Wally Froiseth of Hawaii died last week, at home, at the fine old age of 95. He was one of the ax-wielding teenagers who hacked down the back end of their solid-wood planks in 1937, thus creating the big-wave surfboard. It was Wally, in fact, a day or two later, who shouted out that the new […]


Gavin Rudolf of Port Elizabeth had a good long run as a competitive surfer, starting in late 1968, when he jetted off to the World Championships in Puerto Rico as the stoked-out 15-year-old grom on South Africa’s Springbok team. Made the quarters and had himself a fine time in the tropics hanging out with Wayne and Nat and […]


The Swell of 1983 was the John Bonham flaming gong-blast that finally woke up our slumbering interest in big waves. It wasn’t one swell, actually, but a whole zombie battalion of swells, lurching out of an El Nino-juiced North Pacific, one after the other, week after week, without letup—my knees were knocking from early February to […]


Cory Lopez’ EOS page went up last week. When Lopez famously vanished into that spinning black grindhouse of a tube at Teahupoo in 1999—wipeout of the year, easy—I was deep into the final draft of Mavericks and out of touch with surf-world events as they existed beyond Taraval Street, San Francisco. Nonetheless, I still had a half-dozen surf mags clogging up my mailbox each […]


Gard Chapin of Hollywood was California’s best surfer in the late 1930s and early ’40s, which meant he was the best surfer in the world, not counting Hawaii. Chapin took off deeper than anybody, angled harder, and probably invented the cutback. “He was fantastic.” Windansea regular Woody Ekstrom told writer David Rensin a few years back. “He’d drop his knee to […]


I liked Dave Sweet before I admired him, for the simple reason that in 1969, about 10 minutes after we met, he tossed me a brand new short-john. I was nine years old. Jay Adams and I were standing in Sweet’s showroom, on Olympic Blvd. in Santa Monica, having been driven there by Kent Sherwood, Jay’s stepdad. […]


Come for the surfing. Stay for the comedy. Three out of four times, when I dial up the latest WSL webcast and begin loping off irreplaceable half-hour chunks of my life for the privilege of watching two surfers float on their boards artfully ignoring each other while two more surfers sit in a booth and warp my laptop speakers with torrents of fetid-mellow brospeak, I’m […]


George Greenough was first to bring an inside-out tube view to the big screen, in 1970’s Innermost Limits of Pure Fun, and he did so with hulking 25-pound shoulder-mounted camera rig that by all rights should have popped his head from his slender shoulders like a cork during the first wipeout. The tube, at that point, even to hardcore surfers, […]


“It’s just so raw!” The WSL announcing crew, and the surfers they love, have lofted this description so many times this past week while talking about Margaret River that you’d think the place is a still-wiggling chunk of yellowtail, rather than an upscale, vineyard-covered, carpaccio-scented engine of tourism. You like it raw? Tell you what. Take the leash off. Lose the fullsuit, […]


Surf photographer and filmmaker Alan Rich, who passed away peacefully last week at age 68, began surfing at Torrance Beach, in LA’s South Bay, in 1960. He was a little younger than—and very much in awe of—the Irons brothers, especially Ricky, who was on his way to becoming one of America’s best performance surfers. (Ricky’s tagalong little […]


Put it to a vote, and I’d raise my hand in favor of relocating the Rip Curl Pro to, I don’t know, any one of the 50 breaks in Australia that WCT surfers would actually travel to of their own free volition. That’s how I feel four out of five years, anyway. Every now and then Bells is […]


You think the 2015 Rip Curl Pro is a shaggy buffalo in terms of size and girth and lack of mobility? I ain’t arguing. But take it back 40 years. Bells ’75—now that thing was a beast. Opened with a 72-man trails event. Then the women’s comp. Then four separate rounds of the men’s main event. Six-man heats. Points-per-maneuver […]


For the duration of the the Rip Curl Pro (and we could go the the distance, just like at Snapper; the forecast is grim), I’ll be posting vids, photos and mag excerpts from past Bells events. First up, 1984. Not a great year for surf, but I can’t take my eyes off winner Cheyne Horan’s […]


I posted the “surf bunny” page last Friday, then tied myself in knots over the weekend with what you’re about to read. First off . . . I’m the killjoy who kept SURFER from doing bikini issues in the mid- and late ’80s. Surfing launched their “Swimsuit Preview” in ’83 (biting Sports Illustrated’s style), tickled the downy-haired groins of their young readership, and […]


I go way back with SURFER. Way back. Turtle-waxing Severson’s Hudson Super Six. Mopping Brewer’s brow during the Betty Grable shoot for the mag’s first swimsuit issue. Banging out columns on my Royal at the end of the day, Woody Herman on the wireless, Kampion mixing us up a couple of Gin Bucks. God those were good times. And […]


For all I know, selection criteria for SURFER Magazine’s 1982 Hot 100 was an amalgam of surf talent, completed junior college units, and rote memorization of NBA stats, in which case, by God, I was in the Hot 10 of the Hot 100. But if we’re going on surf talent alone? Ah well. Not so hot. Mark me down as south […]


A humble remix on the amazing 1995 Billabong Challenge, held at Gnaraloo in Western Australia, and filmed by Jack McCoy, Alby Falzon and Yuri Farrant. Twenty years ago. Two thoughts to go with it. Had Tom Carroll gone, he would have won. Tom Carroll, Tom Curren and Martin Potter were invited to the event, and all three declined. Potter maybe because […]


Ala Moana parking lot, summer of 1984. Back when Buttons could pull off anything, including this mid-afternoon photo, shot by Warren Bolster, which head-fakes toward the worst kind of racism, but is really just another riff in the nonstop improv comedy that was Buttons’ life at the time. Yes? Am I more or less on track? There are thoughtful, sensible people […]


I love Brock Little’s quote about ’90s Pipe charger Shawn Briley. “Crazy people in general are stupid. Briley  is relatively intelligent and yet he knows what he’s getting into, which in a way is even crazier.” I love it for that knife-flicking use of “relatively.” And I love it because it is the perfect description of . […]


I am optimistic about professional surfing. Yes, my wobbly Twitter feed often says otherwise. When a tight world title race gets routed through feckless European beachbreaks, for instance. Or when Joe Turpel’s adenoidal phrasemaking worms into my Celexa-fortified pyramid of calm. But the new men’s world champion is under 30 and Brazilian and polarizing and mysterious and God I […]


The Expression Session seemed like a great idea. Perfect name, for starters, filled with soulful iambic bounce and zing. “Expression Session.” Breath those syllables in. Mmmmmm. Thai bud and purple Waxmate, am I right? This was a non-contest contest. An anti-contest. A happening. The world’s best surfers, running their own event, during prime time on the North Shore. Everything […]


The Cape St. Francis sequence in Endless Summer is surf moviemaking’s perfect sphere. Our Pythagorean ideal. Nothing to be added. Nothing subtracted. I knew this right down to my not-yet-descended testes when I watched Endless Summer in a Santa Monica movie theater in 1967. I know it today, having run the footage through Final Cut Pro a hundred times to […]


If my nerve would just double or triple in size, like the Grinch’s heart when “Welcome Christmas” chimes up from Whoville, I would so love Puerto Escondido. I devoted 20 years to what we call the “shorebreak” at Ocean Beach, San Francisco (as distinct from the much better known outside sandbars), and Puerto is the same high-handed Dominatrix of a […]


Derek Rielly at BeachGrit just offered up the Five Best Interviews in Surfing. If you’ve been paying attention to Derek for awhile—as I have, fists clenched in writerly envy, for 20-plus years—you won’t be surprised at his picks (Irons, Flores, Ho, Deane, Crews), or the themes that make these surfers attractive to Rielly (youth, good looks, edginess, […]


Gabriel Medina’s got limbic-melting Norwegian black metal pumping through those headphones as he walks down the beach at Pipe to take that shiny world title crown. Nah, not really. Maybe. Who knows. Could be Leonard Cohen. Could be Sun Tzu’s Art of War on Audible. Medina’s pre-heat sound of choice, like Medina himself, is a mystery […]

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