What a week. What a very special week. It all started, for me, with the official release of Cocaine + Surfing on Tuesday. I worried, briefly, that the news would be overshadowed by Kim Jong Un and Donald J. Trump’s meeting in Singapore but soon realized that nobody really cares about peace on the Korean peninsula. I did a reading that night at the iconic Warwick’s and am now sitting in the airport awaiting a flight to Florida for the premier of Trouble: The Lisa Andersen Story at the Florida Surf Film Festival. If you live anywhere near the Sunshine State I expect to see you there.
More will be written on that later but in the meantime, did you know that this is also National Women Learn to Surf Week? It’s true! And let us turn to the Corpus Christi Times for more:
Female surfers converged on Boogie-Bahn at Schlitterbahn Riverpark and Resort in Corpus Christi on June 12 to celebrate National Women Learn to Surf Week. World Pro Female BodyBoard Champions Cathy and Morgan Seabert, a mother-daughter team, were on board to instruct.
Cathy Seabert is a regular at Schlitterbahn, helping riders tackle the inland surf attraction during the season. Currently, she is ranked second in the world in her division of Pro Female BodyBoarding.
Some 20 female surfers from beginner to expert and ages 8 to 70 slid into the endless inland surf created by a blast of 50,000 gallons of water on Boogie-Bahn. The water is only 3 inches deep on the ride. Wipeouts land on a foam-covered surface, keeping everyone safe from harm.
This entire time I thought the Schlitterbahn was in Munich and was confused about which nation was celebrating Women Learn to Surf Week but just re-read and realized the Schlitterbahn is a chain of water parks in Texas. Anyhow, do you have time for a few quick questions before I board?
How difficult is it to get a National _______________ Week? Like, could we petition the U.S. Government for a National BeachGrit Cut n Paste Week? What about a National Venice Adjacent Gathering of Online Surf-ish Magazines That Have Located There in Order to Thrive and Seem Abbott Kinney Kool?
Do any of you know the process?
Opinion: Kolohe “screwed by judges. Chronically underscored.”
As the rich and good looking Julian Wilson gallops towards a world title in his thirtieth year, it might be interesting to examine pivotal heats en route to this title and the response thereof.
Five days ago, Julian won a semi-final heat at Uluwatu against the similarly rich but not-quite-so good looking Kolohe Andino. The result was not received well by all surf fans.
BeachGrit‘s Longtom had a swing (“Kolohe got absolutely cooked by this phenomenon, the overcooking of Julian’s scores. He was clearly the better surfer, on the better waves doing the better surfing against Julian in semi one.”) and the commentary accompanying the heat video on YouTube was similarly in favour of the moustachioed American.
“Kolohe’s barrel wave was at least an8 something. Bad scoring, bad characters at wsl.”
“Kolohe surfed better in this heat. Came down to Kohole’s barrel compared to Julian’s barrel. Kolohe was deeper, it was a bigger set wave, and he did more aggressive turns.”
“another rigged heat!!? wtf? how many rigged heats in a contest can you have? wsl, when you’re like the whl and nobody remembers yo or what you were,,, don’t complain because you’re becoming irrelevant,,,, fast.”
“Result manipulation. Kalohe was clearly harmed. Your 7.70 should be 8.70. WSL without credibility.”
“Kolohe clearly won & jordy even more so in heat before… wsl is disgusting.”
‘So sad to see how WSL is manipulating the score in favor of JW, it is not a honest way to manager the sport!”
“First they favor him through vs jordy and now vs kolohe man as an australian I feel sorry for julian the judges making everyones energy negative towards him and its not his faut he was overscored. Every decent surfer I know agrees julian was gifted in this heat.”
“I don’t know who got robbed worse, Kolohe or Jordy. That dumb girl Sophie must have a crush on Julian.”
Kolohe’s shaper Matt “Mayhem” Biolos was equally convinced his surfer had been cut off at the knees, jumping onto theFCS Instagram account and calling the result a “blatant rip off.”
It was a short piece and the writer didn’t contact Biolos who subsequently expressed his dissatisfaction in a DM.
“Stirring the pot. Damn, you guys used to call me to elaborate. Not any more, huh?”
Earlier today, I called Biolos, who was about to drive to LA for a flight to Fiji where he’ll be joining Strider Wasilewski on Tavarua, to elaborate.
I say, “Blatant rip off. A sentiment hard to misinterpret.”
“Maybe those words weren’t right,” says Biolos. “I was grouchy and jet-lagged. Blatant means the judges purposely did it and maybe they were just negligent. Just a negligent mistake. They made an honest mistake. And it wasn’t just me who thought it. I watched it individually in the middle of the night and I was blown away. Obviously there was a storm of social media and even legitimate media you like you and Stabbelieved Kolohe won. I mean, the criteria is speed power and flow. He was going faster, with bigger more powerful turns and better flow. Julian was kinda pivoting and hitting the lip but I don’t think he was projecting nearly as much or linking his turns like Kolohe. Nothing against Julian. He’s surfing very well and I worked closely with him for a long time and I hope he wins a world title. I think it’s his year. The judges obviously think so too.”
I express my belief that there’s something…tight… about Julian, where his phenomenal, beautiful, natural skill isn’t allowed a room to breathe.
“A little mechanical, yeah. Kolohe suffers the same fate. They get knotted up. It’s a similar hiccup in their game. But I thought Ulu’s was (Kolohe’s) to win. The draw was gong down and watching him in that heat with Julian, I thought he’s going to win this heat, he’s going to win the contest. Didn’t happen.”
I missed the semi live, and therefore missed the spike of emotion, and found Julian a clear winner and that, despite claims to the contrary, most heats are a points-per-manoeuvre deal.
“I was watching it live and Kolohe was doing harder turns, going faster, his flow was a lot better and, bottom line, Kolohe’s 6.83 was the best wave of the heat. It sure as hell wasn’t a 6.83.”
“That’s how I felt. I’mnot going too hide from it,” says Biolos. “I’m not going to comment on your website and I’ll never, ever, ever sign up to comment on anyone’s website. But fuck it. I’m going to defend my guy. I think he got screwed. I think he’s chronically underscored. Maybe he’s done a few things in his career to welcome that.”
“You know as well as I do, things like that, and being very successful financially, numerous things. But if you know him as a man, as a person, he’s awesome. Kolohe asks me, does it bother me when he punches a board? I’ve been watching baseball players break their bats for a hundred years. It’s not as if Louisville Slugger throws a temper tantrum every time Mark McGwire breaks a bat.
“I think that there’s a lot of scoring on the WSL where they score the surfers not the competitors. They score Gabriel Medina against what he can do, not in the actual heat he’s in. ”
Are you tired of Cocaine + Surfing talk? I’m sorry. Really and truly. Any sort of promotion is annoying, I get it, though essential but still annoying so let’s take a break for a few days, ok? Let’s just talk about other things like movies. When summer hits North America you can guarantee one, two or sometimes three mainstream media groups will push out a list of surf movies to watch complete with headlines like, “Don’t head to the beach without watching these cool surf flicks!”
This year we are lucky that the film/television’s own Hollywood Reporter took on the chore. Lucky because it is an inside peek at what Hollywood itself values. They titled their own Hang Ten, Dude: 10 Memorable Surfing Films. So what are they and how does the Hollywood Reporter describe?
1) Big Wednesday: The coming-of-age drama starring Gary Busey, William Katt and Jan-Michael Vincent centered around three young men whose passion for surfing kept them connected through war, death and other chapters of their lives. The film was based on the real-life experiences of director John Milius and writer Dennis Aaberg.
2) Blue Crush: Kate Bosworth starred in Blue Crush as Anne Marie, a hard-core surfer girl living on her own with her younger sister who braves the Banzai Pipeline of Hawaii to achieve her dream of becoming a sponsored surf star. The iconic movie that launched Bosworth’s career became an instant cult classic in the early 2000s.
3) Chasing Maverick: The film stars Jonny Weston as a young man aiming to surf one of the biggest waves, which is just miles from his home in California. He turns to a surfing pro (Gerard Butler) to teach him how to survive the treacherous waters.
4) Endless Summer: This 1966 documentary is considered by many to be the most influential and iconic surf film of all time.
5) North Shore: Featuring no shortage of surfing action and some of the most dangerous waves on Earth, North Shore is an adrenaline-powered look into the high-performance sport of big wave surfing.
6) Rip Tide: After an embarrassing viral video damages her career, an American model (Debby Ryan) heads to Australia to live with her former pro surfer aunt, who hasn’t been back in the water since the death of her husband.
7) The Shallows: The surfer-against-shark premise might be considered a warning not to surf in the ocean alone on an isolated island.
8) Soul Surfer: In 2003, real-life and on-the-rise surf champ Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb) survived a tragic shark bite injury, resulting in the loss of her left arm. Despite losing her arm and 60 percent of her blood during the attack, she remained undeterred from the water, getting back on her board once her stitches healed.
9) Step into Liquid: In a documentary shot in waters all over the globe, director Dana Brown takes on tall waves and surfers who live to challenge them.
10) Surf’s Up: This family flick features the voices of Shia LaBeouf, Jeff Bridges and Zooey Deschanel. The heart-warming documentary-style story focuses on a young penguin named Cody, who dreams becoming a surfing legend.
In the book Cocaine + Surfing I write:
Pop culture’s dance with surfing is always a funny thing. I suppose if surfers had any sort of understandable depth, or any depth full stop, then Hollywood would have pounced on them as archetypes and figured out long ago how to capture the specifics enough to make a surf blockbuster, but have you seen Hollywood’s surf films? Have you seen Chasing Mavericks or Blue Crush or Point Break (either of them) or North Shore or Big Wednesday or The Perfect Wave or Soul Surfer or In God’s Hands? The best of them are laughably bad. The worst are a forgettable cringe.
Hollywood can’t get the surfer even halfway right and I think it’s a proximity issue. Many in Hollywood, many directors and producers and actors, think they surf. Their glittering town perched on the Pacific causes them to believe they know what it all means because they walk out of Malibu homes, grab a goofy yellowed seven-foot pintail and go sit in the puddle out front. But surfing and belonging to surf are two entirely separate things. Belonging to surf, in my definition, is to be part of the surf industrial-complex. Those who either work for a surf brand in some capacity as a photographer, writer, shaper, or who have at some point in their lives. Those who have so oriented their lives around surf that they watch World Surf League events while chatting about professional surfer form on message boards. Those whose productivity slowly drains away because they surf instead of working. Those who have pterygiums.
And that is exactly what Hollywood is missing as it relates to the surfer. Pterygiums.
“Although Cocaine + Surfing makes for a catchy title and a smattering of salacious anecdotes, it’s a stupid idea for a book,” writes Duane, before tightening the noose. “It’s an even stupider idea for a book conceived in the way that Smith initially (although not ultimately) conceived of it—as, to quote his equally-catchy subtitle, ‘a sordid history of surfing’s greatest love affair.”
What cruel torments lie ahead?
“Despite this horribly misguided premise—or, rather, because of it—Cocaine + Surfing is a dazzling page-turner, highly-recommended beach reading, and absolutely the funniest book ever written about surfing.”
“Although Cocaine + Surfing makes for a catchy title and a smattering of salacious anecdotes, it’s a stupid idea for a book,” writes Duane, before tightening the noose. “It’s an even stupider idea for a book…”
Oh, a volcano of praise! It continues.
“To hold those contradictions together in one’s mind, it helps to recognize that Smith’s literary models do not include serious works like my man Warshaw’s scholarly History of Surfing or William Finnegan’s Pulitzer-Prize winning Barbarian Days; A Surfing Life.
“Cocaine + Surfing belongs, rather, to the honorable lemons-into-lemonade lineage that begins with Ross McElwee’s cult-classic 1986 documentary film Sherman’s March: A Meditation on the Possibility of Romantic Love In the South During an Era of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation, in which McElwee tries to make a film about the civil war but ends up interviewing all his ex-girlfriends instead, and Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence, an unforgettable book about not writing a book about D. H. Lawrence.
“In the same spirit, Cocaine + Surfing is a book about a self-loathing surf journalist getting the seemingly-brilliant idea to write a book about cocaine and surfing, hitting the road for research in various corners of the surf industry, discovering that it’s actually a stupid idea, and wondering how his once-promising life came to such a sad pass.”
“The surprising joy of this book, though—and it really is a joy—has nothing whatever to do with cocaine. It lies entirely in Smith’s brilliant skewering of surf culture, the surf industry, his own complicity in both, and the frailty of the human ego.”
“The surprising joy of this book, though — and it really is a joy — has nothing whatever to do with cocaine. It lies entirely in Smith’s brilliant skewering of surf culture, the surf industry, his own complicity in both, and the frailty of the human ego.”
“Smith also delights in deep inside-baseball stuff like his repeated reference to the formerly-terrific Australian surf magazine Stab as ‘the fake version of BeachGrit’when everybody knows that his own BeachGrit is in fact a fake version of the original Stab.”
Books are strange creations. It’s difficult for me to even remember sitting down and starting the one that officially releases today. It was last spring, maybe, though I can’t recall the weather, nor what I was wearing, nor my state of mind. I do remember going to stay a weekend at The Charlie in West Hollywood mid-way through to make real progress. It is how I write, I suppose. Fumbling around, interviewing, researching, compiling, finding a rhythm, then going away for two days and trying to write an entire book.
I got way too drunk the night I checked in but forced myself up at 4 am so if the whole thing feels like a giant hangover that’s why.
It is probably not the best process but it is mine.
I am doing a reading at Warwick’s in La Jolla tonight at 7:30 if you are around. Before the reading I am going to thank all those who suffered my questions, who suffered me, as I wrote. My wife, above all. Derek Rielly, who I love. Matt Warshaw, Nick Carroll, Brad Melekian, Scott Hulet, Ian Cairns, Pete Taras, Jimmy Wilson and the rest of the dysfunctional surf industry.
I don’t know if people want to be thanked in a book titled Cocaine + Surfing but without them there is nothing. And without you I am bored and uninspired.
So thank you.
Thank you all/this is your fault.
Oh! And if you try and order on Amazon it says 1 – 2 months delivery but it’s not true. They just sold out their entire stock this morning but more is on the way as of today.