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 […]


Finally got the tuberiding page posted. Not sure how or why that one got put off for two years, although it appears that I’ve somehow managed to hold off on a few juicy items—maybe so I’ll have something to pull out of my back pocket when things get a bit dull. A little pick-me-up after working on “stringer” or “leash […]


This clip of Michael Ho is from Billabong’s “Surf into Summer,” and I think it was filmed in 1985. I edited “Summer,” and didn’t know who the surfer was, and filmmaker Tim Bonython didn’t ID the shot. A couple years later Brock Little told me it was Ho, and that he (Brock) used to pop “Summer” […]


This is a shortened version of the first interview I did with Brock. It ran in SURFER in early 1987, and was titled “A Breed Apart” (my bad). I read it last night for the first time in years, maybe the first since it was published, and was amazed at how Brock, then just 19, […]


Brock Little died at home, with family, just a couple months after being diagnosed with cancer. Better that a long slow fade. Of course, you’d bet on Brock going out in exactly the kind of no-bullshit manner that he did. We talked last Friday night for the last time, just after the Mavs contest, and he his voice was weak, […]


Nobody had high expectations for Fast Times at Ridgemont High, least of all the Universal Pictures execs who nearly shelved the finished product before putting it into limited release in 1981—only to have Roger Ebert, America’s most famous critic, poleax it as a “scuz-pit of a movie.” (Gene Siskel probably loved Fast Times out of spite, cause he played bitter second fiddle to […]


The list of sublimely romantic songs that involve smoking is bigger than you might guess, and for my money Otis Redding’s Cigarettes and Coffee is holding down the #1 position. A man and woman, newly in love, sit at a kitchen table and talk late into the night, alone and content and glad to let this perfect moment roll just a bit longer. “I would […]


Cintra Wilson described two-time world champion Damien Hardman as “monstrously capable but cursed to be the Richard Nixon of the surfing world,” and if any other world tour pro has been carved up that neatly I’d like to hear about it. In surfing, as with every other sport, a world title does not always confer popularity. Mick […]


On the basis of tantalizing but less-than-conclusive evidence, Chas Smith wondered aloud recently if New York surfer Balaram Stack was perchance romantically linked with former supermodel Christie Brinkley, and declared that, if it were true, the Stack-Brinkley unit would be “the best surfer + model/actress/singer connection of all time.” Oh Charlie. Your wordplay is zing and intelligence and 90-proof funny. But […]


Greg Noll said he could not imagine a “shittier way to earn a living” than making surf movies, what with the handbill-hanging, booking the local Elks Club, selling tickings, and flogging up and down Coast Highway to do one-night stands for schoolers jacked on Miller High Life and Peach Schnapps. And unless your name was Bruce Brown or Greg MacGillivray, all […]


San Diego boardmaker and entrepreneur Larry Gordon, who died on January 1st from Parkinson’s-related illness at age 76, was one of those people you appreciate more and more with age. Quiet, steady, low-key, dependable. Never showed up at work with a flask snuggled in his back pocket. Never had the IRS breathing down his neck. Didn’t set […]


Ron DiMenna of New Jersey, a surf-world entrepreneur of Rushmore-esque standing, is a man of mystery. Grubby Clark, no slouch himself in the enigma department, is Kylie Jenner compared to DiMenna. Hell, after he blew up Clark Foam, Grubby went out there and started winning livestock awards! DiMenna? Do a Google image search, and you get just a single photo. […]

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