Stab Magazine | US Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard Stars On Ain't That Swell Podcast

US Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard Stars On Ain’t That Swell Podcast

Surf gets political, kinda!

Words by stab

Whether it’s climate-denier conservatives who shake their fists at objective ocean science or delicate leftists who bawl big, there seem to be no winners when we inject politics in surf. 

But if there was ever a group who could prance along that fine line and come out unscathed, it’s the superbly talented duo from Australia’s Ain’t That Swell podcast, Vaughan Blakey and Jed Smivvy Smith. 

And would you believe that these two rabble-rousers were able to wrangle the US Presidential candidate, Congresswoman and surfer, Tulsi Gabbard onto their show? Is true!

As the story goes, after being on ATS himself this past April, Slater, who is a big Gabbard fan (and personal donor to her campaign), posted a photo of the evening, to which Gabbard commented something along the lines of “haha I love these guys.” Slater then responded, “You know them?!”, and Gabbard admitted that she’d heard the pod before and was a fan. Slater then urged her to go on the show, and some six months later, here we are.

For a little background on Gabbard, she’s a Democrat (America’s “liberal” party, which would be considered “labor” in Australia—sorry for the confusion) who is more or less ostracized by her party’s leaders (the Democratic National Convention) due to her endorsement of Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the 2015 democratic nomination race. Gabbard called the DNC out on its blatant, well-documented corruption and has, therefore, become a target of the party leaders, including Hillary Clinton, who despite not running for the nomination in 2019, used her platform as former First Lady to call Gabbard a “Russian asset”—an offense for which Gabbard is currently suing Clinton. 

Gabbard is a US military veteran, which on top of adding a few bumps to her Core Score, has made Tulsi keenly aware of what she calls the “true cost of war”—namely, human lives. As a result, Gabbard’s main platform is to pull America out of its “unnecessary” conquests abroad, which she sees as an immoral money-grab by the US government.

Interestingly, Gabbard gets support from both sides of the aisle. Conservatives seem to like her just as much as the Dems, which is incredibly unusual in the US. Despite this, Gabbard is not currently in a strong position in the polls, and will not likely earn the 2019 nomination. But she’s giving it a fair crack. 

Hailing from Hawaii, Gabbard is also a competent surfer. Could that be why so many folks in the surfing community, from Kelly Slater to Shane Dorian to a bigger-than-you’d-think Australian contingent (we see you in there, Tom Carroll, Sean Doherty, Davey Cathels), provide constant praise for Gabbard on her social channels?

“Let’s put a wavepool in the White House!” Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, 2019.

We asked ATS host Vaughan Blakey for his thoughts.

Stab: Why are surfers, and especially Australian surfers, backing Tulsi so hard? Pretty much every time she posts, I see a bunch of pro-surf-world Aussies liking the shit out of her message. Is there any specific reason why she appeals to the folks down under, or is it just a social snowball effect?

Vaughan: I reckon she hits a genuine chord with Australian surfers because we’re all sick of the bullshit going on down here and we’re craving some integrity and backbone from our leaders when it comes to getting some meaningful and positive change happening. The more you read into Tulsi, about who she is, where she came from, what formed her, how she intends to make things better with transparency, empathy, communication and understanding the more you crave having someone like that take on the same challenges at home.

Tulsi served her country and witnessed the worst of humankind and she knows the true cost of decisions made purely for profit. She’s not afraid to serve it right up to those people in power who take no accountability for anything, be it in Washington, or in the media and even to the Facebooks and Googles. It’s a huge thing to go after giant powerful entities like that but she’s got iron values and a groundswell of grassroots support behind and she cannot be ignored. So that attitude gets us Aussies who have tapped into her journey on this Presidential campaign pretty stoked because polls and popularity and the media machine have turned our last six Prime Ministers into spineless cowards too scared to make any calls on matters relating to Australia’s real long term interests, most critically on matters concerning the environment.

So yeah, I think the surfers down here are getting in behind Tulsi because they’re basically saying, “fucken oath, this is what a leader should look like and how they should behave.” And look at where she is now! Still in the race against all odds, even with senior members of her own party trying to diminish her by saying she’s been groomed by Russians… Pfffft! Anyway, maybe her success feels like its showing the way for us. That’s just my theory, although it’s worth noting I am on a huge high after speaking with her… but I do believe in Tulsi which is more than I can say for anyone in power at home right now.

And lest we forget to introduce this episode’s other noteworthy guests, ex-pro surfer Jodie Cooper (who you might remember as the victim of a surf rage incident, which was recently decided in an Australian court) and 2x World Champion Tyler Wright, who has been off the CT for 1.5 years(!) following her contraction of a virus in Africa.  

We asked Vaughan briefly about these encounters:

Did Jodie feel that justice was served to her attacker?

I wouldn’t say she thought the result was good or bad. Jodie wasn’t out for revenge when she took the guy who assaulted her to court. She was just sticking up for her and everyone’s right to go surfing without feeling intimidated and/or being fucking bashed by some wannabe hero who thinks he owns the line-up. It blows my mind how many times in her life Jodie has had to stand up to bullies and thugs, but to her credit she never took a backward step. She’s such a legend, and she was in Point Break too so… mad respect.

And what of Tyler? Is there anything new about her illness or recovery that we might learn from the pod?

Oh yeah, if you wanna hear about just how messed up her illness got, it’s a wild story. Super stoked she’s back for Maui.

Need we pump this ATS episode anymore? It’s the women’s power edition. Just give it a listen!


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