Update: The realtime Olympic qualification scenarios for the most important sport of professional surfing!

An injured man reigns!

I know, I know that I spend a good 85% of each and every day quietly mocking surfing in the Olympics, another 15% loudly mocking it and yet another 56% giggling about Olympic Surfing’s head cheerleader Fernando Aguerre’s bowties. That’s a lot of time but, underneath the mocking both loud and quiet, and giggling is an intense interest. Never before in our history has one season meant so much.

It means nothing, obviously, but the top two surfers from each country on the World Surf League Championship Tour will be invited to compete in Tokyo and that is intensely interesting•.

And with only two, two, events left on the World Surf League Championship Tour calendar** left it is very important we take stock.

Who will be representing the most important sport of professional surfing for the masses this coming summer?

Who will be our Jesse Owens?

As we stand right now:

Brazil: Gabe, Filipe

USA: Kolohe, John John

Australia: Owen, Jules

France: Jeremy Flores, The Spartan™

South Africa: Jordy Smith, TBD

Israel: Derek Rielly

Besides France’s enduring colonial perfection, the most intriguing storyline, after Derek Rielly swinging for Israel***, is that of John John Florence.

The greatest surfer in the entire world**** was injured very early yet there he sits and with one more Kelly Slater failure, with two Kolohe Andino equal 17ths, he’ll slip right in despite not surfing, professionally, since 2016.

That is either an epic statement of his skill or a complete and utter repudiation of American surfing.

Which do you think it is?

Seth Moniz, the wildcard here, would be such a wonderful storyline. There he sits at 11th just waiting for either Kolohe to fail or John John to stay hurt and Kelly to….. Kelly*****.

If the Hawaiian wonder with an impeccable pedigree can sort a decent finish in Portugal then in his own backyard then brilliant.

Otherwise Derek Rielly for Israel.

But also what in the world happened, Kelly Slater? Your number one obstacle blew out his knee. The other American is Kolohe Andino. Are you telling me, even at 60 years old, you can’t overcome?

If you don’t show up/blow up in Portugal then your 11 World Titles are meaningless.

*Currently drinking

** Can’t remember

*** Go Derek!

****Is he? Is John John Florence the current greatest surfer in the world?

***** Be weird but showcase talent but allow weirdness to overcome.

Meet: the shredder changing the world via biomolecular engineering!

Max Weston don’t like what’s happening to the world with its rapacious consumerism and waste. But Max ain't weeping about it. He's doing something.

All lives are precious, but are some worth more than others? Max Weston is a twenty-seven-year-old chemical and biomolecular engineer, and surf rat, from Avalon on Sydney’s northern beaches.

While the rest of us eat, drink, surf, fuck, talk shit, work enough to earn cash to keep us in data and shelter, and try and snatch a wave here and there, Max has thrown his life into solving society’s problems through ingenuity and technology.

I meet up with Max in a beachside shelter at Sydney’s Bondi. He pulls up in a small black Japanese four-wheel-drive, the back seats folded down to fit his nine-six Gato Haroi, a five-seven Haydn Lewis twin and his five-five Lost Catch Surf softie.

He’s alterno-man, as you might’ve guessed or if you watched the O’riginals clip here, first. You might’ve even written him off in the opening minute when you saw ol twinkle toes dance up to the nose.

(You remember the last two O’riginals films? Beau Cram, here, and Reef Doig, here.)

But Max is that rare alterno-man, a retro ripper who grew up through boardriders contests and pro juniors, wanting to be a pro surfer like everyone else.

“I was a normal kid in Sydney, riding a fucking five-eleven thruster competing through high school,” he says.

His surf DNA is solid enough. His old boy got into surfing lateish, sixteen or so, but got so hooked he moved to the South Australian desert to gorge himself on those famous cold-water reef waves, slabs jealousy guarded by gun-toting locals and fleets of Great White sharks. Even though he moved his family, a wife and four boys including Max, the youngest, to Sydney thirty years ago they still keep a shack in the dunes, which Max vacations in every year.

When you watch Max on his Gato Haroi his easy to see his innate ability to put his board in the right part of the wave, his feet where they can jab the rocker up and down depending on his speed and turning requirements.

A good surfer. And a good surfer with other things on his mind apart from whether or not anyone can stop a rampaging Gabriel Medina.

Right now, Max is working on his doctorate thesis on the development of bio-sensors, a body of work made up of six projects, and how it can relate to sharpening the use-by dates on food.

See, Max don’t like what’s happening to the world, his world, with its rapacious consumerism and waste.

But Max don’t lay down in the street or perform theatre for the cameras. He’s a hero not a halo.

“Man can solve things,” he says. “Everyone thinks, the way we used to lives was beautiful but breaking down systems and going back to the past isn’t the solution. The solution is something we’ve never seen before. Technology is the solution.”

Max is in a research group of ten at the University of New South Wales working on the tech that would put millions of cellular sensors that mimic biology into food. So, instead of looking at that bottle of milk, noting the use-by date printed on the label has passed and throwing out the remaining quart, you’d be notified by a change in colour as the sensor interacts with toxins.

“I’m interested in mimicking nature and tweaking it,” he says.

And it’s not just a consumer thing. Reduce waste across the entire food industry and billions of dollars worth of food that is eaten instead of discarded means less resources consumed, fewer animals lining up for the abattoir’s knife and so on.

Max also discovered an enzyme in body fluids that’s a marker for cancer.

Still, Max is never far from the surf.

He just moved down to Bondi after a bust-up with his girl (she’s in the movie, check her out in her band The Buoys) and had to split from her joint in the inner-city.

So what does surfing give him?

“Lots of different stuff. It’s therapeutic at times, creative, social, it can be competitive, and, longboarding, especially is particularly expressive ‘cause otherwise you’re just standing there going straight trying to look cool.”

Max says he likes to change up his boards, longboard to five-ten, to twinny, to Beater, even a little bodysurfing.

“I like getting refreshed,” he says.


Question: “Should surfing ability be vetted? Should those who SUP be ordered into re-education camps?”

Somewhere far away, maybe Manhattan Beach where they can receive proper instruction?

If you were poking around these parts late last week, and by “these parts” I mean BeachGrit, then you might have seen me get real angry at the NBA, Apple and our very own Vans for capitulating to vague Chinese pressures without even putting up half a fight. Not even a pretend fight. Ooooooh it burned me. Burned me that American companies, leagues and organizations will fly the rainbow flag, preach tolerance, broadcast freedom of speech but it comes to actual freedom of speech and the fight of those brave Hong Kong protesters in the face of Beijing’s overwhelming totalitarian might, they all rolled on their backs, pulled apps, canceled press conferences, vanished art.

A shame. An embarrassing black eye but as I continued to burn through the weekend realized nobody cares. There’s no call here or in Australia or Europe to boycott Apple. No protests in support of Hong Kong in New York. No benefit concerts or even Instagram campaigns.

There is but deafening silence.

Well, this morning I woke up after an odd night ready to shake off disappointment with the west and get back to the business of The People™ when I stumbled across a story in the Pensacola Times about a new documentary on the China Beach Surf Club. It was composed of Americans fighting in Vietnam in the 1960s and made famous by Col. Kilgore in the epic Apocalypse Now.

China Beach Surf Club sounds like a wonderful film, in any case, and I would very much like to see it and let’s dip a toe into the history together.

“They had tried to start a club up originally before I was there and it didn’t really amount to a lot, I think they had 15 to 20 members,” the 73-year-old Martin recalled. “But it didn’t really advance to anything.”

When Martin was deployed to Da Nang, Vietnam, in November 1967, he soon made friends with the lifeguards and gained access to the lifeguard building.

Martin gained permission from his commanding officer to organize the club, agreeing to repair surfboards and take some of the burden off of the lifeguards who cared for China Beach surfers in addition to their standard duties.

Soldiers looking to surf during their down time were assigned a card by Martin, who would personally vet their surfing abilities — or lack thereof — before giving them the green light.

“There were not that many surfboards and we just didn’t really want every Joe Blow to have use of a board that did not really know how to surf,” Martin said. “What I would do is I would actually take the people out to the water, and I would be in the water and watch them to see if they have any skills or anything. And if they surfed well enough and they could use a board without damaging it, I’d issue them a card.”

I read the last bit with heart pounding, thinking to myself, “What a fantastic idea! Surfing ability – or lack thereof – should still be vetted. Those who can’t surf, or who choose to SUP, should be ordered out of the water and into re-education camps somewhere far away, maybe Manhattan Beach, where they can receive proper instruction on…”

…before realizing that I am no different from President Xi Jinping. A dirty, ruthless, unbending, stern eye’d totalitarian.

But am I really?

Are you?

Also let’s hurry up and get this surf vetting thing off the ground ASAP. Any ideas on how to implement broadly all at once?

Hungry Orca pod protects surfers from Great White Sharks on the day of the Year; eats humpback calf to celebrate!

Why the Orca is the surfer's new best friend…

Spring has sprung Downunder, which means, at least on the once bucolic but now rapidly gentrifying North Coast, the very worst time of year for surf. Also, statistically the highest chance of getting bit by a White shark.

An excellent reason to stay out of the water and practise the new sub-sub genre of surfing: seasonal quitting.

Except when an out-of-season swell arrives and all the local Byron-Ballina point breaks; some of the very best sub-tropical surf in the world is firing, which is what happened this weekend. It came with a full moon and very many bait-balls, diving birds and instructions from authorities on every local sign that surfing in bait-balls can be bad for your health.

BeachGrit numbers man Jazzy P surfed the Point mid-morning on a classic overcast sharky-as-fuck day and reported an encounter with a grey suit shadowing a bait-ball around mid-morning. Thankfully, the surfer’s new best friends in the war against maneating White sharks were close at hand and made a dramatic cameo.

The Orca, unlike the Swedish, the Spanish, the French, the Austrian or the Swiss adult learner, is not considered a common sighting in the sub-tropics.

On Saturday, a pod of thirty Orcas was sighted just offshore between Ballina and Lennox Head by local whale watching outfit Out of the Blue adventures with principal Dean Fuchs describing it as one of “the most amazing sights he had ever seen out on the ocean”.

While it is their talent in moving on White sharks which endears them to surfers, in Saturdays episode it was a hapless baby Humpback which ended up on the wrong side of the apex predators’ appetite.

According to his Facebook post, Mr Fuchs said a mother Humpback whale, a calf and a male escort Humpback whale were frolicking in the calm conditions when a pod of about 30 Orcas emerged.

The Orcas managed to separate the calf from the adult Humpbacks before drowning and devouring it.

Mr Fuchs said the Killer Whales then surrounded the tour boat for more than two hours and seemed to be celebrating their kill by bringing a bit of blubber over to the boat.

As reported in the local ABC news Jules Farrell, vice-president of the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia, said the kill off Ballina was classic Orca behaviour.

Ms Farrell said the animals followed the Humpback pods, particularly on their southern migration to Antarctica when they were travelling with juveniles. What was unusual about this kill, she said, was the Orcas devouring the entire calf instead of their usual practice of just eating the tongue and the cheeks as a “delicacy”.

Claims the disappearance of White sharks from Capetown’s False Bay have been caused by Orca predation have been disputed by marine biologist Dr Sara Andreotti.

She said, “I cannot believe that two Orcas would make an entire White shark population disappear from the most important site around the coastline”.

It does seem feasible though that the Ballinese Orca pod, capable of feasting on an entire whale and showing off by bringing blubber to tourists could easily eradicate, or at least intimidate out of the area, the troublesome Byron-Ballina White shark aggregations.

Or is that just wishful thinking?

Today, and just to celebrate, I surfed the sharkiest wave in the area and felt deliciously safe thanks to our Orca pals.

Instant Classic: Come read the instructional children’s bedtime story “Hey, Little Grom!”

Instructional and fun.

As you know, I am a parent and proud. There’s nothing like watching a young sprout grow, develop, learn. It’s pure, unadulterated joy though the parent’s job, of course, is to provide some limited form of guidance along the way. Guardrails or bumpers. And this often comes through the reading of bedtime children’s stories that contain instructional hints as the little explorers, all tuckered out from days filled with magic, are in a listening mood.

There are many, many, many classics. The collected works of Dr. Seuss, Goodnight Moon, Blueberries for Sal but to name just three. Unaware of any surfing classics I decided to write my own. It needs illustrations but feel free to test it out on your young one tonight.

Hey little grom…we’re happy you’re here!
The world is big with so much to explore!
You can climb mountains…
…cross deserts…
…or surf the waves!

And if you surf the waves…

…never ride a mid-length, longboard or SUP and consider those who do with much disdain.

Keep your little mouth shut in the lineup. Emphasize NOT talking about the last time you surfed Mexico, how you surfed earlier or what board you are currently riding but feel free to whistle loudly if anyone ever drops in on you.

And if they don’t hear your whistle and keep cruising down YOUR wave yell “HEY!” when you are right behind them.

And if they don’t react growl, “Fucking kook…” as you’re paddling back out.

Never pull back if you’re sitting on the peak and in position…

But if daddy or mommy is on the peak paddling don’t even look at that wave. Just pretend it doesn’t exist. This is a very important lesson and will serve you well when you travel to Hawaii because there you pretend native Hawaiians and an assorted grab bag of locals are all mommies and daddies.

And when the sun sinks, so big and so orange into the water so deep and so blue it is time to stop surfing for the day.

If you see a grown man, in the lot, using a bucket and hose contraption to carefully rinse the salt off his wetsuit and the sand off his feet stare at him until he feels the appropriate shame then shake your head in disgust.

Don’t put your board on the roof of your car with its nose pointed forward even if you are driving a Jeep.

You’d better not be driving a Jeep.