Smiths, Winters and Klines in repose.
Smiths, Winters and Klines in repose.

Question: Can the perfect family surf trip be extended to the metaphorical family thereby breaking the bonds of disbelief and ushering in the Age of Aquarius?

I ponder for you. Always for you.

I am sitting zazen underneath what certainly must be a Bodhi tree festooned with glowing tea candles just past sunset. The sky is a dying ember, smoky black, blood red, flaming orange while the first stars reveal themselves to mortals locked in the Wheel of Dharma and those who can feel its splintering.

Enlightenment is just around the corner, full realization,

Family and surf have become one. Multiple families and surf have become one.

Everyone is happy.

No one is sad.

Todd Kline is fishing somewhere and happy. His wife and son are swimming in Rancho Santana’s other other other pool at Playa Rosada, a lime wedge throw away from where my legs are crossed and hands resting gently in lap, just a stroll around the point on a perfect rock shelf dotted with tide pools featuring colorful minnows and crabs.

My wife is at a sunset yoga session and happy, overlooking the jungle canopy while our child and my best friend Josh’s children are on a horseback monkey spotting mission, happy.

Josh’s wife is getting a massage, happy, Josh is running the jungle trails, happy.

We have all surfed until filled beyond full. We have all laughed, eaten, sipped mojitos and laughed some more.

I didn’t think this was possible. I didn’t think it was remotely possible but Rancho Santana has proven me wrong even though I’ve pressed, pressed again and then dreamed.

This morning, in a state of tanned, surfed-out bliss, I read Dan Dob’s cold, hard disbelief. His atheistic screed decrying transcendence and thought, “He should be here. You should be here. We should all be here together and if we were all here together could certainly tilt the globe off its cruel axis and usher in the Age of Aquarius. The one promised in the musical Hair.”

I am going to make that happen for him, for you, for us. I am going to work a metaphorical family surf trip here and you will come and you will see and we will tilt the globe off its cruel axis but before we do that there is but one last quest.

Can the VAL and pre-VAL be included seamlessly?

There is one in your life. There is one in my life too and in order for this to all work they must be included. Mine is a high-society, blue-blood with exquisitely fussy taste who has always wanted to surf.

If she can come and be happy and make no one sad then all will be one.

Everything will be one and if we have one more surfer in the water we can run true overlapping heats which Todd Kline can call.

I release my pose, lift my phone and punch, “Come here!” to Jody, heir to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Manhattan-ite, wearer of Louboutin wedges, fearless snowboarder, my daughter’s fairy godmother.

“On the next flight out…” she responds before I close my eyes again.

Multiple families, Todd Kline and his and now a fussy pre-VAL who lunches with Harrison Ford after breakfasting with the Dalai Lama after tasting fresh powder.

More as the story develops.

Brazilian WCT powerhouse suffers stroke, dies during surfing contest

Former world #22 reported feeling "weird" before collapsing…

The Brazilian powerhouse, and former WCT surfer, Leonardo Neves has died after suffering a suspected stroke during a contest in Saquarema, where he lived and where he operated a surf coaching biz. 

Neves, who was forty, reported feeling “weird” and on a video recorded moments earlier he appeared breathless. After riding a left in the biggish, onshore conditions in his semi-final, Neves paddled out the back, sat up on his board and collapsed.

Efforts to revive him failed.

Neves was a two-time Brazilian champ whose two years on the WCT in 2007 and 2008 yielded a couple of fifths at the Hang Loose Catarina Pro, a ninth at Snapper, Bells and at Mundaka (remember that joint?), his highest ranking twenty-second in 2007.

In 2007 at the World Cup of Surfing, and riding a seven-four that he could spin into reverse even at big Sunset, Leo lost to Makua Rothman on a buzzer beater, still one of the best finishes of that contest.

Neves grew up in a crummy inland suburb called Bras de Bina, the Brazilian equivalent of living in California’s Valley or Sydney’s western suburbs, and rode a bus for hours every day to chase his surfing dream.

Jadson Andre wrote, “Sometimes we can’t understand why we lost a brother today! Leo, I hope you are in a better place and can rest in peace! Thank you for the teachings. Strength for friends and family! I will pray a lot for you.”

Opinion: “I’m immune to the magic of dancing on water; the act of surfing holds no spiritual magic for me, no Shangri-La! “

I don't see tribe; I see competitors for a finite resource. I only care about the environment if it's going to affect my ability to go surfing.

(Editor’s note: One week ago, Dan Dob wrote a lovely condemnation of surf culture called, An Open Letter from a Bodyboarder: “You Whored Out Your Culture and Identity For Money and Now it’s Being Taken From You!”. Today, the writer reveals his foray into the upright world.)

Okay, I lied. I’m not a bodyboarder.

Well, I am, but I’m not just a bodyboarder.

I’m also a surfer. Not much of a surfer mind you. The word “serviceable” might be used to describe my ability. I’m out on the solid days, I’m laying down some turns, but I’m realistic about my place in the pecking order.

A move home a decade or so ago, to its mostly soft beachies spawned the out branching in my outlook and equipment.

A bodyboard is a boon in certain waves, a bust in others.

So, I got some foam wrapped in fibreglass, rather than foam wrapped in foam. I practiced, I learned, and I kept waiting for the magic to happen. Once I started surfing on a “proper” board, I’d never be the same etc. Some transformative epoch surely awaited. The higher state of a “real” surfer.

But it never fucking happened.

I hate to break it to ya, but the experience of wave riding ain’t that different, no matter how you’re doing it.

Now it’s incredibly engaging, it the entire centre point of my life, but it’s not the state of nirvana and enlightenment and cure-all that you’d think it to be if you’ve hung around the surfing world long enough.

Nat Young’s currently sprucing his book the The Church of the Open Sky with talk of nature = god, and elders, and tribe and Zen meditation from watching the horizon.

I love Dave Rastovich’s surfing as much as the next everyone else, but I have not been able to get through more than five  minutes of his Waterpeople podcast, laced with pseudo-psycho-spirit-babel about the profoundness of water and waves and seas and oceans.

Derek Hynd talks about the experiences he’s had in the water with almost religious fervour.

Maybe this is all a reflection of my atheist bend and evidence-based approach to life, but surfing’s just has never been that deep to me.

I’ve had big waves, heavy waves, waves overseas, waves with my kids and wife. Not a profound life-changer among them.

But, there are a lot of people out there searching for meaning in our late-capitalist societies. Nature, exercise, experience. These are the current buzz tonics for the detachment, depression and deficit of purpose that many seem to suffer in our first world havens.

It’s also the vein of marketing that much of the surfing industry seems to have adopted of late.

Just like when moisturising companies realised that if they marketed to men in the early 2000’s they could expand their market, the surfing industries marketing eyes now extend well beyond the traditional “core” coastal, middle class, white male.

See the WSL’s Transformed series. Anything put out by Vans. The whole sub-genre of “cold water” or “desert” clips and films, Byron Bay’s “Murfer” mobs, The Yoga/Surf retreat coming to the tiny village near me, previously more famous for its breakwall, propensity for its fishing fleet to come home with dry nets after late-night rendezvous, low socio-economic community and perhaps the seediest pub on the NSW coast.

The ongoing “greenwashing” hypocrisy of large sections of the surf industry has been covered by others more insightful than me (usually in the comments section). Surfing alone isn’t going to save the reefs, stop big oil or defeat climate change.

Despite the rhetoric, I don’t think surfers sit on some elevated plane of environmental engagement just because they’re in the ocean regularly. Despite being a lifelong Green Party voter, I often feel patronised by the carry-on.

But, it’s a clever premise. You don’t need to rip the absolute shit out of a shortboard and be an aspiring pro to be part of the “transformative surfing lifestyle” narrative that’s pedalled. A board, a desire for betterment, perhaps a bohemian aesthetic and a vibe of caring for Mother Gaia will get you along.

The doors are open, there’s room for everyone in the church of the open sky! Depression, the environment, corporate greed, Indigenous rights, equality of the sexes. Given a chance, surfing can fix it all!

I’m not buying it.

Yes, surfing is good for your health.

Yes, you feel better after any ol’ dip in the ocean. It’s continually challenging and fun. It can give your life purpose and direction.

In my experience, however, the act of paddling out and riding waves holds no spiritual magic, no Shangri-La. For me, it’s never felt like the answer to the ails of the world.

I’m selfish, I’m riding waves for me.

I don’t see tribe; I see competitors for a finite resource.

I only care about environment factors if it’s going to affect my ability to go surfing. I don’t want to lose myself in the desert or the arctic on a transformative quest.

Maybe I’m dead inside, immune to the mystic that others seem to draw from water dancing on the waves.

Maybe Bodyboarders, like gingers, don’t have souls.

Or maybe, just maybe, those who are spokespeople for product are full of shit.

The greatests to ever do it.
The greatests to ever do it.

Question: Is Nicaragua a wormhole where all dreams come true, where family and surf become one, where Todd Kline appears as if conjured?

Is this real life or just a fantasy?

I am paddling for a wave that rolls in straight from dreams, rarely from life. Green, a-framed, groomed by gentle offshore breezes and by a-framed I mean truly teepee’d plus barreling. Spitting. Like a mini Pipeline/Backdoor if Off the Wall went to hell, Backdoor wasn’t a glorified closeout and the bottom was sand instead of death.

It is mostly empty save my wife, a lime wedge throw away, addicted to the left she rode yesterday and my best friend Josh, a lime wedge throw the opposite direction, picking off the ones that run wide. All on crisp, new, perfectly tailored Album surfboards.


If we had one more surfer in the water, one more family on this surf trip, we could be running overlapping heats. We should be running overlapping heats with a dream commentary team to match the dream waves. Vaughn Blakey in the booth. Todd Kline on the beach.

The greatest to ever do it. The one who, for a gleaming second, showed the world what professional surfing could be, might be, should be, standing there with Bobby Martinez as Santa Barbara’s greatest to ever do it, smirking, while Bobby called professional surfing “this dumb fucking wannabe tennis tour.”



A phrase that will someday be graffitied on the rubble of Santa Monica’s Wall of Positive Noise once we crumble it like those brave East Germans crumbled theirs.

Josh arrived at Rancho Santana at sunset last evening after an even more grueling haul than mine. Carrying two children under the age of five and a Ndijilian/Parisian/Helsinkian fashion designer wife that suffers no hiccups. No red-eyes. No transfers, bad domestics or cocktails mixed from plastic bottles.

He flew his family from LAX at midnight, even a touch after, connected through Houston before doubling down by re-connecting through Miami before arriving in Managua and driving the three plus hours to Rancho Santana.

He was also stopped by two separate policemen on the way who tried to pull his sleeping wife and children out of the car in order to pat them all down.

All it took for his wife to forgive that ordeal and accept the family surf trip as not only workable but divine was a trip to the spa, hovering above the jungle canopy, above the organic farm, all dark tropical hardwood and world-class masseuses.

And now? I’m surf gorged, mojito gorged, wives are happy, children are happy, everyone is somehow dreamily happy.

The only problem?

No Todd Kline.

My wife, Josh and I surf for an hour or more before retreating to our sunbathing, book reading, swimming, happy counterparts at one of the multiple pools and…wait. Who is that in the far cabana tucking a Red Bull branded Mayhem under the chaise lounge in order to prevent wax melt?

Could it be?

Todd Kline?

I honestly can’t believe my eyes and saunter straight up after ordering a mojito with freshly picked/muddled mint etc.


He smiles.

“What are you doing here?”

“The family and I love Rancho Santana.” He responds. “I’m here with my wife and the grom. It’s the poor man’s Tavarua. I was surfing the wedge this morning after ordering breakfast, saw the server come out with the tray and was at my table before she set it down. It’s epic.”

I walk back to my cabana shaking my head. I thought I could break the notion of a workable family surf trip by inviting another family along. Not only did it not break, Todd Kline and his family have now been conjured out of thin air.

The poor man’s Tavarua. And to think, for one second, that thou of little faith J.P. Currie thought I wasn’t The People™.

To think a Scotsman doubted this modern incantation of William Wallace for one second.

But maybe I didn’t push hard enough?

Maybe I’m doing something wrong?

We still don’t have enough people to run overlapping heats.

More as the story develops.

Discovered: The greatest surfing law enforcement officer of all time!

Plus the cure for post-traumatic stress disorder!

Here I sit on a warm patio drinking freshly brewed Nicaraguan coffee while waiting for the tide to fill in just a bit and perusing the news. It’s all fairly typical, bees have learned to surf, scientists have learned to deflect Great White shark attacks, many stock broker wives are paddling out in Australia to learn the Norwegians not to mess, etc. but I just stumbled upon a glorious story that brought a tear to my eye or maybe it’s just sweat.

You tell me.

It was titled Wollongong Cop Links Good Mental Health to Daily Surf and illustrated with the above picture.

I snorted loudly, clicked and read and was thoroughly won over by Detective Senior Constable Jeremy Barnett and the case he makes.

A sample:

After being in the job for 17 years, Det Snr Con Barnett hasn’t suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or depression, as many of his colleagues in blue have.

“They say if you have been in the job for seven years than you suffer from PTSD,” he said.

“I have been there for 17 years and I don’t know. Maybe, but I don’t think so.

“I have my bad days, as everyone does, but once I go out for a surf it is all forgotten.

“I have seen some pretty horrific things, but I put my good mental health down to surfing.”

Det Snr Con Barnett said he felt like a new “bubbly” person after he went for a surf when feeling down.

“If I’m like that at home, my wife often says to me, ‘just go for a surf’,” he said. “I come back with recharged batteries.”

Beautiful, no?

But what brought the tear to my eye, I’m now certain that it’s a tear, is the photo of Det. Sn. Con. Barnett actually surfing. Of course I pictured some very ugly turn on an 8’0 TufLite or maybe a SUP even though he’s holding a Stretch in the above picture but look here.

A snap that would make any surfer proud, even Kelly Slater himself.

The greatest surfing law enforcement officer of all time?

I defy you to find me a better.