Pipeline, there on Oahu’s fabled North Shore, has roared back to life and wow and whoosh and whoa. Nothing thrills quite like the Banzai and its wintery return is welcomed in all corners. The bravest men and women accepting her challenge and padding into the mob. King amongst them is, still, one James Duncan O’Brien. The now 40-year-old has the most special relationship with Pipeline, one I was particularly honored to observe whilst directing the film Who is J.O.B. just over thirteen years ago.
I was Charlie Smith back then, having yet to transition to the hyper-ironic “Chas,” and living in Australia when I received the call from Jamie, asking for me to come and direct. I had worked on the project a year, or such, earlier but parted ways over a disagreement with O’Brien’s wild manager, a story in and of himself.
After hemming and hawing, I agreed, flew to Los Angeles and met the film’s editor, a crazy Canadian named Dayten Likeness. I knew, instantly, that we were going to make magic. We quickly formed up Haole Pounder Productions and Red Bull put us up in a Venice Beach apartment.
Dayten and I stayed up all night drinking White Russians, throwing knives into the ceiling, playing Slayer at full volume and cutting the movie’s sections together.
People who dared visit the lair became instantly terrified.
I did not let Jamie see any part of the movie, telling him he must wait until opening night just like everybody else.
We traveled around California, getting interviews, spent a few weeks on the North Shore getting more, then released it to the public at a grand Newport Beach premier.
After an international tour, the film was shelved as Dayten and I were naughty li’l punks, but it is back again and free.
Jeff Bezos captured awkwardly dipping paddle in Miami waters whilst practicing surfing’s most hated bastard
Of all surfing’s many bastards, including foil, boogie, wake and knee, standup paddleboarding is, by far and away, the most hated. Any time a man, or woman, strokes into the lineup, standing up, paddling, the mood instantly darkens. Surfers scowl. Prepare to snap. Ugliness spreads and happiness only returns if/when the plague is removed via unexpectedly large closeout.
The SUPer is, almost always, completely unaware, which is why he or she chose the abomination to begin with. Some famous participants are disgraced former World Surf League CEO Erik Logan, probably ex-congressman George Santos and now richest man on earth Jeff Bezos.
As you are certainly aware, the Amazon chief recently moved from Seattle to Miami. He docked his largest yacht on earth there and has been practicing the Fetish of Fools whilst out on the waters.
“I spent an evening in the lobby just to see if people really do come stumbling out in the middle of the picture as reported — they did.”
It’s Saturday night in Ventura, California, and cars stream down East Santa Clara Street, their red taillights glowing in the dusk’s fading light. Outside the Smoke Stop, music bumps and a pair of girls dance in the flicker of its neon sign. A man in an ugly Christmas sweater hurries down the sidewalk. He’s late. I hope he doesn’t miss dinner.
Still, the space retains the chaotic creativity that characterizes Reynolds and his projects.
When I first catch sight of him, Reynolds has a spider in his hand. It dangles from a square of paper, as he darts through the doorway from the back of the shop. The plan is to put the spider outside, but people flood through the front door at exactly the wrong moment.
Reynolds dashes back the other way. The spider escapes into the dark behind a pile of boxes.
In the parking lot out back, a pizza truck and a band set up shop. A few streets over, there’s a Christmas-themed event on Main Street, the pedestrian-only shopping area. The thumping music sounds like a rave, and pink lights flash in the trees. I lean against the chainlink fence. It’s topped with barbed wire, which together with the glint of broken glass on the pavement gives the scene a gritty patina.
The night’s film is Motel Hell from Harry Bryant and filmer Dave Fox. They spent three years collecting footage for the project in Australia and around the world. The title comes from a 1970s cult horror film, which is an unexpected choice. There’s a crew of talent in Motel Hell including Shaun Manners, Craig Anderson, Eithan Osbourne, and Holly Wawn among others. I’m intrigued by the theme and the promise of barrels. I like barrels.
The parking lot fills with hoodies, and Vans. In the dim light of the street lights and shop’s windows, everyone looks the same. (Sorry, dudes) Dressed in a bright, patterned shirt, Reynolds darts through the crowd, arranging the projector, restarting the playlist, and messing with a set of lights. He’s everywhere, perpetually in motion, and Reynolds looks happiest when he has something to do.
A couple comes up to ask what we’re doing over here in the parking lot. Watching Motel Hell, a surf film, I tell them through the fence. They seem baffled by this choice. Come to the Wine Walk! They glow with wine and happiness. The ugly Christmas sweater party is a rave is a wine walk. It sounds deranged. I’m not at all convinced all these ingredients belong together, but this is not my problem. I’m just here to watch surfing.
Hoodies swarm the food and beer. The crowd buzzes with chatter. The surf has not been anything special lately. Nearby a dude tells a long story, while his friends pretend to listen. Groms run through the crowd’s gaps. Bryant’s blonde hair floats through the crowd, always at the center of a tight knot of people. It feels like waiting for the show at a hole-in-the-wall club, but the bathrooms are nicer.
There’s a drawing, and then it’s time. We watch Motel Hell projected on the side of a neighboring building, conveniently built with white walls. I slide through the crowd to get a sight-line through the heads. The film’s guitar-driven soundtrack drowns out the thump of the Christmas wine walk rave.
The film opens with Bryant lost in the desert. He finds a dilapidated bar set alone on a sand dune. It’s appropriately creepy and peopled with weirdos. The scene sets up the film’s recurring gag, where a glass of milk sends Bryant spiraling from one adventure to the next. In an interview with Reynolds before the film, Bryant explained that he’s lactose intolerant.
The obvious challenge of making a surf film is that each wave doesn’t last long at all. Film makers have to rely on some sort of device to glue the thing together, whether it’s interviews, skits, or nature channel B-roll. Motel Hell is weird and creative and the joke at the center of it mostly works. Somehow, Fox and Bryant also managed to make a film in Australia without a single kangaroo. I did not think this was actually possible.
The surfing. You want to know about the surfing. Certainly, the waves fit the horror theme. This is not a surf film filled with cute turns and twirly things. Playful, fun-sized waves are also in short supply in Motel Hell. I was not sad about this at all. Instead, Bryant packs some monster barrels and mutant-freak peaks.
There’s some dreamy Moroccan right point break magic at the outset. And also, a camel. But the majority of the footage comes from places like unruly Ireland and remote Australia. There are a lot of waves with evil intentions. The sequence of non-makes gives a hint of the payment they’re out to extract from Bryant and his friends. I’m sure you’ll recognize some of these waves, but to his credit Bryant wanders beyond the usual destinations.
I am a simple kid who likes to watch surf films. Based on the crowd in the parking lot on Saturday, I’m not alone in this strange affinity. A friend asked me recently if there’s anything left of surf culture. I didn’t quite know what to say and still don’t. But I do feel like as long as people are willing to stand around in a parking lot to watch a surf film projected on the side of a building, there’s still some life left in this thing.
Then it’s over. The credits roll and a cold wind blows down the canyon. The wine walk rave has gone quiet and a band called Kan Kan from San Diego plays a set. There’s still a few beers left in the cooler. Cars straggle along the road out front. I pull up my hood and walk out into the night.
If you’re in Hawai’i, you can catch Motel Hell on December 9 at Farm to Barn in Hale’iwa.
I’m told it’ll be online a few weeks after that showing.
Essential, as we like to say around here.
Florida surf fans riot as beloved state university left out of college football playoffs
Florida’s panhandled surfers love, in order: Hooters, baby shark bites and Florida State football. The last a passion from Pensacola all the way east to Jacksonville, the only part that matters according to august surf photographer Jimmy “Cane” Wilson. Tomahawk chops all day long. And it was with much excitement that this gaggle came into the weekend. Much like professional surfing, at its highest level, college football is an absurdity with a group of elderly men meeting in Gaylord, Texas to decide which four teams will be included in the playoffs.
This year, the Seminoles were an unblemished 13 – 0 for the season. A perfect record and in a Power Five conference to boot with the ACC. Never in the history of the college football playoffs had an undefeated Power Five team been left out.
Until this year.
For this year, University of Texas, part of the Big 12, and Alabama, part of the SEC, each 12-1 leapfrogged Florida State leaving panhandled surfers, first, utterly depressed and, next, absolutely rage filled.
Florida’s Governor Tim Scott, who finds his office in Tallahassee where the Seminoles play, lashed out declaring, “While I doubt the committee’s decision will be reversed to rightly reward FSU for its hard-fought, undefeated season as the committee has done for other undefeated Power Five conference champions in recent years, I do believe that total transparency regarding how this decision was reached would do tremendous good for the committee, the CFP as a whole, and the college football community.”
Former United States President Donald Trump, now a Florida resident, added, “Florida State was treated very badly by the ‘committee.’ They became the first Power Five team to be left out of the College Football Playoffs. Really bad lobbying effort…Lets blame DeSantimonious!!!”
Surfers, energized, pulling pitchforks out of board racks and ready to march on Gaylord.
Will you join them?
Do you care about the World Surf League-ification of collegiate ball?
More as the story develops.
Australian man in critical condition after burial in beach hole
"It was pretty gnarly when he popped out. I threw up."
We surfers, we who find our joy upon the waters, are well aware of lineup danger. Sharks, rabid seals, mean otters, SUP enthusiasts, influencers, coral, rock, vulnerable adult learners etc. The sand fronting those rolling waves, though, is entirely different story and I only see what I can only assume sun bathers deem “hazards” from afar, bobbing out at sea. An errant frisbee, maybe. Or whatever that spike ball thing is.
There is one horror that presents itself from time to time, however, that gives me deep chills. People who fall into sand holes and are buried alive.
The nightmare scenario occurred over the weekend on Bribrie Island, near Brisbane, when a 25-year-old Australian man fell into a six-foot-deep sand hole dug to cook a pig. Eyewitnesses report that Josh Taylor “stood up off the chair, the sand had given away a little bit underneath him. He stumbled back. He’d put his arms out to obviously to break the fall, he’s continued going down and knocked sand as he’s put his arms out.”
Sand quickly filled in and soon only his feet were poking out.
Those around jumped into action, trying to free the young man. “There were 15 fully grown men on the end of this rope and he still would not budge,” the bystander continued, “That’s when the paramedic was like pull him this way .. . the suction gave way and he popped out.”
Another described the pandemonium. “I realized someone was head first in a hole and I was just digging digging digging…All of his family, were screaming at us, telling us to help, telling us to get rope so we could pull him out. It was pretty gruesome. It was pretty gnarly when he popped out. I threw up.”
Taylor had no pulse but paramedics immediately began CPR, which they performed for 45-minutes until his heart started beating again.
“The fact that they have got a return of pulse on this young man after an extended period of CPR, is evidence that good CPR was being done, it’s a credit to those people who got in and helped with their first aid,” QAS Paramedic Peter Batt said.
He was rushed to Princess Alexandra Hospital where he remains in critical but stable condition.
A miracle but, boy, I cannot imagine anything worse.