Just in: Slater to surf tour ’til 50!

Kelly Slater agrees to surf professionally until he reaches the half century mark!

Five years ago I met Matt Warshaw. He had written a gorgeous piece in The New York Times imploring Kelly Slater to hang it up after ten world titles and go out at his peak:

It’s been pointed out that a lot of the people who want Slater to continue are older surfers, people who need him out there performing for the same reason a few million baby boomers need the Rolling Stones out there performing — because, illusion or not, it keeps the flame of youth alive.

Hell, I’m old. I’m 50. And I say to Kelly Slater: give us a wave and a smile and walk away. Do the thing that virtually every other sports legend, from Ali to Armstrong, has been unable to do. Go out on top. Nobody’s getting close to that record. Not in your lifetime, and probably not ever.

I countered in the equally impressive Surfing Magazine with some foolishness about how Kelly should never retire:

Truth be told, Robert Kelly Slater is aging better than any living man. Better than Brad Pitt, better than George Clooney. Better than Keith Richards. He is immune to skin-crinkling UV rays. He is immune to moisture-sapping salt. His eyes, and I swear this is true, get bluer and bluer each time we speak. His skin a more even caramel. He is a perfect stasis of gravitas and youthful charm. He is wisdom and vigor. And it would be a mortal sin to deprive a surf public of that sort of genuine handsome. It would be a mortal sin to leave us with Heitor Alves.

I believed it at the time and it was worth writing because Matt and I had a good laugh about it in person and are now fast friends. This year, though, I’ve wavered before jumping completely into the camp that his career is over and watching the slow death is too sad.

But yesterday! His boards look terrible but his surfing wasn’t bad and then that post-heat interview. Not often does the loser step up to Rosy Hodge’s hot mic. Not often to we see actual pain in the eyes, hear a voice searching for answers. Kelly’s graciousness in that moment made me remember what we are going to lose. It made me want to stave off his retirement for as long as we can. I’m going to pretend he will stay professional surfing until he hits the half century mark. Would you like to join me?

John John Florence Margaret River Pro
Maybe the problem's the old guard, the decrepit fuckers in their thirties and onwards that have had a stranglehold on competitive surfing for the last decade plus. Taj, Mick, Parko, Kerr, Slater, et al., have been destroying rookie dreams for far too long. Once they're all gone, exploring life post-tour, selling real estate or shilling soft goods or drinking themselves into oblivion, the young guys will finally get a chance to come into their own. | Photo: WSL

Day Two: Slater’s Pyre, JJ’s Fire!

John John like Rommel's juggernaut, Slater rides the bleak highway out of town… 

Shrill winds buffeted the Margaret River rights today, first offshore, later crosshore, flogging the imperfect sets.

You might’ve turned your browser on early for the Slater-Andino-Pupo show this morning, not so much for the pleasure of seeing a master at work on his highly sophisticated surfboards but to see if… this is it… has the most beautiful surfer that’s ever lived suddenly become old and funky and ugly?

And so you wonder, you hope, for a little post-Easter miracle. What if Slater sucks in the south-west’s wonderful autumn air and his muscles quiver back to life?

Yeah, he was outsurfed by Brother, in round one, but you could see Slater rising on his elbows. Round two would be a jab in the arm.

Watch an abbreviated version of that round one heat here.

Y’couldn’t imagine Slater booking two lasts and a second-last from the first three events. But Italy’s Leo Fioravanti waltzed his step-daddy’s charge straight into last place.

Watch that here.

Explaining the loss(es), Kelly said, “I really can’t get in a pussy mood” or thereabouts.

John John Florence? Don’t tell me his eyes don’t bulge out monster style when he gets a little juice under his fins. He looks tranquillised on the Gold Coast, in Rio, Portugal. But WA? Big France? Tahiti? Fiji? John John Florence is a blue flame. For all the “surfing for sevens” here, John John jerks his hips for eights, nines and tens. You like this?

Do a little highlight catchup here.

Drug Aware Margaret River Pro Men’s Remaining Round 1 Results:

Heat 10: Kolohe Andino (USA) 15.70, Kelly Slater (USA) 12.16, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 5.10
Heat 11: Josh Kerr (AUS) 14.93, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 14.50, Jay Davis (AUS) 9.50
Heat 12: John John Florence (HAW) 18.87, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.27, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 13.20

Drug Aware Margaret River Pro Men’s Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Jeremy Flores (13.00) 14.80 def. Jay Davies (AUS) 14.60
Heat 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.94 def. Jacob Willcox (AUS) 13.73
Heat 3: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 16.60 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 13.43
Heat 4: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 18.06 def. Jack Robinson (AUS) 14.37
Heat 5: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 18.00 def. Dusty Payne (HAW) 17.93
Heat 6: Adam Melling (AUS) 13.84 def. Conner Coffin (USA) 12.63
Heat 7: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 14.74 def. Alex Ribeiro (BRA) 12.83
Heat 8: Alejo Muniz (BRA)12.23 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 10.57
Heat 9: Matt Banting (AUS) 14.90 def. Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 13.30
Heat 10: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 14.23 def. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 13.64
Heat 11: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 14.50 def. Davey Cathels (AUS) 13.33
Heat 12: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 15.40 def. Keanu Asing (HAW) 13.00

Drug Aware Margaret River Pro Men’s Round 3 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Matt Banting (AUS)
Heat 2: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 4: Nat Young (USA) vs. Taj Burrow (AUS)
Heat 5: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS)
Heat 6: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 7: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 8: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)
Heat 9: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Kanoa Igarashi (USA)
Heat 10: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
Heat 11: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Caio Ibelli (BRA)
Heat 12: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Alejo Muniz (BRA)

Taj Burrow Margaret River
Y'see how good Taj looked in round one yesterday? Sure is amazing the power of home. | Photo: WSL

Just in: Taj Burrow retires!

"I'm looking forward to freedom so much!" says 37 year old… 

A couple of months ago, I was walking down the street when a pal of Taj Burrow’s said, “Did you hear? Taj is quitting after this year! Wait, was I supposed to tell you that?”

Read that story here. 

Anyway, half an hour ago, Taj, who became a father in October last year, officially announced his retirement from the tour, with Fiji his last event.

“I’m looking forward to freedom so much,” Taj, who did 19 orbits of the tour for 11 wins, said, adding that en route to the contest this morning, he had his favourite playlist on, was one java in the hole, and was “so happy to make the announcement.”

Taj figured his last run on the tour would be the most carefree of his career, but said it was anything but. “I wasn’t feeling myself in heats. I didn’t have my heart in it. Losing was making me sad and stressed.”

And life after Fiji in June?

“It’s going to be bizarre,” he said. “It’s going to be a bizarre transition not packing my bags when my favourite events are on.”

Review Taj’s career here. 

Fame: BeachGrit on Denver news!

What's not to love about the story of a man who faked cancer to buy heroin?

Usually when a surf website makes normal news it is for something tedious and tawdry. Like posting images of underaged topless girls or the publication of anti-Semitic slurs. And BeachGrit is so proud to toe this historically important line!

Your humble servants made it on Denver’s local television news broadcast last night because we featured and pushed the story of a man who faked cancer in order to steal money in order to do heroin. Of course we were not mentioned by name but there is the homepage right there beamed into the living rooms of hundreds of older Coloradans.

I was actually surprised, in all honesty, to see Micael Kocher in prison orange. We Facebook chatted, briefly, after it became public that he scammed people. He asked if I was disappointed. I told him I was not but that his story really begged for a bigger blast at the end. Like a sprint to Europe at the very least.

He responded that his dog literally ate his passport so he could not leave the country and then apparently turned himself in.

Bummer. But look at us on television! Watch us shine in the most tedious and tawdry manner possible! And how good are those prison video chats? Does it make you want to visit the land behind bars? Do you think they trick inmates with a fake camera at the bottom of the phone console so that they can’t look all dreamy into the camera? Why else would Michael K be staring awkwardly downward featuring the zit on his brow?

Margaret River
Yeah, it holds size, but no one flies to the other side of the Australian continent to surf Main Break, Margaret River. | Photo: WSL

Parker: “Why the longboard waves?”

Why is the WSL running two of three Australian events at glorified longboard waves?

There’s good surf in Australia, right? A lot of them look to be Malibu level crowd clusterfucks, but I guess that’s to be expected in an island nation where only the coastal areas are habitable. Everyone “surfs,” what constitutes surfing being a matter of perspective.

So why the hell is the WSL running two of three events at glorified longboard waves?

Bad luck they don’t get Snapper at its best, but that’s surfing for you. Can’t dictate mother nature. Margs and Bells, hell, search and search and search, I can’t find evidence that they get any better.

It’s the venues, right? The ability to cart down a shitload of people, plenty of businesses nearby to help suck money into the local economies. I’m assuming sweetheart deals from local councils, or whatever they call them. Lots of chance to grab at cash, “help” the community. Make people aware of drugs. I’m aware of drugs. Aware they’re awesome.

It looks like I’m gonna need my fair share, maybe more than, to make it through this event. Eight hours of uninspired battles. Top turn, cutback, top turn, cutback. Wow, look at that finishing maneuver. Oh no, there’s rocks right there! Whatever will they do?

At least the ladies are looking good. Surf-wise, I mean.

The fairer side of the WSL has come a long way in recent years. Top level is straight killing it. Full commitment, trying their damnedest. Flashes of brilliance that’d’ve been unimaginable not too long ago.

Sure, the talent pool’s still too shallow to stack the entire roster with killers, but that’ll get better with time. Has improved, will continue to. I’m okay with waiting. Tons of little girls getting inspired, the next gen’s gonna be full of murderers.

The men though, jeez… Is everyone just surfing for sevens? Has it really come to this? I thought wave size and length of ride were taken out of the judging criteria. Is there a secret set of rules to which I’m not privy?

The girls are giving 110%. Which is what I want to see. Throwing buckets, hitting steep sections. Trying to win, instead of trying to not lose.

The guys, not so much. Standard fare, mac and cheese with hot dog chunks. I want steak and lobster, damn it!

Let’s compare a wave from different sides of the event. Weston-Webbs’s 7.93 and Igarashi 6.67.

First up is Kanoa, a kid I’ve been riding so hard I’m starting to feel bad about it.

Really? That’s what you got, that’s what they gave? A 6.67 is enough to win a lot of heats, tossing it out for speed checks and lip bonks is bogus.

Now watch Tatiana.

Committed surfing, a high risk first turn. Igarashi ain’t in the same league.

A 1.26 point difference between the two, nowhere near enough. Tatiana’s score was right on target, judging’s on a sliding scale. A near eight point ride on the women’s side should sit around a six on the men’s. I can handle that.

Kanoa’s wave was a 3. Boring, totally uncritical, the type of shit you see when the judges allow a play it safe mindset. And Kanoa nearly won his heat! What the fuck? Thank goodness Italo grabbed two before the buzzer, shut him down.

But there are countless other timelines where Italian Ferrari didn’t get the score, where a bobble on the face slowed him down a hair, where he was just a little too far outside to get into it.

And that fucking sucks. I don’t care what dimension we’re in, surfing at a level fit for an NSSA explorers event shouldn’t be winning heats. It shouldn’t even be coming close.