Getting a leg up

Since the early 2000s, particularly in the last five years, dry-land workouts have evolved into dominant components of professional surfers’ training regimens. Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Owen Wright, Taj Burrow, Taylor Knox, and Fred Patacchia are just a few prominent competitive pros that place a heavy emphasis on workouts on the shore that will improve their performance in the water. Parkinson and Knox have teamed-up with trainers to produce and market a series of surf-specific workouts; Burrow often travels with Johnny Gannon, a personal trainer behind Kelly Slater, 42, is quick to voice the importance of his dietary habits to the longevity of his career. In the big wave community, surfers like Ian Walsh and Mark Healey, among others, adopted cross-training routines to combat the pulverizing force of the towering waves they ride. Long gone, it appears, are the days of big time pro surfers getting by on skill alone, and letting the ocean rinse away last night’s hangover.


Bede Durbidge top turns.

Now, according to a slideshow and article feature on this week, that training is paying off—at least on the contest circuit. In a recurring segment called “Training Days,” Surfline interviewed Dr. Jeremy Sheppard, who serves as the sport science manager and head of strength and conditioning at Surfing Australia’s High Performance Centre—a beautiful training facility, just south of the Gold Coast, operated by the country’s national governing body for organized surfing. Surfing fitness, naturally, demands strong legs as much as core and upper body strength. “Almost every surfer I’ve ever trained lacks adequate leg strength,” Sheppard told Surfline. This is a problem, he notes, because the legs are a surfboard’s obvious source of propulsion. A few lines later, Sheppard announced: “We are publishing a study to determine the relationship between judges (sic) scores on turns and an athlete’s lower body strength level.” That’s news, but it should come as little surprise.

Continue reading

Ten Years Ago Today

Pat Tillman. Charles Gabrean/Courtesy of Doubleday. Via


Pat Tillman died in Afghanistan ten years ago today. Cause of death: fratricide. Friendly fire. He was 27.

I never knew Pat Tillman. But he is a hero to me. Tonight, ESPN’s Outside The Lines series devoted a full episode marking Tillman’s death, interviewing former Army Rangers who served with the Arizona Cardinals’ 226th pick in the 1998 NFL draft, including the man who took cover next to Tillman but wasn’t harmed, as well as the man who may have fired the fatal bullet. Towards the end of the show, one of Tillman’s former teammates said something to the effect that Pat’s greatness lay in his normalcy. I struggle articulating exactly why I look up to Pat Tillman; even in my head it can seem incoherent. But it’s got something to do with that normalcy, of that much I’m sure.

From what I’ve read and interviews I’ve watched, Tillman was driven by curiosity and compassion and loyalty. At times, committed to a fault. Tillman spent a few weeks in jail the summer before his freshman year at Arizona State University after he beat the shit out of another kid in a parking lot who allegedly attacked one of his friends, except Tillman went after the wrong person, leaving the victim in serious condition. And of course, his loyalty to his country ultimately put him in the situation in which he began questioning the U.S. government’s military policies and his own culpability–a situation that claimed his life. He made decisions I wouldn’t have. But he’s a hero to me because he was an above average guy who maintained his convictions while existing in a realm that easily empowers men to discard them. History is littered with the errors made by men locked to their beliefs. But Tillman’s inquisitiveness indicates to me he understood himself as inherently flawed, like all of us, and when he was wrong, he corrected course, allowing his convictions to be informed, in order to be the best person he could be, mistakes and all.

Respect is earned by how we work to buff out the blemishes. For a young man, Tillman’s self-awareness was impressive. He’ll be remembered for striving to do the right thing, and knowing it was important to learn from the times when he didn’t. That’s not a bad legacy to leave behind.


(Pat’s high school sweetheart and wife Marie established The Pat Tillman Foundation.)




Growing hockey’s market segmentation*

Team Canada. Vancouver 2010. [Credit: Reuters/Shaun Best]

Yahoo! Sports hockey writer Greg Wyshynski is right: “Hockey fans in the U.S. take what we can get when it comes to validation of our sport’s popularity.” According to a 2011 survey by consumer research firm Harris Interactive, five percent of sports fans claimed hockey as their favorite. In the pantheon of sports fandom, that is a small number compared to football (27%) and baseball (14%). That five percent, however, is comprised of mostly similar segments. In 2011, Boston Globe reporter Kevin Paul Dupont wrote:

According to league data, the average household income for NHL fans is $104,000, highest of the four major sports with Major League Baseball ($96,200), the NBA ($96,000), and the NFL ($94,500). Sixty-eight percent of NHL fans have attended college, more than the other three sports (ranging 60.4 percent to 63.6 percent). And 64 percent of NHL fans hold full-time jobs, also more than the others (57-58.1 percent).

 A 2009 report by Scarborough Sports Marketing details the NHL’s market segmentation even further: 64 percent of fans are male, almost 90 percent are white, and “NHL fans spend more time on the Internet than fans of other major leagues, with 14.9% spending 20+ hours on the Web per week.” These figures hold steady across age demographics, with about 32 to 35 percent in each of the three key age brackets.

Continue reading

Video games as sport?

south park: make love, not warcraftCleaning up around the house this weekend, an episode of HBO’s Real Sports hummed in the background (see clip below). One of the correspondents was discussing a story of which I had zero awareness: the League of Legends (LOL) championship. Apparently I was in the minority. The rise of eSports, and the preeminence of LOL, has skyrocketed in recent years. Sure, I knew gaming was way popular. I’ve played Call of Duty and Motor Storm and the annual iterations of EA Sports’s NHL; and I’m aware that competitions and tournaments cater to serious gamers. But my ignorance of LOL’s popularity was astonishing. So I decided to base this discussion on the game, and how its developers looked to conventional sports to design a sure-shot competition model—players and teams accruing regular season records, vying for limited playoff spots, and positioning themselves for a big pay day if they can walk away with the championship.

The numbers are staggering. In 2011, two years after the Santa Monica-based firm Riot Games launched its product, LOL already had 15 million registered users. The “free-to-play fantasy combat strategy game,” as Snider describes it, is easy to access online. All Riot Games had to do was attract players; and they had no trouble. Two years later, LOL now has over 70 million registered users, with some 30 million active users in any given month tallying one billion hours of game play. One. Billion. More people play LOL than play baseball in America—at every level combined. Try wrapping your head around those figures. Riot Games, which started out with a staff of 100, has since opened up offices around the world, employing 1,000 people, raking in $200 million in annual revenue and escalating investment from venture capital firms. The success of Riot Games stands in total inversion to that of Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios project, which collapsed monumentally in bankruptcy in 2012.

Continue reading

King of Toné!

When it comes to your life’s work, I’m of the mind that when you’re blessed with a particular talent or skill set, if you can find a way to assign a sturdy and lucrative longevity to it, you’re on the right path.

Raphael Saadiq has done that. And after three decades of plying his trade behind the mic, here’s the proof: “Day Dreams,” a tune from his last album, Stone Rollin’ (2011). Some of his finest work–and he no doubt remains in a position to improve with age, say nothing if his deft fashion sense. Shrediquette boogie brought to you by guitarist Josh Smith. Here’s to seeing him live~

[Hat tip @redbullmusic]

Who They Want You to See


Last spring, an editor  approached me about writing a profile of David Murphy, a craftsman who builds custom surfboards out of his shop in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. The piece ran in a brand promo publication. Here’s the problem with articles like this: because they don’t appear in outlets of objective journalism, the unsavory aspects of a subject are generally shaved from the final text. Here is a PDF of the Murphy profile, but below I’ve included the section of my article that got cut–the portion about Murphy flaking on me more than once. And I knew it would get scrapped, but including it in the original draft was my way of expunging my frustration with the situation. My point is that reading articles in outlets that are not journalism-focused demands an added skepticism–an understanding that what’s on the page reveals only the fraction of the truth the promoters want you to know. Selling jeans, in this case. Regardless, Murphy is very talented and has an interesting background that made writing about him fun. Despite those limits on certain details, the piece turned out OK, and I was no less impressed with his breadth of knowledge and work samples. Now, as for whether I’m ready to shell out nearly a thousand dollars for a cork-deck surfboard to a guy who wasted several hours of my scheduled time, that’ll have to wait.

By the time I turned from the bar to see Murphy duck through the door of the Thai restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, wearing dark jeans lightened by foam dust, a loose t-shirt, and a weathered Imaginary Surf Co. cap, I’d been chasing him for nearly a week. We’d agreed to meet at his shop on Saturday, but that morning my calls went unanswered. So we rescheduled for a visit the next Thursday. Rain poured from dawn to dusk. Soaked through my rain shell, I idled at the loading dock, calling and texting Murphy. He never answered. I was, by late that evening when we finally shook hands, irritated. But beneath the ornate red lanterns and beside wooden walls the color of sunglass lenses, plates of vegetable curry steaming in front of us, my attitude warmed. Murphy apologized, and his explanations seemed plausible enough (apparently he mistook me for someone else with the same name). And like that, the talk turned to why we were meeting.

The Greatest Game

The Chicago Blackhawks sealed their second Stanley Cup victory since 2010 last night, coming from behind, scoring two goals with a minute left, to beat the Boston Bruins–themselves winners in 2011–in the last throes of Game 6, 3 goals to 2. CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada” team mashed together this fiery montage of 2013 NHL Playoffs highlights. If you love sports, it’ll give you chicken skin. If you love hockey, it might make you cry. It no doubt reminds us fans why we argue that hockey is, without question, the greatest game there is.

Give ‘em the Hook

red hook crit 2013. race #1. [Photo by Takuya Sakamoto;]

The first race in the 2013 Red Hook Crit (short for Criterium) tore through the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal piers last night–a beautiful, 40-degree cloudless evening, the course along the Hudson lit by towering flood lights, powered by clapping generators, and a waning gibbous that had turned from a full moon just days earlier. The scent of herb lingered in the crowd, and skinny-jeans and Vans-wearing spectators convening on the truck docks and sitting high above on the roofs of trailers pulled on shared bottles wrapped in brown bags. EMT crews stood ready.

Continue reading

“Sh-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na knees”

I’ve read GQ since high school, and even worked on an issue in spring 2012. Yet just this week I discovered award-winning journalist John Jeremiah Sullivan from a link of a link to Harvard’s Nieman Storyboard. So I read some Sullivan. Below you’ll find a sentence that strikes as me as so pretty–and purposeful–that I’m absent an adequate simile with which to compare its beauty. Thankfully, I don’t have to. Let’s just say sentences like these are what keep me reading, and fuel my sense of inadequacy as a writer. So enjoy it. The story is called “The Final Comeback of Axl Rose,” from the September 2006 issue of GQ. This is an excerpt from Sullivan’s impressions of a concert at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.

Read the whole story; it’s fucking good. 

And while I cannot say he is dancing as well tonight as he used to, that so fluidly are his heels gliding out and away from his center they look each to have been tapped with a wand that absolved them of resistance and weight, and although he does at particular moments remind one of one’s wasted uncle trying to “do his Axl Rose” after a Super Bowl party, he is nevertheless acquitting himself honorably.

A guest contributor

[My friend and former co-worker Grace and I used to kill time at our retail job by telling each other stories. She often spoke of the need to write them down. For posterity's sake, I suppose. Not that she needed a reason. But after I moved on, she sent me this atypical tale from the New York subway--a story of generosity, a case for caring about others, no matter how crazy. Many thanks to Grace.    -jd]

Have Not, Want Not

By Grace Ladd

The 2 Train pulled into the Interval station in the Bronx this afternoon around 5. I nudged myself between two large men who I wasn’t paying much attention to as I scrolled through my phone. When the train doors closed, anticipating the loss of service, I put my phone down and looked up at the person across from me. She was reading “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and looked like she enjoying it.

I was laughing to myself at the creepy gross smirk on the reader’s face when a little girl passed by selling fruit snacks. She quickly walked to the end of the train. Just then the guy right next to me perked up. In a rusty loud homeless voice, he yelled at the child, “Miss, miss!” He leaned forward, “Hey, miss!” The little girl came back to where we were sitting.

Continue reading