Key to understanding Florence's new and correct approach, and I can't believe I didn't get there in the finals wrap because he mentioned it two or three times during the day, is snowboarding. Where others tried (and failed) to use traditional top-to-bottom lines on an open ocean sloping peak Florence found the natural fall-line and used it relentlessly to get to the top of the wave with maximum speed. | Photo: WSL

Hairy: Power Rankings post-Margaret River!

How many other waves (on tour) are being surfed to a fraction of their potential?

How the hell can anyone come up with a coherent power rankings post-Margs? You pick John Florence numero uno then throw darts at the dart board to get the rest. Take him out of the equation and it wasn’t a happy event for elite CT surfing. To realise for years we’ve watched elite pros butcher and bog Margs begs the question: how many other waves (on tour) are being surfed to a fraction of their potential? Bells might provide a salutary answer straight off the bat. J-Bay, definitely. The kids ain’t alright.

  1. John John  Florence, 24, Hawaii. 

Nothing more to say about the gaping performance chasm between John and the rest of the field. That’s been thoroughly marinated and masticated by every surf commenter alive. Thats the what, as to the how and the why one comment cut through: “He showed that the wave isn’t really the problem. They’ve all been surfing it wrong.” – GBP

Key to understanding Florence’s new and correct approach, and I can’t believe I didn’t get there in the finals wrap because he mentioned it two or three times during the day, is snowboarding. Where others tried (and failed) to use traditional top-to-bottom lines on an open ocean sloping peak Florence found the natural fall-line and used it relentlessly to get to the top of the wave with maximum speed.

Once there he simply inserted his board rail and fins against the trim line and, in the same manner a hunter with a razor-sharp bowie knife skins a deer, cut the wave open in one seamless high-speed slice. He executed this turn with a variety of body positions depending on the angle of attack to the lip. Sometimes a classic one-arm-back layback, sometimes using both arms thrown back as the turn lever and sometimes with a more classic “open the shoulders” rotation with an extra tweak at the end, powered up through the ankles and feet and driven through with the hips. It was scored highly and that is just and true.

One human could have matched JJF, theoretically, and he wasn’t surfing in the event. That’d be little Jackie Robinson. Bells Beach has a similar sloping face with a lack of bottom tension in the base of the wave. With a rambunctious Southern Ocean storm track expected to dish up ripe purple fruits over Easter we are on track to see the dose repeated. That is the most hype-free and sober technical description of John’s surfing I can conjure. Ross done good eh?

2. Margaret River Mainbreak.

Any objective world-historical analysis has to focus blame for the disgraceful performances and general adolescent  attitudinal deficit at Mainbreak over the past few years on Kelly Slater. Precisely to the doubled up Pipeline wave he rode in 1991 during his first world title year. This shifted Momentum Era focus away from Sunset Beach, fat burger, unsuited to the moderne equipment, to the shorebreak and beachbreak style waves where it has remained ever since. Performance benchmarks at Sunset Beach and J-Bay slid seawards from the Tom Curren/Kong Elkerton high-water marks. I pray Matt Warshaw is neglecting his family and vital Facebook postings to flesh out the narrative in this development in modern surf history. Long-period, open-ocean, enigmatic-but-comprehensible limestone reef, power to burn, specific line required. That’s the equation a generation of pros failed to solve.

3. Adriano DeSouza, 30, Brazil.

In a recent interview Welcome to Paradise, Now lets go surfing then score an eightball and go big at Club Femme Nu author Chozza Smith said he hated the orthodox response. That’s paraphrasing, but you get the drift.

Hating De Souza has become the orthodox response du jour. Bad misread, terrible orthodoxy. De Souza has become the premier problem solver in the biz, the Winston Wolf of professional surfing.

Hating De Souza has become the orthodox response du jour. Bad misread, terrible orthodoxy. De Souza has become the premier problem solver in the biz, the Winston Wolf of professional surfing. He figured judges wanted neo-classical surfing: fully formed bottom-to-top surfing and developed the best combination in the game.

He realised Kelly Slater felt there was a respect deficit from the Brazilians towards him and he used it to needle the the champ and build a strong winning percentage against him. He would have handily won a final against Kolohe and probably Jordy. Cut the wave with better equipment than anyone bar JJF. Strong contender for Bells if John gets caught sleeping in a slow early round heat.

4. Jordy Smith, 29, South Africa.

He shifted the most water and I really wanted to love his surfing after the J-Bay cut in Just Now. But on reflection, and after sober analysis of all his waves on the heat analyser I couldn’t give it more than three stars. Maybe two-and-a-half. Bells favourite based on forecast.

5. Sebastien Zietz, 29, Hawaii. 

Singlehandedly lifted day one from mediocrity with his 10-point tube ride. Imagine if that was the first wave of the day and not the last and they gave it an eight. Wouldn’t have been a single double-digit heat score all day.

6.Kolohe Andino, 23, USA. 

Will Brother regard the final with John John as a keeper result or feel the sting of being publicly humiliated in a one-sided final? Psychological question to determine the rest of his year. Answer will be determined in the first heat at Bells.

7. Michel Bourez, 31, French Polynesia. 

I thought judges over-cooked his scores all event so I went back to the heat analyser to confirm the impression. I bring your attention, as exhibit A, to his last scoring wave in the quarter-final against JJF. A double-pumped bottom turn to a tail-slide-to-recovery, a two-stage cutback and two nice turns at the end. Based on the scale set by JJF, a tail-slide off the fins should have got a slow clap not a high eight. Cynics might suggest judges wanted to make a closer heat of it than reality was providing. No matter. His boards looked, once again, chattery and under-nourished.

8. Julian Wilson, 28, Australia.

Technically superior to every other surfer on tour, physiologically adapted with a wombat arse enabling low centre of gravity not seen since Occy. Can win at every stop on tour, charges heavy lefts blah blah blah.

But.

Can’t win.

Can’t control his own destiny.

The problem seems to be mental, namely an insufficiency of or inappropriate arousal. No snickering in the back please. This is serious. He needs a coach, an expert in rising to the occasion. If Ross Williams has been a success for JJF then perhaps Joey Turpel can mimic the magic for J-Dub.

The problem seems to be mental, namely an insufficiency of or inappropriate arousal. No snickering in the back please. This is serious. He needs a coach, an expert in rising to the occasion. If Ross Williams has been a success for JJF then perhaps Joey Turpel can mimic the magic for J-Dub. That would solve two problems in one elegant fell swoop.

9. Zeke Lau, 23, Hawaii.

First season in Hawaii, I slept on the beach at Three Tables beach, under the pine trees, until a Vietnam vet in camo squatted over me one night and chased me after I woke in fright.

Second, in my car, a Lincoln Continental mk4 that got about half-a-mile to the gallon.

Third, in a series of bush camps culminating in a deep camp behind the Kui Lima at Kawela bay. We had endless supplies of ephedra from a contact in town and added it to pancakes cooked on open fires. Surfed all day on it. Financed this subterranean anarchic existence selling Big Island bush buds, or Mex dirt weed, maybe an eight-ball to backpackers.

This story has no relevance to Zeke Lau but his early round exit at Margs was powerful and I very much look forwards to seeing him lay it over in the Bells Bowl. He was one of the few who didn’t turn flat at Margs.

10. Mick Fanning, 35, Australia.

Second comp in a row he got torched. Out of anyone on tour he’s probably best placed to learn and apply the Florence Line. The extra tweak at the end of the turn is in reach, as is a power advantage in the Bells Bowl with the torqued-out extended body wrap. He’s surfed five-to-ten percent better this year and been cruelled. If justice applies, Bells will mark the comeback into contention by J-Bay.

11. Owen Wright, 27, Australia.

He looks too thin to me and lacks power but gained the finals by several massive closing turns. Wilko will shade him at Bells.


Better believe this guy's on my team! | Photo: WSL

Holy Shit: Bells Starts Today!

Haste! Prep thine squadron!

Well, this is a surprise! I was just coming back to life from a post-Margies hangover when the WSL handed me a beer bong consisting of three, maybe four Victoria Bitters. That’s right, Bells starts in three hours! Here’s a Fantasy team I just threw together.

1. John Florence: 12.5 mil

John’s another guy who won’t be leaving my my team this year. He’s lethal, literally everywhere. Bells doesn’t suit his surfing as well as Margaret’s but with some chunky swell on tap there’s no one I’d rather have gouging through sections or flying above the lip. If he loses before the quarterers I’ll be baffled.

2. Joel Parkinson: 8 mil

In what will likely be his last year on Tour, Joel is surely hoping for a farewell victory. No place left on the schedule suits him as well as Bells, in my opinion. The whole thing for Parko is wave selection. The man is an artist, seen most clearly through his fussiness of canvas. If he finds himself on big, clean walls, it’s eights and nines all day. If not, expect frustration and defeat.

3. Jordy Smith: 11 mil

I had to choose between Wilko, ADS and Jordy, and I couldn’t get the big man out of my head. All three of these guys will go great in Bells’ lumpy, oversized playing field, but if there’s someone who can make my heart race it’s Michael Jordan Smith. Definitely not the best way to pick a Fantasy team, but I swear logic doesn’t work either. It’s all bloody random!

4. Mick Fanning: 4.5 mil

And who’da guessed Eugene would be holding two turds heading into event number three? Not me, and not most of you considering Mick’s ownership rates at Snapper and Margs. But Mick remains cheap and is coming into one of the most successful venues throughout his entire career. Easy decision.

5. Leonardo Fioravanti: 3 mil

He hasn’t delivered his potential just yet, and what time better than now? Leo is strong enough to handle Bells’ lumps and bumps and smart enough to play the style of cat and mouse that this lineup demands. One strong heat and he’ll be off to the races.

6. Conner Coffin: 6.25 mil

Conner killed it here last year, and judges appear in favor of his half-turn layback thing, so why not? He’s also got a decent seeding, which makes this decision even easier. Conner could flame out early or go all the way to the finals. We’ll just have to wait and see.

7. Nat Young 1.5 mil

The WSL sure is being generous to Santa Cruz’s favorite half-ginger. Bells suits Nat’s surfing to a T, so I could see him taking out some big names without a hitch. Remember when he almost won here in his rookie season? Let’s see what he can do as a wildcard.

8. Jeremy Flores: 3.25 mil

His frontside carve is too strong to keep losing. He’s also got the sorta verve that’s so damn fun to cheer for. This perennial underdog has my heart, and therefore a spot on my team.

Good luck to all!


The face of a winner!

Math: Alex Gray Is in the Black!

Living up to his middle name!

Do you remember, two days ago, when Alex Gray’s boards were utterly demolished by American Airlines? It hit every major surf site other than BeachGrit because, well, I was busy or something.

A quick recap: Alex flew five CI blades from Oahu to LAX, only to find four of them brutally bisected. Evidence implied that the board bag had been opened and the boards had been purposefully tampered with. Who would do that or why is as much a mystery to me as it is to you.

Alex filed a formal complaint against American Air and started an Instgram crusade against the company, much like John and Jet Blue or Kelly and Hawaiian. Gray claims that this movement isn’t about him or his surfboards, but rather the surfing community as a whole. For too long we’ve been treated like second-class citizens by ski-and-golf-fetishizing bureaucratic skycorps.

It’s safe to assume that Alex will be refunded in whole. To not oblige him would be against the interests of American Air, as they’d have face the consequence of further social media lashings and We’ll never fly with you agains from the larger surfing community, all over a couple thousand bucks. And hey, they’ve still got a chance to stay above United in this whole scandal.

So assuming he gets paid for those boards, Alex is already winning. It’s unlikely he paid much (if at all) for those CIs, so to be compensated for their retail value (~$750 apiece) is to come out way on top. But Alex’s luck doesn’t end here.

As reported by Surfline, Alex Gray has won the GoPro of the World Best Wave category for the winter season with his 4-8x (I lost count) tube ride on a Moroccan slave runner. For his efforts, Alex will receive $25,000 of GoPro cash.

Oh and, this is Gray’s second time winning the GOTW grand prize.

So, let’s recount: Alex spends his year traveling the world to places where he gets really, really tubed. He then videos those tubes and often turns the most euphoric moments of his existence into a serious payday. When returning from these idyllic locales, his boards get destroyed by an airline only to (probably) be refunded by a helluva lot more than he ever paid for said boards.

Not bad, Mr. Gray. Not bad at all.

Now if he could just find a main sponsor…


Low-Carb: WSL unveils new sponsor!

Welcome to the family Michelob Ultra!

Move over…ummm Monster? and make way for something better! The World Surf League just rolled out a sponsor for its American events, including the U.S. Open of Surfing and Trestles, and things are gonna get ULTRA cool!

That’s right my dawgs. Michelob Ultra, the beer for people who like to work out and also don’t like to drink beer, has found a market and it is you and it is me and it is Kolohe Andino’s dad Dino. Shall we learn about our new brew?

Michelob Ultra has (per 12 fl. oz.):

0.0 g fat

2.6 g carbs

95 calories

0.6 g protein

4.2% alcohol by volume

A Michelob Ultra spokesperson said:

“As our brand continues to gain momentum, our new partnership with the World Surf League will further connect us to those who are passionate about living the active and balanced lifestyle that Michelob Ultra celebrates.”

Michelob Ultra says the new deal is part of its strategy to reach ‘drinkers who embrace and prioritise an active, balanced lifestyle.’ Financial terms have not been released.

And while I appreciate that Michelob’s parent company Anheuser-Busch feels that surfers are interested in a superior tasting light beer that promotes an active, social lifestyle part of me wishes we could have been sponsored by the -Rita series which features beer masquerading as margaritas. We have Lime-a-Rita, Straw-Ber-Rita, Lemon-ade-Rita, Mang-o-Rita and Grape-a-Rita.

Lime-a-Rita etc. have (per 12 fl. 0z):

8% alcohol by volume

But beggars can’t be choosers and welcome aboard Michelob Ultra. Things gonna get WILD!

(quick question… how many Michelob Ultra’s does it take to get drunk?)


Was John mauled by a rogue emu?

Watch: “Is the WSL a Buncha Babies?”

Jack Robbo says yes!

I’ve still not calibrated the full significance of this moment, but something tells me JJF’s 2017 performance at Margies will be remembered long after the WSL has been replaced by the Bud Lite Lime International SUP Tour.

John’s rail-to rail approach was more meaningful than any number of tens at North Point or the Box could ever be. It was the best maneuvering of a surfboard we’ve witnessed to date.

But do you know what Finals Day’s second-biggest story was? The infamous “Shark Scare” — because apparently that’s what we’re calling bait balls now.

Given the circumstances, postponing the Filipe/Kolohe was the right call. They had only one more heat to run, so taking a twenty-minute breather while the sea life dispersed had no real impact on the day. But the way they all talked about it was so…

They were being a bunch’a babies!

No one even “saw” a shark besides Kolohe, who said: “I was scared for sure. I didn’t see a huge shark but I think I saw a little shark.” I think I saw a little shark, he said.

That is exactly what someone who didn’t see a damn thing would say.

“Lotta sharks in our heat,” continued Filipe. “They came up to play a little bit. I was bleeding, and all the shark was like [wild hand movements].”

Filipe, son… most sharks are fish (what is a whale shark again?), but not all fish are sharks. I’ll take it easy on the guy though, he did well to punch out of his weight class. As did Kolohe. And Freestone.

Then John, bless his prodigal heart. The kid jumped off a wave at the worst possible moment and slammed into a reefy partition, resulting in a little blood and a lotta lump. But did you see how they wrapped that thing pre-final? Looks like some type of suicide-bomber splint. Probably just ice and bandages, but these WSL docs aren’t messing around!

At least John was having a little fun with the shark hysteria. “I told Jack [Freestone] I was chumming the water for him,” he said, while eating a pre-final pear.

The voice of reason came in the form of teenage wonderkid (who, to be fair, didn’t have to surf this day) Jack Robbo. “It’s probably a Wobbegong they saw,” he told Peter King with a face of stone. “There’s nothing to be freaked out about — not this time of year. There is when the cold water moves up and they follow the whales, but it’s just small Bronze Whalers [today].”

All of this and more in the latest #TourNotes!