Sunday, January 31, 2010

Us Deadly Mob (2005)

A story about surfing and the Mercy family (directed by Samia Goudie).

Friday, January 29, 2010

Worm's town - Malibu

I saw this video over at Surfsister's blog but you can find out more about Erin Ashley and the Worm's town here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Kurungabaa - coming soon.

Good things come to those who wait.

But the latest Kurungabaa will be going into print very soon, so if you do want to read the latest issue then you better get onto the website and order yourself a copy...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Smog - Rock Bottom Riser

A song.

I wanted to find a clip for The Well, but this is another one of my favourites. The words are lovely. And Paul McNeil made such beautiful images to go with it too.

What I love about Bill Callahan is that despite everything, he always finds a way to leave you with everything that you thought you had lost. I think that it's amazing that he can write such beautiful words and make such beautiful music, that manages to tear me apart and then put me back together again.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rell Sunn - how to surf like a girl

Sunn shows us how to nose-ride...

...and, let's admit it, generally how to surf.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Monkey's Arse - feel the chaos!

Recently, at my local break, a young boy got hit in the back the head with a board and ended up with a shattered skull that required the insertion of 5 titanium plates. The offending board and associated carelessness, it is claimed, belonged to a beginner.

I wasn't there and have only heard about it in the last few days and it is all over the news and I'm not going to post the picture, but that is about the sum of it and any way you look at it, it's not cool.

What it has ignited is a discussion about the nature of increasingly busy and populated surfbreaks and the potential threats they pose. For example, Ben at In Byron Bay Today has been commentating the issue (here and here), and over at Real Surf, there is a 12-page-and-growing forum thread debating the topic. People seem to be upset and engaged and have clearly been thinking about many of the issues for some time. While the idea of this discussion makes sense, what is frightening is many of the ideas and methods being proposed for enforcing 'safety regulations' and 'surf etiquette' at these breaks. Some of the ideas proposed include,
  • No legropes (ie. the kooks swim more).
  • 'Elders' regulate a bit more (Kind of an aspiration based around reminiscing, "well when I was a grommet...").
  • Boardriders clubs regulate surfbreaks (They can wear a specially coloured rash vest to show that they are the keepers of the rules of the break. And everyone knows that boardriders clubs are always the most ethical and open-minded groups of people in the water anyway! Don't they?).
  • Grade surfbreaks the way you do ski runs (Which seems kind of arbitrary considering the generally fickle nature of surfbreaks but ok).
  • Make board-hire places that hand out rule books.
  • Make surf-schools teach surf etiquette as a part of their lessons (These last two in particular are the ones that seem most popular as they focus on beginner surfers, who are the least experienced and therefore least accepted surfers around).
This accident has certainly brought the focus onto the hazards of beginners and their lack of 'etiquette' and this has largely been the focus of the argument. But busy surfbreaks are made up of many surfers and surfing abilities, not just 'experienced' and 'beginner'. The long-held argument at The Pass (staying on this particular break for today) is that it's easy to get out to the lineup, therefore there are many beginners floating about and not paying attention and this is how most accidents happen. I surf at The Pass a lot, and I will admit that I agree with this kind of assessment and have spoken about it with friends. But it is more complex than that.

I look out at The Pass and there are shortboards, longboards, fish, alaias, bodyboards, bodysurfers, SUPs, mats, goatboats, kayaks and everything in between. It is a crazily busy break that is full of surfers of every level and age and gender and nationality and degree of local identity, but this is also part of what I love about it. What I do find frustrating is ducking and weaving around folk on the inside who don't act the ways I want them to or have come to expect, and so when they sit in the middle of the break clutching at their board, facing the beach with their back turned to the ocean and make it my responsibility to avoid them by kicking off the wave, I get cranky. Or when I take off on a wave and 17 other people drop in or someone's flying board nearly conks me in the head. All these things drive me loco, but they are part and parcel of surfing this beautiful, long, peeling right-hander that is easy to access and a joy to surf. These things are the trade-off. And while I'll admit that almost every tale of anger and altercation that I have written on this blog (and beyond) come from experiences at The Pass, so do most of the stories of sharing waves with friends, of hanging out and of being happy and content and stoked. The complexities and contradictions are breath-taking!

And you know what else? I learned to surf at The Pass. I was sitting there, unsure of what to do, trying to understand and get better and get waves and not get hurt. Admittedly, being a local I was completely petrified of getting in anyone's way so I stuck out wide to the shoulder and claimed what I could. But I'm quite certain that I got in the way of many people without noticing and ruined many waves. As I got better I found myself moving more and more towards the inside and the point, taking more risks, finding more confidence and finally understanding what was going on. Learning to surf at The Pass, on my own, taught me the rules of that lineup very quickly (being yelled at), taught me how to paddle onto waves (because I was out so wide!) and taught me to turn (because the waves can be like a slalom track!). Learning to surf at The Pass taught me to stand up for myself but also to (try to) exhibit tolerance and understanding for those brand new beginners who came after me. I try to be patient (and often fail!) and I often see my friends take time out to help someone or give them advice or encouragement or to explain something.

And the wave itself really is a wonderful wave for learning! It's easy to get out, it's easy to paddle around, it's long and peeling, generally under two foot and is fairly consistent. It's great for learning because you can get the same kind of wave over and over. When it gets bigger or messier the learners tend to drop away anyway because they can't get out or because the rip is too strong or because the wave is too fast. But as far as grading breaks like ski-runs goes, it could be considered in contention for a 'green run' difficulty rating! Well, some days anyway.

Please don't think that I am trying to sound like I'm approaching anything akin to sainthood though. I do get frightened when there is someone new to surfing who can barely sit on their board, who can't turn and who struggles to paddle but is sitting out the back, taking off on set waves and generally causing havoc. It's. A. Nightmare! I often go wide or go in if there is someone like that out there because I get too scared of their inexperience. Yet I don't often address these people because I don't know what to say. In some ways I admire them for their courage and confidence, but in other ways I want them to pull their head in and take a look around!! I notice that crew generally tend not to address it either, but instead act in ways that I can see are being disrespectful and aggressive. But unfortunately, the person for whom these performances are intended just might not be able to see what the behaviour means because they don't understand what they are supposed to be doing, what the rules are. There are some men out there who yell and carry on and eyeball and humiliate, and the offender paddles away or stands their ground or gets puffed up themselves, but it never comes off well and usually ruins the days for everyone there.

And think about it - how did YOU learn those rules? I mostly learned them through experience. We all make mistakes and we all get in the way. We all break the rules unknowingly and we all get hurt by others. No-one is perfect.

And this is the thing that no-one is talking about. The level of animosity being levelled at the person who's board hit Pascal is huge - they are being crucified in the media and in the Real Surf forum. And while I understand that we all want someone to blame, no-one has mentioned how AWFUL that poor man (it appears to be a guy) must be feeling. Can you imagine what he is going through? How would you feel? I would be absolutely mortified.

And although people are talking about how surfing is inherently dangerous and how people are constantly getting hurt and describing injuries they themselves have sustained from other surfers - both beginners and experienced! - no-one is talking about the injuries they have inflicted on others themselves. Because that is how I know how awful that man must be feeling. Because I have hit people before. I've never caused an injury like that one, but I have certainly lost control, or not turned fast enough, or fallen off and lost my board or, or, or... Some of these accidents have been entirely my fault. Some of them I could blame on the person I hit. But mostly, they're just a combination of things, which stems form the busyness of the break I am surfing in and the different ways of seeing and understanding that break that come from our different skill levels, knowledges and experiences.

So who gets to be the 'keeper of the rules and etiquette'? The 'keeper of who is allowed to surf here and who is not'?The most experienced surfers? The best surfers? Because the 'best' surfers at my local break, at The Pass, are often the worst offenders for dropping in or snaking or being rude. Because they are the ones who know how to do it AND get away with it. And I don't really blame them for that, but does that mean that they get to regulate? The beginners, although not necessarily fitting in with the ways that I have become accustomed to surfing within, are usually the friendliest, the most forgiving, the kindest and the most generous.

I am not claiming to have any answers and I am not claiming that I am the kind of person that sits quietly and never arcs up and never exhibits any kind of impatience or intolerance - that is far from the truth!! What I am trying to do is think a bit more broadly and to consider that perhaps the issue is a little more complex than just finger pointing at beginners or SUPs. Or perhaps, even, within my own assumptions and behaviours?

Because the issue in Byron is not new, and this debate was already slightly inflamed from a separate incident at the same break last December. I'm not going to go into this one, but you can see how the fury and passion is not a sudden ignition, but is the product more of a slow burn...

(And please forgive me this clip, but I couldn't help myself!)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Surfing by numbers

I read this some months ago now, but have been thinking about it again lately...

From an ASP press release from 10th October 2009

Prize money at the ASP World Tour and ASP Women’s World Tour level is set for a substantial increase in 2010. Base prize money for the ASP World Tour events will increase from the current US$340,000 to US$400,000 in 2010, taking the total prize pool on 10 events from $3,400,000 to $4,000,000 per annum. On the ASP Women’s World Tour, total prize pool will increase from US$630,000 to $800,000 in 2010.

Along with the increase in event prize purse, an additional US$100,000 bonus will be awarded to the year-end ASP World Champion, as well as an additional US$30,000 bonus to the year-end ASP Women’s World Champion.

I realise that there are differences in the numbers of surfers allowed on each tour, but nonetheless, the disparities in the rewards on offer seem overly significant.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Grogan builds a house

A story about home, by Brett Caller...

Every year in my home town Urunga we can expect at least one massive flood. In 2009 we recieved 6 floods in total. Urunga lies at the mouth of both the Bellinger and Kalang rivers and due to the 6 floods the beaches north and south of the mouth are now littered with just about everything from trees, oyster leases, the local river rat boat, Driftwood and washed up cows. Every year a local guy that we call Grogan who is a fellow that I guess you could call a drifter rides his bike along the beaches collecting timber to build his log shacks that the council likes to burn down. This year Grogan located a new million dollar building site and constructed a two bedroom, one bathroom, double lock up car port shack with an olympic size pool out the front. Ha ha its pretty amazing I reckon I could probably live in there.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

How to surf in Byron Bay - postcard edition

I love tacky postcards - kangaroos riding bikes, nude people skiing, koalas surfing - so I am always on the lookout for new and amusing treasures to send to friends. I found this one down at my local shop the other day and thought it fit the bill,

Wow. Or perhaps more importantly, why?

Does it make you want to visit? No, I didn't think so. And yet, the caption on the back says - The waves at Byron Bay are famous among surfing enthusiasts.

And this next one one depicts quite a number of the above-mentioned surfing enthusiasts, while failing to actually inspiring much enthusiasm itself...

Monday, January 04, 2010

The beginnings of a conversion

Yesterday I went surfing with some friends. We were all on mals, including Bruce, who I had only just met. Bruce surfs a lot, but this was the first time he'd ever ridden a longboard! As we dried off and changed back at our cars, I asked him if he enjoyed it?

Yeah! It was fun. It was harder than I thought, but fun. Easy to paddle though. And I like that I was surfing with so many girls!

These kinds of conversations still, after so much talking and thinking about it, astound me. Even though I know they shouldn't.

Don't you usually surf with any women?

No! Never! But it was cool having so many chicks out there.

Why? So you can perve?

Yeah, a bit. Haha! But it was just nice not to only be out there with dudes. It sucks that I usually only get to surf with guys.

I've never been unlucky enough to only surf with guys in the water. Being a woman means that if I'm surfing, then there is always going to be a woman in the lineup. I don't know what that means, but apparently it means something for men like Bruce. But in some ways, I feel lucky - lucky that I don't always surf with only women or only men. Lucky that I get to have all these funny conversations and moments in and out of the water. Where I usually surf, women in the water are not an exception to the rule - in fact, they're sometimes the majority - so like I said, it's hard for me to get my head around the fact that women who surf continue to be imaginary for so many men. Like a myth.

I suppose it's good to be reminded of it every so often.

Sunday, January 03, 2010


For Rose, Randall and Dave...

Maybe posting this song will get it out of my head!!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Hero comes undone

Last week I was out in the water when a guy paddled up and started chatting. He seemed kind of familiar with me, but I had no idea of who he was (which isn't unusual - this kind of thing happens to me quite often actually, because I am terrible at remembering faces). He was friendly though - he was calling me into waves and kept paddling over, and to be honest it was weirding me out until he eventually raised the point I'm assuming he'd been wanting to make since he saw me out there,

Remember that guy who was hassling you in the surf here that day?

I looked at him. Blank. Then, ohhhhh!! Now I remember! He was mates with that Hero-type character last year.

Oh yeah, I reminisced. He was a dick.

Well, he got kicked out of our boardriders!

Really! For being a dick and hassling women?

Nope. For hassling an old guy. They told him to get lost.

Oh well. Maybe it's the hit his ego needed.

Nah, he's still hassling people. He's a real nightmare...

See! It wasn't just me! I feel somewhat vindicated in my behaviour now. I've thought about that whole scenario many times since and now, although I don't feel better about it, I do feel like I at least stood up to the right kind of person.