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Podcast: Gonzo journalist Chas Smith on the wave pool era

Chas Smith is a smart guy. Originally from California, he moved to Oregon and commenced his surfing career at age 10. He earned a bachelor’s degree in intercultural studies (1998) and a master’s degree in linguistics (2001) from Southern California’s Biola University; Smith’s studies included semesters spent learning Arabic in Egypt and English at Oxford University.

That short bio is taken from Matt Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surf, check it out.

Chas and I discuss a wealth of interesting subjects surrounding his life and wave pools. Here are some of my questions, listen up for his answers:

Establishing Personal Context:

  1. Which surf media publications have you worked for. How was it?
  2. Can we dig DEEP into the story of Beach Grit. How did your involvement start, was it with a call from a friend and then an office meeting, or a few whiskies in a shady bar.
  3. You wrote a book about Hawaii. Have you ever returned to the North Shore afterwards?
  4. You were a war reporter? Have you seen your Wikipedia page or did you edit that yourself?
  5. Do you aspire to be William Finnegan, surfer and war reporter (author of Barbarian Days)?

Artificial Waves

  1. Let’s get into serious detail here: Chas Smith, Kelly Slater and a dislocated shoulder? What did you experience as you arrived at the gate of Kelly’s Surf Ranch before those wooden gates opened?
  2. Signing the NDA at Kelly’s. What’s the point of inviting press over and getting them to sign an NDA?
  3. I heard a rumor that you have a wild card for the reality TV series: The Ultimate Surfer. Is this true?
  4. Have you been to BSR? Planned a trip to Jersey?
  5. What’s your take on Urbnsurf down under?
  6. Here’s the deal, imagine some billionaire wires you 50m US for you to construct your dream wave park. Give me a helicopter tour. Would it be next to an airport like Urbnsurf, in a field with camping tents like Bristol, in a mall like Madrid is planned to be? What would your dream park be? 
  7. What’s the wave tech and why?

The Future Of Surfing 

  1. The growth of surfing is like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you have more opportunities for people to work passionately in the space that they love, on the other hand, you have more kooks polluting the breaks. How do you feel about the growth of surfing?
  2. How will wave pools play a role in that growth?
  3. A lot has been said about surfing’s inclusion in the Olympics in 2020. What kind of real impact do you feel it will bring to the sport?
  4. Do you feel that Tokyo should be in a pool?
  5. If you achieve your hell-bent mission on destroying the WSL, what will the BEACH GRIT LEAGUE look like? Would you employ Elo to do the content and Chris Coté to commentate?

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