Visit: Denmark’s “Cold Hawaii” sees massive surfing boom while the world is locked down with heavy Covid-19 travel restrictions!

Envy.

Every cloud, no matter how broad, has a silver lining and this Covid-19 cloud’s can be witnessed in Klitmøller, Denmark, a town of 1000 hearty souls in the far northern tip of the country.

Klitmøller, long called “Cold Hawaii” because of its reputation as a windsurfing destination, has seen a boom in real surfing participation these past six months as Danes, unable to travel to California or Australia, content themselves with its slop.

Vahine Itchner, who started the Cold Hawaii Surf Camp with her husband and moved to Denmark from Tahiti, tells The Local DK that business is through the roof and also, “You can’t really know what kind of waves you’re going to get. It’s always different waves. If you go to a perfect surf place like Bali or Tahiti, you know exactly how the wave is going to break. Here, it changes all the time.”

Changing windy cold waves sounds awful and not inviting and not like a silver lining but Itchner knows that Klitmøller will become more famous than Cardiff Reef or Bells Beach because Denmark is the only country on earth that is hygge.

What is hygge?

There’s no direct translation in English but, roughly, it means “cosy” and those who have traveled to Denmark will know, first hand, that nothing beats it. You can be hygge in the summer, spring, autumn but the best hygge is winter, all curled up post-surf in front of a flickering fire, hot toddy or chocolate in hand, Billie Holiday playing softly on the turntable, slippers on feet, watching Saoirse Ronan in On Chesil Beach while rain pitter-patters on the cottage roof.

Absolutely fabulous and far better than stripping a urine-soaked wetsuit off in a dull parking lot, or car park, deflecting glares from Joel Tudor or Maurice Cole.

I would be a Danish surfer if I could be.

Would you?


Breaking: Multiple extra-large Great White Sharks refuse to leave Santa Cruz setting up potential clash between two of nature’s most dangerous creatures!

Clash of the titans.

The surfer is known to be a very dangerous creature. Selfish, taciturn, slappy, purposefully ignorant, driven by base reptilian-brain-adjacent instinct and not much more. The most pure (read: worst) of our kind resides in a smallish town in north-central California called Santa Cruz.

And this same Santa Cruz has just seen and influx of apex predator Great White Sharks who refuse to migrate to deeper water or otherwise go to places where there are no waves.

But come and watch the gorgeous aerial photography from local Ernest Smith.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CGYE6vnDStz/

Would you paddle?

Western Australian surfers would. And so would Santa Cruz surfers which is set to facilitate one of the greatest clashes in species history.

I used to be of the mind that Great White Sharks were malevolent jerks but thousands of comments from Facebook enthusiasts have taught me that the Great White Shark is merely in her own environment doing her own thing and that we humans are the interlopers.

Except surfers are a sub-human category and this is her environment too.

A clash of titans is expected and when oddsshark.com starts accepting bets where does your money go?

Much to consider.

Also, I was just nominated for the coveted Shark Reporter of the Year Award given annually by the Scripts Institute.

Very humbled.


Ace (left) pictured with big oil.
Ace (left) pictured with big oil.

Nicest man in surfing, Ace Buchan, goes after meanest industry on earth: “It’s fine for us to kind of sit back and shake our heads at what’s happening with, say, Donald Trump in America, but people are doing the same [here] … the influence of fossil fuel in our politics, it’s just crazy.”

There will be blood.

And here we are and here we go, the year 2020 rounding its final bend but with many, many surprises still possible. Will Killer Whales take back the sea? Will the world agree to go back under Covid restriction lock and key? Will Donald J. Trump take out Joe Robinette Biden as Most Powerful Man in the World™?

Will the nicest man in surfing, Adrian “Ace” Buchan, bring the meanest industry on earth to its knees?

Australia has put forward a plan for how it will come back, economically, after the pandemic passes and it hinges growth to an expansion of use and sales of the country’s fossil fuels.

A good idea?

According to Ace, in a recent Guardian interview, “The interest of fossil fuel in Australian politics is becoming something of an international joke. It’s fine for us to kind of sit back and shake our heads at what’s happening with, say, Donald Trump in America, but people are doing the same [here] … the influence of fossil fuel in our politics, it’s just crazy. You have a government in power that is picking and choosing when it listens to the science. Renewable energy prices are low – there’s non-fossil fuel energy storage options available. Gas just isn’t a transition fuel that’s going to lead to a safe climate. I feel like that ship’s well and truly sailed … I think switching to renewables rapidly is the only responsible path. The science is super clear.”

And POW!

Right in the kisser.

But do you know how people say we don’t get the hero we need, we get the one we deserve? Well, we certainly don’t deserve Ace but I would gladly line up behind him to bring down nasty, stinky oil and gas. To be honest, I would gladly line up behind Ace over any cause and imagine he will, someday, benevolently rule Australia, putting a stop to Kelly Slater’s environmental terrorism etc.

Speaking of, where are you on TESLA? I mean, besides rich from sage investment advice served here daily. Are you ready to spring into an electric car directly or still on the fence, waiting for a few more bells and whistles?

More as the story develops.


"People are shit-scared. And rightfully so. I’m avoiding my hometown at the moment. It’s probably the sharkiest place in the world right now. That’s the reality of it. We’re not dealing with tigers or bull sharks, either, we’re dealing with Great Whites that get hold of you and you don’t survive.” | Photo: Shark Smart

Australia’s Great White crisis: “Esperance is the sharkiest place in the world right now… these are big, big sharks…they’re eating humans like seals. It feels like we’re being hunted!”

"If people knew how many people are bumped off boards, how many Whites we’re seeing close to shore, they’d be shocked.”

Esperance surfer Mitch Capelli is an ordinary man, a teacher by trade, who has been thrust, by circumstance, into an anything but ordinary situation. 

His phone has been running real warm this past week, after surfer Andrew Sharpe, a popular Esperance local, was disappeared by a “monster” Great White in front of his pals last Friday at Kelpies, just outside of town. 

A buddy, Jan Golebiowski, who tried to save Sharpe, has his own history with Whites. His little brother Zac was hit by a ten-foot White in 2006, the animal taking his entire right leg.

In 2017, Capelli, who is twenty-seven, created Ocean Safety and Support, which has a centrist approach to Whites, after teenage surfer Laticia Brouwers died in front of her family after being hit by a Great White at Kelpies, the same place where, three years before, surfer, Sean Pollard, had an arm and another hand bitten off by a Great White in 2014.

The teen’s death was enough to spur Mitch into doing…something.

He wasn’t sure what that was going to be, just something.

Better to act, he figured, than watch more people die or be maimed, more families traumatised. 

Ocean Safety and Support aims to be that middle ground between those who believe the White is a unicorn whose existence on earth is proof that magic surrounds us and therefore the animal is sacred, and those who want to kill the bastards. 

Action has to happen, and now, says Capelli, not at some vague point in the future. 

When I interview Capelli he apologises at a few different points in the interview for becoming emotional, passionate. He admits to being rattled as fuck, too, spending the last three months chasing waves between in the north-west.

Anywhere but Esperance.

“(Great Whites) are affecting our way of life,” he says. “We’re losing friends, family and community members. It’s so hard to deal with. The government has a duty of care, it’s teetering on criminal negligence. It’s got to that point. I might sound unreasonable but people are dying and nothing is being done. Tagging and lights and sirens and buoys are not solving the problem.”

Kelpies, he says, “is such a beautiful spot. Everyone wants to be able to go, park the car on the beach, have a paddle, be free to enjoy what our beautiful coastline has to offer. But people are shit-scared. And rightfully so. I’m avoiding my hometown at the moment. It’s probably the sharkiest place in the world right now. That’s the reality of it. We’re not dealing with tigers or bull sharks, either, we’re dealing with Great Whites that get hold of you and you don’t survive.” 

Like a lot of surfers, fishermen, divers, Capelli blames the dramatic increase in interactions with Whites on the Australian government’s decision in 1999 to list the species as vulnerable and protect it in the waters of all States and Territories of Australia.

“They were never endangered in the first place,” says Capelli. “Obviously the population has exploded. It takes ‘em five to seven years to be sexually mature, then the females have between two and twelve pups every eleven months. That’s exponential growth. And really basic maths… the scary part is the worst is yet to come. What we’ve seen in Esperance is not surprising for most of us. This is our reality. As a young fella, one day I’m going to have a family of my own. I don’t want to bring up kids and not be able to put ‘em in the water. All the older fishermen in town, they don’t have their kids in the water. The schools are looking at ending diving, the aquatics program, surfing, it’s affecting every aspect of our lives… the recreational dive industry is dead and it used to be an international thing, we have some of the most beautiful dive locations in the world. The clearest water. The abalone divers are all in shark cages. Surfers want to ride a wave and they’re being hunted. That’s how it feels. If people knew how many people are bumped off boards, how many Whites we’re seeing close to shore, they’d be shocked.”

As I wrote a week or so ago, there has never been a period in human history when humans, divers, surfers, whatever, have been killed by Great Whites in such numbers as in 2020: seven deaths this year, four surfers, Rob Pedretti, Mani Hart-Deville, Nick Slater, Andrew Sharpe and three divers.

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

Capelli talks of his frustration at not being able to cut through at a governmental level, the Western Australian premier blowing off another surfer death as an example of the risk we face when jumping in the water.

“So many of the boys who were surfing with him are traumatised. They don’t know if they can go back in the water now. Psychiatrists are being organised to see those guys, what they witnessed was so messed up.”

I tell Capelli that as brutal as it is, it won’t be until the larger population gets a taste of what an attack looks like that attitudes will change, and reference the Vietnam War. If it wasn’t for the war photographers and writers like Micheal Herr, no one back in the US would’ve known a damn thing about the horror there. 

It’s the same with the footage of Nick Slater being hit by a White at the Superbank last month and Tadashi Nakahara bitten in half by a White at Ballina. Beach cams recorded it all. The owners of the footage were quick to disappear it. Well-intentioned, yeah, but if people saw what a White hit looks like? 

It’d change minds.

“It shouldn’t have to come to that,” he says. “Surely the fact that people are dying enough. I don’t think the stories need to be shared. They’re too gruesome.”

Well, that’s the point. I tell him I spoke to the surfer who fought the White off teenager Mani Hart-Deville, who says he won’t speak about what he saw out of respect for his family. 

“What I can say,” says Capelli, “is that they never had a chance. These are big, big sharks. It’s all over really quick. It’s not mistaken identity, not having one bite and letting go, but chomping ‘em in half, taking the whole body and gnawing on it until it’s gone. Eating it on the surface like it’s a seal. The mistaken identity thing, they don’t wanna attack, they don’t like humans, is bullshit, mate. Utter bullshit. They are are the apex, predator, opportunistic, ambush predators. If a feed is there, they’ll take it.”

I ask, what would you do, if you were given the keys to the State gov? 

“Drum lines instantly after an attack. Instantly. They just killed someone so therefore there’s a problem animal hanging around. Prevention requires intervention. If sharks are hanging around and showing signs of aggression, it should be removed. It won’t have any effect on populations. Their habitat is not threatened.”

After that, mitigation strategies, keep the number in check. 

It’s hard work and it ain’t paying the bills. 

Still, “No one else is doing it, fucking just doing it, man.” 

(If you want to get in touch with Ocean safety and Support or buy a trauma kit, click here.) 


"The only thing that worries me is my bosom. It’s there all right, and it sure looks good when I’m undressed, but I have a hard time making it count in a sweater or such. Most of the kids in Franklin High are a lot taller and have a lot more to show—but most of them wear those damn falsies that stick out all over the place and I’d rather be caught dead than be a phony about a thing like your bosom." Sandra Dee as Gidget, the movie.

Warshaw on best surf fiction ever written: “I’m really quite cute… the only thing that worries me is my bosom. It sure looks good when I’m undressed, but I have a hard time making it count in a sweater”

"Great surf characters rise up across the acres of surf fiction like wild mushrooms after a three-day rain, some delicious, others poisonous…"

There’s a lot of surf fiction out there, short and long, and damned if I can recall a single passage that gets anywhere close to a bullseye in terms of actual wave-riding.

Tim Winton’s Breath, maybe—the early chapters, before it all goes big-wave-life-or-death-psycho-sexual-triangle. But as a rule, you will sooner lasso a cat with a piece of string than you will capture the rush of a late drop at Sunset.

This is not unique to surfing, of course.

You also can’t write your way into the heartbreak of a song like “Caroline, No” —so take five, grab a Kleenex, and listen to Chrissie Hynde’s version from last year. My god. What a singer and what a song.

On the other hand, great surf characters rise up proudly across the acres of surf fiction like wild mushrooms after a three-day rain, some delicious, others poisonous, and I’d like to pay tribute to a few here.

My favorite (this week, anyway), is a 1950s big-wave leatherneck named Jonas Vandermeer, from A Native Son of the Golden West, by James Houston.

Part Buzzy Trent, part Sin City Mickey Rourke, we’re introduced to Joe in his rundown Waikiki hotel room as he greets Hooper Dunlap, an old friend who just flew in from the Mainland.

“Joe is twenty-one, has lived in the sun for eight years on California beaches wearing no more than he wears this morning, an old pair of striped golf knickers trimmed above the knee. And Joe has never tanned. Nor has he burned, or even reddened. The sun can do nothing to Joe’s skin but assault each layer till it flakes away and hope the one below is thinner or newer or somehow subject to change. But Joe’s skin has never changed, always dusty white, sprinkled with blond hairs and stretched over knots and clumps and welts of muscles hardened in his daily wrestle with the sea.

He says to Hooper, “You want to go in the water?”

“Can you get me a board?”

“Where’s yours?”

“I sold it.”

Jonas jumps up and stands over him, grimacing and blinking.

“Jesus Christ, Hooper, why’d ya do that?”

“I needed the money.”

Joe shouts, “That was a great board! A fantastic board!”

Joe paces for a few moments, then slaps a fist into his palm and observes the action of his triceps in the long mirror on the closet door across the room.

“I really feel good this morning. I feel like getting wet. You know how it feels after you take a good, quick, heavy dump?”

“Sure.”

“Well, let’s get going then. You can use my extra board.”

“NATIVE SON” EXCERPT

Next up is Mike Freesmith, antihero of Eugene Burdick’s bleak political-noir debut novel The Ninth Wave.

This is what I’m talking about when I say it’s impossible to write about surfing itself, but very possible indeed to create a magnetic surfing character—who in this case (spoiler alert if you’re going to read the book) turns out to be a power-mad backroom politico psychopath.

Burdick went on to write a pair of Cold War best-sellers, The Ugly American and Fail-Safe, both of which were made into movies.

Burdick, to his credit, didn’t let the heaviness of the work weigh him down. Here he is table-top dancing in Papeete, Tahiti, 1960, four drinks beyond caring about domino theory or the Tito-Stalin split.

“NINTH WAVE” EXCERPT

I’ve said it many times before, but the written version of Gidget is 75 times better than the character in the movie that you’ve all seen and kind of loved but mostly laughed at.

Gidget, really, is neither Kathy Kohner or Sandra Dee or Sally Field. Gidget belongs to Frederick Kohner, Kathy’s dad, a Czechoslovakian-born Nazi-dodging Jew who landed in California during World War II as a middle-aged adult and performed an act of American cultural absorption not far off the gold-standard mark set by fellow Euro ex-pat Vladimir Nabokov.

Gidget’s 16-year-old voice, as written by Kohner, is giddy and bright and confident; she is a cocooned and half-spoiled leading-edge Boomer, but losing her naivety by the week

“I’m really quite cute. I’ve real blond hair and wear it in a horsetail. My two big canines protrude a little which worries my parents a great deal. They urge me to have my teeth pushed back with the help of some crummy piece of hardware, but I’ve been resisting any attempt to tamper with my personality. The only thing that worries me is my bosom. It’s there all right, and it sure looks good when I’m undressed, but I have a hard time making it count in a sweater or such. Most of the kids in Franklin High are a lot taller and have a lot more to show—but most of them wear those damn falsies that stick out all over the place and I’d rather be caught dead than be a phony about a thing like your bosom. Imagine what a boy thinks of you once he finds out. And he finds out sure as hell the first time he takes you to a show.”

FULL “GIDGET” EXCERPT

Gidget sidebar: there is so much more to Moondoggie than we ever knew.

Finally, I have not read many of the fiction classics, and at this late date who knows if I’ll even make the effort. I probably should. But after struggling through Herman Melville’s overstuffed take on surfing, it is as certain as the Manhattan waiting for me downstairs that I will never read Moby-Dick.

MELVILLE SURF EXCERPT

(Like Matt Warshaw’s flavour? This story comes from his weekly mail-out, called Wednesday Wrap, which is sent to all good surfers who cut three bucks a month to subscribe to his bottomless archive of surf history. Join here.)