Mark Zuckerberg celebrated Fourth of July in unique fashion: Holding an American flag as he glided on a body of water, elevated on a board about a foot above the surface.
The Facebook CEO was hydrofoiling, which is a new type of watersport that has grown in popularity among outdoor enthusiasts — and those with plenty of cash to spend on a piece of sporting equipment that costs thousands of dollars.
Though Zuckerberg is mostly known for being the awkward founder of the world’s largest social network and one of richest people on the planet, he’s also become one of the most visible hydrofoilers out there, bringing more attention to the up-and-coming sport.
While surfing requires the power of a wave to get going, and wakeboarding relies on a boat to tow the rider, hydrofoiling uses a winglike structure under the surface of the water to create lift. The rider uses a handheld bluetooth controller that connects to an electric motor and underwater propeller, or creates momentum manually by pumping their legs up and down, as Zuckerberg does in his Fourth of July post.
“It’s a hydrofoil. There’s a wing under the water that I’m riding that pushes the board into the air,” Zuckerberg wrote in a comment on his post. “It’s a lot of fun. There’s an electric-powered version that you can get, but in this video I’m riding a regular foil board and surfing a little wave.”
Electric boards cost upwards of $10,000
Surfers have been toying with the idea of using hydrofoil technology for decades, but the sport didn’t really take off until foil boards became commercially available in 2018, said Nick Leason, co-founder of Lift Foils, which was one of the first companies to sell them.
Prior to foil boards, Leason and his company had been selling boards for kite surfing, which uses a kite in the air to pull a rider on a board across the water. Kite surfing requires a lot of skill, however, which limits the size of the market, Leason said. Foiling is much easier to pick up, and it feels like you’re gliding.
“It’s just this really unique feeling of flying over the water,” said Leason, whose company is based in Puerto Rico. “You kind of feel like a pelican, or a wannabe pelican.”
There are different kinds of hydrofoil boards.
Surf foils include the board and the foil but no motor, requiring users to create momentum with their own bodies, and typically cost about $2,000. Efoils have electric motors that let them reach speeds of 25 miles per hour and typically sell for at least $10,000.
Although foiling requires less skill than kite surfing, the steep price limits its potential market to extreme watersport enthusiasts and people with deep wallets. Canadian company MSLR Electric E-Foil, for example, notes that many of its customers are NHL hockey players.
“The boards are made out of such high-quality materials, said MSLR Founder and Owner Carey Missler. MSLR sells two efoil boards, the Navigator and the Player, both for $10,000. “It takes a while to custom build these boards, plus you’ve got your expensive components of lithium ion batteries and carbon fiber.”
For Zuckerberg, who is the fifth-richest person in the world, with a net worth of approximately $125 billion, according to Forbes, money is no problem. That’s why he owns numerous boards, including custom-painted and custom-built versions made by Lift Foil, Leason said.
“That’s our product that he’s riding on in the video. He probably owns every model that we have,” Leason said. “He’s really into it. He loves it.”
Zuckerberg ‘was ripping’
Zuckerberg first began to post about hydrofoiling in August 2019, when he uploaded two photos of himself on a foilboard being towed by a boat.
“Trying a new sport in Kauai with one of the best, Kai Lenny,” said Zuckerberg, referring to the professional surfer.
Leason said Lenny has been essential to the growth of hydrofoiling as a sport, trailblazing how people use the unfamiliar gear and taking the time to teach new folks about foiling. That includes Zuckerberg, Leason said.
“I think Kai, he’s like magical on a foil, and seeing all the stuff that he does,” Zuckerberg said on Instagram in April. “It’s sort of helped me get into the sport just watching him foil down a huge wave then turn around, go back up wind, up the wave, do a flip off the wave. It’s like Oh my god. It’s unreal.”
In December 2019, Zuckerberg posted a video of himself efoiling while wearing a bright orange helmet. Although helmets aren’t the most stylish getup, they are an important piece of equipment that experts recommend, especially for new foilers. Experts also recommend wearing impact vests.
“The boards are made with carbon fiber. It’s a very, very durable material, which means that if your head was to strike it, it could be very harmful if you weren’t wearing a helmet,” said MSLR Co-owner Taylor Coulthard.
Zuckerberg was caught by paparazzi efoiling in Hawaii with his face completely covered in sunscreen in July 2020. The photo became an instant viral meme.
“I was foiling around, and then I noticed there was this paparazzi guy following us. I was like ‘Oh I don’t want him to recognize me so you know what I’m gonna do? I’m just gonna put a ton of sunscreen on my face so he won’t know who I am,'” Zuckerberg said with a laugh on Instagram in April. “But that backfired.”
Zuckerberg later poked fun at himself about the whole thing last month when he posted a cartoon version of the picture.
“The sun never stood a chance,” Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook.
But despite his awkward episodes, those in the world of foiling say Zuckerberg has actually gotten quite good at the sport.
“It’s funny that most people think that Mark Zuckerberg is a little nerdy guy behind his computer in some lair somewhere, but he’s actually quite a good athlete as you see in that video,” Leason said. “He’s put in a lot of practice on the foil. He’s doing quite well.”
Perhaps more importantly for those that sell foil boards, Zuckerberg is also doing a lot to generate attention and buzz.
“It has brought some interest,” Missler said. “That was an incredible shot. He was ripping. He was doing amazing.”
DOJ asks for independent probe into FTX bankruptcy, a likely tactic to gather evidence on alleged fraud
John Ray, chief executive officer of FTX Cryptocurrency Derivatives Exchange, arrives at bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Delaware, US, on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022.
Eric Lee | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The Department of Justice has requested that an independent examiner be appointed to review “substantial and serious allegations of fraud, dishonesty” and “incompetence” after the implosion of Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto empire. It could be one way for the DOJ to gather evidence of alleged fraud.
In a filing in Delaware federal bankruptcy court, Andrew Vara, a U.S. bankruptcy trustee, told the court that the allegations of corporate misconduct and complete failure merited an immediate and speedy examination of the events leading up to FTX’s stunning collapse three weeks ago.
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Vara said there’s a substantial basis to believe that Bankman-Fried and other managers mismanaged FTX or engaged in fraudulent conduct.
“It seems to me that the DOJ is trying to use the bankruptcy process as a way of getting evidence,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti told CNBC.
“Many times, the Department of Justice and bankruptcy estates in fraud cases work together in compiling potential restitution or other types of actions to make victims whole,” he said. The DOJ “will likely be part of the asset recovery and potentially having a Victims Fund with money going to those that lost money and what the Department of Justice potentially will view as a fraud.”
“It just shows a level of interest and attention that they’re paying to this that should be troubling to Mr. Bankman-Fried.”
Vara said an examination is preferable to an internal investigation because of the wider implications the company’s collapse may have on the crypto industry.
Another legal expert said that there could be other factors at play too, including the extensive political donations that FTX executives were involved in on both sides of the aisle.
There have been “campaign donations on both sides of the aisle from FTX and there have been political overtones and undertones in this case,” said Braden Perry, former senior trial attorney at the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and Kennyhertz Perry partner.
“I think that this is just out of prudence and out of caution to make sure that whatever is happening is done at an independent level,” Perry continued.
It’s not unusual to appoint a bankruptcy examiner. There was one to oversee the crypto bankruptcy process of Celsius Network, for example.
Bankruptcies above a certain size require an examiner. In this case, the U.S. Trustee said that an examiner is mandatory because FTX’s fixed, liquidated and unsecured debts to customers exceed the $5 million threshold.
FTX’s November collapse left creditors reeling over the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars, in some cases, and has rocked the wider crypto world. BlockFi, a crypto lender, filed for bankruptcy protection in New Jersey last week.
Tech layoffs send visa holders on frantic search for employment to avoid deportation
After years of seemingly boundless expansion, the U.S. tech industry has hit a wall. Companies are in cash preservation mode, leading to thousands of job cuts a month and a surge of layoffs in November.
While the sudden loss of a paycheck can be devastating for anyone, especially during the holiday season, the recent wave of reductions is having an outsized impact on skilled workers who are living in the U.S. on temporary visas and are at risk of being sent home if they can’t secure a new job in short order.
Tech companies are among the employers with the most approvals for H-1B visas, which are granted to people in specialty occupations that often require a college degree and extra training. Silicon Valley has for years leaned on temporary visas issued by the government to employ thousands of foreign workers in technical fields such as engineering, biotech and computer science. That’s a big reason tech companies have been outspoken in their defense of immigrants’ rights.
Workers on temporary visas often have 60 to 90 days to find a new gig so they can avoid being deported.
“It’s this amazing talent pool that the U.S. is fortunate to attract, and they’re always living on the edge,” said Sophie Alcorn, an immigration lawyer based in Mountain View, California, who specializes in securing visas for tech workers. “Many of them up are up against this 60-day grace period deadline. They have a chance to find a new job to sponsor them, and if they can’t do that, they have to leave the U.S. So it’s a stressful time for everybody.”
The already grim situation worsened in November, when Meta, Amazon, Twitter, Lyft, Salesforce, HP and DoorDash announced significant cuts to their workforces. More than 50,000 tech workers were let go from their jobs in November, according to data collected by the website Layoffs.fyi.
Amazon gave staffers who were laid off 60 days to search for a new role inside the company, after which they’d be offered severance, according to a former Amazon Web Services employee who lost his job. The person spoke to CNBC on the condition of anonymity.
In fiscal 2021, Amazon had the most approved petitions for H-1B visas, with 6,182, according to a National Foundation for American Policy review of U.S. immigration data. Google, IBM and Microsoft also ranked near the top of the list.
The former AWS employee has been in the country for two years on student and employment visas. He said he was unexpectedly laid off at the beginning of November, just months after joining the company as an engineer. Despite Amazon informing him that he had 60 days to find another position internally, the person said his manager advised him to apply for jobs elsewhere due the company’s pullback in hiring. Amazon said in November it’s pausing hiring for its corporate workforce.
An Amazon spokesperson didn’t provide a comment beyond what CEO Andy Jassy said last month, when he told those affected by the layoffs that the company would help them find new roles.
Companies generally aren’t specifying what percentage of the people being laid off are on visas. A search for “layoffs H1B” on LinkedIn surfaces a stream of posts from workers who recently lost their jobs and are expressing concern about the 60-day unemployment window. Visa holders have been sharing resources on Discord servers, the anonymous professional network Blind and in WhatsApp groups, the former AWS employee said.
It had already been a frenetic few years for foreign workers in the U.S. well before surging inflation and concerns of a recession sparked the latest round of job cuts.
The Trump administration’s hostile posture toward immigration put the H-1B program at risk. As president in 2020, Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending work visas, including those with H-1B status, claiming they hurt employment prospects for Americans. The move drew a strong rebuke from tech executives, who said the program serves as a pipeline for talented individuals and strengthens American companies. President Joe Biden allowed the Trump-era ban to expire last year.
Whatever relief the Biden presidency provided is of limited value to those who are now jobless. An engineer who was recently laid off by gene-sequencing technology company Illumina said he hoped his employer would sponsor his transfer to an H-1B visa. He’s here on a different visa, known as Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to work in the U.S. for up to three years after graduation.
The former Illumina employee, who spoke on condition that he not be named, not only has to find a new job within 90 days from the layoff date, but his OPT visa expires in August. Any company that hires him must be willing to sponsor his visa transfer and pay the related fees. He’s considering going back to school in order to extend his stay in the U.S., but he’s anxious about taking on student loans.
Illumina said in November it was cutting about 5% of its global workforce. A company spokesperson told CNBC that less than 10% of impacted employees were here on H-1B or related visas.
“We are engaging with each employee individually so that they understand the impact to their employment eligibility and options to remain in the U.S.,” the spokesperson said by email. “We are working to review each and every situation to ensure great care for those impacted, and to ensure compliance with immigration law.”
The ex-employee said he had dreams of working for Illumina, planting roots in the U.S. and buying a house. Now, he said, he’s just trying to find a way to stay in the country without going deep into debt. In just a matter of months, it’s “like a night and day difference,” he said.
Elon Musk suspends Ye’s Twitter account after swastika post
Ye’s Twitter account was suspended again Friday for violating the social media platform’s rules on “incitement to violence,” CEO Elon Musk said.
The rapper, formerly known as Kanye West, appeared to post an image of a swastika, a symbol synonymous with the Nazis, inside a Star of David, a prominent symbol of Judaism.
Musk said he “tried his best” in response to Ye’s tweet, which can no longer be viewed. “Despite that, he again violated our rule against incitement to violence. Account will be suspended.”
Ye’s tweet came after he made antisemetic comments in an interview with the controversial radio host Alex Jones on Thursday. Ye referred to “the Jewish media” and said he saw “good things about Hitler” in an hourlong conversation with the conspiracy theorist.
In October, Twitter locked Ye’s account for an unspecified amount of time following a string of antisemitic remarks which escalated into threatening and hateful comments about Jewish people. He returned to Twitter in November.
The billionaire Tesla CEO, who has called himself a “free speech absolutist,” is finding the limits of that tested in his early days of owning Twitter.
Musk has attempted to make sweeping changes in his first few days in charge, including gutting a huge swathe of Twitter’s workforce and launching an $8 per month “Verified” service that allows users to buy the coveted blue check mark.
Twitter was forced to pause its subscription service however after users abused it by paying the fee to get a blue check then impersonating celebrities.
Musk said last week that the “Verified” service would be relaunched on Friday with different colored check marks, but there has been no update on whether this is still the case.
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