Surfer Magazine Review–September 2009

28 08 2009

The Bible has seen better days

Editor’s Note: The following piece was written for Stab Magazine founder and gentleman of leisure Derek Rielly was kind enough to let me share my thoughts on the sport’s Bible.

Surfer turned 50 this year. It seems like just yesterday when they were celebrating 40 years. Who could forget number 40? Remember forty guys? Remember the time when you forgot how to spell forty and splashed the bottom of each page with “Surfer Magazine–Fourty Years.” And, you think the readers didn’t notice did you? Well, we did. But we didn’t care. We forgave you. Just like we forgave you when you sold out, went corporate, and teamed up with sworn enemy Surfing. But, that’s the past.

The cover shot of the September 09 issue pleases. The colors are vibrant. Red juxtaposed with burnt sienna and palm trees in the background. Imagine a smog-laced California sunset, the sky on fire. The reader can make out no less than seven prominently placed logos on Dusty Payne’s Merrick. But, you can’t judge a surf mag by the cover alone.

Let’s start with Curious Gabe. It’s the longest-running feature in the magazine (as far as I can tell), but does anyone really care that Sam George rides an SUP or that some cat named Nole rides an Alaia? If you are going to ask Sam George a question it should be one of two choices. 1) Will feathered-hair mullets ever go out of style? And, 2) Is your brother finished with the script for In God’s Hands II yet? Fuck, let me put down my soy-milk frapp and slip off my Birkenstocks because I don’t want to miss what a 56-year-old PT is riding. I’ll tell you what’s curious — that Surfer dedicates a page of each issue for a feature titled Curious Gabe. I’d rather see anything but a Curious Gabe. And, this includes another Pull In underwear ad or a Scott Bass think piece where he instructs readers on proper ball-shaving technique.

Charlie Smith makes an appearance in the September issue. Sounds promising? The concept is fine. Dangerous surf destinations like North Korea, Pakistan and Somali. Has top billing on the cover too. But, I begin reading and realize this 300-word piece must have been cut with a corporate editor’s axe. Reads like a Penthouse Forum piece edited by a bible-thumping Disney intern. To think Mr. Smith almost made it out of all these war-torn countries unscathed, but it appears Surfer slipped an IED under his bicycle and didn’t even have the courtesy to provide a prosthetic. Hopefully his baguette survived.

The profile of Joel Parkinson penned by former Tracks editor Sean Doherty is pleasant enough, but Parko isn’t the most interesting Australian surfer on the planet. Sure, Parko is well on his way to his first world title, but I nodded off after the third paragraph. I have paper cuts on my forehead and fingers to prove it due to the thinner-than-Shane-Dorian’s-hairline semi-glossy paper stock.

I grew up reading Surfer and I miss her. I miss her dearly. Where have you gone my old friend? When will I see you again? Like Santa Claus riding his sleigh, disappearing into the blistery winter nigh. On! Severson On! Marcus On! Parmenter and Hynd. Never shall we meet again.

Three-and-a-half stars.


Trick Tips—The Frontside Bottom Turn

25 08 2009

Alana Blanchard

Trick tips are surfing’s editorial equivalent to throwing in the towel. You see them in all the surf mags and all over the web. Has anyone ever learned a damned thing from Kalani Robb explaining how to do a floater or Taj Burrow talking about how to do an air reverse? I worked for a dot com at the turn of the Millennium. One day we had a meeting with one of the VP’s and he was adamant about including more trick trips on the site. “We need more trick tips,” he said while adjusting the waistband on his Dockers. “That’s what the kids want.”

Today, I’ve decided to throw in the towel.

The frontside bottom turn as performed by Alana Blanchard.

The bottom turn is a standard maneuver that sets up practically every other maneuver in your arsenal. Some might prefer the “backside,” but the frontside can be a tricky beast and equally rewarding. First make sure your “stick” has plenty of wax on it. Things can and will get slippery. You don’t want to experience one of those dog-in-the-bathtub catastrophes. When paddling, I prefer to kick my legs like a wild bronco at a rodeo to give an extra burst.  Now dive in with all your might.

After you get up, rotate your weight and dip your inside shoulder. When you see that section begin to peel a bit…go for broke. Make sure you shift your hips in a thrusting motion, but not too hard. Be gentle. You want to start slowly, build up a rhythm near the lip and crescendo and just the right moment. When in doubt remember; the more you practice, the better you will get.

ESPN Surfing Web Site Review Part II (Simple Jack Strikes Back)

21 08 2009

Simple Jake

Kirk Lazarus: Everybody knows you never go full retard.

Tugg Speedman: What do you mean?

Kirk Lazarus: Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, ‘Rain Man,’ look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Counted toothpicks, cheated cards. Autistic, sho’. Not retarded. You know Tom Hanks, ‘Forrest Gump.’ Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain’t retarded. Peter Sellers, “Being There.” Infantile, yes. Retarded, no. You went full retard, man. Never go full retard. You don’t buy that? Ask Sean Penn, 2001, “I Am Sam.” Remember? Went full retard, went home empty handed…

“Never go full retard.”

I think someone forgot to give ESPN Surfing’s Jake Howard this nugget of advice. If they gave out an award for the best surfing web site, ESPN Surfing would certainly go home empty handed.

A little back story…

Two weeks ago I reviewed ESPN’s surfing blog. According to the official stats it was the second most-read post in this humble blog’s existence. In it I basically called Jake Howard the Caucasian version of Barry Bonds. I actually wrote “If Barry Bonds was sheet white and wore a corn husk toupe he would look just like Jake Howard.” This was the accompanying image.


Then something happened. Perhaps Mr. Howard reads Nugable. I don’t know. But sure as shit, he changed his mugshot photo on the blog.

Jake Howard

Now he looks like Simple Jack Jake from ‘Tropic Thunder” for chrissakes. This shit is just too good to be true.  And to top it off he fired back with this attempt at humor. In it Howard states “we here at ESPN take our surfing seriously.” I think that’s kind of special considering the surfing community doesn’t take ESPN seriously. As Bill Simmons would say; the unintentional comedy factor is off the charts.

It gets better. You know that pre-teen Vietnamese heroin kingpin who holds Simple Jack hostage “Tropic Thunder?” It looks like ESPN has hired him too.


Since then the ESPN Surfing crew has posted a month-old video of Kelly Slater on SportsCenter. Call me hard to please but one would think since ESPN owns the site they would have posted it a little sooner…like the day after the interview.  I think Transworld even scooped them on this a day before. When you have 5 dedicated writers and Transworld Surf scoops you, it’s time to reevaluate things.

Their latest post is about love-starved sharks that listen to Barry White. I’m not kidding. They also have mini-blog dedicated to a hurricane that should produce epic surf along the Eastern seaboard. Man those Right Coasters must be hurting for waves. Good for them. Then they posted a fantastic video of a surfing juggler they stole borrowed from the Hobgoods blog. And the kicker is a piece about a Disney-owned wave pool contest in Florida. Way to wave the Disney/ESPN rainbow flag guys. I can’t wait to see what ESPN has planned for professional surfing. It’s going to be “special.”

The Revolution Will Be Logoless

19 08 2009


I always prefer a logoless T-shirt over one with a logo. Call me fussy. Call me fastidious. But, let’s face it—surf companies have a gift for ruining a perfectly good shirt with a logo.

That’s why my Hanes white T-shirts always get more use than the countless free T-shirts I have obtained over the years with surf company logos on them. That’s why that Hurley button-down with the logo on front pocket has been sitting in my closet, with tags still on, for more than a year. Speaking of Hurley. Does the Hilton Hotel chain know they stole their logo?

The point of making clothes is to sell them right? In many cases it appears surf clothing designers are more concerned with advertising the brand than making a comfortable, functional shirt people will buy and wear.

Recently, Freshjive announced they would soon go logoless and brandless. Although Freshjive is not a “surf company” in the strictest sense of the word, they have sponsored surfers in the past and have advertised in several surfing-related publications.

On PSFK Freshjive owner and designer, Rick Klotz, said “I’m not the type of person that buys something for the brand name. I’ve also never done a very good job at creating a captivating identity to our own brand logo. Also, within the streetwear culture, the promotion of a company’s brand has become downright silly to me. What’s amusing is I still really enjoy designing gear, graphics, and even logos. But when I see kids wearing company logos it reminds of people who are trying to be a part of a “tribe” or “gang”, as if they need to be part of something, which seems to go against the idea of individualism in style.”

Part of me thinks the move is genius. Part of me thinks they are mailing it in because no one buys their products anyway. Freshjive sells mostly to streetwear and skate boutiques. Who shops in streetwear boutiques anyway? What is streetwear? Do they have fashion shows with homeless people on the runway? I’m not sure.

But Klotz makes a valid observation in that “people who are trying to be a part of a “tribe” or “gang.” Surfers have always been a tribe or a gang in a certain sense. Most people want to belong. To be a part of something. For most surfers I think this is especially true. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But the problem is we need more leaders and fewer followers. Most surf companies offer nothing new. They copy each other continuously and the end result is stale and unoriginal.

Klotz appears to be leading. He is taking chances. And hell, he might be leading his brand to bankruptcy court, but at least he’s doing something different. And I respect that.

The Top Fucking 5 Hollywood Surf Films

14 08 2009


Editors Note: This is the first installment of the Top Fucking 5. I’m sure there will be more. Last week I touched on the subject in the post Nobody Listens to Turtle. Today I tackle the genre of the Hollywood surf film in greater depth.

5. In God’s Hands
Written by Matt George and Zalman King, who is better known for his soft-core porn series Red Shoe Diaries, the inclusion of this abortion of a film is charity at best. Frankly, it just made the list for the simple fact it must have been excruciatingly painful for Matt George to shave his head for the role. Favorite line: “Did you know that salt water is most closely related to human blood, and you know what that reminds me of? Our own essence gentlemen.” Now THAT’S writing.

4. Point Break
I once saw Keanu Reeves at a Fugazi show in Hollywood. He looked like a homeless guy. My buddy didn’t recognize him and told him “you look that shitty actor from the Matrix.” He laughed and bought him a drink. It’s a little known fact Matt Archbold did the stunt surfing for Patrick Swayze’s character. Favorite Line: “Listen you snot-nose little shit, I was takin’ shrapnel in Khe Sanh when you were crappin’ in your hands and rubbin’ it on your face.” Oh that Gary Busey.

3. Blue Crush
This film put female surfing on the map, so to speak. Big wave rider Noah Johnson wore a bikini and blond wig to stunt-surf for Kate Bosworth’s role. The film was horrible. That is all I have to say. Favorite line from surf photographer Todd Messick: “Does she know she just lost?”

2. North Shore
The film was Occy’s comedic coming out party. Along with Turtle and Robbie Page, his scenes are the most memorable. Who could forget Page dancing in a tutu at the Halloween party or Turtle’s almost genuine haloe pigeon? Favorite line: “Don’t even touch Barno. That rhyno-chaser don’t need no big haole hand print messin’ up its whole trip.”

1. Big Wednesday
The Apocalypse Now of the genre. The film is loosely based on director John Milius’ youth in Malibu. The narration, done by Robert Englund of Freddy Krueger fame, always gave me a warm, tingling sensation…like an old friend talking surf by a campfire. Favorite Line: “He aint no hodad squidlips! That’s Matt Johnson.” Enjoy the opening credits below. Ah, memories.

Curren vs. Occy Video Tribute

13 08 2009

Santa Cruz surf filmmaker Josh Pomer has spent nearly 20 years documenting the sport around the globe. He put together this tribute to Tom Curren and Mark Occhilupo to help promote the final installment of The Kill Series, “TK8 Last Ride.”

At stops in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Newport and La Jolla, Curren will be playing a live score to the film.

For more info you can visit

Fixing Professional Surfing from a Fan’s Perspective

12 08 2009
Is Fixing Pro Surfing that Hard? Pic: Myles McGuinness

Is Fixing Pro Surfing that Hard? Pic: Myles McGuinness

There has been a lot of speculation and talk about a new Rebel Tour taking the wind out of the sails of the current ASP system. The hype and stories are all over the Internet. Gra Murdoch of Australia’s Surfing Life even made a hilarious video on the subject.

My guess is Kelly Slater is leveraging the ASP to make the system better for the future generation of surfers. Rather than “Bustin’ Down the Door,” he’s going through an open window. The current ASP system may be broken in the eyes of the surfers and the fans. But I think it can be fixed and here are some ideas to make it better.

Endemic Sponsorship, Control and Money
Why do three or four surf companies basically control professional surfing? Every other major professional sport has no problem finding advertising dollars from the outside. Why doesn’t Louisville Slugger or Rawlings control professional baseball? Because it’s a ludicrous concept at best. Can you imagine if the NFL gave up all the control to Under Armor or Nike and let them market the events exclusively? The ASP needs to wake up. How freaking amateurish is that?

Having too much endemic sponsorship would go against the soulful dynamic of surfing, wouldn’t it? Well, I have news for you. These surf companies (Quiksilver, Billabong, Rip Curl and Hurley) are multi-million dollar corporations. They have stock holders and bottom lines. Just because they make boardshorts and wetsuits doesn’t automatically make them cool. At the very root, these surf companies have one interest at heart. To make money. To sell you products so they can profit and make more products to sell you. Where is the soul in that? Why does that make them different from Target or Microsoft or Budweiser? More endemic sponsorship may also increase the prize money. And really, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? 

Let’s face it. If you are a professional surfer you have already sold out to a certain extent. In reality, you’re just a whore. I’m not saying your pimps are bad, but there just might be better pimps out there willing to give you a larger cut of the money.

Marketing Wizards
The ASP has never marketed the sport well. For chrissakes, hire some marketing pros, not a former surfer with a marketing degree from San Diego State and a wicked cutback. The sport needs pit bulls who will market the brand ferociously. Is ASP CEO Brodie Carr that pit bull? Only time will tell.

If you want a laugh, take a look at Really? It looks like a third-grader who bought “An Idiot’s Guide to Selling Product on E-bay” is running the site.

The Feeder Tour
The WQS surfers should compete in the trials of each event to vie for wildcard slots. Why even have separate events at all? Have the WQS events before the WCT events with fewer surfers. Sure this would take up a lot more time and it will piss off the locals, but the locals are pissed at the ASP circus when they come to town anyway.

Involve the Free Surfers
One aspect that makes surfing unique is the free surfer or video pro. Years ago I had a conversation with Brad Gerlach about the subject. Although his “Game” concept never really caught on and was niche idea at best, he was extremely articulate and passionate about the subject. He said surfing is different in that you don’t have to compete to become a pro surfer and that’s great. There should be an opportunity to do that. But Kobe Bryant doesn’t tell Nike “Yeah…I’m over the NBA. Just not feeling it anymore. I’m just going to shoot hoops at the local playground, maybe go to New York and play at Rucker Park a few times a year. But I’ll still wear your shoes and bring a cameraman.” Can you imagine trying to pull that off?

Some of these pro free surfers are considerably better than the guys on the WCT tour. And they are more exciting to watch in many cases. Fans should have the opportunity to see them surf in these events. Some may not want to, but if the money is right they will come.

Slater at Jeffreys Bay

Kelly Slater is a rare example of a true spokesman for the sport who is also the best in the world. Surfers should be better spokesmen. Tony Hawk is a fantastic example of an individual who promoted his sport well. Tom Curren never had it in him to promote the sport. Neither does Andy Irons. Most of the top guys don’t. Someone should teach these guys how to be media savvy. Maybe the problem is most professional surfers drop out of high school or never go to college. I would probably do the same if I had the opportunity. But more often than not, those who don’t make it on the tour or have limited success end up being the team manager for a second-rate surf brand. If the NBA has mandatory seminars on how to avoid gold-digging groupies and how not to shoot yourself in the leg, the ASP can certainly have some sort of training in dealing with the media.

Mother Nature and Webcasting
Surfing is unlike any other sport. Mother Nature is a wildcard. Surf contests, if done correctly, can’t be on a set schedule. Waiting periods have become the norm and that’s a good thing. The Dream Tour has done a good job at having events at the best breaks in the world for the past several years. That is also a good thing. Part of the reason soccer has never caught on in America is because it’s one of the few popular sports that doesn’t cater to TV timeouts and commercials. Surfing is similar in that respect. To bring in revenue, the ASP should sell the television rights and webcasting rights to a media conglomerate with the tools and money to do it right. Don’t let Billabong or Quiksilver do it alone. This should be ESPN’s only involvement. Let them buy in just like they do with professional soccer, baseball and football. Give them too much control and those bastards in Bristol, Connecticut will eat you for breakfast.

Less is More
The so-called rebel tour is rumored to consist of just 16 surfers. This takes out the element of the Cinderella story. Forty-eight surfers might be a little too much. Perhaps 32 or 28 could be the magic number.

Subjective Old Guard Judges
How does one evaluate soul and style? What about progressive maneuvers? It’s difficult isn’t it? Well, not really. My understanding is the same 5-10 judges work each and every event. Why is that? Maybe they should mix it up a little more. Select the judges from a larger pool. And don’t tell me there’s a lack of individuals who can accurately judge the sport. That is a cop out. Judging surfing isn’t rocket science. It’s just surfing.