If you were given a blank piece of paper and told to go off and design pro surfing, what would you do? What type of glorious Mister Squiggle/Jackson Pollock abstract masterpiece would you sketch?
It’s a favourite exercise of people who claim to have absolutely no interest in pro surfing whatsoever, people who then sit there for days growing Howard Hughes fingernails while furiously scribbling 25,000 words on how they would run the show, usually involving the removal of all sponsors, the wholesale sacking of the entire top 34, and putting Bruce Irons and Dane Reynolds on a boat full of beer in Indonesia. While this last measure is not without its merits – and we’ll get to them later – it’s technically closer to piracy than pro surfing.
Before we start, let’s just acknowledge that if you gave this exercise to 10,000 surfers, you’d get 10,000 different ideas, so let’s agree you’re never going to get consensus on this. If consensus is your goal then the camel of a pro tour you presently see, designed by a committee with competing interests over a number of years, is your surfing Valhalla. Instead, we need to focus on one blindingly brilliant, enlightened, dangerous idea – for instance, err, mine – and run with it.
But while my blue-sky exercise is a fantastic home for ideological thought bubbles and Jamie O’Brien on a unicorn, it does have to operate in a real world, the real world we currently inhabit, and we need to acknowledge a few home truths when pulling this thing together. The first caveat, and it might come as a shock to you, is that pro surfing exists to make money. That a World Champion rolls off the conveyor belt at the end of the year is largely a happy accident. Pro surfing will always make sacrifices on the altar of the free market. Pro surfing will eternally be at odds with itself. There’s a business model, there’s a surfing model, and somewhere between the twain lies pro surfing. Good waves cost money, so let’s find a way for good waves to make money.
Okay, let’s get dirty. First up, let’s stop losers winning. Having someone lose twice then get handed a trophy defies a million years of human evolution. It’s a hard enough concept for the surfers themselves to grasp, so trying to sell this idea to Johnny Punter is a stretch. The Dragons/Cats/Rafael Nadal just lost the final? No worries, let’s come back next week and give ‘em another go. This is what happened when the surfers themselves designed the Tour a few years back, the lunatics running the asylum. Man-on-man, go to whoa, two men enter, one man leaves. By doing this you’d also immediately fix the other great problem all Tour events face… trying to shoehorn four or five or more days of surfing into just three days of swell.
The top 16. Maths has never been the strong point of the ASP, but they need to make 16 their magic number, not 48, not 36, not 34. Give the top 34 a haircut at the neck – it’s been a bloviated mess for too long – and let’s get it back to the good old elite top 16. Think back, those guys used to be gods, if only because there weren’t 50 of them.
Make the trials a real show. Make it a single-day shootout but give it a waiting period of its own the week before the main event. Expand the field. Add the top 34 guys you just made unemployed, and throw them out amongst a Star Wars bar of locals, legends, space monkeys and Dane Reynolds. Guys with stories. Dangerous, desperate men. Then pit 16 of these lunatics against the top 16 and you immediately have some badass theatre on your hands. You also have a 32-man event that can finish in a day and a half of great surf, instead of the current format that needs three full days and some change. Punters suddenly don’t have to pan through days of slag TV to find moments of gold, and events finish quickly, on one swell, with real momentum.
Loosen this thing right up. From my experience people do not surf – and do not follow pro surfing – because it makes them feel safe, or it reminds them of their favourite mainstream sport. People don’t want mainstream – just ask the surf industry – their lives already are mainstream. They want counter culture, they want anti-establishment, they want all the things surfing used to represent. They don’t want surfers they can trust. They don’t want a cheese coma. Add colour. Shock people. Make them laugh. Let Wassell commentate, basically.
Bring back the floating “Search” licence. Having attended most of Rip Curl’s Search events I can personally attest to their cavalier and exotic nature. And most of the time you even got surf! How good was Puerto Rico! Bali! Chile! Don’t even get me started on Barra in Mexico. Surfing events suffer from fatigue, plodding along year after year, but here’s a chance to splash hot sauce on the Tour every year.
In saying that, can we just bring back Mexico and Indonesia. Like, um, now? I don’t care where you put the events – Puerto and G-Land will do just fine – but if you’re going to tap into the romanticism of what surfing used to be you need to get out to the fringes. You need to sell escapism, and American and Australian surfers escape respectively to Mexico and Indonesia.
Finally, going back to the boat trip with Dane and Bruce. I might have shitcanned the idea earlier, but seriously, it would work. Get a sponsor, dream up some wack abstract scoring system, film the whole thing and make it an art project. But most importantly throw an ASP logo on it. It’s hardly a revolutionary idea, but bringing it under the umbrella of “pro surfing” is. While you’re at it, hold a skins event, a prog-rock aerial showdown, and run a big-wave World Tour… which the new ASP seem to already have covered. None of these count for a World Title of course, but it sure as hell validates the World Title amongst the broad church. If you acknowledge that surfing means different things to different people and you bring them all into the tent, you’ll find it’s far better having them inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.
[The women’s Tour presents a fresh set of challenges and opportunities, and we’ll blue-sky that thing in a later issue. You don’t wanna even know what we’ve got planned there.]
Vaughan-Dead spends a week in Bali, telling us he was too afraid to even set foot outside his "utopian prison cell" of a villa. We reminisce about the Bali of old and ask what's become of our favourite little surf island?
Sea of Darkness, the greatest surf film you've never seen, tells the story of G-Land pioneer, Mike Boyum and his merry band of drug smugglers. We retrace this incredible surf film. Still on surf films, will Globe and Joe G's Shang Ri La become the next Endless Summer? And what of the state of surf films today?
The Islamic Brotherhood descends on an obscure island in the Maldives to kick out a bunch of Israeli surfers. With Greg Webber's plans to build a wave pool back in the news we give you the Short History of Wave Pools IN SONG!
How many more trees have to get wasted before the great hipster-panic goes and fucks itself?
And finally, in light of Great Britain's best ever surfer, Russel Winter getting arrested for wielding a giant sword at someone, we give you the top five surfers with a criminal record.
Being invited to the Maldives to cover the Champion’s Trophy event is both a privileged and surreal experience. Covering the event is a throw back to a recent old school in that there’s no webcast. There’s commentators, private boats lining the channel, one of them a three level catamaran serving cocktails and gourmet food to spectators. Being lucky enough to be included in the select view witnessing the event makes you feel like a king being entertained by the world’s most talented jesters.
Who would you put your money on in yesterday’s great battle? Rastovich vs Knox, free surfer vs experienced competitive work horse, Cosmic Wombat vs Captain America. The paths of these two professionals couldn’t be of higher contrast and it’s only the fortune that competition like this exists where we get to watch two distinctly different competitors go head to head.
It’s far from your average surfing contest. For starters, Dave Rastovich is here competing and no one put a gun to his head. It’s not the $25,000 up for grabs in the prize pool either, Rasta don’t care for no money. It may be the draw card of a week’s 5 star Four Season’s luxury that appealed the other surfer’s and their wives but Rasta doesn’t seem to even notice the decadence (other than when he’s wearing a snorkel and visiting the tropical fishys that surround the resort). What attracted Rasta, a surfer outspoken in his personal distaste for some of the cultural side effects of competing surfing, was the experimental format and the calibre of attendees he would be testing his alternate craft skills against.
The Four Season’s Champion’s Trophy is made up of separate winners for the single-fin, twin-fin and thruster divisions each decided on a separate day of competition. From here, two surfers with the highest point score from these divisions compete (using as many fins as they like) in a final to decide an overall winner. That winner would be Rasta. In the moments before the final Rasta and Taylor stood watching the final of the local Maldivian contest that ran parallel to the event, the only other heat that would run today. Other than appreciative sounds of oooos and arrrrrs as they watched the local talent the conversation consisted mainly of their mutual appreciation for organic fruits and vegetables. No mind games, just two friends about to compete for a chunk of cash, the Champion’s Trophy and a guaranteed ticket into next year's event. Two relaxed gentlemen. So relaxed that when Taylor went to get changed for the final he realised he didn’t pack any board shorts. He smiled and blamed his wife while the event organisers scurried the giant boat searching for a pair of size 33 Rip Curl board shots. Among 100 or so spectators on hand for finals day was a bright yellow pair that fit the description. The final had been slightly delayed but Taylor was handed some stranger’s shorts, whose they were he had no idea “All I know is that he’s staying in room 309. He’s the room 309 guy,” Taylor said.
The ocean had been kind to Taylor all week, serving him up last minute opportunities in the form of 4ft long blue walls allowing him come from behind victories in multiple heats on his road to winning the twin-fin and thruster divisions. In the final however, it was Rasta who would run away with the early lead and never be caught.
Back on the boat it was local Maldivian celebrations, with bongo drums, politician speeches and a tropical storm front that climaxed just as Rasta was finishing his speech. I jumped aboard a speed boat back to the resort with a very happy Taylor Knox and his wife Ann Marie. The couple were smiling and cracking jokes and when I asked Taylor how he was feeling after the loss he took no time in repeating the sappy meme of the trip. “There’s no way to lose in this competition, we’re all winners”.
Surfing Champions Trophy
1st – Dave Rastovich (AUS) (8.60 + 9.10) 17.70pts
2nd – Taylor Knox (USA) (8.17 + 4.00) 12.17pts
Domestic Champions Trophy
1st – Hussain ‘Iboo’ Areef 16.00pts
2nd – Ismail ‘Kuda Issay’ Miglal 15.83pts
3rd – Amid ‘Ammaday’ Agil 13.84pts
4th – Mohamed ‘Billu’ Irushad 11.93pts
There has never been a better surfing contest briefing room. At 7:00 am we sit in the Maldives Four Season’s resort faced with the most impossibly diverse and delicious breakfast buffet known to man, watch the sun rise across the Maldivian reefs in the distance, and await the call for today’s event from Tropicsurf founder Ross Phillips. Making the call whether or not to run the event today is an easy one for Ross, it only takes three hours of surfing to find a winner in the twin-fin division and there’s plenty of well organised lumps being offered up by the Indian Ocean. He calls a 1pm start. That’s fine with me. In fact it’s great for everyone. The buffet awaits and we are in no mood to show it any mercy.
I throw down another short black, the third in as many hours and I’m ready for the awaiting 4ft rights bouncing against a patch of reef by the name of Sultans. There is always a small window of opportunity before any surf event to grab a few waves with an empty line up. This can be especially true in such an exotic location, where most of the other surfers are avoiding the event site in favour of other options near by. We enjoy a 40 minute window of perfect waves until we hear the dreaded “please clear the water” from the event’s tongue of silver, commentator Scott Gilles.
I have never really liked twin fins. They have always seemed like an outdated novelty to me, they slide too much. But from the start of todays first heat I wanted one. All of the event’s surfers were pushing each other and their rails to a level of performance where they could have been mistaken for riding thrusters, but they weren’t. I only saw ten fins all day. Despite Dave Rastovich’s advantage via the experience earned with a career built on twin-fins it would be defending champ Taylor Knox who would beat Rasta in the final to win the division.
Speaking to Sunny after his semi final lose to Taylor Knox, I asked him why with priority he let Taylor grab a smaller but very scorable wave with only 5 minutes remaining. Sunny already had a high 9 locked in, and only needed a mid range score as a second wave to secure the win. He told me that he no interest in just winning his semi, his only interest was in totally dominating it. No seven point rides making up his total. He wanted another high nine, but the ocean turned very quiet and Sunny was left still needing a small score.
Rasta was always the man to watch in the twin-fin division. Twin-fins are Rasta’s preferred surfboard design, a rarity among surfing’s elite. During his semi with Fabio Gouveia, he seemed able call waves at will and despite an in form Fabio, won with ease. He then repeats this feat in the final with Taylor, until with 3 minutes remaining, Taylor once again finds a wave without priority to win today’s event. Taylor commented “It was such a good wave, I knew I was surfing good and the board was looking great and that I could get the score if the waves came to me.”
With just the thruster division to run, and Taylor winning today’s event, qualifying for the Grand Champions by closing Rasta’s lead is still a possibility for all of the competitors.
In Partnership With The Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy and Tropicsurf
Room 419 is the very last room in a line of 32 Water Bungalows that sit above the water at the Four Seasons Resort in the Maldives. It’s also our home for the next seven days to watch a unique invitation only surfing event. Promoted as the world’s most Luxurious surfing contest the accommodation certainly lives up to its name. This is a truly beautiful resort.
It’s hard not to dwell on the location of this event, however it’s the surfing that has us all here. Contest director Mark Winson’s innovative format requires six hand selected surf stars to compete in single fin, twin fin, and thruster divisions over three days to eventually award a Surfing Champions Trophy winner. The invited surfers are an eclectic bunch of surfing legends. Last years champ Taylor Knox is back to defend his title. Rasta, Fabio Gouveia, Sunny Garcia, Rochelle Ballard and Taylor Jensen are the surfers he needs to beat.
Today the contest began in three to four foot Sultans for the single fin division, with Rasta edging out a strong finishing Sunny Garcia in a powerhouse display of classic single fin surfing. The perfect right hand point delivers all day. Sunny falls short of the 9 point ride he needs in the final minutes of the final with an 8.9.
Sunny is a competitive guy. He has been all his life. This contest is no exception. He wanted that score and is disappointed that he just fell short. Currently training for the Hawaiian Ironman, he’s in great shape. Tomorrow’s twin fin division will give him the opportunity to even the score with Rasta. “This format suits me. I started surfing on a single fin and transitioned to the twin fin and then the thruster, so its a run down memory lane.”
Rasta, the self confessed “most competitively challenged member of the event”, rode a borrowed single fin Joel Fitzgerald handshaped for himself. He dominated his earlier heats, to set up a classic final with Sunny.
“That was pretty special,” said Rastovich after the win. “The timing today for the final was perfect with the winds and the island currents. It just got better and better all day, yeah it was dreamy,”
Organisers will make a decision as to whether to stage the Twin Fin division tomorrow morning while we, the world’s most privileged surf contest spectators, decide how many breakfast pastries are really necessary.
Apparatus is what separates us from the Gods of pro surfing. Those goofy reef shoes, nose guards… and ear plugs. The pros embody a moment in time, you see. The rest of us actually live a lifetime, and accordingly things wear out. If you surf in a cold place, ears are one of the things that are going to go.
Exostosis is a bony growth in the external ear canal (known medically as the far canal). The condition is also known as surfer’s ear, caused by cold water, wind exposure and picking your ear wax with unfolded paper clips. Okay, I made that bit up. The growths aren’t harmful in themselves – it’s the body’s way of protecting some very sensitive equipment, including the ear drums and facial nerves, from the elements. Trouble is, they trap seawater which then warms up to body temperature and harbours all sorts of horrendous bugs (most of which have yoghurty names like aspergillus), leading to seriously harmful infections. You know you’re in strife when you get that glug sound driving home from the water, and all you can hear for days is the sound of your own digestion. (And isn’t ‘discharge’ an unpleasant word...)
Flying is not an issue with exostosis, unless the Eustacian tubes have gone feral (see yoghurt, above). It’s just that when the plane lands, surfing becomes a misery. The condition is usually bilateral, although it is possible to develop an “onshore ear”. For Victorians, looking south as they sit in the line-up, it’s the right ear that cops the westerly exposure. As things warm up going north, there’s a theory that pterygia of the eyes outnumbers exostosis of the ears at about Byron, as sun glare takes over from wind blasts.
Although the bony growths will not go away on their own accord, there are options. Starting with prevention, here’s Rule Number One: surf wax is not an option. If you lose a glob of Palmers in there, some surgeon is going to have to dig a mineshaft to find it. Blu tak is nearing acceptable, though it renders the wearer mostly deaf. Your choice: some on-water discussions are worthwhile, some aren’t. Bear in mind its propensity to pick up ear hairs and wax: if you leave your stash on the dash, expect hitch-hikers to dive out the window in fright.
You can get custom earplugs made with a little aperture so you retain high frequency hearing. Or there’s the ol’ Doc’s Pro Plugs, inextricably linked with the remarkable Doc Pascowitz, but likely invented by another Doc – Californian Doc Scott. Shameless Plug Warning: Doc’s have advertised in the pages of SW since Reggae Elliss was a kid. Among their happy wearers is SW’s Doug Lees, who keeps multiple pairs in his car, office, bathroom, luggage and underground lair.
Doug the Plug takes us to the dark end of the spectrum – surgical intervention. The common technique is an incision behind the ear followed by drilling. Expect eight weeks out of the water, and up to 15 stitches, depending on the size, location and history of the blockages. The ears are done one at a time so you aren’t completely deaf while you heal. But Doug once heard a rumour that surf pap Aaron Chang was having his ears chiselled out every five years by a surgeon in San Clemente, who does it without incision, using dentistry tools. Delicate, precise, and back in the water within a week. Worth a try, shrugged Doug. The results have been stunning – he’s never the guy saying “Huh?” in a social situation. – Jock Serong
“Go back, we stuffed it up.”
You’ve seen the meme, the evolution of man from Australopithecus to smartphone user, the latter turning back around and informing his simian ancestors that the future ain’t so bright after all and they’re better off climbing back up the tree. Now put an evolving surfboard under the arm of each evolving monkey, put a hipster beard on the guy doing the U-turn and you’ve got yourself a perfect metaphor for surfing today.
Okay, before we get going, I’ve got to state outright for the record that I’m not hipsterist, and I’m going to invoke the “some of my best friends are hipsters” defence before going any further. I, like most of you, have hipster tendencies. I own retro-twins, I surf a fish, I own a front-zip long arm wetsuit jacket although I never surf it unzipped. I do however refuse to grow a beard, as in combination with a bald head it comes across more meth cook than cool 70s throwback.
The hipster surfer is a popular whipping boy. Between the oh-so faux retro, the irony of self-parody, the analogue-this and the artisan-bullshit-that, the all-consuming quest for pointless cool they’re easy targets. With so many cultural reference points being drawn from eras other than their own, hipsterism has been labeled the “dead end of Western civilisation”. Since we came down from the trees we’ve been engineered to go forward. No generation is born to be more useless than the last. That’s Darwinism. That’s life. But hipsterism in its purest form has turned its back on their evolutionary duty to progress the species. Their generation will be remembered in time for being someone else’s generation.
But you gotta ask yourself why the hipster mentality seems to be so over-represented in surfing today? And I’m not just talking a clichéd core sample taken from The Pass at Byron on a two-foot day. Looking widely at surfing right now, we’ve become a largely backwards-facing culture. It seems there’s a little bit o’ hipster in all of us. We’ve emerged from decades where everything new in surfing was good and cool and right. Where surfing moved forward in quantum leaps, where you actively tried to surf harder than everyone else, where you actively tried to surf differently to everyone else. Where surfing was bigger, faster, deeper, higher, and everything was calibrated to achieve that. So why now does “cooler” seem to be the dominant measure, and why are we so obsessed with where surfing has already been?
Maybe we’ve hit a natural progress plateau. Maybe we’ve jumped so quickly in the past 30 years that all progress from here is incremental, and in the absence of big leaps forward we’re simply getting bored and looking backwards for ways to keep us entertained. The thruster is 35 years old, and the most significant challenger to it as a performance vehicle – the quad – has been around in various forms for most of that time. There’s also an argument that the most progressive surfer today – certainly the guy trying hardest at it – is 42 years old. Programmed in another time, Kelly Slater is genuinely perplexed why people would jump on a board that wouldn’t allow you to surf your best. But Kelly is an exceptional case on several levels, and certainly not a part of a generation conditioned on thinking looking good and surfing good are the same thing.
Maybe it’s simple demographics driving this obsession. If you believe the cultural parable surfing has always been the domain of youth, yet a snap poll conducted during my surf at Winkipop this morning had three quarters of the line-up north of 30 years of age, and a quarter of the line-up without their own teeth or hair. They all grew up in eras that are now being treated as holy, and these guys are now of an age where early onset “all-timers disease” kicks in and they start taking a nostalgic interest in everything from their youth.
Or maybe, as our friend in the meme puts it so succinctly, we’ve just fucked surfing up, and fucked it up royally. The Jaded Index, if there were one, would be off the charts right now. In the post-surf industry boom there’s been a huge correction back to soul and roots. If you use pro surfing as a barometer it’s never divided surfers the way it does right now. We’ve farmed surfing out to whoever wanted to buy a piece of it, and from coast to coast the resultant rabble little resembles what surfing once was when it was a secret society.
But yet is looking back such a dead end? Maybe in fact we’re hurtling forward through evolutionary time, just looking backwards while doing so. If you’re using fins as your measure, then Derek Hynd’s de-evolution, riding without any fins at all, might yet be the most evolutionary act of our time. He’s taken a concept as old as surfing time itself – a plank – and fused it deftly with a hundred years of shaping evolution. Then you look at a guy like Craig Anderson, who better than anyone alive blends 70s style and great 70s hair with modern limitlessness.
Through all this we’ve been remiss to chicane around that other defining trait of the surfing hipster, probably the most defining one… just how goddamn nauseatingly happy they seem to be. Incredibly good-natured, inhabiting a place beyond irony, my hipster friends will laugh at this column that’s laughing at them. Cruising along a wave, their mind free and unburdened by the pressing need to turn, simply soaking it all in, these guys wouldn’t be anywhere else on Earth. To them that is going forward, and who’s to say they’re not right? For what exactly constitutes progress? Is it higher, faster, further, or is it enlightenment and looking impossibly cool?
Well, it had everything didn't it? J Bay was the event of the ASP season so far. Bombing waves, flawless point break surfing, and a precious little frenchmen by the name of Jeremy Flores losing his shit, again.
But getting gypped by the judges can be the least of your worries in South Africa. We cover Aritz Aranbaru's forlorn tale (courtesy of Surf Europe) about getting locked up in a Johannesburg prison on his way to the Mr Price Pro in Durban. Surfers get caught "harassing" whales, Firewire delivers us an eco-revolution and the ASP Big Wave World Tour: Riding giants or a giant fizzier?
Dorian gets the bomb at Puerto, but what about underground charger Gabriel Villarean? Where's the hype for his effort?
It's also comeback week on Ain't That Swell. Aussie Puerto pioneer, Gary Hughes returns to Mexico to charge Mex Pipe at 50 something years old and Jai Abberton makes his return to Ours. To celebrate these two icons, we take a look at surfing's top five all-time comebacks.
Visionary / Film Lord / Bearded dude
SW: The Academy of Motion Pictures delivers you a lifetime achievement Oscar. What’s the opening line of your acceptance speech?
TS: Spike Jonze hands me the trophy and I’d say, “I know that dude… You know, all I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz and I’m fine.”
You direct a re-make of Big Wednesday with unlimited budget and the cast of your choice. Give us the actor and the stunt double for the following characters…
Matt Johnson: James Franco with stunt surfing by Dane Reynolds.
Leroy the Masochist: Owen Wilson with stunt surfing by Owen Wright.
Jack Barlow: Michael Cera with stunt surfing by Noa Deane.
Bear: Danny McBride with stunt surfing by Jordy Smith.
Gerry Lopez: Craig Anderson and he would do his own stunts.
You can go back in time and film the one wave you missed or taped over from your early years as a video guy. Whose is it?
When I was filming for Momentum 2 I missed the first part of a Ross Williams combo. He was so mad he didn’t talk to me for a week. Whenever we have a couple beers the tension still comes out about it. Sorry Ross, now can you let it go?
George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and John Milius invite you to join the esteemed Bearded Directors of Hollywood League. Do you sign up or go into the bathroom and shave?
Of course I sign up! I haven’t shaved in over a year hoping they will call. I stay awake at night staring at my phone. “Please ring!” But it’s only ever an Indian voice asking if I’d like to take part in a survey.
You’re paddling between two islands when all of a sudden you feel compelled to slink off your board and just lie there… drifting… what’s going through your mind at this point?
“Dude, where’s my car?”
The title of the best surf movie you never made? What’s it about?
BREAKOUT! It’s about a bunch of under-privileged kids that are trying to get out of the ghettos by surfing and singing pop music. Tagline: “Whether it’s ocean waves or sound waves these guys are breaking all the rules.”
Would Jon Swift really enjoy playing guitar more than getting paid millions of dollars to make atomic weapons? Really?
Money or groupies it’s a tough choice. He has no regrets.
Which number is better 12 or 37?
37, no reason why. Who needs reasons?
You have to erase from existence one film from your back catalogue. Which do you choose and why?
I’d erase Momentum. Crooked horizons, too many Bad Religon songs, tons of shots that are out of focus, but mainly Kelly would pay me a lot of money to lose that fight scene with Paul Roach.
You wake up in an alternate reality where cameras and film making don’t exist. Describe what you’d be doing today?
I’d be a slacker.
Illustration by Nanda Ormond.
Provenance: Ulladulla, NSW
Russ was born on the North Shore of Oahu and moved to Ulladulla with his family aged 5. His pedigree exposes his preference for airdrops down mountainous waves over air reverses. Kirk, his Dad, lived on the North Shore for 15 years surfing the outer reefs and shaping boards for Jamie Sterling, Mark Healey and a few other guys. “It’s come a lot from my Dad,” said Russ. “He’s taught me everything I know about big waves. He makes all my boards and we talk a fair bit about board design. It’s pretty sick.”
Russ’s first experience in solid waves was a sign of things to come. “I went to Bells Beach when I was 12 and it was huge. Dad tried to paddle out from the sand but almost got washed onto The Button so we paddled out a kay or two from Centreside, the next beach over. There were only four or five guys out… they were wondering what a young kid was doing out there… I was wondering the same thing. I only got one, probably a solid 10 foot wave, but that hooked me. That was the start of it all.”
Last year Russ linked up with Kelly Slater on a mission to score slabs in the Australian desert. “He called me into one of the best waves of my life,” he said. “I could hear him yelling, ‘Go! Go! Go!’ from the channel so I knew I had to put my head down. I barely made the take off and looked up and thought, Ahh I’m way too deep. For some reason it kept pushing me through the barrel and I ended up getting blown out the end. It was pretty unreal. I’m glad I didn’t blow it in front of him. It was cool hanging with him for a few days.”
Russ told me he wants to make a career out of all this. He said he wants to chase swells as much as he can. “It’s being appreciated a lot more now, especially compared to when my Dad was young,” he reasoned.
It’s funny how things come full circle. Where Kirk helped Healey and Sterling into careers that didn’t quite exist yet, those same guys have made a future possible for Russ. Whatever comes next… for this grom, you can bet it’s gonna be big.
– Lucas Townsend
In Australia, the term “seagull” actually refers to the Silver Gull. A byword for unconstrained greed, their un-hinging jaws allow them to eat objects bigger than their own heads. The scientific name Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae comes from Greek, meaning “Australian bird capable of eating objects larger than its own head”. They were already here when Europeans turned up. It is not known how they survived before fried food and litter.
Seagulls are very common. They are now thought to be nearly as numerous as baristas, although research indicates they are more widely liked. Despite their prevalence, seagulls have made only two appearances in the history of human culture: the first was Chekov’s eponymous play, often quoted by pretentious undergrads (to extract yourself from any such conversation it is only necessary to say “He stole it – it’s just Hamlet for Russians”). The second was David Williamson’s play The Club, in which star recruit Geoff Hayward likes to play footy stoned, with this result: “Five minutes after you smoke it your head lifts right off your shoulders. I wasn’t looking out into the crowd, incidentally, I was watching a seagull. Not just an ordinary seagull. It was the prince of seagulls, dazzling me with blasts of pure white every time its wings caught the sun.”
Because of the quite serious issue of gulls being struck by balls or trampled underfoot, major arenas have tried using birds of prey to frighten them off – finally, a commercial application for the very cool hobby of falconry.
Seagulls are synonymous with the beach, but have never been accorded the sea-faring cred of the albatross or the petrel. They have about as much open-ocean gravitas as an inflatable dinghy.
From a distance, roosting gulls on the low tide rocks look remarkably like sesame seeds on a Japanese gyudon. As a result, it is possible to become very hungry through staring at them for too long while surfing. Sometimes a gull will lose a leg to a pelagic fish while sitting on the ocean’s surface. Sometimes they will fake this injury to garner sympathy. They are nothing if not adaptable.
Their sound is the sound of summer, the discordant music to our transition from carpark to sea, as they bicker and scrap over chips thrown from car windows. If ever you meet someone who can convincingly imitate a seagull’s scrrraw! shout them a wave. It’s a very difficult thing to do.
No-one has ever seen a baby seagull. Although the Wikipedia entry on Silver Gulls claims to show a photograph of juveniles, this only proves you should never do your research on Wikipedia.
– Jock Serong
... Tom Curren at J-Bay, 2009
By Kai Otton
Curren was there to surf against Occy in a Clash-of-the-Icons battle as a little side feature to the Billabong Pro World Tour event. No shit, I was more excited about seeing the Occy and Curren match-up than I was to compete at J-Bay. I was having a bit of meltdown at the time. I’d had a shitty run of results and a heat loss to Marco Polo in Brazil totally broke me.
I wasn’t in a good way. I’d let my hair get all dreaded and filthy, grew a massive beard and spent most of the first week of the waiting period hiding from people in the dunes meditating and watching the ocean.
The only thing that put a smile on my face each day was watching Curren surf Jeffreys. I’d grown up worshipping Tom, hammering VHS tapes of all his sections in Sonny Miller’s Rip Curl Search films. I loved his mysto vibe and the way he could ride just about any board and make it work. So even in my defeated state I got psyched seeing Tom there.
I’ve definitely seen more high-performance surfing in my time but to me that isn’t necessarily the best surfing. Over the course of that first week at J-Bay I was freaking on Curren’s energy and I’ve never enjoyed watching someone else surf so much. He surfed those walls with pure style and drew cool lines I’d never seen with my own eyes. He was also surfing more than anyone else there.
Just watching him made me happy and pulled me out of my funk. When his heat with Occy rolled around it was a perfect offshore day with 4 to 5 foot walls running from Boneyards through Supers.
Everyone knew they were witnessing something special and the old boys didn’t disappoint. I got crazy goosebumps when they ran down to big screams and applause form the crowd.
Tom had this board from Channel Islands called “The Tangent” that looked to be a part of him. It was a normal 6’1” shortboard and he was doing all the turns that anyone on the WCT that year were doing. I would’ve freaked if he was in the contest and drew him in a heat.
Inspired by Tom’s surfing I got my head straight and had one of my best events before being totally ripped off against Joel Parkinson in the semis. Ha!
A couple of months later I travelled to India by myself to starve my inner demons on a full detox. I didn’t eat for a week and had two colonic irrigations a day for the duration of the 10 day trip. After that trip I realised that life on Tour was pretty damn good and I’ve been loving it ever since. Cheers Tom.
Sean Doherty remembers Curren and Otto at J-Bay
In J-Bay that year I actually thought Otto might be living in the bushes overlooking the point. He was wearing this dirty khaki jacket and had the biggest ginger bushranger beard that had sticks and bugs in it. This was years before hipster beards so amongst all the clean-cut Tour guys prancing around the place he kind of stood out. He actually looked a bit like Doc, the old hermit who actually did live in the bushes at J-Bay.
The waves were flat for the first few days, so the boys were kicking the footy around a lot. There was this big open yard overlooking the point, and as soon as Otto heard the sound of the ball being kicked he’d just appear out of the scrub and grab the ball and start leaping around like Gary Ablett. Even though he’s from NSW Otto played Aussie Rules growing up, so he was calling out all the league guys about how shitty their kicking was, throwing dummy handpasses to no one, fully playing an imaginary Aussie Rules game with himself. I think he was going through some issues at the time but it was kind of hard to tell cause when he’s happy he can be a misery guts, and when he’s a misery guts he comes across happy.
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Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbot gives US president Barack Obama a malibu. Well, isn't that just dandy. Now we can all just ride off into the sunset "sharing the stoke," as it were. NOT ON OUR FUCKING WATCH! It will be a cold day in the Mentawais when we accept soap dodging politicians into the fold. SCAB! SCAB! SCAB!
Surfing in Alaska: eating seal and "shitting black," as Alex Gray puts it, and scoring mind-boggling tubes along the freezing arctic frontier. De Passage: the Reef surfing film that left me rock hard and confused.
Texas Walker Ranger comes to the Gold Coast to clean the scum from the Superbank. This week's Classic Moment takes us to the Banzai Pipeline for Californian Joey Buran's breakthrough victory in 1984.
And we finish up with pro surfing's rich list. Who is the best paid surfer in the world? We gotta say we didn't see this coming.
*This week's program also features tracks from seven surf bands that actually rip.
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SW: You get a wildcard into the men’s event of your choosing. Which do you pick?
Oh, this is really gnarly. It’s tough because the guys have great waves and watching them surf Teahupoo and Pipe is amazing but the thing is they surf those waves at eight to 12 feet whereas I only surf those waves at four to six feet, so I was gonna say Trestles but we’ve got that on Tour now, so I think something that would challenge me but not be death-defying would be J-Bay.
Would you rather have a great white swim under your board or a giant spider run across your face?
Having a shark swim under me is not okay. A spider running over my face… no worries.
You start an all-girl band with two members from the current Women’s Tour. What’s it called?
I’d have Steph Gilmore because she can play guitar and I’ve been hanging with Alessa Cuizon and she’s a great dancer and she has a voice too. We’d be called Small Fries, because it feels really catchy and I just saw it on the back of a girl’s t-shirt.
Which number, 12 or 37?
12. My favourite number is three. One plus two is three. Three times four is 12.
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
I’d hope Jennifer Lawrence, I love her, I have a girl crush. She’s awesome. She’s just super cool in all her interviews and she rocks.
You have to rock either an afro or cornrows for the next year. Which do you choose?
An afro. I don’t like cornrows. An afro has a lot more ba-ba-ba-boom, it’s much more sexy. Beyoncé rocks the afro sometimes, so why not?
You get the wave of the season at Pipeline on the busiest day of the year. Do you claim it?
I would totally claim it! [Laughs] I would have my hands in the air then I’d be holding my face and be that stoked that I made it I wouldn’t care about how uncool I looked. Then me and Small Fries would play a celebration gig that night at Haleiwa Joes. That sounds like a plan.
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Big Wave World Tour
Provenance: Sunshine Beach,
Noosa Heads, QLD
Everyone’s got the photo. The one of a younger you with a catastrophic haircut, taken before anything mattered and hairdressers had eyes. It’s the one photo that no matter how cute the puppy is you’re holding, or any accessory for that matter, it doesn’t detract from the monstrosity on top. And they don’t come worse than the bowlcut. It’s the microwavable pizza of haircuts. So incredibly famous for being completely awful that it’s kinda okay. But while you cringe at the old photo of your fur explosion there’s always the sweet, sweet rejoice of knowing it’s all behind you.
But Harry Bryant’s 18 and he still loves microwavable pizza and truth is, we’re all better off for it. See, Harry’s one of those guys who’s found the balance between fun and serious. That’s a rare quality to have during the “do-or-die time for your career” when you’re trying to make it in competitive surfing with all the stretching and hooters and scores and hooters. “I’ve got a side of me that’s really dedicated to a good time with my mates but then there’s a side of me that’s wanting to do well and surf contests,” he says.
Harry’s part of a young crew of creatives on the Sunny Coast who’ve grown up watching Jake Donlan’s Runamuk Visuals take shape, a website showcasing talent from sides of the industries you may not have seen. Having been around for 10 years or so, there’s now this new wave of energy coming from the Sunny Coast. They’re filming, shooting, painting, surfing, skating and they’ve got the mediocre waves of the Sunny Coast to thank. “We’ve just come off the back of a six-month flat spell so yeah, the waves aren’t great. We do a lot of creative stuff that I suppose we don’t realise people call creative. We just get super bored and make things happen.” Whatever the idea – whether it’s playing soccer with raw chickens on his feet or dressing up in his sister’s tights for a tandem surfing exhibition – Harry seems to be the Yes Man with a character reminiscent of times gone by.
Harry’s been brought up under a watchful eye because around the corner from his house is the Nicest Guy in Surfing, Dean Brady. Brady’s taken Harry under his Boeing 747 wing and gotten all Mr. Miyagi on him. “When the surf’s good it’s all-time and me Brady always hit it. He’s been a huge influence on my whole life,” says Harry. “He’s always taught me the value of being a genuine nice bloke and that you’d be amazed where it’ll take you.”
Wax on, Harry. Wax on.
By Lucas Townsend
One of my absolute favourite things to make is my famous banana and chocolate cake. It’s a very balanced cake spiritually thanks to the yin of bananas and the yang of cocoa. This is my own personal recipe, perfected over many years of baking these suckers. Disclaimer: This cake is actually only famous in my mind when I’m eating it.
½ a thing of butter
¾ cup of brown sugar
2 cups of self raising flour
1 block of dark chocolate
2 ripe bananas
STEP 1: Put on a cool Guatemalan apron and compliment that with a rainbow headband. I also recommend playing Seasons in the Abyss by Slayer at full volume to give your cake some death metal badassness.
STEP 2: Melt your butter into a bowl and then beat in the brown sugar like Dave Lombardo beats those double kickers in War Ensemble. Melt down your chocolate into that shit as well.
STEP 3: After you’ve worked all that into a fine paste chuck in everything that’s left – the flour, bananas and eggs. Stir that gear up and marvel how something that looks heaps like a bowl of gorilla fingers will be the tastiest thing you’ve ever eaten in less than an hour.
STEP 4: Grease up your cake tin by lining it with butter then pour your gorilla fingers in to about the 1/3 mark. Have your oven on about 180 and slot your cake in on the top shelf. Then start pulling out your hair because you already want to eat your cake but you’re gonna have to wait at least 40 minutes.
STEP 5: Soon as I see the roof of my cake split I wait another 15 minutes then rip that thing out of the oven and shove it straight into my mouth, often suffering internal third degree burns because it’s that bloody molten hot. If you have the patience to let your cake sit for a while, maybe whip up some cream and get your girl to lick it off your nipples to pass the time.
The shortboard shredders who inspire the world’s raddest wave dancer
Californian surfer Alex Knost rides logs, mid-lengths and shortboards with a kind of Bruce Lee-meets-Iggy Pop zing-shred-pow. His influences obviously extend to well beyond the surf world but we figured it’d be interesting to find out which modern day shortboarders get his mojo firing…
Ford Archbold Mushies at Night
Ford surfs for fun and fun only. He despises self promotion and rips way harder than anyone thinks. He draws unique lines and maximises the entire length of his board. I watched him paddle out in the pitch black night at big Log Cabins, and he was really high on mushrooms. No one can give him shit because to him it doesn’t exist. He’s as much Archbold as he is Ford.
Ozzie Modest Revolution
Duh… coolest dude ever. Took moon rocks with him all night, he stayed up, painted six boards with oil pastels at dawn, then paddled out at terrible Newport in California and ripped on a finless soft top. He’s my hero and another modest revolutionary.
Christian Fletcher Not A Dork
Christian’s not a dork, he tells it how it is. If I was him and had done what he’s done I’d be a prick, but he’s punk as can be and if surfers these days were more like him, the surf industry would be a better place, more radical, less self absorbed with internet garbage, less ass kissing. Oh, and he’s a Fletcher, and he skates insane, and surfed 10 years before his time. Love him like a brother.
Gavin Beschen Interior Feelings
The most modest and stylish surfer I know. I’ve seen him pack such heavy backside ones at Off the Wall. He gave Ford a free board and that is so selfless… such Aloha. His patience at Rocky Point last winter impressed me beyond belief. Unique introvert style, he surfs for interior feelings. I love that his gratification stems from that. Also his part in some Volcom movie when he surfs to Sabbath at Sunset Beach is the coolest thing ever. I have a lot of respect for him and have only spoken four words to him ever.
Chris Ward Pleasantly Raw
Surfs all day while everyone’s on Instagram. His tuberiding is unbelievable. He’s a raw talent and every interaction I’ve had with him has been a pleasant one.
Mason Ho Spirit Child
Free spirited free style charger. I love the way he uses his whole board and he seems completely unaware of any sort of consequence in the water. I watched him at low tide rights at Rockpiles and it was so shallow and heavy and he didn’t care at all. Ford turned me onto him that day, he told me to just watch and when I did my head fell off.
"KIN is you and me, the lovers and creators of art and music, the boarders and the travellers. It’s a community of like minds; a place where you can explore the world of surf, skate, snow, travel, art and music." Kinapp.com.au
By Mike Fanning
I was 15 years old and on my first surf trip with my then sponsor Quiksilver. The late, great Andrew Murphy took me down to watch The Rip Curl Pro at Bells. A few days after watching Matt Hoy’s epic win at the Pro the Skins event kicked off and we hung around to watch it.
Occy was ripping in the Pro and made the quarters but he went to a whole different place in firing waves in the Skins. To this day I’ve never seen someone dominate an event like Occy did the Skins. He didn’t have one dud heat. His surfing was so much faster and bigger than anyone else out there and all the top pros were in it, including Kelly. I definitely haven’t seen a backhand as strong at Bells since. Occ’s waves in the Skins would still be getting near-perfect scores in World Tour heats today and it was 17 years ago.
I think the thing that stood out to me was the transformation I’d seen in Occ. He had moved to the Gold Coast so as a grom I’d watched him go from his lowest point where he was massively overweight and rarely surfed to an ultra psyched ball of muscle, pumped to win events again. I knew he was good but I had no idea what he was really capable of until I saw him in that comp. It was incredible. The Skins itself was a unique event where you only counted one wave in each round and that was all Occy ever needed. He got nines all day and ended up winning $55,000 and a new car.
One wave that stood out to me had this wild foam-climb transition. Occ had this magic 6’5” channel-bottom Dahlberg that seemed to do anything he wanted. He was caught deep on this one wave and probably could have bottom turned around this big section but he just redirected, went vertical and projected a ridiculous distance to make it in front of the wave. He got that board to do some messed up things that day, he also used it the following year to win the Rip Curl Pro at Bells.
I think after that performance in the Skins and the win in 98 Occy really became synonymous with Bells, especially The Bowl. Like Kelly at Cloudbreak or Gerry at Pipe, you couldn’t think about Bells without thinking about Occ.
When he was on Tour if The Bowl was six-foot plus and you drew Occy you knew you were ruined. Even when Andy, who was regarded as one of the best at Bells, came up against Occy in a quarter-final back in 2006 in beautiful waves on The Bowl Occy totally destroyed him.
It’s a big question to be asked: What’s the best surfing you’ve ever seen? I knew my answer almost instantly. I’ve seen plenty of mind-blowing surfing in competition and outside of it. But watching Occy win the Skins from the cliff top on that clear, crisp, offshore day will always be one of the highlights of my life as a surfer.
The Billabong Pro, Rio - SAMBA! From grovelly waist-high runners to green orbs from the planet zion, to some classic 1980's gamesmanship, the Rio Bong-off had it all. Meanwhile, one week after writing Slater off as a "94 year old grandma" with only days to go in his career, Ain't That Swell is leading the KE12Y bandwagon. And we're coming for the title, baby! YEAH!.
Speaking of which, what is the role of the surfing media exactly? Are we on a crusade for THE TRUTH? Are we here to EXPOSE and hold waxheads to ACCOUNT for their questionable posturings and behaviour? Jed and Vaughan Dead undergo a monday night existential crisis for y'all - live on air! Wooooo!
In lieu of the Arab Spring, Occupy, the Burmese monks vs the military junta and Thailand declaring martial law, the waxhead community has finally got its shit together and taken to the streets. We take a trip through the history of the waxhead protest movement - from the big poo in Coffs Harbour to the Waxheads 4 Change movement and the good fight being fought by former World Tour surfer, turned mixed martial artist, turned mayoral candidate, Dustin Barca, against Monsanto.
Honourable mentions: Forget about surf journalism, let's all just make noises to describe surfing - Zah! Dootz! Bannnng! Bah! Zzzant! - Peter Mel does. Oh, and let's not forget zzzzz…how else would you describe the ASP women's performance in Brazil (Zing!) Al Knost: unbearable hipster douchebag or merely a misunderstood douchebag? Or neither? An interview with jujitsu freak, Rickson Gracie (of Gracie jujitsu fame), which we poached from the ASP (take that Zosea!) And can we please have enough of this convoluted ASP ratings system as well as the endless repechage rounds. You want repechage? Bend over and we'll give you a repechage.
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So the coal seam gas thing is real. It's a real danger and it's time we all start realising it. These companies own big drills. These big drills extracts methane from coal seams underground. But they also extract large volumes of salty water to the surface in the process. Here's one problemo. This water is totally gross and contaminates underground and surface water, wreaking havoc on oceans like a giant idiot washing a gazillion cars on the road and letting all the suds wash down the drain to flow out at your local. Second problemo. These mines require heaps of wells to extract the methane in the coal seams, ultimately butchering perfectly healthy land and ruining the livelihoods of local farmers.
Now, all this is happening on the Northern NSW coast. Some of Australia's best right point breaks are under threat as well as the beautiful land that's come to charactarise the north. When you watch this clip made by Kaius Potter, total shred lord Dave Rastovich will explain with a lot more eloquence and reason and you'll find out about a peaceful protest on May 19 that you should really get involved with. But if you can't, that's cool, but promise us one thing. At very least, you'll have the conversation with a fellow surfer. Ask them whether they're okay with losing one of their favourite right point breaks they surfed that time as a kid. Educate them, stoke them out on getting involved and spread the word.
The people who’ve adorned Surfing World’s covers over 51 years are each caught in a moment of their lives – almost invariably the peak of their careers, and their physical prime. Appearing in portrait, in a barrel or high above a lip, the image is only ever a moment in a life. How the surfer got there – and where they went next – is a fascinating thing to explore.
Steve Cooney will live forever in surf culture as the 15-year-old kid who caught the first waves ever surfed at Uluwatu in Albe Falzon’s seminal surf film Morning of the Earth (yep, he’s also one of the silhouettes on the cover). A regular on surf trips up and down the coast for SW during the early 70s, Stevo scored his first cover in November 75. He continues to live and shred on Sydney’s Northern Beaches today.
SW: The early 70s must’ve been a whirlwind for you. Do you remember winding up on the cover back in November 75?
SC: I remember it well. Peter Crawford took it. I was on an orange-rail board built by Bill Cilia down at Nirvana on the Central Coast. It was a nice little board, that one. The barrel was at Dee Why Point – it wasn’t a huge day, just average size, but really nice down the inside section. Peter was sitting down there shooting. I was often photographed in the first few years after Morning of the Earth came out in 1972. I think people saw me as a free-surfer in those days, and I guess I was known for my tube riding.
What was going on in your life in those years between Morning of the Earth and the cover shot?
When I went with Albe to Indo in 1971, I was 15. In between that trip and Peter’s cover shot, I’d left school and was sponsored to go surfing. Rip Curl did the wetsuits and Hutchinson’s Surfboards in Brookvale (now Byron Bay) did my boards. Paul Hutchinson in fact supplied me with boards for the trip with Albe. The Morning of the Earth board was one of his – a 5’9” rounded square single fin. I rode it in eight foot Ulus without a legrope. By 18, I was working for Tracks at Whale Beach, selling ads at first and then progressing to be art director for eight years. I did some editorial for them and took a few photos as well.
Where did your career go from there?
I stayed in publishing for many years after that – I did 16 or 17 years as senior art director with Federal Publishing Company. I left publishing about 10 years ago and I’ve worked in the car industry along the Northern Beaches ever since – I’m currently with a Mercedes dealership in Mona Vale. It’s about two minutes from home, so there’s time for a surf before work.
Good to hear you’re still in the water…
Yeah, and I’m pretty much the same kind of surfer I’ve always been. I surf a lot with my two sons; Tim, who lives in Bungan and plays with the Goons of Doom, and Jedd, who’s down at Fairlight. We go on trips together up and down the coast – it’ great.
Do you have a preference for single fins? People must associate you very strongly with a particular kind of surfing, a particular era in board design…
Well, going back, my first board was a cut-down 5’9” balsa my big brother Butch made. The smallest board I ever had was a 4’6” double-ender Shane that Butch also made. He shaped for Shane and for TF at Hot Buttered. I think I‘ve always ridden my boards shorter than what’s current. At the moment I’m riding a 5’8” Ozzy Wright thruster, a Finch 5’10” quad and a Warner 6’4”. A lot of people assume I’d still be somehow stuck on single-fins, frozen in time, but it’s not the case at all.
Do you have much involvement with surfing, are you still involved with the crew at Northy?
Yeah, I’m currently helping the North Narrabeen Boardriders to compile their 50th anniversary book, sourcing materials and helping with layout and production. I’m enjoying life at the moment. As you get older, there’s fewer things that worry you.
– Jock Serong
If you’re younger than about forty-five, chances are you’ve been raised on the terrifying notion that there’s a hole in the ozone layer above Australia. The barrier between us and the celestial inferno has always been a variety of squeezy tubes full of fragrant goo; the smell of the inside of mum’s beachbag. In chronological order, late twentieth-century beachbags contained: nothing at all, baby oil, Tanfastic, Coppertone, zinc oxide (file under ‘Paul Hogan’ and ‘terry towelling hat’), and Reef Oil (Coconut or Frangipani).
Reef Oil and Waxx-On wax were at opposite ends of the traction spectrum, but their combined use did deliver an overwhelming coconut hit. Then there was Bullfrog, named not for its amphibious qualities but for its tendency to make your eyes bulge in agony when the damn stuff found them. These days there’s no highs and lows: it’s all Guardian Chemists SPF 50+, and lately, a variety of spray-ons. Spray-ons are as boring as deodorants, although entertainingly, the makers of Banana Boat sunscreen recalled their spray-on products after a number of people caught fire after applying them.
The single-digit SPFs were the tanning equivalent of overproof Bundy. You pretty much had to ask for them under the counter. In the period of mid-range SPFs - let’s say from the Carroll and Curren World Titles through to about the rise of Slater - SPFs were all 15s and 8s. Devotees would put the 15 on the face but the 8 on the rack. This was around the time of the sunscreen spray-gun guy on the beach at Cavill Avenue, Surfers Paradise.
You’d think we’ve now entered a sober age of restraint with this sort of behaviour, but it’s a myth. There’s an Australian pharmacy chain that will – right now, today, in 2014 - sell you the SPF6 Reef Oil, so you can fry yourself like a dimmy. But wait: it comes in a gift pack with Vitamin E crème so you can try to repair the damage afterwards. Which is something akin to selling Camel Filters with an oxygen mask.
The US government’s number one expert on this stuff, by the way, is a guy named Reynold Tan. Seriously. Coppertone was invented by the Americans during the second world war. Their billboards featured a little girl being dacked by a black cocker spaniel. Jodie Foster made her acting debut as a three-year-old in a Coppertone ad, the tagline of which read: “Beautiful tan today, young-looking skin tomorrow.” It’s an oxymoron and a blatant lie, but it does have a little more joie de vivre than “Tanning is skin cells in trauma”.
The use of zinc remains most prevalent among cricketers and surfers. Down through the decades, these two cultures have fought an unceasing fashion battle over the stuff, while no-one else buys it at all. Picture Dean Jones with the white bottom lip; Tom Carroll’s careful stripe across the bridge of his nose and cheekbones; Andrew Symons with both whitened lips forming a startled ‘O’ in the slo-mo replay; Mick Fanning completely ghosted-out in the tropics; and Shane Warne trying to be cute with a little button of white on the end of his nose.
Sunscreen could save your life. And lack of variety should never be an excuse for failing to smear the gear. There’s an American website – of course there is – selling bacon-scented sunscreen.
By Jock Serong
Did you even know Irish big wave hell man Fergal Smith had a new internet show? Neither did I but on this episode, he learns to whittle a new wooden spoon, followed of course by his world-class slab surfing. Do you even know Irish big wave hell man Fergal Smith? If the answer is no, educate yourself by clicking through to these Irish beasts and afterwards you'll feel like you know him like an old friend, that old friend you have with big wave cold water lunatic tendencies.