VAL surfer and toxic local
"It doesn't matter what board you ride or how long you've been surfing. Are you happy? Do you have The Stoke?"

Vulnerable Adult Learner Surfer reveals true meaning of surfing to toxic local

A Christmas surfing fairytale…

On the first day things were good. The surf was small. Cold. Uninviting. But they had the holiday house for a full week. A week of no work, no kids, no interruptions.

They’d met later in life, two divorcees with their own families. Had bonded over a shared love of surfing. He was a life-long acolyte. She came to it more recently. This would be their first trip away together. It was a chance to surf, read, drink, eat, make love. Whatever. A chance to know each other better.

The place was an old timber surf shack. Wooden floors and comfy furniture and a tin roof for listening to the rain. A perfect view from the living room window across the windswept beach below. The Airbnb reviews were right. It was the ultimate coastal getaway.

“I love it,” she declared as they stood in the living room, bags still unpacked.

They both pulled out surfboards from their respective travel covers. Scraped the wax from the lining. Checked for any dings. Hers was an off the rack Firewire. Round nose and full rails. It did the job.

His was a new custom. A sleek shortboard, though it looked closer to a step up. White with a green pinline spray. Still had that smell of curing resin.

“This is an outline I’ve been working on with John – my shaper – for a while now,” he said as he ran his hands along the rails. “Pulled in tail, more volume through the chest for increased paddling power. Beaked nose. Perfect for the beachbreak barrels we should get here.”

He flipped it belly up, and ran his fingers along the faint concave down its middle.

“It’s so important to have a good relationship with your shaper. You’re getting a level of connection you don’t get with those off the shelf pop-outs like you’ve got.”

“Cool,” she said.

That night they drank wine and talked about the week ahead.

On the second day there was still no surf. But the sun was out. They had sex twice in the yellow morning light that flooded their bedroom. Then they had breakfast, got dressed, and explored the littoral trails that snaked along the coast

There were pandanus. Flame trees. Jasimine in bloom. She spotted a powerful owl sleeping in a low branch. Bellbirds chirped their staccato song.

“They say bellbirds are the sign of a dying ecosystem,” she said. “That’s sad.”

“I think it’s sad what’s happened to the WSL,” he said. Almost like he’d been waiting for the opportunity.

“Sorry, the what?” she asked.

“You know, WSL, World Surf League.”

“Oh yeah. Right.”

He continued on.

“Sure, competition surfing has always been a sell-out to a point. But the direction they’ve taken it in over the last five years, the way they’ve lost all of the best breaks, the fact all these pros are now retiring instead of still trying to win titles…”

He stopped on the trail and turned to her. Two triangles of sweat sat prominent under each arm of his shirt.

“It’s lost its relevance. Don’t you reckon?

She picked a dandelion from between her feet. Held it in front of her.

“Oh, yeah. For sure.” She blew the spores into the wind. “Definitely.”

On the third day the onshore was stronger. They looked at the surf. Tried to make out a recognisable bank. But it refused to conform.

Maybe it never would?

“The forecast isn’t looking great,” she said as she flashed her smartphone in front of him.

He snorted.

“Don’t listen to those idiots with their surflines and swellnets. You should learn to read a weather map yourself.”

She stared at him with a blank expression.

“It’s ok, he said. “I’ve consulted all the major models. GFS. CMC. ECMWF. NAVGEM. They’re all in agreeance.The wind will definitely slacken tomorrow, and that long range south swell should be filling in nicely.”

He turned to look back at the ocean. “You really should learn to read them.”

“Ok,” she said.

On the fourth day it was smaller, messier. He looked at his phone like it was some unknown artifact. There was no mention of his stillborn prediction.

She found a chest of old board games and card games in the spare bedroom of the house. Monopoly. Connect 4. Battleship. Countless more. She sprawled them all out over the wooden floors.

They opened a bottle of wine. And another. For a few hours things were good and fun and they forgot about the surf.

But after her fourth straight loss in Uno she found he had been putting two or even three cards down at once. She confronted him. Called him a cheat.

“It’s a dog eat dog world out there, babe,” he said. “I do what I need to get the W. Look at it like I’m teaching you a lesson: this is how things work in the real world.”

She sighed, and tried to feign a smile. To salvage something from this slowly disintegrating trip.

“Well I guess ‘you know’ better, don’t you? Uno?”

He looked at her with dead eyes. Did his little snort again. “What is that? Some type of joke?”

He put his hand inside her thigh. “I know something that’ll make you smile.”

“Don’t,” she said as she pushed it away. She felt the hot touch of sick in the back of her mouth. “I’ve had too much to drink. I’m going to bed.”

On the fifth day she woke up unrested. She thought maybe going out for breakfast would help.

They walked under gray skies to the local cafe. Sat down for an average, overpriced meal.

“Did you see the sign on that bathroom?” he asked as he finished his eggs. “It said ‘gender neutral space.’ How many fucken trannies are there going to be in this shit hole of a town?”

He called the waiter over for another coffee. She moved her pancakes around her plate.

“You know, I don’t think it’s very respectful to use a term like that,” she said

“Like what?”

“What you just said.”

“What? Trannies” He snorted again. “Fuck ‘em! Do you know how soon it will be before they take over women’s surfing? Claiming world titles?”

He pointed his fork at her.

“Shouldn’t you care about that? As a woman?”

“I don’t think that’s correct at all-“

He pushed his plate out in disgust. The leftover eggs jiggled together in unison.

“You’re just like the rest of them, aren’t you?”

“Who?” she asked. “Who are you talking about?

“Them,” he sneered.

She looked at him across the cafe table. His face looked longer than she first thought. His eyes were angrier.

On the sixth day they sat in silence while rain pelted the windows. At one point he mumbled something that could have been, ‘Matthew Perry died of a ketamine overdose.” But she had already stopped listening.

On the seventh day she awoke with the sunrise. The wind had swung offshore. The long awaited groundswell finally filled in. From the living room window she could see gold-feathered peaks stretched out along the beach, with only a handful of surfers on it.

It was what they’d been waiting for. Perfection.

Too bad for him.

She packed her bags quietly, while his snoring still echoed through the house. There wasn’t much to prepare and soon she was ready to leave.

As she walked out the door she saw his custom board with the pinline spray lying belly up on the living room floor, waiting patiently for its owner. Still unridden. A faint smile came across her face.

She took the rental car key from her purse, and stabbed three perfect holes under each of the board’s fins. They key slid through the soft fibreglass like butter.

“Fucking…kook,” she muttered under her breath, careful not to wake him.

If she raced she could still make the early flight.

King (pictured) taking it to the "global home of surfing."

Notable surf personality Peter King slams World Surf League over hypocritical Teahupo’o tower silence!


As reported, exclusively and moments ago, the new aluminum judging tower has officially won the day and is currently being erected In Teahupo’o. Coral being drilled even as you read. You have certainly followed every twist and turn of this developing story. How surf fans cheered when Paris won the 2024 Olympic Games and decided to host the surfing portion there at the “Place of Broken Skulls.” How those same fans jeered when the organizing committee declared it was going to build a fancy new judging tower in the lagoon then drove a barge over coral to prove how environmentally safe it was going to be.

How the International Surfing Association stunned all-comers by denouncing Paris’s plan and formally stated judging should be done from the beach.

How Paris sneered “On s’en fiche, tu es stupide et frivole…” and are moving forward with their plan.

But what has the World Surf League’s position on the matter been?

Complete and utter silence.

Yesterday, notable surf personality Peter King had enough and was forced to slam the “global home of surfing” over its abject hypocrisy. Taking to Instagram, King posted images from the World Surf League’s environmental arm, WSL One Ocean, and wrote, “WSL One Ocean goes silent on Teahupoo but has been there and bragged about saving coral. They even have a slogan called ‘Speak up for the ocean.’ FRAUD ALERT.”

In another slide, “Here we have WSL One Ocean bragging about their great work in Tahiti planting coral while going silent of the tower needlessly being built that will destroy coral… When the WSL said transgender men can surf against women, they said… “We are just following the ISA” but ISA came out against the tower… so where are you WSL?”

All valid points though, I must say, in these times of great uncertainty it is nice to know a few things will never change.

One of those is complete and utter World Surf League hypocrisy about the environment.

Like a comfy pair of old slippers.


Screw you, wood.
Screw you, wood.

Coral drilling underway at Teahupo’o as new aluminum Olympic surf judging tower wins day

Screw you, wood.

The wild saga surrounding the surfing portion of this summer’s Olympiad has finally, maybe, reached its conclusion. Per inside reports, the controversial plan to build a new aluminum judging tower to replace the old wooden one there planted in the lagoon has, officially, won the day and the coral, there, is currently being drilled.

Initially, the structure was going to be very big and have comfortable bathrooms. Locals became infuriated by the potential environmental impact and protested. Olympic organizers drove a barge over the coral to prove how safe everything was. Locals became more infuriated. Olympic organizers decided to make it smaller and an agreement seems to have been reached…

…until the International Surfing Association came swinging out of nowhere and opposed the idea, suggesting the competition be judged from the beach instead.“We respect the almost unanimous decision taken locally to continue with the launch of the construction work,” Tony Estangue, president of the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics Organizing Committee, sneered.

And true to his word, everything is moving forward. A clear win for Big Aluminum.

On a call with stakeholders, the Paris Organizing Committee stated the tower will, in fact, be smaller and lighter, drilling will be done in places with “lesser coral” and that judging the contest from the beach or with drones is not feasible. It shared that having the judging tower will also be “safer” for the surfers and that the plan has unanimous support from the local Tahitian government, the International Olympic Committee and the Paris Organizing Committee. The only outlier, the aforementioned ISA.

Back to the “impossibility” of judging from the beach whilst using drones. Why? All sorts of “extreme sport” events are judged this way. Is surfing special?

Or is Big Aluminum just that powerful?

Well, in any case, the tower is rising and that is that.


Kelly Slater wins 2022 Billabong Pro Pipeline
Ain't it crazy that Kelly Slater would go into the Paris Games as a gold medal favourite? | Photo: WSL

Fourteen world surfing champs push for a Kelly Slater wildcard at Paris 2024

The letter was the initiative of 1977 world champ Shaun Tomson and Kelly Slater is, or was, unaware of the push. 

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say the Olympic surf qualifiers for Paris 2024 at Teahupoo were a failure of a magnitude greater even than, say, Custer’s hubris at Little Big Horn. 

The byzantine selection process was slammed as “absurdist” and branded a “colossal failure” after Filipe Toledo, whose fraught relationship with Teahupoo ain’t no secret, was selected for Team Brazil over Teahupoo standouts Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira. 

In an ironic twist, it was against Ferreira in 2015 where Toledo suffered the ignominy of becoming one of only two surfers in pro surfing history to paddle in from a heat without a wave being caught. 

“Fail-wise, it was just beyond epic,” the surfing historian Matt Warshaw told BeachGrit. “And so very public… Filipe’s deal is un-spinnable. He isn’t ready for prime time at Teahupoo… I’m his biggest north-of-50 fan, and I feel sort of crushed by what I saw.”

Worse, was the exclusion of Kelly Slater, whose record at Teahupoo is unlikely to ever be touched: seven perfect rides, five contest wins, two perfect heats and all wrapped up with an average heat score of 16.29. 

The dreams of surf fans being able to watch Kelly Slater, who’ll be fifty two, stroll off into his harvest years with a golden Olympic trinket have been raised, however, after fourteen world champions co-signed a letter to ISA prez Fernando Aguerre requesting Slater be given a wildcard into the contest. 

The letter was hand-signed by Wayne Bartholomew, Tom Curren, Tom Carroll, Shaun Tomson, Peter Townend, Mick Fanning, Martin Potter, Mark Richards, Joel Parkinson, Damien Hartman, CJ Hobgood, Barton Lynch and even ol Adriano de Souza whose world title reign was compressed to less than one day after Slater released footage of his game-changing wavepool one day after de Souza was crowned. 

The letter was the initiative of 1977 world champ Shaun Tomson and Kelly Slater is, or was, unaware of the push.

Tom Carroll in a Gath helmet and inventor Ric Gath.
Tom Carroll gives hell to G-Land in a Gath and, right, Ric Gath in the wild bloom of youth. | Photo: Quiksilver/Ric Chan

Margaret River’s Ric Gath, inventor of the surf helmet, dead at 67

How many precious skulls, kids, big-wave thrillseekers, did the Gath save?

The pioneer of surf helmets, Ric Gath, a man more influential than pretty much anyone from Margaret River, has died after a long-illness aged sixty-seven.

In the late eighties, early nineties, y’couldn’t find a lineup in Western Australia that wasn’t filled with surfers wrapped in Ric Gath’s eponymous surf helmet.

Ric Gath launched it at the 1989 Margaret River Masters, a contest won by Dave Macaulay wearing the wild-looking plastic thing. A photo taken on the day appears to show Dave’s wife hugging the helmet.

That same season, Tom Carroll won the Pipe Masters with a Gath.

Kong won it the year after, wearing a Gath.

“It was a dream launch,” Ric told me a few years back when I called him about an American surfer claiming he’d invented surf helmets.

His story is a good one.

Ric Gath, a noted big-waver from Margaret River, Western Australia, had ears that gave him hell in a region famous for its cold wind. First he used divers balaclavas, then when Rip Curl brought out a peaked neoprene hood he wore that, although losing it in a wipeout was common.

So he switched to carpenters’ ear muffs with the padding taken off and with the balls resting over the ears. Ric dislocated his jaw on that idea.

Then his three-year-old kid, this is 1986, nearly copped his fins in the face after nose-driving in a little shorey.

Ric Gath was a can-do sorta guy. He made some drawings and three years later it was everywhere.

Ric Gath helmet drawings
Drawings of the first Gath surf helmets by Ric Gath.

In Bali, surfers used ‘em as motorbike helmets. Mums agreed to let their kids surf with the stipulation they wore a helmet.

Ric says they were moving around 12,000 units a year. It’s not massive in today’s sorta numbers but thirty-ish years ago, big enough to make a little cash and save a few skulls.

Almost as quickly as they’d arrived, howevs, the Gath disappeared.

Two reasons, according to Ric Gath.

First he heard that surf companies weren’t real thrilled that his “parasite” company was getting free press in their editorial photos and started telling photographers they weren’t going to run shots with helmets.

Second, biz probs.

In 1994, his three investors showed him the door and they all went to court to see who got to keep the intellectual property.

“Three chiefs and one Indian and I was the Indian,” Ric told me. “I went straight from a surfboard and into business to going into a liquidation meeting.”

Ric, who had to go back to carpentry to fund the case, won.

In 1999, he picked up the pieces and was back in biz by 2005.

Eventually, he got his son Jess and wife, Jennifer, running the show, the company chasing Europe’s lucrative kite and foil market, something he said was gonna spike after governments there are starting to legislate for compulsory helmets while foiling.

“The future is looking really good for us,” he said in 2020, adding that he might be sixty-four but surfing makes him feel eighteen, even if he’s given a reality check every time he walks past a mirrored door and he catches his reflection.

As cool as they come, he didn’t get bummed about much.

Ric Gath still talked to one of the investors who took him down and, with characteristic whimsy, saids the liquidation of his business with all its legal documents “improved my reading.”