Inspirational: Kelly Slater saves wife and baby of surf photographer; five years later, corners for photog chasing TV Ninja Warrior dream!

Man stronger than rabid bird dog gets extra power from champion cornerman…

Five years ago, the wife and baby of surfing photographer Chris White were swept across the North Shore’s Kam Highway by one of those great North Shore pulses.

The kid, who was strapped into his pram, was separated from mammy and deposited upside down, drinking water etc.

Now, if your kid and gal were washed across the Kam Highway by a rogue wave, who’d you want to be there to scoop ‘em up?

How about Kelly Slater, who just happened to be around ‘cause he couldn’t get out at giant Waimea?

A ludicrous dream, no?

But there he was, talking to a pal at the lifeguard tower at Rockpiles when he saw the catastrophe about to unfold: women in headphones, with pram, on bike path, about to be belted

So he runs over, gets to the pram, flips it upright, gets the kid’s head out of the water, scoops sand out of his mouth so he can breathe, helps out mammy, gives ‘em a lift home.

It’s the sorta thing that brings people together.

Ever since, Chris and Kelly have been buddies.

“He’s a surf Jesus,” says Chris, who is forty and lives in North Beach in Western Australia.

A year ago, Chris’ kid was watching a TV show called Ninja Warrior and asked his daddy, a water photographer, jiujitsu expert (purple belt, heading to brown real soon), bodyboard hellcat, if he had the strength and guts to throw himself into that sorta challenge.

“I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is,” says Chris.

He trained every day for nine months, “guns blazing.”

Ice baths. Recovery sessions. Real serious.

Submits an audition video to the TV station with testimonials from Kelly Slater among other celeb pals.

Does the physical test (chin-up bar dead hangs, push-up tests etc). Gets in.

And, there, on television, as he prepares for his run, Kelly on a giant screen, talking about his dear pal Chris White.

Chris flies like whiskey bottle across cheap hotel room; Kelly watches.

And then the run itself, Chris cavorting and thrusting towards various cones, furiously jiggling as he heads for the climax.

Does he win etc?


“But I got so much out of it. It lived up to everything I hoped it could be and more. Fit, healthy and it had a flow-on affect to the rest of my life, mentally and physically.

Watch Chris here, with cheerleader Kelly.

Logan (left) and Miley-Cyrus pictured mid-ditch.
Logan (left) and Miley-Cyrus pictured mid-ditch.

Watch: World Surf League CEO, Commissioner of Women’s Championship tour, refuse to duck dive three-foot wave breaking over sandy bottom!

The horror, the horror.

Wild times, weird times etc. when all of a sudden everything is scary. Two ostensibly senile old men are running to be president of the United States, the one currently leading more senile and older than the one in office, but since when were senile old men ever scary?

They are today.

Also, a virus very closely related to the common cold has killed thousands of people and is pushing the world’s economy to the brink of collapse. The common cold, even in an uncommon form, has never been scary until now and now it is terrifying.

Three-foot waves breaking over sandy ocean bottoms?

Positively the scariest thing ever and let us watch as the World Surf League’s Chief Executive and his Commissioner of the Women’s Championship Tour ditch their boards in terror underneath its shadow*.

CEO Erik Logan and Comish Jessi Miley-Cyrus are there on the inside as the shoulder-high monster approaches. Too late to panic paddle over the gently sloping shoulder they do what any one of us would in these wild, weird times etc. and sacrifice their boards to a slightly foamy rinse.

Thankfully, no one appears to have been paddling behind them but if someone had been, her broken nose, his dislocated eye, would have been well deserved.

Very spooky.

*The wave does not appear big enough to have a shadow.

Sex Guru in the making?
Sex Guru in the making?

Opportunity Knocks: With surf contests cancelled for the foreseeable future, professionals turn to the “adult toy” industry for job security!

"A handsome, gentle soul, grower of vegetables, maker of music."

In normal, happy, pre-pandemic days, professional surfing seemed like a fine enough thing. Fun to watch. Fun for the professionals to water dance. Fun for the judges to score. Fun for the 1989 World Champion Martin Potter to let words fall out of his mouth. Fun for Strider Wasilewski to show off his attack dog tits in various and sundry ways.

In these odd, generally unhappy, mid-pandemic days, professional surfing has been laid bare. It is all of the above but it is, or was, also a small industry paying mortgages, rents, credit card bills etc.

In another word, work, and with that work dried up professional surfers are out looking for and/or participating in other trades.

This morning, I was sent a moving Instagram clip of Santa Barbara great, and current world number 20, Conner Coffin selling what appears to be “an adult toy.”

The design is sleek, the product looks effective and Conner seems perfectly comfortable in his spokesperson role.

“There are so many signs of a future sex guru in that clip…” the kind sender wrote “…I think Conner is a Netflix docu in the making. A handsome, gentle soul, grower of vegetables, maker of music.”

I could not agree more and it makes me wonder what path other professional surfers might take, assuming professional surfing is cancelled forever.

What can you see Jordy Smith doing?

Pip Toledo?

Wade Carmichael?

Let’s help them see possibility as opposed to problems.

More as the story develops.

Beachgoers run for cover in Durban.

Watch: Terrified (illegal) beachgoers flee cops at beach in Durban, South Africa!

But from prohibition springs a swinging online surf contest… 

The situation is pretty bad in South Africa, with COVID hitting new highs most days and big numbers on the board.

We all know that numbers lie, and SA do have a good recovery rate, but the country is straining under the lockdown laws.

Many businesses are still closed, and there is still the banning of alcohol and cigarettes, as well as so many other silly things.

Beaches are closed, and while most of the country flaunts it and carries on surfing, this is what happened when the police came to the beach in Durban on Sunday.

So the Rip Curl E-Pro South Africa came into being.

An online surf event that is quite simply a video contest that has been very smartly skinned to have every appearance and nuance of a competition.

It is a great little concept, and the man behind it is the upbeat contest organizer Gustavo Duccini, and he has the perennial Gary Linden on his team. Gigs Cilliers is doing the commentating and the judges are some of the best in South Africa.

It is legit.

South African surfers have embraced the concept. There is very little chance of any surf event running in South Africa this year. Beaches will only open when South Africa gets to Level 1, which is months away, and then people will need to start applying for event permits, will be quagmired for many months to come.

So this is the only chance that the surfers have a chance to showcase a few waves and give their sponsors a little love. There have been some bombs.

The first round was a mixed bag, but two waves were the standouts.

Heat two saw Dan Redman parking in a backhand barrel that has about eight seconds or more in the tube and Mike Frew’s barrel in Heat six is a mean ole Cave Rock slab.

Mike Frew at forever sexy Cave Rock. Photo bay Marck Botha.

There were more, but those two were epic.

Rip Curl South Africa is always ready to try something new, and to give something a punt, and they embraced the concept, ensuring that the surfers got some coin out of the deal.

Red Bull South Africa also deployed a R10k (five-hundred US) Best Tube Award.

A surfboard fin company called Shaka Surf, an eco-surf store that makes exquisite, bespoke surfboard fins from recycled bottle tops, loved the concept and climbed on board as a main sponsor as well, topping up the prize pool.

Round two runs tomorrow, and in a few days the event will be joined by the wonderful women surfers from South Africa, in their very own contest.

Equal pay? Oh yes!

Where to from here?

Well, there is some interest in a Big Wave Surf Web Series, longboarding and bodyboarding. There is also other little twist in the story that uniquely meshes a web event with a real event, that will blow minds when revealed.

The Surf Web Series is not rocket science, but it is great entertainment.

One just has to look at the South African surf community climbing onboard social media with gusto. The views are high, the engagement is solid, and in a world gone mad, where surfing competitions have disappeared from the beaches of South Africa for now, it is the only surf event giving away any prizemoney.

So there is that.

Examine it all here. 

The great Ben Gravy, experiencing Great Lakes epic. | Photo: Ben Gravy

Lake Michigan turns on day of the year: “Untouched by vile, hateful surf culture, something wonderfully beautiful has blossomed in middle America”

A surf utopia difficult to stomach.

Today was the swell of the summer on Lake Michigan. Conditions were being called epic, a rare day where the surf wouldn’t be decimated by onshore winds.

I park behind a red, 1980’s Ford Fiesta. Its license plate reads “SURF UP.” There’s a longboard strapped to its roof. I look around. Longboards are strapped to the tops of several small cars.

It strikes me as odd. Boards were rarely left out in California.

There are ten guys in the water riding a variety of mid-lengths and logs. An eleventh sits on the inside, taking photos. The surf is clean, waist-high rights running down the beach.

I’m instantly greeted by the lineup, even though I’m sitting twenty yards south.

I drift north.

The lineup is mellow, jovial. There are only a few days of summer with clean surf and it seems like most of the lineup knows one another.

A guy on a foamboard with a camo, short sleeved Hurley wetsuit paddles out and sits on top of me. I’m instantly annoyed.

I glance over. He’s smiling.

“Crazy waves today, eh?”

I nod back, nervous of his proximity.

A green wetsuited man flies down the line on a beautiful, turquoise longboard.

There is a mix of colored wetsuits. Black and logo-less is the exception.

A bearded man sits in two feet of water on the inside with a water housing, hooting at his buddies as they come down the line.

I rarely see a set ridden by less than two people.

There is small-talk instead of stoicism.

I’m the only one who duckdives. Everyone else holds their leash at the base.

A man in a long john wetsuit slides out on his bottom turn.

As he pops up, he’s greeted by hoots.

“That head dip was sick!”

The lineup is devoid of any of the cynicism, judgement, or animosity that permeates all other ocean lineups. There is a collective exuberance. Even though this swell will likely last only a few hours, and waves of this size are hard to come by, the lineup lacks any of the usual anger or suspicion.

It’s as if I’ve found myself in a surf utopia.

Untouched by vile, hateful surf culture, something wonderfully beautiful has blossomed in middle America.

I hate it.

I should love it, especially being the only outsider in the lineup, but I hate it.

There is no adherence to the (arbitrary) wardrobe rules we have created.

Every time a set rolls through, I’m back paddled or dropped in on. The worst part is I can’t even be mad. While back-paddling me, they hoot me into waves. After dropping in on me, the interloper comes up smiling, flashing a quick shaka.

It’s like a puppy tracking mud into the house.

My glaring looks are met with exclamations about how epic it is.

I leave the water confused.

Walking up the beach, I hear a whistle. One of the better surfers is smiling up at me, throwing a shaka.

It is the most gracious, good-willed lineup I’ve ever been a part of.

I miss the cynicism and judgement and loathing. I love that when I paddle out in the ocean I’m immediately sized up.

I love how when a good longboarder cross steps gracefully, his ankle attached to the tail of his board, he is still discounted.

I love how when a college fraternity member paddles out in a brand new neon Hurley wetsuit, the nose of board sticking out of the water like a flag, he is collectively loathed.

Or that weird nonverbal agreement to collectively snake a serial back-paddler.

I love the stoic stares out to sea that are only broken by sideways looks to see who’s paddling for the peak.

It’s why we hate the Disney-ification of the WSL. It’s not that Elo is kooky or that we don’t want more surfers in the water (rising housing prices are plenty sufficient on that end).

We hate collective joy.

For a fairly spiritual bunch, we really enjoy self-flagellation.

I wish I had been vibed out today. It would have made the drive home far less introspective.

I wonder if that guy got any shots of me today.