The 10 best things to happen to surfing just now
“Something new is always used first by people who are willing to look ridiculous, at least for a few minutes,” says biz expert Seth Godin. He’s right. Those Great Leaps Forward happen on the edges until the rest of us finally come around to even the sharpest absurdity. Jeans that pool around the crotch? Sunglasses that […]
“Something new is always used first by people who are willing to look ridiculous, at least for a few minutes,” says biz expert Seth Godin. He’s right. Those Great Leaps Forward happen on the edges until the rest of us finally come around to even the sharpest absurdity. Jeans that pool around the crotch? Sunglasses that were big with Malcolm X in the sixties? (The now-popular brow line). Yeah, we do. Listed below are 10 recent game changers that’ve seeped through from around the edges.
10. The shrinking bikini bottom
We are forever grateful that Anastasia Ashley is a fan of the shrinking bikini bottom. Photo by Mark Hunter.
This is no news to Brazilians who have long known that the less fabric used in a bikini, the more flattering it is for the owner. If you’ve spent any time at a beach in Hawaii or California recently, you’ll know that bikini bottoms are getting smaller. Let me give you an anecdote: I was in Hawaii in Feb and the Pipe lagoon was filled with gals swimming around, locals, Cali gals, Australians, too. And it was this multi-culti mix that allowed me to compare and contrast the different approaches to the bikini. The Australian girls wore larger bottoms, next to local girls in smaller cuts. What can I say? The Brazil cut made average gals cute; the oversized Australian bikini frumped out even the hottest gal. When we asked Alana Blanchard a few years ago about her bikini size compared to the modest Australian example, she was contemptuous. “They’re like surfing in a diaper,” Alana stated.
9. The Surflock
It’s not chic nor sophisticated but the surf lock is sure beats getting your car lightened of its precious items.
Clever, convenient… dorky. There ain’t nothing cool about zipping up your keys in a water and theft proof box, and hanging that box under your car, allowing you to surf without torching your electronic entry in saltwater. But similarly, there’s nothing cool about someone watching you stash your keys in the rocks or under a towel, hawking said position, accessing your whip and lightening your wallet of fresh leaves and cards while you wet your gills.
8. The surfing decree in Fiji
The most iconic image of Cloudbreak ever captured, June 08, 2012. Photo by Brian Bielmann.
On July 2, 2010, the Republic of Fiji Islands Government passed a surfing decree that cancelled all exclusive access rights to waves in the region. World class lefts Cloudbreak and Restaurants were suddenly no longer exclusive to guests of Tavarua, but rather open to anyone and everyone. Amid increasing overpopulation of surf breaks globally, this change meant losing some of the last few waves in the world that could be surfed with a finite number of people in the water. But right here, right now, ain’t the discussion place for this. The point of this decree was to increase Fiji’s surfing tourism. Which it did. And on June 8, 2012 during the Volcom Pro, the swell of the decade hit Fiji. The world’s best big wave surfers spent the afternoon riding the waves of their lives. This was the greatest big-wave session of all time. And, since the contest was on in the morning and the cameras were set up, we watched from multiple angles, with a commentary team that included a 30-ish minute booth cameo from Kelly Slater. The best big-wave surfers in the world along with the world tour surfers, with the world watching perhaps the best big waves anyone has ever seen? Without the surfing decree, this might have been a surf session that never happened.
7. The paddlers
Mark Mathews at The Right: the world’s last wave to be tackled by paddle power. Photo by Calum Macaulay.
Or is it just perennial OG, Mr Shane Dorian? Or the wetsuit he designed for Billabong? Or Patagonia’s adaptation? Either way, paddlers killed the jet-ski star. And, it’s birthed a whole new crop of wild men ready to scratch ‘emselves under a ledge for the ultimate thrill. Paddling is just about the coolest thing going round. Everywhere from Mavericks to Jaws to Cortes Bank to Shipsterns is being regularly tamed with bare hands. Even that burger in Europe, Nazare, has been bare knuckle boxed. For now, there’s only one wave that’s yet to be tackled by paddlers and that’s The Right in Western Australia. We asked Mark Mathews, who frequents The Right, when it’s gonna join The Paddle List: “Well, bodyboarders paddle it but if surfers took off on the spot where bodyboarders paddle, then you wouldn’t get barrelled,” says Mark (the bodyboarders focus more on the end bowl). “The wave is a lot bigger than you think. You’d need a 7’0 to 7’6 board and you could fluke a lucky roll-in. In reality it doesn’t break till it’s 10-foot-plus and I’d be more inclined to get in the water and paddle if it wasn’t so fucken sharky. Someone will try the next few years f’sure.”
6. The Dumpster Diver
Yes, there was 5’5 x 19 1/4 way back in the mid ‘90s; the Matt Biolos shape made famous by Chris Ward and Andy Irons. Yes, there have been small wave board variations in the past two decades. And, yes, there’s talk of the Dumpster being an adaptation of a Roberts board Dane Reynolds once rode, but it don’t matter: The world listened in 2009 when Dane rode the Dumpster Diver to the final of the Hurley Pro (where he finally lost to Mick Fanning). What this board did was change the perception around the stubbier board and its relation to performance. Stubby boards were no longer a gateway drug to a longboards. They were legitimised by the then-best surfer in the world. Says Dane: “I’d seen quite a few people riding really short, squatty boards like the (…Lost) Rocket… and I had boards kinda like that with the Flyer but they were more short-board-y or like the Pod that was more like an old-guy cruiser style board. I wanted something that was high-performance. The first one was pretty raw, like a chunk of foam, with just a little flip in the tail and that straight big blocky square tail. And as I was coming back Trestles was going to start and I was really digging that board down there but I wanted to do some refinements because there’s a stigma on riding a fish in heats. So we made a narrower nose, pulled-in the tail, made it more shortboard looking. That ended up being the one that we now call the Dumpster Diver.”
5. Surfing Webcasts
Kelly is always a welcome addition to the booth. Photo by ASP/Kirstin.
Oh, who are we to moan and bitch about webcasts! To berate Pat Parnell because he can’t call a wave! Frontside cut! To say that the sing-songy tone of Joey Turps doesn’t fit our edgy sport! To be perplexed that one of the godfathers of aerials in surfing, Mr Martin Potter, applauds safe surfing and sticking to the face! But, let’s be honest, the best surfers in the world at some of the best waves as it happening… The glass is definitely half full and it’s fucking extraordinary. Water angles, beach angles, drone angles, replays, roaming reporters and post-heat interviews while we sit wherever we please attached to whatever goddamned device we like. The new ASP have made it a little stiffer, but also a little more reliable, and each event gets better and better. Still, it’s not good enough to hold the attention of your non-surfing friends, so don’t ruin the fantasy by trying to think they might a) understand it and b) actually appreciate it.
4. (Honourable mention) Surf gambling
Okay, so perhaps the US isn’t as liberated as Australia in terms of its degenerate habits, but surf gambling puts the thriller in vanilla. Round two, heat seven at Bells. You’re on edge for 30 minutes with such investment in the battle between Miggie Pupes and Dion Atkinson!
Buoyweather reading for Fiji on June 08 and 09, 2012. The day of days at Cloudbreak and for Kelly Slater’s victory the next dat at the Volcom Pro.
The Surfline-owned Buoyweather is surfing’s greatest surf forecasting site and has changed the way we plan our lives. It’s no longer a wake up and see. We can now schedule our lives around some blue graphs on a simple white background. The beauty of BW is that it’s not some weird interpretation of what a forecaster thinks is a four foot wave, but rather the raw data that allows you to make the call on where you’ll be surfing. It’s the most accurate and is the most widely used within pro surfing circles. We know, we know, there are many great surf sites out there that predict surfing conditions but buoy weather is our BFF. We love our surf technology but this is where we want our surf forecasting to stop. Stab has been approached on two occasions to partner up on new surf forecasting tech. The idea? To provide images, surf locale suggestions and tides based on what conditions are reading. For example, you’re looking at a surf forecast, right? You can scroll down to the day and see what places were like last time the forecast looked like this. It decodes the information and then serves up examples of previous swells with similar winds and conditions. Which is great. And smart. But not for Stab. We’re shallow and we’re morally corrupt but partnering up on a business that reveals surf spots and takes the guesswork out of surf forecasting is something we abhor.
2. All these new waves
Joel Parkinson at Froggies: a new wave at the busiest surf location on earth. Photo by Simon Muirhead.
We’ve got google earth, we’ve got the best forecasting equipment (see number 3) and we’re still finding new waves. To think: at the most crowded surf locale on earth (the Gold Coast), we’re surfing the relatively young Froggies, the wave between Duranbah and Snapper Rocks. And, let’s not forget about the wave many call the best wave on the planet: the left in Namibia. Plus, we’ve got The Right in West Oz and the outside ledge at Cloudbreak. But, certainly the most notable change is our shift of direction. We now look for different waves. Led by the influence of Kai Neville and his filmic desire to create more high performance surfing, he’s opened us up to reefs with onshore and cross-shore winds. “There was a big shift in the waves we want to hunt in the future and the waves we look for in the future,” said Kai of turning his back on groomed walls for junky looking ramps. “People were looking at us like, “Are you guys crazy?”.” His trips were now equally focussed on waves that were likely to feature un-groomed waves. He learned to avoid the tube and would travel to Indonesia out of season, would turn his back on St Leu to surf an onshore right in Reunion and turned North Point into one of the most performance waves in the world. On a shoot with Stab less than a month ago, John John Florence reckoned he’d found the best air wave in the world. “It’s real shallow on the end section but it’s got the best ramps I think I’ve ever surfed,” John told us. “But it’s my secret. Don’t tell anyone. The onshore air waves are starting to get crowded!”
The crouching tiger. Self-capture by Alan van Gysen.
Perhaps it’s our vanity. Perhaps it’s the fact that social media rules our lives. Perhaps it was the signing of Kelly Slater for a million dollars a year. But it was pure genius when a surfer named Nick Woodman, who wanted to shoot his friends surfing, designed a camera that has been so widely accepted. If you told someone that you’d be pointing any kind of camera back at yourself during any kind of sporting event, you’d think your pal had a narcissistic rush of blood to the head. But when John John to Joel to Jamie embraced the cameras, the world stopped and listened. Malcolm Gladwell’s Law of the few states: “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.” Yup, sounds right. GoPro has demystified tube riding (“that’s the point I’d usually jump off!”), and given us a taste of what it’s like to experience things we’d never, ever have the chance to see otherwise. And, it all started with surfing. Bravo, Mr Woodman!
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