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.

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.


From the buy-low-sell-high Department: Rip Curl halves profit, takes “huge step backwards!”

And more good news from the front!

The Middle East is in a very strange time zone, I’ve just realized. When the sun peeks over the horizon, into the desert sand and honking horns, it is very late at night back home in California and just after dinner in Australia. Two night times and how does that work? How is it morning here, night in the U.S. and basically night in Australia?

I should know and am sure the answer is clear but there is no way I’m sussing it out in this state. I have more work today, anyhow, a full slate but before getting out in it I must nominate the definitive guide to surfing’s best brawlers for BeachGrit’s best of ’18. It had me laughing start to finish.

There is no laughing in Torquay, Australia right now though because it was just revealed that Rip Curl had the worst of ’18, halving its profits from ’17 and potentially tanking its value. Shall we read from The New Daily?

Australian iconic brands Rip Curl, Quiksilver, Ozmosis and Billabong are struggling to turn weighty profits ahead of summer as consumers continue to turn their back on once trendy branded T-shirts and surfy swimwear.

The wildly volatile surf retail sector has been rocked by brand collapses and acquisitions in recent years, with Rip Curl being valued at anything between “$80 million and $400 million” depending on who you ask, according to retail expert Brian Walker.

Rip Curl Group’s full-year profits this year took a dramatic dive to $9.8 million, halving its encouraging 2017 profit of $18.4 million.

It is a huge step backwards for the company, which this time last year had reported a doubling in profits.

The company attributed the massive drop in profits in part to its de-valuation of subsidiary retail chain Ozmosis, The Australian reported.

Etc.

Oh I know how just two months ago we celebrated the surf industry’s return and maybe Rip Curl’s troubles are just a small speed bump on the way to glory but things don’t look rosy for the big three. (Quik, Bong and Rip).

It is very convenient that Rip Curl owns a retail chain, I suppose. An easy hook upon which to hang the precipitous drop in profits but part of me wonders if supply chain is the real culprit. In ’16 things were trucking right along with North Korean slave labor the engine.

Choo-choo!

Due to an unfortunate expose, however, that all went away and mysteriously vanished profits with it.

Hmmmm.

Well you win some and you lose some but the article did point to an interesting phenomenon. Even with profits halved…

“…Rip Curl is doing better than the others and I think that’s because they’ve stuck to a core ‘surf brand’ strategy and focused on their aspiring and hardcore surfer market.

“Their competitors have diluted their brand by going into fashion lines and activewear to appeal to a broader market and have lost their way.”

The aspiring and hardcore surfer market. Us!

I always knew we’d be the future. Should we all go work as Rip Curl slaves now? It would be very inspiring, pushing those North Koreans out of the way, taking up the needle and thread and bringing Torquay back into the light.

A summer blockbuster film even.


Definitive: Your Guide to Surfing’s Best Brawlers!

Who has the piggy face with the DNA to fight? Who can go to a "dark place"?

In honour of all the “How tough is Zeke?” comments in response to his recent video, I’ve created the definitive rankings of how the top 34 would fair in one-on-one street fights against each other.

Several ringers have been included to set the scale.

Go ahead and argue if you didn’t notice the “definitive” part above.

But yeah, definitive.

Luke Rockhold (SCZ) That shin injury that kept him out of UFC 230? Bad luck for the top 34 he now has the time to focus on the WSL. He’d beat up any pro surfer ever, and also your dad when you were in elementary school.

Joel Tudor (LAJ) He’s a love-to-hate personality, but the elite level of his Brazillian Jiu Jitsu is undeniable. You think he’d get punched coming in and crumple, but the guy has mongoose DNA, and his ability to lock any joint from any angle is uncanny.

Michel Bourez (PYF) Stumpy explosive athlete with high level BJJ. He’s the class of the WSL.

Willian Cardoso (BRA) Panda looks tough to hurt, relentlessly aggressive, not a soft upbringing.

Ezekiel Lau (HAW) Archetypal Polynesian football athlete. Probably could have played safety at USC if he’d been interested in making a nickel. Like many Polynesians, I smell in him the ability to roll back his eyes and go to the dark place.

Wade Carmichael (AUS) See Cardoso minus the Brazilian pedigree.

Frederico Morais (PRT) Has a fighter’s frame, appears to know how to generate power and leverage.

Kolohe Andino (USA) Bigger than he acts, and deep under the peanut-gallery-abused exterior there’s an Offspring song dying to thrash whatever’s in front of it. Plus Greek. Greeks are stronger than they look and meaner than they seem. He’d press his thumb into your eye.

John John Florence (HAW) Big kid from a fighty place. Much more of a quick-twitch athlete than he seems. Doesn’t seem to want to fight but could if pressed.

Mick Fanning (AUS) If he managed to take an opponent deeper than a couple of minutes his cardio is unmatched. Big jaw, looks hard to switch off.

Julian Wilson (AUS) All guys with that piggy face can brawl – probably the recessive Orc DNA.

Keanu Asing (HAW) Pound for pound favorite, Asing is a tough kid from a brawly culture. Trains some MMA with his bad-ass girl, and ostensibly has carnal relations with her and so steals some of her power (#science). Lacks mass though and might be overwhelmed by bigger opponents.

Connor O’Leary (AUS) Biggest of the younger guys, and it’s said he’s related to Bruce Lee. By racists, but still.

Gabriel Medina (BRA) Physically a super-elite athlete in the stem cell mold. Is very likely very good at everything physical, has a quick and mean mind running the machine.

Joel Parkinson (AUS) Could probably conjure his inner Ocker in a pinch.

Patrick Gudauskas (USA) Maybe you’d break your hand on those teeth and then feel the wrath of a vengeful Lord. But narrow face looks like he’s a high risk for KO.

Jeremy Flores (FRA) Probably the most wrong here. Lot of fight in a small dog but usually that seems to be directed to people not interested in whole-hearted reciprocation. MMA training though floats his cause upward.

Jordy Smith (ZAF) Big strong man but can’t see him setting his jaw and following through all the way.

Adrian Buchan (AUS) He’s here because like his surfing I could think about it all day and still not have an opinion.

Matt Wilkinson (AUS) Wildman with a long reach, but no one can fight on rollerskates.

Adriano de Souza (BRA) The little plumber seems like a pack-a-luncher, but that lunch is only so big.

Sebastian Zietz (HAW) All the hardcore Hawaii local cred, but Seabass seems too essentially good-natured to throw down with conviction.

Paige Hareb (NZL) Have you seen her fights? Tough little bitch with zero quit in her.

Joan Duru (FRA) Slip of a man, but he’s French so maybe if he became offended the Celt deep in his DNA would emerge.

Michael Rodrigues (BRA) He’s so quick, and yet there’s so little of him. But maybe he’d pick a middling opponent apart like an angry ferret.

Italo Ferreira (BRA) Given his backside attack he could throw a vicious roundhouse kick, but given his height at very best it might catch you in the nuts.

Jen See (IOWA) She seems like a mean person trying not to be mean. And could that vertical leap maybe be followed by a snappy kick to the side of the head?

Pottz (ENG) The initial whirlwind you’d face when the ’89 World Champion opened his account would be of consequence, but as long as he didn’t take out his scalpel and jam it in your pocket, after a minute he wouldn’t be able to get back to the power source and peter out on the flats.

Conner Coffin (USA) Look, he could hit you with his guitar, but it’s acoustic.

Tomas Hermes (BRA) All I can give him credit for is being a grown ass man, and as we age we become more shrewd.

Michael February (ZAF) So long, and yet so slow. But I assume South Africa makes you tough given the horrific murder rate and such.

Derek Rielly (AUS) Probably could generate some leverage when he turns those wide coat-hanger shoulders, but not a lot of baseline grunt supporting any of it.

Jesse Mendes (BRA) Honestly I don’t really know who he is.

Chas Smith (COOS) A coffee-table jumping fugue-state can take over at any moment, and hands are long enough to establish a solid choke. Still though he looks like scientists went into a lab to invent a physique maximally adapted to getting knocked the fuck out.

Caio Ibelli (BRA) Has a pretty girlfriend.

Owen Wright (AUS) Knocked out duck diving isn’t a good sign.

Yago Dora (BRA) He seems like he’d slap instead of punching.

Kelly Slater (LMR) In 0-1 fight record, he folded like a house of cards after the first semi-stiff jab. That never goes away.

Filipe Toledo (BRA) Phil is lover, not a fighter. Bet his pops could knock some teeth out though.

Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) In a high wind he couldn’t walk to the ring.

Ashton Goggins (VAJ) See Kelly Slater, and then imagine that as a whiny old lady. And then imagine that having its fist thrust in the air victorious over Ashton Goggins’ limp corpse as the Orange County Sheriff races to the scene.


Better to destroy everything than surrender… | Photo: Monster Children

Surf Quiz: “Are you a high-level kook?”

A short self-examination you can do at home…

Who can forget Dane Reynolds’ effortless sweep of everything bad from last week? According to Reynolds, cities are soulless voids, Kelly Slater is too serious about a bat-and-ball game, the WSL’s Instagram exploits surfing and so on.

(Click here for the film.)

Dane is a great champion and while he isn’t surfing’s golden pet anymore, his opinions on surf do cut heavily.

Toward the end of his little short, he defines a kook as this:

“I hate…kooks. And I don’t mean that, it has to do with your level of surfing. I define ‘kook’ as a lack of awareness, someone who is utterly unaware of their surroundings, unaware if they’re cutting in line or being obnoxious or annoying people around them. That’s a kook.”

This definition is an overhead smash, I think.

And it made me consider other behaviours that define a surfer as a high-level kook.

These include:

  1. Still arguing the point that rotations must be counted exactly as per the geometric scale. Air 360s instead of 540s, 810s instead of 720s. If the science of climate change is settled, as is common opinion, we can now say the same for airs.
  2. Examining the judges sheets at a local boardriders’ event and claiming your threes should be three-fives etc.
  3. Behaving as if the world has suddenly fallen off its axis if a beginner tumbles off his board near you.
  4. You say there are surfers at your local beach better than guys (and girls) on the WCT and that a surf industry conspiracy keeps ’em out of the spotlight.
  5. Going leashless on a crowded day. “I never fall off.”
  6. Turning sessions at remote reefs into some sort of WQS heat, paddling for everything, sighing at people missing waves, grunting etc.
  7. Like the princess and the pea, you say you can feel even minute differences in your surfboard.
  8. An obsession with personal surf shots.
  9. You self-identify as a “surfer”.
  10. You refuse to travel anywhere unless there’s a coastline with rideable waves

Are you a high-level kook?