Kelly and phallic rock. A prize possession.

Longtom on HBO’s 4 x Emmy-nominated 24/7 Kelly Slater: “You can see why he plays now in this end of the pool. An increasingly belligerent surf media is as likely to mock as worship the eleven-time World Champ”

It's soft focus hagiography, Kelly is treated with a gentle reverence, adored by every camera angle.

There’s no great reveal moment into the character of Kelly Slater in the Emmy award winning HBO doco Slater 24/7, nothing as gobsmackingly compelling as the tête-à-têtes with healer Charlie Goldsmith in the WSL Soundwaves short.

Maybe the greatest reveal was Kelly learning from that expose to be more circumspect and hence less vulnerable to the public slaying he copped after the Soundwaves episode was broadcast.

HBO’s doco is very good.

Very, very good.

As you’d expect.

Slick, high production values, a super abundance of emotional cliches which hit all the right spots. Pretty much perfect fodder for mainstream audiences.

You could show it to your Granny and she’d now “get” Slater. We get the ultra-competitive war horse, with a self-confessed case of small man’s syndrome from an upbringing on the wrong side of the tracks in small town coastal Florida, writ large.

I see it as being of a piece with the great meta-narrative of Kelly’s life which has run parallel with his competitive surfing career: making him a main street sporting star and celebrity in American life. He reached that point easily and effortlessly in the Australian public imagination almost from day one, first as anti-hero when he relegated a generation of Australian surfing stars to the status of second rate supporting acts. Then, as genuine economic hero to a generation of tourism bureaucrats who saw in his power to draw a crowd the answer to their prayers to hit key targets. An official in the WA Tourism department cited, by way of example, Kelly’s appearance in the Margaret River Pro when it was a QS, as the chief metric and reason the government was willing the spend to up the event to CT level.

Sadly, Kelly has never reached the same level of stardom in his native country. Driving a couple of Floridian gals from Byron Bay to the Gold Coast airport I was stunned they had never heard of our guy Kelly. Mid-Twenties, bright as buttons. You will not find specimens of any part of the sexual spectrum in Australia who are unaware of Mick Fanning, nor Kelly for that matter.

That subject isn’t touched upon in the HBO doco.

The principal animating force is Kelly’s drive to compete and his battle with an ageing body that houses a mind that still throbs with the passion of competing and, as the elegant opening voiceover insists, shows a “stubborn unwillingness to let time dictate his story.”

It’s soft focus hagiography, Kelly is treated with a gentle reverence, adored by every camera angle. You can see why he plays now in this end of the pool. With the disintegration of the surf industry/media model an increasingly belligerent surf media is as likely to mock as worship the eleven-time world champ.

Any jagged-edged rocks could be carefully sieved out either in pre or post production; there is nothing approaching the openly cringey moments we got in the Soundwaves Ep.

It seems to me the conflict in the film comes from the question which remains unasked in the film, but yet lurks in every scene like Chekhov’s Black Monk. In that story, a brilliant scholar is convinced by a black monk that he is chosen by God for a special purpose.

As the scholar becomes more deluded he becomes convinced that without the Black Monk he is doomed to a lifetime of mediocrity instead of genius. By that analogy, Kelly’s battle with time and his determination to only go out when the “battery is done” has a tragic edge to it. In the Chekhov story the scholar succumbs to one final hallucination, the Black Monk guides him to incorporeal genius and he dies with a smile.

There’s no such tragic ending in the Doco.

More an extended meditative foreplay leading up to last years Pipe Masters. Which, according to Kelly, if had won, would have been his final victory, his genius now immortalised and he could go out with a smile. The film ends, bizarrely, before the Pipe Masters, an extended foreplay with no denouement.

We know how the story ends of course. A semi-final loss to winner and world champ Italo Ferreira.

We know Kelly keeps the Black Monk close by, commits to his genius.

The question, unasked in the doco – will he keep going and for how long? – is answered in the affirmative. At least for one more year.

While the film may be superficial for the aficionado there are many wonderful moments to savour. A sweaty Kelly rolling on the mat with Joel Tudor in a ju-jitsu scene is compelling, for many reasons.

Despite my intense dislike of golf, I found the golf scene marvellously entertaining; Benji Weatherly heckling Kelly during a golf swing was gold. Even I could see Abe Lerner was there to make Kelly look good. There was something expressive and yet incredibly enigmatic in girlfriend Kalani Miller’s Mona Lisa smile, whilst watching Kelly compete at Haliewa. The four-fin with nubster Cymatic surfing at six-to-eight-foot Haleiwa is a flashback to the 2011 New York high point.

In the end, Kelly’s monstrous yet utterly necessary self-obsession is tempered with the awakenings of self-awareness. He’s alien to us and yet we have to accept him. Reflecting on his life he realises how “it’s all gone my way” and then credits himself for the luck by suggesting that maybe “it’s just looking with the right perspective, the right lens.”

He hesitates when suggesting life advice to others, realising that pursuing your passion and making some kind of living out of it is a rare outcome available to the few, not the many.

Chasing the spectral shadow of pro surfing success is our man Kelly born with the rainbow wrapped around his shoulders.

This madman’s delirium is no lofty ideal but it gives his life purpose, making it joyful and happy.

For most, chasing a pro surfing dream is, on the contrary, an evil genius who entices with vile flattery and spits you out shaken and confused. A true black monk.

For us, the spectators, we imbibe the dream at our leisure, in the hope and mostly vain expectation of being relieved of the burden of depressing reality.

For that reason, we hope Kelly is the rarest of the rare: the one who never dies.

(Editor’s note: If you don’t live in the US, it ain’t an easy film to get on your screen. If your country doesn’t have HBO, or won’t share, get y’self a VPN and sign up for a free-month’s trial at Amazon HBO. Bonus is you’ll get to watch Momentum Generation, a truly brilliant film, for free, too.)

Photo: Mediadrumimage/Harry Stone
Photo: Mediadrumimage/Harry Stone

Photographer captures up-close image of Great White shark’s “sinister sneer” thereby proving apex-predators’ penchant for “sadism and evil!”

South African Psycho.

Of all the things to be scared of in today’s world, pandemic disease, economic collapse, rising violent nationalism, the European Union’s perilous teetering, the Great White shark and his many teeth continues to hold pole position.

There he lurks, monstrous and large, just out of sight, waiting to nibble toes, waiting to feast on feet.

The apex-predator is scary enough even without intention but a just-released photo from famous British photographer Harry Stone proves the Great White sneers like a serial killer, like a remorseless child snatcher thereby proving what has long been assumed.

Great Whites take sadistic pleasure in their vicious misanthropy.

And examine the above close-up. Examine those teeth, that grin.

Now examine Patrick Bateman from American Psycho.

Examine Jack Torrance from The Shining.

Examine the aging white male’s other worst nightmare Greta Thunberg.

Undeniable and terrifying.

Photographer Harry Stone tells The Daily Mail:

‘Like many people I grew up with the movie Jaws, which started a lifelong fascination with sharks,’ explained Stone, who has spent over a decade in the water with sharks.

‘I also had an Australian Godmother who told me that the creature in the movie actually existed, because they had them where she came from. I was hooked!

‘I think being the largest predatory fish in the sea and having such a fearsome reputation made them endlessly interesting. When I grew up everyone thought white sharks were literally the scariest things on the planet, hardwired and sculpted by evolution to be the ultimate deadly predator. However, if you are lucky enough to spend time with them you realise that they do not deserve such infamy.

No they do not. They deserve much, much more.

Iron Fist: Manhattan Beach surfer cops $1,000 fine for “disrespecting a lifeguard” during “Reign of Coronavirus Terror!”

"What are you going to do about it?"

As a child, I often dreamed about being on the wrong side of the law for a righteous cause, like smuggling much needed medicines past East German Stasi or Bibles into Red China. The thrill, of course, though also that beautiful sense of risking it all not for personal glory or riches but rather an ideal.

Something big and grand.

Well, now that surfing has been made illegal across much of the world, being on the wrong side of the law for a righteous cause has come to all our very doorsteps and let us go straight to Manhattan Beach, California where a brave young man attempted to sneak past the jackboots for some closeout fun. Shall we turn to the local Easy Reader news?

Yes, we shall.

A Manhattan Beach surfer was issued a $1,000 citation Saturday morning after ignoring a lifeguard’s order that he not go in the water.

“F… you. What are you going to do about it,” the surfer said to the lifeguard who confronted him, according to sources who were present during the encounter.

A Manhattan Beach police officer responded by issuing the citation.

All Los Angeles County beaches were ordered closed yesterday to deter the spread of the novel coronavirus. Saturday morning dozens of surfers in the three beach cities violated the order to enjoy a small wind swell .But there have been no other reports of non-compliance from surfers ordered out of the water by lifeguards. Saturday was the first decent day for surfing since all day onshore winds kicked in last week.

Manhattan Beach Police Sergeant Steve Kitsios said Saturday afternoon that no other beach closure violators have been cited and that his department is relying on voluntary compliance.

Now, I understand that police, lifeguards etc. are frontline-adjacent in our global fight over the Coronavirus pandemic. I understand that social distancing etc. will theoretically “flatten the curve” as it relates to hospitalizations etc. but surfing is the most socially distant pastime on earth, after Ned Flanders’ solo fog walks. A pastime that not only breeds loathing for our fellow man but also low-level rage, distrust and stink eye.

A glorious model of misanthropic isolation.

I would be all for police officers and lifeguards standing on the beach fining any surfer who paddles out near another surfer, or better for surfers to self-police screaming at interlopers and splashing violently, but no surfing at all? I must cut hard against Surfline’s royal edict here and also paranoia. We were made for this. It is our time.



Tell me!

Doc Joe in happier times. | Photo: @jomohardeman

US doctor responds to insane fury after solo-surfing Jeffreys Bay during Coronavirus lockdown: “I hate that I provoked such anger!”

"The only thing keeping this guy safe was social distancing."

Jeffreys Bay, South Africa: It was tough enough for the hardened surfers to stand down during an epic swell at Supers on Friday, March 27, but it was made intolerable by the fact that an American surfer paddled out, twice, and surfed it by himself.

(Read local report here.)

So when the lockdown hit on Friday, many local surfers, some with line-of-sight of Supers were shocked, dismayed and then eventually outraged that this guy decided that he was special enough to surf it, while the rest of the country was in lockdown.

When they discovered that he was also a blow-in, things didn’t improve much. 

The surfers in J-Bay and surrounds are a proud and robust bunch and are recognized for their solidarity and standing tall when the shit hits the fan. 

At the moment the shit is heading for that fan in South Africa and it’s coming in fast. COVID-19 has just hit the St Francis Bay community, home of Bruce’s Beauties thirty minutes drive from J-Bay, and local surfers everywhere are doing what they can to help by working together.

One of these things is obeying the law.

It’s a national state of disaster, and beach access as well as surfing is outlawed. Breaking the law could see fines or jail time. Going to jail in South Africa right now would be a grim proceeding. You’d sit until after the lockdown, timeline indefinite, and you’d probably emerge with a funny walk.  

When word filtered out about the American doctor surfing Supers the local surfer community Whatsapps were flaring.

The one phrase echoed over and over: “What makes him so fucking special?”

The only thing keeping this guy safe was social distancing. 

We tracked him down.

His name is Joseph Hardeman, thirty five years old, from San Francisco California. 

BeachGrit: You surfed at Supers during the lockdown. How long did you surf for?

JH: When I surfed the day before the lockdown, I had spoken to some of the brus, and they had talked about cracking it at first light. So I paddled out in the dark and surfed for a bit, but it had morning sickness, so I figured that’s why no one joined me. I had breakfast, and the waves were so pretty, and I went out again. I didn’t know surfing was not allowed yet. My girlfriend came down on the beach, and when I came in my host family told me that the town was Whatsapping them in a rage.

But you must have known about the surfing lockdown? Every man woman and child in JBay knew about it. It was being blared out from every screen and every piece of printed paper.

We had just got to J-Bay, weren’t settled and didn’t have wifi.

What about your hosts (a very sweet surfing family from JBay) getting the abuse? The fact that you paddled out a second time is most likely what pissed everybody off.

You’re right. I am ashamed and sorry. There was no way that I thought I was putting that family in any sort of risk. I thought one thing, then I learned, and now I feel completely different. It sucks being a visitor and having the town mad at you. I don’t think highly of myself; I just love surfing. Most would probably say that I’m an idiot.

We all love surfing.

I wish I could take it all back. I hate that I provoked such anger. My girlfriend hated the fact that she was the ‘chick’ on the beach and that she dates an idiot. I got my ass handed to me through WhatsApp and through the community.

Are you still going to go with the thread that you didn’t know about the lockdown?

I knew about it; I just didn’t think it included surfing. I’m committed to social distancing. I do appreciate the opportunity to tell my story, even though it sounds bad. Being out of the loop is hard to know what the hell is going on. Being a visitor is a much different experience than being in communication with the crew. I can totally understand how me paddling out looks entitled and self-centred, disregarding the community stance. The day before the lockdown there were so many rumours, it was pretty confusing. Now not so much. The whole situation is shocking. We had no idea what to expect. It would be nice if we could have a little understanding that we just arrived in JBay, knew no one, and had no wifi.

I’m sure the locals will hear you out and accept your apology. You’re stuck here now, and we’re all in this thing together. If shit goes down, you might need to volunteer your medical expertise.

I’m also going to volunteer to do some work in the prepping for COVID-19. Maybe I have some skills the community could use.

By the way, what stance, and what board were you riding?

I’m a regular foot, and I was riding a 6’3″, SOS Scarlet Letter, swallow-tail.

What else do you get up to, when you’re not pissing off locals?

Well, I have a Professional big-wave career.

Really? Do tell.
I tied second place with Tazzy (Anthony Tashnick) and Nick Lamb at the recent Nelscott Reef event (won by Jojo Roper). I am also in the running for a Mavericks Surf Award for Biggest Wave. I hope this hasn’t messed up my aspirations to surf some big waves in South Africa, and I hope my mom won’t get too bummed out by this article. Thanks again for listening. I’m totally jealous of this community here and ability they have to stick together.

Dirty Kuta getting a little of its old shine back. | Photo: Matt George

Dispatch from Bali #3: “Totally empty Uluwatu, Padang Padang, Impossibles, Keramas, all the bigs; the cops in Pandang, meanwhile, have the Mentwai charter world in a chokehold!”

"This is like the Bali Bombing all over again. But this time it's the Chinese. Are they going to pay us all back for letting this thing escape?"

Wave wise, you don’t have to imagine what Bali was like 100 years ago.

It’s like that right now.

Totally empty Uluwatu, Padang Padang, Impossibles, Keramas, all the bigs.

Shut down.

Although I am still trying to convince authorities that I am only trying to look after my health by going surfing. I have promised to run down the beach and into the water and then run home when I am done.

Which is as normal behavior for me as washing my hands a coupla times a day anyway.

And to say nothing of the cosmic connection of well being.

Imagine the authorities…uh…concern when I describe surfing thus: “Gentlemen, it just may be that through surfing, deep in the elemental magma of our souls, we have tapped into one of those rare acts on earth that allows man a true atavism; an opportunity to return and to touch, if just for a euphoric moment on the face of a rushing wave, the primal relationship man shares with the living mass of his origin.”


Yes, well.

Anyway, the authorities ain’t buying it.

Just like the cops in Padang, West Sumatra who have the entire Mentawai charter world in a chokehold.

I also took a spin around the Bukit Peninsula to get a vibe and figured out that the Bingin locals have got it made.

Unlike Uluwatu’s sprawling metropolis, the Bingin locals, who all live cliffside, may be suffering from lack of tourists, but certainly not a lack of waves. Hard enough to find for a tourist already, now that the road blocks are up around Bingin, locals like Betet Merta are surfing in a time warp on the most symmetrically shaped small natural wave in the world spilling over an absolutely flawlessly shaped reef.

Three guys out in that natural wave machine.

Man oh man.

Other than that, to get a take on what our top surfluencers are thinking about all this Covid 19 business, I reached out to them in their quarantines.

Here are a few of their thoughts.

Betet Merta, pro surfer, on individuality:

Why do we have to be like everyone else? We do it our way. Bali people have been though so much forever without this social media. Panic is not good. Why do we have to follow the rest of the world? If the surf pumps, nothing will stop us.

Marek Smith, surfer, bar owner, on philosophy:

Covid 19 is the wake-up morality pill of Morpheus. Transcendent in inept structures now left as paper shields.

Wayan Susiana, cafe owner surfer, on murder:

During the rainy season I am more worried about dengue with my family. At least with dengue you can see and kill the enemy.

Lorca Lueras, archivist, surfer, on breatholds:

The world is going through a two-wave hold-down right now. All we can do is persevere

Marlon Gerber, pro surfer, on conspiracy:

I think it’s a big hoax with a bigger picture behind it.

Sima Rai, pro surfer, on money:

I feel anxious about whether I will be able to protect my family. My money loss. And long-term lifestyle for poor people.

Name withheld, ding repairman, surfer, on blame:

No tourists no money. This is like the Bali Bombing all over again. But this time it’s the Chinese. Are they going to pay us all back for letting this thing escape?

Jannos Amsters, sailor, surfer, on vacation:

I just hope it all blows over before everybody gets whamm-oed. Nice being at sea though, away from it all.

Five different expats, surfers, on fear:

No comment for fear of immigration reprisals

Mick Curley, photographer, surfer, Father of two, on sex:

Nice to see the environment getting a break. Letting her catch her breath. Also nice to see this thing boost family values. Its your choice how your family handles this. I am staying positive, doing positive things. Like right now I am going to massage my wife. You understand that positive actions bring positive outcomes?

Rick Bison, musician, surfer:

Can only say that my one year old is priority number one. Should I send him up in a balloon?

Mustafa Jeksen, pro surfer, on prayer:

It’s pretty simple. Help your country, help your family. And pray for surf.

Pete Jackson, photographer, surfer, on risk:

Watch out for those goddamn street sprayers. What’s in that shit anyway? It’s like to burn the skin off the back of my hands.

Fabian, healer, surfer, on purpose:

Time to slow down and really reflect on what our real purpose her on earth is.

Mark Clift, surfing judge, pro surfer, on the Aussie way:

Fuck this thing.

Marshello, Lifeguard, surfer, on the modern world:

Whatever happens today has happened many times before. The only difference is we have newer technology. But is that a good thing?

Andy Johnson, hotel owner, surfer, on the obvious:

Livelihoods of millions sacrificed to make the one per centers even more powerful and rich. It’s so obvious.

Dede Suryana, pro surfer, surf shop owner, on fishing:

Rasa khawatir dalam setiap kegiatan yang melibatkan orang lain. Takut memberikan virus atau terkena virus corona dari orang lain. Tidak bisa berbuat banyak kecuali diam di rumah dan ini akan berakhir sampai kapan?! Sekarang saya memulai bercocok tanam sebagai bekal.

And fishing

Raditya Gondi, pro surfer, on self identity:

I am so scared I cannot surf. If I do not surf, who am I?

Eric Lee, boat captain, surfer, on Pangolins:

I don’t think I’m religious but Karma cannot allow the way humans treat the earth and each other. I say this on behalf if the Pangolin community that shares this planet earth with us.

Nick Auklor, Pro surfer, fitness guru, on surf media:

What’s BeachGrit?