Sizzling hot rumor: WSL to take the Freshwater Pro off tour and shutter Surf Ranch at the end of ’19!

Is this the end or the beginning?

So there I was, ready to tuck into episode five of HBO’s Succession when the most scintillating message danced upon my telephone’s screen. “WSL closed Kelly Slater Wave Co.’s Solana Beach office and let almost all of the original staff go two weeks ago. Even more strange is the rumor that they are shutting Surf Ranch down at the end of 2019 and taking the pool off tour.”

What? I rubbed my eyes and read again but there it was in black and white. Office closed, Surf Ranch getting shuttered and taken off tour.

An explosive rumor. A real earthquake.

I fired back for more details, making sure that disgruntled ex-employees weren’t passing on bad information and my source could not confirm but didn’t think that was the case.


Now, I know that the Surf Ranch facility was never supposed to be open to the public when it first came online in 2015, days after Adriano de Souza won his maiden World Title, rubbing “the hardest working man in surfing’s” dreams into the ground. It was built to be a test facility, somewhere to dial in the technology. The public’s interest, and possibly the difficulty in opening a new tank somewhere more pleasant, say outside of Miami, might have forced co-Waterperson of the Year Dirk Ziff and co.’s hand in doing some invite-only days in Lemoore which turned into the Freshwater Pro née Surf Ranch Pro née Founders Cup but that was never the original plan because who in their right mind would ever want to go to Lemoore?

The Surf Ranch facility has done its job, quite frankly, and it stands to reason that it would eventually be mothballed. The question I have is why hasn’t the World Surf League sold any other tanks? Why let Wavegarden and American Wave Machines and Surf Lakes get so far ahead? There must be a plan but what? Acquire Surf Lakes and Surf Lakes technology? Go on a massive sales bender after the Freshwater Pro, pushing Kelly Slater’s vision into every bankrupt mall in America? Figure out a way to combine the Surf Ranch barrel, which takes a minimum of four minutes in between each wave that only one Waterperson of the Year can ride at a time, with the high-volume experience of a Wavegarden?

You recall that the WSL recently purchased the NLand tub in Austin and hauled the Wavegarden machinery away. Will Kelly Slater be standing shoulder to shoulder with Matthew McConaughey at the end of 2019, days after Kolohe Andino wins his maiden World Title, showcasing a perfect crouchy barrel that can fit ten Texans at a time?

Will Kolohe be sad?

More as the story develops.

(Note: The story has developed already! A full-throated defensive of Surf Ranch’s longterm health straight from Santa Monica!)

"Lewis (Samuels), the first guy I paddled over to, said I was gone for five seconds," Fraley said. "Soon as I came back up to the top, I just started paddling like there was no tomorrow over to him. I basically paddled on top of his surfboard."

Twist in Great White shark attack blood feud: Lewis Samuels actually real-life hero!

"Lewis (Samuels), the first guy I paddled over to, said I was gone for five seconds," Fraley said. "I basically paddled on top of his surfboard."

Yesterday, and the day before, in the interests of securing enough hits to see our traffic soar past Stab and The Inertia, mission complete etc, we ran a series of Great White stories involving the surf writer Lewis Samuels.

In the first, Lew recalled the day he saw another surfer, Royce Fraley, in the jaws of a Great White, which subsequently let him go. Lew said he paddled over to help and described, in detail, the attack and the escape from White Death in 2006.

“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,” said Lew.

The next story was Fraley’s debunking of Lew’s version,

“The bottom line is that he paddled away from me the whole time, at no time did he help me,” he wrote.

Now, from the archives of the San Francisco Chronicle, Fraley tells the story differently. 

“As I’m going down, I’m literally thinking about my kids and my family,” he said. “I’ve been tumbled 100 yards by one whitewater and held on. I just thought I could ride this out and tried to remain positive. As I was going down, it felt like a high rate of speed. … On two occasions, my body bounced off the side of the shark. Then all of a sudden I was released and I just flew back to the top.

“Lewis (Samuels), the first guy I paddled over to, said I was gone for five seconds,” Fraley said. “Soon as I came back up to the top, I just started paddling like there was no tomorrow over to him. I basically paddled on top of his surfboard.”

To further complicate matters, five years after the attack Lew wrote a story for Surfer magazine about sharks and northern California, which included an interview with Fraley.

The Red Triangle, a hazy region of fear, is defined by that notion, stretching along the California coast from Monterey to Bodega Bay. If you want to know what classifies a spot as sharky, Royce Fraley is a good person to ask. He’s not an expert on White Sharks, but his experiences speak for themselves: In 1997 he was “torpedoed” by a White near Bodega Bay. The shark hit him hard enough to launch him into the air, but did not bite. In 2002, Royce applied first aid when a local was attacked at their home break. And in December 2006, Royce was attacked himself, dragged beneath the surface, while I watched from a hundred yards away. 


Why would Fraley agree to an interview with Lew if he believed he had left him to die four years earlier?

Why did Fraley fail to correct the draft of the Surfer story, which was emailed to him for fact checking prior to it appearing in print?

And why did Fraley tell various news outlets conflicting accounts of the attack?

(Editor’s note: seeking clarification and comment from the attack-ee.)

Brazen: Joel Tudor openly flaunts World Surf League drug laws!

"WSL strives to provide a global stage for its Surfers to showcase their talent in a fair, independent and impartial environment."

Professional longboarder Joel Tudor is known for three things: a peerless old-school longboard style, jiu jitsu, Instagram, conspiracy theories and marijuana. Oh he makes no secret of his appreciation for the marijuana plant and all its sundry glories. I imagine, if you catch him in the right mood, he could rattle off all the ways marijuana can be consumed, much like the shrimper Bubba in Forrest Gump. “You can smoke it, eat it, suck on it, dab it, vape it, rub it on your skin, drink it in tea, drink it in coffee, drink it in a smoothie…”

Now, I think marijuana is a wonderful gift, so much better than nasty opioids for pain etc. but the World Surf League disagrees and has it on its list of banned substances. Shall we read it together?

1. Amphetamine (Stimulant)
2. Natural cannabinoids, e.g. cannabis, hashish and marijuana (Cannaboids)
3. Synthetic cannabinoids e.g. 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other
cannabimimetics. (Cannaboids)
4. Cocaine (Stimulant)
5. Gammabutyrolactone (GBL)
6. Gamma-Hydroxybutanoic acid (GHB)
7. Heroin (diacetylmorphine) (Narcotic)
8. Lysergide (LSD)
9. Methamphetamine
10. 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA)
11. 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) (Stimulant)
12. Psilocin
13. Psilocybin
14. Methadone (Narcotic)
15. Morphine (Narcotic)
16. Oxycodone (Narcotic)
17. Fentanyl (Narcotic)
18. Pethidine (Narcotic)
19. Oxymorphone
20. Hydromorphone
21. Dimethylamphetamine (Stimulant)
22. Benzphetamine (Stimulant)
23. Methylephedrine (Stimulant)
24. Pseudoephedrine (Stimulant)
25. Ephedrine (Stimulant)
26. Cathine (L and D-norpseudoephedrine) (Stimulant)
27. Benzylpiperazine (BZP) (Stimulant)

See right there at number two? “Natural cannabinoids, e.g. cannabis, hashish and marijuana (Cannaboids).” Ahead of both cocaine, heroin, morphine and fentanyl.

Well, Joel is surfing in his first World Surf League contest right now, the Longboard Classic, New York. He won his round one heat, won his round two heat, won his round three heat but lost his round four heat to the fiery Frenchman we all got to know last week but still advanced and then lost his round five heat, getting drummed from the event.

A fine run by any measure, made more fine in my opinion, by his open flaunting of Santa Monica’s ultra-square “rules.”

And before you tell me that Joel consumes CBD might I remind you that CBD is still a cannabinoid.

Joel is not only the rebel we need, he’s the rebel we deserve.

“Man-eating” Great White sharks contributing to world’s current “toxic and divisive” political tone!

"We're completely surrounded by an invasion of sharks!"

We can quite fairly blame Great White sharks for many things including not respecting personal boundaries, turning my once halcyon North County San Diego into a wretched Gehenna, murder and sexism but did you know the man-eating beasts are also very much contributing to our current toxic and divisive political tone? Oh it’s true, and are you even able to remember a time when two consenting adults with differing political views could discuss healthcare, election fraud, immigration or killing seals without resorting to hurtful name-calling?

I can’t and Great Whites are to blame, partially.

Now, this issue is notably prevalent in New England’s traditionally liberal Cape Cod where a shark population boom has put residents on edge and pitted them against one another. The “environmental extremists” against the “cullers.”

Both sides rail against the other on talk radio, and beyond, where saber-rattling hosts get their listeners worked into a fever pitch, ripping the community apart. Politicians, eager to exploit the issue for ballot box gain, harness “tough on sharks and/or seals” talk seeing that seals are the Great Whites’ favorite snack. County Commissioner Ronald Beatty Jr. has called for a pre-emptive strike, claiming the Cape Cod is “completely surrounded” by “an invasion of sharks” and “If another person – especially if it’s a child – gets mangled and mauled and destroyed and killed again, then politics be damned!”

When Cape Cod’s residents aren’t fighting bitterly about sharks they are mostly nauseated. New Statesmen interviewed Captain Darren Saletta who owns a sport fishing operation for local color.

Saletta started working fishing boats at 16, earned a degree in marine science, and spent thousands of hours surfing the Cape. He now refrained from surfing – “a huge part of my life, and soul” – between June and October. “We’re a community of watermen,” he said. “We swim, we fish, we sail, we dive, we surf.” It was “absolutely nauseating” to him to think that his son would not inherit his way of life. “But nobody gives a shit. I keep hearing that it’s their habitat – but humans came from the ocean, too.”

We did?

More as the story develops.

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…