Gordon Merchant and Billabong team in Hawaii.
Gordon Merchant, sandwiched between Parko and Occ, in front of the old Billabong house on the North Shore.

Octogenarian founder of Billabong Gordon “Greasy” Merchant ordered to pay $50 mill by Tax Office

A tricky game of wash selling and dividend stripping.

The eighty-one-year-old founder of Billabong, Gordon Merchant, has been slugged with a $50 million bill from the Australian Tax Office, which includes a six-ish mill fine, after advice he received from a company called EY to minimise his tax bill turned out to be, well, not so rock solid. 

From what I can glean from the finance press, Merchant, who let’s be historically fair is a significant player in not just the clothing game but surfboard design with his tucked-under edge rail, was advised to sell a wad of his Billabong shares to create a capital loss which he could offset against the terrific profits he made from from the $111 million sale of the bioplastics manufacturer Plantic Technologies back in 2015. 

Merchant was also advised to forgive fifty-five mill in loans to Plantic Tech to boost the sale price.

A tricky game of wash selling and dividend stripping.

So, here’s how it works!

In 2014, Merchant sells ten million of his Billabong shares for a little under six mill losing, on paper, almost sixty-mill.

Plantic gets sold for $111 mill the following year, the price inflated by the removal of the loans, Merchant’s tax bill gets reduced, and everyone’s real happy. 

Everyone except the tax office, who audits Merchant’s companies and increases his personal tax bill by $30.6 million. Two of his biz’s are assessed to owe a further $12.9 million and a $6.4 million penalty is thrown in for laughs. 

Merchant appealed the Tax Office’s decision in court and lost.

“I conclude that Mr Merchant’s participation in the [Billabong share sale] transaction was undertaken because it was recommended to him by EY as part of what EY considered desirable for the structure of the anticipated sale of shares in Plantic,” Justice Thawley wrote. “In particular because [it] would crystallise a capital loss which could be used against the capital gain which was anticipated to be higher by reason of the proposed forgiveness of the Plantic Loans.”

Merchant is now suing the company that gave him the bum advice. 

The Inertia, surf website.
Baby wants to fuck! Baby wants to fuck BeachGrit!

Surf website The Inertia hailed as “David Lynch-esque” surrealism!

Let’s play a little game. See if you can pick out the real Inertia headlines from the ones I’ve made up. 

WSL apologists. VAL enthusiasts. Branded content partners. Our pals over at The Inertia have long been known to cater to the most basic of demographics with their HuffPost-esque surf puff pieces. 

They’re obviously resonating with an audience. Somewhere. Somehow.

And that’s fine. Good for them. Go for gold.

But have you browsed The Inertia website of late? Probably not.

Between BeachGrit and Brietbart I’d be surprised if you had time left to polish your gun rack, let alone imbibe the sixth most successful online surf journal’s offerings.

I have, though. And fuck me it is wild.

If you can get past the UX that is buggier and more ad-laden than a late ‘90s Geocities site, a quick dig into The Inertia archives reveals titles –  and stories – that appear to have gone from surf-adjacent to straight-out surrealist. Bros and Bro-ettes pumping out page after page of incessant outdoor enthusiast dross that turns into performance art the deeper you get. (Not like our BeachGrit!)

The saccharine sweet animal videos. The naughty naughty admonishment of eco-negative behaviours. The Nonsensical Use of Capitalized Letters. It’s all there. But I swear, when viewed as a whole, the body of work takes on an almost David Lynch like absurdist quality.

Are these cunts at The Inertia messing with us? I don’t know. But it sure is entertaining.

So, let’s play a little game. See if you can pick out the real Inertia headlines from the ones I’ve made up. 

The winner gets, oh I don’t know. A beaver fur wetsuit*.

  1. C-Monsta Will Help You Level Up Your Wetsuit Drying Game
  2. Opinion: It Doesn’t Matter If the CEO of the WSL Surfs or Not
  3. San Diego Man Creates Surf-Skateboard With Inbuilt Water Spray
  4. Your Keep Cup Is Probably Not Recycled and That Is Problematic
  5. Our Favourite Hammocks for Hanging at the Beach
  6. Tips on Reversing Your Negativity Bias
  7. Filipe Toledo’s Dominance Shows That Teahupo’o and Pipeline Really Don’t Matter Anymore
  8. The Most Eco-Friendly Moustache Waxes of 2023
  9. The Best Wing Foil Gear for Beginners
  10. Robotic Dolphins and Flying Water Cars Are Insane
  11. When The Olympics Begins at Teahupo’o, Shouldn’t Surfers Be Able to Pronounce Its Name?
  12. The GetBaked Hydro Tee is our Favorite Technical Aquatic Activity Shirt of 2024
  13. So You Want to Start Jet Boarding? Here’s 3 Tips to Keep you High and Dry
  14. It’s Fall Again! Here’s 5 Of Our Favourite Hacky Sacks For the Ultimate In Campfire Fun
  15. Dear Van Lifers: Please Stop Pooping In My Car Park
  16. This Four Hour Patagonia Documentary Will Make You Rethink Your Use of Non Sustainable Ear Plugs
  17. This Baby Seal is Learning to Surf, and She’s Doing It All For the Environment
  18. Octopus Takes Diver by the Hand and Leads Her to an Underwater Mystery
  19.  The WSL Is Doing A Good Job, So Why Are Its Fans Acting Like Such A##holes?
  20. These Dolphins Absolutely LOVE Squirrels!
  21. Burning Man Was Only Bad If You Can’t Adapt To Nature
  22. Your Dreads May Look Cool, But They’re Likely Contributing To Climate Change
  23. Opinion: The WSL Finals is A Huge Improvement to Professional Surfing
  24. Five Self Care Tips For When The Surfline Forecast Is Wrong
  25. Foldable Surfboards – Why They Are Rad And Why Haven’t You Bought One Already?
  26. Kassia Meador Teaches You How To Wax Your Surfboard

Real Inertia article titles: 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 15, 18, 20, 21,23, 26

*Beaver Fur Wetsuits Are The Next Big Thing! Published on the Inertia by JP Currie, October 2016

Tudor (left) tells the U.S. President Joe Biden to kiss his bottom.
Tudor (left) tells the U.S. President Joe Biden to kiss his bottom.

Surfing’s great polemicist Joel Tudor savages U.S. President Joe Biden over forgiven student loans

"That’s like buying a house and then asking for payments to be paid for by government….."

A debate is not well and truly underway until surfing’s great polemicist Joel Tudor swings in. And let us examine the United States’ president Joe Biden and his continued forgiveness of student loans. Yesterday, the leader of the free world announced he was erasing another $7.7 billion of debt. This followed $7.4 billion wiped off the books in April.

“From day one of my Administration, I promised to fight to ensure higher education is a ticket to the middle class, not a barrier to opportunity,” Biden gamely declared. “I will never stop working to cancel student debt – no matter how many times Republican elected officials try to stop us.”

While maybe not a Republican elected official, surf funnyman Jonathan Wayne Freeman posted a to-camera video to his much-loved Instagram page wherein he described a boy, presumably himself, who went to a college he couldn’t afford yet still signed on the dotted line, accepting low interest loans. Now, while he seemed to be sarcastically happy about the relief, he also slammed Biden teaching youngsters that irresponsibility is chill or some vague boomer thing.

Joel Tudor, always ready, immediately responded, “That’s like buying a house and then asking for payments to be paid for by government…..aka hard working tax payers – kiss my ass Joe Biden.”

Shockingly, not everyone was won over.

Movelikelove declared, “That is not the same thing at all That is a completely illogical equivalent. You can look up what logical fallacies you just used I’m not going to teach you for free given the content here. I’m a psychotherapist in my job benefits my community. Me buying a house isn’t benefiting the community. I can’t believe I had to explain that to you.”

Sargentscrapbook added, “How is that in any way similar? Seriously…you portray yourself as informed and knowledgeable. What regulations have been repealed and abused regarding compounded interest/inflated and predatory loan practices with in the higher education industry? How does the percentage of tax money spent of student debt interest forgiveness compare to the percentage of tax money spent on corporate and religious tax breaks? I know you’re not going to respond with any sort of rational, informed or practical thought. Don’t bother.”

Robmayers wondered, “Why get worked up about this? Instead of people paying the banks they now have some freed up money to buy things like your surfboards instead.”

And, lastly, going after both Tudor and J. Wayne Freeman himself, andrewlive stated, “I always love the Joe Rogan, 19-yr old bro, low-information political takes you have. But I love more the low-information libertarian surf mongoloid responses you get. Keep these brilliant, well-researched takes coming!”

Do you have any thoughts on student loan debt forgiveness? Please share.

Bad girls, bad girls, what you gonna do?
Bad girls, bad girls, what you gonna do?

Maui enraged after two women brazenly steal from core surf shop

"Thievery of any kind is always wrong, but to go local on local, that’s really nasty."

It’s one thing to walk right into a Costco then walk right out with arms full of Hurley pants and Gerry Lopez landfill ready foam surfboards without paying. Quite another to walk right into a core surf shop and leave with local kine gear but that’s exactly what happened to Oshima Surf there on Maui’s middle bit.

Cameras caught two women loading up on surf-branded tees and, maybe, trucker hats then dashing through the door into the warm-ish air. According to Island News, “The shop’s general manager declined an interview but she mentioned the thieves took ‘a lot of stuff.'”

Rage percolated quickly.

“Thievery of any kind is always wrong, but to go local on local, that’s really nasty. That’s going to be some bachi there, for the thieves,” Maui local Leona Kushi declared. “I think to steal from those smaller businesses that work really hard to maintain their business, especially with Hawai’i’s economy, makes it even more of a stab, you know,” surf clothing aficionado Rynn Viloria said.

The balance of opposites.

There is no telling what sort of punishment the mob will deliver once the bad bachi bitches are caught but do you have any suggestions?

I do. I think they should be forced to subscribe to disgraced former World Surf League CEO Erik Logan’s Substack and read each and every of his offerings including, but not limited to, the latest entitled “Who’s Your Yoda” and beginning thusly:

1989. I’m a senior at Northwest Classen High School, working full-time as the nighttime DJ, emceeing concerts, and having the time of my life. Given my hectic schedule of school and baseball, I would usually get to my DJ job around 6:45 pm for a 7 pm shift, and usually nobody else would be around. One night, as I was rolling into the station’s parking lot on the south side of Oklahoma City, covered in red dirt from the baseball game, I noticed an unusual number of cars.

Like red hot pokers in the eyeballs.

Matthew Perry (pictured) in hot tub.
Matthew Perry (pictured) in hot tub.

Suspicion falls on surf world after Matthew Perry’s tragic drowning elevated to criminal investigation

"The investigation will look into how the actor obtained the anaesthetic ketamine found in his system."

Tragedy struck hard, seven months ago, when the 54-year-old Canadian-American Matthew Perry was found unresponsive in his Pacific Palisades hot tub. The beloved actor, best known for bringing Chandler Bing to life on the sitcom Friends, had long struggled with substance abuse and the toxicology report, released weeks later, revealed cause of death to be drowning likely brought on by having too much ketamine in his system.

Surfers, worldwide, mourned as the dry witted Perry had just been rehabilitated after being extremely mean to surf icon Keanu Reeves but then, beautifully, walking back wishing the Point Break star dead.

The whole matter was then laid to rest until yesterday, when the Los Angeles Police Department, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Postal Inspection Service opened up a probe into where the aforementioned ketamine had come from and how Perry had accessed such a great quantity.

Suspicion immediately swung toward the surf world. While it was assumed each and every surfer had forgiven Perry for wondering “Why is it that the original thinkers like River Phoenix and Heath Ledger die, but Keanu Reeves still walks among us?” might there have been one or two bad apples who had not?

Surfers are, of course, known derelicts and it would make much sense if the drug had come from a beach-adjacent source. Surf great Kelly Slater once even bemoaned the prevalence of illicit substances on the professional surf tour, saying, “drugs are everywhere.”

Even more sense what with potential motive in play.


More as the story develops either way.