Photo of Ben and family, happy days. Credit: Ben Searancke.
Photo of Ben and family, happy days. Credit: Ben Searancke.

New Zealand surfer saved after scrawling “HELP” in sand reveals Tom Hanks inspiration, how close to death he skirted: “My legs were gashed to the bone and lungs clogged with seawater!”

Cast Away II!

Days ago, now, we all learned the wonderful story of a New Zealand surfer who became bashed on the rocks, made it to the sand, scrawled a giant “HELP” before passing out and was rescued when two hikers saw his plea.

So happy… or at least I hoped so happy.

The original story contained no details on what happened post-saving. Did he make it to the hospital? Succumb to injuries on the way?

I, in any case, named and claimed a joyful ending then held my breath until this very moment when, whew, it has been revealed that Aucklander Ben Searancke, 43-year-old father to a 9-day-old daughter is sweating out opioids but otherwise fine.

And we must, at this very second, get the whole harrowing story.

Searancke went out for a surf shortly before 11 am when his leash plug pulled out of his board on a duck dive.

“I wasn’t panicking really because I thought I could make my way in,” he said. “Then I put my head up and I was 500 metres around the northern end, which was nothing but rock. I tried to start swimming back towards Karekarei but I just couldn’t. I was looking around and all I could see was just swell hitting rocks and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to swim back around.”


He knew he was in big trouble.

“I had nothing. I was in the middle of the ocean. No beach in sight. No people in sight. Then getting pushed towards rocks with heavy water. A wave just grabbed me and threw me against the rocks and I covered my head and got scratches all over my body but I felt my leg get a really bad bang. I think eventually I managed to climb up and I looked down at my leg and my bone was showing on my right hand side.”


He clung to the rocks for a few hours, fashioning a tourniquet out of his leash, trying to get some strength.

“[I was] bleeding and getting pretty cold, and every time I thought I was nearly there, there was like a point between rocks where you couldn’t make it around. So I had to make a call to try and swim across. I looked at the waves, timed it, and I looked at a point on the first one and I went I’ve just got to go. I got smashed against the rocks, on top of my head. I felt a bit dizzy, I was held down for long enough to start thinking this is it, it’s definitely over, and then I struggled to get back up. That time my brain was definitely going. I could see my daughter, I could see my missus and I was going ‘this is it’. Then I finally made it round to Mercer Beach and then I kind of realised shit, there’s no one here. I don’t even know if there’s a way out of here. I started to feel like I was going to faint.”

It was at that moment that he let Tom Hanks be his guide.

“Honestly I had watched this movie Cast Away two weeks ago and Tom Hanks wrote help in the sand. Kiwis are Kiwis, I know that they might just walk past and I was desperate. If they just walked past I would be stuffed so I thought if I wrote HELP and they were looking at me, surely that’ll engage them enough to do something. I did it as good as I could, and then literally as I got the P, I collapsed, trying to stay conscious.”


Kiwis are Kiwis? What does that mean? Do New Zealanders not like to help people?

Well, in any case, legends and non-typical Kiwis Vanessa Ingraham, 36, and her friend Dace Kalnina, 32, were hiking on a coastal track, saw the message and sorted help.


Searancke was snatched up by lifesavers, transported to a hospital and stitched right up. “I haven’t slept a lot. I didn’t sleep at all last night for the pain, that’s why I went back [to the hospital] this morning [Saturday]. So they’ve put me on really heavy meds. I’m sweating like a maniac.”

Very cool.

The only part of the original story I got wrong was attributing Searancke’s inspiration to Sting instead of Tom Hanks.

Which is your favorite Hanks vehicle?

I’ve got to go with Joe versus the Volcano.

More inspiration.

Ben versus the Rocky Outcroppings.


Bubby wants dinner.

Populist Australian politician’s stunning claim his government saved the “WSL World Championship Tour” after cancellation of Sunset and Steamer Lane events!

“If it were not for New South Wales, the WSL Championship Tour would not be happening globally."

The deputy premier of NSW has made the stunning and, in my opinion correct, claim that his government is responsible for saving the world tour. 

Speaking in Parliament, and after ripping into Lennox locals for knocking back the gov’s millions, Giovanni “John” Barilaro said, “The opportunity that came out of the rejection from Lennox Head was that we were able to steal two events. Attracting the best surfers in the world to New South Wales supports our locals and sports stars of the future. That is a fact. Santa Cruz and Hawaii were shut down. Bells Beach and Snapper Rocks are, of course, no longer happening.”

And the zinger, “If it were not for New South Wales, the WSL Championship Tour would not be happening globally.”

John Borilaro is a name that has become familiar to Australian surfers over the past month; while his opposite numbers in Victoria and Queensland fastened their nursing bras, Barilaro gave a reeling WSL the free-flowing NSW taxpayer’s teat. 

It ain’t such a bad idea, politically and on the ground.

Five mill per event, say, and you trump your idealogical rivals interstate and drive a bit of life into a pandemic-depressed economy. 

He’s a wildcat, ol Giovanni Barilaro.

Last September he brought his government, of which his conservative National Party is the bit-player in a coalition with the Liberal Party, to its knees over the protection of koalas. 

Libs wanted to pass legalisation to protect the furry bastards, meaning farmers and property owners would have to jump through a few loopholes before they bulldozed native trees etc. 

Barilaro said, essentially, fuck the bears.

The legislation, he said, would be a “nail in the coffin for farmers.”

“Imagine being so out of touch and arrogant you thought it was a good idea to spit the dummy because you wanted to be able to wipe out koalas,” said Greens MP Jenny Leong.

Libs didn’t want to lose government to the socialist ALP and therefore capitulated.

As we’ve posited before, the teats of state governments in Australia have long been a source of nourishing funds for pro surfing, although as Longtom pointed out after the Lennox Head fiasco, “It looks like cheap rent-seeking for a product that few want in their backyards and a story that has never really made sense except for a few rare birds who live at an altitude the rest of us will never attain.”

And, “Without a functioning business model to wean itself off State Tourism bodies the WSL is locked in a prison of its own making.” ­

Breaking: World Surf League brushes off “Debacle in December,” applies for Pipeline, Sunset Beach permits for men’s and women’s events!

Loco moco on face.

Saturday early afternoon found me sitting outside, enjoying a bit of sun, catching up on some light reading. There seemed nothing of note in the news. A little of this and a little of that. A woman was bit on her bottom by a bear when she tried to use an outhouse in Alaska.


Right when I was about to head inside, though, I stumbled upon the headline Oahu surf meet permits are due Feb. 26 amid new gender equity changes and was immediately drawn in.

Was the World Surf League going to apply for permits?

Would it receive permits after The Debacle in December?

No word until 3/4 of the way down and…

“The World Surf League is continuing its commitment to local and international surfers, men and women, to pursue professional surfing careers in the islands, ” Robin Erb, WSL senior manager of operations and marketing for North America /Hawaii, said in an email. WSL is seeking permits for North Shore events for men and women at Pipeline and Sunset Beach.

Pipeline and Sunset Beach.

Men and women.

Do you think Robin Erb was blushing, extensively, when handing in the application?

Loco moco all over face?

I hope so.

Simply the best.
Simply the best.

New field “surfonomics” delights with surprising discoveries of largesse: “You guys have got to be kidding me. Surfers are spending that much? But, like, they are!”

We are a blessing.

2020/21 has been a banner year for surfing with booming participation, exploding participation, robust growth in participation. Of course, we, here, all feel very grouchy about it and salve our grump by openly mocking a World Surf League that, somehow, has not been able to take advantage of a participatory windfall but, still, those stuffed lineups hurt.

Well, at least the spike is both doing wonderful things for the environment and local economies as spotlighted in the delightful new field of “surfonomics” just profiled in the august BBC.

Per the story, “The idea of using economics to assess the value of surfing resources, branded “surfonomics”, has been around for a little over a decade. An early study in the field centred on Mavericks in California, a famous break that throws up waves of 10-30ft (3-9m), and draws in huge crowds of spectators. Big wave surfer João de Macedo, a campaigner who was involved in the research, says Mavericks already had legal protection as a national marine sanctuary, but surfonomics “was something that when you talk to a politician [they could use to] justify conservation in a more practical way”. The net economic value of Mavericks was finally estimated at about $24m (£17m) a year filtering through its local tourism industry.”

$24m a year.

Does the figure surprise?

A drop in the bucket compared to jolly old Great Britain where local surfonomists estimate our Pastime of Queens squirts an extra $2.5b into the coffers which can then be used to solve mental health crises related to feeling isolated from Europe etc.

The International Association of Surfing Academics studied Lobitos in Peru, and showed how protecting its environment, reefs, etc. was important to wave health and surfers would then kick down $3.6m while they came to enjoy. The government was so impressed that it became the very first country to give legal protection to waves.

Other nations are now following suit.

But did you know we were so generous and that our generosity made the world a better place?

I didn’t.

Thank you, surfonomics.

I shall sleep well tonight for the first time in, like, eight years.

Book out private island at world’s last surf paradise for one week for one Bitcoin: “I’ve died and gone to heaven,” says surf explorer Martin Daly

You and fifteen pals. All booze included.

Got a spare bitcoin gettin’ all het-up in that virtual wallet? Want to throw a crypto-shekel at Martin Daly, the great surf explorer who set up his alt-universe on Beren Island in the Marshalls there, and get a piece, maybe the last piece of empty surf heaven, for you and fifteen pals?

All booze included?

To celebrate the wild ride of cryptocurrency, and to attract a hipper, more tech-savvy crowd instead of the usual dinos wiring cash via Western Union, Marty’s offering a deal which means, given bitcoin’s volatility, either you win, ie the currency crashes, or he wins, it soars.

If you want in, want to examine the parameters of the deal, dates, what you get and so on, click here.

Marty, who is now sixty four, tells me what brought him to the Marshalls, specifically Beran Island, a twenty-hour sail from Majuro, the republic’s capital city, in the first place.

“I know what the ocean and the reefs are supposed to look like. I grew up diving pristine reefs, reefs without names when I was a kid in Townsville in Queensland. When I was on The Crossing I went everywhere, dove everywhere and I saw that ninety-five percent of the world’s reefs were impacted. Two thirds were actually gone or dead. Put your head underwater here and you see what’s supposed to be here.”

Near Beran island he found a righthander, which Marty called Nirvana (“The best thing I’ve ever seen”) and “like a typical human being when I first came here I sat on the beach and thought, I’ll put a treehouse here, a wharf here, I could build bungalows here. And I said to myself, ‘What sort of fuckwit are you? You spend your whole life looking for Nirvana, you find it, and the first thing you want to do is destroy it… You never get sick of it. If you were standing here you’d go, ‘Oh my god, mate.’ It’s everything a bloke could want: great surf, great diving, the reefs are alive, it’s not fishing it’s catching, so we never run out of fresh fish. It’s stupid.”

Eventually, he decided, yeah, he’ll do something but he’d learn from lessons past and make something he calls “a shining light of responsible development.”

So he built an off-the-grid lodge for sixteen people, powered by wind turbines and solar panels. All of the rubbish the lodge creates is processed and all non-biodegradable refuse is taken back to Majuro’s dump furnaces and its recycling centre. He grows watermelons, papaya, tomatoes, kale, catches a ton of fish and even keeps a few hogs.

“Fuck,” says Marty, “I’ve died and gone to heaven.”

Interestingly, the Marshall Islands is going to be the first country in the world to swing over to a cryptocurrency, shucking the US dollar.

“This is the way of the future,” the country’s minister-in-assistance to the president of the Marshall Islands, David Paul, told Reuters. “As a country, we reserve the right to issue a currency in whatever form it is, whether in digital or fiat form.”

Called the SOV, supply is capped at twenty-four million in order to prevent inflation.

The 24 mill tokens represents the country’s 24 municipalities and some very clever Israelis are going to issue the SOV.