Dirk Ziff (in white) and a "grumpy local!"
Dirk Ziff (in white) and a "grumpy local!"

Dirk Ziff delivers stern message to “hater” surf journalists!

"You are going after the dreams of Caroline Marks and Griffin Colapinto!"

Today is Christmas morning and I woke up to the most wonderful present under the tree. Dirk Ziff, the owner of professional surfing, reads BeachGrit! Oh I have known that WSL CEOs and CMOs and Graham Stapelberg have devoured our little site for years but never for one second imagined that the big cheese himself had either the time or the inclination to participate. But he is here, like me, like you and this thrills to no end.

And it gets better. Not only does Mr. Ziff read BeachGrit he has a message for us that he delivered at the end of Saturday’s ball where he, alongside wife Natasha, were honored as Watermen of the Year.

Shall we read together?

Some of you are here in this canyon. Journalists, and other influential voices who unload on social media. I wonder if some of you get up every day and stir the milk into your coffee, thinking about what you can write that day that might humiliate the WSL. It goes way beyond constructive criticism, which we all need and which the WSL frequently deserves, and into the realm of foul spirited attack, which I think we can all agree we have enough of right now in this country.

“I have a message to the haters, and it is simple. Be tough. Call us out. Keep us honest. Tell us what we need to improve.

“But don’t pretend you don’t know that when you go beyond constructive criticism and cynically try to rally negative sentiment towards the WSL, when you try to take us down, you are not just going after us. You are going after Kelly Slater. You are trying to take down Lakey Peterson. You are going after the dreams of Caroline Marks and Griffin Colapinto. You are undermining the hopes of every kid who lives with salt in their hair, dreaming of being a world champion one day.

“And I ask you: Why? It seems pretty obvious that if the WSL keeps growing in popularity, and surfing takes its rightful place among the great and elite competitive sports, everyone connected with our sport, and certainly all the members of SIMA, will prosper, except maybe a few grumpy locals who have to deal with some new faces in the lineup. So…why not work together?

Such passion! So many emotions! And since we know Mr. Ziff reads would you mind if I spoke directly to him?

Dear Dirk,

I do wake up in the morning and make coffee but take it black with neither cream nor sugar. While sipping I enjoy reading surf news and, mixed in, there are often very funny/odd moves by your World Surf League too ripe for jokes. And so I joke and joke and joke. Laugh and laugh and laugh. I have tried to include you. Have begged for interviews with Graham S., Backward Fin Beth, ex-WSL CEO Paul Speaker, etc. though have been rebuffed at every turn so dry my tears and laugh alone.

Leaving the charges of “foul spirited attack” and purposeful “humiliation” and the dream destruction of Griffin Colapinto aside, there is a fundamental misunderstanding in your remarks that goes to the very heart of the matter. You believe that surfing should take its “rightful place” next to basketball, baseball, etc. and that this will bring riches to all connected with the sport and that the odd “grumpy local” fearful of lineup crowding is wrong and antiquated.

But surfing is not a sport, or at least not just a sport. It is a way of life embraced by damaged youth wanting to escape a scowl-faced football coach/P.E. teacher. By fathers who crave 20 minutes alone in the big blue ocean. By mothers whose hearts beat to the news of a rising swell. By a whole host of people with something slightly broken inside. Southern Californians who wake up too early to pull on a stinky cold wetsuit to paddle into bacteria-filled water. New Jerseyites who drive 20 hours holding the faint hope that tides and winds will work. Western Australians who glide over the gaping maws of great white sharks. Brazilians who don’t need wetsuits because their water is so bacteria-filled it self-warms. Floridians who get trunks and bikinis filled with sea needles. Hawaiians.

Surfers are not looking for prosperity, we are looking for… I don’t know. Respite from imperfect lives? An endorphin kick? Laughs? Sadistic knocks? I genuinely don’t know but think we surf because it somehow found our slight brokenness, crawled into our prefrontal cortexes and absolutely refuses to let go.

We surf because we can’t stop.

And the most passionate, these “few grumpy locals” are by far and away your most valuable asset. They may not be Watermen of the Year but have poured more into surfing than money can ever buy. You would do well to ponder what they want besides an ice cold Michelob Ultra brewed from Organic Grains.


Chas Smith

Photo by Steve Sherman/@tsherms/WSL

Debate: Is Kanoa Igarashi a dry heave or the future of surfing?

A question for the ages!

I’m an old hand in the surf game now. A weathered turnip. Been around this block for a good fifteen years and seen things you wouldn’t even believe (just kidding. I’ve written about all of them ad nauseam). Seen lots of kids billed as “the next…” only to fizzle and end up drawing a welcome but meager paycheck from Dirk and Natasha Ziff’s professional surfer pension fund. I rarely get excited anymore by these pan flashes and so was caught off guard just now when BeachGrit’s kitchen cabinet member James Prier texted “I’m calling that Kanoa Igarashi is going to be the most marketed and sponsor in demand surfer going forward.”

“Kanoa Igarashi?” I thought. “That Kanoa Igarashi? The one with straight black hair, a fear of larger waves and an unnatural physical celebration?”

James pressed forward with a compelling case about how Kanoa ticks all the boxes, doesn’t offend, shows up, doesn’t say naughty things. That he has the right sponsors and the WSL will push him out with looming Olympic surfing debut in Japan etc. etc. but I just can’t buy it.

The boy bores the shit out of me. I understand the marketing angles but, at the very end, doesn’t there have to be some sort of spark? Some burn?

Kelly Slater has star power. So did Andy Irons. I think Kolohe Andino does and is going to explode soon. Kanoa Igarashi is dull and not that he can’t discover a personality but it ain’t there right now.

So what do you think. Is the current US Open champ a dry heave or the future of surfing?

Introducing: Watermen of Year Dirk + Natasha Ziff!

The owners of professional surfing feted at a grand ball!

Last night, while I was flying trans-atlantically home from Copenhagen, Dirk and Natasha Ziff were honored as Watermen of the Year at the very famous Waterman’s Ball. I was informed of this by the equally famous Scott Bass (listen us chat here!) who texted me “Waterman’s Ball tonight in Laguna… Dirk and Natasha Ziff are being honored as ‘Watermen of the Year.’ You going?” while I laid over in Stockholm.

The invitation must have been delivered to my home whilst I was away and I felt very sad, knowing that my absence would be both noted and mourned.

Dirk and Natasha Ziff, as you well know, own professional surfing and I’m sure the evening was a glittering who’s who of surf personality. I spent the 11 hours from Stockholm to Los Angeles intermittently crying and imagining my most perfect night.

4:30 Pull on a newly purchased Balenciaga tuxedo over a Hawaiian shirt and pair of Reef Mick Fanning Signature beer bottle opening sandals in traditional green/yellow colorway.

6:00 Drive north from Cardiff by the Sea to Laguna Beach listening to a Planet Money podcast.

7:15 Arrive fashionably late and make small talk with Jessi Miley-Cyrus (PowerBalance bracelet), commissioner of the Women’s World Surf League Championship Tour. Laugh about Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, inequality etc.

7:18 Order a vodka soda only to be informed that the sole drink of the evening is the new Michelob Ultra Gold brewed with Organic Grains.

7:35 See Kelly Slater (floor-length green lei) take a sip of his Michelob Ultra Gold brewed with Organic Grains. See him pucker his lips uncomfortably.

8:03 Talk shop with Nick Carroll (floral bowtie), Marcus Sanders (below the knee boardshorts), Jamie Brisick (drag) and other assorted surf journalists. Laugh about being “frenemies of the people.”

8:07 Open my sixth Michelob Ultra Gold brewed with Organic Grains with my Reef Mick Fanning Signature beer bottle opening sandal because the bartender forgot.

8:23 Take my seat two rows away from WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt (ultra large Dragon sunglasses) and chief marketing officer Beth Greve (FCS rashguard), trading ironic open-mouthed silent laughs and exaggerated shakas with both of them.

8:45 Listen attentively while Dirk Ziff (oversized St. Christopher chain medallion) and Natasha Ziff (pussy bow blouse) speak glowingly about how much surfing means to them and how our beautiful future will look.

9:04 See The Inertia’s Zach Weisberg (wetsuit booties) subtly rubbing himself against a Rob Machado ice sculpture.

9:48 Cocaine (Buy here in the US! Here in Australia!)

10:03 Solve the World Surf League’s Hawaii problem alongside WSL General Manager of Events Graham Stapelberg (Da Hui Pit Proven baseball cap).

11:46 Get a text alert that #tournotes Peter King has gotten his band Dakota Motor Company back together and is playing a secret show in Costa Mesa. Sprint.

12:30 Arrive home realizing that one of my Reef Mick Fanning Signature beer bottle opening sandal was somehow lost along the way.

7:30 am (the next day) Wake up to a gentle knock on the door and find ex-WSL CEO Paul Speaker (black leather chaps) holding one rose and one Reef Mick Fanning Signature beer bottle opening sandal on bended knee.

Live happily ever after.

The happy couple.
The happy couple.

Chicago Executive Finds “Lazy man’s” Surf Dream in Wisconsin!

Our most tenuous cut-and-paste story yet!

What a wretched thing it would be to find oneself far from the beach, chained to work, our only respite coming from that queer thing we call imagination.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal ran a comprehensive story about a Chicago real estate executive Marc Lifshin who wanted the surf buzz so he bought himself a wake boat and who now spends three days a week on “lazy man’s ocean surfing.”

Mr. Lifshin is a Chicago-based managing partner of Core Spaces, a real-estate company focused on housing for college students. He spent childhood summers on Geneva Lake in Wisconsin, where he now owns a second home. He bought a wakesurf-specific boat that has an inboard motor with the propeller tucked away from the surfer. Onboard mechanisms pump water into ballast tanks that weigh down the boat and augment the wake. This creates a small wave, like a surfer would ride in the ocean.

Mr. Lifshin likens wakesurfing to a “lazy man’s ocean surfing,” since you don’t have to paddle or pop up on the board. A surfer starts in the water with his heels on the board and uses a tow rope to get up and onto the board. The surfer releases the rope once into the wave. “Not being attached to a rope and board takes away a lot injury potential,” he says. “The whip effect of the rope can leave you with a concussion, even with a helmet on.”

Mr. Lifshin surfs in Vuori board shorts ($68). He wears a Hurley wetsuit in cooler months ($210). His Ronix life jacket cost $150. He owns a Hyperlite Hi-Fi wakesurf board ($700) and a Ronix Koal Thruster Technora wakesurf board ($700). Wakesurf-specific boats sell for $50,000 to $180,000. A six-pack of two-on-one training sessions at Strive Village costs $65 a session. CorePower Yoga charges $26 per drop-in class. Mr. Lifshin and a friend pay Mr. Flegel $1,000 for private lessons, plus his airfare.

Mr. Lifshin loves surfing to music. “We’re on the water as early as 5:30 a.m., so we at least wait until 7 a.m. to start the tunes,” he says. Favorite artists include Kygo, Beastie Boys and the Gaslight Anthem.

It’s a story ripe for parody, of course.

Man with too much money; adult learner kook who buys lessons for a thousand buck from a stud he flies in; middle-aged man flailing behind a boat to (You Gotta) Fight for your Right (to Party), and so on.

But if you ever found yourself in the mid-west, raking leaves but no surf, wouldn’t you do the same thing?

Read here. 

Watch: Seth Moniz’ Insane Backside Jump at the US Open. “That was some superhero stuff right there!”

Hawaiian redefines possibilities at two-foot Huntington Beach…

Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. And Seth Moniz, whose name has been in lights since his back-flip at Waco in May, just got everyone harder than honeymoon dick with a backside jump in his round five heat at HB.

Hawaiian-born Seth, the twenty-year-old son of the photogenic former pro Tony Moniz, took his heat with Evan Geiselman into the cosmos with a backside jump that looked like a kiteboarder getting hung in the wind.

“He’s on! He’s on! He’s on!” said the commentator Peter Mel.

“That was… that was some superhero stuff right there,” said Strider Wasilewski.

“It was…that…inverted. I don’t know…” said the pro-in-booth Dion Atkinson, trailing off.

“That’s a ten in my book and if they don’t give him one they can throw ’em out of the judging booth because this was ridiculous,” said Strider. “He was superman!”

The wave scored a 9.87. Two judges threw tens. Two scored it a 9:80 and one unimpressed son of a bitch gave it a nine-and-a-half.

Watch here (it comes in around the 1:24:24)