A couple years ago I copied down this quote from writer and surf-intellectual Ted Endo: “Wetsuits are the airplanes of the surfing world. They  allow us to do something miraculous (survive cold water for hours on end) and yet they are completely taken for granted.” I forget what article the quote came from, or where it was published. I’m certain that […]


Ninety-percent of American films made before 1930 no longer exist. Nine-freaking-zero. Gone forever. Why? Mostly just to clear the shelves. Nobody back then, or nobody in America anyway, thought of movies as art—or even something worth saving, like family photos or French postcards. Make ’em fast and cheap, get prints out to theaters on time, stick the originals in […]


I’m going to get some of the details wrong, but runner-up best prank, surf industry division, goes like this. Surfboard magnate Dewey Weber had a beloved dog, a German Shepherd mix, all white, named “Whitey.” Dewey would call Whitey into the Weber Surfboards team van and take him to Hermosa Pier, Malibu, Rincon. Back at […]


Off the top of my head I can’t think of a single Golden Age R&B heavyweight who didn’t get their start in the church. Little Richard, James Brown, Sam Cook, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Isaac Hayes—all raised their sweet young unchanged voices to God, most went on to gospel groups, and then they took up the Devil’s music to […]


Three new EOS pages. Dig in! Steve “Beaver” Massfeller. Not much online or elsewhere about this first-generation pro surfer and hardcore big-wave charger from Daytona Beach. Beaver’s pretty much known for one thing—coming within an ace of being the first person to die while wearing a world tour jersey. After head-butting the reef during a prelim heat in […]


Eve Babitz is the 20-year-old Los Angeles ingénue you see above, playing state-of-nature chess in 1963 with French artist Marcel Duchamp. Babitz was many things in the ’60s and ’70s. Hollywood High grad. Goddaughter to composer Igor Stravinsky. Laughing sexual adventuress. An artist who made gorgeous album covers for Buffalo Springfield and The Byrds. Most famously, Babitz was an “It” girl, one of the “It” girls, a […]


I sliced and diced the Teahupoo bits from 1997’s Quiksilver Country to make the edit you see here. Also sliced and diced “Devil’s Haircut,” by Beck, who build that monster truck of a song by slicing and dicing Van Morrison’s “I Can Only Give You Everything.” Steal from the best and your job is three-quarters finished. Been saying it for years. Teahupoo wasn’t […]


Midget Farrelly, world surfing champion, boardmaker, and iconoclast, died yesterday at age 71, from stomach cancer. He was a beautiful wave-rider, controlled and polished but with a dynamic bebopping flair. After making a close study of California power surfer Phil Edwards in the late ’50s and early ’60s, Farrelly trimmed away most of the Edwardian style flourishes and […]


Stingers. I loved ’em. And yes I know Ben Aipa called it a “sting,” and we’ve been saying it wrong for 40 years now, but that’s the wonderful thing about the English language—if it’s wrong for long enough, it’s right. I had five or six stingers, beginning around 1976, all shaped by Pat Ryan of ET Surfboards. One was magic, the best […]


Kelly Mahon was the funniest guy in my ninth-grade class at Mira Costa High, no contest. Loud, huge laugh, rubbery face, with a mind that pulled comedy out of any given situation like a magnet picking up metal filings. You’d just be realizing that there was maybe something humorous to be said about this guy’s folding bike, or a […]


Hit “play,” and freeze at 1:13. If you’re a wave rider of a certain age (old), you should experience a small thrill of horror. That’s Billy Hamilton, surfing’s own Jesus of Cool, feet up and auguring into the dusty French pavers during the 1968 Fetes De Bayonne bull run. I’m no spinal surgeon, but looks to me like Billy’s just a […]


There are objects from surf culture’s collective deep past that I hold near and dear. The Evolution handbill. The first O’Neill logo. Mike Doyle’s beard, the Duke Invitational trophy, Jackie Dunn’s white-on-red Lightning Bolt pintail. Every issue of SURFER from March ’69 to February ’72 (also known as the High Kampion era, and yes there is your daily double entendre on a […]


I defend the WCT just as quickly as I prick its haunches with my tiny arrows of Twitter fire. Why? Because I’ve been around long enough to witness just about every alternative surf competition format, and compared to what the CT is now serving up they all sucked. The venerable Expression Session, for example. Great branding, perfect name, the syllables […]


(This article was originally published in Stab magazine, issue #20, 2007. Portrait photos by Steve Baccon.) As I approach Matt Branson’s house, in a quiet suburb on the Gold Coast, I can hear the sort of loud banter that goes on between blokes on a Friday night when the beers are open and footy’s on […]


Just posted a page for Hawaiian Surfboard, Tom Blake’s 1935 book. Like Blake himself, Hawaiian Surfboard is a strange work, part history, part how-to manual, with a sprinkling of Blakeian observations about the state of surfing halfway through the Great Depression. A few excerpts: THE ORIGIN OF BIG WAVES Big surf seems to be caused by disturbances in the […]


Occasionally I will pass my soft lavender-scented hands across the near and far tracts of surf history, eyes closed, senses open, from Pele to the Swell of ’39 to Cape Fear, checking the sport’s auras and chakras and whatnot. All part of the job. And without fail, while performing this survey, things go dark as I pause and hover over Tom Blake. I marvel at Blake’s genius. I […]


Kelly Slater should be resting his flawlessly shaved and oiled head on a pillow tonight musing over his perfect 20-point heat in Round Four of the Fiji Pro. The double barrel on his third wave? That was a don’t-think-twice, punch-in-the-10-and-carry-on score. Easy as gravity. But for my money the 9.77 on his opener was just as good, maybe better. Slater, who […]


The Ninth Wave is a mercilessly grim 1956 political noir-thriller about Mike Freesmith, a handsome psychopathic power broker and surfer. Freesmith is 17 when we meet him. He’s having an affair with Miss Bell, the high school English teacher, who drops him off at the beach after a midday tryst, and begs for return visit. Freesmith shrugs, leaves her […]


Percy “Neco” Padaratz was already a star in Brazil in 1990, at age 13. Even the American mags were paying attention, which was surprising in that casually racist pre-Brazilian-Storm era. Derek Hynd was obsessed with young Percy, and nicknamed him “Kid with Man Head.” Aaron Chang shot his portrait. Surfing named him one of the “Surfers of […]


Waves are the whole show. Waves are the only interesting thing about surfing. You’re a poetry-hating anti-New Age atheist with a penchant for hardcore rationalism? Same here. But at some level we know, we feel, that we are riding ocean-transported sunbeams, and it is magical. It is what makes surfing the very best of all sports. It is what […]


Whoops! That was supposed to read: “Encyclopedia of Surfing WRITER Wins Pulitzer!” Oh well, too late now. Like most other surfers, I was introduced to Bill Finnegan’s work by way of “Playing Doc’s Games,” his magisterial 1992 two-part New Yorker piece on Mark “Doc” Renneker and the still-underground San Francisco surf scene. Unlike most other surfers, however, I […]


Competitive surfing in the age of Nixon needed a rock bottom moment, a wreck to crawl away from, an enduring anti-example, and with the 1972 World Championships in San Diego it got a beauty. What a bleak, luckless, monumentally stunted event. Conceived with good intentions, sure. Nobody involved set out to rip off or otherwise harm the sport. But good […]


I fight the good fight, daily and skillfully, against nostalgia. Usually it’s not much of a contest. New boards and wetsuits are always better than what came before. The extended 10-day forecast has all but killed the surf trip skunk. In 2016, we have Bill Finnegan and Rory Parker, among others, to help articulate our wonderful fucked-up obsession. World tour contests are live-streamed […]


Kelly Slater was the most exciting thing about the 1994 Rip Curl Pro, but Dave Edwards, a 33-year-old unemployed marine engineer from Perth, gave the Champ a run for his money. Edwards had rolled into Victoria on Saturday afternoon, necked a bottle of Jim Beam, and left a good portion of his April dole check at a Melbourne […]


For 25 years now, give or take, the surfers I admire most are those who came to the sport early, loved it, still love it, but realized at some point that to build a life completely within surfing is basically retarded, and thus went further afield to create, experience, achieve. Bill Finnegan and Greg MacGillivray, for example. Joel […]

1 of 14