Decadence and Debauchery–The Derek Rielly Interview

1 09 2009

Champagne wishes and chronic dreams.

Australians are mad about their surfing. If Kelly Slater grew up in Australia he would be Prime Minster, or at the very least dating his daughter. In America, the mainstream media pigeonholes him as the kid who was on Baywatch and the surfer who occasionally bangs supermodels. In Australia surfers are sporting elite. Occy is national hero. Contests are broadcast live on major networks. It’s serious business. More of a national sport than a pastime. Stab Magazine founder and editor, Derek Rielly, is the antithesis to surfing’s idol worship. If Surfer Magazine is the Bible of the sport Stab just may be its Anarchist Cookbook.

Reilly cut his editorial teeth at Australia’s Surfing Life in the late ’90s. “My achievements were many and varied,” he wrote of his ASL days on Likebitchin.com. “I shat on the office floor during biz hours, introduced eight staff members to ecstasy and made an early mentor eternally regretful that he ever showed me how to use a comma.” Decadence and debauchery come to mind. A perfect subject for a Nugable interview, Rielly agreed to answer a few questions.

Tell me about your background and how Stab Magazine came to fruition?
I began my working life as a blackjack dealer after two years of unemployment. I suffer a mild cerebral palsy and this makes me difficult to hire after a face-to-face interview. My technical Mongolism and my not-that-secret opportunistic homosexuality apparently made me a perfect fit for ASL. I worked there for eight-and-a-half years, mentored for five of those by Tim Baker. He recently wrote that he “eternally regrets” teaching me. I found this unkind and hurtful, although it doesn’t lessen the respect I feel for Tim.

Stab recently selected the winners for Little Weeds. Explain the contest to those who may be foreign to the concept.
Magazine seeks cheap labor. Will dole out crappy prizes in return for brilliant, inspired work.

What are the differences between American surf mags and Australian ones?
It’s like asking the difference between German motor vehicles and those from Korea. The Americans produce slick, often flawless, rides; the Australian version is ugly and prone to breakdowns.

What do you love about surfing?
The feeling of power and arrogance and sexy.

What do you hate about surfing?
That everyone needs to talk about it so much.

I once mused if Jews controlled women’s surfing we’d probably see a lot of menorah on labia minora action. What would happen if gays controlled men’s surfing?
Blowjobs on demand, hairless bodies, multiple sex partners in a day.

America’s cultural gifts to the world include jazz, fast food, rock and roll, and stupid, fat white people. What are Australia‘s cultural gifts?
Bad cinema, worse music, excellent Chinese food.

Are Americans and Australians really that different? We were both spawned by Puritan English pricks who nearly wiped out an entire indigenous people. Can’t we bond on that alone?
Victorian England, the era that shipped convicts to Australia, was anything but puritan. Whores roamed the alleys and cocaine was on the tip of everyone’s beak. Australia is closer to France: secular, lazy, good beachbreaks.–Nug

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Surfer Magazine Review–September 2009

28 08 2009

The Bible has seen better days

Editor’s Note: The following piece was written for Likebitchin.com. 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.





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 Nugable.com 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.

barr_jake

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.

Ito

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.”





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 www.aspworldtourshop.com. 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

Spokesmen
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.





Website Review: ESPN Surfing

7 08 2009

espnsurf

First, let’s start with the navigation and esthetics of this ESPN website. The site is pleasing on the eyes in a feng shui on Ritalin sort of way. The navigation is fairly uncomplicated, that is if you don’t mind developing carpel tunnel syndrome after a few visits. The good news is after all those mouse clicks you’ll develop the speed, dexterity and hand-eye coordination to beat Billy the Kid in a gun fight.

Now let’s get to the writing and content. Keep in mind ESPN is the very website that pays Rick Reilly more than a million dollars a year to write in-depth columns about his dentist appointments. I’m not kidding. A Google search for “Rick Reilly dentist” produces 16,000 results. His columns are as painful and gruesome as passing a kidney stone in that very dentist’s office bathroom while waiting for a root canal.

I can’t be sure but I think the ESPN Surfing stylebook and libel manual mandates the words “X Games” and “ESPN Surfing exclusive” appear in every post. Who could forget the post about Jake Howard’s quiver? Or what about the stirring conversation piece about bringing surfing back to the X Games? Have you fallen asleep yet? Stay with me.

Let’s take a look at the ESPN surfing team.

Jake Howard
I was a little hard on Jake in Surfing’s Mitchell Report. I wrote “If Barry Bonds was sheet white and wore a corn husk toupe he would look just like Jake Howard.”  This time I provide photographic evidence.

barr_jake

Mr. Howard appears to be one of the best press release re-writers in the industry. He used to work for SURFER magazine. Good credentials. I know writing stimulating stories about the surf industry on a daily basis is a painful and difficult task. Trust me. I’ve done the research. He seems like a nice enough chap. What I’m saying is he could use a little more frosting on his donut. A little more pizzazz. You’re not writing obituaries and captions for grip-and-grin photos here buddy.

Jon Coen
He’s from the East Coast. New Jersey to be exact. Name two good things  from New Jersey? You can’t, because the Sopranos weren’t real and Bon Jovi sucks. (edit: a quick Wikipedia search reminded me that Frank Sinatra and Dean Randazzo grew up in Jerz, but you get my point.) I think it’s great ESPN recognizes the need for some talent from the Right Coast. When they hire someone with talent I’ll be the first to let you know.

Kimball Taylor
I actually have a lot of respect for Kimball Taylor and I’m surprised he supplements his income by contributing to this Disney-owned crash test vehicle. Come on Kimball. Get your soul back. Hemmingway didn’t go around submitting short stories to Wave Action to supplement his bullfighting habit.

Christina Scannapiego
She’s another New Jersey native. How many Jersey writers does a surfing web site need? Hell, I’ll bet ESM doesn’t even have one. I don’t necessarily have a problem with Christina. In fact, after scouring the site, I couldn’t find anything she’s written. Maybe she ghost writes Howard’s re-writes of press releases. Maybe she’s waiting for a hurricane swell to hit Ashbury Park? Maybe she’s working on the sequel to the “Sex and the City” movie. Who knows? But if you can get the four-letter network to pay you for doing nothing you’ve already made one fan.





From the Vault: Tom Curren Speaks

6 08 2009
The cutback that inspired a generion of surfer. Pic: Servais

The cutback that influenced a generation of surfers. Pic: Servais

*Note: The following interview took place just more than 10 years ago and was originally published in a now-defunct magazine I edited. At the time Tom Curren had dropped out of the completive scene for several years and was in the midst of a semi-comeback. I thought I would reproduce it here because of the recent Clash of the Icons event held at JBay. By all indications it was major success and there are rumors of another clash with Occy in the near future.

Tom Curren saunters unnoticed along the sand just south the Huntington Beach Pier. A surfboard rests under each of his arms while his toddler son, Francis, rests on his shoulders. Tom’s hair is cut into a short buzz. His eyes, covered by blue sunglasses, focus on the large surf generated by a hurricane southwest of Baja. He gently places his two-year-old son on the sand. Francis pulls at his shorts like a playful cat. Tom smiles and plays along.

Can you talk a little bit about your impending comeback or whatever you want to call it?
My impending doom?

What are you hoping to accomplish?
Just to do my best, you know. I’m not thinking about where I’m going to finish or anything like that.

You’ve had a little taste of how the tour is now. How would you say it differs from, say, the mid ’80s?
There’s a lot more people surfing in the contests. The equipment has changed a lot. The contest formats are pretty much the same. It’s just a little bit harder I guess.

What about the venues nowadays? There seems to push to have the contest in better waves. Does that excite you?
Yeah. It’d be great to have the opportunity to surf in better contests with better venues. That’s one of the goals I have…to be able to surf good waves with no one out. I didn’t really have that opportunity before.

Is it a goal of yours to qualify for the WCT again?
I’m going to surf some contests coming up. I’m going to Europe and surf the contests over there. I just enjoy competing and want to do as good as I can. Who knows what will happen? I don’t know. I’m working on my boards and I’m just going to try to surf as well as I can.

You mentioned your boards. You’re known for riding some un-conventional stuff. The boards you’ve been riding in these contests seem pretty normal.
Yeah, they’re pretty conventional. Pretty normal. Some are a little different. They have different outline curves, but the actual width and lengths are pretty conventional. There’s a lot that can be done with the normal dimensions…different bottom curves, outlines and stuff like that. But, I’m not riding a 5’7’’ or a four fin or anything like that now.

What do you think about Occy’s comeback? (*This was just before Occy cleaned himself up and won the world title)
I’m happy for him, I guess. I think he’s still surfing really well. He’s still pretty young you know. He’s about 30. If he wants to do the tour now he has plenty of years left to do it. I’ve always been impressed by his surfing. It’s good to see him. If I had him in a heat I would definitely take him very seriously.

Does he inspire you? Does he make you think “if he can do it so can I?”
I haven’t really looked at it that way. I think he has a lot of energy and skill. It takes that and it takes endurance. I think he’s more stable now, you know, and it looks like he’s going to do as good as he can. As far as inspiring me…I don’t know. I can’t really plan what I’m going to be doing as far as results in contests. All I can do is work on my boards, surf and practice. I can’t predict anything. I’m not going to let it get me down if I don’t re-qualify.

You have influenced a whole generation of surfers. How does that make you feel?
(long pause) It’s an honor I guess. There are a lot of other surfers out there and there’s a lot of emphasis on contest surfing. That’s all favorable to me. I just recognize there’s a lot more to surfing than contest surfing. I respect other surfers and what they are doing. And there are a lot of goods surfers out there.

You sound like you don’t want the attention on you. Is that the case?
Yeah, it is in a way, but you know I went through a bit of time doing other things, not really practicing, not really working on my surfing. But I think I feel better surfing everyday. I feel more at peace surfing than not surfing.