"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.

Phalanx of Great White sharks invade entire U.S. eastern seaboard nearly overwhelming shark tracking systems!

Hal, Murdoch, Cabot, etc. all on the march!

As you well know, I am currently becoming enlightened in Nicaragua, becoming one, but I still make time for the important things like debunking Laird Hamilton’s pseudo-science (story later on how icing and ice-baths cause more injuries) and sounding the alarm bell as it relates to our current shark apocalypse.

Oh, it is just getting worse and worse and worse.

We are, theoretically, out of “shark season” but the Great White is on the march, pressing his advantage and an entire phalanx moved into the United States’ eastern seaboard nearly overwhelming shark tracking devices but don’t take my word for it. Let us go to once proud Newsweek and learn of the unfolding drama.

Shark trackers on the East Coast have gone into overdrive following the sudden arrival of eight great whites over the weekend.

“Check out how crazy the Tracker went over the weekend with white shark pings,” said OCEARCH, a marine conservation nonprofit, in a Facebook post published Monday.

“Eight sharks tagged during three separate expeditions all sent back pings stretching from Nantucket to Florida.”

Hal—a 12-foot, 6-inch male weighing 1,420 pounds—was last spotted near Long Island, New York. Murdoch—a 14-foot, 10-inch male weighing 1,325 whose name means “of the sea” in Gaelic—patrols the coast near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

But it was North Carolina that took “the award for most white shark pings” over the last week, said OCEARCH—”with 5 sharks popping up off the coast there.”

The five sharks include Cabot—a 9-foot, 8-inch male weighing 533 pounds—who was last tracked entering Albemarle Sound, a large estuary in North Carolina, last week.

Is eight a phalanx?

I think yes. I also think it is not a good day to surf anywhere from Nantucket to Florida. I think, in fact, if you are thinking about taking up the Pastime of Kings it would be wise to wait until this current phase of the apocalypse is over.

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.”