Zeke Lau (right) shoots board at hometown hero Jacob Willcox in order to test safety response.
Zeke Lau (right) shoots board at hometown hero Jacob Willcox in order to test safety response.

Margaret River a “tinderbox of rage” as surfers and government go to war over water safety!

“Without jetskis, it’s really just body retrieval..."

And as the top thirty-six men and eighteen women whisk in and out of West Oz for this week’s Margaret River Pro, community tensions boil.

Promises of increased water safety outside of the contest times and zones fell short as Shire of Augusta Margaret River officials continue to frustrate locals. The call for Hawaiian-style life saving systems and resources have gone unanswered.

Seventy-five drownings were reported in AU last year. That number isn’t expected to drop without additional support, some say.

“Without jetskis, it’s really just body retrieval,” water rescue trainer Shanan Worall said.

A host of high-class waves decorate Margaret’s edges: Main break, of course, and the Box to the left; heavy Redgate and Boat Ramps; Yallingup (push a little east wind on it, and it absolutely rolls) alongside plenty of undercard waves.

It was the blackboard of former world number two Taj Burrow and current number five Jack Robinson. Toss in the vineyards and bespoke restaurants against the coastline, it’s an easy draw for tourists to spread their cheddar.

A multiyear marketing plan of the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River aims to increase travelers to the region to stimulate regional commerce. After all, flowing cash makes everyone happy, does it not? Who can blame them?

Apparently, locals. The Shire are pimps, they say, but mother nature ain’t no tramp and they want to turn off the red light. Too many bodies in the water, they say. Mix the relentless marketing campaign with the annual WSL broadcast and you’ve got a perfect recipe for breaks crusted in black rubber.


There’s not much to do about it, either. While groups such as the Margaret River Recreational Surfers maintain pressure on the authorities to scratch the permits for the contest, a change is unlikely as the WSL inked a deal securing the spot for another four years.

But, hey, we all know the feeling of packing too much foam into a break on any given three-foot swell. Whaddya gonna do?

The more immediate issue is the lack of promised support for water safety. While the group Surf Life Saving WA is contracted to patrol Rivermouth and a few other hotspots, they still lack the resources for quick water rescues. With so many bodies bobbing around in serious waves drownings should be expected.

Bec Sheedy-Ryan, a de-facto spokesperson for area surfers, says the Shire can’t have it both ways. You can’t promote tourism but fail to adequately protect the tourists.

“Nothing’s changed in terms of safety for the past 20 years.” But “Come to our beautiful place—it’s notorious!”

Sheedy-Ryan concedes that the Shire allocated a little funding over the past two years for rescue training and the installation of a defibrillator at Mainbreak. (Da Fin Australia also threw in some flippers for the cause.)

Still, she feels the government needs to bear more responsibility for protecting the influx of surfers drawn to the area.

“Look at the safety set up of the [WSL] contest. Alone, it should be a guideline as to what is required from a duty of care aspect for a notorious section of coastline that is heavily promoted by the surfing world and the Department of Tourism WA,” Sheedy-Ryan said.

It’s a fair question. Why are safety protocols, drones, rescuers, and skis put into the lineup for WSL surfers but are withdrawn after the final horn? After all, the WA government funds the contest.

In defense, a state spokesman suggested that “beachgoers can find a patrolled beach by visiting Surf Like Saving Australia’s Beachsafe website.”

To me, that website will do as much good in preventing the masses from entering the water as keeping a dog away from a tossed frisbee.

It’s all economics, of course. Sure, Augusta-Margaret River officials want to see everyone who paddles out paddles in, but securing perpetual funds to do this is tough. The Marg’s coast is long and the cost for professional rescuers and their trimmings is hefty.

Maybe the Portuguese have an answer. The Association of Surf Schools of Portugal recently banded together to provide training to local surfers in a handful of municipalities. They’ve trained over 350 volunteers so far, right on the beach.

Participants learn rescue techniques with and without boards and life support steps. AESP director Afonso Teixeira said, the trainings “not only teach how to help drowning victims but how to act in situations in which they may be in danger.”

It’s a good start.

Still, without skis, there’s only so much savin’ to be done in Algarve or Margaret River or anywhere else.

But what say you? Should the Shire swing their advertising bucks toward safety? How much responsibility should local governments shoulder for keeping surfers afloat?

Ben Gravy and Jamie O'Brien before AI tried to tear them apart.
Ben Gravy and Jamie O'Brien before AI tried to tear them apart.

Surfer magazine robot accuses Jamie O’Brien of “overestimating Ben Gravy’s talent” thus nearly killing him!

Artificial intelligence gone wild.

Artificial intelligence, man. One minute it is the greatest thing ever, writing term papers in the style of Sylvia Plath, the next it is dangerously out of control, throwing libel at surf phenom Jamie O’Brien, accusing the carrot topped Pipeline swinger of attempted murder.

Live by the bits, die by the bytes, as the old saying goes, and the new owners of Surfer Magazine are learning this lesson hard. You certainly recall months ago when The Arena Group came under heavy fire for utilizing bots, complete with computer generated pictures and biographies, to “write” stories. The public rage was quick and fast, Sports Illustrated receiving the brunt of the attack. Surfer, its “Emily Morgans” and “Jake Howards,” mostly spared.

And, so, the machines continued to generate stories which might very well end with the once respected “Bible of the Sport” in court opposite the aforementioned O’Brien and another libel victim Ben Gravy.

The movie star handsome vlogger, you. see, was on podcast Camp Gagnon recently sharing a spot of trouble he found himself in whilst surfing Pipeline. Gravy describes how his leash snapped and he was getting pulled under until feeling sand then saving himself. A fine, if not basic, tale.

Well, the Surfer bot described thusly:

It all happened back in 2022, when Gravy – a New Jersey native – went to Hawaii to spend some time with a fellow surf vlogger, Jamie O’Brien. But JOB, being one of the best to ever do it at Pipeline, perhaps overestimated Gravy’s ability at the world’s deadliest wave. And Gravy nearly didn’t make it out alive.

Big accusations lobbed at both O’Brien (intent to harm) and Gravy (ability that can be overestimated).

Will either seek justice?

Damn that robot, son.

Korean magic (pictured) center of frame.
Korean magic (pictured) center of frame.

Armchair astronomers rub eyes in disbelief as “surfboard-shaped UFO” captured zooming through space!

Is the Silver Surfer real?

Yesterday was a wonderful one for the northern hemisphere’s armchair astronomers. As you certainly read, large swathes of Mexico, the United States and Canada were treated to a full solar eclipse as the earth’s moon blotted out the sun, leaving star gazers thrilled and giddy. While the celestial dance played out only partially in surf rich California, the state’s sky lookers, many whom appeared to be surfers, witnessed something “pretty cool” as well.

I just so happened to be in rustic Orange and was hoping to secure special eclipse glasses from the local library in order to share the wonders of the universe with my young charges. Alas, California’s city libraries didn’t have any though I was assured that county libraries did so raced to the nearest in nearby Tustin. They were out too and so I returned to Orange and glumly took the kids outside to witness a very slight darkening while telling them if they looked at the sun, directly, their eyeballs would fry in their skulls.

When I wandered for some lunch, later, thinking the event long over, a man thrust some eclipse glasses into my chest and said, “You can still catch the last second.”

I did and it was, in fact, pretty cool what with the rim of the moon covering up a sliver of sun. I then ordered a wagyu burger with a spicy miso sauce, crunchy cabbage and a fried egg. It was, also, pretty cool.

Not as cool as the surfboard-shaped UFO zooming though space, though.

NASA scientists discovered it yesterday and thoughts immediately turned to the gender bending Silver Surfer though, as often happens in science, magic was replaced with Korean technology.

Per the Daily Mail:

While some had speculated the sighting was nothing more than a digital artifact, others were sure NASA had captured aliens visiting close to our world.

But the American space agency later revealed LRO captured Korea’s lunar orbiter, Danuri as it soared just a few miles away. The LRO has been orbiting Earth’s moon and snapping photos since 2009, when it was NASA’s first moon mission in a decade.

And it turns out the craft is on a nearly parallel orbit with Danuri, which was launched in 2022 by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI).

The relative speed of the two objects to one another is a whopping 7,200 miles per hour, so the LRO operations team had to have lightning quick timing to capture it on camera.

In the end, Danuri appeared 10 times longer than it really is, hence its surfboard appearance.


Do you have any pretty cool eclipse stories from yesterday?

Please share.

Mick Fanning with brother Ed and, inset, daughter Lyla.
Mick Fanning with brother Ed and, inset, daughter Lyla.

Mick Fanning announces birth of daughter two days after farewelling brother Ed at rollicking Gold Coast wake

In much needed, if bittersweet, news for the surviving members of the Fanning family, Mick and wife Breanna Randall announced the birth of their daughter Lyla Skye Fanning.

Two weeks ago in a tragedy as unimaginable as it was sad, Mick Fanning lost his last surviving brother Ed in a freak accident at a remote surf camp in the Indian Ocean. 

Ed Fanning was working as a surf guide in Anakao, Madagascar, when a reef cut turned septic, killing the forty eight year old. 

Over the course of the weekend, Ed was farewelled in spectacular fashion at Snapper Rocks. 

“Today we gathered to celebrate the life of Ed. I want to thank my family and friends for all the amazing support they have shown not only me but everyone that loved Ed. It was a beautiful day with so many amazing people coming together,” Mick Fanning wrote.

“I know Ed is always with me. The memories and good times we shared for so many years will always be with me. I give thanks for that. Some incredible stories were told today as people telling their versions of the funny and wild shit he used to do. Please keep telling them as Ed would want you all to laugh.”


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A post shared by Mick Fanning (@mfanno)

Nine years ago, and on the eve of a dramatic world title showdown at Pipeline, Mick Fanning received news that his older brother Peter, a daddy to three who had been suffering from a “serious hyperthyroid disease” had died in his sleep.

In 1998, Mick’s twenty-year-old brother Sean, along with another talented local surfer Joel Green, was killed in a car accident. Mick Fanning was seventeen.

In much needed, if bittersweet, news for the surviving members of the Fanning family, mama Liz, daddy John and sister Rachel, Mick and wife Breanna Randall announced the birth of their daughter Lyla Skye Fanning.

It’s the second kid for Mick and Breanna, lil Xander Dean was born in 2020 four years after Mick’s divorce from interior designer Karissa Dalton.

Both kids names reflect the three-time champ’s well-travelled life, Xander the diminutive of the Greek Alexander, “defender of mankind”, and Lyla a variation of the Hebrew Lilah, a shortening of Delilah.


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Surfer editor-in-chief helping "Jake Howard" with human slang.
Surfer editor-in-chief helping "Jake Howard" with human slang.

Surfer magazine desperately seeking human overlord for AI “staff”

"Jake Howard" needs a hard reset.

Did you imagine, ten or such years ago, that you would, today, be living in the future? Self-driving cars zipping up and down freeways, electric bicycles no longer requiring human legs, artificially intelligent surf writing bots who cover this Sport of Kings from the shadows of Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains.

Yes, the future is now with formerly respected institutions like Surfer Magazine leaning on bits and bytes named “Jake Howard” and “Emily Morgan” in order to give you, or rather Google’s algorithm, the information you crave.

Though is all not perfect with the machine?

In an overnight move stunning technology watchers, Surfer is openly casting for a human to keep its bots in check.

Per LinkedIn:

The Arena Group is looking for an experienced, dynamic, passionate and creative Editor-In-Chief for SURFER. This individual will be tasked with the exciting venture of relaunching the SURFER brands, as well as overseeing the content, direction, and future of the publication. Candidates must be self-starters who can thrive in both a start-up and corporate environment.

Very exciting though not without much responsibility listed here:

-Managing and leading the SURFER editorial team, including assigning stories and overseeing the writing, editing, and production process to the various AI bots.

-Ensuring that the content is accurate, relevant, and of high quality, and making final decisions on any controversial or sensitive material the bots might happen to mistake as “humanspeak.”

-Maintaining and growing surfing and adventure sports industry relationships whilst collaborating to bring more top robot talent to SURFER – such as “writers,” “photographers,” “creators,” “videographers,” and other digitized “media professionals” and building relationships with potential new sources including, but not limited to, ChatGPT.

-Consistently ensuring high standards of excellence, collaboration, and creativity across robot teams.

-Working with the business or management team to develop and implement strategies for growing the audience and increasing revenue through tricking readers into believing SURFER is real.

-Representing the publication or organization at events and in public, serving as the human face of the largely fake organization.

-Keeping up to date with industry trends and developments and using this knowledge to guide the editorial direction of the publication or organization seeing as the robots are often misguided, sometimes purposefully.

-Continuously looking for new ideas and opportunities to improve the publication or organization.

-Managing the budget for the editorial department, making sure that resources are allocated in the most efficient and effective way to the right machine.

-Continuously improving the skills of the editorial team by cleaning spam out of filters etc., providing guidance and mentorship by making sure robots are installed with the latest software updates.

-Ensuring a robust editorial calendar and pipeline of future content, whilst continuously uplevelling all imagery, advising on content experiences and collaborating on all social, commerce and experiential formats via advancements in artificial intelligence.

The lucky traitor will receive between $90,000 and $100,000 for helping further destroy humanity.

Do you have what it takes?

Apply here.