122: Chas Smith/Trash Prose

“I’d rather write than surf”.

This week’s guest is Chas Smith, surely the most notorious surf journalist on the planet right now thanks to his work with Beach Grit, books like Welcome to Paradise Now Go To Hell, and podcasts like Dirty Water and The Grit! with David Lee Scales.

Along the way, Chas has come to personify a particular type of surf writing trope – the tough-talking, hard-drinking alpha who is forever storming out of trade show interviews and picking literal and metaphorical fights with his peers and contemporaries.

Chas Smith via Zoom by Owen Tozer, May 2020.

And yet….I’ve always been intrigued by Chas. Firstly because I met him last year and found him to be utterly charming. Secondly, because in its way this persona as as much of a cliche as the very surf conformity he has spent his career railing against, and I’ve long suspected that nobody is more aware of that than Charlie himself.

All of which begged a fairly obvious question as I sat down to interview him for this episode of the podcast: where does ‘Chas Smith’ end and Charlie Smith begin?

Really enjoyed this one – my thanks to Chas for coming on the show and being so open and honest. Listen below:

Connect with Chas

Show Notes

  • Life and surfing in California right now.
  • Orange County shut down.
  • Culture war in the US.
  • Abandoning surfing.
  • “Surfing’s the ultimate self isolation sport”.
  • The current situation in different countries.
  • Busting corona rules.
  • Conspiracy theories.
  • Surf debate around Corona.
  • “There’s been so much attention on surfing there’s nothing to write about anymore”
  • A patchwork of regulations.
  • Surfing’s a crime now.
  • Beach Grit’s approach towards the situation.
  • Surfers’ (non) rebellion.
  • “There’s no punk left at all”.
  • Podcast with Jamie Brisick.
  • Jamie’s interview with Matt Warshaw.
  • “It didn’t hit Europe with the stupidity it did in the US”.
  • Surfing as a counterculture.
  • Questioning the authority.
  • “A place where the counter-narrative lives.”
  • Being a surfer in and out of the water.
  • The surfing hype.
  • Room for growth in the surf area.
  • “English surfing is a thing”.
  • British surf culture.
  • Universal arguing over crowds.
  • “The wimpification of it all”
  • The WSL’s presentation of surfing.
  • “Don’t sell a fake version of surfing”.
  • Feeding the mainstream audience.
  • Pat and Erik on Chas’ podcast.
  • Judging surfing.
  • The new WSL competition format
  • Cutting down the roster at surf events.
  • Beach Grit and the WSL.
  • Chas calling WSL surf events.
  • Recreating California in Oregon.
  • Falling in love with reading
  • The Yemen story.
  • Derek Rielly picking up the Vice article.
  • Scraping money together to find surf in Yemen.
  • A love affair with Yemen.
  • Snowboarding in Lebanon.
  • Unusual surf trips.
  • “There’s still places more or less unsurfed”.
  • Chas’ road through surf media.
  • Causing conversations through writing.
  • “I’m sick of Chas Smith”.
  • The time to evolve.
  • Chas Smith as a writing persona.
  • The new book about Yemen.
  • Surf journalism.
  • Writing routine.
  • “I’d rather write than surf”.
  • Looking at old paragraphs.
  • “I didn’t want to sound like the people I was reading”.
  • People that write well in surfing.
  • Surf media consumption.
  • The Eternal Beauty of Snowboarding.
  • The canvas of action sports.
  • Post Covid travel plans.

People Mentioned


Places Mentioned

  • San Diego 
  • Los Angeles
  • New York City
  • Trestles
  • Paris, France
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Newquay
  • Brighton
  • Oregon
  • Yemen 
  • Lebanon
  • Somalia
  • Indonesia
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Mexico

Companies/Brands/Organisations mentioned