Innovation: “France’s Hawaii” and shark attack capital of the world Réunion Island abandons deadly surfing, embraces hiking, to draw tourists!

For white folk, by white folk.

But what is the number one demand on your personal checklist when planning a warm weather vacation? Good thread count? A swim-up pool bar? World-class waves within striking distance? Yes, yes and yes.

It’s difficult to even imagine taking a beach-esque journey without the pure joy of surfing but with the current and ongoing shark apocalypse, the Pastime of Kings is becoming more and more dangerous. Entirely deadly even.

What will we then do, in a few short years, when Great Whites, Tigers and Bulls officially refuse our oceanic entry?

Well, “canary in the coal mine” Réunion Island is beta testing a wonderful alternative. You, of course, know that the beautiful French territory floating just east of Madagascar, Jeremy Flores’ home, has seen more deadly attacks than anywhere else on earth. It is today what California, Australia and Florida will soon be.

Surfing has been banned for years now so how to draw tourists? How to get you and me?

And let’s turn directly to The New York Times for answers.

For a place long thought of as France’s Hawaii, the tourism sector has been staring down a crisis: One industry report from 2014 found that as many as 60 percent of travelers with plans to visit canceled their trips in the days after a new shark attack. But the shock seems to have prodded regional tourism authorities to come around to the view of locals, who have long regarded the island’s mountainous interior as its singular claim to fame.

In 2014, Réunion’s tourism office launched a campaign with the tagline, “Thinking of hiking? Hike in Réunion,” with advertorials featuring bronzed couples in fitness gear taking in the mountain views. It stepped up marketing in hiker-rich markets like Germany and sent 2,000 French visitors to its website a fresh Réunion pineapple in the mail. The office now markets Réunion as “Intensely Relaxing,” and recently partnered with the French magazine Géo for an online popularity contest that crowned one of Réunion’s best-known hiking routes, the GRR1, “the most beautiful trail in France.”


Are you a fan?

Could you be a fan?

“No sharks on land” as they say.

Should we get a jump on it and launch the World Hike League right today?

Let’s really put our heads together on this one.

Sensational: Hurley wields axe on surf team; no surfers to be re-signed as contracts expire!

But Hurley beard oil, beard wash and hair pomade coming soon…

Christmas doesn’t last forever.

And, Hurley, whose surf team is, at least momentarily, one of the best ever assembled, John John, Kolohe Andino, Filipe Toledo, Julian Wilson, Carissa Moore, will be gradually wound down as Hurley’s new owner, Bluestar Alliance, takes a rationalist approach to the biz, according to multiple sources

Already, all trace of the Hurley family, who were backed by sock, underwear and T-Shirt brand Stance to buy the biz from Nike but were outbid by Bluestar, has been wiped.

As reported two months ago, the way Bluestar works is it identifies brands it wants to buy and once they get the keys, “our team of experts embark on a complete and thorough understanding of the brand’s potential channels of distribution and price point strategies. We create tools such as brand development profiles, trend guides, style guides and marketing strategies. These marketing materials portray graphic illustrations and a strategic marketing road map to enhance consumer brand recognition.”

The buzz we’re getting from inside Hurley HQ is that focus has shifted from R and D, maintaining a dazzling surf team, high-end accounts and so on to a model focussed on nothing but the bottom line.

Which means that anything that can fit a H on its tube, shoe, can or box will be licensed.

Hair prod.

And, for the surfers, when your contract expires you’re out.

Which ain’t surprising.

The sponsored surfer is the magic elf of the industry, his, her, ability to influence enough sales to justify a million-dollar contract one of the great intangibles.

So, who we got?

Filipe Toledo re-signed with H last year so he’s got a sticker until 2024.

Kolohe has two years left.

We’re told Hurley’s new owners used the injury clause in John John’s four-million-dollar-a-year contract to force his hand at Pipeline.

Teenage phenoms Eli Hanneman and Barron Mamiya, are gone or about to go.

Surfing greats Julian Wilson, Carissa and John John, will all be looking for new stickers and sugar daddies and mammies when their contracts run out.

To where will they roam?

Billabong has a full roster, which includes the world champ and the rookie of the year, Volcom was recently sold to a maker of velour tracksuits and Rip Curl to a camping retailer.

Breaking: “Suicide bombing” shark wraps body around Hong Kong yacht rudder during famed Hobart to Sydney race as likely protest against Chinese policies!

Civil disobedience!

And we surfers have long respected the sociopathic Great White, Tiger and Bull for our legs dangle, succulently, in their domain. Our arms paddle so near their vicious teeth. Oh maybe “respect” isn’t the right word. Maybe “fear” or “dread” works better but all for good reason. The monstrous beasts have never exhibited any sort of conscience. Never hinted at a line they will not cross.

Sharks, Great Whites, Tigers and Bulls eat men and women alike, though almost exclusively men. They chew on young bones and old bones with equal relish and refuse to recognize, much less celebrate, holidays that traditionally bring all of creation into beautiful harmony.

I suggested, just yesterday, that the refusal to celebrate holidays might suggest that the apex predators are, in fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses though was sent a very angry email by one Jay Davies excoriating me for the remark.

Do you think it was the real Jay Davies? The surfing Jay Davies? He comes from Western Australia, where the “man-eaters” roam so may know where, or if, they attend Sunday/Saturday/Friday services.

More as that story develops, certainly, but in the meantime, recent news out of Eastern Australia hint that the evil, prehistoric shark may actually have political inclinations and we must turn to Daily Mail Online for better insights.

An ill-timed collision with a shark ruined Hong Kong supermaxi SHK Scallywag 100’s chances of a Sydney to Hobart podium finish, the yacht’s gutted skipper says.

Mark Witt, who launched a scathing attack at officials over radio check-in protocols in the lead-up to the race, said the accident happened on Friday night.

Scallywag had led the 75th edition of the race for much of Friday before being overtaken late in the day by eventual line honours winner Comanche.

The overseas yacht was locked in a tussle with the other three supermaxis when things went awry near Tasman Light off the state’s southeast.

‘We hit a shark and it wrapped around the rudder,’ Witt, who was competing in his 24th Sydney to Hobart, told AAP.

‘We had to drop all the sails and back the boat up to get the dead shark off the rudder. We lost about four miles.’

And it beggars belief to think that the shark, lethal and fast-swimming, didn’t wrap his torso around the Scallywag’s on purpose. That he wasn’t sending a message to Beijing over draconian, totalitarian Hong Kong policies.

Can you think of another reason?

Has mankind’s number one enemy developed a political conscience?

Or wait.

Is the cursed shark pro-China?

Oh it would make so much sense, the bastards.

The pure, undiluted bastards.

More as this story develops too.

The legendary Brock Little as shot by Buzzy Kerbox.
The legendary Brock Little as shot by Buzzy Kerbox.

Breaking: The Eddie gets “yellow alert” for possible early-week run as “apocalyptic” swell makes its way toward Waimea Bay!

Exciting to be alive for The Age of Global Warming.

And let’s be very honest with each other for a few holiday moments. First, do you wish your BeachGrit was doing more year-in-review-style postings? Even, perhaps, wrapping the entire last ten? I feel we have let you down in this regard. I feel we could have done very many “top ten surfboards of the decade” or “top ten professional surfers of the 2000s. At the very least a “top ten shark stories of the week.”

Well, tomorrow is another day and I will do my damnedest for you. For us.

In the meantime, The Eddie has received a “yellow alert” for a possible early-week run but let’s get the news from Hawaii itself. Let’s not culturally appropriate.

Organizers will make that call within the next 48 hours with an update at noon Saturday. If the contest is held, it would be the 10th run since its inception in 1985.

The National Weather Service said an extra large west-northwest swell is expected on Monday and will peak “well above” warning levels late Monday into Tuesday for north- and west-facing shores.

The swell is expected to be the largest of the season so far.

The “largest swell of the season so far” is saying a lot seeing that we’ve had many large days already.


But before you go, can I ask for a little more honesty? When you are driving and see a “yellow alert” do you ease off the gas like you should or punch it to the floor, instantly becoming a danger to yourself and others?

I thought so.

Maybe a New Year’s resolution?

More as the story develops.

Jamie Mitchell on his epic Jaws contest wipeout: “I don’t feel immortal; It shows how close you are to dying!”

Hits the bottom so hard his wetsuit is ripped and his ass, legs and feet are cut. He pulls his inflatable vest but the downward pressure is so great nothing happens.

Two weeks ago, Maui surfer Billy Kemper won his fourth Jaws contest, his second in a row, in thirty-foot-plus waves.

It was a very good event, and not just for the thrill of seeing large tubes ridden, but for the satisfaction of watching competitors brought down violently by the impossible-to-fight physics of giant moving hunks of water.

And, Australian surfer Jamie Mitchell, the man Kelly Slater calls “one of the greatest unknown sportsmen of all time” for his ten consecutive victories in the Molokai to Oahu paddle race, had a wipeout that really pushed his face through the window.

Jamie, who turns forty-three in a few weeks, was at home at Sunset Beach on the North Shore, where he live with his wife and two kids, when I called to discuss the event.

The last time we’d spoken was four years ago when I’d recorded an audio track of Jamie describing what it was like to be shoved underwater on a sixty-foot wave, in that case, Belharra, at Saint-Jean-de-Luz in France’s south-west.

“I’ve never felt so alone,” he said at the time.

This wipeout, during his round one heat of the contest, was worse.

Jamie’s one of the best in the game but whenever he has a heat in some big-wave event he tends to only catch one wave so he’s made it his goal to ride four waves in ever heat.

At Jaws, he was almost twenty minute in, half the heat gone, and he was waveless. Jamie told himself, “Whatever comes in, I’m taking it. It doesn’t matter how big it is or how late I am getting into it.’

Almost immediately after he made his vow, the biggest wave of the morning, perhaps  the day, poked its nose over the fence.

Twiggy Baker was further out. He missed it.

Jamie was in a good spot to catch it. He turned, put down his head and used those formidable paddle arms to get him into the wave as fast as he could.

“I knew this was going to be the wave of my life or the wipeout of my life,” he says.

It was a decent entry.

The funny thing about Jaws is it can look glassy, but a fifty-foot wave, which is how big Jamie is calling this, generates its own offshore, adding to the east-south-east coming into the right.

“I thought I was in,” says Jamie. “The nose was actually pointed down. If you look closely you can see my left hand is trying to push the nose of my board down.”

Jamie knows that once a bit of wind gets under the nose of your board, you’re fucked.

“I knew I wasn’t going to make it so I jumped to try and penetrate. But the wave was so big when I was falling my leash and my board yanked me.”

He ended up hitting the wave on his left side, head and shoulder first.

How was the impact?

“Impact was bad. My left side, my left neck and shoulder went numb instantly. They call it a stinger. When the wave sucked back over I went over the falls and then I don’t know if I blacked out quickly but I just remember I was on the bottom, on the rocks, on my back.”

Jamie hits the bottom so hard his wetsuit is ripped and his ass, legs and feet are cut. He pulls his inflatable vest but the downward pressure is so great nothing happens.

“I couldn’t do anything. I was at the mercy of this thing,” he says.

Even his board was completely submerged.

“Normally, when you’re underwater half your board is tombstoning. My was underwater. And my leg was getting yanked to the surface but I was stuck on the bottom.”

Jamie remembers thinking, let it play out, save your oxygen.

“It’s hard because you’re fight or flight and your initial thought is get to the surface to avoid a two-wave holdout,” he says. “But then, if you don’t converse your oxygen and you do have a two-wave holdout, well…”


“You let yourself go and be calm.”

When he made it to the surface, almost on the rocks, Jamie swallowed a half-breath of air before a second wave hit him. Water safety patroller Abe Lerner got him on the rescue ski but Jamie couldn’t use his left arm. Dragged aboard, he was pulled off the back of the sled by his board hitting the water. Jamie enjoyed another wave on the head before getting out the back and into the final ten minutes of is heat.

“But it was all over. I got a mild concussion. I was seeing stars and feeling wobbly, drunk, what a boxer feels after getting hit. I just had to survive the rest of the heat.”

Afterwards, Jamie had people come up to him and say that it was lucky he took the wipeout as he had the tools, the training, the lungs to survive it.

“That’s the exact reason I train. To be able to be calm in that situation and be able to get back to my family.”

How did it compare to his Belharra wipeout?

“Belharra was bad but Jaws was a lot worse. A lot more violent. The one at Belharra rolled me underwater a long way. Jaws pinned me to the bottom and I went so deep so fast I didn’t equalise. All of a sudden I was on the bottom. It was crazy.”

I say that he must feel sorta immortal, capable of surviving anything, after the wipeout.

“Not really. There’s another big swell coming and I’m interested to see how I’m going to feel. It rattled me, to be honest. I’ve thought about a few different things, scenarios since. I don’t feel immortal. It shows how close you are to actually dying. It’s closer than you think.”