The lady and the tramp! As the century-old saying goes, "use a picture, it's worth a thousand words." | Photo: Justin Jay

Crowdfund: Justin Jay’s Magnificent Decade-in-the-making North Shore Tome!

Help breathe life into a piece of surf history…

Always a good to help a brother out, wouldn’t y’say?

Of all the cameras and phones floating around the North Shore each season, it’s only the photographic reportage of Steve Sherman and Justin Jay that, well, how do you say it…sing.

Justin is photographer from New York city’s Lower East Side, a master portraitist who works with a Nikon film camera, an ancient manual-focus 35mm prime affixed to the beak.

Jay takes his work extremely seriously. Every year when he flies to the North Shore to independently cover the contest season, he carries a box of prints in his backpack to give to surfers he’s previously shot.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” says Jay, who has previously shot Jay Z, Outkast and P Diddy. “A picture does take a little bit of your soul in a sense, it’s why famous people wear sunglasses all the time. So if you take someone’s photo, you need to give something back, you have to make sure they get a print. Everyone has a fucking iPhone and no one has any physical prints any more. When you give someone a print from a year ago, they feel amazing.”

Justin’s approach is simple enough.

“Whether I’m shooting Diddy or Jay-Z or Kelly or Joel I put myself in the eyes of a 13-year-old fan,” he says. “What would they like to see? There’s plenty of photos of Dane and Kelly ripping, but that’s not my game. I want to see the surfers before and after they surf, getting in fist fights, partying, eating breakfast.”

He calls himself the Switzerland of photographers because he has no allegiance to a magazine or company.

My favourite shot of Jay’s, maybe of all time, is this image of Dane Reynolds, excluded from a Bruce Irons make-out session at a North Shore party.

Justin says his game works ’cause he’s an outsider, because hasn’t been in the industry for so long that his eyes cloud over the minutiae of this awesome multi-generational gathering of the world’s best surfers.

After ten years, Jay is finally going to sling it all into a fine hard-cover book.

As he says, “my style of stuff lends itself to ageing. These are historical shots, rather than standard portraits. Plus, going back each year is like going to summer camp or winter camp, in this case, all the same faces, this great fraternity.”

Like a lot of hot shots, he ain’t doing it through the usual publishing route. Hence the Kickstart he’s chasing.

Jay needs 22k (Australian dollars) to make it happen.

There’s some good incentives to kick in.

Eighty five bucks and you get a book and a signed print.

Five gees US and you’ll “Receive a signed copy of HI 1K, a signed 16X20 print of their choice from the book, and a round trip plane ticket to the North Shore during the Pipe Masters event in Dec 2019. Spend an afternoon on a private tour of the North Shore as Justin Jay goes behind the scenes to visit team houses and deliver gift copies of HI 1K to some of the athletes featured in the book. Afterward, enjoy a complimentary meal at the legendary Breakers Restaurant.”

Buy in here. 


Shaun Neff starts toothpaste brand with Kendall Jenner: “I just riff on what’s in my head and it’s valuable!”

It's a great time to be a early 2000s surf industry scion!

There was a time in the surf industry’s history where anyone, and I mean anyone, could make money by starting a brand. I don’t know how or why just that it was true and I enjoy watching these men imagine it was their unique skill in “youth culture” and “rad” that led to their early 2000s riches in this the 18th year (and counting) of the surf industry apocalypse.

Shaun Neff is one of these men. The kinetic “guru” launched his eponymous brand Neff in 2002, selling a majority stake to a private equity firm a few years ago and now reveling in his position as a “brand whisperer” and shall we read some quotes from a new feature in Forbes highlighting his toothpaste collaboration with Kendall Jenner? We’d be horrible rude not to.

On high school: As a surfer and snowboarder, it was all about the brands that I felt represented my culture and what it meant the first day showing up in high school and what logo is going to be on my chest. There’s lots of options, but I had to make sure it was the right one that would represent who I am and what I do on the weekends.

On attending Brigham Young University: I was putting Neff stickers all over stop signs and I had the coolest guy at the skate park wearing it and the DJ at the party; I created this cool brand vibe in the college town.

On naming his brand “Neff”: I love that age of when you’re very entrepreneurial. It’s the time you don’t know enough and that naiveness of understanding what it takes to build a business and how you have to properly set it up and how many million things have to go right for it to catch on. I was just simple, even down to naming the brand. Bob Hurley used his last name, so I figured I’ll just use mine.

On his first trade show: I’m looking over at Burton and thinking oh that’s whack—they spent all that money and that’s not cool and I had all the cool kids and pro athletes hanging out at the Neff booth.

On being crazy dope famous: There was a good four or five years where I could not leave my house, whether I was dropping my kids off at school, going to the beach, going to work or getting on a flight, that I didn’t see my last name on someone. It was insane.

On life as a consultant after he sold his majority stake in Neff: I just riff on what’s in my head and it’s valuable and then they apply it to their whole business. That really triggered me to want to do more.

On his brain: That’s just who I am and my brain never stops—I can’t be walking anywhere and not think of a new business I would love to start and how to make it different.

On starting a toothpaste brand with Kendall Jenner: When a friend is coming over you hide your toothpaste, so the idea was let’s make something that looks beautiful on your shelf, that elevates your bathroom and really stands out.


It is a truly insightful article featuring many more gems and I hope you take the time to read, highlight, take to heart, meditate upon, recite, use at TED X talks.

I also wrote about Shaun Neff in the award skirting book Cocaine + Surfing (buy here). Would you like to read?

(The U.S. Open of Surfing riots) That might have been one of the funnier moments in surf history. Drunk white boys with Neff bandanas tied around their faces pushing over porta-potties and throwing stop signs through surf shop windows to steal more Neff bandanas. Neff might be the worst brand in all of surf. On the company website founder Shaun Neff is pictured standing like a gangster except wearing two different colored shoes, tight-black skinny jeans, some goofy Mickey Mouse T-shirt under a try-hard satin jacket and a black beanie above the words: “We are like a gumball machine; spitting out endless flavors for the world to consume…” I wonder what “endless flavor” Huntington Beach riot tastes like. Like generator exhaust, aerosol sunscreen, vape pen, spray paint, spray tan, spray cheese, sand particles probably.

Fucking Shaun Neff.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

An immodest proposal: Let non-surfers judge professional surfing on an infinite scale!

A perfect solution!

And another professional surf contest is in the bag, tied shut, stored in a cool, dry place. Margaret River had its moments no doubt. That day at The Box? I don’t think professional surfing gets better than that. A John John win? Ballyhooed on a certain continent but the right man stood alone at the end. Still, ballyhooed and why? I think it is because the judges have painted themselves into a corner. We expect perfection on each score and we also expect the right surfer to win which leads to a heat like John John v. Caio Ibelli.

Now, it was clear that John John was the better surfer in that semifinal. His turns had more oomph. More of the undefinable elements that make us feel and yet the judges are locked in a garden of numbers and analysis, trying to attach arbitrary points scientifically. John John was better and barely won, the margin so slim that it should have been called a draw.

I could sense the judges cracking this contest, coming undone. That Italo 8.17 on the clearest 10 of the year, acrobatic, incredible, inhuman. The lowball was shocking but makes sense for the men in the booth are now too good and can’t see the forest for the trees. They see numbers and attach them properly but those numbers aren’t properly reflective of what we’re seeing or, more importantly, what we’re feeling.

How to fix?

Let non-surfing, never-even-seen-the-ocean folk judge our contests and give them an infinite scale. These non-surfers will get the right winner every time because they won’t be fighting against the numbers. They’ll be free to judge spinners, tacos (what my six-year-old calls barrels) and big wipeouts however they feel and honestly without thinking about precedent or wave comparison or any other arbitrary nonsense.

There was so much talk about leaving headroom in the damn scale this year but why does it need headroom? Why not continue to blow through until heats are being scored in the millions?

We’ve made it all so fussy and complex but better surfing is easy to spot and easier to understand. It’s the moments that make a heart beat faster and I wonder if the World Surf League would attract the masses they want by actually synching winners with performance.

What do you think about that? Tell me how it won’t work.

Surfing’s Grand Inflection Point: How everything you love will soon shine only for the VAL!

(If if doesn't already!)

Social scientists and computer scientists aren’t exactly sure when it happened but both agree that the Internet is now more fake than real. Fake “people,” fake algorithmic views/clicks/likes, fake analytics, fake everything and let’s turn to William Finnegan’s magazine The New Yorker quickly for substance.

How much of the internet is fake? Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot. For a period of time in 2013, the Times reported this year, a full half of YouTube traffic was “bots masquerading as people,” a portion so high that employees feared an inflection point after which YouTube’s systems for detecting fraudulent traffic would begin to regard bot traffic as real and human traffic as fake. They called this hypothetical event “the Inversion.”

This is problematic but doesn’t concern us much here in our walled garden. OttoBeenThere you’re real. Right? Absolutely no way a bot could spew Wiggolly’s Paddling Style-esque filth. Right?


We have our own troubles. After much research (surfing and being a surf journalist), I have concluded that 95% of the surfing public is now officially VAL which is the highest percentage in recorded history. What does this mean? I have no idea except that surf companies will likely up production of wide-brim’d sun hats and cut production of cool water surf wax. Also, now that we’re so far past the inflection point we’re going to start seeing “cool” surf characters being introduced in mainstream film and television. “Cool” devil may care surf characters in reef booties and surf sunglasses throwing “shakas” and driving Jeep Wranglers.

Or wait.

That happened years ago but still we’re even further past the inflection point than we were years ago so I honestly don’t know except that VALs will now be serving up content and product for other VALs just like internet bots are serving up content and product for other internet bots therefore changing the very idea of “reality.”

Will you accept this inertia or will you rage, rage against the dying of the light?

Margaret River Pro, Final’s Day: “John John Florence is both saviour and executioner of the WSL business model!”

"My dream now is that John wraps the Title at J-Bay and boycotts the tub, maybe releases a few clips sailing in the Tuamotus. Treats the Tour the way Kelly used to."

Never feel happier with pro surfing than when John John is winning in six-to-eight-foot surf. The business model as of June 2019 is him, and him alone.

For those of you who have never been to Western Australia, the state of excitement as my mate Diggsy likes to call it, it’s a windy place. Blow a goat off a chain windy.

I used to sit in the Kalbarri pub with my old skipper, day after day, watching the smooth white trunk of the Kalbarri eucalypts bent in half and the bar an impassable washing machine.

“It’s not so easy on the old blue briney,” he’d say.

The other thing: the offshore wind blows weakest just before dawn, so if you wake up and it’s 20 knots at Cape Naturaliste, the northern end of the Margaret river prominence, you know it’s only gunna get stronger. And harder to surf when you’re sitting 500 yards out to sea at Main Break. Great fun on an eight-foot single fin with a triple-six glass job.

Hard, hard work on a six-0.

Tatiana brushed past Sally Fitzgerald with a wave on the buzzer but it was the next heat that threatened to be the heat of the day. Carissa and Lakey went at it with plenty of hustle, not that we ever hear about it or get an insight into the fierceness.

Moore inexplicably gave a wave to Lakey and Lakey dismantled it.

All day it was the second turn that paid the biggest dividends, John proved that later in the event, and Lakey got an incredible whip through it against the grain of the wind. A late exchange went unscored for a long period of time, Peterson repeatedly waving her arms to call for the score.

Dominant win.

When John loses it’s because he falls on the last turn. Ala the loss to Adriano De Souza in 2015, ala the loss in Keramas. He fell on the first three waves he caught against Caio Ibelli despite really connecting with the opening turn of the opening wave.

God, he’s changed. Remember the Machado-like nonchalance? That would never stoop to engage in something as barbaric as a paddle battle? I thought the faux-hawk was bad juju at the start of the year but when he paddled straight over the top of Caio after the opening exchange it finally seemed fully warranted.

God, he’s changed. Remember the Machado-like nonchalance? That would never stoop to engage in something as barbaric as a paddle battle? I thought the faux-hawk was bad juju at the start of the year but when he paddled straight over the top of Caio after the opening exchange it finally seemed fully warranted.

It’s not quite a tragedy to see a nervous John John prepared to win ugly against an opponent with a superior record against him. Not if he wins in the end.

Which he did. He couldn’t close in a shaky, unconvincing performance. Caio was a zombie antagonist who would not die and in the final analysis he’s got grounds to feel a bit ripped.

In the end the judges did the work that John should have done to dispatch Caio.

What to say about the Julian/Kolohe semi. Not much. Both struggled to make any sense of an increasingly wind thrashed lineup. Julian tried to sell a very weak wave as a winning score with a claim even he didn’t look convinced with. Kolohe fell over the finish line with a couple of fives.

Tati never really looked capable of taming a steep section and that very awkward counter rotational upper body style seemed increasingly discontinous with the actual movement of the board through the water. Which is what Joel Parkinson correctly identified as the marker of a good surfboard top turn. Lakey took a lot of punishment and connected with the middle section to win easily.

I thought John’s equipment had looked a bit shakey during the semis. Bald tyres, lack of traction.

Bigger fins needed?

As you know, he elected to ride the same 6’0” Ghost (bee’s dick under 30 litres) in the Final with the same M fins.

Completes the first wave and he’s won the Final, I wrote in my notes.

We were three waves ridden in the Final before the broadcast kicked in.

Kolohe kicked it off with a seven and a four. John calmly finished for a 7.67.

It’s done, I wrote in my notes.

Andino had been talking a big game since the Gold Coast about a power attack that no one had seen and that he claimed was the equal of anyone on Tour. Cruelly, they played the audio grab before the Final began.

Reality delivered a humiliating riposte.

We were watching an interview with Lakey, the live surfing was on a small screen.

I wrote “Johns turns a notch below 2017” as he dropped in with the lip already breaking on his head. His riposte was not just to Kolohe but to the standard he set in 2017. The searing rail-buried-to-the-nose carve with extra rotational torque was there in the middle section of the wave. It was framed with extra variety in the repertoire with turns one and three.

The crux of the technical advantage of the Ghost is the way it breaks from the hydrostatic to the hydrodynamic, as seen in that late take-off. The forwards rocker and rail line engages quicker and more resolutely which means John was at the lip faster, in time, and with more speed. It was almost an unfair advantage.

It was about the easiest nine judges have had since 2017.

The crux of the technical advantage of the Ghost is the way it breaks from the hydrostatic to the hydrodynamic, as seen in that late take-off. The forwards rocker and rail line engages quicker and more resolutely which means John was at the lip faster, in time, and with more speed. It was almost an unfair advantage.

From that point on there were no vital signs left in Kolohe’s Final. It was time to reflect.

John is both saviour and executioner of the WSL business model. Their model has become two-pronged with the departure of Paul Speaker and the failure to find non-endemic sponsorship and broadcast deals.

On the one branch, WSL is building an entertainment company with control, manufacture and distribution of content. John is crucial to that success.

On the other, WSL is balls deep as a licensee and manufacturer of wave pool technology and IP. That dream looks dead in the water.

Do you remember the day it died?

Last year, after the most sustained and brilliant marketing blitz in sporting franchise history the WSL ran the Founders Cup in May. And John Florence, the best surfer in the World, falling and falling and looking at the tub like a fifteen-year-old with maths homework in front of her. It was a wholesale rejection, in body language if not actual speech. All that marketing brilliance made irrelevant in a single gesture.

My dream now is that John wraps the Title at J-Bay and boycotts the tub, maybe releases a few clips sailing in the Tuamotus. Treats the Tour the way Kelly used to.

But we dream too much.

The Final ended about emphatically as could possibly be imagined. John duckdived under Kolohe on a feathering set pushing him out of position and then spun on the next wave and delivered the best surfing of the event.

I never feel happier with pro surfing than when John John is winning in six-to-eight-foot surf. It seems a pay-off for the huge investment in time that pro surfing demands and so rarely delivers on.

The business model as of June 2019 is him, and him alone.