A stretch of coast so iconic A & F named an offshoot surf label after it!

Hollister Ranch owners prepare for VAL army, porta-toilets and shuttle buses as April, 2022, opening date looms!

"Really, no one wants to be around surfers. We’re pretty gross, honestly."

For surfers in California, Hollister Ranch exerts a unique hold on the imagination.

Whispered stories of perfect waves pass from one generation to the next. Surfers scheme for access, by boat or by land. Countless misadventures involving offshore winds, balky outboard motors, or machine gun-wielding landowners enliven parking lot story sessions.

Covering nearly 14,000 acres, the Ranch is a postcard from a California that mostly no longer exists. It’s not untouched, by any means, but there’s a time machine quality to the rolling grass-covered hills, stream-cut canyons, dirt roads and roaming cattle.

You shoulda been here yesterday, it seems to say.

This week, the Ranch is back in the news.

On 24 September, the Coastal Commission posted a draft plan for public access. Created by four California agencies, the plan runs close to 200 pages, and it will be the subject of a public workshop during the Coastal Commission’s October session.

Now, I understand that you may have forgotten all about this whole Hollister Ranch public access saga. I get you. It is hard to remember all the things. Allow me to remind you briefly how we got here.

About two years ago now, the California legislature passed a law that required public access to the Ranch. The legislation directed state and local land management agencies to develop a plan.

The result of their efforts would govern what access might look like and what infrastructure it might require. The law imposed a deadline of April 2022, which is approaching quickly.

Much pearl-clutching followed the passing of this legislation. Purists decried the dirty hordes of kooks descending on their untrammeled Eden.

Really, no one wants to be around surfers. We’re pretty gross, honestly.

Though it’s easy to mock some of these arguments — and I do mock them, regularly — the diverse land use patterns of the Ranch complicate the planning process. Cattle from the area’s ranches roam freely. Fragile habitats and environmental treasures deserve protection. Wealthy landowners demand privacy and unobstructed views.

Surfers, well, they just want to surf.

How will all the dirty hordes of kooks make it to the beach?

Well, that’s one of the big questions.

Any future trails or roads would require easements across private land. Where will those easements fall? How much infrastructure will there be? And who will maintain it? It’s all enough to make even the most dedicated public policy nerd throw in the towel.

Like, forget this. Let’s all just go to Malibu.

The planning agencies did not go to Malibu. Instead they have released a draft plan, which calls for a two-year trial period of access.

So far, there is no agency charged with managing that access. That’s one of the plan’s first steps.

What does it look like?

For the first two years, up to 100 people per day could be allowed to visit the Ranch. A shuttle might carry them to the Ranch’s sought-after beaches, and the staging area for the shuttle would run about $2 million. The first phase does not envision any significant beach infrastructure, just porta-potties and trashcans.

The first two-year period is designed to buy time to sort out additional details.

A trail for bike and hiking access is one example. Actually building anything could take years of wrangling, because any trail would almost certainly cross private property. That means negotiating easements with landowners. The state legislature wrote $11 million into this year’s budget for Hollister Ranch projects.

After two years, the draft rather optimistically envisions a more permanent set-up. Access would be managed by shuttle, trail, or both. Sewer lines and bathrooms might be built. And, the number of daily visitors could increase up to 500 people.

So, roughly the lineup at Trestles on a good day. Eat your heart out, Los Angeles.

Predictably, land owners are not that excited about this process.

After all, they have fought long and hard to keep the gates to their slice of paradise firmly shut. But just as the tides swing, change comes even if we’d prefer that it did not — and perhaps, especially when we’d prefer that it did not.

You can read the full draft plan via the Coastal Commission. 

The Coastal Commission’s October 14 workshop is open to the public and will be held over Zoom. 

The Commission invites the public to submit comments ahead of time to [email protected] and you can also submit a speaker request.

Early next year, the Coastal Commission will meet again to nail down the details, including just how many people will be allowed to visit the Ranch during the initial access period.

Expect some form of reservation system. Get your refresh keys ready.

It is one of the joys of California that beaches are public space, and the Ranch’s beaches, however precious should be open.

But in its efforts to be everything to everyone involved, this process feels a little like the worst of all possible worlds.

Public access, yes, but not really.

Preservation of the area’s unique qualities, but not really that either.

I don’t think there were porta-potties in Eden.

The best moments in surfing are born of uncertainty and the weird, unexpected things that happen along the way.

For the foreseeable future, scoring good waves at the Ranch will still likely depend on the same things it always has: the vagaries of an outboard engine, a willingness to trespass or friends in the right places.

And, I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing.

Hawaiian World Champ John John Florence boldly steals moniker “White Chocolate” from former NBA basketball player Jason Williams!

Instant classic?

A good nickname is as fine a thing as any. Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Michael “Air” Jordan, Shoaib “Rawalpindi Express” Akhatar, Duncan “Disorderly” Ferguson, Keith “Raging Potato” Wood, Nicolas “The Incredible Sulk” Anelka, Chrissie “The Chrissinator” Wellington to list but a few classics.

Oh, our surfing has some wonderful ones too. Miki “Da Cat” Dora, Gerry “Mr. Pipeline” Lopez,  Mark “Wounded Seagull” Richards, John “John” Florence.

I’ve always liked the subtlety of double John. Quiet, authoritative yet the Hawaiian world champ may have tired of the simplicity and is auditioning a new one.

John “White Chocolate” Florence.

How do you feel about it?

My heretofore favorite “White Chocolate” was the NBA basketball player Jason Williams.

Do you remember him?

Many fancy passes and deep threes.

Back to “White Chocolate” Florence, though. Yay? Nay?

Open Thread: Comment Live, Finals Day of the Cuervo Surf Ranch Classic straight outta Lemoore!

The world's greatest longboard wave sees hot action.

Disappointment reigns in longboard-curious professional surf fans’ hearts this morning as the Cuervo Surf Ranch Classic is live at the world’s greatest longboarding wave, yet the World Surf League has thrown some sort of evil hex on its YouTube stream and also not carrying it on Facebook which means BeachGrit‘s patented Open Thread: Comment Live must go old-school.

Like longboarding itself, I suppose.

Click here to watch. Leave this page open. Gingerly cross-step with your foam-fluid brothers and sisters below.

Long-term ramifications of horror shark stunt gone wrong for Jackass star revealed, “It’s been four months and Poopies still can’t surf. It was so bad, it was f*&king awful, absolutely f*&king awful!”

“When they go into a frenzy, they bite everything. They will eat you alive. But you wanted to get that action.”

You’ll remember, I’m sure, Jackass’ piece for the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week a few months back where Carlsbad’s Sean “Poopies” McInerney was attacked by Caribbean reef sharks after a ski jump into a feeding frenzy.

The gag was to replicate long-running seventies TV series Happy Days’ famous shark jump episode where the show’s leather-bound stud Fonzie jumps over a shark pen on waterskis.

The episode has become a byword for TV writers conjuring up increasingly ludicrous storylines to punch up the interest in shows with declining audiences.

Anyway, Poopies, outfitted in a leather jacket as per the Fonze, landed in a swarm of Caribbean reef sharks that had been driven into a frenzy by the rest of the cast tossing hunks of meat at ‘em.

In the melee, Poopies’ paw was almost sawn off by the fish, tendons and two separate arteries having to be surgically reattached.

“He would be fucking dead if they (safety crew) didn’t dive on him as fast as they did,” said Jackass mainstay Steve-O.

Weeping as he recounted the story Poopies admitted,

“I thought I was going to die. There were ten sharks around me and… (pauses, breathes out)…there’s like ten sharks around me, I’m trying to swim out… (pause)… And I  I couldn’t swim out, dude, I knew I got bit and I thought I was going to be attacked by six more sharks.”

Now, on Steve-O’s podcast Wild Ride, with the show’s usual wildlife wrangler Manny Puig who wasn’t there for the stunt as a guest, Steve-O (at 45:51) provides an update on the injury.

“It’s been four months and he still can’t surf… it was insane, we were losing light, it was dusk, the worst time to do something like this and we were throwing all these pieces of meat right where he was going to land. Everything that lands, it’s food, we were conditioning them. The sharks were climbing all over each other. I saw a leaf land in the water and it got swarmed. It was soooooo bad, man, I wish we had you (Manny) there. Then it wouldn’t have happened.”

“When they go into a frenzy, they bite everything. They will eat you alive,” says guest Manny. “But you wanted to get that action.”


Watch! (Again.)

"You're my boy, Stevie!"

Obituary for world’s best surf contest analyst, “He watched so we didn’t have to!”

Our beacon of literary chops in a roiling, putrid sea of shark stories. Our unanimous sage. Our lynchpin. Gone.

It is with deep sadness, friends, that I must report our friend, Longtom (née Steven Shearer) has left the building.

Our clear-eyed purveyor of pro surfing, who watched so we didn’t have to.

Our beacon of literary chops in a roiling, putrid sea of shark stories.

Our unanimous sage.

Our lynchpin.


Some may wonder what took him so long. Some may wonder what pleasure he derived from watching Ian Gouveia long into the wee small hours, just to sling a few pearls before swine.

But, as Chekhov teaches us through the lunatic hallucinations of Andrei Korvin, it is indeed a fine and dainty dance between madness and genius.

Before the birth of BeachGrit and his renaissance period, Steve Shearer spent an undetermined number of years traipsing the outer reaches of surf media like Denzel Washington’s Eli, clutching old surf mags and spit-flecked fury ignited by Nick Carroll and Sean Doherty articles.

His BG arrival was announced with “5 RULES FOR THE GOLDEN AGE OF SURF WRITING!” which decried traditional surf media and hoisted the likes of Rory Parker and Chas Smith onto a pedestal. In hindsight, perhaps a claim that has aged less well than his rules for surf writing, including numbers three on his list: “Don’t be a comment coward”.

Is there anything lamer than someone who can punch in the co-ordinates but can’t deliver the ordnance in the comments section?

Answer: Nein, non, nyet.

Surf writer, you ain’t Moses strolling down from Mount Sinai delivering the Ten Commandments on stone tablets. So wipe that smug grin off your face. Everything you say is contestable and maybe completely wrong. The article is just the entrée, foreplay and nothing else.

Like Orwell’s stubborn refusal to prolong his life and put down the pen under doctor’s orders and in the death throes of tuberculosis, ol’ Longtom’s commitment never waned. He has always walked his talk and weighed in below the line.

It’s still worth reading.

It finished with a somewhat controversial list of the 10 greatest surf writers of all time. Upon publication of the seminal piece, surf history gatekeeper Matt Warshaw was aroused to Tweet: “I don’t know who Longtom is, but I think he’s just made his own list.”

And with that, the floodgates opened.

Steve “Longtom” Shearer found his groove in contest reporting. A grim, thankless task from which he somehow elicited high art.

Like an inky Spartan he relentlessly deconstructed the WSL with a two-pronged Grecian attack. With one hand, a pathos that would make Emily Dickinson weep; and with the other a bathetic rendering that left us unsure whether to laugh cry or cry wank.

Whilst not ashamed to scythe through the performance of the athletes with plain, beautifully brutal truths in the tradition of Derek Hynd or Lewis Samuels before him, Longtom saved his most choice lures and lethal barbs for the power brokers of professional surfing. Notably, those who came from the outside with designs and delusions of transforming the game he loved so deeply.

Sophie Goldschmidt fell. Backwards Fin Beth fell. Elo remains free falling.

All not so much gaslit by Longtom as flung on a roaring pyre as we danced around and squealed with glee.

Kept in check and on time by DR’s silken-gloved fisting, it’s fair to say he over-achieved and undersold at BeachGrit.

Imagine him now, if you will, cash-strapped and cold-shouldered by Charon, doomed to wander the shores, muttering something about the Oi Rio Pro and Nick Carroll.

Flirtations with serious journalism never quite sang with the same sweet symphonies of Lennox lore, big fish tales or his unique brand of pro surf prose, but far be it from this necrologist to judge.

One suspects that his afterlife might not be quite as much fun as here.

The adulation will be the same, I’m sure.

The money unquestionably better.

But it will be constricted. The liberty to coil up those words and sling the noose will not be the same.

He’ll be here, I’m sure. Hopefully not just lurking like the many ghosts of surf industry past, but opaque and present.

I would have liked to revisit some of my favourite Longtom work, to roll in it like a happy dog in autumn leaves, but I’m not scrolling through a few thousand Chas Smith articles to find it.

Can we have a searchable Longtom archive by way of memorial? A shrine, if you will.

We can only hope that manuscripts for the promised but unfinished memoir Big Tits, Blue Water are coherent and forthcoming from his estate.

Longtom leaves us having published zero books to Chas Smith’s three, and with a legacy of surf contest reporting that will never be surpassed let alone attempted at that hourly rate.

If we’re honest with ourselves we knew it was only a matter of time.

To paraphrase Ellis Boyd Redding, some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.

Favourite memories, donations, thoughts and prayers below.