I was listening to the Ain't That Swell podcast the other day. It was the one about Surfing's greatest beefs and barnies. It is really good by the way. It got me thinking more nationally about some of the epic beefs and barnies I've been a part of and witness to.
You see kiddies, what you read in the surf media is what you're meant to read and not all that goes on is reported. More often than not there's nothing wrong with the sanitised version. Some things aren't fit to go in a magazine that is directed at highly impressionable tweens. The distance of time mellows the impact. Here's an example for you;
Back in the late '90's Billabong NZ's Scott Casey came up with a concept event called the Billabong Challenge. It was a noble idea. In fact it was a bloody cool plan. Billabong NZ, straight after the Nationals, grabbed NZ's top rated surfers for an all expenses paid roady. The roady was premised with the idea that there would be a couple of rounds of heats run and then the winner would walk away with the cash prize.
It was a forward thinking concept to break away from the standard competition format. And Scott readily admits it was based on Billabong's epic Desert Challenges in Western Oz. Remembering this was 20 years ago.
Billabong also assisted members of the surf media to travel with the surfers to document the goings on. I was editing and shooting for the surf mag, so I was there. Some of the other media tag ons were pretty tenuous at best. One such tag along was an Aussie cameraman who shall remain nameless. No one really knew just how he got on the gravy train, even Scott had no idea. But he seemed harmless enough.
Billabong got everyone up to their Head Office where rental vans were waiting. From there the powers that be revealed the region where the surf would most likely be best for the next three days. We headed to the Far North. Billabong had block booked the Backpackers house in front of the Ahipara Bay Motel [it got demolished long ago for apartments].
As pictured the surfers are from left to right Emerson Tucker, Justin Souter, Ben Kennings, Mark Dovey, Blair Stewart, Andrew Robinson, Jos Kennings, Damon Gunness, Chris Malone and Daniel Kereopa.
Then you had the entourage which was made up of Judges, Billabong staff and that dodgey mix of media types I mentioned earlier. In all there were over 20 of us in the spacious Backpackers house. Everyone had beds, but a couple of the tag alongs were on fold-outs the living room.
The surf didn't quite pan out as Scott had hoped. We were lured by the promise of epic east swell and both Rarawa and Hendo's being on the cook. BUT there were fun waves and there was a job to do.
Lion Red was the official beer of everything surfing in NZ then. This meant for anyone in the industry all you had to do was put up your hand and Lion Red would courier out a pallet of red cans.
The scene set. A group of twenty young men away from their homes with free accomodation, food and booze. With no early start or much pressure. It was only natural that the handbrake was well and truly off come Saturday night. We had a bender of stellar proportions.
As the evening progressed the Aussie Cameraman started recounting tales of dirty deeds done to his mates back home. Boldly boasting about his tally of scalps and eyebrows he'd claimed from passed out friends. We've all done it, or worst still, been the victim.
It's all a bit vauge. At some point he started explaining in great detail how you should only ever shave off the inside half of a brow. It's a double banger. First the victim has to deal with the new man-scaping. Then they have to come to grips with the fact they are going to have the shave off the outside half to even it up. It's actually pretty brilliant.
As the night continued the twang of the Aussie's voice faded. Much to everyone's surprise, he'd tucked himself into bed, in the large living room... in the middle of the party.
If it wasn't my idea, I apologise to the ring leader. After such a detailed tirade and highlighting that you should never pass out at a party. Here was our Aussie gatecrasher doing exactly what he boasted not to do. Mark Dovey found a razor blade, Ben Kennings got the shaving foam and I found the Aussie's video camera. Which I think was a masterstroke.
As per the Aussie's description we made our own little documentary on his camera about the art of brow work. To this date I think Mark Dovey has missed his calling as a TV presenter.
Job done, we took off both inside brows. Lots of Lols and Rofos all around the crowded living room.
I can't recall the Aussie's reaction in the morning, we were in a rush to get up to Rarawa. The swell was good, but the banks weren't great. It was a fun 2-3 foot. There was work to do and someone was going to win some cash and bragging rites.
I swam out with the camera and got nothing, caught in shitty rips and not lining up anyone with the shifting peaks. Luckily I'd shot the shot of Chrissy Malone on the Friday evening straight after the drive up. Blair Stewart won, which was a worry 'cos his Dad Doug was the judge. But in fairness I think Doug was actually being harder on Blair as an over compensation.
There was a bit of controversy over the criteria. Doug, who was NZ's Head Judge at the time, had been very vocal about his dislike of airs. Yes, that is right, in the late '90's the ASP criteria deemed airs non functional manoeuvres!
In a flip, for this event Scott had made it clear innovation was to be rewarded. Blair won by doing some massive fin wafts. The controversy was that some of the other guys didn't believe Doug could actually judge innovation so they stuck to rail game.
The comp was over, it had been a big day in the sun, up the north end of Rarawa Beach. We were assembled back at the car-park by the stream and Ben Kennings was tee'ing off. Someone had shat inside his brand new Oakley shoes. It was disgusting, apart from ruining his new kicks, the rental van had been marinating the stench all arvo. Then Mark Dovey went to put his Dirty Dog Sunnies on, he stopped, sniffed and realised just before putting them on the arms were coated in poo. Mark was beyond livid. Everyone was in shock... everyone except the Aussie who was rolling around in laughter on the ground.
No one else... and I mean no one, saw the humour in spreading human defecate over some one's gear. The Aussie's retaliation was akin to answering a firecracker with a neutron bomb. The red mist descended on Mark. The big problem being that no one felt like stopping Mark from thumping the Aussie.
The Aussie tried to justify his actions, it only made things heavier. By this stage Mark was standing over the Aussie who was cowering in the dirt. He tried to stand up and I warned him to stay down. There was no doubt that if he had stood up Mark would have put him back down. It was really heavy. The Aussie tried to apologise, but no one was having a bar of it. Eventually Mark's anger dissipated enough for him walk away. The only thing that saved the Aussie from a beating was that he stayed on the ground.
Now, you can criticise all of us in this little tale for a number of actions. We all could have been more responsible at different junctures. But we didn't, the hand brake was off and we were having a good time...until we weren’t. To this day I have no idea why the Aussie didn’t implicate the person, ie ME, who was filming the whole incident on his camera- the very evidence he used to identify Ben and Mark. And trust me at the time I did a very intensive audit of my own gear. I always felt stink that Ben and Mark got nailed and I escaped the ....ummm.... shit storm.
From The Bookstore
All Photo CPL Books are printed with soy based inks [no toxic petros] The Printers are FSC, ISO 9001 and 14001 environmental certified. And The South Seas Revised Edition most certainly a product of that. Over 80% of the images are changed from the original edition- it really is a different book. Check it out and buy it HERE