Teahupo'o pay to play.
Teahupo'o pay to play.

Dire warning ahead of Olympics as Australian surf champ reveals foot almost amputated after brush with Teahupo’o reef

"Well, I'm a bit of a pessimist but this could be really, really, really bad. As in, she could go [die]."

I was on the phone, just yesterday afternoon, with a wonderful writer doing a piece in mainstream magazine about the upcoming summer Olympics. Tahiti will, of course, host the surfing portion right there at Head Place. Surf fans are well-acquainted with Teahupo’o, that gorgeous nightmare that rises from the deep and folds onto an ever so shallow slab. The rest of the world will be introduced for the first time in a few short months and the writer asked me “What could go wrong?”

My answer, “Someone could get seriously hurt.” We take for granted watching the best of the best claw over the ledge, pushing themselves deeper and deeper, but the Olympic draw will feature surfers who have extremely limited experience, there, and also Filipe Toledo.

Now, I was thinking someone getting bonked, hard. I was not thinking about potential amputation due reef cut but that is what stalked Australian junior champ Olivia Ottaway. The young woman was surfing Teahupo’o last August when she “nicked” the reef. Seeming like a minor injury, she didn’t pay it much mind until collapsing while shopping after she had returned home. “I was fine and then legit a couple of hours after I landed back home in Sydney, I went for a swim in the hotel pool and my skin was just feeling so irritated,” she told New Corp.

Her parents rushed her to the hospital and doctors feared that her blood may have been infected. Her mother asked, “How bad is it?” Not exhibiting much decorum, she was told, “Well, I’m a bit of a pessimist but this could be really, really, really bad. As in, she could go [die].”

Olivia Ottaway (pictured) fighting.
Olivia Ottaway (pictured) fighting.

Pessimistic doctors. Amirite?

Ottaway was a fighter, though, and never wavered during her weeks long hospital stay, buoyed by messages from no less than Steph Gilmore who told her, “I know you’re going to get through this and we’re going to see you back in the surf very soon. I can’t wait to see you back in Tahiti charging again, you’re an awesome surfer.”

Eight months later she was back surfing in competition with the goal of returning to Teahupo’o once again.

Brave and inspirational.

But back to the Olympic Games. Do you worry or… not?

More as the story develops.


Kye Schaefer, surfer murdered in Coffs Harbour beach carpark.
Kye Schaefer, killed after pre-work surf in Coffs Harbour beach carpark.

Homeless man already in jail charged with murder of surfer Kye Schaefer in beach carpark

"That encounter on that morning ended in a senseless act of violence causing Kye’s death…"

Detectives have used closed circuit cameras to track down the man they believe murdered  surfer Kyle Schaefer who was killed in a beach carpark in Coffs Harbour, a rough sorta joint on that milk-and-honey north coast run from Sydney to Byron.

Bright-faced Kye Schaefer, twenty-one, a stonemason, had just wrapped up a surf and was readying for work when he was stabbed by the then unknown assailant and found dying in the beach carpark, still in his wetsuit.

“I think no words can sort of ultimately describe how we’re feeling,” said Kye’s mum, Pam Schaefer. “Just the sheer loss of our faith in humanity, really — that’s pretty much it… He didn’t do anything wrong. He was just going for a surf before he went to work.”

Coffs Harbour mayor Paul Amos described the attack as “random” adding, “I like other people in Coffs Harbour do the early morning swim, have the early morning walk along the beach … and some poor person has decided to do just that and for some random reason this event has occurred.”

Yesterday, Coffs detectives charged 36-year-old homeless man Matthew Willacy with the fatal stabbing.

Incredibly, police say that on the same day he allegedly killed Kyle Schaefer, he was arrested for an unrelated robbery. And, as Schaefer’s parents appealed for his killer to come forward, he was already behind bars at Grafton’s Clarence Correctional Centre.

Ergo, real easy to arrest him.

Willacy was taken to Coffs police station, charged with murder and appeared in court that afternoon where he was refused bail.

No motive has been established for the murder and police say neither man knew each other.

“That encounter on that morning ended in a senseless act of violence causing Kye’s death,” Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty Doherty said.

The murder weapon is yet to be found.


Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, happy moment together.
Mon and Bill, happy together, briefly.

The Last Time a U.S. President Got in Legal Trouble Over a Secret Tryst, I was There, Sort Of

President Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky the Intern and, somewhere real close, the surfer.

Saturday. January 24, 1998. 8:30-ish a.m., EST. The phone rings. It being the Nineties, the phone is a landline. It is answered, sleepily, sluggishly. 

The voice at the other end of the line asks to speak with a young guy not long out of college who in the not so recent past cared mainly about scoring empty barrels in Central America and targeting strikes at that certain left bending off a groin out front of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse — but not a wit for the grand conspiracies that are American presidential politics.

The guy who answered, only slightly less groggy now, responds. “I’m him, who is this?” 

“My name is Mike Isikoff,” says the voice. “I’m a reporter for Newsweek. I’m working on a story about the White House intern Monica Lewinsky that is going to press later today, so calling under a tight deadline. Wanted to ask you a few questions.”

The grogginess evaporates. The surfer guy sits up and swings his legs out of bed. 

Thirty minutes later the conversation wraps. 

In January of 1998, Newsweek, as the name suggests, was a weekly print magazine and one of the most widely-read news publications in the United States. Often at the tip of the spear on breaking national stories, Isikoff was one of the magazine’s star investigative reporters, a relentless gumshoe with wire rim glasses and floppy hair in the ink-stained mold of Woodward and Bernstein. 

But when it came to the Lewinsky story, on that sleepy January morning Newsweek was scrambling, having been scooped by a fedora-wearing rumor monger (not yet cum internet media power broker) named Matt Drudge. 

Not that Newsweek didn’t have the story first. But as the weekly was going to print the previous Saturday, its lead editors chickened out and refused to run Isikoff’s story on the President of the United States’ sexual relationship with a 22-year-old intern. 

In a matter of hours, news of the chickening out leaked to Drudge. He didn’t hesitate — the Drudge Report, a site that now boasts over 100 million page views per month, can trace its true origins to that fateful moment on January 17, 1998 when Drudge hit the go live button on his story alerting the universe that Newsweek was sitting on the sordid true tale of POTUS’s affair with the intern.

When Drudge went live, it was too late for Newsweek to do anything, at least until the next weekend. As a weekly print publication, it had to let an agonizing seven days go by as the national news dailies chewed on the story it had sourced.  

Back to the phone call. Isikoff had questions for the surfer guy, questions that dug into the how and why of the Lewinsky information, questions the answers to which would help flesh out his Newsweek cover story, the magazine’s first opportunity to go on record after it was scooped by Drudge on its own news.

The young surfer guy had some answers. After all, he was working on media relations with Paula Jones’ legal team, the group that had ferreted out the Lewinsky information to begin with during their investigation of the sexual harassment claims being brought by Jones against the President. 

But there was a problem – being young, and much more adept at duck diving tropical storm beach break mayhem than navigating the turbid waters of US national media, he was extremely concerned about saying the wrong thing, or even saying the right thing that could later be published out of context. 

The Paula Jones lawsuit further complicated the situation. While not a lawyer himself, and not an employee of the lead law firm of record for Jones, surfer guy nonetheless was in a unique position and privy to information that someone might claim was privileged. (All of which helped explain why Isikoff had tracked him down in the first place.) 

The uncertainty was vexing, like trying to decide whether to paddle out at the local in sub-optimum conditions or drive up the coast in the hopes that things would be bigger and cleaner at that other spot. 

Borrowing from his surf spot choice experience, the surfer took the simple path. He couldn’t — or more precisely wouldn’t — provide answers on the record. So he agreed to talk, at length, to answer all the questions — but only if everything he said was off the record. 

Isikoff agreed. To this day, it isn’t clear why. He was under a tight deadline so time was precious. Surely there were names of other more important sources on his list. This was a huge story, in terms of pure media coverage volume it would be the most monumental of Isikoff’s career. But he stayed on the phone, asked his questions, and listened to the answers, all off the record.

Among the topics of interest — exactly how had Jones’ lawyers learned about the Lewinsky affair? The off-the-record answer surf guy provided was that the team received an anonymous phone call from a person who identified themselves as someone working inside the White House who had overheard Lewinsky talking about it. The identity of the caller, then and to this day, is still unknown. 

(A very brief aside: Isikoff in his later reporting has contended that the anonymous call claims are dubious and that Jones’ lawyers actually learned of Lewinsky via the not anonymous Linda Tripp. This is not the case, or at least not the full story of the case. In fact, the person who took the anonymous call (not surfer guy, but someone well known to him with whom he worked closely on a daily basis) put the phone on which he received it in a specially-purchased plexiglass box and mounted it on a miniature Corinthian column to keep for posterity as a Smithsonian-level artifact.)

The call ended. The adrenaline subsided, and the anxiety kicked in.

Did the surfer guy say too much? Would Isikoff keep his off the record promise? Was the surfer about to become notorious, perhaps even fired from his job?

The answers to these questions wouldn’t materialize until Newsweek rolled out to newsstands in the next day or two. It would be an agonizing wait. 

But it wasn’t. Early the next morning, The Washington Post ran a Lewinsky story on the front page of its Sunday edition. It contained many of the same details the surfer had shared with Isikoff. What was off the record had suddenly become very much part of the record. 

Unbeknownst to the surfer (and presumably to Isikoff too), a Post reporter named Peter Baker (who today is the Chief White House correspondent for The New York Times) had gotten to a higher-ranking source than just the surfer guy, and that source — being both significantly more experienced and less scared than the surfer — had shared the details with Baker on the record.

To this day, the surfer guy wonders if Isikoff thinks he was played. For the record, he wasn’t. He just called the wrong source. And to his credit he did keep up his end of the bargain, never expressly revealing the contents of the conversation with the surfer.

In the larger world, the news went nuclear. 60 Minutes came to town, Ed Bradley resplendent in his sparkling golden hoop earring and possibly the most suave person surfer guy had ever stood beside. Steven Kotler, nine years before publishing West of Jesus: Surfing, Science and the Origins of Belief, spent a week wandering around asking questions while researching and penning a profile that ran in GQ.* 

Kotler and the surfer guy spent some time hanging out, Kotler the much cooler hipster who had made it to GQ levels, surfer guy the young wannabe who wished he could reach that pinnacle. Instead, the surfer settled for a one-line quote in Kotler’s piece, a pithy aside referencing shared free speech values with the ACLU that, truth be told, has held up pretty well over the years. 

As with any long form piece, the ACLU quote was the tip of the iceberg, the one nugget mined out of multiple conversations where the surfer guy tried to convince Kotler that he wasn’t a right wing maniac, that the Jones suit was about bigger human rights and not just right vs left, while Kotler in turn foreshadowed his future surf adjacent writings by positing existential queries like, “how did you end up here if all you ever really wanted to do was surf?” (A question without answer to this day).

The media frenzy peaked with the public reveal of the deposition of the President from the Jones’ suit, where he denied any sexual relationship with Lewinsky. It was the lie that led to impeachment, the first such reprimand of a US president since Andrew Johnson post-Civil War. 

Surfer guy was there too, hauling the first publicly-released copies of the deposition transcript into a secret press conference in the basement of a D.C. hotel stuffed with a few dozen of the most famous names and faces in American media, including Isikoff. The conference was completely off the record, cameras and microphones banned inside the room. After a couple of short remarks by the lawyers explaining what could be found in the transcripts, the reporters all dashed for tables at the back of the room, where copies of the transcripts were passed out (one per news organization) by surfer guy and a couple of his colleagues. 

As he waited his turn, Isikoff joked that surfer guy was handing out transcripts to the women reporters before the men, so maybe the whole Washington Post scoop didn’t sting that bad. 

Incidentally, Sam Donaldson (who was seated in the front row of the secret conference) immediately stole ABC News’ only copy of the transcript for his own purposes and refused to share it with the rest of the ABC crew. So surfer guy sprinted through the streets of D.C. with an ABC news producer and one spare copy of the transcript to make copies at ABC headquarters in time to be read on air that evening. 

All those years of hard paddling and duck diving paid off – surfer guy was still breathing easy as they raced into the ABC News building and pulled up hot to the copier, the producer screaming at some poor hapless intern running xeroxes of take-out menus to “get the fuck out of the way.”

Like any memorable swell, the Lewinsky media frenzy peaked and faded. The federal district judge handling the Jones’ lawsuit granted summary judgment to the President, concluding (among other things) that even if the one sexually-charged incident Jones alleged actually did happen, it didn’t suffice to meet what the judge believed was the required standard of severity (a conclusion that is less persuasive in today’s legal environment).

The Lewinsky allegations then morphed into a national crisis far beyond the Jones suit, fodder for independent counsels and GOP legislatures. Isikoff wrote a best seller about the whole saga, Uncovering Clinton: A Reporter’s Story, which the Associated Press described, with a completely straight face, as “[a] penetrating look at the most explosive presidential scandal since Watergate.” 

The book filtered events through Isikoff’s perspective (which is likely more or less accurate), and even included a veiled reference to the Saturday morning surfer guy call, referring to it obliquely as one of the “many cover stories put out by all sides in the Lewinsky affair” during the early months of 1998.  

For his part, as the swell of media attention faded, surfer guy paddled off into the sunset, moving on to other endeavors. He never spoke with the likes of Isikoff or Kotler again. He never shared the details of these experiences publicly, until today. 

But he stuffed those “you should have been here yesterday” stories deep into his wax pocket. Like the mythic winter of ’83, they’re a memory against which all future swells will be measured. 

*Steven Kotler, GQ, Sept. 1998, “The President’s Nemesis”


Photo: Instagram
Photo: Instagram

Surf hero Kelly Slater and girlfriend lovingly reprise iconic Ace Ventura moment for Vogue Living photoshoot

Einhorn is Finkle.

Kelly Slater, 11x world champion, multi-time Pipe Master, 58-years-young and a father to be (again), put on a show for competitive professional surfing connoisseurs, worldwide, last week with a vintage performance at Teahupo’o. The greatest to ever do it, in the water, certainly does know how to keep the spotlight right where it belongs.

Ever the talk of our public square.

And he will certainly be the talk of New Zealand’s public squares once his, and girlfriend Kalani Miller’s, issue of Vogue Living NZ hits newsagents.

Minnow Eleven Productions gave a sneak peek to the unfortunates who do not call New Zealand home.

Surf fans immediately rejoiced that the couple had decided to reprise the iconic Ace Ventura photoshoot, harkening back to simpler, less divisive times.

The Jim Carrey vehicle, released in 1994, followed the adventures of a pet detective seeking to find the Miami Dolphins dolphin mascot Snowflake. The plot centers around a trans antagonist (Lt. Lois Einhorn/Ray Finkle) making it culturally revolutionary in hindsight.

In any case, the film went on to gross $107 million world wide and was lovingly described by The Los Angeles Times as, “Not many critics have been charmed by Ace Ventura’s exploits, and several have charged that the film’s humor is mean-spirited, needlessly raunchy and homophobic.”

Proto BeachGrit.

The World Surf League’s Championship Tour is headed to El Salvador and will swing its waiting period open in but two short days. John John Florence is now atop the men’s leaderboard while Brisa Hennessy is the number one woman. It is uncertain if Slater will make an appearance.

Baby on the way etc.


Disaster for Quiksilver as arch-rival Rip Curl wins sponsor rights for iconic Eddie Aikau big-wave event

Following disastrous trans pivot, Rip Curl's masterful PR campaign continues with pie in the face of old enemy Quiksilver!

It’s been a helluva ordinary six months for the once-iconic wetsuit company Rip Curl.

Its hard-core surf bona fides were rapidly whittled away following its sale to a discount camping company, the disappearing of its high profile Chief Brand and Marketing Officer and former Tracks editor Neil Ridgway and a decision to pivot to the trans and queer market backfired spectacularly.

Of course you remember when Rip Curl made a post celebrating the trans-surfer Sasha Jane Lowerson (neé Western Australian longboard champ Ryan Egan) not long after splitting with Bethany Hamilton over her anti-trans women in sports views. 

The post was subsequently deleted making enemies of both sides of the cultural divide.

Surf Equity described the “so-called” apology as “divisive, anti-trans, and discriminatory. The LGBTQIA+ community is appalled. Aligning with bigots harms your brand identity and fails to support your LGBTQIA+ employees.”

That pivot, which almost cost new Rip Curl CEO Brooke Farris her job, was soon forgotten with a series of masterful plays that quickly cemented Farris as a master of the game.

The first, getting the world’s most popular surfer, eight-time champ Stephanie Gilmore to sign for eight years at a relatively paltry, given her wild profile, three-hundred gees a year.

The second, announced today, is their headline sponsorship of The Eddie Aikau Invitational, which used to be called The Quiksilver: in memory of Eddie Aikau and which ran, sponsorless last year, as The Eddie Aikau Big-Wave Invitational.

(Last year’s event was epic, blue collar local Luke Shepardson won in twenty-five-foot surf, the North Shore came to a standstill and its live broadcast went through the roof.)

A little background on The Eddie.

The first event was held in six-to-eight-foot waves at Sunset Beach back in 1984, and only went big wave when Quiksilver execs along with Fast Eddie Rothman turned it into the speciality event we all know, love etc, at Waimea Bay. 

When the fifty-k prize money was announced, it also became the richest surf contest in the world. 

In 2016, it felt like the event couldn’t get any better when John John Florence, the just-crowned world surfing champion, cemented his claim to best in biz when he won the still-sponsored-by-Quiksilver, although barely, Eddie in wild 25-foot conditions. 

So how did such a fruitful relationship, which included the lucrative sale of Eddie Aikau-Quiksilver merchandise, wind up in the gravel?

Here’s how that went down: the previous ten-year contract was expiring in the spring of 2016 and Quiksilver and the Aikau family began negotiating a new deal. 

The Aikau family were advised that a potentially better deal might be out there if they shopped it around a little. Red Bull was in the mix, initially, but apparently, Red Bull and the WSL couldn’t couldn’t find a way to play nice so they pulled out at the last minute, leaving the Aikaus with no deal.

A source told BeachGrit multiple offers were submitted to the Aikaus by Quiksilver, all with increased revenue sharing opportunities but all were rejected. 

But here was the rub, as they say.

Quiksilver owned the permits for the 2015-16 contest and even canvassed the idea of calling it a different name to circumvent the need to involve the famous Hawaiian family. 

Quiksilver played around with The Quiksilver: In Memory of Jose Angel, The Quiksilver: In Memory of Todd Chesser, The Quiksilver: In Memory of Brock Little.

Anyway, it worked out for 2016 but was terminated shortly after.

Did Quiksilver decide that the chances of The Eddie ever being as good as 2016 were so slim any subsequent money poured into it would be wasted?

The question I asked at the time was, would you, if gifted the keys to the clothing giant that was once famously six hundred million dollars in debt, continue to run with The Eddie?

Or would you pour the surplus money into your number one team rider Matt Banting?

Quiksilver chose Banting.

Congrats Rip Curl.