Excerpt: Do you recall, long ago, when radical Islamic terrorism was the west’s greatest fear?

Halcyon days.

Oh those halcyon days before this novel Coronavirus descended upon us, driving us into our homes, away from each other, anxious, suspicious, terrified, panicked. Back when we worried about climate change and, before that, radical Islamic terrorism.


Well, I have a book about radical Islamic terrorism + surfing releasing this coming summer, right when the Tokyo Olympics should have been. It is broken into three parts, Yemen, Lebanon and Yemen again, ambling along exactly as I did with my best friends Josh and Nate. Here is a small taste. If you like you can pre-order here and have it delivered to your door early and signed.

Part 3 Chapter 3

Josh pulls his Das Boot as tight as I am trying to pull my Wild One, and I can tell the glacial wind is getting to him too despite his growing up in rural northern Minnesota, despite his jacket being designed to protect its wearer from the frigid North Atlantic, not just the whips and chains of rival gangs, like mine.

“So how is Wahhabism not what we’re chasing here?” I shout. “How is it not the headwaters of modern radical Islamic terrorism that led to our current Global War on Terror?” A giant semitruck roars past, caravanned between two technicals overflowing with Yemeni troops in chic new desert camo.

Last time we were here, Yemen’s hinterland had been an untamed sandy wilderness. This time there are real roads, asphalted roads, and real semitrucks roaring who knows what to who knows where. The Global War on Terror had gutted oil production with improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers ripping giant holes in Vice President Dick Cheney’s dreams of energy dominance, and Yemen, previously thought to be oil free, was now puking black gold, its tribes seemingly purchased and compliant—or at least for the time being.

“What?” Josh shouts back, “You are talking at Nate volume!”

“I am not!” I belt, quietly missing Nate’s patently low, mostly inaudible voice and dour attitude. “But if I am, it’s because my throat is parched for those delicious headwaters of modern radical Islamic terrorism that led to our current Global War on Terror.”

Josh frowns. “I wish you’d stop calling it that because it really sells it short. What we’re after is the grandpappy of all transnational radical ideologies. The oldest, most durable factory of anti-state violent rebellion. The ideology that dandled on its knee every radical from Barbary pirates to Baader-Meinhof. The tiny little school that in three centuries has brought the British Empire, the French Republic, the Soviet Union, and finally the American ideal of freedom and crushed them each like a soda can—and it all begins here. Or that’s my theory.”

“Oh…” I shout, only hearing the words “Baader-Meinhof” above the wind and picturing the phenomenal stylings of the group that terrorized West Germany through the 1970s. “…and did you fix it yet?”

“I think so…” he hollers, climbing onto the seat and giving it three good kicks. It buzzes to life and he throttles it a few times while blue smoke fills the air. It sounds like a no-frills, older-model Honda Civic.

“Okay!” Josh hoots. “Let’s go find some lunch!”

“Tony!” I scream. He points his video camera from the camel to me and I wave him off. “We’re hitting the road again! Tell Mohamed we’re going to find a restaurant in Thamud!” He nods, and his brown corduroy pants scamper to the super microvan, where Mohamed al-Behlooly is sitting like a saint in a striking gray gown and skullcap combination paired with a perfectly baggy blazer, his green jambiya setting it all off nicely.

We had called Haitham, the son of Yemen’s ex-president and the owner of the country’s FedEx franchises. He was the man who made our exploration possible. Since we had survived our first Yemen blitz, Haitham decided we didn’t need Major Ghamdan al-Shoefy, who looked very wistful when we hugged him both hello and goodbye upon arrival, but we were going to need a chase vehicle where Tony could ride and film, plus our surfboards in their shiny Mylar coffin that we brought again, just in case, so he offered up a very respected elder from his tribe, Mr. Mohamed al-Behlooly, who worked in security at Sana’a International Airport and turned out to be a saint. The un-Ghamdan. He never forced his will, never ordered feasts, never pressured for illicit company, never questioned where we needed to go or why. He would get us through sticky checkpoints with his beatific smile alone, pulling intransigent guards aside and winning them over with grace.

He was the only Yemeni I’d ever met who didn’t carry a gun, which meant he never shot at sunbathing families. More importantly, it meant that Josh could carry a gun, and Sana’a’s gun market was our very first stop. Josh purchased a Brazilian-made Taurus 9mm and kept it stuffed in his waistband.

Listen: “Imagine if 10 years ago you were approached by a time traveler and he was like, ‘Look…!'”

"...the year 2020 is going to be an absolute circus."

Wild days. Wild times. Sheltering in place. Everyone in the world, save truck drivers and hand sanitizer manufacturers, jobless. Truck drivers, had sanitizer manufacturers and podcasters though podcasters do the work for free.

Out of care.

Out of love.

Because what does these wild times, wild days need more than endless banal entertainment?

Nothing so interesting as to cause anyone to want to leave their shelter inspired.

Also nothing so boring as it furthers depression.

Surf podcasts fit the bill and to a tee so David Lee Scales and I go to work for free for you.

Also, Tiger King is on Netflix and Ozark is back.

I’m currently watching Downton Abbey having missed it when it actually mattered.

Endless banal entertainment.

Listen here!

Watch: Fun-loving seal and flirtatious Great White Shark engage in “see it to believe it” bout of “tickle torture!”

Laugh and play.

Any man or woman who grew up with siblings is well acquainted with the playful agony of tickle torture. Laughing until tears then loss of breath then, more often than not, shouts to parents to make the whole thing stop. But always fun. Always wonderful fun.

And to think that Great White sharks, apex predators, man-eaters can put a pause on causing death/destruction and find a moment to play with fun-loving seals.

In moments like these, the beauty of nature uplifts and inspires.

Shows us all a way forward.

Many furious emails, messages, DMs regarding my flippant bastard position

Chas Smith on the ongoing disaster bigger than COVID-19: “Does death only matter when it potentially touches someone we know?”

Many have likely flown over bodies being thrown into pits on their way to a fine and fun surf vacation.

I am a flippant bastard, true, and horrible. Fallen, callous, an asshole to the nth degree and deserve all the scorn I’ve been dished plus so, so much more.



A surf journalist.

But this Coronavirus Apocalypse, this End of Times, will either be the hill we traipse over or the hill I die upon.

Many furious emails, messages, DMs regarding my flippant bastard position even though I myself am isolated.

Not surfing. Shut away in protection of others.

But I’m banking on the former.

That this will be a hill we traipse over then some of us will, should be embarrassed.

Now, let’s look.

Let’s think.

Worldwide death toll from China’s Great Gift is currently at 20k though climbing. Each a tragedy.

Each a travesty but would you like to know how many people died in Yemen during the last few years?

The vast majority equally innocent and from deaths much more traumatic?

Children by the wheelbarrow full?

Very near 200,000 in “directly target attacks” many more including starvation, lack of medicine, lack of care and lack of care.

A tragedy/travesty beyond scope yet so very few agitated people who screams about “self-isolation” and toeing that line knows or cares.

Many have likely flown over bodies being thrown into pits on their way to a fine and fun surf vacation.

So what?

Does death only matter when it potentially touches someone we know?

Does it matter only when our western hospitals are theoretically being overrun?

Tell me, please.

I’d love to know.

Dispatch from Bali: “The beach closures here feel like a worse sentence than the predicted zombie apocalypse!”

Is there any sight sadder than a surfer walking home from the beach with a freshly waxed, dry surfboard?

This is the first time anyone I know can remember when the Holy Day of Nyepi here in Bali was extended an additional 24 hours.

With an addendum that all beaches will be closed until further notice.

I woke up to the news this morning, March 26, expecting at least to be able to dash out to the local bottlo to replace my slab of beer.

No dice.

On an island that has the only international airport on earth that completely shuts down for a religious holiday, Nyepi is taken as seriously as you take yours. The Pecalang are out in force, the saronged neighborhood enforcers, making sure everybody continues to observe this New Year’s celebration and the brand new beach ban.

Among other things, Nyepi is also meant to bore the evil spirits of the island.

Bore them so badly that they will leave and find better human mischief elsewhere (Buckle up Sydney).

By the way, it’s only 1942 here in Bali. The Balinese calendar making us all much younger than we thought. The ultimate de-aging treatment.

It feels pretty good having a negative number as my age. A chance to begin again. And wrong all the rights I have committed in this world gone mad.

And speaking of mad, a friend of mine just told me a story.

Over the phone, of course.

To him, with the beach closures here feeling like a worse sentence than the predicted zombie apocalypse, he went for surf.

Or tried to.

The surf was one-to-two-foot today, sunny and straight offshore at Kuta Beach. A rarity during the monsoon.

My mate figures that if this is what global warming is gonna look like then “Greta can stand down”.

He also boasted about his all board quiver.

“I have everything from a hand board to a Hypto to a gun to a longboard. That way when it comes to waves, size never matters!”Echoing the thoughts of my Brother Sam who once said “There is never any bad surf, only bad boards”.

The Pecalang nabbed my mate anyway.

He tried to reason with them in the name of all surfers. In broken Indonesian no less.

It went something like this: His point was that it’s ok to close the beaches to “beach enthusiasts” and “surf bathers”.

He is nothing of the kind. He is only interested in the waves beyond the shorebreak.

And with an empty line-up being the safest place to be these days, he was only looking after his health.

You see? Yes, the Pecalang reasoned, in broken English no less, that made sense.

But didn’t he have to cross the closed beach to get to the waves?

This stumped my mate until he offered to paddle down a river into the surf, would that work?

Sure, they said, but have you ever tried paddling up a river to get home?

That was the end of it.

A small fine and a surfer walking home from the beach with a freshly waxed, dry surfboard.

Is their any sight sadder?

My mate says he is still thinking about how to get to the surf without crossing the beach.

He’s made it up to joining the military to become paratrooper or building a giant yo-yo or becoming a commercial fisherman.

But his river concept stuck with me. As a metaphor for the desire to go surfing. The surfona virus.

When it’s on, all we can think of is a one way ticket to ride.

But until we fill our quota, how often do we think about how to get home?

Now turn that around.

Our real home is the beach.

Now just how the hell are we gonna get back there?