"When we are in moments of dire need, when we’ve exhausted all viable options on our own, it is through simple acts of honest vulnerability that we can open ourselves to the inherent kindness in each human being’s heart."

Eighty-eight-year-old surfboard design pioneer and daddy of three-time world champ “drowning in poverty” and living in Encinitas carpark with wife and special-needs daughter

A family slowly drowns in poverty, just down the street from multimillion dollar, beachfront homes and organic supermarkets…

Pat Curren, big-wave surfboard pioneer, father of three-timer Tom, is at the rim of ninety and living in his van in the Swamis carpark.

Ain’t so funny how life sometimes turns out.

New York shaper Paul Schmidt has set up a gofundme account to push a little cash into the hands of Pat, his wife and special needs kid.

Paul’s story of meeting Pat post-surf will jerk a few tears out of anyone who knows the legend of Curren.

This past January, I hopped on a flight for a quick trip to California. A few friends and I rented a Westfalia and spent two weeks surfing and camping in San Diego. Luckily, a swell had arrived on the last morning of the trip; I paddled out at Swami’s, caught a few fun ones, and then ascended the long flight of stairs back to the parking lot.

As I made my way to the top, a woman approached me and asked if I had built the board I was holding. She said she could tell just by the way I was holding it. The enthusiasm with which she addressed the work far surpassed what I would call the ‘usual intrigue’ of a passerby. We chatted for a bit and, as she walked away, I thought I heard her say, “You should bring the board over to our car. My husband, Pat Curren, is in it and he would love to take a look…”

I must have mistaken her, I thought. I actually began to walk back to the van as I reheard what she had said in my head. Then I stopped, turned around and looked across the lot. There, in the front seat of a Tahoe, was an old man, with a white beard and a matted, thick head of hair.

I made my way over to the car slowly and in, I’ll admit, a certain degree of disbelief. Of course I was well aware of Pat Curren’s name, his beautiful gun shapes and legendary first-day-out at Waimea story, but otherwise, I knew nothing of what he had been up to in his later years.

An 87-year-old Pat Curren stepped from the car, and we shook hands. He was characteristically quiet, and carried himself with an utterly distinct and captivating blend of dignity and humility. 

For the next three hours, we looked over the boards I had brought with me, talked tools, travel stories, and his early years of board building with Velzy. I realized at some point that I was dehydrated and a bit dizzy, standing there baking in the sun, still wearing my wetsuit. That’s what happens when you get caught up in the magic joy of chance encounters with people you look up to.

Pat’s wife, Mary, and I exchanged numbers and have stayed in touch over the past 7 months. Over long and frequent phone conversations, I’ve learned about their lives and struggles. As I’ve grown to better understand the depth of Pat’s indomitable spirit and determination to continue building boards, regardless of age, multiple near death experiences over the past year, a pandemic, lack of proper space and materials and finances, the effect has been both inspiring and difficult to accept. 

Most days, weather and health permitting, he works on a template outside their small trailer, in the open air. I even caught wind that he may have been doing a bit of shaping out there too, despite having no shaping bay to work in. When I learned of this, I instantly called some friends in the SoCal area to try to find him some space. That’s what you call youthful optimism and maybe even a naive eagerness to fix a problem without fully grasping the intricacies of a unique situation. It just isn’t that easy.

There isn’t enough room for Mary to sleep in the trailer with their special needs daughter and Pat, so she’s been making her bed in the back of the Tahoe for the past year. They have no private bathroom. Mary receives food from local food banks when possible. Pat has been in urgent need of dental surgery for the past 6 months, which they cannot afford. They are at risk of losing what little they have left, including their trailer. 

There may be a tendency to think someone else is sure to help out, so I don’t need to. While avoiding the uncomfortable realities standing before us in plain sight, a family slowly drowns in poverty, just down the street from multimillion dollar, beachfront homes and organic supermarkets.

I am well aware of how hard it is for Pat and Mary to allow me to share some of their current situation – she’s been stoically resistant to offers of help for over 7 months now. Most of my ideas were small fixes; another potential customer for Pat, an extra set of hands for an afternoon, thoughts and prayers. I’ve seen and heard how Mary and the family have supported him as best they can, but this family is weary. 

Pride can be a beautiful thing. The pride Pat has taken in his work which bears his name is evident to even those far outside the surf world. But when we are in moments of dire need, when we’ve exhausted all viable options on our own, it is through simple acts of honest vulnerability that we can open ourselves to the inherent kindness in each human being’s heart. 

Today, August 9th, Pat turns 88 years old. We have an opportunity to lift up and support someone who has devoted his entire life to being the very thing others have commodified, and packaged, and sold, and made millions feeding to the surf-hungry masses. 

While most of the surf world went the way of carbon copy machine cuts and overseas production outsourcing, Pat chose to do it his way. He has stood as a guiding light for the younger generation of by-hand board builders, of which I find myself a part, for 70 years. 70 years and hardly a penny to show for it.

Mary told me once, “What people don’t understand about Pat is that he would give somebody the shirt right off his back with no idea if he’d get another one.”

We’ve created a GoFundMe page – Friends of Pat Curren – where you can help raise funds to get a more permanent roof over their heads, room for them to breathe and get some much needed rest, health care, food, and space for Pat to work. 

This is our chance to make a real difference in the day-to-day life of a pioneer of our collective surfing tradition. Any donation of $100+ will receive a limited run t-shirt with this image, taken a few days ago of Pat and his planer, next to their trailer.

Ten gees of a hundred k goal so far.

Donate here, if y’think he matters

You wanna see a skinny bitch light up a pool?

Middle America tunes in to Rumble at the Ranch: “You want to watch a skinny lil bitch on a surfboard?”

Early takeaways from Lemoore…

My girlfriend wasn’t too stoked on Derek’s choice of photo for my last article (for those of you who didn’t see it – a very full bodied woman portrayed by Eddie Murphy in the movie Norbit) so naturally I was surprised when she sat down next to me as the Rumble at the Ranch began.

“So this wave is in Central California? That’s kinda cool.”

She always expresses interest in surfing for my sake, which I truly appreciate, but even she couldn’t keep up the façade.

Two waves into the contest, she had reached her breaking point.

“So this is kinda… boring.”

I nodded.

Don’t worry, I’ll spare you my description of the surfing, as poor writing coupled with boring surfing does little to tickle the soul.

Yes, the event felt dull and redundant, but after my recent shellacking in the comments for a more negative story, I have tried to brighten up my writing.

So here it goes, a few of my positive takeaways from the event.

Rosy Hodge

Candidly, Rosy’s commentary was poor. She appeared lost at times, even as Joe Turpel desperately tried to drag her into the conversation. When she did speak, her commentary was stunted and littered with “umms.”

I applaud Rosy. My guess is she couldn’t bring herself to continue the disingenuous excitement about safety surfing in an exhibition event staged in a pool. As prepped as I’m sure they were, she struggled to match Turpel’s patented prepared lines about how revolutionary the surfing was.

A veiled heroine.


Pure comedy.

If you didn’t watch, Joe Turpel and Peter Mel were convinced of this wave’s oceanlike quality.

Joe kept coming back with variations of “groundswell power” but my favorite has to go to Peter Mel.

In his discussion of the wave, he couldn’t help but mention the patented “groundswell technology.”

I struggle to find the words to adequately give that quote its due.

And if you didn’t enjoy their discussion of ground swell, Peter and Joe doubled down on the ocean-like nature of the mechanical wave, consistently stating variations of “the wave is really standing up now.”

It was, but it’s unnecessary to point out when the wave is engineered to stand up at that precise moment.

The Inevitable Checking of the Fins After a Fall

I really enjoyed this as I wholeheartedly relate.

Several surfers, after falling early, immediately flipped over their board to check their equipment.

I’ve done this on several occasions, and while this maneuver has never convinced anyone that it was actually the board, I applaud the effort.

Watching Filipe do it on the first wave of the day made me chuckle.

Strider’s Voice Inflection

Strider Wasilewski, the WSL’s resident ocean commentator, was situated on the back of a ski. The commentary would rarely switch over to his mic, but when it did, he produced gems.

At first, his joyful exclamations at safety surfing was annoying, but it really started to grow on me.

The disconnect between what I was watching and what I was hearing was delightful.

Like listening to a Latin America soccer game while watching curling.

Strider really hit full stride when he picked up Slater, who had just fallen needing a score.

Strider coyly asked if Slater needed the Heimlich Maneuver, and then motioned to his neck to mimic choking.

I’ll bet Elo already has Strider on timeout.

Kelly Slater and Adrian de Souza’s First Wave

I couldn’t believe it.

After Slater showed the world “the perfect wave” just days after de Souza’s coronation as world champ, here he was, at the very same wave, talking over de Souza’s first ride at the Ranch.

Slater was fairly gracious after he stopped talking over de Souza’s ride (albeit halfway through) but the timing was spectacular and I’d say too perfect to be coincidental.

The perfect finger in the eye from the champ.

“A wave system in Texas”

During one of Coco Ho’s rides, one of the commentators mentioned how Coco was coming off an injury sustained in “a wave system in Texas.”

It’s just too perfect.

The WSL encapsulated in five words.

Out of touch but refusing to admit it.

The Comment Section

Truly the only thing that got me through the event. Pure art.

(Editor’s note: Longtom’s analysis live in sixty-nine minutes…)

Japanese superstar Kanoa Igarshi (sic). | Photo: Photo: Turtle

Open Thread: Comment live as Kelly Slater, Carissa Moore, Kolohe Andino et. al. “Rumble at the Ranch!”

Tussle in the Tumbleweeds!

We all said we weren’t going to watch this Rumble at the Ranch business. That Kelly Slater’s technological marvel is dull and not enjoyable etc. except here we all are, watching this Rumble at the Ranch business.

Except me.

I’ll be poolside in Bel Air, this noon PST (3 pm EST, 5 am Sydney) sipping a cocktail and gazing across a lovely canyon at Kim Kardashian x Kanye West’s house on the other side. Or maybe it’s their old house.

You’ll be in my heart, in any case, alongside Kelly Slater, Carissa Moore, Kolohe Andino et. al.

Here’s rules, in case you forgot.

My pick, as you have already heard, is Team Sweet Caroline x ADS. Who’s got more of a bone to pick with The Machine than the Li’l Plumber?

Kelly Slater delivered an extraordinarily rude slap to Adriano hours after the young man won his, and Brazil’s, first ever Championship Tour World Title and I trust it still smarts. Smarts enough for a Rumble victory but what do you think?

Who is your call?

Watch here, discuss below and know that I’m thinking of you.


Australia’s wildlife horror show continues: Third woman hit by Humpback whale, doctor likens injuries to “car crash”; follows three fatal shark attacks in two months…

The animals are revolting…

Wild ol times in Australia’s Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Unprecedented hits by Great Whites in the last two months,

Great White “inhales” surfer’s board in Western Australia,

Great White snatches ten-year-old boy off the deck of his daddy’s fishing boat in Tasmania,

Great White kills fifteen-year-old surfer in NSW,

Great White kills sixty-year-old surfer in NSW,

Three days ago, in Western Australia, a pair of Humpback whales, “poster animals of the left”, crushed a 29-year-old woman, leaving her with internal bleeding and broken ribs, another woman’s hamstring muscle was torn by the whale’s pectoral fin.

In NSW, a Humpback charged surfers in “a never-before-witnessed attack”.

And, yesterday, another snorkeler in Western Australia was hit by a Humpback, leaving the woman with internal injuries the treating doctor likened to being “hit by a car.”

“It felt like somebody punched me,” said the woman.

Great Whites, yeah, get it.

Humpbacks, not quite so much.

What happy animal’s gonna go bad and turn into a cutthroat savage with a hard-on for humans next?

(Watch woman v manatee here.)

Excerpt from Chas Smith’s new Reports from Hell: “Wait. I really don’t understand. Why were you kidnapping a monkey again?”

"A place where the monkey will live a life that other monkeys only dream."

Reports from Hell will officially loose onto the public this Tuesday, Aug. 11 Here is an excerpt. Buy here, here, here or here if you’d like to partake in a wonderful live reading on Wednesday, Aug. 12 

Djibouti, Today.

“Wait. I really don’t understand. Why were you kidnapping a monkey again?” Nate twists around on his baking hot wooden bar stool underneath a thatched roof covering the outdoor bar of Kempinksi’s Djibouti Palace. The bartender, a kind-faced Djiboutian woman with a loose scarf covering her head, is listening, waiting until I finish whatever it is I’m going to say before kicking the blender to life again.

Nate is looking at me and the back of his white button-up is drenched in sweat, though the front looks remarkably dry. The half- Windsor knot of his pencil black tie is slightly loosened as a subtle nod toward the extreme temperature, but that’s all. His two-year run in Baghdad as a liaison between the United States of America Army and the international press had served him well.

He chased that gig by cofounding a high-end design-build firm that operated out of Kabul and Sana’a with Josh, who gave up on being Islamic Studies’ enfant terrible and decided that what Kabul and Sana’a needed was a high-end design-build firm.

He and Nate spent years on daily flights, shuffling back and forth between Kabul and Sana’a before the whole region blew up in a new fiery ball. Nate mostly keeps his work secret now and refuses to respond to direct questions, so it’s mostly impossible to know what he does with his days. The only thing I know, for a fact, is that he attends Elton John’s annual Oscar party each and every year. Josh is back in Los Angeles, collaborating with Jay-Z and Beyoncé on something I’m equally confused about.

And I quit my job at Los Angeles City College to become a fulltime surf journalist. A literal and honest surf journalist. The fact that such a thing exists is absurd enough. The fact that I do it pushes it right overboard.

“Because, bro,” I say between sips of still cold piña colada that I insisted we all order since the outdoor bar has a thatched roof. “Josh was right and you were right. Being on camera is true hell and we were never meant to be famous in any sort of actor-y way. Our trajectory was never supposed to be tied to being famous.

That’s the simple truth, and I understand it now. Sorry for making us pursue cellulite stardom all these years. It wasn’t a well-thought- out plan.”

Josh snorts from his bar stool.

Nate says, “Celluloid.”

We had flown to Bombay just a few short months after returning from Yemen triumphant, though completely exhausted and filthy. Mimi had watched the footage and was excited to keep pressing.

“You’ve discovered something so fabulous, darlings…” she breathed heavily the day we arrived home, exhausted and dirty. “We’re leaving as soon as I get the rest of our budget to…where? Where is that fabulous school where they teach the radical Islamic terrorism?”

“Deoband, India,” Josh replied.

“Absolutely gorgeous, and I’ll come too. India is marvelous, and this Deoband sounds very chic.”

We were too tired to argue.

So there we all were, night one, in the bar, a monsoon rain pouring outside with our Punjabi bartender towering above us when Mimi told Tony to pull his camera out and get some real descriptive interview. The bartender was in a Sikh motorbike gang, very tall and handsome, and looked on, interest piqued.

Josh nominated me to start and Tony swished his brown corduroy pants over to his camera bag, set it up, and turned it on me and said “speeding” while clapping his hands in front of the lens.

Something happened in my heart when I saw that little red light come on. Something deep and profound that I can’t quite explain. I just knew, in that moment, that I hated being on camera. I hated it in Lebanon, I hated it in Yemen, I hated it in Bombay. Hated everything about it. Hated the way it made me feel, hated the way I looked afterward, hated the way my voice sounded. And for the first time in my life, I thought, “Those cultures that believe the camera steals your soul are right.”

I looked at Josh for help. Tony swung the camera his direction and I was momentarily off the hook. Josh fiddled with his rings for a minute, explaining some deep cut seventeenth-century Islamic nugget before excusing himself for a cigarette.

Tony pointed the camera toward an ornate picture frame, and I wasn’t at all upset with him. It was very beautiful.

That night, after Josh and I got back to our room, I sank, emotionally, and moaned, “This fucking sucks.”
Josh laughed. “After just one take? Come on. We went all the way through Lebanon, twice, with cameras, and now Yemen without you pitching a fit. You’ll smash it tomorrow. It’s what you want to do.”

It wasn’t anymore, that dream evaporating in a millisecond and leaving nothing behind, but how could I tell Josh that? I had wrangled us into ugly relationships with Vice, Fremantle, Al Gore, and now Mimi, all in the hopes of a cinematic capturing of the lives we led instead of just enjoying them ourselves like he had wanted all along.

I headed over to the TV and magically found a Lebanese music video station. “But I won’t,” I told him, dejectedly. “I know this time for a fact, I won’t. I have a horrible sinking feeling in my gut that I won’t be able to ever look good on camera. Not tonight. Not tomorrow. Not ever.”

Josh laughed again. “On the plus side, it looks like we’ll be paying out of pocket for Mimi and Tony the whole time. That’s fun.”

Mimi had “accidentally” forgotten her credit card back home but was “getting it FedExed straight away.” Tony wore brown corduroy pants. And the “film’s budget” seemed like it might have been spent on drapes for a Beverly Hills apartment.

“This is a disaster,” I moaned again, falling onto the bed. The first actual disaster of our run together, which up to that point had featured a weeklong hospital stay replete with IV bag after IV bag into my veins, which were shutting at an alarming rate; our theoretical lives being threatened by a sword-wielding Somali; hookers that we didn’t pay for or want secretly destroying our personal property; getting told we were awful at skateboarding by a Hezbollah officer so unversed in skateboarding that his honest assessment would ping until this very moment; and almost dying astride spray-painted Chinese motorcycle toys.

“Is this how all those damned Disneyland employees who call themselves actors feel?” I asked the ceiling. “A delusion of possibility that, carried by its own momentum, propels a man or woman to the ripe old age of forty still believing he or she can be someone who matters?”

Leih Beydary has given way to some older, seemingly wealthy woman crooning passionately alongside a tuxedoed orchestra in front of some dramatically lit ruins.

“This is shit,” I continued to mutter. “Absolute shit.”

Josh smirked at the TV then looked at me. “Wait, are you saying this trip is shit? Seriously, help me understand. Why are you so bent out of shape here? I’m sure if it’s what you want you can totally figure out how to be good on camera. Look at…Ben Affleck.”

“Yeah, look at him,” I said. “He basically carried Good Will Hunting, but I don’t want to be an actor anyhow. I just knew in my heart of hearts that this thing, what we do, whatever you want to call it, would get carried along via visual representation. But when Tony’s camera turned on today, it was like peering into a succubus. Or…what is the girl demon that sucks your soul?”

“A succubus,” Josh said. “The man demon is an incubus—just like that super sick band.”

“Maybe I’ve got Incubus sucking my soul, but I don’t know if I can come back from the way that felt. I hate to keep coming back around to damned feelings here but—son of a bitch—I’ve spent our entire run, through Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, India, building for this way to represent what we do in a way that actually looks how it feels. But today, something snapped.”

“Yeah,” Josh laughed. “But I think you so quickly forgot the amazing company we have along for the ride. That makes it worthwhile.”

I grunted and laid my head down on a starchy pillow. It was too early in the evening for sleep, considering the thick jet-lag on the horizon, and I knew I was just giving in to the sirens calling me toward rocky shores but it was better than thinking about Incubus anymore. Josh was right. He had been right all along. I closed my eyes and drifted into the blackness. Maybe sleep would change the predicament. Maybe sleep would give me some new insight into how to carry this thing. Maybe sleep would…

I woke up exactly at 2:15 in the morning, the red digital numbers of the bedside hotel clock shining like a beacon beaming the address of hell. The dread had not only not abated, it was strangling me. It had its hands around my throat choking my will. I stared at the ceiling, the dark cracks that ran away from the overhead light, a spider in the corner catching malaria for snack. What were we going to do? What on Earth could we possibly do?

“We’re going to steal a monkey.”

Josh’s voice cut into my despair so clearly that I thought I was only imagining it.


“We’re going to steal a monkey, or get a monkey, and take it to an epic monkey temple up past Deoband that I heard of last time I was here. A place where the monkey will live a life that other monkeys only dream. That’s what we’re going to do.”