Fame-adjacent Santa Cruz surfer Ken “Skindog” Collins is certainly having a renaissance during this the Coronavirus Apocalypse. He was thrust back near the spotlight many months ago by publicly declaring that surfers should take quarantine seriously and not participate in the Pastime of Kings until “flattening the curve.”
His position was mocked by fame-adjacent North County, San Diego surfer Joel Tudor and the battle lines were drawn.
Team Skindog on one side. Team Tudor on the other.
Hindsight reveals that the vast majority of surfers fell in behind Ken and created a heretofore unparalleled special unit of snitches, social media tattlers and surf magazine collaborationists. The curve was flattened, many were shamed for daring to paddle and victory gushed forth like the hoppiest double IPA.
Well, Skindog is back in the news again, this time posting an Instagram photo of a Great White Shark breaching off of Pleasure Point, captioning it, “FYI- Nor Cal Great White Shark population is growing. We are seeing them all over the place, even on @surfline.”
The breaching shark being a Great White was confirmed by Pelagic Shark Research Foundation Executive Director Sean Van Sommeran, who says the increasingly polarizing arguments that he hears about sharks bother him.
On the one hand, Van Sommeran has heard claims that white shark populations are growing at dangerous rates—a theory floated in the caption of the jumping shark Instagram video—sometimes even prompting theories that sharks don’t deserve any protection, all of which Van Sommeran says isn’t true. (Three dead sharks have washed ashore locally in recent years—one from a gunshot, one that was hit by a boat and another that was likely killed by poisonous runoff, Van Sommeran says.)
At the same time, Van Sommeran often hears claims that all sharks are nothing more than harmless, cute sea creatures, ones that adventure seekers should chase after and try to see up close.
Not advisable, Van Sommeran says. “It’s just so basic: Don’t swim out to the sharks. It’s a large, several-hundred pounds sea creature that eats animals about your size. It’s not some cute baby shark that’s waiting for you to come say ‘Hi.’ Nor is it a prehistoric creature from Amityville that’s looking to kill everyone.”
And so, once again, we must pick sides.
Are you Team Cute Baby or Team Prehistoric Creature from Amityville That’s Looking to Kill Everyone?
Listen: “World Surf League CEO Erik Logan just threw out everything he had seen, heard, and pioneered a never-before-witnessed tube stance!”
Progression often flourishes in troubled times. When life is good, things move under the weight of their existing momentum. No change. No shift. Just same, same, same. Pain and hardship nourish innovation though. Fertilize it. Is it any coincidence that fertilizer is, in fact, shit?
And in these shitty times, World Surf League CEO Erik Logan just threw out everything he had seen, heard, and pioneered a never-before-witnessed tube stance at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch.
Should we watch?
What do you think? Functional, practical, efficient or an abomination to everything surfing means?
David Lee Scales and I discussed this morning alongside welcome guest Travis Ferré.
Travis, as you must recall, stuck to his principles and has refused to surf Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch.
He also felt Logan made a complete mockery of everything we love.
I found the barrel hideously wonderful. Grotesque in the 18th century art sort of way, though, after watching it multiple times don’t know that it can be classified as “complete.” Logan torqued his body into a position that made it impossible to get to his feet after blasting out into the cow scented air.
Doesn’t one have to be able to stand in order for a barrel to count?
We also discussed Inherent Bummer’s wonderful new surf film Surf Film (watch here), getting strong via sewage and other flotsam plus jetsam.
Feel free to listen here but don’t feel obliged.
Misadventure: Two Australian surfers hired for “tie man up in his underwear and stroke him with a broom” sexual fantasy break into wrong house!
It’s a tough life being a surfer what with daylight “earning” hours often spent surfing, chasing surf, thinking about chasing surf or watching World Surf League re-runs. How then can a living be earned?
Night work, of course, and have you ever wrangled a graveyard shift? In college, I used to work the campus security switchboard from 10 pm to 6 am. Later, I valeted cars and though those shifts didn’t run all night they kept the days free.
In Australia, we have just learned of two men, surfers likely seeing as they hail from New South Wales, who made their money as hired guns for various sexual fantasies.
One man hired them, for instance, to break into his house, tie him up with his underwear and stroke him with a broom.
Well, the client moved without notifying the surfers who, in turn, broke into the wrong house and let’s pick the story up from there in the BBC.
When the (new) resident noticed a light on in his kitchen at 06:15, he assumed it was a friend who came by daily to make morning coffee.
When the men called out the name of their client, the resident turned on the light and removed a sleep apnoea mask he was wearing.
It was then that he saw them standing above his bed with the machetes, which they appeared to have brought as props for the role play.
When they realised their error, one of the pair said, “Sorry, mate”, and shook the resident’s hand, according to local reports.
The two men then drove to the correct address, where the client noticed one man had a “great big knife” in his trousers and asked them to leave the weapons in their car.
The client then cooked bacon, eggs and noodles, and a short time later, the police arrived at the property, found the machetes in the car and arrested the hired pair.
A sad ending?
Just yesterday a judge, also likely a surfer, acquitted them men declaring, “They carried the machetes either as a prop or something to use in that fantasy. The fantasy was unscripted and there was discretion as to how it would be carried out.”
A lawyer for the accused added, “It was a commercial agreement to tie up and stroke a semi-naked man in his underpants with a broom. Entry was not with intent to intimidate.”
And are you thinking about it as a potential side hustle?
Nick Carroll, are you?
What is the going rate?
Much to ponder.
Fantastic: Man on electric foil board rescues dog from overturned fishing kayak in crowded Gold Coast lineup!
My writing’s been in a bit of a rut of late. Inspiration lacking.
The surf industrial complex, with all its usual gossip, intrigue and scandal, hit the Coronavirus head on. Whack! I was geared up for a never ending procession of scoops, expozes, shock reveals.
But after aqua planing for a ‘lil bit, the whole whirring mess has now spun to a complete stop.
There’s no tour to complain about. The pools are shut. Few new clips are dropping. Every angle of the Chinese Cough has been covered, and covered again.
The machine sits silent.
All we’re left with is Chris Cote playing bass guitar over clips of Kai Lenny folding his laundry to an empty live feed, while podcasters interview other podcasters about their favourite podcasts in some form of infinite meta loop.
Crickets in the real world. No one knows what happens next.
(Oh, and I missed the best day in a decade at home due to family commitments. I’d make the same choice again, but jeez some of the shots sting.)
Derek writes me just this week, asking if I’ve got any stories up my sleeve. Nah mate. I’m tapped out. Flatlining. There’s absolutely fucking nothing going on.
Then this story pops up in my feed: Man on electric foil board rescues dog from overturned fishing kayak in crowded Currumbin line up.
Read that sentence. And then read it again. Pause at every step to marvel the incredulity.
A fishing kayak, avec pooch, attempting to paddle out through four foot Currumbin Alley. Regular limb-powered surfers rendered as helpless onlookers when the ‘yak flips.
A South African, on an e-foil, swoops in as hero to save the day.
An electric fucking foil.
A story so stupid, with so little meaning to be derived from it, yet simultaneously the most fantastic thing that has happened in 2020.
You can try and pin it down, try and attach a narrative to it. Try and understand what has happened. Analyse how we got here. Understand what it all means. The electric foil. The fishing dog. The global pandemic. The collapse of the entire fucking world.
But you can’t.
At this point, all you can do is sit back and watch everything unravel. And realise that surfing, in all its gorgeous anarchy, is the gift that will never stop giving.
God bless it.
And God damn it if you don’t just wanna boop that little pooch right in the snoot.
Can we get him a content sharing contract with WSL studios, ASAP?
The making of Little Sister and the wrangling of rhinos…
You break a board, you get another, right?
I broke my 9’6” Rawson gun in June 2016 on a freak day at my home beach.
The board had lasted 28 years, one of a quiver of three from 1988: shaped by Pat, glassed by Jack Reeves, sanded by Charlie Walker, the greatest trio of boardmakers in history or ever.
It’d pinballed off all the rocks down Waimea Point and survived. Caught 25 foot waves and been mauled by Bay closeouts and survived. Traveled back to Oz in 2010 without a board bag, and survived that without a scratch.
Now it was on the sand at Newport Beach, Australia, shorn in two by the biggest long interval groundswell to hit the area in a generation. I’d swum in from the place that broke it, looking in to the beach, where a mate was walking along the shoreline, this board and all its deep memory in two pieces under his arm.
So I gotta replace it. I gotta go Modern.
I waited a while, thought about it. What did I want?
My thoughts strayed to Greg Long, and to the shaper who’d dialed his Eddie winning quiver from 2009, San Clemente’s Chris Christenson. It took a full year for my thoughts to stray this way. This is how my surfing brain works now, like the other parts of my brain. In the 28 years of owning the Rawson, I’d grown calmer, less reactive, possibly less likely to make the kinds of dumb decisions that’d been such a significant feature of my surfing life. There was less froth, but when there was froth, it was thick and fucken deep.
Just as well, because it took another 18 months to get this board.
Everything about it, the way it was made, the design ideas behind it, the fin set-up, the glassing process, even down to the way it eventually sat in the water and slid into a wave, was an expression of how much has changed in that old Rawson’s lifespan.
Chris does some boards in Australia via the Onboard shop in Mona Vale, about four k’s from my house. The way it works, people order boards, Chris sends files, the boards are cut, then Chris flies in once a year and spends a manic week or so finish-shaping the rough cuts. The time-honoured cycle of the traveling gypsy shaper, accelerated by the advent of Shape3D and the cutter.
I emailed Chris and he was all, yep, let’s do this, and a few ideas were chucked around. That was September 2017. Over a year passed. I would go into the Onboard shop every now and then and lurk over to this dark corner where several stock Christensons were slotted. Not being of the Fish persuasion, I would drag out these three mini round pins, boards Chris later model labeled the Carrera. To call them “step-ups” seemed lame. They were boards for the kinds of waves you might ride a dozen times in your life.
In October 2018 Chris came back with the news that he’d be in town in November and now was the Time. He mentioned a Twiggy Baker model file, 9’8” x 201/2” x 35/8”, Burford blank with a 1/4” Australian red cedar stringer, boom.
It was now an international operation. The blank and cutter were in Australia, the shaper was in California, and the file was in Twiggy’s computer in South Africa. Twig scaled the base file for the board down from 10’8” to 9’8” and sent the file to Australia.
In mid-November, Chris got to town only to find Twiggy’s file had already locked. This happens with custom designed files to prevent copying. You can’t cut from a locked file. At that very moment Twiggy was en route to Nazare for one of the WSL’s big wave CTs. What the fuck? I thought, is this board going to dodge me for another year?
Twig got the ensuing emails the day before he surfed, and re-sent the file. He then won the contest. I emailed him: “Yeah Twig! Shaping boards through time zones one day, winning contests the next!” He hit back: “Your board is the sister of the file I was riding.”
So there was the board’s name, Little Sister.
I spent an hour or so with Christenson while he finish-shaped the blank. Designers, especially good ones, come in a few different varieties. There’s conversationalists, there’s grumpy, there’s serene majesties, there’s the under-appreciated genius. Chris is a skill guy. He was just about to head back to North America for some kind of helicopter snow rescue course. He doesn’t waste words, or foam. I liked this. We talked about various things, while he did a bit of dusting off, and I gazed at the board.
You can look at other people’s boards, but you’ll never look at them like you look at your own. Immediately I saw the radical gulf between the old big wave gun style and the modern version. The old style was drawn-out, flat decked and flat bottomed, reliant on long tail vee, square hard cut Diffenderfer type rails, and raw rocker. That was the Rawson. It was designed to be paddled in flat and driven down the face like a bus, then tipped on to the tail vee and outline curve to drive clear.
Little Sister was a mile away from that: thicker in the core, yet foiled away in all directions, the deck doming down into the rail, with real rocker and a vee that moved with the foil. The effect was that of balance, but around no fixed point — gyroscopic in a way. A board designed to tip on to the rail from the start. On my first surf, a few months later all by myself in big windy early winter waves, I was taken aback by how difficult it was just to paddle. Little Sister swayed around under me, refusing to settle, testing all my paddler’s core strength. At times she felt like she wanted me to tip her onto one of the vee panels and paddle crabwise, rail down. It took me the whole surf to shake off the feeling and locate her best paddling point — quite a way up, a tiny bit forward of the thickest point, where the vee and the curve had a moment of stillness.
But on a wave. Something else.
Second surf was in solid ten-to-fifteen semi-draining reef rights and she went in like butter, straight on to the rail, on an angle, ready to turn. Unlike the old gun, the modern gun likes to be under the lip, the steeper and curvier the better. When I watched Twig in that unearthly first men’s heat at Peahi in 2018 — watched that 50-foot double-up on which he set a rail directly into the barrel from the drop — I realized what these super-board designers have done with these changes: they’ve turned the gun into a tube-rider. The modern gun’s not a gun any more, it’s a knife.
Anyway. Chris had detailed instructions for the glasser, specially concerning the back quad set boxes. Some glassers, he said, had been setting them incorrectly, so that the back set was canted a tiny bit more than the front set. “If that happens, let me know and I’ll make them re-set it,” he said sternly. Also the stringer. Red cedar is a sappier stringer than American spruce, which makes it a nicer flex — unless you leave the cut blank un-glassed too long, and let it dry out. Almost the last thing Chris said to me was, “Don’t let ‘em leave it long.”
Thus the Little Sister disappeared into glassing, and stayed there for three and a half months.
It was with Rhino Glassing in Brookvale, renowned for their immaculate super quality work, yet also seemingly trying to glass half of Sydney’s stock product in the middle of the summer rush. When that shit is going down, ten CI 5’11”s are going to slip ahead of a triple-six custom super-board any day of the week.
I knew this but I could not forget Little Sister. Where WAS SHE? Hidden under a pile of faux-retro longboards destined for some cheesecloth surf shop in Bondi? I niggled Juan, Rhino’s owner, in mosquito-like fashion, while he politely reassured me. “How’s she going?” “Got the deck on yet?” Sting sting sting.
It got awkward.
I could tell Juan was getting the shits with me, but I was getting the shits with him, or at least with this process. Finally I squared up with him, told him the Truth. I’m running on borrowed time, in a way. I’m not who I was when that Rawson quiver was made — 27-years-old, full of god knows what, not even thinking about the march of Time. That luxury, or whatever you want to call it, is in the past. What I know today is what I shoulda known then — that there is no Time.
So finally, Juan called and said he’d be at Onboard with Little Sister next day, and indeed he and she was.
Little Sister is a deep butter yellow. She weighs around eight and a quarter kilos and has double leash plugs. She has a five box Futures set up which thankfully is set clean, so Chris doesn’t have to tell anyone off about the back quad set. She wears an improbably small Lopez tow quad set made of G10 glass by Soar fins, which is a fin company run by an old friend of mine named Greg Trotter, who CAD cuts what I suspect are the best surfboard fins in the world. As far as I can tell, on current evidence she’s one of the top three surfboards I’ve ever had.
I won’t need this board for twenty-eight years.
I’ll be lucky if I need it for fifteen.
Little Sister is it.
She’s the board I’ll catch my last really big wave on.
She might still get me the best wave of my life.
Unless she breaks, she’ll be in the garage when I die.