Japanese surf Olympian forced to hide Asian heritage from rioting Australian racists!

"It sticks with you, I was only 12, but it was a crazy time. Everyone was very cautious and it was dangerous."

A little over nineteen summers ago, the pretty beachside suburb of Cronulla, home to more good surfers than anywhere in Australia except maybe Snapper Rocks, went to hell after middle eastern out-of-towners clashed with local lifeguards.

Text messages punched out on Nokia phones swirled calling for retaliation against any Lebanese who dared visit this hard-core surf town right there on Sydney’s southern rim

The subsequent riot was the culmination of several years of tension between the predominantly white, Anglo-Australian population of Cronulla and the Lebanese community out west.

December 11, 2005, was a wild ol day, anyone with a less than northern European hue was targeted, and the repercussions were felt for weeks.

Even Bondi Beach, a forty-five-minute-drive north had boom gates set up to stop mischief makers and a little bit south of Bondi in Maroubra, one Bra Boy attempted to take on half of Beirut in a melee that is still talked about in reverent tones.

Cronulla’s Connor O’Leary, who is surfing for Japan in this year’s Olympic Games at Teahupoo by virtue of his Japanese mum, says he was forced to hide his heritage on that fateful day lest racist wolves tear him apart.

“I went for a look at the riots that day, which wasn’t the smartest thing, and Mum was really worried about me,” O’Leary told The Sydney Morning Herald. “It sticks with you, I was only 12, but it was a crazy time down there. Everyone was very cautious and it was dangerous, no doubt.

“That was obviously a big moment, but for me, there’d be little things, like I’d be in history class and the Hiroshima bombings would come up. It’s not like it was targeted towards me, but there was that stigma around Asian culture. Not Japanese, but in Cronulla, if you were Asian, there was a stigma.

“I never got bullied but whenever it came up, I’d try and hide it just to fit in. I wasn’t a confident kid so I tried to be as Australian as I could because I didn’t want confrontation. It’s also great to see Cronulla come through that period too though, see it move on from that and become much more open and more multicultural.”

Surfer-hero “Gordo the Great” awarded bravery medal for saving Ukrainian nurse in “wild battle of underwater jiujitsu”

“I was paddling like a frog on acid and felt an unbelievable pain in my legs and groin.”

The larger-than-life surf cinematographer John “Gordo the Great” Gordon has been awarded a bravery medal in recognition of his extraordinary conduct when he saved the life of a Ukrainian nurse who’d been swept away to her apparent doom in a rip last April.

Gordo, sixty-two now but presenting with excellent T levels always with head erect and shoulders thrown back, filmed the world surfing tour for twenty years before being dumped by the World Surf League, inexplicably and without warning two years ago.

Gordo’s filmic career is marked by awards, acclaim etc.

He worked for the Seven News network in Queensland for two decades, in between gigs with Jack McCoy and his series of iconic Billabong films, before shifting into surf full-time.

So when a Gold Coast-based Ukrainian nurse jumped into the water at Fingal up there on the NSW side of the border with the Gold Coast and Gordo saw her being washed around the headland, he wasn’t going to stand by and wait for Superman.

A day to blow or get blown!

“She was in the most dangerous spot imaginable. I looked around and the only person who’s going to save her is me,” said Gordo, who described trying to rescue the gal as like “underwater jiujitsu.”

The nurse, Liv Titor said, “I couldn’t believe it. I stepped into nothing and it got me straight away. Johnny jumped in with his surfboard, told me to hang on and said we’ll get through it together. And that’s what we did.”

For his effort, Gordo will be awarded a Commendation for Brave Conduct (CBC) from Australian Governor-General David Hurley, a civilian award that ranks alongside Albania’s Honour of the Nation Decoration, Belarus’ Order of the Fatherland and the French Legion of Honour.

Retelling the event with dramatic expression to the Australian press Gordo said,

“Right before we made it to safety we were in the absolute thick of it. I’m talking the Ivan Milat of currents. Just nasty and ugly as hell… I was paddling like a frog on acid and felt an unbelievable pain in my legs and groin. Underneath the water the current was so strong. Layers of doom.

“At the worst point we were about two feet from the cliffs and the power of the water was intense. If we got sucked in to the wall where there are openings we wouldn’t have made it out alive. I’ve been out in surf at Teahupoʻo , Tahiti and Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa on some of its gnarliest days – but that day at Fingal was terrifying.”


Re-live again here.

Is this Sandworms?

World Surf League chiefs perplexed after Steven Spielberg declares: “Surfing the sandworms is one of the greatest things I have ever seen. Ever!”

Did he mean Winkipop?

The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach got underway two short days ago and surf fans would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to know, by now, that it was the world’s first surf contest. Celebrating its 50th year, the iconic splash fight began as something of a novelty expected to last three years, if one is to believe Vaughan Dead. Now in its fifth decade, the Goons of Doom lead bassist declares it will go on for eternity.

It is understandable, then, that any surf news coming out of this particular calendar window must be related, directly, to the dramas occurring down those iconic steps (feat. the names of past winners, if you can believe) and into the bowl where wind wrecked chubsters beckon.

World Surf League chiefs, therefore, rightly confused when the world’s most prolific blockbuster film director, Steven Spielberg, cryptically referenced the Sport of Queens in an interview. Self-crowned the “global home of surfing,” the flailing organization has attempted to mainstream competitive water sliding since purchased for free by trust funded billionaire Dirk Ziff back in 2015 circa 1976.

A big coup, then, when South Africa’s Matthew McGillivray was featured soaring on a Bells banger in The Guardian’s “Pictures of the Day” between a starving Palestinian boy and aid being dropped into the Gaza Strip.

But the aforementioned confusion when Spielberg openly declared, “Surfing the sandworms is one of the greatest things I have ever seen. Ever!”

World Surf League Chief of Sport Jessi Miley-Dyer certainly hurrying to the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang in order to suss out which Championship Tour stop is referred to as “sandworms” by locals.

Any help would be appreciated.

Bells likely off today so the six hours watching mid face cutbacks can be spent researching.


Dylan Graves (left) and Jed Smith (right) down in the dreggs.
Dylan Graves (left) and Jed Smith lookalikes down in the dreggs.

Byron Bay surfers in mourning after beloved music festival Splendour in the Grass cancelled without warning


Tears in modern Australian utopia Byron Bay, this morning. A big sad energy. The bucolic costal enclave’s surfers woke up from lavender dreams to the worst news imaginable. Racing to breakfast nooks, sun dappling great grandma’s obviously vintage tablecloth, the impossibly beautiful volume enthusiasts found it almost impossible to enjoy toasted artisan sourdough yum yum, poached free range eggs, sprinkled with pink Himalayan sea salt, even tree-ripened avocados from Chris Hemsworth’s backyard.

Splendour in the Grass, you see, had been cancelled.

The yearly music festival that allowed the region’s blessed to micro dose mushrooms while swaying to the majestic chord progressions of Tame Impala has been a staple of paradise since 2001. The three day festival has drawn the likes of Negatron’s cousin Lorde and Vance Joy with former BeachGrit writer Longtom’s goats once wandering over from neighboring Lennox Heads.

Per the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

In a statement on its Instagram page, the festival said it would be “taking the year off”, and that ticket holders would be refunded “automatically” by ticket retailer Moshtix.

The co-CEOs of Splendour organiser Secret Sounds, Jessica Ducrou and Paul Piticco, said in a statement to media they were “heartbroken” to share the news, and added they “hope to be back in the future”.

The line up, which had featured Australian music legend Kylie Minogue and obviously vintage Canadian indie band Arcade Fire, had only been announced earlier this month.

Splendour is the latest festival to call it quits in 2024, with regional touring event Groovin the Moo pulling the pin in February. Several smaller festivals have also been cancelled.

Australian folk duo The Dreggs, who were due to play on Splendour’s main stage for the first time, told Hack they only learned of the cancellation minutes before the news became public.

Unmentioned was The Goons of Doom.

Which, speaking of, yesterday, I was watching the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. Vaughan Deadly, the Goons lead bassist, was in the booth alongside Joe Turpel and Felicity Palmateer and had me properly LOLing which, in turn, made me even more angry at the World Surf League. Keep Joe. Whatever. But mixing Jesse Mendes in as “color?”

What sort of WSL dippity-doos are in charge of casting there in the veterinarian office? I’m certain Vaughan was a Rip Curl addition.

Should Rip Curl just take over the tour entirely?

More as that story develops.

Surf journalist cited as “Kelly Slater’s secret weapon” following 52-year-old’s historic heat win at Bells Beach

“What did Kelly need? I sat back as a surf journalist and thought, the man needs spite! Kelly Slater needs spite!"

It will come as no surprise to followers of BeachGrit and fans of Chas Smith that his multi-medium attacks on Kelly Slater have been revealed as a ruse to push the greatest-ever surfer into hitherto unseen levels of performance. 

In the latest episode of Chas Smith Hates Surfing, the Cardiff-based linguistics professor says he was motivated by a desire to prove that age is unimportant even at the highest levels of sport. 

“Today we find ourselves in a historic moment for yesterday the fifty-five-year-old from Coco Beach Kelly Slater won…a surf heat. History said this was not supposed to happen. That a man above certain age is no longer able to perform at the highest levels, to win surfing competitions, or running or rowing or tennis or ping pong competitions. 

“It’s a young man’s game, all games, apparently.

“We, the ageing, then, are forced to say, I guess so, and that getting older means getting irrelevant, just passing time until you fall into an open grave. Sad, depressing, downright bleak.

“And here we have Kelly. I saw him coming down the pipe and said, Kelly Slater is going to be the one who sends everything on its head. Kelly Slater, flipping the script. 

“But what does he need? He hasn’t won in a year or more! It seemed over. It seemed dark.

“What did Kelly need? I sat back as a surf journalist and thought, the man needs spite! Kelly needs spite! So I began a campaign declaring he would never win another heat in his career, that we had witnessed the last professional win of the Kelly Slater era knowing that these little seeds get planted in the greatest ever’s heart. And a spite tree grows!

Kelly Slater spite tree
Chas Smith helps Kelly Slater build spite tree.

“It takes a village to build a GOAT, as the great Hillary Rodham Carter once said. I knew I had work to do, paint the story, re-engage the story, get this story to have a traction for Kelly Slater to win a heat.” 

Chas Smith also used the same technique to ensure Kelly Slater fathered a boy. 

And, here we are.