There I was, this morning, enjoying southern California’s ridiculous run of swell. Head high-plus with very long walls just begging for the sort of slow-motion arcing turns that have become my specialty. If there was a World Slow-Motion Arcing Turn League, I would be threat-adjacent on the QS.
In any case, there I was, slow-motion arcing one peak when out of the corner of my ear I heard an altercation at the next peak over.
“BRO. THAT IS THE SECOND TIME YOU HAVE DROPPED IN ON ME. SECOND. THE FIRST WAS NOT COOL BUT I LET IT GO. THIS ONE WAS OVER THE LINE…”
The aggrieved surfer was speaking very loudly and continued.
“I HAVE SURFED HERE MY ENTIRE LIFE AND NEVER SEEN YOU…”
His grammar had issues but grammar should never be judged in the heat of a moment. Or ever, for that matter.
“MY DAD HAS SURFED HERE HIS ENTIRE LIFE TOO AND HE’S SIXTY-FIVE. NEVER SAW YOU…”
And on it went from there, passing the five minute mark then the ten minute mark.
Ten honest-to-goodness minutes of loud jawing which made me wonder. How long can one surfer holler at another in the lineup before everyone else insists they take it to the sand?
I’ll open with three minutes but await your input.
Important for us to define the rules of engagement seeing that every other person in the water has only been surfing for three months.
The New Yorker mytho-poetically rhapsodizes over Montauk man who surfed for nine hours, fifteen minutes on the winter solstice: “He had been moved to tears … by the merging awareness of the beauty around him and the suffering of the world.”
Includes bonus appearance by twenty-foot Great White shark!
The Pulitzer-Prize snatching surf pioneer and New Yorker staff writer Billy Finnegan aside,the once venerable magazine has dissolved into a hissy finger-pointer following leftist obsessions, race, Trump, “whiteness” as a synonym for evil etc.
Where it works, still, is in those little side pieces that provide a window into New York life, although even here political bunting still hangs over its railings.
In the January 18, 2021, issue, we find Jeremy Grosvenor, a fifty-year-old surfer, who decides to surf at Montauk for the entire daylight window of the winter solstice, 7:07 in the morning to 4:26 in the afternoon, to raise money for a local food bank.
Grosvenor exudes boyish, buoyant good nature, but he can get quasi-mystical when he describes “having faith in the sea as a sanctuary.” Known for his ability to ride waves on pretty much anything, from standard surfboards to a nylon mat, he had chosen, for the solstice, a twelve-foot foam board, on the bottom of which he had written “food.” He had also brought along an old red canoe, which he loaded with jugs of water, trail mix, a thermos of miso soup, and tinned sardines, and anchored just beyond the breakers. “So I can eat like a seagull,” he said.
Soon, Grosvenor’s big-haired, twenty-five-year-old son, Mamoun, arrived, an audiobook of Zadie Smith’s “White Teeth” blaring from his car’s speakers. He had brought some doughnuts for his father, one of which he took along as he paddled out to join him. Grosvenor’s wife, Saskia Friedrich, an artist, showed up in painted jeans, a puffer coat, and a purple beanie, with their Australian shepherds, Vishnu and Blinky. She recalled how, when Grosvenor took her ocean kayaking years ago, they noticed a large shadow pass under their boat, and it turned out to be a twenty-foot-long white shark. “Jeremy’s got this almost yogic thing, allowing him to enjoy activities that would require us to overcome our natural discomfort or terror,” she said.
Later, as the sun seemed to be giving up the ghost, Grosvenor told a floating correspondent that the day had been mostly easy and pleasant. Despite all the hours in the elements, things had never become hallucinatory, although he had been moved to tears once, he said, by the merging awareness of the beauty around him and the suffering of the world. He had managed to keep warm, except in three of his toes, through physical motion and deep breathing, he said, “like a stellar sea cow.”
As dusk fell, a handful of spectators greeted Grosvenor’s landfall with cheers. Mamoun, wearing a “Free Palestine” hoodie, threw his arms around his father and, handing him the last of the doughnuts, said, “All right! Free doughnut! Black lives matter!”
Read the piece, written by New Yorker contributing editor and Vogue theatre critic, Adam Green, here.
Valiant Oahu lifeguards save over 80 people from Davey Jones’ Locker in one historic day: “The monstrous waves were indiscriminately grabbing the young and old alike!”
"And you, you can be mean. And I, I'll drink all the time."
But oooooee the northern Pacific has seen a run of swell only whispered about in tales of old. Day after day after day of waves so glorious, so magnificent, in California that famed surf photographer James “Cane” Wilson declared, “Every day I think it can’t get any better, and then it does. Craziest run of swell I’ve seen in 12 years living here.”
Day after day after day of waves so large, so ominous, in Hawaii that Oahu’s lifeguards saved over 80 souls in one historic day alone with a further 5000 “preventative actions” to boot.
Amongst the highlights, per the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, was the rescue of a 16-year-old boy and 64-year-old man fishing at Monuments who were dragged into the sea, a 37-year-old man riding his PWC at Himalayas, a surfer who became injured at the famed Makaha, a teenager surfing I-Don’t-Knows and 76 others.
And just imagine that World Surf League CEO had not contracted Covid-19, single-handedly destroying professional surfing as we know it. Imagine that the powers-that-be could have stretched the Sunset Pro waiting period forward by three days and sent our heroes into the raging vortex.
Would it have been the greatest single day in our shared history?
Also, who would you have tabbed for the win?
Jack Robinson? John John Florence?
I was planning to dark horse and throw my ownership stake of BeachGrit on Jadson Andre.
Obituary: Surf historian Matt Warshaw weighs in on Ben Aipa’s legacy, “If the wave had enough power his mechanics were so perfect that he didn’t have to really flex or push, just lean and hold and release. He was a beautiful surfer”
"It was like Dumbo the Elephant, where at first you're almost laughing, kind of "Oh, look at the fat guy surfing." And then very quickly you realize he's amazingly graceful and fluid."
As reported earlier today, the iconic Hawaiian shaper Ben Aipa has died, aged seventy-eight, after a hellish battle with multiple illnesses. His son, the noted shaper and former pro Akila Aipa, described Ben as a “humble colossus.”
Ben didn’t start surfing until he was 21 or 22. Every time I think of him, that’s the first thing that comes to mind. I don’t think any surfer of note began that late in the game, and the determination it took for him to get so good, so fast—I think that stayed with him for the rest of his life. I’m guessing here, but part of why he was always pushing on to the next thing in surfing, in terms of design, had something to do with him never forgetting how it felt like to be so far behind.
Did you know him at all?
No, but for a few years we moved in the same surf-comp circles. Ben came over to California all the time in the late ’70s and early ’80s, for the contests and the trade shows, and probably to shape boards. Any little two-bit pro contest, Ben was there. It was a little unsettling. He was 20 years older than the rest of us, huge and quiet and totally unapproachable. And full-on surfing to win, even if the winner’s check was like $250. Again, just a fierce level of determination.
It was like Dumbo the Elephant, where at first you’re almost laughing, kind of “Oh, look at the fat guy surfing.” And then very quickly you realize he’s amazingly graceful and fluid. If the wave had enough push—big Haleiwa, say, or Sunday—his mechanics were so perfect that he didn’t have to really flex or push, just lean and hold and release. He was a beautiful surfer.
You wrote about his bulldozer-like surfing in a list of surfing’s 15 best power surfers. You described him so, “(Ben) rode Sunset Beach like Jim Brown on a broken-field run. Power and finesse. Rudely underappreciated at a longboard surfer.”
He’s more famous now as a shaper, but for about eight years, starting in 1966, he was one of the best surfers in the world in powerful waves. Ben weighed something like 250, and he put all that mass to good use, but his surfing was also incredibly balanced and precise. It was like Dumbo the Elephant, where at first you’re almost laughing, kind of “Oh, look at the fat guy surfing.” And then very quickly you realize he’s amazingly graceful and fluid. If the wave had enough push—big Haleiwa, say, or Sunset—his mechanics were so perfect that he didn’t have to really flex or push, just lean and hold and release. He was a beautiful surfer.
You knew Ben was sick? Hell of a thing, blood infections, heart problems, diabetes, multiple strokes, dementia. Hard to square a man of his strength with the usual problems of aging.
At my age, you start rating people’s deaths. My mom had a good one year before last. Went in for knee surgery happy and active as could be at age 87, complication during recovery, she thumbs-downed a proposed series of long-shot operations and died five days later, at home, peaceful, on her terms. Ben’s last act was difficult. Luck of the draw, I guess. If you have a good death, that for sure should be something you’re remembered for. If you don’t, it just means you drew the short straw; it doesn’t reflect on your life or who you were as a person.
As a shaper he sure did go his own way. Let’s talk the double swallow and, later, the Stinger. That was, literally, a pivotal surfboard design. It gave Marky Richards, who would win a then-unprecedented four world titles, a rocket underfoot in the famous winter of 1975. You ever ride a stinger?
The Stinger came along right when I was hitting my surfing stride as a teen, and it changed my game completely. I rode the shit out of those boards for a year or two, until the twin-fin came long.
Of Ben’s era, who’s left?
He belonged to a couple of eras. At first it was Ben and Eddie Aikau, the two hot young-gun Hawaiians. The Stinger deal was 10 years later, when he was making those flamed-out hot-rod boards for Buttons and Mark Liddell, and surfing with them at Kaisers and Ala Mona. In-between, he shaped the board Fred Hemming’s rode in the ’68 world titles. Then I think he did some coaching or mentoring for some Hawaiian pros in the 1990s. So I don’t know exactly what era Ben belonged to. To me, he always seemed kind of removed from it all, not part of any group or period. Ben was a one-man era.
Ben was the creator of the stinger design that gave ol Marky Richards, later a four-time world champ, a rocket underfoot in the winter of ’75, and, according to Matt Warshaw’s list of 15 Best Power Surfers, Ben “rode Sunset Beach like Jim Brown on a broken-field run. Power and finesse. Rudely underappreciated at a longboard surfer.” EOS
Iconic Hawaiian surfboard shaper and power surfing bulldozer Ben Aipa, dead at seventy-eight: “A man from a poor sugar cane plantation who would change the face of surfing!”
"A humble colossus whose impact echoed thru the decades."
Ben Aipa is dead.
The legendary Hawaiian shaper, creator of myriad surfboard innovations and a man so fierce-looking Gerry Lopez described him thus, “When you see Ben coming, don’t think, just get out of the way” has died of multiple illnesses.
Ben was the creator of the stinger design that gave ol Marky Richards, later a four-time world champ, a rocket underfoot in the winter of ’75, and, according to Matt Warshaw’s list of 15 Best Power Surfers, Ben “rode Sunset Beach like Jim Brown on a broken-field run. Power and finesse. Rudely underappreciated at a longboard surfer.”
His two sons, Duke and Akila, carried the shaper-surfer flame into the twenty-first century, both arch-craftsman, Akila you’ll know already as the man who built the board Kelly lit Keramas up on in 2019.
Ben, who turned seventy-eight in August, was terribly ill, heart issues, diabetes, dementia and had been hit by myriad strokes.
At no time in my life would I ever be ready to share with the world my fathers final day…. The passing of the greatest man I know.
SO…Instead….I am going to tell you the story about a boy, from a poor sugar cane plantation family…whose determination was unmeasurable….that literally carved out his legacy one board at a time .
A man from the simplest of backgrounds who would change the face of surfing…
A humble colossus whose impact echoed thru the decades…masterfully mentoring generations of champions…in and out of the water…in competition and life….and somehow in all this…finding the time to stoke out tens of thousands of surfers with the best shaped boards all around the world along the way…..
Most of you know Ben Aipa, the surfer, the shaper,the coach or the legend…but to me he’s just my dad and I’m so very proud of him and I’ll Miss him dearly.
Dad…I hope you enjoy the next part of your journey . @akila_aipa and I have this from here and we’ll make you proud .