Michael Wright, brother of O and Ty, releasing his bats in Lemoore. | Photo: WSL/Cestari

Opinion: “Surfing can’t go on being smothered in a cocoon, free of outside forces!”

"Letting go of the idea of surfing will liberate you from its perceived demise. It's acceptance through transcendence."

As the King rolled broken-pawed into his last high-scoring Ranch run on Sunday po-faced surfers bemoaned the latest corruption of surfing. This giant aquatic simulator, a hundred miles from the ocean, pumping out folded lumps of dam water with a Disno-reptillian conglomerate greasing the plow.  

To paraphrase the great philosopher Garth Algar: it looked like surfing; only, that’s not surfing.

There’s no need to peer in to that existential maw again.

But after seeing Surf Ranch in full flight it could be easy to  say surfing finally jumped the shark. To plant a flag in the fake Lemoore sand right under the Polo Ralph Lauren booth.

This is where we sold out. Yet it wouldn’t be the first time…

This is the cover of a Tracks issue from 1977.

Let’s read inside.

“Commercialism is sponsors, endorsement, propaganda images, hard sell, soft sell and the whole crazy game. It will hurt some aspects of surfing and it will help others. But whichever way you look at it , the age of commercialism in surfing has arrived. And it’s the most important surfing development of the decade.”

Sound familiar?

Phil Jarratt was coming to grips with the Bronzed Aussies 40 years ago, but he could just as easily be describing Lemoore and the WSL in 2018. Just replace ‘commercialism’ with ‘The Ranch’.


Lemoore is a marketing team’s dream. Everything’s on demand and ready to be packaged. It is the most important surfing development of the decade, at least from the WSL’s perspective. Dirk, Sophie and backwards Beth are (in Ronnie Blakey voice) absolutely frothing at the possibilities. A wave pool for every strip mall. The WSL aren’t the first to try and make a buck from surfing and they won’t be the last.

But for many it left an uneasy feeling. Is this really where we’re headed?

Well, just as experiencing ego death can lead to true enlightenment of the self, letting go of the idea of surfing will liberate you from its perceived demise. It’s acceptance through transcendence.

Dig it: Trying to put a label on surfing is like trying to sweep leaves in a breeze. It’s in a constant state of flux. Is it a professional sport? A counter-culture movement? A spiritual release?

All of the above?

Probably, and more.

The problem isn’t which direction surfing is heading. It’s  more fundamental. We need to stop thinking of surfing as a singular identifier. The concept no longer stands up. It’s a misnomer. We’re not a broad church. We’ve branched out into entirely different religions. You can still surf in verb form, sure.

But surfing as a common noun? It’s no more.

Just like the electric foil ripping through the waterways of Florida has fuck-all in common with the beak-nosed quad paddling into SA desert death slabs, so to does the WSL action sport enthusiast target market have no connection with me, or how I value surfing. It’s the crazy 88s in Byron vs corporate surf retreats in Costa Rica.

On the Edge of a Dream vs the Ranch instant replays. Surfcore vs Get Sent.

The idea of surfing as a blanket term no longer fits. Lemoore’s just another fork in a road that left the highway ten turns back.

Surfing is a medium. An interpretation. It holds up a mirror to the user and nothing more. The cathartic nature of surfing has more to do with drug consumption than it does with a sport. It’s a way for some people to get their kicks. And a way for others to make money.

But there’s so many different ways to do it now that trying to skin it is a futile effort.

Again, this isn’t a new idea.

Here’s Graham Cassidy from that same Tracks  in ‘77.

“What has to be remembered in the outset is that surfing, whether amatuer or competitive or day to day fun, is what the individual makes it. No one can take that peculiarly personal element out of the pastime. Not money, not hype, not media overkill. It is what makes the act of surfing so inviolate. Surfing is no longer a counter culture, but a thing of the masses. It can’t go on being smothered in a cocoon, free of outside forces. The pastime is too popular, too big and too unwieldy for such utopian-like detachment. This is, of course, the unfortunate way of life.”

So criticise The Pool if you need to.

Hold the WSL to account. Especially when it’s as fun as the BG comments section.

But embrace the absurdity of it all. And don’t cry for surfing. It’s already dead.

Long live surfing.

Blood Feud: Kalani Robb launches Hawaiian jihad on surf blog!

Former top-rated WCT pro calls on Rothman family and Da Hui to strike this North Shore winter!

Doesn’t the arrogance of the elites drive you just mad? Just blood bursting in the temples livid?

It does me.

The upper crust with their cuffed tweed pants and designer soccer slides. The elites with their barely disguised disdain for The People.

Today, Sam McIntosh workaday publisher of the surf blog Stab, trying as hard as he can to make a living for the workaday surfer too by hosting an air competition in Waco, Texas, that I am very excited for, wrote about his dreams.

Shall we read?

We don’t want some of the world’s best non-WSL surfers to become Vloggers to save their hide. Our goal with Stab High is to provide a platform for these guys to showcase their skill in a controlled environment. It isn’t meant to be too serious; just the world’s best aerial surfers, raw, all laying it on the line on the same section, for a couple of hours on a Saturday night.

Oh I dream of saving the world from vloggers too. From the Kardashians and PewDiePie and Smosh and their millions and millions of dollars and millions and millions of followers for talking about makeup and anal sex.

Kalani Robb, who makes video logs for Catch Surf, felt the burn and responded with a call for Hawaiian jihad.

“Not the smartest move talking shit about Hawaiians before u go there this winter.”

CC’d on the fatwa were Eddie Rothman, Koa Rothman and Da Hui.

Oh but Kalani, oh but the world is yours.

It is yours and the Kardashians and PewDiePie and Smosh. You are the future with your millions and millions and millions and millions.

Can you please leave us blogs alone?

To toil in obscurity with our tens and tens until progress rolls us up into a Persian carpet and tosses us in a dusty closet.

Have you ever considered bloggers’ feelings, Kalani?

Well have you?

Dreams-come-true department: Surfer/snowboarder mortgages house, buys ski chalet, never has to work again!

You living your dream?

It’s a hoary old line: find something you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.

Easier said than done, as we all know. I love cupping the pendulous bosoms of middle-aged Jewesses and eating hot bread rolls that have been buttered with a particular Scandinavian butter but I’m yet to make a dollar out of it.

One lifelong surfer, and snowboarder, who has cut himself a piece of the lifestyle pie is the Australian Dan Solo. This is a man who wanted to be the master of his own ship but, like most of us, got caught in the gotta-make-cash wheel. He had a pregnant girl and was trying to live and survive in one of the most expensive cities in the world, Sydney as if you had to ask.

Dan earned his bread as a web developer but says that every day, as he rode the ferry to work, “I felt sad. All these grey men in their grey suits with their grey frowns. My mantra is, you get one crack at life, so you better make it a bloody good one. And I wasn’t making my life a good one.”

For twenty years, Dan and his girl, Andy, worked hard and didn’t save a cent.

Dan and Andy had a talk.

“We can’t do this for the next twenty years. We’re miserable.”

When he’s not surfing around Sydney, Dan and Andy like to take off for Japan. Buckets of powder. Real nice people. Good electronics. Warm Saki.

Dan had always loved the Japanese vibe. When he was thirteen he told his best pal that when he had a kid he was going to call him after the protagonist in the Japanese post-apocalytic animated film Akira.

By the time they’d hit their thirties, Dan and Andy had ridden all over Japan. And so they figured, why don’t we open a little boutique chalet in the mountains? The pair had  been pouring their lives into their Bondi apartment (Sydney is the second-most heated property market after Hong Kong), a place where a crummy two-bedder a click from the beach starts at a million bucks, and had enough equity to peel off a slice and invest in their dream.

(Their kid Akira wasn’t so little anymore either. He was sixteen, fluent in Japanese after a life in the International School system and loved to ride Japan’s powder.)

The luxe room at Snowball. What games of the flesh you might play here!
The joint pukes. The snow equivalent of Cloudbreak or G-Land.

And the thing about Japan is, because of the big ski resort bust in the late-nineties and the subsequent reticence of banks to lend money to anyone buying property in the snow, it’s cheap, at least relative to Australia.

So, three years ago, they bought a dreamy nine-room chalet for a couple hundred thousand Australian at Madarao Mountain, two hours by bullet from Tokyo. They’d driven past it and, on a whim, had stopped and asked the seventy-two-year-old owner if she’d sell. Her eyes lit up. Property is hard to shift in these parts. When they went to sign the deal, it turned out they’d bought two blocks of land.

Snowball Chalet, post-renovation.

Dan and Andy renovated the existing chalet, turning a trad pension into a hip, but luxe, ski chalet. They stuck a yurt on the other and turned into a buzzy little bar called the Shaggy Yak. They’d banked on a twenty-five percent occupancy rate, something they thought might be a little bullish, but it wound up at fifty-five in that first year.

This year it’s shaping up to be over eighty percent.

Sexy apres ski in Snowball’s lounge.

The success of Snowball Chalet means Dan gets to split his time between snowboarding the northern hemisphere winter in Japan and surfing the rest of the year in Australia.

Sure he’s got a little work to do in the off season, dealing with the website, online bookings, improvements on the joint, and when he’s on the mountain his role is to host guests, riding with ’em on mountain, showing off the hot pools and snow monkeys that live nearby, dinners etc.

The Japanese snow monkeys that live nearby. Lovely pink snouts.

It sure ain’t digging ditches.

It’s a story, a lesson, I think, in learning think in a way that examines, first, what you love, how you gonna earn your bread and in what manner you plan on spending your pitifully short time here on earth.

I see Dan in the surf, around the beach and it’s like he’s seen, I dunno, the truth, I suppose. That killing yourself at work so you might retire with a little cash at seventy ain’t the only way to cut the pie.

More than that: you don’t need to be rich to live a rich life.


Victory: Surf becomes too absurd to make fun of!

The day has finally arrived. Surf is officially too absurd to make fun of. Too off the rails weird where even The Onion, the pinnacle of American satirical expression, could not make surf satirical or absurd.

Totally true.

As you know, I consume surf news like no one earth. And by “consume” I mean that I Google “surf” first thing in the morning and then click “news” then Google “surfing” and then click “news.”

This morning I did that and read this story.

Standing firm in his commitment to the historic property amid mounting apprehension over the approach of Category 4 Hurricane Florence, Myrtle Beach resident Dennis Brock told reporters Monday he refused to evacuate from his family’s ancestral Ron Jon Surf Shop. “I don’t care what the government tries to tell me. This place is in my blood, and I’m not leaving no matter what,” said Brock of the beach apparel and souvenir shop where he and two of his cousins are currently employed as cashiers, where his uncle once worked as an assistant manager, and where his father once helped vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro pick out a pair of sunglasses. “I’m not some coward who’s just going to flee and abandon everything my family has worked so hard for. These flip-flop bottle opener keychains, these waterproof wallets, these boogie boards—they’re a part of who I am, and I’ll never abandon them. If I have to die, let me die in the place that I love, surrounded by collectable shot glasses and fridge magnets, wearing the Bob Marley T-shirt and board shorts of my people.” Brock reportedly prepared for the storm by stuffing several foam beer koozies and tie-dyed beach towels in the cracks beneath the store’s front doorway.

I thought, “What a legend. I’m doing a story.”

Then went on to try to find where this legend lived and realized he was a satirical The Onion creation.

And then I stepped away from my computer and danced to Abba because we’ve arrived. We’ve all officially arrived. So satirical that it can no longer be satirized.

God bless surfing. God bless it each and every day.

Joel Tudor: “I make fun of shit ‘cuz I can!”

Joel Tudor, the "grumpy local" hero that surfing needs, weighs in on high-performance longboarding!

I called Joel Tudor today and he laughed when he answered the phone. Laughed a genuine laugh that increasingly rare in these horribly fractured times. Laughed when I said, “This is Chas Smith from BeachGrit.” Laughed when I repeated it because my connection was bad.

It made me so happy. So marvelously, wonderfully happy that he appears to practice what he preaches. Slinging outrageous barbs but them accepting them in equal measure because it’s all a funky dance, right? No one can ever take this surfing ultimately serious, right? We’re all walking disasters, right?


Or to quote Joel Tudor himself, “I make fun of shit ‘cuz I can.’

Amen Brother Joel.

Today I called him because high-performance longboarding is happening at Lowers. High-performance longboarding at Lowers as part of the Relik Longboarding Tour and I was already curious as to his take even before he posted the above photo to his Instagram account.

After he finished laughing I asked, “Is there a future in high-performance longboarding or is on the verge of going away forever?”

He responded, “Well, it’s geared to the region and there is one place in the world it works. Hawaii. It works in Hawaii because the waves are so fast so it becomes functional. The kids in Hawaii…. the kids in Hawaii are radical and they’re caught up in it but it doesn’t work or look good anywhere else.”

It made much sense, the “ride the appropriate board for the conditions” mantra and Joel continued to riff on the value of modern logging without training wheels (I was unsure if “training wheels” refers to side fins or a leash though assumed the former), how it’s not some leftover relic, as it were, but a living breathing expression that today’s youth are stretching, molding, changing. How much fun it is etc.

But back to high-performance longboarding, I suppose I’m happy that it can stick around in Hawaii and also happy that it doesn’t belong anywhere else.

Especially Lowers.

Wanna watch?

Lower Trestles Day 1 Afternoon Highlights | Relik Longboard World Tour 2018 from Surf Relik on Vimeo.