Question: Is Surfing Worth Divorce?

British woman splits from husband after he becomes "obsessed with night surfing."

Relationships and surfing mix like MAGA-hatted teens and Native Americans. This is not, as I believe the teen parlance goes (though I’ll need to check with Nick Carroll), brand new information.

What is Brand New Information, brace yourselves married men (and two or three women), is that there’s a choice! Turns out you CAN choose surfing instead of kid’s birthday parties, work commitments or Great Aunt Fanny’s baptism.

I mean, there’s compromise. There’s always fucking compromise. It’s my most hated noun. And don’t even get me started on the verb form.

The compromise in this instance is called divorce.

But not to worry, because now you can crowdfund your family breakdown! In the midst of gut wrenching emotional turmoil, who needs dignity, eh?

The backstory to this is the case of a UK man trying to Crowdfund his divorce. A marital chasm that was opened due to surfing. “Karl” is a one-time family man from Bournemouth, England by way of NZ. Recently he split up with his wife and two daughters when the ol’ handbrake filed for divorce, citing Karl as “obsessed with night surfing”.

Allegedly, Karl had taken to surfing Bournemouth pier at night with some friends. Often he would come home just for a shower and to get dressed to go out to work, as if he were a “student tenant in the family home as opposed to a husband and a father,” his wife stated in the citation.

Woooofffft. Stinger.

But Karl’s surf buddies weren’t happy. Outraged by the behaviour of this harlot, this siren, this harpy, this over-zealous mother bitch, Karl’s mates kindly set him up a Crowdfunder so he didn’t need to take out a loan to pay for the divorce.

Now, from the perspective of a man who squirrels boards away in outbuildings, I don’t feel in a position to comment on a healthy surf/life balance, other than to say it involves a lot of half-truths. And perhaps some outright lies (if you’re asking, your honour).

But what do you think?

The Crowdfunder has now gone, so you can’t send money or condolences or relationship advice to Karl I’m afraid. Maybe Chas can offer some words of wisdom in between trying to coax Dave Lee Scales into the arms of a life-partner like he were the Mr Miyagi of Tinder. Chicks dig cock shots these days, Dave, that’s all I’m saying. It’s a brave new world out there.

But back to Bournemouth.

I went to Bournemouth once. I drove all the way down there to pick up a MK2 Golf GTI. It was Tornado Red with a subwoofer that consumed the entire boot space. Nearly 22 years old, it remained pristine and shiny because of the balmy, dry south coast, where old ladies tootle along beside big hedges and Mediterranean winds drift across the English channel. I soon booted it back North beyond the wall, to the mist and the grey, and I ragged the fuck out of it on winding singletrack and black ice and sheep shit for a couple of years. It was good that car.

When I was in Bournemouth I looked at their artificial reef. A monument to wasted public money, it is a £3.2 million shambles of burst sandbags. It opened in late 2009, never worked, and then was finally shut down in March 2011. The charlatans who built it, a NZ based company called ASR, went into liquidation shortly after. I looked at it then turned away, smirking.

So, Karl and his divorce.

Forget that Bournemouth is a terrible place to be a surfer and their artificial reef was hilariously shit.

Is surfing worth divorce?

And (in principle) would you spare a few shekels to help absentee father, lost to the clutches of two drizzly surfs a month on his longboard and his windslop, in the dark?


Elation: Buy all the cocaine you can handle for the low, low price of $1.99!

It's a fire sale!

You’ve no doubt read the book Cocaine + Surfing by now. Maybe you even own it. If you do not own it but would like to stick it to the man you can today and all of March because it is Amazon’s pick of the month and on sale for $1.99. Now, normally I wouldn’t care but Amazon ranks its books and I’m always behind Finnegan and the Hamiltons (Bethany and Laird). For just one day I’d like to have cocaine soaring above their heads. Maybe $1.99 will push me over the top.

Buy here!

And if you’d like a taste…

Pushing through the door I am once again enveloped in a scene that has played out the exact same for the past forever. A messy knot of people pushing toward the bar and toward the bathroom with equal force. Too close, too loud for talking. Too much talking. Nose rubbing. Chatty, conspiratorial, ecstatic, depressed, ecstatic, chatty. Conspiratorial.

It’s always snowing in Orange County, or so they say.

I try to press toward the bar but am intercepted by a very dapper industry bro holding an extra vodka-something. I take it from him and he says, “Yeah, Chas…” while nodding slowly and flashing a half smile. In another world his face would belong to a heartthrob singer or an actor or a model, or at the very least a teeth model. His teeth are impossibly straight and white. It would have to be assumed that they are veneers but they are not. They are real and blindingly white and so straight. I can’t take my eyes off of them an probably look weird when I respond, “Howzit…” while staring at his mouth.

In another world his very handsome face would pinned to the bedroom walls of teenaged girls, or orthodontists. In this world it does sales for the surf forecasting website Surfline and before that it was surf team manager for a surf shoe brand called Globe.

And surf industry genetics are a thing to behold. Inside it may seem the surf industry bro is a vacuum, an empty vessel, even though his heart is racing for his true and ancient love. Outside, though, he is almost perfect. Always lean, always tan, always well-proportioned, always salty ideally tousled hair, though usually a little short.

Why? The surf industry bro doesn’t grow food or build things or know things. Why then has evolution gifted such a worthless cultural appendage such genetic superiority? I don’t really know, though think it has something to do with the surf industry’s Mecca being Orange County. A place that molds its population after itself: pretty and vapid.

This particular surf industry bro, the one possessing the beyond handsome face and perfect teeth, and I chat empty surf talk for a minute. “You surf today? Sick. Where? Etc.” and then he asks me what I’m working on next—after “that Hawaii book.”

I tell him, “Cocaine plus surfing…it’s a love story.”

His nod doesn’t change rhythm nor does his smile change intensity and he says, “Yeah. Well, you won’t have any shortage of material,” before pushing off into the sweaty pit.

I watch, thinking about his teeth and wondering what career avenues open for a man with perfect teeth, but those thoughts are interrupted by an angry mouth too close to my ear. “These fuckers. These fucking fuckers taking Surfing away from us…fucking…fuckers. They wanted us to fail so they could shift our image archive away and sell it for millions of dollars and fuck us out of our rights. Now they won’t have to pay us, any of us, for reusing shots. Fucking…”

A damned surf photographer. I nod and say, “Yeah, totally,” before shuffling back toward the bar. I want to leave already but am really trying to honor my journey, trying to be a good surf journalist for the first time in my life. Trying to uncover little specifics in the world’s greatest love story. Like, asking people questions and stuff. I just got done asking Surfing’s ex Editor-in-Chief, Taylor Paul, if he likes cocaine. He looked at me all pucker-faced and said, “No. Are you kidding me? I hate the stuff. It makes everyone so…lame.”

I suppose he is the exception to the rule. After all, he is from Santa Cruz, and most Santa Cruz surfers love methamphetamine.

I’d just got done asking an intern who works for the extreme sport sock company Stance if she has any cocaine. She said no while looking at me like I was a total idiot by subverting the social order. I was supposed to be telling her I had cocaine. Stance is one of the only companies thriving in the surf space though, so I thought it was a fair question.

I then asked a part-time professional surfer part-time DJ if he wanted cocaine. He said, “Sure…” then got angry when I told him I didn’t have any.

And I really should have left an hour ago. It is too late and now I am depressed and caught in the conspiratorial web of another surf photographer who is even more furious than the last that Surfing magazine got shut down and is insisting that the magazine was actually making money and doing well. The crowd is still thick and getting sloppy.

It would impossible to guess if his rant, or the rant before his, is cocaine infused because most surf photographers are, by nature, conspiratorial. Someone is always stealing their art. No one is ever paying them enough. Everyone in this whole damned industry has profited and profited handsomely except them. In their collective mind they are getting fucked. Always getting fucked and always ready to snap about it, though I once carried a surf photographer’s backpack across a mile of beach and instantly understood surf photographer rage. The backpack weighed 250 lbs. The sand was scorching hot. It was like a forced march and all surf photographers should be paid reparations by the brands for their servitude.

“…fucking saw one of my shots being used by fucking Rip Curl on their Instagram feed…gonna fucking kill someone…”

The surf photographer rage and victimization complex is extreme but also mirrors the way most surfers feel about the surf industry. Surfers love surfing and reckon it such a pure love. Such a rush, such a kick. Such a high. But then they start looking around and seeing more and more people riding waves alongside them and they turn into strange possessive Gollums, hating other surfers, stealing their waves, getting high off their waves, fucking other surfers and hating the industry that is built around selling their personal dream. So much like the last boy with a baggie of cocaine at a dying party. Such hiding in the bathroom. Such suspicion of everyone and everything.

Depression: “The worst February in 28 years for Mavericks!”

The odds are not good.

Are you crazy for the big stuff? Like, not to surf obviously but to watch? Viewing parties for Jaws and Nazare etc? Well if you are, I can only imagine the frustration, depression even, that you feel about California’s premier big wave Chasing Mavericks.

It seemed, early on, that this would be her year as the event had finally been extracted from a man named Griffin Guess and gifted back to its rightful heirs, owners of all professional surfing, the World Surf League.

And in December, oooee! she lit right up. A day of 50+ foot waves but… confusingly no competition. Or maybe not confusing at all. In what became a tradition, it was called off because the waves were both a) too big and b) too good and the Pretty Big Wave World Tour was born.

In any case, that was December. Certainly the Grand Ol Dame would roar in January and February.

Alas. And let us let the San Francisco Chronicle be the bearer of bad news. Let us kill that messenger instead.

The Mavericks surf contest is on the clock, and things do not look promising.

The month of March remains in the contest window, but the combination of foul weather and an unsettling forecast has greatly reduced the odds.

“This was the worst February in 28 years for Mavericks,” said San Francisco big-wave surfer Grant Washburn, who has meticulously documented every swell since the place became popularized in the early 1990s. “It’s not even close, by my records. January was not much better. There hasn’t been anything even remotely contest-worthy in almost three months.”

March is traditionally a tricky month, known for its stiff northwest/west winds (not good for Mavericks), and there’s little reason to expect much this time.

“The jet stream has been split for at least six weeks now,” said Mark Sponsler, who lends his forecasting expertise to the contest, “and even with the Active Phase of the MJO raging in the West Pacific, it hasn’t been able to feed enough energy into the jet to get it to consolidate across the width of the Pacific.

“Until that happens, the odds are low of a storm forming close enough to Mavericks to result in a contestable swell. At this point, the odds are not good of that happening.”



Buy: VIP World Surf League experiences from $1,200 – $13,299!

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I don’t need to preface this with any sort of introduction. Some things, as they say, sell themselves and this is one of those things so let us turn to the World Surf League’s desk of Very Important Person Experiences that Journey Beyond without further ado.

I would suggest having your credit card within arm’s reach.

For the first time, we’re taking you deep inside the adventure of the tour with VIP experiences beyond the waves on a global journey of discovery. Get passes now.

Now, you should just blindly click in your details details and press “purchase” but, since ye have little faith here. I’ll let the WSL give you details.

Snapper. $1200 gets you…

-Prime viewing, screens, and shade at the WSL VIP lounge every day the competition is ON

-Complimentary food and drink at the WSL VIP lounge

-Athlete meet and greet

-VIP welcome bag

-VIP Access to The Drop concert in Coolangatta

Bali. $13,299 gets you…

– Beachfront Pool Suite at Komune Resort for the duration of the event window (May 13-25)

– Prime, poolside, competition viewing

– Complimentary drinks when the competition is ON

– Daily Resort meal credit (up to $815/person total value)

– Two lay day activities that showcase the region (e.g night surfing, waterfall hike, sunrise yoga)

– Access to exclusive parties and concerts

– VIP Odyssey welcome bag

– An invitation to a personalized athlete mixer

Margs. $9499 gets you…

– Premier accommodations within a 10 minute drive from site for the duration of the event window (May 29- June 9)

– Prime competition viewing

– Complimentary meals and drinks when the competition is ON

– Daily breakfast at your accomodation

– Two lay day activities that showcase the region (e.g wine tasting & vineyard tours, cave exploring, lunch on a private white sand beach)

– VIP access to exclusive parties and The Drop concert

– VIP Odyssey welcome bag

– An invitation to a personalized athlete mixer

Chopes. $10,488.90 gets you…

-Private bungalows tucked into the jungle await you. Live like the locals do for the duration of the event window (Aug 21- Sept 1)

– Prime competition viewing from the channel on a VIP only catamaran

– Complimentary meals and drinks when the competition is ON

-Daily breakfast at your accommodations

– Two lay day activities that showcase the region (e.g snorkeling day w/ private group lunch, hiking the iconic mountains, exploring hidden coves and untouched beaches)

– Access to exclusive events, parties and concerts

– VIP Odyssey welcome bag

– An invitation to a personalized athlete mixer

So? Which one are you going to choose? Will you invite any of your friends from here? Bells ($1299) and J-Bay ($8623.85) are available too.

Felicity Palmateer
The Australian surfer Felicity Palmateer climbs onto an eighteen-wheeler. | Photo: WSL

Women and Surfing: An Essay, By a Man

Just because a handful of women in a niche sport are prepared to weaponise their gender in the interests of getting what they want, it doesn’t mean it’s good for all women.

Recently, in the New York Times Magazine, Daniel Duane wrote a piece called “The Fight for Gender Equality in One of the Most Dangerous Sports on Earth”.

In the piece Duane referenced an old post I had written for The Inertia called “Women’s Big Wave Surfing has a Parity Paradox Worth Re-thinking”. The gist of the piece – which I stand by – is that the women’s Pe’ahi event was objectively poor. And despite the fact that it was spun across all media outlets as a giant leap for womenkind, the reality was that it was a step backwards.

As a spectacle the competition was a failure.

Only four of the 12 women caught waves, and two of those were hospitalised. In my view, the competition served as a stark reminder that there is physiological barrier precluding some people –regardless of gender – from big-wave paddle surfing. It’s equivalent to the UFC throwing Amanda Nunes into the ring with TJ Dillashaw in the name of gender equality.

I mean, Nunes is a great fighter, I’m sure she’d hold her own against lots of men, but – to employ the vernacular of the UFC fan – TJ Dillashaw would fuck her up. Pitting men directly against women is not parity.

It’s just biologically unfair.

The reference used by Duane had none of this context, of course:

‘The Inertia, a popular adventure-sports website, ran an opinion piece by a male surf journalist named J.P. Currie, who called the contest an “abject failure” and wrote: “I don’t see women achieving equality. I see women striving for masculinity.”’

I believe the quote, which lit my maleness like a flare, was used to exemplify an atypical attitude of men. Silly women, thinking they can do what we men do. Stop trying to be like us.

But I think my argument is more nuanced than that.

I grew up in a male dominated household. I’m one of four boys and my dad spent most weeks at sea. My mum is one of the toughest people I know. She held it all together. She did everything for the fishing boat bar hauling in the nets. She made sure the bills were paid, the house and boat were stocked with food every week, and she cooked and cleaned and gardened and busied everywhere. All while caring for us full time and clearing up after our mistakes, and our fights, and our tantrums, and our boisterousness.

She shouldered the embarrassment when my twin brothers got drunk on shoplifted booze and set a local field on fire. She remained calm when my older brother went missing and left only a neat pile of clothes at the end of the pier.

She spoke to me with quiet serenity when my teenage rage sent me through a plate glass window at school. And she responded with shocked but silent decorum when, late one evening, intending to confront my younger brother about some hash she discovered, found him having a standing wank in the living room, with the Masters golf on the telly.

At which point he uttered the now immortal words, “Fuck off, mum!”

She even dealt with the ignominy of driving home from church one Christmas Eve, after taking gran to the midnight service, and realising that a commotion outside the pub was caused by her two youngest sons, battering fuck out of each other while every punter in the pub watched and cheered, and I refereed. That was a tense Christmas dinner.

For this and so much more, my mum’s a straight hero. Most of all for her strength, her ability to endure.

My mum’s world is a microcosm of society. Women are often expected to fit in with, or tolerate, maleness. We live in a world that has been shaped by one gender. Yet we’re different, men and women.

I know I’m not supposed to say that publicly, but it’s true.

I teach kids, I see the differences. Boys are allowed time to fail, to find their feet, to fuck about. Girls need to be serious a lot sooner. They’re terrified of failure. They are more harshly judged. Women, young girls, are pressured into being something. It’s a world of extremes, there’s little middle ground. They’re either airhead YouTubers and Instagram models or they’re tough bitches, sticking it to the patriarchy.

The way I see it, in a women’s world, they’re seldom left to just be.

So in surfing, should we be pushing for women to compete alongside the men? I wonder how many women among the entrants for the Pe’ahi comp actually wanted to paddle out at Jaws for the first time, in front of the world.

Duane’s piece gave a brief history of the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing, an activist group headed by big wave surfer Bianca Valenti. It strongly inferred that the WSL decision to close the gender pay gap was a direct result of the activities of this group.

There’s an argument to say that women don’t deserve equal pay in surfing. An argument allegedly backed by Sophie Goldschmidt when she called the pressures from Valenti’s group “abuse of the #metoo movement”. (A statement she later denied.)

Just because a handful of women in a niche sport are prepared to weaponise their gender in the interests of getting what they want, it doesn’t mean it’s good for all women.

Surfing is backwards. It’s discriminatory. It is not egalitarian.

Most line-ups in the world are presided over by aggressive, macho cultures. We are guilty of the over-sexualisation of women. There is absolutely a balance that needs to be redressed.

But pretending women’s surfing is on the same level as men’s is not only disingenuous, it just serves to put even more pressure on all women to be more like men. Think of the language we use, why should we revere only the women who “charge”? Isn’t that just another form of discrimination based on physicality?

Equality is not the admiration of a small handful of women willing to pit themselves against men. We’re flying in the face of physiological fact, and that’s not progress.

I’d guess this viewpoint will be received as something akin to Hitler’s Mutterkreuz. But it’s not meant to sound like a pat on the head. And I’m sure it’s completely outrageous to accept my views on the subject of women’s liberty, or those of any other man.

But when we preclude certain people from talking about certain things conversation becomes stunted. Gender politics affect everyone.

And it should be perfectly fine to state that there are clear differences between men and women, and neither should feel the need to deny or fight that, in surfing or otherwise.