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Monday, November 25, 2013

Tonight at Powell's: Surfing Journalist Chas Smith

Posted by Alison Hallett on Mon, Nov 25, 2013 at 1:59 PM

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(Reader Ryan Gratzer provided this writeup of tonight's Powell's reading from Chas Smith-ed.)

Each winter, the pro surfing world descends upon its Mecca. Known as the the Seven Mile Miracle, Oahu's North Shore is on the surface a pastoral stretch of tropical countryside—farms, '70s ranch houses falling into the ocean, only one beachfront resort—with some of the world's most pristine spinning tubes just off shore. The unforgiving waves are a proving ground for top pros and up-and-coming groms. Three contests, making up the Triple Crown of Surfing, are held back to back directly in front of surf industry-owned beachfront homes. But while the visiting surfers, sponsors, journalists, photographers, and Lindsay Lohans kick back on the sand with their mai tais, behind the scenes roams a local racketeering enforcement squad. Sure, it's true that Da Hui, once a feared band of thugs, is now a respected lifeguard/security service with a clothing brand that hangs perfectly next to your "Old Guys Rule" t-shirt collection. But stories of theft, drugs, and thuggery still ooze to the surface now and then.
Chas Smith, after being captured by Hezbollah while serving as a war correspondent for Vice, decided to bail on the Middle East and shift his attention to the surf world. Superficial, neurotic, and a bit of a loner, Smith (a native Oregonian) has a propensity for kicking up dirt and pissing people off. To him, every pro surfer is a terrible dresser with a beautiful body and a boring personality. In the homogenous, sponsor-friendly world of surf journalism, his unfiltered exposés in Stab Magazine have earned him the ire of nearly everyone. In his first book, Welcome to Paradise, Now Go To Hell: A True Story of Violence, Corruption, and the Soul of Surfing, he sheds light on the multibillion dollar industry that, for a few months out of the year, is beholden to a lawless goonsquad in the middle of paradise. Smith's frenetic, hyperbolic style can at times leave the reader wondering how much of the story is constructed by his desperation to unearth a seedy, corrupt underbelly. But the rest of the time it simply makes for entertaining, refreshing reading.

He'll read from his book tonight at Powell's City of Books, 1005 W Burnside, 7:30 pm.

-Ryan Gratzer

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