Matt Biolos and Jon Pyzel
Two of shaping's greats, San Clemente's Matt Biolos and Ford Models' Jon Pyzel.

Who will be surfing’s first billionaire shaper?

Surfboard sales to grow by five billion dollars over next four years, according to new study.

There was a time, and it wasn’t real long ago, when a surfboard shaper barely made enough from a day ruining his lungs and turning his hands into claws to buy a plate lunch and cold beer. 

The low selling price of the wildly labour intensive custom surfboard, itself a surrealist creation shorn out of spectacularly unhelpful rectangular hunks of foam, meant surfboard shapers were artisans in the purist sense, building unique pieces of art for crummy piece rates. 

Then came the bombshell. 

The shift to surfboard manufacturing in low-cost labour markets in south-east Asia and the introduction of the surfboard model, similar to skateboards, snowboards etc. 

Pick a graphic, a size and throw ‘em your plastic. Don’t expect change from a thousand bucks either. 

Suddenly, surfboard building began to be profitable. 

And, now, according to a new study, sales of surfboards are gonna grow by five billion Americano shekels by 2028. 

“The increasing number of educational surfing courses is a key factor for the market driver,” the study claims. “The ISA serves as the global governing authority for bodysurfing, surfing, SUP racing and surfing, wake surfing, and other wave-riding activities. It has introduced numerous educational courses worldwide to promote the growth and development of surfing.

“Additionally, surf schools have been established along coastlines to encourage and train new surfers. These courses are designed to enhance the knowledge, abilities, and skills of surfers, adopting a scientific approach to surfing coaching.”

Which raises the important question: who will become surfing’s first billionaire shaper? 

Will it be the world’s best Matt Biolos, owner of Lost surfboards and regular star in these pages and whose opinion I regard fondly? 

Britt Merrick, high-school LSD dealer turned sin-chasing preacher and part-owner of the biz his daddy Al created? 

The great Darren Handley, at one time regarded universally as the most handsome surfboard shaper in the world, now, the go-to for world champions? 

Let’s recall his beauty: 

He is clothed in a denim shirt open to the bottom of the frame with arms placed on opposite shoulders. His skin is lightly tanned and the face is dominated by an aggressive nose and a cuspidated chin. But it’s his hair, rightly, that seizes the attention. It is a blond waterfall that cascades arrogantly over one side of the head, its immense opulence beyond dispute.

Phew! 

If there was any justice in the world, of course, the money would pour in for the cruelly overlooking genius creator of Gabriel’s boards, the virtuoso artist Johnny Cabianca.

Not real sure about the study, however. It talks about the rise of the electric surfboard and portable kayak as big profit drivers.

Don’t hurt to dream.


Conservative creep (pictured) enjoying a bath in his new Byron Bay abode.
Conservative creep (pictured) enjoying a bath in his new Byron Bay abode.

Byron Bay nudists blame “conservative creep” after naked frisbee and surfing banned

"Byron Bay has always been comfortable with a certain degree of exposed flesh..."

The surprise ally-ship of surfers and nudists delighted all after the former came out in droves to support the latter after “herds of men in city clothing are coming to the beach, intimidating visitors, and filming naked women and children” in Canada. The two seemingly disparate groups showing a bitterly divided world how to love.

Tears, then, today in surfer households after Australian rich hippie paradise Byron Bay has moved to ban its only closing optional stretch of sand. The Guardian is reporting those headed to Tyagarah Beach will be forced into constricting wetsuits for surfing or swim trunks for frisbee playing as the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service has officially criminalized nakedness.

The nudists tried to save the beach which has been a nudist haven since 1998 to no avail even though “Byron Bay has always been comfortable with a certain degree of exposed flesh. The region has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the country but when the sun is out, people sunbathe topless or discretely skinny dip along its beaches. Every year a naked bike-ride runs through the centre of town and in March local paper the Echo ran uncensored images from the ride showing male genitalia on its front cover.”

Paul Fisher naked surfing too.

But all done now and who’s to blame?

A conservative creep.

Maxine Hawker who has enjoyed stripping down to skin for the last twenty plus years declared, “I am so shocked by it. I can’t believe Byron Bay would become so conservative. We have, as a people and a culture, become more conservative and I think that conservative creep has come to Byron.”

The conservative creep used to be satisfied with simply hanging out online. His move to Byron and subsequently getting everyone to put robes on an extremely disturbing development.

While surfers are encouraged to write local officials in protest etc., there is an air of defeat.

Draconian times.


Photo: TikTok
Photo: TikTok

Man gone viral for openly cheating on wife whilst flying revealed to be a surfer

"At one point, the man is seen with his shirt partly raised while she looks to be scratching his back."

But have you read, watched or Tik Toked the story of the man who blatantly cheated on his wife whilst riding an airplane gone viral? If not, you must be old and/or not a regular consumer of important tabloid journalism. Here, in case you need, is a refresher courtesy of The Mirror.

Caroline Rened posted a video on TikTok with the caption: “If this man is your husband flying @United Airlines, flight 2140, from Houston to New York, he’s probably going to be staying with Katy tonight.”

She said she knew her name was Katy because he kept saying it, but she hadn’t picked up his name. She saw them meet at the airport bar, and were glued to each other’s sides ever since.

At first Caroline thought little of it until she noticed his wedding ring. In Caroline’s sneakily recorded video, the man and woman are seen laughing and talking. At one point, the man is seen with his shirt partly raised while she looks to be scratching his back.

Caroline said she witnessed the man convince her to change her seats to be next to him, and the two of them were drinking together.

He told the woman he’s a surfer and has an 8-year-old daughter. He also said he’s the president of a company, and he’s traveling to New York on business.

Later the two “went to the airplane bathroom together” but the biggest bomb in the whole bit, of course, is that Mr. Cheater is a surfer.

Now, he lives in Houston and flies to New York for business but where do you think he surfs? Let’s study his overall mise en scène together.

There he is getting his back scratched.

What sort of board does he ride?

Did his wife buy it for him?

Currently more questions then answers.


Great White shark Florida.
Calling these waters shark infested isn’t just tinhorn hyperbole. Sharks are so ubiquitous in the area they even have names, like the Canova Runner, a mystical 16-foot Tiger that was hooked by local fishermen several times in the 80s only to escape each time and continue patrolling. Big Whites are regular visitors too, routinely spotted by anglers and even tracked in real time by ocearch and others.

Is Florida’s Monster Hole the world’s sharkiest surf spot?

"Calling Monster Hole a wave is like calling Genghis Khan a general."

There is that vast, dusty attic far down in the depths of all our minds where the images are sepia-toned and the memories click by in hazy 8mm relief, the reels clacking in the background. We wouldn’t be surprised if Chaplin or Keaton suddenly tottered into the frame.

That is where this story originates, buried underneath decades of moments, slid into the corner behind a clutter of yellowing and cracked remembrances, unnoticed but for the garish title scrawled in blood-red marker on the outside of the tin:

Monster Hole.

A name crafted, successfully, to strike fear into grommets and grizzled wave sliders alike.

A name that haunted my teenage dreams, living as it did at the outer fringes of my high school surfing existence, equal parts terrifying and alluring.

For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of the central Florida surf map, the Hole is a wave.

But calling Monster Hole a wave is like calling Genghis Khan a general.

This isn’t your typical pull up to the beach break and paddle straight into the lineup like essentially every other wave in Florida.

Au contraire, mon frere.

The Hole is an open water spot that breaks 1/3 of a mile outside Sebastian Inlet, spilling its energy over underwater rocks and a sandbar formed by the tidal flow in and out of the inlet, then dissipating into deep water like an Olympic sprinter collapsing at the end of a frenetic dash toward immortality.

Accessing the break requires parking on the south side of the inlet — opposite the northside jetty and its iconic First Peak — jumping in the swirling whitewater flowing out of its mouth, and battling the currents during the 20 minute paddle through murky, shark-infested waters.

Calling these waters shark infested isn’t just tinhorn hyperbole. Sharks are so ubiquitous in the area they even have names, like the Canova Runner, a mystical 16-foot Tiger that was hooked by local fishermen several times in the 80s only to escape each time and continue patrolling the stretch between Canova Beach and Sebastian.

Big Whites are regular visitors too, routinely spotted by anglers and even tracked in real time by ocearch and others.

Yet while Tigers and Whites grab the headlines, they aren’t even the most dangerous selachimorpha stalking the inlet. That title belongs to the shockingly, aggressively, evil Bull shark, a demon that is responsible for some of the most horrific attacks on record, an osmoregulating freak that can survive in freshwater, haunts rivers as well as oceans, and is armed like an oceanic Freddie Krueger.

A recent academic journal piece put some flesh on this nightmare bone: “[W]hereas other species might have five or seven layers of replacements waiting to move into position, bull sharks have up to 50 rows of teeth. Their narrow, sharply pointed lower teeth clamp onto their prey while broad, heavily serrated uppers rip and grind and sever, delivering a bite force as strong as 5,914 newtons—pound for pound, the strongest of all sharks.”*

But wait, kind reader, that’s not all — to add quantity on top of quality, the Bull shark is the fourth most abundant shark species in U.S. Atlantic waters (trailing only the relatively domesticated Nurse, Lemon and Blacktip). Which means not only is this cross between a pelagic tiger and a gill-bearing wolverine the most likely thing to eat you, it’s also the most likely thing to be lurking beneath you.

Swirling ocean currents, terrifying deepwater paddles, and a gauntlet of man-eating ocean beasts be damned though. Because when wind and tide and swell are just right, the Hole is a reeling lefthander that is arguably the best Atlantic-side wave south of Hatteras.**

As the Florida Surf Museum site describes it, “Monster Hole is where reality and hype come together.”

Which is why one overcast morning in around 1989 my crew decided to roll the dice. We were standing on the beach by the jetty, looking over firing First and Second Peak, wondering whether to face a crowded pack of the hottest surfers on the entire east coast or ditch both peaks and wander north to Spanish House.

That’s when a big set rolled through, and tips of feathering swell far outside the jetty surf zone caught our collective eye. There was no one out there, so we had no idea how big, or small, it was. But the waves reeled off like aquatic razor blades with machine-like repetition.

As best we could tell, we were looking at the finest lefthander any of us had ever witnessed in person. This being the 80s, we didn’t know much about the wave itself. All of our information came through word of mouth, whispers of a spot only a few had dared surf, warnings of the giant sharks fishermen had hooked off the jetty or spotted while trolling for sailfish outside the inlet.

We also had no idea why it was empty at that particular moment. For all we knew, notwithstanding what our eyes seemed to tell us, the wave may have actually been shit, or there may have been a run of bait fish taking their spastic flight straight through the lineup and attracting even more sharks than usual. (Or, more likely, the photographers on site had their lenses trained on the peaks near the jetty and wouldn’t be in position to document even the most savage of snaps out at the Hole.)

But we were young, and we lived in a geographic zone reviled by surfers around the globe as less than. That reality had put a chip on our collective shoulders, an eagerness to push the limits where we could find them, a kind of quiet desperation to test ourselves against more than two-to-three-foot beachbreak windswell.

It was the same chip that in some measure invigorated the spirit of all native Floridian surfers, the one that led other (light years more accomplished) Floridians like Kelly and the Lopez’s and Hobgoods to throw themselves over ledges at Pipe and Teahupoo, and led lesser knowns like the Kuhn crew to paddle maxing Puerto.

At that precise moment in time, we had neither the resources nor the skill to take on legendary international barrel zones. But we were standing on a beach staring at what appeared to be a properly cooking Monster Hole. So we looked at each other, shrugged, and sprinted back to the cars for the short trip south over the inlet.

Waxed up and leashed, we stood together on the beach, scanning the whirlpools and boat channel, watching the lefts reel off in the distance, trying to scope out the best line to follow on the more than quarter mile paddle to the break.

My best friend Chard*** was there. A goofyfooter and apprentice carpenter who shaped and glassed his own boards (yes, even in high school), he was meticulous almost to a fault. But once a plan was set, he would charge anything that broke.

A couple years after this day at the Hole, we paddled a mysto reef together breaking a couple of hundred yards outside Roca Loca in CR. He dropped into the wave of the day (maybe the year in those parts), a giant shadowy beast that made his seven-foot step-up look like a skimboard.

Tuffed was also with us. Six foot four and a lean, muscular 220 lbs, he was the biggest and best looking in our crew, by far — he had seven inches and probably 100 lbs on me. Truth be told, he could be a complete asshole at times – he once slugged me without warning for deigning to borrow his bible at church camp without asking first.

The fact that his sucker roundhouse didn’t make me so much as flinch was probably the only reason we became friends in the first place, his being the kind that only seemed to value the ability to inflict or, equally important, endure violence. But he did have the stones to match his macho facade and paddling a sharky open water spot was just the kind of thing that would put another notch on his psychic belt.

Of course Steve was there too. You’ve heard about Steve before, my crew’s late partner in multiple crimes whose up for anything approach to surfing and life exceeded his actual skill in the water by more than a few degrees. His love for skim boarding had just about ruined his surfing style — on a wave he always looked like he was skimming across flat water at high velocity with the same “keep your balance at all costs” kind of stance.

But he was the son of an auto mechanic fisherman who had inherited his dad’s love for engines, fondness for heavy test fishing line, and blue collar grit. He had grease perpetually embedded in the lines of his hands and fingernails, had landed his fair share of big game fish, and his constant glass half full approach never diminished the truth that he was tougher than steel wool. For all I knew, he may have been on a first name basis with a few of the sharks already. He definitely seemed giddy at the prospect of our open water paddle.

After a few minutes observing the scene it became clear that any plan would be nuked the second we hit the swirling whitewater. So Chard said “fuck it,” and took off running for the surfline. The rest of us charged behind, leaping into the water with as much momentum as we could muster, paddling like banshees as we skimmed across the foam.

We spent what seemed like hours wrestling with the frenetic currents and crashing waves in the near-shore surf zone. Eventually, though, we each made it through, coming out the other side into relatively clean deep water.

That’s precisely the moment when our thoughts returned to what was swimming beneath, silently stalking us from below. I lifted my feet behind me, doing my damnedest to keep any flesh out of the water, no small effort when paddling an 18” wide toothpick.

None of us breathed a word, terrified that any sound would alert otherwise drowsy predators. We looked at each other wide-eyed, silently slipping our hands and arms in and out of the water, paddling like Iroquois stealthily sneaking their canoes past the river camp of a blood enemy.

As we grew closer to the break, the waves seemed to grow. What appeared to be head high-ish from the beach was clearly close to double that, more on certain sets.

Impatient after a long paddle, I swung and went on one of the first lumps that we reached. It was a quick drop and short ride, the wave petering out in deep water almost immediately. I turned back toward the lineup just as the rest of the set reeled through, my buddies punching through the pitching faces of solid double overhead walls.

They scrambled for the horizon while I sprint paddled back out to meet them, all thoughts of big fish and razor-sharp teeth eclipsed by the adrenaline of making it all the way out the back to be in position for the next set.

It didn’t take long. We saw the lines advancing and paddled into position. Chard and Steve took the first two, Tuffed dropped in the third.

As I paddled up and over the face of Tuffed’s wave, I caught my first glimpse of what was behind it. A ruler-edged line, feathering off to the north, bending around the Hole’s bathymetry to peak right in front of me.

I swung and took three hard strokes, glancing down the line as I did. I felt the familiar surge under my board, only this time with more urgency, more juice, like our typical Florida beach break had done steroids and emerged thick-necked and roped up.

I sprang to my feet, pushing down the surge of endorphins, tucked my back knee just a little, and drew a backhand line down the face. As I approached the trough, I dug my heels into a bottom turn and headed back up, shifting my weight as I reached the lip, pulling my head and torso back around, and unloading all of the compressed speed into as critical a top turn as I had ever managed to complete.

The wind blew spray back into my eyes as I headed back down the face of the wave. I shook my head once to clear my vision and spotted Chard and Steve starting to paddle back out in the deep water at the edge of the break zone. They were grinning like toddlers on Christmas morning, all memories of the hectic paddle out wiped away.

“Monster Hole is one bad ass motherfucker,” I thought as I listened to them hooting from the channel.

Then I banked off the bending wall, leaned into another bottom turn, and headed back up toward the feathering lip, any thoughts of the return paddle to the beach stowed away, a terror for another time.

 

 

 

*John Gifford, The Redoubtable Bull Shark, The American Scholar (May 2, 2024).

**With apologies to Reef Road, Pumphouse, the Rocks, RC’s, and some spots we won’t discuss in the general vicinity of Jacksonville and Wilmington.

***Names have been altered to protect the living.


Jordy Smith, world title contender.
Fewer than a thousand points separate Ethan Ewing, Yago Dora and Jordy Smith in positions five, six and seven, respectively. (1330 points for making it past the opening round, remember.) | Photo: WSL

Middle-aged surf star Jordy Smith surges into unlikely world title contention!

"Jordy Smith hasn't paid heed to anything greater than Pokemon Go over the past two decades, but somehow at this unlikely point of his career, he’s right in the mix."

The only real surf fans in the world packed the beach at finals day in Saquarema, as they do every year.

Pundits, flustered with the prospect of presiding over an actual, real sporting event, found themselves grasping at words and air.

“Wow. Saquarema,” said Kaipo.

But to what, no-one was sure.

His tone was of a man landing from space and reading a road sign, but without wonder, excitement or question.

Strider, apropos of no segue that might indicate a question about oral sex or public masturbation, claimed, with his typical effervescence, that despite the crowds he “hadn’t seen one lewd act”.

(Somewhat ironically, it was he who would spunk furious superlatives all over the sand and crowd all day.)

The moral cleanliness of the beach at Saquarema was mirrored by some clean conditions in the water for finals day, and some entertaining enough surfing.

The four quarter-finals were mostly low-scoring, uneventful match-ups, aside from Yago Dora finding the best wave of the entire event to displace John Florence, and Medina not getting a score he probably should have at the buzzer, losing out to Griffin Colapinto.

Colapinto opened against Medina with six points for a single turn. Nice, unspectacular. But the heat was scrappy. Medina scratched throughout, finding nothing.

Almost at the buzzer, he took off looking for a mid-five.

A opening carve was followed by a consequential floater to flat landing. Surely it was the score? In front of a home crowd and at the death of a heat there seemed no greater certainty.

But Rio has never been kind to the son of Sao Sebastiao. The judges delivered Medina a foul-tasting 4.77 to chew on in the Saquarema sand.

“A lot of good things happening for Gabe,” said Joe Turpel. “His name’s Gabriel Medina, for one.”

On the opposite side, Dora’s defeat of Florence laid further waste to Medina’s immediate top five aspirations.

Yago was comfortable, but his 9.17 was given mostly by virtue of being in the right place at the right moment for a rare, long, clean left.

“That was like Mundaka,” said Turpel, with a level of embellishment that bordered on criminal negligence.

It was not Mundaka. But it was still the best wave that had rolled through in three days.

But that’s how it goes sometimes.

In his post-heat interview, Dora acknowledged that cosmic forces beyond our ken were at work, and he knew it.

“That was the one I was waiting for in El Salvador,” he said, “and it came here.”

It spoke to his rhythm and focus. He’d never left the zone he found at the last event, the state that elevated him skyward and to the final at Punta Roca. He was still on the type of run a man might find himself in once or twice in a lifetime if he pays heed to the cosmos.

I don’t imagine Jordy Smith has paid heed to anything greater than Pokemon Go over the past two decades, but somehow at this unlikely point of his career, he’s right in the mix.

Smith held the highest score of an 8.40 for much of his semi final match up with Yago Dora, but Dora had a high seven and a backup and looked comfortable.

 

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“Too young, too dynamic, too Brazilian,” read my notes.

Then just at the moment of notation Jordy exploded into a righthander, double grab, small rotation, then satisfactory finish. The 5.83 awarded was enough to take the lead, but looked like an oddly low score in context.

Potential controversy was quickly soused by Dora. Almost as soon as Jordy’s score landed he took off on a left, raced towards the closeout on his forehand, pump, pump, bang! He exploded out of the lip with a clean rotation. In the air he’d needed a mid-six. He greased the landing for a 7.97.

Jordy didn’t even get another attempt before Yago slammed the door. His 9.33 for one torqued opening carve, followed by a stylish but relatively forgettable layback on the end section was grossly overscored. But it didn’t really matter.

In the opposite semi, Italo despatched Griffin Colapinto. His clean backside rotation early in the heat spoke to his rhythm. Nine points and no arguments.

Colapinto gave a good account of himself, but his pocket sevens were not enough to turn over Ferreira’s early chip lead.

It was noted during this heat these men had only met previously on two occasions.

Is not there something vastly wrong with the structure of a sports league if two stars have only met twice in the seven years they’ve shared as full-time WCT competitors?

Apart from the very simple premise of pitting talent against talent, this sort of error robs us of potential rivalries and narrative arcs that other sports have.

But at least in Saquarema the Brazilian fans make it seem legitimate.

And so the final, between Italo Ferreira and Yago Dora, delighted an eager, partisan crowd in a high state of arousal.

Yet although the men in the water shared a flag, they had little in common in terms of demeanour or style.

Italo, a coiled explosion of foam and spray, set on a hair trigger. An intense, squat muscularity, like a bull terrier. His emotions swing wildly, like water sloshing in a bucket. You wouldn’t fight him. He spits tears both in fury and joy, and his rawness can’t help but be admired.

For Italo, only success and death are final.

Yago Dora, by contrast, is a languid eel of a surfer. He floats from arc to carve to air as if suspended by invisible thread. Feet narrowed, he glides through life with a calm mind and ungodly talent that forms a warm current only a few are carried by.

Yago’s surfing is agnostic to criticism.

These two men held the four highest scores of the event, a brace of nines apiece. But as is often the way when the two best surfers of a competition meet at a critical point, the realisation of the battle was underwhelming.

It was a mere and perhaps controversial seven-point ride for Ferreira that proved decisive in a one-sided affair, bereft of waves.

Ferreira’s seven, the fatal blow struck early, was mundane, especially by his standards. Back to back forced reverses on a small wave. A wave that will register in no-one’s memory.

We never got to see Italo at his raging best, cannonballing through air and spray.

Nor did we see Dora, raking the sky with wings in stoop.

With twenty minutes gone, Yago had attempted just one wave. 1.13 points.

In the end, the clear emotion of Italo’s victory was enough for a satisfactory conclusion. It’s always gratifying to see a man so close to the edge in service of our entertainment.

John Florence sits as number one and will likely remain there until Trestles.

Griffin sits solidly behind, and can hold his own at both comps remaining.

Italo vaults into the top five, level on points with Jack Robinson. Jack could win in Fiji, but Italo is a monumentally greater adversary at Trestles.

Fewer than a thousand points separate Ethan Ewing, Yago Dora and Jordy Smith in positions five, six and seven, respectively. (1330 points for making it past the opening round, remember.)

Gabriel Medina rounds out the top five threats in eighth, but will need the men above him to falter in Fiji, and/or make at least the semi final.

If this was proper sports reporting, I might be inclined to say there’s everything to play for.

But since this is surfing, suffice to say:

Wow. Surfing.