What would you give to be nineteen with the whole world before you?
Have you ever considered the life of Italy’s first professional surfer? It’s more than just barrels, breasts and wine. Maybe!
Leo Fioravanti achieved two childhood dreams this year by qualifying for the CT and giving Slater the ol’ Roman Candle not once but twice! Not bad for a nineteen-year-old Italian kid.
Despite his competitive successes, many have criticized Leo’s road to fame, claiming he’s just a rich Italian kid who was sent around the world and molded into a top athlete. To these people I say two things: 1. You don’t get to choose your socioeconomic standing nor nationality and 2. There is no such thing as molding a top athlete. Glen Hall could have surfed forty hours a week since his third birthday, split his time between the North Shore and Indo, and have been coached by an older, wiser version of himself, and he’d still never be able to crack the top ten. Practice and opportunity make the CT, but natural ability is what separates the Slaters from the Durbidges. In short time we’ll know where Leo falls.
The trailer for Leo’s documentary, Ride to the Roots, is as vague in name as it is in description. From what I gather it will be the story of his life and lineage, which is to say, the story of a rich Italian kid who was sent around the world and molded into a top athlete. Being that he’s nineteen and has had only one major setback in his life, this film will likely not be revolutionary in nature, but rather a nationalistic pat on the back to a surf-starved, pasta-bloated Mediterranean peoples.
If for no other reason, watch because Leo won Surfing Mag‘s Lady Killer award in this year’s Peer Poll. Insert Italian Stallion joke here.
Bankruptcy is a trendy surf thing right now. Very hip. Mavericks just declared. Lame. Later bros. And I’m busy on something else right now (you’ll see tomorrow!) so I’ll leave you with the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Bay Area big-wave surf competition Titans of Mavericks could be wiped out this year after its organizers filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday amid a sell of their assets.
Titans of Mavericks LLC and Cartel Management Inc. filed separate petitions in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California, but described the action as an effort to “ensure a smooth and swift transition of the business and operations.”
“The brand has seen explosive growth since its creation,” Griffin Guess, Titans of Mavericks founder, said in a press release. “The process will allow Titans of Mavericks to reach new heights in the right hands. It is time for a larger organization togain from all of our hard work.”
Yet the bankruptcy filing comes after costly legal trouble for Cartel Management. Red Bull Media House North America Inc. filed a lawsuit against Cartel and Titans of Mavericks in the Superior Court of Los Angeles on Friday, just days before the bankruptcy action.
Red Bull Media House sought an unspecified amount in damages after paying Titans of Mavericks $400,000 for the rights to webcast this year’s competition — which hasn’t happened yet — then never receiving a refund after Cartel abruptly terminated the contract.
“After receiving Cartel’s purported termination letter, searching for a rationale for Cartel’s erratic behavior, Plaintiff found that Cartel is beset by financial and legal difficulties,” the suit states. At the end of October, a jury in the Central District of California found Cartel and Marisa Miller, an international supermodel and wife of Guess, were liable to pay $1 million after breaching a contract with another company, Segler Holdings LLC.
The defendants had apparently violated a promotion deal with Segler Holdings’ Glissin sunless tanning products and salons.
Pipe water shooter snaps wrist prior to season. Photos improve!
Imagine this. You shoot water for a living. It’s a perilous game, sure, but enough to keep the damn wolves away from the door. And it’s s a great life. You swim and you’re front row to the best in the biz.
“I’m not stacking paper but my bills are paid, my kids taken care of and I’m travelling the world doing what I love while calling Hawaii base camp,” says Brandon Campbell (aka Laserwolf) whom I claimed, yesterday, had taken the best big-wave shot ever. “I wake up every day and do whatever I want. Surf when I wanna surf, shoot when I wanna shoot. No one telling me to shave my face, tuck in my shirt, where and when to be.”
This year, howevs, his craft was imperilled when he went mountain biking with his thrill seeker pops in Canada just before the start of the North Shore season.
“The old boy is such an animal when he gets on a bike so I was just doing my best to keep up,” says Laser. “I had work contracts lined up and I didn’t want to risk getting hurt. But I didn’t listen to my instincts so I went on the trip and ended up snapping my hand half-way off my arm and doing a ton of ligament damage,” says Laser. “I flew home for surgery and my hand is still held together by a metal bridge plate and a bunch of screws. I can’t bend my wrist in any direction and it took a while to get control of my fingers. It wasn’t just your typical broken wrist that heals in a month. I was going to be one-handed for the entire season.”
Laser says he sank into a depression. “My shooting hand! My only means of providing for my family! A baby on the way. The high cost of living in paradise.” Also, he says, “This was my winter to really shine. I thought for sure I would lose my contracts and would be stuck shooting from the beach all season, getting the same boring photos as everyone else on the beach.”
Once he binned the painkillers, howevs, Laser got his old hustle back.
“Once I got off those things, I snapped out of my funk, quit my bitching and started training my left hand to hold that heavy water housing,” he says. “I kept the injury under wraps and, fortunately, none of my contracts started till November so I had almost two months to adapt. By the time everyone showed up to the North Shore, I was 100% with my left hand and just sort of played it off as a minor injury. I was still in pain and was risking doing long-term damage if I smacked my injured hand on the reef or even if I just got tossed around too much in the water.”
And the effect?
“It was a blessing in disguise. I’m getting different angles and now I can shoot with either hand! My photos went up a notch! Blessing in disguise? Yeah, it was.”
1. John John is the best surfer in the world (sorry, Dane).
2. Competitive surfing is soooooo dull.
The contrast between the front half of this clip and the back is startling. John wins Haleiwa surfing to maybe fifty percent of his abilities. He then loses at Sunset with aggressive, committed surfing and flunks at Pipe because of poor wave choice.
But the second half of the vid… by gosh some of the best surfing I’ve seen. Better than Dane in Sampler, better than Jordy in …whatever his movie was called. It’s just fantastic! Full speed, full-rail, full commitment in waves of power and pain. No one looks more comfortable on a surfboard than a jersey-less John.
At the end of the clip he states, “I’m gonna go after another world title, one-hundred percent.” While this thrills part of me — for I want nothing more than a decade-long duel between John and Gab, wherein the white man eventually reigns supreme — another part can’t help but wonder what we’re losing in that pursuit. I know I’m not alone in that.
For instance, Albee Layer had this to say after being asked about his and John’s battle to land the first backside 540/720: “[John] showed me a clip of him over-rotating a backside spin, and I showed him one of me doing the same thing. So it started a bit of a battle. I mean, I think if he put half the energy I did into it he probably would have made it, but this year he just shifted his whole focus onto contest surfing. Which personally, I just hate [laughs], thinking about the progression he could do for surfing.”
John is great for competitive surfing, but he’s an even greater barometer for what’s physically possible in the sport. If he’s working towards titles, that means he’s at least partly forgoing the pursuit of progression. Woe is me.
Yeah, I can’t think of anything remotely as filmic, as textured or as spectacularly dramatic. When I asked Laserwolf about it, turned out it was only the second time he’d ever flown a drone (“Call it beginner’s luck,” he says), that he used to think drones were a tool of oppressive governments (“I was convinced it was a government conspiracy to get us used to the idea of them buzzing around all the time before Big Brother really gets in our grill”) and that there’s actually a hierarchy in the sky among the drone operators, something he found out when another photographer’s bird flew under him.
“I’ve put in my time and earned my spot in the hierarchy at Pipeline but what about the air?” he says. “Am I a newbie all over again? Will it be another five years before I’m established and can bark at invasive droners?”
“Corey Wilson was getting some really cool photos this winter,” he says. “He definitely inspired me to mix it up. A photographer like myself can’t just be posting the same beautiful, blue tube shots all the time on Instagram. Also, a lot of the brands I work with have been asking If I can shoot drone stuff. I think it’s becoming the new standard to have in your arsenal. Full on weapon of mass creation. I broke my hand really bad back in September (Editor’s note: more on that tomoz!) and have to go in for one more surgery so I’m stoked I’ll have something to keep me occupied while I’m out of the water.”
What kinda drone gets you a photo like this? Laser got in close to the entry level with a the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. With a stock 20 meg camera, a few batteries (they last 25 minutes each), a screen and a controller, he spent two-and-a-half gees. A good investment? Yeah, he’s thrilled.
If you look real close at the photo, you can see Mike Ho, Reef McIntosh, Ross Clark Jones, Eden Saul and “the usual Waimea suspects,” says Laser, adding, “I just really like how you can feel the raw and beautiful energy of the ocean. It’s like the image is alive. My friend Casey Decotis, who got me into photography, once told me that a good photographer can bring anything to life through a photo.”
How big is it? This is where the drone angle deceives.
“It wasn’t huge, maybe ten-to-twelve feet, but still plenty of energy,” says Laser.
Not that he’s claiming it deserves to be in the pantheon of greatest big-wave shots. “I’m honored you like it,” he says, “but I think the best big wave photo ever taken was of Sion Milowski by Daniel Russo at one of the outer reefs here in Hawaii. Sion was on a big, vibrant blue gun shaped by rhino chaser extraordinaire Bret Marumoto. The wave looks one hundred foot and Sion is absolutely sending it. I surf that wave a lot but I’ve have never scored it bigger then twenty feet and I don’t think I want to either. I can’t even imagine it any bigger then that. It must have been such an incredible thing to witness in person.”
Laser thinks for a moment.
“Wait, I take that all back,” he says. “The best big-wave photo ever taken was that iconic shot of Greg Noll standing on the beach in front of a pumping Pipeline, shot by John Severson.”