“Hey, have you seen the Nazare footy? Biggest waves ever ridden! What’s the biggest wave that you have ever ridden?” Suddenly twenty feet sounds like miniature golf. "Twenty feet? Wow, that girl yesterday surfed an eighty-foot wave!” 

VAL-lit: “Are you tired of talking surfing with people who don’t surf?”

“Did you see the Nazare footage from yesterday?”

(Editor’s note: Introducing a new genre of surf writing, VAL-lit, where surfers marinated by many seasons describe encounters with vulnerable adult learners and non-surfers.)

Tavarua, 2004

I couldn’t get the rope through the leash plug on my new gun. 

A hand reached out with a fin key and I pulled the rope through just as we anchored.

I hope that I thanked him.  He did smile. 

The boat was settling in as I heard a voice behind me, a realtor from South Bay, say “I hope it’s big”.  

The Manhattan Beach Century Twenty One Realty office was ready!

Funny, I remember that quote till this day. 

Boatman immediately jumped off the bow and I jumped too. 

You’ve heard of cardinal sins… here’s a cardinal rule. 

If you pull up to surf and the seasoned boatman is frothing, you should be too. 

“Is the scaffolding your lineup?”

“It’s a point of reference,” he scowled. 

Then he stared at me, asking if I was going on the next wave without speaking a word.

I had no choice. 

Three strokes in and I had ridden the length of the reef almost to the boat.  

Pretty much point A to B surfing on a 7’2”, but a lot of work connecting dots. 

Half the guys in the boat never paddled out.  Stage fright.  Including Manhattan’s Century Twenty One Realty’s big-wave warrior. 

I flew home with big Cloudbreak on my resume and I was internally proud as fuck.  Also scored four days of mostly windless Restie’s, well overhead… pure gravy as the meat and potatoes was eaten at Cloudie. 

Each of us has our unique ladders in life and I had just climbed mine. 

Ventura, November 2020

Minding my own business checking anemic surf, an attractive woman approaches holding her coffee in one hand and her phone in the other… tuned into a Surflie video. 

“Hey, have you seen the Nazare footy? Biggest waves ever ridden! What’s the biggest wave that you have ever ridden?”

Suddenly twenty feet sounds like miniature golf.

“Twenty feet? Wow, that girl yesterday surfed an eighty-foot wave!” 

“Yeah, but I sat in a position that wasn’t safe and I dodged bombs to paddle into gems and almost drowned a few times… but yeah, it was only twenty foot.”  

She looked at me as if some girl in Portugal made my experience obsolete.  She tried to hand me her phone to see the video, but I declined. 

I think the girl in the video turned out to be Nic von Rupp, but his hair is kind of long and the idiot that I am dealing with is “conservative”… which really means she is incurious and sure of her opinions.  

And she won’t wear a mask. Made a point of telling me because that’s why she thought I declined to touch her phone. 

Apparently, she drives her thirteen-year-old grandson to surf class three days a week and he gave her his password for premium surflie.  Now she’s totally connected. 

More than I am. 

She sensed a lull in our conversation as I pet her ten pound dog, cute as fuck, but so tiny. 

“My forecast reads that it will get big on Thursday, maybe you can catch that eighty-foot wave at the end of the week?”

I did what I do in these situations. I asked a question about her appearance and we stopped talking about surfing.  

Well, she talked, but like I said she was very attractive and I liked her dog so I listened to her explain the difference between cashmere and cardigans. 

Even enjoyed several touches of the magic fabric…

Hometown, November 2020

My visit to the Organic Farm Cart went similarly later that day.  

“Did you see the Nazare footage from yesterday?”

There is no way this woman surfs or she’s been very secretive with me for a decade.  Let’s just say she isn’t active or fit. 

“It’s kind of a different sport, but I’ll google it later, what are you cooking tonight?” I tried to change the subject. 

It’s like the entire world is infatuated with a surfing stunt performed yesterday, and the rest of us have to respond to it. 

When you see a jet-ski run along the lip line of a sixty-foot wave, you know there is no lip line. No Darren Handley going over the handle bars. Not enough transition in the wave to turn let alone put a ski off the track. 

It’s vanity heroism. 

A rider is dumped at the bottom of a standing wall and photographed making a world record before the lip crumbles above. I assume that the crumble is the top of the measurement. 

Then it‘s a race to the shoulder that is filled with jet-ski assistance if multiple oxygen suits isn’t enough for the occasional plunk. 

I do not disparage tow in surfing at Nazare, it’s like finding an empty amusement park and milking the rides that are incredibly photogenic. 

Problem is, in a weird global way, chop-hopping a moving wall of water has come to define our (surfing’s) greatest accomplishments via social media’s adoring embrace. 

Has Instagram replaced the Bible for sheep? 

Sorry, rhetorical question. 

And why… bear with me angry brethren who hate board theory… why would you tow into giant mush with such a little board? 

I fucking hate the mid length bullshit, BUT, if you are not going to even attempt turns and there is NO tube, why not plow through all the cheddar with more foam because at best, Nazare is point and go surfing, nothing more…

One big swoop on a eighty-foot wave and you’ll be signed to John John’s contract. 

Like Tom Carroll reinvented surfing Pipe with one turn.

You’ll wake up feeling so Laird. 

Mexico, 2017

I remember sitting in this boil field. Well inside the position of the swing-wide deep-water sets, and playing games with my mind. Betting on the swell direction that pinwheels the point with a keen eye to a horizon turning black toward the channel.

You win, you lose. The casino is open and it’s only skin in this game. And lungs. 

No jet-ski’s in sight. No crowds on the bluff. Just me, my decisions and continuous three-storey houses marching in unison with my fate. 

Charmed was the best way to describe my first two hours. DOH+ perfect point break and the swing wide wash-outs occurred coincidentally during my hike back to paddle outs. 

So far, I had dodged their bullets. 

I giggled at my good fortune as another gem stood up and bent around the first crop of boils. I dug hard, but the wave bent too much and swept under my position.  

Took a few seconds to appreciate the light offshore running down the line away from me, probably should not have. The turn back out to sea revealed that the deep-water, swing-wide set was standing up and trapping me in position. 

The violence underwater is difficult to explain to someone uninitiated. Surfacing through deep foam, I had reached the channel in between the point and beachbreak which I DID NOT want to explore at this size. 

Composing myself and repositioned at the big peak, those damn perfect runners kept luring me back into the field of boils.  The deep-water peak was pretty much a takeoff and a few snow boarding turns while the sets that hugged the point could be tagged over and over and over and over. 

Like the sirens call, I was seduced back to my blessed boil field.  

You know you’re making that mistake, but you have to. 

Think I caught two, three waves when destiny intervened conspiring with the dropping tide, another swing-wide set loomed. 

Not sure how my leash held, but I got mowed. 

Nearly drowned twice in one half-hour, alone at sea and almost poetic if not for my heart beating out of my chest.  

It’s about as opposite an experience to Nazare as it gets. 

How can I explain that to the hot surlie grandma or the flower groupie at the produce stand?  

Kelly Slater (pictured) as epidemiologist. Oh what might have been. @sensitiveseashellcollector.
Kelly Slater (pictured) as epidemiologist. Oh what might have been. @sensitiveseashellcollector.

World’s greatest surfer Kelly Slater weighs in on raging Covid-19 vaccine debate: “Something to ponder. But I’m no epidemiologist.”


We may not all agree on the value of modernist architecture but every surfer around the globe knows, for a fact, that Kelly Slater is the world’s greatest. 11 professional surfing championships, a face no supermodel or actress will deny, style, smarts, a heart for the environment.

When Kelly talks we listen and, yesterday, he delivered his long-awaited thoughts on the Covid-19 vaccines being rushed into production.

I don’t need to remind you of the current pandemic, of Operation Warp Speed that cut traditional regulations and is speeding preventative medicines to a weary public.

But what does Kelly feel?

In a strongly worded Instagram post, he quoted pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s former Chief Science Officer Dr. Mike Yeadon…

There is absolutely no need for vaccines to extinguish the pandemic. I’ve never heard such nonsense talked about vaccines. You do not vaccinate people who aren’t at risk from a disease. You don’t set about planning to vaccinate millions of fit and healthy people with a vaccine that hasn’t been extensively tested on human subjects.

…adding Something to ponder. But I’m no epidemiologist.

Something to ponder indeed.

Dr. Yeadon has been making the interview rounds, of late, throwing much shade on the pandemic, saying that almost all tests for Covid-19 are false positives and, “Were it not for the test data that you get from the TV all the time, you would rightly conclude that the pandemic was over, as nothing much has happened. Of course people go to the hospital, moving into the autumn flu season…but there is no science to suggest a second wave should happen.”

Thought provoking but back to Kelly not being an epidemiologist… I feel if he put his mind to it he would be the world’s greatest. I feel he would win 11 epidemiological titles with only a brief challenge, in the middle of his run, from Michelle Bachelet.

But what do you think?

Listen: Brazil’s first legitimate title contender Neco Padaratz on John John Florence’s $1500-a-month personal board-waxer, pro surfing conspiracies and the debilitating voodoo curse that forced him off tour!

"He did claims you could see from the next county. Adriano De Souza at his arm-flailing peak was an aging Carmelite nun compared to Neco…"

Yesterday, Charlie and I enjoyed a profitable, if one-sided, seventy-five minutes listening to Percy “Neco ” Padaratz, Brazil’s first legitimate world title contender, at least according to Surfer magazine.

I’ve known Neco since he was fifteen when I took him surfing at South Stradbroke island and an encounter with a small shark on the paddle back across the seaway left an indelible mark on the kid.

“I’ve never been so scared,” he said.

Neco did thirteen years on tour, beat Andy Irons in full flower in 2002 to win the Quiksilver Pro France, won back-to-back WQS titles in 2003 and 2004, was busted for steroids in 2005, got belted by Sunny Garcia for refusing to yield to the Hawaiian during a heat at the Pipe Masters and run off Oahu in 2007 (watch here) and is still regarded as the greatest claimer in surfing history.

“It was Neco who made an artform of the huge rafter-shaking claim. Fucker did claims you could see from the next county. Adriano De Souza at his arm-flailing peak was an aging Carmelite nun compared to Neco,” writes Matt Warshaw.


A Great White circles twenty-five-foot patrol boat in Esperance.

Esperance surfers describe terrifying encounter with Great White only weeks after monster Great White took well-known local surfer almost whole: “It was serious, it was really close!”

"I've never seen Mum like that before. She was just trembling on the beach."

If you live in Esperance, a pretty little town once famous for its impossibly clear water but now better known as the world’s Great White attack capital, well, your nerves are going to be a little frayed.

Esperance has become such a byword for Great Whites, the Discovery Channel brought a New York-based marine biologist, Dr Craig O’Connell, to the isolated town to film a documentary exploring the peculiarly aggressive nature of Esperance’s Great Whites.

In October, popular local surfer Andrew Sharpe was taken “almost whole” by a Great White, the body never recovered.

“The body is just fucking gone,” said one witness.

Another witness, swimming with her kid a click away, described the water turning red.

Nine months earlier, diver Gary Johnson was hit by a White as soon as he dived into the water off Esperance to set his anchor and killed. Last week, an inquest heard that his wife dived in after her husband, the water “full of blood and sand”, the tail of the Great White “flapping” up and down.

She described his eyes as “open and lifeless.”

In 2017, teenager surfer Laticia Brouwers, holidaying in Esperance, died in front of her family after being hit by a Great White.

Three years earlier, Esperance surfer Sean Pollard, 23, had an arm and another hand bitten off by a Great White.

There’s a theory kicking around that once a shark has a “blood meal” it’ll return to the area during their annual migration.

On Thursday, six surfers were called to the beach by terrified beachgoers “frantically waving their arms” after a twelve-foot Great White was spotted dangerously close to the group.

As per the state broadcaster,

Tagon Robbs and Brayden Little were among a group of six surfing a break off West Beach, two minutes from the centre of town, when terrified beachgoers began to wave them in.

“[Tagon’s] parents were on the rock, his dad just got in from the surf, and they were just frantically waving their arms, screaming,” Mr Little said.

“So we all paddled in. We didn’t actually see the shark until we got onto the step.

“Then we saw the shark coming back in through the line up, and it was like probably a three- to four-metre great white, which looked like a little submarine.

“[I’m] pretty freaked out obviously.”

While the Esperance local said he had seen a couple of sharks while surfing before, he said he had never seen one so close nor witnessed such a visceral reaction from onlookers.

“[Other times were] nothing like this. Nothing like the fear and the people running down and the actual fear in their eyes, and so it really hit home this one, it was serious, it was really close.

Mr Robbs said he felt grateful to be alive.

“If there was no-one running down the stairs, you never know what might have happened. We wouldn’t have seen it [the shark],” he said.

“I’ve never seen Mum like that before. She was just trembling on the beach.”

Diver Greg Pickering, who’s been hit twice by sharks, the last a Great White in Esperance in 2013, called for a cull after Laticia Brouwers was hit warning then that WA could expect “more of the same” unless action was taken to reduce growing shark numbers.

An abalone diver for forty years, he told PerthNow, “There wasn’t any. You never saw them. That’s changed now. You’ve got a situation where the numbers have built right back up again. I don’t think a lot of people understand that. The numbers are very high. I’d say they’re similar to what they were in the 1960s. I’ve seen more sharks over the last few years than in the 20 or 30 years before that.”

Suburban Sydney locals erupt in rage, despondency, as beloved surf club gets modern facelift: “They turned it into a microwave and I reckon I’ll die miserable now…”

Up in arms.

And now let us turn to the extremely divisive topic of modern architecture. Are you a fan or do you find anything built after 1950 an utter abomination? Do Frank Gehry’s swoops and undulations make you shudder with glee or recoil in disgust?

Is the name Zaha Hadid taste like honey on your lips or bitter gall?

Well, the world’s current most passionate, volatile debate spilled into Sydney’s typically passive locals dug in on both sides over the $3m refurbishment of the Coogee Surf Lifesaving Club.

What was once a simple yellow brick has turned fabulous (in the author’s opinion) but the man who paid for it, New South Wales treasurer Dominic Perrottet, is infuriated and says it now looks “like a massive microwave.”

Continuing, he added, “In the lead-up to the 2017 budget I stood inside that stunning clubhouse and announced new funding to upgrade it and make it more accessible. This isn’t what I had in mind. It’s possible I said the old clubhouse was good enough to frame, but I didn’t mean literally. We have to stop turning icons into eyesores. Buildings like this occupy public spaces that belong to everyone. That’s why beauty in architecture is so important. The buildings we build should complement the beauty of their surroundings. Our city deserves better and we must do better.”

Some have found the facelift so disturbing that an online petition has been set up demanding the original architecture be restored.

Coogee Surf Life Saving Club president Todd Mison, however, has slapped back, telling Perrottet they didn’t ask for the money in the first place, it was just given, and that he loves the re-design. “I can only go on what I’ve heard, but I stand outside that club literally everyday and the feedback is predominantly positive from both club members and passersby. I think the way they’ve blended the old downstairs portico, which has been left in situ, with the contemporary, is amazing.”

Mike Harris, a landscape architecture academic at the University of New South Wales, said, “The (redesign) doesn’t look impressive, even for a modernist apologist like myself. But if the original ever had any architectural merit it has been modified beyond recognition – a not uncommon incremental process over 100 years.”

Coogee local Marty Doyle said, “I reckon it’s gross.”

But now to the most important critic of all.


What is your informed opinion?