By James Cosmakos
“The surfer is mostly peaceful and loving and kind, but is more than willing to throw down when needed to protect their friends or their lineup.”
Humanity is mostly made up of idiots and followers.
I am an idiot most of the time and a follower more often than I would like to admit.
We are short sighted, selfish, inconsiderate, and generally clueless.
We believe in silly religions, sillier politics, and most of us base our lives on ideas that were given to us, as opposed to creating a life of our own.
To steal from an old dead drunk, for me surfing is the joy that sometimes comes along out of nowhere, rising like a falcon moon across the impossibility, like a perfect set wave coming in while you are out the back totally alone.
Surfing is its own world, its own planet, its own society, existing often outside of mainstream society. When a kook/barney/noob paddles out into a surf lineup they are in nearly immediate conflict with everyone out there, unless of course they are willing to stay out of the way and show respect….this is not usually the case.
And while these adult learners and lifelong kooks who refuse to learn basic etiquette may not be assaulting other surfers with their fists, they are responsible for nearly all of the violence, injuries, and accidents that happen in surf lineups.
What can be done to combat this attack upon our beloved space? The place that serves as respite from our toxic relationships, soul crushing jobs, and a society that has no interest in our passions, hopes and dreams (often just for a glassy day and a turn here or there).
I will argue here that those of us armed with experience, knowledge, and passion for surfing are the ones who must take a stand and that it must be violent, or at the minimum have a threat of violence of that is real and doesn’t fold like a young Filipe Toledo at Chopes, or me at anything over ten foot.
Some people are awesome, unique, selfless, thoughtful, and considerate.
Some people have built up their own ideas of what is right and wrong even if capital “T” Truth doesn’t exist.
As Tom Robbins wrote in The Still Life of Woodpecker,
If you’re honest, you sooner or later have to confront your values. Then you’re forced to separate what is right from what is merely legal. This puts you metaphysically on the run. America is full of metaphysical outlaws.
It is my firmly held belief that the spirit of the surfer is the outlaw spirit. Ever since I was a neophyte grom growing up in the suburban racially striated suburbs of San Clemente, I imagined the surfer as an adventurer, a fear conqueror, a unique and singular spirit, a total fucking Badass.
The surfer refuses to be victimized or forced to conform by the society they were born into. They quit their jobs, deal drugs, hustle and scheme, sleep on couches or under coconut trees…they live dangerously to carve out their own form of existence against a society of 9-5’s and families.
I lived at Ocean Beach in San Francisco where there are plenty of outlaws, but also plenty of weekend warrior tech bros.
Depending on the spot there, you are going to get a very different crowd.
Why is the dude on the brand new Hypto Krypto wearing the Isurus wetsuit and getting up on one knee paddling for the same wave as me?
Why is his equipment so much nicer and more expensive than mine?
I wonder this to myself while looking down at the holes in my board fixed with wax and the hole in the crotch of my wetsuit that is just small enough at this point my only ball slips out, sometimes.
But, I ask you this: has surfing etiquette gotten worse over the years?
Before answering that I want to consider a Milan Kundera quote on nostalgia:
The more vast the amount of time we’ve left behind us, the more irresistible is the voice calling us to return to it. This pronouncement seems to state the obvious and yet it is false. Men grow old, the end grows near, each moment becomes more and more valuable and there is no time to waste on recollection. It’s important to understand the mathematical paradox in nostalgia, that it is most powerful in early youth , when the volume of life that has passed is quite small.
Kundera reminds us of the dangers of nostalgia, and I must consider that when delving into tales from the past. With that said, I do feel safe in saying that things are very very dierent now than they were in my youth.
I live on Oahu now, in town (the south side), after a four-year stint on the West Side of Santa Cruz.
From my own personal anecdotal evidence from being a generally chatty ass motherfucker, I have found that nearly all surfers with over fifteen years of experience miss the old days.
The only people who seem to be “OK” with the lack of violence are people who are new to surfing (adult learners), maybe because nobody has to pay their dues anymore.
When I first moved to Oahu at eighteen I knew I would never surf Pipe (except maybe on four-foot days from April to June when there’s no crowd, shh!) because the Wolfpak ran it and they are scary as fuck.
Once me and a few friends from Kauai, all of us eighteen, were hanging out in the Sunset Beach parking lot after a surf and a wildly famous local and his crew were ragging on us.
My friend stupidly threatened them with a fin and then he drove over two of our boards. We learned the valuable lesson of respecting the locals at a lineup that day.
On the drive home we were angry at my friend, not the local.
And fuck, older surfers were just generally scary to me growing up. The drugged-out surfers who were good enough to be on tour if they weren’t such classic surf fuckups, the San Clemente locals in their twenties and thirties that surfed my beach breaks, were terrifying. They ran the spots with a punch here, a shove there, on the rare occasion a broken board.
We knew not to fuck with them and on some level we wanted to be them.
When I first got my license, me and two of my friends decided it would be a good idea to speed around our suburban neighborhood in our cars having a water balloon fight while driving.
Two of the local surfers chased us home and nearly killed us in my driveway, and they were right to do it! We were being incredibly fucking stupid and risky for no reason. Risky for no reason is the main thing that should bring about violence. If not for these older drugged out misfits scaring me and my friends senseless, who knows how many kids we would have run over that day or week?
San Clemente isn’t known for its violence, but even surfing in the nineties it was not uncommon to see violence. There are tons of locals not famous enough to recognize who held spots down.
Once a kid I went to high school with burned one of the fifty-year-old ripper dads on my block and then flipped out the dad. The dad paddled over to him, gave him one punch in the face and paddled back out to the lineup.
If this happened today, the dad would probably be doing time in the big house. The kid paddled over to me, and I told him it seemed fair to me and that as long as he respected the etiquette he could continue to surf there without a problem.
I also encouraged him to apologize.
Growing up was a string of these incidents. My high school had a group of five kids that actually called themselves the Surf Nazis.
Did I get into fights with all of them? Damn right I did.
Did I hit one in the chest with my board and another by doing a cutback into his ankle leaving a curtain of blood flowing from his leg? Fuck yes.
Do I have any regret for doing that or giving the long speeches I gave afterwards about racism and respect? Fuck no I don’t.
Funny enough, the last time I got into with them was when one of the Surf Nazi’s burned me at T-Street.
I followed him all the way until the wave was over. I was a patient little monster. After getting o the wave, I chased him down and threw him o his board, grabbed him with one hand around the throat and reached back to punch him. Before I could land my justified and moral blow, I was gripped in the shoulder. I turned around to fight this stranger and realize it is Chris Fucking Ward, who I have seen in fist fights at Riviera more times than I can remember.
Chris looks me in the eyes and says, “It’s not worth it man, he’s not worth it.” What a strange experience that was, and it was one that has always made me think of when violence is and isn’t appropriate.
All of these little tales bring up the issue of whether or not violence is ever acceptable. The main thesis I stand behind is this: In a surf lineup, violence and/or the threat of violence will actually prevent more injuries than a lineup where violence is nonexistent.
The violence has left surfing mostly because we live in a world of lawsuits, camera phones and social media. The state of surveillance makes it nearly impossible to do anything illegal and get away with it.
This is the tricky part, because it technically isn’t illegal to take off on a big set wave with three people in front of you when you aren’t sure you can make the drop.
It isn’t illegal to steal someone’s wave or burn them, or paddle out to a local spot with twelve of your friends on soft tops. I don’t believe in laws, but I believe in etiquette.
I believe in a small group of people making communal agreements. Funny enough I am an anarchist, but I don’t believe that the surf lineup is a place for chaos, even if I believe that most of the rest of the world is.
A good analogy here is war and the way that chimpanzees fight compared to the way human beings fight. Chimpanzees mostly wage small border skirmishes, with a few killings here and a few killings here, but no recorded genocides.
I would say a surf lineup could function in a similar way. Occasionally, when someone really fucks up and refuses to apologize or change their behavior, there will be some amount of violence.
This violence is reserved towards people who are being dangerous for no good reason and are putting others in the lineup at risk. I always want to clarify that before the conflict raises to the level of laying hands, scrapping, etc. that there should be a conversation, and a chance given for the dangerous/disrespectful party to listen and apologize.
When I’m surfing and someone burns me or doesn’t paddle behind me, or any of a thousand other surfing etiquette mistakes, if the person apologizes to me I will just say “It’s all good” ninety-nine percent of the time.
The other one percent is reserved for when someone did something that could have put me in the hospital. In that one percent I don’t resort to violence, I try to have a conversation with the person.
In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I am a confrontational person and have come around to supporting the notion that a constant low level of confrontation is actually the life way most helpful towards preventing major confrontations.
The problem with this is most humans are fence-sitters. At my local spot, a lefthand point near Diamond Head in Honolulu, there is a mid-fifties guy who always surfs the sunset session on an eight-and-a-half-foot board.
He sings, talks to himself, and generally tries to act “crazy.”
He also thinks it’s fun to get as close as he can to people then turn away at the last second while riding a wave.
I know of two other people besides myself that have confronted him, but in all three cases we (the surfers confronting him) were the only ones in the water to say something. Everyone else at the spot constantly talks shit on him and acknowledges that he is dangerous and he even prevents lots of people from surfing the sunset session because of his outrageous behavior.
However, when someone has been bold enough to confront him, the rest of the lineup stays quiet, not wanting to get involved. If just one or two other surfers had chimed in to tell him to leave, the problem would likely be over.
But, humans are weak and driven by fear, fear of being seen and heard and the fear of confrontation. So…our monster stays a local at the spot, causing problems several times a week. I believe to be a surfer is to embrace that outlaw spirit, to not fear confrontation, to turn towards the uncomfortable.
As a nihilist, technically I don’t believe in anything. I think that there is no inherent meaning in the universe, which frees us up to choose to put whatever meaning we want into anything.
As a lifelong surfer, a lifelong surf fan, and just another kook trying to surf like my heroes, I put a lot of meaning into what being a surfer is.
I fervently believe that the spirit of the surfer is what matters. The surfer yearns for an empty lineup, or a shared one with one or two friends.
The surfer is mostly peaceful and loving and kind, but is more than willing to throw down when needed to protect their friends or their lineup.
The surfer isn’t a fence-sitter. The surfer doesn’t spend years confronting their fears in the ocean with hold-downs, injuries, reef scars and much more just to be afraid to tell someone that they aren’t acting right.
I dream of a world where the surfer just fucking cares about what it means to be a surfer.
In this world the surfer chooses their society, their lineup, their ocean, their friends and surf friends that they know in their local surf scenes over the rules and etiquette of “minding our own business” that the shitty world of eight-billion has passed down for us.
Fuck politicians, fuck rules we didn’t create for ourselves, embrace the outlaw spirit.
Otherwise we might just end up having Kaipo and the wall of positive noise tell us that two backside turns under the lip with the pro surfer’s butt five feet behind their legs is the pinnacle of surfing. We deserve more, and we must take it ourselves.
By Chas Smith
The World Surf League, at the very cusp of a brand new Championship Tour season, is known for many things including, but not limited to, putting Martin Potter in a booth, “Backward Fin” Beth, fixing things not broken and Oprah Winfrey. Sexual provocation, though, has never been one of them.
Never until just yesterday, that is, with the release of a “Brazilian Storm fanny pack.”
Per the “global home of surfing’s” usually staid website:
Brazilian Storm Fanny Pack
Shipping calculated at checkout.
Rep the Brazilian Storm with this fanny pack, which has a small inside pocket, and adjustable straps.
• 100% polyester
• Fabric weight: 9.56 oz/yd² (325 g/m²), weight may vary by 5%
• Dimensions: 6.5″ (16 cm) in height, 13″ (33 cm) in width, and 2¾″ (7 cm) in diameter
• Water-resistant material
• Top zipper with 2 sliders
• Small, customizable inner pocket without zipper
• Silky lining, piped inside hems
• 1¼″ (2.54 cm) wide adjustable straps with plastic strap regulators
Please note that returns on this item are only accepted for misprinted, damaged or defective items. See the full return policy here.
Do you know what fanny means in Australia?
By Chas Smith
Two sports. One need for speed.
Many, many years ago I traveled to North Carolina in order to attend a wedding. It was my first time in America’s south and I felt an instant fondness. The food, biscuits and gravy, chicken fried steak, collard greens, pimento cheese, etc. tickled my palate. The temperature, a balmy 80 degrees with much humidity, made me feel like I was wading through a tasty soup. The architecture, racist but purty. And the charm, very real, seemed right out of a late-1970s television program.
All wonderful (save the racist bit).
Before the big day, anyhow, the groom and his men sat in an antebellum parlor, sipping Bud Light and enjoying a NASCAR race. Now, I was aware of the motorsport, of course, but had never take the time to understand it as anything more than a counter-clockwise snooze. The subtleties, which I had never looked for, were explained to me in kind drawl and, though I didn’t become a fan, understood how it was possible.
So, unlike you, I am less surprised by Hurley’s recent collaboration with the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing on exciting surf trunks and jackets.
Per the press release:
“Hurley is one of the most influential brands in the world when it comes to action-sports and beach apparel,” said Megan Malayter, NASCAR managing director of licensing and consumer products. “As two companies who were born on the beach, we’re thrilled to be collaborating with Hurley to bring this exclusive Hurley x NASCAR collection to fans in 2023.”
Hurley was founded in Huntington Beach in 1999 on the principle of empowering and fueling the voice of the next generation. Through the lens of inclusion, Hurley has partnered with the world’s best surfers, skateboarders, snowboarders, musicians and artists, and is an iconic global youth culture brand with roots sunk deep in beach lifestyle.
“We’re excited to bring the Hurley energy that has solidified its stake in surf, snow and skate to a new audience through the Hurley x NASCAR collection. Racing and surfing take dedication, commitment and drive and have many of the same key attributes. We have fused the two as one in the latest Hurley x NASCAR collection while taking our brand trackside,” said Ralph Gindi, COO and co-founder of Bluestar Alliance, parent company of Hurley.
Did you know that Hurley was one of the most influential brands in the world? Me neither but, in any case, do you think the clothing will be on display at the upcoming World Surf League Championship Tour stop the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach or do you think that Head of Tours Jessi Miley-Dyer and gang will steer clear of NASCAR’s spotty past plus various questions re. mass pollution?
By Chas Smith
Tears in Oceanside.
LOS ANGELES, Calif., USA (Thursday, January 26, 2023) – Today, the World Surf League (WSL) announced the launch of the 2023 Vissla Championship Tour (CT) Shaper Rankings, a season-long battle to determine the best high-performance surfboard shapers. The Vissla CT Shaper Rankings is a new leaderboard that tracks the performance of the best surfers in the world via a combined men’s and women’s rankings counting Quarterfinal-or-better finishes at each of the ten CT stops this season. The best high-performance shaper will be determined by the end of the 10-stop CT, ahead of the Rip Curl WSL Finals.
“The surfboard builder community is amongst the most important in all of surfing and the shapers that support the surfers on the WSL Championship Tour are designing and innovating at the highest level of the sport,” said Dave Prodan, the WSL Chief Strategy Officer. “Their time, energy and investment in the world’s best surfers absolutely need to be recognized and celebrated. The WSL is excited to be partnering with Vissla on the inaugural Vissla CT Shaper Rankings and look forward to the broader surfing community tracking how the shapers perform this season.”
“Surfboard Craftsmanship has always been part of the Vissla brand DNA” said Paul Naude, Founder of Vissla. “Surfboards are the cornerstone of the Surf Industry and together with the WSL, we’re pleased to create a platform which will highlight the exceptional craftsmanship that board builders provide for advancement of surfing excellence.”
At the start of this season, 18 shapers provide surfboards for all the CT competitors. The goal of the Vissla CT Shaper Rankings is to spotlight which equipment consistently performs throughout the season. The rankings will also provide a behind-the-scenes look at shapers’ backgrounds and businesses.
The Vissla CT Shaper Rankings will count performances for surfers finishing in the men’s and women’s Quarterfinals or higher, offering 16 potential placings per CT event. Overall rankings will be combined across the season, beginning at Pipe and ending in Tahiti, with a winner being determined ahead of the Rip Curl WSL Finals.
And while I am absolutely certain the Stab folk are angrily gnashing teeth over ripped idea, the men’s interest magazine has legitimately lifted every concept it has ever had from others without even pretending to hide (See: Anthony Bourdain, Thrasher, Derek Rielly, etc. etc. etc.)
Excited, though, to see Marcio Zouvi hoist the trophy, or whatever, at the end.
But how mad will Matt Biolos be?
Jon Pyzel laughing at the junk show.
Wave Storm not paying attention.
By Chas Smith
Hands wring in Santa Monica.
What is there left to be written about The Eddie? Oh the most prestigious surf contest on earth ran just under a week ago and yet reverberations have banged and bonged around our world since. Everything about it was glorious, from the humble lifeguard winner to the waves that just kept coming and coming to Keala Kennelly’s perfectly dramatic exit from this sport of kings to the scoring.
Ah, yes, the scoring.
As was referenced time and again by commentators Kaipo and Rocky, scores would only be released at the end of the event, when everyone was safe etc., in order to build drama. Well, any keen observer knew that was not necessarily the case. More likely, the contest, running on a beautiful slippah strap, didn’t have the technological ability to post scores in real time but also I’d have to think the powers that be knew that it would be better without. Holding scores, until the end, guaranteed the best surfer winning which is exactly what happened and why intense pressure is, currently, building on the World Surf League.
The “global home of surfing” kicks off the Championship Tour in days and while, due simpering jealously, it did not recognize The Eddie, it should very much be able to hear the cries from beleaguered fans.
“Withhold scores until the end of each heat!” the voices scream, rising as one.
And tell me those voices are not correct. In the current WSL landscape, each heat is judged in real time with the judges attempting to set the scale while allowing for better waves at the end of the heat and/or not. This, more often than not, goes entirely sideways. Early waves are underscored to many hoots of derision, or overscored to many hoots of derision. Surfers are either gifted through by percentage points on final rides or denied that gifting, both choices landing in a fertile field of suspicion.
Each bit of it is dumb and easily solved.
Evaluate each heat at the end. Side by side comparisons of best waves ridden. Winner winner chicken dinner.
How is this not perfect?
What, the surfer in the water needs to know what she needs to do, points-wise, to defeat the other surfer in the water?
Bullshit. Surf to maximum ability always.
What, the fan at home needs to know who is ahead?
Bullshit. Aside for World Surf League employees, those watching are still surf fans and can discern who is surfing better all by lonesome.
What, there is no precedent?
Bullshit. Boxing, sort of. And The Eddie.
David Lee Scales and I discussed this, anyone, on our 201 show. It was unfortunately cut short due an airport run (my fault) but I think you will enjoy anyhow. If not, Scales had Luke Shepardson lined up for this afternoon, podcast coming shortly I’d imagine.
The Eddie über alles.
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Lifelong surfer claims the sport has a “lack of violence” problem … – BeachGrit
By James Cosmakos