"I never wanted to get in the water again. I never wanted to try surfing until I came here and I got swallowed up and it really scared me."
Corey Funk needs little introduction, of course. He is the storied twenty-six-year-old pro scooter rider (“Watch me twirl, daddy!”) from Temecula in California who operates the YouTube channel Funk Bros with his brother Capron and cuz Tyler. The gang have six-million plus subscribers with vids regularly hitting more than a million clicks.
Plenty of social juice, an inspiration to god’s chillun etc.
Now, following a visit to Surf Ranch courtesy of his sponsor Red Bull who stumped up the seventy-gees to hire the joint and which confuses Funk who suggests, therefore, that each of his ten waves cost seven gees apiece, a wipeout sends the star into a nightmarish spiral back to when he nearly drowned as a kid.
“My second time out,” he begins, tears forming, “I got swallowed by a wave (long pause) and it scared the crap out of me. It brought some trauma back from when I was a kid. I got sucked over a wave when I was a kid and I wasn’t able to get out the wave. Multiple waves came, back to back to back and kept me under the water. It really scared me. It scared me so much to a point where I just never wanted to get in the water again, I never really wanted to try surfing until I came back here and I got swallowed up again and it really scared me.”
Yesterday, our wonderful friend Jonah Hill made a grand return to the surf consciousness.
Video captured the heir to Miki Dora’s Malibu throne belly sliding a longboard in his kingdom, mistakenly cutting off a 14-year-old boy who was trimming nicely down the line on a particularly glum day. The sort that now haunts Southern California from the beginning of may until the middle of June. The clip would have gone unnoticed if not for the famed Kook of the Day Instagram account, which has been cancelled and forced to operate under the somewhat balky moniker Kook of the Day OG.
“Being the kook of the day can happen to the best of us! Even Jonah Hill!” its mysterious moderator penned. “Seen here snaking @cormaccove maybe Jonah slipped? Or those stupid Ryan Lovelace boards he rides (shrugging man emoji).”
I somehow landed on it being Mark Price, though I don’t recall why, so you can imagine my surprise when a text popped through reading, “Hey Chas it’s Jonah Hill. I would like the opportunity to chat with you human to human if you’re up for that. No anger nothing. Just truly want to talk. If not, all good.”
But you will certainly recall the wild good times we had with the Academy-nominated star as he discovered surfing. The journey of learning to be funny etc. He was a fixture, here, and though it was all in theoretically light-hearted and literarily valuable, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
I braced for a thorough tongue lashing not seen since Rip Curl’s Neil Ridgway excoriated me with “I don’t like what is happening here. I don’t like the inaccuracies in what you write. Look, you come to us with your hand out, we put you up in a hotel and you write off the event? That doesn’t seem right to me” and “See I’m wearing a funny hat. Now you can write about that” some fifteen years ago in Portugal.
I did write it, directly, and mentally prepared to write whatever Jonah Hill was going to bark at me too, calling straight away.
“Hi, this is Chas Smith,” I said with that dumb lilt in my voice when trouble is coming and I can’t wait for it (see: Mick Fanning). “You wanted to talk?”
“Thanks so much for calling,” Jonah responded with such genuine warmth as to catch me entirely off guard.
We proceeded to chat for the next 30-plus minutes. He described how he had fallen in love with surfing, truly fallen in love. How he now understood the missteps he had made along the way, putting too much on social media etc. How he respected the history, the core, this BeachGrit community right here who also loves this odd water dance. How he reads, listens, learns. As proof of his devotion, he even deleted his Instagram account because he knew.
He didn’t ask for any changes in how we wrote about him. Understood that it came with the territory. Just wanted me to know that he simply loved surfing and was trying to honor that.
I was absolutely floored.
Later he called Derek and had a 45-plus minute conversation with him too on similar themes though my better half only recounted to me how much he wanted to get off the phone and go surfing.
Thinking back on all the people I’ve infuriated in our bubble during the last two decades, from the aforementioned Ridgway, Fanning, Speaker, Noggins, Slater to Sam George, I couldn’t help but thinking Jonah Hill was the most genuine, the most self-aware. And self-awareness is the key that unlocks the doors of perception and/or surf nirvana and/or core-dom and/or this incorrigible surf journalist’s broken heart.
“I feel ill. Kids at the beach by themselves at that age makes me feel physically ill."
This world is a cruel place, seemingly crueler everyday, with opinions hewn into instruments of torture and used, mercilessly to flog those with wrong thinking or actions in the public square. Brutal flicks of the lash meant to leave deep scars and also scare others away from similar wrong thinking or actions. And let us travel, together, to Australia where two parents, Jason and Sammy, are currently tied to the sawhorse, backs exposed, for daring let their young children swim unsupervised in the ocean.
The revelation was made on the reality program Parental Guidance in which parents share tricks of the trade and brutalize each other when tactics diverge. The two engage in what they call “lighthouse parenting” in which they allow their oldest two children, Pepper, 10, and Jude, 6, go to the beach all by their big selves and splash splash away.
“It’s an opportunity for them to showcase how independent they can be, and give them some trust as well,” Sammy declared.
Well, people were not pleased, no not at all.
“I feel ill. Kids at the beach by themselves at that age makes me feel physically ill,” one mother spat.
“That water can change in an instant and from where you are and where the kids are, they’re gone,” another added.
Sammy, though, stuck to her guns, responding, “The thing with our parenting style is the children to be aware of their own limitations,” which brought out the big guns from World Surf League CEO Erik Logan who in an open letter stated:
To the WSL community,
I want to address the conversation that happened in our community following the recent Championship Tour event at the Surf Ranch. As you likely know, a small number of athletes made statements questioning the judging of the competition and the final results.
I want to respond directly to those statements, however, we first need to address a much more important issue. In recent days, a number of surfers, WSL judges, and employees have been subject to harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence, including death threats, as a direct result of those statements. Those things should never happen in our sport or any sport, and we’re devastated that members of our community have been subject to them. It is an important reminder to us all that words have consequences. We hope the entire WSL community stands with us in rejecting all forms of harassment and intimidation.
Back to Jason, Sammy and their crazy ways, do you stand with them, thinking that today’s children are over-coddled and need a little bit more freedom or are we not doing enough to keep them safe?
Do you let your own little ones swim or surf alone?
Do you dare utter if you do?
Peru cements position as world’s number one surf nation and a blond Mexican wins men’s gold at Olympic qualifier while Team USA plunges to hitherto unseen low!
And eight surfers gifted spots into the 2024 Paris Games, surfing to be held at Teahupoo!
The surf world is reeling today after minnows Peru stormed to victory at the ISA World Surfing Games, a sorta Olympic qualifying event held in queer-unfriendly El Salvador.
Last year’s winner Team USA, whose squad this year included world champ John John Florence, world number one and Surf Ranch Pro champ Griffin Colapinto, five-time world champ and Olympic gold medallist Carissa Moore, finished the tournament in fifteenth place behindGermany, Italy and Canada.
Like France’s Joan Duru who won the contest in 2021 but missed out on getting to the Games, his victory don’t automatically sling Al Jr into the 2024 Paris Games.
If South Africa’s Jordy Smith, who has already booked his tracksuit and dorm room in 2024, double qualifies via the CT, Al will be waving his Mex flag at the end of the road there in Teahupoo.
Despite the confusion that surrounded the event over the format, the withdrawals, a mysterious disease claiming two of the sport’s biggest drawcards, boilover heats where the world’s best surfers were curb-stomped by unknowns, eight surfers were gifted their spots in the Olympics: Shino Matsuda and Kanoa Igarashi for Japan, Billy Stairmand and Saffie Vette for New Zealand, Kauili Vaast and Vahine Fierro, France, and the aforementioned Jordy Smith for South Africa alongside Sarah Baum.
World Surf League Chief of Sport Jessi Miley-Dyer returns to Instagram after troubling ten day absence; proceeds to erase South African great Jordy Smith’s historic Olympic accomplishment!
The World Surf League’s top brass had been missing from Instagram for a whopping ten days in the aftermath of the Surf Ranch Pro’s wild insurrection. Not a peep. Not an awkward physical encounter pressed into history like a daisy into a dictionary. As you well know, Chief Executive Erik Logan and his Chief of Sport Jessi Miley-Dyer have been riding high these past few years, issuing twice daily reminders of their chill on the aforementioned social media platform. No accolade too small, no bit of zany too… zany not to share with their thousands of followers.”You never know who you’ll run into while traveling. Championship tour surfers, and even a #quokka!” Logan posted on May 15 being a li’l goof.
“Looking good for finals day!! Come for the contest – stay for my jokes. I love this place,” Miley-Dyer posted on May 28, referencing a “joke” in the video wherein she chuckles over the mechanical reliability of Kelly Slater’s plow.
Ahhh May 28. The day before three top-tier Brazilian professionals, all former champions, questioned the judging and blew the doors right off the World Surf League.
Death threats followed and rage. A massive outpouring of pent-up over-it-ness, surf fans and professional surfers alike pouring gasoline on the already raging fire.
Yet silence from the top.
Not a sound.
Or, not a sound until hours ago when Miley-Dyer penned:
I am so very proud of our @wsl surfers who have provisionally qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympics this week, through our friends at the @isasurfing ! The experience of being an Olympian and the attention it brings to surfing is a fantastic one for our sport and our athletes. We were so thrilled to have our reigning World Champions at the time take the Gold in Tokyo.
And can we all take a moment to think about @kaulivaast and @vahinefierro competing at home for an Olympic medal!? Crazy!
Of course, surfers like @kanoaigarashi and @jordysmith88 still have the chance to qualify through the WSL Championship Tour until August – as we are the Tier One Qualifier. For everyone not on the Championship Tour, there are still the 2023 Pan American Games, and the 2024 ISA World Games.
South Africa’s Jordy Smith has already punched his ticket to Tahiti and many congratulations to him.
I suppose increasingly awkward silence until Miley-Dyer realizes her mistake and attempts to rectify?
Or will South Africa declare war on the World Surf League too leaving us with another ten days of uncomfortable silence?