The Olympics, mere days away, has officially begun to suck the general public’s attention like a big black hole. Headlines from Tokyo now dominate news from around the world. The latest on athlete village behavior, profiles of exciting potential future stars and, of course, surfing.
Our grand Olympic debut has storylines then storylines then storylines. One of the more thrilling is who will emerge as next Shaun White.
As you know, the relatively unknown snowboarder became a household name after winning Olympic gold in 2006 and went on to much fame, fortune. Dating rock n’ rollers, creating a line of boys’ clothing for Target, later getting slammed with sexual harassment allegations etc.
Today, Andino delivered a winning metaphor in describing surfing to a generally confused public telling The New York Times, “It’s so weird, competitive surfing. You could be the best surfer, the most talked-about surfer, whatever, and you go out there and you just need a score and you cannot find a wave. It’s like Tom Brady needs to go down the field for the winning score and he can’t find the ball.”
I laughed when I read it, laughed again when I just typed it and have to believe Andino has pulled ahead. Wheaties box soon etc.
The Times piece highlights how Andino has a clear advantage over Florence et. al. since he grew up surfing relatively poor surf in San Clemente. Not noted was how the World Surf League has decided to declare its champion in a one-day surf-off at San Clemente’s Lower Trestles and how Andino described the the move as “ludicrous” and “corny.”
But back to Tom Brady not finding the ball… truly funny.
Sexy as hell poster.
Pro-shark film “Envoy: Shark Cull” aims for maximum emotional gut punch to prove risk of shark attack so low as to be essentially meaningless!
The major obstacle to the film's success, however, is reality itself.
A new pro-shark film called Envoy: Shark Cull is about to hit the big screens in Australia, tonight in fact.
The filmmakers claim that anyone who watches the film will “become an advocate against the QLD and NSW shark control programs”.
I haven’t seen the film but watching the trailer and a live webinar broadcast last week gives me a good feel for the central planks of the argument. Argument is too strong a word, the film aims for the maximum emotional gut punch to prove four things.
Sharks ain’t a danger to humans, and we shouldn’t fear them.
The NSW* and QLD shark control programs (nets and drumlines) are both ineffective and outdated.
Shark control programs using nets and drums are barbaric anachronisms of a superseded old school world view.
The risk of shark attack is so low as to be essentially meaningless.
This forms part of a world view that sees the future of human-shark interactions as not one of human self-defence via control programs but one of “co-existence”. To make that case a major rebranding effort on behalf of sharks, seeing as they can’t talk or make films, is necessary.
I see the major obstacle to the film’s success as an advocacy on behalf of sharks, particularly our favourite pal the White shark, as reality itself.
Let us examine the ways.
First, a quick back-up.
It’s a common view in this neck of the woods that the whole shark scene has become a very fine hustle with many vested interests. Notably: shark babes, certain scientists/advocates, purveyors of certain products etc etc.
This film will only strengthen that impression, for good or ill.
S’funny what an impact Jaws still makes. According to the scientists and filmmakers the main reason we think sharks attack people is due to an almost half century old Hollywood (very good) B film.
Never mind that half the people getting bit now weren’t alive when Jaws was released. Never mind that the QLD shark program was introduced in 1962, thirteen years before Jaws was released or, in the case of the NSW shark program, over a half-century before it scared people witless.
The solution, according to scientists, to this fear and inappropriate image, is to change the language.
“Another large shark launched itself out of the water and got him and that was it,” said a surfer.
Smith lashed out with his fists to try to keep the sharks at bay as they came at him repeatedly.
Surfer Cameron Rowe, a 16 year old who witnessed the attack, said: “These [sharks] were massive. When the first one came up a bit I could see its fin and it was almost a yard high. When it came out of the water with Brad still fighting it, I could see its body was about the width of a car and its open jaws were as wide as a man’s arm. One of Smith’s friends, 17-year-old Mitch Campbell, said: ‘It was the worst thing I have seen. There was so much confusion out there it was impossible to tell which shark was attacking, but they kept coming at him time and time again. You could see Brad trying to whack at them to keep them away.”
But after just 45 seconds Smith disappeared beneath the surface.
INJURY: Fatal. The surfer suffered extensive injuries to his torso, and a large bite to his leg. He suffered “massive injuries to pelvis and abdomen”, according to a St. Johns Ambulance spokesperson.
If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, the public is capable of calling it a duck.
There have been some mixed messages in the re-brand.
According to a SMH article, the problem for sharks, who have swum in the ocean for 450 million years, is they don’t recognise the more recently arrived humans. That seems very disrespectful to sharks, one of the most evolutionary successful apex predators. Hominids have been on the Earth for two million years at least.
Do these scientists think sharks are that stupid they can’t learn to recognise a human being in 2 million years?
It’s obvious from the film trailer that the segment of the general public whose minds need changing the most are surfers. The methodology here is using “A-listers” like Layne Beachley and Tom Carroll.
Layne rolls out the argument that shark netting has no relevance anymore. The gist of the Beachley beef is that we are using over fifty-year-old technology and we don’t accept that in any other field.
We updated the abacus and the carrier pigeon to calculators and I-phones. But what about the wheels on your car though, Layne. Do we ditch the wheel because it’s been around forever?
The reason the nets stick around is because they work.
This question of effectiveness will be the hardest battle against reality for the filmmakers/advocates. In the webinar being used to promote the film Dr Guida constantly referred to science backing up the claim that the Queensland shark control program did not work and that there were alternatives ready to roll out.
He implored the public to refer to the scientific review of the alternatives commissioned by the Queensland gov.
So I did.
It seemed pretty clear cut.
From the report: “There has been only one fatality and 27 unprovoked bites on an SCP (shark control program) protected beach since 1962. There were 19 fatalities and 36 bites in the whole of Queensland prior to 1962.”
Nineteen fatalities before nets and drums, two after. That’s despite the huge increase in population and water usage. Numbers don’t lie, it’s hard to rename them, and that’s going to be the biggest obstacle for Envoy.
The scientific report on the QLD SCP makes a conclusion that is obvious to almost any-one with half a brain: “It is not unreasonable to conclude that local fish-downs have reduced the risk of shark bite to water users by reducing the potential for overlap between water users and potentially dangerous sharks.”
The film will be on much firmer emotional terrain running the barbarism argument against nets and drums. Two hundred and fifty dolphins killed in the nets in the last twenty years in Queensland alone. Turtles, rays, harmless hammerheads, etc etc.
All dead so people can play splash splash in the ocean.
I know this argument against by-catch will be a potent one, because I’ve seen it play out in my hometown.
Just as decisive was the shift in community sentiment against nets when the reality of by-catch was made public by the DPI. Local surfers didn’t want Flipper’s blood on their hands in exchange for surfing with lower risk.
In the grand scheme of things is the dismantling of the QLD and NSW shark control programs for the greater good?
I predict we will find out very soon because I believe the film will be massively successful at shifting public sentiment and politicians will have no choice but to pull the gear.
The next stage of “co-existence” will take place.
We will cede the space and nature’s most successful apex predator will have won another battle, perhaps its most decisive one.
I view this near-future with a doomy pragmatism.
Already, in the last half-decade I know more people that have been attacked by Whites than have had car crashes. Expand that out to the people who were there, the ones who dragged in mates, the families and pals, and it’s an ever expanding circle.
By contrast. I know no one in this community who has had COIVD-19, died of bee sting, fallen coconuts, lightning strike, even drowning.
Statistics are meaningless at the local level.
But the film won’t concern itself with that.
The signs will go up: buyer beware. White shark territory. Enter at own risk.
That’s an argument, that once lost, will never be won again.
*Nets in Sydney area, Smart drumlines in Northern NSW.
Question: Are you a high-end neoprene connoisseur or a meat-and-two-veg wetsuit man?
Do you cycle through new suits yearly or try and eke as many seasons out as you can?
There’s never been a better time to be a consumer.
Take wetsuits, for example.
We’re offered unheard of warmth, flexibility, durability. You can buy one mm suits to wear in summer. Dry suits for the Arctic circle.
Everything in between. Hoods, gloves, booties, all en vogue.
There’s multiple entrants in the market pushing the price point down, most notably Need and Project Blank. No logo has become the new logo. Somewhere out in the world, Naomi Klein sheds a single tear.
But there’s never been a better time.
I’ve traditionally had short arms and long pockets when it came to wetsuits. Been on Need since their early days as the price was always right.
Never had any truck with them. Solid. Dependable. If a little stiff.
I moved away from them last season as my desolate grey soul was crying out for some colour (and flexibility). Copped a Zion two mm. Splendid suit. V flexible. Just not warm enough for those windchill days in winter’s depths.
I get cold. Real cold. Water in my neck of the woods rarely drops below sixteen degrees celsius. That’s sixty to my American brothers and sisters.
But add in a proper westerly coming down through the valley and the teeth will chatter. I feels it in my bones as I get older. Yet I still won’t fork out more than, say, four hundred dollars for a suit. Considering I surf maybe four-to-eight times a week it’s a dunderhead move.
I also don’t take care of my suits.
Wetsuits are something to be left wet in the back of the car. Maybe getting a quick fling over the north facing verandah once or twice a week to dry out the dank. Like surfboards, they’re made to be used. None of this hosing after every session with a tinkle of talcum powder. My time on earth is too limited.
Purchase made purely as a result of social media advertising.
So far it’s doing the job.
Worn for over a month now in a NSW winter that is yet to hit its straps, water temp-wise. The mercury is only now dropping below eighteen, sixty-five or thereabouts.
But still, the suit is warm enough.
Flexibility is as you would expect of a middle-of-the-range suit. Not quite in the “It doesn’t even feel like I’m in a wetsuit” category but still malleable enough to not be a hindrance.
For a furiously intermediate surfer, about all you can ask for.
The seams do their job on that crucial first duckdive. And, most importantly, it still manages to dry for the morning session, if flung over said balcony the afternoon previous.
Do remember to wash it out if you take piss in it, though. I’ve accidentally left it sitting in the car a couple of times overnight and the acrid aroma was akin to a family of tomcats holding an unprotected sex party in my boot.
There are many understandable critiques of Japan-by-way-of-Huntington-Beach’s Kanoa Igarashi. For one, he celebrates weird, mouth open, screams flowing out neither primal nor deep, arms pumping like a father of the bride dancing to YMCA.
For two, he seems fake and not even a deep fake. Like a robot who was built to be talented and handsome and polite but built too well and therefore never considered because it is clearly artificial.
A surfing Stepford Wife.
And as surfing’s grand Olympic debut draws nearer and nearer, Igarashi has drawn more and more spotlight. I have read many of the interviews, watched too, and never considered anything other than how on message he keeps. Never a slip, never a falter, never a new bit of insight, only perfect flowing from a gleaming white tooth’d mouth… until just now.
You know the story, Igarashi’s mother and father pursing aerobics careers in Japan, conceive, think “How cool would it be for our child to be a professional surfer?” and fulfill that dream by moving to Huntington Beach, waking Kanoa up at 3:00 am to drive him to surf contests etc.
Igarashi, in the retelling, is only awed by his parents’ sacrifices. There is no bitterness, no frustration about being the vessel for someone else’s fantasy, and regarding this, Duane writes:
One might argue that this particular ship—Kanoa living out Tsutomu’s dream—had sailed quite a long time before. But that would also require admitting that fathers and mothers have been putting their own dreams onto children from time immemorial, that a father could imbue a kid with a dream worse than life as a pro surfer, and that nobody becomes as good of a surfer as Igarashi without an authentic hunger of his own.
Ah, “fathers and mothers putting their dreams onto children from time immemorial” is a good nut and caused me to pause deeply in order to consider my own relationship with dreaming and parenthood. Your own relationship too. The vast majority of parents dream at least something for their children beyond sitting like a blob and recreating TikTok videos and try to push them along the way. How much is too much, though? And what if the parents’ and child’s dream is truly the same?
The chicken/egg business of that can never be solved, but, as it relates to Igarashi, it was the first time in maybe ever that I’ve ever paused and considered really anything at all.
Duane rounds out the profile with a stray thought from Chas Smith, “editor of the heinously irresponsible surf tabloid Beach Grit,” that the Tokyo Games are likely to be the apex for Igarashi. “Because any surfer who is worth his salt and reasonable,” Smith says, “looks at all those Brazilians on tour and realizes he is not ever going to beat those guys and be world champion. I think Kanoa is rightly looking at this moment”—when he will represent Japan in the Olympics, the most-watched sporting event on earth—“and thinking, This is when I can be, honest to goodness, for a few days, the biggest athlete on earth.”
I think yes.
Surfer knocked off board by ten-foot Great White shark near site of WSL’s Rottnest Island tour event; beaches on tourist island closed!