Not a scene from Barons but Dazed and Confused, starring Matt McConaughey etc.

Ambitious: big-budget, multi-season TV series skewers surf industry’s (wonderfully) sordid past!

Surfers use drug money to start various surf biz' and then fuck each other, literally and figuratively, as they realise that no one is immune to the siren call of big cash…

If you’re into what show biz people call the trade papers, you’ll have seen the notices for a new TV series called Barons, a big-budget production that’s going to stick its fork into the genesis of the surf industry.

The first series, of a planned five, is eight episodes long and follows a group of surfers treading that early-seventies golden triangle, Australia,  Bali, LA. They use drug money to start a wetsuit company, a boardshort company, and then fuck each other, literally and figuratively, as they realise that no one is immune, not even soul brothers, to the siren call of big cash.

Production begins in early 2020 and will be shot on location.

If it sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, dripping with cheese and cliche, you might be surprised, reassured even, that the muscle behind it includes Mick Lawrence and Nick Cook, the Maroubra-based film producers who made Bra Boys, as well as Taylor Steele, whom you know, and a writing and production team of Australia’s best talent.

Of course, one can never talk surf history without pivoting towards the keeper of the flame, Matt Warshaw, the former Surfer magazine editor turned fastidious archivist.

He ain’t convinced.

DR: The holy grail of television, and movie, for surfers, has always been this belief that, one day, the wonderfully sordid stories of drug money and so on being used to fund the surf industry, would be breathed life. The series, Barons, is using hybrid characters and fictionalized surf co’s, I believe, to tip-toe around lawsuits and so on. You know the history. What are the essential stories y’think have to, or will, get told?

Warshaw: If Barons had been sprung in 1990 or even 2000, maybe I’d be more excited. But in 2019 the topic feels played out. Phil Jarratt covered it in two or three of his books. Sea of Darkness never went public but everybody knows the punchline, which never seemed all that radical to begin with. Drugs were how a lot of surfers made money in the 1970s, and some of that money went into the ground floor of the surf industry. In business terms it wasn’t even that much money. And surfing being what it is, looking as great as it does, it was the lowest-hanging fruit on the activewear tree, it was always going to be a force even if Hakman and the rest of the Quik gang had been hardcore Amish. I mean, Bob McKnight went to USC School of Business, so he’s at most two degrees of separation removed from venture capital. At this point, the fact that drugs were involved in surfwear’s foundation story is a marketing point. Using hash profits to float your new company is more surfy than hitting up your college roommate’s dad. But either way, we end up right where we are.

I may’ve leaned a little hard on the drugs angle. It’s in there, I believe, but the juice gets squeezed from the human side: surfers playing the soul-man line only to get hard lessons in biz when they realise that they, just like the establishment they despise, are not immune to a love of money, and betrayal of friends comes easier than they think. That’s got legs. I’ve seen it up close, I’ve felt it. Oh, and Barons is loosely based on Jarratt’s book Salts and Suits, which was originally optioned for the series.

So let’s presume that the writers are guns, the actors believable and every talent in LA and Sydney is loosed onto the project, which according to the presser they are.

How can it make that seventies-era industry start-up era in Australia really sing? I would suggest a draft-dodging Wayne Lynch character fleeing the cops and disappearing into Nat Young country, for one…

Yeah, Derek, I’m not being contrary on purpose, and I’d be happy to be proved wrong. But I’m not feeling it like you do. I’m not against a dramatic surf series. Just not one set in surfwear. Surfwear by definition is throwaway. Surfwear doesn’t mean anything to anybody, really, apart from the companies themselves. We looked better before surfwear existed. So I guess I’m not seeing how you build much on something that doesn’t really mean anything. Succession works because of the ridiculous amount of money and power at play. Those Rupert Murdoch fuckers can start wars, launch rockets, elect presidents, bring down democracy. Succession works because of the writing and acting, but that in turn I think works in part because of the arena the show is set in. You want to watch because the stakes are so high. Barons is set in surf because we photograph well. That’s it. And watch, they’ll lean too hard into the surf bits, they’ll go back to it again and again to remind viewers of how beautiful the sport is, and beautiful surfers are, and that will feel contrived and forced, just like it does with surfwear in general.

What is the greatest untold story about the surf biz?

The origin story for the surfboard industry is where the real drama is. The push and shove between the labels in the ‘50s and early ‘60s was vicious and personal and Godfather without the cut-off horse head. The labels were like gangs. Hobie was the jocks. Velzy was Animal House. Then here comes Dewey Weber, the adorable little national yo-yo champ with his Buster Brown suit who grows up to out-flash everybody at Malibu—then puts a fucking shiv in Dale Velzy’s business. And Velzy was Dewey’s mentor! Weber was really, really hardcore. He worked with Dale, likely embezzled from him, and also knew that Dale was a flagrantly no-fucks-given businessman who lit his cigars with Past Due notices—and sure enough, 90 seconds after the IRS dropped the big hammer of Velzy Surfboards for unpaid taxes, Dewey was hanging a new Weber Surfboards sign in front of Velzy’s shop in Venice. The Hobie-Weber-Velzy saga is a thousand times more interesting than the birth of surfwear.

They’re planning on making five seasons of the series, from the seventies through to the nineties. If the seventies was about running hash and smack (oooh, street words!), what were the eighties and nineties about?

Scaling up, I guess? I don’t know. I lose interest as the whole thing moves further away from actual surfing. In other words, the surfboard biz thing I talk about above – surfing itself needs that industry. Delete the car industry and there is no more driving. Delete the surfboard industry, and—okay, we’d still surf, but it would be some kind of post-apocalyptic DIY thing. Delete the surfwear industry, and who cares? No contests and fewer video edits. So what? We’d be fine. As far as Barons goes, who knows. I’ll watch anything if the script is sharp, if the actors know their stuff, and maybe Barons will hire all the right people and do something incredible. If it’s good, it’s good. And there is SO much good TV these days. That said, I’ll take 50-to-1 that Barons is gonna suck. Although I will of course seek counsel with JP Currie before booking the bet.

Would you do a series, if the choice was yours? And how would you play it?

It has to be comedy. Which is still impossibly hard, but at least you’ve got a shot. I’m thinking Letterkenny, but in the OC; the shows jumps from one subgroup to another, all directly or tangentially related to surfwear and to each other. So the Salts and Suits, like Jarratt talks about. But also the geezers in their chairs at San Onofre bullshitting about the old days, and the groms glued to their phones in somebody’s basement, and the local CT-level pro and his entourage. No surfing at all. Just dialogue like daggers, and then you slip in just enough heart and warmth that the viewer understands that everybody on the show, on some level or another, even if it’s been misplaced, really loves riding waves.

(Editor’s note: We’ll keep readers in the loop re: screening dates etc.)


Question: Has the U.S. Open of Surfing really transformed into a “family-friendly festival?”

I feel doubt.

This is the second year in a row that I have fled as far as humanly possible from Huntington Beach’s U.S. Open of Surfing, To Copenhagen, Denmark, to be exact, where I don’t think statutory date rape is a way of life.

Huntington Beach’s U.S. Open of Surfing has always been a filthy cesspool. A Dante’s Inferno of Inland Empire flat brims and assorted who-knows-from-whence VALs writing dirty slogans on their pre-teen daughters’ bodies mixed with creatine laced smoothies and barbwire bicep tattoos.

The worst.

Those filthy bare feet and Mick Fanning bottle opening sandals kicking up a cloud of cancer-inducing silicon from sand imported from Dante’s Inferno’s third circle of hell. The gluttonous one and also drinking Michelob Ultra’s brewed with Organic Grains from Dante’s Inferno’s sixth circle of hell.

Which is heresy.

I hate the U.S. Open of Surfing and so I flee to Denmark and am happy here, happier here than anywhere, but a story from the Orange County Register just popped into my phone declaring US Open of Surfing 2019 is more family-friendly festival than surf-only party and is this true? Can anyone out there verify?

I love all of surf journalist Laylan Connelly’s work but really doubt when she declares:

The Van US Open of Surfing, an event that has transformed through the years from a rowdy party to a family-friendly festival filled with attractions for all ages, brings thousands of beachgoers to the south side of the pier.

Evelyn Kleven, who grew up in Southern California but now lives in Las Vegas, was one of the many beachgoers to cruise around the festival, Monday, checking out skaters hitting a massive vert ramp on the sand before grabbing free hot dogs with her three kids and their two cousins.

“They’ve never experienced this, I really wanted to experience how amazing this is,” she said. “I’ve heard it is more family friendly, and with a family, this is amazing. They are in awe.”

Because Evelyn Kleven now lives in Las Vegas and is checking out skaters hitting a vert ramp before eating free hot dogs with her three kids and their two cousins on cancer-inducing silicon from sand imported from… now I’m thinking Las Vegas.

Or maybe Primm.

Can anyone verify?

Is anyone not in Copenhagen at this moment?

Help!


Teahupoo setting: Chinese wavepool malfunctions; forty-four injured!

Wavepool near North Korean border goes rogue after power outage in control room!

Kicking around Instagram for laughs this morning is vision of a wavepool gone rogue.

A tsunami-looking thing tears hell out of a tub filled with happy Chinese swimmers, most supported by inflatable rings.

Laughs turn into screams etc.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B0mFqFcHVas/

https://www.instagram.com/p/B0l81JnnDAn/

What happened?

Three days ago, at the Yulong Shuiyun Water Amusement Park in the city of Longjing near the border with North Korea, a malfunction in the control room of the “Tsunami” pool caused, uh, waves bigger than had been designed.

Forty-four swimmers were injured, thirty-nine of ’em sent to hospital with busted feet, ribs and so on.

A notice posted by the Longjing city government on Wiebo, China’s only legal social platform, reads,


Innovative: The phrase “Australian Surf” enters lexicon as derogatory slur!

"Aggressive and unwanted."

As a Master of Applied Linguistics (’01), my ear is highly tuned in detecting the most subtle variances of human communication. It pricks up at the slightest shift, the most delicate turn, and notes how meaning, or play rather therein (Derrida) is being harnessed.

And never are my senses more fully activated than when I’m traveling. Yesterday Paris, today Copenhagen, but I wish that I was in Nottingham, England where the most exciting derogatory slur of the last decade is being introduced to our English language and let’s head straight there, virtually, for it is the next best thing.

A busy Nottingham junction floods every time it rains soaking pedestrians with waves of water, according to one dog walker.

Pub worker Ade Wood has complained to Nottingham City Council about the problem and says he is sick of getting drenched trying to cross at the junction.

The 60-year-old of Nottingham Road, said: “This has been happening for at least a year now and what the video shows is actually tame compared to how it can be.

“Every time it rains it floods and people cannot use the crossing because it is submerged.

“Because most drivers are in a rush they don’t slow down and you get soaked.

“I take my dog that way every day to the small park and it is like an Australian surf coming at you when the cars go through it.

And did you catch it there, at the end? The flooded intersection is “like an Australian surf coming at you…”

Delicious! Now, Australian surf has only literally meant “the surf in Australia” since the great Duke Kahanamoku brought our Pastime of Kings to the savages down under in 1915, but now thanks to pub worker Ade Wood it freshly means an “aggressive and unwanted” approach.

It is being used as a descriptive metaphor here, as in, “Tax season hit me like an Australian surf this year. Ugh.” But I am more excited for its potential as a gerund. Picture being out at a bar and getting hit on by an unruly, fat drunk. “What’s that bro’s deal? He’s fully Australian surfing me.”

It’s art.

But how would you like to use “Australian surf” in its new context?

Endless possibilities.


Hero: Florida surfer gets chomped by shark; goes to bar instead of hospital!

Introducing Frank O'Rourke!

It is impossible to know north Florida and not to love north Florida. I, like you, used to be a doubter. I used to think the Sunshine State was a crock of dumb and its worst bits were those that pushed up near Alabama and Georgia but then one fine summer I traveled myself and learned the truth.

North Florida is filled to the gills with the best sorts of surfers. Brothers and sisters you’d want by your side during the “worst flat spell in history.” Sisters and brothers you’d want around if you happened to be chomped by a shark, encouraging you to do the right think and go to the bar for a drink instead of the wrong thing like going to a hospital where bills will pile to the ceiling and let us read about Frank O’Rourke. Let us read together and memorize, locking some of north Florida’s elan into our own hearts.

A professional surfer who was attacked by a shark in Florida didn’t go to the hospital after the incident — he went to the bar instead, according to his friend.

Frank O’Rourke, 23, was surfing at Jacksonville Beach around 3:30 p.m. on Saturday when the shark attacked him in the water.

“Shark comes out of the water and grabs onto my arm right by my elbow,” he told ABC News. “Kinda tugs a little bit and throshes.”

O’Rourke joked: “I guess it tasted me and was like, ‘Nope.’”

His friend RJ Berger, who said he was swimming with O’Rourke at the time, said the shark “pretty much came fully out of the water, his tail like splashed everywhere.”

Berger said his friend kept saying “I think I got bit, I think I got bit,” and noted that “once he got to the beach he just started bleeding everywhere, the blood started rushing to his arm.”

O’Rourke was quickly treated by lifeguards but opted not to go to the hospital. Instead, Berger told WJXT that O’Rourke “immediately went to a bar, because he’s like, ‘I got bit by a shark!’ and people were like, ‘I’ll buy you drinks!’ So he went and hung out at the pier.”

And have you ever read a finer tale?

North Florida 1

Sharks 0