Finn McGill
Throughout our conversation Finn makes repeated references to when he "was a kid." Slightly amusing, as Finn is still far from fully developed. Slightly frustrating, because this freckled grom has already earned his way into the Pipeline Masters, a feat which nearly every surfer on Earth can only dream. | Photo: WSL

Parker: “My theoretical outrage problem!”

Writer troubled by WSL signage as North Shore teen Finn McGill slays Jamie O, Jack Robinson and co…

I didn’t expect the event to run today. Bad wind, lack of swell. Figured Tuesday was a sure thing. So I went out, drank too much, slept in. Woke up as the contest was called on. Oops. Real professional.

Sucked down espresso as fast as I could, watched Jack Robinson slay it on my laptop, then hammered through traffic to the event site. My tardiness forced me to park in front of Rockpiles, hoof it down to the beach like an animal. The sun was beating down, I was sweating buckets.

Checked in, got my stupid little wrist band, headed down to the scaffolding.

Strolled past a lovely little sign the WSL decided to staple to one of the trees inside Ehukai beachpark.


When will they learn?

The nonsense about use of images or audio at the event site is technically true, but only because you need permission from the Hawaii Film Office to shoot anything commercial on Hawaii’s beaches. The HFO generally only grants one permit at a time, and it’s safe to assume that it’s currently in the WSL’s hands.

But the WSL is not a regulatory agency. They can’t do shit to enforce it other than call the police and hope HPD feels like doing something.

Ditto with the drones. BeachGrit covered their shenanigans last year.

In short:

“If they got a permit from the FAA it’s like getting a permit from us. If you apply for it first you can say that, ‘I have a permit here, I have the right to say no shooting here or whatever.’”

However any violations would fall to the FAA to enforce, meaning the WSL would need to contact them, after which the FAA would go after violators.

While I think that stuff is kind of interesting, it’s old hat. Been there, done that. No one cares but me.

But, you know what really sticks in my craw?

You agree that you WILL NOT engage in that may damage or injure property, any person, the name and brand of the WSL, the Event, an athlete, or any sponsor at the event;

Nope, nope, nope.

It’s a public space, no number of permits can cancel your first amendment right to free speech. Feel like spray painting “fuck the W$L” on a bed sheet and hanging out on the beach all day? You can, they can’t stop you, and if they tried you’d most likely have a lucrative lawsuit on your hands.

You might be thinking, “Rory has a real problem with theoretical outrage.” Well, you’re absolutely correct. I live in my own head, have a tough time accepting inconsequential injustices. It’s a personal failing, probably. And the WSL is really just giving it a shot. Tons of guys were shooting without being hassled. It’s the equivalent of me posting a sign on my front door that says, “By entering my home you agree to suck my dick.”

Maybe I’ll get lucky and you’ll fall for it. But probably not.

Kaipo Guerrero’s dulcet tones were blaring from the beachfront speakers, and the early day conditions weren’t great. Choppy morning sickness, lots of low scores. Whoever found the diamond in the rough had the heat wrapped up. I bought a cup of lemonade from the cute little girl playing entrepreneur at the foot of the Pipe access path, hoped it would help my hangover. It did not. It was terrible. The little monster was selling sugary premix garbage. I thought I was in for some homemade goodness.

Why do people bring their surfboards to surf contests? The beach was littered with them, vacationer wannabes, leashes wrapped tightly around tails, turning them into trip-up liabilities. The best was the guy in button-up, pocketed, shorts, boxers peaking from the top. No wax on his deck, no fins in his plugs, a jammed packed ABC store bag dangling from his other hand. He was walking back and forth on the beach. I don’t know what he was thinking.

I’d turned up in time for heat four. JOB found a beautiful Backdoor bomb. I found a gorgeous place in the bleachers. It’s the only real reason to get a media pass, that access to shade. Sitting in the sun all day is torture, sitting on the sand is for plebs. It was elevated, nearly empty. A heavenly way to spend the day watching some very good surfing. Some slow moments, some dull heats. But it was good, if not great.

What happened to Fredrico Morais? Why isn’t he in the event? Alejo Muniz is out with an injury, Morais gets a ticket straight into the big show. Which is really how it should work anyway, when a person is leading the Triple Crown and not a member of the WCT.

The media pass also gets me a spot in the theoretical interview bullpen. Theoretical because there was one. And anyway, what kind of questions am I going to ask? “Yeah,bro, did you totally get tubular out there?”

Mikey Bruneau made a terrible mistake in the final seconds of heat five, stuffed Kaito Kino on a crummy left. He had second wrapped up, had no chance of improving his score. Zeke Lau got a gift. Bruneau got angry.

Gave Kito a hard time in the water, threw his own board in the kiddy pool, stalked up the beach. It was a heartbreaking way to lose, easy to understand the reaction.

I wouldn’t have thrown my board in that half ocean/ half piss, body of stagnant water. It’s gross, got more so as the day passed. From clear and almost inviting, to murky and greenish and nasty.

A lot of sets were swinging wide, hitting Off the Wall. Fuck that shallow hunk of hell reef. No shortage of takers though. Throughout the day I watched guys get murdered as they gave it their best. It was a nice way to fill the slower moments.

Mason Ho lost in heat seven, it made me sad. He just couldn’t find his groove, and was up against NatFlo and a Moniz clan member. I don’t remember exactly which one, but it hardly matters. Seth and Josh were killing it the entire event. Josh made the finals.

I worried that the rising tide would conspire with an increasing North wind to kill the comp. They did not. The surf improved, and increased in size throughout the day. It never hit the flawless perfection for which we all hope, but there were moments.

Jack Robinson found them repeatedly. He was amazing, I was sure he’d repeat last year’s win. A slow semifinal heat proved his undoing.

Ditto with NatFlo. Over the course of the day he found the best waves, surfed them perfectly, only to be knocked out by Josh Moniz and the on fire Finn fucking McGill.

Cody Young stood out in my mind, as did Zeke Lau. The second there is kind of, like, duh, but Cody wasn’t on my radar. And, boy oh boy, did he ever impress.

I observed my first humans clad in WSL jerseys in the wild today. They were exactly the type you’d expect to see wearing them. I also think that Kalani Chapman and Dave Wassel must share a common ancestor.

But Finn McGill, let’s go back to Finn fucking McGill. He grabbed a hideous throater in the dying minutes to sneak his way into the final, then proceeded to go insane. I’ve never heard of Finn before today, but watching him combo the field in a final heat featuring a Moniz and a Beschen was unreal. Inspiring. Magical. Amazing.

Again and again he upstaged everyone. Surfed better than anyone had all day. He had the win locked, I was sure of it with fifteen minutes to go. So were the pod of humpbacks who showed up to watch his display.

Then a security guard singled me out and kicked me out of the contest site. “They” told him to. Who are “they?”  He couldn’t tell me.

I was still allowed on the beach, obviously, but that type of treatment cannot stand. I stalked to the media trailer, no one was sure why I was told to leave. No one seemed to care. So my temper go the better of me, and I left. Fuck it, I don’t need this shit. I’ll just fly back to Kauai. Where people are kind and welcoming and, most importantly, leave me alone.

I nearly wrote a scathing email to woman in charge of dealing with us writer dorks, but decided to dial it back and just ask what was going on.

Turns out it was just a confused and over-zealous security guard. Hardly a rare creature.

great white shark
"I want to continue on filming. I'd love to see another great white. The bigger the better," said filmmaker Ash Gibbs. | Photo: Ash Gibbs

Watch: Filmer Rammed by Great White!

Stare into the eye of a circling Great White… 

If you thought The Right was the most terrifying thing you could ever see in Western Australia’s far south-west, you might want to reassess.

Diver and filmer Ash Gibb was shooting at Lucky Bay, sixty clicks east of Esperance, when he got a little tap on the back by a twelve-foot White. Not exactly a rarity in the Southern Ocean but big enough to light up the heartbeat.

From ABC News:

“I dove down. I was in about five metres of water getting a great shot of this fish and I felt this massive thump from behind,” he said.

“Very quickly I saw the great white shoot into the picture.”

In the video, posted on Mr Gibb’s YouTube channel, the shark eyes off Mr Gibb, circling him a number of times, twice retreating, only to suddenly turn and head back towards him.

All that separated Mr Gibb and the shark was the handle of his camera. Mr Gibb said his memory of the encounter was blurred by adrenalin, but he remembered feeling detached from the moment in disbelief. 

“At first I was quite excited. I thought, great, this is what I came for,” he said.

He estimated the shark was 4-5 metres, and said a shark expert had told him the shark would have been a similar weight to a sport utility vehicle.

“I reminded myself of my belief about sharks, which is the fact that they don’t eat humans on purpose. We’re not their food. I think that’s sort of what got me through a lot of nerves, because it was very intense. Even though I wanted to go and do that, it was a very testing situation.”

Mr Gibb was born and raised around the ocean, and his respect for the marine world is something he hopes to share in his latest documentary.

“I went there to show people that they [sharks] are beautiful creatures, so there was no chance of me fleeing that situation,” he said. “I was there to film. I got the opportunity. The chances of that actually happening are one in a million, so I took that opportunity and did my best to keep my hand steady, and capture it on film.”

Mr Gibb said he had booked in to do his open water diving ticket, and hoped to be back in the water and spending more time capturing vision of great white sharks.

“I want to continue on filming. I’d love to see another Great White. The bigger the better,” he said.

Pipeline Trials: “No mo set came in!”

Stop this nonsense! Let the Hawaiians surf!

And finally The Billabong Pipeline Masters is underway-ish! Today we begin with the Pipe Invitational. This, if memory serves, is the bone the World Surf League threw to Hawaiian locals, giving them a handful of heats of 4 surfers per for 2 of them to scratch into the main event.

Do you recall just two years ago when a full sixteen Hawaiians got to surf in the big show without having to dance for their soup?

I do!

Those early Pipe heats that pitted a crusty underground Pipe specialist against some freshly scrubbed Californian or Brazilian World Championship Tour youth were pure joy.


Carnage everywhere!

Oh I witnessed many hot tears running down pink cheeks as children were sent packing back to the Qualifying Series. Grown men sent back too also with tears running down stubbly sadness.

But those days are over and now the Hawaiians must wrestle each other to the death.

Today’s surf is not so great or at least not at the start. Heat 1 featured Yan, Chapman, McIntosh and McNamara’s boy battling scraps. Yan won the heat with the combined score of a 3.57. Chapman snuck into the quarters with a last minute 2.80 combined score.

Talking to Rosie after the end, Mr. Yan said, “There was one wave at the start then no mo sets came in.”

Yeah bummer. WSL CEO Paul Speaker should wave his coconut scepter and let all the Hawaiians back in to the castle. It was better that way.

Watch the day unfold here!

Mick Fanning
You can imagine," says Fanning. "Half asleep, jumping in a wetsuit, and then just being wowed by all this stuff. It's something I'll remember forever." | Photo: Emil Sollie and Mats Grimsæth

Watch: Mick Fanning surf under the northern lights!

It's divine!

I never fail to be amazed by the universe on those rare occasions I lift from head from the business of studying iPhones, swiping, liking, tapping and uploading. It’s the ultimate ego trip to imagine we’re the only living planet, among billions. I look at the sky and I wonder, can you see me space creatures?

And even though I wouldn’t exactly say it’s a dream, one of these days I promise myself I’ll jump a plane to Norway and examine, at close range, the northern lights or, if you want to be technical about it, aurora borealis. Gas particles collide, or so I read, causing the clubhouse green lightshow. Who wouldn’t want to see it once in his life?

Recently, the three-time world champion, Mick Fanning joined with Norwegian photographers
Emil Sollie and Mats Grimsæth to attempt to snatch a photo, and film, of Mick surfing beneath the northern lights.

“To shoot a picture of surfing under the Northern Lights, there are so many elements that have to come together at the same time,” Sollie explained. “Technically, this is one of the hardest pictures to capture.”

The clip below was shot at midnight on the third day of the trip. “You can imagine,” said Fanning. “Half asleep, jumping in a wetsuit, and then just being wowed by all this stuff. It’s something I’ll remember forever.”

An extended version of the trip will go live next year.




great white shark caught in net

Five Great Whites Caught in Two Days!

Right now, Byron Bay and its surrounds, are crawling with pissed-off Whites…

Yesterday afternoon, a ten-foot Great White had a little swim through The Pass, a soft righthand point at Byron Bay, a wave popular with kids, logs, and everyone else.

A siren sounded. The lineup emptied. The animal was herded out to sea by lifesavers where, presumably, it waited until the boat left before resuming its business.

Lovers of gore will recall when a swimmer was snatched by a Great White in waist-deep water a hundred metres down from the Pass in 2014.

Great Whites are more than a fact of life in Byron Bay and its surrounds. The sudden arrival of  a cluster of aggressive Whites in the last couple of years presents the surfer with an existential question: to surf or not to surf.

Is dying in the mouth of a shark worth the few seconds of speed or tube time  you might experience on a little North Coast wave?

And, so, after overwhelming evidence of Whites Gone Wild, the NSW state government dropped the first 10 of 85 SMART drum-lines ahead of the Christmas holiday break at Lennox Head, South Ballina and Evans Head.

Within two days, five Whites were caught, tagged and released alive. One ten-footer was caught at Sharpes Beach, just north of Ballina, where a surfer was hit in October.

Five Whites, two days.

Does that give you pause for thought?

More than that, it shows that being hit by a White when you surf in Byron ain’t just a theoretical notion.

It’s real.

Yeah, paddle out and you’re in the shark’s lair, don’t be a pussy etc, but at what point does the human animal fight back? Let’s imagine the population of the protected Great White triples over the next few years and surfing becomes an impossibility, a death wish?

Would that be enough to gaff a few of the sonsofbitches, not tag and release?

Or do we shelve the sleds and go skim?

(But don’t skim out too far like the wonderful Austin Keen, below!)