Stab and The Inertia plotting the future.
Stab and The Inertia plotting the future.

Invasion: Reporting live from Venice!

A war for surfing's very soul!

I am currently sitting at a reclaimed wood and steel counter right in the heart of Venice’s Abbott Kinney drinking a hot fruit punch and listening to a “digital archaeologist” who “unearths deep musical emotion from obscure sounds.”


Hot fruit punch.

It really feels that blonde roasts have become so ubiquitous in fancy coffee world that nothing is bitter anymore. Only very very very sweet with notes of cherry, Sunny Delight and Gatorade. I mourn bitter’s loss. I love bitter which may explain my general tone. It is also why I will cheer for France this Sunday in the World Cup final.

Being in Venice means I am very near to Venice-adjacent and Venice-adjacent’s own The Inertia and sister publication Stab. I am also very near to Santa Monica’s World Surf League international headquarters.

Enemies lurk around every corner. Inside every farm to table cafe and wine bistro. I already thought I saw Stab’s Sam McIntosh out on the street but it turned out to be German tourist wearing some lug soled Maison Margiela sneakers instead. I’m more worried about stumbling over The Inertia’s Zach Weisberg since he is three-feet tall and easy to miss. It would be very embarrassing to accidentally step on him after everything I’ve put him through here. An unnecessarily personal insult.

Herr Paul Speaker doesn’t seem like the coffee type and I’m not planning on taking a Segway tour of Muscle Beach so don’t plan on seeing him. Soph and Backward Fin Beth are mysterious though I don’t think they day drink and I’m going to start that at the appropriate 10:30 am.

Enemies everywhere and I wonder, has Venice and Venice-adjacent ever seen such a concentration of surf media enthusiasts? For decade Orange County held the surf industrial complex in its iron grip and, in many ways, surfing writ large came to reflect Orange County’s values. Conservative, cloistered, without imagination. What will surfing become here? The Inertia is trying desperately to morph it into a version of sport sandal bouldering. Stab is attempting to… to… I’m uncertain, to be honest. That rudderless ship will eventually wash up somewhere though and it won’t be pretty. Likely lots of Corona and party pics.

The World Surf League wants it to be broadly digestible. Understandable, relatable, clean. There is probably much head scratching in the office as to why all surfers don’t want this.

Each of these futures scare me but I don’t know which scares me most. The World Surf League’s, probably, though I have no talent whatsoever in sport sandal bouldering. I would like to hear presentations from The Inertia, Stab and the World Surf League. I’d buy lunch and listen attentively. Too bad each is more spineless than the next.

10:30 am. Time to drink.

A horns-and-shaka tube exit at Honolua Bay! | Photo: WSL

Carissa Moore: “What am I outside of surfing?”

A gorgeous bit of existential dread!

About two months ago now, I drove to Ventura to interview Carissa Moore. I’d never met her. I showed up at the rental house where she was staying in between a trip to the Surf Ranch and a family road trip to Yosemite. She came to the door fresh out of the shower, wrapped in a towel, and gave me a big hug, like we’d been friends for ten years or more. Of course, we hadn’t.

We sat across the table from one another, my recorder — two of them, actually — between us, in a borrowed RV that was parked in the driveway. Occasionally a car cruised the quiet residential street. The tight space formed a kind of bubble that felt cut off from the world. It was perfect, in fact.

As a writer, you never really know what you’re going to get when you sit down to an interview. I knew I’d get something, of course. I’ve only once interviewed someone who really said almost nothing. Women athletes, they always have plenty to say. But would it be good? I wanted it to be good. Carissa proved candid, self-reflective, and funny. When I went back through the tape, there was so much laughing.

Here is a short excerpt from the interview transcript to taunt you! This is all part of my nefarious plan to convince you to read the full story. Is it working? Maybe it’s working.

Carissa: “I remember going home from [the 2017 U.S. Open at] Huntington and thinking, I have to make a decision here. I’m going to commit until the end of this year and give it everything I’ve got and let go a bit of the pressure and expectation. That was my lowest point. I felt like that was really a turning point for me.”

“I think, like, for the longest time, I just considered myself a surfer. It was really hard to look at myself and ask myself what am I outside of surfing? Like, how can I be happy if I’m not getting the results? What does success and happiness look like for me?”

“Do I want to do something completely different and go free surfing and make movies? Definitely. Definitely I want to do that. But am I making that decision because I’m losing right now? Or is it that I’m actually burned out and need a break? If I won, would I would be fine? Of course. I would be fine. I would definitely be fine.”

“I think both Steph and I are surfer’s surfers. We’d rather have there be lots of waves and just have it come down to performance. But the reality of it is, most heats don’t come down to that. So it’s like, I want to be able to do those special performances, but you’re going to have grindy heats most of the time, you know? So it’s just being able to handle the pressure when there isn’t as much opportunity.”

“I go to the ocean and I love surfing, because there’s an element of peace. There’s an element of, the rest of the world disappears, and it’s just you and the ocean. There’s something, there’s something about surfing that’s so spiritual.”

“I think taking the time to be reflective and reminding yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. That for me, what’s really helped me in the past couple of years, is that the results don’t define me. I’m more than a surfer.”

Now pour yourself a fresh beverage — your choice may depend on your time zone, or not! — and please enjoy the full story. Because you know you want to.

rock jump
From where you'd rather not be.

Biblical: This failed rock jump will collapse your nervous system!

See the ocean open up and attempt to swallow Brazilian big-wave surfer.

There are rock jumps and there are rock jumps, wouldn’t y’say? Some require a sort of heroism, a fifty-metre run across a bare rock shelf as sets bear down, while others aren’t much more than a skip-skip-jump.

Snapper Rocks is unsympathetic and liable to humiliate. A few of those joints in Chile will entangle you with gigantic rock formations and collapse your nervous system.

And then there’s something like this, starring the Brazilian surfer Daniel Rangel. Now Dan, who is thirty four years old, ain’t no kook. He’s been surfing competitively since he was nine, lived on Oahu’s North  Shore for ten years, tries to self-immolate at big Teahupoo every summer and currently lives on Kauai.

For kicks, he surfs a joint called Gardenal Slab, two clicks off Barra da Tijuca in Rio, and which he says is “the most dangerous wave in Brazil, if not one of the most dangerous in the world. Everyone who knows the place knows this.”

So when you see Dan in a situation of utter despair, a rock jump where, for a moment the ocean opens up and tries to swallow him, you know it’s sorta treacherous. This rock jump is at a slab called, appropriately enough, Shock near the Museum of Contemporary Art in Niteroi, Rio.

Was Dan worried when the ocean swallowed him whole?

“I was super embarrassed more than worried,” he says. “There were about 150 people watching and filming the rocks. So I was thinking to myself, what a kook move. Just trying to keep the calm face on and paddle away like nothing happened. But, yeah, when I realised I fucked up the timing I was pretty worried. Right after that, I borrowed my friend’s board ’cause mine was all fucked with no fins and caught this wave.”

Which popped Dan’s shoulder.

“I was pretty pissed,” he says. “Popped it back in and in the heat of the moment caught another one half an hour later. After that I decided to go in ’cause I was in extreme pain.”



The conjurer and his magic trick! | Photo: CXPress

Surf Quiz: “What’s your signature move?”

Jerky mid-face turns? Four-stage cutbacks?

I was a bad surfer for many years and then I died. I think that will be my epitaph. If a book was written it would be called Journal of a Pointless Life.

Still, I persist. And I persist with a manner of surfing that, although tweaked here and there, a few weeks spent doing throwaway airs, a month on backside on-the-face reverses that are more cutbacks into a long, slow slide, remains largely the same, year after year, wave after wave.

My signature is to hesitate on the take off, examine the nose of my board briefly, stay in the push-up position for a second or two, eventually take off, race to the shoulder, do a hands-in-the-air cut-down followed by a pump-pump-pump, a jerky sorta mid-face turn, race, race, race, to horizontal closeout and look to the beach for any sign of delight on faces of spectators.

What’s your signature? And what defines your signature? Are you tall and gangly (Chas) or a little pert one with round thin shoulders (me)?

Is your signature self-conscious and your volume too hot: standing upright, jerky arms, or is your signature a great self-control, as if you’re bored with the whole thing and you want to go to bed?

Stephanie Gilmore wants the Olympics in a wave tank!

"It would be strange to crown an Olympic champion in the ocean one Games and then in the pool in another."

Of course, Stephanie Gilmore is the most pleasing of all surfers to watch at Surf Ranch. The six-time world champion was raised among the girlish sand-bottom points of Coolangatta and while stodgy men (Joel) and uninterested men (John John) struggle with the pool’s reductive precision, Stephanie’s delicate gestures reveal a nobility impossible to imitate.

Just prior to the women’s event at Jeffrey’s Bay, Stephanie enjoyed a week-long “Olympics readiness” training camp at Surf Ranch courtesy of the government-funded body Surfing AustraliaThis was questioned by the shaping great Maurice Cole who wondered, very loudly, why the Australians were practising in a pool when the Games will be held in Chiba’s crummy little beachies.

But, perhaps Stephanie knows something you and I, the shielded, protected public, don’t. Yesterday, she told The Daily Telegraph,

“If we knew it would be in an ocean where the waves were consistent and there was a perfect reef break then for sure I’d be down for it… But there are so many counties where the waves aren’t there, who might not even have an ocean. I think it would be good to be consistent from the very beginning. It would be strange to crown an Olympic champion in the ocean one Games and then in the pool in another. I think they need to start it in a wave pool and keep it going. It would be terrible if you worked for four years and then there was no surf.”

She ain’t wrong.

Can you imagine the gloom and the resentment if the gold medals were awarded to some child for exaggerated turns in two-foot bouillabaisse?

Interestingly, Stephanie also said the Ranch had been excellent training for J-Bay.

“It was pretty perfect preparation for here actually. The waves are pretty similar.”

Read the entire story here. (Spoiler: the meat’s already been picked off the bone.)