Shane Starling, Fantasy Surfer savant.

Interview: WSL’s fantasy surfer champ revealed as Berlin-based data-journalist who says, “Its a dead platform, really.”

Picks ten out of eleven event winners…

Moments ago, you read about the WSL’s Fantasy Surfer winner Zmonde, and how his victory came and went unremarked and unacknowledged by the owners of the game. 

Zmonde is Shane Starling, a forty-eight-year-old cycling enthusiast and occasional surfer who was in Perth, Western Australia, where he grew up, to help his brother fit out of a beer bar before he goes back to Berlin where he now lives. 

Shane, who picked ten of the eleven event winners, says he’s only being doing the WSL’s Fantasy Surfer for two years, doesn’t know about Surfer magazine’s version and calls the competition a “dead platform, really. You can’t communicate with other players, you can’t banter. And if they gave even a small prize it would make the competition more lively. You play the game and that’s it.”

Apart from backing Jordy Smith all year except at Pipe (“He moved to Hawaii, looked fit and the only reason I didn’t back him at Pipe was because of his injury at Sunset”), choosing dark horses to separate him from the pack (Griffin Colapinto was his go-to), Shane says it was the power of visualisation that gave him his edge. 

He describes lying on his bed, going into a meditative state, “putting on some Captain Beefheart”, and being there on the day of the finals and watching Joe Turpel present the medals on the podium.

It didn’t work at the Freshwater Pro, says Shane, because the “system was so different. I went off-piste and chose dark horses that didn’t pay off.” 

Other winning habits? Shane scrolls through the Instagram feeds of all the surfers to see if there are any injuries and how happy they are, “if you get a vibe off someone.”

He follows various stat-based surf accounts to see their teams and he doesn’t confirm his team until right before the event and he’s seen who everybody else is picking.

“If everyone is picking Gabby, sometimes I’ll change to someone else. Dark horses make the difference. If they do good and you’re on them there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be up there. Like Griffin at Pipe. He was on the cusp of not prequalifying if he didn’t get a good result. He’s a hellman, doesn’t mind pulling in. The factors were there.”

Shane grew up surfing around Perth, the fishing town of Geraldton a few hours north and the satellite city Mandurah, an hour south of Perth.

When he moved to the northern hemisphere, first to London, then France and Berlin, he surfed less and less. 

“I miss it,” he says. “It’s one of those things. I do more cycling these days.”

As for his no-prize victory he says, “I don’t understand the Wozzle half the time.” 

(Note: As per suggestion from BeachGrit commentator, Bex Vidina, BeachGrit t-shirts and car air freshener have been dispatched.)

Ripped Off: World Surf League’s Fantasy Surfer champ given nothing – not even a call from Co-Waterperson of the Year Dirk Ziff – for astounding victory!

Stingy billionaire.

But did you play Fantasy Surfer this year, part of the World Surf League’s suite of content and media? You would not have been faulted, here, for doing so as fantasizing about surfers is part of BeachGrit’s suite of content and media alongside titillating shark tales and the very latest g-string news.

The boys in the booth, Ron, Joe, 88,89, Woz, etc. chatted regularly about their picks, how they were performing etc. but there was only one champion, Zmonde, who used wit, intelligence, foresight and surf awareness to beat them all and beat every other player too.

An astounding victory.

And what was the prize for such commitment and skill?

A trip to next year’s Pipeline Masters?

$500 dollars in WSL PURE One Ocean Activism Eco Credits?

Three pouches of Laird Hamilton SuperFood Non-Dairy Creamer?

Let’s go straight to Zmonde and prepare our jealousies.

Sob – nothing at all for the winner – zilch. Not an invite to a WSL event. Not a board. A block of wax. Not even an email from Dick Z saying well played sir. I tweeted WSL asking what happens if you become the Fantasy League world champion out of 140,000 players. No response. Nothing. Nada. I know it’s just a stupid game but about 140,000 players went at it last year and there is a bit work involved and craft to nail it event after event.

The bastards. The Santa Monica bastards and I know that there has just been a regime change but…

… the gall. The absolute gall and I am going to officially call for co-Waterperson of the Year (19) Dirk Ziff’s co-Waterperson credentials to be re-examined. Maybe like an impeachment hearing.

Back to Zmonde, though, how did he win?

There is my use of transcendental meditation to transport myself into the future and particular beaches to ‘see’ results ha ha…ok i got quite lucky on a few dark horses and backing Jordy for most of the season paid off…

Backing Jordy paying off… who would have guessed? Who could have guessed?

But I suppose, at the end, it paid off nothing.

And what should the World Surf League gift next year’s winner? Also, how should the powers there hiding behind that Wall of Positive Noise apologize to Zmonde?

The only bad suggestion is the one that goes un-offered.

Cape Arago, Oregon. Very near Bandon. Around the corner from my favorite wave.
Cape Arago, Oregon. Very near Bandon. Around the corner from my favorite wave.

Terrifying: Young Oregon boy nearly swept out to sea by “extraordinarily barbarous” rogue wave, saved thanks to mother’s “banshee-like shriek!”

The joy of naivety.

Oh the ignorance of youth, that grace-filled dance of naivety, where boys and girls get themselves into very bad spots and are only saved thanks to pure luck or a mother’s banshee-like shriek. But have you been keeping abreast on the extraordinarily barbarous surf pounding southern Oregon right now? King tides and a massive swell, courtesy of some Pacific storm or another, is bashing the coastline from Florence down to Brookings. Throwing up huge plumes of whitewash and very tragically stealing young lives.

I grew up there, as you well know, in Coos Bay a depressed town where hard-luck was a way of life. Any time “swell events” would occur folk from as far away as Eugene and Portland would rush down not to surf, of course, but to watch waves hit rocks and explode into the air.

And there was always the “brave” boy or girl who would get as close to the edge as possible, taking for granted that the ocean is benevolent. But Oregon’s ocean is not benevolent, it is vicious and mean and another young boy almost got swept into it, only saved thanks to both pure luck and his mother’s banshee-like shriek but let us turn to eyewitnesses there on the beach in Bandon just thirty minutes south of Coos Bay and home to a fine clam chowder restaurant.

The lure of storm watching during some of the highest tides of the winter – known as “king tides” – brought people out to the Oregon Coast.

Jill Stockford shared video from the south jetty in Bandon, Oregon, on Saturday that showed one close call.

“A large crowd gathered at the south jetty in Bandon to watch the big waves at high tide during the high surf warning, Saturday January 11, 2020,” Stockford wrote via Chime In. “A young boy decided to jump down onto the beach, ignoring his mother’s yells for him to get off the beach immediately. When her tone changed, the boy finally got off the beach, literally within seconds of a fast moving sneaker wave narrowly missing him and dragging him out to sea. You can hear him laughing in the background unaware of how serious that sneaker wave was.”

Youth… amiright?

And here’s another naughty sneaker from what was once called Marshfield.

"Shark fins swimming around, blood-curdling screams, bodies getting sucked under, and empty life vests popping back up to the surface."
"Shark fins swimming around, blood-curdling screams, bodies getting sucked under, and empty life vests popping back up to the surface."

Watch: After reports of sharks “ripping the limbs off” navy men and downed pilots, U.S. government becomes “bizarrely obsessed” with developing repellant!

History's grandest shark attack!

But we surfers we know all about various shark repellents because they have been marketed to us for years. There are, to name but a few, shark eyes, Modom’s shark leash, shark bite proof wetsuits and Sharkbanz.

The last one is my very favorite because a young man who had just received a Sharkbanz bracelet under the Christmas tree went for a surf and was immediately bitten whilst wearing his gift.

Oh, we surfers we’re suckers for any whiff of protection from the vicious man-eating apex predators swirling beneath our feet and in far greater numbers than ever suspected but did you know the United States government once became equally fixated with shark repellents too?

It’s true and all  began on July 30, 1945, when torpedoes from a Japanese submarine destroyed the mighty U.S.S. Indianapolis. Over 200 sailors went down with the ship yet 900, or so, survived the initial trauma and were left adrift at sea for 4 days. Many perished from the elements but those who survived the cold were subject to an even worse fate.

One survivor — a 20-year-old Marine — recounted seeing shark fins swimming around them, hearing blood-curdling screams, watching bodies get sucked under, and seeing empty life vests pop back up to the surface.

It’s impossible to know how many died by shark attack but rough estimates range from a few dozen to 150 people. Many consider this the largest shark attack in history. And it took a toll on Navy morale.

Soon the US military started handing out a chemical shark repellent. For the next few decades this little pouch was standard issue for pilots, sailors, and even astronauts. But what none of those people knew at the time was the shark repellent didn’t actually work.

Oooooh the conspiracy, the wild stranger than fiction conspiracy and you must watch the informative yet fun video from America’s Public Broadcasting System to learn all about it.

The earth is truly flat?

Chemtrails are changing the climate?

Sharkbanz contain tiny little bits of mulched sailor from the U.S.S. Indianapolis?

I won’t spoil.

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's McLovin!
It's a bird! It's a plane! It's McLovin!

Salvation from Above: Two portly swimmers snatched from open jaw of vicious Great White shark by “McLovin doppelgänger” drone operator!

Don't look now...

Though do you remember when you were a young child and imagined monsters hiding under the bed, waiting to reach out and grab your tender ankles? Wanting for your parents to turn out the lights then for you to have to use the toilet so badly, so painfully, that further delay was simply out of the question then…


Snag your dainty astragalus and pull you down to Helm’s Deep?

It turns out they were true, real, for it was revealed, just today, that for every shark we see in the water there are up to 100 more circling hungrily, viciously, menacingly below.

Is your blood running cold?

It should be but here, let us turn down the temperature even more by reading from Australia’s esteemed 7News. Let us look helm right in the face.

A drone has captured the moment a shark came within metres of two oblivious swimmers off Main Beach at Forster in New South Wales.

Bystanders rushed to alert the pair of the close encounter – with what is believed to be a 2.5m Great White Shark – but experts say encounters like this are more common than you might think.

“For every one shark that you see, there might be 10 or 100 sharks that see you,” Rob Townsend from SeaLife Sydney told 7NEWS.

“You just don’t realise because they’re not mindless killers.

Which makes matters that very much worse. Sharks, especially Great Whites, are mindful killers brimming with knowledge, tactics, intelligence and savvy. They are maniacal, sociopathic…

…there and in greater numbers than we ever supposed, ever even imagined.

But let us also learn more about this brave drone operator, this true guardian angel.

Cameron Grace, 17, was flying his drone while holidaying with family in the area when he spotted the beast on his camera.

The teenager was horrified at seeing the eerie footage and sent his aunt Rachel Walter sprinting to the beach to warn the swimmers of the imminent danger.

‘I got into the water and I waved for the two boys to get out. They were completely oblivious.’

Oh it is wonderful that this story had a happy ending but shall we gaze upon the savior? Upon the boy named so poetically Cameron Grace?

The spitting image of McLovin from Superbad no?

More as the story develops.