The former US President, Donnie Johnny Trump.

Chas Smith: “What happens to Trumpism now? Does it live or die? Consume the modern conservative narrative or disappear like frosted Whigs?”

Calling Trump supporters "tribalists" or "neo-Bonapareamists" or "wealth-aspirationalists" and defining every Trump voter as overtly, or covertly, racist is dumb as it is dumb. It was all something, and someone, you know.

And now it is over, the super heat has finally been called. Singlets turned back into beach marshal, challenger Joseph R. Biden Jr. eking out a win in the dying seconds, in uninspired surf, against incumbent Donald J. Trump Sr. and getting “chaired” up the “beach” socially distanced, of course.

Masked etc.

290 vs 214 the near final score.

The former almost in the excellent range.

Let us dispense with the vote tampering narrative, for a moment, as it is unlikely as it is uninteresting (to dump that many artificial ballots anywhere, outside of Venezuela, Tanzania, etc. would require a complete suspension of disbelief), and focus on the real matter at hand.

What happens to Trumpism?

The political movement that he conjured, though not entirely original, was robust.

Is robust.

70 million United States of Americans, likely including the U.S. Olympic Surf Team coach Brett Simpson, voted for a platform that severely restricts immigration, rejects interference in foreign lands, curses the entrenched political establishment, lets the reigns mostly out on regulation, attempts to protect national industries at the expense of global markets assuming those global markets will re-adjust and bounce along, etc.

Does it live or die?

Consume the modern conservative narrative or disappear like frosted Whigs?

Calling Trump supporters “tribalists” or “neo-Bonapareamists” or “wealth-aspirationalists” and defining every Trump voter as overtly, or covertly, racist is dumb as it is dumb. It was all something, and someone, you know.

Is something.


So what happens?

Donald J. Trump Jr. becomes standard bearer?

Brett Simpson?

It dissipates only to reemerge in therapy sessions and/or muffled sobs behind bars?

You tell me.

Tom Curren chose to bodysurf some heats, or borrowed local longboards. | Photo: @Andrewkidman

Flashback: The Greatest Surf Contest the World Has Never Known!

Amateurs surfed against professionals, women against men, sixty year olds against teenagers.

In September of 2001, just as the world was about to fracture live on television, some of the world’s most notable surf personalities met on a remote Scottish island, summoned by Derek Hynd to trial an experimental competition format.

No-where before or since has a contest taken place with such a disparity of wave riders.

Some were pioneers, some were world champions. Others were renegades and surf dissidents. And yet more were plumbers, fishermen and oil rig workers.

Many of them had travelled the globe, surfing the world’s most iconic waves; others had never ventured far from their home breaks.

They rode high performance shortboards, and longboards, and fish, and single fins, and eleven-foot gliders, all in the same heats.

Tom Curren chose to bodysurf some heats, or borrowed local longboards.

Amateurs surfed against professionals, women against men, sixty year olds against teenagers.

It was competitive surfing reimagined, a fusion of art and sport on an ancient shore.

It was an attempt to step back in time, in search of something that had been lost.

It’s mostly been forgotten, or never even heard of.

But at the time it seemed like it might be the beginning of something. In the context of global terror, perhaps it’s unsurprising that it slipped by relatively unnoticed, like a glassy, perfect wave sliding quietly by when your focus is momentarily elsewhere.

I mail Hynd to ask him about it, not expecting much. I’ve never known what to make of him. He’s always seemed to exist somewhere beyond the pale. But I get a response immediately.

Sure, he says, ask away.

With great excitement I do, then I hear nothing.

In the interim I do some digging. The stories I hear increase his mystique.

A month passes. I’m sure my questions have offended him somehow, I’m sure I asked the wrong things.

Then one morning I wake up to an email which begins with an apology for the delay then continues with a thousand words of scattered eloquence.

Personal opinions of Hynd are beside the point, you want to hear what he has to say.

“Either surfing was in good shape by the mid nineties or it’d gone to shit. All depended on perspectives,” he wrote. “One major surfing recession started with Gotcha heading into street and department stores and losing the beach, others positioning themselves to go public, Indo no longer guaranteed jungle isolation with Rip Curl or Quiksilver boats sniffing around, board design in worst ever shape, be it potato crisp crap or flip flap mals. An entire generation… misdirected.”

He tells me he wanted to conduct an event that “refocused the surfing essence”.

The set-up was this: there were three categories, pros, soul surfers (solid amateurs but not quite full pros) and locals.

Each was given a handicap to start according to ability: locals started with +5; soul surfers with +3; and pros on 0. Waves were scored out of 10, best single wave counted.

Everyone surfed together regardless of equipment, ability or gender.

There was a 50/50 split between technique and artistic expression, and a judge for each.

It was non-elimination, scoring was cumulative throughout the event, and there were cash prizes at the end of each day for the best performer.

The claiming rules were as follows: if you finished a ride and claimed it counted as your scoring wave; or you could gamble and claim on take-off which would get you an extra point, but would mean you had to count that wave.

As well as being inclusive and celebrating artistry, the format encouraged performance.

The handicap system meant there was no way of holding back against objectively lesser surfers. The claim system added an intriguing gambling element.

“I think there were two heats in a row where I got a really good wave straight away and I was like ‘just claim’ and there was only five mins gone, it was pretty weird,” recalls Mark “Scratch” Cameron, a Fraserburgh surfer who was twenty-three at the time and had recently won the first of his seven Scottish championships.  “But then, you could be in a heat where everyone else has got a wave and you’re in yourself. It was a good idea.”

“Hynd’s format is genius,” the shaper Christian Beamish says. “It brings a level of democracy to surfing competition, and by calling it a ‘Surfing Festival’  the emphasis is on performance and exhibition, more so than a more antiseptic, purely points-awarded-for-moves basis.”

Although it’s often a justified meritocracy, surfing has a socialist core. The playing field is open and free to everyone.

Derek Hynd’s format, trialled in the Hebrides, embraces surfing’s unique connection: we’re all in it together, just trying to get a few waves and ride them how we choose.

“The Hebridean happening took a shot at bringing all surfers together under the common surfing creed: We are as one,” Hynd wrote in Surfer. 

I’m curious as to why Hynd’s format didn’t progress.

Everyone I speak to seems to feel that it was an unqualified success. Rumour was that Hynd envisioned this as a precursor to a breakaway tour.

He would hold a series of events, all far from the madding crowd.

“We are looking at holding further events in outlying regions of the world, where it takes a surfers commitment to attend,” Hynd told the BBC shortly after the first event. “The more remote areas appear to have more soul.”

But when I ask him today why it never moved on he tells me that was never his intention. This seems to be the way with Hynd, his ideas, much like his surfing, are like a stream of consciousness. You never know what line he might take next.

“There was no notion of having it progress,” Hynd tells me, nearly 20 years on. “People simply got a kick out of it, or I hope they did.”

Of course, they couldn’t know they would be there, among the crofts, and the wind, and the stones, in an old world, when the new world came tumbling down. It seems frivolous to celebrate the act of surfing against this backdrop, but that’s what they did.

Christian Beamish remembers the night they found out about the attacks in the US and Tom Curren saying that they would change everything. He recalls some confusing reactions.

“One fellow, out from London, watching the Towers fall on repeat on TV that night, started to say, ‘Sorry, but you guys deserve it,’ Beamish says. “That made me really angry, and I recall telling him to shut his fucking mouth.”

But the purpose of the event remained the same. Maybe it had now become even more important to regain community.

“What did come out of it was a sense of spirit and place,” Hynd says.

There was nothing to do but surf. And maybe that was enough.

An image burns in my mind.

A modern world crumbles as an ancient one stands stoic.

Lewisan kneiss stretches skyward. Stones that have stood for hundreds of years, mysterious, immovable and unchanged.

Three thousand miles across the Atlantic, 21st century monoliths vanish into dust clouds and fear.

Concrete and glass and steel and flesh dissolve into chaos as the world looks on.

Some people are surfing.

Eventually, they must return to shore.

But until then, they’re ok.


Kelly Slater (left) and Kalani Miller in happier(?) times.
Kelly Slater (left) and Kalani Miller in happier(?) times.

Breaking: World’s greatest surfer Kelly Slater not currently following his longtime girlfriend on Instagram signaling possible shift in relationship status!

Thoughts and prayers.

Many things, head spinning things, are happening right now and all at the same time. A contested election in the United States that has yet to be called, world re-shuttering as Covid-19 cases spike, devastating wildfires, hurricanes, an iceberg that has broken from Antarctica and is making a beeline for an island popular among seals in order to kill them all, world’s greatest surfer Kelly Slater no longer following his longtime girlfriend Kalani Miller on Instagram.

BeachGrit’s relationship desk found out about this rapidly evolving story early in the week but had to wait for verification as it has been blocked by Slater.

Miller, you may recall, from the World Surf League’s accidental masterpiece Sound Waves filmed ahead of the Surf Ranch Pro wherein she approaches Slater at the 3:15 mark and asks, “How you doing?” to which he replies, “I’m alright. A little nervous.”

They continue talking, she tells him he knows Surf Ranch better than anyone, that he made it, and to just have fun.

Slater gazes out to the horizon with a look that can only be described as “seething” in his eyes.

At the current moment it is uncertain what Slater not following Miller on Instagram means but BeachGrit will stay ahead of the story and bring news as it develops.

Thoughts and prayers.

Listen: “In these times of tense uncertainty the only appropriate thing to do is double down on rabid partisanship. Which surf brand has had the best logo of all time?”

I'm right. Screw you.

Fraught days. Troubled times etc. and have you downloaded a mindfulness application on your smart phone yet? Trying, but failing, to limit the amount of time you spend checking American Presidential election returns?

Feeling very sad about a future?


There’s one of two ways we can go here. Purposefully smashing people’s last nerve OR finding a whole other thing we can fight about (story about Kelly Slater not following his wonderful Chinese-adjacent girlfriend on Instagram but she still following him and both in separate countries for months forthcoming).

So let’s also fight about surf brand logos.

Which is the best of all-time?

I will punch you in the nose if you say anything other than Gotcha’s Fishman.

And I’ll box your ears if you give me anything other than Rusy’s R.


I hear you, while tickling your small beard, but lay out my top five, anyhow, and it’s definitive.

David Lee and I also discuss politics, the Melee at Nazare, his misunderstanding of trophy trucks, etc.

Listen here.

Editor's note: I believe gorgeous Kai Lenny was a million miles from drowning and his GoPro footage demonstrates how easy frolicking amid thirty-footers is for him.

If Kai Lenny had died at Nazaré, actual dead, while clinging onto his GoPro, how would we view it?

"He understands the biz, you might say…"

We know what Instagram thinks.

Caio Ibelli said, “Your face scares the shit out of me”. A message he’s clearly been drafting for weeks and just waiting for the right moment to slip in.

Tom Carroll, brother of rough-hewn sage Nick Carroll, chipped in with a spunking emoji (though no aubergine).

The artist formerly known as Sal Masekela said he had to “down regulate” just to watch the clip. Falling into his trap, I had to google “down regulate” and now understand that Selema must be some kind of super warrior fitness guru guy. Like really, totally in the health zone. Like next level biological shit, man.

“Yo, Kelllllllaaayyyyy… you down regulating, bro?” I’d imagine he says.

Joel Parkinson wiped the ketchup off his little sausage fingers to quickly type, “Fuck that!” but with classic flow switched hands and never once stopped chewing.

Maya Gaberia, the WSL’s favoured big wave woman, unleashed her inner Scotsman and simply said “Holy shite”, whilst scratching her balls, presumably.

Chocorompe, the handle of legendary snowboarder Terje Haakonsen, contributed “Holy! Get clean *sponge emoji*” I have no idea what this means, but I have no idea how he rides with those binding angles either, and Terje can do what he likes.

Kelly, of course, was quick to sweep in with a classic shrugging emoji takedown. It must sting that the likes of Kai and Laird, objectively less talented on a surfboard, have carved careers not only financially superior to Kelly (Laird, at least, Kai’s on his way) but they’ve also nailed the one thing Kelly has always coveted: exposure and recognition from the mainstream.

But Lenny’s success comes at a price.

He genuinely could have selfied himself drowning at Nazaré, and he might do it yet.

His clip will go viral, probably in the real world as well as ours. And at the very least, his 700k followers and the cream of world surfing have gobbled it up.

He understands the biz, you might say.

Sure, he’s whoring himself out at the possible expense of his life, but he’s getting to fuck about in the water for a living.

Is that an acceptable trade off?

It’s not tragic to die doing what you love, said Mark Foo and Bodhi from Point Break, shortly before dying doing what they loved.

If Kai Lenny does drown, gawking at a GoPro, not only will he have died doing what he loves (filming himself), but at this stage he might be an outright legend.

The potential greatest ever. The Steve Prefontaine of surfing.

I’m sure he doesn’t see it like this, but worth the gamble, you think?

On one hand, I have deep admiration for him; on the other, I think he’s a bit of a knob.

Ensuring your selfie stick is pointing the right way during a multiple wave hold down could be looked on as next level vanity. It might also be seen as a necessity in order to sustain his career in a sport where the only payoff comes via the attention economy.

But still, I can’t help feeling that Lenny has blighted the experience somehow.

There were others who braved these giant, perfect waves, these once-in-a-decade conditions. Their experiences, dramatic and captured as they may also be, will now be relegated to footnotes.

Has Kai Lenny leeched something from the others just to feed his own, personal brand?

And worse, has he made a mockery of it, perhaps belittling a critical situation by holding a camera throughout?

And what if he had drowned?

Would we see him as a hero, or as a fool?