Today set a high standard, one the WSL will have trouble matching. Probably won't, ever. But that's a problem for those looking to make a buck off the men risking their lives. For you and me, man, what a day! Here we see the winner, Billy Kemper!

Blood Feud: Mavericks vs. Jaws!

Two massive waves face off! Hurt feelings are sure to fly!

How good was that Jaws event? The best, no? Well, guess who got its feelings very hurt by a spectacular moment of dragon slaying? Mavericks!

Dat right, bitches (Sorry…I’ve already started drinking) Mavs is pissed/jealous/sad/jealous/sad about that fine day in the sun. The acclaimed San Francisco Chronicle wrote a story today detailing what a tough act it will be for Mavericks to follow.

In case you’ve been living under a rock/Paul Speaker’s basement the Titans of Mavericks event is not part of the Big Wave World Tour because of infighting. The men who conquer giants, who slay dragons, can be, apparently, very petty. Both Grant “Twiggy” Baker and Peter “The Condor” Mell have been banned from surfing California’s freakiest freak. Weird. Hurt feelings abound. Etc. And the Chronicle rubbed salt in those hurt feelings today by writing:

The Mavericks big-wave surf contest has a tough act to follow.

A bit of history was made Sunday on the island of Maui, where the spot known as “Jaws” staged a paddle-surf contest for the first time. The waves were giant, the wipeouts were spectacular, and a spot once believed to be unrideable reached the next stage in its remarkable evolution.

The event was won by local standout Billy Kemper, and it was a stunning triumph for the World Surf League, an organization that has been at odds with Mavericks officials for the past two years. A serious feud developed when the WSL tried to acquire the Mavericks contest permit, and the ongoing animosity was a major reason why Grant (Twiggy) Baker, a two-time Mavericks contest winner, was suspended from this winter’s event because of his conspicuous loyalty to the WSL and its big-wave tour.

Last year, for a variety of reasons, the tour staged just two of its seven scheduled events. Until Sunday, only one of three had been held this year. Now it’s a whole new ballgame. The WSL may never gain control of Mavericks, but it saw everything come together at Jaws, where the sunny-day footage will be an Internet staple for months.

“Today we reached the pinnacle of our sport,” said Maui’s Dave Kalama, for years one of the world’s great watermen, on the WSL webcast. “Our Super Bowl. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Ouch! Ooooooooouch!

How will the Titans of Mavericks respond to this clear and present affront from across the Pacific? Stay tuned for Blood Feud II!


WSL’s new ad called “predictable shame!”

Also "clichéd!" But, you know, haters gonna hate.

The World Surf League has made its first ever advertisement and what a day or us all to live. First epic Jaws, now this! The spot is called Chaos Theory and explores the relationship between surfing and the unpredictability of nature. Like, sometimes a whole 30 minute heat goes by and the ocean goes completely flat. Unpredictable!

Where will it air? The WSL’s chief marketing officer Scott Hargrove says, “We’re focusing our 2015 media spend where our target audiences consume the sport—digital and social…” Soooooooo maybe BeachGrit? Maybe? But wait there’s more!

“As we continue to expand our message and recruit new fans into competitive surfing in 2016, we will rely more heavily on traditional channels. The goal is to establish an authentic connection with existing surf fans and then carefully expand our message to new fans beyond surfing’s core.”

If there is one thing I love it is an authentic connection. The piece speaks to me! But how does it feel to a more professional eye?

Leading trade publication AdWeek says, “Hmmmmmmmmm” and also:

The mix of stock, custom and athlete footage includes surging seas, shifting sands and surfboard shaping—along with moody shots of billowing drapes, flickering video screens and a tornado funnel—accompanied by a breathless voiceover: “Isn’t it something that a single breath has the power to spawn an entire storm a thousand miles away? We cannot predict it. We can only bear witness to the wonder.” 

That last bit is so leaden, it nearly sinks the whole enterprise. Yet the use of such hyper-saturated prose makes sense when you consider the level of passion and reverence serious surfers have for the sport.

The commercial—breaking today, ahead of this month’s Billabong Pipe Masters competition in Hawaii—could have used a tighter focus. For example, 72andSunny’s epic ads for Samsung explored the spiritual interconnectedness of the surfing community and put a human face on the sport, while capturing the intensity of training and competing in snarling wind and swirling waves. 

While not a total wipeout, it’s a shame “Chaos Theory” relies so heavily on clichéd “dramatic” imagery and language. The underlying metaphor rocks, but despite its quest to portray surfing as a constant surprise, the ad feels a tad predictable.

Soooooooo maybe it is time for Graham Stapelberg and da boyz to fly to New York and serve up some slaps in the AdWeek offices?

What do you think? Watch here!


Ev, on the left at the Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu ("Andre Botha was my guardian angel") and, right, two-time world champ Andre's famous Teahupoo wipeout from 2000.

Meet Evan Geiselman’s Pipe Angel!

Two-time world champ bodyboarder Andre Botha's rep just got hotter…

When the Florida surfer Evan Geiselman was knocked unconscious at Pipe yesterday, it was a watchful bodyboarder who scooped up his body and got him to the beach.

Saved his life? Yeah, he did. The six-foot-three, 200-pound bodyboarder kept Evan’s face out of the water, blew oxygen into his mouth, all while currents blew them down the beach.

Given the spectacular form of the rescue, it’s entirely fitting that bodyboarder was Andre Bothe, a 35-year-old South African, who once won the Pipe contest and world title in the same year. Youngest ever world champion too (seventeen).

If you bodyboard, Andre’s name is up there alongside Mike Stewart, Ben Player and the Brazilan Guilherme Tâmega.

His story is good. He was total rockstar.

Let’s examine this except from an interview.

“Aged just 22, Botha was living in the States as a functioning alcoholic. Life was a blur that he can revisit by shuffling through some of the hundreds of Polaroids he keeps in a shoebox. Pictures of barflies and the fast friends made while partying. Selfies of himself not looking himself. And girls, lots of girls. Beautiful girls, doing things like kissing him or showing off their cleavage or posing in their underwear on their hands and knees with bottles of beer balanced on their bums.

“My life got a bit reckless and I wasn’t really dealing with reality,” Botha admits. “I wasn’t able to deal with life’s problems. That was my big burnout. And after that, I was always kind of living on the edge, just hopping around from one person’s house to the next and having a jolly old time. I wasn’t surfing. Things kind of spiralled, and eventually I realised that I couldn’t carry on living like I was. That I had to use my parents’ house as a place to kind of… rehabilitate.”

Read more about Andre here! 

And, here, the raw footage from Ev’s rescue.


Movie: Peahi Challenge Wipeout Reel!

What entertainment you were fed today… 

You came for blood at today’s Pe’ahi Challenge, didn’t you? Theoretically, you embrace the splendour and the glory of the tight-rope being successful walked, of course, but that bloodlust, the pure elemental desire to watch an orgy of men being broken, surviving but just, never goes away.

And, what entertainment you were fed today.

Mark Mathews and his busted shoulder, multi-cartridge vests inflated hither and yon, mid-air board collisions, ejections from the lip of 25-foot waves, jetskis tumbling onto rocks. What more entertainment could you want?

Let’s watch! 


Today set a high standard, one the WSL will have trouble matching. Probably won't, ever. But that's a problem for those looking to make a buck off the men risking their lives. For you and me, man, what a day! Here we see the winner, Billy Kemper! | Photo: WSL

Thrills: Billy Kemper wins Peahi Challenge!

This is what the Big Wave World Tour is supposed to be.

I was hoping I could pass off the semis and finals to either Chas or Derek, but it looks like I’m all in on this one.

So, everyone do me a favor and lay off complaining about typos. Writing this much this fast is kind of difficult. Not as hard as a proper roundhouse cutback, but still damn challenging.

Plus I keep hitting the space bar twice after every fucking period and I’m trying to break myself of the habit, which is making everything even more difficult.

So, yeah, I’m running spell check and sending it off.

If you’ve got a problem with that level of effort keep it to yourself. Or don’t. It’s the internet, nothing stopping you from trying to hurt my feelings. Helps me build a thick skin anyway, and I’m finding that the less I care the better I write.

Semi-final one was a pretty timid affair, compared to the early rounds. Second water patrol went down, gonna take some work to get that ski running again. But the swell seems to be tapering off a bit.

Or there’s just a long lull in the power before it turns back on. Because that’ll happen on big days, it drops a bit, you paddle inside, then watch one cap out the back. Nothing to do but sit and wait and take your beating.

Ever experienced baurotrauma? Shit hurts, bad. Easy to blow out your ear drums. Just one of the million not so little things that makes surfing waves this size so gnarly. Something most people never consider.

I once asked Dave Wassel about the pressure change you experience diving under waves this size.  Every 33 feet underwater is another atmosphere of pressure you need to equalize, a 60-foot face rolling over your head makes that pressure differential instantaneous.

Ever experienced baurotrauma? Shit hurts, bad. Easy to blow out your ear drums. Just one of the million not so little things that makes surfing waves this size so gnarly. Something most people never consider.

Billy Kemper got second in his heat with only one wave! Local boy is killing it!

Ski three gets flipped, driver’s okay, looks like his fins got ripped off. How much are they paying these guys? No way it’s enough. Unionize, unionize, unionize, boys. If you’re making less than $10k a day, each, you’re getting ripped the fuck off.

Greg Long. I don’t even know what to say about the guy. Remember when he was on the NSSA, riding strangely long boards, surfing with his kind of funky style? I never understood how he made heats, much less won a title in 2001. Giving up on that garbage did the world a favor, turned him into one of the best big-wave surfers who has ever lived. It’s time to change our bumper stickers, when you want to play at crazy scream “Greg would go!”

Like I said in the first installment, in my eyes Dorian won the contest before it began. But Albee, Albee Layer, riding his tiny little board and treating Pe’ahi the way John John treats overhead Backdoor. Like there are no consequences, like this is just another day.

Ski three gets flipped, driver’s okay, looks like his fins got ripped off. How much are they paying these guys? No way it’s enough. Unionize, unionize, unionize, boys. If you’re making less than $10k a day, each, you’re getting ripped the fuck off.

Mark my words, Layer just redefined appropriate Big, capital b, wave equipment. Double middle finger claim in the barrel, followed by Tarzan chest thump, then straight-up robbery from the judges. Because it wasn’t big enough? Because wave knowledge and positioning counts for nothing?

Nope, because putting a number on performance in these conditions is ridiculous. Impossible.

Wrong no matter what.

And who cares, anyway?

There’s always someone who pushes the limits of acceptable gear, and at Pe’ahi, at this size, Layer just did it and that’s what’s important. We’re gonna see boards get shorter, much shorter. We’re gonna see barrels get deeper, much deeper.

Thank you, Albee. I doubt you’ll get the credit, but this guy knows it was all you, today, changing the course of the future because you’re the one who took the chance.

This is no different than the guys who showed “unsurfable” waves could be towed into. No different than the heroes who refused the ski and proved you could paddle. This is important, the ramifications are far reaching, will be felt for a long fucking time.

AND HERE COMES THE FINAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Albee Layer: I love you! You’re important. Renegotiate every single contract you’ve signed.

Billy Kemper: Local killer! So many beatings, so much ripping!

Gabriel Villaran: ¡Estoy tan feliz de un sudamericano hizo la final!

Greg Long: Pure legend, pure commitment.

Ian Walsh: You’ve been at this level for so damn long I forgot you’re younger than me.

Shane Dorian: Thank god you sucked at acting. If you’d been any good you wouldn’t be here, today.

Three Maui boys in the final! Who’d’ve thunk it?

Pretty much everyone, right?

What is it about redneck aloha land that churns out so much talent? How the fuck can someone throw huge airs and still charge at an elite level?

Y’all are the surfers Laird always wanted to be.

Since there’s a break before the finals, I’m gonna crack a cold one, or three, and try to figure out who decided that “BIG WAVE” was the best thing to print on the back of the jerseys.

One more hour, then I get to head to the beach and see what I missed while sitting on my ass watching other people surf.

The final’s started, no one’s caught anything yet, so let’s reflect for a moment on how awesome the 21st century has been for surfing.

Twenty years ago, when the magazines mattered, we’d have read of this contest months after the fact. A short write-up, a handful of cherry picked photos, wave face rendered flat by a long lens.

None of the immediacy, none of the passion. Just an acknowledgment of something important that happened long after it mattered.

Today set a high standard, one the WSL will have trouble matching. Probably won’t, ever.

But that’s a problem for those looking to make a buck off the men risking their lives. For you and me, man, what a day!

A day that looks like it’s heading toward anti-climax.

Oh no! It’s gone flat!

Or maybe not.

Layer takes a beating, Walsh gets murdered when the wind gets under him, and Kemper slays it on the third.

That much speed, so much foam in the rail, pocket ride on a beast. Holding that line on a board that thick, glassed so heavy there ain’t no flex at all, is no mean feat. If the swell does what it seems to be, that one may be the heat winner.

But here comes Albee. All his weight forward on that entry rocker, slowing down, hand drag to pump the brakes even more. It’s Albee, I’m calling it with thirty five minutes left. He’s not only won this event, but established himself as something special.

But, nope, it’s Kemper in the lead.

And I can’t complain. Yeah, I’m all Albee, but I think I’m creeping up on a man-crush, so I’m hardly impartial.

And these fucking guys, jeez Louise…  WSL needs to pull a PR coup, call ’em all winners, and peel off $25k a piece. Oh, man, that’d sell well.

Think they’ll do it?

Dorian must be spent. I can’t believe any of the surfers have the energy to remain upright, much less generate the power to scratch into these bombs.

Is PK on Maui? I’d love to see a #TourNotes shot tomorrow, when everyone is ruined, barely able to stand. A day like today takes a heavy toll, post accomplishment depression grips the best of us.

After the fact you stop thinking about what you’ve done, you start worrying about what you’ll do next.

An aside: breathhold training is more or less nonsense. I’m an overweight guy who smokes too much, my freedive trip is on par with the best of these folks. It’s confidence that keeps you alive, a belief in yourself, your ability, a familiarity with the agony of carbon dioxide build-up. I get rattled on a twenty foot hold down, swimming down past a hundred feet ain’t shit in comparison. Save your money, those big wave training courses are kind of a scam. Not in an evil way, it’s just damn hard earning a living as a freedive instructor, can’t blame the dudes for grabbing a buck where they can.

And it’s a win for Kemper!

Man tears, totally earned. I get it, I cry at the drop of a hat. And I ain’t never accomplished nothing of consequence.

This is what the Big Wave World Tour is supposed to be.

Too bad today was magic, won’t happen again soon, if ever. The notion is just as dumb today as it was when it was concieved.

And don’t think I’ll forget I wasn’t welcome. I hold on to that type of shit.