Hawaii has the Ho and the Aikau families and California the Fletchers and Andinos as surf kings and queens. Australia, which was founded as a prison, has, implausibly, the impossibly regal Mad Hueys and ilk.
No foreplay, no kissing on the mouth, no cuddles at the end.
I promised this to Derek a few days ago, but it has been a struggle. I’ve struggled to find enough hatred this Christmas.
I’ve had years of practice hating Christmas, so it shouldn’t be that hard. Blame the kids, making holidays fun again. Little pricks.
As I said to Derek by way of excuse, every time I opened this I ended up hating myself. I’ve swooned under the weight of the irony. You wouldn’t believe the kind of bilious, muck-raking yellow tripe (as someone once perfectly described my writing) that I’ve battered out then backspaced away. Unnecessarily cruel and hurtful, I’ve found myself thinking, in an uncharacteristic and deeply unsettling way.
Anyway, I’ve soldiered on.
Here are the 5 Worst Things in Surfing in 2018.
No foreplay, no kissing on the mouth, no cuddles at the end.
1. Chris Cote/The air debate
Picture a meerkat, emerging from a little hole into bright sunshine.
Picture beady, bespectacled little eyes, darting this way and that, surveying the landscape.
See his little snout, twitching keenly, as he sniffs the warm air.
Now imagine him pausing briefly, puffing up his little chest, and squeaking obnoxiously “540! 540!”
You are standing above that hole. Your arms are raised above your head, and you are holding a shovel.
With all your strength, you swing the shovel down, flat side first, and splatter that meerkat’s face wide open, cracking his little skull like a watermelon.
That’s literally what I see on a loop inside my head when I hear Chris Cote’s voice.
Dumb debate about degrees of rotation, championed by Cote, was a particularly unsightly tumor in 2018’s surfing zeitgeist.
I don’t hate Chris Cote. I just never, ever want to hear his voice ever again.
2. Erik Logan, President of Content, Media and WSL Studios
He makes shakas look as comfortable as a colonoscopy.
He hashtags like a 12-year-old girl. A stupid one.
He SUPs. Hard.
He appears to have a photographer who follows him around, yet neither he nor his photog can identify a good surf photo.
If his Instagram output is any sort of marker for his vision of surfing – and I would suggest it absolutely is – then I see no reason to give him any benefit of any doubt as he begins his tenure with the WSL.
Erik Logan is an adult learner. Not all adult learners are bad, it’s true, but there is an ilk, of which Elo is very much part, that need a good slap about the head. Or bundled into an unmarked van and dumped off a bridge.
From the press release announcing his appointment: Logan will also oversee the creation of WSL Studios, which will deliver a broad range of high quality scripted and unscripted surf and lifestyle content.
Surf and lifestyle content.
Erik Logan is in charge of surf and lifestyle content.
Say it again, slowly.
Is in charge.
And lifestyle content.
HAVE YOU SEEN HIS “LIFESTYLE”?!
HAVE YOU SEEN HIS IDEA OF “CONTENT”?!
HAVE YOU SEEN WHAT HE THINKS FUCKING SURFING IS?!
WHY HAS NO-ONE AT THE WSL SEEN IT?
3. JEEP adverts
Very nearly went on my 5 Best list. Someone once told me the point of advertising was to be so annoying that you couldn’t get it out of your head.
In that case Bravo, Jeep. Bravo.
It’s the “That’s What She Said…” of surf culture. It can be deployed at any time, in any context.
I surf meth amphetamine.
I surf child pornography.
I surf kiwi fruit.
I surf necrophilia.
I surf cunt muck.
I surf saggy tits.
I surf shifting spanners.
I surf it all.
I’ve never been to California, but I’ve seen the adverts. Girls in yoga gear tell me living there is an easy stretch. Guys with shiny teeth and mini mals stuffed up their oxters tell me about (winky face) “board meetings”. The Terminator is in charge. And it’s sunny.
I should work for the marketing department because I’ve got a more succinct way to represent California. It’s a simple tag line. It goes like this:
California: The Lung Cancer of Surfing.
Let me present to you some horrific visions of a future where California is left unchecked:
Elo and Soph recreating Laird and Gabby’s ESPN Body Issue shoot…
Backwards Fin Beth and the Surfing-Is-Politique girl commentating on the adaptative black gender fluid SUP world tour…
Huge stadiums of fat, pasty-faced American kids, wearing top hats and cheering Zoltan Torkos doing kickflips in a pool. Over, and over, and over…
We’ll leave a seat on the ark for the Malloys, Rob Machado and Curren (and Chas, Jen and Zach Weisberg – but only if Chas and Zach sit together) but otherwise let’s cheer for wildfire, rising sea levels, and T1000s. I think surfing might be better for it.
5. Me. You. Us. The Internet.
The Internet is the great enabler. Some of what it enables is great; but most of it is tragically shit, especially when it comes to surfing.
The problem with surfing is that there’s not really much to say. It feels like it should be interesting, but really it’s not. Not what most of us do. A teeny, tiny world of aquatic poncing, as someone (perhaps Oscar Wilde?) once put it.
But people insist on communicating all of it. There’s no vetting process. It’s a free for all made up of utter shite. Instagram pages of the likes of Erik Logan’s should be shut down by the Thought Police before conception. But they’re not. They’re allowed to exist, brazenly and with no apparent self-awareness whatsoever.
So here we sit, in various states of mental health, sobriety, undress and Ben Marcus, and we criticise and we deconstruct and we slander. Everyone. It gives us little moments of laughter and smugness at our own cleverness and wit, and that of our comrades. But at the end of the day none of it lasts, none of it really matters, and no one important is there to witness or congratulate us. And in that sense, it feels a lot like surfing.
Eight years ago when Derek Rielly was editor-in-chief of Stab magazine he emailed me about a brand new website called The Inertia and asked me to write a piece on it. The following has lead to an almost decade long affair…
Come to adult website theinertia.com and be accepted into the warm, hairy, bearded embrace of the “thinking surfer”…
There is a place, online, that amazes. And it is called theinertia.com and it is the planet’s largest network of thinking surfers. The best kind!
The topics endlessly fascinate. Some recent include, “Understanding the Alaia and Finless Revolution” “Life is Better When You Surf” and “Man Dies Surfing Near Hollister Ranch.”
The humour is side-splitting. The health tips practical. The watchdog role it takes related to the rest of surf media so necessary!
But, and again, it is the constructive critical thinking embodied in each post and each comment that amazes. Thinking surfers!
And, who are the thinking surfers?
Thinking surfers have shitty haircuts and wear lousy clothes. Thinking surfers are dogmatic about pointless contrivance. Thinking surfers can and do write endlessly about minutia. Thinking surfers are zealots. Thinking surfers are Leninists. Thinking surfers are out of touch. Thinking surfers are old both mentally and physically. Thinking surfers love to read their own words so much. Thinking surfers feel picked on.
Thinking surfers only support progress that aids old men catching more waves. Thinking surfers hate making money. Thinking surfers complain that they don’t have enough money. Thinking surfers take themselves more seriously than anything on earth. Thinking surfers hate that they aren’t taken more seriously than anything on earth.
Thinking surfers are socialists. Thinking surfers like you, if you are a thinking surfer. Thinking surfers don’t like you, if you make money and/or disagree. Thinking surfers don’t rip. Thinking surfers are Trotskyites. Thinking surfers hate popular films. Thinking surfers hate French shoes. Thinking surfers hate French films. Thinking surfers hate fruity cocktails. Thinking surfers love bad, thick coffee. Thinking surfers believe in George W Bush’s vision of democracy taking root in the Middle East but attribute the vision to T.E. Lawrence.
Thinking surfers are hypocrites. Thinking surfers don’t know how to synch their fundamental belief in the poor working class with their desire to have a home on the beach. Thinking surfers don’t know how to synch their communist ideals and their belief in George W Bush’s vision of democracy taking root in the Middle East. Thinking surfers cry while watching The Cove. Thinking surfers mock those who cry while watching Valentine’s Day. Thinking surfers drink beer at a party. Thinking surfers complain if the beer at a party is not from a small batch brewery. Thinking surfers never bring beer to a party.
Thinking surfers are Marxists. Thinking surfers would be social Darwinists if they were fit.
Thinking surfers are the exact sorts of people that flourish underneath the fluorescent lighting and prepared bedside meal deliveries and incontinence and visiting hours of nursing homes. They are the exact sorts of people that flourish when nobody, except for people exactly like them, is listening. How fun! How the best kind!
Raise your glass to the full rubber clad, longer surfboard riding, backward fin utilizing, leash getting pulled, cop calling, World Surf League loving adult learner nearest you right now!
And here we are, New Year’s Eve in Australia almost New Year’s Eve in America, the most exciting nights of the entire year besides Surfer magazine’s Surfer Poll and the World Surf League’s Opening Night Ball (or whatever it’s called).
BeachGrit’s Man* of the Year.
Who could it be besides the adult learner? Men* who picked up surfboards in their late twenties or late thirties and decided then and there, “Surfing is life, the rest is just details!” and/or “Old Men* Rule!”
Surfing is being remade in his* image or at least professional surfing. The World Surf League is run by adult learners dead-set on creating a new, vibrant community of other adult learners. It’s the growth market with millions and billions of promised eyeballs/participants from adult pre-learner and ex-WSL Dear General Secretary Paul Speaker.
A fabulous re-imagining?
A once-in-a-lifetime rebirth?
The adult learner’s go to twin sources for content (Stab x The Inertia) certainly think so and a hot rumor on their union coming soon!
In the meantime, surfing has been a cloistered, impossible to navigate little world. I have spent my entire life trying to negotiate it as an Oregonian youth and am now trying to negotiate it as an adult re-learner.
Oh sure the grumpy local is our mission. To shrink surfing to the smallest possible market until it is literally just me, Derek Rielly and you in the lineup but that is a future-less model.
So raise your glass to the full rubber clad, longer surfboard riding, backward fin utilizing, leash getting pulled, cop calling, World Surf League loving adult learner nearest you right now.
You, adult learner, are BeachGrit’s Man* of the Year!
*All masculine nouns and pronouns are gender neutral.
Holiday Repeat: “Adult learners are laughing while we torture ourselves about the right way to spend a life!”
But without surfing, you'd be an embittered eunuch…
The exchange of ideas at the Grit is intoxicating even when the substance ain’t your trip. Only thing that grinds is when old warhorse assumptions and myths get trotted out with a fresh coat of lipstick for another go around.
Some cat might have been Ayn Rand or Noam Chomsky or maybe Michel Houellebecq, said life proceeds pretty much according to the conventional wisdom. And nothing is more conventional wisdom in surfing than the idea that we are all deep down some kind of renegade outlaws barely able to function in society because we are humping this hulking, all consuming, addiction to surfing through life.
Neg, not Nug, love him like a brother and bless his soul, made comment on an AI quote that “surfing kept him on a even keel” by claiming that “For him and those of us over 30, surfing offers almost none of the answers in life”.
Bollocks mi amigo.
It offers any answer you want, apart from the ultimate one, which is death. It’s a great and compelling answer to the question: how do I pass the time each day? The implication that surfing did Andy no good or couldn’t keep him on an even keel is correct, on the face of it, but greys out so much of the man. He died an addict but an addict who was a three-time world champ, who exalted and glorified a talent, transcended liabilities and inspired millions. He could’ve died an opioid addict alone in a gutter if he never picked up a sled.
You want to imbue surfing with a numinous glow, are newly arrived from Europe or the mid-west and crave meaning? Surfing makes an excellent, harmless religion, better, by far, than any of the Abrahamic faiths, with easy to follow tenets, prophets and daily rituals.
You can sit dewey eyed at the feet of benevolent masters, for a small fee, like Gerry Lopez. You want to make it your Walden Pond, decipher natural history, accept the measured violence of the ocean, and understand that you must meet every effort of nature with a calculated, countervailing manoeuvre. Then you’ve got a lifetime mapped out.
Want to dabble, hold down a job, raise a family and get a little work-a-daddy stoke on a couple mornings a week? Surfing is no problem for you.
Barack Obama wave slides using the human body as planing device. Surfing is not a problem for him. Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott: surfs. Former NSW Premier Mike Baird: surfs. Former Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan: surfs. Former Australian Attorney-General Robert McClelland: surfs. Putin, I’m sure, has dabbled. Many Russians do.
Almost nothing adds lubricating grease to the wheels in the highest spheres of power in the Indo-Pacific world than a mild-moderate wave sliding habit. You crave power, have ambition, want to make money? Surfing is not a problem for you.
You’re American and you surf. You’ve likely got a college degree and bank above the average income. Maybe you got lucky and get to suckle on the teat of the tech-titans and get to surf the Nor-cal area like the great Louie Samuels.
Maybe you lament getting your hands dirty, working a blue-collar job as Limbless Jack or Mike C suggested. That’s a shame. If you’re in Australia and have a trade: brickie, chippy, plumber, sparky, gas fitter, landscaper etc, you sit majestically close to the apex of the socio-economic totem pole. You charge 80-100/hour, more if you own kit, live close to the beach, dawn patrol a couple times a week, send your kids to a private school, surf weekends, spend ten days in the Ments every year and snorkel pow in Japan on a good year. Surfing is not a problem for you.
There are older surfers here, maybe even the despised baby boomers. You paid how much for that crib in Byron Bay when you came here chasing surf in the 70’s? What? Seven grand. Seven fucking thousand! Your mate across the street sold for 2.8 mill and you’d get the same. So chasing surf was a massive financial mistake now that you’re a multi-millionaire for doing 5/8’s of nothing? Not quite. Surfing is not a problem for you.
There are older surfers here, maybe even the despised baby boomers. Come forwards. Don’t be shy. You paid how much for that crib in Byron Bay when you came here chasing surf in the 70’s? What? Fifty grand? No? Less? Seven grand. Seven fucking thousand! And it’s worth how much now? Your mate across the street sold for 2.8 mill and you’d get the same, maybe a bit more because of the new deck. So chasing surf was a massive financial mistake now that you’re a multi-millionaire for doing 5/8’s of nothing? Not quite. Surfing is not a problem for you.
You think without surfing you’ll be a better lover, a kinder parent with more time for your kids? You won’t. You’ll be an insufferable monster. A neutered, embittered eunuch.
You nine-to-five cube monkeys feel disrespected, mocked as unimaginative wage slaves and robots. But you’re right, this whole shit show would grind to a halt without you. Maybe you suffer, like I, from what Rimbaud called the horror of home. You might be happier, like Ishmael and me, 40 miles out to sea, but 40 miles isn’t always possible so 40 metres might be better, even for 40 minutes. No shame in that. That alone, makes pappy a better man, mammy a better woman. You think without surfing you’ll be a better lover, a kinder parent with more time for your kids? You won’t. You’ll be an insufferable monster. A neutered, embittered eunuch. To those martyrs who give it up (for an illusory gain) I offer these words from the author Chris Kraus: “Stop your whining you whiny little bitch and get your go-outs. Or Don’t.”
Hey hipsters. No hate here. Just keep that leashless log the fuck away from my kids. It is what it is and what it is is fucking great. Surfing is no problem for you.
Hey hipster. You swing between New York, Byron, Milan or wherever the hell appeals. Resin-tinted log left at the Bay, borrow a fish to ride down at Montauk and life is, what? Sweeter for the slide? Of course, always is. The commitment to surfing… minimal. The identification: partial. No hate here. Just keep that leashless log the fuck away from my kids. It is what it is and what it is is fucking great. Surfing is no problem for you.
Our very own principal D. Rielly, as reward for his entrepreneurial escapades cashed out of Stabfor a couple hundred K. That is not a problem. That is a solution to a problem, a series of problems even, including how to find a cash deposit for a beachside residence, how to invest in a new business etc etc.
Finally fellow travellers. Take a walk in the room of mirrors. Did you back surf? Back it properly I mean. For a block of dirt and a roof close to a surf spot? Did you back it in for Lennox Head, Byron Bay, Burleigh, Coolum, Ulladulla, Laguna Beach, Newport, Cardiff by the Sea, Hossegor, Lahinch, the Bukit, Raglan, Pupukea etc etc. Then congratulations. You won the game. For doing exactly nothing except backing surf you have enriched yourself and supplied an endowment for your families future.
Adult learners are laughing all the way to the bank while we torture ourselves with calvinist myths about the right way to spend a life.
It’s a funny old world, but surfing ain’t a problem in it. For you or anyone else.