Micro barrel.
Micro barrel.

Question: Does the Freshwater Pro taint current and future WSL World Champions?

Is the pool at Lemoore Kelly Slater's micro barrel coup de grace?

And I’m not asking for a friend because I really want to know. Me. Chas Smith. Onetime PEN award nominee (buy here!) All-time mixed-martial-arts master.*

The 2019 World Surf League Championship Series has been a heater so far, thanks in no small to our BeachGrit. The contests sizzle like they never have. Each Joe Turpel word singes and not because the contests have been superlative or Joe Turpel’s words extra spicy but because we, for the first time in recorded history, have watched these events together thanks to live chats, more or less.

And watching them with you (save J-Bay…. I love but too nasty time-wise!) then reading Jen See and Longtom straight afterward has given me the greatest appreciation for the 2019 World Surf League Championship Series.

Has it not been the best campaign ever?

Superlative physical accomplishments featuring John John Florence, heart-wrenching physical pain featuring John John Florence’s knee and Kolohe Andino. Steph Gilmore outshining every professional on tour, one moment, getting lapped by Carissa Moore the next.

With Teahupo’o in the dock, I can barely contain myself. It’s going to be shit, isn’t it. Global warming is going to serve up 2 foot micro barrels but would you like to know the micro barrels that really worry me?

Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch and honestly and truly fuck that place. It is an abomination not worthy of professional surfing. A mirage that not only derails the professional surfing season in its home stretch but also threatens to negate the poetry written by Steph Gilmore, Filipe Toledo, Carissa Moore, Gabriel Medina, Italo Ferreira, Kanoa Igarashi and Kolohe Andino all year long.

I’m totally not wrong.

Am I?

Kelly Slater invented his Surf Ranch so his damned eleven world titles will be sure to stand the test of time.

Didn’t he?

Please tell me I’m wrong.

Please tell me Kelly Slater isn’t an evil mastermind leaving wave tank world titles in his wake.

*The Deck 2.0!


Glass half empty/Glass half full.
Glass half empty/Glass half full.

Glass half empty/full: Worst flat spell in history plagues north Florida!

“Absolutely pathetic..."

We surfers are natural born complainers or we real surfers. Everything can always be better, either lots or slightly, and this is part of what gives us our patented disposition, beautifully described as “grumpy” by our current Waterperson of the Year and owner of professional surfing Dirk Ziff.

You would be forgiven for thinking that “grumpy” and BeachGrit’s anti-depressive ethos are mutually exclusive but that is one of the many, unfathomable mysteries of this glorious pastime. Wrapped in neoprene and dipped in salt water, they become one and the same.

Well, our sisters and brothers in north Florida have many reasons to complain. Surfer the Bar, there in Jacksonville, is getting sued for playing unauthorized music and the region is experiencing the longest flat spell in history, to name but two.

The Florida-Times Union reports:

“The worst flat spell ever,” said Eddie Pitts, who runs 911surfreport.com, a local website.

“Absolutely pathetic,” said Bill Longnecker, who’s been surfing since 1960 and giving a daily telephone report — (904) 241-0933 — since 1984.

Since the second half of May, the surf has been nonexistent to marginally minimal, and people are getting grouchy.

“It’s like the first topic of conversation when you run into somebody who surfs,” said Matt Shaw, editor-in-chief at Void, a Northeast Florida culture and lifestyle magazine with its own surf report (voidlive.com).

Shaw tries to plan his life and work around the swells and the tides, making sure he has the right board to suit the conditions.

“Now just everything’s thrown up in the air,” he said. “I’ve got a shed full of boards, different sizes. I never felt it was superfluous to have so many surfboards. Now it’s like, do we even use these here?”

Brothers Pitts, Longnecker and Shaw each have the right attitude. Despair, existential dread, a profound malaise that, hopefully, seeps right into home and work lives. But their glass empty is our glass full.

Orange County, California has been fun. It appears as if Australia’s Gold Coast has too. The World Surf League’s President of Content, Media and Etc. has even been bagging drainers in Manhattan Beach.

I imagine even your home break, wherever it may be, has seen some surf-able days.*

But their glass half empty still contains some measure of good. Our north Florida brothers and sisters don’t have to worry about those dreaded waves of change plaguing the business world.

*North Florida excluded.


Meet: Mexico’s teen version of Jack Robinson/Bruce Irons/John John Florence!

Half-gringo kid Alan Cleland Jr's got one of the world's heaviest beachbreaks in his front yard and a drug-cartel war in the back. Oowee etc.

Thinking about having kids, but don’t want them to become soft, spoiled first world brats who never look up from their phones? Meet Alan Cleland Jr, sixteen years old, from Pascuales, Mexico.

Alan’s the type of fully actualized young guy you’d want as your co pilot. Take him on a trip and he’ll expertly strap everyone’s boards onto the car, surf all day, call you into a good one, catch a fish, make a fire, cook it for everyone and eat his share last.

How did he get this way?

His father was a pro surfer from the San Diego area in the 1980’s. He didn’t compete much, but I remember seeing photos of him in Surfer, always deeply tubed at SD winter reefs with a serene expression on his face. Alan Sr started making trips south in his late-teens and fell in love with the palm groves and bombing barrels of Pascuales.

Soon, he had a local girlfriend there who turned into his wife and who bore him a son and a daughter.

Alan Jr doesn’t look half-Mexican. He’s got bushy blond hair, pale, sun-roasted skin and blue eyes. But when he says “Orale, chingon” to one of his homies you know he ain’t no gringo. He didn’t learn any English until age six and went to a Mexican public elementary school before switching to a home school program.

Pascaules isn’t friendliest spot for a kid to learn how to surf, but if you watch young Alan you’ll see what it’s done for him. He’s got that mas tranquilo approach to the barrel you see from other greats who grew up toying with heavy drainers like Bruce, Andy, John John and Jack Robinson.

The difference for Alan is that his spot is overhead 300 days and a year, breaks over sand, and until recently, was rather empty of people.

Not many grommies from Coolangatta or San Clemente have been stuffed into a trunk of a car and had a gun held to their heads the way Alan experienced at age 12. That happened on a midnight trip to Puerto Escondido when the driver of the car stopped to take a piss by he side of the road and got jacked by some hoods lying it wait. The lesson? Don’t drive at night in Mexico and if for some reason you do, don’t ever fucking stop to take a piss.

But growing up in deep, dark Mainland Mex isn’t, ah, the safest place for a young surfer.

Not many grommies from Coolangatta or San Clemente have been stuffed into a trunk of a car and had a gun held to their heads the way Alan experienced at age 12. That happened on a midnight trip to Puerto Escondido when the driver of the car stopped to take a piss by he side of the road and got jacked by some hoods lying it wait.

The lesson? Don’t drive at night in Mexico and if for some reason you do, don’t ever fucking stop to take a piss.

Alan’s home base in the state of Colima isn’t the safest joint either. In the old narco days, coke and weed were moved through that area to mainly to feed the addictions of North Americans and Europeans.

Now the explosion of cheap pills and meth have yielded a class of Mexican drug fiends. These days, you’re not as likely to catch a stray bullet from a Zetas/Sinaloa cartel “heating up the plaza” shoot out as you used to be. But a desperate junkie looking for a fix is not the guy you want to bump into on a quiet street after dark.

“Pretty much every bad thing that happens in Mexico goes down about 10 minutes from where I live,” says Alan.

To stay safe, he bolts up the doors to his house after seven pm each night and stays there.

He proudly surfs for the Mexican national team and is way better in small, weak waves that you might expect. He took second at a Pro Junior in tiny waves in Florida and recently made the semis of a QS in Acapulco.

He’s got a loose, almost hipstery style that may or may not find favor with the judges on tour, but he’s down to give it his best shot. If it doesn’t work out, he’s fortunate that Nathan Fletcher hooked him up with Vans, one of the last bastions of curated and subsidized free surf artists.

I filmed Alan in the clip above in the silky smooth point breaks of Oaxaca and was blown away by his natural talent.

Out of the hundreds of young pros grinding away in small, mushy waves at Huntington Beach next week, Alan’s one to pay attention to.


Profound: Business VAL develops foolproof middle-management risk assessment plan based on surfing!

Unlock your potential today!

And tell me true, is one of your favorite parts about being a surfer all the many and varied ways you can apply our favorite pastime to other aspects of life? If it’s not than life is better in something other than boardshorts™ for you and you also don’t exude the true Georgian Spirit™.

But would you like to know who does exude the true Georgian Spirit™? Business Leadership Strategy Consultant and one-year-old VAL David Michels and would you like to know his advice about change (I think) in the world of commerce?

Again, if not than too bad and let’s turn to the Bible of Millionaires and Billionaires for more.

I don’t know if it’s the coming of summer to the northern hemisphere, where I live, or the increasing number of conversations I’m having with business executives on the topic of change, but I can’t stop thinking about surfing.

It’s a hobby I just recently picked up. I started last summer on a family holiday in San Diego, and I’m glad I did. Not only is it a whole lot of fun and a completely new challenge—especially starting in middle age, not easy!—but it is also an apt metaphor for how “change” is changing in the business world.

Etc.

To me, change today is less like that old carnival game and much more like surfing the waves. For one thing, change, like waves, actually never stops. It can be large or small, fast or slow, but it is continuous. No two waves are exactly alike, and that’s one of the things that makes surfing so much fun. But there are patterns: Waves form, roll, peak and break. Often, the difference between a successful surf and a complete wipeout is your ability to understand the characteristics of that particular wave as it forms. These things are all true of change, too.

Etc.

As a surfer, you need a few things to be successful. You need the right equipment—a decent board and, depending on temperature, a good wet suit. As you venture out into the water, you must decide which waves to try to surf, to pick your spots. Positioning is paramount: Too early and you miss it, too late, and it will crash on top of you. Then comes technique—the right paddling motion to get into position and, critically, how you balance on your board to find just the right edge. Oh yes, there is a lot of skill involved, as I can attest as a relative beginner, and you won’t always succeed. You need to either enjoy the ride or embrace the lessons of the wipeout, and then get back out there.

Etc.

Oh it goes on and on and on and by the end you’ll no doubt feel that surfing has given you the keys to unlock your financial potential.

Wait… what?

Sorry… I have water in my ears and forgot what I was getting on about.


"Yesterday an elderly lady came up to us at the beach and asked if we could help fulfill her husbands wish to ride a wave one last time. She said that he is suffering from dementia and most likely has a year to live." | Photo: Ryan Giacola

Thanks for the laughs: Dying Man with dementia rides one last wave

Sooner or later it's gonna come, your last wave. How do you want to sign off?

It’s hard to contemplate, but, sooner or later, it’s gonna come.

Your last wave.

Maybe one VAL lecture on equality in the lineup or collision too many vaporises the love.

Diminishing returns and a disgust in your atrophying skills convince you to turn out the light.

Or you get old and you switch, first, to a longboard, then a SUP, and then it just gets too hard.

Below, we see a terminally ill man, ruined by dementia, whose loving wife helps him ride one last wave into the sunset.

A beautiful coda, yes?

https://twitter.com/giancola_ryan/status/1151516871314870272