Judging at the US Open
Is this really how it works? Have the internet commentators been right all along? That the process of judging surfing contests is just a debauched ritual controlled by Men of Power?

Genius: Crowdsourced judging!

Shouldn't the World Surf League give us the champion we deserve?

I woke last night in the witching hours to make a bottle for my baby and Portugal was on. I saw, through bleary eyes, a post of Filipe Toldedo on BeachGrit’s Instagram account (@thebitchycrab! Follow today!) and he was spinning like dervish, hands free, full rote, nailed landing. I scrolled through the comments only to discover that the move netted him an 8.17. In my tired state it seemed not right. It seemed low.

Then I went back to sleep and had a dream.

I had a dream that one day this surfing community rose up and lived out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all surfers are judged equally.”

I had a dream that one day on the beaches of South Africa, the sons of Jeremy Flores and the sons of Ritchie Porta would be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I had a dream that one day even in Brazil, a country sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, would be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I had a dream that my one little baby would live in a world where she would not be judged by the intention of her air but if she somehow, even minutes later, ended up on her feet.

I had a dream!

And it was to crowdsource the judging!

Everyone is crowdsourcing everything these days from driving directions to which rides have the shortest lines at Disneyland. Why not crowdsource the World Surf League’s judging? Wouldn’t it be deliriously fun to wake up and be able to lock in your scores for Adriano de Souza’s power stance’d approach? Or Aritz Aranburu’s gravity defying slow spin? It would suit surfing’s democratic nature so much better than the totalitarianism of today!

The judges do a wonderful job, don’t get me wrong, and they would be given an even larger role in my dream. They would act as Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson. Their expert opinions would be a guidepost and they would each become characters, jabbering back and forth for the camera, discussing the quality of what he have just seen but the power, the final power, would rest with us the people! The Internet can handle it these days. Scores could be locked in from around the globe in the time it takes Ronnie Blakey to roll the marbles from one side of his mouth to the other.

What could possibly go wrong? Nothing that Waze and American Idol have not fixed. It is the perfect solution. The perfect future. Alexis de Tocqueville, famous Frenchman, classical liberal once wrote, “In Democracy the people get the government they deserve.” In surfing shouldn’t we have the champion we deserve?


surfing drop in
This is a surfing drop in! With ass play! An interesting surf photo that requires no skill except grabby hands! | Photo: Pete Taras/Blacked.com

“Sorry: I didn’t think you’d make it!”

Motherfucker, is there a more infuriating phrase in the English language?

I was having a fun session today. Nothing special, but the water’s warm, the sun is shining, and the weird swirly short period wind swell was serving up the occasional runner that would hit the inside sandbar and bottom out. Just one of the awesome days where it doesn’t look very good but you paddle out anyway and are pleasantly surprised.

When the rental van with two boards on the roof pulled up and belched forth a tourist family with two kids in their late teens who made an immediate beeline for me, I wasn’t surprised. Herd mentality and all that. An empty half mile stretch of ocean, people gravitate toward whoever’s already out.

Seen it a million times. Old news.

When they paddled out and proceeded to bookend me and paddle for every bump that came through I was less than pleased. Pretty typical visitor behavior, most likely the source of all the meanie local stories people love to tell.

But I grew up surfing in LA, spent eight years on Oahu, I know how to work a crowd of two. Mean mug, paddle hard, no hello.

I don’t think I’ve been stuffed once since moving to Kauai. People here are pretty friendly, very respectful. And there’s plenty of surf, no reason to be greedy.

So when a fun little nugget popped up right in front of me, and one of the pale skinned little dorks on a brand new brand name turned and burned, I was upset. Not raving lunatic status, but peeved. Not happy. Annoyed. But it was no big deal, really. If only the little fucker hadn’t opened his mouth.

So when a fun little nugget popped up right in front of me, and one of the pale skinned little dorks on a brand new brand name turned and burned, I was upset. Not raving lunatic status, but peeved. Not happy. Annoyed. But it was no big deal, really.

If only the little fucker hadn’t opened his mouth.

“I didn’t think you’d make it.”

Fuck you. So fucking condescending. What a perfect way to push my buttons.

I turned to him and roared. Literally. Nothing but a loud deep chest scream right in his stupid surprised face. An interesting off the cuff response.

I wish I could say it was a planned move, intended to intimidate. “Watch out for the crazy dude with a scraggly beard and unkempt hair. Better give him some space.”

But it was just my natural response, for whatever reason. Whatever shit was running through my head at that moment turned me into a barking dog, declaring his turf, all sorts of threats implied.

And it worked, they paddled a hundred yards down to the nest little sandbar and I had the spot to myself until a half dozen other guys showed up, joined me, and proceeded to take turns. Like decent humans should.

(And, here, unrelated but awesome, skate vid!)

Big surf: Ian Walsh and Makua Rothman in Japan!

Wax up your gun!

With all the catty craziness happening on the big wave scene it’s nice to know there are wonderful souls like Ian Walsh, Makua Rothman, Ezekiel Lau and Danny Fuller. Handsome too. Chris Binns, the world’s most underrated surf journalist, writes, “With back-to-back category-five hurricanes producing 150kph winds and one huge typhoon in the North Pacific, it seems that the boys are assured of success, and spirits are suitably high as they touch down in the Land Of The Rising Son.”

I think he meant sun because I don’t think Chris is a Christian but he should be. In any case, I’d surf big waves in Japan. I am going to surf big waves in Cardiff-by-the-Sea this winter. I have a gun.

 And where in hell did Ian Walsh get that accent? It ain’t Hawaiian. It ain’t Oklahoman. But it somehow sounds Oklahoman. Ian, where did that thing come from?

Mark Richards and Tony Hawk.
Mark Richards and Tony Hawk.

Capitalism: Walmart signs Tony Hawk!

Which surfers would do best in a big box discount retailer?

Tony Hawk, the older skateboarder who became famous by stealing skate moves from Australians, just inked a historic deal with Arkansas superstore Walmart!

Walmarts are known, the world over, as places that offer ridiculously cheap prices on consumer goods. They are also known, the world over, as places that do not smell very good. They are also known, the world over, as places not to work. Human Rights Watch says:

“Walmart denies basic human rights to its employees.”

Tony Hawk says:

“In my many visits to Canada on skate tours, I am consistently humbled by the response that Canadians have given to me, the Tony Hawk brand and skateboarding in general. I will be fully committed to the success of this launch through my social media, marketing, and appearances. It’s going to be a great ride!”


But it makes me wonder, which surfer (outside Laird and Kelly) would have the strongest big box superstore middle America appeal? If, say, Taj Burrow launched a line of Taj by Taj boardshorts would they do well? If Gabriel Medina released a series of Gab by Gab rashguards would you see them dotting the Great Lakes next summer? If Mick Fanning licensed an “I fought the shark and I won” t-shirt would it sell?

Which surfer (outside Laird and Kelly) is crazy marketable?

Tony Hawk gets barreled.
Tony Hawk gets barreled.

Finally: A waterman we can love!

Kai Lenny will change your calcified mind about SUPs and things.

When I hear the word “waterman” I tended to think “ick” and “SUP” and “windsurf” and “kitesurf” and “fish” and “tie knots.” Those things don’t appeal to me and I can’t, for the life of me, tie a knot.

Everything is different now though because Kai Lenny. He does all those things and does them very well and, somehow, has zero ick. If I saw him supping at my home break I would not snake him but, instead, feel very honored. If I saw him kitesurfing I would not secretly hope a giant gust would come out of nowhere and carry him away.

What is it about Kai that makes him, and everything he does, so palatable? Sports Illustrated went to find out! They say:

It’s like an angry monster, Kai Lenny says of Peahi, arguably the most iconic big wave surf spot in the world. Located off the North coast of Maui, the surf at Peahi resembles avalanches of water. On a good swell, wave heights can reach to above 50 feet. No wonder the spot is also known as Jaws.

But when Lenny describes the break, his tone leans more toward respect than fear.

“It looks so makeable from the cliffs,” he says. “But when you get out there it’s a different story. It so fast and has so much power…. The first thing I did there was windsurfing, then tow-in surfing, then Stand Up Paddling, then traditional surfing.”

Lenny pauses. He reconsiders his answer: “Wait. Actually the first time I ever surfed Jaws was on a hydrofoil board.”

He was 16.

The lapse in recollection makes sense. Lenny’s pursuits in the world’s oceans, rivers—or in any body of water for that matter—are so diverse that it must be difficult even for him to keep all of them in order.

Read the rest here!

Watch Kai here!