Question: “What most interests you in the surf world today?”

Of all the infinite possibilities...

The great Jamie Brisick asked me this one question a few weeks ago for a writing corner he does in collaboration with Birdwell Beach Britches that is worth visiting often. It is a wonderful  pairing, the iconic trunk and the iconic surf journalist/writer. Understated, thoughtful, quality. He just released a book of short stories (buy here) which had William Finnegan swooning. I’ve watched their chat (below) three times now, savoring it like a crystal tumbler of fine Siberian vodka with just a twist of citrus.

I’m agnostic when it comes to lemon or lime.

In any case, I spent a fantastic afternoon with Jamie before the summer but we didn’t get around to interview-ish questions as I hogged all the time picking his brain about writing. So he called me, asked me that one question and I rambled like a illiterate fool. Would you like a taste?

I recently spoke with him on the day that he was finishing his forthcoming book, “Some of My Best Friends are Terrorists,” to be released in spring of 2020 on Rare Bird Books. He was stoked to be at the end of a truckload of writing. I had but one question for him: What most interests you in the surf world today? He paused for a second, took a sip of something that might have been vodka, and said this:

“The most interesting thing in the surfing world to me is what surfing is going to become, and is it going to maintain any kind of rebelliousness? Because surfing for me has always been a rebellion against either the culture that I was brought up in, like redneck culture in Oregon was so awful and terrible and I hate it so bad. And my way to rebel against that was just to go surfing everyday, even in Oregon’s hell water. And then down here, it’s always been rebellion— rebellion from all of the Middle Eastern travels, like bringing surfboards to Yemen, Lebanon, even Syria, Somalia, all those bad places. Bringing surfboards felt rebellious. When we were there I think people really wanted some kind of scholastic or scholarly take on the Middle East at that time, and we were like, ‘Fuck this, we’re surfing,’ which felt like a rebellion against academia and against the way people kind of put things in boxes. And then today, surfing is a rebellion against writing or a rebellion against my duties. I have such little time that to pick up the board and go surfing feels rebellious… And then I just see the World Surf League, and the surf media, and all these companies, it feels like a tipping point’s come where now surfing, they can push it into this weird, I don’t even know what it is, it’s a safe space. It’s goobery, mushy, soft, just dumb. Which just drives me crazy. And if we’ve come to the tipping point and that’s what surfing’s going to be, then it just makes me want to kick it in the balls as hard as I can. And so long, long answer, but that’s what interests me in surfing. Can the grumpy local, can the rebel, can the person who feels just that kind of angst that I think we all used to feel and what all pushed us into surfing, will that guy or girl be able to kick what surfing is becoming in the balls hard enough to where we kick it back to be, yeah, just weird again?”

Oh that’s just plain garrulous but true. That’s what most interests me in the surf world today. Can we dig our heels in and stop its gooey slide toward the grand utopian VAL paradise where everyone is equal and all boards are 7’3?

More importantly, though, what most interests you in the surf world today? While you’re thinking, savor this…


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!)