Jaw-dropping: Largest Great White shark ever recorded in the history of the world swimming off coast of Oahu!

Just in time for the Pipeline Masters.

And you thought you had seen it all. You thought that being shocked, amazed, jaw-dropped, scared senseless, really profoundly disturbed ceased sometime in your early teens.

For it was then you deduced that monsters weren’t real. That Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Pinhead, Minnie Castavet were all dreams cooked up in the idle minds of Hollywood screenwriters. That the real Michael Meyers didn’t wear an emotionless white mask but was rather a chubby Canadian, friend of Garth, voice of Shrek.

You imagined getting swallowed whole by a Great White shark, surfboard and all, was pure fiction.

Well, meet Deep Blue.

The largest Great White ever recorded in the history of the world, a terrifying 20+ ft, the size of an extra-large school bus, is currently menacing off the coast of Oahu and just in time for the Pipeline Masters.

Ocean Ramsey, activist/shark whisperer, decided to swim with the beast and let us huddle under our blankets while reading her account in Honolulu’s Star-Advertiser.

“I’m without words; it’s heartwarming; she’s probably the most gentle great white I’ve ever seen. Big pregnant females are actually the safest ones to be with, the biggest oldest ones, because they’ve seen it all — including us.”


But have they seen Pipeline Masters?

I fear Deep Blue could fit Gabriel Medina, Jordy Smith and Kolohe Andino comfortably in her belly. I fear she could eat 20 of the world’s best 30 surfers for a snack.

Very scary.

Longtom: “Surfing is awash with magic! It’s easy to find Shangri-La’s; I was unwound by the sorcery of desert tubes!”

When surfing hits you in the guts it changes everything…

Dan Dob’s essay on the fundamental ordinariness of surfing was very good, much truth, but a little too neo-liberal in outlook, a little too every-man-is-a -rational-economic-actor-out-for-himself etc.

A little too dry, too grim. Mostly true.

(Read “I’m immune to the magic of dancing on water; the act of surfing holds no spiritual magic for me, no Shangri-La!” here)

But truth doesn’t sustain us, never has.

We need illusions.

Damn thing woke me up at two am, these words were there.

I offer them to you.

Modern middle-class humanity praises and holds dear the rational, the conscious decision, but far more than conscious thought it’s our animal mind that makes us what we are.

Derek Hynd’s missing fins made the ultimate statement about it: “Surfing is at the pinnacle of animal-based experiences and only a fool fully walks away”.

Defending surfing from the outside world is stupid – it needs more enemies, not less – it’s only here, among friends, that we feel we need to defend her honour.

Dandob is right to stick it to the carpet baggers and toothy flim-flammers whoring the dream, and right to insist most of the time it’s a splash and giggle and not much else.

I can’t stand by, though, and have my beloved desert traduced like some cheap Chinese piece of plastic. Can’t let the charge of nothing life-changing in it, no brotherhood and sisterhood, only rats chasing the same piece of cheese, stand unchallenged.

Surfing the desert changed my life. Before it, the half decadal knocks on the door of the middle-class had some hope of success.

When it was done, I was just too far out on a limb to get back.

One thing the town lacked, like much of Western Australia outside Perth, was women. A rumour circulated there was a foxy young doc in town and I cooked up a reason to visit her. To get hands on with a woman I suggested a small scar as being a possible skin cancer. She said, would you like me to cut it out and biopsy it. I said, yes. Foxy Doctor hacked a big gaping wound into my calf with a scalpel and then sewed me up. She was no plastic surgeon.

A year passed working the snapper boats, wet-lining out of Kalbarri. It was a good life for a surfer, unlike working crays we only fished when it was troughed out. Fish when it was flat, surf the rest of the time. There is a heavy left just south of town. I got into rotation for the sets.

One thing the town lacked, like much of Western Australia outside Perth, was women. The town pub was a sausage sizzle. A rumour circulated there was a foxy young doc in town and I cooked up a reason to visit her. To get hands on with a woman I suggested a small scar as being a possible skin cancer.

She said, would you like me to cut it out and biopsy it. I said, yes. Foxy Doctor hacked a big gaping wound into my calf with a scalpel and then sewed me up. She was no plastic surgeon.

Well, of course, the next trip out in the generalised hurley burley of life at sea the wound busted open and I now had something that looked like it could give birth to a small mammal on the side of my leg. And, my pal had arrived from the east coast and said, let’s go to Gnaraloo. Which we did. I quit my job with the best snapper fisherman in town, stocked up on wound dressings, bandages, plastic bags and electrical tape and we hit the road. Bush chooks, food, water.

We made pals in the desert, anyone who’s been there will.

The Australian male is not a well-loved figure in literature. Our finest writer, Tim Winton, loves to portray us as a particularly toxic masculine brew : sour, demented, petty, vindictive, provincial ; the worst kind of colonial scum. Of course, he excepts himself from such portrayal.

Hooked up with old buddies from previous trips.

Hard to see us all as desert rats chasing the same piece of cheese, but I guess we were.

The truth is a bit more complex. The Australian male is not a well-loved figure in literature. Our finest writer, Tim Winton, loves to portray us as a particularly toxic masculine brew : sour, demented, petty, vindictive, provincial ; the worst kind of colonial scum.

Of course, he excepts himself from such portrayal.

They ain’t the people I know.

The people I met are more like the ones Dostoevsky met in Siberian prison camps; about the finest,toughest timber grown in that land. I could not have a higher opinion of the non-sponsored Australian surfer.

We got what we came for. The night before the day of days me and Corey ate the cheek meat of a reef fish that bio-accumulated a neuro-toxin from a dinoflagellate that gave the ingestor intense hallucinations.

It seemed like a fun thing to do.

I crawled out of the tent at midnight sure the sun was midday-bright in the night sky. I passed out on the sand dunes and woke up to a ghost crab nibbling my eyelids. It was just on the wrong side of intense to be fun. In the morning the coast-line was under heavy bombardment.

Seven hours passed. Seven hours of eight-to-ten-foot Tombstones. Every desert rat was under the influence of the mull cookies my Byron pal produced.

Things were surreal.

Anyone who could spin and go and make the drop got the tube of a lifetime.

Corza was looking in, I was looking out, looking at him looking in. The bottom dropped out, then dropped again, an angry knuckle appeared in the tube. The board was skittering left and right on the foam ball and shockwave. A backdoor section protruded ahead and threw out a big crystalline chamber made of shattered glass fragments that refracted the sunlight. The wave developed an intense pressure chamber of air and water .

It spat, but not out but back at me. The spit hit my front hand so hard it made me strike myself in the face and the whole bottom of the wave opened up and sucked me down a trapdoor.

Was that 5,6 seconds? Half an hour? I came up and Corza was screaming.

I said, “Fuck!”

We all rode waves like that. Intense beyond imagination.

One of the benefits of camaraderie, according to Owl Chapman, is the increased chance of sexual congress.

“Give a wave. Share a smile. Make a friend,” he said. “You never know, he might have a good looking sister.”

I drove back to Perth with Corey. He had a good looking sister. Who thought it was a good idea to drop a tab and hit the city.

So we did, and hit it off.

I swear as God be my witness, all true.

And you could see how, it might change your life, this extended stay in Shangri-La. See how, at some point, the thought might cross your mind, “Maybe middle-class life ain’t my bag.”

How a preference for the tube over keeping up with the Joneses, the friends, the wild life and wild living might constrain once choices, for good or ill. How coming back into the world of home renovation and cooking shows may not be possible.

The working title for David Rensin’s Dora Biography was “The Point of No Return”, I think a much better descriptor of the life aquatic than the chosen title, “All for a Few Perfect Waves.”ˆ

Being shunted from the middle classes due to surfing.

Depressive, or anti-depressive? I say, anti-D.

Of course, it’s pathetic as well as appealing when people go too hard for too long and can’t wind their necks in for the sake of the kiddies.

End up living in vans, kids won’t talk to them etc etc.

But you?

I can’t be the only one here, surely, who’s been unwound by the magic of mighty desert toobs.

Breaking: Mainstream media rediscovers, loses collective mind over, “50 ft, 65 ft, 115 ft” Nazaré!

Also "stunning" and "shocking!"

Nazaré, the picturesque Portuguese big-wave spot colonized by Hawaiian Garrett McNamara in 2011, has had a wild run of press this northern hemisphere autumn. Oh, it has been a media darling for years now, who could ever forget Garrett and CNN’s Anderson Cooper dancing through the lineup on a sled?

Without question an iconic moment in surf history.

But this 2019, non-surf media seems to have turned the dial up very many notches. Any time Nazaré comes alive, headlines scream about “extreme surfers” “defying death” chasing “50 ft, 65 ft, 115 ft” “mountains of water.”

Our World Surf League is quoted in many of these stories like today’s featuring Lucas “Chumbo” Chianca and Ian “Costanza” Cosenza and a “stunning, shocking” rescue as described by the New York Post.

It was “point break” for one pro surfer whose dramatic Jet Ski rescue from a giant wave was captured on video in Nazaré, Portugal, last week.

A drone taped the nearly one-and-a-half-minute video, which shows surfer Lucas “Chumbo” Chianca riding an incredible wave in rough waters, with his teammate Ian Cosenza waiting to give Chumbo a lift back to shore.

But just as Chumbo hooks himself and his board to Cosenza’s Jet Ski, an approximately 50-foot wave mounts behind them.

Zipping across the water at 60 miles per hour, the pair of Brazilian surfers make it safely to shore in the nick of time, with the massive tidal push on their tail ready to consume Cosenza and Chumbo, who is hailed as one of the best big-wave surfers alive.

The World Surf League, which released the video, declared it “one of the craziest rescues ever seen.”

Beautiful, no? Except by my count there are three employees at the World Surf League’s Santa Monica headquarters who actually surf.

Pat O, Devon Howard and Dave Prodan. Unless one of them declared it as “one of the craziest rescues ever seen” can the description be trusted? If the video starred a stand-up paddleboarder navigating very scary, head high Manhattan Beach closeouts I would believe but… well… let us examine for ourselves.

Oh yeah.

That’s pretty crazy.

"When you're facing death, when you're in a situation where you going to die, has a big impact on you. Going back there brought up a lot of emotion, but it was cathartic, especially thinking about all the local people that did die." Rob Bain, right, with kid, Billy.

Watch: Tsunami survivor-world champ returns to G-Land with shredder son, “Thinking of all the people that perished, I couldn’t stop crying”

"I didn't see the emotion coming. I stood up by myself and these tears started rolling out. I couldn't stop them. I had to stand in the darkness by myself."

In June, the former pro Rob Bain, who in 1990 and ’91 led the world tour for two -thirds of the year only to be stymied in his dream by Tom Curren and Damien Hardman, revisited Grajagan in east Java for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1994 tsunami.

Rob, who won the title of World Grand Surfing Wizard in the Azores last year, is one man who’s looked into the void, decided it wasn’t for him, and stormed back to take life by the horns.

Ten years ago, he snapped his neck surfing at North Avalon, a breezy sorta Sydney reef.

“It was the worst thing but it was also a beautiful thing,” says Rob.

And, in 1994, as I say, he was swept to, almost, oblivion by a tsunami, generated by a wild earthquake in the Java trench, that struck in the middle of the night. Three villages west of G-Land were levelled, killing 223 villagers.

Also on the trip were fellow pro’s Simon Law, Richie Lovett, Richard Marsh, who initially thought they’d been overrun by tigers, Shane Herring, Neal Purchase, the photographer Peter Boskovic and filmmaker Monty Webber, brother of fast-talking Greg.

Rob woke up under water, his wooden hut collapsed on top of him and wrapped in a mosquito net. He says he channelled the fury of a wild animal to escape his prison and was helped in his endeavour by Monty Webber.

When Rob heard that a twenty-fifth anniversary of the event was being held, he thought it would be a good thing to pay his respects to the Javanese who died on that night and to reflect on his own good fortune.

“I felt the need to go back,” he says. “It’s funny because twenty-five years is quite a long time but I was sitting the other day with Billy’s mum Kath watching Slater in Haleiwa crushing young kids’ dreams. I’ve been riding away for twenty-five years and he’s still on tour!”

Rob also brought along his son, Billy, who is twenty-seven and also a screwfoot shredder. Billy was two years old and asleep at the family’s Avalon home while Daddy was being torn apart by nature.

“Me and Billy have got a close relationship,” says Bain, who lost his own father when he was thirteen to lung cancer.

Billy was seventeen and on the beach when Rob busted his neck at North Av.

“Fuck, he thought I was going to die,” says Rob.

And, so, this trip, for father and son, was something special.

“The joy to be able to go back all that this time later with my son and to see him ride barrels, and for me to ride barrels, and to share barrels, like most fathers you get so much joy out of watching your sons.”

The ceremony, says Rob, hit him in the guts.

“When you’re facing death, when you’re in a situation where you’re going to die, it has a big impact on you. Going back there brought up a lot of emotion, but it was cathartic, especially thinking about all the local people that did die. Knowing people there had lost family to the ocean was a big one for me. And I didn’t see the emotion coming. We got there, surfed, settled in and that night the ceremony was on. We were sitting there in the darkness with the locals and it was candle lit under a big tent looking into a black ocean. You could hear it. I stood up by myself and these tears started rolling out. I couldn’t stop them. I had to stand in the darkness by myself.”

One year after the tsunami, and in an uncharacteristically poetic gesture, Rob retired at the Quiksilver G-Land Pro.

He knew he was on a roll, knew the event was his.

But, in his round four heat against eventual finalist Jeff Booth, as he was sailing through a tube to victory, and he could see his caddy Simon Law whooping for joy in the channel, he got clipped and rolled.

And he remembers, underwater, thinking “My career is done. It’s all over. Finished. That was the end of it.”

After the event, he stayed on at G-Land with Kelly Slater, Jim Banks and Joel Fitzgerald and slayed an empty, epic swell.

“It was a very fond memory,” says Rob.


Answer: Nicaragua is where family and surf become one, daughters feel the transcendent power of water dancing, surf gorged parents weep on the beach!

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.

I am beat. Sun scorched where my World Surf League New York Longboard Classic singlet* doesn’t cover. Wave stuffed, surf stuffed, mojito’d, local farm raised steak’d, Toña’d, jungle hike’d, monkey spotting’d, 18-year-old Flora de Caña’d, tennis’d, swimming pool’d, fresh parrot fish ceviche’d, butterflies floating on warm offshore breeze’d beat.

Beat into full enlightenment. I have achieved it for you, for us, but mostly for your happy family or future happy family and your snappy little barrel count.


For there need be no separation between the happy family and the snappy little barrel count. Nor the happy family and the almost well-timed top turn, nor the happy family and the aching neck, sore shoulders, feeling of bizarre satisfaction that only too many waves bring.

That only bubbles to the surface through a complete erasing of FOMO.

In Nicaragua, at Rancho Santana, family and surf are one and I see your smirk, your doubt, your thinking somehow I’ve become a corporate shill, three steps removed from erecting my own Wall of Positive Noise.

Well, didn’t unbelievers throw rocks at the Buddha once he reached the truth? Didn’t they try to snuff out his message?

They certainly did and the comment rocks, heavy and painful, only prove my message. Believe if you want. Disregard at your own expense.

Four days ago I too doubted. Three days ago I added my best friend and his family because I still doubted, two days ago I conjured Todd Kline plus his family, doubt receding but still there, and yesterday I pressed to the very limit by inviting a high-society pre-VAL who wanted to learn to surf very much but also wanted to ride horses.

She arrived and promptly booked surf lessons for herself, Josh’s Ndijilian/Parisian/Helsinkian fashion designer surf agnostic wife and our children.

“Surf lessons…” I scoffed even though I tried not to scoff. “This will be the end of glory.”

But pushing the idea to its very limit was the entire goal so we all rolled up in an epic, Africa spec Landcruiser troop transport to the Ranch’s Surf Club just off Panga Drops and Colorados mid-morning.

It was dumping out the front, head high-plus runners at Panga Drops and Colorados. My wife and I waved goodbye, leaving the rest in the hands of a Spanish instructor and charged around the corner, paddling furiously to the lightly peopled lineup.

We surfed until we could not surf anymore. Thick rights that my Album twin painted with swooping roundhouse cutbacks and loose, dreamy drive. Thick lefts that were designed for my wife’s goofy asym quad. Matt Parker, who has surfed in Nicaragua many times, insisted we take a bit more foam in order to scratch through the sometimes howling offshores. He was exactly right and I have rarely had more pure fun surfing.

More straight, simple joy.

And when we could not surf another wave, rolled onto the beach and stumbled back to where a high-society, New York, heiress VAL was somehow drop-knee bottom turning, a fashion designer surf agnostic was smiling ear to ear and my daughter was catching over her head bombs on the outside, gliding down the face all the way to the sand in a pose that would make Kelly Slater’s Cocoa Beach statue very jealous.

Except goofy exactly like her mother.

She has been surfing with me since the age of three, perched on the nose of a pink 8 foot foamie in Cardiff, California then later a few dumpy waves until she got cold but here, alone, warm, Kelly Slater statue-esque, she had made surfing hers.

I dropped my board and laughed.

And laughed until tears flooded my eyes.

And then went and ate homemade tacos from the Surf Club while drinking passion fruit, hibiscus, rum cocktails while plotting a way to get you here so we can all believe together.

Especially Wiggolly’s Paddling Style.

More as the story develops.

*Devon Howard, WSL longboard commissioner sent me the singlet a few months ago after I remarked how much better that tour’s baggy tank top version was than real surfing’s skin tight t-shirt. I wore it ironically at first, not in the water obviously, but then started accidentally liking it and brought it here to surf and also had the revelation that WSL tank-top singlets absolutely rule to surf in. No wonder the pros are better than us. Buy here, I guess.