Help: Let’s make the Triple Crown of Surfing great again!

It's time for a surfing cull!

There is no good surf news happening right now, certainly nothing of note. Surf Lakes rolled out their brand new, exciting technology to little fanfare. Oh, I know some blame the lack of excitement on the fact that the Yeppoon’s first and only wave tank never got up to full tilt but that just isn’t true. It was by far the most dynamic/sexiest and the only reason we didn’t look more is because we are all spoiled rotten and/or just waiting for Webber.

Outside of Yeppoon, though, there is nothing. I spent the morning trolling around before realizing that the HIC Pro at Oahu’s iconic Sunset Beach kicked off yesterday in 15ft surf.

I had no idea and the fact that I had no idea gave me profound sadness.

The Triple Crown (Sunset, Haleiwa and Pipeline) should be the greatest month in competitive surfing’s year but it’s not at all. It is an embarrassing sideshow all thanks to the 185 kids in the draw. Why are these QS events? Who has the time or energy to watch 185 kids winnow down to Bam Bacalso?

The World Surf League should rescue this shiny gem, make the whole thing an invitational and crown the world’s most well rounded surfer at the end.

Is it really that difficult?

Is it really that impossible to cull the damned field?

I don’t understand. A surfing cull would be the best news ever, across both the CT and QS, and Halloween would be the best time ever for this bloodletting. Imagine waking up on Wednesday morning with no more QS mainstays ever again.


The best gift of all.

Jeff Clark on Mavericks: “I brought this dragon to the world!”

What have you ever done with your life?

I spoke with one of my literary heroes on the phone last week. Daniel Duane, author of Caught Inside, How to Cook Like a Man, Lighting Out etc. is working on a piece for the New York Times, I believe, about women and big wave surfing. It was a great pleasure to chat and to once again kick big wave surfing’s tires and do it with someone as knowledgeable he.

Big wave surfing is like exotic pornography to me. Like very extreme BDSM or furry fandom or psychrophilia. I understand the most basic component, the sex act itself, but other than that am completely lost.

I have vacillated wildly over the years, thinking that big wave surfing is the only broadly consumable sector of our game. That the average Joe or Josie can instantly understand both the daring and skill of big wave surfing without the need for Joe Turpel to explain what “scores in the excellent range” mean. Thinking that big wave surfing is completely unmarketable in the same ways that dog maulings and avalanches are unmarketable. Average Joe and Average Josie look, mouths agape even, but would never pay money to look.

Part of the problem, I thought while chatting with Dan, is the new inflatable lifevests. Oh I don’t doubt that they are a technological marvel and savers of many many many lives but, to me, it feels as if the very extreme BDSM has spilled out of the dungeon and into the public square. I don’t like the way they make me feel.

Maybe that is why I appreciate Waimea, big Pipeline and Mavericks all the more. Waves that brave men and women ride nude, like normal, or in simple wetsuits.

Mavericks had its opening ceremony the other day. It has finally been freed from lawsuit and argument, I think, and is set to put on a show. Let us turn to the San Francisco Chronicle for more.

Beforehand, as surfers and photographers gathered on the beach, Mavericks legend Jeff Clark offered some words in prayer. Clark, who pioneered the break in the mid-1970s, had decided to step aside from the contest after years of financial woes and political infighting, but recently changed his mind.

“I brought this dragon to the world,” said Clark, 61, who surfed Mavericks by himself for 15 years before he could get anyone to join him. “For all the stuff that goes on, it comes down to the time in the ocean with this band of big-wave brothers and sisters. That’s what it’s really all about. What’s remembered are the waves, and the friendships.”

Doesn’t that make you jealous? I suppose we are this band of small-wave brothers and sisters though and for that I am grateful.

Update: DA drops charges in “world’s lamest surf assault!”

"You just can't tackle someone in the United States!" Oh yes you can!

Earlier this year, surfers were gifted the fascinating saga of Alex Burdett vs Jordan Montgomery in what quickly became known as the “World’s Lamest Surf Assault”.

Do you remember?

Here’s a quick refresher.

A small crowd was surfing a two-foot windswell at First Jetty, Virginia Beach. It ain’t Pipe but what is.

As recorded by the Surfline cam, and posted on Instagram after the fact, we saw a shortboarder, take off deep on the peak and go left. A longboarder wobbled down the face of the wave from the opposite side of the peak. As they collided, the shortboarder jumpsed over the other board and the longboarder stayed on his craft before flopping off the back of the wave.

Shortly afterwards, the shortboarder, Alex Burdette, who is a twenty-eight-year-old tattoo artist at Ghost Ship Tattoo in town there, was cuffed in the middle of a job and jailed on a charge of assault and battery.

“I asked if I could finish the tattoo and he told me to find a way for them to come back another day,” Alex told BeachGrit, and said he had to spend a thousand bucks on a lawyer and stay in Virginia Beach for the next month, missing any swells that hit nearby, but interstate, Cape Hatteras as well as a vacay in Nicaragua. “I have a completely clean record. It was the only time I’ve been in cuffs outside of the bedroom.”

The accuser, who felt the non-incident was worthy of state intervention, was a kid Alex said he taught to surf ten years earlier, the filmer Jordan Montgomery.

When BeachGrit called Jordan, who was twenty one at the time, he said he’d had “ongoing problems with Alex since he was a kid. 

And the collision?

“It was five-thirty, low light, dusk. He stood up and jumped at me. He put his hands on my shoulders and I grabbed him and rotated him. I was confused, like, dude why are you tackling me on a one-foot wave? He didn’t punch me in the face. You can see in the video he doesn’t push me off the board, but his  hands hit me in the bottom of the neck and chin area. I felt it! He laid a hand on me and in the United States you can do that. Surfing is a recreational sport and I’ve been surfing for fourteen years. I’m not a kook. I rode for Hurley for ten years… I’ve done all the Rip Curl GromSearches, NSSAs. I know what the hell I’m doing! This happened so fast. I felt his hands on me! He was tackling me out of aggression. Surfing shouldn’t be a scapegoat for violence.”

Afterwards, he said Alex announced to the lineup, “All you bitch-ass longboarders, if you go right I’ll kick your ass!”

“I’m not trying to get him in trouble. I probably went a little over bounds. I did what I had to do to protect myself,” admitted Jordan.

Anyway, according to a Virginia Beach resident and BeachGrit reader, the charges have now been dropped after Burdett’s lawyer got the Surfline footage and showed it to the DA.

Watch the World’s Lamest Surf Assault again here!

It’s precious!



Photo: World Surf League
Photo: Steve Sherman/@tsherms/World Surf League

This week in schadenfreude: Kelly Slater shockingly silent about Surf Lakes!

Is this the official official official end?

Surf Lakes debuted to the world this week and Kelly Slater was nowhere to be found. The debut was, of course, more like a peek. We saw the magnificent plunger pulled straight from the set of Sucker Punch. We saw closeups of professional surfer faces, lounging there watching it live mouth’s agape. We saw the reputation of Ozzie Wright, once Australia’s most beloved surfer, brought low by Venice-adjacent’s Stab (in the back. Oooof painful!) We saw an entirely different technology that promised hope but we did not see Kelly Slater.

Amazing and maybe the first time in modern surf history that the GOAT hasn’t even attempted to redirect the spotlight when it starts to drift.

Oh you know what a master he is, I’ve never seen the like, and there were plenty of opportunities over the course of the week. He could have debuted a new Surf Ranch setting that allows surfers to get barreled while they’re doing an air. He could have backhand complimented how difficult it is to make even a one-foot wave. He could have given a lengthy engineering treatise about how piston-like technology require much more maintenance because there is a static impact point on both the top and bottom which creates a jarring motion rather than a slow reduction in controllable speed which increases the fail rate and explains why pistons are driven by a rotating shaft instead of a straight up and down motion (information provided by a wonderful friend).

But there was nothing. Nothing at all. He went on Joe Rogan and had a nice chat. He shared pictures of himself in miniature surfing a tiny wave on Instagram which Kelly watchers may see as a very subtle dig but nothing else. Nothing obvious.

And my heart doesn’t want to write this but is this the official official official end? Kelly’s been kicking the retirement tires for years. The retirements, as it were, but always comes roaring back because it is clear he needs us. He needs our attention.

Does he no longer?

Adriano de Souza is certainly somewhere in Brazil, right now, mumbling “Why couldn’t Kelly officially officially officially retire  in 2015…” but there is a tear in my eye and there should be a tear in yours too if this is, in fact, the official official official end.

Matt Warshaw: “The internet has numbed me to a point where I’d have to smash my iPhone and cut my chest to feel anything about a tube ride.”

Ten-second tubes don't mean a dang thing anymore says bespectacled, begrimed, bow-legged surf historian…

Yesterday, I had an instructive conversation with the surf historian Matt Warshaw. It is a topic he feels very strongly about – that the tube ride, thanks to POV cameras and Kelly’s pool, now has as much value as the Venezuelan Bolivar

“I can do my little historian’s dance about how the tube—getting inside, grabbing the view with a camera—was once the Holy Grail,” said Warshaw. “Now a 10-second tube is a throwaway score.”

BeachGrit: It’s true, the tube ride really is a fading star. The Surf Ranch Pro banged the final nail into its coffin. Here was the tube ride as test-pattern. What did you see? What did you feel? 

Warshaw: The Surf Ranch Pro came down to airs. We saw that coming way before the contest started. So it ended up like long-program figure skating, where you know that all the gliding stuff in-between moves kind of counts, but really we’re just waiting to see if she nails the quad toe-loop. Except at Surf Ranch the in-between stuff was the tube. That hurt. I think in one of our earlier chats I said something about how a 10-second tube would be a throwaway at Kelly’s wave and that’s what happened. Maybe you have to be older to feel sad about that.

Skeleton Bay delivers a man (where are the gals?) a twenty-second tube and no one gives a shit. Tell me why that has devalued the tube ride as compared to Kirra, which was once a mirror version? You blaming the dang internet?

The internet has numbed me to a point where I’d have to smash my iPhone and cut my chest to feel anything. But with Skeleton Bay I think it’s more about the POV camera. Tube media—I want to sip it, like bourbon. POV cams turned the tube into a keg-stand.

Here’s where we’re going to differ about something. POV cameras. I’m going to suggest that they’ve kept the tube perspective alive, as well as, finally, giving not-so-great surfers, and non-surfers, a show they’d never otherwise see. And in that respect, they’re given tubes a prestige that would’ve faded long ago. Remember that Anthony Walsh shot of Laird Hamilton at Teahupoo (click here)? Tell me that don’t make your (considerable) neck hair stand up on end. 

No, my neck hairs stayed flaccid. Those stuntman surf photos, taken from a place on a wave I’d never myself get to — those images don’t get up inside me. Anything wide-angle, stuntman or not, I can take or leave. Or just leave. But this Sean Davey shot of Laird, for me, never gets old.

Laird’s millennium wave as snatched from the beach with a very long lens by the Australian Sean Davey.

POV was the Grail for the longest time, Greenough and his cameras inside the tube were the stuff of legend. That these devices are now affordable and can now be affixed to helmet, mouth, pole etc, is something to celebrate, I’d suggest. Tell me the name of the Greenough movie (Innermost Limits?) and how surfers at the time reacted to seeing a tube from the inside out? 

The first Greenough inside-looking-out piece was Coming of the Dawn” and it was the closing segment for Innermost Limits of Pure Fun. “Echoes” came next. That was for a movie called Crystal Voyager. Echoes” was much better, cleaner, more mesmerizing, than “Dawn.” Greenough was just way WAY ahead of his time, wrangling that view and dragging it out for the world to see. George and Pink Floyd at some point got stoned together and the band gave George a track to use for “Echoes,” and George in turn let Floyd screen the movie during their concerts. The first surfer-rock band collab!

What excites me most, still, even though I’m not much in the game anymore, are tubes that I myself want to ride. Which means wedgy little rights. Which is why the Waco tank got my neck hairs all hard and sprung up!

Let’s be frank. There’s tubes and then there’s barrels. What excites you? Ten-foot Cloudbreak? Big Pipe? Or have you lost any joy from seeing a folding lip? 

What excites me most, still, even though I’m not much in the game anymore, are tubes that I myself want to ride. Which means wedgy little rights. Which is why the Waco tank got my neck hairs all hard and sprung up!

And while we’re being frank, was there too much cosmic bullshit surrounding tubes anyway? Debate about whether you could hear anything inside, manoeuvres in the tube, time slowing down etc, it was all smoke and mirrors, yes? 

One hundred percent bullshit, all of it. But that doesn’t take anything away from how full-on addicted we all were, maybe still are, to riding inside the tube. I can’t explain it. And I’ve never heard anybody else explain it to a degree that sounds reasonable. But the final 20 or so years of my surfing life I didn’t really want to do much else except ride inside the tube. Everything else was fun, but kind of just killing time until the sandbars got good again and the wind switched offshore and swell went to four at 12.

I liked Mark Richards quote somewhere where he said he’d rather hit the lip than stall and get tubed. You remember? 

Mark Richards never lived down the Shaun Tomson episode at OTW. Of course he’d say that.

When was the last time you got tubed? Did you feel… anything? 

A year ago, at the Surf Ranch! What if I die and that’s the last one I ever get? All the shit I’ve talked about Kelly’s wave, how funny would that be?