Question: If the family surf trip is indeed a beautiful mélange can it be pushed to a breaking point?

Let's really test hypotheses.

I am standing beneath a coconut palm sipping an ice-cold mojito featuring sugar squeezed from local cane, mint, picked from an on-property farm and a lime wedge that is above average, all things considered.

Behind me, in a sparkling somehow chlorine-free pool, my daughter is working on her backflips, really whipping knees to chest and almost achieving Italo Ferrira-esque full rotation. Before me, my wife is dancing down a warm, shoulder high left on her half-white, half-pink Album asym quad, 5’6 . 19 . 2.32, whipping it into the pocket just like the most handsome shaper on earth Matt Parker promised.

Both are equidistant, each a lime wedge throw away. We are a troika of bliss and to think I doubted the family surf trip. To think I imagined, even for a second much less six years, that it might be the devil’s most insidious contradiction.

Rancho Santana, in southern Nicaragua, is an earthly paradise. A place where belief is born, where all good things come to pass, where family and surf become one.

Oh, my extreme dubiousness persisted until we drove onto the property’s 3000 verdant acres. A family flight to Nicaragua from California is neither easy nor fun. It begins near midnight at Los Angeles International Airport which has, in the last few years, become actual hell. There is no other way as there are no rich Nicaraguan immigrants in Los Angeles and so you must fly to Houston on a red eye in order to wait many hours in that deeper level of hell in order to catch another flight to Managua.

Each is too short to sleep. Both are too long to gain comfortability, especially with a wife and daughter glaring while seated very near the bathroom and since Managua is not Europe, the rich parts of the Middle East, or the good parts of East Asia the airlines take joy in charging for luggage, cocktails and seats with legroom.

Then, in Managua you must drive another three plus hours through countryside, horses, volcanos, goats, sheep, chickens, police traps and the odd naked man who apparently lives in a cave and though his family tries to keep him clothed and locked up, he miraculously escapes naked.

But at the end?

My goodness at the end is 3000 unbelievable acres. A farm that produces most of the ranch’s food. A main building so exquisitely designed as to be confusing. Restaurants that serve steak, bred onsite, with peppercorn sauce made onsite with onion rings grown onsite.

Residences with screaming WiFi, freezing air-conditioning, broad televisions with actual Mtv not the Jersey Shore version and finishes that would make the fussiest Los Angeles interior designer frustratingly jealous.

I don’t know how they did it. I don’t know how they created this place hours from anywhere, fronting perfect paper thin lip’d barreling nuggets and I can see your eye roll from here. Can smell your guffaw.

“Chas doesn’t even surf, that’s why this ‘works.’ He eats peppercorn steak paired with onion rings, soaks in air-conditioning, observes architectural details, WiFis, watches his daughter Italo and wife rip while drinking fussy mojitos.”

Well, I took the early session at Panga Drops on another Album twin fin, matte grey, 5’11 etc. and turned my arms to jelly. Could not surf another minute even with supplemental aid. Even with Viagra.

But my arms were not too jelly to text my best friend Josh. We surfed Yemen together, multiple times, and Somalia etc. after that. More importantly we threw our kids on his sailboat and tried to sail them, without moms, to Cabo.

He would appreciate this. The pain and the reward.

“Come here.” I punched.

“On the next flight out.” He responded after my next mojito.

My rail is dug, I’m pointed and am going to push the idea of family surf trip until it breaks.

Will it break?

Can I break it?

More as the story develops.

Hacking darts, gill-style.
Hacking darts, gill-style.

Australian scientists claim to have invented breakthrough wetsuit that is “Great White shark bite proof!”

Could all our hopes and dreams have come true?

Oh there, I just saw your hopes go up, go right up through the roof and I am sad for you. Ashamed even for if we have learned one thing on this beautiful shark odyssey it is that sharks, particularly Great Whites, evolve in order to outwit, outplay, outlast the human surfing race.

And so when you read a headline screaming Australian scientists claiming anything, especially as it relates to Great White sharks, your first instinct should be, “Australia has scientists?” and your next should be, “No way.”

But let us learn about this breakthrough wetsuit from the important academic journal Daily Mail. Let us see if I am wrong.

A revolutionary new wet suit material has been developed in Australia to protect surfers from deadly shark bites.

The new ‘shark proof’ material has extra-strong plastic fibres woven throughout that make it harder for teeth to penetrate the fabric.

The team from Flinders Univesity in South Australia tested two different types of fabrics that combined very strong but lightweight fibres with the neoprene material used for wet suits.

The new materials are more resistant to bites than a normal wet suit – even from a Great White Shark – researchers have discovered.

The different materials were tested along with an ordinary wet suit on Great White Sharks as they ‘are responsible for the most shark bite fatalities’.

‘Our results showed that both fabrics tested may provide some protection against shark bite and could be used as part of a shark bite mitigation strategy’, said Charlie Huveneers, who led the research team.


I am not wrong. The study begins with words like “revolution” and “shark proof” before entering a more conservative tone “Flinders University” “may provide some protection” and “could be used as part of a shark mitigation strategy.”

You know what else could be used as part of a shark mitigation strategy?

Staying out of the water.

I think today is not a good day to surf.

I think tomorrow may be worse.

More as the story develops.

Landon, left in the driver's seat, as interloper prepare to rub pepper into his eyes. | Photo: Jake Houglum/@hougified

Watch: Pipe charger’s near-scalping at ten-foot Pipe!

A North Shore almost blood bath!

Five days ago, Pipe habitué and singer Landon McNamara, born and raised at Rocky Point by a daddy who invented the chop-hop and whose own Pipe appearances were electrifying, came within inches of losing his face after an ill-timed drop in.

Landon, who is twenty-three years old and who likes to snatch the Second Reef chip-shots on his eight-o Gerry Lopez, just like Liam did in the nineties, says he saw the board coming for him in exquisite, vivid detail.

“Everything was going slow-mo,” says Landon, as he readies himself for an afternoon surf at pumping twelve-foot Pipe. “It was the most slow-motion I’ve ever experienced surfing. I could see, exactly, where the guy fell, where the board went, and where I could go, what line I could take to escape it.”

Now, it ain’t an exaggeration to say that Landon wasn’t overly impressed by the event.

“There’s so many situations out there and when they occur and nothing bad happens, you might be, like, well it wasn’t that bad, it’s all good. But it’s not like that at all. If it happens it can be deadly.”

Still, what he’d like to happen is for surfers to do a little self-examination before they paddle out at Second Reef Pipe and join the boys in that prized take-off area.

“It’s the guys who’ve earned their spots that sit there,” says Landon.

His daddy, Liam, picks up the phone, tells me they don’t want not hassles with anyone. But.


“There has to be an international understanding of the dangers and the pecking order and about earning your stripes there,” he says. “I spent three decades out there to earn my stripes. It took those decades of broken femurs, hips, hands and knees to win it. And, now, I’ve handed my stripes, my war jacket, my medals, to my kids – I’ve taught ’em where to sit, what boards to ride, what waves to look for. But, while Landon has my spot in the lineup, he had to earn it. He had to have the balls to take off. You don’t go out to Second Reef unless you’ve got your stripes. It’s like a war out there. It’s a battle zone and if you haven’t earned the right, and you’re not at the right level, you shouldn’t be there.”

How do you get them pretty stripes?

“There are guys from every different country that come out, humbly earn a wave, ride it well and get that respect. It doesn’t matter what country you’re from. Pipe is the most dangerous wave in the world and it takes years of surfing the wave to earn respect and to understand the lineup. Respect the locals and you will get respect.”

Says Landon, “We want to spread the message of tread lightly, wait your turn and stay out of people’s way.”

I hate every single thing about this picture including, but not limited to, some family members going right on a barreling left.
I hate every single thing about this picture including, but not limited to, some family members going right on a barreling left.

Question: Is the “family surf trip” a beautiful mélange or the devil’s most insidious contradiction?

A necessary investigation for our time.

I am, at once, a surfer and a family man and these are mutually exclusive. Surfers are selfish, by nature. Self-obsessed and edgy. Eggy. Family man necessitates selflessness, patience, kindness, benevolence, etc.

The two often thrash about and become entwined in my life. The surfer comes out on land, when a car drives by too fast when I’m walking my daughter to school and I kick its rear fender as hard as I can then chase it down until the driver opens the door at which point I press him, by the neck, against his death machine, screaming, “DON’T PADDLE ON ME!” while my daughter cries on the sidewalk.

The family man comes out in the water, when a gorgeous nugget is coming to me, straight to me, but I’ve been watching a gentle child struggle all day and now he is on the corner and now his head is down paddling with all his gentle might.

“Go!” I yell. “Go, go, go!”

It’s a rough business, trying to keep them separate, though I mostly do, but my beautiful wife is perpetually trying to destroy the fragile détente.

She has been asking, for years, to go on surf trip. She is a shredder. Once a professional snowboarder, now a grumpy local having cut her teeth in Westport, Washington, coming of age in bucolic Cardiff-by-the-Sea.

“You’re a surf journalist…” she tells me through tears. “Can you please take us on a surf trip? I need warm water and waves…” motioning to my daughter who has her hands folded as if in prayer.

And while she has taken us on snowboard trips to Wyoming, Colorado, Switzerland, France, Japan, Squaw Valley, etc. I respond, “No.”

A family surf trip equals misery in the water, particularly with a surfing spouse, wondering if he or she is getting anxious, and misery on land, playing Marco Polo in a swimming pool when, somewhere, waves are firing.


The family surf trip is impossible. It is not a thing that exists or a thing that should exist. The devil’s most insidious contradiction.

But, late one night after too many vodka sodas, tired and worn down, I sighed, “Show me where you want to go.” The time is now, I suppose, as my surf journalism is quickly evolving into some new, grand mutation, possibly a modern Buddha or maybe Gandhi, and I don’t know if modern Buddhas go on many surf trips.

Gandhis definitely don’t.

Hours later she sent me an email link to Rancho Santana in Nicaragua.

I was intrigued as I’ve only ever heard glorious tales of the country from my uncle who was very good friends with… someone etched into Central American history (find out who here!) and spent time crawling around its jungles both before and after vacations to Afghanistan.

Rancho Santana looked ideal. Elegant yet folding into the verdant landscape perfectly. Pristinely white with red tiled roofs. A huge piece of property featuring a left point and beachbreak wedge out the front. A short hop to famed Colorados and Panga Drops just around the corner.

“But will it work?” I wondered. “Can a family surf trip actually work?”

More as the story develops.

Like many beginners, the Surf Witches have been seduced by a vision that only rarely exists. You know the one, it’s that idyll of a mellow, dreamy session, where it all comes easily, everyone is happy, and the scene looks just like Instagram. They want it to feel like yoga or a meditation session. Or, a slumber party. | Photo: Hannah Jessup

Jen See on ‘Surf Witches’ all-girl surf gang: “A challenging thing in life as a woman is figuring out when things are about gender, and when they really just aren’t!”

Like many beginners, the Surf Witches have been seduced by a vision that only rarely exists.

Earlier today, I went down to the beach and went for a surf.

Some rugged windswell had rolled into the neighborhood, which meant fun waves if you knew where to look for them. It is no longer bikini season here, in case you were wondering, so bikini updates are suspended indefinitely.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

When I paddled out, I was the only woman in the lineup. Later a couple women more joined us. But for most of the session, a crew of bros and I competed for waves. Most of us knew one another, if not well, at least in the “I’ve seen you around” kind of way. The vibe was happy, competitive, mellow, all at the same time. I didn’t really notice I was the only girl in the water. No one burned me. No one burned anyone else, either.

The midlength guys had an advantage and used it. The shortboarder from a nearby college with the golden retriever personality chased every peak in his time zone. It was fine. It was all fine. We all eventually got waves. Some got more waves than others. That’s how it works.

We all want waves. We all can’t have them at the same time. This is surfing’s most basic law.

I came home to an email from Derek. (Chas doesn’t email, his inbox is where hope goes to die.) Derek had sent me a link. Surf witches! I wondered if there would be hats. Obviously, I clicked immediately.

In search of a feel-good story, ABC Gold Coast reports that a crew of women have formed a surf and social group called Surf Witches.

Their goal?

To escape the competitive, negative vibes they have experienced while surfing Snapper and Duranbah.

“There are lots of men in the lineup and they’re very serious, and they don’t want to talk to you, and they’re all dropping in on your waves,” said Surf Witches co-founder Hannah Jessup, who learned to surf earlier this year. “As a beginner, it’s hard to know how to handle that kind of attitude.”

The group meets up to go surf and wears blue bracelets to identify one another in the lineup. “It actually feels like a party or a sleepover or something,” said Jessup. The women cheer for each other’s successes, however small, and have begun expanding into meeting for brunch and coffee out of the water. The Surf Witches hope to reach beyond Australia to the U.S., in an effort to make women feel more welcome in the lineup.

There is… a lot to unpack here.

Let’s start with the easy part. A social group for women who want to surf is indeed a lovely little feel-good story for your afternoon perusal. Women who want to surf with other women, they should totally do that. I would rather be shot into the sun than join a women’s surfing group, but on the whole, I am not a joiner. I will gladly, however, take my woman friends surfing if they would like to try it out. I do that, because while I’m not a joiner, I do like my friends.

If I did take my beginner friends surfing, we would never, in a million, billion years paddle out a place like Snapper. Like, never.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever burned a beginner. You totally have, right? I totally have. I mean, I’m not proud of it, but I have. Sometimes, my inner asshole escapes.

It’s crowded, you’re surfing a decent spot, you’re pretty sure the beginner will eventually blow the wave, so you just fucking go. We’ve probably all done this. It’s like sharks eating the smallest, slowest fish they can find. Chomp. No regrets, no remorse.

I would like to teach the Sea Witches of the world that there are beginner spots and they exist for a reason. Every town has at least one. Beginner spots are fun and generally super chill and that’s where you go to stand up and go straight and figure out this whole mysterious business of riding surfboards.

Standing on surfboards is pretty fun and I have no problem with new people trying it out. But for the love of the fucking sun, pick your spot and pick your day. That means, not the most famous A-list spot in your neighborhood and not the biggest day of the year. Or even, the biggest day of the week.

An A-list spot will be crowded. It will always be competitive. It will rarely be beginner-friendly. If it’s nearly flat, sure. But otherwise, you can expect to compete for your waves. That’s simply how surfing works. (If you live on a desert island or some other remote spot where no one else surfs with you, I do not want to hear from you! In fact, I am going to send every beginner I see to your remote desert island!)

There are a finite number of waves in the ocean. You might get lucky, but a good wave is not simply going to be handed to you. Like, oh hello there young lady, here’s a fun wave for you! Thanks for coming surfing today! This is not how any of this works.

There’s a significant disconnect between how people imagine surfing and what it actually is. Like many beginners, the Surf Witches have been seduced by a vision that only rarely exists. You know the one, it’s that idyll of a mellow, dreamy session, where it all comes easily, everyone is happy, and the scene looks just like Instagram. They want it to feel like yoga or a meditation session. Or, a slumber party.

You want to know who drops in on me the most often out of anyone? Women on longboards. The old school women never do this and I love them for it. But so many times, I look up, and bam! There’s a woman on a big board dropping in on me from the shoulder. I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t think men are the only problem here.

Once in a while, surfing looks and feels something like this. But more often, it’s messier. More difficult. It’s not just you and the ocean, the way Instagram promises. It’s you and the ocean and other humans. And those other humans, well, they do have a tendency to shatter the dream.

There’s an amusing irony in all of this agonizing over the angry men and the negativity and omg you have to compete for waves and it’s terrible.

You want to know who drops in on me the most often out of anyone? Women on longboards. The old school women never do this and I love them for it. But so many times, I look up, and bam! There’s a woman on a big board dropping in on me from the shoulder. I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t think men are the only problem here.

A challenging thing in life as a woman is figuring out when things are about gender, and when they really just aren’t.

I was out surfing over the weekend, sharing space with a couple of men on shortboards. We’d staked out an interesting sandbar. It was a warm fall California day. Bright sun. A puff of offshore. The sky, the water, a blur of glimmering blue.

There were waves, but not quite enough to go around, and the men in the lineup got more than I did. It had nothing to do with gender. The dudes were fucking ripping. They were quite simply better at surfing than me.

I still got my share of waves and I still had so much fun. This is how surfing works.