Walt Disney, left, and Nazi rocket engineer Wernher von Braun.

Historian reveals how surfing’s post-war obsession with Nazi weaponry “which first rained holy terror on London and Antwerp” led to one of the sport’s great design breakthroughs!

"The V-2 rocket or penis obsession—boys and their toys, am I right?"

Watching movies with my 13-year-old son is mostly down to throwing a lot of Netflix-Hulu-HBO against the wall and seeing what sticks, and while I have passed on to him a few traits and characteristics that I wish I could delete,

I am grateful that, like me, he has a congenital indifference to fantasy and superheroes, which means our movie-night hit rate is pretty high.

We are currently on a roll, here in these last couple of weeks of summer. Forrest Gump (better than I remembered), was followed by Bridesmaids, then The Right Stuff—which is still a thing of cinematic beauty, and Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager is fourth-dimensional flyboy cool, although the movie at times launches itself pretty far its own hyper-virile Mach-One ass. 

Two great Right Stuff moments occur almost back-to-back, in the same scene, which is set deep inside the Pentagon. It is 1957. The Russians have just launched Sputnik 1 and, this being peak Cold War, American politicians are now frantic to one-up the Soviets by putting a man in space.

A pair of fast-talking young NASA recruiters (Harry Shearer and Jeff Goldblum, both having a blast), with the aid of a film projector, are pitching President Eisenhower and Senator Lyndon Johnson on the type of men needed for space flight.

The projector rolls.

We see circus performers, high divers, race-car divers (“they already have their own helmets”) and—surfers, yes, because they would be naturals for the mission-concluding splashdown.

All are rejected. Eisenhower wants real test pilots; men with the Right Stuff. But let’s be clear—Phil Edwards would have made a Life-cover-worthy astronaut. 

The second great bit in that scene is when Johnson looks across the room and asks the top rocket engineer if it was former Nazi scientists now working for the Soviets who had produced Sputnik.

“Was it them?” Johnson asks. “Was it their German scientists that got them up there first?”

“No it was not, senator,” the rocket engineer calmly replies. “Our Germans are better than their Germans.”

That unnamed rocket guy is a proxy for Wernher von Braun, the famous Nazi-turned-American-turned-Disney-pitchman who, during World War II, while still a bad guy, designed the landmark V-2 rocket—V for “vergeltungswaffen,” or “retaliation weapon”—which first rained holy terror on London and Antwerp and then sparked a global fascination for rocketry and space travel and to this day is the sleek and pointed four-finned vehicle that comes to mind when we think back to when space flight was sexy and awe-inspiring instead of a budget-sucking black hole.

Germans, Americans, Russians—everybody put aside their differences when it came to loving the V-2 and its rocket-spawn.

I am not even half-joking, in fact, when I suggest that the V-2 is how we ended up with Australia’s absolutely bonkers “racing 16” board design, which was used for both for paddling and wave-riding.

“Racing 16,” as in 16 vertical feet of lumber and plywood, and okay maybe you’d mess around with something that huge for paddling, but for riding waves? You know what, never mind what I have to say, just watch the last two waves on this video and sort out for yourself if there was any other reason apart from the fact that the board looks like a maritime V-2 rocket that you’d ever want to paddle that thing into a wave.

Except a lot of times you couldn’t paddle it into a wave.

Not by direct means, anyway.

Follow closely, because this is how the hot Aussie surfers of the day would take off, while on a racing 16, if the wave jacked up. This is so un-V-2. You’d paddle like mad until just before the wave broke and the front of the board lifting off the face, at which point, still prone, you’d scoot forward and whip the board round 90 degrees so that the nose went parallel to the wave-crest in one direction and the tail did the same in the other direction. I know, it’s hard to picture. In other words, your body would be like the fuselage while the board itself extended from your chest and shoulders like airplane wings.

From this position, you would plunge down the face, let the wave break, then swing the nose back around 90 degrees and stand up. This was actually easier to do than to try and navigate the drop, on a normal point-to-shore trajectory, without poking the nose.

I’m laughing here, but my God the skill it took to pull this off, without fragging any nearby swimmers and bodysurfers, is Chuck Yeager-level.

Once the Yanks showed up and began zipping hither and yon on their nine-foot Malibu chip boards—no over-the-falls crucifixion takeoff required here; just hop to your feet and start surfing—local surfers realized that the V-2 racing 16, gorgeous as it looked while resting against your tanned and muscled shoulder on the beach, was not the thing for riding waves.

The Aussies were humble for about 15 minutes and then, look out world, here comes Midget Farrelly, Nat Young, Wayne Lynch and the rest, and basically, performance-surfing-wise, it was game over. (The actual V-2 rocket itself, by the way, like the racing 16, often did not perform as well as it looked.)

It occurs to me that if I’d spent the week revisiting William Finnegan’s “Playing Doc’s Games,” about San Francisco surfer-doctor Mark Renneker, this story may have gone in a different direction completely.

While trying to figure out what drives Renneker to take on huge waves, Finnegan consults Edwin Salem, a mutual surfing friend, and reports back: “Edwin’s theory is that Mark is driven to surf big waves by the rage and futility that he feels when his patients die. Mark says that’s ridiculous. Edwin’s other theory is Freudian. (Edwin, remember, is from Argentina, where psychoanalysis is a middle-class religion.) ‘Obviously, it’s erotic, he says. ‘That big board’s his prick’.”

The V-2 rocket or penis obsession—boys and their toys, am I right?

Let’s not even get started on surfboard fins.

LOST.TV – FLIGHT OF THE V2 ROCKET from Lost Video Productions on Vimeo.

(You like this? Matt Warshaw delivers a surf essay every Sunday, PST. All of ’em a pleasure to read. Maybe time to subscribe to Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing, yeah? Three bucks a month. Tell me that ain’t a deal.)

The beautiful Griffin Colapinto, a formidable competitor.

Urgent rapid-fire post-Teahupoo and pre-Finals Day Power Rankings, “Give him a gun or a knife or even his bare nails and he’ll go on slaughtering and slaughtering!”

On a tour of transplants and weeds, the best is always next to the worst!

Nothing of consequence has happened on tour since the last time I wrote except for Gabriel Medina’s knee injury. Which didn’t matter anyway ‘cause unless Gabriel won G-Land or El Sal, and he didn’t, the defending champ wasn’t going to Lowers.

After seven events, five of ‘em in slightly poor to terrible surf, the waves worked away like billy goats at J-Bay and at Teahupoo.

Did that make professional surfing more fascinating to watch? 

Absent any drama outside which of the seven surfers were going to make the top five and Finals Day,  the back half of the tour was near-dead and ice cold. 

Still, here we are.

Honorable mention. Griffin Colapinto

What are the biggest chokes in sport? Greg Norman at the Masters in ’96? The Sacramento Kings ref-aided loss to the Lakers in the 2002 Western Conference Finals? Griffin Colapinto failing to make the Final 5 in back-to-back years after flopping at the last event both years? 

No, certainly not that last one, mostly due the fact that surfing isn’t really a sport and it’s not really the biggest deal for anyone not named Griffin Colapinto, who I fear will be encouraged too strongly to continue being stuck living within the colorless framework of self-helpism that he has been this past year, an approach I suspect is being pushed by charlatan coaches who might be looking to justify their existence on the payroll. 

Left to publicly express that he is “feeling and leaning into the pain” or emptily “treating it as an experience to grow from” without fully acknowledging that he absolutely choked, twice now, seems like a great strategy… must work well enough, him able to take out two events this year and whatnot. 

And saying he choked two years in a row is a little misleading as last year he was supposed to have Tahiti to redeem himself, instead getting cut off after Mexico due to circumstances completely out of his control, which left him outside the five. 

No matter, the narrative has been set!

6. Ethan Ewing

Ethan Ewing. What to say about young E-Dawg? No, really, what do you say about him? Whenever I try to write these things, I always struggle to come up with anything of substance or marginally funny to say about him, which is probably why I have always had him high but not very high up on my list, instead using his WSL rankings as almost the sole basis for rating him. 

You would think that surfing reasonably well with good style and looking like a skinnier Nat Young (Santa Cruz variety) would provide a fount of inspiration for making casual, stupid remarks about him, which would then allow my mind the room to play with his ranking in a way that I do others, but it just hasn’t been. 

How then should he be ranked? Winning Jeffery’s must also count for something… hmmm… Being the final contest and all, I guess that after balancing his official place in the standings (third going into the contest) with what there is to say about him other than he is stylish?.

I should then incorporate the likelihood that he has to win the World Title into the calculation. For that last part, it would seem he has somewhat of a chance, based largely on the fact that Mick Fanning, someone I’ve compared Ethan to in the past, has won multiple contests at Trestles without so much as thinking of aerials. 

Not so, I say, unless he all of a sudden started boosting, which I cannot recall him doing once this year. Entering the data into the ever so complex super algorithm (third + nothing + zero), we end up here.      

5. Italo Ferreira

Was a weird year for our electrically energetic Brazilian satyr. Dude never made it past the semis in any contest this year, yet still made the Final 5. 

While that should be enough to show how stupid the whole concept of this Finals Day extravaganza is (how do you not win or runner-up a single event and still make it?), the fact is that is the framework he’s working under, where consistency, or at least avoiding turds, is premium to success at the expense of short runs of brilliance, which theoretically Ike could provide at Trestles. 

With a repertoire or airs, skatey hacks, and standard backside lippers, even though he’d potentially have to surf six heats, winning five, one would think that he had a chance to take Title. 

Problem is, success at Trestles is largely dictated by one’s performance on rights, especially for goofyfooters, who can keep doing the same 12 o’clock top turn to results. The only goofy to blow the doors off the left has been Gabby, who is not in the contest. 

Italo, while having a decent enough backhand attack (with airs even!), the likelihood that he could get through all the heats he needs to seems not great. 

At some point, he’d have to start boosting recklessly. The worst thing for him would be to land a gnarly air in his first heat against Kanoa. With that one taste, he wouldn’t be able to resist going bigger, which will eventually lead to his downfall. 

Also, it’s worth mentioning, he got absolutely destroyed by Fil last year, so…

4. Jack Robinson

Quite a last thirteen or so months for Jackie boy. In that time, he won three events and transformed himself into the Great Brazilified White Aussie Surfing Hope, shedding and destroying destiny’s plans of becoming a reincarnated Bruce and winning the favor of the judges on his way to a second-place seeding going into Trestles. 

What is so interesting about his rise to becoming WSL Judge Overlord Pritamo’s Golden Boy of the Year has been that unlike champions of the past, he doesn’t really seem to exhibit an otherworldly level of any of the usual qualities that these winners have possessed. 

He rips and appears to do everything pretty well, but does he have an especially great, effortless style like Parko or John John; or machine-like consistency of exceptional technique and/or approach and insane tactical adroitness and appetite for blood like Adriano or Mick; or a general freakishness that allows for the suspension of disbelief like Slater or Gabe? 

Being a former child prodigy, who is comfortable in big waves, some might argue for him in the third category, but that seems like a stretch. Does he need to possess these qualities? At some other venue, I would say, no. 

At Lowers, though, there is one person in the field who possesses a larger portion or degree of these qualities in select circumstances: Fil, whose technique, approach, and freakishness in small waves will be too much to overcome. 

To beat him would require a major mental collapse on his part and/or better story/intentionally manipulated narrative used to justify the event’s existence and how theoretically awesome it is, like someone battling from the fifth position all the way to a Title. 

Excluded from the second condition, Jack would need the first to happen on a monumental scale to prevail. 

3. Miguel Pupo

A sick win in Tahiti, where he charged and threaded deep tubes in style on his forehand, Miguel made for a truly feel-good story this year, finishing sixth in the world, only a scant 85 points off a Finals Day appearance. 

All developments likely to be career highlights, which could have only been made better if his doppelgänger hadn’t been felled by Slater in the Quarters and he could have faced him in the finals.

Miguel was a joy to watch, razor straight back standing up and all. Despite not able to participate in the final contest a, therefore, out of the running, he’s ranked here because I wanted to give him props before Thing 2 overtook his spot next year and because he’s as much of a chance of winning the Title as the people above. 

2. Kanoa Igarashi

Riding that Samurai Mentality™ all year, Kanoa was able to produce just enough good results and sneak, all ninja like, into the Final 5. 

Wait, “samurai” and “ninja” referenced in the same sentence about a “Japanese” person seems a little racist, right? 

Whoa, before I get off track and idiotically try to defend myself, let me just say that Kanoa is the only person with a legitimate chance of upending Filipe’s coronation. His twitchy surf style, in which he’s able to fit in multiple tight maneuvers (*sigh* “Pottz”), is particularly suited for the soft walls of Lowers, as him just looking like he’s doing a lot could lure judges into thinking he’s ripping harder than he is in comparison to the non-Italo others who might be more cruisey. 

If he were to make his way past the other three to get to face Toledo, he might be able to sow enough doubt in Fil’s allegedly fragile mind to get him to surf wonky. 

Not likely that’d happen, as the only person who had the power to strike any fear in him would be Medina. More powerfully, though, getting to the end could help him build the momentum in the judges’ and a certain CEO’s, one who badly wishes he could be a Dana White, mind that could persuade them into thinking it be his destiny, tipping the scales ever so slightly towards him. 

If he surfs outside his body, that little extra boost could carry him over the line to victory and contribute to the legitimization of the spectacle.

1. Filipe Toledo

The overwhelming favorite to win this year at Trestles, Filipe is a fascinating character to contemplate within the surf world. 

Coming up with something to write about him on the eve of his all but assured Title, I had a few not totally unrelated thoughts about him that I considered focusing on, including: the dismissal of Fil for being a pussy at Chopes, and the questions over the legitimacy of a Title for him would be; saying that Fil is the modern day Damien Hardman, someone who will no matter what not be respected despite simply winning his Title playing by the rules placed in front of him, dismissed for not winning on others’ terms (not winning in Hawaii); and the contrast between him and Griffin, being that Griff has actually choked, whereas Fil, besides not living up to our expectations of what a pro surfer should be doing in big waves (charging), has never actually failed in a situation where the results actually mattered. 

While those are certainly worth exploring, I’d rather not. Instead, I will compare him to an animal. 

Unlike the previously mentioned Dooma, who I’d compare to a guinea pig purely based on the fact that his face looks like one without hair, I would say that Fil is a maneless lion. 

Why no mane? Depends on who you ask. For people who hold it against him that he doesn’t have a mane, it can represent his lack of testosterone, which would be required for him to grow one. 

For others, it can mean that based on the competitive environment of the WSL (the simply too hot theory), he doesn’t have a mane because there is no reason have one, as it is not required to charge to win. 

Finally, for the completely psychotic Toledo fan, he is without mane because he is a Tsavo Man-Eater. If all this sounds ridiculous and from the mind of a person who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, it is!

Anyway, Mr. Toledo should end up your 2022 World Champ. Long live our little Tsavo Man-Eater!

Logan (pictured) no longer economically dangerous.
Logan (pictured) no longer economically dangerous.

World Surf League fans exhale major sigh of relief as CEO Erik Logan addresses long-simmering facial hair issue: “It’s Finals Week. Had to call in the professionals to tame down this beard situation LOL.”

Die socialist die.

As you are certainly well aware, the World Surf League opens its Final’s Day window in two days. Of course that does not necessarily mean the event, pitting the top five surfers, on both male and female side, against each other over one scintillating eight-ish hour period will directly run but it will run soon, that much is certain.

As anticipation builds to fever levels, one troubling issue has dogged diehard fans of professional surfing for the past few months.

Namely, the state of WSL CEO Erik Logan’s facial hair.

What was once pure cocaine cowboy has since gone the way, lightly, of Karl Marx and while hirsute radicalism is accepted in some corners, professional surfing is not one of them. The world’s favorite surf commentator Barton “Papa Surf” Lynch, for example, was unceremoniously sacked for possibly getting too weird, metaphorically economically.

Seeing as nobody doesn’t like Lynch, aficionados worried that Logan’s visual pivot to “socialism” might endanger his position and, thus, upset the apple cart once again after a string of failed CEOs including, but not limited to, Paul Speaker.

Well, a major sigh of relief was exhaled, moments ago, when the Oklahoma native addressed the issue publicly.

In a video trend popular with 11-year-old girls, Logan shared a stunning before and after, writing, “It’s finals week. had to call in the professionals to tame down this Beard situation. lol. @neekobackstage_ exciting times ahead see everyone at lower Trestles! LFG!!!!!”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Erik Logan (@elo_eriklogan)

LFG stands for “let’s fucking go” to the under-informed here.

Logan spared for now.


Clouds (pictured).
Clouds (pictured).

Hysteria, wanton panic buying, grip Southern California as weather models appear to show mighty hurricane tracking into Golden State!

Apocalypse Day.

Sheer panic has taken hold in Southern California as weather models are making the rounds, emailed from person to person, shared from phone to phone at block parties, appearing to show a mighty hurricane forming just below Baja with a trajectory bringing it directly to the Golden State.

Tropical Storm Kay is swirling and twirling there, clouds forming that classical hurricanal shape, and growing.

Southern Californians, not used to this sort of weather event, are using it as an opportunity to hysterically buy generators, plywood, big jugs of water, batteries and other items they have jealously watched their Floridian brothers and sisters hysterically buy for years.

Surfline is grouchily downplaying the potential, as the hurricane is not the World Surf League, declaring, “To be very clear: a hurricane is not going to hit Southern California and it’s a coin flip on whether we get any surf at all from Kay. But there are several possible impacts ranging from surf to wind to precipitation as this very large storm strengthens and tracks near – or possibly over – Baja. However, due to a highly uncertain forecast track beyond 72 hours, the precise details will need to be worked out in the coming days.”

Bah humbug.

But imagine Tropical Storm Kay was the World Surf League. There would certainly be calls for 1000 mph winds and 700 ft swells and absolute certainty 142 hours out.

Apocalypse Day.

Stephanie Gilmore, far left. | Photo: Steve Sherman/@sherms

“Kelly Slater of surf journalism” predicts horror end to Stephanie Gilmore’s quest for historic eighth world title at Lower Trestles, “She has absolutely no chance of winning this world title!”

No record-smashing eighth crown for Gilmore says "His Holy Frothness".

The former BeachGrit habitué who now steers Surfline in Australia, Nick Carroll, has driven his sword into Stephanie Gilmore’s world title hopes in a sizzling interview on the always heart-quickening Ain’t That Swell podcast. 

Carroll, who is sixty-three and described as “his Holy Frothness” for his storied forty-year-plus career in surf media, made the claim as he gave his characteristically thoughtful analysis of Rip Curl Finals Day, which is gonna be held at Lowers, sometime between September eight and sixteen. 

Asked how he figured Gilmore, who goes into Finals Day ranked fifth and who must beat three other surfers to have a shot at world number one Carissa Moore, would fare, Carroll first, carefully applies a layer of butter. 

“Ah, well, Stephanie, is probably my most favourite surfer in the world world, really, just because she’s got the best style of any surfer in the world and I’m a sucker for that. But…”


“I will say she’s got absolutely no chance of winning this world title.” 

Cue roar of laughter. 

Nick Carroll, in situ, at a surfing contest, sometime in the nineteen eighties. Note, cigarettes affixed to adonis belt. Photo: Tom Carroll.

“She’s got some nasty opposition between her and Carissa and I suspect one will take her out at some point. But…”


“If she was number two, she’d be a serious risk to Carissa. Steph has a lot of surf for here, eight world titles, can you imagine? She’d be the all-time one, then. Imagine would Layne (Beachley, who ties Gilmore for most world titles at seven apiece) would say! But…”


“I can’t see it, it’s too big an ask.”