"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…

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.