It is shit. I love it!
It is shit. I love it!

Confession: I love the world surf league

I also super hate it. What fun!

I do not care about professional surfing. And then, two days ago, the Quiksilver Pro, Gold Coast, began and I became so excited that I logged on while Dawn Patrol played. Dawn Patrol. The maybe worst thing that has ever touched the Internet. Why? Why on earth did I do that? Watching professional surfing is a tremendous waste of time, especially during the early rounds. The commentary, new starlet Chelsea Cannel aside, is utterly asinine. So bad that it is an assault on the decency of human speech. The waves very rarely put on any sort of display and the surfing, while clearly exceptional, rarely wows. Especially at stops like the Gold Coast and especially two days ago.

Why then? Why, why, why, why do I watch professional surfing? I have given my actions a hard look and have come to two concrete conclusions. I hate watch. I watch The Devil Wears Prada every time it is on because I hate Anne Hathaway. I hate her fetal alcohol eyes. I hate her hair and I hate how she is styled in the gaggiest couture in the silliest most affected way. I hate Adrian Grenier. I hate his doughy face and his whiny mouth and his curls. I hate their relationship, in the film, and I hate all their friends and I hate that Adrian Grenier is always prattling on about Jarlsberg cheese. I could go on all day because there is something very satisfying about hate watching. I get the same satisfaction out of the World Surf League. So part of it is, yes, hate watching. But there is something far greater.

I watch professional surfing because I love the outcasts and misfits and weirdos who make up the larger surf community. I love giggling on Twitter with Matt Warshaw and Really Super Jr. and Jamon Bagel and Sir Gorik Badinskas and Not Dane Reynolds. I love chatting about which tour bottom feeders should get cut with anyone and everyone but especially Austrians and French Moroccans. I love hoping against hope that CJ Hobgood will win each and every event so I can laugh with him about it later. I love looking at Matt Biolos’s Instagram. I love pulling out the iPhone, when heats are running, at important functions and watching the worst derelicts come look over my shoulder and carry on about Dane’s beer belly.

Much like Adrian Grenier prattling on about Jarlsberg cheese, I have spent the larger part of my surf journalism career claiming that surfing is cool. Only lately have I come to the true realization that it is not. It is where addicts with no real skill come and waste lives that once held promise. And it is the greatest community of all. So I watch because I hate but I also watch because I love. Two very fine emotions. Thank you, WSL for providing the platform. And if you start charging for it, I will burn down your fucking Santa Monica studio. Or at least figure out how to pirate the stream.

We have a champion!

Makua Rothman takes the big wave crown.

Waves are a fickle mistress and big waves so much more. It is no small task for ocean storms to generate monsters and then for those monsters to point in the right direction and hit within certain time windows and thus the difficulty of the Big Wave World Tour but thus, also, the glory in taking the crown.

This year’s winner hails from surf royalty and so the crown rests easy. Makuakai Rothman from the North Shore will have his name etched alongside other greats. He accomplished his feat by winning the first event of the year, in Peru, and running up second/last event of the year in Spain.

“Only two events?” You say.

“Yes. But hundreds of feet of (combined) wave height.” I respond.

Makua will receive his award at the World Surf League Big Wave Awards (formerly the XXL Awards) in May. A good time will, certainly, be had by all.

Do you like watching big wave surfing? Do you think it is the future of the sport?

Candid: I was too lazy to not watch the Quik Pro

Would I do it again? Probably… 

The first day of the Quik Pro and I was nowhere to be seen for it. I left the comfortable confines of my house littered with banana-box bookshelves, banana-box furniture and my fiancée still asleep to chase waves two hours from home.

What a leisurely drive: a sunny day, beautiful scenery, a stint herding middle-aged women down a gravel road like they were sheep, and what smutty and condescending conversations were had along the way! The waves? I, along with my two companions scored a three-foot righthand reef break to ourselves before the wind ruined it (Don’t come to New Zealand, the wind ruins everything, particularly if you’re a fly fisherman).

Returning home, I was reminded that the Quik Pro was on and out of curiosity checked it out to see what the conditions were like… disappointing to say the least.

I perused through the previous results and confirmed my initial thoughts that I hadn’t missed much: Joel won, Kelly hadn’t, Ric tanked (as a New Zealander, you expect as much from your sports people) and Dane obviously didn’t really care.

Nonetheless, I continued watching, I was too tired to do anything else. The new girl bored and annoyed me, I got stoked that Ronny was finally in the commentary booth and there were moments of brilliance, but on the whole, the conditions made it boring.

And that was the men’s. By this point, the conditions looked sad. Sad enough, that even I with my lightweight frame and perpetual hunger for surf would not have wanted to paddle out in that.

So out went the girls. I went to close the window, “Ah no!!! I want to watch the girls!” declared my fiancée. So I left her to it while I skated on the road outside and was nearly hit by a car.

I grew bored, though, and returned to watch it with her. The waves looked better and the girls made it look fun. I took great delight in Silvana Lima trouncing Steph. As a former Slater-hater and someone who distrusts the establishment, such scenarios fill me with glee.

Then came Carissa’s heat. My fiancée is a huge Carissa Moore fan, she only occasionally surfs, but thinks Carissa is the shit (justified I guess). She got in to that heat way too much. An avowed feminist (Rory, your analysis?), at one point she yelled at the screen, calling Tatiana Weston-Webb a stupid bitch (before quickly retracting her statement), after Tatiana got a smoker to take the lead from Moore.

Then Moore got her last wave. Was it, or wasn’t it enough? My fair lady wanted to know. I thought not and said as much, not a popular call, so I tried to soften it by saying that I wasn’t a judge. It was enough and there was much fist pumping and yelling in our small place. The last heat went by and I was sure there was some dubious calls made, but oh well.

This morning, I reviewed the previous day and thought about whether I would have paid for the privilege of that afternoon/evening. The answer is no. Mostly, it is because I don’t care enough about it. It is not worth the money I earn giving “free and frank” advice when I only watch it because there is no surf.

Likewise, this idea of bonus content being included does not interest me. I don’t care where Medina lives and I don’t care about what Sally does in her down time. I might bite if Pam was in the commentary booth (hey, I like French Bulldogs). I’ve given back to the industry enough (giving the companies hordes of newby tourists hooked on surfing in my past life as an instructor), I’m not paying any more for it, nor will my conscience allow it.

All that fetid content between waves? I’d rather endure the 15 minute lulls and associated boredom. Yet, given yesterday’s spectacle, I may not have a choice. Will I watch it today? If it is on, yes, as I am a contrary creature.

Dane Reynolds, Quiksilver Pro
Dane Reynolds? A little rust on the edges, or is it disinterest, although this isn't apparent in the photo here. | Photo: WSL

“That was straight-up gangsta!”

New words and new faces and even a new energy embroider day one of the Quikilsver Pro… 

The central myth of professional surfing is that people who don’t surf care. That if it was somehow jammed into a dada-esqure package of flashing lights and three-dimensional logos and multiple camera angles, hemstitched with lace, and festooned with chiffon, pro surfing would become as big as America’s NFL.

Wait, it has already! Read here! It ain’t a myth at all! 

Let me tell you about day one at the… suddenly… biggest sport on earth! Come revel in the colour and noise and rhythm!

A handful of two-to-three footers promenaded down an acceptable sandbank and while round one is generally a garbage can of B and C-listers being trampled by the A-game, today it wrought its fullest energy as spectacle.

Joel Parkinson beat the comedian and part-time surfer Brett Simpson and the Brazilian Mugel Pupo, and he beat them so well, he was inclined to remind Rosy Hodge in his post-heat interview of his “questionable” second placing to Gabriel in 2014.

The gazelle-like Rosy had the temerity to ask Joel if he’s like to do better than the seconds he’s gotten in the past two Snapper events.

“I grew up surfing here and know what I want to see,” he growled.


Now into his third-year on tour, Sebastian Zeitz came and raised hell. A club sandwich thrown where most would delicately slice the rim scored a five though the debutant Ricardo Christie was easily despatched. Michel Bourez swayed to the languid rhythm of the waves though not with the same jazz as Zeitz.

What else?

Kelly lost to Fred Pattachia despite a carving 360 that the commentator Martin Potter rated as the “most difficult manoeuvre in the planet.” Potter added, “Not many humans on the planet can do that!” Who knew!

A John John Florence jam teased the term “layback dagger!” out of the ever-sublime Joey Turpel.

But the two moments of the day came when Ross Williams (whom BeachGrit regards as the best in the game, just click here for proof) described a turn of Mick Fanning’s as “straight gangsta!” and a Matt Banting turn as a “buttercup manoeuvre.”

The wildcard Dane Reynolds surfed in a heat with the Brazilians Gabriel Medina and Wiggoly Dantas but appeared vaguely disinterested and perhaps two kilograms over his best fighting weight. The tour has never fitted Reynolds well, despite his remarkable fourth place finish a few years ago, and he must stipulate in future contract negotiations that he doesn’t feel much like dancing in events anymore.

Jordy, Dusty, Bede (a surfer whom I’d take to bed) and Julian all surfed as if they’d spent the morning drinking fizz-water. Such energy! Each took the wave and deformed it as brutally as he could.

As I write, the women are tracing their own intimate journeys upon the little waves.

More tomorrow,  I think! Dine before the pay-wall goes up! 

Kelly Slater and John John Florence
Kelly Slater holds his trophy for wave of the year in 2014; John John Florence, for breakthrough performer of the year. Y'ready to pay to watch these game changers? | Photo: WSL

Revealed: Get ready to pay for WSL webcasts!

Are you ready to pay to watch professional surfing?

Considering how much attention the recent New York Times article on the WSL paid to the organization’s assocaition with YoutTube I was surprised to notice, after the feed went down during Slater’s first sound heat, that the contest was actually being streamed via something called NeuLion.

What is Neulion?  It’s the web player used by the NFL, NBA, NHL and UFC. It is, “the premier solution for delivering live and on-demand sports in an unrivaled interactive digital video experience that gives fans an action packed experience anytime, anywhere.”

(Click here) 

Why the switch?  ZoSea made a big deal about their “partnership” with YouTube last year, part of an announcement that was disingenuously touted as big news prior to the lackluster reveal. Sure, every moron teen on earth can stream via YouTube, but like they demonstrate time and again when they release their laughable viewership numbers, ZoSea doesn’t shy away from polishing a turd ’til it gleams.

Why was the switch made silently? Wouldn’t a move to a broadcast platform used by mainstream sports be something to crow about, a reason to make one more completely manufactured and largely imaginary claim of legitimacy? The unlisted nature of the YouTube stream combined with the fact that Neulion is flash-based only served to create headaches for viewers on mobile devices, including those owned by the WSL’s own Samsung-ian overlords.

Two minutes on Neulion’s website turns up a pretty likely answer. Monetization is the name of the game, and Neulion provides a platform that excels at locking content behind a paywall. Call it a pay-per-view, season pass, or subscription, the move to Neulion is a ZoSea dipping its toes in the water before making another grab at some cash.

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.  The WSL has plans to start making actual content to fill the broadcast gaps currently filled by mindless blather and their 6000-square foot studio in Santa Monica ain’t gonna pay for itself. The big question isn’t if, but when the WSL will go full retard and lock everything down.

I expect we’ll see slow rollout.  Low effort bonus content sometime around the end of this season; take a look at Medina’s house, watch the Roxy B-team frolic in paradise with nary a surfboard in sight. Next season will see a VIP subscription, higher quality bonus content hidden from free views until it’s ripped and reposted elsewhere.  2017 will bring the season pass, and I’ll be watching an illegal stream on firstrow, or just not watching at all.