For years and years now I have been so proud of our Hawaii, the center of the surfing universe, for also being the center of pop music’s. I didn’t know how it came to be, how the most isolated island chain in the world found itself name-checked in every impactful electronic-tinged pop song, many hip hop and rap songs too, for the past decade plus but there it was.
And every time I heard Hawaii’s area code being sung by The Chainsmokers, Charli XCX, Lil Nas X, Lil Jon my heart beat gratified. I sometimes wondered what brought them to Hawaii and where they stayed. Honolulu? Princeville? Lahina? Where they recorded. Hilo? Kailua? Kahului? I wondered how the pop scene came to flourish and how it could own the spotlight for so long. Seattle had a great run that lasted under a decade. Austin shone for only five years.
But Hawaii, our 808, showed no signs of slowing down. More and more electronic-tinged pop, hip hop and rap songs. A bushel of them winning Grammys, Teen Choice and American Music Awards.
I gave up listening for ukulele in those 808 songs a few years ago, assuming that it was represented metaphorically, and just enjoyed them for what they were.
Powerful odes to aloha.
Then, two days ago, I was scrolling through the TV channels and caught a documentary on one of the most important electronic instruments ever created.
The Roland TR-808.
My heart broke in two. The pride drained away and was replaced by a horrific depression. The sort that children feel when they learn Santa Claus is a fraud. That college graduates when they learn they are indentured servants.
Did you know all along that Bruno Mars is Hawaii’s only contribution to popular music?
And when was the last time a shattered illusion broke your heart?
Kook of the Day: “This Dog Surfing Shit Just Went Too Far!”
It’s a slow news day so let’s scrape hell out of the barrel, shall we?
You’ll remember, six months ago, when Mavericks pioneer Jeff Clark ran over a VAL with his SUP foil out at Cowell’s in Santa Cruz. You’ll also recall the third party in the collision, Skyler the Surfing Dog (and her owner, nineties pro Homer Henard).
In the Cowell’s incident some argued Skyler and Homer dropped in on Jeff, and was the cause of his SUP Foil colliding with the encroaching VAL. Similar to American justifications for bombing Cambodia during the Vietnam war, if you’re looking for a historical comparison.
This narrative was subsequently quashed by all parties involved.
Now, the Australian red heeler has been embroiled in another scandal. Earlier today, popular instagram account @kookoftheday posted a video of Skyler being sent over the falls in a shorebreak, briefly disappearing in the maelstrom that also knocks over a nearby photographer.
Alright, this dog surfing shit just went too far. It’s kool to see a dog surf a safe, slow mellow wave maybe once in eternity. But you gotta do what you gotta do for attention these days, like risking your best friend’s life!
The response was split, for and against.
@mamavava THIS IS SOOO HORRIBLE. FUCK ALL THESE PEOPLE INVOLVED. PURE CRUELTY. IDIOTS. THEY SHOULD BE ASHAMED
@colewalliser I think this is animal abuse. It’s infuriating to see.
@jerbo741 these people need to fucking relax. I’m sure (Sklyer) is very loved and supported. Keep doing your thing and having fun out in the water!
@tenderplacements The dog can jump off at any point, if he really didnt wanna do this he wouldnt do it. You cant force a dog to do something like this.
Where do you sit? A bit of canine fun, or animal exploitation?
“I have a black man who wakes me up in the morning, gives me my orange juice, gives me my robe, carries my board to the beach. Everybody ought to live in Africa. I have a coolie for everything I do. Everyone should own a coolie.”
From the stay-woke dept: Was Miki Dora a white-supremacist nazi bastard or very good button pusher?
"Just different shades of asshole," says surf historian.
Two days ago, The New York Times ran a piece by the surf writer Daniel Duane called The Long Strange Tale of California’s Surf Nazis.
It takes seven hundred or so words to get into it, but it centres around that nineteen-sixties-era taste for Nazi memorabilia among Californian surfers, writes emotionally about entrenched racism in surfing (“A hundred and fifty years of white people like myself have helped make white-supremacist racism as Californian as panning for gold and hanging ten”), and holds Miki Dora as the poster-boy for white supremacism in surfing.
Dora often used racial slurs and advised acquaintances to put all their money in gold before Mexicans and blacks poured over the borders and ruined the economy. While serving prison time, Dora (who had been convicted of both check and credit-card fraud) wrote to a friend that he loved American Nazis. Dora eventually relocated to apartheid-era South Africa.
The famed surfboard designer Dale Velzy told Mr. Rensin that he recalled Dora boasting, in that period: “I have a black man who wakes me up in the morning, gives me my orange juice, gives me my robe, carries my board to the beach. Everybody ought to live in Africa. I have a coolie for everything I do. Everyone should own a coolie.” In a later letter, as the anti-apartheid movement grew, Dora wrote that black South Africans were “flesh-eaters,” adding, “Give these guys the rights and you’ll get white-man jerky for export.”
Nat Young, world surfing champion in 1966 and 1970, knew Dora. As Young told an interviewer: “Dora’s take is push the black man under. He’s a supreme racist, always has been. When I was younger, I believed it was all just in mirth, that he was just jivin’ it all; but no, he believes absolutely in white supremacy.”
Dora, who was born in Budapest, Hungary, and died of pancreatic cancer, aged sixty-seven in 2002, didn’t appear to like Jews much either.
In a 1975 interview with Phil Jarratt, Dora, who acted as a surf double on a couple of Hollywood beach films said, “The Jews come down to the beach, they shoot their movie, sell it to the Kikes and they all make a pile of money.”
Was he or wasn’t he? Nazi bastard or button pusher?
Who else to ask but Matt Warshaw, the sole historian of surf history.
“I’m not even sure it’s worth trying to parse out the difference between saying things like that to push buttons, versus saying them more out of deep-held belief,” he told me a few moments ago. “Bad either way. Just different shades of asshole.”
Does greatnesses lay in regular post-surf analysis?
Northern winters do strange things to people. All that time for deep, dark contemplation begets some quirky shit. Norwegian doom metal. Peep Show. Eurovision.
And it’s surely only that twilight fog, swirling and meandering through the psyche like some tangled ghoul, that ever allowed this idea outta Scotland to progress beyond conception: a surfer’s notebook.
A place for more details on the session is included so you can wax lyrical about how epic that right was, or how the whole beach stopped to watch that one lip slash. Looking back might just give you a reminder when the details start to fade, and you never know, it might even make you a better surfer.
What do I think? Surfers don’t need diaries.
Yes, Derek Hynd’s notebook was the stuff of legend. Careers were dissected, flayed, with a flick of that bony wrist.
But for the rest of us? Get ya hand off it. I know a few guys who do keep session logs but it’s only for conditions, locations. Future reference. Coupla lines per surf, max.
Self analysis? Except for the odd crywank in the rearview mirror, I keep my eyes forward and pedal to the floor.
And yet. There’s something quaint about the thought of it. Sorta like Surfline Replay for Luddites and Angry Locals. Sitting in front of a roaring fire, wrapped in a fine down blanket, goblet of port swishing about in one hand while quilled notes are hurriedly transcribed with the other. Ultra-analogue surf candy.
Plus, ya know, RUOK n that. Gotta get that shit off your chest.
So with all the cracks in the wall of positivity, quit-lit, actual heavy investigative journalism etc dropping ‘round here of late I thought I’d lighten the mood a little, and ask a couple BG scribes to put their own pens to paper, post surf.
See if you can guess who’s who!
Desolate, windblown peaks emptied onto the shelf under a lead lined sky. I took the first drop that presented, and deliberately rode it into the rocks. Just to see what would happen. Just to see if I could still feel. About surfing. About anything. The jagged protrusions, ancient basalt lava heads, sliced deep. Blood gushed from me like a draining loch/standing wank. Dumb cunt. But 50 quid says I cannae do it again.
Wow, the point was crowded today! Saw one murfer almost scalped by hipster with a Greenough fin. She just laughed. Reminded me of Dostoevsky’s disquisition on the irrational pleasure of suffering. Like the time me and Owl C. gutted a bore barehanded while high on mescaline. Must pitch to Derek.
Sigh. Another day of Bondi closeouts. Got slapped by a young French backpacker when we were paddling for a set and I asked her if she goes both ways. Pervetir? Moi?
And let’s hear yours.
Could be your Grit compatriots, da pros, ELO, Cote, a George bro, your own. Etc.
Best one wins a BeachGrit tail-pad or similar.
Opinion: “Does anyone see Gabriel Medina… not… winning in Hossegor?”
The world number one, the two-time champ, has owned the Quiksilver Pro for a decade. Anything gonna change?
(Editor’s note: The writer and filmmaker Jamie Tierney is the producer/director on Clay Marzo: Just Add Water, Dane Reynolds: First Chapter, Young Guns 3 and Letting Go. In his tenure as director of films and online content at Quiksilver he watched Medina’s rise, first hand, over the course of a decade in Hossegor, France. Below, those pivotal moments.)
Waves are small in the Bay of Biscay. The storms in the Atlantic move in the wrong direction, out to sea. Contest organizers of the Quiksilver Pro France run the contest straight through the first five days of the waiting period in meager, dribbly lefts at Les Bourdaines. It’s the last of the rock n’ roll days on tour. Chris Ward misses his Round One heat completely and shows up for an early morning appointment in the 2nd Round with only fifteen minutes left. Rumor has it that he slept on the beach. Dane Reynolds, meanwhile, at the peak of his powers, stays up all night partying before Round Three. He runs out for his heat on a tiny twinny with a small trailing fin with Bukowski’s “Great art is horseshit, buy tacos,” hand written on the bottom. Dane, likely still drunk from the festivities the night before, then obliterates Roy Powers with some of the best small-wave surfing ever seen in a heat.
Fifteen-year old Gabriel Medina is there as well, competing in the King of the Groms event. He’s way too young for the party program. He’s got bushy brown hair, thick eyebrows, braces on teeth and a shy smile on his face. He does gymnastic style backflips on the beach to warm up. The kids’ contest is held the day after Mick Fanning wins the men’s event. The surf is slightly bigger and has a light puff of side-onshore wind blowing into the lefts.
Medina rolls to the final against Caio Ibelli and destroys him. He blasts airs and tail hucks on every wave. His lowest scorer is a nine. His two tens are a white hot glimpse of the future. The second one features a superman followed by an air reverse. A few pros stay around and witness the shocking display. All have the same thought. “If that kid was in the main event he would have won.”
Medina is seventeen now. He gets on tour after winning a QS just up the road in Lacanau the mid-year cut/graduation that Bobby Martinez famously melted down over out at the last event in New York. Technicall,y Medina’s not even a rookie yet, but it doesn’t matter. He’s in France and he’s ready to take on the world. He’s packed on muscle and has that icy look in his eyes now. He combos Kelly Slater, then en route to his final world title, surfing faster, looser and more explosively than the thirty-nine-year-old Slater. Medina’s ten against Taylor Knox is still one of the best airs ever done. He launches vertically off the opening section with his fins six feet above the lip. Ok, the landing isn’t perfect, but he pulls it off. He then takes out a young Julian Wilson in the one of the most hi-fi finals ever. The changing of the guard is on its way.
Afterwards, he hits the Place du Landais square by the beach in Hossegor with Alejo Muniz and a few friends in tow. This has traditionally been of surfing’s most debauched locales and the night after the end of the contest is usually one of biggest of the year. This time it’s strangely quiet. Andy Irons died eleven months ago and that tragedy has virtually ended the party scene on tour. Medina and Muniz, stone sober, kick a soccer ball around the square. No one pays them mind. Just two kids playing around.
Gabe’s eighteen and it’s his first full year on tour. He’s been taking some lumps after winning twice in 2011. He starts off the season with last place finishes in two of the first three events. The waves in France this year are big and burly every day of the comp. In Round Four he surfs a non-elimination (remember those?) heat against Kelly and Kieran Perrow. The three-man priority rule doesn’t yet exist and Medina hassles both of opponents mercilessly. He gets an interference on Perrow, who wins the heat. Slater confronts Medina in the competitors’ area afterward. He’s angry but seems to be intent on making it a learning experience for the young Medina. He explains that Medina’s tactics had taken both them both out of heat and had handed it to Perrow. Medina stands tall. Says nothing. Looks him straight in the eye with a dead stare. When Slater’s talking, Medina says three words:
“It’s a competition.”
Medina is a man now. He’s twenty-three, has packed on 20 pounds of muscle and is a world champion. He’s got seven million followers on Instagram, rages with Neymar and Brazilian pop stars during his time off. Despite all that, he’s become surfing’s anti-hero. He’s a quiet, dark, mysterious, (at least to non Brazilians) foil to John John Florence’s “just having fun” aloha sunshine. It’s hard to tell what the relationship is between them since they never publicly interact and have had relatively few heats together over the years. This day, though, is special. It’s a Saturday afternoon in Hossegor. It’s eighty degrees and the beach is packed with people. The waves are four-to-six-foot and glassy at La Graviere, and it’s John versus Gabs in the semi-finals. Everyone in the competitors’ area has their eyes glued on the ocean and a vast majority of the Frenchies on the beach are rooting for Jean Jean. There’s nothing like the energy of having the two best surfers in the world at their peaks going head to head in front of a big crowd in pumping waves. And if if it’s true they don’t really like each other, all the better! It feels like the makings of an epic Slater/Irons clash from the previous decade.
The audience literally holds its breath each time when one of them takes off, they gasp when they fly into the air and cheer when they land. Florence begins with an ugly landing on a big air. Then he gets a small tube followed by another missed touch down on a punt. Third wave: decent snap, then another pancake flat landing and fall on an air rev. Tough on the knees, those. Medina’s first wave is solid but nothing flashy, a series of spray chucking backside carves. Gabe then does a rodeo on his next one. It’s not the biggest or best one of his life, and the landing’s pretty rough, but he’s got the strength to pull it. John John high-lines ones on the next set full speed into a giant slob. He floats so high that he’s only a few feet away from the drone filming him. But he can’t pull this one down either. After that, Florence goes back his 75% Bede Durbidge coached surfing. He lays down a few decent scores but is still behind. In the end it’s close. John John needs a 9.4 and gets a nine on a smaller wave. He then tries to chase down a 7.4 near the end, but no sets come through and he isn’t able to recover from his falls at the start.
Medina wins the final against Sebastian Zietz, then takes the next event in Portugal to close the gap in second spot behind Florence. Jeremy Flores ends Medina’s year at small windy Pipe a couple months later, but the France win swings the momentum back in Medina’s direction. Florence tears his knee in Bali in 2018 and then does it again in Brazil this year. Medina, meanwhile, has largely been injury free his whole career. He now has two world titles to his name and looks like a lock to celebrate at the end of 2019 with his third.
These were all turning points in Gabriel Medina’s career and they all happened in Hossegor. There’s many reasons why the highly variable beach breaks of the Côte Sauvage (The Wild Coast) suit him so. He’s one of the few guys on tour with a free-flowing approach to heats.
He rarely sits. He roams around the rips, feels out the changes in the tides.
He catches wave after waves, goes big on some, locks in scores on others.
Does anyone see him not winning next week? Especially without John John there?
And, more importantly, when JJF does come back, will he still be only guy who can really match up with him wave for wave?
Or will Gabe be surfing’s most dominant force for years to come?