Kelly Slater on BeachGrit billboard: “Funny. Cheap. Character revealing.”

Yes! Yes! and hopefully!

Oh I won’t lie. It makes me weep with pure joy when Kelly Slater, world’s greatest surfer, 11 x champ, Pam Anderson/Cam Diaz/Gisele Bündchen/Slater Designs/OuterKnown etc. swings by BeachGrit for a chat. Of course he has better things to do, it goes without saying, but it shows that he still cares about our little dance. That, at his core, he is a grumpy local too.

Yesterday, on our Instagram account (follow here!) he posted his feelings about our new Lemoore billboard in three succinct sentences.

@kellyslater Funny. Cheap. Character revealing.

Oooee and very to the point. Very Hemingway-esque but would you allow me to ramble on a bit in response? Kelly, would you mind if I went point by point in a drifting sort of Melville-ian way?

Thank you.


I think so too. Very funny. I have giggled about it every single day for two months.


Now I assume Kelly means “cheap” as in “low.” Others have felt the same. That it is needlessly bullying a poor woman who happened to make the honest mistake of putting her surfboard fins in backward.

My retort?

It’s funny. And funny covers a multitude of sins but also it’s not “some poor woman” it’s the Chief Marketing Officer of the World Surf League, an organization that has been utterly dismissive of the wants/needs/hopes of its most diehard fans since it transitioned from the ASP. The image is a perfect symbol of the league’s deafness. Of its complete unwillingness to engage the workaday “grumpy locals” who love pro surfing in spite of themselves.

I begged for an interview with Beth when the photo first broke and it would have been the perfect opportunity for the WSL to show its sense of humor. The story would have been, “We’re all beautiful kooks!” and a list of all our regular transgressions. But, just like in the ex-CEO Paul Speaker era, the Santa Monica office locked its doors and frowned angrily.

Surfing ain’t an angry frown. It is funny. It is ridiculous. It is the most absurd yet joyful dance on earth.

Character revealing.

I hope so. BeachGrit, like surfing, is a place to laugh and have fun and not be serious and partake in the absurd joyful dance. The world is melting down around us and I’ll be damned if I let surfing melt too by getting turned into some furrowed brow’d empty but successful business.

To hell with that.

We need surfing more than we ever have before and that is the truth.

Warshaw: “I’m going to hate-watch Surf Ranch Pro and hope it fails so badly Sophie flies to Hawaii and restores Pipe Masters!

The custodian of surf history Matt Warshaw discusses, with a wonderful frankness, non-surfers in surf…

It’s been a few months since the custodian of surf history, Matt Warshaw, lit up on the Andy Irons documentary (Kissed by God disturbed me”), the loss of the Pipe Masters from the tour (“Pipe is the crucible!”) and far too long since his fabulous obit on filmmaker Bruce Brown, “No drugs, no booze, no pussy!

Over the weekend, Warshaw and I back-and-forthed on the involvement of non-surfers within surf.

Why do they do it? What kinda kick do they get? What do they bring to the game?

And so forth.

BeachGrit: You know history. Tell me the most famous non-surfers in surfing.

Warshaw: Fritz Kohner, Austrian-Jew newspaperman, fled Europe just ahead of Hitler, landed soft in Brentwood, California, and wrote Gidget. Put him at the top of the list. Not just because Gidget was so huge, but because Fritz liked surfers, liked the whole scene. The book is great, much better than the movie. It’s raunchier. It’s a hundred times more real, to me, then Breath. The surfers in Gidget are broke horny hedonists, mouthy, funny, loud, drinking wine on the beach, you want to slap them the way you want to slap your 18-year-old self. But you can tell Fritz likes them. He totally gets why we’d want to be on the beach all day, wearing shitty cut-off trunks, riding homemade boards, free as can be. It’s the perfect opposite to what he’d seen and lived through 20 years earlier in Berlin and Prague. He went from Fascism to Moondoggie. Fritz never touched a surfboard, but he dug surfing, and he was a fellow traveler.

The idea of non-surfers getting into the game has always fascinated me. Sophie G as CEO of WSL, Greville Mitchell as sugar daddy for the ASP, Laura Inman as head of Billabong, the photographer Sarge. I always think…why?

I don’t know who Greville or Inman are, and have no comment on Sarge. But if you’re motivated by trend-based business, I supposed it doesn’t matter what you’re dealing in. Surfing, CBD oil, fidget-spinners. The thing itself is just a unit. The rush comes from growth and expansion. I don’t think that’s fundamentally wrong. Or maybe I do, I’m not sure. But part of me thinks that if you’re going to do the job right you would in fact want, demand, the deepest possible understanding of the product you’re involved with. Just so that you could do the job. Sophie Goldschmidt doesn’t understand surfing, and I don’t think she listens, not seriously anyway, those who do. So here we are, getting a web-streamed version of surfing which, often as not, is pretty well perverted.

How do you mean?

Removing the ocean. In our sport, there can be no transgression to compare. The ocean is the whole show, it’s the only thing that our sport different and interesting. Build the pools, sure. Give us the choice to embrace the novelty, or not; to jump in and train and practice, or not. But a world tour should not only produce a champion, but represent the best of surfing, the truth of surfing, and that truth lives in, was born in, depends on, the ocean.

You’re fired up!

You could list another 50 ways, big and small, the WSL had gone wrong. But Lemoore is upon us, and really all the sins of the WSL can be rolled up and poured into that one place.

How do you feel, as a surfer, nothing else, when you see a non-surfer as frontman for the WSL at the Pipe Masters and various other events? I know our mutual pal Nick Carroll is thrilled that Sophie’s out there but I get this…odd… feeling. Maybe your heart soars?

It doesn’t automatically bother me when non-surfers get their hands on our sport. We’ve fucked it up often enough ourselves. The Allentown wavepool contest — that was created, endorsed, and fully signed off by a world tour staffed by surfers. A really smart non-surfer could do wonders with the WSL, if he or she had a feel for the sport the way Fritz Kohner did, and also if they had enough sense to listen to people who deeply understand both the pitfalls and potentials of presenting surfing in an authentic way.

Back to Surf Ranch for a moment. For the very first time in history, surf fans, writers, and so on, can’t surf near or around the event. No paddling into the lineup after the final heat, no early sneaker sessions, no interaction with the pro’s. Is this non-surfing thing going to become pro surfing’s…motif?

I don’t think so. I hope not. I’m going to hate-watch it, and hope it fails so badly that Sophie flies to Honolulu and throws signed checks at the feet of the powers that be to restore the Pipe Masters. On the other hand, there’s a real chance that pro surfing has moved on to a place where I don’t belong. The WSL may have insight to pro surfing’s future that I don’t have. They may be playing a longer game than I can imagine. And if we end up with a more tanks on tour, well, that’ll be sad, but I’ll just close my laptop and not watch. The fight in me these days doesn’t run that deep. I’ll take what I’ve been given thus far, surf-wise, and be more than happy.

Is there an irony, for you, in Kelly Slater as the surfer who’s won the most Pipe Masters …and… as the architect of Surf Ranch?
Kelly’s life as a surfer of incomprehensible talent, in and out of the contest arena, at this point seems completely divorced from his life as a surfing entrepreneur. I can’t square the two.

Insane: “Daredevil” surfers “defy” authorities in Hawaii!

In these rare moments, surfers are the best!

Scott Bass, very famous podcaster and founder of the Boardroom Show, is known for popularizing the phrase, “Surfers are the worst.” Oh it is a sentiment that rings true, don’t you think? Grumpy locals. Snappy locals. Grouchy locals. The enemies of the people.

We know how inconsiderate surfers can be because we are surfers and inconsiderate but on rare occasions surfers are the absolute best. Like anytime a hurricane is about to make landfall anywhere.

Usually this phenomenon occurs on the eastern seaboard where hurricanes are a regular occurrence. There on the beach, clad in expensive all-weather gear, a newscaster will be worriedly updating the situation, wind blowing, rain falling, death and destruction on the horizon.

Then, without exception, a surfer will trot by smiling in nothing but trunks. The newscaster will throw back to the newsroom where anchors crow about the dangers and irresponsibility of such brazen selfish acts.

In these times, surfers are the best. Like yesterday on Oahu when Hurricane Lane was about to make landfall but surfers headed to Waikiki instead and news organizations crowed:

Hawaii’s Daredevil Surfers Grab their Boards to Ride Hurricane’s Epic Waves.

As Hurricane Lane approached the Hawaiian islands this week, residents made different preparations. Some boarded up windows. Others rushed to stock up on water and food. Others decided that the best thing to do was grab their surfboards and head out into the waves.

People in Hawaii Calmly Went Surfing as Storm Sirens Sounded to Warn Them about a Devastating Hurricane

Hurricane Lane has landed in some parts of Hawaii, bringing landslides and flooding — but some people didn’t seem to mind the approaching storm, and spent the day surfing instead.

Islanders have been taking advantage of the rough conditions brought about by the category-3 storm’s approach, and hit the waves even as storm sirens were sounding behind them.


Surfers are nothing if not single-minded and perpetual non-surfer surprise is a joy to witness. Don’t you think?

Don’t you think surfers paddling out while others worry about loss of life and limb is a happy trait?

Discovered: The WSL’s perfect unicorn!

She is 70 years-old, lives in Eugene, loves watching professional surfing and has never touched a board in her life!

Last night I read a portion of Cocaine + Surfing (buy here on Audible!) to the two people in Eugene, Oregon’s Barnes & Noble. Oh it was a intimate gathering, no doubt, though not unsurprising. Instagram stole my voice so now I just show up places and hope that, by some miracle, other people also show up.

This was not the case in Eugene but it was a wonderful time nonetheless. One of the two was a professor from the University of Oregon who was knowledgeable, kind, interesting and interested. We chatted about cocaine and then about surfing.

The other was a 70 year-old-woman and the miraculous future of the World Surf League.

Since the Association of Surfing Professional transitioned to the WSL some years back and Herr Paul Speaker was installed as CEO it was clear that the future of professional surfing rested on the backs of non-participatory fans.

There are not enough surfers in the world, the thinking goes, to sustain a whole tour and so others in Chicago and Des Moines and Alice Springs and Munich and Zurich and Brasilia who have never touched a surfboard have to fall in love with the spectacle too. They must begin to follow the exploits of Gabriel Medina and Julian Wilson. They must begin to thrill at interference calls and priority. The differences between a 6.8 and a 5.4.

I’ve openly mocked the very idea. Who on earth could give two shits about professional surfing other than addict, derelict surfers? The very thought on a non-participatory fan would keep at night as I laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed.

But those laughs turned to muted coughs in Eugene, Oregon as the 70 year-old sat and listened to me read. I assumed that she somehow got lost in the bookstore and accidentally found a comfortable chair in a virtually empty space so asked when I was finished, “What brings you here?”

“Oh I really love watching surfing…” she responded. “It’s mesmerizing.”

“Do you surf?” I wondered.

“No…” she said. “I have never gone surfing in my life but I really love watching the competitions.”

We chatted about who she liked to watch, favorite surfers etc. but I could barely hear her answers as shame pulsed though my ears. I made so much fun of Herr Paul Speaker and the rest of the WSL lot but they were right and here was their unicorn.

I did not laugh that night. I felt mortifyingly embarrassed for drawing two people to a book reading. I felt mortifyingly embarrassed for being so wrong about the future of professional surfing.

Lemoore: Introducing a billboard for the people!

"You don't have to be a surfer to love BeachGrit!"

The Surf Ranch Pro in Lemoore, California couldn’t be any closer and excitement crackles in the bovine-scented air. Athletes and sports fans from around the world will soon descend upon the small agricultural town some 120 odd miles from the nearest beach. They will meet at the Tachi Palace, a largish hotel and casino, order whiskey sodas from one of the two bars which will be served in delicate plastic cups, whistle though their teeth at the marvel.

At the future of professional surfing.

Surf Ranch, just down the street and around the corner from the Palace, represents the hopes and dreams of so many with its patented plow technology and secretly contoured bottom. With its control tower where buttons blink and an operator trained in the fine arts of pleasure presses them to create waves out of nothing. Out of simple agricultural run-off.

It is a technological marvel and I oftentimes wonder what the locals, living nearby, think of it. Are they thrilled to possess land and double-wide trailer homes within spiting distance of the future of professional surfing or do they feel ignored? Locked out and confused by this behemoth that moved into town under the banner World Surf League?

Well BeachGrit, as you know, is a place for the people, all people, for locals and sports fans alike, and the Sydney bureau came up with a plan on how to reach everyone coming to Lemoore with our benevolent message.

I wasn’t there for the brainstorm between Derek Rielly and James Prier but can recall exactly what I was drinking when the text message came through.

“We are getting a billboard between the Tachi Palace and the Surf Ranch itself.”

A billboard.

And I poured myself another vodka coconut water as the sheer genius washed over me. Of course, a billboard, and in this future, in this day and age of technological marvels sometime the simplest tool is the most effective. A note handwritten. A record played on turntable.

But what would our billboard declare?

After some back and forth it was decided.

“You don’t have to be a surfer to love BeachGrit.”

And a photograph of the World Surf League’s brave Chief-Marketing-Officer Beth Greve, enjoying a day at the beach with her surfboard fins inserted backwards.

Yes, you don’t have to be a surfer to love BeachGrit. You can be a cow farmer, a kid who lives with salt in her hair, Kelly Slater, a satanist or a progressive CMO trying new and wonderfully different methods.

We are a big, beautiful family stretching from sea to shining sea and the lands in between. All those driving from the Tachi Palace to the Surf Ranch itself will be warmed, I think, by this message of inclusivity.

By this great embrace.