Sunday 12 October 2014


You, a wave and a torrent of water fording your ass. "It's sexy!" says Keith Malloy…
Keith Malloy is the middle brother of the Central Californian family famous for their purist behaviour. Bar fights! Much board paddle! Big waves!
Last year Keith released a film documenting the pleasingly simplistic craft of bodysurfing called Come Hell or Highwater. There’s also a book that fits alongside the film called The Plight of the Torpedo People, featuring Keith, but made by the photographer Chris Burkard, who also shot the photo you see on this page. (Click here to buy! You should!)
Keith sat in a Eames aluminium group office chair in tan denim pants that were somewhat cowboy-ish, a black Patagonia t-shirt and with his head wrapped in a Farmer and the Cook hat, an organic cafe in Ojai, California, near where he lives, and delivered to me (and hence to you) the following primer on bodysurfing.
“It’s sexy!” says Keith. He ain’t lying…
1. It’s more dangerous than you think: Getting smashed is part of bodysurfing, pulling into barrels and getting flogged and washed up on the beach with sand in your hair. But it’s super easy to break your neck. There’s nothing to break your fall. So it’s easy to end up head-first in the sand or reef. The main injuries are shoulder dislocations. I’ve seen ‘em all over the years. I saved a bodysurfer once who broke his neck in the shore break at Ventura wedge. He came up screaming. Luckily he wasn’t paralysed. There’s a couple of guys from the (Newport) Wedge crew who are paralysed right now. What do you do? Use your common sense. Don’t think you’re invincible, especially in hollow waves.
2. Learn to pull through the back. If you’ve been bodysurfing long enough you’ll do it without thinking. Mike Cunningham, Mike Stewart, Chris Kalima and I surfed Teahupoo for 10 days straight, six-foot plus, and there wasn’t one scratch on us. One guy didn’t have the experience and he got shredded. What’s the trick? All you gotta do is ride it out as long as can and at the last minute, drop down extra low, penetrate the water and twist back through. Lead with your hands.
3. Always the hands, sometimes the chest: In most biggesr waves, always have a hand out in front. The only time the chest gets a workout is when it’s a mushier section.
4. Bodysurfing etiquette ain’t that diff from the usual: If you’re bodysurfing with a pack of pals, you don’t take off on somebody and ruin their wave. That isn’t hard to remember. But what you might wanna realise is that bodysurfers are the lowest of the totem pole. A 10-year-old girl will drop in on you and not think twice about it.
5. The best waves? Makapu’u on Oahu’s East Side, Point Panic on the South Shore there, The Wedge in Newport, Boomer in San Diego with Teahupoo as the mythical Jaws-style pinnacle
6. The best bodysurfers in the world are Mike Stewart and Mark Cunningham:Mike is number one, Mark is the legend. It’s like Slater and Curren. Mike is the hot-dog master, Mark is the master. Cunningham has the best style and the best technique. Mike does half the shit on a bodyboard without the bodyboard. He does crazy things like getting sucked up the face, blown out into the flats, and keeps going.
7. Travel is easy. A pair of fins. A wetsuit or a pair of trunks. Maybe a hand plane for when it’s small. There ain’t a lot of excess.
8. Bodysurfing isn’t a pain in the hierarchy: The one thing that’s nice about bodysurfing is it’s not going to affect the lineup no matter how popular it gets. Stand-up paddle boarding ruins the lineup. But when you bodysurf you pick up the scraps and you still have a fucking better time than anybody out there. You get more waves because you don’t need a great wave to have a great time.
9. It’s physical and it’s sexy. It’s super neat not having anything between you, your body and the wave. You’re completely submerged in the ocean and the wave. There’s a classic line in the movie where a guy from Wyoming (cowboy country) talks about bodysurfing and how erotic it is, all that water rushing over your body.
10. Bodysurfing smashes ego: It’s connected. It’s what surfing’s all about. You’re not putting on a show. Nobody is watching you. It takes you back to that state when you were a kid when it wasn’t not about your fucking ego. Whoever has the most fun wins. I love that aspect. I started bodysurfing while I was on the tour. It was driving me crazy trying to tear a wave apart from start to finish and surf under the contest criteria. I was living on the North Shore and I started going bodysurfing with Mark Cunningham and it was a breath of fresh air: riding waves without being tethered to equipment, the glide. It was like a vacation from surf contests.

Monday 11 August 2014

Inaugural Big McCdaddy Bodysurfing Classic wraps

A serious injury in the trials at Teahupoo, Durban's amazing sandbanks threatened, the Inaugural Big McCdaddy Bodysurfing Classic wraps.

Who Blew Up?

image © ASP/Robertson

1. Tuamata Puhetini and Nathan Hedge. These guys surfed their way into the winner and runner up slot of the Air Tahiti Nui Billabong Pro Trials. Against 30 other hard charging tube specialists eventually it was Tuamata and Hedgy who won coveted spots in the main event. Tuamata will be a real force to be reckoned with out there as he is very comfortable at Teahupoo. Hedgy is a former top 10 World Tour surfer and no stranger to Teahupoo either, so you can be sure these guys are going to make life difficult for the WT pros when the main event kicks of on the 15th.

2. Bethany Hamilton. Check out this air reverse, seriously, this girl is so inspiring! The next time you make excuses about your surfing just think about what she has been able to achieve despite her handy cap.

Big McCdaddy Bodysurfing Classic finalists
3. Ross Lindsay. Ross took out the inaugural Big McCdaddy Bodysurfing Classic over the weekend. Ultimately it was his tube riding skills, no doubt honed and polished at his local break of Kalk Bay, that saw him take the top slot. The runner up went to Julian Taylor who despite putting up a serious challenge could not find the waves that Ross did and ultimately had to settle for second place.

Who Blew It?

image © Surfing Magazine / Tom Carey

1. Kevin Bourez. Kevin is the younger brother of Michel Bourez and a hard charging Tahitian. He had a horrendous wipe out at Teahupoo in the Trials last week when he was driven head first into the reef. He suffered multiple head fractures and deep lacerations to his face, reminding us all that the consequences of surfing Teahupoo are very real and that even committed and skilled surfers are at very serious risk out there if things go wrong. After 4 hours of surgery the doctors informed the ASP that he is in a stable condition. Our thoughts are with the young charger at this point and we wish him a speedy and full

2. The Durban City Engineers. After years of pleading from surf lobbyists to re-fill the piers, the City of Durban finally put into action a plan at the end of last years that would see the refilling and refurbishment of The Bay, North Beach and New Pier piers. The motivation is that solid structures create far better sandbars than hollow or semi hollow structures. The initial plan was to fill the piers to the medium tide water mark. This would create a primarily solid structure, greater rip strength next to the piers, stronger sand flow out to the end of the piers, less cross shore drift between the piers (this decays the surfing bank) and ultimately much, much better surfing sand bars. Well the proof of the pudding is in the eating and the sandbars at North Beach and The New Pier have been all time for most of this year, note the Bay pier is still under reconstruction. The problem has come in with the short cuts the government contractors have taken by not filling the piers to the correct hight and the durability of the geotech sand bags has been overestimated, resulting in more breakage and settling than was initially anticipated. The result? We stand to lose these amazing sandbars almost as soon as we’ve just created them! If the city does not act quickly to fill the piers properly we could see a return to another decade of marginal sandbanks between the piers.

John about to get worked. Image © Cestari
3. John McCarthy. Despite 2 years of intense and secret training as well as local knowledge and despite having a bespoke David Constance Wawa handgun at my disposal I finished stone last in the inaugural Big McCdaddy Bodysurfing Classic over the weekend. Perhaps my performance was inversely linked to the amount of el jimador tequila I consumed on Saturday night. Either way it is back to the drawing board until next year.

Thursday 24 July 2014

The Quest For The Magic Surfboard

Article published 09/07/14 -

The David Constance Design Hand Gun from WAWA

If you break yours in half, no problem, just use Balkotan to glue it back together.
What David Constance has to say.
I’m not going to put words in David's mouth here, but a more passionate, insightful designer of hand planes or hand guns as I like to call them you’ll be hard pressed to find. If you are in the Muizenberg area pop into the WAWA factory and chat to him, you’ll be so glad you did!

Note how far forward the hand slot is. This gives you more bite and control and is much safer on your wrist than if the pivot point is further back

What John McCarthy has to say.
This beautiful wave riding vehicle came into my life by surprise about 4 years ago and it has changed the way I look at waves and how I think about riding them. If you think of bodysurfing as equal parts zen and goofy, foolish fun then this little guy here is your ticket to the parallel universe. You don’t actually need a handgun or flippers to bodysurf, but they make it a hell of a lot easier and much more fun to experience. You’ll be amazed at the rides you are able to have once you get the hang of it. I’ve ridden mine in everything from grinding New Pier and solid Cave Rock to fun little bowls and here is the thing, it is just SOOOOO much fun. Somehow the purity of the action and that your body becomes part of the surfboard, combined with the playfulness of rolling around and sliding up and down wave faces makes me so stoked. I’ve tried quite a few different models and I think I like the wood better but maybe that’s just what I’m used to. Good comfortable flippers are a bonus. I started with a single Churchill that I found washed up on the beach. That served me well until I lost it on a big day at Ansteys (same day I split my handgun in 2 pieces on my forehead - thanks to Balkatan I was able to glue it back together), these days I use a pair of Stealths which I’m sure you can get in most surf shops, I got mine at The Surf HQ in Durban who I know also stock a variety of Handguns. If you are bored or jaded or just not feeling it at the moment my humble suggestion is to go back to the ancient art of bodysurfing and tap into the real essence of what wave riding is all about. Pure Fun!

Check out the concave on the bottom deck

Helpful hints.

When choosing your Handgun, make sure that the pivot point is well forward of the mid point or you end up with serious strain on your wrist and far less control of the planing surface.
Rockers do not work well in hand guns, the flatter the better.
You should not need to use a leash. You need to learn the 'tuck and roll’ of pulling the Handgun into your body when you crash so that your shoulder doesn’t get ripped out of joint. Letting your hand plane go in a whipe out is a fast track to stitches in the face and a trip to the casualty ward.
Different strokes for different folks. Experiment, learn, share with your buddies. You’ll quickly get a feel for what works for you.


Top deck and trysty Stealth Fins which you can get from The Surf HQ in DBN

Thursday 30 January 2014

Sodom and Cremora, where angels fear the bread.

written by Andrew Strode

Don’t choose an airline on the fact that its named after your favourite fruit. I did and with gravity’s hand still clutching blindly at the air behind us, our plane began vibrating like Mrs Godzilla’s sex toy caught in a power surge and I was left checking my pockets for a long lost and presumed dead god. 

Christmas season again, Woohoo...Every December I fly north to my home town to visit the family, see old friends and wallow in the warm Indian Ocean. I have mixed feelings about this place. On one hand it's heavenly, my family moved out here in the mid 19th century from Bristol and we have been here ever since, and on the other... well, let me get to that in a moment.  

This is a piece of the big old Jacaranda tree that fell on my house on the farm. I figured I turn it into a Paipo (for those of you who worry about health and safety, please note I am wearing a sun hat)

Our farm is walking distance from some of the most spectacular beaches I know. There is constant swell up here, warm clean water and barrels. Lots and lots of barrels. Growing up here I got tubed at least once a week. The problem is that, any place overly blessed geographically, will attract people. Lots of them. So it was only natural that with the overpowering stench of easy money hanging in the languid air, developers would fly in like hordes of locusts to gang rape Gaia. Paving over the forests with cheap and nasty rabbit warrens for the zombie bunnies that then flooded in. Shopping malls sprang up like concrete snares. Open prisons for the rich and paranoid they call gated estates embalming the hills with the kind of architecture that screams for the reinstatement of the death penalty. Soulful country roads morphed into viewless claustrophobia inducing gridlocks of bloated, flatulent SUV’s. All the old fashioned churches were replaced by charmless charismatics. God... my soul is puking. What’s there to do other than swim out past the breakers and watch the world die...

My mate Gav has just bought a sawmill, he gave me this piece of Camphor wood. Now its a handplane.

And so every morning before the subtropical sun had time to work itself up into its full furious self and every evening as it caught its breath before bedtime, I went down and swam out past the waves. Swim fins on my feet, sometimes with a hand slide and sometimes without. This place is where devout body surfers go after their ashes carpet the ocean. After the frangipani flowers sink and your friends and family caught waves in. This is where you slide away into eternity. The water in summer couldn't be more comforting if it was a Geisha on ecstasy. The waves have a natural strength that sets you planing high up on your gammon fattened belly and the barrels, oh man... those sweet ever lovin little creatures. They hold you in their arms and whisper the rudest things in your ear... I swear, another couple of weeks of these siren songs and I's be handing in my notice to captain Odysseus, grow gills and swim off to join a seal colony.

Saturday 16 November 2013

So Long and Thanks for all the Slides

written by alaia shaper and surfer Andrew Strode
Muizenberg winters – colder than ex wives hearts, darker than corporate lawyers' souls, bank accounts drain as dam waters rise, kitchen cupboards are evacuated until they resemble the echoing interiors of beauty queens’ heads. I’m no stranger to a bit of poverty, the wolves have been at my door since it was just a door frame and there is no shame in being poor but when the southern ocean swells are lining up past the horizon to take their turns at running full tilt, mouths wide open down the length of the Eastern Cape points and I’m stuck in the city, well then it gets a little inconvenient.

So when the opportunity came along to earn a small pile of filthy lucre in the arms trade, faster than you can say “so Satan, where do I sign?”, I was in.

Cut to a double volume workshop space hidden behind a non-descript garage door in the labarinthine Salt River, wailing grinders, the hiss and flicker of welding machines, cold rainy days that pass unseen, nothing exists aside from metal – cutting, bending, welding… Now cut again to the red eye bus to J Bay, it’s just me, Trav from the great unwashed. Out boards are in the belly of the beast and I’ getting gently lulled into rigamortis but the evangelical Christian TV that the bus hostess is battering us with. Finally the pot of gold at the end of the red eye rainbow materialises in front of us as we stand shivering on the beach while the sun crawls out from under its Indian Ocean duvet to reveal 4-5ft supers looking every bit like the best right hand point break in the world.

I paddled out on my little 3’7” agave planing hull, not too sure at how that experiment was going to end, only knowing that I’d rather hang around the frontier towns of my surfing than revisit the roads of my youth. It took me a while to get my first one but as soon as I realized it was possible I relaxed into a rhythm of high speed sliding. Derek Hynd, the master at left field surfing appeared and dissolved our brains in a display of a possible future. He is so far ahead of the curve that the language barely exists to describe his performance.

For my second suf we go down to the point and I paddle out on my alaia. The waves down here, run at the perfect speed for alaias. About 40 minutes into the surf I snag a wide set, taking off in a blizzard of foam, unfortunately the wave closes out and I nose dive as I try to straighten out. With no leash on, my board disappears off and I wait for a good wave to bodysurf. It’s a long swim in and I’m hoping my board will be waiting there in the shallows for me like a faithful dog. But no luck, I get in and search the beach, a fisherman spots my board and I swim in its direction but my arms are heavy and the rip is strong, the sun is sinking and I’m too blind to find anything that doesn’t want to find me.
I go back to shore and the fisherman spots my board. It’s 500m out and heading north fast. I let go. So long and thanks for the slides.

I’m left with the daydream of the gods delivering by board to a young kid somewhere. Hopefully a kid that recognises it’s potential as a wave sliding platform.

Wednesday 31 July 2013

Heaven and Hull

Like seeing a two headed dog ollieing a skate board or accidently smoking DMT in a traffic jam, stand up paipo surfing is a strange and wonderful  thing.
About the least you can have under your feet while still being able to slide across wave faces without being a carpenter from Gallilee, paipo’s take the wave sliding middle man and put him on a vegan raw food diet until he can pigdog the eye of a needle. They’re magic carpets for people who would prefer a magic tea towel. I first fell in love with the idea of riding paipos standing up when I saw the footage of Valentine Chang surfing off the wall on Oahu’s south side on his little red plywood single fin. The surfing is like summer distilled in a moonshiners copper kettle, the board, that little red piece of driftwood from the fountain of youth is pure do it yourself punk. Not long after seeing that I stayed up all night in a blur of Jazz and sawdust and seisemelia smoke and gave birth to the board I named Dr. Strangelove. A 3’ something solid wood planning hull, a blend of Greenoughs  Velo, the mini Simms and Valentines paipos, a dual keel finned piece of my soul to slide on.
Sufing rocky points on the good doctor, mostly without a leash to amp up the adrenaline (without consequences where’s the thrill?), opened up new worlds, good waves felt like magic tricks. The board was so fast and so small that you had to virtually bodysurf onto the wave but once you got to your feet and set trim it was like you had hitched a ride on a bullet.
Last Sunday I was surfing a beautifully formed and apparently rare sandbar up the coast. The waves were small but clean and perfect, like little Kirra bar snacks. I was riding a 3’7” agave and foam composite board, a sort of mini, mini Simmons when one of the local groms asked if him and his mate could have a go. The first grom didn’t do too well, on his 2nd wave the lip went sall Old Testament on him and he came up holding his head and crying. Grom no. 2 though had already learnt the fine art of riding alaias and within a couple goes was looking like a young Derek Hynd, taking off late, keeping low and centred and just flying. I don’t know who was more stoked, me or him.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Ode to Simplicity

It was early on a Friday evening, the sun was ambling good naturedly down the back of the mountain, sharks were swimming about in their kitchens pondering dinner and I was standing in my wetsuit, in front of my boards, aquatic lovin on my mind, momentarily confounded by choice, like a polygamous president on date night. Now, while it is still true that on the whole, cobblers’ kids go barefoot, I have, nonetheless accumulated a small, rather strange and wonderful quiver.

Out of these I usually, at any one time, have a favourite, often a board that I find challenging, that I will ride obsessively in a bull terrierish - I won’t let go until I learn to ride this goddamn thing - manner. Of late that board has been the 9’6” D-finned longboard that my neighbour John Bramwell of Evenflow Surfboards made. I grew up riding a short board and it’s second nature to me. Logging, on the other hand, is a whole new language and one that, as I now live in Muizenberg, it seems appropriate to learn. But, I wasn’t feeling it on that afternoon, it was an older love that was calling me, it was my finless, rockerless, leash-less, waxless alaia that I wanted, my reincarnated 1000year old speed demon, my ode to simplicity.

Alaias, for me, are at their most fun on clean, small days with running waves and minimal crowds. This was one of those days. Perfect little lefts were laughing all the way to the bank. From my first wave I knew I had chosen the right board. I took off and set trim as the wave bowled along the bank. The board picks up momentum effortlessly and soon you’re going so fast that you feel you ought to do something radical - 360 reverse into the pocket?

I love everything about riding these boards, the absurd minimalism, the utterly addictive speed, the feeling that you are accessing sensations from an ancient past, I love the skill needed to catch a wave, I even love getting dropped in on by shortboarders, I love standing still as a mountain and speeding past them as they bounce and flap and sink…

Josh Redman at Supertubes in Jeffreys Bays doing what he does best on our 'ode to simplicity' made out of agave and recycled foam. 

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Further Agave Planing Hell

I shaped the Agave blank last week, a task I performed with all the existential angst of a bird wearing eau de corpse cleaning the teeth of a dozing croc.
I learnt a few things though…firstly a good respirator is a wonderful thing and a few simple precautions (working outdoors, wearing a long sleeve shirt etc.) go a long way in making the work more pleasant.
Working with this wood again distilled my existing thoughts on the intricacies of harvesting and milling Agave. Making a good quality, even density blank requires a certain amount of knowledge and timing.
A couple of years ago a carpenter friend of mine harvested and milled some Agave. He picked only the vigorous, green, crazy horny, springtime-of-their-lives, stems; planked them immediately and dried them. The resulting wood was, to extend a metaphor, virginal white, rot free, as light weight as foam and evenly dense. My new blank was less virtuous, more Mary Magdalene than Mary mother of God. It united the pale rot free planks with dense brown strips cut from close to the surface as well as red and grey planks where the decay had set in. Trying to shape the latter with a block plane was like attempting to plane a sponge and although the resulting combination of colours is deeply pleasing, the lack of uniformity in desity made shaping trickier than it needed to be.

Still, I think it all worked out of in the end. My new board is a slight departure from my usual, single concave, planing hull obsession. Its a 4’9” quagg. Flat bottomed stand up paipo.  Flat bottomed girls make the rockin world go round!