Rich history: Meet the South African kid who created the template for the (paid) freesurfer

Before Craig, before Dane, there was Frankie…

The Search campaign may seem a little shopworn now, even if the message still rings relatively true, but when it was launched in the early nineties it felt truly revolutionary.

The concept came from the writer and former pro surfer Derek Hynd, who, in 1991, wanted to create a sort of filmic energy between the three-time world champ Tom Curren and an unknown talent as they searched for waves in the Indian Ocean: the Mentawais, Mozambique etc.

That kid who was given the role and a four-year deal with Rip Curl was Durban’s Frankie Oberholzer (born 1972), who had learned to surf on an ironing board.

From Matt Warshaw’s Encylopedia of Surfing: 

He proved to be a surfer of rare talent, with only a passing interest — and virtually no skill — in organized competition.

As a condition of his Rip Curl agreement, Oberholzer was not permitted to enter surf contests. The handsome longhaired surfer traveled often with Curren, further developed a technique based on equal parts grace, power, and flash, and was featured in more than a dozen surf videos throughout the ’90s, including The Search (1992), Beyond the Boundaries (1994), and Tripping the Planet(1996).

Frankie’s got a kid now, another shredder although not quite in his ballpark, as they say, and is making surfboards.



Watch skier Candy Thovex tear hell out of Wavegarden in “Be a good boy and don’t cry for momma!”

The behind-the-scenes wavepool machinations from Candy's Ski the World Audi short…

I ain’t real sure what the attraction to ride skis and motorcycles on waves is, but there it is. A little bit of pointless silly to make us whoop and dribble the chocolate ice cream out of our fat mouths.

Last year, French freestyle skier Candy Thovex made a promotional video for Audi’s four-wheel-drives called Ski the World where he rides down iconic structures (Great Wall etc), sand dunes, through jungles and a wave pool.

Earlier today, the behind-the-scenes reel of the wavepool shoot was released and it shows Candy at the prototype Cove in the Basque Country (don’t you dare call it Spain! ETA Lives etc) and at Surf Snowdonia in that pretty Welsh valley.

Keys jangle in the ignition, the brake rips and off Candy rumbles.

Adventure ensues.

Like a sharp knife that’s been stuck in your eyes so they pop like grapes.

Watch: the behind-the-scenes machinations of Jack Robinson and Pip Toledo’s heat at The Box!

Wander into the dramatic territory of what Kelly Slater described as a "world title heat"…

Sound Waves is a swinging new series from the WSL and clearly the work of Oprah Winfrey Network mastermind and newish hire Erik Logan, whose genius makes me shiver.

The premise is simple.

Attach a microphone to a surfer before and after (and one might presume during) an important heat and see what transpires.

In this episode, number three, we cling to 2019 Margaret River Pro wildcard Jack Robinson. Nobody in Australia, most of the world, if we’re to be frank, can throw on the brakes and ride an eight-foot tube at The Box like twenty-one-year-old Jackie.

And as it happened, Jack met Filipe Toledo, the perennial world title contender, in their round of 32 heat at The Box, which was eight foot.

And as described in The Longtom Report:

Jack roamed around, he stood on his board and thrust his torso into the sky looking for set waves. When they came he simply took them at will off Pip. It was as brutally efficient as the annexation of Poland.

His second nine should have been a ten. Not many sporting products in this uber-hyped consumer capitalist world live up to or exceed the hype but Jack Robinson at the Box did so effortlessly.

This clip follows Jack before and after his heat, although there was no waterproof microphone affixed to his wetsuit during the heat, which feels to me like a lost opportunity.

Perennial troublemaker Kelly Slater tells the camera he doesn’t know how Filipe can possibly beat Jack and says that it’s a “world title heat”, meaning if Filipe loses then poof goes the title, although we all know that’s drawing far too long a bow.

As I said, bad man who will do things to your mind if you’re not careful.

But you must watch. Historic etc.

Watch Jon Pyzel, Ross Williams and John John Florence in: “The fat baby legs are gone!”

Coach, shaper and wizard test surfboards prior to Snapper…

The more sassy John is, the faster he’s going to surf,” says John John Florence’s coach, Ross Williams, in this compelling six-minute short, which examines his surfboard testing prior to Snapper.

Jon Pyzel, you know, has been making boards for John John Florence, who is twenty six and six-foot two, since the kid was five; since his mama Alex brought the boys to see him at his old bay at Sunset Beach and gave him two-hundred dollars for materials to build John a board. The yellow four-six with  halo of orange rails is “hideous to look at” but now exists as a memorial to a boy destined for greatness.

Pyzel, Williams and Florence present as a comedy trio who’ve forgotten to take their medicine, the gags flying like electric sparks.

I enjoyed this exchange. The camera closes in on John evening up the heel dents in his surfboard.

“Stop! Stop! Stop,” commands Pyzel, “Stop, no no stop, you’ve gone too far!”

“No, I haven’t,” says John.

Pyzel, who looks like someone who replaces the bedspreads in the rooms every year, sighs heavily.

“Stop! Stop! Stop it! You’ve gone too far already!”

Pyzel drags John away by the arm.

The film continues in this vein.

Highly, highly recommended.


Watch: Jordy Smith in “Can you imagine riding a 15-foot wave shaped like this for seven miles?”

MJ Smith gets a hunk of that rarest treat, the wave made famous in 1964's The Endless Summer…

Fifty, sixty years ago, whatever it was – who can count? – filmmaker Bruce Brown slacked jaws around the world with footage of two surfers riding “the most perfect wave in the world” in his film The Endless Summer. 

Shot in November, 1963, Bruce and surfers Mike Hynson and Robert August, rode a mechanical righthand point Bruce would later describe as “so good it was almost unbelievable… It was the kind of wave that at first you’d start giggling, then you’d start laughing, then you’d start screaming at the top of your lungs, until you felt like you were about to snap your twig.”

Cape St Francis. 

“What every surfer dreams of finding is a small wave with perfect shape. What we call a perfect wave. The odds against finding that are 10 million to one,” said Bruce in the film’s voiceover.

Turned out the joint is rare as hell.

And last week, perennial world title contender Michael Jordan Smith, in town for the J-Bay contest which is held twenty clicks north, got his slice of Cape St Francis.

Bruce’s Beauties, as it’s called. 

This clip is so short you’ll barely have time to puddle your Superman pyjamas and reach under the blanket.

But it is an interesting curio.