Requirements included writers having authored at least three posts published and me being able to think of a shark for them. Still didn’t make it? Well, fuck, that’s on you.

Angry surf fan eviscerates BeachGrit’s entire roster of writers: “Archaically masculine, self-conscious blowhards… dirt-encrusted homeless men!”

The cruellest fun you can have in a post-Trump world… 

With the election over, now is the time for more important things, like this empty calorie end of year retrospective/review of BeachGrit writers!

Did I miss you? Find out!*…

Chas Smith
The Charles D. Smith Article Factory, integral to BeachGrit operation since its founding, always able to pump out, at a prodigious rate, intellectually empty content for consumption by the mindless mass, shifted even further into shark mania this year.

To the point of excess, every other article came to discuss and/or tangentially be tied to the creatures.

While that was the biggest development concerning his writing, Charlie was able to produce, intermittently, some truly inspired work, including his article detailing the Official Kelly Slater Friend Rankings, the best thing to appear on the site this year. Perhaps if he didn’t have so much going on outside of the site, his work here wouldn’t suffer so much… nah, get it, bro.

Also, in keeping a promise, I have to mention that his article about a proposed Surf Hall of Fame in Hawaii… was not great.

BeachGrit Shark Species Choice: Greg Norman – a winner, entrepreneur (several business ventures), and an epic choker, Greg Norman is a golfing legend and an inspiration to everyone who has ever achieved an accomplished position within their profession, without fully living up to their own potential, while becoming a bigger success outside it. Chas is the Greg Norman of surf writing. After initial successes in surf writing, including the Mick incident and Welcome to Paradise, he, like Normie, would try to expand past it, Normie starting several money making business ventures, Chas becoming a war correspondent and author of well-received non-surf books. In both their cases, outside of their initial callings, they can be seen as bigger successes, especially Chas, whose Reports From Hell is better than anything he’s done in surf. Also, both guys huge chokers, Greg famously melting down on Sundays at several majors, Chas whiffing on both Erik Logan interviews and getting shoved by Husky Bluto.

JP Currie
Articles from JP this year have been few and far between, totaling only three: one about Kelly and his quest for superficial understanding, one about MAWNs, and one a crack at semi-autobiographical denial surf-lit. Of the three articles, all of which I enjoyed, the Kelly article was of utmost quality. Complete with the enthralling hypothesis that Kelly has never finished a whole book and a hilarious little story featuring Ol’ Funshine Bear, it was fun! Salty, Scottish bastard (as you can probably tell, I’m currently learning about adjectives).

BeachGrit Shark Species Choice: Bull shark – a savage, allegedly aggressive beast capable of surviving in freshwater, the Bull Shark is a versatile predator. JP can write and make an argument thoughtfully above the line in an article and brusque below, reacting irritably to people having an angry go at him in the comments. Bull shark.

Cedar Hobbs
A young law student, Mr. Hobbs burst onto the BeachGrit scene under the guise of being a surfer from the Midwest (so quirky!), writing a few articles from that perspective. Plagued by uninspired phraseology and an inability to produce any special or real insight to anything, his early work was crap. Funny thing is, in trying hard to make that interesting and failing miserably, he actually ended up totally nailing the reality of the Midwest personality: being a plain, stale corn chip. BeachGritters below the line, me included, hated it. Mr. Hobbs, realizing people didn’t like his shit, decided to travel back to 2016 with a pivot towards writing about legal proceedings in the surf world (Editor’s note: The directional change was at my suggestion) coming to exist as a sort of dirt crusted homeless man’s Rory Parker. While marginally better, I’m still not a fan.

BeachGrit Shark Species Choice: Brown Smoothound (shitty sand shark) – unremarkable, small, and more of a nuisance out in the water when you keep stepping on them, the Brown Smoothound Shark, what I and everyone I knew called a “sand shark,” is perfect for Cedar.

Steve Rees
Mr. Rees has written a few articles for the site this year, none that you’d be bound to remember, mostly because his writing is hard to follow, not because it’s especially complicated, but because the sentences, while nice, never really flow. He writes a series of independent non-sequiturs strung together for eight hundred words or so.

Is this true? Probably not, I didn’t go back and read them, so as not to possibly soil this potentially unreliable recollection.

BeachGrit Shark Species Choice: Bonnethead shark – in looking into sharks for Mr. Rees, I tried to find something that neither I nor anyone else had never heard of, or at least that they wouldn’t have remembered they had. Bonnethead. Perfect.

Matt Warshaw
As a beloved former writer and editor at Surfer Magazine, and author of the most important repository for information and knowledge concerning surfing and its whitewashed history, the Encyclopedia of Surfing (EOS), it may be difficult for some to watch Matt Warshaw toil away in his superannuated position at BeachGrit, wheeled out only when some old surfer dies to write about what other old people thought of the guy.

For those young enough to not have lived through any of the times or heard anything about who he’s talking about, or those who failed to care in the moment when whatever/whoever was happening, it can be kind of stretched to seem interesting.

For others who were there, or may have known more about the personality being talked about, it can also be interesting… or not, in case he got something wrong or made Nick Carroll cry.

Anyway, the past is dead.

BeachGrit Shark Species Choice: Post-Jumping of the Shark TV Show – sometimes a critically acclaimed, or relatively popular, TV show runs out of steam before its audience has a chance to stop watching it, putting showrunners and networks in the position of choosing whether to cruise on its success and ride it out even as the quality declines, featuring ever increasingly bizarre premises, and/or it becomes less relevant or hang it up… they ALWAYS cruise it. In Warshaw’s case, there are still plenty more surfers from the ‘70s and ‘80s not yet dead.

The George Brothers
Wow, what a pair of guys. Real and true industry titans, these active legends of the surf writing game, at least in their own minds (Sam invented surf commentary!), the brothers provided articles featuring ideas long ago decidedly stale (Sam) and viewpoints for archaically masculine, self-conscious blowhards (Matt).

Every article existing as further proof that their era is dead and should be.

BeachGrit Shark Species Choice: Megalodon – the largest shark to ever exist, the Megalodon is extinct. Same as the Georges’ relevance.

Hippy
What do you like most about BeachGrit? Surf-lit? Quit-lit? Sharks? Longtom? Pod… no, surely not the podcasts… Personal halcyon days reminiscences of old guy guest writers? If the last one interests you, then you probably loved Hippy’s stories this year. Hemorrhaging levels of nostalgia that in such quantities would cause a normal World War II veteran to black out, old guys the world over got to cream themselves reading his stories and remembering the bad old days. He also wrote two Coronavirus articles that were pretty good.

BeachGrit Shark Species Choice: Chevrolet XP-755, The Mako Shark I – Debuting in 1962 at the 6th Annual Automobile Show in New York as a concept car for forthcoming Chevrolet Corvette models, the XP-755 is perfect for those trafficking in long forgotten memories. You’re welcome, Hippy.

Jen See
This year, the freshly anointed Holy Jen See appeared in BeachGrit’s pages fewer times than in years past, at least in my recollection. Despite that, what she did write, specifically her new entries contributing to an ethnographic understanding of Surfline Man, could be described as hit-or-miss, your opinion usually dependent, though not necessarily, on your position on the sexist to woke spectrum. I do remember enjoying one of the Surfline Man posts.

BeachGrit Shark Species Choice: Great Hammerhead shark – unprovoked attacks on humans by Hammerheads have been relatively rare, with seventeen recorded since 1580, the latest being Michel “Should Not Be Compared Stylistically to Kong” Bourez. Like unprovoked attacks by Hammerheads, well-known women surf writer numbers have been limited. Jen is a Great Hammerhead because of this connection… and because Shea Lopez is from Florida, an area I’ve always thought about when thinking about these creatures.

Derek Rielly
Kinky Tits had a good year, generating the Kelly Has a Chinese Girlfriend so Can’t Be Racist article, which would mark the inarguable high point of BeachGrit as a site. Nothing he wrote this year before that was especially remarkable, and he’s been able to cruise off it since, though that’s probably due to him being more preoccupied with more important things, like actually trying to make money and wrangling guests for the podcasts, using all his energy on their intros… and dealing with all the unsolicited articles (like this one) sent his way.

BeachGrit Shark Species Choice: Streex – from the kids TV show cartoon, Street Sharks, Streex is the level-headed, cool, and self-proclaimed ladies’ man member of the title crimefighting squad consisting of four brothers transformed into half-man, half-shark creatures by an evil scientist. Being the more level-headed of the BeachGrit principals, and deciding to come up with one of the characters to choose for this exercise, I would say Derek’s best fit would be Streex, who happens to rollerblade, which I could see Derek getting into, weaving though cones with other hairy armpitted German Fraus.

Giancarlo Guardascione
A sporadic contributor throughout the year, GiGi has made an unpronounceable name for himself submitting surf stories covering a range of topics including… hmmm… umm… incidental New York/Jersey surf happenings (?) and other seemingly random things like Covid-infested poopy ocean water.

Usually pretty short and featuring uncomplicated syntax, his articles are easily understood and pleasing enough so as not to detract in the slightest from anyone’s further enjoyment of the site.

Examining GG’s writing, one could classify it as exhibiting competence… a type of competence that, unfortunately, can be effortlessly unremembered.

BeachGrit Shark Species Choice: Goblin shark – by picking a shark that starts with a “G,” our piccolo scrittore italiano, now GGG, can potentially become confused with the old, overrated Kazakh middleweight who lost to a ‘roided up ginger. Pretty cool.

Surfads
Supplying the site with articles about a variety of subjects over the course of the year, where Surfads really shined was in his surf-lit contributions. Consisting funny observations about the surfer lifestyle, and whatever cliché about practitioners he decides to make fun, these stories cause hardcore surfers outside of professional competitive scene to laugh and reflect on the enriching aspects of their chosen hobby and also the inherent ridiculousness of it all.

His surf-lit about imagining hitting that kook over the head with a trophy inspired me to try to write the pilot episode of Ferreira Files, which turned into a mostly biographical Quit-lit piece about surfing and depression. Boo to that!

BeachGrit Shark Species Choice: Shorthand-Aided Rapid Keyboarding Supplying – according to Wikipedia, the ShaRK keyboard text input method “a user draws words on a graphical keyboard using a pen. Instead of tapping the keys, the user draws a pen gesture that connects all the letters in the desired word. After some usage the user learns the movement pattern for the commonly used words and can write them faster than is possible on a traditional virtual keyboard.” Like the ShaRK, Surfads’s surf-lit articles are useful tools for increasing efficiency.

In the case of surf-lit, it can be used to quickly and more easily convey the attitudes held and stances taken by surfers on a variety of subjects like VALs than a less palatable reasoned opinion piece that would automatically receive pushback by people wishing to argue or be contrarian because they don’t like being told how to feel could, thus being more efficient. Is that a stretch? Definitely.

longtom
With the Tour canceled for the year, we saw a lot less of our esteemed longtom in these pages. What he was able to submit was still pretty good, flashes of his brilliance which included littering articles with brainwarming literary references for readers to feel good were displayed throughout.

At his best during times of quickly shifting circumstances, being able to contextualize what is happening and postulating what to expect/look for going forward, the reality of the increasingly stagnant surf world brought on by the coronavirus pandemic hindered him.

With no professional surfing to write about, the subject matter at his disposal, wavepool development and sharks, rendered him unable to climb to the previously achieved heights of previous years.

BeachGrit Shark Species Choice: San Jose Sharks in the 1990s – since their inaugural 1991-1992 season, the San Jose Sharks have been the coolest team in the NHL. Easily. With an inspired color scheme centered around teal, great nickname, and a kickass sports logo, featuring a Great White charging through a triangle (referencing the Red Triangle) and chomping a hockey stick, the Sharks had a lot going on for them.

Subsequent teams to enter the league during the decade, including the Mighty Ducks and Panthers, wanted and tried to be the Sharks, the Ducks using unusual colors (purple and jade), the Panthers utilizing a cool animal nickname. While they sucked at playing in the ‘90s, the Sharks were still the best. I remember playing NHL ’95 and always picking them, as did all my friends, unless they wanted to be cheating assholes and pick the Blackhawks or Red Wings.

Likewise, longtom, despite having a down year in terms of output and my average article valuation, is still the best serious surf writer.

*Requirements included writers having authored at least three posts published and me being able to think of a shark for them. Still didn’t make it? Well, fuck, that’s on you.


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.

Someone.

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.

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?

Well.

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.

T&C?

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.