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?

Cooler Runnings: Ben Bourgeois to coach Jamaican National Surf Team in Olympic hunt!

But we need to help!

The best part of surfing in the Olympics is that no one at the executive or coaching level has been accused of having sex with a fourteen-year-old. The second best part of surfing in the Olympics is the reintroduction of wonderful friends from the past. Of course you already know that Bede “The White Fijian” Durbidge is coaching Australia’s team and someone fun must be coaching the U.S. team. Neco Padaratz? Are you involved with the Brazilian team per chance?

Ben Bourgeois is coaching the Jamaican team and I can’t think of a cooler fit. Benny B, you recall, is a stylish surfer from Florida. He came up for a few professional cups of coffee but I have heard one of his greatest skills is finding secret yet amazing waves in the Caribbean and surfing them like no one else. Multiple respected surf photographers have told me that Ben is the best they’ve ever seen and I believe.

The Jamaican team is then very lucky. Will they make the cut? Ben says yes.

“I think the chances of us qualifying for the inaugural participation of surfing at the Olympics Games are good. I think we can do it especially that there are some smaller events leading up to it that the surfers can really gain some experience from. But we have to get the right equipment and it is difficult to get equipment down to the island.”

Is it illegal to sponsor a surf team? What could be cooler than sponsoring the Jamaican one? The number of wonderful collaborations I’m thinking up sitting here, stone cold sober, right now… ooooee! The possibilities are endless.

Get me… which shaper would be best here? Which shaper would shine in black, yellow and green? I’m gonna think and you’re gonna think and then we’re gonna get him on the phone.

Don’t worry, Ben Bourgeois. We’ll sort this out.

You ain't never seen a dang thing like it! | Photo: @surfinglife

From the milk-a-story-dry-department: Occy’s wave pool from the bird!

Come and get a little of that boom boom!

Of all the crimes I might be accused of, letting a story run its natural course is not one of them.

Last week, the Occy and Barton-Lynch endorsed wave pool called Surf Lakes opened for testing, and which we duly reported with a lazy phone call to the company’s media director.

“The thing is mind-blowing. Everything about it,” the former Tracks editor Wayne Dart said.  “The technology and just the sheer beauty of the backdrop and surrounds. It’s surreal. You look at the footage and it looks like an artist’s impression. You’ve got trees and mountains in the background and this crystal clear green wave breaking down the line.”

He added, “We’re analysing all the numbers, making sure we can get it to full size and not break it, essentially. But, this afternoon, there’ll be waves that are overhead. From an engineering perspective, all the numbers are matching. We’re confident it will handle full-tilt.”

Last night, the company released its first official vision, a carefully curated, and very short, clip of its pool before it broke down and the site was closed.

And which we reported, and spat all over social. 

Today, further footage of the tank, this time from Surfing Life magazine, one of the few remaining print titles in this special interest niche still in existence, who’d negotiated exclusive rights to the story.

And, this, my favourite, of the Western Australian surfer Felicity Palmateer. The North Queensland sunset is juxtaposed expertly with machinery so dystopian one expects there to be a large clock somewhere striking thirteen.

Surfers hopefully just remain addled and dumb.
Surfers hopefully just remain addled and dumb.

2020 Olympic Update: Surfing gets facelift courtesy of skateboarding!

A gymnastic-esque scandal rocks Olympic skateboarding!

Day 5 of plague-induced sobriety and I’ve lost my vigor. The fever has transmuted into something far worse, either the Bubonic Plague or leprosy, and I likely won’t be around much longer but at least I’m not part of USA Skateboarding.

Have you read the headlines? Have you seen the news? USA Skateboarding has suspended one of it officials over alleged sexual misconduct with a child. It is not a pretty story and let’s turn to ESPN for the details:

USA Skateboarding has placed executive committee member Neal Hendrix on interim suspension following allegations of improper sexual contact with a then-14-year-old skateboarder. Hendrix is under police investigation for the same allegations.

Professional skateboarder Julie Lynn Kindstrand Nelson, who goes by “Julz Lynn,” detailed the allegations to the Costa Mesa (California) Police Department on Oct. 11, providing a detective with a six-page letter describing interactions with Hendrix. The letter, also provided to espnW, states that when she was between the ages of 14 and 15 and Hendrix was in his early 30s, she performed sex acts on him at his request. The letter also states that he masturbated in front of her, photographed and took videos of her while she was naked and showed her pornography involving underage girls.


A very ugly story. Bad bad bad but good for surfing? Oh don’t look at me that way. Don’t look at me at all, in fact, because you will catch what I have but let’s discuss a bit.

Surfing and skateboarding were accepted into the 2020 Tokyo Games at the same time and I would imagine to add youthful appeal. Snowboarding, which has been part of the winter Olympics since 1998, is the highest-rated, most-viewed category. It does not strain credulity to believe that the International Olympic Committee dreamed of an equal spike coming from the other two boardsports.

Even still, I would continue to imagine that many starched collars in the IOC, headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, shook their heads at the mention of surfing and skateboarding while saying, “Nein, das sind keine guten Dinge. Sehr dreckig und schlecht.” And I bet they just meant it in the joint smoking, cocaine sniffing sort of way. That surfers and skateboarders are derelicts and not athletes.

I wholeheartedly agree with those starched collars, by the way. Surfers and skateboarders are derelicts and not athletes but then look at Neal Hendrix over there on the skateboarding side allegedly pretending that he’s USA gymnastics.

Vile vile vile and not a good look for anyone at all except surfing looks positively grand by comparison. And this is why sport stuff should be left to sport people and surfers should be left alone. No good ever comes from coaches, committees, training camps, etc.

No good at all.