Classic Mara: "Today, I will not talk shit. Today, I will refuse to piss-take. Today, I won't try to be funny and only 16% of the Earth's population may be able to grasp my humour. The rest of them will get angry with me. Today, I will do my best to not infuriate fellow humans. Sarcasm is a passive-aggressive trait. Sarcasm is a passive-aggressive trait. Sarcasm is a passive...Ôm."

Nick Carroll on Mara Elise Wolford (1969-2020): “Perhaps, like a lot of glory-days hell-surfers, she felt the magic slipping away.”

A bombshell in every sense of the word.

Mara Wolford, who died last week in her rented house in Bali, was an extraordinary person — a bombshell in every sense of the word.

Highly intelligent, multi-lingual, often generous almost to a fault, seemingly capable of mastering any skill she chose, she was also a hairball risk-taker, someone for whom it seemed a worthwhile life had, from time to time, to be held in the balance.

Unlike most risk-takers, she was also laceratingly self-aware, naming her online story showcase “marastrophe” — a typically sharp play on two things at once: the language (apostrophe) and her occasionally catastrophic self.

Mara was born April 11, 1969, and raised in San Jose, California.

Her father Dean was a programmer and technical writing manager at IBM, her mother Sandra an executive secretary in the fledgling tech industry. She had two half-sisters, Claire and Andrea, from her parents’ earlier marriages. Dean and Sandra eventually added a fourth child, Mara’s younger sister Brenna.

At 16 she went to the North Shore of Oahu, and was instantly known to everyone she came across. Mara was hard to avoid. She wasn’t just gorgeous, she was more or less irrepressible. If she decided she wanted to get to know someone, she’d just bowl straight up to the person — almost always a man — and fix that person with her glowing blue eyes, saying some version of “Hi! What’s going on? Let’s go surf!”

Mara’s brain took her to UC Santa Cruz, where she earned a degree in social anthropology. The subject of her thesis — surfing as a community — might tell you more about where she was really heading.

At 16 she went to the North Shore of Oahu, and was instantly known to everyone she came across. Mara was hard to avoid. She wasn’t just gorgeous, she was more or less irrepressible. If she decided she wanted to get to know someone, she’d just bowl straight up to the person — almost always a man — and fix that person with her glowing blue eyes, saying some version of “Hi! What’s going on? Let’s go surf!”

Her surfing was about two parts skill and ten parts bravado. When you surfed with her at big Sunset Beach, you soon learned not to worry about this skinny blonde maniac who looked as if she’d snap in half in a strong wind, but took insane wipeouts and came up laughing.

She travelled the world with Australian pro Bryce Ellis for several years, before meeting and marrying the Swiss tennis star Jacob Hlasek. Later after the marriage failed, she married Frenchman Eric Mathieu, with whom she lived in Chamonix, and had a son, Joson, in 2004.

Eventually the marriage to Eric collapsed, and Mara left Chamonix to live most of the year in Indonesia, travelling to Santa Cruz at least once a year to work and to see old friends. She was renowned for her green thumb, and became involved with the Californian medical marijuana industry in its earliest days.

She also spent a lot of time on Nias, where she surfed Lagundri in its many moods, with the ragged-edge chargers who frequented the joint on its famed big swell days. Her son Joson would visit each year from France, living what seemed like a sort of Indo Huck Finn life of spearfishing, surfing and mucking around with friends; she nicknamed him Zuzu, then shortened it to Zu. At some point Zu took his nickname into his own hands, as Mara gleefully related to her friends: “He says, ‘From now on I think I would like to be called Zeus.’”

During this time Mara turned her hand to writing, at which she was formidably skilled. She wrote about her time with Bryce, about a terrible skiing accident in Chamonix which led to plastic surgery, and about much else, including a wrenching childhood experience during which she almost drowns in the presence of her father, Dean.

Her writing shone with both her intellect and with the power of lived experience, like this paragraph from a piece named “Two Wave Hold-Down”, in the magazine White Horses: “There’s no tension on my leash, but it hasn’t snapped. I open my eyes to see the board fluttering alongside me, six metres under. I don’t know what to make of that. I reach nineteen-one-thousand. It’s a 21-second interval swell, so I know the next bitch is bound to be right on top of me. Just then I feel the implosion and look up to see the next wave roll over me. I realise how utterly alone I am.”

Mara lived feminism at its most ferocious, but she was very much a libertarian. She castigated a later generation of women surfers for what she considered a victim mentality in the face of male bullying, something that would have been anathema to her.

She hated weakness, yet in recent years, events had begun to wear on her. She barely survived a “roofie” doping in Canggu, Joson’s best friend in Nias died untimely at 15, and she was accused by her Bali neighbours of carrying out a pogrom against the local cat population, aided by her beloved dog — an accusation she confronted typically, head-on.

In the past few months, according to friends, she’d given up surfing, saying, “There’s so many Russians out there now”.

Perhaps, like a lot of glory-days hell-surfers, she felt the magic slipping away.

Right now, how she died remains a minor mystery. The house she was renting has been locked down by the police, and an autopsy will be performed in order to reveal the cause of death.

She leaves father Dean, sister Brenna, half-sisters Claire and Andrea, and Joson. Her mother, Sandra, died in 2008.

Read some of Mara’s work here.

Watch: How big-wave surfer Wayne Cleveland made $300,000 a run as an international drug smuggler, “Imagine walking through the airport strapped with three-kilos of cocaine; that was a thrill for me!”

And then jail, redemption etc…

It was sometime in the mid-nineties when photos of a skinny kid from public housing in Maroubra throwing himself over ledges started appearing on the desks of surf magazine photo editors. 

Puerto, Hawaii, the newly  discovered slab at Cape Solander that was renamed Ours, wasn’t a damn wave Wayne Cleveland wouldn’t touch. 

No one in the mag game knew who he was except that he ripped.

Lke most bright kids who grow up in public housing, Wayne was a fast-talker, athletic and knew how to handle himself in a fight, to put it mildly. 

“Growing up in housing commission in Maroubra, you’re either going to be an elite athlete or an elite criminal,” he says.

I remember a phone call to my office in Hossegor, France, the familiar laughter pouring down the line and a request to set the gendarmes right who’d mistakenly arrested him for something or another. 

He’s the only man I’ve ever seen exit a lock-up, and I’ve seen a few oddly enough, shaking everyone’s hands. 

Then came a gorgeous house fashioned entirely in shades of white that would feature in myriad design magazines and a bunch of kids.

All going real good except the cash was coming from running coke out of the US using airline food caterers and the cops were on his trail. 

This, from a newspaper report in 2011, 

The court heard that 40-year-old Cleveland was the Australian principal of a syndicate that imported cocaine from the US with the help of corrupt staff employed by Gate Gourmet, a catering company servicing various airlines at Sydney Airport. On December 2, 2007, customs officers found 12 blocks of white powder in the rubbish bin cabinet in the toilet of United Airlines flight UA839. The blocks contained 2.8 kilograms of pure cocaine with a street value of close to $1 million. It had been destined to be picked up by an employee of Gate Gourmet.

Long story short, the cops confiscated everything he owned, including the pretty house, Wayne got ten-to-sixteen years, did ten, and is back in Maroubra doing a little fitness work and acting as a cautionary tale to any kids who think drug smuggling might be a biz worth examining. 

In this short, Wayne talks through the smuggling game, “Imagine walking through the airport strapped with three kilos of cocaine…that was a thrill for me”, the money he made, what it’s like to have thirty feds banging down your door while your kids cower on the loungeroom floor and life after jail.


BeachGrit contributor murdered in Bali kitchen after rohypnol allegations against locals?

"Bye Bali..."

Dark news floated across the Timor Sea, yesterday, that Santa Cruz surfer turned Bali transplant Mara Wolford had been found dead in Benoa, a 30 minute jog from Kuta Beach.

The owner of the rented villa, where she was staying, failed to reach her by phone and called the police, who entered the apartment and found her body on the floor.

Investigation into the cause of death is ongoing.

Wolford, a BeachGrit contributor (read here and here), was also a fiery presence in the comment section, posting under the moniker Impervious Blonde then BazzaBitch and often crossing proverbial swords with one-time Surfer magazine editor Ben Marcus.

Four years ago, she alleged that she had been dosed with rohypnol, the “date rape” drug, while at a local Kuta Bar. The story was picked up widely by international news outlets and did not paint a rosy picture of Bali or its locals. She ended her re-telling, “Bye Bali and fuck you as well.”

Wolford is the second BeachGrit contributor to meet an untimely death. Michael Kocher, an early favorite who faked cancer for money (read here, here, here, etc.), was killed by a hail of police bullets while he held an ex-girlfriend hostage.

Rumor: World Surf League to drop “major” announcement soon, first event December 2020 in Hawaii that rolls directly into 2021 season!


A hot rumor, fresh off the iPhone, and theoretically debunked or proven correct within hours. Maybe even minutes. For Santa Monica’s World Surf League is set to drop a “major” announcement this morning, maybe afternoon, that declares 2020 will kick off this December in Hawaii, likely Pipeline, and roll directly in to the 2021 season as the first event of the “year.”


Ex-CEO Sophie Goldschmidt’s dream come true!

Don’t you recall when she flew out to Honolulu in order to juggle permits and begin each and every Championship Tour at Pipeline instead of ending it there? It all ended very badly with much egg on haole faces etc. but now could it actually be?

Did Covid-19 provide the end-around she needed but bright and daring current CEO Erik Logan received?

Are you thrilled or does it matter a lick?

Chew on that for a few hours, or minutes, before it gets theoretically debunked or proven correct.

Australian beach towns under siege from flesh-eating bacteria; US news network calls it, “A slow-moving horror show even more baffling to infectious-disease researchers than the novel coronavirus” and asks, “How long will Australia be liveable?”

"Their necrotic limbs reek of rot…"

If it ain’t raining it’s pouring for the inhabitants of Australia’s second most populous state Victoria, home to Bells Beach and the country’s sole commercial wavepool.

After a second hit of COVID infections, the capital city, Melbourne, has just shut down for six weeks, locking the poor and wretched away in ghetto towers, shutting gymnasiums, restaurants, the wave tank etc.

And now, according to The Atlantic, that august literary relic from Boston, beach towns on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula are under siege from a “flesh-eating bacteria” called Buruli, so-named after a former county in Uganda, where it was first identified.

It really is a horror show.

“Untreated, the pathogen slowly worms its way under the flesh before breaking through the surface, maiming and disfiguring its victims. Their necrotic limbs reek of rot,” writes The Atlantic‘s Brendan Borrell.

But Uganda is a world away from pretty, first-world Victoria, yes?

The Atlantic’s reporter flies from Los Angeles into the infected zone and “Wherever I went, everyone, regardless of their social standing, seemed to know someone who’d had an ulcer. No one was immune from the disease, and everyone had an opinion on it—whether it was something they’d read in the newspaper or a rumor they’d heard from a friend or just an idea they’d come up with over a pint of Victoria Bitter.”

(Note to writer: beer ain’t served in pints in Australia, it’s a British thing.)

And the treatment is ghastly.

The process is more traumatic than one might expect: (The doctor) had to plunge a cotton swab into the maw of Mikac’s open wound and scrape out the gunk inside as Mikac cringed in pain. Johnson put Mikac on two powerful antibiotics, clarithromycin and rifampicin, which turned Mikac’s urine the color of orange Fanta…He warned Mikac that the antibiotics had shut down Buruli’s defenses, and now the body would launch an attack on the infected tissue. The pus was building up under the skin, and it was about to blow. “Once it breaks through,” he said, “it will feel a lot better.”

It goes on to explain that the mycobacteria that do the flesh-eating are also the “culprits behind tuberculosis and leprosy.”

(Read more here. Fascinating etc.)

If flesh-eating bugs aren’t enough to convince you Australia has gone to hell, The Atlantic warned in January that y’might just be better off splitting the joint completely.

“How Long Will Australia Be Liveable” is a January headline, “Facing a future of fire, drought, and rising oceans, Australians will have to weigh the choice between getting out early or staying to fight.”

But what happens after the fires have passed through, and Australians return to either their intact homes or smoking ruins, dead cattle, a blackened moonscape where crops once grew? The lucky ones give thanks and get on with their life. The unlucky ones grieve, rage, shake their fist at Fate—and defiantly rebuild on the same ground. The battler spirit triumphs again, but for how long.

Get buzzed on that here.