"And then this black belt tried an inside trip, I stepped over it, grabbed his lapel, trapped an arm and threw that poor fool to the ground. Oh, boy, I'm shredding on the mat."

Confession: “I was grotesquely complicit in the demonisation of the vulnerable adult surfer but through daily suffocation and strangulation learned to find common ground, even empathy, for VALS!”

What happens when a lifelong surfer gets caught in the snare of a new game? When his excitement overcomes normal protocols and he’s compelled to share his “precious” experience and his glorious new mission? 

The dreadful affair of the vulnerable adult learner surfer, the great replacement championed by the WSL, has been documented at length on BeachGrit, gifting its writers a brilliant hunting season. 

Our game-bags filled quickly and early. 

Headlines included, 

From The End-is-Night dept: VALS are the future surf, an apocalyptic scenario too real to ignore, Brave Professor at the Surf Institute declares war on Malibu VALS, Can a vulnerable adult learner actually show us the way?, Killers: Leashless VALS overrun Gold Coast, and so on for years.

It culminated with a series on Academy Award-nominated actor, the sexy no-longer-a-butterball Jonah Hill, anointed patron saint of VALS in, Actor and new Malibu local Jonah Hill cements position as “patron saint of VALS” with release of first epic surf shot, Actor famous for playing “sexless butterballs” and VAL pioneer Jonah Hill buys $9 million “windowless monolith” at Malibu colony, Heir to Miki Dora’s Malibu throne Jonah Hill pulls ultimate power move; woos an wins heart of surf instructor. 

There’s quite a few more but y’get the picture. 

The gravest crime of the VAL, as you know, is his, her, their, enthusiasm for the sport. Eyes bright, happy they’ve found a brother, sis, in arms, they’ll engage about your fins (“Dunno, had ‘em lying around”), the volume of your surfboard (“Ah, five-nine by nineteen, maybe two-and-three-eights”), leash length (“Had it for five years, comp cord, maybe”) and so on. 

And we roll our eyes and we yawn. 

But what happens when a lifelong surfer gets caught in the snare of a new game? When his excitement overcomes the normal protocols of conversation and he’s compelled to share his “precious” experience and his glorious mission with his new comrades? 

Jiujitsu is full of vulnerable adult learners and I was, still am, one of ‘em.

I should’ve been acutely aware of my station, that the camaraderie I felt with my rolling partners was a chimera; that the friendship and the trust they felt was something only available to those who had spent years strangling each other.

Like surfing, grappling gyms see a lot of people swing through, get all hot for the sport, find it too hard, and split after a few months. 

So, and like surfers, a newcomer is viewed through slit-eyes and a restrained engagement. Talk to me in five years is the unspoken order.

But, man, like a VAL you just can’t help yourself. Gimme some single-leg takedown tips, show me how to finish that kimura, look at this buggy choke/fly-trap on Instagram, let me drill the flying armbar with you, brother. 

It’s the jiujitsu equivalent of riding a two-thousand dollar eight-foot log at Malibu, struggling to one knee in the whitewash, raising your arms and yelling ‘tube’.

When I spar, I thrash like a panicked chicken in a hen-roost. My elbows hit black belts in the face, knees belt ‘em in the guts. 

My precious WHOOP strap, hidden under my Gi with a bicep sleeve, records the whole tragedy.

In the case below, we see a ten-minute roll before class with my kid. My heart redlines at 180 beats per minute as the ten-year veteran of the sport sends me into a blind panic with multiple multi-limb attacks. I have to leave the room briefly, sick at heart, holding my breath. 

The hour-long class that follows is a piece of cake, alongside other beginners, doesn’t kick the heart beyond 155. 

Couple that with a fifty-two minute surf in a rip-bowl that requires constant paddling, and where my heart doesn’t quite hit 180 but does stay above 145 for most of it, WHOOP under a John John Florence rubber band, and I almost hit the mythical strain level of 21. 

(Quick reminder: the WHOOP records strain on a scale from zero to 21 over the course of the day, zero being David Lee Scales, 21, Kai Lenny. Twenty-one re represents the max cardio load you can handle in a day. The WHOOP doesn’t measure miles, steps, so much as how your body is responding when you do it.)

And, yet, and still, back at jiujisu I VAL out every chance I get. 

For my jiujitsu podcast I mention to my black belt pal Johnny that I plan on getting a trademark move from each of our guests, a double-leg takedown from MMA guy Richie Vas, a heel-hook from leg strangler Jeremy Skinner, a guillotine from Brazilian superstar Charles Negromonte. 

Johnny looks at me.

He surfs. He’s seen it before, the enthusiasm, the joy, the need for connection, camaraderie. 

“Don’t,” he says. 

Next week: Is jiujitsu gonna work in a surf fight? 

Nicaraguan surf camp continues to carry torch for sense and sensibility, publicly rejects offer for tow-in foil program: “Yes, our tow-in foil program is located at foildeeznutz.com”

Sorry, Zuck.

It is rare to find women and men who prefer to stand on principle rather than the almighty dollar, even more rare in our surf world (see: The Inertia), which is what makes me so glowingly proud of Thunderbomb Surf Camp in northern Nicaragua.

The for-profit surf fully integrated operation, which asks, “Why not get uncrowded waves with great accommodations? With our surf vehicles and local boat captains you will have the freedom to surf more than just the beach out front. Here you can surf world-class waves, get barreled at The Boom, carve epic points, or even learn to surf without the crowds that plague the beaches of Costa Rica and southern Nicaragua,” just two months ago rejected a financially rich offer from a SUP tour group and publicly told them “fuck no.”

Lessons are tough to learn, though, and another punter recently reached out wondering if a “tow-in foil program” was offered.

Thunderbomb could have easily replied, “Sure” and taken much money but instead replied, “Hello, our tow-in foil program is located at foildeeznutz.com/fuckyocouch.”

Wonderful customer service indeed and many bravos.

The world’s 5th richest man Mark Zuckerberg will be made sad but you? Me?

Keeping deez nutz, and yours, safe.

Hamilton (left) gorgeous at any age.
Hamilton (left) gorgeous at any age.

Big-wave icon Laird Hamilton shares thoughts about fear, death and the fountain of youth in wide-ranging interview: “If every day I put you in front a bear that was going to eat you, you’d be exhausted.”

Pretty soon, when you don't die, when you get sucked out the brain's like, “Well, I don't think I'm gonna die because I haven't died the last year.”

If we surfers, we grouchy locals, are all honest with ourselves then we must admit that Laird Hamilton has aged like fine cheese. Complex, pungent, well-ordered. A Gruyere, maybe or a Stilton blue. The big wave icon and coffee supplement scion has done it all. Launched a thousand paddles, conquered heretofore deemed unconquerable swells, made millions of dollars, acted in films and when he speaks it is always well worth a listen.

Thankfully, Men’s Health has just published a wide-ranging interview with the still-handsome 57-year-old. A plethora of topics are duly covered, from XPT training to exercise being a “moving meditation” to the value of extreme heat and cold to staying young forever, but I found his treatise on fear quite profound.

The author mentions the climber Alex Honnold and how, in a recent podcast, he declared he feels like he’s trained his mind to be desensitized to fear. What’s Laird’s take?

I have a theory about that! I saw that part about Alex, and this is my theory: When you’re exposed to danger, that’s a very taxing thing on the system. If every day I put you in front of a bear that was going to eat you, you’d be exhausted. And if I did that to you every day, pretty soon, the body would be like, “Well, I didn’t get eaten. And being scared is taking too much energy. It’s too taxing on the system emotionally and physically. So I’m going to stop being as scared, and see if I still don’t get eaten.”

You eventually get to a point where your system doesn’t have the same response. And somebody looking from the outside would say, “Why is he not scared?” He is! You’ve worked your way to it.

I grew up getting washed out to sea, right? So I’d be stuck in a rip current, and I thought, “I’m gonna die.” And then the next day, I thought, “’I’m gonna die.” After you go out and you get sucked out and you think you’re gonna die for a year straight … pretty soon, when you don’t die, when you get sucked out the brain’s like, “Well, I don’t think i’m gonna die because I haven’t died the last year.”

The restorative power of fear.

Good stuff.

But when was the last time you were properly scared? Oh, I don’t mean about getting caught in some elaborate lie, I mean physically?

Also, what is your favorite cheese?

I’m a Roquefort man, myself.

The show's protagonist, the delinquent daddy Seong Gi-hun in his True White slip-ons. | Photo: Netflix

Iconic surf brand books 7800% sales increase following wild success of Korean splatterfest Squid Game!

Biggest spike in slip-on sales since Spicoli in Fast Times!

If Pauly Van Doren, the legendary founder of the world’s most enduring surf-skate brand Vans, didn’t die five months ago he would’ve seen the sharpest spike in sales in his company’s history. 

See, following the wild popularity of the Korean kill-porn splatterfest Squid Game on Netflix, fans have gone mad buying up the green boiler suits and white Vans slip-ons worn by the desperate bastards killing each other for a fifty-mill winner take all kitty and for the entertainment of elderly gay white men. 

According to the Sole Supplier, sales for the Vans True White slip-on with its vulcanised mid-sole and waffle tread and a retail of around fifty dollars, has increased 7800%. 

Van Doren, a high-school drop-out, whose nickname was Dutch the Clutch, created the Van Doren Rubber Co in 1966 with his little brother, James, who died in 2011, and their pals Gordon, Ryan Emmert and Serge D’Elia. 

The first store, in Anaheim, California, sold American-made shoes direct to the public with the slogan, “Canvas Shoes for the Entire Family” at prices between two and four dollars a pair. 

It’s not the first time pop culture has lit a fire under sales.

Californian surfer actor Sean Penn, as Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, used his own pair of Vans OTW  slip-ons in the movie, a decision that would propel sales of the shoe into the stratosphere, although nothing like ol Squid Games.

Light environmentally damaging reading.
Light environmentally damaging reading.

World’s greatest athlete and noted environmentalist Kelly Slater publicly blasted for littering North Shore beach with self-serving sandbags!

Do as I say, not as I do.

But oh, is it rude to call the world’s greatest surfer and noted environmentalist Kelly Slater environmentally damaging? Yes, it certainly is but is it also true? To wit, the 11x world champion has circled the globe so many multiple times in carbon-dioxide spewing jets. He has also flown private, too, when he could have flown commercial spewing carbon-dioxide on top of carbon-dioxide. He invented a wave pool in water-starved central California, began a clothing company that makes clothing, manufacturers surfboards in Thailand, loves and collects Bitcoin which sucks so much energy that Elon Musk, himself, has turned his nose up at the stink.

None of these things are bad, none are necessarily even wrong, but for Slater is regularly championing the environment, its protection, its cherishing, and now he is also littering Oahu’s North Shore with self-serving sandbags that infuriate those who lean green.

Slater was fingered in a damning report, almost a year ago, for illegally installing a “burrito,” or sandbag system, in front of his Ehukai house.

In 2018, Kelly Slater, an 11-time world surfing champion who lives on Ehukai Beach by the world-famous Banzai Pipeline surf break, illegally installed a burrito. He, as well as his neighbors, were fined just $2,000.

Slater paid the fine and wrote to the Department of Land and Natural Resources last year asking it to approve his illegal structure so his home would be protected from future hurricane surf, as well as unexpected and seasonal weather. Lemmo, in response, rejected the request and underscored the seriousness of the situation.

“Unfortunately, we have reached a tipping point in which near complete loss of beach resources is a realistic future due to sea level rise and the prevalence of [densely] urbanized shoreline development,” he wrote to Slater, noting that the situation on the North Shore is particularly precarious.

Lemmo added that if the state doesn’t enforce strict policies controlling shoreline armoring “it could set in motion a [domino] effect leading to chronic beach loss.”

Well, all this time on and the face of The Ultimate Surfer has refused to clean up his mess. Per a new story in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser:

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and ProPublica published an last year that found DLNR had granted 66 emergency shoreline permits to property owners across the islands. Nearly half of the permits were for properties along Oahu’s North Shore, known as the Seven Mile Miracle because of its abundance of prime surf breaks and stunning beaches.

Many of the beneficiaries are owners of multimillion-dollar homes along some of the most prized beaches in the state and include famous surfers Kelly Slater and Fred Patacchia. While DLNR says Slater’s system was installed without permission, they haven’t forced him to remove it.

The news organizations found the temporary sandbags and burrito systems are rarely removed from public beaches when they expire. Instead, state officials repeatedly have granted homeowners extensions or don’t enforce their own deadlines, while granting after-the-fact approval for structures that were built illegally.

DLNR now seems to be trying to rein in the protections, particularly along the North Shore, though none of the homeowners have been fined or faced any other enforcement action. The state can fine property owners $15, 000 a day for unauthorized structures that remain on the beach.

Not a good look but would you love if Kelly Slater simply just responded “do as I say not as I do, plebe?”

It would be bold and honest, I think.