ESPN publishes exhaustive profile of two-time World Champion Tyler Wright: “I am a white person and I have benefited from white supremacist structures”

Much insight.

Australia’s Tyler Wright has re-exploded onto the scene after a lengthy absence where only rumor and mystery percolated. She is now the face of the World Surf League, eclipsing Kelly Slater as its most visible star. ESPN, the sporting news juggernaut, has just published a book-sized profile of Wright, her struggles and triumphs, providing much clarity and insight.

Some salient bits…

On goal in coming back to surfing after a lengthy illness: I realized if I’m coming back, I am going to show up with who I am as a human first. Surfing needs people who are going to get into boardrooms and have hard conversations. I’m asking for equality for women, equality for the LGBTQ+ community, equality for Black and brown and indigenous people. I honestly don’t care about winning more world titles. But I know what gets me in the room.

On being part of a legendary surfing family: When you’re that young, it’s not something you question. They competed, so I competed. One in, all in. It was all so insular. By the time I established my own thought processes, I was already on the world tour.

On getting on tour at sixteen: Everyone was like, “You’re living the dream at 16.” I was like, “Whose dream? I don’t f—ing dream of this s—. I want to read books. I want to go to school.”

On the early pressure to conform: We have to make the women’s tour about sexy models who surf to make it marketable. The model pro surfer was someone who was silent, white, hot, blond, skinny and hetero.

On winning her first world title: I don’t want to glorify any of it. I wasn’t competing in a healthy manner. People wanted the story to feel good. I wanted the story to feel good to make it worth it. But mentally, all of this scrambled me.

On realizing she was gay: I wouldn’t have said that I was homophobic, but you realize really quickly the internalized homophobia you have. If you’re not gay or part of the LGBTQ+ community, then you don’t have to look at it. But you’re being raised with all these drip-fed views. Meeting Alex, that’s when the un-learning process began for me.

On being public with her new relationship: The general culture of the surfing community has been homophobic, racist and extremely sexist and that’s been the standard across the board. I told (her girlfriend), “Oh no. You cannot show me affection here. You have to be a platonic friend.” I didn’t feel safe at all.

On rare illness that drove her out of sight for nearly two years: Overnight, I lost everything, what made me Tyler Wright. I lost my personality, my physicality. I’m used to excruciating amounts of pain, but the physical pain got so bad that it would mentally break me. And it broke me every day. I didn’t get a minute where I was unbroken.

On then being diagnosed with PTSD: It’s overwhelming, always being on the verge of panic. My life is literally trying to walk through a minefield and not jump at my own shadow.

On awakening to social issues: I understand that in this conversation, I am a white person and I have benefited from white supremacist structures. We have to start dismantling those structures.

On newfound freedom, and responsibility: I think it would feel very human to win another world title with this mindset. And the more I’m on the podium, the more I’m on your screens, the more important conversations I get to have.

Read in its entirety here.


Gilhool (right) with Moore.
Gilhool (right) with Moore.

Authorities identify surfer who died after collision with other surfer at Southern California’s famed Rincon: “The crowds have been out of hand there lately with tons of people dropping in on everyone.”

Tragic.

On Saturday afternoon a surfer died after a collision with another surfer at Southern California’s famed Rincon. The VC Star reports that Gerald “Gerry” Gilhool Jr., 51, an Ojai resident, had been out enjoying the run of large swell when the accident occurred around mid-day. Witnesses said he was up and riding down the line when he hit someone attempting to “roll” under the wave.

The other surfer had his head and nose cut by Gilhool’s fin. Gilhool went down but his wipeout did not seem remarkable.

Other surfers, watching the situation and seeing Gilhool was in trouble paddled him to shore on his board and provided medical aid until Ventura County firefighters arrived.

They also performed CPR while requesting a helicopter, saying the patient was in cardiac arrest.

He was taken by ambulance to Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura where he was pronounced dead.

Gilhool worked as a tour manager for the band Dawes, whose lead singer is married to the famous actress/singer Mandy Moore. She eulogized her friend on Instagram, writing, “Gerry was a towering presence and personality and if you were lucky enough to be in his orbit and you were a friend, his loyalty and love knew no bounds.”

He is survived by his young son.

A notable local pro told me, when reached for comment, that “The crowds (at Rincon) have been out of hand and there are tons and tons of people dropping in on everyone.”

Another local surfboard shaper, Jacob Elis, took to Instagram asking for answers. “Yo! Trying to get in touch with Rincon surfer named Augie or Aggie. He was involved in a collision with my friend Gerry Saturday midday. Gerry is dead, now. We need the other side of the story.”

An extremely unfortunate side effect of surfing’s exploding popularity.


Ben Gravy in happier days.

Insanely popular surf vlogger has YouTube channel suspended indefinitely, “It’s been five days But they said 24 hours… I’m taking a hit!”

Has the cultural revolution claimed another high-profile scalp?

The New Jersey vlogger and high-end intermediate surfer Ben Gravy has, at the whim of American online video-sharing platform YouTube, been suspended from posting his popular videos indefinitely. 

Ben’s YouTube channel has 134,000 subscribers and so many little films you could watch them back to back on a rocket ship and not even be halfway through ’em as you touch down on Mars.

Movie-star handsome Ben, thirty-three and who draws a striking resemblance to Woody Harrelson, told BeachGrit “YouTube thinks I’m hacked because I’ve been on WIFI in Puerto Rico so they put my account on ‘hidden’ so nothing new can come out until they go through their vetting process. It’s fucked, haha.”

I asked, how much you lose? Ten, fifty k? 

“Take a bit boys, taking a hit,” he said. 

Now, I ain’t paranoid, mostly.

But this suspension thing seems a little off colour given the spate of cancellations, the great cultural revolution currently shifting every know parameter of civic life. 

Has Ben upset the cultural vigilantes? 

Is everyman Ben too cisgender, too white, too protestant in his hard-working can-do-anything, refusal-to-play-the victim approach to life? 

A drunk who came good?

In the past few days, we’ve lost a noted Billabong artist, the owner operator of Energy Orgasm Retreats in Bali, and now… Ben?

When will the hand come down on your shoulder?


Photo: Facebook
Photo: Facebook

Shocking: Australian man offering “tantric full body energy orgasm” retreat on surfer paradise Bali infuriates neighbors with tawdry hippie verbiage, taken by police, receives cancellation!

Much sadness.

Any surfer who lives in a progressive beach town will know that yoga has gone too far. My North County, San Diego is awash in stretchy pants, nifty hats, auras of arrogant peace and practiced calm. I’d imagine that Australia’s Byron Bay is much worse and Oahu’s North Shore worse still (when Wanderlust is in town).

But maybe, likely, very worst of all is the Island of the Gods, onetime surfer paradise Bali.

For up those verdant hills, in Ubud, we find Australian guru Andrew Irvine who was planning on hosting a yoga-adjacent “tantric full body body energy orgasm” retreat, or at least until neighbors grew concerned, then outraged and went to the police with their concern.

According to the august Daily Mail, Irvine is “…the creator of Tantric Body De-Armouring and Tantric Full Body Energy Orgasm Retreats, which guide people in cultivating a profound depth of vibrancy and intimacy in their daily lives, relationships, sexuality and careers.”

He has been practicing and exploring tantric and taoist practices, has a master’s degree in health science and sexual health.

40 excitado participants had signed up for the retreat, promised “heightened states of sexual ecstatic full-bodied orgasmic bliss” until those meddling neighbors stuck in their noses.

Irvine was rounded up by police and questioned, though not arrested, and his retreat was then cancelled.

Like Dr. Seuss.

Not coincidentally, he was a previous professional partner of “alleged sex-cult leader Shantam Nityama, also known as ‘The Divine Madman’, a Los Angeles-based guru who conducted workshops in Byron Bay.”

The two parted ways after Irvine became frustrated with Nityama’s eating animal hearts during “spiritual training.”

Irvine, released by police, returned to his villa where he allegedly remains sad.

No word on the 40 participants.

More as the story develops.


Controversial author slaps back at eminent historian after accusation of cut-rate reportage: “Considering all angles on their merits, one can only conclude that people were surfing in China thousands of years before Polynesia!”

Logical leaping too.

Yesterday afternoon, a sun-dappled one in Southern California, fireworks exploded in the ether when eminent Italian surf historian and coach Nicolla “Nik” Zanella slipped a well-manicured hand from a goat kid glove and used it to slap controversial author Chas Smith across the face.

The troubles began days ago when Smith reported on Zanella’s work digging into the root of Chinese surfing and titled the think-piece Italian surf historian declares people surfing in China thousands of years before Polynesia: “There’s some who tread on drifting wood performing hundreds of water tricks, having fun, each displaying great mastery!”

Zanella, in a furious missive to the editor, responded:

Who did it first was not the scope of my research, but this time frame is almost simultaneous with what was happening in Polynesia. Affirming that I declared that surfing happened in China ‘Thousands of years before Polynesia’ is blatantly false and casts a bad light on my professionalism.

I hope you have the decency of erasing that article and learn to investigate what you publish in the future, what you stated was not in the SCMP article, nor in my book, nor in any interview that I ever gave to the many media, all more professional than BeachGrit, that covered my book and research. A simple google search would have clarified it.

Smith, very much insulted, quickly turned to the aforementioned google search, employed his iconic-adjacent combination of rudimentary math and logical leaping, to discover that Tahiti was first settled in the 5th century B.C. and assumed it would take the proto-Polynesians a couple hundred-ish years to learn the art of surfboard shaping, sorting out the person nearest the breaking part of the wave has priority, etc. which would put the first Tahitian surfer at, or around, the 3rd century B.C.

China, on the other hand, has been inhabited by Homo erectuses for over a million years. Hangzhou, where surfing may have begun, had a fine neolithic population at least 12,000 years before the birth of Christ.

Now, Zanella quotes a Song Dynasty (960 – 1279) poet in his interview with the august South China Morning Post. To wit:

“Hundreds of brave watermen … with unfastened hair and tattoos, holding coloured flags, race to the water … they paddle towards the oncoming waves … then they leap up and perform a hundred manoeuvres without getting the tail of their flags even slightly wet. This is how they show off their skill. Hence the nobles reward them with silver prizes.”

If that is not describing a World Qualifying Series event, than I am not a surf journalist.

It must be inferred that QSes take at least ten-ish centuries to get fully up and running what with point systems, defining the excellent range, sorting the flags (read: singlets), having proto-Turpel get his descriptions of the action down, etc.

Considering all angles on their merits, one can only conclude that people were surfing in China thousands of years before Polynesia, or at the very least that was what Zanella is suggesting.

As the South China Morning Post puts it after an equally thorough analysis of Zanella’s findings, “Surfing may have started in China, long before anyone elsewhere picked up a board to ride a wave.”

En garde!