Author relaxing while a hail of unread text messages fly overhead.

Board review, Maurice Cole Protow, “a specialist surfboard that gives satisfaction of a different order…”

Relax and catch sets. Sit deep, carve hard. Let it swing.

This has been a king hell biiiiatch to write, this review. Not because I have nothing to say about the process of ordering and receiving a custom surfboard off Maurice Cole, a 6’3″ Protow round-pin designed for good-to-excellent Point surf, but because the whole last week and while Derek Rielly has been busting my nuts every day to get the review done, the surf has been relentlessly pumping.

The exact same surf I envisioned the board to ride in. Double-overhead Point surf, high-speed racetracks. Every day I’ve broken contracts with myself.

Today I write it.

Today ends in a blur of surf stupefaction and a blank screen.

Right now, I fight the strongest impulses to down tools and get out there again.

One quick lap around the internet surf forums, or in real life carparks puts the vexed issue of surfboards front and centre.

The list of horror stories when trying to order custom equipment is long and never ending. My mate ordered a single fin and got a thruster, from a shaper who has spent a career railing against the hegemony of the three fin. You’ve probably got your own scenario where you looked at the freshies in the rack and thought “that can’t be it”. Fuck, it’s got my name on the stringer.

Particularly custom vs stock.

Generalist vs specialist.

I favour the specialist. It’s my belief the working gal of an intermediate or beyond skill set can gain ground, tortoise and hare style, over the more naturally gifted through the development and acquisition of superior equipment. Which is custom surfboards.

That view was formed by tutelage under North Shore resident and Cherokee Indian Craig “Owl” Chapman, who continually stressed the importance, the advantage conferred, by having the “best board in the line-up”.

How to get the best board in the lineup. The list of horror stories when trying to order custom equipment is long and never ending. My mate ordered a single fin and got a thruster, from a shaper who has spent a career railing against the hegemony of the three fin. You’ve probably got your own scenario where you looked at the freshies in the rack and thought “That can’t be it”.

Fuck, it’s got my name on the stringer.

Self-knowledge, or lack of is the biggest obstacle. The line up is full of the surfer stinking the joint up on the wrong sled. No activity engenders so much self deception. BeachGrit’s own Chas Smith wrote an article in Surfing Life where he detailed some of the struggle and outsourced the knowledge to his pal D. Rielly. Rielly identified the strengths and weaknesses in Smith’s approach and they got to something that worked.

My prior experience with Maurice wasn’t quite so chummy.

I’d had an epic Tom Curren inspired 7’3” reverse-vee sometime in the nineties which circumnavigated the globe and ended up left behind in Guam as rental payment on a house. In the interim me and Maurice had beef, sometimes epic beef on the internets. The specifics escape me. I was a Maurice fan since he took aim at racism in Australian politics. Maybe we came to virtual blows when Rory Parker ended up in conflict with Cole and I got caught up somehow. Sometime during a particularly toxic exchange I had to take stock.

I drove a gal to the airport. Maybe she could sense my rage. She pressed a little card into my hand when we parted and said “read this”.

In calming shades of blue and green was written a series of compassion exercises.

Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.
Just like me this person is learning about life.

And so on and so forth.

It did stop me in my tracks. I recalled Owl’s vision of himself as a surfer, “It’s a better me”.

And, then scant few months later I am in email exchanges with Maurice about a custom board.

The second great obstacle to getting the best board in the line-up via custom equipment is what I call a category error. Every shaper/designer has their trip. Run with it and get a great board, if it’s dialled in correctly. Ask a shaper to go too far outside their area of expertise and you get a version of the famous “Hold the chicken” scene from 5 Easy Pieces. Jack Nicholson’s character wants to fuck with what is on the menu and it all ends up in tears.

Don’t be the gal asking a shaper to hold the chicken.

Maurice Cole specialises in concaves. It took a few emails to nail things down. I let him know I wanted the board well and truly in his area of expertise. A board for OH+ down the line point surf. In his words, “A very fast surfboard that carves at high speed, with deep concaves and hard edges”. The whole process was civilised and painless. Confidence was high we understood each other and the board I received would not be found on any surfboard retail rack.

Fast and trustworthy. There’s something to be said for going out of your own comfort zone and riding different stuff. It’s fun to be unhinged. But when something made especially for you feels so good right out of the gates that is a feeling of satisfaction of a different order.

The sled arrived, via courier truck. The nose had been busted off. I patched it up. In three months of solid abuse, that is its only wound. Sleek lines, a nose-to-tail tucked rail edge that is distinctive. No volume measurements but it felt very right on. The concave was noticeable but not pronounced.

I put fins in it, waxed it up and rode it. Straight away. The Point was a windy four-to-six foot. Paddling into twenty knots of sideshore wind with current felt fine. The very first turn on the very first wave felt smooth. Fast and trustworthy. There’s something to be said for going out of your own comfort zone and riding different stuff. It’s fun to be unhinged. But when something made especially for you feels so good right out of the gates that is a feeling of satisfaction of a different order.

Down-the-line point surf for testing.

Further follow-up emails with Maurice occurred. I gave him feedback. He asked questions. There’s no other sporting goods manufacturer in any other sport who would do the same. No golf clubs, no tennis racquets, no fishing rods. Surfing is unique in that regard.

Even in a dud winter like this the surf gets good around here. I rode it whenever it did. Replaced the stock fins with fibreglass C drive fins. At slow speed they feel grabby and tight. At speed, on a down-the-line wave, a hydrofoil effect comes into play. The board seems to lift up, the wetted surface disappears and you feel like you are sliding on ball bearings. The rail, with its edge, feels active. Sensitive, not at all neutral like a modern shortboard rail.

I claim the sensation to be both highly functional and unique.

Final thoughts fresh out of five-star point surf. The problem for the working gal in perfect surf is panic at the disco. The mirror ball starts flashing and limbs are splaying everywhere. The generalist short board is redlining. The solution is do to less, the panicked mummy or daddy tries to do more.

On a better board, one made for this eventuality, you can relax into it.

Let the board go up and down in the trim line, at least to start. You have a better paddler than the typically underpowered work-a-daddy or Euro lower intermediate in thrall to the latest and greatest and industry sizing. Relax and catch sets. Sit deep, carve hard. Let it swing. Try not to laugh (inside) when you see someone panicked and spazzing out on the generalist board du jour.

Just like you this person is seeking to fulfill his/her needs.

Just like you this person is learning about life.

(Examine Maurice’s Protow here.) 

Home sweet home.
Home sweet home.

Revelation: “I no longer want to bomb the Pacific Northwest!”

It only took two plus decades!

When was the last time you went home? I mean home home. The place your parents raised you home. I don’t do it often enough and blame a burning rage in my childhood heart. I’ve written about this before, and don’t mean to bore, but I was raised in the state of Oregon in a depressed coastal ex-logging town named Coos Bay.

I hated it.

I hated the grey skies, the rain, the people, the oppressively green trees, the rain and also the people who smelled like mint flavored Skoal. It drove me crazy that I didn’t get to be from California, just to the south, with its warm surf and its Gotcha and its sun.

California was everything to me. It was surfing and I conflated the two, dreaming only California dreams and hating Oregon. I vowed that if I ever struck gold that I’d use some of the money to buy an old airplane, fly north and unload a payload of Vietnam-era warheads all the way from Medford in the south (where my cousins lived) to Seattle (not in Oregon but still Pacific Northwest and where my grandparents lived).

Time has mellowed my ambitions and age has made me fond of my Oregonian roots. I am a forever outsider thanks to them. A man still wildly in love with surfing, with what surfing means and more importantly what surfing should mean, precisely because he never belonged.

I’m headed home, anyhow, today to read about Cocaine + Surfing in:

Eugene on August 24th at Barnes & Noble (7:00 pm)

Portland on August 27th at Powells Books (7:30 pm)

Seattle on August 28th at University Bookstore (7:00 pm)

Bellingham on August 29th at Village Books (7:00 pm)

If you are anywhere around please come. I no longer want to bomb my fellow Pacific Northwesterners. I want to hug them all.

Listen: The songs that fuel the dreams of Caroline Marks!

The future is Drake!

Music is such a personal thing, don’t you think? For years and years I thought I had interestingly eclectic taste (The Dead Milkmen featured heavily in my younger rotations) but as I aged I realized it was just unrefined boorish taste and now I unashamedly listen to Miley Cyrus’s Malibu especially while writing.

In the book Cocaine + Surfing (buy here!) I describe it as “teenage girl” taste which, in retrospect, is very rude and could even be seen as an attempted going after the dreams of real teenage girl Caroline Marks.

And what does the sixteen-year-old future of professional surfing enjoy? Let’s turn to ESPN W!

While traveling the world for surfing competitions isn’t exactly the stuff of a typical teenage life, a great playlist can help to keep her grounded.

“I don’t always listen to music before I’m about to compete or surf,” she said. “But when I do, ‘The Greatest’ by Sia is on repeat. I absolutely love the words to this song. It gets me in a happy mindset — confident and ready to take on whatever I’m facing.”

For day-to-day training, Marks prefers rap.

“My go-go song when I’m training is ‘Trophies’ by Young Money and Drake,” she said. “I like more upbeat songs when I’m about to train. It’s crazy what a song can do to your mood, so for me this song gets me hyped!”

Here is her list for you but mostly for me!

The Greatest – Sia

River – Bishop Briggs

What do you Mean? – Justin Bieber

Back to the Old – Matisyahu

Bodak Yellow – Cardi B

Feel It Still – Portugal the Man

Remake: “Lemoore”, the sequel to kitsch surf movie classic “North Shore”!

Oh it's a real switcharoo!

Everything old is new again, yes? And this includes the kitsch surf movie North Shore, which was made in 1987 and, like all destined-to-become-cult-movies, was ridiculed at the time by critics.

This remake, imagined by BeachGrit reader Timothy Puñales, is set in a dystopia fifty years from now.

In a role reversal, the Hawaiian kid travels to Lemoore in an attempt to make his name as a professional pool surfer. Oh it’s a real switcharoo!

Let’s begin.

Hawaiian surfer Kamalei Moepono wins the championship at Pipeline and receives as his prize a ticket to Lemoore, California. One week later he travels to the mainland with his handmade Bushman, a small backpack filled with a wetsuit he has never used before and two freshwater wax pills.

“Don’t worry, mama,” Kamalei says before leaving. “Rick Kane Junior wins 100 thousand a year as a pond surfer. I’ll come back and buy you a new house.”

At the Ranch, he is greeted with ruthless bullying from local surfers, led by Rick Kane Jr, son of the star of North Shore.

“Hey guys!” says Kane Jr, “It looks like we have visits from the past!”

The boys make fun of his board and his appearance.

“This haole thinks he can surf El Rancho with a board made by a guy with his hands,” says another, laughing over the broken voice of Joe Turpel coming from the loudspeakers. Turpel, who is now eighty-seven years old, had left the WSL three years earlier and is reporting, live, each wave made by his late friend Kelly Slater.

Kamalei’s luck changes when he gets his dream job: working at a high-end surf boutique selling surf fashion clothes, accessories and the boards of his dreams, the Cable Fuego Pool Special.

The owner of the shop is Ferdinand Aguerre II, grandson of the President of the International Surfing Association, Fernando. The Argentinian businessman is skilled at discovering raw talent. He can feel that the Hawaiian deeply loves the perfection of the machine waves and Olympic surfing.

“I have noticed that you are not a young man like any other,” says Ferdinand. “I think that behind that ridiculous vintage surfer image you hide a true love for pool surfing and high-performance boards made in China.”

Ferdinand gets Pancho, the Ranch’s machine controller, to work an extra shift at three in the morning when Kane and his friends are usually at Lemoore’s best gentleman’s club, Leave it to Beaver (formerly Volcanic Eruptions).

Kamalei gets twenty waves a night between three and five am.

“I have noticed that you are not a young man like any other,” says Ferdinand. “I think that behind that ridiculous vintage surfer image you hide a true love for pool surfing and high-performance boards made in China.”

“Yes, sir, yes. Being the best freshwater surfer in the world is what I’ve dreamed all my life,” says Kamalei.

Meanwhile, the Hawaiian meets Dakota, an Arizonian stripper at Leave it to Beaver with augmented breasts and lips. She also works in adult films. A Lemoore princess.

Ferdinand Aguerre II gives Kamalei a magic board, so fresh from China he can smell the synthetics, just before the 50th Surf Ranch Pro.

At the same time, Kane finds out that the North Shore’s haole is not only is being supported by Aguerre but, in addition, he’s screwing his favorite dancer from Leave it to Beaver.

This makes Kane furious and he tells Ferdinand that the boards they are making in China are not what they used to be.

“These are ocean boards Ferdinand,” says Kane.

The surfers meet face to face in the final. Well, not really face to face, as one is inside the pool and the other one at the locker room, waiting for his turn.

The crowd is mostly on the side of Kamalei, the underdog from the forgotten North Shore of Oahu, where not a single pool has been built and surfers must settle for surfing only when the sea and the wind deem it possible.

The Hawaiian rips.

But Kane is not far behind and shows why he’s the number one in the ponds.

Michelob is sold in tremendous volume. Turkey-and-cheddar-cheese sandwiches run out.

Kamalei rides the last wave. If he achieves a 9.9995, he will win most prestigious tournament in the world.

The train begins its seven hundred yard journey. Kamalei paddles and stands up.


The crowd howls as Moepono reaches the hollow section and prepares himself for the main act: the tube ride.

In this very moment, with every fan’s eyes on the Hawaiian, Kane furtively approaches the train and puts a broomstick into one of the steel wheels..

The wagon begins to slow and the wave slows down.

Kamalei Moepono gets a shampoo rinse. A head-dip.

The Hawaiian can’t understand what is happening. Each and every one of the 785 rights he surfed there before threw the tube in the same place where now, a mushburger, spoils his haircut.

But inside him lives an ocean surfer. A rider who has depended on the instinct and the ability to react to face the unpredictable waves of the sea. That’s why he decides to get of the tube line, prepare an attack bottom turn and hit the lip with no mercy.

Like ancient times.

However, the force exerted by the wagon on the stick locked on its wheel is so great that it finally breaks. This happens at the exact moment when Kamalei opens from the line of the tube to lay down his bottom turn. With the train running free again the wave recovers its usual course, and it’s as if a South Pacific reef has grown underneath. The wave throws.

Kamalei is out of position. He can’t reach the tube.

The trophy goes to Kane.

Someone in the audience perceives the trap and starts to mutter. Soon, everyone boos the new champion. But he grabs both nuts with his hands and shakes them up and down, while two girls pour champagne on his head.

Ferdinand runs out to challenge Kane but Kamalei stops him.

“It’s just a contest,” he says.

Ferdinand smiles and winks.

Dakota interrupts the scene. She has arrived topless.

Shortly, Ferdinand, Kamalei and a couple of Chinese guys that use to work as shapers in the Cable Fuego factory, but were promoted to wash the floors in Ferdinand shop, engage in a joyous gang bang.

Final credits followed by hilarious outtakes and surfing scenes that didn’t make the final cut.

Dan Rose (left) Sheryl Sandberg (middle) and Mark Zuckerberg (right) pose with ...Lost surfboard.
Dan Rose (left) Sheryl Sandberg (middle) and Mark Zuckerberg (right) pose with ...Lost surfboard.

Aloha: The man who wed Facebook and WSL flees to Hawaii!

Heads begin to roll over J-Bay fiasco!

Oh it seems like just yesterday that we learned of the groundbreaking, earth shaking, gorgeously choreographed marriage between the World Surf League and the world’s largest social media platform Facebook.

Did you pop the bubbs when you first heard? When you first read Forbes crow:

The World Surf League and Facebook have inked a groundbreaking agreement which makes the social media platform the exclusive digital home for the WSL’s live events for the next two years. It is the largest deal in the history of the WSL and includes significant promotional aspects in addition to the annual rights fee. The WSL is expected to net an estimated $30 million over the two years, according to industry insiders.

$30 million over two years ain’t nothing to sneeze at. It is an amount I wish I had right now but, moreover, wish I had unfiltered/unlimited/unconstricted access to Facebook itself. The bastards throttle like you wouldn’t even believe and so the future was very bright minus Russian trolls and Mark Zuckerberg’s overuse of the word “senator” and… whatever.

But then there was J-Bay and the oops and the glitchy feed and the straight up lies lofted from the WSL’s Santa Monica HQ about the numbers of concurrent viewers etc. The rollout was by any measure a complete and utter disaster and let’s turn quickly to Awful Announcing which wrote:

The league was forced to apologize earlier this week to fans who experienced issues watching live streams of events on Facebook. As fans have tuned in to watch the early rounds of the Corona Open J-Bay, they’ve been met with a slew of streaming issues, including being unable to watch the event at all. The organization released an apology on their site, including information on how to watch the event until the issues are resolved.

Well bummer. But who was behind this potentially wonderful relationship? Oh. It was a man named Dan Rose whose title was Facebook’s Vice-President of Partnerships who answered the following question:

Facebook has funded some of the shows. How did you pick which ones to invest in?


Obviously, creating premium episodic content is expensive. Until we have a large enough audience – so the advertising revenue can cover the cost of creative — we helped fund some of them, so people see something when they go to Watch. Also, we wanted to inspire creators for what we think will work well for this product, to show the larger ecosystem what’s possible. The show with Mike Rowe [“Returning the Favor”], which has a real community focus, that was easy. World Surf League, which already has passionate community, is a perfect partnership. And the show with LaVar Ball [“Ball in the Family”] — that family has created a lot of conversation and interest.

Except then there was J-Bay with the oops and the glitchy feed and the straight up lies and now this Dan Rose is totally fleeing because the grumpy surfer was his unexpected end. Shall we read a touch from CNBC?

Dan Rose, one of Facebook’s earliest executives, is leaving the company, he announced on his Facebook page Wednesday.

Rose joined Facebook in 2006 and reported to Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. He’s moving to Hawaii where his family has lived for the last year, he said, and will not seek another executive position. He plans to “stay active through advising and investing in companies,” he said.

Rose’s departure marks another key exit for the social media company as it battles scandals around user privacy and its ad-based business model and angry grumpy surfers furious at the less than quality rollout of a World Surf League something.

So long, Dan! Or as they say in Hawaii, “Aloha also means goodbye.” Or as they also say in Hawaii, “Haole want cracks?”