Greg Long brings his blood to boil at Jaws! | Photo: WSL/Kirstin Scholtz

Just in: Greg Long Big Wave World Champ!

Very impressive, considering he only competed in two events, and didn't manage to win either…

The 2015/2016 Big Wave World Tour is in the books, and Greg Long is el campeón !

Very impressive, considering he only competed in two events, and didn’t manage to win either. But the problem with the BWWT, you can talk shit all day about the events, but you can’t really hate on the competitors.

Greg Long is a top tier charger, no doubt. He’s no Shane Dorian, but who is? And Mr Dorian didn’t even break the top five, what a kook!

Now that all’s said and done it’s time to look back and nitpick. So much fun.

WSL evil empire aside, there are a ton of people behind the scenes working really hard to make shit go, and now we can tell them they suck. It was all wasted effort.

‘Cuz it’s kind of funny, despite the fact that this year has been chock full of huge swell, only three events went. Yes, Pe’ahi was glorious, but Todos was terrible. And it took me a while to remember the third contest. It’s mentioned, in passing, in today’s WSL press release:

While three events were ran during the 2015/2016 WSL Big Wave Tour, Long competed in only two – the Pe’ahi Challenge in Maui and the Todos Santos Challenge in Mexico – where his Finals’ berths garnered him enough points to best one of the most competitive fields in history. 

But it took me a good ten minutes of googling to remember it was Chile. Remember? The “secret” contest, where the WSL claimed there was no infrastructure to support a webcast, then shut down the local team that proved them wrong?

Ever gracious, Mr Long’s statement is a treat.

“The 2015/2016 winter season has been one for the record books,” Long said. “There’s been record-breaking waves, more big swells, bigger barrels – basically every single level of performance in big wave surfing has just been shattered this year. For me, it is always an honor to be a part of that. It is a tremendous feeling being crowned the 2015/2016 WSL Big Wave World Tour Champion.” 

All true, though the wast majority of those amazing occurrences took place outside of a heat. Because a big wave tour is still a stupid idea, and impossible to run, even during a year with an inordinate number of SSBBW type swells.

Let’s take a gander at the year end leader board, with bonus info featuring how much each guy won. I had to figure it out myself, because the WSL is very loud when it’s time to hype a comp, but very quiet when it’s time to dole out some bread.

Prizemoney varies based on swell size, so I had to kind of guess at what each guy won. Not too hard, I’m assuming Todos and Chile paid the lowest amount possible, Pe’ahi paid the most.

1. Greg Long: $18000 (Didn’t CJ Hobgood win the title in 2001 without any first place finishes? Or am I thinking of someone else?)

2. Makua Rothman: $15500 (Makua surfed in all three events, which means two big travel expenditures getting from his home rock to South America. And last minute inter-island flights aren’t exactly cheap either. Hawaiian Airlines has been using its monopoly to gouge the fuck out of Hawaii residents this year.)

3. Billy Kemper: $25000 (In my mind the real winner this year. That’s a nice chunk of change for a contest within driving distance of your home.)

4. Nic Lamb: $7000 (Lamb competed in all three events, which means he had to eat the cost of traveling from NorCal to Chile, then Mexico, then Hawaii. That’s brutal.)

5. Josh Kerr: $13500 (Kerr skipped Pe’ahi, and $13.5k ain’t a hell of a lot of money. Enough to ruin a life, but not enough to really improve one. But he earns real dough from this surf gig, so he’s the only guy on the list who probably doesn’t feel hammered so bad.)

I wonder what the future will bring.

Will the WSL realize the BWWT is a flop and can it, or sell it to the highest bidder?

Or does this model work for them? It’s a pretty sweet deal when they get to promo a possible swell, get everyone sharing and talking, knock that brand exposure out of the park. Then shut it down it last minute, no need to pay out.

The Eddie does much the same for Quik. Each year there’s no end of speculation, the term “Eddie swell” gets tossed about each time the buoys start to go nuts, but they’ve only had to fork out some cash slightly less than a third of the time.


Real talk: Claims are always shit!*

It is time to put childish things behind.

I grew, as I’ve written so many times, surfing very cold waves. I would wear two 3/2 wetsuits, one over the other, to try and beat the chill. I would always loose my booties and my feet would become dull stumps. It would take hours to regain body warmth afterward. Days even.

And, so, in my new Southern California existence I feel happy every day that it never gets truly “cold.” I never look at videos of cold waves and think, “I want to go there!” Except look at this! A beautifully shot little bit from a British man named Sharpy. Just look at it! Not the surfing but the waves themselves. Doesn’t it look dreamy? Doesn’t it make you want to strap on the armor? I feel that my style would be extremely conducive to these waves. A slow, lanky bottom turn and then up under the lip. Oh don’t worry. My hands would not shoot to the sky afterward. I would only feel shame that I wasn’t deeper.

And herein lies some very real talk. Be very honest with yourself. Have you ever done anything on a wave that was worth claiming? Have you ever surfed a wave to its maximum potential? Have you ever won the Eddie? Have you ever rotated, fully, in the air, hands free? Have you?

I understand the joyous reflex. The feeling that pumps through the veins when you have surfed a wave to the best of your ability but get a hold of yourself, man. The best of your ability is, on the grand scale, very much worse than Brett Simpson’s. What if he threw his hands up in triumph after getting 3/4 covered? We would laugh is what.

Yes, we, as a culture, are losing our ability to feel personal shame. Years of being told we are exceptional children has instilled too much confidence maybe. Too much pride in our own mediocre abilities. It is time to put on our contrition, like two 3/2 wetsuits, one over the other. Constricting? Certainly, but too bad for you. Too bad for me. If we want to be freed we can move somewhere warm and actually learn to surf really really really good.

 

*For anyone but Dane Reynolds, John John Florence, Kelly Slater and a small handful of others.


Audio: The happy surfers of Gaza!

A story so feel-good it hurts!

A few weeks ago, a new-ish El-Al 777 staffed by handsome Jews and Jewesses took me to Israel. There was a small WSL event and an old pal brought me over to, shit, I don’t really know. Drink the booze, steal precious wind-waves from the little kids, marvel, again, at the miracle of this brave little nation, surrounded by mortal enemies and yet held to a higher moral standard than any other country in the world?

Whatever it was, the trip confirmed by opinion. On the balance of my reading and observations, and with no Jewish heritage to colour my opinion, the nation of Israel, the most progressive in that haunted region of dictators and thugs and religious psychosis (compare Israel to Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iran for example), ain’t such a bad place. Maybe we should cut it a little slack.

Anyway, one of the surfers whose company I always enjoy is Arthur Rashkovan, a pro surfer and surf shop owner from Tel Aviv. He’s always doing his Surfing4Peace thing, giving boards and wetsuits to Palestinian surfers, taking the show on the road through Europe, joining Arab and Jew.

These guys here, their idea of surfing a wave isn’t being on a wave alone and doing beautiful manoeuvres… their idea of the perfect wave is riding a wave and holding someone’s hand on a surfboard next to them.”

It isn’t always a roaring success, of course. I mean, how does a young Arab man, who’s grown up under “Jewish occupation”, and who’s been indoctrinated about the evils of Jews since he was born, wipe that off? Arthur tries, though, and he cuts through little by little.

A recent BBC podcast on the Gaza Surf Club gives some insight into the world of the Gazan surfer. Gaza, of course, is that 42-click stretch of coast that became a Palestinian territory after Israel handed it back in 2005. Matthew Olson is an American whose group Explore Corps started the club in 2008.

His insight is worth examining.

“One of the most amazing things about surfing here in Gaza is the degree to which the surfers want to do it with everybody else,” says Olson. “Surfing in the west is inherently selfish. There’s a lot of etiquette for example: one person per wave. But these guys here, their idea of surfing a wave isn’t being on a wave alone and doing beautiful manoeuvres… their idea of the perfect wave is riding a wave and holding someone’s hand on a surfboard next to them.”

The podcast tells us of the day in 2007 when the late Doc Paskowitz  got 14 boards into Gaza. A miracle given the dogma of the Islamists on one side and the security on the Israeli side. But Doc and his son David got ’em in, handed over the boards and, in the Hawaiian tradition, handed over their shirts to their Palestinian compadres.

The podcast quotes Doc.

“For an instant (he starts to cry)… for an instant… we solved that problem. Between the Jews and the Arabs. And it was beautiful… so beautiful to see that.”

 

Listen to the BBC podcast here. 


Gold Coast “Open to Prowling Sharks!”

Relentless cyclone swells forces removal of shark nets… 

The Gold Coast in full cyclonic flower is a marvel that no human ingenuity can manufacturer, notwithstanding Kelly Slater’s Lemoore wavepool. And the last few weeks of waves have been considered, by some, to be the most exquisite in decades.

But did you know the Gold Coast City Council removed 11 shark nets from GC beaches over the weekend (Main Beach, Surfers Paradise, Burleigh, Tallebudgera, Coolangatta,  Miami, Bilinga, Kirra, Kurrawa, Currumbin and Mermaid Beach), thereby opening the waves to “prowling sharks”?

As reported by the GC Bulletin, “Fisheries Queensland Acting Manager Shark Control Program Chris Watts said 25 nets would be removed across the state, with 11 to be removed from Gold Coast beaches. ‘Gear that is loose in the water can be a danger to swimmers and that’s why we are removing the apparatuses for a short period.'”

Whatever you think of stringing nets and drum lines to hook potentially deadly sharks, y’gotta admit they’re effective. While Byron Bay and Ballina surfers cower in packs close to shore, not even an hour north, surfers dance all day, all night. How many fatals since shark nets were introduced to the GC more than fifty years ago? Uh, none.

If you examine the shark net catch data, you’ll know why. Three Great Whites were caught in June last year between Burleigh and Surfers. In August, two eight-foot Whites were caught at Kirra. Thirty-five Tigers were caught between Snapper and Kirra, most of ’em around the eight-foot mark.

Oowee, and now the nets are gone?

Are you a little tremulous? Or is the weight of overcrowding so heavy, the weight of claustrophobia so great, that a shark attack (non-fatal, of course) might, in the short term, be a good thing?


The Eddie and Kim Kardashian!

What do America's sweethearts have in common?

We are all still reveling in the historic Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau event that wrapped last week. A warm afterglow fills hearts and souls. I, for example, just got out of the water in sun-dappled southern California and guess what happened? The surf was biggish. I took off on a set wave. Pointed toward the shoulder before getting swallowed in the whitewash. Kicked my board out and the savage fury snapped my leash straight in half! Can you believe? I am like John John himself! Like Aaron Gold even!

While I wait by the mailbox for my invite to next year’s Eddie, let’s talk about what happened during this last one. Did you know that so many Hawaiians logged on to catch the webcast that Hawaii’s internet broke? It’s true!

Hawaiian Telecom released a statement mid-day that read:

We have received a handful of customer calls reporting intermittent latency or delays depending on what they are trying to do on the Internet, particularly if they are accessing sites outside of Hawaii. That’s code for worldsurfleague.com!

A major company sent out a memo to employees reading:

Please avoid the use of streaming video for non-company business purposes (e.g. watching streaming video of The Eddie Aikau Memorial Surf Contest). Creative Services is uploading files today, but the uploads are being slowed by severe congestion in the company’s internet connection driven by streaming video.

The University of Hawaii sent students this message:

UPDATE: The issue is due to a problem with our network provider. They don’t anticipate the issue being resolved before the end of the business day. (When the Eddie concludes)

At one of Oahu’s private catholic high schools, Damien Memorial, the teachers locked bathroom doors so students couldn’t sneak in and watch the contest on their phones.

And how fabulous is all of that! Hawaii’s internet broken and not because of this:

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But because of this!

quikeddie

Hooray for surfing!