Here is Sarah Gerhardt apparently not surfing up to snuff.
Here is Sarah Gerhardt apparently not surfing up to snuff. | Photo: Don Montgomery

Mavericks in trouble for sexism!

The Titans of Mavericks organizers in danger of losing their permit!

First, catty infighting came to light, then a day of perfect, heart-stopping Jaws that became an instant classic and now charges of discrimination. Boy howdy, the Titans of Mavericks has had one hell of a go lately!

The California Coastal Commission recently demanded that the contest organizers must have a plan for including women next year or their permit will be revoked. “If they are going to use that public resource, then there ought to be some sort of consideration for equal opportunity or at least transparency for their selection process to ensure there is no discrimination…” commissioner Mark Vargas said.

The news cheered a group of hard-charging women.

“Women have been progressing at big wave surfing for many years, but they always lacked the recognition and trust from the man-dominated sport,” Brazilian Andrea Möller told the San Jose Mercury News. “The organizers not really being inclusive…” added Sarah Gerhardt, the first woman to ever surf Mavs. “They are gesturing but (women surfers) don’t actually make it to the top 24 and (will) never be able to compete with the men. If there are going to be women in the event, they should have their own heat.”

Contest organizers do not have a plan in place though, apparently, have nice intentions. “Our intent is not to put aside a special class just for women but have the women go head to head with the men,” Cassandra Clark, Jeff Clark’s wife, said. “We have women we are starting to see now, and I can’t wait to see them surf at that level.” Jeff Clark added, “At this point we haven’t seen that kind of performance.”

They point to the difficulty of slotting in a women’s heat when they only have one day of competition with shifting tides, winds etc. and 24 men fighting the fight. Maybe, though, everything will work itself out. Catty infighting has already banished legends Pete Mel and Grant “Twiggy” Baker. Maybe by the time the contest actually runs, hurt feelings will have relegated another 15, or so, men to outer darkness. Then there will be no problems aside from Jeff Clark’s bad attitude!

The Canonization of St. Mick

Mick Fanning is now more than human.

Once upon a time there was a surfer named Mick Fanning. He was from Australia’s Gold Coast and he acted like it. Good times were a high calling and good times were, of course, synonymous with drink. Mick was so good at good times that an alter ego would appear and his name was Eugene. Surfers would laugh and say, “Ahhhhh Eugene was out last night. It was crazy!” There are many, many Eugene stories but, in reality, Mick and Eugene were just the same good times Coolie Kid.

He grew up, maybe drank less, took surfing more seriously. Worked out, trained, won world titles. A nice career enshrined on a fine mantle.

And then 2015 happened. First he fought off a great white shark, then he humbly talked about it on 60 Minutes with a lovable “shucks, who me?” attitude, then he gave all the money for humbly talking about it on 60 Minutes to an unfortunate kid who actually got chomped by a great white then he made a kid with cancer’s dream come true and now he saved Evan Gieslman’s life.

Of course he did not save Evan Gieslman’s life. That was South African Andre Botha bodyboarder and hero but Mick came in and, generously lent a hand, which is no small thing. Rushing into the fray is wonderful but Mick rushed in well after Mr. Botha had done the miraculous. Still, Mick’s assistance is the headline that led Australia’s press. MICK FANNING HELPS RESCUE DROWNING SURFER! And Eugene has officially become St. Mick.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 1.11.57 PM

I wonder how it feels to carry the weight of people’s expectations? St. Mick has entered the stratosphere where few mortals dwell. He lives alongside heroes who the public counts on for its own sense of morality like Pope Francis or Superman. He carries the hopes and dreams of a world touched by terror and grief. One slip would devastate the kids with his poster on their walls. One stumble would crush the human spirit. I don’t think a surfer has ever flown so near the sun. I wonder how that feels?

Kelly Slater
Photo: Steve Sherman/@tsherms/Photo Union Worker

Just in: Power Rankings Pre-Pipe!

So ferociously honest!

1.Kelly Slater



As our beloved Ross Williams would say, here’s the thing about Kelly. You sitting down? He ain’t that smart. That’s one of the hoary old myths that has grown around the champ like rust.

Just like a 5’7″ man standing amongst midgets looks tall but is still short of a length, so too Kelly, amongst the intellectuals of the Tour comes off looking like Einstein. One thing is for certain, he sure is becoming an expert at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the marketing/PR caper.

The greatest of all time launches an environmentally sustainable clothing range, how could you fuck that up? When all the pre-game hype goes to surfers and then the range is launched with price points that would make Warren Buffett blush. That head-kicking was predictable and entirely preventable if he threw down a few moderately priced basic bones to the hungry dogs. A tee-O under 50, a pair of boardies. Maybe Kelly dreams of being a bigger fish in a bigger pond but he’s still swimming in this one, right now and for the forseeable future.

You need a black belt in mental jujitsu to stay coherent with the Champ’s convoluted messaging. We buy the high-priced, small batch artisanal clothing because it’s sustainable and then ride surfboards made in Asia and shipped thousands of miles across the ocean to us in energy consuming wavepools sucking up fossil fuels?

The Fijian surf trip debacle was another bad move. You carpet bomb the internet with ads for the best surf trip of all time with Kelly and Doz and then a non-surfing mum wins and of course there are going to be grumbles. Not your fault Kelly but dumb to step in the ring again in another unwinnable beef where you come off looking, well, dumb. The love of the people is not something that can be taken for granted, said someone once.

You need a black belt in mental jujitsu to stay coherent with the Champ’s convoluted messaging. We buy the high-priced, small batch artisanal clothing because it’s sustainable and then ride surfboards made in Asia and shipped thousands of miles across the ocean to us in energy consuming wavepools sucking up fossil fuels?

Walk us through that one please Kelly. Slowly, so we don’t get lost. We want to believe, but you’re making it harder than it needs to be.

Why Number One then? Never known a world where life hasn’t been made sweeter by Kelly Slater greatness. Can’t imagine one where there isn’t one more triumph. Pipeline makes more sense to Kelly than anyone alive, JJF included. He needs this high note to go out on.

As the great Stephen Malkmus observed in Cream of Gold; “Time is a one-way track and I am not coming back.”

2. JJF

John C Reilly John John Florence Blake Kueny
“You know what gets my dick hard? Helping out my friends.” John C Reilly, narrator of View from a Blue Moon, with the relentlessly fantastic surfer-filmed duo John John Florence and Mr Blake Vincent Kueny.

Is View from a Blue Moon a statement of victory or a sign and symptom of a JJF too entranced with his own image as best surfer in the world? Hitler’s Panzer Units led by Heinz Guderian were the model of perfect warfare with Europe under their heel following on his tactic of concentrating armoured formations at the point of attack (schwerpunkt) and deep penetration.

Poland, France, Belgium, the western front fell quickly to Panzer shock tactics.

Was the Third Reich defeated by the declaration of war on Russia and the opening of a second front, which led to the disastrous defeat at Stalingrad and the demotion of Guderian? Undoubtedly.

Is the Profile Film the pro surfing equivalent of the Battle of Stalingrad, the opening up of another front, the stretching of precious resources, the leaching away of vitality in the thirty-minute heat, the dissipation of affection for the World Title?


It’s insane to draw a parallel between Stalingrad and View from a Blue Moon but it’s done now and John Florence will be left for another year to weigh the relative merits of being considered the best in the World versus having the Trophy on the mantelpiece to prove it.

Likelihood of winning Pipe? High.

Likelihood of a World Title? Low.

3. Fanning

Photo Steve Sherman/@tsherms/Photo Union Worker

Has there ever been a year in pro surfing history that screamed fate and destiny with more ferocity than this Godawful Year of our Lord 2015 being lived by Michael Fanning?

Not even close. The shark attack, ending Child Slavery, maybe, probably the Title.

He has transcended mortal bounds and now won Sunset Beach. You have to go back to the epic poems of Homer or The Beowulf to find an equivalent myth made reality. Short sighted dumbkopfs questioned whether judges had grown weary of the Fanning oeuvre but that question has already been answered with a ringing endorsement.

Realpolitik consequences of another Fanning Title for the WSL? Not as much as you might think. He’s already reached mainstream saturation in Aus and the WSL can’t leverage his fame into anymore expansion. There’s already 3 CT’s and probably anyone who will watch pro surfing is already watching. Hard to see him being anything more than a Sideshow Bob, that guy who fought off the shark, in Middle America, a brutal truth the WSL is unwilling or unable to admit.

Large Pipe on track for the first few days and Fanning’s will to win and preparation can’t be in question.

Likelihood of Title: Probable.

4.Gabe Medina

Photo Steve Sherman/@tsherms/Photo Union Worker
Photo Steve Sherman/@tsherms/Photo Union Worker

A truth bomb thrown into a decadent and decaying pro surf culture defended only by an increasingly impotent ageing satyr. Latin religiosity and machismo versus consumer narcissism and disintegration against the background radiation of parody, kitsch and burnout.

His main challenge comes not from the established Title contenders but his own countrymen, most notably Ferreira and Dantas. He softens against them, like a Byzantine emperor receiving gifts of gold and salt from loyal deputies.

That’s our boy Gabby.

I’ve pined for his Title D since the Glen Hall contretemps at Snapper. His main challenge comes not from the established Title contenders but his own countrymen, most notably Ferreira and Dantas. He softens against them, like a Byzantine emperor receiving gifts of gold and salt from loyal deputies.

Against the West he is ruthless, with glittering back eyes that delight in cold revenge. Superior and sublime heat strategist. Sucker punched Kolohe by paddling him way up the reef at Teahupoo last year and then did a similar but more subtle move on Kelly in the Final.

Dominated Sunset Beach until the semis and took too much gas.

Win, lose or draw at Pipe legitimacy is now his plaything, to do with as he see fit.

5. ADS  

Photo Steve Sherman/@tsherms/Photo Union Worker
Photo Steve Sherman/@tsherms/Photo Union Worker

I live on a farm. It’s nice. Real Morning of the Earth stuff. Cows in the paddock, fat hens scratching in the leaf litter. You want food, you walk outside and pick it off a tree or from under a chooks bum.

We’ve got a little Red Rooster. Handsome. Proud. He struts around like King Dick, which he is most of the time. Until the other day when a wild bush turkey came in and they faced off over the chicken mash. Poor old Red Rooster got seven hells beat out of him by the wild turkey.

Point is, no matter how much of a rooster you are there’s always a bigger Cock ready to dominate you in the farm yard. Adriano has proven he can be the biggest Cock in the pen this year but you get the feeling that Pipeline is waiting to kick him into kingdom come.

6. Owen Wright

Owen Wright
Photo Steve Sherman/@tsherms/Photo Union Worker

Post 2011, when he last tasted a title run, things went horribly pear shaped for the avatar. Back injury, family breakdown, disintegration of his relationship with a coach who didn’t surf.

The whole house of cards came crashing down for a kid who’d signed a 1.25mill a year contract with Rip Curl as a 19 year old.

Things are different now but the fundamental problem remains: too much animal too fit into small waves. Thus, any title is forecast dependent. Best on Tour in heavy waves might sound a stretch but the Box and Cloudbreak back up the call. The psycho-dynamic terrain is now clear for an outside run to win Pipe but too many chess pieces need to be arranged by an unseen hand for the Title to come his way. Stranger things have happened, and this World is queer as fuck right now.

7. Julian Wilson

Photo Steve Sherman/@tsherms/Photo Union Worker
Photo Steve Sherman/@tsherms/Photo Union Worker

What are you Julian? Teenage Dreamboat? Contender? Pretender? Is a lingering sense of perpetual petulance the character flaw that prevents proper greatness? Does that petulance build up like bad oil, robbing you of fluidity and confidence when it matters most?

Four Finals, four second places. Style is character, character is destiny.

Whats your’s pal? One Title? Three? None? Defending Pipe Master who will charge the ledge but needs to lose that recklessness that is the shadow side of petulance. I’ll show you, it says, I deserve this.

Learn to ignore that voice.

8. Italo Ferreira.

Italo Ferreira (BRA)

Happy to admit that at the start of the year I massively misunderestimated this strange looking stout gentleman with the dreamy expression.

Somehow I conflated him with the Aussie rookie class and thought he was cannon fodder. There’s wrong and then there’s screamingly wrong, wrong as can be, couldn’t be more wrong, wrong.

Then there was my call on Italo wrong. Smashed Kelly at two-foot Snapper and then again at eight-foot Cloudbreak, then stonked the biggest air of the year at Portugal in a losing final that he would have won against anyone but Filipe.

His ultra-whippy backhand is not to my taste but it’s far more pleasing to the eye than Nat Young’s crooked elbow scarecrow style.

Already Rookie of the Year, nothing to lose at Pipe.

9. Michel Bourez.

Photo Steve Sherman/@tsherms/Photo Union Worker
Photo Steve Sherman/@tsherms/Photo Union Worker

I don’t make a habit of squeezing the homoerotic sauce bottle but when it comes to Bourez I’d turn for him. If you’re heterosexual male you would, too.

That Polynesian softness, so rare, suffusing physical perfection like a tropical sunset.

Last time I surfed Teahupoo Michel paddled out and shook hands and welcomed personally every person in the line-up, before he caught a single wave. Man’s a semi-god, an angel of Aloha, a living emblem of Polynesian Perfection.

He shouldn’t need the injury wildcard to make next year’s Tour, but if he did, the attempt on a Teahupoo monster responsible for the busted wing would demand a military response from fans if it wasn’t swung his way. Not a man on Tour more unsuitable for riding the composite Firewires he mounts in competition. Too many over-powered turns, too many skips and wig-outs for his leg strength.

Look at the success of Toledo after leaving, Taj too.

He needs solid foam and fibreglass with it’s dependable handling under his feet.

With good boards, top ten for life.

10. Bede Durbidge. 

Fashion is a mystery well beyond my ken. Who among us can understand it’s fickle whims and sudden shifts jn taste? 2006 Bede, with far more of a career in front of him than behind him, was summarily dismissed by Billabong because he wasn’t fashionable.

Who the hell was in 2006?

Many peaks and valleys followed. Much hard work, much acknowledgment that Bede’s moment in the sun has passed and hurdy-gurdy fly-boys should be allowed to strut the stage unencumbered by proletarian red heads from Stradbroke Island. 2015 and suddenly Bede’s rail game is considered ultra necessary accessory and counterpoint to Brazilian aerial flamboyance. Who could have guessed it?

Not me. Human genetic “editing” is now a reality. In the future, a mutant pro, half-Bede, half-Toledo could define perceptions of the possible for a generation.

No joke comrades.

11. Joel Parkinson

Photo Steve Sherman/@tsherms/Photo Union Worker
Photo Steve Sherman/@tsherms/Photo Union Worker

Have we seen a proper Parko wave ridden this season? I mean, not a safety swoop 7 but a bona fide loosey goosey sprawling symphony such as he and  only he can construct? I say not.

What now Parko? Go home after Pipe and hit the reset? Contemplate the other big R? Next year’s crop of rookies won’t be causing too much existential angst, he’s got them well covered at Snapper/Bells/Margaret River.

To be honest, I’d like to see Parko do a Curren: fuck the Tour off, indulge us Parko tragics in some long-form compositions. Make the profile film now, on the backside of the career, when notions of sport can be dismissed and scrapping  for heat wins can be safely dispensed with.

We haven’t seen the best of Parko’s surfing but it’s increasingly obvious that best isn’t going to happen in a thirty-minute heat.

Coming tomorrow! The back ten! 

Billy Kemper Peahi Challenge
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!