The events of Saturday night, December 12, have taken on an apocryphal glow. I had been invited to Mick Fanning’s celebration at the Rip Curl house by Rip Curl’s international media manager Dane Sharp. I was introduced to surfing journalist Tim Baker. Tim and I talked for some time. He explained to me that he did not enjoy what I did. Said that it was too negative and the point of surfing is a positive communal experience. He also did not like that I had written that Mick Fanning was boring and asked if I had ever met Mick. I answered no. He told me that Mick is a great guy and I should meet him. Mick was standing near and alone. Tim went over and I followed. Mick was angry and called me a fucking Jew. I was dragged out of the house by security.
I wrote the story. It was published in Stab, the same issue which included a glowing report on Mick’s world title run titled The Secrets of a Champion. The story was not sensationalized. It was not put on the cover. It was not put on the web. It would have been easy to stir up controversy right away but that was not the intent. The intent was to share a true moment that happened on the North Shore. A snapshot.
I don’t know why Mick called me a fucking Jew but I would have written whatever he called me, or said to me. I did not bait him. I did not catch him off guard, I was not looking to shamelessly destroy an icon. He was not being ironic. It has been said that I should have known that Mick was not happy with me, but I have no idea who is not happy with me. It is not something I think about.
The Australian media picked the story up six weeks after the issue hit the stands and a maelstrom ensued, general perception being that Mick was drunk and ignorant and I was malicious. I was not malicious. I told the story truthfully, including Mick’s language. It was a story because it happened and because it is rare in this surf industry to find anything real. If nobody ever tells a true story what is the point? What is the point?
Frankly, I have a strong and personal attachment to the Jewish community. I have traveled through Israel while studying in the Middle East and witnessed firsthand both the strength and tenacity of the Jewish people. I have been every¬where from Eilat to Kiryat Shmona. I have seen the daily hardships that arise from being a persecuted minority. I was, in fact, in Jerusalem when a suicide bomber detonated himself on an Egged bus, killing all aboard. The senselessness of this act, the sadness, I will carry forever. I did not re-print Mick Fanning’s words to incite and anger, or to heap an unnecessary amount of vitriol on an extremely tender issue. But I could also not ignore what he said. - Charlie Smith