Surf fight
Kung fu fights, a regular occurrence on beaches during the nineteen-eighties as alpha males fought over the ownership of waves.

How a beautiful form of surfing localism emerged from its dark roots of violence, misogyny and child abuse

Anybody still pushing toxic localism needs to get their head checked. It's gone the way of landlines and affordable housing.

It’s the year 2000. A camping ground near a quiet back beach on the mid north coast of NSW, Australia. Sometime around midnight. A 15 year old surfads huddles silently in a cheap two-man tent with four or five other grommets, while anarchy descends outside.

“WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU JUST CALL ME, CUNT?: comes the scream from some tortured, torched demon, only metres away.


“FUCKEN DO IT THEN, CUNT,” is the twisted response.

We’re on a boardriders club weekend trip. For a few of us it’s the first time we’ve been away without our parents. Our first-ever real surf mission.

Excitement levels are high. After somehow getting the ok from my parents, a towel and a wetty were thrown into an old school bag along with a change of shirt and my favourite SMP hoody. A new wax job on the 5’7″ and I was set to go. Dropped at the pick-up spot five Saturday morning with a crew of about 30 of the core local crew, and our meagre junior contingent. The only groms in the club.

It started out well. We arrived mid-morning Saturday on the tail end of an east coast low to find a premium A-frame beachie doing its thing with not another soul around. Memorable sessions were had.

After a day of pumping surf the older crew had hit the cans. Hard. It was all laughter and good times to begin with. But when the grommy contingent went to bed around nine, things quickly devolved.

It wasn’t like we’d gone away with a group of strangers. We had all spent time with all the older heads in the water. At comps. On the beach.

But it was their alter-egos out that night. The crazy ones. Characters we had only heard about in whispers and hushed tones were now roaming around the campsite, juiced up and seemingly ready to kill.

What the fuck was going on? Were they gonna come for us next?

In the tent, one curious grom switches a torch on to try and get a look at what’s going on out there. We quickly pull him back in. It’s like we’re stuck in Jurassic Park.

Someone’s laughing now. Or are they crying? There’s an eerie quiet. More shouting. Unintelligible words.

A blood-curling scream. Like a pig being gutted. Broken bottles. The thud of heavy feet running on the ground. Somebody being crash tackled.

Then right out the front of our tent.


We cower in the dark, waiting for one of them to tear the zipper open. To rip us apart like a velociraptor or the Yowie we’d heard so many stories about on the drive up. An evil spirit that carries wayward grommies off into the sand dunes, never to be seen again.

I switch off the torch, sit dead still. I pull my hoody up over my face and try to disappear completely.

But the attack never eventuates. The evil spirits spare us. They wouldn’t touch the grommies. At least we hoped they wouldn’t.

Finally there’s an unbroken silence. Safety in the quiet.

“Fucken hell,” one of the other groms whispers from the dark. “This is sick.”


It’s been said many times that localism is a disease. If it was still 2000, and I was still that grommy cowering in the tent, I’d agree. Fuck, even 2010 was pretty backwards.The surfing community in general has always systemic issues with violence, misogyny, substance abuse etc etc. Many of them are still there today.

I cut my teeth surfing in a working class town. Most of us kids were from middle to low socio-economic status, like the generations before us. You either grew up in the housing commission flats on the beach or caught the bus in from out west. Lots of single parent families. Absent role models. A reputation for hard hitters and enforcers who weren’t scared to throw down at the slightest perceived transgression. And that was before they hit the piss.

We looked up to the best and the strongest and the scariest.

But that’s all changed. Rock up at my local – or any regulation beachie outside the skitzo Superbank/Pass/Bondi zone – and you’ll find a completely different scene.

Crowds are still worse than they ever were. Tempers still flare. But fist fights are a thing of the pansubsst. There’s still a few heated words and splashes on busy days, sure. But I could count on one manicured hand the amount of fights I’ve seen in the surf in the last ten years. They’re now the last resort, instead of the first. And more often than not it’s between local crew as opposed to being inflicted on outsiders.

Localism is moving with the times. It’s less a rigid set of teachings than an ideology. Creating a community through surfing.

The way it was taught back in the day was, with the benefit of hindsight, wrong. Especially by today’s standards. But the fundamentals are still there. Respect. Support. Community. The ideology is sound.

It’s just the tactics that have changed.

I’m still a part of that same boardrider’s club. It’s developed from being an excuse for a monthly piss up to an active and engaged member of the local community. It supports junior development with specialised training. The women’s division is going from strength to strength and was an early adopter for awarding equal prize money.

It donates to local charities and progressive causes. Builds what the corporates would call social licence to operate. It also enforces good behaviour amongst its members. It’s a family club first and foremost. You fuck up at the beach or out on the piss in front of the rest of the community and you’ll be sanctioned for it.

It’s stayed in touch with its roots. A lot of the crew who were around back in the wild old days are still there now. But they’ve mellowed with time. And the culture of the younger crew is different.

This is par for the course at most urban and regional beaches.

But one thing that hasn’t changed is line up meritocracy. Talent plus time in the water at certain spots still dictates the hierarchy, especially at some of the more guarded spots.

It’s not just where to sit, where to jump off. There’s line up etiquette. Who you can jostle with. Who you should avoid. The sort of things you take with you when you visit other breaks.

The ocean belongs to everyone, sure. But like with any pursuit in life there’s rules and law you’ve gotta abide by. Dues to pay. Time. Repetition. Commitment. Good will. Selflessness. Practise those and you will be rewarded.

There’s always going to be arseholes around. But anybody still pushing that ‘80s brand of toxic localism needs to get their head checked. It’s gone the way of landlines and affordable housing.

But that’s just like, my opinion, man.

How’s the localism scene play out in your neck of the woods? Still as potent as ever?

Or perhaps it’s now only channelled into the online space? Angry, anonymous, anachronous voices flailing against the progressive tides of time?

Surf and Mrs. Ads and li'l baby Siobhan.
Surf and Mrs. Ads and li'l baby Siobhan.

Beloved surf personality asks fellow derelicts to name unborn baby daughter

"Throw your best suggestions at me and perhaps BeachGrit can call naming rights for its first ever human."

Now, I know some reading this very post don’t listen to The Grit! (subscribe here) and actively oppose its very idea. I’d get it, if it was just me n David Lee shootin’ the breeze, but the program has become so much more than that. Somehow, in some way, it has become a gathering place for the best and brightest to share inspiration, provide helpful advice and correct my sometimes dangerous opinions.

An aural homestead, if you would.

Today’s episode featured the most uplifting story you will ever hear about a man meeting his childhood idol, Tony Alva, and it exceeding expectations, an important lesson in “enshittification” and…

…our beloved Surf ads asking for help.

“Mrs Ads and I are currently expecting baby number 2 and find ourselves right in the thick of the naming process” the multi-hyphenate writer-commenter-instagram-impressario began. “Long lists create short lists which go back to long lists again when we draw from the multitude of reasons to not stick whatever particular name we find. Wife has been critical of my level of involvement thus far in that my only contribution has been the name “Goody” for a girl, which is rather problematically stolen from The Crucible (Goody being short for the common Puritan term ‘Goodwife’). So I thought fuck it – why not crows source the work instead. Throw your best suggestions at me and perhaps The Grit!* can call naming rights for its first ever human.”

Well how do you like them apples?

David Lee Scales and I, of course, dove right in, providing the best practices for naming though I didn’t stumble upon what I feel to be a perfect choice until the very end. Oh you must listen to find out what it is, but in the meantime, what’s your suggestion?

Help a brother out.

Here’s also a hint regarding my suggestion.

*Baby names that come from the podcast audience will be thoughtful and lovely. The ones generated here will either open the very gates of hell or be works of art. Probably the former, tbh.

Bethany Hamilton (left) pictured infuriating folk. Photo: Sharkbanz
Bethany Hamilton (left) pictured infuriating folk. Photo: Sharkbanz

One-armed surf legend Bethany Hamilton flogged in public square for promoting shark deterrent device

"Burn, Bethany, burn!"

It would, and maybe should, be thought that Bethany Hamilton could do no wrong. The Kauai-based professional surfer needs no introduction. Her bravery and poise after losing an arm to a tiger shark at 13-years-old, is the stuff of legend. Hamilton went on to surf and inspire, coming as close to superhero as modern humanity has.

And yet, somehow, she has become a lightning rod. Her stance on sporting transes likely set off a snarling opposition and now, I guess, her partnership with shark deterrent bracelet (or anklet) Sharkbanz.

The mother of four took to Instagram, three days ago, in order to share that, “Sharkbanz are designed to help you overcome your fear of sharks 🦈 and to minimize the risk!”

Thus opening the floodgates of rage.

Commenters denounced her for “capitalizing on fear” following the horrific attack in Florida wherein a young girl lost an arm and a leg. Others slammed her for “those scam bracelets that supposedly give some good vibes in your life.” An underwater photographer sneered that Sharkbanz are “great for a false sense of security,” adding that an underwater photographer friend hand fed sharks while wearing one.

On and on and on it went and my goodness gracious. I understand making light fun of Sharkbanz technology (read here) but tarring and feathering the courageous Bethany Hamilton?

What have we become?

The Egan House at 411 Woolooware Road, Burraneer, NSW.
Bulldoze if you wanna destroy the ambience or give the joint a quick blow and go to make it liveable and move straight in.

“Best all-round surfer in the world after Kelly Slater” lists multi-million dollar beach shack on sprawling quarter-acre estate!

Unpolished mid-century diamond a short drive from a litany of world-class waves seeks new owner…

A little over one year ago, the former world #2 Luke Egan, described as the “the best all-around surfer in the world after Kelly Slater”, sold his redundant beachside bunker for six-mill, shovelling $3.5 mill from the sale into a a mid-century shack on a sprawling hunk of wildly fertile dirt wrapped in a downy luminous green grass.

The Morris House, as it was called, was offered for the first time in sixty-four years and, even in its slightly run-down form on Sydney’s exclusive Burraneer peninsula there it had a gorgeous skeleton that required little more than a quick blow and go, as they say, to make it spectacularly liveable.

Surprise, then, when the joint reappeared on the market recently, listed for auction on June 29 with hopes, obviously, of a little more than the three-and-a-half the Egans, which also includes his Fox Sports presenter wife Jess Yates, paid in December 2022.

With buying and selling costs hitting a quarter-of-a-mill anything under four mill will be considered a rare misstep for the home-flipping whiz, whose real estate chips are the stuff of legend. 

Egan, who turns fifty-five this year, retired from the world tour prematurely, it was felt, in 2005 to become a marketing manager for Billabong, leaving eight years later.

Egan shifted his myriad surfing skills into a gig as an elite surf coach, helping propel Joel Parkinson and Caroline Marks to world titles and, lately, was in Cole Houshmand’s corner when he drove his jackboot into the neck of Gabriel Medina to win the Bells Beach  tournament.

Want to buy 411 Woolooware Road, Burraneer, and live a decent life with sunshine on your face, grass to gambol upon and all a shortish drive to world-class waves?

Contact the selling realtor here. 

On purpose, envy and the ongoing miracle of John John Florence

When I see John John Florence I see a man frighteningly in control. And it makes me wonder how he's managed it, especially so young.

Often I feel life is too complicated. In moments of essential simplicity: survival, hunger, ecstasy, endurance or lust, life seems brighter, somehow.

These are the moments that might bookmark a life, memories like rootless flowers.

Once, surfing gave me simplicity. A clear goal, even if it shifted with the weather. But it was the force that propelled all else.

I’ve lost that now, moved on. Found it in other things. I doubt it’s gone forever. I’ve been missing it lately.

And I don’t know if it’s the act itself, or just the dedication to it. Because for me, life is mostly one long series of obsessions followed by abandonment.

I never realised it before. Not until my son was diagnosed with autism, and it made me revisit my own past through a different lens.

But I don’t want to get into that here. Partly because I’ve been writing about it in private, and for now I want it to remain that way. And partly because I think denial, or at least obliviousness, in the face of challenges like this is often a solution.

Fucking suck it up. Everyone’s got problems. Mine are lesser than most. I don’t need any more scapegoats or excuses.

But I do know that I’ve always lacked purpose. I’ve lived a life feeling elevated, somehow, yet unable to focus the burning energy I keep in reserve to set fire to the one thing I love. That’s not to say an unhappy life, just one at the threshold of some unidentified goal, never quite fully committed.

So when I see men like John John Florence, Jack Robinson, Griffin Colapinto, I see men who seem curiously, and, honestly, quite frighteningly in control. And it makes me wonder how they’ve managed it, especially so young.

“Just having fun out there” has become a trite statement in pro surfing. It’s easy to pay lip service to this sort of attitude, and I understand it can be disingenuous at times. But when I watch the likes of Florence at his best, I can believe in it. In performances like we’ve seen at Teahupoo and Punta Roca, there is little sense of the stress of competition or challenge, there is only joy.

In post-heat interviews, albeit only in the aftermath of success, there is no hint of gloom. And it’s easy to envy their talent, and the charmed life of a professional surfer.

But I am not envious of this, I am simply envious of the control John John Florence and others like him seem to have exerted over their lives.

Clearly, I don’t really know them. We only see their public persona. But still I wonder if it’s real. And I think about how thinly stretched life can be, and I’m stuck with awe in the face of those who seem to carry clear purpose and intent.

Because you realise, at some point in life, or perhaps in many, that you are not satisfied. Not full of the life you promised yourself when you stared hard into the mirror at four am and saw someone you knew you must run from.

And even when you have crawled from the past, shedding your old self like a skin, it remains, discarded, but still in the shape of you. A wraithlike thing that lies in the corners of rooms, or draped on the bed, or cast in the grass when you are pushed up against a wall. Forever a reminder of the shape of what once was, begging you to crawl back inside.

Some days you yearn for that shimmering idol, in all his chaotic, unhinged ecstasy.

Because it might not have felt like a life, but at least it felt alive.

Days when your shoulders were loose with the swerves of doorways and tenement corners. You lay, late into the day, until the light had dissipated sufficiently to emerge again into the cigarette lit night.

You were like the foxes that momentarily partitioned the lit gaps of alleyways, then held your gaze, defiant, yet always on the cusp of fleeing. You saw kinship in them, these night-shifters, nonchalant raiders of dusk and dust.

And every day you would emerge from the night as a stranger, just as the fox sloughs his smell into the cold unworldliness of water.

But you couldn’t stay this way forever.

Your body couldn’t take it. Your mind less so.

One way or another, everything that flares dies.

Still. Today, in moments that might be soundless or still, you catch a glimpse of this charred effigy, and you realise how much you miss his smile, and the callous beauty of living heart to mouth, to heart to mouth.

Does John John Florence suffer this sort of angst? Or is uber talent and unwavering dedication to one thing enough? That’s my question, eternally. And I wonder if this will be the same for him in years to come. Perhaps it will be more intense, given the heights he’s reached.

Is it true that everyone feels they can only grasp at the edges of a life?

Or are some people simply content?

I still don’t know the answer to that.

All I know is that I return home each day more distant, more removed from the world I’ve built.

Because I know he’s in there still, hunkered in a tenement close, plunging down cobbled streets, or standing at the shore before the sun he will not see has risen, calling into the blistering dark.