The format for ABB is magic. All of Australia's best clubs are there. Each team has an open. A junior. A woman. An over 35. One hour, five surfers (one goes twice for a nominated power wave). Penalties if you don’t get through all of your surfers. Penalties if you don’t make it back up the beach in time. Bonuses if you’re first across the finish line. There’s tactics. Intrigue. Running races upon the coarse Newcastle sand. | Photo: ABB

From the viva-la-revolución-lite-department: Inclusive surf contest says no to capitalist model of “best surfer wins!”

Strength lies in the team, in the community. Maybe Huey’s a socialist?

Overheard conversation. Newcastle Beach, NSW, Australia. Afternoon before the Nudie Australian Boardriders Battle (ABB). A surf dad, weathered but lithe, preps his brown-skinned, bright-haired son for a paddle.

“Now remember, let the conditions work for you. Don’t work against them.”

“Yeah,” son says as he waxes up his stickered board.

“Watch your rotation through your top turn. What’d I tell you? Look to where you want to go and your body will do the rest.”

“Yeah.” Son applies invisible zinc to his face.

“And don’t forgot your completions. Completions, completions, completions.”

“Yeah.” Son puts on his black and blue spring suit.

“Now get out there. And Hey.”

“Yeah?”  Son looks at his dad.

“Remember to have fun.”

Son shrugs, folds his springsuit over his neck and runs towards the waves.

**********

Newcastle beach. ABB. The Morning Of The Final. I’m standing on the King Rock watching Snapper surf their first team heat of the day. Parko does a roundhouse cutback right in front of me. Must be 10 metres long across the arc. He brings it all the way to shore, runs up the beach and tags Sheldon Simkus in. I think it was Sheldon Simkus.

This is sport. This is team sport. This is good.

King Rock. ~ 20 years ago. 12 years old. Surfing with my Dad, since passed. I had long bright hair, like a Hansen brother, and was wearing a springsuit. One of the old locals, I think he’s dead now too, paddled past me. Looked me up and down and said, “Fuck it’s great seeing young chicks out in the lineup. Good on ya!”

I looked at the local, then at Dad. He said nothing. I shrugged. We kept surfing.

I walk back to the promenade as Sheldon brings one through the end section. There’s people everywhere. Everything is purple with Nudie branding. Purple shirts, purple walls, purple pavement.  A drone buzzes overhead. Maybe it’s purple too.

The comp was hammered by Visit NSW on Facebook. Tourists from Sydney or wherever tagged their friends and said things like “Check this out! Newcastle Day trip?!” and their friends responded, “Sure!” Now they’re taking up car spaces and walking around with purple comp flyers asking for the closest cafe.

For the second year in a row the comp’s been blessed with waves. Easterly trade swell with a hint of north under N winds. Not pumping, but highly, highly contestable. Meanwhile Surfest, Newcastle’s six star QS held in a similarly swell-rich window, gets dudded every time.

The format for ABB is magic. All of Australia’s best clubs are there. Each team has an open. A junior. A woman. An over-35. One hour, five surfers (one goes twice for a nominated power wave). Penalties if you don’t get through all of your surfers. Penalties if you don’t make it back up the beach in time. Bonuses if you’re first across the finish line. There’s tactics. Intrigue. Running races upon the coarse Newcastle sand.

It does away with the capitalist model of man-on-man competitive surfing. The best surfer wins not always. Strength lies in the team, in the community. Viva la revolucion-lite!

Maybe Huey’s a socialist?

The February heat hangs thick, so I go to one of the purple Nudie juice stations for a free drink. They’re just handing them out. Everything for everyone and nothing for ourselves, as the socialists would say.

There’s coconut water. An array of chilled juices. The dark-haired girl dispensing them tells me to try the banana, date and berry smoothie. It tastes like rotten fruit. I take one sip and throw it in the purple bin on the edge of the strip.

How is anyone supposed to drink this shit? She looks at me and shrugs. Maybe she looks a bit like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.

Everything for everyone, and nothing for ourselves.

This is where my boardriders, the hosts of the ABB, once met for a club weekend away. We were going to Treachery. Boards, tents, eskies. Everything else optional. I was 14 , one of only a few groms allowed to go.

Dad drove my best and mate and I in to the meet. It was 6:30am on a Saturday morning and the streets of Newcastle were dead silent, like they always were then. But as we rounded the bend on King street, out the front of the old Tower Cinemas, a Jeep came careering around the corner at us. Head on. Dad slammed on the breaks, and the driver jammed to the left, smashing into the three metre tall concrete retaining wall on the side of the road.

Keeerrrack. The Jeep front fender smashed in. The driver reversed out, the Jeep making an unholy crunching noise. But he didn’t stop, and continued off round the corner.

Dad made sure we were both ok, shrugged, and kept driving.

That was the weekend we surfed pumping Yagan and Lighthouse for two days straight, and when Mull Up tried to kill Snuff with a hammer. Things have changed since then, of course.

Final time. Merewether v Snapper v North Shelly v North Shore. The wind is up but workable lefts still wrap back into a right rip bowl. Highly, highly contestable.

Merewether are wearing purple rashies for the final. An omen. Shelley and Snapper come out strong, but smart, tradesman-like performances from Jesse Adams and Phillipa Anderson see Newy’s oldest club out in front. Team stalwart Adams has his power wave. One final shot to seal it. He rotates through his first turn. Completes on his second. He gets the score. Not with superior surfing, but superior tactics. He surfs to the conditions. Makes it work for him. Like he’s done a thousand times before.

Merewether wins. All of Newcastle is proud.

“It’s better than Lego” remarks one of the Merewether crew in the post heat interview. They’re having fun, too.

I watch the celebrations on the beach. Merewether. Snapper. Narrabeen. Torquay. Culburra. Margaret River. East End. Each club steeped in its own history. There’s passion that runs thick through generations. Through a sense of belonging to something.

Everything for everyone. Nothing for ourselves.

As the world descends into an interconnected web of emptiness, tribalism will return slowly to the fore.

The WSL sells exclusive packages worth more than a university degree for new audiences to immerse themselves in the surfing ‘experience.’

Meanwhile, the magic of close knit community, and family, and friends, and shared legacy. It’s spilling out onto the coarse Newcastle sand like water through a net. Free flowing, yet impossible to catch.

I think of all the time I’ve spent here. 20+ years surfing in the one spot, mostly. With my friends, with my family. Been taught to surf here by my Dad. Held my own daughter’s arms here as she experienced the ocean for the first time.

Death. Life. All of it.

The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.

How much would that cost? Speak, memory!

My memory shrugs. That’s for another day, maybe.

Overheard conversation, Newcastle beach, morning after the final.

Well to do couple, late 50s, probably not from around here, sit in one of the shaded areas in front of local cafe, overlooking the surf. The wife points to a lithe young man ordering a coffee.

“I think that’s Adam Jesse,” she says.

“Oh, the young lad that won the comp yesterday?” replies husband.

“Well, he didn’t win. His team did.”

“Oh, I see.”

He thinks on it for a second.

“They didn’t say it was team surfing on Facebook. To be honest it’s all a little confusing. Let’s just stick to the wine tours next trip?”

The wife looks at her husband, then at Jesse, then out to sea, and shrugs.


Breaking: Titan of surf industry caught up in college admissions cheating scandal!

"The shock is still reverberating..."

And how much fun is the college admissions cheating scandal rocking those in high places. It’s like the Fyre Festival for adults with grown children and oooooee the laughs don’t stop, not even for a minute.

For those unaware, The New York Times describes as…

In what the Justice Department called its largest ever college admissions prosecution, federal authorities charged 50 people on Tuesday with taking part in a nationwide scheme to game the admissions process at highly competitive schools like Yale and the University of Southern California.

Those charged include wealthy and powerful parents accused of paying millions of dollars in bribes, exam administrators and athletic coaches accused of manufacturing students’ achievements, and private admissions counselors accused of coordinating it all.

No big surprise that wealthy and powerful parents try and game the system but what if I was to tell you that a titan of the surf industry was caught up in the web too?

Oh it’s true! Just hours ago the great Mossimo Giannulli was named amongst the conspirators and what? Are you telling me you forgot about Mossimo?

The Italian founded his eponymous brand on Balboa Island, Newport Beach, California in the mid 1980s and it was an instant sensation amongst the day-glo’d surf rats. With sales booming Mossimo took the company public in 1996, paving the way for the Quiksilvers and Billabongs to follow down the sure fire path of riches and wealth and forever soaring stock prices.

Very soon thereafter, he did a massive multi-product licensing deal with Target showing brands like Lost how to effectively sell out.

The surf industry followed every one of Mossimo’s gilded steps and here he is, once again, ahead of the curve and let’s turn to Women’s Wear Daily for more.

More than 40 adults — parents to college-bound teenagers — were charged in multiple states for allegedly trying to cheat the system. The methods included paying others to take college entrance exams for their children, or by falsely stating that the students were athletes, among other allegations.

Thirteen athletic coaches from universities like Yale, Stanford, USC, Georgetown and Wake Forest in North Carolina have been implicated, along with test administrators and 33 parents.

Among them were Hollywood actors Felicity Huffman of “Desperate Housewives” and Lori Loughlin, best known as Aunt Becky on “Full House,” along with her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, who founded the American fashion house Mossimo in the Eighties. The privately held company is owned by the Iconix Brand Group.

There has been no statement yet but, to be honest, I’m more impressed that Mossimo is married to Aunt Becky.

Good on him.

Also, will any other notable surf personality be caught in the snare?

Who?


Now John John is back from a long period of exile with a teaser clip from Surf Ranch. And it's weird. Pre-season footage serves a dual purpose of both making a psychological statement of intent and implanting a vision of good surfing into judges minds. The effect of Florence's surf ranch footage was equivocal on both counts. It was nice. It was casual. Skate. But lacking, no?

Longtom on John John: “The game has changed since he’s been gone!”

It's not cool, or nice, or casual. Gabby slit the throat of the competition and they still look grey and bled out with the tour three weeks away from kick off.

Not to take anything away from Gabby’s title last year but apart from him, Italo and a couple of Julian’s heats did it not seem the most exciting developments were “off the ball”?

The Shark retreat from Margies to Ulu’s, Sophie’s “reversal” on the Tour restructuring, the way a Brazilian beachbreak all of a sudden looked fabulously exotic and new in comparison to the wave tub debut contest, Mikey Wright and Jesse Mendes’ board poke in the North Point carpark etc etc etc.

Know what I mean?

Through the back half of the year an absence stalked the Tour, blowing like Camus “slow, persistent breeze” from the dark horizon of the future. The absence of John John Florence didn’t quite asterisk Gabby’s second title but it did change the stakes. Gabby and John at eight-to-ten-foot Pipe would have elevated the final day of the Pipe Masters into the heavenly realm.

Now he’s back from a long period of exile with a teaser clip from Surf Ranch.

And it’s weird.

Pre-season footage serves a dual purpose of both making a psychological statement of intent and implanting a vision of good surfing into judges minds. The effect of Florence’s surf ranch footage was equivocal on both counts.

I’m not sure Ross Williams has caught on. Italo has dropped clips of a style of surfing completely unrestrained in it’s neo-pagan manifestations. It’s not cool, or nice, or casual. It’s dancing around the maypole in a dioynsian blood frenzy. Gabby slit the throat of the competition in the final stages of last year and they still look grey and bled out with the tour three weeks away from kick off.

It was nice. It was casual. Skate.

But lacking, no?

Lacking: aggression? Innovation?

There was Ross, on the back of the sled. Going over the footage. Coaching. At the only place on earth where a coach can really coach. Maybe the statement, after JJF’s lackadaisical showings at Surf Ranch last year was designed to soothe the nerves of Sophie before season kick off… just to reassure her that her biggest star in the Northern Hemi was still in the game.

Still committed enough to swallow his obvious distaste and get in the Tub for a practise session.

The Game has changed since he’s been gone.

I’m not sure Ross has caught on. Italo has dropped clips of a style of surfing completely unrestrained in it’s neo-pagan manifestations. It’s not cool, or nice, or casual. It’s dancing around the maypole in a dioynsian blood frenzy. Gabby slit the throat of the competition in the final stages of last year and they still look grey and bled out with the tour three weeks away from kick off.

While that was in progress, Ross Williams was in the booth with Ronnie Blakey calling the quarter-final heat between Jordy Smith and Sebastien Zietz.

Fifteen minutes into that heat Ross made the not so astute analysis that lack of aggression was the problem for Jordy. By way of comparison he advanced a view that John John suffered the inverse problem “John tends to be too aggressive” he said.

What? The fuck?

I don’t know what exactly a coach has to do to skin his ten percent off the top, but I assume one of the core responsibilities is to at the least be some kind of conduit to reality.

John is too aggressive?

I can pull half a dozen losses straight off the top of my head where John has been too sleepy, too casual, too nice. So can you: Zeke Lau. Mikey Wright. Jesse Mendes. Jordy Smith. Mick Fanning (J-Bay final). Kelly Slater (Teahupoo final).

Cool, casual and skate will not make judges eyeballs twitch in three weeks time. The most important 30 minutes of John’s professional career awaits. His opening heat will set a tone of intent. There will be no hiding, even behind a talent as prodigious as his. Casual is an indulgence John can afford only at heavy water.

To be objective you would have to describe it as his chief competitive flaw. Maybe his only one.

Cool, casual and skate will not make judges eyeballs twitch in three weeks time. The most important 30 minutes of John’s professional career awaits. His opening heat will set a tone of intent. There will be no hiding, even behind a talent as prodigious as his. Casual is an indulgence John can afford only at heavy water. Failure to present primate aggression will see him flensed by Mikey Wright, a Brazilian or an Aussie rookie.

Wonderful things visit in the night. I dreamt I was at Snapper Rocks, staring into the low slung sun nestled in the volcanic rim. A straggly chin beard aflame with sunlight sat beside me. John Florence.

“Hows the knee?” I asked.

“Fine,” he said.

“Do you read?” I asked.

He nodded.

“What are you reading?”

“Way of the Peaceful Warrior,” he said.

“Why can’t we give love one more chance?” I replied.

Makes no sense, I know, but like years on the Pro Tour, thats the way dreams go.


Confession: “I own a $2500 wristwatch made by a surf brand!”

What is the most absurd piece of surf that you own?

Oh how we love to laugh here on BeachGrit and laugh everyday. It has become a safe space, of sorts, for those triggered by surf industry absurdity. But let’s just be honest. Let’s just look each other in the eye and be very honest. It’s the greatest industry on earth. An industry that has spun vast riches out of passion and Brazilian surfing.

What’s not to love?

And you are a participant. You certainly own at least three surfboards, at least two pairs of surf trunks, at least two wetsuits and surf traction, wax, multiple leashes (unless you’re one of those damned Byron hipsters), plus seven surf brand t-shirts, two surf brand windbreakers, three pairs of surf brand socks and one surf brand wristwatch.

Be honest.

I own one surf brand wristwatch, gifted by employee in a wonderful gesture almost ten years ago, that retailed for $2500.

Let that soak into your salt-crusted mind for a few minutes.

A surf watch.

That retailed for $2500.

It was named “The Supremacy” and has all its features laser engraved on its bezel, just like all luxury watch makers do. Features like “Automatic Movement” “Sapphire Crystal” “Swiss Made” “Custom Designed” and “The Supremacy” literally and truly engraved on its bezel.

It is the very pinnacle of surf industry art and I wear it everyday, giggling each time I check the actual time, though also literally and truly it’s an amazing watch and from the looks/performance probably cost more that $2500 to make.

But back to you and you must be honest.

What is the most absurd piece of surf that you own?

Remember, this is a safe space.


"I used to work at a magical place called Surf Ranch, dear children, where waves could be conjured on demand. Then one day people stopped coming. I mean they never really 'came' in the first place but, you know, it was a good idea. As good as pets.com."

Bubble Watch: Georgia wave pool paved over and turned into a parking lot!

"Surf is over! Again!"

Do you recall the dot-com bubble burst of 2002? Well of course you do. Even millennials were alive then, though likely not paying attention. As a refresher, everyone thought this new internet thing was a can’t miss money guaranteer so threw dollar after dollar after dollar at Pets.com etc. and then everyone realized this new internet thing was fake and lost all that money.

Very reminiscent of wave pool technology today. Oh the World Surf League has hitched its entire wellbeing to Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch. Surf Lakes, in Australia, has sold another property even though the first model broke while making two-foot waves. The Waco facility is back open after a gentleman likely contracted brain-eating amoeba there and died.

Still, big talk is being made. Wave pools are the future. A great new arms race. Surfing everywhere. Surfing the world.

But is the bubble set to burst? Let’s read about the “Surf Lagoon” in suburban Georgia. Let’s learn of its fate.

Jay Patel, one of the owners, didn’t want to comment on why the water park is closed, but instead focused on what’s to come. He says they’re still in the blueprint stages of the apartment project, so he couldn’t give a timeline of when construction is set to begin.

“With surf lagoon being there, it didn’t really show the peaks in the business. It kind of stayed steady all the way across. We were just hoping for higher numbers, but that’s business,” said Arshad Beckett, Ms. Polly’s Cake Giants.

Beckett also says the new apartments would be good for Pooler and businesses as a whole, because that means residents and people who aren’t just coming and going into this area.

“With them bringing a new apartment complex there, I feel like that’s cool. More people would have to pass us, so it would give us that visual for them to bring us a little recognition back here, and we just hope that it brings more clientele.”

Surf Lagoon will be used for parking this weekend for St. Patrick’s Day shuttle parking in Pooler.

And now let’s sing together.