From the VAL and proud Dept: Author seeking the “joy and transformative power of lifelong learning” takes up juggling, singing, drawing, chess and surfing!

"...a year of learning purely for the sake of learning."

I opened my eyes, this morning, and beheld the freshly washed world. A powerful winter storm blew into Southern California, two days ago, bringing much rain, gusty winds, etc. Very chilly. Now it is over and the sun is shining through that clean air, bathing the palm trees and jacarandas in gold.

Picking up my phone, I scrolled the surf news to see if there was anything contagious or outrageous but instead saw a story on surf-adjacent website The Inertia by a “young wandering yogi who is striving to find moments of clarity both on the mat and on the waves” putting 2020 into perspective. It was not a bummer year, he wrote, but rather a season filled with glorious chances to surf and observe surf. To work from home and surf, watch people surf on Instagram and experience the “history-making” Pipe Masters. 2021 will be even better according to him, because… “It’s okay to wipe out from time to time, to find yourself caught inside, as long as you don’t stop paddling. We can all find the best wave if we’re patient, determined, and continue to flow with the uncertainty of these times.”

Very anti-depressive.

Continuing my scroll, I stumbled on an interview with Tom Vanderbilt who just released a book titled “Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning.” A VAL manifesto. Animated by the young wandering yogi, I eagerly clicked for more

Inspired by his young daughter’s insatiable need to know how to do almost everything, and stymied by his own rut of mid-career competence, Tom Vanderbilt begins a year of learning purely for the sake of learning. He tackles five main skills (and picks up a few more along the way), choosing them for their difficulty to master and their distinct lack of career marketability–chess, singing, surfing, drawing, and juggling.

Wait, distinct lack of career marketability?

What sort of bull roar is that?

My yogi inspired bliss was instantly shattered and I half-heartedly tried to discover what Tom learned about surfing but only discovered that he almost got stung by a scorpion, or something, at a Costa Rican surf camp.

Serves him right.

Distinct lack of career marketability my eye.

Parko's old joint at 41 Crystal Waters Drive, Tweed Heads.

World champion surfer and former beer baron Joel Parkinson sells beloved waterfront compound for record price; buys into VAL-developer’s Snapper Rocks tower: “For a surfer, you couldn’t get a better view on the Coast!”

"No brainer," says Parko.

The 2012 world champ and former part-owner of Balter Beer, Joel Parkinson, has sold his riverfront Tweed Heads compound for a record-breaking $2.52 million and bought into VAL developer Paul Gedoun’s exclusive Flow residences overlooking the Supa Bank at Rainbow Bay.

Parkinson’s house at 41 Crystal Waters Drive, Tweed Heads, five beds, three shitters, was bought in 2006 by the then twenty five year old for $1.1 million.

Its myriad features, which  include a boat pontoon, seapen, private beach and solar battery storage put homebuyers, already driven insane by Australia’s latest property bubble, into a terrific spin and was sold after only one inspection.

Peeling a little off that sale, as well as the proceeds of the $200 million sale of Balter Beer, Parko has bought into the yet-to-be-completed twelve-storey build at 1 Petrie St, Rainbow Bay, twenty-two apartments or “oceanic residences” with an average price of three-and-a-half mill.

Gonna look right into the SupaBank.
Day beds at Flow.

As I wrote six months ago, it’s got all the usual markers of wealth, heated pool, daybeds, steam room, gymnasium, personal surfboard locker rooms, fire pit, even a “surfboard preparation room” where, perhaps, locals might be employed to fix their masters’ surfboards and where lucky children with whisky breath will be free to roam and little dogs sourced from Mexico will be trained to walk on their hind legs. 

Parko, who has three children, says as much as digs living on a river, ain’t no place like the ocean.

“We’ve been out of town, off the beach, for a while now and now with the kids growing up, we wanted to be closer,” he told the Courier Mail. “For a surfer, you couldn’t get a better view on the Coast than what we’ll have from Flow. It was a bit of a no-brainer and we got in (to buy) as fast as we could. The quality of finishes and the lifestyle are going to be incredible. We’re very lucky.”

Four-time world surfing champ Mark Richards, who was an owner in the low-rise block of six ghetto apartments that sold to the developer for twelve-mill and which was subsequently demolished for Flow, has also bought into the tower.

The six low-rise ghetto apartments at Rainbow Bay sold, in one line, for twelve-mill.

“MR is probably Australia’s greatest surfing legend, with some great stories to tell, and I can’t wait to have a Friday afternoon beer with him,” Parko told the Courier Mail.

Andrew Buck, about to leave longboarder in his pneumatic wake. | Photo: Ryan Cannon/@lograp

Clip of man riding inflatable surf mat goes viral with million-plus views; surfers stunned at speed attained, including former world number two Taj Burrow: “Holy sh*t that looks fun!”

The joy of pneumatics!

I’ve always lived by the maxim, as long as it’s warm and tight the rest of the world can go to hell.

Andrew Buck, a longboarder and surf-mat aficionado from Dane Reynolds’ hometown of Carpinteria just south of Santa Babs, is a similar student of finding sensations in whatever form they take regardless of popular opinion.

Buck’s ability to catch sets at Rincon on an inflatable mat and generate speed has won him fans all over the world, including former world number two Taj Burrow and winner of the Hurley Pro Trestles, Richie Lovett.

A recent clip of Buck that appeared on Encinitas filmer Ryan Cannon’s Instagram account LogRap, a page that combines longboarding and hip-hop, generated over one million views and almost one thousand comments from surfers and non-surfers, many convinced there was a motor attached somewhere.

“He’s the best I’ve seen in person. Neck and neck with Rasta,” wrote Channel Islands’ Devon Howard.

“That doesn’t even look real,” wrote Richie Lovett.

“Holy shit that looks fun,” wrote Taj Burrow.

“Doesn’t make sense,” wrote shaper Greg Webber.


“Is he getting pulled by a ski or just got a motor on the bottom of that thing? Insane!”

“How is that mat so fast??? Zoomed right past that one guy. I always assumed they were slow.”

“What is that? He is breaking the sound barrier.”

The waves are from a session at Rincon on December nine and Cannon says he wasn’t sure he was even going to post the clip online.

“I though it might be interesting but I wasn’t sure. I did and it blew up,” he says. “No one was getting good waves, crazy how crowded it was, and he was able to go right by people, underneath and around everyone. He made it look so easy, so impressive. But they’re hard to even ride.”

The only dissent came from Kook of the Day, who fought multiple fronts on Instagram against anyone praising the rides.

“Still counts as dick dragging,” he concluded.

Experience: The grandest Pulitzer-adjacent description of Australia’s famed Bells Beach ever penned!


(A handful of months ago, I was approached by a wonderful editor of the famed Lonely Planet guidebook series to contribute to their brand new Epic Surf Breaks of the World. Pulitzer Prize winner William Finnegan was also contributing and I the deep need to show him up, which I no doubt did with the following entry for Bells. Enjoy.)

The public perception of “surf towns” is that they are warm, palm tree-fringed, laidback and perpetually sunbathed but one of the most iconic surf towns on earth challenges Detroit, Cleveland and Manchester, England for sheer, blue-collar, grit. Clouds hover low most days. Bitter cold winds pierce in the winter. Hard-working men and women rise early and head off to factory jobs producing, marketing and selling rubber wetsuits, shearling boots, t-shirts, hats, trunks, sunglasses, tide deciphering wristwatches and beer opening sandals.

Yes, Torquay, Victoria, Australia is home of the mighty surf industry. Brands like Quiksilver, Rip Curl and Piping Hot were founded here but not by accident. Not because Torquay is a population center or transportation hub. No, Torquay has gloomy weather, very few souls, only one way in and another out but it has Bells, one of the most iconic waves in the whole wide world.

Now, I am not a blue-collar man, myself, but have woven that self into Torquay’s fabric through both will and accident. Bells’ most famous son, the surfboard shaper Maurice Cole, once called me a ‘complete and total fuckwit. Narcissistic, selfish, impersonal, weak and low…’. And I was banned from the most historically important surf contest on earth, the Rip Curl Bells Beach Pro which has taken place every Easter weekend since 1962, because of a particular dust-up with an Australian surf star.

Before my banning, though, I drove the short 6 kilometers from Torquay Hotel Motel, just as the sun came up, to Bells, parked and gazed at the wave breaking at the bottom of a strong wooden staircase that hugs a stark limestone cliff at the rugged bottom of Australia.

Bells holds plenty of size, working most properly when vicious Southern Open winter storms push undiluted energy toward Australia’s rugged bottom. It will regularly be gifted six to eight foot swells and it is not uncommon to see fifteen foot pulses. These are the days that separate the bold from the timid or intelligent and the timid or intelligent stand on the cliff, watching art meet carnage, wiggling their toes in shearling boots. The wave isn’t known for its barrel, and rarely does, but its racetrack face, wide, steep and strong is a gift. There are three main sections, Little Rincon, to the south, Outside Bells, which needs proper energy to break and The Bowl, the most photographed and famous of the three which hurtles toward the beach begging for thigh burning roundhouse cutbacks and rail burying bottom turns.

While there is some debate as to where the wave got its name, certain historians claim it is named after William Bell, a sailor who lived there in the 1840s; others insist it is named after John Calvert Bell, a rancher whose cattle grazed the headland, there is no doubting its majesty. Standing on the cliffs, gazing out It is similar to visiting Jerusalem, Rome or Mecca for the faithful. A must see, must surf experience that will undoubtedly lead to some deep metaphysical understanding.

I was about to suit up and head down to surf when a surf brand security guard told me to move along. The Rip Curls Bells Beach Pro trials were set to begin soon and I wasn’t allowed to watch them, much less surf.

I sighed, deeply, and pushed off, thinking about walking the trail from Point Danger to Point Impossible just northeast from Bells. It’s a gorgeous walk beside Cypress trees, emerald grass meadows, magpies cackling as the sun goes down and nude Australians enjoying their Lucky Country’s bounty, even in the cold winter. Point Impossible is a nudist beach. But I didn’t feel like walking so returned to town for a drink and a reassessment.

In truth, my banning gave me a unique opportunity to explore the surrounding environs and I feel closer to the region’s truth than any local or at least better able to translate it. The Bells old-timer is a nasty mess, anyhow. One of those cold climate grouchy types who mumble inaudibly in order to conserve energy and make no doubt about it, Torquay is a very cold town, especially when Bells is working. Cold, grey and damp but not without charm. The town center is cute in a classically Australian sort of way. Semi-modern with a main thoroughfare that turns into the Great Ocean Road lined with multiple cavernous Quiksilver, Rip Curl and Piping Hot stores alongside Ghanda, Super Duper, ChemTrail and other brands founded in Torquay.

The fact that the surf industry has been faltering for years, like the auto industry in Detroit, the train industry in Cleveland and the steel industry in Manchester, gives the town an extra poetic dash. It’s got heart. Real heart and economic depression mixes with the pokies, or slot machines, pubs, meat pies and pints of Victoria Bitter to create a tableau missing from the gilded tech metropolises of the future.

Getting banned is also how I discovered Winkipop. The great four-time world champion Mark Richards once called Bells a ‘dud’ and ‘the most overrated wave in the world’ but he loved Winkipop. Everybody loves Winkipop. It may sound like one of the Telletubbies but Winkipop, just a short paddle east from Bells, is a hollow right that speeds along a section reef and provides high-performance thrills as valuable, or important, as any. It doesn’t hold the size that Bells can but size ain’t everything.

I surfed Winkipop later that day I wasn’t allowed to watch, or surf, Bells, and have also surfed Bells on many occasions. I only had one board, my standard squash tail, but wish I had two. A high performance shortboard for Winkipop and a longer, more classically drawn thruster for Bells. The sort that Maurice Cole shaped for Tom Curren when he showed what was possible on that canvas.

I imagined I was Tom Curren on a Maurice Cole anyhow and wondered if he would ever forgive me for being a complete and total fuckwit, narcissistic, selfish, impersonal, weak and low and shape me a board that would allow me to become art too.

A boy can dream.

(Buy Finnegan’s entry here)

SA cops in the board-taking biz at J-Bay. | Photo: Mike Ruthnum

South African police threaten Jeffreys Bay surfers with jail-time, confiscate boards, issue fines, arrest man checking surf with son under tough new COVID-19 lockdown laws: “They drove in fully armed and in bullet-proof riot gear!”

"Then five cops walked down to the Point and chased everyone out of the water. Merry Christmas!"

Wild times in South Africa if examining or riding waves is your game. 

At Jeffreys Bay, a man was arrested for checking the surf with his fourteen-year-old son and, on the beach, two surfers were busted, had their boards confiscated and were threatened with jail time. 

“Then five cops walked down to the Point and chased everyone out of the water. Merry Christmas,” says BeachGrit reader Garth Robinson, owner of 

The man arrested for surf checking is Johan Rossouw, Robinson’s neighbour .

“He was just looking at the surf while sitting on a neck (bench) in the car park at Point beach J-Bay, probably the most consistent rideable wave in South Africa,” says Robinson. “They issued him with two fines. He reported the situation to the Internal Investigations Unit of the South African Police Services (the cops didn’t realise they were arresting a retired police man). He has handed in his statements and and filled out J88 forms to go along with his photos of bruising sustained when being forced into the cop van in front of his kids… the cops are on an almighty power trip here at the moment. They drove in fully armed and in bulletproof riot gear to chase tourists and locals as if they are criminals while they are abiding by the law. 

Cop tries to stop man’s son from filming daddy’s arrest.

“The residents of Jeffreys Bay are outraged at what has taken place in our once tranquil surfing village, and we want to world to know about how the cops have zero clue as to how to enforce the draconian laws we have found ourselves under here. 

“Due to our beaches and parks being closed we are forced into closed spaces like shops, malls and made to be in closer contact with others, whereas beaches and the sea offers us safe space to exercise and avoid infection. This country is using the State of Emergency as a cover to make South Africa just another socialist jackboot dictatorship.”

A marked turnaround, of course, from nine months ago when a vacationing American doctor ignored lockdown and enjoyed epic Supers solo thereby provoking an outpouring of hate from locals. 

The only thing keeping this guy safe was social distancing, wrote our correspondent. 

“I got my ass handed to me through WhatsApp and through the community,” said Joseph Hardeman.