Pete Mel (insert) ready to shine again. Photo: Coldwater Classic
Pete Mel (insert) ready to shine again. Photo: Coldwater Classic

Santa Cruz surf club signals intent to smash Australians, Brazilians and reclaim world surf throne!

A comeback story!

There was once a time when Santa Cruz, there hugging California’s great middle north, was seen as a premier surf power. Locals like Ratboy, Barney, The Condor and Flea dominated the magazines. O’Neill the go-to brand of the core and Steamer Lane hosted the contest of the year.

Alas, the town of 60,000 souls lost an ugly fight over the moniker “Surf City, USA” to Huntington Beach, discovered methamphetamine and faded from surf memory.

But is she ready for a comeback?


The Santa Cruz Board Riders Club is ponying up and sending a team of four to Australia’s Gold Coast in order to compete in the Usher Cup, a tournament pitting the best surf clubs around the world against each other for bragging rights and also $100,000 cash money.

Sam and Ben Coffey, Shaun Burns and Autumn Hays each received the mayor’s blessing as they prepare to jet across the Pacific.

“It’s definitely very surreal, I haven’t traveled internationally for a surf competition in a while. All my heroes are competing in this, and there’s just going to be really good surfing that I’m excited to watch,” Hays told the local Action News.

“All the kids over there are so good, boys and girls. It’ll be super cool to represent Santa Cruz and we got a pretty good team this year, so hopefully, we can bring it home, do well,” Sam Coffey added.

“We kind of want to take it to them and be a part of this competition bringing it home to Santa Cruz and stealing the trophy away from them and bringing it home is something we want to do. We’re going in there to compete and fight hard,” Shaun Burns declared.

The Usher Cup features twenty Australian teams and ten from elsewhere in the world. Santa Cruz will have to really brings its A game but maybe, just maybe, it’s time for the sun to shine upon both the east and west sides once again.

Back to this Usher Cup, though. Have you heard about it before? Does it possibly have the clout to replace the World Surf League as the “global home of surfing?”

Things to think about.

Chas Smith reacts to Ian Ziering’s wild street brawl with teen Latinx biker gals!

"Shocking and embarrassing."

In the latest episode of Chas Hates Surfing, the noted author picks apart Bev Hills 90210 star Ian Ziering’s wild street brawl with a gang of “chubby teenage Latinx girls”.

“No actor is more surf adjacent than Ian Ziering (save Keanu Reeves and Matthew Perry),” Smith wrote when news broke of the melee.

“The now 58-year-old got his start on the 90s program Beverly Hills 90210, which was, itself, entirely surf adjacent. After a ten season run, Ziering, who played Steve Sanders, went into C-list purgatory until 2013 when the absurdist Sharknado became a surprise hit. Again, very surf adjacent.

“For some reason, Ziering decided to address fighting a gang of chubby fifteen-year-old Latinx girls on miniature motorbikes by taking the offensive instead of burying his head in shame.

“‘In an attempt to assess any damage I exited my car,” he wrote. ‘This action, unfortunately, escalated into a physical altercation, which I navigated to protect myself.’

“Unstated ‘from a gang of chubby fifteen-year-old Latinx girls on miniature motorbikes.’”

“He continued without shame or irony,

‘I am relieved to report that my daughter and I are both completely unscathed, but the incident has left me deeply concerned about the growing boldness of such groups who disrupt public safety and peace. This situation highlights a larger issue of hooliganism on our streets and the need for effective law enforcement responses to such behavior.’

“Shocking and embarrassing,” says Smith. “And, thanks to Ian Ziering, a gift. We will never as surfers beat groms, no matter how much you want to. Bad look all round.”

Smith also bids the WSL sayonara after yet another WSL-created program gets iced and examines the likelihood of an executive from Old Spice (via Logitech) being able to get Vans back its long-lost cool.


Surfers (right) pictured being the worst even though a historically significant home is being threatened.
Surfers (right) pictured being the worst even though a historically significant home is being threatened.

Monster California surf threatens Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece!

And surfers don't even care.

Now, surfers are undeniably and indubitably selfish. Leaving families behind without care or thought when the waves pump. Catching one, back paddling the poor soul bobbing for hours and catching another one. Lying, cheating, fibbing and fudging all to “get theirs.”

And, thus, it is not surprising that California’s surfers are entirely unmoved by the fact that the recent “monster swell” is threatening the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece The Walker House there on Carmel Point.

This is the only house that the revered architect ever built ocean-front and just sold, recently, for the low, low price of $22 million.

According to Artnet:

The famed architect designed the house to resemble a ship’s bow cutting through water, a nod to his distinctive practice of integrating structures into their natural surroundings. The striking feature is made possible by the hexagonal floor plan of the triangular living room, allowing for spectacular views of waves crashing onto rocks nearby.

Alas, those waves have gotten bigger and meaner. Funner, though, for surfers who don’t care that a house neighboring the Wright gem recently had its windows bashed out due “heavy surf.”

Surfers, man.

Total dicks.

A peasant’s guide to the Palm Springs Surf Club

Getting real.

The Palm Springs Surf Club wave pool is now open for business, and reservations for any “public” sessions in January sold out within hours of going live. You’ve no doubt seen the promotional videos with tiny little professional/semi-professional surfers packing tiny little barrels and boosting airs off of tiny little end sections. You can also book a private session for the low low price of $3,500 – $5,000 per hour, depending on the day and the demand.

But what is the experience of a public session like for your average peasant of average surfing ability? Is it really worth the $150 – $200 per hour? Is there really a god and an afterlife, or does an empty void await us after death? These are the questions I asked myself as I reserved three hours in the pool shortly after reservations opened up last month. And having recently returned from PSSC, I now have the answers. All of them. The following is the progression of the day’s highlights and lowlights.

6:15 a.m. I breakfast on coffee and 800 mg of ibuprofen. I have booked three, hour-long sessions for today—an “intermediate wave” hour to hopefully get the hang of things, and two “advanced wave” hours to hopefully get a few little pool barrels. We all know these aren’t real barrels, but by the same token, weirdos have “intercourse” with sex robots in this day and age and likely walk away with the impression that they got laid. Little do I recognize though, I have committed surf hubris by assuming that I might get some cover ups today, however artificial said cover ups might be.

8:45 a.m. After a 1.5 hour drive, I arrive to check in early and take inventory of the place. I am informed at check in that the wave machine is having issues and the pool can only run the intermediate A-Frame wave. No barrels for Com today, but that’s what I get for going into any surf session, pool or ocean, even so much as thinking about getting barreled. Such are the consequences of surf hubris.

Given a niggling injury I’ve been carrying for the last couple weeks, perhaps a day of intermediate waves is not so terrible though. I wonder whether I’ll get a refund for the combined additional $100 I’ve spent for two sessions of barreling waves (to date I have not).

The pool and the entire complex are far bigger than the videos I’ve seen would indicate. There is ample space to lounge, several other heated pools and hot tubs, a lazy river, and a couple quasi-restaurants. It’s a place that you could easily convince non-surfer friends and family to hang around and watch your shitty surfing were it not the middle of winter. Come Coachella season, this place will be packed and the surfing will be an afterthought for most of the patrons.

9:00 a.m. The first session of the day kicks off shortly after I arrive, which I am informed is a private session. A group of upper middle-aged guys that appear to be acquainted with one another is surfing the intermediate wave, well, intermediately, and even less than intermediately in some instances. Many are attempting to crouch for a little head dip even though the wave isn’t even close to barreling.

The wave at this setting looks barely two feet from my vantage point (Surfline two feet, not Hawaiian) and I kick myself for leaving my groveller at home despite bringing two pointy thrusters and a weird little asym. The private session crew nevertheless appears to be having a ball, hooting for one another and high fiving after every 3-wave set. I watch the Da Hui Pipe contest on my phone to pass the time and resign myself to the fact that these will be the only barrels I will see all day.

10:40 a.m. I suit up given the prior instructions to be ready 10 minutes before the 11:00 a.m. public session. As soon as I am ready to go, the announcement is made that all sessions are being pushed back an hour because the private session didn’t get its full two hours. To hell with it, I am not changing out of this wetsuit, and to hell with it, I am getting a getting a goddamn beer.

11:40 a.m. I make my way to the far side of the pool and have friendly conversations with the other middle-aged surfers who will be joining me in the first public session of the day, which now includes slightly more diverse gender representation with a couple female longboarders. The wave actually looks kind of fun from this angle for like, two turns. We have an extremely brief safety brief.

11:45 a.m. I jump in and HOLY HELL, I don’t recall 55-degree water ever being this cold, my 4/3 and booties notwithstanding. The pumps start up and sounds like a jet engine about to take off, and the guy in front of me misses his first wave. My first wave is a right, and hey, it’s actually about stomach high off the first turn! I manage a weak little wrap and then bog and fall on the second turn when what appears to be a close out end section evaporates. Still, there is more than enough push even with the intermediate setting to get all 230 pounds of me going at a decent clip down the line for a turn or two. And, at least I didn’t miss the wave or fall on the takeoff on my first wave—there is a lot of that happening, and even surfers who obviously rip (present company excluded) are struggling from time to time throughout the day.

I eventually realize that trying to take the high line from the takeoff is just not going to work. For how small the wave is, you have to drive down straight off the takeoff and project back up like it’s a much larger wave, or you will get hung up in the lip given how narrow the pocket is. This is something I will routinely forget to remember throughout the course of the day when I kook it on the takeoff on every few waves. That being said, 12 waves in an hour is a fair amount of surfing even if there’s only room for two or three turns.

It also occurs to me that, save for surfing with a bunch of people you might know, there is zero difference between the public and private session if the intermediate setting is the only wave available. Shit yeah, I have stuck it to the man!

1:15 p.m. I’ve rolled straight through into another hour-long session, which was supposed to be one of the slab sessions, but, whatever. I’m still having a good time on the rights after swapping for one of my shorter boards. A half hour later when I switch to the lefts, I am cramping up on every takeoff, and the aforementioned niggling injury is about the size and shape of a half plumb. Waves are missed. Takeoffs are blown. Rails are bogged. This is not pretty.

2:10 p.m. The sensation of being able to feel my fingers again returns. Beers and a hot tub never felt this satisfying.

2:45 p.m. I notice a guy on a soft top is trunking it. TRUNKING it in 55-degree water, and with a bit of wind to chill things down a little further to boot. I have not seen him successfully get to his feet, but holy hell, he is far tougher than I am and/or was sired by a sea lion.

3:15 p.m. Groms and dads are in the water and an “offshore” wind is holding up the wave faces a bit more. A micro grom is pushed in by his dad gets a little shampoo on the inside. Everyone watching poolside hoots. This is the closest thing to a legitimate barrel that has occurred today as far as I’ve seen.

3:55 p.m. I plop back into the pool for my third and final hour. There’s no more sun warming the surfing area and the water seems even colder. I spend the next hour either missing waves or mostly going straight, but I finally figure out the left by the end of things, which has this weird flat section on account of one side pumps beings down.

4:50 p.m. The horizon on the far end of the pool might substitute as an aspect of an impressionist painting as the sunset, punctuated by wispy clouds, emits a rosy glow that slowly gives way to darkness as the lights surrounding the pool are switched on. Part of me wonders whether someday, people will pay to see an artificial sunset when they could just as easily see the real thing, much like I have paid to surf an artificial wave when I could just as easily have paddled out in the ocean. All things considered though, I wanted to hate this place, but I’m riding waves in the middle of the damn desert.

This would be much easier in warm water and trunks in the summer time, but I’d almost prefer the venue being relatively empty save for surfers, their families/significant others, and the two European guys in speedos sprawling in one of the hot tubs for most of the day who did not exactly appear to be there for the surfing. And in truth, I’ve actually enjoyed surfing with the strangers I’ve met and surfed with today, all of whom were far more pleasant than the pathetically annoying wretches that mostly haunt my local.

7:00 p.m I am at The Heyday with a burger in one hand and a very dry vodka martini in the other. I take inventory of the last ten hours and consider how I might answer the questions I asked myself when I booked these reservations in the first place.
What is the experience of a public session like for your average peasant of average surfing ability? Pretty fun, just so long as you recognize that this is not surfing—it’s riding waves in a pool.

Is it worth really worth the $150 – $200 per hour? I would like my $100 back for reserving slab waves that were not delivered, and I’ve no idea what the other wave settings are actually like, but $150 for 12ish intermediate waves in an hour seems like a fairly even trade given the $80 million dollar investment in this place.

Is there really a god and an afterlife, or does an empty void await us after death? The answer to that, I have realized, is that once human beings become proficient enough at playing god and you have the financial means to pay, it won’t really matter. You might just live forever in an artificial world of your own fashioning—perhaps with some artificial waves, artificial sunsets, and dry martinis to keep you occupied.

Great White sharks attack surfer at Blacks in South Australia.
Great White shark hits and bites surfer at Blacks in South Oz. Main photo, Great White in action, little photo, the surfer's shooter after the attack.

Surfer attacked by Great White shark in South Australia as horror season continues

"Spread the word. No one goes in the water." 

As one below-the-line sage remarked a couple of weeks back when fifteen-year-old grom Khai Cowley was killed by a Great White in front of his dad at Ethels on the Yorke Peninsula, “In South Australia, you can have sharks or you can have surfing. You can’t have both.” 

(Or words to that effect.) 

Two months ago, 55-year-old surfer Tod Gendle was killed and disappeared by a fifteen-foot Great White at Granites, twenty clicks out of Streaky Bay, South Australia, seven hundred clicks north-west of Adelaide. 

Earlier in 2023, and just a hundred clicks south, local school teacher Simon Baccanello was killed by a Great White while surfing at Walkers Rocks in Elliston.

A brave soul, Baccanello warned others to split as the Great White started swimming towards him telling terrified kids in the lineup, “Don’t worry, get yourself to shore”.

Now, a sixty-four-year-old surfer from Elliston has been bitten between the ass and leg at Blacks by a Great White. He paddled in, climbed the cliff, refused an ambulance and drove himself to hospital, reflecting the chaotic nature of a Great White hit and the difference just a few millimetres can make.

Still, a Great White hit is a Great White hit. Substantial.

A message bouncing said the surfer, named Murray, “needs stitches but will be ok. Spread the word. No one goes in the water.”

Surfboard bitten by Great White shark at Blacks, South Australia.
Great White attacks surfer at Blacks in South Oz. This is what his shooter looked like after the obligatory attack–from-below.

Blacks, which is near Elliston, is the archetypal South Australian slab, swells swinging onto shallow limestone shelf before evaporating in uncomfortably deep water, notorious for Great Whites. In 2000, two surfers were killed in two separate Great White attacks, one at Blacks, one at Cactus 140 miles west. 

I remember sending a few pro’s to Blacks years back and laughed, but understood, when I heard a story of ‘em paddling onto the dry shelf when a couple of dolphins surfaced.

After Khai Cowley was killed on December 29, the South Australian premier Peter Malinauskas said,

“The reality is there are sharks along our coastline around the southern part of our nation. When people venture out, particularly where they go quite far away from the shoreline, there is a risk associated with that.

“But we’ve seen 11 fatal shark attacks in South Australia since the year 2000 so the fact we’ve seen three across this summer is startling and it is of concern.”

Sharks or surfing? Which way do you swing?

(More on the attack as it comes.)