Battle Royale: Surf Ranch vs. the NFL!

Sept. 06 - 09 will be the monster weekend of your young life!

And so yesterday I was texting with a very wonderful surf photographer friend about surf news and surf gossip and surf jokes and, of course, our conversation bent toward Surf Ranch and the upcoming Surf Ranch Pro in Lemoore, California. Apparently ticket sales are not as… robust as expected. Quite shocking considering a one-day, non-VIP ticket is the most expensive entertainment from Disneyland’s gate all the way up Vancouver B.C.’s famed Opera, Caviar and Cristal nights. Equally shocking considering that Surf Ranch is in Lemoore, California where the only thing exceeding the ticket price will be the temperature.

The very wonderful surf photographer, anyhow, texted “Even Paul Speaker would know that you don’t fuck with NFL Opening Weekend.”

At first I didn’t understand. There is no way the Surf Ranch Pro scheduled itself during the National Football League’s opening weekend. Absolutely no way.

I tossed and turned all night, having the strangest dreams of NFL quarterback Drew Brees messing about in the Surf Ranch, throwing Kelly Slater passes and things before waking in a fevered sweat.

Absolutely no way.

First, I clicked on to my still operational WSL app, made my way to men’s events and saw Sept. 06 – 09. Next, I Googled “NFL Opening day weekend ’18 – ’19 and saw Sept. 06 (Falcons at Eagles) – Sept. 09 (every other game).


And which fantastic sporting weekend are you more looking forward to? Which will get higher numbers? Most importantly, will any professional surfers take a knee during the playing of the national anthem at Surf Ranch?

So weird how they both fall on the exact same dates but, I suppose, you can’t corral nature.

Greatest show on surf: 80 arrested at US Open!

For all its faults God bless Huntington Beach.

I didn’t make it to the US Open of Surfing this year because I was in Copenhagen, Denmark drinking natural orange wines, swimming beneath a hot late evening sun, shopping for trunks with very clean lines and eating Michelin stars. It was a wonderful time. A perfect time. But I just read a story in the Los Angeles Times that gave me severe FOMO.

Here it is.

Huntington Beach police reported making 80 arrests during the nine-day Vans U.S. Open of Surfing, which ended Sunday, though public safety officials said there was “nothing major or significant” compared with last year’s event.

Police Chief Robert Handy said during Monday night’s City Council meeting that, in addition to the arrests, police recorded:

83 criminal reports

50 criminal citations

260 civil citations

181 alcohol-related citations

368 traffic citations

884 parking violations

Fire Chief David Segura said Fire Department medical personnel saw 38 patients, 26 of whom were taken to hospitals.

First-aid volunteers, who handle minor cuts, bruises and heat issues, treated and released 237 patients, Segura said.

And is the US Open in Huntington Beach the last bastion for bad behavior on tour? And by “on tour” I mean on the Women’s tour? Son of a bitch. I mean daughter of a bitch. I wish I had been there. I did speak with my other favorite surf photographer besides Steve Sherman who worked ten full days and he said there is no longer a ground zero for surfers/surf industry/surf journalists.

Back in my day the Shorebreak was it. Wandering though its lobby was a minefield of dirty looks, elbow jabs, faux shakas and good-natured laughs. The bar was Taj Burrow grinning ear to ear while drinking ghastly Corona. The restaurant, then called Zimzala, is where Joe G. introduced me to the Border Patrol. Half margarita, half beer, tons of hot sauce.

Next year I would like to suggest a BeachGrit Bar where we can all come, drink Border Patrols, then try to get arrested.

Are you in?

What if I throw an STD into the mix?

Introducing: The World Sandcastle Building League!

You can't script this!

I have received a very unexpected outpouring of affection from that little open letter to owner of professional surfing Dirk Ziff. Notes and message from every corner of the globe. Grumpy surfers unburying grumpy hearts and sharing what they love about surfing and what is missing from this current World Surf League iteration.

It has reignited my passions and feel we The People are coalescing around a set of values we’ve always shared just rarely verbalized. That the “hater” opinion is not only negative and nit-picky, as is likely the belief in Santa Monica. That we can either force the WSL to actually and truly engage or hasten its demise.

But then I get sad thinking, “What would Dirk and Natasha Ziff do if they could no longer stomp around blindly in our playground?”

This morning the answer jumped off the newspaper and straight into my fired imagination.

Sandcastle building!

And read a little snippet with me if you would?

Brian Denny and his two sons couldn’t contain their shock Sunday.

The trio had just been announced as the group winner of the of the International Surf Festival’s sand castle design contest for their creation of a giant 10-tentacled octopus.

Along with 200 competitors, teams and individuals gathered near the Manhattan Beach Pier. around 7:30 a.m. for the 58th edition of the sand castle contest. It was all part of the annual 5-day International Surf Festival, which concluded on Sunday.

Contest participants were given just under two hours to build whatever their heart’s desire as spectators watched from the pier above trying to make out who was building what.

Denny, a Redondo Beach resident, often made sand castles while frequenting the beach as a kid, he said.

Sunday’s contest was the first for him and his sons Pierson, 11, and Lincoln, 9.
The family jumped for joy and could hardly contain themselves at the realization of beating out their fellow competitors.

“After the mermaid got fifth place, that mermaid had really great texture and detail and I thought ‘There’s no way ours is as good as that,'” Brian Denny said, adding that they came into the event with a plan.

The elder Denny moved the sand while Lincoln worked on the face, using seaweed for hair and sea shells for teeth, and Pierson created the tentacles. Aside from first place, the Denny’s were medals and a $50 gift to a local restaurant which they plan to use for dinner Sunday.

Do you see it?

Sandcastle building, like surfing, is a pointless, juvenile pastime with no inherent value or benefit to mankind other than providing small bursts of pure joy. The Ziffs, in the service of prosperity, could smash that joy to smithereens with a few already tried and true adjustments.

Here’s how!

Hold the sandcastle building contest over a ten day window with five days being dedicated to the competition. Kieren Perrow can be the commissioner and build a little test sandcastle every day to see if the conditions are right.

Always make sure people know it is a “sport” and sandcastle builders are “athletes.”

Have the judging criteria favor tried and true design over anything progressive and new. Sturdy walls. Moats. Pointy little towers. If successful, professional sandcastle builders will each build a version of the same exact thing.

Hire Turpel and Pottz to call the action.

Give the girls shittier sand far away from everyone.

Penalize individuality and/or genuine opinion so the professional sandcastle builders all say, “Yeah, the sand was good. The competition was rad. Yew…” at the end of the day.

Include Kelly Slater.

Start the few years by holding the sandcastle building competitions in beautiful Tahiti, Maldives, Rio etc. but then shift most focus to Kelly Slater’s Sandcastle Ranch in Tulare, California.

Stream live on Facebook.

Tell potential advertisers that because lots of people build sandcastles, the World Sandcastle Building League has potential to be the biggest sport in the entire world especially among people who have never built a sandcastle themselves.

Actually believe it.

Michelob Ultra Gold brewed with Organic Grains.

What am I missing?

Mark Healey and the $140,000 camera that’s changing surf photography!

Obscenely expensive camera captures nuance of Mark Healey's classic Nias ride!

Take a real good look at this photograph of Mark Healey from the much-vaunted big swell that hit Indonesia a couple of weeks back.

It ain’t a photo; it’s a frame grab.

After years of digital motion cameras threatening to steal the game away from stills cameras, well, here it is.

At least in theory.

The camera responsible for this frame grab (one of 1000 per second) costs $US140000. It’s called the Phantom Flex 4K.

Australian photographer Chris Bryan, who is forty two and the go-to for water shoots around the world including movies like Point Break, threw his bread down on a Phantom Flex when he got tired of paying three-gees a day to hire one.

And, when it seemed like the entire surfing world was going to converge on the Indonesian island of Nias to greet the swell, Chris grabbed his Phantom and joined the party.

This frame grab from a ride of Mark Healey is an example of how good the camera works. (Note: and this is a low-res version.)

‘That wave of Healey’s was crazy,” says Chris. “I don’t know how big a board he was on, this rhino chaser thing, but the…quivering… of the wave as he came off the bottom. The wave’s moving so fast and it has no back on it. You hear surfers talking about heavy the wave is, but if I hadn’t been there and swimming, I would’ve thought they were talking it up. When you’re out there you see how much water moves. It’s a lot heavier than the photographs. You get an appreciation of what’s going on. It’s like Mavericks with a little bit of Waimea mixed in.

“Healey got into this from further out than everyone because of the bigger board. His whole theory is not to get a ton of waves but a couple of memorable, big, heavy waves. So he waits for a long time. And, here, he took off in the perfect spot and the way he came off the bottom was incredible. I can’t imagine many other goofyfooters being able to do that. Naturalfooters seem to have the backside bottom turn wired, Jamie O’Brien, Kelly Slater, John John, but it’s rare to see goofyfooters in a similar position.

“So he came off the bottom, squeaked under the lip and I remember there was a moment when he grabbed the rail, went through a shock wave, still in the thing, and he looked so strong and stylish on his feet. He didn’t make the wave, it closed out in the channel, but the way he held on for so long, well, I personally haven’t been there to witness someone put that together in such a heavy situation.”

As for the swell, Chris says an Australian who’d lived there for forty years had never seen it so big.

“Waves were closing out the bay,” he says. “That never happens.”

Oh! And the famous boat incident? Where Chris shrieked with delight that he’d secured the best footage of his career?

“I was hoping was going to get sucked over. Is it bad of me to say that?”

Examine Chris’ work (or hire the son of a bitch) here. 

Catch-phrase: “Grumpy Surfers” the new “Basket of Deplorables!”

"The surfing greats have never been grumpy traditionalists..."

Kicking a dead horse is one of my signature moves here at BeachGrit and something of which I am very proud. No subject is too small for me to write then write again then write again then write again then write one more time. Who will ever forget that surfing great Laird Hamilton blamed shark attacks on menstruating women? Or that the World Surf League’s Chief Marketing Officer enjoys progressive, fins backward surfing?

No one thanks to me.

The revelation of yesterday’s remarks by the owner of professional surfing, Dirk Ziff, do not fall into the “dead horse” category because I believe there is much in his vision that is yet to be fully unpacked. And this morning, as I read Dirk’s wife and co-owner of professional surfing Natasha’s speech at the same event something struck me.

“Surfing has always been about Bustin’ Down the Door — always about experimentation, leadership, individuality and innovation, both in athletic progression and culturally. And this is how we want to be, and will always strive to be, at the WSL: innovative and always pushing forward. The surfers, past and present and future, are our guides — the surfing greats have never been grumpy traditionalists, but tough innovators.”

And there is that word again. Grumpy. Grumpy locals. Grumpy traditionalists.

It is clear that the line being pushed within the World Surf League’s Santa Monica office is that the current hiccups (angry emoji faces during webcasts, criticism over judging, commentating, etc.) are simply the work of a few grouchy, bad seeds attempting to strangle surfing back into the dark ages. That the silent majority is very much enjoying the show.

And do you know what it sounds like? Like when Hillary Clinton called out the “basket of deplorables” Trump supporters!

Leaving the politics aside with me for a moment and consider the social impact of that historical moment. Ms. Clinton roundly criticized what she considered the fringe elements in Trump’s swelling base at a fundraiser. Her plan was to break the Republican party into two groups. Those still reachable and those beyond the pale (basket of deplorables). The plan backfired, however, as those angry with the direction of the nation embraced the term and its implied outsider status.

There were, apparently, more of these “deplorables” or at least deplorable sympathizers than the Democratic party had counted on and Ms. Clinton failed to claim an election that most pundits had her squarely winning.

Now, I may be wrong but feel the Ziff’s are making a similar mistake. That a “few grumpy locals” compose a much larger percentage of the World Surf League’s base than they imagine. Scrolling through the pictures of those in attendance at the Waterman’s Ball it is easy to see how their vision of professional surf fans is… skewed. And how they imagine that the “grumpy local” is merely something to be ignored until she/he goes away.

Well, we will see how this plays out but I must say, I am very pleased to be Team Grumpy Local.

Let’s make t-shirts!