Engineer Christian Dittrich with little Tommy Carroll, whose own speakers are plugged with Surf Ears.

Grand breakthrough: How a Swedish engineer from Nokia created the gold-standard in ear plugs!

Don't like surf-borne deafness? Meet the man who found the cure…

Two years ago, I was deaf. Cold water and wind blew out one ear, which was fine I supposed at the time, it’s why God gifted us a pair after all, but a few months later the other speaker was out.

My inquisitive children shrank from the man yelling at ‘em to repeat everything.

In conversations, I had to learn the art of lip-reading.

Phone interviews were out.

I felt like my pal Ido, the Deaf Jewish Big-Wave Stud, even though he’d told me of the myriad pleasures deafness brought.

“It can be a gift,” he said. “No distractions to your imagination, no need to pursue nirvana and mediation sessions, it’s built in. You don’t hear other people’s crap talk. It helps in work too, 100 per cent production. Not hearing crowds in the water cannot ruin your concentration or take away from the beauty of being at sea. And hearing music is incredible but, for me, it’s intuitive. You feel the vibe. And I do sleep good on stormy nights.”

Yeah, well, I didn’t dig.

The ear specialist didn’t give drill me (in either sense). He used a needle to clear the debris and whatever else. Both ears. The pain was so acute I could either laugh hysterically or cry.

My kids were there. I laughed and wept.

The hiss of the wind came back. The world presented itself to me again.

The doctor told me to wear ear plugs.

I did and they worked. But I didn’t dig the being-deaf-in-the-water thing. I like a conversation here and there.

Tom Carroll suggested I try Surf Ears, whom he was sponsored by.

And, just like that, I could hear, I could surf, and deafness was put to the sword.

God bless little Thomas etc.

A few nights back, I called the surfer who invented ’em,  Christian Dittrich. He’s a mechanical engineer who’s been swimming, surfing and kiteboarding in Sweden’s cold water since he was a kid.

As a junior swimmer, he says he had “horrible” pain in his ears. The remedy, back then, was to shove waxed cotton into his head. He remembers missing the start to a swim race ’cause he couldn’t hear.

By the time he was thirty, Christian is forty-two now, he was “having a lot of problems.” If he went on a surf trip he was guaranteed ear infections. So he used soft silicone wax which you ball up and stick into your ears.

“The thing was,” he tells me. “It ruined the whole experience. I couldn’t hear a thing. I was surfing with my girlfriend at the time and I couldn’t hear and she’d get annoyed with me. Then I was in Morocco in 2011 and I had a really bad ear infection and the right ear closed completely. It was painful and a little bit scary. And that’s when I started thinking, what can I do about this?”

Dittrich is an engineer. He’d worked at Nokia developing acoustic components for mobile phones, speakers, microphones, as well as working out ways for those components to be protected.

So he started prototyping a new kind of ear plug with different sorts of membranes, one that would protect ears but let in sound.

“It was a revelation,” he says. “You could have an ear plug that lets you hear perfectly and all we had to do was solve the rest, the sealing, the fit and so on.”

For three years Dittrich and his pals, all of whom had ear issues from surfing in the Baltic Sea, tested the plugs.

In 2014, they ran a Kickstarter campaign. It raised 30k. Enough to pay for investment in production.

And enough to spike interest from the Western Australian accessories company, Creatures of Leisure. They contacted him, said they liked his design and that they wanted global distribution rights.

Five years on, the familiar orange plugs are as ubiquitous as Slater Design boards.

Recently, the company loosed an updated model, the whole geometry reduced in size. Narrower. A more flexible silicon seal. Fits more ears.

If you want to sterilise ’em, you chuck ’em back into the case and drop the package into boiling water.

Dittrich says they get a lot of feedback about the plugs. Water-borne deafness is a worldwide curse. A recent call on Facebook drew 700 submissions.

It’s a helluva design, and about as sexy as you can get for such a functional item. (A design agency partnered with Surf Ears to make ’em look good.)

Dittrich, meanwhile, has built a fine little biz. Works with five pals in Malmö and an hour east they got a sweet little Baltic Sea harbour point called Kaserga to thrash around on.

It is, I think, a success story in the classic way of surf co’s like Rip Curl or Billabong, building surf specific gear to fix a surf specific problem.

Buy ’em, or not, here. 

(Clearly, I got mine for free. Still, I did chase ’em and would’ve paid, begrudgingly, of course.)

Listen: “I hereby challenge Laird Hamilton to a sauna-off!”

“Joe Rogan and Laird Hamilton are little wimpy sissies!”

Derek Rielly has been on such a BeachGrit heater lately that last night I felt very bad. He’s posted story after story after story all while being shuttled around Australia giving interviews in the wake of the iconic Bob Hawke’s passing.

As you well know, Derek wrote the definitive biography of the beloved figure in his inimitable style. It is a gorgeous book. Profound, moving, original and illuminating. I have no doubt that it will win every important Australian award this year which made me feel even worse.

Derek is a literary juggernaut, a lion, and still posting story after story while I sit home, henpecking an indecipherable book about the Global War on Terror and failing you.

In order to rectify, I hurriedly googled “surf” then clicked “news” to find something.


And there sat Laird Hamilton across from Joe Rogan.

“Perfection!” I thought, poured myself yet another vodka soda and clicked play, ready to do the hard yards for you. For us. For Derek.

I hated every second and turned it off after 20 minutes.

I understand the concept of eating healthy and working out. What I don’t understand is talking about eating healthy and working out. Or, worse still, listening to someone else talk about eating healthy and working out.

For two plus hours.

In any case, Laird n Joe started talking about saunas near my capacity and how 225 degrees Fahrenheit is, like, crazy hot and difficult to handle.

“Sissies!” I thought. “Joe Rogan and Laird Hamilton are little wimpy sissies!”

Now, I’ve never had occasion to think this before but I could out sauna those two in my sleep. I’ve spent a good third of my life in the world’s largest sauna (the Middle East) and could sauna those two under the table with one arm tied behind my back.

I somehow need to make this happen. It could be for charity and maybe I’ll reach out to my pal Erik “ELo” Logan, the World Surf League’s President of Content, Media, Third Party Licensing Rights, Etc. for Laird’s contact info. Maybe it should be a WSL sanctioned sauna-off.

Speaking of ELo, I met with David Lee Scales at the Surf Heritage and Culture Center and we spoke of the Shellacking in Santa Monica, David Lee’s ripping, surfing with your partner and many other important things. Then David Lee’s computer died and the whole thing got erased so we started over and did it again.

It is our best show yet two times over!

Breathe: Laird Hamilton appears on the Joe Rogan Experience to peddle soft science!

"The human body craves fast food cheeseburgers!"

Do you love and believe in science? Are you what the “mainstream media” would call a “scientist?” Well then you’ll love the latest episode of the Joe Rogan Experience where famous professional tow-surfer Laird Hamilton swings in to peddle super hot saunas, super cold ice machines and the glories of nose breathing.

What is nose breathing?

Oh, simple. Breathing through your nose but better than that it makes your body invincible, I think. You can run across the entire contiguous United States of America then fight a man and still win if you nose breathe.

You can have stunningly blonde hair with all sorts of gorgeous accents and be seventy-years-old if you nose breathe and you don’t believe me?

I mock you while exhaling through my nose. The worst sort of mock.

Learn you ignorant beast. You non-220-degree-ice-bath-taking fool.

Kelly Slater, candid: “I want to take (Filipe’s) head off!”

The day before his epic quarter-final at Keramas with Filipe Toledo, the 11-timer shows his tonsils are in fine form…

Tomorrow morning, afternoon, depending on your geo-tag, Kelly Slater and Filipe Toledo are going to tee off in the first quarter-final at Keramas.

Waves? Two foot, maybe three.

Don’t tell me this is a heat you’re going to miss.

With nobody in his corner, nearing fifty and in zig-zagging form, Kelly Slater is going to see if strategy and experience can beat the man who has so far seemed unbeatable in Keramas’ little righthanders.

In an interview yesterday, Kelly was in fighting form.

Salty, challenging, philosophical… loose.

“Well, its obvious, like, I’m not going to go out and let him win. I’m going to go out and do my best to smash him. And if I lose who cares? On the Gold Coast at Duranbah, I surfed like crap. Everyone wrote me off, I probably killed my own confidence.

“People forget that’s it’s a marathon not a spring and there can be days where somebody looks totally unbeatable, uncatchable, going to win everything and then they lose.

“Look, I love Filipe. I think he shreds. I think he’s probably the best small-wave surfer that’s ever lived. And, he’s outscored me in every round of the year so the chances of me beating him are very slim. 

“I got no delusions about that but I’m going to see if I can figure out a game plan to beat him and get some high scores for myself and get the right waves and hopefully it’s six-foot and barrelling. 

“Filipe is probably the gnarliest guy you could ever have in a small-wave heat, especially in rights, but basically in any small waves. But that doesn’t mean I have to sit here and praise him before we surf, you know I want to go out there and take his head off. 

“But, it’s nothing personal. 

You just to have to have that mindset as a competitor and leave it all in the water. And I have a little bit of confidence now and I’m going to try and use what I got to win a heat and win a contest.”

Tell me: who’s going to have tear-stained cheeks tomoz?




Safe Space: Cape Cod activists get “horribly inappropriate” shark merchandise off shelves!

Send more tourists... the last ones were delicious.

Is there any cultural corner left where militant activists won’t come swinging in, demanding that it be turned into a safe space? Any oasis from weaponized hurt feelings? I would have thought that cute cartoon shark merchandise being sold in Christmas Tree Shops in New England might be that one perfect intersection.

Who could possibly be offended?

Enough people to get that “horribly inappropriate” stock removed while writing stinging rebukes on Facebook and let us turn our attention to Cape Cod, the picturesque Massachusetts town best known for its connection to the Kennedy family. Let us read together from the Boston Globe.

Merchandise making light of shark attacks has been stripped from the shelves of Christmas Tree Shops around Cape Cod because of complaints from residents who said the language and images on the items were inappropriate following two serious incidents last year between people and the apex predators — one of which resulted in a man’s death.

One of the items removed from the stores was a notepad featuring a drawing of a smiling great white shark. At the top of the pad it said, “Send more tourists,” and at the bottom, “The last ones were delicious.”

A second item no longer for sale was a kitchen towel that pictured a great white shark popping out of the water, below the words “Shark Week.” The bottom of the towel read, “Nice to Eat You.”, which first reported on the removal of the items, also documented a shirt that said “Come to the Shark Side Cape Cod” and another that read, “Cape Cod, Massachusetts — Dangerous Summer — Shark Patrol.”

Heather Doyle, co-chairwoman of the Cape Cod Ocean Community, an active online group focused on “surveillance, deterrence, detection, and Community awareness” about sharks off the Cape, said members pointed out the items in a discussion on the group’s Facebook page recently.

Members mobilized — not in a “militant way,” she clarified — and reached out to the chain’s corporate offices about what they deemed inappropriate products.

“Our reality is going to be sharks on everything; sharks on this — but when you start to personify sharks as evil animals that are hunting people and smiling . . . it’s probably not a lane we want to go down,” said Doyle, who went to two of the stores to see the products for herself and take pictures.

“It’s really not that funny,” she said. “It’s horribly inappropriate and insensitive to those of us who live here.”

Is there anything you’d like to see removed from shelves? What about little shot glasses that have “One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor” written on them? If we muster our Facebooks do you think we could get them banned from kiosks since they encourage excessive drinking and/or perpetuate an incorrect spelling of the word “four?”

Let’s try!