Damo Cole at the Torquay paddle-out. "We're at the forefront, we surf everyday, we're at the coast. We see the changes. Now that we've seen what we can achieve I daresay this is the beginning of a new era of putting our environment and our planet higher up the priority list and realising we have got the power to do great things and make some positive changes." | Photo: Photo: Fight for the Bight

Warning: Maurice Cole’s activist son Damo on collapse of mining giant’s plan to drill in the Bight: “It’s not over yet!”

"We've woken up the surfers. We're at the forefront, we surf everyday, we're at the coast. We see the changes."

Damien Cole, Victorian surfer and son of designer-shaper Maurice Cole has been the main man when it comes to organising the David and Goliath battle against Norwegian energy company Equinor’s proposal to deepwater drill for hydrocarbons in the Great Australian Bight.

Cole was the chief architect of the Australia wide mass paddle-outs on November 23 last year and played a pivotal role pressuring political parties by running for the Victorian seat of Corangimite in the 2018 state elections.

A monstrous ordeal that involved copious blood, sweat and tears is how Cole described the fight for the Bight.

I copped a bollocking (correctly) below the line from Maurice Cole in my reportage of the Byron Bay paddle-out for failing to emphasise that Equinor had no social licence to drill in the Bight.

It seems that paddle-out pressure from the community, effectively robbing Equinor of the social licence to extract resources from the Bight, played a key role in their backdown from drilling proposal yesterday.

Damo Cole was in a buoyant mood when I spoke to him minutes ago about the Equinor backdown and the future implications for the Bight and more generally.

LT: The paddle-outs were in November and the NOPSEMA greenlight came just before Christmas, did you see this pullout from Equinor coming?

DC: Nah, I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t see it coming at all. I and a lot of people I spoke to around the country felt very deflated in December when they got the approval just before Christmas, so this decision came as a complete shock. I still can’t believe it.

LT: They’ve said the economics don’t stack up. What role do you think the community pressure from the protests played in their decision?

DC: I think it played a vital role in them pulling out. It’s obvious they’ve felt the pressure but they didn’t want to lose face: if they do state that it was because of public pressure then their showing a chink in their armour. You don’t push for a project for two years and then suddenly turn around and do the books. These companies do the books way beforehand. They know the risks, they know the costs. As they said themselves, they’ve been doing it for years and they know it all. I think it all got too much with the Wilderness Society taking them to court, with the pressure Surfrider put on and all the communities all around the country standing up. That was all really pivotal in them pulling out.

LT: It doesn’t sound like the politicians involved, like Keith Pitt, have acknowledged community sentiment, the lack of social licence for Equinor. Where does that leave us now, with respect to the political situation?

DC: It’s a really interesting point. While this has been an incredible win for Australia, for our communities, for our Oceans, the fight for the Bight is not over yet. It won’t be over until we have permanent protection for the Great Australian Bight under a World Heritage Status. That’s what we’re going for next. That’s where the Government will have to step in and reflect our wants and needs. They’ve been elected to represent the Australian people and this is what the overwhelming majority want. It’s up to the communities to keep pushing but we’re looking at our governments and demanding protection.

LT: Does this signify a larger shift in public sentiment away from fossil fuels in Australia?

DC: Absolutely. This whole campaign has demonstrated that. Our Government has tried to paint this picture of radical activists being responsible for the protests. I’ve been to twelve or thirteen of these paddle-outs, I didn’t meet one radical activist. These are everyday people at our coastal communities. This could be a real shift and it could be a moment in history, a real turning point for Australia. We have the opportunity and the power, as the people in our communities, to drive that.

LT: What were you doing yesterday when you found out?

DC: I’m down in Tassie with my Mum, I was driving and my media manager from the Fight for the Bight campaign was calling me. When I called him back and he told me the news, I had to pull over and started shaking. Mum said, “I’ll drive” and I just broke down into tears. I called a few people and then I’d promised I’d take Mum to the movies so I switched my phone off and went to the movies (laughs). I’ve been speaking to all the community leaders, there’s elation all over the country. Finally some good news.

LT: Does this mark a new era in surfers being listened to as an Environmental voice?

DC: Yeah, I definitely think so. We’ve woken up the surfers. We’re the canaries in the coalmine really. We’re at the forefront, we surf everyday, we’re at the coast. We see the changes. Now that we’ve seen what we can achieve I daresay this is the beginning of a new era of putting our environment and our planet higher up the priority list and realising we have got the power to do great things and make some positive changes. That’s the feeling I’ve got from everyone I’ve spoken to over the last 24 hours: there’s hope again.

LT: Anything else you want to bring to the public’s attention?

DC: Yeah, I just want to reiterate this fight is not over. We’ll be moving on. We’ll be putting on some big events with Surfrider Foundation between now and April. We’re gunna push for World Heritage Status, we want this permanent. We don’t want to have to fight this fight again. It’s been a big win and the end is in sight but we got to keep pushing.

Bonus: Surfer and tactician Kelly Slater throws shade on Josh Kerr, Clif and Damien Hobgood, Shane Beschen!

Surf Tank Wars!

And by now you’ve read the wonderful news, the exciting news, that Kelly Slater and Michael B. Schwab* are building the world’s largest wave tank in the California desert near Palm Springs but were you initially confused? Did you scratch your sandy scalp and feel a overwhelming sense of déjà vu?

Well, that is because Josh Kerr, CJ + Damien Hobgood and Shane Beschen announced their DSRT SURF project almost eight months ago to the day and let us traipse down memory lane together.

Today, the terrifying ménage à trois of Clifton and Damien Hobgood and Josh Kerr simultaneously announced they’d been signed up to sell a new wave tank which is being installed at the Desert Willow Golf Resort, also in Palm Springs. There’s gonna be a “Surf Center” featuring two hotels and between 40 and 88 villas, which you can buy, as well as a Wavegarden Cove, and all under the handle DSRT Surf.

Yeah, took me a while to realise those letters ain’t an acronym. Like Slater’s VSTR or Tumblr etc.

Per CJ’s Instagram at the time.


!!!!!!!!!!!!! Desert Surf !!!!!!!!!!! [ Surf Pool @dsrtsurf Palm Desert, CA ]
The crew @josh_kerr84 @damienhobgood @shanebeschen and I have been at it for a couple years now to make this project a reality. We share the same passion for family, friends, good times and good waves. I believe we have the best team in place to make this a reality. Come along for the ride much more to come. To say my family and I are psyching might be understated!!!!

So now there shall be three wave tanks near Palm Springs as Cheyne Magnusson is involved in another project.

Kelly Slater, though, the master tactician, who paints in many hues of shade, patiently waited until he could make the biggest one, lancing four surfers at once and making his dismantling of Adriano de Souza’s joy seem like child’s play.

Do you think some of the exclamation marks will go missing from CJ’s above caption or do you think the boys are ready for the Battle of Borrego?

The wave tank wars will be extremely fun to watch and how do you think life will differ at Kelly’s Corral Mountain and DSRT SURF? Will the home buyers be very different? Will the overall vibe?

Much to ponder.

*How do you feel about people who use the middle name initial? Susan B. Anthony etc.?

Just in: Surfer and environmentalist Kelly Slater to build world’s largest wave tank in parched California desert!

A place for "people who want to get out of their comfort zone!"

And the day has finally arrived, finally come, where Kelly Slater, 11x professional surfing champion and noted environmentalist, will put a shovel into the dry, parched land and begin digging the world’s largest wave pool for us, for The People™ (who can afford homes ranging in price from one million dollars to five million dollars or one of 800 lovely hotel rooms likely to feature curtains spun from recycled fishing nets).

But doesn’t it seem an eternity ago that Adriano de Souza’s euphoria was entirely squashed by the reveal of that Lemoore facility? That perfect man-made barrel running behind Kelly Slater, in beanie, hopping up and down like an artistic child at the zoo? Smile spread ear to ear?

It certainly does and that facility, dubbed “Surf Ranch”, has since hosted two professional surfing contests and an assortment of wealthy, famous people, also crusty and rude surf journalists, but not The People™.

Not you.

Well get ready to book your ticket to LAX, John Wayne or San Diego International, rent a car a drive east to the desert paradise near Palm Springs and let us turn to the Los Angeles Times for more.

Coral Mountain would be a master-planned “wave-based community,” the first of its kind, developer Garrett Simon of Meriwether Cos. said, with a 150-room hotel and as many as 600 homes, mostly single-family residences priced between $1 million and $5 million. There would be a private club and multiple dining venues.

In addition to the 18-million-gallon surf basin, the features might include a network of ponds that hotel guests and residents could navigate on stand-up slow-moving paddle boards or decidedly faster electric hydrofoil boards that lift riders out of the water.

Coral Mountain would be the first of a group of inland surfing venues in the West employing wave technology developed by Kelly Slater Wave Co., said Michael B. Schwab of Big Sky Wave Developments, an investor who was impressed by Slater’s existing prototype in the agricultural San Joaquin Valley.

Slater’s Surf Ranch has turned tiny Lemoore into a “surf mecca,” Schwab said, in part because machine-made waves can speed the learning process of a difficult sport. It did for him.

“I knew that if I had a repeatable, perfect wave I could get better,” he said. And what he learned “transferred into real-world surfing.”

Schwab hopes that Coral Mountain can entice expert surfers but also introduce novices daunted by the prospect of trying to catch waves they can ride in the ocean.

About 25 people could surf at a time, with five or so riding the main wave and 10 surfers on each of the two end bays of the basin, where the waves would be smaller.

With surfing and other active sports, Coral Mountain “will be for people who want to get out of their comfort zone,” Schwab said.

I can sense how excited you are but also conflicted for you too are an environmentalist and worried about the tank’s impact. Well wipe that concern away. We live in the future where cake can be had and eaten and let us turn to the Times once more.

Despite its aquatic focus, Coral Mountain would use a fraction of the amount of water required by a golf course, Simon said. Golf courses use as much as 1 million gallons a day to stay green, he said, while Coral Mountain would give up about 18 million gallons a year in evaporation.

Per the press release, Kelly Slater said:

“We’re excited to make another KSWaveCo design and I’m personally excited to create a new wave that will be a stand alone design that nowhere else in the world has. This can become the blueprint for new developments around waves and surf parks going forward and is in line with some of my original ideas from when we started this project.”

Very exciting and of course we all have many questions. What are yours? Mine mostly revolve around Michael B. Schwab and Dirk Ziff’s relationship. Do you think they fight over Kelly? Do you think Ziff feels cheated on? Does the co-Waterperson of the Year sit at home, staring mournfully at his phone and think, “I used to be the most important billionaire in Kelly Slater’s life…” while Jack Johnston’s Bubble Toes plays on repeat in the background?

Much to ponder there.

Happy Japanese surfers, pre-news of possible cancellation of Tokyo games, caused by arch-enemy China. | Photo: IOC

Coronavirus: Tokyo Games “could be cancelled” says Senior Member of the International Olympic Committee! So long debut surfing!

"Be sure that the IOC is not going to send you into a pandemic situation," the IOC's most senior official tells athletes.

If you’re attached to the internet teat like most, certainly me, you’ll be aware of a super-flu like disease that may or may not have been created by the Communist Chinese government but that certainly originated from the Middle Kingdom.

Coronavirus. Twenty-six hundred dead, seventy-nine thousand infected.

And spreading. Just hit Europe etc.

You remember SARS?

The last scary pandemic?

Eight hundred dead, eighty-thousand infected.

Now, with surfing’s moment of Olympic glory only months away, a senior member of the IOC has said the whole thing might have to be cancelled because of Coronavirus.

From the AP wire,

Dick Pound, a former Canadian swimming champion who has been on the IOC since 1978, making him its longest-serving member, estimated there is a three-month window — perhaps a two-month one — to decide the fate of the Tokyo Olympics, meaning a decision could be put off until late May.

“In and around that time, I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or not?’” he said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.

If the IOC decides the games cannot go forward as scheduled in Tokyo, “you’re probably looking at a cancellation,” he said.

Pound said the future of the Tokyo Games is largely out of the IOC’s hands and depends on the course the virus takes.

“If it gets to be something like the Spanish flu,” Pound said, referring to the deadly pandemic early in the 20th century that killed millions, “at that level of lethality, then everybody’s got to take their medicine.”

Pound told athletes, “Be sure that the IOC is not going to send you into a pandemic situation.”

A tragedy in so many ways, corpses littering the streets of Wuhan and precious little animals being destroyed in the millions, but…

Surfing’s Olympic debut?

Killed before it could be birthed?

And Tokyo’s second cancelled Olympics?

The first time ’cause it was busy massacring Chinese in the streets of Nanking and its pals the Nazis were shovelling Jews onto trains?

Oh, isn’t it ironic.

Breaking: After latest online audit, BeachGrit four times the size of entire World Surf League!

It hurts to be pretty.

And who would have ever thunk? Who could have ever thunk? It’s a modern miracle, maybe. The wave of the future where The People™, via their democratic socialism, shortened to BeachGrit, not only overtake The Establishment™, lengthened to World Surf League, but smash it into near extinction?

Altogether extinction?

It is both literally and figuratively true.

You, all of you, each and every one of you, make up over four times the audience of Erik Logan’s* World Surf League.

Your BeachGrit in All-American blue. World Surf League in tanking yellow.
Your BeachGrit in All-American blue. World Surf League in tanking yellow.

I would love to have fiddled with these numbers. Would love to be savvy enough but am not.

It’s the glorious truth.

Me, you, we pound the Dirk Ziff’s World Surf League unless they’re offering up a next level Pipeline extravaganza.

The People™ win.

Who could have ever thunk?

Who would have?

*Feat. Kelly Slater.