Waco wavepool
Nine-year-old Cruz Dinofa, from Jersey, gets behind the wheel of a people's classic.

Listen: “Surf Ranch is a Porsche! Waco is a Honda Accord with upgraded sound system!”

Come hear a pool by pool comparison! Surf Ranch v Waco v NLand… 

I chatted with David Lee Scales today for the first time in seemingly forever and what a chat it was. The man had just returned from northern Texas, surfing both the NLand pool outside of Austin and the Barefoot Ski Ranch featuring American Wave Machines technology near Waco. A few months ago, directly after Derek Rielly and I, he also surfed Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California giving him an official hat trick.

Oh I had a thousand questions. Which one is best, which one worst, which most fun and which least? How do they all compare? Which technology will be our future? You will learn many things while listening to the podcast and if you are not thrilled to go to Waco, when it is finished, then I don’t know if we can be great friends.

Just kidding, I am friend to all but back to which technology will be our future… I really needed to know and asked… is Surf Ranch a Bugatti while Waco is a Hyundai?

“Absolutely not.” David Lee said. “Surf Ranch is a Porsche and Waco is a Honda Accord with all the bells and whistles. Leather interior, upgraded sound system etc.”

I was perturbed by the comparison and pressed him further. “Both get you where you want to go…” he said “…the Porsche just comes with status.”

And I let the conversation drop at that point but shouldn’t have. Driving a Porsche is not about status, or not just about status. The way it handles, the way it accelerates and decelerates, the way the doors close and seats feel is… a revelation. From the outside, maybe, it seems like any other car but it is not. The Porsche is a joy. The Honda Accord is… not a chore but just meaningless.

Now, it goes without saying that my own personal Porsche experience is ill-gotten, though I have lusted over them since I was five-years-old but that doesn’t negate the truth of the sentiment. Which brings us back to our comparison. What sort of car is Surf Ranch and what sort of car is Waco? We can agree that NLand is a Kia Forte but what about the other two?

Help would be much appreciated but I think you should listen to David Lee Scales describe each first. It is, thanks to his experience, our best show yet.

Listen here!

The universal surfer.
The universal surfer.

Watch: Surfing as a decadent escape from hyper-masculinity!

Come and learn about Rocinha in Brazil!

National Geographic magazine is like The Surfer’s Journal of real life. Every story it touches turns to absolute gold, every pictorial between its thick, glossy pages grabs and refuses to let go. I remember spending hours, as a young boy, flipping through and learning about worlds beyond tiny Coos Bay, Oregon. About Mongolia and Burma, Argentina and Yemen.

The country/city features were always my favorites. I was never the biggest fan of dinosaur or science segues but the social studies were… perfection.

And today we learn about surf and surf culture inside one of Brazil’s largest favelas.

The piece begins:

A GROUP OF boys holding surfboards dash into the sea, smiling and laughing as golden light beams down on their wet skin. Here, in the water, they have found reprieve from the chaotic, cramped, colorful streets of Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela, a low-income urban neighborhood in Brazil.

Residents in Rocinha are plagued by violence and crime—children play in the same tight alleyways where drug traffickers work. One avenue away from the conflict: the ocean. The Surf Association of Rocinha (ASR), a local surf community and group of instructors, work to pull kids away from the dangers of the city and into the water, every day of the week.

Unfortunately, the community also struggles with widespread pollution and insufficient sanitation. The issue is a reality for all the favela’s residents, but it is uniquely problematic for those who spend time in the ocean. Much of the neighborhood’s waste flows straight into the nearby sea, leaving surfers and beachgoers to swim in tainted waters. Though the battle against this pollution seems monumental, ASR integrates eco-conscious activities into its sessions with the local kids—planning beach clean-ups and supporting environmental education.

After meeting this group of surfers while teaching English in the region, London-based documentary filmmaker and founder of the socially conscious Goma Collective Mikey Krzyzanowski knew he wanted to share their stories. He pulled together a crew of friends to help him produce the film, including director Sirus Gahan, co-producer Joseph Izzard, and assistant producer Gilvan Oliveira.

An interview with Mr. Kryzanowski follows and it si both illuminating and good. My favorite part is:

Why do you think surfing is important?

For these boys, they are faced with hyper-masculinity—having to live up to this big, strong stereotype. It’s a difficult thing for many kids, and I think surfing lets them escape that for a little bit.

A perfect summation of surfing everywhere and I completely agree. Surfers, even when pretending to be hyper-masculine, are either basically nude or wearing pantsuits in the water. We are all dancers. Dancers in the largest musical ever.

Watch here!

You think without surfing you'll be a better lover, a kinder parent with more time for your kids? You won't. You'll be an insufferable monster. A neutered, embittered eunuch. To those martyrs who give it up (for an illusory gain) I offer these words from the author Chris Kraus: “Stop your whining you whiny little bitch and get your go-outs. Or Don't.”

Opinion: “Adult learner surfers are laughing while we torture ourselves about the right way to spend a life!”

But without surfing, you'd be an embittered eunuch…

The exchange of ideas at the Grit is intoxicating even when the substance ain’t your trip. Only thing that grinds is when old warhorse assumptions and myths get trotted out with a fresh coat of lipstick for another go around.

Some cat might have been Ayn Rand or Noam Chomsky or maybe Michel Houellebecq, said life proceeds pretty much according to the conventional wisdom. And nothing is more conventional wisdom in surfing than the idea that we are all deep down some kind of renegade outlaws barely able to function in society because we are humping this hulking, all consuming, addiction to surfing through life.

Neg, not Nug, love him like a brother and bless his soul, made comment on an AI quote that “surfing kept him on a even keel” by claiming that “For him and those of us over 30, surfing offers almost none of the answers in life”.

Bollocks mi amigo.

It offers any answer you want, apart from the ultimate one, which is death. It’s a great and compelling answer to the question: how do I pass the time each day? The implication that surfing did Andy no good or couldn’t keep him on an even keel is correct, on the face of it, but greys out so much of the man. He died an addict but an addict who was a three-time world champ, who exalted and glorified a talent, transcended liabilities and inspired millions. He could’ve died an opioid addict alone in a gutter if he never picked up a sled.

You want to imbue surfing with a numinous glow, are newly arrived from Europe or the mid-west and crave meaning? Surfing makes an excellent, harmless religion, better, by far, than any of the Abrahamic faiths, with easy to follow tenets, prophets and daily rituals.

You can sit dewey eyed at the feet of benevolent masters, for a small fee, like Gerry Lopez. You want to make it your Walden Pond, decipher natural history, accept the measured violence of the ocean, and understand that you must meet every effort of nature with a calculated, countervailing manoeuvre. Then you’ve got a lifetime mapped out.

Want to dabble, hold down a job, raise a family and get a little work-a-daddy stoke on a couple mornings a week? Surfing is no problem for you.

Barack Obama wave slides using the human body as planing device. Surfing is not a problem for him. Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott: surfs. Former NSW Premier Mike Baird: surfs. Former Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan: surfs. Former Australian Attorney-General Robert McClelland: surfs. Putin, I’m sure, has dabbled. Many Russians do.

Almost nothing adds lubricating grease to the wheels in the highest spheres of power in the Indo-Pacific world than a mild-moderate wave sliding habit. You crave power, have ambition, want to make money? Surfing is not a problem for you.

You’re American and you surf. You’ve likely got a college degree and bank above the average income. Maybe you got lucky and get to suckle on the teat of the tech-titans and get to surf the Nor-cal area like the great Louie Samuels.

Maybe you lament getting your hands dirty, working a blue-collar job as Limbless Jack or Mike C suggested. That’s a shame. If you’re in Australia and have a trade: brickie, chippy, plumber, sparky, gas fitter, landscaper etc, you sit majestically close to the apex of the socio-economic totem pole. You charge 80-100/hour, more if you own kit, live close to the beach, dawn patrol a couple times a week, send your kids to a private school, surf weekends, spend ten days in the Ments every year and snorkel pow in Japan on a good year. Surfing is not a problem for you.

There are older surfers here, maybe even the despised baby boomers. You paid how much for that crib in Byron Bay when you came here chasing surf in the 70’s? What? Seven grand. Seven fucking thousand! Your mate across the street sold for 2.8 mill and you’d get the same. So chasing surf was a massive financial mistake now that you’re a multi-millionaire for doing 5/8’s of nothing? Not quite. Surfing is not a problem for you.

There are older surfers here, maybe even the despised baby boomers. Come forwards. Don’t be shy. You paid how much for that crib in Byron Bay when you came here chasing surf in the 70’s? What? Fifty grand? No? Less? Seven grand. Seven fucking thousand! And it’s worth how much now? Your mate across the street sold for 2.8 mill and you’d get the same, maybe a bit more because of the new deck. So chasing surf was a massive financial mistake now that you’re a multi-millionaire for doing 5/8’s of nothing? Not quite. Surfing is not a problem for you.

You think without surfing you’ll be a better lover, a kinder parent with more time for your kids? You won’t. You’ll be an insufferable monster. A neutered, embittered eunuch.

You nine-to-five cube monkeys feel disrespected, mocked as unimaginative wage slaves and robots. But you’re right, this whole shit show would grind to a halt without you. Maybe you suffer, like I, from what Rimbaud called the horror of home. You might be happier, like Ishmael and me, 40 miles out to sea, but 40 miles isn’t always possible so 40 metres might be better, even for 40 minutes. No shame in that. That alone, makes pappy a better man, mammy a better woman. You think without surfing you’ll be a better lover, a kinder parent with more time for your kids? You won’t. You’ll be an insufferable monster. A neutered, embittered eunuch. To those martyrs who give it up (for an illusory gain) I offer these words from the author Chris Kraus: “Stop your whining you whiny little bitch and get your go-outs. Or Don’t.”

Hey hipsters. No hate here. Just keep that leashless log the fuck away from my kids. It is what it is and what it is is fucking great. Surfing is no problem for you.

Hey hipster. You swing between New York, Byron, Milan or wherever the hell appeals. Resin-tinted log left at the Bay, borrow a fish to ride down at Montauk and life is, what? Sweeter for the slide? Of course, always is. The commitment to surfing… minimal. The identification: partial. No hate here. Just keep that leashless log the fuck away from my kids. It is what it is and what it is is fucking great. Surfing is no problem for you.

Our very own principal D. Rielly, as reward for his entrepreneurial escapades cashed out of Stab for a couple hundred K. That is not a problem. That is a solution to a problem, a series of problems even, including how to find a cash deposit for a beachside residence, how to invest in a new business etc etc.

Finally fellow travellers. Take a walk in the room of mirrors. Did you back surf? Back it properly I mean. For a block of dirt and a roof close to a surf spot? Did you back it in for Lennox Head, Byron Bay, Burleigh, Coolum, Ulladulla, Laguna Beach, Newport, Cardiff by the Sea, Hossegor, Lahinch, the Bukit, Raglan, Pupukea etc etc. Then congratulations. You won the game. For doing exactly nothing except backing surf you have enriched yourself and supplied an endowment for your families future.

Adult learners are laughing all the way to the bank while we torture ourselves with calvinist myths about the right way to spend a life.

It’s a funny old world, but surfing ain’t a problem in it. For you or anyone else.

(Editor’s note: Feel like you’ve read this before? Correct! This story first appeared nine months ago and, for whatever reason, Facebook algorithms, slow day on IG, it didn’t get the attention it deserved, I think. Here it is, second time. Savour.)

Draconian: The public shaming of Lowers!

Iconic southern California wave did not deserve this.

It is the first day of September in southern California and feels like it. Yesterday’s August sun has been replaced by a cool mist. The children cower in the corner, severely shell-shocked, having just completed their first or second week of school. It feels like fall. Like the Hurley Pro at Lower Trestles.

Oh how my heart would soar these past eight years when the calendar turned for that is when I began to hear the song of those cobbled stones. They would whisper in the most delicate tune, whisper, “Come stand upon us… come and watch the world’s best surfers on one of the world’s best waves… come and rub sunburned shoulders with the people… come offer them sunscreen for their sunburned shoulders… come.”

Of course I would heed their call. Of course I would drive and park and walk and watch from the tent city, that Cair Paravel, and feel in touch with professional surfing once again.

And of course we all know that Lowers is not, in fact, “one of the world’s best waves” but it is an undeniably fun wave to both surf and watch. The announcers, from Pete Mel to Ron Blakey to the ’89 World Champ, couldn’t help but call it a “skate park.” A stupid description but as far as the waves on tour go partially accurate.

Well, Lowers is no longer with us. It has been replaced by Lemoore, all cow stinky and gray, and a fitting burial would have been to hand the wave and waiting period over to the locals. To let them enjoy prime Autumn but no. Lowers has been publicly shamed. Forced to wear a scarlet “L” for longboarding. Forced to host a longboard event.

Now, I have nothing against longboarding whatsoever and spend many afternoons on Cardiff-by-the-Sea’s sand enjoying seeing that dance. The walking to nose and taking off fins forward and arching back. Cardiff’s waves are conducive to the activity as are Malibu’s, Church’s, San-O’s etc. Lowers waves are not conducive and never have had any moment of hot longboarding action save the great Herb Fletcher but for some reason, for some very sad reason, Lowers will be hosting the RELIK World Longboard Tour stop from Sept. 9 – Sept. 19.

The shame of losing high performance professional surfing is one thing. The shame of hosting high performance professional longboarding is quite another. Quite another altogether and Lowers will have to carry that shame for years to come. Years and years and years especially if a high performance longboarder sticks an alley-oop or some sad thing that we must watch on repeat.

Longboarding doesn’t belong at Lowers and if my name was Chris Ward I would paddle out there every single day from Sept. 9 – Sept. 19 and refuse to move.

Dane Reynolds screening in Santa Barbara creates unforeseen drama!

Nothing can derail local love for favorite son but where is Chas?

If you’ve been to Santa Barbara, you’ll know that Channel Islands occupies a shingled, craftsman-style house next to the railroad tracks. The store is a block or so away from the brand’s original shop whose bones now lie under a luxury hotel. There’s a front porch with rocking chairs and more surfboards than a girl could ride in a lifetime.

Tucked behind the shop is a cozy backyard space tailor-made for drinking beers and watching surf movies. Strings of lights hang from the roof. That’s our goal as we chart a meandering course through the board racks. A horde of people clusters around the pizza’s remains and we slide on through. On land, in the lineup, it’s all the same. Then we’re outside and looking for the beer.

It’s always the same people. Maybe you don’t know their names, but you recognize them. You’re at a surf party. There’s pizza and Coors Light. The guy in front of me has a Rip Curl hat jammed on his head, backwards with the silver sticker still shining on the brim. We run into a few friends, a guy who works at the surf shop, another who works at the deli. A cluster of blonde haircuts laughs at their own jokes.

Dane is here. The people love Dane and pack in tight. There’s a brief effort at a question-answer session, but no one can hear. Dane squints, blinded by the projector’s light. He doesn’t know what to say and we don’t mind. We really just want to see some surfing. We don’t actually have any questions.

Looking for the right wifi network is our time’s version of fumbling with the reel-to-reel. The massive number of open tabs on the computers’ browser gives me anxiety and whoever’s working the keyboard mistypes the password on the first attempt. This is me, like every hour of the day. Then we’re in. The screen goes dark and we all lean forward, anticipating.

A trio of groms climb the back fence to get a better view. A couple others climb over the fence from the outside, apparently too cool to come in through the front door. Soon a line of heads peer over the back fence, too cool to come in at all. We stand packed tightly together, sweating gently in the warm summer air.

We watch as Dane rides an unusually wide variety of surfboards. He looks self-conscious on a midlength, as though the idea of doing less with more confounds him entirely. What do I do with this board, he seems to be asking. He invites us to laugh with him as he falls and we do. The closer the board is to a thruster, the more at home he appears — which comes as no surprise at all. His above-the-lip hijinx please the crowd. Dane is surfing and there’s free beer. We’re happy. Sometimes life is that simple.

There’s a drawing for a new surfboard. I never saw the raffle tickets. Finding the beer was winning enough for me. Stocky and bearded, the master of ceremonies pulls out a ticket with the air of a magician producing a unicorn. Someone named Chas wins.“Chas?” Long pause. He asks again, “Is Chas here?” I never see the winner, but they must have found him eventually.

Then we’re swimming toward the exits. I stop to talk to a friend on the way out, forgetting for a moment that in this particular context, he’s famous. Around here, we’re all just people drinking too much coffee and staring at the horizon and it’s easy to forget that there’s anything more to our identities than our shared rituals. Someone bounds up excited to see him and talk shop. I Cheshire Cat into the crowd.

I use the bathroom and it’s filled with surfboards. Stacks of boards lean against every available wall. It’s not really a surprise to find them in the bathroom, too. It reminds me of the time I visited a mountain bike brand who kept their secret prototypes locked in the women’s bathroom. They didn’t get too many female visitors there, apparently.

We walk outside into the soft, late-summer air and unlock our bikes. A friend stands on the corner. “See ya later Lance!” he yells. I flip him off and laughing, we pedal over the culvert and across the tracks toward home, our red tailights dancing in the dark.

It’s good watching surfing with other people. We should all do that more often.