Warshaw on Gerry Lopez: “You don’t zen your way to the top at Pipeline. You reach up and claw down every guy until there’s nobody left!”

The surfer-shaper icon turns seventy today!

Did you know that the Hawaiian surfer Gerry Lopez turns seventy today? Oh of course you didn’t. We eat up our stars, lick the bones and then go back to our crass digital lives.

A seventy-year-old man? Eee-yew!

And so we turn, again, to Matt Warshaw, the Seattle historian whose Encyclopedia of Surfing stands as a lone bulwark against what Dane Reynolds calls the “pandering bullshit and exploitation of surfing”.

Recently, Matt flew down to Ventura, California, to be a talking head on a new Gerry Lopez documentary produced by Patagonia.

Let’s bang.

BeachGrit: First, can you believe that swinging Asian ripper who steals the show in Big Wednesday, who catwalked Pipe etc, is seventy today?

Warshaw: Gary Busy stole Big Wednesday, not Lopez. Not that there was anything much worth stealing.

Nobody catwalked Pipe before Gerry. Jock Sutherland, my third-favorite surfer as a kid, rode Pipeline like he had a stick of dynamite up his ass. Lopez rode it like Audrey Hepburn stepping out of a cab on 5th Ave.

Did Lopez also not catwalk Pipe?

No, he catwalked the hell out of it. He invented it. Nobody catwalked Pipe before Gerry. Jock Sutherland, my third-favorite surfer as a kid, rode Pipeline like he had a stick of dynamite up his ass. Lopez rode it like Audrey Hepburn stepping out of a cab on 5th Ave.

There’s a dignity to Gerry that is, I think, non-existent in surfing. One of my first gigs in the biz was to interview Lopez for a caption and he referred to himself as a “broke-dick.” Washed up, nothing. He must’ve been forty-five.

There is towering dignity, yes. But the self-effacing bit is nonsense. Or not nonsense, exactly. It is strategic and disarming. Lopez, and I say this with the utmost respect, is incredibly calculating and shrewd. You only ever see what he wants you to see, when and where he wants you to see it. Which makes him, in this live-streaming tell-everything age, all the more attractive. He’s the last mysterious man in surfing.

How significant a surfer was Gerry in the early to mid-seventies?

At the height of his powers, if you’d stacked the reputation of every other big-dick surfer into a pile, it would have come up just below Gerry’s chin. David Nuuhiwa was like that too, but a few years earlier.

Where do you place him in the pantheon of surf greats?

Duke, Dora, Lopez, Slater, Curren.

Talk me through his pivotal moments: Pipe, G-Land pioneer, shift to Hollywood etc.

I think it really just comes down to Pipe. The Hollywood thing was a bust. G-land— he was great there, but not first, and Peter McCabe was hot on his tail. What Gerry did at Pipeline between 1969 and 1974, though, was just breathtaking. It still moves me, today, how beautiful he was, how fluid. He stuck vertical drops, threaded huge tubes, came out in a huge cloud of spit, and didn’t even change expression. Kept his hands low, knees and shoulders and hips relaxed. Rory Russell got as a deep as Gerry at Pipeline, but Rory sort of looked like a plucked chicken by comparison.

Do you believe his move to Oregon and the world of snow in 1992 was reflective of his belief that if he’d stayed on the North Shore he would’ve been, I dunno, poisoned by the crowds, the scene?

At some point, if you’re thinking big-picture, you move on to the next thing. How many tubes do you need? I’m not saying that rhetorically. It’s a hard question to answer, and back then surfers weren’t gorging on Skeleton Bay or Surf Ranch, so tube-time was harder to clock. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing Gerry hit a point where he just felt he didn’t need to spend all that time and energy doing something he’d been doing, at the highest possible level, for 15 or 20 years. You move on to the next thing. You try something else. And hopefully, as Gerry has done, you keep in touch with the old thing too. He’s ridden a lot of great waves in the last 25 years.

Is any of his cool confected? Is there a dark or a darkish side to Gerry?

For sure yes on the first question — except I think that’s true for almost every cool person. Confecting isn’t a crime if you do it as well as Gerry does. It is, arguably, part of the cool itself. As far as a possible dark side, yeah, I think so. I don’t actually know much about Gerry, what he’d done all these decades. He is and always has been the most insular of our surf legends. But I do know that you don’t Zen your way to the top at Pipeline. By one method or another, you reach up and claw down every guy ahead of you until there’s nobody left. John Lennon once said that while people all thought the Beatles were happy loveable moptops, he and the three lads were actually the four biggest bastards in the world. I always think of Lopez when I hear that. It doesn’t make me think less of him. Just the opposite.

Gerry is sitting in on this right now. What do you tell him?

Bring back the mustache.

Help Part II: Stab magazine editor blocked me on social media again!

Don't be scared, Ashton Goggans. It's only me!

I was at Dubai International Airport yesterday killing a few transit hours, browsing duty-free perfumes while scrolling through Instagram when I saw a longboarding photo tagging Stab magazine’s editor Mr. Ashton Goggans who goes by the handle @ashtonsealegs.

It had been quite some time since I’d seen a mention of @ashtonsealegs and I assume it was because he blocked me on the social media application a year or so ago. I had a different account then, @reportsfromhell, that was mysteriously disappeared by Instagram right exactly when the World Surf League partnered with Facebook which happens to own Instagram. Very curious but also not very interesting. I started another, @surfjournalist, mostly just to keep tabs on what’s happening in our surf world and to screen grab things from Joel Tudor.

So, anyhow, there I was in front of Givenchy’s Gentlemen Only clicking on @ashtonsealegs to see what my old pal has been up to but once again saw that I had been blocked which means Ashton went far out of his way to find my lightly trafficked new account and jump through the proper hoops in order to bar me from seeing other photos of longboarding, puffy jowls and male adornment.

I wondered, that last time, what a person hopes to achieve by blocking someone on social media and was given many helpful answers. Nick Carroll, for example, wrote that I must make Ashton feel unsafe. Many others told me to stop picking on the poor boy and that I was making them feel awkward.

Completely understandable and I’m sorry. I guess I just really miss @ashtonsealegs and also watched Steven Soderbergh’s new film Unsane on the way from Dubai International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport.

It is about a stalker and made me wonder, this time, if I should up my game.

Well, what do you think? Should I use all cash to purchase a cabin in the woods, dig a well, power it with solar and throw my IP address every time I get online?

It sounds relaxing and I do need a writing retreat but I’d like your opinion first.

Opinion: “Kelly Slater on Joe Rogan was one of the most embarrassing clashes of surfing and pop culture!”

"As Slater’s competitiveness has fizzled, his narcissism has been lit like a flare," writes JP Currie.

I pity Kelly Slater. Really. It’s difficult to reconcile just how I arrived here. Once a hero, now almost a meme.

His descent into absurdity has been rapid. I loved Kelly once, truly. But there comes a time when even our deities need to be put out to pasture. A time when they should slip away with dignity to burn brighter in our memories with every passing year. I think, by this point, Kelly has fucked that dead.

As Slater’s competitiveness has fizzled, his narcissism has been lit like a flare. Though, to be fair, he has always grasped for attention outside of the surf world. Unfortunately, being a surfer just isn’t very interesting.

Nick Carroll once said (in this very comment section) that Kelly doesn’t get enough credit for being a psycho. A flippant but accurate summation of Kelly’s sociopathic dedication to surfing performance. It’s just a pity he can’t stick to that. As Slater’s competitiveness has fizzled, his narcissism has been lit like a flare. Though, to be fair, he has always grasped for attention outside of the surf world. Unfortunately, being a surfer just isn’t very interesting.

Kelly’s appearance on Joe Rogan was, in my estimation, one of the most embarrassing clashes of surfing and pop culture. If this man is our king, then he just made the rest of us look really, really silly.

“Kelly Slater.” Joe says in the intro. “We’ve been talking about doing this for how long?”

(Subtext: please stop emailing me now cunt).

Rogan’s podcast is the biggest there is. You can be damned sure Kelly’s been badgering him. That was obvious as he ticked off the Rogan tropes (MMA, hunting, shit you should/shouldn’t eat, BIG FUCKING SCARY ANIMALS), and as he awkwardly hoisted out-of-character attempts at bawdy humour “That’s not the kind of three-way you like, huh?” He even tried out Australian and South African accents as he recounted stories. C-R-I-N-G-E. Slater had all the poise of a teenage girl taking a selfie with her favourite pop star whilst simultaneously pissing her pants.

Despite what David Lee Scales (famous for co-hosting a podcast with Chas Smith) might think, Joe Rogan can be a great interviewer. Different, sure. Sometimes a little irreverent, sometimes a little stoned. But he has a way of eliciting gold from his subjects by simply letting them speak, guiding the conversation where necessary. Colloquialism and playing dumb can be disarming weapons. (John McPhee, Draft No.4, the chapter on Elicitation. You’re welcome, Scales.) Rogan’s podcasts aren’t always good, but sometimes they’re truly great. And he has a back catalogue of tremendous guests.

Not so with Kelly Slater.

The entire conversation was like a classic schoolboy lunchtime debate. The only missing ingredients were whose dad would kick fuck out of whose, and which bird got a wild fingering up behind the bins at the weekend.

It would be fair to say that Joe Rogan was perhaps a little baked, and clearly wasn’t interested in surfing. Why would he be? What’s interesting to a non-surfer beyond sharks? But that wasn’t really the problem.

Slater just didn’t have anything interesting to say. He hijacked Rogan’s anecdotes and attempted to tell them better. He name dropped (“I actually was with Samuel L Jackson three weeks ago in Paris…”). He shoehorned terms he thought Rogan might bite on like “flow state”. And he tried vainly to accredit himself as an MMA guy (“I actually trained with Don The Dragon Wilson”). Worst of all was the repeated “I had a buddy…my friend…I know a guy…etc” as the conversation skipped jauntily from non sequitur to non entity and back again.

“My friend has a giraffe.”

“Bears are so primal.”

“You sure it wasn’t a skunk ape that did it?”

“I thought I pooped out my colon.”

For the two-hour duration of the podcast Kelly was not the king of surfing, he was the guy at the party who always has a story bigger and better than yours. The guy you desperately want to disappear.

Crocodiles “his buddy” told him about that are 29 feet long and 15 feet wide.

Thirty-five foot Great White sharks that his “friend” told him about. “Bruh, the biggest sharks are way bigger than you think…” (in mock SA accent).


Embarrassingly, Rogan tried to end it early. I’ve never heard him do that before.

After this Kelly went into hyper mode as he desperately tried to grasp something to extend the conversation. With absolutely no relevance he starts talking about his foot injury again. He shills his buddy’s juice. He asks Rogan a question as if he’s the host, except it’s not really a question. And he tries desperately to get back to me, me, ME.

Joe: “I worked out for five-anda-a-half hours yesterday.”
Kelly: “I surfed for five hours yesterday.”

Joe: “I’ve done intermittent fasting. I like to do 16 hrs”
Kelly: “I’ve done, like, nine or 10 day fasts.”

And then, just when you think it can’t get any more ridiculous, he says the most American thing ever. (When Rogan mentions Sober October) “You got me in, man. I don’t drink much, but I feel so much better not having a beer.”

Despite his 46 years, Kelly Slater is a child of the Internet. A little knowledge of lots of things but no real depth. It’s a sad indictment of the effects of the Internet on learning in general, and it’s a shame to see someone who is a true expert in his field not be satisfied with that. Just talk about surfing, Kelly. We want to hear about it even if Joe Rogan doesn’t.

You know Of Mice and Men, right? Course you do. School n that. A play that became a novel. The story of loneliness and a beautiful but ultimately tragic relationship. Two men: one small, sharp of feature and wit. The other a big spaz. Lots of foreshadowing –should have killed the cunt ages ago etc.

These last few years of Kelly’s career have felt a little like a performance of the story. Kelly (of course) plays multiple characters.

He’s Curley’s Wife, flaunting himself anywhere people will have him. Craving attention, whorish rouged lips parted suggestively. Deeply tragic.

He’s Candy and Candy’s dog. Old, knackered, long past his best. A bit whiffy. We’ll keep him around out of guilt, respect. But sooner or later someone will shoot the fucker and we’ll all be secretly glad.

He’s Curley. Bouncing around with his dukes up, picking internet fights in places he has no business. Trying desperately to prove something.

And he’s Lennie. Poor, thick Lennie. Probably harmless but maybe not. We’ve habitually excused him.

We play George. All of us.

Introducing: The gorgeous Matt Parker of Album surfboards!

He puts the mental in experimental!

If you surf in Southern California, you’ve probably seen Matt Parker’s Album boards around. Influenced by his art school background, his boards are distinctive. If you want a plain-wrap clear board, I’m pretty sure he’ll make you one, but his aesthetic tends toward the bold.

Parker started shaping for the usual reason — to make himself a board — and got hooked on the practice. He’s self-taught and build his first 20 or so boards entirely with hand tools. Currently, Album builds boards of every shape and size you can dream up with a mix of hand and machine shaping. Lately, Parker’s been experimenting with asymmetric designs and he’s a fan of the way the things ride.

Here’s a short interview for your enjoyment.

What was the first board you ever had?

I didn’t get my first board until I was twelve or thirteen. I think I was in the sixth grade. And I got this 6’6” Rockin’ Fig 80s style shortboard that I think my parent’s got at the flea market or something like that. I was like, obsessed — I got it for Christmas and I was obsessed with it. It was magic though! It had glass-on fins and cool airbrush. And I was like wow. It was made out of fiber glass. It was just — I was kind of blown away by it.

I grew up like half-an-hour inland. In California. I grew up in Orange, California, going to Newport to surf. But the idea of where surfboards came from was always kind of this mysterious thing, because I was always on the outside a little bit. There was only — there was maybe five or ten kids in my school that surfed. Seeing surfboards and being around that, was, I wasn’t right at the bubble of it, so it had a little extra magic about it.

Why did you start building boards?

The first board I shaped, I think I was 25. My background is art and and I’d gone to school for graphic design. So the idea of making a board, I didn’t seem all that insurmountable to me. It was just like making a painting or sculpture or something like that.

Back then — I mean, it wasn’t that long ago, I guess it was 20 years ago — but the boards you would see on a rack in a surf shop, there wasn’t a whole lot of variety. Shortboards, fun boards, and longboards — and maybe the occasional fish here and there. There was a lot of uniformity.

So I was like, “I want to surf something a little different.” So I made this 6’1.” It was like a performance board, a thruster, but it kinda had a little wider tail and a wider nose — and elements of those boards I liked in the 80’s as a kid. And modern rails — I was trying to make, you know, modern rails. I’m sure if I looked back now, I would gasp a little bit. But it did work. It came out somewhat looking like a surfboard.

Do you still have it?

I didn’t keep it that long. Right after I made it, I surfed it for a month maybe, I really got the bug to make another one. So I went and put it on consignment at Surfside Boards in Newport. And someone, amazingly! bought it. I remember when they called me, and I was like, really? Somebody bought that thing? Maybe it’s still floating around somewhere. Maybe someone is still riding it.

What designs are you really excited about now?

So the last four or five years, I’ve been making a ton of asymmetric boards. There’s huge potential in those. Playing around with those has been very addicting.

Your back foot just sits right on the sweet spot that makes a board pivot and turn. It’s just a really unique sensation. They don’t feel like you’re jumping on something that feels weird. They get more out of your board on lesser days and they have a really wide range where they’ll work when waves are good, too.

I’ve been making a couple little models for Josh Kerr. It’s been really validating, because he’s surfed them well in all sorts of waves. I made this little board called The Insanity. It always has an ‘80’s beak nose. It has a fishy entry rocker, but the original one I made for him was a 5’6” pintail that he surfed all over Hawaii: 5’6” x 18 1/2 x 2 5/16. It has a little fuller fishy foil to it, so it’s this little pocket rocket pintail.

Aesthetically, your boards don’t look like what anyone else is doing and I like that. It’s nice to see something that’s not the cookie cutter thing.

That’s what’s so funny, you know. A surfboard shouldn’t have rules as far as those things go. We can make whatever we want! Yet, there tends to be a little bit of conservative outlook in how they should look, you know. It kind of comes down to a little bit of that outsider perspective I had as a kid.

There’s so much that goes into the hierarchy of surf spots — in terms of where you fit in and your ability to get waves. It’s dependent on how people perceive you. Understandably, people kind of want to fly under the radar.

You’re putting yourself out there. You’ve got a real chance of putting a big target on your back that you’re kind of a kook. It’s easier to fall in line and follow the herd a little bit. For me, it’s like come on, it’s surfing. We’re trying to do like, water ballet on surfboards out in the water. We can’t take it too seriously.

We’re all looking for that little magic board that’s going to make us surf the way we think we can surf, right?

Erik Logan (left) and Oprah Winfrey (center right) flash surf hands.
Erik Logan (left) and Oprah Winfrey (center right) flash surf hands.

Revealed: The beautiful new synergies between Oprah and the World Surf League!

Is professional surfing the new hottest ticket in town?

I’m back from the Land of Civilization, blurry-eye’d and in a general state of long haul confusion. It feels good to be home but oh how I missed my Middle East, my Egypt. It’s strange watching the globe shift beneath our feet. I studied in Egypt two-ish decades ago and then the entire country was geared toward the American empire. You couldn’t walk down the street without a street hustling Egyptian offering you the world, telling you that he named his son George Bush.

Now there are no Americans and few Europeans. The country points towards the gulf and aims to satisfy Khaleeji appetites instead. I was like a ghost which was enjoyable but also sad. My cab driver, who took me to the airport on the way out, was also sad. He begged for Americans and Australians to return. “We’re safe now…” he said. “…please tell your friends and family to come back. I used to take people to the pyramids everyday. Now I never. All the Kuwaitis want is prostitutes and alcohol.”

If you’ve got the itch you really should visit. The pyramids are fabulous this time of year.

Well, time moves on, anyhow, sometimes things becoming better, sometimes things become worse, sometimes an ex-employee of the Oprah Winfrey Network becomes the World Surf League’s President of Content, Media and WSL Studios-elect and next thing you know Julia Roberts is talking about it on television.

It’s true!

The very famous actress went onto the Busy Philipps talk show just a few days ago in order to discuss many things including ageism and gender inequality. Shall we read?

Speaking about ageism in the movie industry, Julia said: “I think that’s made-up bulls**t that at a certain age, the bell is going to ring and you are done, go on back home. It’s silly and I don’t think anybody buys into that. I don’t think I am special. I’ve always been fortunate that I have always found the work I am looking for. I mean, 30 years is a long time and I am grateful and satisfied.”

And Julia also has strong feelings about the gender pay gap, and says that although the problem still exists, it is getting better “every day”.

She said: “It’s an ongoing thing that we wish was more in the rear view. But every day … today I know the World Surfing League announced that they will have equal pay for their female surfers and male surfers. And Manchester United has a female team that started this year. I think there are places where people are really making those efforts in the right direction. So if it’s a little bit of time, then we have to take it and be happy for it.”

And boom. World Surf League front and center in Julia Robert’s heart and mind all thanks to Erik Logan via Oprah Winfrey, I’d imagine. Do you think this is the beginning of something big? Will World Surf League events begin to resemble Los Angeles Lakers games packed to the gills with celebrities and pseudo-celebrities?

Will the VIP section at the almost here Pipeline in honor of Andy Irons be stacked with actual very important people instead of Gabriel Medina’s aunt?

Like John Mayer and Leonardo Di Caprio and Jamie Foxx and Jamie Foxx’s on again off again girlfriend Katie Holmes?

A very brave new possible horizon.