Chas Smith is the author of “Welcome To Paradise, Now Go To Hell” and “Cocaine + Surfing: A Sordid History of Surfing’s Greatest Love Affair.” He and Derek Rielly entertain at great length on the Beach Grit website, and he and David Lee Scales do a wonderful show on the Surf Splendor podcast. A husband, a father, a thinker, and a fabulous shit-stirrer, Chas lives and writes in Cardiff, California. A couple months ago we met at The Saloon, in Encinitas, to do this piece. But beer got the better of us. We ended up talking love, sex, writing, marriage, the Middle East—everything but what we planned to talk about it.
I recently spoke with him on the day that he was finishing his forthcoming book, “Some of My Best Friends are Terrorists,” to be released in spring of 2020 on Rare Bird Books. He was stoked to be at the end of a truckload of writing. I had but one question for him: What most interests you in the surf world today? He paused for a second, took a sip of something that might have been vodka, and said this:
“The most interesting thing in the surfing world to me is what surfing is going to become, and is it going to maintain any kind of rebelliousness? Because surfing for me has always been a rebellion against either the culture that I was brought up in, like redneck culture in Oregon was so awful and terrible and I hate it so bad. And my way to rebel against that was just to go surfing everyday, even in Oregon's hell water. And then down here, it's always been rebellion— rebellion from all of the Middle Eastern travels, like bringing surfboards to Yemen, Lebanon, even Syria, Somalia, all those bad places. Bringing surfboards felt rebellious. When we were there I think people really wanted some kind of scholastic or scholarly take on the Middle East at that time, and we were like, ‘Fuck this, we’re surfing,’ which felt like a rebellion against academia and against the way people kind of put things in boxes. And then today, surfing is a rebellion against writing or a rebellion against my duties. I have such little time that to pick up the board and go surfing feels rebellious… And then I just see the World Surf League, and the surf media, and all these companies, it feels like a tipping point’s come where now surfing, they can push it into this weird, I don't even know what it is, it's a safe space. It's goobery, mushy, soft, just dumb. Which just drives me crazy. And if we've come to the tipping point and that's what surfing's going to be, then it just makes me want to kick it in the balls as hard as I can. And so long, long answer, but that's what interests me in surfing. Can the grumpy local, can the rebel, can the person who feels just that kind of angst that I think we all used to feel and what all pushed us into surfing, will that guy or girl be able to kick what surfing is becoming in the balls hard enough to where we kick it back to be, yeah, just weird again?”