Skateboard legends share their surf VAL experience: “A couple of times I punched my steering wheel hard with watery eyes like, ‘Why can’t I do this?'”

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Aren’t we all, here, #blessed to have learned to surf as small little children and/or gangly pre-teens? Yes, and we bathe in that warmth daily with stories of vulnerable adult learners who become inspired by the water dance later in life and, therefore, must learn an entire language non-natively.

I would imagine some adults are less vulnerable than others, though, and might even have so much natural skill as to not need that small childhood/gangly pre-teen experience.

Some adults like legendary professional skateboarders but, as it turns out, they are not immune to the pain, the torture.

In a recent Jenkem magazine piece, 90s skateboard legends shared their experience learning the Pastime of Kings. It is long and thorough, definitely worth a full read, but shall we sample one sentiment from each?

Chico Brenes: Sometimes I kick myself for not starting surfing sooner. But I never imagined that I would be that dude getting up at dawn because I knew the waves were gonna be good at that time. When we were young we got up at noon to skate EMB and stayed up late every night. Never in a million years did I think I’d become that guy.

Elissa Steamer: I went with my friend Lucas and got a wetsuit and paddled out that day and I got a sweet belly ride. And that’s when I got hooked. I was like, “I’m gonna do this.” I thought, “In no time I’ll be ripping.” But that’s not the case. It’s been 12 years and I still don’t rip.

Max Schaaf: I’ve stopped caring what people think and I’m on my own deal. There’s some clip that people keep sending me of a dude doing like a finger flip on a surfboard. It’s so wrong. There’s no soul in it. I think with surfing, this sounds so cheesy but there’s a soul to it. I think the rules come from a place of taste and time spent doing it.

Rob Welsh: I have a hard time sitting back and letting the wave do its thing. I feel like I need to go somewhere. I’m trying to pump it or something to get speed, tick-tack, or whatever. And you’re only riding for two seconds sometimes.

Beautiful, especially the bit about finger flipping surfboards.


"This Chas Smith is like a bulldog with eyes up his ass."

Shock: Major literary website publishes kind review for new Chas Smith book Reports from Hell; describes as “Howlingly funny… a journey into dangerous territory!”

"Gonzo meets Hezbollah in this unlikely—and delightful—work of journalism."

Today, August 11th, is the official release date of Reports from Hell by mid-length aficionado Charlie Smith, whom some of you already know.

You have read excerpts here and here and may be tired of Charlie shamelessly promoting the work but shameless promotion is part of the job, as they say.

“Books are wild things. Beautiful things. Maybe antiquated but never for me. I love Camus, love Waugh, love Murakami, Knausgaard, Wolfe, Thompson, Mailer, Didion… but I am no literary titan. I am but a surf journalist,” says Charlie. “Still, I can’t stop writing. Flipping the computer’s lid open, dropping headphones over my ears, dancing with words. I’m generally a little blue when the final draft comes back from the editor because then the journey is over.”

This review, which you can read below, comes from Kirkus, an American book review magazine founded in 1933, which isn’t always kind.

Gonzo meets Hezbollah in this unlikely—and delightful—work of journalism.

What to do when al-Qaida strikes and the twin towers fall? Grab a surfboard and make for the Middle East, of course, the strategy followed by Smith and companions Nate, “who happens to look exactly like Steve McQueen playing Frank Bullitt if Frank Bullitt wore a bleached fauxhawk,” and Josh, given to sage analyses of current events: “This is the way history works, bro. Convulsions and spasms. To imagine any different, to imagine that we are somehow removed from the long bend, is ludicrous.”

Smith opens with a howlingly funny interview he conducted with David Petraeus, who delivered “easily digestible, easy-to-understand drips of Middle Eastern insight that I imagine rack-rate conference-goers crave.”

During that encounter, Smith had been prattling on about a car that is as central a piece of equipment in this narrative as the suitcase full of pharmaceuticals in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, very much a kindred book.

So is just the right T-shirt, the right board, and the right amount of sangfroid when, in Lebanon, the loopy journalists were kidnapped by actual terrorists, just as they’d feared, occasioning another Jeff Spicoli–ish remark from Josh: “These Hezbollah bros are something we know. We can figure this out.” Underneath all the goofiness is utterly serious intent: In addition to seeking to better understand the radicals’ point of view, the author is committed to providing plenty of shades of gray in a world that “had never been more black and white or more polarized.”

(Readers will hope he covers the U.S. in the same spirit.)

Funny and sharp, Smith is also a master of the tossed-off phrase that is just right for the job: “Early-2000 Dubai felt like Blade Runner might if written and directed by trust-funded Saudi Arabian boys who loved robot porn.”
A lively and entertaining—and illuminating—journey into dangerous territory.

Buy here or, if y’round tomoz, jump on a virtual meet-and-greet with Charlie, twenty-seven bucks, book included.

"Schroff may not like mass-produced pop-outs that are imported from overseas, but he definitely loves a good time." From 2019's show at Happy Battles. Surfboard is a Sci Fi from Slater Designs.

World surfing champion Kelly Slater opens new front on Instagram; opines on noted LA shaper-artist, “Must be great to be in your mid-late 60’s, on drugs, sexually confused and dying for any kind of attention.”

"Wonderful example to promote," says world champ in latest instalment of multi-year blood feud.

Only four weeks ago, the eleven-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater proved, again, that the pen is mightier than the sword when he slayed an historically inaccurate Instagram troll who had accused him of racism after a post on Chinese fishing in the Galapagos Islands.

“Writing me out of the blue talking shit is such a crock of shit. Accusing me of being a racist? My girlfriend is Chinese. You’re on glue. You’re a miserable coward. And now you’re blocked.”

“Hahahaha,” wrote the kid.

Relive that hootenanny here.

Earlier today, a new front was revealed with Kelly’s riposte to Peter Schroff, the noted LA-based shaper and artist who has made turned his hate for Asian-made surfboards into performance art.

In 2019, the San Diego-by-way-of-the-Philippines-and-New-York shaper Mark Polintan had given his Happy Battles shop to a Schroff show where a Slater Designs board was cut in half by Schroff using a chainsaw.

A handprinted t-shirt was made for the occasion and sold for fifty dollars.

(For a quick education into Schroff’s previous attacks on Slater Designs, Firewire and so on, click Blood Feud: Schroff v Hayden Cox, Relentless: Schroff’s War on Mark PricePeter Schroff Does Yellow Face, Modern: Peter Schroff Doubles Down and Three-Way: Dorian v Tudor v Schroff.)

When Polintan reposted a photo of the tee on his Instagram account @happy.battle, Kelly sent a pointed direct message.

“Hahaha. Must be great to be in your mid-late 60’s, on drugs, sexually confused and dying for any kind of attention. Wonderful example to promote.”


Polintan replied, “The shaper you’re referring to who happened to be gay is not sexually confused. How (is) being gay sexually confused again? Get your head out of your ass.”

Two years ago, I interviewed Schroff, then sixty-three, where he said he was “a stick of dynamite…The methods that we’re using is to ridicule Kelly and Mark Price and to have local people be too embarrassed to buy the boards. That’s the strategy.”

Paradoxically, in an interview in Surfer magazine in 2019, Schroff revealed himself as a Slater fan.

“Kelly Slater has never stopped surfing and that’s why he is still the best surfer alive,” said Schroff. “Even at 47 years old. Sure, maybe not as much in contests anymore, but his surfing is so stylish, it has so much character and, shit, he’s so driven. Nobody else has ever come close to that drive. That’s part of his style. He’s like Marlon Brando’s character in Apocalypse Now.”

Good times etc.

Pat Curren’s second most-famous son Joe responds to claims he abandoned surf icon Daddy to the caprices of market forces: “We have always run into a major road block.”

"It’s sad to see the negative comments being said from people who don’t know the whole story."

Two days ago, it was revealed that eighty-eight-year-old Pat Curren, big-wave surfboard pioneer, father of three-timer Tom, was living in his van in an Encinitas carpark with his wife and special-needs kid.

A shaper from Rockaway Beach in New York, Paul Schmidt, who bumped into the legend’s wife, Mary, at the Swamis carpark had set up a GoFundMe account in response.

The goal was a hundred gees to help Pat fix up his ruined teeth, get the fam off the food relief train and so on.

Schmidt wrote in part,

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.

A common theme from readers was, why aren’t his kids Tom and Joe helping the old man out.

Today, Tom’s younger brother Joe, who achieved a modicum of fame as a pro surfer in the nineties films of Taylor Steele but who now makes a living as a photographer, woodworker and art framer, responded on his IG. 

I’ve been getting a lot of questions and reading stories about a go fund me campaign recently set up for my dad asking for $100,000 to help him with financial issues. Yes, it’s true he’s struggling financially. The truth is, this has been going on for a long time. I speak for all of the Curren family when I say we love and care about my dad very much. My brother Tom and I, my sisters Anna and Malie, my dad’s brothers Mike and Terry and the entire family have all have been quietly trying to help him, doing the best we can, for years and years. It has been challenging and complicated, and we have always run into a major road block.

We don’t know the person who started the go fund me. We first heard about the campaign Sunday morning on my dad’s birthday, after it was launched. We were surprised and disappointed that we were not notified about the campaign beforehand. We’ve always respected my dad’s wish to keep this kind of stuff private. Now it’s gone public. Its nice to see the positive statements being made about my dad. It’s sad to see the negative comments being said from people who don’t know the whole story. We hope my dad gets the money, he deserves it.

Interesting enough, but more revealing is the friction between Joe and Paul Schmidt.
@joecurren it most certainly is – a world where we are more connected than ever to the broader community of surfers and those who’ve been inspired by people like your father, and yourself. We are grateful to be a part of it and to see all the compassion and support for your family

joecurren We’re all having a difficult time understating why we weren’t contacted before this was launched.
@joecurren I don’t think you are, I fully understand, and have explained in my past correspondence with you that this was a gesture made on behalf of your father and Mary, who are my friends. I was given permission by them to create the campaign and to post the story. They have had a hand in every step of the process. It was not my place to contact you, as I do not know you. If either Pat or Mary wanted to contact you, I imagine they would have. 50k and counting 🙂 we are excited for Pat and Mary to received some no-strings-attached help from all of the people in the community who support and care for them. 🙏
@joecurren I’ll be sure to pass that message on to Pat and Mary for you.

I speak for the entire Curren family when I say, it would have been the right thing to do
@joecurren not sure why you deleted your original comment, but again, I’ll be happy to pass that message on to Pat and Mary.

A few other readers turned on Schmidt, one writing, “Gag me with a spoon.”

Read the fascinating thread here, Taylor Steele, Taylor Knox, Akila Aipa and a few other noteworthy surf names lighting up in there.

Don’t go chasing waterfalls: Plans for “indoor beach and interactive wave pool” to be built in Niagara scrapped due to Covid-19!

But a possible silver lining?

Have you ever been to Niagara Falls in upstate New York? I have not but was inspired by those brave men and women who climbed into barrels and took the leap when I was a child. Stoic faces, straight backs, a willingness to laugh in the face of fate. Or, not laugh but stoically stare.

Very brave.

The falls, which have both a Canadian side and an American side, are a popular wedding destination and I think people gamble too.

Alas, surfing has been taken off the menu.

Local hotelier Michael DiCienzo had, in the works, a vast indoor beach featuring an “interactive wave pool the size of a football field” along with jumbo video screens, restaurant, bar and a saltwater lagoon where guests could swim with marine creatures.

The Niagara Beach and Surf Club was going to be extremely fun, safer than a barrel into oblivion, and permits were granted even though there was some trouble when Niagara’s mayor complained the photos used to sell the club (above) were photoshopped from a Japanese indoor beach later demolished.

Alas, Covid-19.

DiCienzo told the local Buffalo News, “We’re not in a very good environment for all types of business investment right now. We’ve canceled any projects for the foreseeable future.”

Does this also mean that foreseeable future Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch events are canceled too?

Hope springs eternal.