Listen, man, nothing encapsulates the spirit of surfing better than a filthy, spiteful, omnipotent scowl.

Against a lifelong hatred of VALS, former surf champion offers one crucial piece of advice for beginners!

"It is impossible to neglect and still be a complete surfer. It’s a must have in your arsenal.”

Picture a white screen: in the middle is a simple circular logo, with a classic one-dimensional curling wave breaking in the middle.

Below the logo, in that soft cursive font favoured by wellness influencers and middle-aged mothers, is written MeSurf online tutorials: become a pro from the comfort of your own home.

Jack Johnson-esque guitar licks accompany the virtual scene.

The screen fades to two men sitting at a simple timber desk, itself positioned in front of a larger version of the aforementioned logo, which looks to be draped from the ceiling of the well-lit studio.

There’s Jordan. Mid 40s. Fit. Beautifully tanned skin. Perfect head of hair.  Alabaster teeth. Moneyed English accent common to the eastern suburbs advertising scene. He sits in front of a sheer white Macbook and looks to be an excited ball of corporate energy.

Next to him is Ennis. A vaguely familiar amatuer pro from the ‘90s. Former South Australian state champion. Less well built than Jordan, and a little more weathered. Shaggy blonde hair falls down around his eyes. But he is still well-presented for a surfer who has most likely seen the inside of more than one third-world gaol cell.

Both are wearing tightly cropped meSurf tees with lapel mics clipped to the collar.

The music drops out.

“Thank you everybody and welcome to our latest meSurf livestream,” says Jordan in his perfectly pitched, if slightly over enthusiastic, tone. “Here with me as always I have my good friend, and the surf maestro, Ennis Pieters.”

“Hi,” says Ennis softly, leaning into the lapel mic.

“Just ease back a bit there,” says Jordan, putting a hand to Ennis’ mic. “That’s better.”

He turns back to the camera.

“In fact that’s what I call you in the surf now, isn’t it? The maestro. It’s sort of my surfing nickname for you.”

Jordan’s head wobbles when he says ‘surfing’.

Ennis nods dutifully into the camera. “Yes, it is.”

And what is it that you call me?”

Ennis looks from the camera, to Jordan, back to the camera.

“It’s uh…”

“Come on, you remember it.”

“Well, it’s what you’ve asked me to call you. It’s… Jordy.”

Jordan begins to laugh hysterically

“Yes that’s it. Jordy! Just like my favourite surfer, Jordy Smith. Not to say that I surf like him… yet. I’ll need a few more lessons with the maestro before I get to that level, right Ennis?

He slaps Ennis roughly on the back.

“Ah yep, right.”

Jordan calms himself down and turns back to the camera.

“Now for today’s lesson we’re going to be learning the basics of a fundamental maneuver all surfers should be able to employ. Ennis assures me this is one of the most essential – and exciting – moves there is in the surf world.”

#askmeSurf flashes up on the bottom of the screen.

“As always we will be taking questions from viewers,” continues Jordan, “so please do hit us with a comment in whatever platform it is you’re watching us on, using the hashtag below. Take it away, Ennis!”

Ennis coughs nervously, his eyeline sitting somewhere above the camera.

“Thanks Jordan. This particular move is a tricky one because it can be hard to pull off if it’s not something you’ve learned naturally. But at the same time it is such a fundamental set up, or transition, that it is impossible to neglect and still be a complete surfer. It’s a must have in your arsenal.”

“Sounds exciting!” says Jordan. “And what is this mystery move?

Ennis clears his throat again. Looks directly to the camera. Something changes in his expression. A subtle shift in the lines and contours of his face. The earlier meekness disappears. Replaced by a serious, steady gaze. A gaze not seen perhaps since the final of the State Championships at Ceduna beach in 1994.

“Today I want to talk about the scowl.”

Jordan uncharacteristically misses a beat, as he processes what Ennis has just said.

“The … scowl?”

“That’s what I said. The scowl is absolutely one of my favourite moves in surfing.”

“Okay,” says Jordan.

The laptop begins to beep. Jordan turns his attention to it.

“Oh and it looks like the listeners are engaging already,” he says.

“Reddit user ‘BondiRipper’ asks,  and I think this is the question on everybody’s lips, When you say ‘scowl’ are you referring to the facial expression?”

“Yes,” replies Ennis. “The scowl  is one of the most fundamental weapons in any self respecting surfer’s repertoire. It’s incredibly diverse. It can be employed in any number of situations. Not just in the line up.”

The laptop begins to beep furiously.

“You see, good surfing isn’t just about what you’re doing on your board while you’re riding a wave. Good surfing starts from the second you wake up right through until you rest your head on your single, mouldy, salt-stained pillow at night.”

“Right,” says Jordan. He turns to somebody offscreen momentarily, and shrugs.

“It’s a commitment,” continues Ennis. “A lifestyle. a state of mind. And nothing encapsulates the spirit of surfing better than a filthy, spiteful, omnipotent scowl.”

Jordan nods his head slowly. He is looking at Ennis as if he is looking at a complete stranger. An alien.

“In the lineup you’re going to run into all sorts of people. Many of them will be on some form of surfcraft. But few of them will be real surfers. It’s important then that you signify to surfers and non-surfers alike that you’re part of the core tribe.”

The laptop continues to beep. Jordan motions as if he is going to say something, but he is unable – or unwilling – to interrupt.

“There’s a few different ways of doing this – how you carry your board, how you put on your leash, how you subtly splash learners or anybody you don’t recognise as you paddle past them – each of which is worth a tutorial in itself But none of them carry the scornful disdain of a well-deployed scowl. Let’s take a look at this video.”

The screen fades again to a lone surfer out in the lineup. A learner on a Machado Firewire mid length. An ‘A’ appears above his head. Another surfer approaches. Old, weathered, paddling a beat up old thruster. A ‘B’ pops up above his.

“Hi friend! Some pretty pumping waves out here today, huh?” says surfer A to surfer B.

The camera freezes just as it zooms in on surfer B’s face.

“Now you can see here how surfer B is entering the first stage of his scowl,” says Ennis “You’ll notice his head cock backwards, like he’s just opened a dirty nappy.”

On the screen a directional arrow appears, demonstrating the direction of the head’s movement.

“This is important for two reasons. Firstly, the depth of the backwards cocking motion signifies how disgusted he is with the question. Secondly, it gives him a split second to consider his next move.”

“So the depth and severity of it is commensurate with the situation?” asks Jordan.

“Exactly. You are a quick learner, Jordy!”

A small box appears at the bottom of the screen, showing Ennis and Jordan as they analyse the video. A smile begins to form on Jordan’s face.

“Now, for new surfers, the head cock might be quite drawn out and laboured. That’s ok. It’s not until you become an experienced surfer that you will be able to cock back your head and scowl in one fluid movement. But this is what I love so much about it. It’s a set up turn. By drawing it out it gives you time to think about what your response is going to be.”

Ennis begins to pay with the mouse in front of Jordan. On screen surfer B’s head cocks backwards and forwards as he toggles the video.

“I can tell this guy here knows his stuff. Boy I love it. Just watch how smooth this is.”

“Well, moving on,” says Jordan.”

“Yes, sorry. If we skip forward a few frames, we can now see the telltale signs of the scowl itself forming on the surfer’s face. His eyes begin to squint, his mouth and nose are scrunching both inwards and upwards, towards his eyes.”

Circles appear in the relevant areas of Surfer B’s face.

“Yes I can certainly see what you’re saying there,” says Jordan.

“Again, you could say he looks like he’s just opened up a big dirty nappy. And in many ways he has, because the skilled surfer should treat any question or comment put to him in the surf like it is a pile of the most horrendous, disagreeable, stinking shit he has ever encountered.”

The computer beeps again.

“Another one here from Instagram user WSL_Junky. It says, ‘So anything you say to him, he will be disgusted?”

“Yes that’s correct,” says Ennis. “You could be talking about the waves, the weather, the crowd. You might even just be saying hello. All enquiries from any person that you can not readily identify as a core surfer should be treated the same. Observe.”

The video plays again, looping back to the start of the scene. Surfer A says, “Hi friend! Some pretty pumping waves out here today, huh?”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” drawls surfer B, with a voice that hisses like piss being poured over a fire. “This surf is absolutely horrendous. I haven’t seen a bank this bad since the summer of 1998. Pumping waves. You’ve got to be KIDDING ME. “

The video freezes, so that surfer B’s mouth is contorted mid-scowl.

“Oh I love it. Jeez I love it,” says Ennis. “I can really see this surfer is a natural, he cares about his technique. The absolute distaste with which he responds. The slow and purposeful delivery. The reference to surf conditions from a time when the other surfer most likely hadn’t even been born yet, let alone started surfing. Each of these seemingly minor considerations come together to produce what is, to me, pure poetry in motion.”

“Yes,” says Jordan, whose earlier look of disdain for Ennis has been replaced by one of adoration. Of respect. Of love.  “Yes, absolutely.”

The computer beeps again, breaking him from his reverie. He stops, refocusses.

“Twitter user kanoaigarashi asks, is the scowl the only way to engage with fellow surfers?

“Not at all,” says Ennis. “There’s  the grunt, the sardonic smile, and even the maniacal laugh. It’s really up to the surfer to use his surf knowledge and intuition as to what technique best suits the situation at hand.”

“Fantastic,” says Jordan. “Well, Everytime we have one of these sessions I learn something new. And today has not disappointed. I hope you surfers at home got as much out of this session as I did.”

Ennis nods contently.

“Well, there we have it, continues Jordan. “Another successful #askeSurf session. I certainly know I’ll be practising my scowl in the mirror tonight when I get home. I hope you will be too!”

The meSurf logo appears on screen, and the homely acoustic soundtrack kicks back in.

Jordan turns to Ennis, not realising the microphone is still on.

“So, Ennis, what are you up to now? Should we head back to my place for a video review session? Maybe stir up a couple of cheeky gin kombuchas?”

Just as the screen begins to fade, we see Ennis slowly cock his head back. His eyes begin to squint, and his mouth and nose scrunch  both inwards and upwards, as if he is opening a dirty nappy.

How I used a surf and combat sport combo to almost hit maximum human strain and melt off a stunning five thousand calories!

A knuckle-duster-in-your-face exercise diary!

I woke up this morning and examined my to-do list, which I keep in a plastic sleeve inside a drawer by the side of my bed. 

The list is a perennial, find rich wife, preferably multi-ethnic, make a decision on the doctrine of the trinity and doctrine of eternal punishment and adjust personal morality in response, land a twelve-pound salmon, buy a timber boat, flush commode after morning ablution and so on. 

Today, as I ran a finger along the smooth plastics of my WHOOP strap, a relatively new but addictive addition to my life, I determined to run the miracle fitness tracker off its dial and to hit the theoretical human max of 21 points. 

WHOOP Strain is measured on a 0 to 21 scale, which is based on the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion. 

(As a teenager I had taken my mother’s Japanese four-pot beyond its theoretical maximum, eight thousand revolutions in first gear, pistons, I think it was the pistons, breaking into pieces inside the block. I hoped the WHOOP experiment wouldn’t end in similar catastrophe.)

To take your body to the limit y’gotta understand how the WHOOP works. See, it measures cardiovascular load on the body, measuring the ability of your heart and air-bags to fuel your body with oxygen. 

What it doesn’t measure, crucially for our experiment, is muscular endurance, “the ability of your muscles to perform repetitive contractions without fatigue.” 

WHOOP measures aerobic workouts not the anaerobic. Therefore, no lifting plates or hitting push-ups. 

At six-thirty I begin with a light walk with potential girlfriend, skin, eyes and hair one colour, a rich, ripe, radiant apricot. At seven am, I have scored nine-point nine points. It is a good beginning. 

Three-quarters of an hour later, we run a few soft sand laps of the beach, a vigorous forty-five minute exercise. Heart-rate pounds, partly through exertion, partly because of this haughty and mysterious Haitian temptress. Thirteen-point-one.

At ten-thirty, a perfunctory surf, forty-three minutes, the sun shines, I’m courteous even to my enemies. Eleven-point three points. 

A one-hour class of jiujitsu at midday leaves my chest dewy with sweat but heaving smoothly. Eight-point seven points, the lower number due to much study of levers and grips, fifteen minutes of sparring at the end revving the heart to 170 bpm, briefly. 

A walk between three-thirty and four pm yields an eleven-point-three, a surprisingly high number although my stride is long and, at times, reckless. 

Twelve minutes later, one hour of surfing, very calm  vibration in the water, three waves, no jousting. Eight-point one. 

Just before six pm, a one-hour class of jiujitsu, much drilling, with short sparring at conclusion. I get strangled twice, accidental knee to opponent’s face yields excellent black eye. 

At this point, seven pm, I open the WHOOP app on telephone. 

It reads, twenty-point-five, calories burned, 4983.


Close enough to twenty-one. 

I self-examine and feel no adverse effects, a result, I’m firmly convinced, of the value of a vegetarian diet. 

Tomorrow: Charlie Smith and the transformative bliss of maximizing quality sleep, solid recovery and improvement generating strain.

Warm Water Jetty.
Warm Water Jetty.

Venice, Waikiki, Carlsbad named as three of the most dangerous beaches in The United States: “The research ranks beaches on nine factors, including crime, shark attacks and water pollution!”

Down and out.

Now, I am no stranger to danger, having spent much of my youth chasing terrorists in the gorgeous Middle East, but you must certainly appreciate my surprise when, just this morning, I learned that I currently live very close to one of the ten most dangerous beaches in The United States of America.


According to The Hill, “Outforia, a publication focused on the outdoors, recently compiled data on the nation’s beaches to determine which are the most dangerous. The research ranks beaches on nine factors, including crime, shark attacks and water pollution, and provided a score out of 10.”

Number five just so happened to be Carlsbad Beach right up the road.

“This beach north of San Diego experienced a high number of reported crimes, with 517. It also scored poorly in water pollution.”

I would have never guessed.

Venice Beach, in Los Angeles, was the most dangerous featuring, “High levels of crime in the area. There were 630 reported crimes and also the highest number of thefts and robbery, as well as violent crime. Venice also earned high marks (as in poor marks) in air and water pollution.”

Waikiki, in Honolulu, came in at third due high crime rates and Jonah Hill’s Malibu landed at ninth because of water pollution and, apparently, many shark attacks.

A pack of various Florida beaches filled out the rest.

Carlsbad, though.

Did not see that one coming.

Wright (pictured) winning Teahupoo.
Wright (pictured) winning Teahupoo.

Australia’s Owen Wright extremely bullish on winning surfing gold at 2024 Paris Olympics: “I’m definitely confident in my ability at Teahupoo. I have a really solid record in any conditions out there so I’m going to back myself against anybody!”

Big talk.

And, like that, the calendar will soon flip to 2022 meaning that we are all two short years away from our second helping of professional Olympic surfing. The first serving came to us six-ish months ago from beautiful Japan where Brazil captured gold, the host nation silver (via Huntington Beach) and Australia’s Irukanjis the bronze thanks to the fine work of Owen Wright.

The World Surf League tour veteran will be 34 when Paris hosts the Games, the surfing component likely being staged in French Polynesia, which excites greatly and especially excites Wright. In a recent interview with Australia’s 9 News Wide World of Sport, the Culburra native seemed completely bullish on taking gold at the event, advanced paternal age be damned.

I’m definitely confident in my ability at Teahupoo. I have a really solid record in any conditions out there so I’m going to back myself against anybody no matter how big or small the waves are on the day,” he said, adding, “The wave can be intimidating if you don’t have the right mindset. It’s all about confidence in your own ability and backing yourself when the right wave comes. Having won an event there in the past, I’m looking for one thing only if I can qualify for Paris 2024, and that’s a gold medal.”

Wright’s track record does back up his big talk as he has made it to the quarters, or beyond, in his last seven Teahupoo starts winning in 2019 but… I don’t know. If I was a betting man, (which I am, it is just needlessly complicated to bet on surfing in the United States), I’d be pushing all my chips toward the John John Florence (gold), Gabriel Medina (silver), Jeremy Flores (bronze) trifecta.


The reef that's gonna get blasted. | Photo: World Wave Project

Surfer hypocrisy laid bare by New Zealand developer’s plan to dynamite virgin Fijian reef to create a“world-class wave” aimed at $1000-a-day tourists, “Creating more waves will lead to more surfers and more stewards of our oceans”

"This is a win-win situation!"

Surfers have a rep for being pro-environment. A remnant of the long-gone counter-culture days of the early seventies.

It ain’t true.

But still we diligently affix Big Oil Don’t Surf stickers on our SUVs and write passionate screeds on Instagram posts criticising government for inaction on climate change and for its use of fossil fuels while celebrating energy and water guzzling wave pools built on parched inland soil. 

We buy boards, we bust ‘em, we throw ‘em away. 

Our bodies are wrapped in cheap cottons and nylons made in Bangladeshi hellholes for “surf companies” owned by venture capitalists, profit-at-all-cost villains who have no idea of the beauty and brilliance of nature. 

The pro-environment thing is, therefore, a chimera, a mask we wear for whatever reason, surfer identity, ignorance. 

Now, a project by a New Zealand company, exposes surfers for what we are, as heroic butchers of the natural world. 

As reported by Newsroom’s wonderful lead investigations editor, Melanie Reid, (mama of Elliot Paerata Reid, wild shredder from our time-travel wetsuit movie a couple of years back). 

A New Zealand-registered company is facing intense opposition to its proposal to excavate 2.5 hectares of coral reef at a Fijian island group in an attempt to improve surf waves at one of the most celebrated diving spots in the world.

Ambitiously named World Wave Project (WWP), the company plans to dig up sections of coral reefs off the remote Qamea and Taveuni Islands in Fiji in what it describes as a “world leading project” to create “a world class wave”.

In its own public consultation submission, WWP boasted it believed the planned waves would bring in 200 tourists per day spending $1000 per day across 300 days, “creating long term employment.”

The proposed development, at two sites near Qamea, would use a jack-up barge mounted with an excavator to dig two channels through coral reefs in a region globally renowned for its pristine waters and popular diving.

In an extensive and highly polished list of ready-to-go answers on the company’s website, rationale for the project is described as follows:

“The surfing population has exploded in the last few decades. As a result, the number of quality surfing locations around the world have become more crowded; the demand for surf breaks is massive and continually increasing, forcing surfers to travel further and consume more resources for the same surfing experience. We believe that creating more waves will lead to more surfers and more stewards of our oceans.”


“This is a win-win project, given the works lease is temporary (only during construction), once complete the new breaks are open to everyone to utilise and are protected forever by the Fiji government, and there is the opportunity for positive ecological impact by removing algae from the top of inert reef, allowing living coral to grow again.”

Brings to mind the New Zealand-born reporter Petey Arnett’s quote from the Vietnam war, “We had to destroy the village in order to save it!”

Heroic butchers, yes?