Surfboards and passion burn.

Surf-lit: “Surfing is pain. It shouldn’t be easy. Enlightenment through self-flagellation…”

"I look at guys walking down the beach with their new boards with forgiving rails, gentle rocker, subdued outlines. And I think to myself, they don't understand."

I rode my big board on the Point today. It was stormy, hot.

Summer weather. Dark clouds marched out to the horizon on the humid offshore breeze. The waves were only small but had a perfect angle. Little rights ran down the cobblestones almost to the keyhole.

Vulnerable learners pressed in against seasoned locals and chirping groms to get their slice.

I sat at the top of the pack, five metres further out, and had my pick.

I can do that on this board. I can do that because it’s my Point.

Let me tell you about this board though. She’s big. Fat. Brown and battered. It’s almost like she’s been shaped in reverse – a long narrow nose with hard rails that softens out into a fat ol’ ass. Less a tear drop then a honey blob.

She’s hard to paddle. Can’t turn for shit. Has an old school raised, fibreglass leash bridge that’s broken more feet than a Chinese slipper. But the roll-in-fade-to-bottom-turn, when one unlocks all the right elements, is better than any air reverse or cheese whiz.

When people ask me about the board I like to say, she’s ugly but she’s mine. And I pat her like a faithful dog.

That’s the secret, though. About this thing of ours. It shouldn’t be easy. Surfing is pain. Enlightenment through self-flagellation.

I look at guys walking down the beach with their new boards with forgiving rails, gentle rocker, subdued outlines. And I think to myself, they don’t understand.

That’s why I take any wave I want.

To hell with ‘em.

They just don’t understand.

Anyway I’m out on the Point and I see a guy with a board like mine. Big. Old. Ugly. Shit spray. A real dreadnought. I watch him get a couple, stalking the crowd, swooping in on his prey like a lion in the grass.

We paddle past each other and exchange a knowing nod. Krishna catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror.

Right on.

It comes time for my last wave. I wait for something special. One stands up on the indicator. Not the biggest wave of the day, but I can see in its line that it’s going to run.

I swing and begin to paddle. The crowds part, like they know they should.

All except for one.

The guy.

I see him turn and spin, too.

You can’t miss his board, even from a mile away. He drops in. On my wave.

Usually I’d be flicking my board at any interloper, aiming for their temple.

But not with this guy.

There’s something about him.

We ride the wave together, doing crossovers, bumping rails the whole time. Stern looks on our faces, eyes only down the line. But we vibe in each other’s presence. Connected on a different level.

Finally the wave closes out on the end section. We straighten out and I ride it in on my belly.

But not the guy.

Instead of heading for the key hole he rides his board up over the cobblestone rocks. I hear a crunch as he comes to a halt. He jumps off the board casually, confidently, like he’s done it a thousand times before.

That was great surfing, I say as we walk over the remaining rocks and up onto the sandy beach.

Thanks man.

I like your board.

Oh, this old thing. It’s a piece of shit. He throws it to the sand. But I love it.

Sounds like mine! I say. I paid $50 for it at a garage sale.

I found mine on the side of the road.

Nice.

Check this out. He flips his board over to reveal three mis-matched FCS fins, all barely screwed in.

Oh yeah? I show mine – a home-made quad set up with two of the fins missing.

Damm.

He smiles.

What about this?

He pulls off the gaffa tape wrapped across the nose to reveal the entire top couple of inches is completely snapped off.

I show him the same tape holding together what’s left of my board’s swallow tail.

We both laugh.

Yeah man, I don’t care about this board at all, he says. Or any of my boards. The shitter the better. Watch this.
He looks around as if to make sure no one is watching, then pulls a pocket knife from his leash and starts stabbing holes in the board.

Bam. Bam. Bam. 

Soon it looks like a piece of Swiss cheese. Bam!

Unreal.

I pick my board up and start punching it too. My knuckles quickly bloody, so that there’s little shards of fibreglass mottled into my skin.

Sah! Sah! 

I punch out the remaining fins.

Sah!

The steady stream of people heading up and down the sandy point give us a wide berth, like a river diverting around an island.

To them we just look like  two guys beating up their surfboards.

But they don’t understand.

There’s a crack of thunder in the distance. The air charges with electricity.

We both take a break, and breath the atmosphere in.

Enlightenment through self-flagellation, I say. It’s the only way.

Then the guy says, How about this?

From nowhere he pulls out a lighter and some gasoline. He pours it carefully over his board, from taped up nose to thrashed out tail.

And then he sets it alight.

For a second the flames don’t take, as if they’re hesitating. Held back by some invisible force.

But then, whoosh. Off they go.

Unreal, I say again, and I throw my board onto the flames too.
It lights up quickly in the hot offshore wind.

We sit back in the sand and watch the conflagration. The smoke carries back out  across the line up. I can see the other surfers coughing and spluttering as the acrid fumes wash over them.

They don’t understand

A set rifles down the point unridden, the biggest of the day.

The gods must be pleased.

This is great, I say to the guy.

It’s so great, he responds.

This is what surfing is all about.

Then the clouds, so pregnant all afternoon, finally burst forth. We’re drenched in the downpour as the fire goes out.

The boards have burned down to a pulp now anyway. We bury what’s left of them in the sand.

Small shards still stick out, camouflaged in the yellow and brown morasse. Hopefully sharp enough to cut a foot open, or at least give someone a scare.

I nod to the guy and we go our separate ways. It feels strange walking back to the car in my board shorts with bloody knuckles and no board under my arm.

But that’s ok.

It was so good to meet this guy. So good to meet someone that finally understands.


J-Bay, Mick, White.

World Champion surfer Mick Fanning ruthlessly bullied by so-called friends in the water exacerbating deep trauma: “People splash behind me, I freak out.”

Rude.

I apologize to you for my lack of production here lately. I am currently in the studio recording the audiobook version of the award-nominated Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell. It is brutal. Brutal to read aloud for hours upon hours a day in a dark box. Brutal to read my own words, penned nearly a decade ago, and not be able to edit them or provide updated caveats. Brutal to hear my own voice saying uncouth things.

I made ruthless fun of many people in the surf industry from Graham Stapelberg to Dusty Payne to world champion surfer Mick Fanning.

As we all now know, Mick is a saint. One of the most well-loved figures in all of Australia with legions of adoring fans. But I wrote and wrote and wrote about his “dull face” and “boring fashion” and “bland chipped-tooth’d smile” over and over and over.

I have zero adoring fans and deservedly so. I am rude. I am a bully.

But maybe just maybe my early bullying helped prepare Mick Fanning to face the mental torture he is currently dealing with?

As you recall, Mick was brutalized by a shark during a professional surf contest in South Africa five years ago. The most viral moment in our small world.

Very scary and haunting him still but do his pals care for his needs?

No.

According to Mick, who appeared recently on The Kyle and Jackie O Show, his so-called friends prank him often, pretending there is a shark in the water. “It still took me about a year or so to get through my PTSD. Even still, I’m very wary of what’s in the ocean. People splash behind me, I freak out. My mates do it to me all the time.”

The host asked, “Does anyone ever yell ‘Shark! Shark!’ when you’re out there? And do you think, listen, don’t do that?”

Mick responded sadly, “Yeah there’s a few here that do that.”

Horribly rude and unnecessarily mean but might Mick have the tools in his emotional toolbox to deal with this relentless onslaught thanks to an unlovable surf journalist?

Possibly?

More as the story develops.


World’s most beautiful surfboard shaper Hayden Cox buys two houses on Sydney’s exclusive Barrenjoey Peninsula

Feted shaper now part-owner of Sydney's version of The Hamptons…

Many years ago, I wrote a story called The Most Beautiful Shaper in the World.

I commented, “He is still the most fantastic looking man I have ever seen and what sleepless nights he caused me!”

Back then, there was no delicacy to his exceptionally virile merchandise. He was as blood ripe as they come.

The women, including my girlfriend, maybe my girlfriend most of all, had to be treated for spells of dizziness. Worse, his surfboards were addictive and try as I did, I couldn’t be indifferent to his skills

These days, however, the crown of Most Beautiful Shaper in the World, held for thirty years in Coolangatta, Queensland, now resides in one of two houses in Palm Beach, Sydney’s version of New York’s The Hamptons.

One of Hayden’s dreamy lil pieces of the Barrenjoey pie.

Hayden Cox, who is thirty-eight, and married to the marketing whiz Danielle Cox, née Foote, has rolled his biz HaydenShapes into one of the most popular surfboard brands in the world.

He is a wonderful story of a driven kid who shucks the expectations of his family (accountancy!) to learn to shape, build a surfboard company, create a unique method of surfboard construction and, eventually, be feted by icons as diverse as Audi and Alexander Wang.

And success buys pretty things.

Four years ago, Hayden and Danielle bought an old waterfront house with 180 degree views of the estuary called Pittwater for $1.8 mill and which they sold after a gorgeous renovation earlier this year for $3.6 million.

Since that sale, the pair have bought a waterfront house at nearby Clareville for $3,337,500, currently available to rent at $2200 a week, ten gees a month, roughly, and a 1950s three-level, four-bedder “beach shack” on monied Pacific Drive, with panoramic views, for a little under three-mill.

Examine here. 

(And walk through the world’s slickest surfboard shop here.)


An extravaganza of nature.

Just in: Watch as Elephant Seal protects fur seal colony from marauding Great White shark!

Battle of the heavyweights.

A three-ton elephant seal has been filmed chasing a Great White shark away from the easy kill of baby seals on Robberg Peninsula in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. 

The elephant seal, named Solo, is a popular attraction for tourist operators in Plett, looking adorable as he sleeps on the mountain or frolicking in the Cape’s cold water, his snout fixed into a permanent grin. 

Here, the White gets real close to seizing a bebe before daddy swings in.

Two things you’ll take away from the vision, below. 

One, that the Great White is, mostly, an opportunistic predator and is averse to anything that might give it hell (buy Biteback stainless steel spikes here, designed to stab apex predators where it hurts) and, two, clear water, Plettenberg Bay, mmmm, that name and that colour water sure do ring a bell. 

Yeah, four months ago, the same drone pilot that snatched this footage, fourteen-year-old  Luka Oosthuizen, generated a thousand headlines when he filmed a twelve-foot White swimming through a group of surfers during a clear-water middle of the day sesh fifty feet or so from the beach.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CByT2_sn1MK/

Even crazier thing was, the day after “a whirlwind of interviews from all over the world”, the kid took his bird up in the sky and filmed another White swimming through surfers.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CB0z7uGnYjf/

Good times.


Esperance local Andrew Sharpe, disappeared by fifteen-foot White, and search party. | Photo: 7News

Man who tried to save Esperance surfer Andrew Sharpe killed by fifteen-foot Great White is brother of longboarder who lost leg to Great White in 2006

"A brave, brave soul."

For Jan Golebiowski the surfer who tried to save his buddy Andrew Sharpe from a “monster” Great White at Kelpies, in Esperance, on Friday morning, it was a dreadful feeling of déjà vu.

In 2006, his kid brother Zac, fifteen at the time, was surfing a knee-deep sandbank at Wharton Beach, a sheltered joint between Cape Le Grand and Cape Arid National Parks, when he was hit by a ten-foot White, the animal taking his entire right leg.

“It came from the side and it felt like what’d you’d imagine a big king hit to be like,” Zac told The Guardian. “A very big strike. It was a full-on horizontal attack in water that was only just head height. When I take my friends to where the attack happened they are always amazed that a shark attack could have happened there. The shark bit [off] my leg and the force of the bite took me down, pulled me under. There was no fighting for air. It was too shallow for that. It took me under and let go. I came straight back up and called for help. The [2.5-metre to three-metre) shark was probably a juvenile, curious, experimenting maybe. If it had been bigger it would have bitten me in half. A big shark in full hunting mode, it would have been carnage. [My brother] said it circled a couple of times. It could have attacked two more people but didn’t. Any higher up my leg and it would have got [major] arteries.”

Ten years later, Zac, who sank into a years-long depression, became a bodyboarder and moved to South Australia, returned to Esperance for a camping vacay to mark a decade since the attack. He was swinging back to town after surfing Whartons and passed the turn-off to Kelpies at the same time a Great White was attacking, and killing, teenage surfer Laticia Brouwers.

“It felt like returning to the scene of a crime,” said Zac.

On Friday, big bro Jan was among a group of fifteen-to-twenty surfers enjoying what another local Ross Tamlin describes as “perfection conditions” when the shark hit.

“Obviously everything panics at the time when they realise what’s happening. The guy who was closest to him, Jany, tried to render help but I think it was all too much for him and he paddled in. Jan’s a very brave man, he’s a hero,” Tamlin told The Sunday Times. “And he was great mates with Sharpey, so for him to obviously try and render assistance – brave, brave soul…your initial thoughts are obviously with the surfer and you want to render assistance as much as possible. That’s what we all wanted to try and do, whether you can actually achieve that and do anything is another story.”

Tamlin said the dorsal fin and tail fin of the White were so big his initial thought was there were two sharks.

“I’ve never seen a dorsal fin that big before, not even in media footage,” he said.

The Western Australia premier Mark McGowan has ruled out drum lines (“We’re not putting in drum lines because there are people in the water”) and, instead, said his government will increase its Great White tagging program.