Shadowed and sad: Day one, Billabong Pro, Tahiti

I see nothing but boredom, everywhere. But, wait, Kelly!

Tahiti, as in the island in French Polyneisa, is the most beautiful of its sort on earth. I must confess that every time I sort myself out and land in Papeete and make that two-hour drive to the perfectly named End of the Road, where one finds the wave hosting the Billabong Pro, I lose all my gloomy apprehensions.

I doubt there is a greater joy on earth than being met at the airport in the early evening and driving toward Tahiti-iti, little Tahiti, in the bed of your accommodation’s pick-up; you, gazing at a Pacific sky knitted almost solid with stars.

There are no objectionable hotels or sweeping estates of billionaires who are never to be seen. Instead, at the End of the Road we find clusters of modest home-stays, whitewashed, air-cooled houses that take in anyone who wants to surf Teahupoo or the other couple of reefs nearby for a hundred US or so a night.

And therefore, during the Billabong Pro, instead of 34 surfers and their various entourages spread out over a dozen hotels we have surfers living cheek by jowl, sometimes literally. And the mood is elevated. Dinner and breakfast is taken on long narrow tables, a dozen surfers crowded around the poisson cru and french fries and cans of beer, sometimes wine. Staying at the End of the Road during the event is both an education and an inebriation.

Today the waves were very poor at the Billabong Pro, three-to-six feet, and dulled by an onshore wind, as appealing as communist architecture. Kelly Slater was marvellous, Fanning was revived by the #IMWITHMICK campaign enough to paddle out and, in total, eight heats ran in waves so ugly I’m guessing most of us averted our eyes in shame.

Get debriefed here.

Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.10, Jadson Andre (BRA) 8.23, Brett Simpson (USA) 4.70
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) 11.67, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.50, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 9.67
Heat 3: Aritz Aranburu (ESP) 13.10, Keanu Asing (HAW) 7.16, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 5.37
Heat 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) 10.66, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 9.00, Garrett Parkes (AUS) 1.30
Heat 5: Mick Fanning (AUS) 12.17, Adam Melling (AUS) 6.26, Taumata Puhetini (PYF) 1.33
Heat 6: Bruno Santos (BRA) 8.67, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 5.30, Michel Bourez (PYF) 2.44
Heat 7: Dusty Payne (HAW) 10.00, Nat Young (USA) 5.14, Kai Otton (AUS) 1.30
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 10.83, Taj Burrow (AUS) 4.77, Glenn Hall (IRL) 2.96

Upcoming Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 1 Match-Ups:
Heat 9: Josh Kerr (AUS), Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Kolohe Andino (USA)
Heat 10: Italo Ferreira (BRA), Gabriel Medina (BRA), Ricardo Christie (NZL)
Heat 11: Bede Durbidge (AUS), John John Florence (HAW), Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)
Heat 12: Jeremy Flores (FRA), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA), Miguel Pupo (BRA)


Style: The WSL Haircut Power Rankings!

Who has the best hair on the WSL!

Carine Roitfeld is the style icon famous, among other things, as the editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris. Her opinion on a man’s hair bears retelling.

“The true test of a man’s style is the haircut. There are some men who look good no matter how their hair is styled, whether it’s trendy or not. A man can change his haircut many times, but to pull off any haircut, you have to be very chic.”

In the spirit of Roitfeld, the newly minted BeachGrit writer Negatron has created a power rankings of the best hair on tour…

 

#1 Ricardo Christie 

WSL ranking 29th


What’s not to like? Golden Shirley Temple curls with a touch of the Caribbean. So “surfie” to the mainstream. But to me, a nod to the era’s past yet individual and contemporary at the same time. Even your girl looks at his hair with glaring green eyes. Unfortunately for Ric, it may also cost him his spot on tour this year. Too many times I’ve seen him brushing his hair out of his eyes while riding a wave… scoring an 8.75 when he needed a 9. The most respected rookie on tour. He needs to lose those locks as at this level a one millisecond delay from a swipe of the hair is enough for another undeserved 25th placing.
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(Here we see the hair swipe in action)
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#2 Josh Kerr 
WSL ranking 9th
 
California has  ego-inflated population base. If you don’t look good you ain’t good. Hair dressers from across the States go there to find fame and fortune only to end up homeless on the streets. Only the best survive and the Australian ex-pat has tapped into that source. Just the right mix of tradition, taste, function and form to match his expanding business empire.
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#3 Taj Burrow
WSL Ranking 8th
Mr Burrow doesn’t give a shit about how his hair looks, but two decades of hanging with models on his arm has his cellphone contacts brimful with top hair stylists from around the world. In the long term this could mean more than any World Title. Burrow strikes me as the sort of man that doesn’t blink an eyelid at paying $400 for a trim, only to walk out the door without even looking in the mirror and straight into the ocean.
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#4 Bebe Durbridge
WSL ranking 11th
Just natural surf hair. Timeless and honest. Gets haircuts from his aunt, out on her back lawn when he’s back in town. Has a gruff curl that just screams, I could tile that patio in under three hours.
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#5 Nat Young
WSL Ranking 7th
There’s something bad-arse about letting your mum cut your hair. In a perverse way it’s… gangsta! No nonsense, no fuss and definitely no frills. Much like his approach to surfing waves in competition.
Luckily for him, he’s a top 10 pro-surfer as in the real world no woman under 45 would even look twice at that mop. Ain’t no shame in winning heats though!
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#6 Kelly Slater
WSL Ranking 6th
The King actually isn’t bald. The brave decision to pretend to be bald  has him here in the top10. Being the mastermind competitor, back in 03 he worked out that if he shaved every hair off his head his opponents would be drawn faster into his laser like hypnotic eyes, rendering their competition savvy useless. Leaving them flustered and foundering around for scraps while he takes the best waves of the heat. Luckily for the younger generation, they have grown up with his dome and don’t seem to be as affected as those in the dark years gone by.
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#7 Keanu Asing
WSL Ranking 21st
For the life of me, I can’t remember how Keanu surfs. But that boy-next-door short back and sides cut! With that cute little spiky quiff on-top. Any parent would be happy to see him walk though the door with their daughter.
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#8 CJ Hobgood
WSL Ranking 36th
Nothing but respect for a dude who’s thinning out but owns it. Cool, calm.”It don’t matter” his hair laughs!  CJ ain’t gonna fall into the shaven head, club bouncer look like his tour contemporaries Freddy P and Slater. On a side note, it looks like a couple of  up and coming bouncers are looking to join the ranks in the coming years: JazzHands Jadson, D-Pain and my man Wiggolly.
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#9 Glenn Hall
WSL Ranking 32nd
Micro has hair like my accountant, A simple side-part that says, listen to me… I know… just relax. I trust my accountant. He makes me money. I like this, therefore Glenn’s just’s slipped into the top 10 for the first time in his career.
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#10 Michel Bourez
WSL Ranking 25th
The Spartan is a name an urban myth mobster would have on the streets of New York in the 50’s. Michel’s wise-guy hair demands respect and respect is not given lightly by the Spartan.
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#11 Julian Wilson
WSL Ranking 3rd
Look he’s perfect all-round, so of course his hair is fantastic. Usually I punish people like him out of bitterness and resentment. But I really don’t want to endure relentless badgering and trolling in the comments from his legion of pre-teen fan-girls.
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#12 John John Florence
WSL Ranking 14th
JJF takes surf hair to the next level. Anyone’s who has spent a month surfing non-stop knows the feeling, hardy, stiff, salt encrusted tufts only a surfer could love. Imagine surfing non-stop for pretty much your whole life. I’m guessing his hair is pretty much 85% salt. But I do get a sneaking suspicion that some yucky little pillow dreads may be lingering around the base of his neck. If anyone can prove it, Wilko and his mangey mop is taking JJF’s spot.
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#13 Mick Fanning
WSL Ranking  2nd
Ricardo should take note from his old Rip Curl stablemate. Short, sharp, concise and to the point. Not an ounce of vanity or emotion. It’s the hair of a man that wins heats, titles, fights sharks. A buzz cut that the common man can identify with. I am Mick Fanning, give me the trophy.
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#14 Gabriel Medina
WSL Ranking 15th
 
The Brazilian Storm doesn’t seem to be translating too well into a well groomed headpiece. Sure they are a good-ish looking bunch of cats. But I identify more with an ugly man with a brave haircut.
Anyway, Gabriel just beat Pupo to make the list simply for the pure potential his hair has… so thick. Such body.
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#15 Jordy Smith
WSL Ranking 22nd
The man with the most potential of them all! Oh so close he gets. Such height and combinations! He just doesn’t know what to do and when to do it. I feel the frustration within him building and growing every month. I know he struts the mirror like Mick Jagger but the self-doubt and inner-rage once he hits the catwalk cripples him. I have a solution. Jordy, with a forehead of that size you need a long straight fringe to put the focus back to the hair and your eyes. Half Emo, half 80’s styling. Covering one eye, with it short at the back but lightly layered. Dyed black of course.
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#16 Owen Wright
WSL Ranking 5th
Owen knows it’s going. Every death pit he gets spit out of (while lesser men quiver on the shoulder) shoots a few more strands off the top. Wave by wave it going. Like CJ he’s owning it. With a nod to the late 60’s songwriters he looks like he could be playing bass guitar along side Neil young. But caution must be taken as it’s a fine line. One minute you are playing with Neil young and the next you are in a Michael Bolton cover band playing the sax solos.
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Big time: Surfing in Sports Illustrated!

It's sex, lies and Mavericks!

Sports Illustrated is, of course, the grandaddy of athletic magazines. I used to subscribe and liked Michael Jordan’s tongue and thought Larry Bird would look better without a mustache but then he shaved it and I realized his upper lip actually was a mustache. Surfing didn’t usually feature maybe because it is not a “sport” but yesterday it did and wow!

The author, Joe Carberry, wrote a compelling piece on the battle over Mavericks. In case you don’t know anything about it (and you shouldn’t because surfing turf wars are generally exhausting and not very interesting. What is more, big wave turf wars are worse because they lack both money and accessibility making the scrap over peanuts confusing. What is most, northern California big wave turf wars are the worst because the cold water numbs the tongue the fog makes it impossible to tell who is actually fighting who so people stand around shouting unintelligible nothings into the air.)

What was I saying again?

Read The Battle for Mavericks: Money and Power Churn up the Surfing World here

 


Snowdonia: “I just had my worst surf in two years!”

Average surfer reviews Surf Snowdonia Wavegarden… 

Wave pools aren’t what you think they’re going to be like. I’ve surfed a view, not the Wavegarden, but a damn good one in the Canary Islands (real four-footers) and a crummy one in Malaysia that y’needed a jet ski whip to get any speed.

And, once you’re in a tank, you realise, it ain’t a sublime, slow-motion experience, with easy roll-ins and endless walls. To create a wave of any sort of substance in such a short space requires power and violence.

At the Canary Islands pool, there’d be a tremendous… whump!… and a surge would rear behind you. You had to be on your game. The wave moved at a good clip so you paddled your ass off and, once your tail lifted, the take-off was fast and steep. Easy? Non. 

In all the reviews I’ve read about the Wavegarden, and specifically the first commercial tank in Snowdonia, Wales, I haven’t read a definitive report on what it’s actually like for the average surfer. As Andy Irons told me once, “Wave-pool’s are so hard to surf. Y’gotta read those things like the fucken Matrix!”

So I was thrilled to read one average surfer’s review of the Snowdonia pool on an obscure blog. He paid to surf it. He knew no one. He had no affiliation with Wavegarden in Spain. The author of this sharply written piece is a surfer called Tom Rootes. Hello to you!

He is a verbose motherfucker, so click here for the full story on his blog. 

Or jump in a slightly-edited version below.

This week I had my worst surf for 2 years, one of those depressing surfs where you always feel vaguely out of position and every drop turns into a hassle. To add to that pain I paid over £70 for the pleasure. Ladies and gentleman I was at the Surf Snowdonia Wavegarden…

So was it me, or was it the Wavegarden? I am not really sure. On arrival the whole thing was slightly less than idyllic, rain was hammering down and a strong wind was running down the lake. But we watched a few waves come through and it looked pretty good, easy to surf, with a nice wall on offer. I regularly surf waves of this size and shape no problem at all on a range of boards so my nerves started to ease. I note I don’t recall ever being so nervous pre surf.

When I went to get my boards off the car the first worrying doubt appeared, one of the instructors commented that I should ride my board with most float. On the roof I had a 6.3 quad, 6.6 twinny and my 7.0 magic carpet. The plan was to ride the twinny first session and the quad second session. Plans change. So the 7.0 and 6.6 went up to the board rack at the well organised dispersal point. I checked in, got changed inside (a surfing first for me), put on a 3.2 (being a Scottish surfer I had to get it out the loft), told a beginner to put his wetsuit on the other way round, and went for the pre-surf brief.

Here the next doubt appeared. The staff rep was keen to state that you had to stay as close to the pier netting as possible when paddling and be quick on take-off to make a turn and get down the line. It was clear from the tone that people were struggling in the advanced group with these issues. “Don’t hold onto the netting either”, he said. “Why would you need to?” thought I, looking out at the lake?

Hour 1) My 6.6 is like a cork in the sea so I ignored the floaty warning and jumped in with it and was first up, surfing front side. The sled/wave by the way goes both ways down the lake – i.e. you don’t need to paddle out, just back and forward sharing with two others so every third wave belongs to you and you alternate front and back side – this by the way works really well. Incredibly simple, at any one time there is one on a wave and one waiting at each end.

It went downhill from there, I fell on the next couple (too far inside), then missed a couple (too far outside) or couldn’t get over to the open face. Pressure started to build and it started to all feel like hard work, plus I was paying for it. The depression of the fact that it just wasn’t that good started to dawn on me.

Front side I got over to the face a couple more times which was great as it really walls up with a load of push behind it, but I had almost nothing to shout about backhand. By the time I got out after the first hour it felt like a waste of money for a lot of frustration and 2 maybe 3 good waves. And a few people around me were muttering the same thing.

Here are the problems with the wave that I found.

1) There is a lot of current kicking around between waves. They had to reset the plough at one point and my board got sucked up against the netting from under me – it was mildly disconcerting! I was constantly paddling one way or another just prior to each wave. Tucking a subtle toe into the pier netting helped.

2) The wave does not push straight – the waves are created by the sled in the middle but they break from the outside back towards the sled. This makes the dynamics feel very different to the ocean, as the wave pushes you out from the pier as it comes underneath and the take off is sideways but away from the direction you want to go. Get pushed too far and it is just a late drop in the white water and a waveface you are unlikely to recover. The more I think about it the more I think the trick is to stay as close to the pier as possible when paddling and never give up on that. My best waves were when I remembered that. Mentally you push wide though because it feels like it would naturally give yourself an easier take off. It doesn’t. The reverse happens and you look like a kook. It is easier in against the pier, trust me.

) The inconsistency. All Wavegarden waves are created equal right? Not so, the biggest surprise seemed to be that you didn’t know what you were going to get. I spoke to a few people who felt the same. One moment you were being launched over the falls, the next struggling to get into it, and then if you did, you were missing the section.

4) Lack of time to size up the incoming wave. You get precious little. If you compare the start point of the sled with a normal wave, the sled starts from about 20-30yards behind you. At this point in the sea, most of the decision making is done, i.e. you can get in the right spot, simple as that. The first measure you get of a Garden wave is when it is right up behind you, therefore to a degree you paddle and hope, rather than line it up.

(Part 2)

First wave I was up easily backhand and I got stuck behind the section and struggled to chase it down. Second wave, again up ok and the wave died under me. The sled had stopped. It stopped for half an hour. I stood on the side in the howling wind talking to my Mrs and bored kids whilst trying not to freeze to death. With twenty minutes to go they got it going again with a rumour we were going to get an hour extension. I started to enjoy myself.

Back up and running I was backhand again and again I got stuck pushing then for the section and fell – the wave gets flat/fat in the middle and it really is hard to come from behind. Next front side and I was up and in the spot dropping into the meat of the wave and what the fuck, the power seemed to disappear and I bogged and lost the face. Hmmm. Next wave, backhand, along the pier, early drop and straight into the meat of it. Fly down the line, pump, pump, pump and exit before the beginners – perfect wave – finally it is beginning to happen for me. So I get out to wait for my next wave (it’s easier just to get out between waves by the way!) and find out that it is me done for the day, end of session, no extra hour. I had been keeping a tally scratched into my wax and I had had five waves.

Got out, got changed and asked for a refund on the second session which turned into a credit for another go on another day. Not a great option if you live in Scotland eh, but I have a contract currently in North Wales so should be ok for a return. The staff were great in this respect, they were good all day in fact. There is no doubt on my second session, longboard.

So Wavegarden. Heaven or Hell?

Before arriving I was ready to put aside the many (online) suggestions that it is not real surf, and figured that if the wave was good it would work and who cares about the rest. Now I am not sure. To feel worth it the wave had to be nice to ride and reasonably easy for an average surfer to roll into.

To be clear Inter did not seem worth it, you are paddling into the white water and catching a fat reform or trying to stay out the way of the advanced surfer. I didn’t see an inter who looked like they were having much fun. The couple I spoke to seemed pretty low on it, had gone in for more float and there was mention on someone asking for their money back. A friend suggested the beginner group could be me more interesting.

And the advanced waves, the only short boarders I saw catching waves were as good as the best surfers in my area and anyone else was on longboards or oversized boards. For someone like me who regularly surfs waves of this size it was just not user friendly enough, especially on the take off. It could be just me having a bad day, but I surfed a better sized Pease comfortably less than 10days previously and took far more waves off a busy pack. I have not had a surf like the Garden for a long long time, additionally the vibe was not great in the water or the changing room. I heard it said a few times that “it would get better as they refined it” and I hope this to be true.

Dynamically I don’t think they will be able to lose the odd sideways push from the sled and the factor of the curl coming the other way. Bearing in mind you start paddling down the pier you end up taking off about 15 feet across from it. I don’t also think the current and wash can be removed either which to be fair I started to get used to and it’s not exactly Thorntonloch on a big day.

But they can work on consistency and calculate the speed that gives the best wave given the wind and bottom contours and also offer better advice for paddling. They could also screen the open end off from the wind which was a pain all day. That could really bring it on.

It has no soul…

I wasn’t going get involved in the arty-souly-surfy bit as my friends will rip the shit but the reality is that waiting for a sled to push a wave towards you has absolutely no soul whatsoever. Being timed into a wave has no soul. Or being in a changing room with people with back to front wetsuits, or pulling out before entering the beginner zone when the wave is still running nicely, or being told to get out after an hour. “fuck you” I wanted to shout at the end of hour 2, “I am just getting into this”.

The issue can’t be overlooked. Surfing in a lake highlights everything that is great about surfing in the sea. Watching sets roll towards you and choosing the waves, the ebb and flow of a session, taking turns and sharing with people enjoying that same mind-set.

But surf Snowdonia are not trying to create that, they are putting on an attraction (like a snow dome) and it I love them for that. Business like this deserves to work because there is passion behind it – and the wave will get better, I loved the madness of it only being open for a couple of weeks and being rammed, the staff running round in a mild state of panic and apology. They were great btw but don’t expect them to answer the phone in a hurry. They do care, they are just busy. If you think Surf Snowdonia is the end of surfing as we know it then you are probably taking yourself too seriously – I’d be more worried about powered water craft.


Movie: Is Shane Dorian actually getting…better?

Can a surfer who's just turned 43 actually be getting better? This movie says yes!

Ryan Moss, filmer extraordinaire, and the guy who was a passenger on the green boat that saw two Hollywood producer types tossed into the drink and a RED camera fried on the Code Red day at Teahupo’o a few years back, just dropped a new edit of Shane Dorian called Plate Lunch.

And how sweet it is!

Dorian is still killing it, lighting up smaller stuff, and getting gnar balls to the wall the way we know he do.

It’s kind of funny how the two baldest dudes of the Momentum Generation are also the two guys who haven’t lost a drop of ability as they’ve aged. Maybe it’s because they’re more streamlined, maybe being follicly challenged makes them work harder.

Maybe my glorious head of chestnut locks is the reason I’m both a coward and a kook? Thirty five years old, not thinning, not even a hint of gray.

Probably because I don’t have any kids.

Shane Dorian | Plate Lunch from Ryan Moss on Vimeo.