One Day in the Life of a Surf Journalist

posted by / Blogs, Editorial / December 23, 2010

Baby, Take it Off! is Chas Smith’s column. “Surfing is so totally awesome sexy!” says Chas.


Surf Journalism is the awesome topic du jour. And what fun! Endless discussions about the responsibility of the working surf journalist to his mature public (and by mature I mean oldish and self-entitled and totally rad!). Endless ire from his mature public about not getting enough information. Or proper information free of capitalistic surf company taint. “Tell us!” they scream while loosening their belts. “Tell us who is doing what, with whom! And where! With whom!” while brushing Funyun crumbs from their stubbly chins.

And the mature public is so right with all that well-placed ire. Their integrity so intact! But not all of us have failed. Australian surf journalist Tim Baker continues to carry the torch. He is hardworking, maybe the hardest working. He wakes up early even before the sun rises and goes to sleep late after producing brilliantly. Here is a glimpse into his life as I have witnessed…


The hammer banged reveille on the rail outside theinertia (dot com) offices at five o’clock as always. Time to get up. The ragged noise was muffled by sand and a salty brine two fingers thick on the windows and soon died away. Too onshore chilly windy for the publisher to go on hammering.

The jangling stopped. Outside, it was still as dark as when Tim Baker had gotten up in the night to use the latrine bucket — pitch-black, except for three yellow lights visible from the window, two in the perimeter, one inside the office park.

For some reason they were slow unlocking the cubicle, and he couldn’t hear the usual sound of the orderlies mounting the latrine bucket on poles to carry it out.

Baker never overslept. He was always up at the call. That way he had an hour and a half all to himself before phoning surfers and hunting down the truth — time for a man who knew his way around to earn a bit on the side. He could write books about Mark Occy. Or take some rich team manager his felt boots while he was still in his bunk (save him hopping around barefoot, fishing them out of the heap after drying). Rush round the internet looking for odd jobs — Bustin Down the Door 2, or running errands. Go to the mess to stack bowls and carry them to the washers-up. You’d get something to eat, but there were too many volunteers, swarms of them. And the worst of it was that if there was anything left in a bowl, you couldn’t help licking it. Baker never for a moment forgot what his first publisher, Kuzyomin, had told him. An old magazine wolf, 12 years in the game by 1983. One day around the campfire in a beach grass clearing he told the reinforcements fresh from the college, “It’s the law of the jungle here, men. But a man can live here, just like anywhere else. Know who croaks first? The guy who licks out bowls, puts his faith in the sick bay, or squeals to the vice president of global marketing.”

He was stretching it a bit there, of course. A stoolie will always get by, whoever else bleeds for him.

Baker always got up at once. Not today, though. Hadn’t felt right since the night before — had the shivers, and some sort of ache. And hadn’t gotten really warm all night. In his sleep he kept fancying he was seriously ill, then feeling a bit better. Kept hoping morning would never come. It was an almost impossible life, that of the surf journalist….

It truly is. I stand and salute my brothers who dare get to the bottom of the story and share. I salute Tim Baker. Dieu est de votre côté.—Chas Smith

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  • may

    you’re starting to make yourselves look a bit silly with this, guys. Let’s try and keep the sarcastic hate mail to a minimum, or get rid of it all together. What is this, a grade 6 cloakroom fight? Act professional. Inertia posted something giving a better reason for not covering stuff, use it.

  • rick

    This blog should be deleted. I check surfing’s website hoping to find material worthy one of the top stateside surf mags and keep getting let down by entries like this.

  • Comrade Skot Huletski

    Оди́н день Ива́на Дени́совича?
    Cribbing from Solzhenitsyn?
    Tres post-modern.

    But why fillet poor Mr. Baker?
    How did he offend?
    After all, we’re all in some sort of gulag, Mr. Smith.
    As that Russian Jew from Hibbings, Minnesota said, “You gotta serve somebody.”

    Borsht and your second least expensive vodka for the house!
    Put in on my tab, Sergei!
    And might I suggest Turgenev’s “A Sportsman’s Sketches”?

  • KM

    What does this have to do with Dane or Jordy? Ha!!

  • BW

    I agree with may…
    Try posting articles worth reading.

  • jackie

    this guy is a clown.

  • Stetson

    I think the creative method you chose for your message will be lost on your readers. I also think it’s a shame to scapegoat Tim as a caricature who’s relevant NOW when his piece was a) published almost 3 years ago b) commissioned by a different publication c) and basically just a more polite phrasing of everything PostSurf stood for…(you wouldn’t write a story like this about Mr. Samuels, would you?). Your post was entertaining and kind of funny…just didn’t quite hit the mark. If you addressed things more directly, it might make a bit more sense to us and to you. And yeah, I google translated your sign-off. God’s on YOUR SIDE, Mr. Smith.

  • Wonder Grom

    I tried to read this and couldn’t figure out what it had to do with surfing. Can you replace this with a couple of Reef asses and Dane airs?

  • Benji

    I agree with everything. Ever.

  • Adam Smith > Chas

    I think the brutal invisible hand of the marketplace will have the last laugh in this matter. Chas may feel compelled to make fun of the ire-filled public but keep in mind they are the ones that ultimately pay the bills. I’m willing to make some wagers on when Primedia Corp will no longer find Mr. Smith’s services worthwhile.

  • Zeke

    Writing is comparable to breasts- except maybe without the urge to motor boat. Sometimes, a girl who hasn’t been blessed with some cannons will choose to wear push up/stuffed bras and attire themselves in clothing that screams cleavage, presenting it as if it’s the salad bar at Ruby Tuesday’s. Sometimes (see above), a writer will choose to use big words and be as arcane and un-readable as possible. Smokescreens built to confuse the breast enthusiast/reader into thinking they are confronting something substantial…

    Isn’t the point of writing to present readers with something enjoyable and interesting? Why make it so obscure? This is supposed to be a website about surfing, not a Bob Dylan lyric.

  • jamie

    that was brilliant. i would like to have a beer with this man

  • dgb

    Chas is still pissed at the fact that a) he wrote a piss
    weak surf journalism apology piece on Andy Iron’s death, b) the
    internet gives instant feedback on shit writing, c) he wrote a shit
    piece calling people names because they called him on (a) and just
    to prove he is at very least consistent,d) has written another
    solipsistic piece of pointless drivel. The up side of all this is
    that Chas is the only surf journo ever to make Derek Hind seem
    clear and concise.

  • DussTinn

    @ Zeke – Please please please do not compare this man to Bob Dylan in any way. At his most arcane, at his most obtuse, at his very worst (late-80’s, circa Down In The Groove), Dylan was infinitely more intelligible, relevant and interesting than this Chas chap. Even if you’re joking, even if it’s some off-handed throwaway comment, do not compare the article at the top of this page to a Bob Dylan lyric. It cheapens a genius and justifies a poser.

  • Jerry Curl

    Damnit, my sister in law got me a subscription to Surfer for Christmas, and as part of the deal I guess you get a FREE subscription to Surfing as well. Is that what it’s come to? You’re GIVING AWAY your magazine?? Shit man, I really don’t want it. Is there any way to just get the ONE magazine and save a couple trees instead?

  • Barry

    As a journalist you’re a happy meal dressed up as French
    cuisine Chazo. Let me explain yourself to yourself. When you
    snidely quip ‘Dieu est de votre côté’ it’s not the perceived self
    righteousness of real journalists that threatens you, it’s the idea
    of actually having some personal integrity and responsibility to
    your readers. You’re too stupid to realize that a journalist’s
    integrity is one their most valued assets because without it
    they’re simply a mouthpiece. Basically you don’t get it Chaz, which
    is why you’re so good at stirring up controversy and probably the
    reason you’ve been elevated to the position you’re at. A last ditch
    attempt to create some kind of excitement even if it is negative.
    And you’re overwhelmingly negative Chaz did you ever notice that?
    Like a kid who goes around throwing mud at people and then
    complains when they seem angry and insensitive. Everyone who
    disagrees with you is washed up, a has been, a failure, super tres
    ugly like the elderly as you put it. I think I know where the
    ugliness is coming from though Chazo, don’t you?

  • Jeremy H.

    I applaud surfing mag for putting this up. I think what scares people is that it challenges the reader to think. People are afraid of thinking. Take a stand and stick with it. Too many other media outlets dance around a solid point of view.

  • FunDip

    I had no idea what theinertia was but I clicked that link
    and…man…thanks to surfing magazine – now i have something to
    read every day!

  • Stu

    Is it because I’m not cosmopolitan or because I’m not
    pretentious that I had to get the last quote translated?

  • Barry

    Jeremy H. if I present a solid point of view and state
    categorically that you are a moron, does that give you something
    you are afraid to think about? Keep applauding and Chas will keep
    throwing you a few French phrases that you can google translate
    while scratching your head and trying to figure out how avant-garde
    that just made you. ‘avant garde’ in this case translates to ‘idiot
    at the front of the lemming buffet’ 😛

  • jackie

    like i said, this guy is a clown. but he does get people
    talking so i like him for that… kinda like a bad painting — we
    can stand around it an have a reason to talk trash.

  • sam

    ah, don’t worry, Chaz will apologize for this blog entry in a few days. Just ask Bobby and Mick.

  • Barry

    Pennywise the clown yeah and there’s method to the madness,
    Chas is no dilettante he’s been playing this game for a long time.
    His articles may be cotton candy but they’re not really the point.
    Does this make him sound cool? Does this make me sound like a waco
    nut job? Well hopefully it’s entertaining anyway, and remember
    everything floats down there! It all floats! Of course it does,
    it’s made of crap. 😛

  • Barry

    When commenting on the 2008 fascist themed issue of stab magazine Chaso guest edited, he had this to say,
    “That might make me a lazy/sadistic asshole, using simple imagery loaded with negative meaning in order to make a pointlessly shocking impression. You might be very angry with me when, at the news agency, you see an old Auschwitz surviving grandma weeping uncontrollably at the symbol of her people’s destruction plastered on a surf magazine.”, well yeah but it also makes you predictable because here you are again exploiting imagery of people’s destruction, this time from the Stalinist gulag and the racially inferior ‘failures’ who wound up there right Chas?
    Pennywise goes on…
    “OR it might make me the super funnest person on Earth! Swastikas? Yaaay! Hate-filled ranting? Yaaaay! Totally fabulous uniforms? Yaaay! The destruction of Europe? Like, triple yaaaaaaay! What is not to love?”, super tres rad Chas, I’m being ironic can’t you tell?

    Another Pennywise-ism “Morality is easy to play with. Nobody but hyper-religious housewives gonna make a stink about bare-breasted women in a surf magazine. But ideology? Tugging on that string is to the 21st century what a lithe, uncovered nipple was to the 19th century.
    Fun fun fun. Play play play. Like surfing!”, surfing magazine I guess he’s talking about. See while you’re enjoying striking an open minded pose and of course forgetting about the individuals Chas has serially slandered during his illustrious career he’s been busy making sure it all floats and it floats well.

    “Chas Smith is SURFING’s roving reporter on things in and around and sometimes unrelated to the world of surfing. We don’t ask questions.”, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more, say no more… i wouldn’t want to know either

  • yeah guy

    OMG, this is fantastic. I have been waiting a few days to
    read this one. I knew the comments would be going mental, more agro
    than the brasilians. I even saved the 1lb bag of peanut butter
    m&ms that i got in my stocking for this, went through the
    whole bag reading these comments and this piece. hella sic, all of
    it. bout to crack open a DC (diet coke)… Barry – you are all
    time, the way you fought fire with fire was great. I studied
    english in college and i had no clue what either you or chas were
    talking about. I loved it. posting over load, you made no sense
    while telling chas he made no sense, it was all time. Bravo, i am
    not hating, i just know that chas had to read your posts at least a
    half dozen times to really absorb it… and for that i i applaud
    you. Jeremy H – good on you for standing up for what you like in
    life. “I applaud surfing mag for putting this up. I think what
    scares people is that it challenges the reader to think. People are
    afraid of thinking.”. Again, it is no secret, no need suck to up to
    these clowns (i figured i would use that metaphor as well), they
    are already giving the mag away and with that i reply, who reads a
    surf mag to think? that is why they’re full of photos. I think
    about stuff all day while i work, sit in traffic, sit in meetings,
    compile reports, study trends etc etc, last thing i want to do is
    come home and open a crisp mag and have to think more. if you want
    to think, there are at least 10000000+ books and journals that will
    help in the department or go get a job or study more. surf mags are
    for looking at, not for thinking about. chas – “ils ont une vente à
    la boutique de sortie, Old Navy, sur les foulards.” (they are
    having a sale at the old navy outlet on scarves.) beijos.

  • Barry

    “It is in the dark night of our most private snoopings that we unexpectedly encounter the Dude. Like St. Da Fino on the night of his epiphany, we must answer the Dude’s call to “get out of that f@_k1ng car, man”—or, in the parlance of our times, to let go of the ego’s steering wheel—before we can ever come face to face with our deepest Dudeness.” – thanks yeah guy( no physical harm intended 😉

  • wills

    Thanks Barry, you make sense! @Yeah Guy (Irie?) please pipe down and @Jeremy, did you actually read Chas’rant before making your deeply profound comment?

    Barry makes so much sense I want to find his blog. I thought for a moment he might even be employed by this mag as a sort of yang to Chas Yin.

    I quickly realized that Barry is far far superior to Chas in intelligence and that beating Chas is a redundant bore.

  • Barry

    Chaz inspired Big Labowski dialogue…

    Chaz: “We are nihilists, we vant the money Labovski”
    Jamie: “Ja, we go for beers in man bar, we believe in nothing Labovski”
    Chaz: “I don’t even surf, how you like that Labovski?”
    Jackie(whispering): “No Fundip, these men are clowns, nothing to fear here…”
    Chaz: “Tim Baker, we cut off your johnson! We F@_ck you up!”

  • yeah guy

    @wills – wow.

  • yeah guy

    @wills follow – up – i think you and barry are the same person. puff puff give.

  • Barry

    lol – no we aren’t yeah guy thanks for your kind words
    wills, i don’t really blog a lot, must be something about this chas

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