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My hands are shaking.  No, I’m not angry.  I’m not fuming with indignation or disgust.  I’ve simply had far too much to drink.  Coffee.

With an energized mind I tend to focus on things I despise.  A curse?  Perhaps, but I write on.

“I would never donate to any charity that would help sharks.  I hope they all die,” said President Trump.

Chas Smith of BEACHGRIT recently (not that recently, but I’ve been drinking) wrote about the President’s statement, referencing the ancient proverb, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  Chas went on to dub President Trump an honorary surfer, which can only mean that Chas Smith shares our leader’s contempt for the large fish.

I, too, am terrified of these underwater beasts, but alas I am not so quick-fingered and impulsive (sounds like a teenage boy aiming for the slip for the first time).

I want to wholeheartedly disagree, but I then fantasize about a world without sharks.  It’s fluffy, and safe and there aren’t any sharks.

Tut, tut.  There are reasons this world should not exist.  Namely, science.  The ecosystem exists in a delicate balance, the ocean especially.  Sharks provide invaluable skills that keep said ecosystem in balance and, thus, thriving.   Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard the arguments.  Are they true?

When an ecosystem is thriving, its reefs are healthy and full.  When those reefs are healthy and full they provide the infrastructure that grant people like Chas and every other surfer those things called waves.

Alas, I, too am not getting out of bed to campaign for sharks, nor are any of these others surfers, let alone the professionals.  So, although Chas is, perhaps, wrong to lend his support of the President’s bedtime remarks, I fear I’m no different.

This topic, however, got me to thinking: What do professional surfers campaign for?

I don’t see them banding together to protest any sort of ecological or oceanic preservation or anything of the sort?  Why is that?  DGAF?  One would think these surfers would do all they could to protest and rally their fans and supporters to champion ocean conservation efforts.

Aside from the bald one, Kelly Slater, I’m hard-pressed to think of any professional watermen that have outwardly, vocally, passionately stood to protect the very oceans in which they make their living.

Perhaps that’s it there.  Their livings are made traveling the world surfing the most beautiful waves it has to offer.  Life is good.  Life doesn’t get much better than that.

To rock the proverbial boat may be unwise.  Examples have manifested aplenty, no one more so than Colin Kapernick.

This all being said, I could very well be dead wrong – and I hope I am, but if these surfers are out there campaigning and supporting efforts to conserve our oceans, their voices have not reached the likes of me and I’m much closer to the sport than most.

I’m going to do some digging.  Let’s find out who stands for what in professional surfing.  Stay tuned.

-S. Ben Willoughby

Worst Waves of the World: San Francisco Edition

99 times out of 100 I walk out of the water from a surf session a changed man. No, seriously. I have more energy. I breathe easier. My skin feels good. I get to my car, shake off my wetsuit, turn on the radio and feel good.

Last week, I found myself on the wrong side of that ratio. That towel change was not serene. I was seething. Why the fuck did I paddle out at Fort Point, one of the worst waves in the world?

This is a mirage Photo: Jeremiah Klein 

To those not familiar, Fort Point is the not-so-secret spot located right underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. The wave looks idyllic. Swells come from the Pacific Ocean, cross under the bridge, and wrap around a man made point.

The U.S Army Corps of Engineers began working on Fort Point during the civil war, arming the structure with 103 cannons and soldiers stood watch for an enemy that never came. The history is interesting and the setting is beautiful, the wave is not.

Fort Point Photo: 

The wave only really breaks at a low tide and requires a rock dance like no other to approach the water. Once your in the cold water, you are at the mercy of the tides. Usually, the tide is trying to suck you around and through The Golden Gate – straight out to the Pacific Ocean.

If you can manage the current, you then have to deal with the locals who consist of SUPpers without borders who paddle for every bump in the water, sea kayaks, kneeboarders, kooks who paddle out for the Instagram shot, and maybe a couple rippers who have the spot dialed and catch the one wave that barrels every 30 minutes. It’s truly a menagerie of kookiness out there.

After about 30 minutes of paddling, positioning, paddling some more, getting stared down and then repositioning I thought to myself “Fuck it – I’m going for one.” I tried sitting deep. I let the current take me out. I thought I could somehow go deeper then everyone else. I didn’t realize it’s almost impossible to stay in the position for a good one out there. I paddled back in to where the SUPpers were on the outside.

Right at the take off spot, there’s a submerged rock that shows its face on the bigger waves and causes a huge boil mid face. It’s not good kind of boil that you see before a wave really throws. It’s a boil boil.

Damn Boil! Photo: Daniel Won

To be fair, there are a couple good barrels to be had out there if you want to sit inside of the rock, towards the point and dodge SUPs all day. All the good waves you see in pictures are of this wave. It barrels for about 2 seconds and you come out and there’s no shoulder to ride.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

To the few that have it dialed and can weave through that one barrel every so often – you can have it. I’m done with it.

After 30 minutes of not getting any waves, I paddled in to about mid point and caught an absolute mush burger. Rode it straight and hit the lip on an inside section and had to bail mid term because it was jacking up over the rocks. Admittedly, a kook maneuver and I paid for it. My ass was dragged across a rock and I hit my foot on another.

I shame paddled all the way over to the pier, did another rock dance and headed to the car. The fog horn’s moan echoed my deepest thoughts. Fuck this place. I’m never going back.

I don’t ever want to feel like I did that day.


Fort Point.jpg
You Can Have It

Top 10 Surf Colleges…Again

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How many times can SURFER recycle one article? Forever, it seems, for they have done so with the BEST Surf Colleges article for the last ten, maybe twenty years, maybe thirty years. We sat down with SURFER this year to get the inside scoop on the contest. Let’s check it out and see who won this year!


STRANGE BEN: Hi Surfer, thanks for sitting down with us. We’re psyched to see who won the best surfing college this year. It’s always a barn-burner.

SURFER: Whoaaa! Hey there Strange! Good to see you, brother. Well, it was a tight, tight race but it seems this years belongs to UCSD. We compiled some heavy-hitting, I’m talking lip-smacking, analytics to the group of finalists this year and this the list we came up with. Pretty sick, right?

SB: Damn! Who would have thought? Hard-hitting analytics, eh? And UCSD came out on top?

SURFER: Yeah, I know. Big surprise to us here, as well. Crazy analytics, brah. I’m talking some straight up scientist tip, dude.

SB: Well, what changed from last year?

SURFER: Well, not much, but we couldn’t let Santa Barbara win again so we moved ’em down to 4th. And then slotted Cal Poly to 6th and brought in good old Monmouth University at 10th to really shake things up, ya know?

SB: Haha, no I don’t but that’s okay.

SURFER: Yeah, I mean the BIG surprise this year was Point Loma Nazarene University at #3! Can you believe that? So happy for them.

SB: No I can’t believe it because I thought the only people who go there are studying to become Bishops. Do Bishops surf?

SURFER: Hah! They might now that we’ve put them on the map!

SB: I doubt it. Well, I’ll say goodbye now. Thanks for sitting down with us and, uh, can’t wait till next year???

SURFER: No problem Strange! Keep shredding, dude!

SB: Yeah, okay.


I would say get some new material, but I’m genuinely entertained by the article and its ever-rotating cast of colleges. What they should do is set it up like one of those squirt gun races at the county fair — and film it. More squirt gun races in general, I guess. So long.

-Strange Ben Willoughby

STAB v. BEACH GRIT: Final Thoughts


I’m back.  And the first thing I’ve been asked to do is to weigh on the recent “debate” between Chas Smith of BeachGrit and Ashton Goggans of Stab.

God, was the whole thing awful.  It felt set-up, or like two caricatures coming to life to almost fight each other.   There were parts, though.  There were parts.

To start, I want to say that I wish Chas had socked Goggans.  I also wished Goggans had socked him back prompting a savage, full-scale brawl.   Doubtful that wish has anything to do with the actual debate or Chas or Goggans themselves, but more of a personal thing.  Worry not, for I’m trying to work through it.


Chas is a dick.  Plainly.  Goggans is a blowhard industry feeder (he has the perfect voice for it).  Obviously.

In discussing surf media/journalism as a whole I side with Chas.  They cater to sponsors, protect their own, and refuse to do any sort of hard-hitting reporting that might make one of them look bad.

“Surf journalism is not a noble pursuit,” said Chas, and I agree.  It is not.

Chas, however, aside from being a dick believes he is gasoline and his pen is a match.  His goal, which he has made clear, is to burn the whole place down with hope that, in its stead, something much more pure and true grow back.  For that, I cannot fault him.

On his way in Goggans, I’m assuming with a tilted head and puppy dog eyes, said to David Lee Scales,  “On the way down I listened to your podcast with Jamie…sooo sick.”  In my estimation of Goggans, I believe he uses that phrase perpetually.   I imagine that that grows tiresome, and I was glad to hear him spit some venom during the interview, albeit droplets.

As long as the world of surf journalism is run by people like Goggans who claim that cupcake interviews with Kelly Slater and obscure WQS trivia are entertaining as hell, then it will stay in its current jerking state.

The Inertias (not quite yet STAB) need to die, and quickly, painlessly, if surf journalism ever wants to be held in any regard.   Think about the constant debate and scathing attacks that go on every single day in every other sporting arena by every other reputable sports media outlet and you begin to realize why surf journalism is essentially (as verified by Goggans) a bunch of stylish edits and “cool” art pieces and fluff pieces meant to do nothing more than cast a friendly breeze.  There’s no “Fuck Medina and his Stupid Antics” or any “Kelly Slater thinks he’s a God” or “Whatever happen to all the good ol’ drunks in surfing?”  or “The Fucking True Story on Anything”.

Instead, it all gets swept under the big soaking wet rug.  And so be it.  I’m not here to change it.

I will tell you who won, though.  The podcast won.  Knockout.

-Strange Ben Willoughby

BeachGrit vs Stab Debate Turns Violent


Chas Smith, Prada loafer wearing BeachGrit co-founder took to the Surf Splendor Podcast to air his grievances against Stab’s Ashton Goggans. Chas has been poking Stab for a good while now, accusing them of “badvertorial” and their refusal to cover the Quik/Billabong merger.

Source: Beachgrit


Today’s episode is a heated debate between surf media’s Ashton Goggans from Stab Magazine and Chas Smith from BeachGrit. Topics range from the professional to the very personal and tempers flare into a physical altercation (33 minute mark!). Chas’s mudslinging tactics, Stab’s comments section, deleted articles, payment withholdings from advertisers, it’s all covered here. Welcome to Surf Media Debate 2018

Ashton took Chas’s bait and showed up at the Surfrider office to defend Stab and the conversation devolved into  violence when Chas tried to wring Ashton’s neck for talking about his wife subsidizing his writing efforts. You can listen to the whole Podcast here (fast forward to about 30 mins for the confrontation).

Chas came out swinging in his opening statement. “I’m here to shit on Stab…and I want to rip his head off…in debate.”

The debate starts civil enough. Ashton asks Chas if its exhausting to shit on Stab all the time. Chas says its fun and looks up to “Norman Mailer…Hunter Thompson…Tom Wolfe… that generation of journalist and the fact that they are up there scrapping and getting in the mix.”

Ashton retorts that those writers were debating subjects and not just mud slinging The first 25 minutes of the debate can be summed up with this exchange.

“You are literally just trying to make Stab look bad because you have a personal vendetta” -Ashton

“That’s not true. I don’t try to make Stab look bad. They make Stab look bad.” – Chas

Things turn heated when the subject turns into the business models of their respective sites. Stab has the funds to pay writers with healthcare and has a thriving business model. Chas defends Beachgrit not paying their writers a living wage, saying that most surf writers don’t deserve to be paid.

You’re a 41 year old man who lives in a house in Cardiff that your rich wife bought you who’s never worked a full time real job in his fucking life. -Ashton Goggans

From there, it’s on and about 1 minute later, Chas leaps across the table to wring Ashtons neck.

Here’s Chas’s explanation of the fight.

But why? What in me broke? Let me try and explain. I purposefully don’t write much about my little family here because they didn’t ask for, nor deserve to be in, this crazy little spotlight. I am wildly proud of my wife, and daughters, what they do, who they are but they are not fodder for my BeachGrit work. Also, because she happens to be in our extreme sport universe, we keep a wall up.  She never feeds me rumors and I never try to leverage her contacts.

Ashton’s charge was, furthermore, insulting to her. To think that she would suffer a fool doddering around the house posting cheap surf stories is ridiculous. I make my salary through book advances/royalties/film options etc. and even not married to her would still be doing exactly what I’m doing in some inland shack. Maybe Las Vegas. It frustrates me greatly to even have to mention any of this.

No comment from Ashton or Stab yet.

Did Chas get the better of Ashton by baiting him into the show?

Did Ashton win the debate?

Let us know your thoughts.