Shaun Tomson (right) discusses politics with Mick Jagger. Photo: History
Shaun Tomson (right) discusses politics with Mick Jagger. Photo: History

Surf great Shaun Tomson’s robust apartheid-era defense of “keeping politics out of surfing” resurfaces in wake of current Israel-Hamas conflict

"Where will it all end? I'll tell you. It will end with the destruction of pro surfing as we know it."

This climate, man. Hot. And I don’t simply refer to the global warming trend melting icebergs and flooding lowlands plus paradisiacal island nations (I kid. Or do I?). I refer to everything else, but mostly the Israel v Hamas conflict currently inviting any and all outside the region to pick a ridiculously hardened side.

Death to the other or worse. If it can be conjured.

College students at Harvard imagining they know, and stand with, the oppressed. Hollywood notables thinking that they are victims and those who disagree must be dispensed with immediately.

The lack of nuanced thinking, wishing complete cancellation on the other, frankly, mind-bending.

Now, let us reintroduce the Ricky “Bobby” Basnett vs. Shaun Tomson blood feud. The business spilt into the public square earlier today when the former, and beloved, Championship Tour coffee sipper, Basnett became fired by the 8th greatest surfer ever, Shaun Tomson, after posting a slide to Instagram reading “From the river to the sea.”

Or not fired, but quit according to Tomson.

“From the river to the sea,” in any case, and depending on bent, either a call for the complete eradication of the Jewish state of Israel or a mere plea for Palestinian autonomy.

I think it probably actually means the former, though social media gonna social media and illiteracy gonna illiterate.

In any further case, Tomson fired Basnett, who had begun working with Insight, in a fiery letter.

Or maybe Basnett quit.

But let us transport to another time in professional surfing history when South Africa, Tomson’s home country, was ruled by a government that supported the subjugation of its natural born inhabitants.

History is important (please subscribe here) and, in 1985, Tomson, the smoothest surfer ever, stood on a Torquay, Australia stage and declared, “The rumor I’ve heard is about a South African boycott. Suddenly the surfers have principles. Suddenly we have political aspirations. I’ve been involved in pro surfing since it began…”

A powerful opening salvo.

“I don’t like people being killed in South Africa,” he continued. “No South African does. But do you think not surfing in an event in South Africa will change anything? Are you not all trying to get some cheap publicity? What’s the next frontier in surfing’s newly found political conscience? Maybe we won’t go to the USA because we object to American involvement in Central America (etc. etc. ad infinitum). Maybe we don’t go to France in objection to the socialist government. Maybe we don’t go to Israel because we object to the treatment of Palestinian refugees…”

England because crackdown on Irish nationalists etc.

“Where will it all end?” he sally forthed. “I’ll tell you. It will end with the destruction of pro surfing as we know it.”

Tomson went on to state, “If you don’t support South Africa, then voice your opinions, but support pro surfing. Look after your livelihood and what you love. I don’t stand here in defense of South Africa. I stand here as a surfer in defense of pro surfing. Thank you.”

Mic drop.

Was Shaun Tomson on the right side of history?

Hindsight always a perfect 20/20. Apartheid South Africa an absolute historical disgrace. Tom Carroll, who rode for Tomson’s brand Instinct, was threatened with lawsuit if he didn’t travel to South Africa to surf. He refused then signed a million dollar contract with Quiksilver becoming an icon twice over.

Making good.

Derek Rielly, in his exceptional biography of former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke (RIP) covered the scene, writing:

In 1985, the world champion surfer Tom Carroll refused to surf in South Africa’s three international surfing events “until black surfers are allowed on all beaches.” Carroll was sponsored by the South African company Instinct which threatened him with a lawsuit if he didn’t compete.

Hawke heard about the threat, called Carroll, and invited him to Canberra where he told the surfer that if his sponsor went legal he had the weight of the Australian government behind him.

“I was really welcomed by Bob. It was a nice feeling to have that support from him,” says Carroll, who didn’t lean either way politically and admits he was initially inclined to distrust any politician courting the youth vote. “I had some strange responses to my decision. All kinds of people went a bit crazy about it. But he was genuine, very interested and he asked all these really good questions about the tour and competing and where I’d been and even brought up some results. He read his brief very well.”

When Mandela came to Australia, Hawke introduced Carroll to Mandela.

“I remember Bob telling him, in his frank way, ‘Nelson, this was the world champion surfer at the time and he made decision to boycott the events in South Africa. Gave him the whole story. Mandela turned around to me and said, ‘Thank you very much Tom. I needed all the help I could get.’ Bob facilitated that. It was a lovely moment between the three of us. It gives me goosebumps now.”

At Carroll’s retirement dinner in 1995, Hawke would say, “His beliefs, his principles, were so strong that he put those in front of everything else and as I recall there has been no example in the history of Australian sport where a champion has been prepared to put principles so manifestly in front of his or her own interests as Tom Carroll did in 1985.”

Tomson was never pro-apartheid, let it be stated. Let it also be stated he is not anti-Palestinian, writing most recently, “Yes, I agree Palestinians have suffered too and that war is dreadful.”

And so.

Surfing and politics?

Where are you currently landing?

Willing to actually challenge your own suppositions, which are, let’s be frank, elementary unless you are there, studied, open? Or ready to double down on all that you don’t know?

My goodness. I once thought I knew. Nineteen years old, in Egypt, traveling to Israel, overland though the now trendy Rafah crossing for the first time. My positions became absolutely ludicrous when meeting real people in that Holy Land. Stretched further in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Somalia.

Maybe Shaun Tomson was right. Maybe he wasn’t. Pro surfing already destroyed by Dirk Ziff, Erik Logan and co. But lend an ear to the other side and try to understand, try to feel instead of popping off.

Pro surfing is dead, sure, but surfing still lives.

Take your shirt off.

Shaun Tomson and Ricky Basnett
Shaun Tomson and Ricky Basnett, pals no more. "Once again the actions of an old white man have fucked it all up," writes Ricky in his resignation letter.

Surfing great Shaun Tomson says “I didn’t fire Ricky Basnett, he quit!”

"Once again the actions of an old white man have fucked it all up," writes Ricky in a fiery resignation letter.

Ricky Basnett made an anti-semitic statement on Instagram that calls for the destruction of Israel and the Jews.

I thought he might just be ignorant and asked his employer to get him to take it down. There is enough hate in the world.

Ricky Basnett Instagram post labelled anti-semetic
Ricky Badass’ IG post calling, if you use the Hamas interpretation, the destruction of the Jewish state.

I am a Jew and found it incredibly offensive and anti-semitic. Surfers I know have already been murdered in this conflict.

I could have just let it slide since it had only one comment but for me there is a question of morality, 1,200 murders, rapes and dismemberment. Two hundred and forty hostages.

Yes, I agree Palestinians have suffered too and that war is dreadful.

I do not want a team member who supports the extinction of Jews and the Jewish state but I never fired Ricky Basnett or asked him to be fired. He cut ties on his own.

Read his resignation letter.

After his employer asked him to take down the post at my request, this is what I and his employer received.

Morning S.. (employer with me cc’d)

Before I say anything else, I want you to know that I have the utmost respect for you and am super grateful for the opportunity you gave me with Instinct.

The events that transpired over the weekend however have left a disgusting taste in my mouth, and it’s honestly a gigantic red flag for me.

I will NEVER be censored for my beliefs, and unfortunately cannot be aligned with a company whose founder openly supports genocide and oppression.

As you already know, Shaun’s statements over the last month have been hurting the brand locally, and it baffles my mind that as a human who grew up in apartheid South Africa, he can’t see what he is doing. Our own South African government is Pro Palestine.

Instinct IS Shaun and his public opinions reflect on the brand. He may have left SA, but the legacy of apartheid hasn’t, and while I’m trying to help build HIS company into an inclusive, diverse South African brand, he clearly sees his personal views as more important than all of that work.

On top of that, I have zero respect for anyone who can’t voice their issues directly to me. Going behind my back to you is cowardly. The only thing I’ve been sent directly from him is some random propaganda clip full of proven inaccuracies, and I’ll be honest I am fucking livid with the situation. He’s also been deleting opposing comments on his posts, and this, along with the immediate attempted censoring of my views, has shown me his true colours.

I need to protect my own brand here, and with no paycheck coming in from Instinct, you can understand my need to step away.

At the end of the day I’m just really sad it’s gone this way. Once again the actions of an old white man have fucked it all up. I am also unfortunately going to have to make a public statement regarding my decision. In no way do I want to hurt the brand locally, but again, I need to protect myself and explain why this relationship has ended so suddenly.

I really do wish you all the best, and I am truly sorry for this mail.


After his letter, I sent along this letter….

Shaun Tomson
To:Ricky Badness,S..
Mon, Nov 13 at 5:16 PM (note time stamps)


You can support Hamas and the kidnapping murder rape and dismemberment of babies all you want. You are parroting the same old anti semitic tropes I have heard all my life. The same old Jew hatred that has been around before you and will be around after.

Support Hamas and be proud of your choice. Initially I thought you were simply ignorant but now I know that is not the case. I will not be aligned and support an anti semite, someone who calls for the destruction of Israel.
Certain things in life like values and human decency are more important than business.

Genocide – do you even know what they word means. 6 million Jews died in the 1940s. That was genocide.

Your anti-semitism is disgusting to me.

Shaun Tomson

So please get it straight.

(Watch Jason Hearn’s very  good film about Ricky Basnett here. Many tears etc.)

Candace Owens and Ricky Basnett
Conservative hero Candace Owens and former tour surfer Ricky Basnett. Both like to use big-boy words like "Genocide!"

Is Ricky “Bobby” Basnett the Candace Owens of surfing?

"I do not stand for genocide," says the former tour surfer.

The American conservative hero Candace Owens threw herself under a bus a couple of days ago when she claimed Muslims were being corralled inside Jerusalem, oowee, slave-like etc.

On her own podcast, Candace Owens said Jerusalem’s “Muslim quarters (sic)” gave her chills, ‘cause her grand-daddy grew up when the US’s South was segregated.

“When I’m walking through Jerusalem, and you see, and they say ‘these are the Muslim quarters, this is where the Muslims are allowed to live,’ that doesn’t feel like a bastion of freedom to me,” Candace Owens said. 

It took Candace Owens’ guest, Jewish comic Ami Kozak, to explain that there were four-quarters in the Old City, Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim, and that the Muslim part of town wasn’t a barracks for enslaved Mohammedans.

The podcast came after a tweet, viewed eleven million times, where Candace Owens wrote, 

“No government anywhere has a right to commit a genocide, ever. There is no justification for a genocide.”

Now, I ain’t no military man, new Saint Laurent combat boots aside, happy birthday to me etc, but the Jews got nukes, almost three-mill citizens trained to fight (Israel allows the openly gay to serve, take that newly created Instagram account Queers In Palestine), 581 planes, including a couple hundred F-16s and thirty-six of the awesome F-35, seven warships, six subs etc.

If Israel really wanted genocide, well, difficult takes a day, genocide takes a week. 

But here we are, surfers, looking at our little telephones, saying big boy words like “genocide” and parroting the Islamic war-cry “From the river to the sea” (Yeah, there are different interpretations but in the current context it is what it is) without knowing what they mean.

And then we come to the former tour surfer Ricky Barnett whom you read in these pages clashing with Jewish surfer and former world champ Shaun Tomson, both men from South Africa. 

“I want to make you all fucking very aware of something. I will never fucking stand for oppression, hatred, discrimination,” says Ricky, shaking with righteous fury. “ I will never fucking back down from my beliefs. I don’t give a fuck who you are, I will never stand for hate.”

So far so good! I’m with Ricky!


“In saying that, I want you to know that this is about eradicating hate…I do not stand for genocide. 

Oh Ricky! 


Nine years ago, after a lesser Hamas incursion into Israel, rockets, a few Israeli kids slaughtered, I wrote a piece for the slightly to the left mainstream press in Australia. 

With your permission (or not) I publish below. 

In February, five months before the Gazan conflict, I asked the question, Are We Anti-Semitic? The response was as predictable as it was proof of the column’s premise.

“Boycott Israel until they mend their evil ways!”

“I have no time for a country that steals another country’s land and then then shoots people who throw stones at them. Reap what you sow!”

“Try getting a smile or a hello or ANY communication from the majority of jewish people around here and you’ll be snubbed!”

“The Israeli hard-right would give Hitler a run for his money if they were to compete for who was the most abhorrent human being!”

And a lone voice: “As a rabbi I have been escorted home by security, my 7-year-old child went to therapy being scared to leave the house as once he was walking and a group of youths [18 year olds] threatened to beat him up. I have needed to evacuate my house [4 children] at the advice of the AFP at 10:30pm at night as a man threatened to come and harm us. I ask why, I am 5 generations Australian, have relatives that died as ANZACs, donate of my time to the general public, sing the anthem with pride, why should I have people yelling at my family when I walk in the street?”

Around the same time as I wrote the column an Australian woman I knew started talking, entirely out of context, about the security detail around the various synagogues, schools and childcare centres.

“The Jews bring their hate into our communities,” she said.

And then, four weeks ago. Israel responded to Hamas rockets and tunnels into their country and the murder of three Israeli kids, by fighting back. We see terrible footage of children torn to shreds. Of houses and apparently neutral shelters destroyed. A body count supplied by Hamas ticks over into the thousands. American and European correspondents from Gaza city tell of endless Israeli atrocities.

Is it Dahiya, Lebanon, redux, the military strategy of ruining civilian infrastructure as a deterrent? Or are we buying the Hamas line, with reporters naively believing their terrorist handlers? I don’t know; and neither do you.

What I do know is I’d rather be living alongside members of the IDF than Hamas. Does anyone remember the Hamas v Fatah power struggle in Gaza back in 2007? When Human Rights Watch reported of public executions, the targeting and killing of civilians, throwing prisoners out of high-rise buildings, fighting from hospitals and shooting from jeeps marked with “TV”? Familiar refrain isn’t it.

Another exercise is to Google “Hamas children” and then “Israeli children” and you’ll get what I mean.

But the level of anti-Jewish, and not just anti-Israeli, fever runs high. Yesterday a school bus in my neighbourhood was attacked by drunken teenagers, obviously fuelled by the one-sided reporting, screeching Nazi slogans.

A child calls her mother. “Hey Mummy, please help us, there are strange men who have been let on to a school bus and they are screaming ‘Heil Hitler! Kill the Jews!’ they want to cut out our throats’”

Even as a agnostic Australian I was shocked by Glen Le Lievre cartoon in the SMH (since withdrawn) featuring a fat, hook-nosed Israeli sitting in an armchair marked with the star of David pushing a remote control to set off munitions. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a copy of that old fake The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the corner of the frame.

Meanwhile, in France, Jews flee for Israel (2200 this year compared to 600 last year) as riots envelope the country. Shops are looted. Slogans daubed. Franзois Pupponi, the mayor of Sarcelles, the site of rioting, said: “We have never seen such an outpouring of hatred and violence in Sarcelles. This morning people are stunned, and the Jewish community is afraid.”

I receive emails from Israeli friends and they say they are wounded by the anti-Semitism.

“You know,” wrote one. “So many people are in shock about the anti-Semitism. My wife really wanted to move to the States and I kept telling her, this is our home. And now she understands. It’s not safe for us anywhere. Only here. Nothing has changed since the Holocaust. The hate is alive and strong.”

But, he says, “I talked with some of my friends in Gaza yesterday and I feel so sorry for them. Many of them are against Hamas but terrified to death to raise their voice.”

We toe the Hamas line at our peril.

The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing, to quote Jean-Baptise Alphonse Karr.


Shaun Tomson (left) and recently fired Ricky Basnett (right). Photo: Instagram
Shaun Tomson (left) and recently fired Ricky Basnett (right). Photo: Instagram

Beloved Ricky “Bobby” Basnett torched then fired by surf great Shaun Tomson over stance on Israel

The return of the Blood Feud.

The ongoing Israel-Hamas war, now a month along, has been nothing if not heartbreaking. From the vicious opening salvo to the overwhelming response, each day seems to bring new horrific scenes. Families ripped apart. Innocents slaughtered. Thousands of miles away, in every direction, the conflict has polarized and already wildly polarized world. Marches staged in support of Palestine. Marches staged in support of Israel. No mercy for anyone with a different opinion as to who is right and who is wrong.

Israel backers immediately lumped in with Nazis. Those who lean Palestinian also immediately lumped in with Nazis.

Tentacles of disdain reaching all corners from Hollywood to tech to surf.

And here, let us travel to South Africa where former Championship Tour surfer Ricky “Bobby” Basnett finds himself center stage. The junior standout, who came up for a cup of coffee during the middle 2000s, became an inspiration after leaving drink behind and re-imagining a life well lived. The stylish regular foot, and Mr. Price Pro winner, now dabbles in art, tattooing and, of course, surfing. Days ago, he unveiled a new Instinct sticker on his board, thrilling all.

But you certainly remember the 1980s brand founded by South Africa’s greatest ever surfer Shaun Tomson. While not as popular as Tomson cousin Michael’s Gotcha, Instinct made a mark. Shaun Tomson recently revived the brand and all was going well until Basnett took to Instagram to post a slide reading “From the river to the sea.”

The phrase, of course, loaded and either referencing autonomy for Palestinians or the complete eradication of Israel, depending on bent.

“Your anti semitism is disgusting to me”

Tomson, who is Jewish, became incensed, sending Basnett a strongly worded letter reading:


You can support Hamas and the kidnapping murder rape and dismemberment of babies all you want. You are parroting the same old anti semitic tropes I have heard all may life. The same old Jew hatred that has been around before you and will be around after.

Support Hamas and be proud of your choice. Initially I thought you were simply ignorant but now I know that is not the case. I will not be aligned and support an anti semite, someone who calls for the destruction of Israel. Certain things in life like values and human decency are more important than business.

Genocide – do you even know what the word means. 6 million Jews died in the 1940s. That was genocide.

Your anti semitism is disgusting to me.

Basnett did not take the lashing quietly, taking back to Instagram and emotionally declaring he will not be silenced. Bra Boy Koby Abberton encouraged him along  saying, “Good for you, Ricky. Stand tall, back straight looking into the eyes of men who write emails. What’s happening in Palestine is wrong. The shift will happen and Shaun will hide under his bed just like when he was pushing the vaccine. Same people different year.”

Much to unpack in this classic return to the Blood Feud.

Shall we?

Sebastian Steudtner designing surfboards with Porsche
"For years, the surfboard industry has hindered my plans! They've put every kind of obstacle in my way!" | Photo: Porsche

German surfer Sebastian Steudtner and Porsche create “miracle surfboard” to conquer world’s biggest wave

"I shoot across the wave at 80 kilometres an hour and concentrate 100 percent. I don't think about the past, the present and the future."

The German big-wave surfer Sebastian Steudtner has joined forces with Porsche in a bid to strengthen his grip on the Guinness World Record for largest wave ridden. 

In 2020, Sebastian Steudtner, incorrectly referred to as Christian Steudtner by BeachGrit for many years, rode a whopping 86-foot Nazare bomb, its height certified by Kelly Slater Surf Ranch inventor Adam Fincham. 

Fincham traveled to Nazaré and stood at the locations where photos and videos of Steudtner’s ride were captured, calculating the camera angles and the distance of the camera to the wave face.

“He also interviewed the two photographers whose imagery was used to analyze the wave, learning more about the equipment they used and how they leveled their cameras,” explained The Washington Post.

Steudtner’s approach to big waves was simple, “I shoot across the wave at 80 kilometres an hour and concentrate 100 percent. I don’t think about the past, the present and the future. I’m in the flow. I don’t have time to think ‘wow, this wave is beautiful’.”

The handsome German, who is thirty-eight and from Nuremberg, famous in the thirties and forties for its lavish Hitler rallies and for the post-World War II trials that strung up as many of the bastards as the Allies could find, is a three-time winner of the XXL Biggest Wave award (2010, 2015, 2021).

(Readers might recall Christian Fletcher, son of surf pioneer Herbie, telling the awards audience, “And the winner is… Sebastian? The fucking German guy who can’t paddle?!”)

Now, Steudtner has combined with Porsche and autoparts specialist Schaeffler to build a surfboard he hopes will help him smash his 86-foot record. 

The surfboard, which is painted a pleasing yellow and black, has a special friction reducing coating and has a special nose, tail and edge shapes to improve hydrodynamics.

From Porsche,

“To reduce drag and stabilise the board, patented attachments known as aero edges were added to the front and back of the board”, explains Marcus Schmelz, Project Manager at Porsche Engineering. “We know this principle from automobiles: here, too, tear-off edges are defined, for example through the use of spoilers. They reduce air turbulence, making the car more stable and aerodynamic at high speeds.”

Beyond the structural changes to the board, aerodynamics tests in the Porsche wind tunnel also found other potential optimisations: adapting Sebastian’s body position while surfing and optimised equipment also produce significantly lower drag.

Steudtner’s new board was dubbed the “Caçador RS”. The name is a combination of the Portuguese word “Caçador” (hunter) and the classic Porsche designation “RS”, which is reserved for the sportiest Porsche models. With his new surfboard, Steudtner can now set off in pursuit of the next world record.

With his team of thirty, which includes special army doctors, Sebastian Steudtner now faces the challenge of his life.

“I’ll have to give my best,” he says.