Art or vandalism? Let Tom Carroll and Barton Lynch decide!
Art or vandalism? Let Tom Carroll and Barton Lynch decide!

Art commemorating Australian surf legend Bernard “Midget” Farrelly decried as vandalism by hippies and snowflakes

"It’s destructive, it’s likely to suffer wear and tear and depending on how subtle it is it may not be noticed at all!"

We live in charged times, as you know, but statues, or other public art, celebrating important surf figures have mainly been spared from wild polarization. Those both left and right appreciate the Duke Kahanamoku monument there fronting Waikiki and also the Kelly Slater one in Cocoa Beach. Yes, notable surf figure statues have a way of bringing us all together, or rather did until somebody carved an image of Bernard “Midget” Farrelly into a Sydney rock thereby breaking all hell loose.

But let us sally forth to Palm Beach where sides are dug in and dug in deep.

The piece setting everyone off was commissioned by Northern Beaches Council and produced by local stonemason Newton Bishop after “lobbying from the Midget Farrelly Recognition Committee (MFRC).”

Beautiful though some are calling it vandalism. A rage-filled mob descended upon the a shire forum, spewing things like, “Whilst my wife and I both support the idea of a sculpture commemorating Midget Farrelly, we are totally against defacing the rock. We believe this would be an act of vandalism to a natural rock which itself is a Palm Beach icon.”

And also, “I agree that Midget Farrelly should be recognised at Palm Beach, but carving a statue into the natural environment doesn’t seem the right way to do it. It’s destructive, it’s likely to suffer wear and tear and depending on how subtle it is it may not be noticed at all! Surely a sculpture/statue etc next to Black Rock would be a more appropriate memorial?”

The council tried to ameliorate the populace by declaring, “(The tribute proposal) is supported by world champions Kelly Slater, Layne Beachley, Tom Carroll and Barton Lynch.”

A who’s who, for certain, but tensions remain extremely high as none of the above are artists or environmentalists (save Lynch of course).

Where do you fall on the matter? Yay or nay?

Ready… fight!

Ryan Callinan (pictured) also filling up Kaipo Guerrero's love cup.
Ryan Callinan (pictured) also filling up Kaipo Guerrero's love cup.

Kelly Slater and Gabriel Medina fill up Kaipo Guerrero’s love cup on day one of Tahiti Pro

A fine afternoon at the end of the road.

Well, friends, adjacent surfers, WSL fuck boyz, how was your break?

I’ve been very busy, winding down at work, obsessing over foiling, being on the cusp of a book deal, getting fit again, prepping to cycle to Germany to watch Scotland get humped at the Euros.

And all the while doing my level best to self-sabotage and ego trip my way to an inevitable implosion followed by the smoking embers of regret.

But all that’s a story for another day. Perhaps.

I’m feeling especially unhinged right now. I’m considering therapy. Who’d have thought.

I even went to a writer’s group. Don’t judge me. It was my first time, and I’m broadly cynical about these things. I only went because my friend is organising it, and he’s asked me to deliver one in a couple of weeks.

(Tickets available! Come learn how to be a shoe-gazing narcissist who can cry over light and trees but treats people like nuisance distractions in a swelling sea of self-important mussitation.)

But, dear reader, I confess to having enjoyed it.

For the first exercise we were asked to select an object from a box. I had arrived late, as I do, since it’s the first rule of pretending to be a writer. Everyone there was already scribbling furiously, etching their finest verbiage into the void. (Oh, to be a writer!)

The box was filled with natural objects: pale bones of driftwood; hollowed shells; pine cones, barren and seedless; green sprigs of ash, oak and willow.

And a rock.

I chose the rock.

And I wrote thus:

Pressure pocked. Shrouded with lines of time. A compression of history. This unearthed, stranded time. Brown grey glinting from somewhere before. Hints of sparkle (doesn’t everything?). Enviously unchanged. Solid. Without remorse or guilt; never late, jealous or unfulfilled. Chunked earth, dragged out of darkness and gasping for interred silence.

But still. Just rock.

And I share it with you because I think it gives some context to my frame of mind right now. And I think you deserve that.

Fucking writers groups.

I’ve got Beachgrit.

Amidst all this tumult it was nice to arrive in Tahiti, figuratively, obviously. I’m not Chris Cote. In fact I might be his antithesis.

Just an aside on Cote before I go any further (and to you, Chris, since I’m sure you’ll be reading from your tropical throne on WSL dime), how about asking some decent questions?

Like, I get John Florence is John Florence. We all love and respect him. But to ask “What does it mean to you to be here…etc” is demeaning to you and him. The What Does It Mean To You question should be eviscerated from a pundit’s pallet. It’s just a shit question, where the only possible answers are shit.

How about, why have you never won here, John?

Do you think you have what it takes to beat Kelly, Jack or Gabby here, John? Because your results suggest otherwise.

Who becomes favourite when the waves get to paddleable limit?

I hear you’re retiring, John. Is two world titles a fair indication of you as a competitive surfer?

Why do you persist with that junkie beard, John?

Anyway, that aside, Teahupo’o does make things a lot simpler, as I was saying.

Get your head down, take off late, get as deep as possible, get out unscathed.

Not a bad metaphor for how to live your life, really. Except few people have the god-given ability, Herculean work ethic or sheer luck to actually make it out, and that’s why we watch.

We watch for Kelly Slater, fifty-two years old, fresh out of retirement, treading the boards again and still searching for the encore. Yet here, at this wave, he still looks like he could match anyone.

He proved it today, out-jousting tube and spirit wrangler extraordinaire, Jack Robinson, and smoldering Moroccan, Ramzi Boukhiam, despite the latter having the best score of the heat.

But if Slater’s heat performance was adept, his post heat interview was equally so, with added incision. He was asked what he thought about the (much lauded) approaching swell event?

“A surf forecaster trying to sell ads”, he daggered.

In response and off camera, Cote was reported to be frantically washing his hands over the side of the boat, muttering “Out damn spot! Out!”

In heat one Ethan Ewing was run close by Seth Moniz, then John Florence won the second at half-cock.

The pace of these early heats made for fine entertainment and judges had their work cut out to keep up, especially in the early stages of Slater’s heat.

Kaipo and Jesse Mendes presided in the booth, uppers vs downers. An approach that can be highly effective in some scenarios but not suitable for everyone’s disposition.

Kaipo said that Tahiti “filled up his love cup”. A truly disgusting image, I thought.

Italo Ferreira stayed typically busy in heat four, notching eight scores and sending yellow jersey wearer Griffin Colapinto (just three waves attempted) to elimination.

The consistency of the swell ebbed as the day progressed, a fact best evidenced by Gabriel Medina notching only three wave attempts, his first coming with just eight minutes on the clock.

Of course this meant nearly twenty-five minutes of saccharine punditry vaunting Medina’s skill and achievements at Teahupo’o, whilst he bobbed, actionless.

But he finally put a mid-range score on the board for a mid-range wave, then another immediately after. It was enough to win, but post-heat he suggested they might have missed some early opportunities for more. One thing is for sure: Medina knows what he’s looking for here.

Despite the fading swell, Ryan Callinan found the best wave of the day with a 9.33 and heat victory over Liam O’Brien and Barron Mamiya. A deep take-off saw him backdoor the section before being spat out cleanly with hands back and low and a cleaner grin on his face. High nine all the way.

What might we see in the coming days?

Was this the lemon next to the pie, or simply hype to sell ads for surf forecasters?

We’ll know soon enough.

I’m off to run up a hill and look down from the summit at my life splayed out before me, just waiting to be fucked.

Fifty-two-year-old Kelly Slater stuns fans with brutal victory over defending Tahiti Pro champion Jack Robinson!

“I can still go straight, you know.”

The quinquagenarian surf champ Kelly Slater has stunned fans at Tahiti’s infamous Teahupoo by slicing through the defending champion, Australian Jack Robinson, and Morocco’s Ramzi Boukhiam, with a brutal ease in perfect four-to-six-foot waves.

You’ll remember shortly after his twenty-seventh retirement announcement following an early loss at Margaret River a couple of months back, Kelly Slater admitted he would be accepting wildcards at the tour majors in Fiji and Tahiti, which his company co-sponsors, as well as a cameo slot at the Championship Series Gold Coast Pro. 

And on a day that was as picture perfect as they come, not exactly Code Red, Code Pink, maybe, Kelly Slater picked at the waves, playing with the long, dazzling tubes like a pretty girl twirling her corn-silk hair around her fingers.,

In his post-heat interview, BeachGrit’s own Toxic Positivist Chris Cote lures Kelly Slater into a joke when he says, 

“Well, Kelly Slater, wildcard. Not used to hearing that. But Kelly Slater, heat win. We are used to hearing that. So congrats on the first win of the year here in Tahiti.”

Slater, of course, has only won one other heat all year and he doesn’t miss Cote’s irony.

“Yeah, well, we’re not used to hearing Kelly Slater heat win, are we? It’s been a while. I saw Jeremy (Flores) in the water and I said, ‘Well, I can still go straight, you know.’ But there’s a lot of technical aspect to the waves right now. There’s some south in it.

“You can actually take off a little bit deeper than I think a lot of people have been today. It kind of gives you one pump earlier than if you take off and stall. So there’s a little bit of technical stuff, but also whoever has the good waves, he’s going to win. No one’s getting third and fourth scores.”

Asked if it’s total muscle memory when it comes to a joint like Teahupoo Slater, who rode his first wave of the trip in his heat, likened it to catching a baseball.

“You see a wave and I guess it’s like a guy in an outfield trying to catch a ball. You’re kind of registering where do I need to be and how deep, how far out, wide or deep or whatever. And then you’re trying to look down the line to see how much cupping it has on the reef. Does it have a lot of west in it? Today’s like a touch of west, but it’s really more south and open. So what you don’t want to do is get one that doesn’t have any end on it because those get almondy. And, the ones that are super west that are way down the end, you tend to not be able to get as deep or very long in the barrel. You can only do with what comes to you. And, you know, I only had three good waves that came to me in that heat.”

Kelly Slater that he intended to “send it” if the expected swell arrives next week.

Surfer magazine bans political opinion
“IN AN EFFORT TO KEEP THE CONVERSATIONS SURF-RELATED, THE POLITICAL FORUM HERE HAS BEEN REMOVED. Let's talk surf trips, surfboards, and the latest happenings from around this beautiful, blue planet. Thanks!”

Surfer magazine bans readers from expressing political opinions “effective immediately”

“Any political posts that are posted in the Surfer forums will be deleted and accounts will be removed.”

With only 164 days left until Don and Joe fight for the right to jerk the American steering wheel either left or right, Surfer magazine has reacted by banning all readers from expressing any personal political opinion on their forums. 

Surfer magazine, which most recently featured on BeachGrit when they advertised for a human to monitor its AI-driven content, had over one thousand pages on its politics forum covering everything from the Ukraine-Russian war, a political assassination in Slovakia, Peru’s decision to classify trannies as mentally ill, Biden’s “inflation explosion” and Trump’s “Hush Money”.

Written in what you might imagine as a creepy sing-song voice, Surfer magazine told its readers.

“IN AN EFFORT TO KEEP THE CONVERSATIONS SURF-RELATED, THE POLITICAL FORUM HERE HAS BEEN REMOVED. Let’s talk surf trips, surfboards, and the latest happenings from around this beautiful, blue planet. Thanks!”

And, as a sticky in the main forum, 

“Effective immediately, the politics forum here on has been shut down. Any political posts that are posted in the Surfer forums will be deleted and accounts will be removed. We want to continue to offer this forum as a surf-related area, and we know that bleeds into everyday life. With that being said, we will not have this forum devolve into a political area that is disrespectful of others and intentionally marginalizes or disrespects other groups/individuals.”

The fall and rise of Surfer magazine, heritage title driven into the ground before being rebirthed as a dystopian zombie site complete with AI-generated writers, was best documented, I think, in this story by Santa Barbara’s Jen See.

As humans, story-telling is one of our most ancient traditions. We drew on cave walls, wrote on papyrus rolls, and scribbled illegibly on parchments and yellow legal pads. Now we tap out our Instagram captions and text messages. The medium doesn’t matter that much.

It feels like the deepest cut to replace this profoundly human process with a machine trained on the work of so many human writers. Who are we, if not our stories? And who do we become in their absence? What’s lost in this dystopian world of trained robots and hyper-efficient editors? Certainly what’s left starts to feel a lot like Roth’s “claustrophobic and airless culture.”

Surfing is nothing without its stories.

At times, it can feel like the stories are as important as the thing itself. Sitting around campfires and hanging out in parking lots, we talk of that one perfect day, that probably wasn’t all that perfect at all. But we were there, we experienced it, and we’ve come here to tell of it.

There is then, something beautifully, magically, and fundamentally human about telling stories. Dumb stories, true stories, completely fake and made-up stories — what matters is that they belong to us. In the telling, we spin another thread and add to the ties that connect us to one another.

And isn’t that elusive connection what we’re all here to find?

Open Thread: Comment Live on Day One of the Tahiti Pro

The Cave of Skulls is calling.