved and returning was not in the best interests of the surfers this season. We extensively explored various alternatives before deciding to invest in completing the event at Uluwatu in Bali.”

Owen Wright said that he was “frothing” to get there and Lakey Peterson pointed out that it will enable a “fairer crack at the title.”

Bringing pro surfing back to Uluwatu is a neat symmetry for the little island, groaning under the weight of overdevelopment and an economic apartheid where westerners of modest means live like sheiks as the Balinese scurry about tending to their whims for a handful of rupiah a day.

In 1972, the movie Morning of the Earth, showed the world how gorgeous Uluwatu is. And the world hurried to the island. It has changed very much. Whether this is good or not depends on your point of view. If you like goat tracks and cactus and solitude, not so good. If you like clifftop villas and impeccably dressed butlers and fine food, you’re in heaven.

Possible hazards for the Ulu’s event include terrorism, like this, and this, mysterious deaths,  heavy drug laws for anyone who likes getting high and a local population that was the most zealous in Indonesia when it came to killing suspected Communists in 1965 and 1966.

Read this too

Oh and pollution.

In 2012, Kelly Slater tweeted: “If Bali doesn’t #Dosomething serious about this pollution it’ll be impossible to surf here in a few years. Worst I’ve ever seen”.

Not so many sharks, howevs.


Help: Make surfing shitty again!

Let's have a laugh!

And here we are. The very first hardback copy of Cocaine + Surfing: A Love Story! rolled off the presses yesterday while Iran and Israel sent bombs whistling toward each other’s soldiers. While Taylor Swift escalated her war with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. The fact that it is being printed (official release date is June 12, 2018), while not newsworthy, makes me happy. I failed to enjoy the month leading up to the publication of my last book, Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell, because I don’t like/am not good at plugging my own wares. It feels as awkward as it does embarrassing and makes me gag.

And yet here we are. One month to go and I have a favor to ask of you. If so inclined, wanna buy a copy? I would never ever normally ask but I have a dream, a glorious vision, and it needs you.

See, I want the book to hit the New York Times bestsellers list.

Now, I don’t want it on that list because I think it deserves to be there or because I am a narcissist (I only play one in print). No. I want it to be on the New York Times bestsellers list because in the day and age of World Surf League blanching and Olympic inclusion and Ambassadors of Stoke and Leisure I want, even if only for one week, I want people across this country to open up their Sunday newspapers and see the words Cocaine + Surfing: A Love Story! staring right back at them.

Matt Warshaw gifted me the introduction and it is so beautiful that it is worth the price of admission. When it first dropped into my inbox tears filled my eyes. That’s true.

And he writes at the end:

In other words, for all the comedy and pointlessness I’ve talked about here vis-à-vis drugs and surf, and Cocaine and Surfing, there are stakes on the table. There are risks involved. For drug users, of course. But drug use can be can be temporary. Reversals are possible. Today’s bent coke-out surfer might be straight and redeemed tomorrow. The stakes for surfing, however, in terms of its identity-the way the sport presents and views itself-are also high, but not reversible. Barring some kind of apocalyptic global socio-industrial meltdown, a fully tamed and enfranchised and corporate-friendly version of surfing will never gain back what it lost.

Do I think this book will halt, or even slow, our slide into a broader, safer, blander age?

No. I do not. But Cocaine and Surfing is truthful and smart, and very very funny, and when I laugh it hurts less.

I think the laughs at having, even if for one short week, cocaine tied to surfing in the mainstream media instead of wave pool technology or Olympic surf training programs will be very funny. I asked my wonderful publisher how to scratch onto that damn list and she said, “Pre-sales.”

Will you like? Probably. The great Rory Parker gave it a full one star review and wrote:

The author spends the rest of the time rehashing apocryphal tales, summarizing things that other people have written, complaining about the surf industry, mentioning the clothes he wears, and navel-gazing about his career as a surf journalist.

So…. you can pre-order here here here or here if you are in Australia.

And thanks.

I love you all.


The Surf Ranch circa 2023 when everything is made from ethically sourced algae, including pool water!

Jon Pyzel: “Algae Foam is the Future!”

Master shaper to John John Florence turns muck into magic!

Yesterday, while trawling for stories, I engaged in a brief exchange with John John Florence’s shaper Jon Pyzel.

I had asked if he wanted to do an interview in regard to surfboard design for pools in light of the Founders’ Cup.

“I’d rather wait before I start blabbing,” he said, indicating that he would ride the pool shortly before the WCT event there in September. “I have some theories and I can clearly see that we need to make pool specific boards.”

Any other design news?

“Algae foam. The future.”

Really?

“Are you joking with me? Where have you been?”

I rummaged through my memory. Bondi!

“Clearly not on the tip of surfboard technology development.”

In wonderful bullet-point form, Jon quickly added:

“JJF is the first surfer to ride this is in any CT events.”

“We’re hoping to make 99 percent of our US-built PU boards with it by 2019.”

“Exactly the same feel as your normal PU boards but 25 percent less shitty for the world.”

Gotta be some negatives in there, I said. For only Jay Harvey Christ is infallible.
“That’s the best part, no negatives!” said Pyzel. “Once they nail the formula down (which is getting closer every day) we will be making your boards with algae and they will be exactly the same as they boards that you love right now.  The algae is just a replacement for Polyols, so the blanks feel and act exactly the same as all traditional PU foam, but with less stress to our environment.  If you have a choice at the same boards, but one is less damaging, you are gonna chose that one every time.”
How did Pyzel get turned onto algae blanks?
“First off, and for full transparency, Andrew Jakubowski and Marty Gilchrist own and run Arctic Foam and are very close friends of mine. Andrew and I grew up together in Santa Barbara and Marty was the Rip Curl rep there. We were both sponsored by Rip Curl though Marty and Andrew went on to take over as RC rep later on.
Fast forward thirty  years and  Andrew owns Arctic and I make surfboards with their foam! But, friends or not, I only use blanks that I believe to be the best that I can get and Arctic makes the best foam in North America.”
Proof that John John Florence, the current world champ, yes yes, rides algae blanks.
“JJF has been testing boards built with algae foam for the past three years, but only this year has he ridden any in contests,” said Pyzel. “Snapper was the first event that he rode one in, and that would have been the first time a surfer has ridden that type of foam in a CT comp, which is pretty cool. I made him a couple more that he took to WA, and saw him riding one at the Box (orange deck, black rails) but they were a little different (design-wise) and he didn’t love it. I looked at the board when he came home and it was holding up well and felt really nice and light too.”
What an environmental kink you have Mr Pyzel. Tell me more!
“Most surfers will tell you that they are all about environmentally friendly living, keeping the ocean clean, but the facts remain that surfboards are some of the most environmentally damaging things made.  Seeing the chance to help make a dent in the harm being done by building surfboards for a living made me excited to partner with Arctic to help develop solutions.”
Pyzel explained that Arctic started sending him small batches of blanks to test the strength, weight, colour (gotta be white)  and consistency.
“I made myself a few first, and then when I started to feel confident that they were getting good, I started making a few for John John as well.  He was really stoked to try the foam, since he tries to live his life in environmentally conscious ways and goes through a lot of surfboards every year. From the very beginning the Algae boards felt great and worked just like their normal counterparts, but there were a bunch of issues with the consistency and strength along the way. Building  PU foam is already a tricky job since it can be highly susceptible to small environmental changes in temperature, humidity, etc. Getting your formulas just right can require a lot of dialing in and the Algae is no different. At this point they have it pretty dialed in, but they want to be sure all the issues are taken care of before we start making our paying customers surfboards from algae.”
Are they green, like algae? Does it mean you gotta spray all your plain boards white?
“If you were handed two boards, one algae, one normal, you could not see any difference. No need to paint.   Also, on the shaping side these blanks are easy to work with and seem to have a slightly tighter cell structure, which means they may absorb less resin during glassing and that makes for a lighter, stronger surfboard.”
Five years on, where’s this thing going to be?
“Every blank company will want to shift in this direction, and maybe Arctic will be selling/licensing the formula around the world.  I feel that all surfboard makers should be looking for solutions to minimize the damage we do to our environment and this is just a small step to take in that direction.”