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!

Revealed: BeachGrit’s plan for prosperity!

"Beach Grit is my triple threat tool to add volume, create beachy texture, or to refresh a blowout while maintaining natural shine."

I didn’t sleep last night, tossing and turning beneath one thin Frette sheet, fans spinning languidly overhead, the words of professional surfing’s owner Dirk Ziff reverberating in my skull. Getting louder and louder and louder like Poe’s Tell-tale Heart.

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.

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.

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.

Over and over and over with the nightmarish fear gripping my throat that, in siding with the few grump locals, BeachGrit is foregoing prosperity. Missing out on the “rightful place.” I finally gave up, got out of bed, flipped open my computer and saw a message from my partner and friend Derek Rielly and relief washed over me. Our plan for riches finally revealed. Would you like to see?


‘I woke up like this’ — you know, that sexy, effortless, casual style that is always a good look on any day. Mist on damp or dry hair from root to tip for easy, undone texture and enhanced natural waves. Or, just hit the roots for extra volume.

Good for: Looking like your hair is on beach vacation.

Pairs with: Straight Shine for the perfect blowout.

Beach Grit is my triple threat tool to add volume, create beachy texture, or to refresh a blowout while maintaining natural shine — no dry feel, no dulling, no worries. — PK

We will make all of the world look like grumpy locals without adding one new face to the lineup.

Checkmate, Mr. Ziff.

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