Memories: Famous surf writer left me to die in the mouth of a Great White Shark!

Famed surf writer Lewis Samuels' account of saving a man from the jaws of great white death has been one of our favs! But is it true? Maybe no!

Yesterday, I had a very transparent swing at mainstream news clicks with a repurposed story of a Great White attack.

The Great White and the world’s fascination with the wonderful creature has driven our traffic into the sorta territory Surfline can only dream about, three million uniques a month and beyond. An aggregated piece about the sharks in Cape Cod has hit half-a-million reads and climbing. Insane numbers.

Anyway, yesterday’s story about the noted, but now retired, surf writer Lewis Samuels paddling over to save a friend, Royce Fraley, who had been launched out of the water by a Great White shark while surfing in northern California, has an amusing coda.

First, a recap.

Lew’s version.

“Out of the corner of my eye there was this explosion. And as I turned around, I saw the shark breeching out of the water with him in its mouth. Then they fell down in an explosion of whitewater, like when a whale breaches. Fifteen feet is as big as a car and they’re a lot fatter in person than you’d think they would be. And he was in the fish’s mouth and there was this fucking impact in the water and then there was nothing there, gone, like a fucking whirlpool of displaced whitewater where he’d been. There was no one else near him, just another friend way up the line, and so when the attack happened, what are you fucking going to do? You’re not going to leave your friend out there.”

But, said, Lew, “Let me be fucking honest. My first fucking response was to paddle away. But I thought about it, he was my friend, and whether or not he comes up he needs my help. And so I paddled back over, got there and he popped up out of the water and he pretty much paddled up onto my back, literally, trying to get out of the water. I said, ‘It’s alright, man! Hold on! I’ll paddle you in, man!”

The surfer in the mouth of the Great White, Royce Fraley, who’s been hit twice by Whites, remembers it differently.

After our original story was published, we received this.

And from the website, Confessions of a Surfer Girl

With the increasing swell, Fraley took his time getting back to the lineup, pacing himself for more waves. He rested on his brand new 7’6″ big wave board and as he was gliding over the channel, the water around him began to boil like a cauldron, the right side of his board lifted out of the water and Fraley rolled off the board.

“It was almost like the shark was a submarine surfacing,” said Fraley. “His bottom jaw hit the underside of my board and I started rolling off as the shark bit down.”

Fraley felt a sting in his right  hip as the shark dove down with Fraley’s 10-foot big wave leash wrapped around it’s mouth. As Fraley instinctively grabbed ahold of his board for flotation, the shark dove even deeper beneath the surface with Fraley in tow. In the time spent below the surface, he experienced a gamut of emotions beginning with strong denial, anger and pain–to acceptance.

“There’s a part of me that accepted what was happening, I felt peaceful,” said Fraley.  “Right when I felt that, I bumped off the side of the shark. It felt like someone pushed my whole right side up against a school bus.”

When Fraley reached the surface, incredibly shaken, he paddled towards a surfer, who immediately paddled away from him towards shore, and Fraley was left to make the long paddle on his own. 

Real talk.

I believe, in my heart, that if I saw a friend in the mouth of a Great White I, too, would flee.

No need for two people to suffer etc.


Opinion: “Kolohe Andino must harness the shame of past failures to win title!”

By opening the past, winning will become a necessity for Californian…

Kolohe. Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. He was Brother, plain Brother at three in the morning, standing 5 foot 11 in Nike socks. He was Kloe in slacks. But in my Fantasy team he was always Kolohe, top-tier pick, first Californian to hold the #1 since Shane Beschen.

Let me say this. Kolohe Andino really gets my orange juiced.

It’s an unpopular position for an Australian. Unless you’re OG West Coast CA he’s a hard sell. A sweep the leg Californian villain. The golden child with the silver spoon. The temper tantrums. The speed dealer sunglasses. The MAGA Trumpito rumours (which I think I’ve started but would make some sense). He’s a flat-track alpha.

But, like Nabokov’s Humbert and his forbidden Lolita nymphet, I can’t stop loving him.

I dig his post-heat presence. Overconfident yet underplayed. It’s swagger. Big dick energy.

“Yeah. I smoked the guy. So what?”

He’s the jock that flicks you behind the ear in the school yard every recess and still drives you crazy.

It’s been a wild year for Brother, and it’s made loving him that much harder.

That nonchalant, deadpan stare into the camera when Kauli Vaast spun under priority into a heat winner in the round of 32 at Teahupoo couldn’t sum it up better.

Kolohe had the lead. Was surfing with confidence and looking as comfortable as any of the contenders in the heavy water.

He went off his game for just a split second. He should have been sitting on Kuali, but he let him go.

Vaast swooped. Brother was cooked. The yellow jersey was gone.

It’s the second time he’s done that this year. The first robbed him of a maiden CT win.

Kolohe’s not being frustrated by lack of talent, or effort. It’s just that final execution. The one percent plays.

Yeah, the weight of the crown hangs heavy.

Medina wears it with ease. Loves it. Julian knows how, but just can’t get it home. Jordy’s dropped it so many times he shouldn’t be allowed near the cabinet.

Ike ‘n Filipe? Works in progress.

But Kolohe ain’t done yet either.

This year he’s taken the zen approach. Preparation with contemplation. Balance. Boards dialled in. Emotional IQ to go with it. By trying through not trying, the total performances have come to him. Almost.

His surfing has added an extra dimension.

The variety of repertoire, as Pottz would call it, has always been there. Hucks, swoops, spins. He’d always been dynamic, but formulaic too.

Now he’s an auteur. The forehand high wrap is his signature (with a big nod to MF). I fucken love it.

And he’s still only 25.

So what’s the missing ingredient?

Necessity.

That fire, lit by our sport’s working-class heroes and carried today by the Latinos, who don’t just win because they want to. They win because they need to. It can’t be taught to privileged whites in foam pits at the Surfing Australia High Performance Centre or through a thousand NSSA titles.

It needs to be lived. Through loss. Through trauma. Through failure. Through a scorecard that only reads Ls since 2012.

Here’s Hynd on four-time runner-up to the world title, Cheyne Horan, from the 1990 Power Rankings:

…he continues to wail on the bag, all the time focussing on the primary goals. “Fitness… power. Fitness… power. Fitness… power… power!” In a pool of sweat by the fourth round, he lets the anger surge, opens the past like a masochist, and talks to himself through clenched teeth. “Hawaii… results… 16 fields… mind… courage.” Then, blurting out “failure” he slams the bag with a painful right uppercut and moves to the wall mirror; raging, bulging, almost crying in anger. He feints, feints, weaves and moves in on himself with such a prolonged flurry that mist blots his reflection. Then explodes in a ball of self-deprecating hatred and hoarsely pants, “Give up, give up ya bastard. You’re no good!” The entire room is at a dead stop. Watching. Horan’s still flailing to his limit, when the blurred image in the mirror digs way down, and screams back, “Never! Never! Never give up!”

Kolohe’s got eight years of disappointment to drive him.

The punched boards, the priority blunders, the third-round exits. By harnessing the shame of repeated failure, by opening the past like a masochist, winning will become a necessity for him.

The only option.

A still mind that runs deep.

I’ll call it. Kolohe for Lemoore. Gabby for another title, this year, but Kolohe for Lemoore. He’ll then get a good run into Hawaii. Be in the mix come showdown. And once he’s got that taste, lock one in for the next few years.

A return to Cali glory.


Listen: “Yago Dora was a brave boy unfairly beaten with the shame stick!”

But the Panda deserved his hiding!

Podcasting is a high-wire act. There you are one moment riffing, jiving, chewing the fat about all manner of surf and surf lifestyle, there you are the next moment, saying something blatantly, patently untrue, besmirching the good name of a brave, young boy.

And that is exactly what David Lee and I did last week when we demanded that Yago Dora should, nay must, be shamed for being a coward at Teahupoo. For not paddling for a wave for 35 minutes in front of us all as we sat in front of our computers/phones and raged.

“How dare he!”

“How dare he!”

Well, David Lee and I let him have it last week but it’s a good thing that we’ve gone to a weekly format so we could apologize this week for being wrong and egregiously so. For those in Teahupoo’s channel, those who ride Teahupoo’s meaty folds, let David Lee know that Yago had been charging the entire two weeks and only miscalculated and mismanaged his heat. Willian “Panda” Cardosa deserved his piping hot bowlful of shame, they also said, but not Yago.

What utter assholes David Lee and I are. What complete jerks.

Anyhow, yesterday Derek Rielly joined us all the way from Bondi, Australia where spring has only just sprung. It is such a great pleasure when I get to see him. We laugh and laugh and surf and laugh and, yesterday, drove to the Surf Heritage and Culture Center where we shamed many other people, ideas and things on the air.

Highlights?

We talk about surf helmets, the ESPN body issue and the desire to see professional male surfers fully nude, possibly with their “shame sticks.” Did you know that a “shame stick” is an erection?

I didn’t.

Listen here!


Out of the corner of my eye there was this explosion. And as I turned around, I saw the shark breeching out of the water with him in its mouth. Then they fell down in an explosion of whitewater, like when a whale breaches. Fifteen feet is as big as a car and they’re a lot fatter in person than you’d think they would be.

Memories: “I saw the Great White breaching out of the water with (my pal) in its mouth!”

"He was in the fish’s mouth and there was this fucking impact in the water and then there was nothing there, gone…"

Lewis Samuels is what you’d call a soul surfer if that term hadn’t been so corrupted. Lew surfs lonely big waves in the sharkiest of northern Californian waters and he ain’t afraid of either.

Lew has five pals who’ve been attacked by great white sharks. One, Royce Fraley, has been attacked… twice.

Lew was there for one of ’em.

“Let me be fucking honest. My first fucking response was to paddle away. But I thought about it, he was my friend, and whether or not he comes up he needs my help. And so I paddled back over, got there and he popped up out of the water and he pretty much paddled up onto my back.” Lew Samuels

“We were really far out to sea, literally, about a kilometre out to sea. It took 45 minutes to paddle out,” says Lew. “Out of the corner of my eye there was this explosion. And as I turned around, I saw the shark breeching out of the water with him in its mouth. Then they fell down in an explosion of whitewater, like when a whale breaches. Fifteen feet is as big as a car and they’re a lot fatter in person than you’d think they would be. And he was in the fish’s mouth and there was this fucking impact in the water and then there was nothing there, gone, like a fucking whirlpool of displaced whitewater where he’d been. There was no one else near him, just another friend way up the line, and so when the attack happened, what are you fucking going to do? You’re not going to leave your friend out there.”

But, says, Lew, “Let me be fucking honest. My first fucking response was to paddle away. But I thought about it, he was my friend, and whether or not he comes up he needs my help. And so I paddled back over, got there and he popped up out of the water and he pretty much paddled up onto my back, literally, trying to get out of the water. I said, ‘It’s alright, man! Hold on! I’ll paddle you in, man!”

What does a shark attack victim look like? “I didn’t want to look. We were 45 minutes out to sea and I figured he’d have a leg missing. I had this 200 pound guy on my back but… he fucking seemed okay. We started paddling next to each other. A friend, Britt, a lifeguard, saw what happened from a distance and started paddling with us, checking him, and he goes, ‘Where’s he fucking hurt?’ It didn’t make sense. Finally, we got in, I ran to a pay phone a mile away ’cause there’s no cell phone service and when I got back down there he was with an ambulance.”

The injuries, says Lew, were “like little scratches. The whole attack was a like a cartoon, like a toothpick in a dog. The board had gotten stuck in the mouth of the shark and it didn’t clamp on him. He was holding onto the board as the shark took him under and he got the scratches when he bounced off the shark.”

Lew says he finds comfort in the fact that great whites in northern California are different to the more energetic South African and Australian breed. In that, they have a different hunting pattern. They might bite but they’ll let go after the initial bleed and wait for you to bleed out instead of taking you down straight away.

“That gives you time to get medical help,” says Lew.

How did the attack affect Lew? Did he surf the spot again?

“What are you going to do? I was out there the next day. The waves were good.”

(Editor’s note: this story first appeared two, maybe three, years ago. But ain’t she a peach!)


BeachGrit Guide: How to survive Lemoore!

Even if you're a VIP!

It is September already and it’s hard to imagine where the time has gone. There we were, back on the Gold Coast, so young, innocent, and hopeful. Since then, we have seen many waves, both great and not so great, and we’ve even had our very own helmet debate. Who knew that we could enjoy such a wonderful journey together. Now, there is Lemoore. We are not so innocent any longer.

Last year here at the ‘Grit we helpfully provided you with a training program to prepare for your arduous days as a spectator at the wave poo— basin. Have you started training yet? If not, I’m not sure we can help you now. I’m pretty sure you’re fucked, actually. It’s entirely too late.

Prepared or not, if you’re going to Lemoore, we can help you survive the experience. As hardened veterans, we know what it takes to get through at least an hour at the basin. Oh yes, the sizzling sun, the 700-meter saunters from end to end, the desperate search for water, preferably cold — we know all about these things. And a few more. Here we are, ready to share all our secrets.

Here is the official BeachGrit Guide: How to survive Lemoore.

Getting There
From SoCal, get on The Five. Drive north. When the Grapevine looms up before you, panic. You are not stupid. You know where the Grapevine leads. To snow, yes, but not in September. There is no snow in September. In September, the Grapevine leads to the bad place.

Look! Over there! Another road. It leads west. Get on the road that leads west until you see the ocean. Drive until you see waves. Park your car. Pull your board out of the back — you do have a board in the car, right? If not, borrow one from the car parked next to you. I’m sure they won’t mind. Go surfing. Lemoore, what? You have surfing to do. Get on top of your priorities.

From NorCal, head to the coast. Pet some sharks. I hear they’re friendly. Sharks are way better than Lemoore. After you pet the sharks, go surfing.

The Heat
If you insist on continuing your journey to Lemoore without petting the sharks and without surfing, you will experience heat like nothing you’ve experienced before. It has mass, this heat, like a big furry animal that lays down on top of you with all its animal stench, and just stays right there. You can’t get rid of it. The heat will crush your will to live. That’s a promise, not a threat.

Your best hope of survival is the VIP area which is equipped with mist-making machines. Yes, your humble Beachgrit investigated the VIP area, just for you! And we are here to tell you, that you’ll need a VIP pass to survive. It’s essential. Security is tight and I had to beg to keep my peanut butter sandwich, so you can give up on sneaking past them into the VIP zone without actually having a VIP credential. No chance.

Sorry, we don’t have any money to help you buy your way into the misty coolness of the VIP zone. But your best friend totally does. Borrow your best friend’s credit card. Buy a VIP pass to the wave pool party. If you’re feeling generous, buy a ticket for him, too. It is his credit card, so you might as well. It’ll be like a surprise present! For both of you! A weekend of fabulous bro bonding under the mist in the VIP zone at the wave pool. You can feel so good about this plan.

If you do not have a best friend with a credit card, or you have moral qualms about borrowing credit cards, which is admirable! Moral qualms are totally good! Skip the basin and head directly to the Tachi Palace. Go to the bar — it’s conveniently located on the first floor, just off the lobby — and order a drink or several. Get them to go. Head to the pool. The Tachi Palace pool, that is, not the dumb, hot wave-making thing.

Jump in and feel that refreshing cool water. Sip your drinks. You are in the pool, drinking a cold cocktail, and your life is good. This is much better than standing in the sun next to the basin trying to distinguish one turn from another. You can watch the contest replay later. Or not! You can just hang out in the pool and drink and forget all about the contest. There’s always next year.

Going the distance
Though we have warned you, you remain determined. You are going to the basin, dammit! You are going to watch the surfing live and in person and nothing we say will change your mind.

Running shoes. They’re not cute and they’re not sexy. You can’t show off your fabulous pedicure or your ungroomed toe hairs in running shoes. But they are your only hope now. The wave pool runs 700 meters from end to end and you’re going to walk that multiple times in an effort to see your favorite surfers go left and right and left again.

You used to make fun of the jocks in high school with their training plans and their hours in the weight room and their after-school practices, while you fucked off and went surfing. Now you’re going to dress just like them. You’re going to slip into those Nike Pegasus Airs or a sleek pair of New Balance 860v9’s — I always trust a running shoe more if it has numbers in the name — and you’re going to like it. Also, don’t forget socks. Nobody likes running shoe foot stench.

Now you’re ready. You’ve laced up your new running shoes that you bought with your best friend’s credit card and you haven’t forgotten your socks. Stance, of course. You shake an electrolyte tablet out of its tube and pop it directly into your mouth. You are far too badass to dissolve your electrolyte tablets in water. Off you go to prance up and down the length of the wave pool like the track star you were meant to be. Suck it, jocks.

You need a nap
Your feet are tired. Despite your shiny new Asics Gel-Kayano 25’s that you bought with your best friend’s credit card, your feet hurt. You’ve seen your favorite surfers go left and right and left again. You’re down to your last electrolyte tablet and you’re wondering if it might taste better if you just gave up and dissolved it in water like the instructions suggest.

The heat must be getting to you, because you’re pretty sure you just saw two Chas Smith’s walking toward you, as though one were not enough. When you looked again, they were both gone. It must be the heat.

You remain determined. You are at the wave pool and you are watching surfing and you aren’t ready to give up yet. What you really need is a nap. And here, Beachgrit can help. We thoroughly investigated the napping possibilities of the basin during our sojourn there last year, because we did not want to let you down in your time of need.

If you succeeded in achieving VIP status, your nap option is super easy. Pull off your new Adidas Ultraboost 19’s, and stretch out under the mist. There is always the possibility that someone may step on you lying on the ground like that, but you are brave and bold and you give zero fucks.

If your morals prevented you from stealing your best friend’s credit card and buying a VIP pass, head for the control tower at the middle of the basin. There is a large patch of beautiful shade. If you’re lucky, no one else will have discovered this perfect nap spot. Stretch out, close your eyes, dream of petting sharks.

If the shade of the control tower is already crowded with nappers, just find the nearest tree and stretch out under it. It’s fine. No one will judge. They will be jealous of your ability to nap right there under a random tree like it’s no big thing. Dream of perfect blue barrels on a tropical island and ice-cold drinks with paper umbrellas perched on top. Wonder what the fuck you are doing in Lemoore instead.

You can go home again
Wave a fond farewell to the basin and drive out of Lemoore like twenty or thirty boars are chasing you. When you get to Kettleman City, the boars will have run out of steam, presumably. Or at least lost interest in your skinny surfer ass.

Stop for ice cream in Kettleman City. Ice cream understands. Ice cream will fix your tired feet and your overheated brain that swears it saw two Chas Smith’s and remind you that you’re headed back to the coast. There’s waves there! You are going home to the coast where you belong.