Craig Anderson waiting his turn. Photo: Chas Smith
Craig Anderson waiting his turn. Photo: Chas Smith

Margaret River is a fat, messy, gigantic wave surrounded by sharks and halfway out to sea

A morning out west.

Almost fifteen years ago, I happened to find myself in Margaret River with Craig Anderson. The wave was not on the Championship Tour then. It was the “Drug Aware Pro” and some qualifying nonsense. Anderson, anyhow, was not slated to appear though received a last minute call up. Here is the story.

The sun isn’t up yet because it is 5:30 am near Margaret River and cold. An offshore winds whistles cold. The air is cold. Craig Anderson is waxing up his closeout barrel board. 6’2″. Nate Lawrence, photographer, is checking his water housing. The swell is supposed to be very nice. Substantial. Rat-a-tat remixes play. Jay-Z and Biggie. So good so good.

The call comes in from Anthony Walsh at 6. Booj. We leave. It is dark and so cold.

That damned Booj, or Boodge, or whatever is totally a short drive but totally a long cold walk. Craig complains of freezing feet. The sun is peaking from the east, illuminating various beach grasses and clumps of sand, but there is no warmth. But the sky is baby blue. And square kegs are detonating straight on shore. Thunderous! Craig has been rapping, “We gots to get paaaid.”

Then says, “Oh fuck, they’re breaking right on shore.” Nate Lawrence says, “There are guys pulling into closeout barrels without photographers. That is what West Oz does to you.” Two of them are Kai Otton and Dayyan Neve.

We post up on the sand and watch. Kai Otton takes off on a bomb, goes straight and breaks the nose off his board. Craig says, “He went straight and his board broke. Imagine if he would have pulled in? Neck break.” When he comes in Craig asks, “What were you thinking Otts?” Kai answers, “Ahhh it looked like it had a corner.”

Craig watches for a few more minutes. “It ledges up real quick. I’m probably going to go over the falls a few times.” “Look at this one. Neck snapper.” “That bit ahead…I’d reckon you’d come up with no neck.” “Why do people do this to themselves?”

An oldish man trots down to water’s edge and starts stretching. More than stretching. Yoga. Craig says, “This guy is stretching! What a fucking idiot! He knows he’s going to get bent in half, that’s why.” Kai breaks his second board in three places. No one had ever seen that before. Craig says, “Three pieces, wow. That is the first time I’ve ever seen that.” Kai says, “It’s fucked out there.”

Craig suits up and gets ready to paddle…but then there is a zipper malfunction on Nate Lawrence’s wetsuit. He quickly runs back to apartment to repair. Craig and I sit on the sand and watch. Dede from Indonesia comes and sits nearby. Craig says, “Kai broke his board in three places.” Dede says, “Oh shit.”

The waves are getting bigger. More square. Filled with sand and death. Anthony Walsh takes off on an absolute bomb that explodes up to the heavens around his corpse. Anthony Walsh is a man’s man.

Craig’s phone rings. It is someone asking if he wants to be in the competition today. The six star prime Margaret River Drug Aware Pro. What heat would I be in?” he asks. “Ten? I should do it, eh?” He accepts the offer.

Craig laughs. “That is the funniest stuff ever! They said I could have been in the trials with 45 guys and I said no chance.”

Dayyan walks by and Craig tells him he is in the comp. Dayyan says, “How’d you manage that?” Craig answers, “Craike’s foot is still buckled.” Dayyan says, “Good on ya then. Go right. There are these big macky rights.” Craig says, “You haven’t seen me surf, have you.”

Nate Lawrence comes back ready to shoot. Craig tells him he’s in the comp, laughs again and says, “At least I’ll get a little paper today.” Nate asks him what he’s going to ride and Craig answers, “My biggest is this 6’2 closeout barrel board.” He laughs again again and the two head out to grab a few closeouts. Craig sort of wants it to break so he can ride his shorter shortboard in solid 6-8 foot Margs.

The board doesn’t break. In the car on the way to the comp site I ask who he is going to surf against in heat ten. Craig answers, “It’ll be the best surfers in the comp. The wildcard always gets shafted because he doesn’t deserve to be out there anyway. Thanks Craike, ya legend.”

We stop and get some pies. Craig nibbles on Tim Tams. “That’s two wildcards in a month. I must be doing something right.”

We arrive and look and the thick thick far out to sea thick surf. The day earlier I had asked Craig to describe this same wave. He answered, “I’d reckon it’s shit. One word shit. But if I had to give an in depth description I would say a fat left and right. Depends what you’re after. If you’re after doing cutbacks on a fat wave then it is your wave. I have surfed there a bunch of times and not once have I had any fun. I’d reckon it’s absolutely fucken shit.” Dion Agius had said, “It usually cops all the swell so it is gigantic. Cops all the wind so it is gigantic and messy. Breaks halfway out to sea, breaks fat, and is surrounded by sharks. So it is a fat, messy gigantic wave surrounded by sharks and halfway out to sea.”

The wind is just starting to come up. It is big and far away. Craig says, “I don’t want to surf that! It’s almost not worth $500!” Nate Lawrence says, “You have to pay?” Craig answers, “No, I get paid. If I get a 6 footer on the head I’ll turn around and come right back in and say 500 dollars please.”

We all look back out to sea. Craig says, “Look at how big that wave is. I don’t surf big waves. I’ve got a 6’2 that goes like shit.”

We start walking toward the competitor check-in area. Craig says, “All I want to do is a big carve with my arms behind my back. Like Occy or Matty Hoy. Except not a hack, a carve.”

He checks in and we move over to a tent before he paddles. Craig says, “The first time I surfed in the QS they made us surf that wave…South Side.” He points a tanned finger to the left. “It was 1000 knot onshore and 1000 foot. It was the worst time I’d ever had.” We watch a stand-up paddle boarder get chewed alive by a giant white wall at South Side.

Craig leaves for the marathon paddle out. Ben Dunn, Heitor Alves and Nat Young are in his heat.

The horn sounds at 11:30. Beeeeep. The announcers say, “It is a real shame that Craiky isn’t in. He is a Western Australia air specialist. Craig Anderson, who is taking his spot, better boost.” The waves are still 6-8 foot and thick.

On his first wave, Craig drops into a heaving bomb completes a mid-face cutback, then wipes out incredibly on the inside section. Totally upside-down. One announcer says, “Craig is hurtling himself in the wave like a rag doll.” The other announcer says, “He got done and dusted for sure.” When the replays are shown everyone in the tent moans. He gets a 2.00.

Later Craig gets a 4.33 and 3.67 for a total of 8. He had guessed his heat total would be 8.2 earlier. He got 4th in his heat. On the way out he picks up the collection form for his money. No broken neck. Paper. And not having to surf Margarets maybe ever again.

How fantastic.

“Today was not fun, but it was funny” says Craig Anderson.

Bodysurfer (pictured) being dangerous.
Bodysurfer (pictured) being dangerous.

Surfing’s most dangerous wrinkle back in spotlight after expert bodysurfer dies from horror neck injury in India

"The person was doing bodysurfing on the waves when a rough wave swept him and crashed him onto the dune."

Surfers, and let’s be honest, this includes you, very much secretly love when the conversation around the dinner table turns to how dangerous this Sport of Kings is. Eyes lightly widened, lips pursed a touch as undertows, man eating great white sharks, drownings, etc. are brought up in hushed tones. Surfers, you too, sitting back slightly and feeling as tough as Jake Gyllenhaal in the new Road House reboot.

But we, each of us, know that our surfing, practiced on foam and fiberglass tables ranging from 5’5 to 6’10 in waves from 3 to 6 feet, is safer than rollerblading.

Other forms, of course, much more worthy of the aforementioned lightly widened eyes, pursed lips, hushed tones, including rhino chasing Jaws, boogie boarding the Box and bodysurfing anywhere.

Skin sliding, back arched, neck extended, forehead ready to kiss sandbar is, tragically, back in the news after an expert died whilst practicing in India.

According to authorities, the British man was giving hell to Varkala Beach in Kerala when a “rough wave swept him and crashed him onto the dune.” An on-duty lifeguard told The Independent, “The person was doing body surfing on the waves when a rough wave swept him and crashed him onto the dune. He suffered injuries on the head and neck and we gave him first aid and took him to the hospital.”

Alas, nothing could be done and his injuries proved fatal.

The British government confirmed the calamity and is working with the man’s family to bring his body home.

Calls of increased attention to safety delivered to all visiting India’s mystical shore.

Leo Fioravanti (pictured) hair back on handsome Roman forehead. Photo: Flaunt Magazine
Leo Fioravanti (pictured) hair back on handsome Roman forehead. Photo: Flaunt Magazine

Hair blows off Leo Fioravanti handsome Roman forehead as World Surf League’s Apple Watch collab nominated for award!

“I just wanna say, our freaking watches weren’t working and that’s pretty heavy..."

Longtime World Surf League watchers know there is nothing the “Global Home of Surfing” cannot wreck. Be it definitions of progression, the very concept of environmentalism or trusty ol’ ladders, the World Surf League will somehow find a way to retard.

You can imagine the shock this morning, then, when the League’s much ballyhooed partnership with Apple Watches was officially nominated for a Webby Award in not one, but two categories. Apps & Software – connected products & wearables plus Apps & Software – experimental & innovation.

The collaboration was rolled out only last year, promising professional surfers real time heat scores and priority information, though not the time.

Former champion Italo Ferreira allowed the League his name and likeness, at launch, declaring, “The noise of the wind and the waves can sometimes make it impossible to hear the announcers while competing, and that means you miss crucial information. Challenging conditions can make it hard to see the beach and a priority penalty could cost you the heat, so not needing to rely on seeing the beach or hearing the announcers makes a huge difference and prevents guesswork. When it’s all on the line, scoring and priority are critical. You have so much on your mind at that point, so having an Apple Watch helps you stay on track in those situations and is a total game changer.”

The “game changing” aspect of the technology was immediately questioned after the first competition with Italy’s very handsome Leonardo Fioravanti shattering the Wall of Positive Noise, post-heat, sharing, “I just wanna say, our freaking watches weren’t working and that’s pretty heavy. My watch wasn’t working. And nothing to take away from Apple or WSL. I mean, what they’re doing is great, trying to bring in some technology into our world. But if my watch doesn’t work from start to finish and I gotta ask for time, like, I’ve been used to having the time on me at all times in heats. And we’re fighting for our careers so I hope they figure it out because my watch didn’t work from start to finish. So that’s pretty heavy.”

After that moment, the Apple Watches were never mentioned again.

But here we are on the cusp of history. And who do you think will except the Webby, if the World Surf League so happens to win? Will the various chiefs force Fioravanti to the stage, dressed to the nines in Gucci, as a form of public humiliation or will Erik Logan come back from the proverbial dead in order to taste that one last bit of surf spotlight?

The Webby Awards, for the curious, have been around since 1995 though have recently come under fire for “pay to win policies” and called a “money-making scam.”

The World Surf League would never.

Would it?

Kelly Slater reveals shock heartache surrounding birth of his son in emotional interview

“It always comes home to roost…and there’s a lot of that for me right now with an impending birth.”

Earlier today, an online sleuth screenshot a comment from Kelly Slater’s daughter Taylor below an interview her daddy made with his long-time pal Tom Carroll.

Although it was subsequently deleted, whether by Surfline or by Taylor isn’t clear and we ain’t gonna run the screenshot out of a, yeah, surprising respect for the Champ, it revealed a window into the life of a man facing the consequences of decisions he made when he was still a kid.

Three weeks ago, Kelly Slater and his Chinese-American girlfriend Kalani Miller, revealed Miller’s pregnancy in a poignant black-and-white short shared to both their social media channels. Set to the moving sounds of the old Ben Harper tune The Three of Us, we see Slater, fifty-two, and thirty-six-year-old Kalani strolling the Hawaiian sands, embracing, Slater’s hands wrapped protectively around Kalani’s pregnant stomach.

The interview with Tom, filmed on the stairs overlooking Winkipop and created by surf forecaster Surfline, is Kelly Slater at his vulnerable best. Slater chokes back tears as he lists, one by one, the cavalcade of dead friends, Shmoo, Mikala, Dozer Dave, Jimmy Buffett, Derek Ho, as well as the living hell of old sparring partner Sunny Garcia.

“Fuck, it’s been heartbreaking, man,” says Kelly Slater. “Getting old sucks, man.”

He talks of revelations after his date with the psychedelic drug ayahuasca at a resort in Costa Rica and the discovery to his key to competitive success.

“My heart was made of stone,” he says.

It’s this comment that provoked the reaction from his daughter Taylor.

To Tom Carroll, he admits the impending birth of his second kid has kicked open a door that’s been shut for decades: “There’s a lot of deep stuff there for me that I’m trying to unwind myself with my own daughter who’s twenty-seven now and married. And when she was born I was just starting, the thick of my career and I had these lofty goals and dreams and ambitions. And, to be perfectly honest, that caused some suffering for her and for me as well. But for her, it was unbeknownst to me at the time because my sights were set on this thing.”

Poignantly, “It always comes home to roost at some point and there’s a lot of that for me right now with an impending birth. There’s a lot of excitement but also some heartache in there, lessons to look at.

Will Ivan “Mr Cool” Florence join brothers Nathan and John John in family biz?

“Mr Cool does what Mr Cool wants.”

Surf fans were gifted terrific news five days ago when Nathan Florence announced he’d quit Vans to ride for his big brother’s eponymous brand, Florence. 

Launched in 2020, the $12 million startup Florence Marine X, but now called Florence, was born out of John John’s departure from Hurley and his vision to create quality surf gear, including the now-famous male chador, inspired by his connection with the ocean. 

The almost thirty-year-old Nathan Florence wrote on Instagram:

What a life! The day has come to join forces! So fired up to announce that i will be Surfing under my own Name and will be moving forward under the FLORENCE flag🚩, beyond excited to bet on myself, my brother you may have heard of him (@john_john_florence ) who pioneered this epic endeavor and the incredible team at @florence_marine_x, the future is very exciting, we have the power to reshape the surf industry for future generations and pave a new way for upcoming surfers, to build something great together as a family, imagine the projects and trips that are about to happen! All hail the Slab Tour! The continued innovation in great gear made to push the limits of our relationship with our oceans and coastlines, protect us from all elements hot or cold, and allow us surfers and outdoor people to spend more time doing what we love, Surfing, Adventuring and exploring our natural world!! So stoked to take this on lets do this!

Surf fans are aware of the collapse of the surf industry, Billabong, Quiksilver, RVCA, Hurley, all bought at firesafe prices by fuck-and-dump behemoths.

Echoing Nathan Florence, Chas Smith described Florence as the saviour of the surf industry. 

“Florence Marine X is a core surf brand, making quality surf products for you, the surfer. Florence Marine X has what it takes to recreate the surf industry. John John Florence is the saviour of the surf industry. And maybe one less reasons to hate surfing.”

The question, of course, was, and is, whether or not little brother Ivan Florence will be joining the family biz. And, earlier today, on his wildly popular vlog Nathan Florence delivered a long, but stirring, soliloquy about his decision to leave the troubled shoe brand (although he might still have a footwear-only deal) and shift into an equity deal with Florence.

He also spoke about whether or not Ivan Florence, whom he calls Mr Cool, would be joining.

“What’s Ivan going to do?” says Nathan Florence. “Mr Cool has always done what Mr Cool wants. It looks like he’s stay with Vans, surf, skate, snow, Ivan’s a true bad-to-the-bone surf snow skate athlete. He makes his own decisions. We’d never pressure him, hey, Mr Cool, what do you want to do? We’re a family, we’re here for him.”

Nathan Florence added, “Who knows what happens down the line…obviously we’d love to have him.”

Ivan Florence, who turns twenty-seven in May, has emerged from the shadow of his overachieving oldest brother and hilariously absurdist middle bro in the past couple of Hawaiian seasons, proving magnetic in the water as well as the skate park, creative energies suddenly liberated. 

Describing the hierarchy between the three brothers Nathan told BeachGrit a few years back, “John’s obviously way ahead of me and Ivan performance-wise, I feel like. He has the super competitive drive. He loves the contests whereas I… hate contests. I can’t stand them. I’d rather chase a swell and surf by myself in bigger waves than go grind it out in the CT. Ivan’s the same way, kinda. But then, Ivan has a sicker style. His style is way sicker me or John’s. I don’t even know how he’s so smooth, like, Tom Curren and then he has that little drop-knee like…that guy…that air guy… with the long, curly hair and he kinda drop knees…(Craig Anderson).”

Later in the short, a dolphin attacks Florence’s filmer’s drone.