New York Times pours praise on Chas Smith’s “must-read” book of summer ‘Blessed are the Bank Robbers’: “Equal parts true crime, memoir and bank-heist how-to!”

"Danny robbed 19 banks in six weeks before he was caught and sent to prison; when he was released almost eight years later, he picked up the habit again."

America’s favourite left-wing organ, The New York Times, has greeted Chas Smith’s fourth book in the same way a boy in the furnace of adolescence might examine a woman in a state of considerable undress, with a detailed and dreamy inspection and a more than ordinary enthusiasm.

Blessed are the Bank Robbers is reviewed alongside others in the true crime genre including Hell’s Half-Acre, “a serial killer family on the American frontier” and The Far Land, “a bizarre mash-up of an 18th-century adventure novel and the darkest episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit imaginable”.

Armed robbery, serial killing, uncontrolled pedophilia.

A decent fit.

Read a little.

Equal parts true crime, memoir and bank-heist how-to, (Blessed are the Bank Robbers) is the story of Smith’s cousin Danny, the Floppy Hat Bandit who, Smith says, ‘has to be within spitting distance of the U.S. record for bank robberies.

Danny, drowning in gambling debts, held up his first bank in 2006. Soon he hit another, then another. The endorphin high of gambling was quickly supplanted by the endorphin high of committing crimes. “Who would dare step away from the table in the middle of a hot streak?” Smith writes. “Who would dare leave potential millions behind when the odds had crumbled, when fate had chosen a victor?” Danny robbed 19 banks in six weeks before he was caught and sent to prison; when he was released almost eight years later, he picked up the habit again.

Most interesting is the way Smith plumbs their shared history looking for clues to Danny’s life. At one point, he remembers how their families would gather to watch swashbuckling missionary slide shows that featured their fathers’ experiences in places like the jungles of Nicaragua and Honduras. “The seed of Cousin Danny’s bank robbing,” he believes, was likely planted during those long evenings watching the “bigger-than-life Courson adventure we were all living.

Blessed are the Bank Robbers, 256 pages in width, is released worldwide, Tuesday, March 15 (US).

Buy here! 


My Cousin Danny (top left).

Surf Journalist set to release inspirational true story detailing the fast days and wild nights of world’s most prolific salt-crusted bank robber!

"Whatever you decide to do with this message is totally cool—ignore it, call the cops, call your lawyer—I completely understand..."

Every one of us, here, learned the surfing game from someone. An older sister, uncle, father, pal. For me, it was my Cousin Danny. I grew up, you see, on Oregon’s frigid central coast where waves lash and bash but there was no “surf culture,” or at least none of which I was aware or at least none which matched my childhood imagination of what “surf culture” should be.

My Cousins Danny and Mikey, though, grew up in Carlsbad where surf felt like it belonged. We drove south and visited them, most summers, when I was growing up and I couldn’t get enough, staring at the Surfing and Surfer magazines in their rooms. Wandering into wax scented surf shops with breath caught in my lungs. Paddling Warm Water Jetty and surfing.

Really surfing.

Cousin Danny gave me my first board, a rainbow twin fin, and I would gaze at it in my Oregon room, cold rain falling on roof, and dream.

The years rolled on, one after another, I became a surf journalist and Cousin Danny? Well he became one of the most prolific bank robbers in U.S. history. We were both raised as good Christian boys in a good Christian extended family with each of the uncles involved in the ministry, megachurch pastors and famous missionaries. It was a sort of evangelical Camelot so when I heard of Cousin Danny’s escapades I was shocked and amazed.

How?

How had he veered off the straight and narrow so… dramatically?

As fate would have it, he reached out to me via encrypted Swiss email whilst running from the FBI after hearing of my first dust up with Ashton Goggans, as it were, ending that first missive thusly:

Whatever you decide to do with this message is totally cool—ignore it, call the cops, call your lawyer—I completely understand and wouldn’t be upset in the slightest. The last thing I’d ever want to do is get you in trouble. I do know the cops are trying to find someone to email me with an embedded photo in the email, which would have metadata in the pixels, and as soon as I downloaded it, my location would be revealed, so I won’t open anything with photos, just FYI. And, you just don’t seem like the type who would turn me in. That may be due partly to your amazingly awesome podcast incident, fighting with that Inertia dude, defending your family’s honor, and disgust with his decision to file a police report. What a douche! That is podcast gold, my friend.

The result of our correspondence, plunging into family and family secrets, prying bank robbery tips from my Cousin Danny, turned into a book, Blessed are the Bank Robbers, out March 15 (buy here, here or at your local bookstore).

I will be chatting about it all live at Warwick’s in La Jolla on March 16 at 7:30 pm with David Lee Scales, midwife to the whole adventure from the get. If you are in town please come. I’d love to say hello.

David Lee and I also discussed Joel Parkinson’s mud adventures and the Facebook threats I received via Coolangatta. Not essential but also funny.


@sierralerback Instagram

In historical first, woman beats field of men in prestigious professional surf competition thereby shattering long-held gender-based assumptions!

Let equality ring!

Yesterday, the sun set on a different Australia than the one it rose over hours earlier. A better Australia. A brighter Australia. An Australia where gender-based assumptions lay on red ground in a smoldering heap. Where equality, true equality, rang.

For yesterday a woman, Sierra Lerback from Maui, beat all-comers in the most prestigious Old Mal division of the Noosa Festival of Surfing to hoist the cup and change history.

“All-comers” referring to a who’s who of ridiculously talented males including Jared Mell, Jack Norton, Byron Chadwick and Harrison Roach.

The aforementioned Roach took to Instagram immediately, penning, “@sierralerback is the first woman in history to win the most prestigious division of the @noosa_festival_of_surfing, the Old Mal, and she’s my mate.”

Praise was universal from luminaries such as Alex Knost, Joel Tudor, Devon Howard, Robert “Wingnut” Weaver etc.

Now, students of surf journalism will be aware that I have been calling for mixed longboarding for years or maybe months. Women dance the plank as beautifully as men, even more beautifully, and so why not cast them into the same field and allow them to Battle of the Sexes regularly? I pepper World Surf League Longboard Commissioner Devon Howard with such thoughts as well anyone else who will listen.

That same World Surf League has set itself up as the most equal of governing bodies, what with equal prize money and equal-ish venues, but true equality is singular. It is one. The World Surf League Shortboard Commissioner, Jessi Miley-Dyer, has been a rumored hater of longboarders and longboarding, recently threatening to cut that tour down to one event and casting its champion into outer darkness. Will the Noosa Festival of Surfing change her mind? Help her to see the light? Miley-Dyer’s congratulatory missives were notably missing from Lerback’s accomplishment.

More as that story develops but, in the meantime, great congratulations to Sierra Lerback. May it be the first of many.


Furious monkeys.

COVID lockdowns blamed for savage monkey wars at iconic Bali surf spot Uluwatu following discovery of “rare and sacred” white monkey near death!

Usually existing in peaceful co-existence with the local people and the tourists, these simian range wars have been due to the disastrous effects of the global pandemic lockdown

A rare and sacred white monkey was discovered covered in wounds last month in Pecatu Village, South Kuta.

That’s Uluwatu, by the way.

Most people in the area consider this rare white monkey as the sacred manifestation of Hanuman, the clever hero of their religious folklore.

And the death or even minor injuries to this primate forebode disaster for the village.

And it seems they were right about the disaster part.

The white monkey suffered these injuries in clashes between the seven separate troupes of monkeys that inhabit the area surrounding Uluwatu. Usually existing in peaceful co-existence with the local people and the tourists, these simian range wars have been due to the disastrous effects of the global pandemic lockdown

The ever-present monkeys are usually both the delight and the bane of travelers with their clever thieving ways (The monkeys, not the tourists). But during the Covid era the marauding primates have had to rely on means other than the easy pickin’s from the tourists and the temple caretakers who feed them.

Emboldened by the lack of the usual human presence, the troupes have been forced to organize territorial raids on each others resources and on private villas in the area. Clearing the fruit off the trees of properties and anything else they could make off with. Outdoor picnics became primary targets in many neighborhoods.

Home invasions have been reported by a number of cliffside residents who have open plan villas or have left their dwelling windows and doors open.

One Aussie surfer returned to his rental villa and found “that they had opened my fridge and were having a hell of good time. Thank God they left the beer”.

To surfers, these wild monkeys have been an integral part of the Uluwatu experience. From the time of Morning of the Earth to our current days, the kinship surfers share with these animals is easy to see.

It was surfers who created the tourist industry of the Bukit Peninsula, changing the wild, natural monkey culture forever. And the ever-present monkeys, seemingly as carefree and as focused on simple pleasures as the surfers themselves, have always lent an exotic vibe to the cosmic tropical freedom that all surfers seek in Bali.

The good news is that extremely rare, and badly wounded white monkey has been captured and treated and is healing from his last campaign.

With tourist numbers rising as fast as a fever, a ceasefire agreement has apparently been established between the monkey troupes and new territorial boundaries have been agreed upon.

It seems it is time for all the monkeys of the Uluwatu area to heal from the wages of war.

And look to a brighter future as surfers pour back in and contribute to the balance that is so vital to the island’s culture.

Peace has fallen once again upon Uluwatu and the harmonious, if unspoken, agreements between man and beast are once again moving in greased grooves.

Says one village leader “I know the recovery of the white monkey is a positive sign. I hope we can all rise up together, the surfers, the monkey’s, the waves and us, and that the economy will come back and that all of us can recover from the disastrous conditions we have suffered”.


Get off my wave reserve, you leashless, mid-length riding sonofabitch.

New study wrongly suggests protecting waves will lead to utopia of ocean conservation, economic prosperity and human well-being!

Authors of new study forget the power of the surfer's lizard brain…

How much combined time have you put into dreaming about surfing? Into planning trips? Into sitting at airports and in airplanes and rental cars and chartered boats?

Into actually being in the water?

And, of course, into commenting on BG?

Months? Years?

Does that carry an impact?

The servers to power our phones and computers run on fossil fuels, let alone the freshwater pulled from riverine ecosystems needed to keep those servers cool.

The CO2 emissions of a cross-planet flight and diesel for ferries and boat rides or jetting off to a wave pool in the middle of Texas add their load to driving ice melt and ocean acidification, leading inexorably to those things we love eventually being destroyed.

We may not be able to have our cake, and eat it, too.

And, don’t even think about material footprints for boards, baggies, and wetsuits (unless you’re wealthy enough to afford all the “green” versions of those, which means you’re also probably taking two or five trips a year to catch waves, thus offsetting any positive impact of those consumer choices).

When younger, I was naïve to think all surfers cared about the above issues, that a wave rider’s connection to Ma Ocean and Church of Open Sky meant they intrinsically cared about the environment.

Then I found the BG community.

But hope, possibly, may still exist.

A just published study in Trends in Ecology & Evolution by Grégoire Touron-Gardic and Pierre Failler, titled A bright future for wave reserves? suggests that, per the highlighted opening, “Wave reserves, initially aimed at protecting surf spots, are becoming a way to ensure the conservation of coastal areas that are of great ecological and economic value. They foster local development and contribute to countries’ achievements toward international objectives. Several projects to implement large wave reserves are on their way.”

The authors point out that surfers have a long history of mobilizing to protect waves; that contests draw in tourists; and that tourist activities at key US surf spots generate in excess of $10 million, annually.

More importantly, they point out that, “As 90% of world-class wave locations occur within marine biodiversity hotspots and more than a quarter are located near key biodiversity areas, there is a direct link between biodiversity and wave conservation.”

Their research suggests more reserves will be proposed and become legally protected in the years to come, in large part because of their magic pudding of conservation, economic prosperity and  human well-being.

It should be noted, however, that the authors do not discuss larger trajectories ie what happens to breaks, even protected ones, which get overcrowded within 10 to 20 years.

The authors forget that surfers are selfish and greedy and that a pristine discovery does not stay that way for long.

This also creates local haves and have-nots, leading to infighting in the local community.

So, what do you think?

But first, let’s be honest — any of us with a crystal ball would have bought up acres and acres of coastal property the world over, seeing how many people want to surf in the 2020s.

Outcome? We would’ve protected ’em for our selfish use or we would’ve sold it all and become fantastically rich.

So, are wave reserves gonna lead to the protection of marine ecosystems and economic mobility for local stewards?

Or is this study too rose-tinted, and wave reserves either cater to the rich and entitled (looking at you, mud boy Parko), further making surfing an even more entitled privilege?