Watch, The Derek Hynd masterpiece, Pro Land: “Compare it to the heavy-handed narratives pumped out by the multimillion-dollar WSL ‘media house.’ By manufacturing drama, the WSL is robbing itself of the very magic it wants to create!”

As a psychological drama, surfing as storytelling, Pro Land is still engrossing, more than twenty years later. 

Derek Hynd’s movie Pro Land  follows the infamous 1999 world tour battle fought between, primarily, Danny Wills, Mick Campbell and Kelly Slater. 

You remember the story.

Baby-faced Danny and fiery Mick as tour frontrunners, seemingly destined to bring a world title back to Australia. Only for Slater to swoop in on finals day at Pipe and take crown number six.

One of the closer, grittier championship runs of the modern era. All documented by Hynd on a handheld camera, well before the days of webcast. The independently produced documentary was uploaded to YouTube a couple of years back with Hynd’s blessing.

Pro Land wasn’t the first behind-the-scenes look at the tour grind. Nor was it necessarily the best (see: Scream in Blue). Watching through a contemporary lense the surfing has dated.

The production quality is poor. There’s cringey, borderline voyueristic T&A smattered throughout.

But as a psychological drama, surfing as storytelling, Pro Land is still top notch. Engrossing, more than twenty years later. 

The narrative is simple.

Follow the top five surfers (Danny, Mick, Kelly, Beschen, and Occ) as they progress through the tour. Stick a camera in their face at opportune times. Document the story however it plays out. 

The film opens in Japan, after the Australian leg, and is a slow burn at first. There’s scrappy surfing in meagre waves. A reminder of the bad old days of world tour conditions. Short interviews with key players. An updated scorecard at the end of every contest. Otherwise, very little exposition. More Sarge’s Surfing Scrapbook than Scream in Blue. 

But form soon emerges.

As we move from comp to comp, Hynd the auteur begins to inject himself, and the storyline unfurls.

Just as Erik Logan and Pat O’Connell identified some twenty years later, it’s in the top five where the bone’s marrow lies. What a spread of characters Hynd had to work with. 

The re-emergent Occy, warming up for his eventual title run the year following. His small-wave game in particular is still incredible to watch. 

Slater, evergreen, at one of his many peaks. 

Beschen, the sage cynic, in whom Hynd surely sees the most of himself. Incredibly precise surfing, to the point of austerity (see: economy of movement). But also honest, cutting commentary both on his own performance and that of his competitors.  

Willsy and Campbo, the best friends. The heart and soul of the story. Two ocker Aussies, LMB tragics, ready to take back the crown for Australia. Just stinging for a fight, whether with each other or any other cunt willing.

As Hynd continues with his peppering of the subjects as they move from J-Bay, to Europe, to the US, to Brazil, nuggets of insight emerge. The interplay between best mates Wills and Campbell is absorbing. Willsy, the inordinately blessed talent that struggles with the number one target on his back. Campbell, the competitive animal who delights as the underdog. 

Then there’s Slater, the tritagonist, emerging from the shadows like some Dionysian villain to steal the show in the final act. 

This was DIY Reality TV. But it was raw. Honest. The human condition played out on a tinny VHS screen. 

Or at least it felt like it when viewed after a couple of Saturday afternoon tins.

The late David Forster Wallace said world-class athletes are profundity in motion: “To be a top athlete, performing, is to be that exquisite hybrid of animal and angel that we average unbeautiful watchers have such a hard time seeing in ourselves. So we want to know them. We want to get intimate with that profundity. We want to get inside them. We want the Story.”

So it goes with any type of sports journalism. Hynd got the Story. It ain’t hard.

That a lone operator with nothing more than a handycam and a nose for drama can create a compelling documentary shouldn’t be surprising. 

Pro Land treats its subject matter with the respect, earnestness, and subtle piss-take it deserves. It understands the product for what it is, and doesn’t try to make it anything more. 

Competitive surfing is like war. Long periods of boredom punctuated by short periods of excitement. It’s never going to be mainstream viewing, because it isn’t a mainstream product, no matter how you try to package it. It requires investment from both the audience and the director. 

But the hard work will pay off if you’re patient enough. Give ‘em enough rope and they’ll hang themselves, as the saying goes.

Pro Land takes us behind the veil.

It’s in the top five where the bone’s marrow lies, sure. But it doesn’t mean you should chuck away the rest. Just look at ‘99. The world title was decided on finals day, but we also got to see tour veteran Jake Paterson beat wildcard Bruce Irons in one of the most nail biting finals in Pipe’s history.

There’s storylines everywhere, if you let them breathe. 

Compare it then to the overproduced, heavy handed narratives constantly being pumped out by the multimillion-dollar WSL ‘media house.’ Top Five. Ultimate Surfer. By artificially manufacturing drama, the WSL is robbing itself of the very magic it wants to create.

Disrespecting and disservicing the sport it is so desperately trying to monetise. 

Any fool with a handycam can see it. 

But hey, maybe Trestles will prove me wrong. 

Aguerre (left) and Logan (right) mid battle.
Aguerre (left) and Logan (right) mid battle.

Report: War between International Surfing Association chief Fernando Aguerre and World Surf League CEO Erik Logan reaches wildly dramatic grand finale!

Blood, tears. A victor?

And it is all, apparently, officially over. The war between the International Surfing Association and the World Surf League for the hearts and minds of professional surfers everywhere has ended with ISA chief Fernando Aguerre, allegedly, finally laying down his sword, blinking painfully in the blinding white of WSL CEO Erik Logan’s front teeth.

The fight, which had captivated the globe, began when surfing was officially introduced as an Olympic sport some too-many-years-to-remember ago. Aguerre’s organization, the ISA, would be the governing body, the top two WSL surfers, per country, on the Championship Tour would represent their United Stateses, Brazils, Australias, Frances, etc. and things were all fine and good until Covid-19 wrecked everything.

The WSL’s season destroyed. The WSL, itself, on the brink of destruction.

Aguerre with an advantage which he pressed, forced anyone who wanted to participate in Tokyo down to El Salvador for his World Surfing Games and not just a cursory appearance but opening ceremonies, heats, closing ceremonies.

Even those who had already qualified via the WSL.

Surfers were, allegedly, furious as was Logan but Aguerre was unbent and nothing could move him.

The World Surfing Games were his showcase and he would prove to one, to all, that it was the best show around. Could he take over professional surfing entirely?

Repechage to the moon!

Except, once again, Covid-19 wrecked everything.

Outbreaks in the El Salvador bubble caused even more furor and a highly placed source has just revealed, “Fernando blinked. After word got back of the positive tests and, allegedly, less-than-secure protocols, Logan, lawyers, agents, representatives continued to hammer Aguerre until he agreed that surfers only had to surf one heat then leave. A full concession. There is even talk of having him removed as nobody wants to go through him again. Lots of bad blood and grumbling.”

Oh, I can only hope that Aguerre is unbent, not broken. His pluck, his zeal, during these dark days is exactly what professional surfing needed.

Repechage to the moon?

This story will most certainly develop and as a former war reporter, I will be there.

Breaking: Beleaguered Owen Wright bucks trend of Olympic qualified surfers fleeing El Salvador; finds form and smashes Morocco, Sweden in repechage round at World Surfing Games!

Power moves.

The World Surfing Games in stunning El Salvador has developed into a white-knuckle narrative not seen in our favorite sport since… since… well maybe since ever.

There is, of course, the stress of surfers competing for the few remaining Olympic spots. There is International Surfing Association chief Fernando Aguerre staring down the World Surf League in a bold power grab. There are already-Olympic-qualified surfers fleeing the event without completing it.

There is Owen Wright.

Already on Australia’s team, the lanky blonde from Cuburra has had a rough few events and opened the World Surfing Games losing his Round 2 heat to Spain, Argentina and Brazil with a very poor score of 3.67.

Thankfully there is repechage.

Unlike his fellow Irukandjis, whose motto remains “Deadly in the Water,” Wright decided to stay and fight and fight he did regaining smashing form and mashing Argentina, Morocco and Sweden with a series of devastating slashes in chocolate surf.


Could it be that Wright is finding his form, his momentum, at exactly the right time headed in to Tokyo?

Tell me this is not inspired surfing.

The only worry, I suppose, is the upcoming Surf Ranch Pro presented by Barefoot Wine.

Kelly Slater’s tub has undone the hopes, dreams, inspiration of countless lanky blondes.

White knuckle, I tell you.

The greatest time ever to be a professional surf fan.

Hero (pictured) right. Photo: Shannon Kane Smith
Hero (pictured) right. Photo: Shannon Kane Smith

Surfer saves man scattering his daughter’s ashes out at sea from drowning: “Not all heroes wear capes. Sometimes they have surfboards!”

Feel good.

I had a wonderful dream last night that I had written something trite and not very funny on BeachGrit and Surfline’s Nick Carroll wrote me a letter to be better so I published the letter and the original trite not very funny piece became relevant and hilarious thanks to him.

Alas, when I woke there was no letter saving my work.

In other news, a seventy-one year old man, Dennis Kane, was in North Carolina, over the weekend, to spread the ashes of his daughter out at sea with family. Apparently, the urn did not sink properly and Kane went after it to make sure things were done the right way but became stuck in a rip current and began to drown.

As miracles would have it, Adam Zboyovski happened to be on the beach picking up chairs for his beach chair rental business, saw the scene unfolding, grabbed his surfboard and paddled into action.

“I just happen to always have a board close by. This one was tough because the ocean conditions were really bad and I couldn’t read the ocean like on an average day. Also, the board had no wax at all on it so I was slipping off just paddling out,” he told news agency InsideNoVa.

Once reaching Kane, he noticed he was exhausted and struggling but was able to paddle him back to shore where first aid was administered before a trip to the hospital.

Later that night, Zboyovski stopped by the home where Kane’s family was staying so they could thank him.

“I think the most touching part about it when I met his granddaughter and she was thanking me because…being a young child, watching their grandfather drown would just be the most horrible thing,” he said.

His daughter, Shannon Kane Smith later took to Facebook where she wrote, “Not all heroes wear capes. Sometimes they have surfboards.”

Take that, Nick Carroll.

Nick and Charlie at Surf Ranch, a favourite destination of both men.

Breaking: BeachGrit commenter to lead Surfline’s editorial team in Australia! “(His) passion for spending time in the water is matched only by his reputation for telling great stories!”

"I look forward to taking this on like a set wave at Newport Peak.”

The one-time BeachGrit habitué and heritage surf journalist, Nick Carroll, has been named as Surfline’s Australian editor, a position that opened up after the surf forecasting giant bought Coastalwatch for one million dollars in 2019. 

Carroll, who is sixty-two, was, until recently, a regular in BeachGrit’s comment section, his authoritative, older bother-style tone, often uncharacteristically candid, producing some of his best work in recent years. 

“Nick’s passion for spending time in the water is matched only by his reputation for telling great stories,” Surfline’s CEO, Kyle Laughlin, said in a statement. “We couldn’t be more excited for Nick to bring his exceptional talents together to lead Surfline’s editorial team in Australia.”

“I feel fortunate to be given this task, which basically commits me to paying even more attention to the surf than I already do,” says Nick. “Surfline feels like a natural fit; I’ve worked with many of the crew over time and I look forward to taking this on like a set wave at Newport Peak.”

Carroll’s long-form stories for BeachGrit were an enjoyable change of pace for readers tired of the surf news network’s shallow click-baitery and obsessions with Erik Logan and Great White sharks.

Carroll’s purist approach to a sport he’s been immersed in for fifty years were clear in,

Nick Carroll: “Tom is generous with me, yet I’m rarely generous in return.”

Long read: Nick Carroll on the “crazy fucking ultra-marathon” Molokai-to-Oahu paddle race!

Nick Carroll: I’d surfed there a thousand times, yet today it felt like nowhere i”d her been. It felt like a place you could die!” 

Nick Carroll reviews 9’8” Christenson/Twiggy Model quad gun: “No board lasts forever, but neither do we!” 

Board review: Nick Carroll on the “Scramjet!” 

“Riding Kelly Slater’s Pool Cured Me of a Vague Existential Horror!” 

Carroll’s obituary for BeachGrit writer, Santa Cruz’s Mara Wolford, was a beautiful farewell to an old friend.