Memory Lane: The time I got a very stern lecture from Rip Curl’s Neil Ridgway!

“See I’m wearing a funny hat. Now you can write about that.”

Near a decade ago, now, I was in Portugal covering a professional surfing contest. This was before the World Surf League, a time that the brands each ran their own events under the very loose control of the Association of Surfing Professionals. I always liked the ring of “surfing professionals.” It sounded like an oxymoron. Like “living dead” and I don’t know why the powers that be jettisoned it.

In any case, there I was in Portugal, being an asshole, when I met Rip Curl’s International boss Neil Ridgway for the first time.

Bon appetit.

Neil Ridgway came through the door like an irked wind and said, loudly, “Are you Chas Smith?” I said, “Yes” feeling slightly pleased with myself and ¾ in the bag from beers I had stolen from our hotel lobby’s unmanned beer draught. He continued, as he planted himself in a baby blue chair opposite mine, “I don’t like what is happening here. I don’t like the inaccuracies in what you write. Look, you come to us with your hand out, we put you up in a hotel and you write off the event? That doesn’t seem right to me.”

And he continued, “Brodie Carr’s name is spelled with an IE for one. For two he wasn’t talking with a Rip Curl executive, like you said he was, at lunch. That was someone from the ASP. There was never a CT event here in Peniche.” And I said, “Are you sure?” He seemed sure.

Then he said, “I don’t like you saying Mick Fanning is boring when you don’t even talk with him.” Then he said, “I am not going to tell you what to write.” Then he said, “Why don’t you ask people questions instead of just standing by and observing. Have you ever talked to Mick?”

I tried a half-hearted defense and replied, “Look, there are two types of surfers. There are professional athlete kinds and the other kinds, uhhh not professional athlete kinds. Mick represents the professional and therefore is bland. He is like Roger Federer or Tiger Woods. Someone like Dion Agius represents the other end of the spectrum. He is more exciting because he isn’t always proper.”

I am certain I slurred my words and I don’t know, exactly, why I used Dion as an example.

Neil responded, “Why do you like Dion? Because he dresses well?” And after he brought it up I thought, “Yes. Partially.” Then he said, “I’m not going to tell you what to write.” And I said, “I have no ax to grind with professional surfing, or the industry. I am just trying to be me.” And he said, “I read what you wrote about the Billabong event and I don’t know what you are doing with your financial planner (I had written, extensively, about a beautiful investment banker who had become my companion) and all that. I mean yesterday you were drinking espresso from a gold-rimmed cup and today you are drinking beer from a pint glass.”

I looked at my stolen beer and thought, “Whiskey, gin and brandy. With a glass I’m pretty handy.” But I said, “Well I am glad I know how you feel about my stuff.” And he said, “We’ll just be watching what you write tomorrow.” And then he said, “I’m not going to tell you what to write.”

And finally he said, “See I’m wearing a funny hat. Now you can write about that.”

He was wearing a red beret and I did.

cheyne magnusson
"Wave pools are not just a business platform to make money. They're an important part of a sport, a culture and it's multi-generational. People dedicate their lives to surfing. It's not just an attraction, a water park. I feel a responsibility to present it in the right way, to be as true to the culture as I possibly can." | Photo: @kalanirobb

Cheyne Magnusson to bring his Waco wave-park sorcery to Wet ‘N’ Wild Palm Springs!

"I am definitely not with American Wave Machines," he says.

Here’s a hot piece straight off the wire. The Hawaiian surfer Cheyne Magnusson, who singlehandedly altered the course of aerial surfing at BSR cable park in Waco, has been signed to design and set-up a pool at the old Wet ‘n’ Wild site in Palm Springs, California.

The cat was allowed out of its bag, briefly, in an Instagram post from another California-based Hawaiian, Kalani Robb, who has also been hired for the build.

Oowee, do it look familiar?

It’s the same pool that was used in the opening sequences of North Shore, a film from 1987 that tells the fictional tale of Rick Kane, a boy who learns to surf in a wave pool and then attempts to transpose his skills to Pipeline with mostly good results.

When I called Cheyne, who is currently living at Santa Clarita, thirty-five miles north-east of Los Angeles with his daughter and pregnant wife, he said “I’m not supposed to be be talking to you yet.”

Cheyne then asked if the Asthon-Chas sock at Surf Expo was real, which I explained it was.

“The boys were frothing. Game on, dude,” said Cheyne, adding, “Everyone loves a good bitch slap here and there.”


First question.

Are you still with American Wave Machines and therefore does this mean you’re going to use AWM tech?

“I am…not… with American Wave Machines,” says Cheyne. “I don’t wanna bad mouth anyone but we don’t see eye to eye on certain things. Mostly, what these wave parks can do and hold for the future of surfing. They’re not just a business platform to make money. They’re an important part of a sport, a culture and it’s multi-generational. People dedicate their lives to surfing. It’s not just an attraction, a water park. I feel a responsibility to present it in the right way, to be as true to the culture as I possibly can.”

I say, without you, Waco would’ve been another crummy pool. It only got good when your freckled hands started pulling the levers to create the best wedge anyone had seen anywhere.

“Thanks for recognising that,” says Cheyne. “We took a massive roll of the dice and leap of faith to go out there. You know, the hard part that we’re facing at this juncture is that the people who develop these technologies, they’re brilliant, unbelievable engineers, hydrodynamics, aerospace, whatever, they’re really smart. They read a lot of books and so on. But then you have those guys colliding with us, people who’ve dedicated their lives to surfing. You can be the smartest person in the world and you can develop these machines but you need surfers, people who’ve looked at the ocean their whole lives, to know how to… move… the water.”

Cheyne says he’s been to the Palm Springs site “a few times” and that he’ll be able to loosen his lips a little more in around a month.

“But we’ve definitely crossed some milestones to get to the point where Kalani can put out a post,” says Cheyne. “It’s a real deal.”

(Thanks to Mike Klein @Central Texas Surf Club for the lead.)

Bruce Irons, whose sugar daddies include Weedmaps, Mayhem and DC. (But no RVCA.)

Sponsor shock: Bruce Irons rocks WeedMaps head to toe during 5th place Da Hui Shootout campaign!

A sponsorship change for the iconic Kauaian?

Sponsorship and surfing have gone together like “disorderly” and “conduct” since those brave Australians busted down the door some 40 years ago.

Can you picture Kelly Slater without also picturing the Mountain and the Wave?

Or mighty Mick Fanning without his Reef sandal bottle opener?

Surfers become synonymous with their brands and vice versa, shocking the system whenever there is change. Kelly’s board sans Quiksilver still looks naked.

And right when we all started getting used to seeing Bruce Irons in RVCA it appears that maybe another sponsorship shift is in place.

Bruce, of course, was impossible to imagine without the Volcom Stone. They were such a pair, perched atop the Gerry Pipe house, making movies, surfing and rabble rousing etc. It seemed the romance would never die but then it did and four years ago RVCA dancing along, offering its strong knuckle’d hand.

That was an ok fit, maybe, with the heavy Hawaiian flavor and we settled into it like we settled into Brad and Angie post Brad and Jen.

But now maybe there is another change. Yesterday was the final day of Da Hui’s famed Shootout with all manner of Hawaiian surf royalty participating, laughing, enjoying the best Pipe contest around. Bruce Irons got fifth place but there was no RVCA hat upon his head and no RVCA shirt on his torso and no RVCA sticker upon his board.

WeedMaps, it appears, has acquired the real estate.

Will we be able to settle in like we did Brad and Neri or will we always miss Jen?

Redemption: Team USA’s new coach calls Steamer Lane “one of the most high-performance waves in the world!”

Is Santa Cruz back? Is that too much to hope for?

Santa Cruz lost the title Surf City, USA to Huntington Beach in 2004 and seemed to lose its mojo along with it. Meth descended upon the once proud town, eroding locals’ features and pride. Sadness reigned. The surf world turned its back.

And really how rude. Santa Cruz is the place where Peruvians first taught mainlanders their wave dancing. What a history. What a gift to cherish but meth etc. and it seemed as if it was just easier to forget. To pretend those brave Peruvians went to Huntington Beach instead.

Not even native son Nat Young’s exciting World Surf League campaigns (2013) were enough to break the spell and hope was all but lost.

Until Jan 1. 2019 and is Santa Cruz’s frown finally turning upside down?

If Surfline is any indication of anything (and it usually isn’t) then yes! Let’s turn there now and read about the just finished Prime Series at the very famous Steamer Lane.

Santa Cruz native and USA Surfing’s 2020 Olympic coach Chris Gallagher Stone — Gally — called Steamer Lane “one of the most high-performance waves in the world.”

“It is so rare for a powerful reef wave to be that close to shore,” he said. “The gnarly conditions require surfers to decipher the lineup and harness the waves’ power and rawness. The winning waves have a very specific look and can be hard to find without experience. Victors at the Lane need a combination of skill, guts, fitness, knowledge, great equipment and some luck to put it all together. Congrats to all the winners and finalists. You earned it.”

I haven’t read Steamer Lane described so effusively since 2004.

Is Santa Cruz back? Is that too much to hope for? I’m tired of Huntington Beach.

Longevity: World’s most famous surfer-songwriter declares, “I want to surf into my eighties!”

"Surfing is my first love!"

The world’s most famous surfer-songwriter is Jack Johnson and we all know this. Oh sure there are many songwriters who surf and many surfers who write songs but only one has risen to the very heights in both and that is Jack Johnson. He grew up on the North Shore, was basically part of the Momentum Generation, and I think could have competed and/or did compete. His dreams of pro surfing fame to maybe the level of Ross Williams were brought down, though, by his skills with an acoustic guitar but…

Yes? I see your hand waving there in the back. Do you have something you’d like to say?

DJ Paul Fisher is the current most famous surfer-songerwriter around?

Well, that’s a bold claim and I think maybe a touch enthusiastic. Let’s give him a couple decades before re-visiting. Ok?

And back to Jack Johnson. He was recently interviewed by the once great Rolling Stone and let slip that he loves surfing more than his chosen career. Here, I’ll show you:

Willie released two albums in 2018, in his eighties. Do you hope to be doing the same 40 years down the road?

Yes and no. It is inspiring, but whether or not I’ll still be doing it, I kind of look at my dad who was the same thing as Willie, but with surfing. Surfing is my first love and I hope to still be surfing at that point and maybe not touring. But I love that Willie does it. And maybe still be making records. That would be nice.

So there we are and I have a few further questions for you.

When you see an extremely old man or woman in the lineup is your immediate reaction, “Good for you!” or “Get the hell lost. You’ve had yours. Now it’s time for mine.”

Is there a particular age you have in mind when plan on hanging it up?

Do you sometimes think, “I should have become a pro surfer instead of becoming a _________ (fill in the blank with your profession).”