Locals made mad.
Locals made mad.

French Olympic organizers vow to press on with the difficult work of infuriating Teahupo’o locals

The tower to rise again.

The five ringed circus of Olympic surfing’s reprise in Teahupo’o is really… something. From glee in all corners, save Filipe Toledo’s, about the show being put on at “The Place of Broken Skulls,” to talk about replacing the old wooden judging tower with a new fangled aluminum one to “testing” how ecologically friendly it would be by driving a barge over the reef, it has all been nothing if not… comical.

Oh certainly not for the blessed few who actually call Teahupo’o home. For them, and by extension surfers everywhere, this is a matter of right and wrong. Of fighting the almost un-fightable battle against greed. Well, the French organizers, yesterday, declared that work on the tower will begin, again, this week after agreements were reached with the protesting locals.

According to the Associated Press, Tony Estanguet, head of the Paris Olympics organizing committee, is pressing ahead after sorting out a smaller barge that will run between the reef instead of over it. He also agreed that the first test “went very badly.”

There was no note regarding which protesting groups agreed and what they agreed to. Hopefully everyone is satisfied but, man, I’ve got to hand it to the French Olympic committee. The folk who live down at the end of the road are about as kind as they come. Infuriating them all a very heavy lift.

Also, importantly, what does Kanoa Igarashi think?

Faire un paiement est simple comme bonjour.

How did Vans and WSL kill the only unkillable thing in surfing?

"The death of the Pipe Masters is a tragedy beyond tragedy."

The surf journalist Chas Smith, an old flirt with expressive soft hands and a slightly gaunt northern European face, is well-known here and in the broader surf world, a writer who knows how to use minor characters to humiliate and belittle their protagonists.

When he stretches his delicate fingers in the air and clicks them like castanets, publishers come running.

You know the books, Welcome to Paradise Now Go to Hell, Cocaine and Surfing, Reports from Hell and Blessed Are the Bank Robbers. 

As Daniel Duane wrote in Outside Magazine,

Cocaine + Surfing is a dazzling page-turner, highly-recommended beach reading, and absolutely the funniest book ever written about surfing. To hold those contradictions together in one’s mind, it helps to recognize that Smith’s literary models do not include serious works like my man Warshaw’s scholarly History of Surfing or William Finnegan’s Pulitzer-Prize winning Barbarian Days; A Surfing Life.

Cocaine + Surfing belongs, rather, to the honorable lemons-into-lemonade lineage that begins with Ross McElwee’s cult-classic 1986 documentary film Sherman’s March: A Meditation on the Possibility of Romantic Love In the South During an Era of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation, in which McElwee tries to make a film about the civil war but ends up interviewing all his ex-girlfriends instead, and Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence, an unforgettable book about not writing a book about D. H. Lawrence.

All of which is meaningless except as a chip shot into BeachGrit’s new vlog series, Chas Smith Hates Surfing where, with an affectionate scorn for the sport, Smith turns his eye to the week’s events.

Cruel but essential.

Russell Bierke “sanctioned by god and law” in surf edit being called best of 2023!

Russell Bierke's new film delivers a pleasure usually reserved for cats who sleep on velvet cushions and are fed chicken breasts.

Russell Bierke, twenty-six years old, is the deceptively fragile looking son of noted Californian-born shaper Kirk Bierke whose boards are sold under the label KB Surf and made in Ulladulla, three hours south of Sydney.

Russell Bierke commands such a reputation he needs very little introduction, although a little background never hurts, does it?

Russell Bierke is diminutive and old world, with a tight mouth and very plain-face that have the ferocity of an angry cuckold, a cranky Italian denied his lunchtime siesta.

Russel Bierke’s earliest memories are of watching his dad run out the door whenever the surf was big, going to the beach and seeing him ride these big, blue-water reef waves, and wanting to be part of the game.

In 2017, he was “blue as a Smurf” and “on all fours spewing” after a wipeout in fifteen waves in Victoria, an injury that put him in intensive care.

You’ll have seen period edits of Russell Bierke over the years, of course.

His latest, Outer Edge of Leisure, which was made with the cooperation of the ever fabulous O’Neill company (hello Rob Bain, still one of the best in the biz) and by the hand of Andrew Kaineder, delivers the sort of pleasure usually reserved for plump cats who sleep on velvet cushions and are fed chicken breasts.

The presser reads,

Amidst a boundless expanse of turbulent waves and remote seascapes, Russ emerges as a silhouette on the horizon, the tempestuous waters his canvas. Each wave is not a battleground to conquer, but an opportunity to be in tune with the rhythm of the ocean’s pulse.

Contrasting B&W 16mm and Hi-Res cinematography, set to a unique solo drum scape ‘Outer Edge of Leisure’ takes you on a visual journey as Russ Bierke redefines his own idea of surfing as a leisure activity.



Levinsohn (pictured) fired from Surfer et. al.
Levinsohn (pictured) fired from Surfer et. al.

Media landscape quakes as Surfer magazine parent company fires CEO Ross Levinsohn in wake of AI scandal!

Naughty CEO with eye for kinky robots gone.

The media landscape is, currently, quaking as Surfer Magazine’s parent company, The Arena Group, has just fired its CEO Ross Levinsohn in wake of the vast artificial intelligence cheating scandal that became public not two weeks ago. Futurism published the initial report, uncovering one “Drew Ortiz” who “wrote” for other Arena Group title Sports Illustrated and “has spent much of his life outdoors, and is excited to guide you through his never-ending list of the best products to keep you from falling to the perils of nature. Nowadays, there is rarely a weekend that goes by where Drew isn’t out camping, hiking, or just back on his parents’ farm.”

Ortiz, as it turns out, was computer generated.

Surf fans were not surprised in the least, having been introduced to Surfer’s Emily Morgan right after its purchase. (Previously “purse” due AI spellcheck). She  resided “in a small town nestled at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. She’s also a proud owner of a Pyrnesse-mix, her hiking partner, every time she hits a trail. Emily enjoys strong coffee, spicy food, and live music.”

Perfect for surf coverage.

In any case, the lid blew off, C-Suite executives were fired and now the biggest fish of all, CEO Ross Levinsohn, is gone.

Per statement, the company declared:

“Today, the board of directors of The Arena Group Holdings, Inc. (NYSE American: AREN) met and took actions to improve the operational efficiency and revenue of the company. The board terminated the employment of CEO Ross Levinsohn, and named Manoj Bhargava as interim Chief Executive Officer, both effective today.”

Levinsohn, taking to Linkedin responded, “After 4 1/2 years, today is my last day at The Arena Group.” And “the company is positioned well for the future.”

Erik Logan-esque if Logan and said anything at all after he was scandalously disappeared.

So far, it doesn’t appear the naughty has touched Surfer directly, or at least not yet.

Possible robot Jake Howard still appears to be generating stories.

But for how long?

More as the story develops.

Kanoa Igarashi (left) and red head Arab bro. Balance of opposites.
Kanoa Igarashi (left) and red head Arab bro. Balance of opposites.

Kanoa Igarashi identified as brave Teahupo’o local throwing salt in Olympics Tahiti surf game!

Kanoa Igarashi: A Man For All Seasons

If there has been one story capturing public attention in this pre-Olympic cycle, it is surely that of Teahupo’o and its fight to not become bulldozed by the international forces of greed. Anyone who has ever been to the tiny little village in France’s Polynesia knows what a gem it is. Quiet, friendly, unspoiled by tacky resorts or beach clubs. The wave breaking off the reef, a natural wonder, just icing on the cake. And so it is entirely understandable that the locals have been protesting Olympic organizer plans to erect a massive new aluminum structure where the current wooden judging tower exists.

Teahupo’o was, of course, chosen as the venue to host the surfing portion of the 2024 Paris games and initial celebration has since turned  into calls for the powers that be to move somewhere else over the structure issue and incompetence.

Infobae, one of the world’s leading Spanish language publications, surmises the fight thusly:

Far from calm waters, the prelude to the second Olympic experience of the boards is damaged by a wave of noise surrounding the organization’s controversial project to remove the historic wooden control tower for the judges -used for the World Surf League- and install another aluminum one, larger (14 meters) and valued at 4.3 million euros, which the community of 1,500 inhabitants, surfers such as Matahi Drollet, Kanoa Igarashi, associations and various environmental NGOs point out as highly harmful to the coral reef and the marine wildlife and pressure to stop the execution.

Kanoa Igarashi Everything Everywhere All at Once

And did you catch that? Kanoa Igarashi a Teahupo’o local? And, I suppose, it should not surprise at all. Igarashi’s Man for All Seasons status now fully set. Surf fans know that the sitting Olympic silver medalist was born in Huntington Beach but surfs for Japan and lives in Portugal, where he is fluent in Brazil’s native tongue. Being a Teahupo’o local, though, the crowning jewel as only a small handful can actually claim that status.

My goodness gracious.

Though do you remember the once acclaimed director M. Night Shyamalan’s film Unbreakable starring Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson? In it, if I recall, Bruce Willis survived a train crash and realized he could not be hurt. Watching on TV was Samuel L. Jackson who got hurt all the time, bones made of glass. He had been looking for Willis, you see, knowing that the universe balances itself out. That if he existed all weak and fragile, the opposite must too.

Well, when my bros and I were regularly traveling around Yemen, Syria, Lebanon etc. during the early 2000s to the 2010s we would regularly stumble upon an Arab man with light skin and red hair. He existed in Damascus, in Aleppo, deep up the wadis of the Hawdramawt and looked more Scottish than anything. We would marvel at him, wondering what his life must be like this man without a country.

I was not smart, like M. Night Shyamalan, and did not consider looking for his opposite. Thankfully the universe brought him to me.

Kanoa Igarashi.