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)


Mason Ho: “Style comes out when you don’t give a goddamn!”

An investigation into that hoary old chestnut, surf style!

When you want to talk surf style who you gonna call? You’re gonna call Mason Ho, right?

“You never know what he’s gonna do. He throws style points back to his influences and elders. He’s truly one of my favourite surfers to watch,” says Kelly Slater.

Kolohe Andino’s ex-pro surfer pops, Dino, a lifelong friend of the Ho’s, says, “John John is really gnarly, but he’s not as fun looking as Mason’s shucking and jiving. He looks down, looks back, does all that shit. He’s paying tribute to his dad on every wave.”

Mason, who is almost thirty years old, is in Costa Mesa, California, healing up an injury he got surfing a reef near Wollongong with Mick Fanning when a little emoji-heavy text jiving turns to a phone call.

Style? Want to talk to me about it?

“Fuck, yeah, it goes through everything…(pause)… almost everything. Not if we’re talking QS though. Those guys…whooooooooof! There’s not much at their end.”

To make his point about bad style, Mason talks me through two days at the Cascais Pro, a big qualifier there on the Portuguese Riviera, just west of Lisbon.

“When I think…bad style… the first thing that comes to my brain is when I did this QS a couple of years ago in Cascais. I was having fun, the waves were knee-high or less and I’d take off and…boom…do a little turn…whoo…style out a little, do a thrust or something…then hit my second turn, do a little jive…bing…and hit my next turn. In my eyes, I just did a three-thing combo not just three turns. That was in practice. I thought, that’s pretty cool, I haven’t seen anyone too into their style, and I went home stoked. When the contest started the next day I watched as this kid took off…”

“I don’t want to say his name. I don’t want to… ruin… him. He’s on his backside and he was doing these…uh…uh…uh… turns, hardly even bottom turning, the wave was only knee-high, just wiggling. It was the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. (Mason mimics exertion) Uh…uh…uh…cut down, cut down, cut down. I was thinking, why don’t you take one breath and release the tail real quick, hit the lip, maybe do a nice bottom turn and then bang the end instead of five wiggles of death?

You got a name?

“I don’t want to say his name. I don’t want to… ruin… him. He’s on his backside and he was doing these…uh…uh…uh… turns, hardly even bottom turning, the wave was only knee-high, just wiggling. It was the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. (Mason mimics exertion) Uh…uh…uh…cut down, cut down, cut down. I was thinking, why don’t you take one breath and release the tail real quick, hit the lip, maybe do a nice bottom turn and then bang the end instead of five wiggles of death? Okay, anyway, I think, let’s see what the judges give it. See how this works. Because that’s the opposite of what I’m doing. I’m throwing in a little style, and it’s slowing me down, but I figured it would be just as nice. The kid gets a six. Holy shit, I would’ve given it a three. Oh, whatever. I went out in my heat, got a nice little fun wave, did a little speed floater, took my time, styled, threw a little stoke, hit the end. And then it hit me – I was going to see, exactly, how the judges score my surfing compared to the kid’s wave. See how they compare what I think is ugly to how I surf. I got the three. I was paddling out, thinking fuck, the next wave, I’m not going to care about style, I’ll be fucking turning like the kid did, I’ll get mad and do that. I did and I got a pretty good score but the turns didn’t feel as nice. I didn’t reset with some style. It all felt like a shuffle blur. That’s always stuck with me. It was a big style epiphany. It hit me hard. I lost the heat, too.”

 

**********

 

The former pro surfer, and for a time the world number one, turned performance coach Brad Gerlach sees it, knows it. When he was orbiting the tour in the eighties, he was told by coaches, and by other surfers and shapers he respected, to paint lipstick on his surfing.

“There’s old footage of Occy from ’84 and he had a really good style. He’d tilt his head a little bit but not wiggle or stick his chin forward. Then he grew his hair out and was whipping his head all about to make it look more difficult. He figured, I’ll just flick my head around and people’ll go…wow! I don’t know if that was the time, to make shit look more difficult to get a score. I was told that. To fake it.” BRAD GERLACH

Occy did it with his hair flicks. Even the surfer whose name gets thrown around as an icon of style, Tom Curren, played it.

“Tommy’s style in the eighties was kinda weird. Mine was too, but his style, and his style has gotten a lot better as he’s gotten older, was a bit contrived: head snaps, right hand balled into a fist. There’s old footage of Occy from ’84 and he had a really good style. He’d tilt his head a little bit but not wiggle or stick his chin forward. Then he grew his hair out and was whipping his head all about to make it look more difficult. He figured, I’ll just flick my head around and people’ll go…wow! I don’t know if that was the time, to make shit look more difficult to get a score. I was told that. To fake it. I can’t…fake it… that’s the worst thing you could’ve told me.”

Can you fix a bad style?

“Potentially!” says Shane Beschen, another surf coach, a former world number two and, in the nineties, a foil to Kelly Slater. His own kids Noah and Koda are headed for pro surfer careers. “Adriano de Souza is someone whose style has gotten better over his career. That’s something he worked on. It got better from him surfing good waves and focussing on the technique of his turns.”

But, says, Beschen, “style is like music. Everyone likes something else. Some people like jazz, some people like hip-hop. Alex Knost, to me, is someone I like to watch. I love his style when he does a layback cheater five in the tube. But other stuff I don’t love. It’s all personal…then you have Slater, Parko, Fanning. Great styles from an effortlessness and a look of control that comes from minimal movement.”

“To look stylish, your body has to be relaxed,” says Gerlach. “You can feel the wave coming up through you. You have a sort of freedom. When you watch that person, they look free on the wave, they turn where they want. It’s where you are on the wave and how much force you’re using versus power. Michel Bourez forces his surfing so much. Occasionally, when his timing is perfect, he does some of the biggest, raddest turns but so much of his surfing is about forcing it. I hate that board he’s riding, what is it, a five-ten? Sorry bud, you can ride a six-two, you’re way too strong to ride a five-ten. You’d look soooo much better on a bigger board. Taylor Knox did that a lot in his career. When his thing was good it was amazing to watch. His top turn carve is unrivalled. I still study it, it’s so fucking good. But I travelled with Taylor. And I told him that some parts of the wave don’t require one hundred fucking percent of your effect. Do sixty percent here so you can do 100 percent when the wave’s bowlier.’

“Jesse Mendes surfs with his adam’s apple out. I notice this about Parko, who otherwise has the sickest style, too. His chin goes forward, his head goes forward when he’s trying too hard. They’re pigeons trying to put their heads forward. They’re anxious to get down the line.” BRAD GERLACH

Other mistakes?

“Jesse Mendes surfs with his adam’s apple out. I notice this about Parko, who otherwise has the sickest style, too. His chin goes forward, his head goes forward when he’s trying too hard. They’re pigeons trying to put their heads forward. They’re anxious to get down the line. Jordy’s style is great. His butt is really low and his back is straight when he’s pumping, he twists really good, and he’s lighter on his feet than Conner Coffin is and he’s 40 pounds (20 kilos) heavier. That’s what I was working on with Conner. To be heavy looks good when it’s powerful and he can dig his board in and gouge the wave, but as soon as they don’t have that power, then you have a problem.”

Gerlach says style comes from body awareness and how connected, or disconnected, a surfer is from their feet and what they’re doing in the water.

“Some people are more intuitive and connected,” says Gerlach. “It’s so radical seeing my students, who started with me when they were ten and now they’re almost sixteen, and watching their body habits. A bad style can happen when you grow fast. They’re used to their head being four-foot-six away from their surfboard then, suddenly, they go to five-eight in a short amount of time and they slouch and bend at the waist and they don’t know how to fix it. It’s foundational. You can watch someone with a fucking ugly style and you know they have no chance of being a big star. Then you watch someone else with good movements, and even if they can’t do all the manoeuvres, they’re only going to get better and better. Every single day I’m either eating, studying footage of my students, studying footage of what’s happening on the WSL, some of the WQS, some of the edits and I when I see someone doing something great, I save it, put it in a Dropbox for one of my students, and tell ‘em to watch this a hundred times and we’ll talk about it next session. People think that wave pools are going to be the answer to everybody’s problems, but if you don’t know how to move correctly, it’s going to be the worst thing. You’ll continue doing the wrong thing and by wrong I mean digging rails and losing speed.”

John John Florence, says Gerlach, is an example of untrammelled style.

“You don’t have to look like anyone else or have a specific…thing. John John’s style wasn’t one of my favourites when he was younger and weaker but now that he’s really strong I don’t give a shit what he does with his left arm. I love the way he rides waves, how free he looks, how unpredictable he is. He’s relaxed and super confident. He’s in the pocket of the wave waiting for the full power to kick in and that’s when he does his turns. John John’s surfing at Margaret River last year was just sublime. He was relaxed and loose. He could turn anywhere he wanted. It looked like he wasn’t thinking at all.”

 

**********

 

Is style a gift? Does it matter? Is it worth mortgaging yourself physically to get some into your game?

“It’s fucking everything,” says Gerlach. “It’s why you love somebody’s surfing, it’s why they’re your favourite surfer and it’s why you can see a guy who rips hard, but you can’t stand the way they surf.”

“I was five years old and I went straight on every wave and put my front arm out straight and the other one up in the air. After that, everyone said, you look just like your Dad. It must’ve got boring for everyone because a couple of my uncles said, do it like this, put your hands behind your back and poke your pee-pee out. I remember that. Mixing up my Dad’s style with my other uncle’s and poking my pee-pee out with my hands behind my back.” MASON HO

Mason got his first lesson in style at a surf contest when he was five. His Dad, the Triple Crown winner and Pipe Master, Michael Ho, told him he was to use his front arm as a guiding antenna and the back arm as his balancing tool. Hold it high, he told Mason.

“I was five years old and I went straight on every wave and put my front arm out straight and the other one up in the air. After that, everyone said, you look just like your Dad. It must’ve got boring for everyone because a couple of my uncles said, do it like this, put your hands behind your back and poke your pee-pee out. I remember that. Mixing up my Dad’s style with my other uncle’s and poking my pee-pee out with my hands behind my back.”

Mason’s very personal style now includes backside alley-oops (with a stale fish or slob grab), disco floaters to 360s, backside tweaked method grabs, club sandwiches in the barrel and look-down-at-his-feet take-offs.

“I always loved those look-downs because it felt nice. Chris Ward would do it a lot, backside and frontside. When you take off, you don’t freak out and look down the line, you take in the moment, take in the drop, and only look directly in front of you. Tom Curren does it a lot too I noticed. He keeps his eyes on the nose, literally in front of him, not down the line.

“The thing with style,” says Mason, “is that style truly does come out when you don’t give a fuck. Right when you truly don’t give a shit what your surfing looks like, that’s when some sort of style comes out. As soon as you let go of everything, you’re styling. When I was growing up, I copied all of my favourite guys but I was never as good as them. Once I got the theory down and stripped it back…boom…finally…something came out. There was some style. Finally…”

(Editor’s note: A version of this story appeared in issue #342 of Surfing Life magazine. Subscribe here.)


Shark attack: “This has turned into Amity Island real quick out here!”

Cape Cod thrust back into the limelight.

A 20-year-old man boogie boarding at a beach near Cape Cod, Mass. was attacked by a shark yesterday and killed. It was the first shark attack in Cape Cod in 80 years.

Local police released the statement:

Around noontime today (9/15) a male swimmer at Newcomb Hollow Beach was bitten by what is believed to be a shark. The male victim mid 20’s was pulled from the water, provided emergency first aid to include CPR. The male victim was transported to Cape Cod Hospital by the Wellfleet Fire Department, were he passed from the injuries.

The name and info of the victim is being held till proper notification.

Wellfleet PD is working with the National Park Service and the MA State Police on this investigation.

And the Associated Press interviewed a local fisherman:

“I was that guy on the beach screaming, ‘Shark, shark!’ It was like right out of that movie Jaws. This has turned into Amity Island real quick out here.”

Amity Island is, of course, the fictional Cape Cod town terrorized by a giant great shark in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.

It has long been believed that Jaws was based on a series of 1916 shark attacks that terrorized New Jersey but the author of the book denied this and said he based his work off the 1964 story of a fisherman who harpooned a 4500 lbs shark off the coast of Long Island.

The real Jaws and fisherman Frank Mundus.
The real Jaws and fisherman Frank Mundus.

To be honest, I didn’t really know that great whites were an Atlantic thing. I thought the east coast’s big worry was bull sharks. I thought Hawaii’s big worry was tiger sharks. I thought the west coast and Australia’s west coast’s big worry was great white sharks. As a lifelong west coaster (except for a few childhood years spent in Papua New Guinea), I always felt a little proprietary about the great white.

I suppose I’ll have to adjust my worldview (again).


From the who’s-your-daddy department: Surfers help fatherless boys charity!

Throw a few shekels at this fine mentoring charity…

It’s getting real teary in here. My eyes are burning so intensely I can hardly see.

Yesterday it was the kid who chases big waves but got no gas in his balloons. Today, it’s the story of the two-time Fiji Pro winner and rookie of the year Damien Hobgood and his role in helping boys without daddies get mentoring from someone other than their moms or female teachers.

This arrived in my mailbox yesterday.

What’s Up, Friends?

I was at this event where I learned about what Boys to Men is doing for kids in San Diego. For me, it’s important to line up your life with where your heart’s at, and Boys to Men is a cause that is close to my heart.

Boys to Men has been providing positive male mentors for at-risk and fatherless young men in our community for over twenty years. The 100 Wave Challenge is their biggest fundraiser where surfers come together to catch 100 waves in one day.

It’s a win-win when you can help kids out, meet new friends, and have an awesome time at the beach. I’ve taken the challenge again this year, and I ask that you support in any way you can. While surfing and volunteering makes the event successful, donations also help us reach our goals.

If you love surfing, being at the beach, hanging with some great people, and supporting a great cause for San Diego, then the 100 Wave Challenge is for you. The amount you give doesn’t matter – it’s about helping our kids.

Thanks for supporting these guys, and I’ll hopefully see some of you in the surf!

For more information, visit www.100wave.org

~Damo

I’m not swimming in cash but I peeled off a hundred for ol Damo. It was the first charity I’d thrown money at since I fell under the spell of a doctor who was putting eyeballs back into blind kids in Bangladesh.

What got to me about Boys to Men?

It ain’t a secret that a fatherless boy, without strong men in his life, without a patriarchal figure who inspires obedience, is trapped in a world of women who elevate feelings above all other considerations. And, as a consequence, the wonderful, animal side of his masculinity is never realised.

When I hit up Damo for an interview he wrote back: “Not sure you want to interview an old washed up surfer but this is a rad organization that does some really cool stuff for fatherless boys or kids just going down some dark roads.”

Try and watch this video (hit the play button above) and not soak your pinafore in blubber.

“If my dad was around it would be much easier because my dad would understand more than my mom would… I need somebody who can tell me what direction I should go,” says one kid.

Fuck. 

Help ’em out.

Click here. 


Jacob Venditti
Jacob Venditti, at big Mex, little balloons got no gas!

From the feel-good department: Man with incurable lung disease rides ten-foot Mex tube!

If your lungs were useless, would you be circling big Mex swells?

How good are your lungs? I get under three feet of whitewater and my little balloons feel like they’re going to give out. The spectre of drowning has always been the turkey vulture circling around me. And I’m healthy as hell, give or take a few sleeper viruses.

A week or so ago, an old pal o’ mine, Hans Hagen, who is the executive director of the the Mauli Ola Foundation, pointed me in the direction of the North Carolina surfer Jacob Venditti. The Foundation is a not-for-profit that uses surf to deliver good times to anyone living with a genetic disease. And Jacob, who is twenty four, has the incurable disease cystic fibrosis. Means his lungs work at thirty or so percent.

Hell of a thing. Let me describe. He wakes up in the morning and has to cough-start his lungs. Fills himself full of medicine. Finds it tough to hold down a job ’cause he has to go into hospital for extended stays four times a year, three weeks at a time, while they pump him with antibiotics through a PIC line. A plastic tube goes through his bicep, shoulder and into the heart. Thick as a straw.

And, soon enough, maybe in five years, Jacob’s going to need a double lung transplant.

Anyway, Jacob, who doesn’t want to give in to the disease and live a sedentary life as a couch-inflating Fortnite warrior, made it his goal to ride a big Mexican tube this past summer. He’s been surfing since he was eight, grew up at the beach, but try putting those paltry lungs to work at a Mex beachbreak. They’ll squash a healthy stud.

“It’s tough for me,” he says, even if he has been hitting Mex for the past seven seasons. “And it’s been getting harder every ear. It’s especially hard to paddle back out, getting worked by the waves and not blacking out.”

This year he hooked up with the Mex-based American Brian Conley, the same mad cat whom BeachGrit employed to sling Lakey Peterson into a thousand waves for 540 practice.

It meant Jacob could hit a swell that would’ve drowned him.

“Ten-to-twelve-foot backs,” says Jacob. “I was down there on a solo mission and this swell came and on the biggest day, Brian Conley stepped me off onto a really nice one. I didn’t stop smiling for a week afterward. It was pretty heaven, man.”

Jacob, understandably, is now an ambassador for Mauli Ola.

“They go around the whole US teaching people with genetic diseases how to surf. Not just kids, anybody who shows up. It’s about encouraging that natural therapy, which surfing is. It can adds years to your life. They’ve backed me since I met ’em six years ago. They know how much I love to surf and they said, ‘You’re the only person with your condition who can surf real waves. We want you to be the poster kid of our Foundation. So that’s what I do. I want to help and inspire other people, man. I think that’s what I was meant to do.”

Check ’em out here.