WSL commentary
Does it feel to you, as it does to me, that this four-pack has started to hit some beautiful notes? (From left) The provocative Ron Blakey with the black wavy hair combed severely back from the forehead. Strider Wasilewski, the fiery red, the honest countenance of Ross Williams and Peter Mel, who might be considered, in impolite company, as Ron Blakey's less attractive twin. But where's Pottz? The only commentator to've won a world title?

J-Bay: Where was Pottz?

Has Martin Potter been disappeared like the once-everywhere Chelsea Cannell?

The commentariat hit beautiful notes during this year’s  Jeffrey’s Bay contest. This is, I believe, an opinion that is difficult, perhaps, impossible to argue against.

Ross Williams looks as if something otherworldly is feeding his vitality. Like an octopus he throws out a first, a second, a third tentacle, fastening it onto every technical aspect of a surfer’s game.

Is it because he once surfed a J-Bay final (against a teenage Joel Parkinson) that made him convulse with information? Or is all that practice in the shower paying off?

“I’m absolutely in love with what I do,” says Ross. “It’s a total privilege to be a retired pro surfer and, then, suddenly, be gifted the chance to relay all the information I have logged in my head. I love it. I love it.”

The big-wave champion Peter Mel, who let’s be frank is the provocative Aaron’s Blakey’s less attractive twin, has become so prolific with opinion, sound bites of board design and passing quips, that the viewer looks forward to gazing at him dreamily.

Strider Wasilewski? Even if it looks as if some evil spell has transformed his famous attack dog tits into something that would make even a  seasoned whore shudder, his work is candid.

Rosie, of course, is a voluptuous pleasure. 

But where was Martin Potter, the former world champion whose stern countenance harnesses entire events? Whose elegnant, and non-specific accent, marks his refinement among a group, who let’s be frank again, are marked by their very provincial tones.

Was he sacked for his frankness? For his ability to cut through the haze and deliver simple, yet cutting, commentary?

Had he disappeared into the same secret garden as the once-everywhere Chelsea Cannell? 

According to the WSL, Pottz is “still very much on the A-team. Mr. Potter shall return for Tahiti. The team take some events off to recharge and hang with family.”

The deal is, commentators take one or two events off per year, which is arranged with the head of programming. Ms Cannell, says the WSL, is “still part of the WSL Broadcast Team. She took some time off of traveling to spend with the family, but has been contributing to the studio side of things.”

Is Adriano de Souza our Eagle?

Is the Little Plumber our most inspirational figure? Will Hollywood laud his can-do spirit?

Last night I watched the film Eddie the Eagle and tears in my eyes! Have you seen? It tells the inspirational story of a ginger British man with Coke bottle glasses who dreamed of going to the Olympics!

He tried and tried and tried many different pursuits, eventually settling on ski jumping since the United Kingdom hadn’t fielded a team in decades and he could qualify. The crusty British machinery was against him, trying to thwart him at every turn, but his Dunkirk spirit prevailed and he became a favorite of the 1988 Calgary Olympics even though ginger and British and Coke bottle glasses and last place and poo stance.

Oh of course the filmmakers took certain liberties with the storyline but I remember watching Eddie soar when I was a young boy, watched him thumbs up the camera, watched him felt exhilarated. Anything was possible!

Hollywood sure does love an inspirational sports story because who doesn’t? The Blind Side and its homeless black teen who becomes an NFL star thanks to a white family. Rudy and its short little pudge who plays for football powerhouse Notre Dame. Million Dollar Arm and Indians (from India) learning to pitch in the major leagues (of baseball). Etc.

I started wondering who our surf inspirational story is besides Bethany Hamilton and Jimbo Pellegrine? Who allows are imaginations to really take flight? Part of the inspirational sports story is its everyman quality. We can all be heroes!

Bethany and Jimbo are, no doubt, inspirational but not everymen. Bethany appears to be the greatest surfer alive. Jimbo maybe too.

Which brought me to Adriano de Souza. The unloved little plumber from Brazil with a stance so wide architects building in earthquake zones look to him for revelation. The boy who golden child Kelly Slater loves to dump on. The tireless fighter that never took “no” for an answer even when his sponsors fled to the hills.

The everyman!

Is he our Eagle? Or Rudy? Should we love him more and will we feel guilty for not loving him more when The Little Plumber Who Could hits theaters in 2030?

I won’t feel guilty because I wrote this right here but you will/should.

foil boards
The hydrofoil has become one of the most sophisticated forms of gliding through the water. The feeling of lifting onto a surface and riding in three dimensions unlocks new experiences and sensations that one is unable to achieve on traditional boards. Imagine the feeling of flying over the surface of the water with a direct connection to the conditions below.

Hydro-foils: “Someone will die!”

Decapitation by aluminium blade!

Hydro-foils. You know ’em.

You might’ve thrilled to Kai Lenny riding one in Tahiti two weeks ago. 

You like the way Lenny rides a wave to the death, flies off the back of the wave with enough speed to catch the wave behind it? Yeah, me too.

They’re savage looking things, though.

Imagine getting sliced by that aluminium blade, the razor edge sawing through the neck like a medieval executioner for whom no gold coin is offered.

Jamie Mitchell, the paddleboarder turned big-wave surfer, says he knows what’s coming.

In Jamie’s opinion, someone’s going to get iced by one, and real soon. In a pretty emotional post on Facebook, he writes:

“So lately I have been asked consistently about my thoughts on the so called “NEW” foil popularity and haven’t really said much but, yesterday, sadly, I saw a photo that I knew was coming sooner then later.

Foils are for open ocean swells, outer bombies and places where there are no people or very few people doing it together. Foils are dangerous. Very dangerous. And do not belong in the surf zone with the masses and general public.

Yes, Kai and and a few talented kids can probably control the boards amazingly well, but you can’t control other peoples actions and movements. I see more and more clips everyday of people trying the foils and I am so scared that someone will pay the ultimate price and die.

Look at this photo below. If a foil hits you or you hit someone with the foil it’s going to end badly. I sure hope the people and companies that are making money off these are doing their best to educate people about the dangers. I don’t think this will be the first or last incident unfortunately.

I’m very happy that the gentleman in this photo will be ok. Please think about your surroundings before you just jump in and start surfing those boards.”

The surfer in the photo is Yu Tonbi Sumitomo, a bit of a figure in Japanese surfing. No kook. Which, says Jamie, is his point.

“He is an experienced waterman that was doing it in the right way, in the right place and look what happened. Imagine someone who isn’t experienced or even if they are that are in a crowded spot! To me that’s a recipe for disaster!”

Yu Tonbi Sumitomo
Look at this guy, says Jamie Mitchell: “He is an experienced waterman that was doing it in the right way, in the right place and look what happened. Imagine someone who isn’t experienced or even if they are that are in a crowded spot! To me that’s a recipe for disaster!”

In response to Jamie’s post, Yu writes:

“Hi Jamie Mitchell san. This was my bad. Waves are waist to chest. No one around except me and my father. Had struggle first 30 min. Then I start figure. Had such fun time. Then see what you see what happen. I been surfing since I was 8. 36 year experience. Your friend Sean O. is my best friend we made SUP 11 year ago. I thought foiling is easy. It is easy but easy to turn very dangerous. What I learn from this is have to be careful. Surfing. Or sup. Or foiling. Thank you for the comment and hope no one get’s hurt like I did. Sure foiling is amazing.”

I gotta say, the sell for ’em is compelling. As this surf shop on Maui writes:

The hydrofoil has become one of the most sophisticated forms of gliding through the water. The feeling of lifting onto a surface and riding in three dimensions unlocks new experiences and sensations that one is unable to achieve on traditional boards. Imagine the feeling of flying over the surface of the water with a direct connection to the conditions below. Experience a drastic reduction in drag and complete silence as you lift your board off the water and fly. It’s as if kitesurfing meets deep powder snowboarding.”

Buy one here if you spit in the face of decapitation.  


The enlightenment of Mick Fanning!

"Titles are lame!"

I am a terrible cynic. If some human achievement hews too closely to a perfect storyline then I automatically discount it. Take Kobe Bryant’s final game in the NBA. He scored 60 points and I thought, “Yeah right. Totally” (using my sarcastic internal voice). Or Mick Fanning’s J-Bay victory. I thought, “Mmmhmm rad” (using the same sarcastic internal voice but with a touch more condescension).

It just seems too… too… perfect.

In any case, Rory Parker wrote so well about the final day that I don’t need to go retread that ground but I did read a very interesting nugget this morning in the Sydney Morning Herald that is worth discussing. The win puts Mick 5th in the world. Matt Wilkinson is still 1st meaning, really, Mick is 4th in the world. The three ahead of him, John John, Gab and ADS, are formidable but I certainly feel the title would be Mick’s for the taking. Don’t you?

But this morning I read this:

“I’ve already said I’ll go to Trestles (California) and that will be my last event of the year,” he said.

“World titles aren’t the biggest thing for me any more.”

Which is sort of a shocker, no? Or at least a shocker to admit. It seems like Mick was a born competitor and that the ASP/WSL was his heart’s true home. Where he would grow old and be chaired into retirement.

But if world titles aren’t the biggest thing anymore what is? Has he had a full enlightenment? Will next year find him in an Indian ashram? Helping the poor in Newark, New Jersey? Running for political office?

Also, what does Kelly think when he reads this quote? Does he think, “Yeah. Awesome since you were never going to catch me anyhow #elevensies.” (using his incredulous internal voice) or does he think, “What? What? What have you discovered out there?” (using his panicked one)

"Let's light it up, let's enjoy it," Mick tells John.

Just in: Mick Fanning Wins J-Bay Pro!

An act so polished you can see your reflection in it.

Finals day at J-Bay was a pleasant surprise.

I was expecting garbage. Because that’s just the way life goes. Usually.

Glorious surprise! It was super rippable. So much fun to watch. Enough going on that the surfers could get going on. Some slow moments but nothing terrible.

And dolphins too!

The day started off okay. Kerr/Slater saw smallish, semi lined up surf. Not very exciting. Kerr took the win. Kelly didn’t sound very concerned during his interview.

Medina/Wilson failed to wow as well. Medina started the day off with a good one, earned an 8.33, but couldn’t back it up. Julian found two mid range scores, added them together, had point four enough to squeak through.

Then it started warming up. Bigger, better. Wet dream waves. Easy as pie to shine for a world class surfer.

Toledo surfed well but Fanning put him down with ease. Mick’s just got his deal down too pat. White heat lightning speed snaps and whacks and down the line floaters. An act so polished you can see your reflection in it.

Toledo tried his best, surfed well, but couldn’t match Fanning.

The thing with Mick… he obviously surfs for points, but he does it so damn well. Ridiculously well. Kung fu master who puts his body in the right spot every single time. And it can get boring to watch. But sometimes, like today, you remember it’s something special you’ve stopped appreciating because you’ve been seeing it for so long.

John John was killing it, laying down gut wrenching laybacks, stringing together smooth little arcs into the inside. One super projected frontside rev to the flats. Very exciting.

Kerr looked like he was having trouble warming up. Just a touch off. Still good, but not good enough to beat the kid. He looked his age, basically.

JJF sent home the vet, made his second final of the year, and kicked Wilko’s title campaign squarely in the nuts.

So many claims today. And the guys were paying for them. That extra couple seconds headed to shore puts them in some shallow shallow shallow water. A few amusing moments as they flounder into deeper water.

From his first wave of the semi it was obvious Fanning was sending Wilson home. Picking better waves, surfing in fast forward. Dropped an 8.1 on his first wave, a 9 on his next. Then just sat there while Wilson caught wave after wave and tried to catch up.

He didn’t and Mick does amazingly well for someone who wasn’t going to do the tour this year.

Tried and true high speed perfection versus next gen innovative style. Warms my icy heart, fills my ears with birdsong.

But, sweet jumping jimminy Christ, can they work on the filler? The cookies and milk break between semi and final was so boring!

I wonder how much effort Strider and Mel and Blakey and Turpel and Pottz put into their commentator duties between events? Do you think they plan out little bits, fill a notebook with talking points? That’s what I would do. It seems like they just show up and do it to it. Which seems like it’d be the harder way. Just free flowing all day long is a crazy challenge.

They’ve got paper and pen in front of them, but it might just be there so they have something to do with their hands.

After what felt like forever the heat finally got started. Fanning found one on the inside in the first minute. Crazy racetrack at the beginning into bread and butter. But it’s good bread and butter. Like, a crispy warm baguette and some freshly churned deliciousness.

Florence made it look like shit. Hand drag slash, flowing reverse, then two point scorers to seal it up. Ross mentions once again that “it’s a smaller wave,” but is it? The kid from Hawaii is a foot taller. Maybe it’s a crazy optical illusion!

8.5 slaps the taste of winning out of Mick’s mouth for a moment. Then he wraps his lips back around it and takes a deep suckle. Cracks an overhead set into a 9.93. Which is high. Low nine, sure. Mid-nine, maybe. Oh-seven from perfect? I won’t by that banana.

After along lull John John finally gets his second wave. Hangs up his first turn, ends it with a toward shore heave. Not the 8.61 he needs.

Next set sees both guys get a good one. Mick does the high speed down the line flow thing. JJF opts for a big turn to slide check to close out rev.

JJ gets the score he needs but Fanning’s wave get’s him a bump so it doesn’t matter.

Fanning wins JBay in fun head high surf.

I’d’ve given the heat to Florence. But it was a close thing.