Know Your Commentator…Strider Wasilewski




In an ongoing Split Peak Soup feature, which I’ll now dub, “Know Your Commentator”, I’ve been fortunate enough to pick the brains of the World Surf League commentating squad. I’ve spoken with the dapper and daring Peter Mel, the stoked Brazilian Andre Giorenelli, and the ageless Kaipo Guerrero.

Now, the spray has settled since Owen Wright’s win at Snapper, a spectacular return to competition after a head injury that had him sidelined for fourteen months. Next up is finals day at stop number two, The Drug Aware Pro (I know, it doesn’t make sense), located in Margarets River. So far, the venues have been solid yet tricky, the surfing tame and repetitive, overall. I’m a surf fan goddamnit so I’m gonna be watchin’ anyways!

Of all the commentators, a man named Strider Wasilewski gets the best view in the house. Usually during important heats the camera will pan to the “Wazz” as they call him, either stradling a surfboard or ski raft, mic in hand, calling the shots from the water. Strider spends a bit of time on land as well, and his seemingly uncontrollable, ageless froth is fully evident during exciting moments.

Who is Strider you ask? Well, the California kid cut his teeth rushing giant Pipeline, and was able to travel the world as a Quiksilver athlete, with some of his most memorable moments inside mutated monsters at Teahopoo in Tahiti. I was fortunate to have tolerant parents who let me watch …Lost’s What’s Really Goin On/Wrong movies religiously at a ten year old. Strider had some mental clips at Pipee and a mean holwler monkey impersonation that awed me then and to this day. I tracked the Wazz down before the comp to ask him about his job, and his surfing.


Strider, mic in hand, calling the shots in Fiji


You grew up in Los Angeles. Can you remember your first experience surfing? What was the LA surf scene like back then?

My first surf was out in front of our apartment in Santa Monica. It was in the late 70’s. My brother and I would wait for people to loose their boards, snake ’em and ride them until they figured out we were riding them!  (Laughs).

The surf scene was super localized, you surfed where you lived, that was that.


Baby Wazz


You rose to legend status with your efforts at Pipe. How does a kid from LA show up and just rush the joint. Can you tell me about your first, favorite, and worst tube/hardcore beatings out there?

I think you dream big and big things will happen. It’s a little easier to avoid a beatdown because of phones and everything getting out in social media– localism has slowed down a lot. When I first got to the North Shore it wasn’t just in the water, it was everywhere! I couldn’t even go to Food Land without getting verbally abused! Man if the kids visiting Hawaii now only knew what it was like…


Pipe, a mutant of a wave that put Strider on the map

Tell me about your relationship with Pipeline

I surf Pipe as much as possible, it’s a place that calls to you. It always has, I think my love of the tube is why I was first drawn to Pipe.


Strider standing tall at Pipe

 What was your first gig behind the mic? Did you think you’d follow that path, or was it a one off thing? How did you get on the WSL’s radar? 

I worked at a contest in Brazil about 5 years ago. I went because I always wanted to try it out. I surfed for Quiksilver and had asked them to do one of their events for years but the producer would never let me even give it a try! Then when the WSL took over I asked again, and they gave me a chance. We have a great relationship that’s mutually beneficial.


The Wazz and longtime friend/coworker, Pete Mel

Did broadcasting come natural to you, or did you have to work on your delivery over the years?

Doing this new job was pretty natural but there is a learning curve. I’m still learning and all the people I work with help me every event. I’m pretty much the rookie of the group, but I’m getting better…


It seems like the entire surf industry comes to play during events. How hectic do the line ups get with all the pros, commentators, locals, visitors, nutritionist/hypnotist/coaches/nail clippers all trying to satiate their own surf appetite?How do you guys avoid such tensions?

The tour surfers are all really cool; they mostly respect each other in and out of the water. Sometimes the lineups get a little crowded and it gets a little edgy. Our crew usually finds other places to surf, or find other times to surf when everyone has finished warming up. Its definitely something we think about and try and give the tour surfers the respect and space they deserve.


RUSHING maxed out Chopes

Describe what it’s like being in the water commentating with the current caliber of surfing? I notice you get pretty frothed. Is the energy of the heat contagious? 

I get super frothed while I’m in the water; I love surfing and the level of surfing these guys are doing is crazy high! I get pumped from all the energy around an event: the waves, the heat, the athletes… I’m so close to them I hear and see a lot, some stuff good, some bad(laughs). I’ve had to learn to calm my self down a little and better compose my information. I still get over frothed but I’m getting better at my delivery.

strider family


Walk The Line…with James Manss

If you can't take the heat...get outta the kitchen! Manssy center

If you can’t take the heat…get outta the kitchen! Manssy center

If you’ve been surfing in and around Pleasure Point for the past 20 years, you are probably very familiar with the site of 30 year old James Manss attacking the surf with his compact and powerful style. What you might not know about the humble regular footer is that he’s an awesome cook to boot. I caught up with Mannsy recently to discuss his culinary curiosity and passion for makin’ something a dish that leaves you smiling and satisfied. Here’s what he had to say…

Power Player

Power Player

I’ll always remember being a grom at your house and your mom was always baking or cooking something—would you say she’s your primary influence?

That’s where I got it from for sure. I’d say I really started getting serious about in in High School, or thereabouts. I started by watching her and learning technique—from preparation to cooking—she lit the flame. After High School, I went to work tile with my dad, but once the economy crashed I thought about going to culinary school. So I went to Cabrillo for a few semesters. The lady there, one of the teachers, she was the head chef at the Chaminade, and she offered me a job– so I worked there for about a year. That’s where I met Pete, who’s my sous chef now at Solaire at the Paradox Hotel. He kinda took me under his wing.   He became like a coach to me—ya know? But in the beginning it was my mom who got me into it. She went to culinary school in Monterey and work in the Pebble Beach area, then places locally like Michaels on Main and Gayles Bakery. So she had a lot of knowledge and really got me psyched on pursuing it as a career.

Manssy, close to home.

Manssy, close to home….Framegrab-Skimshady

You grew up around so much cooking, did you try to get in the mix as a youngster?

I’d bake with her a little bit, and yeah she’d always show me her recipes, like the stuff she learned from her mom. I would watch her and learn from her. She basically tried to show me everything she could—she could see that I was interested.

Bali Style, whole fish

Bali Style, whole fish

Describe the environment working on “The Line”

It’s intense, it can be really stressful but at the same time it’s a full adrenaline rush—you get psyched! I’m just really stoked on making people happy, making good food, and sending out something that people will enjoy. My focus is just putting my all into any food I make, and hoping that the customers enjoy it. The environment is hectic but rad. It’s not like “Hell’s Kitchen”, where the head Chefs are screaming at you. There’s a little bit of yelling but it’s mainly positive, like “C’mon, hustle up! Let’s get this goin!”…just keeping everyone in that productive mode. But yeah, it can be gnarly, I’ve definitely burned myself a lot (points out a number of healthy looking scars on his arms and hands). It gets hot, sweaty…sometimes like 100 degrees, it’s gnarly. It’s fun though, I really enjoy it. I actually look forward to going to work, which sounds weird (laughs).

NY Steak, grilled asparagus, roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Fingerling potatoes, Mushrooms, and Veal stock reduction

Bronzino, grilled artichoke blossoms, blistered tomato, salsifly, and citrus mousseline

Is there any ways to compare surfing with cooking?

I guess with surfing, you get to create your line on the wave. It’s an open canvas. Same with cooking. I really like creating new plates, using local and organic ingredients– good quality meats and poultry—all natural and fresh, and seeing what I can come up with. They are both really fun too, they make me happy…but I don’t get paid to surf (laughs)!

Did I mention he likes to get tubed? Framegrab: SkimShady

Did I mention he likes to get tubed? Framegrab: SkimShady

What was the hardest part of the learning curve?

The hardest things are speed and timing. I still have trouble with my speed on the line. You gotta hustle. When you have a big ticket you have to plan everything out perfect. You have the grill station, and then there’s the saute in the middle, and then the garmage, which is like salads and desserts. So your first course will be a salad and an appetizer. That goes up, but they have to go up together at the same time. But then you could have ten tickets at one time so really gotta shake a leg. Then the second course will come up, which might be salmon or roasted chicken or steak—all those items on the ticket have to go up at the same time, so timing is vital. The whole table needs to get there food at the same time– it’s tough.

Cheeseburger with turkey prosciutto, Bacon, Bacon Marbella, Mushrooms, Jalapenos, Avocado, Lettuce, Tomatoes, and Onions

Cheeseburger with turkey prosciutto, Bacon, Bacon Marbella, Mushrooms, Jalapenos, Avocado, Lettuce, Tomatoes, and Onions

Is there any particular meat, or ingredient that you like working with more?

The cuisine that we do is called “New American”, basically like California Cuisine—lots of local and fresh products. It’s also got a little Asian flare to it, French and English as well—we’ve got quite a mixture of everything. Another thing I love to do is gardening. Growing fruit and veggies, so I can cook the freshest dish possible. There’s nothing like a fresh heirloom tomato picked off the vine that you grew from start to finish.

NY Steak, grilled asparagus, roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Fingerling potatoes, Mushrooms, and Veal stock reduction

NY Steak, grilled asparagus, roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Fingerling potatoes, Mushrooms, and Veal stock reduction

What’s the signature “Manssy Dish”

I used to do a Thai Green Curry Chicken that my girlfriend’s mom and my own mom loves as well. My mom’s actually the one who taught me it. I think it’s the dish I’ve done the most for that reason (laughs) for them you know. Roasted chicken thighs, with rice and veggies…it’s pretty damn good. I also like doing the salmon dishes, or a really good ribeye or New York steak.

Verlasso Salmon, forged chanterelles, celeriac puree, mache, and chive oil

Verlasso Salmon, forged chanterelles, celeriac puree, mache, and chive oil

Do you find yourself consistently challenged with cooking?

It all just takes practice, like anything you do. The more you do it the better you get. With cooking you use all your senses- your smell, your taste. With sauces or soups in particular, you gotta taste everything before we send it out. You take a spoonful of chowder, taste it, then it’s like “oh this needs a little bit of salt”. Usually when I cook salmon, I touch it. Same with steak, it’s all by touch—you can tell how well done it is. Also just by looking at it. When a steak gets to medium rare, the juices will start coming out. When you see those juices you know it’s going right past rare to medium rare. Just like with surfing, you have to be aware all the time—is this going to be a good wave? Naw it’s got a little mush on it, I gotta wait a little longer. Cooking is just the same.

Poached Salmon

Poached Salmon

What’s your ultimate goal with your cooking? Would you ever want to open your own restaurant?

My goal is to work in a really nice restaurant first then yeah it would be rad to open my own small restaurant or have a catering business. Do my own thing eventually, but for now just learn as much as I can. Every day I go into work I learn something different, it’s pretty bitchin’.

Any last words?

I want to thank executive chef Ross McKee and sous chef Pete Martinez for their guidance, and my mom and girlfriend for all their support.