Australia's Mick Fanning free to enjoy the Maldives. Photo: Instagram
Australia's Mick Fanning free to enjoy the Maldives. Photo: Instagram

Wave-rich Maldives bans Israeli surfers from crystalline barrels

The fog of war.

Israeli surfers with dreams of becoming deeply enveloped by crystalline barrels whilst, afterward, enjoying top-of-the-line lobster eggs benedicts were dealt a harsh blow this morning as wave-rich Maldives declared them not welcome. President Mohamed Muizzu, through his spokesman, shared that he has, “resolved to impose a ban on Israeli passports.”

Israel’s foreign ministry, feeling tit-for-tattish, said that Israeli surfers didn’t really want to go to the Maldives in the first place and if any are accidentally currently there, “it is recommended to consider leaving, because if they find themselves in distress for any reason, it will be difficult for us to assist.”

The move is the latest in a series designed to squeeze Israeli surfers over frustrations with the ongoing war in Gaza. Last month, Turkey banned the import and export of goods to and from Israel. Media reports suggest it has resulted in significant shortages of Turkish surf changing towels and robes, considered the best for softness and durability.

On Friday, the French noted that Israeli companies would not be allowed to have a booth in the Eurosatory Arms Fair in Europe. It is unclear in the ban will extend across the Atlantic to Surf Expo.

Official data from the first four months of this year has shown the number of Israeli surfers visiting the Maldives is already down 88%. While restrictions are generally unchill, the lack of Israeli surfers in lineups is quietly being celebrated with some hoping bans on Russian surfers, Brazilian surfers and surfers from Australia’s Gold Coast not named Paul Fisher will follow.

Paul Fisher is a universal good time.


The Cadet and the Surfer, Rick Rasmussen
The opening spread of the NY Mag Rick Rasmussen story, The Cadet and the Surfer: "A pistol fired once, and a young man with blond hair and blue eyes crumpled to the sidewalk. As he slipped into unconsciousness, his girlfriend jumped out of the Mercedes and started to scream. Lights began to flick on in the tenements that line this block in Harlem. The girl kept screaming over the still form of Rick Rasmussen, of Westhampton Beach, Long Island, the former surfing champion of the United States."

Why do surfers continue building the highest pedestals to the biggest screw-ups? 

Rick Rasmussen, Bunker Spreckels, Miki Dora etc.

Had the late Rick Rasmussen been 5′ 5″ and weak-chinned with a Stanley Tucci hairline, he’d be little more than a tragic surf-world footnote.

But that very much was not the case. 

Rick charged out of Westhampton, NY, like a forgotten Marvel Universe character, like Long Island Thor, chiseled and grinning, charisma levels set to 11, blond hair waving off his teenaged shoulders as he won the 1974 US Championships at Cape Hatteras, and still waving a few months later while emerging from the crypt-end of what was probably the deepest and heaviest wave of the year at Pipeline. 

“The lip was thicker than I was tall,” Rasmussen told Surfing magazine, parting ways with modesty as easily as he’d parted ways with high school during sophomore year. “I didn’t know what was gonna happen, then the spray shot me out of the end, and there was Gerry Lopez, paddling out, and his eyes were bugged!”

Those were the twin peaks of Rick Rasmussen’s surfing career. Six years later, in the summer of 1982, he was gunned down at close range during a botched 3:00 AM cocaine deal in northwest Harlem, one week before he was to be sentenced for selling heroin to an undercover policeman, and 10 months after he began working as a DEA informant. 

Rasmussen had never quite made the jump to pro surfing—in 1977, the only year he put in a real effort, he finished the WCT season at #47. He meanwhile didn’t have the patience or business talent to scale up his popular but more or less backyard Clean and Natural Surfboards label.

So he imported and sold drugs instead, and used as well, and while it’s not clear exactly when he started down that road—1978 is a good guess—by 1980 he was all in, dressing the part, Rolex and Mercedes, flashy and speedy one day, sloppy and nodding off the next, not much in control either way and very much a danger to himself and those around him. 

“He was the sort of guy you didn’t want to know,” pro surfer and writer Derek Hynd later said, “and didn’t want to meet.” 

Semi-notorious filmmaker and quote-machine Mike Oblowitz, a man addicted to these kinds of surfers the way Rasmussen was addicted to China White, was even blunter: “[Rick] was a fucking raging heroin addict drug dealer who got shot in the drug deal gone wrong.” (Oblowitz, it should be noted, never met Rick in person and insists that we @ him on Instagram as “shakespeare of surfing,” so let’s add a rock-sized grain of salt to that one.)

Tragic, like I said up top, any way you want to frame it.

Rasmussen came to my attention this week because I hear that there’s an outside chance that Emmy-winning producer Paul Taublieb (Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau) will make a documentary based on “The Cadet and the Surfer,” a 1981 New York Magazine article by Pulitzer Prize finalist Michael Daley. 

This news fanned the embers of an argument I’ve been having with myself for 20 or so years, and always starts with some iteration of: Why do we continue building the highest pedestals to the biggest fuck-ups? 

Rasmussen, Bunker Spreckels, Miki Dora, etc. These days, yes, we are more likely to point out the mess these surfers created, their terminal flaws, the bad choices made, the wreckage and harm. 

But there never seems to be a character deformity big enough, or a fallout blast-zone wide enough, that we can’t get past it so that we may again view the person in question as an outlaw hero. 

Surfer’s Journal ran an eight-spread profile on Rasmussen in 2017, for example, and I’m looking at a full-page close-up of him in what might be described as Tony Montana casual mode, with gold necklace and shades, feathered coif and disdainful middle-distance stare. 

Knowing what’s coming for Rasmussen a year or so down the road—even if we don’t know what is coming, actually—it strikes me as a portrait of self-betrayal. 

Surfer’s Journal doesn’t see it that way. The caption reads: “Credit Suisse medallion, tortoise-shell Carrera shades, Björn Borg signature model Fila shirt—this is what a baller looked like, circa 1980.” 

I’ve read that a few times, hoping to catch an ironic glint, a wink, but nope, nothing, and it breaks me a little to think that even the adults among us, the upscale surf magazine readers, are getting a rearview charisma hit from this doomed downbound New York surfer-turned-courier.

Then the argument flips.

Because I understand completely how a limited but well-aimed and presented version of a super-gifted person can hit us in a certain way, at a certain time—when we’re kids, basically—and change us forever. Sam Hawk high-lining a Second Reef bomb on Huge Monday. Miki Dora knocking Valley kooks down at Malibu like bowling pins, then getting paid by SURFER to pen-whip the surfing establishment. 

Rick Rasmussen winning not just the US Men’s title at Hatteras in 1974, but the Kneeboard division as well, for kicks, for added flex, because on that day, at that place, Raz was totally unstoppable. 

As a kid, what more did I want from these surfers? I was in a trance. Surfing was church; I was the solemn grade-school acolyte slow-marching toward the altar, swinging the incense ball. I ate the wafer of Hawk, and Dora, and Raz, and gave thanks.

That means a lot. 

My first take on those surfers can be amended, adjusted, self-contravened, but not erased. Fuck-ups they may be, but they are my fuck-ups—my surfing relatives. Part of me will always appreciate what those surfers, and many others like them, bestowed upon me. I was never going to missile-launch out of a Pipeline tube and make Lopez go bug-eyed, but my blond hair was just as long and Viking-perfect as Rick’s. 

Anyway, I go round and round like that, which bothers me cause I never quite settle. We want things to be simpler then they are. I want to be more like Rasmussen’s friend and surfing partner Joe Albers, mentioned briefly in the Surfer’s Journal article, who more or less shrugged when asked about Rick’s legacy: “He got a lot of people into surfing. He also got a lot of people into drugs.” 

(Editor’s note: Yeah, this is the fine work of ol Matty Warshaw, keeper of the surf culture flame over at the Encylopedia of Surfing. Warshaw delivers these sexy-as-anything, tough guy prose hit-outs every Sunday afternoon and if you want ’em, and if you want to access the keys to his entire archive, toss a few peanuts his way. Five bucks a month.)


Suspected Great White attack Del Mar
"The victim was transported by ambulance to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla with injuries that are significant but not believed to be life-threatening. The injuries included bites to the torso, left arm and hand,” the city reported.

Developing: Suspected Great White shark attack on swimmer closes Del Mar beaches

"The victim was transported by ambulance to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla. Injuries included bites to the torso, left arm and hand."

It was coming, I suppose you could say.

A few days back, San Clemente beaches were closed after a kid was knocked off his surfboard by a Great White, an event that surprised no one given the explosion of the Great White population around those parts.

Earlier today, a forty-six-year-old swimmer training off 17th Street in Del Mar, a dozen or nautical miles south, was hit by a suspected Great White, suffering “significant but not life-threatening injuries.

“The victim was transported by ambulance to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla with injuries that are significant but not believed to be life-threatening. The injuries included bites to the torso, left arm and hand,” the city reported.

In 2021, Joel Tudor posted footage of a ten-foot Great White breaching off Cardiff, four miles north of Del Mar. 

“Don’t surf Cardiff,” wrote Tudor. “It’s infested with ten-foot White sharks that are attracted to soft tops, stand-up paddlers and tourist swimmers. Stay safe and find a lake or go take a hike. This was today at 8:12 am.”

The post opened a floodgate of Great White chatter.

Former tour surfer Shea Lopez wrote, “When these pups grow up it’s gonna be a different story in SoCal waters. They were all over Lowers the past three days.”

Del Mar, of course, is a monied sorta town and notable residents include Bill Gates, Tony Hawke and Journey lead singer Stevie Perry.


Surfing superstar almost killed at Pipeline Joao Chianca makes spectacular return to water!

João Chianca squeezes his curves into rhinestone caves and sparkles like a shooting star in the air. 

Back on December three, the then world number four João Chianca scooped up a fine set at Backdoor, got a little hung in the lip, pin-dropped, came up, got hit by a set and…head strike on the reef…unconscious.

João Chianca, just twenty-three and the younger brother of big-wave surfer Lucas Chianca, was held underwater by multiple waves before being rescued by teenage hotshot and Eddie invitee Jake Maki.

Before  belted during a horror season at Pipeline where six, or was it eight, Pipe vets were badly hurt, Chianca, who “curb-stomped” Jack Robinson to win the MEO Rip Curl Pro in Portugal nine month earlier, was one of the Olympic medal favourites for Paris 2024 at Teahupoo.

A real ugly injury.

Fractured skull, bleeding on the brain, a flap of skin that needed fourteen stitches to close and, as y’might expect, concussion.

João Chianca wasn’t at Teahupoo this year, although he did take his seat at the Challenger event at Snapper finishing equal fifth.

Before, he was in Indonesia, putting together a fine little edit from a trip to what used to be called Hog Island up there in Sumatra, home to eighty-thousand souls and a short flight from the bright lights and happy faces of Medan.

João squeezes his curves into a few rhinestone caves and sparkles like a shooting star in the air.

Essential.


Kelly Slater (insert) with pearls of wisdom for Filipe Toledo.
Kelly Slater (insert) with pearls of wisdom for Filipe Toledo.

Surf great Kelly Slater advises trembling champ Filipe Toledo on how to paddle Teahupo’o

"Teahupo'o is no joke and you've gotta make a decision with yourself..."

Teahupo’o, or Head Place, is in the rearview mirror as the World Surf League’s Championship Tour swings toward Central then South America. Yes, the El Salvador Pro opens its waiting period wide in just four days with the Rio Pro coming directly on its heels. Afterward, though, the cream of the crop will retrace carbon footprints back to Tahiti in order to ready themselves for the Olympic Games.

Now, many of the hopefuls excel “at the end of the road,” their courage and skill just highlighted. Vahine Fierro, John John Florence, Gabriel Medina, Jack Robinson and Ramzi Boukhiam to name but five. Others, like Jordy Smith and Kanoa Igarashi also performed well, showcasing work put in over the years to navigate the terror.

And then there is the case of Filipe Toledo.

The current world surf champion, sitting out the tour this year but still-Olympic bound, was at Head Place just prior to the Pro and felt it a good idea to post an unfinished baby barrel to his social media as proof. Maybe he was unaware of the forecast, that actual waves were coming and they would actually be ridden, providing stark contrast to his efforts. In any case, Toledo’s unwillingness to paddle Teahupo’o has been a major storyline heading into the Olympics. His historic 0.0 heat total and inability to give effort when in a heat with two old-timers legendary. Calls for him to relinquish his spot grew to a roar after countryman Italo Ferreira’s win. Ferreira the odd man out on Brazil’s overstocked squad.

But Toledo has shown no sign of abdicating, defiantly clutching his pearls. Well, one of the aforementioned old-timers, Kelly Slater, who just so happened to reach the quarterfinals in the most recent running, just offered advice to the timid lion. In celebration of week, Slater wrote, “Tahiti has been amazing. The energy, the people, the surf… if you could only bottle it up for everyone to experience. Thanks of all the support and fun this week from family, friends and fans alike.” The 56-year-old then went on to describe his experience and praise those put their heads down before remarking, “Teahupo’o is no joke and you’ve gotta make a decision with yourself if you want it and disregard what the brain is saying at times.”

Screenshot

Certainly easier said than done but also great advice. With under two months remaining until the lighting of the torch will Toledo turn off his brain and become the greatest sporting story ever told or… not? I, for one, am very much cheering for Filipe Toledo, wishing more than anything to be put right in my head place.

He will be surfing against Igarashi in the opening round.

More as the story develops.