surf writer
Dear diary, mood, apathetic. My life is spiralling downward, I couldn't get enough money to go to the Surf Ranch concert. It sucks cause Blink 182 play some of my favourite songs like stab my heart because i love you and rip apart my soul and of course stab me rippie stab stab.

Longtom: How to hustle as a surf writer*!

"Surf writing has never been more punk or more fun!"

It boggles the mind how quickly the internet forgets but those of a certain age will remember the infamous table jump podcast Ep where BG principal Chas Smith went for the choke out on STAB Editor Ashton Goggans.

It was a watershed moment for surf journalism/writing.

I’m not a podcast guy – I find the format too long, too much wheat to sift through – but I did listen to the whole damn table jump ep, totally transfixed. While the table jump was in the spotlight and got all the attention a lot more meat on that bone was left indigested.

One thing caught my ear and has stuck in the craw. Goggans said how much surf writing meant to him and how he wished to inspire a whole new generation of kiddies into the artform. Chas may even have agreed with him.

I thought: wow! Kids want to be surf writers? Could that be true? Surely not.

Following that I had one of my regular online beefs with surf journalist Nick Carroll, the gist of which was “Fuck Shearer, I hope you never help someone in surf writing”. I thought, most unfair.

I can help! And help with the chief skill one needs to become proficient at.

The hustle.

The Old Legacy Print media gatekeepers were bullshit. I want to mourn them, but just can’t. They locked more talent out than they let in. The gear I read on BG, generally speaking, craps all over the old print dinos. JP Currie, SurfAds, Frontwards Fin Frank, Dogsnuts, Jen See of course, Von Fanningstadt(sic) etc etc.

Funny, sharp, independent.

Surfing, once for vagabonds, now belongs to billionaires according to Derek Hynd. Hard to argue with that. But we are still at the vanguard in two things: online commenting and surf writing. A: Surfers do commenting better than any human species on Earth and B: The future of work is the independent contractor/freelancer, vainly staunching bloodflow as they lose limbs to the onslaught of AI.

Guess who will own the algorithms?

When we are all in Harari’s useless class then we’ll all have to embrace the art form and jump in the steaming jacuzzi of surf writing. How? Don’t do it when you’re young.

Young surf writers are fucking horrible. Except Sabre Norris. I hate child prodigies but she was an amazing interviewer and quirky stylist.

Millennials surf write for a year or three and then go work for the Murdoch press. Spare the people the misery of using your surf writing as an extended resume. Do it the other way round. Work a real job then come in the backdoor with some dirt under your fingernails. Commercial fishing has never been sexier. School teaching has its charms.

Getting paid is a rapidly burning bridge on the current business models. Surf writing is yet to meet its Jeff Bezos so until the day of billionaire patronage arrives it’s better to think of it as writing for it’s own satisfaction.

Or a lead into selling something else.

What leverage do you have in the marketplace of ideas? In a world where even Nick Carroll gets rejected by The Surfer’s Journal, somewhere between nothing and five eighths of fukall.

Lewis Samuels made the pertinent observation that the “house style” tended to gobble up young minds and produce a form of the written word where one piece was almost indistinguishable from the other. Especially in taste and tone.

That’s the only challenge in surf writing. To beat the house on style, or create your own.

Chas Smith beats the house style in every magazine he writes in. D. Rielly created a house style so seductive that a decade after leaving STAB every writer there comes off as a second-rate copy.

Surf media started as a way to promote movies. John Severson kicked off Surfer magazine to promote his 1960 film Surf Fever. Alby Falzon started Tracks in ’73 as a vehicle to drive Morning of the Earth to market. Ozzie Wright sustained a 20-year career on the back of Vaughan Blakey’s Doped Youth movie promoted through Waves magazine.

It makes sense, if you have something to sell, to write about it. The last 30 years of surf writing as PR for the (failed) surf industry might be nothing more than slight aberration of the historical norm.

Surf writing is a beautiful art form. I recommend it highly and thoroughly. In its current incarnation it’s never been more punk or more fun.

How to hustle: go start your own ‘zine and give it away. Fund it with local business ads. Go local then go global. You’re welcome.

*When the local High School Principal found out I wrote surf he asked me to deliver a “career” lecture to high school graduates (true!). Not long after he was caught screwing the staff and exiled to the bush. This is a slightly edited version of the high school graduation speech, never delivered.

History in the making: For first time EVER Big Wave Awards held outside big wave Mecca Orange County!


“Where were you the first time you heard the World Surf League’s Big Wave Awards were going to be held in Redondo Beach instead of Orange County?” is going to the the question every true surfer will be able to answer for decades to come. Very much like “Where were you when you heard Kennedy was shot?” or “Where were you when the Twin Towers came down on 9/11?”

A monumental day. An unforgettable moment and it is true. For the first time in its nineteen-year history the Big Wave Awards, now managed by the World Surf League will be held outside of the big wave Mecca also known as Orange County, California moved to the other big wave Mecca also known as Redondo Beach, California.

It’ll be rolled in to the BeachLife Festival and what is that?


Let’s learn about it but let’s do it together unless we need to hold each other’s hands in order to stop from peeing our pants out of excitement.

Since the BeachLife Festival aims to celebrate beach culture with food and music, it makes sense to add another essential beach element, surfing.

The inaugural event announced announced today that it is partnering with the World Surf League to bring the 19th annual 2019 Big Wave Awards to Redondo Beach May 2.

Entry to the Big Wave Awards is included for all BeachLife attendees who purchased a Founder’s Pass or Captain’s Pass. General admission tickets for the awards are $20 and go on sale at 10 a.m. March 18.

The award ceremony, which is being held outside of Orange County for the first time, will take place on the festival grounds and is considered the kickoff event for the May 3-5 concert that’s bringing more than 40 acts playing at the 8.6-acre site that encompasses Seaside Lagoon and an adjacent parking lot.

Performers include headliners Brian Wilson, Bob Weir and Wolf Bros and Willie Nelson, who will take the main stage while three chefs serve dinner in a 50-seat pop-up restaurant set up just a few feet from the music.

The awards are expected to draw big wave surfers from around the world, including Maya Gabeira and Rodrigo Koxa, who currently hold the titles for the largest wave surfed.

Will you promise me something? Will you promise me that we’ll both get online before 10 a.m. on March 18 and buy the maximum amount of tickets and sell the extras to each other just in case one of us has a bad internet connection and/or gets blocked?

Thank you.

From the desk of an adult learner: “Being in the ocean is so spiritual you forget you’re working out!”

It's the new the new capoeira!

It is well established fact that vulnerable adult learners are the future of our grand Pastime of Kings. The World Surf League is geared toward their embrace. Rip Curl produces its complete line of outerwear exclusively for them. Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch.

But what does the adult learner really think? What goes on in his mind besides #blurrV2 and #liveyourpassion? What does she feel whilst sitting astride a 9’2 SurtTech?

Thankfully we have People magazine and let’s get to know one-time Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester. Let’s discover what she loves most about surfing so BeachGrit can become a more welcoming environment.

The Single Parents star, 32, said that surfing is one of the new things she’s recently tried.

“Last year, I took up personal training. My husband also taught me how to surf, and in the last year, I got really into it,” Meester tells SHAPE for their April cover. “For the last six months, surfing has pretty much been my main form of exercise.”

Now the former Gossip Girl star is fully addicted to hanging ten, and not just for the workout.

“I have found that when I don’t have a physical result in mind when I’m exercising — it’s not just about getting sore or getting abs or burning fat — I feel much more confident,” she says. “I’m working on a skill, and that is so fulfilling to me. Plus, being in the ocean is such a spiritual experience that you forget you’re getting a real workout.”

So mostly exercise, skill practice and spirituality.

Is surfing a martial art?

The new capoeira? the old tai chi?


War in Oregon: Two competing big wave events set to run at Nelscott Reef today!

"Fist fights likely!"

Have you missed your hot big wave action this year? Oh there has been absolutely no lack of swell pounding coasts from Hawaii to California to Australia’s west and east but there have been very few days of live coverage and even fewer events.


In the dying days of 2018 the World Surf League decided to drop the Big Wave World Tour and have a Pretty Big Wave World Tour instead and as fun as it is watching bold women and men paddle into 7 -9 foot waves with helicopters circling overhead and many jetskis in the water it’s also not that fun.

Thankfully we have Oregon and today a massive swell is hitting her famed Nelscott Reef. Those brave souls north of the wall are not like their compatriots in Santa Monica. The bigger the better for them and they love it so much not one but two events are scheduled for the same day. Let’s catch up on the action in the Newport Times News!

Big-wave surfing contest promoters are slated to hold competing tournaments on the same giant swell Sunday, setting the stage for a clash that involves renowned surfers, bewildered city officials and the Oregon State Police.

John Forse, who holds the primary permit from the city allowing him to use Canyon Drive Park as a staging site for his Nelscott Reef Big Wave Classic, announced this week he would hold the contest Sunday, March 10, with alternative dates of March 11 or 13 depending on conditions.

But a rival group whose organizers were once cited and fined by Lincoln City for holding an illegal surfing contest has also laid claim to the big wave, setting up the possibility of another clash like one that captured the attention of the OSP.

“They’re saying they’ll break the law to run their event,” asserted Forse, who has asked the city to cancel both his permit and a secondary license held by the rival group for a contest called the Nelscott Reef Pro.

City tourism officials who sanction the event by issuing permits for exclusive use of the park did not return queries from the newspaper. However, the system allows the primary permit-holder, Forse, first call on surf dates.

In an embittered email sent to city hall on March 5, Nelscott Reef Pro organizer Gabe Smith announced his contest would not be suspended, regardless of city penalties. His web site,, claims the event will be held March 10, as well.

“Considering we have $40,000 on the line and we are doing an actual webcast you would think we could get priority, but whatever,” wrote Smith, giving his interpretation of the city-issued permits. “John is not allowed to have both days so he needs to pick which one of those days he is going to run his itty bitty garbage contest. I would rather pay a fine than return $40,000, just a head’s up. John Forse will not ruin this for us. It’s already in the works and happening no matter what he does.”

Forse responded to the letter by calling on city officials to rescind both permits before the situation boils over, as it has previously.

The grudge match between rival surf contests has vexed city officials for several years and drew the attention of state police after Forse complained of rampant safety violations, including jet skis that endangered surfers.


So, to sum up, we will have two big wave events today and in Oregon and likely mixed-martial arts action in between sets.

I love my home state.

Watch live here!

Jen See: “I just stood in line to watch a surf film!”

Who is this man and why does he matter?

A few weeks a go now, I stood in line to see a surf film. In a strange serendipity, Bruce Brown’s son stood in line just in front of me.

All of this was both totally normal, as surfing, especially in the Santa Barbara area, is a very small world, but also unusual, because who stands in line these days to watch surfing. On this particular night, the line stretched around the block, so it seems, at least a few of us will show up for such things, even now, when every day we’re inundated with a firehose of fresh clips served up in an instant.

Annually, the Santa Barbara Film Festival selects a closing night film. This year, they chose Spoons, which traces the history of surfboard design in Santa Barbara. The film sets out to portray the area as a seedbed of innovation from Renny Yater’s time to the present. Yater’s 1964 Spoon design gives the film its name and its starting point.

I’ll say up front the film is worth watching for its wealth of interview material from Santa Barbara and beyond, and for its vintage footage.

Spoons opens up the coast in Bruce Brown’s studio, where Brown sits surrounded by film canisters. It’s beautifully elegiac, though I’ll confess to an acute anxiety over all that original film footage. Someone, please tell me it’s safely deposited in an archive somewhere. Fragile historic things near the coast make me so nervous, she says, looking around at her shelves stacked with first editions. This opening might be the most memorable part of the film for me, really, and I wanted them to linger there for longer.

There’s gorgeous footage of a largely undeveloped coast. Dirt roads and pickup trucks. Yater and George Greenough tend their lobster traps. The vibe is very Eden before the fall. A voice-over from shaper Marc Andreini about the historic ranches, their vast open spaces, and the cowboys of the land and sea strikes a slightly jarring note, as though it is all there for the taking.

In truth, the strongest part of Spoons is the early sections. There’s gorgeous footage of a largely undeveloped coast. Dirt roads and pickup trucks. Yater and George Greenough tend their lobster traps. The vibe is very Eden before the fall. A voice-over from shaper Marc Andreini about the historic ranches, their vast open spaces, and the cowboys of the land and sea strikes a slightly jarring note, as though it is all there for the taking.

(Also, Henry Jackson Turner called and would like his frontier thesis back.)

Predictably, Rincon holds a central place in the story. It provides both a challenge and a testing ground for the generations of designers the film depicts. Much is made of the wave’s speed and perfection, though arguably, it’s the imperfections, the way the wave changes speed as it passes from cobbles to sand and back to cobbles again, that creates the design problem. An old-school longboard on trim will slam down the line pretty damn fast. It’s the slowing down and the turning that’s the trick – and frequently leads to a dead forest of loose boards crashing through the inside.

Spoons ably explains Yater’s contribution to design. Long story short, his Spoon narrowed and shortened the longboard outlines of the time. George Greenough, meanwhile, rips across the screen on a tiny kneeboard. Seen in the context of footage of his contemporaries, Greenough’s top-to-bottom lines do look radical and fresh. His designs, meanwhile, confound everyone. Bob McTavish says in the film that when Greenough’s ideas reached him and his crew in Australia, they had no idea what to do with it all.

What’s missing from Spoons is context. It’s hardly fair to ask a filmmaker or writer to tell the whole story of everything, but establishing significance means showing why something stood out in its time. In 1964, when Yater was designing his Spoon, what was happening in the workshops in Hermosa Beach or Dana Point? How were their design problems different? Why was the Spoon such a departure? I needed to know more about what was happening outside Santa Barbara to understand why what was happening here was so influential.

While the film neatly draws a connection between Tom Curren’s cutback and Greenough’s crazed kneeboard lines, the thruster seems to arrive out of nowhere. If I hadn’t known better, I might have believed Al Merrick had created the shortboard….

As the film moves through time, this problem becomes more acute. Shaun Thomson speaks of going from a seven-foot single fin, to a twin fin, to a thruster in a matter of months. He’s exaggerating a tad here, but what’s not clear is why there is this sudden shift. While the film neatly draws a connection between Tom Curren’s cutback and Greenough’s crazed kneeboard lines, the thruster seems to arrive out of nowhere. If I hadn’t known better, I might have believed Al Merrick had created the shortboard, though his interviews in the film are careful to avoid this claim. Eat your heart out, Simon Anderson.

Late in the film, Ryan Lovelace gives an extended interview (with far fewer swears than his BG interview, so disappointing!) about his interest in board designs from the pre-thruster era. He compares the genealogy of surfboard design to a tree, some of whose branches simply stopped growing after the thruster showed up.

Maybe it was because those designs quite simply sucked. But Lovelace is convinced there’s a rich vein to mine that the shortboard revolution cut off. The absence of Anderson in the film, though, muddies the story of the creative chaos of happening in board design now.

Spoons does a lovely job of smoothly welding old and new footage together. Visually, the film is a joy. The one exception was an oddly anachronistic sequence of women, maybe shaping, maybe just hanging around a half-finished blank. I couldn’t figure out what was happening there. It highlighted a missed opportunity. If the filmmakers had wanted to include a woman shaper, Ashley Lloyd Thompson, now in Santa Cruz, credits her time in Santa Barbara for helping her refine her ideas about design and counts Greenough and Andreini among her influences.

If you are into vintage footage of California, dig surfboard design nerdery, and can play along with the film’s Santa Barbara-centric perspective, Spoons is worth a watch.

For me, the opening sequence with Brown will stay in my memory for a while. There we all were, standing in line, a long way from Endless Summer, and yet, maybe not so far at all.