The Only Virtual Reality A Surfer Might Enjoy


Slater has spent a career searching the world for waves, adapting to tricky conditions with unparalleled intuition. Now his Surf Ranch, in California farm country, can produce a perfect wave on demand. Photograph by Ben Lowy for The New Yorker

I have surfed, but I am not a surfer. I have surfer friends, including some who have travelled the world searching out the waves described in the story below, and family friends of ours have an adult child ranked in the top ten in the world. I do not care about surfing as much as any of them, but because of them I care deeply about surfing. Evidence of that is the fact that surfing is the #1 metaphor I use within my own family to describe the pivots we make from time to time, explaining a move to France, Croatia or India or back to Costa Rica is due to a new wave of opportunity that we might catch. Below is a story I appreciate for other reasons as well, because it is about a man-made replica of the ultimate pleasures of a real-life experience. This is kind of what we do for a living. But it is really about surfing. And even non-surfers can enjoy this. William Finnegan’s story is complemented by two interactive features, the first with the author himself and the second a remarkably clear explanation of the technology.

Kelly Slater’s Shock Wave

The best surfer in history made a machine that creates perfect conditions on demand. Will his invention democratize surfing or despoil it?

The first few hours I spent at the W.S.L. Surf Ranch, a wave pool built for surfing in the farmlands south of Fresno, California, were for me a blur. I was fine on arrival, hiking through a little forest of scaffolding, eucalyptus, and white tents with a publicist from the Kelly Slater Wave Company, which built and runs the place. The valley heat was fierce but dry. House music rode on a light northwest breeze. We passed a bright-red antique row-crop tractor parked on wood chips. Then I looked to my right and felt my mind yaw. The wave was probably six hundred yards away, a sparkling emerald wall, with a tiny surfer snapping rhythmic turns off the top. I had come expecting to see this wave, out here in cotton fields a hundred-plus miles from the coast. Still, my reaction to it was involuntary. Kelly’s Wave, as it’s known, seems designed to make someone who surfs, which I do, feel this way: stunned, turned on, needy. Surfers spend much of their lives looking for high-quality waves. Now a machine has been invented that churns out virtually flawless ones on command. “We call it the smile machine,” someone, possibly the publicist, said. I had trouble paying attention. Every four minutes, I had to turn and crane to watch a wave make its way the length of the pool. Continue reading

The Greening Of Sport


The Forest Green Rovers, the world’s first completely vegan professional sports team, present a green message to an unlikely audience—soccer fans. Photograph by Rex via AP

At the same time as everything is seeming to go south in a handbasket, ecologically speaking, there are little surprises. These small bright spots are sometimes here today and gone tomorrow, so we try to enjoy them while they last. Thanks to Adam Elder for this news from the world of sport:

The World’s Greenest Sports Team Is a Century-Old Football Club in a Tiny English Town

When Dale Vince became the chairman of Forest Green Rovers, a hundred-and-twenty-eight-year-old club in English soccer’s fourth tier, in the autumn of 2010, one of the first problems that he set out to fix was on the menu. The club was serving meat lasagna to the players, a practice that, Vince says, conflicted with the team’s values. “I saw that and realized that made us part of the meat trade,” he told me. He added, “We agreed on the spot that we’d take red meat off the menu. Then we began to express our values into the club in all respects. That began the journey.” Continue reading

Olympic Acknowledgement

Jesse Owens, 1936, AP File Photo

Jesse Owens, 1936, AP File Photo

In February we posted about the documentary film Olympic Pride, American Prejudice, that highlighted the history of the 18 African American athletes attending “Hitler’s Olympics” in 1936 Berlin.

They returned home to their segregated country, receiving zero recognition from President Roosevelt, despite winning a quarter of the metals won by the U.S. team in the games.

Eighty years later, the athletes—16 men and two women—received their overdue recognition by a U.S. president Thursday when their relatives visited the White House for an event honoring the U.S. team at this year’s Rio games.

“It wasn’t just Jesse. It was other African American athletes in the middle of Nazi Germany under the gaze of Adolf Hitler that put a lie to notions of racial superiority—whooped ’em—and taught them a thing or two about democracy and taught them a thing or two about the American character,” President Obama said Thursday. Continue reading

Slacklining in Rio

Image of Giovanna Petrucci via

I wrote about slacklining last year, as James did the year before that, but we were nowhere near the class of skill practiced by professional slackers like those in Rio de Janeiro, where lots of young people go to the beaches and enjoy the relatively new sport in a much more acrobatic fashion than the simple balancing I’ve been doing in back yards and college campuses. Anna Jean Kaiser reports on the world champion of slacklining, an eighteen-year-old girl who practices in her hometown at Ipanema Beach:

RIO DE JANEIRO — Bouncing in the air above the sand of Ipanema Beach, not an Olympic venue in sight, is one of the most remarkable athletes in the world who has nothing to do with the Rio Games. Her name is Giovanna Petrucci, and her acrobatics rival those of the gymnasts and divers competing across this city.

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Boca del Tule, Kayak & Surf


The shore down below Villa del Faro is known as Boca del Tule, since the Tule arroyo –– a seasonal river in the desert –– runs into the ocean at that point (boca means mouth in Spanish). The beach is public but very few people are ever on it, partly because we’re an hour away from the closest city, San José del Cabo, via dirt road. Now and then you’ll see a couple fishermen, or if the waves are good, some surfers. Last week, Jocelyn and I tried surfing both here at Boca del Tule and also at a better-known surfing beach just twenty minutes south called Nine Palms.

Both spots offered fair surfing for either experienced or newbie surfers, since Continue reading

When Wheels Move the Soul


Korogocho skaters are taking advantage of some of the best streets in one of Nairobi’s poorest slums. PHOTO: Will Swanson 

Can a paved road and a pair of used skates aid development? An emphatic yes. This is the story of a failed slum upgrading project that saw the light of day when kids took to the streets. Over scavenging in the dump for things they could resell, the children took to the streets this time to skate. To keep out of trouble. To compete. For a chance at life.

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The Tradition of a Most Dangerous Game

The Calcio Storico is an ancient form of football from 16th century Italy, which originated from the ancient Roman ‘harpastum’, and is played in teams of 27, using both feet and hands. Sucker-punches and kicks to the head are prohibited but headbutting, punching, elbowing, and choking are all allowed

Welcome to Calcio Storico, a centuries-old competition in Florence with very few rules and the sort of human wreckage generally associated with the gladiators. Dating back to 16th century Italy, today’s calcio storico (see photos from The Guardian here), or historic soccer, may be both the most violent form of soccer in the world. It is played only in Florence, Italy, where four 27-man teams representing four historic Florentine neighborhoods—Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, Santo Spirito, and San Giovanni—face off to beat each other to a pulp, every June. Kicks to the head are forbidden. So are fights of two or more against one. Everything else goes, making the goal of moving a leather ball from one end of the field to another seem like a side note to the bloody proceedings.

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Beach activities at Marari Pearl

IMG_1492Team spirit is at an all time high at Marari Pearl! Recently, beach volleyball has become a ritual here, and high spirits are flaring. I have been interning here 3 weeks now and I have seen a great improvement in the skill level (including my own) of the sport. Guests have also been joining in and having a wonderful time. The excitement of the game has not only brought spectators from the resort, but also other people passing by who cannot help but join in on the fun. Continue reading

Friends, Collaboration And Awesome Accomplishment

Yosemite climbers reach summit of El Capitan

Yosemite climbers reach summit of El Capitan

News feeds–especially those that give attention to adventure, and extreme sports and rock climbing in particular–are full of this story just now about two friends accomplishing one of the greatest challenges left in the small specialty sport. We are not at all devoted to the sport, but in the last year or two have developed a fascination, based on another climber’s feats and travails, mainly because of the collaboration component of climbing.

© AP Photo/Tom Evans, elcapreport In this Jan. 8, 2015 photo provided by Tom Evans, Kevin Jorgeson celebrates his finishing the climb of Pitch 15 while two photographers shoot video and stills from above…

© AP Photo/Tom Evans, elcapreport In this Jan. 8, 2015 photo provided by Tom Evans, Kevin Jorgeson celebrates his finishing the climb of Pitch 15 while two photographers shoot video and stills from above…

Today’s news brings the collaboration part back to the forefront, in this case not due to absolute requirement but due to friendship. It is touching, in that “feel good” sense related to hoping you would do the same thing in the circumstance described; but more than that, it is just awesome:

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — American rock climber Tommy Caldwell was first to pull himself atop a 3,000-foot sheer granite face in Yosemite National Park, followed minutes later by his longtime friend Kevin Jorgeson.

The pair embraced and then Jorgeson pumped his arm in the air and clapped his hands above his head. After years of practice, failed attempts and 19 grueling days scaling the vertical wall on El Capitan by their bloodied fingertips, the friends at last grasped success.

“That’s a deep, abiding, lifelong friendship, built over suffering on the wall together over six years,” said Caldwell’s mother, Terry, among some 200 people in the valley floor thousands of feet below who broke into cheers at the climbers’ historic feat Wednesday.

She said her son could have reached the top of the world’s largest granite monolith several days ago, but he waited for his friend to ensure they made it together. Continue reading

The Second Annual Thevara Badminton Tournament


The 2014 edition of our neighborhood sporting event of the year officially kicked off this evening, with two Raxa Collective representatives sharing the stage with two politicians, a priest and the neighborhood association’s leadership (who graciously invited Raxa Collective to join in again) prior to the first match.  We look forward to announcing the champion on December 31. Continue reading

Throwback Thursday: Bog

Photo credit: BU Dining Services

About this time two years ago, I came across the YouTube video featured in the #throwback Thursday post below. Hope you enjoy it, especially in light of this week’s post on peatlands!

Original Post Date: December 28, 2012

Earlier this week I wrote about an entirely different sort of swamp. This brief post is about a topic much more in tune with the holiday season: cranberries. Grown in bogs with layers of peat, sand, gravel, and clay, cranberries are native to North American wetlands (our readers across the pond will probably know the European variety of the fruit as lingonberries). In the United States they are primarily grown in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin (ordered alphabetically, not by output). Something not many people may know is that these cranberry bogs are cyclically flooded with vast amounts of water every season; some might worry over the constant waste of this precious liquid in areas of major cranberry production, or the contamination of water tables with pesticides and fertilizers common to agricultural use.

But I am about to tell you about some of the advantages cranberry-growers have over other industrial agriculturalists in terms of their water utilization. Why will I share this with you? Well, cranberry sauce features prevalently in the traditions of recent holidays, namely Thanksgiving and Christmas (and was thus probably consumed in an overwhelming majority of American households at least once in the past 60 days), plus my grandparents swear by cranberry juice, but I also recently found out that cranberries–and the water they are flooded with for harvesting–make for excellent art, or sport. What I never would have guessed is that Red Bull would be the one to show me this; just watch the video below:

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Aquatic Ecstasy, Safely

Greg Long at the the 2004-2005 Mavericks Big Wave Surf Contest; Half Moon Bay, March 2, 2005. CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY BY ROBERT B. STANTON/WIREIMAGE VIA GETTY

Greg Long at the the 2004-2005 Mavericks Big Wave Surf Contest; Half Moon Bay, March 2, 2005.

We are looking forward to the arrival in a few weeks of our colleague Derek, coming to us from Costa Rica, where he grew up at Bosque del Cabo. Which means that, among other things, he is a surfer dude like his dad. Which means, while he knows the thrill of a wave he also knows that safety is essential.

Derek will be leading the Aquatic Ecstasy initiatives at our newly opened Marari Pearl and this blog post below reminds us of one of his key imperatives if there is to be any lasting effect of aquatic ecstasy. Safety. We excerpt the blog post below beginning the quotation after some gruesome description of what waves can do, and some language (the type of salty language that surfer dudes use in the most harrowing situations) that our younger readers do not need to see, but you can read the whole post here):

…With more influential surfers wearing the vests, inflatable technology caught on quickly. Dorian’s Billabong wetsuit, too, found a market among professionals. (Neither the V1 suit nor Patagonia’s vest are available commercially yet.)

“No one’s doing anything in giant surf without flotation devices unless they’re trying to act macho or something,” Hamilton said. Continue reading

Reducing The Carbon Footprint Of A Sport

Niels Ackermann for The New York Times

Niels Ackermann for The New York Times

It is not a story told from a conservation perspective, but this New York Times article makes us wonder how many sports might reduce their natural resource consumption as radically as this one does:


Skiing as It Was Before Chairlifts

Ski mountaineering, Alpine touring or skinning — propelling yourself up the mountain before swooshing back down — is a throwback to the sport’s early days, before chairlifts.

It Could Be, Costa Rica

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 6.47.12 AM

Several Raxa Collective contributors in India were up until 4am today at Cardamom County, watching Costa Rica play against Greece in the World Cup. They were simul-texting with a Raxa Collective contributor in Costa Rica, who reported watching in a friend’s home near Xandari while the streets outside were empty and silent, erupting echoes of cheer or anguish in the distance from time to time. The google doodle at this moment could be representing Costa Rica’s red white and blue, its tropical sense of fun, or it could be a representation of any country having a chance at the beautiful game. Continue reading

Riding the Slackline

A slackline at Xandari (photo credit: S. E. Inman)

2014 marks the 150th anniversary of the land grant that yielded Yosemite National Park (Seth will be talking more about this in a post on the topic). But why should this matter for a post on slacklining? Well, as it turns out, Yosemite was one of the early hotbeds for the development of this increasingly popular outdoor activity. In celebrating Yosemite’s anniversary, we can also take a moment to appreciate Continue reading