From the end-is-nigh-dept: VALS…are…the future of surf!

An apocalyptic scenario too real to ignore…

This is the first and last thing I’m going to say about VALs. Already the acronym is starting to feel like the blunt trauma of a foamie to the back of the neck. And I don’t have a thick, musky coat of neck hair like Nick Carroll to soften the blow.

What if VALs are merely the forerunners for something much uglier?

What if VALs are a sign?

The rise of the globally useless has infiltrated our “teeny, tiny world of aquatic poncing” (Negatron, 2018) and now we’re forced to take stock. We are Rick Grimes, Season 1, Episode 1 cowering in our tank as a whole world of shit converges on us. We just have no idea how much.

Author and Futurist Yuval Harari believes that artificial intelligence and machine learning will rob us of work and give rise to what he calls “The Useless Class”.

It starts with menial, repetitive work which is easily automated, driving, data entry, the postal service. These workers become stranded, unskilled and unable to access work again.

Next come the white collar jobs… teachers, doctors, lawyers… all will be usurped by algorithms. All will be superseded by thinking machines that will perform with greater efficiency and make fewer mistakes.

And, for the indeterminate measure of time the AI tolerates the dumb, slow monkeys, we will exist as The Useless Class. Left to occupy our time with leisure and vices.

Sounds potentially fun, yeah?

Unshackled from the drudgery of the 9-5 and free to #followyourpassion. #blessed indeed!

What will you do, given everything on the table?

Every available vice and decadence at your fingertips, with no constraints of time or money. Will you buffet? Will you pile high with little morsels, enjoying it all greatly but never spending too much time on one thing? (Pro tip: I hear heroin is very more-ish. If you want a good overview of the rest maybe save that one for dessert.)

My worry is, that since surfing is already the divine fusion of both leisure and vices, that it will be the chosen pastime of the coming apocalypse. It will be a petri dish for VALs.

It’s like that game with the tennis ball tied to a string on a post. You don’t need to be uniquely qualifed or even talented or co-ordinated to play that. It’s for everyone! Like, surfing is now. Yeah?

Think of the newcomers when our only concerns are how to leisure harder and get better drugs. Everyone will surf.

Most people won’t progress. And they won’t even care.

They’ll just dip in and out because it’s all so fun and egalitarian and political sortofbutnot! And don’tyoufuckingdare question them about it. Surfing is a fun, throwaway thing for everyone to do!


It’s like that game with the tennis ball tied to a string on a post. You don’t need to be uniquely qualifed or even talented or co-ordinated to play that.

It’s for everyone! Like, surfing is now. Yeah?

VALs are a bit of a joke to us. But as we career towards our androgynous LGBTQSUPVAL future, we must prepare for this emboldened Useless Class. We must prepare for surfing in the future to be one big happy clappy foaming shitfight. More than it is already.

They’ll just dip in and out because it’s all so fun and egalitarian and political sortofbutnot! And don’tyoufuckingdare question them about it. Surfing is a fun, throwaway thing for everyone to do!

Just as reality television eventually became reality, so too will social media and all its associated cuntishness become the new norm.

One day VALs will be the OGs. It’s funny til it’s not.

So, next time you paddle out and find yourself surrounded by VALs, and it’s more awkward than bumping into Travis Ferre in a Meet The Writers section, just take a moment.

Look around. Breathe it in. Accept it.

For this is our Future.

Innovation: World Surf League caves to pressure, adds 7th round!

The professional surf watching masses rejoice!

We surfers are an ornery bastard bunch who can’t agree on much at all. Can’t agree on which board is superior, which wave we should dance upon, if Jeep or Nissan makes a better surf car, when the Brazilian Storm will finally be over.

We argue and fight. Needle and cajole but there’s one thing surfers around the world, old and young, female and non-binary, constantly beg for in one, strong voice.

“Give us more rounds in our professional surfing contests!”

And it appears as if the World Surf League has listened.

The current Vissla Pro in Nick Carroll’s hometown of Avoca, Australia is a QS3000 and has 7 rounds before the quarterfinals.

I don’t know what’s happening in these rounds, as I am currently hiding downtown LA trying to make headway on book, but I assume it is very exciting. I also don’t know if the 7th round is common amongst the QS3000s, as I don’t watch them.

But I do hope that this 7th round concept is being road tested out before it is brought to the big leagues.

I don’t want any more surfers in the draw but I want many more no-consequence practice rounds.

Is it too much to dream that one day World Championship Tour events will take eight full days of competition to complete?

Is it too bold?

The Norwegians are coming! The Norwegians are etc.

Counterpoint: “Surfer anti-oil protests a masterclass in hypocrisy and stupidity!”

Should oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight keep surfers up at night? Or no?

A week or so ago, a protest campaign began against a proposed exploratory oil well in the Great Australian Bight, kicked into gear by the (wonderful) journalist Sean Doherty.

“Pretty much the whole surfable Australian coast would be covered in oil. It would be Australia’s own Deepwater Horizon,” wrote Sean in the first of a series of Instagram posts, which snowballed into multiple pro surfer feeds.

View this post on Instagram

Okay, it’s on. These Norwegian scumbags @equinor have officially announced their intentions to drill in the Great Australian Bight later this year. They’ll be 300km off the coast and drilling 5km down and it’s sketchy beyond belief. This is a map of their own spill modeling. Pretty much the whole surfable Australian coast would be covered in oil. It would be Australia’s own Deepwater Horizon. We’ve got 30 days to stop this and if you surf you need to lend your voice. We need to bury these kooks in protest. There’s a formal submission before NOPSEMA who are making the call on it… public comment link in bio, takes five minutes, let em know how you feel. Equinor are two-thirds state owned by the Norwegian government, so you need to get your Norwegian friends to make some noise at home. Equinor are particularly sensitive to criticism at home as they paint themselves as a clean energy company in Norway, but hide their dirty work half a world away in Australia. If you want some short term gratification send @equinor a message. They’re getting lit up over there at the moment. I apologize in advance for the next 28 days but I’ll be going hard to stop this. #fightforthebight

A post shared by Sean Doherty (@seano888) on

On Coastalwatch, Nick Carroll wrote:

The lease where Equinor plans to drill for oil and gas is 327 k’s off Ceduna, South Australia, in about 2.5 kilometres of abyssal plain ocean. To get to any likely reserves, Equinor will have to then drill through roughly three kilometres of seabed rock. This is on par with the deepest sea-oil drilling in the world – in one of the most windblown, swell-hammered places you can imagine.

Reckon something could go wrong with this scenario?

Equinor clearly does.

Earlier today, a rebuttal appeared in an obscure conservative website by another surfer, Fred Pawle.

Let’s pick our free-of-charge 400 words.

It’s an illusion. It is based on Equinor’s map outlining all the areas that could be affected by any one of 100 scenarios…

…The confusion began when Greenpeace tweeted the map, saying that a spill “could hit anywhere from South Australian to New South Wales”. Journalist Nick Carroll mistook this, instead saying on a surf website that Equinor “clearly” believes “something could go wrong”, and that “a worst-case spill would put oil on every surfable coast of Australia south of 30 degrees S.” In other words, the well has the potential to create a spill roughly 10 times the size of the spill from Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the biggest accident in history.

An open letter from a group of surf celebrities, including Mick Fanning and Taj Burrow, to Equinor says an oil spill in the Great Australian Bight would be “catastrophic” and the “southern coastline of Australia would never be the same”. The chief slogans for the campaign are “Fight for the Bight” and “Big oil don’t surf”.

But big oil does surf. It produces the byproducts from which surfboards and wetsuits are made. And of course it provides the fuel for the planes that take surfers, professional and hobbyist, to the world’s idyllic surf destinations. It even produced the fuel for the jetskis Burrow and Fanning were using to catch waves during the Cyclone Oma swell on the Gold Coast last week.

As pro surfers for decades, Burrow and Fanning have flown more times around the world than almost all other people in history except pilots. By joining this campaign, they are not telling oil miners to stop exploring for oil, which they rely on daily, just not to do it near a coastline where a misinformed scare campaign has infuriated some of their fans.

The rationale for the protest is that the Great Australian Bight is too deep and wild for oil exploration. But Equinor is using equipment that is industry standard, and includes a 100-tonne capping stack, a new precaution that became mandatory after the Deepwater Horizon spill. Equinor has oil wells in similar conditions to the Great Australian Bight off Norway and Canada.

The protesters also ignore the 14 exploratory wells that have been drilled in the Great Australian Bight since 1972, and the hundreds that have extracted oil from the nearby Bass Strait, which is in shallower water but still subject to similar ocean conditions, since 1965.

There are some signs that the famous surfers and journalists objecting to the project have not only misread the project’s risks but also some of their market. All the above surf websites have received comments from surfers pointing out the hypocrisy of people who use oil-based products objecting to oil mining, and questioning the protesters’ exaggerated fears of a spill. Then again, they are also not short of supportive comments agreeing with the risk of a “catastrophe”.

Read the rest of that hot potato here.

Sex and Rage: “When the surf was hot, everything reached a state of hurling glory!”

So sexy…

My neck tan is fading, my hair is turning brown, the surf is flat. Relentlessly, aggressively flat. I look at the satellite photos and watch as lows twirl deliriously off the coast.

So sexy. When I think they’re sure to come my way, they dance off in entirely the wrong direction. This is bullshit.

At least, finally, it rains.

After years of dry heat, the rain is a gift. Plumes of silt billow out from the creeks. I check Rincon one day and it’s the color of chocolate frosting. But no surf. The ocean could be an ice rink, a dinner plate, a mirror without lines. Pick whatever metaphor you like. No waves. The problem is no waves.

What the fuck do I do now.

My deadlines stack out to the horizon.

I swim along in slow motion and take ‘em on the head one after the other. They’re suggestions anyway, or that’s what I tell myself. I slide heedlessly down the calendar. What day is it? No surf, again. Which deadline is next? All of them. A jumble of words, they’re all shit.

I give it up. I pull a novel off my shelf and head to the coffee shop. A while back, Matt Warshaw posted a clip from Eve Babitz. I’d never read her before then, or even heard of her, but I’ve been hooked ever since. Her manic, Los Angeles party girl prose is the ideal antidote to flat surf and the perfect way to dodge another round of deadlines. I sit down next to the surfboards – yes, my coffee shop has surfboards in it, there’s no escaping – and jump in.

Sex and Rage. The book’s bright cover looks like it stepped out a time machine from around 1970. It has surfing in it – there’s no escaping – and the depiction of 1960’s Santa Monica feels like another country. The geography teems with wild parties and falling down beach cottages, all leaking roofs and sparse furnishing.

And so much life. There is a joyous abandon to an Eve Babitz novel that eludes description. I giggle in my corner with the surfboards.

The novel’s main character is called Jacaranda, after the trees. She hangs out at the beach and learns to surf and Babitz perfectly captures of the addictive quality of our silly dance. Eventually, she gets a job airbrushing boards, which has a startling specificity of time and place.

She also becomes a writer whose deadline avoidance is next level. I start to think maybe I should take notes. A dizzying string of boyfriends saunter across the page. I can’t keep them straight – and I suspect that’s the point.

When Daniel Duane published his story about women’s big wave surfing, I was surprised by the disparaging comments about the dumbass New York Times writer who didn’t know shit about surfing.

Okay, I wasn’t that surprised.

It is the internet, where you can’t be a writer for any amount of time without being called an idiot on the regular. It’s just how it goes. Before he wrote about big wave surfing, Duane published a book entirely devoted to surfing.

Now, not being part of the club, I really don’t know what one has to do to be considered an actual, bona fide Surf Writer. Send in your box tops, and get your Official Surf Writer Membership Card. I would have thought writing a book was good enough, but perhaps not! Strange, pagan rituals and unholy quests must surely be involved.

Or it’s dumb persistence.

I sit with the surfboards and sip my coffee. I decide that Eve Babitz is my new favorite surf writer. Pagan rituals or no, she is queen. Jacaranda finds another boyfriend. Another party goes wrong. This is the best way to spend a day with no surf that I can imagine.

My friend, The Girl with the Surfline Tattoo, bounds through the door. She drove an hour, looking for surf. It was small, she says, gesturing around her knees.

We talk about how we’re supposed to be working. Make money while it’s flat. Somehow, it never quite works that way. I need to the swing of the tides to keep me on track. Hours pass unheeded. Deadlines spin into view and just as quickly pass me by.

The twirly things out in the ocean will turn my way soon, I hope. We’ll all go surfing again someday.

Maybe I’ll make this fucking deadline.

I’m sure I can make this one. Just this one right here.

Victory: With help from friends, Chas Smith smashes Laird, Beth Hamilton!

A red letter day!

You did it. You and the low, low price of $1.99 actually did it. Never not once did I ever image that I’d be more popular than Laird Hamilton, world’s greatest human man or Bethany Hamilton, world’s most inspirational human person.

And what does this mean?

Will the People now want me to invent a supplement guaranteed to put more pep in a step? Maybe something like one of those powdered coffee creamers that used to be real popular but instead of making it out of poison and chalk what if I made it out of “superfood” and sea turtles?

Will the People demand a movie about how I overcame insurmountable barriers to achieve a great success? Maybe called Troll Surfer? And how no one could have predicted that a little book titled Cocaine + Surfing (buy here) would one day sit atop of the pile, towering over Pulitzer Prize winners and icons but then Amazon dropped the Kindle price to $1.99 and the world shifted on its axis.

I’d like to thank you for using some precious e-reader bandwidth or cell phone memory and spending $1.99. You’ve proven to children everywhere that dreams still come true.

Suck it Hamiltons.