Time in the cube stokes your fever! But must be correctly channelled!

Quiz: Can Deprivation Make You a Better Surfer?

Time in the cube can help you shred? Maybe!

There’s a mindset that says if you want to climb to any  elevated surf performance you gotta give your life to the game. You see it in the little kids pulled out of school to give ’em more hours in the ocean so they can pursue a pro surfer dream that’s gonna leave ’em broke and busted at twenty five.

You see it in the locals who’ve built their lives around their local beach, poor forever, aged into pickles by the salt and the sun and forever out-surfed by blow-ins who turn up for thirty and shred the hell out of their five waves during lunch break.

So I gotta ask.

Can deprivation make you a better surfer?

Or, better, does deprivation make you a better surfer?

Imagine that. A salaried job where you’re paid to occupy space in an office actually sharpens your attack when you get to surf.

An old pal of mine, a much better surfer who’s on the nine-to-six wheel, surfs in thirty-minute blocks. He don’t fuck around. He don’t sit out the back, legs akimbo on his horse, talking about real estate or girls or whatever. He’ll scoop up an insider on the way out then paddle wide and be on the ramp for a set. In thirty, he’ll catch eight or ten waves. Other surfers will float around for two hours for the same wave count but with a much diminished performance.

That old ten thousand hours rule by pop psychologist Gladwell in his too-often-quote book The Outliers? Where if you put in enough time, in his case the magic figure was 10k hours, you’ll achieve mastery?

It falls at the first hurdle. Look at a fifty-year-0ld man in the lineup. Endless hammering at waves all his life. He smashed the 10k rule. So why does the twelve-year-old who’s stuck at school from eight thirts to three every day surf better?

It misses the need for deliberate, passionate focus.

And how do you get that?

By depriving yourself of what you love.

Miss a swell.

Be under fluorescent lightbulbs listening to the endless drone of middle management while the sun shines and three-foot wedges topple onto lovely sandbanks?

Know that unless you’re awake at five am and out of the drink by six you won’t feel the bite of salt on your skin.

Or maybe I’m very wrong.


Watch: The World Surf League’s Masters Championship!

Hans Hedemann etc!

I had no idea this existed. No idea at all and also have no idea how it slipped through the cracks. For right now, right this minute, your favorite childhood surfers are in Portugal surfing competitively against each other (unless you were born in the 1990s).

Like, right now, right this minute I am literally watching Cheyne Horan vs. Hans Hedemann. Not figuratively watching. Not imagining I am watching. Literally watching. I think Paul Evans and Chris Binns are on the mics too which makes it the greatest event on earth.


Who else is coming up?

Simon Anderson, Rob Bain, Michael Ho, Buzzy Kerbox and maybe others.

Why aren’t Paul Evans and Chris Binns given the keys to the World Championship Tour suite?

The best combo in the game.

Watch here!

This is the board made from whisky casks!
This is the board made from whisky casks!

Buy: A surfboard made from whisky casks!

Two great things in one!

Whew. It’s a good thing I didn’t die or… I’m still unsure so even if I am dead it’s a good thing because now surfboards are being made from whiskey barrels.

Personally, I’ve settled on vodka as my ride or die but know that whisky is way cooler and have danced with the amber goddess on and off for years.

Mostly I prefer bourbon but don’t turn my nose up at anything from Ireland or Scotland.

Which do you prefer? Maybe we should all prefer whiskey from Scotland and I mean whisky from Scotland because Glenmorangie barrels are used in the production of a Grain surfboard.

Shall we learn about it?

We’re thrilled to share this limited edition Glenmorangie Original surfboard with you. More than a year in the making, the builders here at Grain worked closely with the team at Glenmorangie to create a surfboard using re-purposed whisky casks. Part of Glenmorangie’s Beyond the Cask project, these surfboards are built using twelve barrel staves in each board.

The best scotch whisky is made from only the best American white oak and for Glenmorangie Original, their casks are used only twice for a smoother and more rounded taste.The crew here at Grain was able to create the entire interior framework that defines the shape of the board from these oak staves, replacing the otherwise mundane marine plywood that is commonly used. For those looking for beauty, the oaks visual properties shine through as we embrace the material with bookmatched center planks, tailblock and custom made fins.

We’re always up for a challenge and this project set the bar to a new level. We’re proud of the final product and honored that the team at Glenmorangie selected us for their Beyond The Cask Project. Get your limited edition Glenmorangie Original Surfboard today.

Limited Edition Custom Built Board- $5500. Start your order today by putting down a $2000 deposit. Pay the balance when the board is ready to ship.

Shipping not included. We will contact you when the board is nearing completion to get an address and discuss shipping costs and options.

Boards are available in European Union countries (excluding Estonia, France, Latvia, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden), and USA only.

*Please Drink Responsibly

Finished Board Specs

6’11 3/4″ x 20 1/8″ x 2-3/16″ / Volume 39.96

Buy here I suppose but to be honest I’m glad I settled on vodka. 6’11 3/4″ x 20 1/8″ x 2-3/16″ / Volume 39.96?

Vodka means you stay skinny.

Breaking: Surf journalist Chas Smith has died!

Come take a peek from the other side of the veil!

I Googled myself for the first time in many years this morning (in order to find this story) and learned that I am dead. Long dead, in fact. In the ground since 2007. Or maybe not in the ground. Maybe I was cremated. Apparently I didn’t attend the funeral because I have no memory of it. Of whether there was a coffin and my friends and family were clustered graveside or whether there was an intimate gathering on some cliffside where my ashes were released into the sky, doing their small part in warming the globe just a little more.

Then again, I have no real memory of anything at all so it makes sense that I am dead. It answers a lot of questions about my memory.

Apparently I died from pneumonia which seems literary. Not quite tuberculosis like my heroes (Camus, Kafka) but close enough. A disease of the lungs.

I should probably be enjoying my death more but feel a responsibility to give you a peek from the other side of the veil.

Here is what’s going on.

I don’t know if I’ve landed in heaven or hell or quite possibly purgatory. There are wave machines here for surfing but they cost a lot of money to try or at least Kelly Slater’s does. He’s here too, building wave machines, looking the same as he has forever. The Association of Professional Surfers has been transformed into a thing called the World Surf League and is owned by the son of a publishing magnate and run by an ex-tennis executive.

Isn’t that funny? Publishing and tennis? Either God or Satan has a rich sense of humor.

What else. Ummmmm. Brazilians win everything and are the only surfers that really matter. John John stopped by for a while a few years ago but has left which makes me think this is purgatory and John John went on to heaven. The other wave machine is in Waco, right next to where David Koresh got burned to a crisp. I haven’t seen him roaming around yet.

Some surfers ride these things called “foils” that have giant metal guillotines affixed to their bottoms. I don’t really understand the purpose or point but people seem excited about them in general. The biggest surf brand in the world is named Salty Crew and is for fishermen too. Quiksilver and Billabong are the same company here. I don’t think Rip Curl exists because I never see it.

Sharks eat people but nobody really cares because they are like gods. Totally protected and impossible to do anything about.

Air shows are big and trending which is bizarre.

Very bizarre.

Or I suppose just like things were in 2007 when I died.

Devaluation: The precipitous and radical decline of the tube!

Worthless now like print magazines and lbs of weed!

Surf Lakes is opening next month on Australia’s Gold Coast and it will be the third tank to pull our eyes inland. Fourth if we credit Wavegarden technology with “pulling our eyes” inland. Surf Ranch and Waco, though, we gaped and gaped.

Initially the gaping was reserved for the barrel. Remember that? Remember your initial impression of that barrel and Kelly crouching inside of it the first time? It was unreal. Like a mirage. Two years on, though, when a professional surfer tucks inside Surf Ranch’s tube it elicits dull groans. “Not again…” “Do something cool…” etc.

The barrel, now that it can be conjured on demand, is boring. Its value crashed like lbs bags of weed in Oregon (now selling for a few hundred dollars).

In 2011 I wrote an ode to the tube that exists only as a relic today also because it appeared in a magazine. I’ll reprint for posterity’s sake. So that future generations can look back and laugh at us old timers and our silly ways.

Riding the tube is the highest of all surfing arts.

Unlike airs, gouges, ungainly luggage and fibreglass, it alone belongs to surfing. There is no tube on the sidewalk or in the mountains.

The tube is not the oldest of all surfing arts. Ancient Hawaiians did not duck underneath the lip, they only slid down the face.

But it was a Hawaiian, in the 1970s, who made the barrel look so so beautiful. His name was Gerry Lopez and he stood, shielded from the sun and from spectators and from all but his own introspection.

He stood with loose limbs and flair borne of subtlety. He went very deep in thunderous barrels but always looked graceful and without worry or fear. Gerry Lopez made the barrel the highest of all surfing arts.

Other magnificent tube riders, following in Gerry’s wake, have been Tom Curren, Andy Irons and his brother Bruce, Jamie O’Brien, Rob Machado, Josh Kerr, Matt Archbold, Bruno Santos and Koa Smith.

They have made the tube a sort of second home and the nuances with which they trim, the slight movements that take them deeper and deeper are beautiful to witness.

Being inside the tube feels like all time has stopped. The first experience, inside, the surfer feels a rush of adrenalized fear.

He feels that he is defying God’s natural order and should not be allowed to be where he is. He is between sheets of water, breathing his own air, but otherwise part of the sea. He feels that the lip will, at any moment, hit him in the head or the walls will crush him altogether for defying God’s natural order.

But he must persevere. He must trust that the barrel will stay open and do what it does, which is to roll like a freight train, unless he is surfing closeout beachbreaks and then he will be crushed for his defiance.

And the first experience, inside, the surfer has very bad form. His legs are spread too wide. His arms move in small circles, pointed in odd directions. He leans too much toward the wall of the wave. He thinks, maybe, that he looks like Gerry Lopez but in reality he looks like a spasm.

With time, however, the surfer becomes comfortable and the tube becomes the only place he wants to be. He is hungry for it with a hunger that never wanes. He can never get enough.

And so he listens to music that inspires him to get more tubes. He listens to anything by Icelandic supergroup Sigur Ros. Their ethereal sound gives him peace, unblock his chakras and allow him to flow.

He eats a macrobiotic diet filled with steamed vegetables that is dull, not spicy, but, again, his chakras remain unblocked. He lives in a Hawaiian-style white plantation home and plants pineapple in the front yard and grows zucchini, which he steams.

He decorates his walls with expressionist art of a certain flow-ey, colorful bent. It puts his mind in the mood to be both surreal and rubber. He refuses to watch film and only goes to the theater and only watches Russian ballet. Tears fill his eyes when Russian ballerinas perform Peter and the Wolf.

His mind warps so thoroughly that the barrel ceases to feel strange and it becomes the only place where he feels natural.

Western society marginalizes this obsessed man but he does not care. He spends more and more time in eastern places, like Bali, and odd places, like Hawaii.

He hums Sigur Ros tunes in these places and the locals cannot differentiate between these melodies and the melodies of Justin Bieber. He is home. He is free.

(This article first appeared in print in Surf Europe SE82, Sept 2011)