Health: The ill-conceived quickie wedding of surfing and “wellness!”

It's not a love story.

Spring has sprung in Australia and what a wonderful time of year as the bleak winter transitions to warmer days and warmer nights. It is no secret that love often blooms in spring, alongside flowers, and usually it is glorious but there has been one romantic union that has me down. Namely, the coupling of our surfing and “wellness.”

The two have been inseparable for the past few years. Joined at the hip. A surf vacation can’t just be a surf vacation anymore. It has to be a “surf and wellness” vacation. A professional surfing tour can’t just be a professional surfing tour anymore. It has to be a professional surfing and wellness tour. A wave tank can’t just be a wave tank either. It has to be a “wave facility and wellness center” exactly like it is in the brand new “wave facility and wellness center” set to open in Melbourne. Australia’s first and let’s turn to GQ Australia for an update:

URBNSURF can create gentle, rolling white-water for learners, through to steep, barrelling waves that would challenge the most experienced riders. With state-of-the-art sports lighting, you can be sure that the waves will be pumping all year-round, day and night.

The idea originates from founder Andrew Ross, who aimed to create a new experience for Australians wanting to surf more. “Surfing is a sport and pastime enjoyed by millions of Australians, but getting in the water is often limited by geography, weather conditions, and having the time to chase waves,” he said in a statement.

“URBNSURF unlocks these limitations by providing a safe, convenient and accessible alternative – it’s the perfect supplement for Melburnians, who have to travel hours to surf on the coasts, and will be a must-do for interstate and international visitors.”

The facility also boasts al fresco dining and wellness activities.

See right there? Damned wellness activities. Yoga, I’d imagine, and some holistic something rather.

Now, I have no problem with “exercise” and can see how, to the untrained eye, surfing looks like exercise but we know it’s not. We know it is a quick burst of energy followed by much sitting followed by alcohol and cocaine (buy here). We know that the bitterness that pumps through the body while doing all that sitting corrodes the arteries and leads to early death and/or dementia. Bitterness from missing waves. Bitterness from watching others surf better than you. We know surfing is down next to mining and marathon poker as one of the unhealthiest things a person can do which makes the union with wellness so odd.

Have you ever seen a “wellness surfer” out in the wild? I live in North County, San Diego so have. It’s ugly and sad.

I really don’t want to be so judgmental but also don’t want surfing’s heart to be broken when wellness splits to shack up with inline rollerskating. Again.

Longtom on the Lost Sabotaj: “One-board quiver for Indo? Much as I hate to agree with marketing blurbs, the answer is…yes!”

"I'm convinced anyone of moderate skill level could wax this board up and ride it for the first time in hollow waves with total confidence."

Year ago, almost to the day, I wrote a Mentawai travelogue that was universally recognised for what it was, which was drug-fucked gibberish.

The rare bird that pisses off equally in all directions.

I do blame the xanax, which I’d never had before, and mixes poorly with booze, apparently. It was my mate, one of the world’s best prosthetists and who goes to Nepal on his own time and dime to make new limbs for kiddies who lost theirs in the earthquake etc, who recommended it.

So I did.

No biggie, ‘cept it left me sideways for days. What a (very nice) haze!

A year later, I regret negging out on the Mentawais. Matt Warshaw said after the unveiling of Kelly’s tub in 2015: why travel for surf? Which means, by implication, the Mentawais are called upon to justify themselves.

I wouldn’t swap one wave at Lemoore, not a hundred, a thousand for a sojourn in the Mentawais. Not a drag on a Gudam Gurang, a drunken piss off the back deck to the first call to Prayer, a warm Bintang that tastes like battery acid, a week of the squirts because the street Rendang was overloaded with E. Coli.

Not a damn thing.


Now that is cleared up. I took a Lost Sabotaj to the Ments and have meant to review it. It is marketed as a one-board travel quiver for Indo and it does, largely, fulfil that spec.

It is the first Lost board I’ve ridden, which as we all know is a successful board building empire helmed by it’s founder Matt “Mayhem” Biolos.

Mayhem has very astutely managed an image from garage punk to GQ respectability and shown a genius for slicing and dicing the surfboard marketplace and developing models to suit those various micro-niches.

He uses pro surfers to sell the sizzle but his stock in trade is the domesticated high-performance board. The Sabotaj fits very neatly into this category.

The Sabotaj has a forward-weighted template, generous foil and the, by now ubiquitous, single-to-double-concave bottom contour. Sweet little elliptical round tail.

Freelance test rat, Longtom, in the Ments.
Freelance test rat, Longtom, in the Ments.

Inevitably, comparisons will be made with the Pyzel Ghost, justifiably so, and we may as well deal with them now. Head-to-head, the Sabotaj carries more foam for its length and has an easier rocker curve to negotiate.

The Ghost feels shorter than its length, is knifier and is a harder, more tuned ride than the Sabotaj. That’s no disrespect to the Sabotaj; you could ride it shorter in stock dims or whittle down the foam in a custom if you wanted to hot rod it.

One-board quiver for Indo or other tropical tubular destination? Much as I hate to agree with marketing blurbs, the answer is unequivocably yes.

I waxed mine pre-dawn and cracked the champagne on it at head-high Telescopes. It took…half… a wave for the Sabotaj to win my heart.

In ten days cruising the Ments, I did not head-butt the upper range, or get close to it, so the eight-foot call on the website seems fair enough.

It’s at the lower end of the spectrum that it feels slightly dull. It’ll get the job done, but a 5’6” Cymatic felt so much spicier at head-high Macaronis. A Stacey Wave Slave with its wider tail block was a lot more fun in onshore two-to-three-foot Scarecrows.

But if you were, say, an Aussie expat working finance in Singapore, or an editor in London, a contractor in California with a sudden window available for Indo, or Mex and you needed one board to make shit happen, the Sabotaj would see you through, no problemo.

I’m convinced anyone of moderate skill level could wax this board up and ride it for the first time in hollow waves with total confidence.

The clue is in the name but obvs, the board was developed in conjunction with retired CT’er Taj Burrow. Taj was/is a wizard who very often looked unbeatable in head-high, righthand Point or beachbreak surf, very much like Filipe Toledo.

Unlike Toledo, Burrow largely escaped the kind of withering character assassination due to his inability to perform in heavy reef lefts.

In 2011 and 2014, years when Teahupoo was big and heavy, Taj got knocked in rounds two and three respectively, yet history has a generous assessment of his career. A strange anomaly.

I’m not a one-board quiver guy, never have been, never will be. I took a three board quiver to the UK, including an eight-foot gun, just in case and cursed it wildly every time I humped it from pillar to post. Derek Rielly is right though, when he states that unless you be a CT pro one board is fine for 99% of the time.

A note on the build quality. This board was made by the Australian licencee at Ourimbah drive Tweed Heads, TC Glasshouse. Same cats who build the Pyzels. Like the Ghost I got off ’em, this thing is indestructible. Blank density, lamination schedule, it’s top notch. The Ghost, two years on, has still barely got a deck dent.

The Sabotaj is on a similar trajectory.

I wanted to give the last word to my Bribie pal, who has known me since we were kids, and is quite capable of ruthless objectivity. But he is working FIFO, I think a few hundred miles out in the bush from Kalgoorlie, dragging cables around prospecting for heavy metals.

All I could get out of him was a text, “ya fucking fell off too much”, which illustrates another truth for the non CT surfer.

No matter the arrow, the archer is 99% of the performance.

"Wanna see the inside of my van?"
"Wanna see the inside of my van?"

Revealed: “Man-eating” Great Whites use mystique to lure victims much like child molesters use candy!

Evolution at work.

Great White sharks are thought to be sixteen-million-years old, first appearing in the Miocene era, while humans have only been on planet earth for a mere 200,000. With what we know about evolution, both micro and macro, it’s near impossible not to imagine the apex predators have been adapting, shifting, changing their behavior to become even more efficient killers.

Examining the recent Great White explosion off of Nantucket, a once peaceful community where the only thing lacking was the letter ‘R’ but now blood-soaked and paranoid, it appears the beasts are using their mystique to lure victims much like child molesters use candy.

As surfers, the most sought after treat by Great Whites, we have evolved to either not surf with them or to be generally fatalistic about it, assuming we may well lose a leg or friend. The general population, however, has less experience and, contrary to assumed logic, are not being repelled from Cape Cod but rather flocking, hoping to catch a glimpse of “Jaws” and let us turn to Mass Live for more on this disturbing trend.

Sue Koszela traveled more than 500 miles to enjoy the beaches along Cape Cod. Like many beachgoers she checked the beach conditions with an app on her phone prior leaving her timeshare.

She wasn’t checking the weather, though. Instead she was looking for shark activity.

“We’ve never seen a great white shark, so I think that’s where the fascination (comes from,)” Koszela said.

Using the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy’s Sharktivity app, the Buffalo native calculated which beaches experienced the highest number of shark sightings. Her examintion led her to Head of Meadow Beach in Truro.

She narrowly predicted correctly. The park ranger at the entrance booth alerted Koszela and her family that the water was closed due to a shark sighting about 10 minutes ago.

“(Missing it) was somewhat devastating,” Koszela said.

Koszela isn’t alone.

“There’s been an absolute fascination with these creatures that has actually lured more people here than chased them away,” CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce Wendy Northcross said. “People kind of have this huge curiosity. The most frequently asked questions here is, ‘Where can we go see the sharks?’”


And I fear that Great Whites are a few thousand years away from manufacturing Rohypnol on a mass scale. I fear that we surfers will see it coming but that the general population will be decimated, more or less.

Business: WSL ready to cash in on pro surfing’s “young, funky and opinionated audience!”

Is a huge media package right around the corner?

I read Sam George’s poetry last night and was so excited to write a rebuttal until this morning when I read each and every one of your comments and laughed until my sides hurt. There is nothing else to say on the matter except to wonder who BeachGrit’s “resident critic” is. A great and grand mystery that only Sam George truly knows. Sam? Will you ever reveal or will you take it to your grave?

Speaking of, what sort of “grave” do you think Sam George will choose when that time comes? Something rococo or understated? A plot in a historically important cemetery, like next to Jim Morrison in Paris, or will his ashes be taken to Sunset, on a big day, and windmilled in to a bomb?

While you are pondering, can we quickly discuss our World Surf League? Oh what a week it has been with sizzling rumors, sizzling rumors half-punctured then sizzling rumors resurrecting again. Santa Monica rarely reaches out directly, but when they did following the first sizzling rumor of a Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch-less future and my phone exploded I thought, “Something must be up.”

Could that something be a robust media deal worth tens and tens of millions of dollars that is currently being negotiated, pitting Facebook against Fox against ESPN for the grand prize?


And let us turn to Front Office Sports for more:

The sport of surfing will be part of the Olympic Games for the first time in Tokyo in 2020. The timing couldn’t be better for the World Surf League (WSL) to commence negotiations for future media deals, with an eye toward richer rights fees and greater visibility.

The surfing governing body currently has a linear TV deal with Fox Sports and a digital deal with Facebook. As the exclusive U.S. broadcaster for the WSL’s Men’s and Women’s Championship Tours as well as the Big Wave Tour, Fox and FS1 are expected to televise more than 500 hours of WSL programming this year.

But those deals expire after this year. WSL and Fox announced a one-year deal in February. Previously, WSL and Facebook announced a two-year deal in January, 2018. The league is expected to reap $30 million from that deal, according to Forbes.

Pri Shumate, the former Nike marketer who joined WSL as chief marketing officer earlier this year, confirmed the governing body has begun negotiating its future media deals.

“We can’t disclose a whole lot of what’s happening because we are having media rights conversations at the moment. But we have had incredible success with both Facebook and Fox,” Shumate said. “Facebook has expanded our audience in the digital universe in a huge way. Obviously, our linear audience has grown as well through Fox. Both of those have been incredible partnerships for us. We are in the process of figuring out how do we move forward for 2020 and beyond.”

Given ESPN’s global reach, they would seem to be a natural contender for WSL rights. But Shumate declined to name possible bidders outside the incumbents.


On the piece goes with extremely bullish talk regarding the size and engagement of professional surfing’s audience and much business-speak from WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt but a sentence, near the end, caught my eye. Let’s read together.

With a young, funky and opinionated audience, sports insiders view WSL as a league with plenty of financial upside.

A young, funky and opinionated audience? That sounds a lot like us doesn’t it? And is Santa Monica selling itself to media partners based on the biggest little surf website in the world? I haven’t read or seen anything even close to “opinionated” anywhere but right here. Well before we pat ourselves on the back and head out to our mailboxes, awaiting royalty checks from that future financial upside let us read nouveau Backward Fin Beth Pri Shumate’s final quote:

“We’re expanding from competition to community. If before our goal was to have this amazing home for core surf fans, we’re expanding into creating a community through surfing. Those people don’t have to necessarily be surfers. They need to love what it is we represent.”

It’s a VAL world, baby. We’re just living in it.

Professional skateboarder Tony Hawk claimed he got "sorta pitted" on this move at VAL utopia Surf Ranch.
Professional skateboarder Tony Hawk claimed he got "sorta pitted" on this move at VAL utopia Surf Ranch.

Sizzling hot rumor: Surf Ranch will never host another WSL Championship Tour event again!

But the corporate retreats are booming!

I knew it. I knew something smelled fishy in Lemoore, California which struck me as particularly odd seeing it is 100 miles from the nearest beach and surrounded by cow stink but my nose always knows (buy here).

Something real fishy.

I had heard a sizzling hot rumor from impeccable sources yesterday that Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch, halfway between an Indian casino and the sixth circle of hell, was being mothballed, employees laid off and canned future World Surf League Championship Tour events, including but not limited to the Founders Cup, the Surf Ranch Open and the Freshwater Pro.

The WSL’s Santa Monica headquarters came swinging in, almost directly, with an excoriating rebuttal, issuing a rare direct statement.”The Surf Ranch Lemoore facility continues to invest in new staff and experiences and the WSL is excited about the venue’s potential in 2020 and beyond.”

Solid, no? But that fishy scent still lingered and lingered so heavily, blowing out the dung and industrial farm waft, that it cocked my eye straight into my brain.

Something didn’t smell properly.

Well, my nose, which always knows, was right.


For today two other sources even more impeccable confirmed that Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch will be dropped from future WSL Championship Tours because, “The pros hate it and are bored with it partly because the heat, partly because the location and partly because they have simply done everything they can on that wave.”

But, the sources added, “It’s supposedly doing great for corporate retreats and private buy outs.”

I also heard yesterday that Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch is the one jewel in the World Surf League crown actually turning a profit.

A VAL bull market!

A VAL paradise!

Google, Facebook and Perdue Pharma employees splashing each other whilst straddling soft-tops while their hardcore co-workers gorilla squat five feet in front of a barrel (I can’t remember the genius that used this line in the comments but I tip my drink to you).

So that’s where we are. Surf Ranch, as a business model and place, may be healthy but as the high performance future of professional surfing it’s unofficially officially a wrap.

More after the World Surf League’s Santa Monica brass get furious and call me again.