Crossed Rapiers: Sean Doherty vs. Longtom!

Two titans of surf journalism elevate the blood feud!

Is there anything better than a true duel between equals at the height of their powers? Iron sharpening iron so that each side positively glimmers? Oh we are the lucky ones who have witnessed Magic vs. Bird, Manet vs. Duranty, Hamilton vs. Burr. These clashes are bigger than mere blood feuds. They are art and exceedingly rare though I do believe we stumbled upon one in Fiji and no I am not referring to Wilko vs. Connor Leary or whatever the hell that person’s name was.

I am referring to the great Sean Doherty vs. our very own Steve “longtom” Shearer!

The two traded blow with their contest coverage and not in the way that I pound The Inertia’s Zach Weisberg with a brick whilst he turns to vanilla pudding in the corner.


They danced around each other, each holding noble swords, parrying, retreating, testing defense, noting offense.

And it was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant to behold.

Let me submit two examples from the week.

From Sean Doherty on Coastalwatch:

Out fishing the other day here in Fiji, I’d heard a story about a mutual friend pulling in a yellowfin, slicing it open as it fluttered on the deck, cutting out its beating heart, eating it, then discovering – if only in his own mind – that he now possessed some kind of primal animistic power, which manifested most potently out in the surf. He was suddenly the tuna god. I thought at the time as a winning strategy here in Fiji it would be without peer. The story alone would ensure you’d have the peak to yourself. Whatever supernatural powers you assumed would simply be a bonus.

The fish to their credit have been on the chew. We filled The Duck – Namotu’s fishing tender –with wahoo and mahi yesterday, a couple of rainbow runners and one sad, scaly, foul-hooked longtom.

Totally a dig at longtom! And then Sean went on to detail his surfs, chats, coffees etc. with industry notables (Renato Hickel, Borg Garcia, etc.) and then poetic contest coverage.

Never to be outdone and especially after being called sad, scaly and foul-hooked, Steve Shearer performed an arrêt à bon temps on BeachGrit:

Goddamm it, I just wasted a half hour on this tight deadline thumbing my paperback copy of Hunter Thompson’s greatest book, The Great Shark Hunt, looking for the quote where Hunter describes just this clubby band of insider journalists and how they end up becoming good Germans and useful idiots.

Ah, here it is! Take it away Hunter.

“The most consistent and ultimately damaging failure of surf* journalism in America has it’s roots in the clubby/cocktail personal relationships that inevitably develop between politicians and journalists… When professional antagonists become after hours drinking buddies they are not likely to turn each other in… especially not for minor infractions of rules that neither side takes seriously; and on the rare occasions when minor infractions suddenly become major there is panic at both ends”.

And if I may boil the nut of this feud down to this root. Doherty is from the school that you must be friendly with subjects, in order to glean any insight. Shearer argues that chumminess equals failure.

I believe both to be equally true. In this cloistered surf you must know people in order to get anything. But if you write about what you know you soon lose access and then lose anything to say. It is easy to drink beer with the brands, write cloying phrases about the surfers and stick around. It is just as easy to flamethrow then sit at home and snipe without ever coming face to face with those you demean.

The best surf writing somehow, in some way, dances between these two poles. I submit Fred Pawle’s King of Queens as one example and Matt Warshaw’s response to Reno as another. But these flashes are rarer than they should be. Maybe because we’re all a little lazy right now, occupying our lanes, observing but not engaging.

Sean vs. Steve over Fiji made me realize that we could have a potential Ali vs. Frasier, McEnroe vs. Borg, Michel Jackson vs. M.C. Hammer. We would all have the honor of witnessing. The game could be forever raised.

And I need them to cross swords again.

So Sean Doherty, I slap thee with a lambskin riding glove (made by Hermes and on behalf of Steve “longtom” Shearer who can only afford pleather work gloves because BeachGrit didn’t sell for 35 million yesterday). Do you accept?

Respond on your Coastalwatch before sun down (J-Bay) and if you don’t accept I’m coming after you with my brick.

All black will melt your wax, but when you rock full deck pads, who cares?

What your board spray says about you!

Choose wisely!

It’s time to touch back on a highly debated topic in the world of surf — board art!

As we all know, painting one’s board is not just a simple artistic expression (like outsiders may believe). Rather, the flavor of one’s foam speaks to the core components of his character, perhaps even his soul.

I’ve taken it upon myself to detail the different types of surfer based on the aesthetics of their sled. Let me know if I missed anyone!

Plain white

You’re one of three people — 1. the thousand-yard-stare, black-wetsuit-only, fairly-talented-but-never-happy surfer from every local lineup 2. A normal guy who bought a board and didn’t feel like painting it or 3. A total fucking barney with either rich parents or a job in finance.

All black

You’re either Chippa wilson, Dion Agius, or an idiot.

Painted rails

You care deeply about your surfing and work hard to improve it. You want to go fast, and you’ve read enough psychological studies to know that colored rails will allow you to do so, at least from the viewer’s standpoint. You used tape to paint your stick because you wanted it to look professional.


You are loud and proud and don’t give a fuck what other people think. You might be a grom, you might be fifty, but either way you consider yourself the hottest surfer in the water at any given time. Best case scenario, you’re Hector Santamaria. Worst case, you’re not.

Resin tint

You’re old enough to know that painted boards age more gracefully, so you get ‘em glassed heavy and colored to the core. You probably ride a fish or a Mal but that’s ok, because you share poetic connection with the wave. Your ideal surf trip is to Costa Rica.

The fuck-off paint job

Your favorite surfer is Noa Deane, who recently replaced your other favorite surfer Ozzie Wright. Every single picture of you includes either a cigarette, a beer, or a middle finger, but probably all three. You can do a wicked frontside chop hop but not a proper cutback.

The marker masterpiece

You always wanted to be an artist, but you also wanted to pull chicks. As a kid, you surfed by day — thus earning the bleached-blonde hair and cocoa butter tan of a modern-day Cassanova — but spent your nights diddling on a notepad. All your friends beg you to paint their boards.

Waxing lyrical

You’re either religious, a hip-hop enthusiast, or another Noa-Deane-worshipping punk. Stay away from me.

The aged gouda

You know that, in terms of wave riding ability, it’s about the Indian, not the arrow. You prefer surfboard designs from the 1990s and surf exclusively on the back-third of your 6’3 x 17 ¾ Merrick. People secretly envy your roundhouse.

So, under which exaggerated stereotype do you fall? Me at least four!

The Titans of Mavs event. Terrifying things happen even on sunny days! | Photo: @titansofmavs

WSL throws low-ball offer at Mavs event!

Maybe a fairytale ending for wounded surf contest.

Yesterday in The Mercury News, which is a fine northern Californian daily, it was reported the WSL had taken a swing at buying the rights to running a contest there.

Do you remember the big-wave event at Half Moon Bay? It had a very good name (Titans of Mavericks) and a fine logo that gave a sense of luxury and power. You could almost hear the cursing, yelling and squirting of champagne.

I do tend to go blank at the machinations of running surfing events, who owns what, permits, companies suddenly evoking Chapter 11 etc. But reading between the lines, it seems the WSL threw a low-ball offer at the current owner, Cartel Management, to buy the event.

And the company, which has an unsecured debt of $US1.2 million and, yes, is in Chapter 11, had planned an auction on June 1 with a starting bid of one million dollars. 

The auction was cancelled, according to the Merc, because of “a lack of interest.”

And then in swung the WSL.

(From the Merc)

“If there is an opportunity for the WSL to acquire those assets we will,” WSL spokesman Dave Prodan said. “If they opt to sell those assets to another party, the WLS will reach out to another party to see if a partnership could be formed. If there is not a deal to be made with Cartel, the WSL will still pursue any other available avenues with regards to obtaining the correct permits to run an event.”

The WSL’s involvement could salvage a popular contest last held in 2016 after Cartel took over before facing financial and legal complications that led to a planned auction this month. However, Cartel canceled the auction because of a lack interest with bids starting at $1 million.

The WSL runs the Big Wave Tour that this spring was downsized from eight contests to three events: the Puerto Escondido Challenge in Mexico, the Pea’hi Challenge in Maui and the Nazaré Challenge in Portugal.

Even if the World Surf League got control of Mavericks, it is not clear new operators could secure all the permits in time for the 2017-18 season that begins in November. A U.S. District Bankruptcy Court judge last week granted Cartel a continuance until Sept. 20 to reorganize. It’s doubtful a transfer of sale could be approved before that date.

“I don’t have a huge amount of confidence in anybody at this point,” veteran Mavericks contestant Grant Washburn said Wednesday. “It is difficult to see how it comes back together and everybody is on the same page.”

Washburn, a San Francisco filmmaker who has competed in all 10 contests, understands why people gravitate toward Mavericks with big ideas.

“But there’s really not a right answer,” he said. “A lot of us feel maybe we don’t need this contest if it is going to be problems all the time. It is fairly disrespectful to continuously have these things thrown on it. This is a huge circus and is it really befitting of this place?”

“Sometimes the people that are running these things think they are doing all the surfers a favor,” said Washburn, who has surfed at Mavericks for more than 25 years. “But most of the surfers don’t like this. They just want it to go away.”

The just plain wonderful Matt Wilkinson beats tour rookie Connor O'Leary, 16.60 to 15.70 at good, four-to-six Cloudbreak. The win slings Wilkinson into first place on tour. | Photo: WSL/Cestari

Just in: Matt Wilko wins Fiji Pro!

And swipes the yella jersey from John John Florence… 

It’s run and done. No more weirdness I promise, just sportswriting.

By the way, it’s not muckraking I long for, though it’s good if done right, just good sportswriting and if you’re worried about hurting your friends feelings you’re fatally compromised before you write a word in anger. The only measure of success or failure is who is the last man, or woman, to put the boulder on the shoulder and trudge up the hill to file.

And thanks Kelly, I know you read yesterdays story and my Outerknown goody bag arrived in the mail this morning. I’ve worn the t-shirt proudly around the house, at your recommendation. Very soft, very comfortable, very sustainable. How good was it to have Kelly in the booth for the quarter-final between Bede and Parko?

No, that comment isn’t related to the receipt of the goodies. He just analysed and called it perfectly, once he was done with the spruiking.

Lets begin with the Wilko/J-Dub quarter-final. I have a dog in the fight when it comes to Matty Wilko, it’s not well known but he wouldn’t be on tour if it wasn’t for me. True fact. 2010, Teahupoo, with a mid-year cut. Remember that? Everyone who got cut had their careers crucified. John John and Medina came on Tour at that point. Round two four-to-six-foot Chopes and Wilko is on the knife edge. He loses this heat against Kekoa Bacalso and he’s off tour. Wilko is stressing in one of the boats before the heat. He needs a caddy. I volunteered. Yep, bush league to the max. Five minutes to go and Wilko is behind. I gave him a pep talk from the channel, just like Belly and Egan and the other top coaches, and wore a nicer hat than Glenn Micro Hall.

“Matt, get a tube and come out and do a turn,” I ordered.

Amazingly, he did just that and won. And now here we are, all those years later with Wilko right at the top of the tree.

Did you listen to the podcast Rory Parker did with surf writer Nick Carroll? Yes, it is hard to keep track of them all but in it Nick waxed lyrical about the amazing ability of the pros to keep command of their own performances and tailor them to what the judges want to see. Julian Wilson would be the perfect rebuttal to that premise. The most technically gifted surfer on tour who could be sitting on multiple world titles but just can’t seem to produce the correct performance at the correct time.

Matty Wilko showed it was no fluke when he beat JJF like a gong, twice, last year to final against Medina. He’s a fruit, not a yobbo, but now with a stainless steel core and he blew J-Dub off the park with three devastating opening rides and, really, that was it. J-dub fought back with two solid efforts including one under priority that Wilko surprisingly let him take unmolested. Day late, dollar short.

I thought Wilko was the only one doing proper turns all event, cutting hard against the grain, and Connor O’Leary was “cheating”, surfing off the fins and tail, releasing too quickly and not properly digging in. He was sneaking through heats but in the final he opened with some full-throated turns.

We’ve raced ahead. Rewind the tape.

Stupidly, without checking the draw, I called a Bourez/Wilko Final, an impossibility according to the draw, but it should have been, based on form. Wilko stuttered at the beginning, as if the pressure of favouritism had suddenly kneecapped his mojo. He chipped away while Bourez nailed a few mid-range rides, just critically underscored. That left Wilko needing a mid five.

On the buzzer he paddled into a smallish wave, did a fading cutback and threaded a small throaty tube. I wrote “no” on my palm cards. Judges, aware of favouritism, myth, Wilko being the best surfer of the event, a hundred other subconscious influences that Richie Porta would never dream of, said Yes.

Who was in the other semi? I forgot already. Parko and O’Leary. Parko went to sleep and O’Leary went to work and with a minute remaining Parko needed an eight. He hadn’t had an eight all event and he was out.

Lennox Pub was heaving for the final.

You could see the popcorn out in the channel as the tradewinds shuffled into the line-up. O’Leary stepped it up, Wilko countered then butchered the wave of the final on his opening turn. It was a ten. Then took ten tons of punishment on the inside. If you haven’t surfed Cloudbreak it’s the worst place on earth for getting pounded if you screw up the take-off. Every wave swings wider and hits harder until you’re scraping knuckles down the inside with screaming lungs.

Old Wilko would have crumbled like mouldy cheese. Current Wilko calmly recomposed and surfed the best wave of the final. It is weird. You look around the web and interest in pro surfing is bumping along the bottom yet the Australian leg was insane and this conny has ended in an epic final.

What is keeping it going? Is Ziff pumped on it? That might be all that matters in the final analysis. It’s chump change for him to keep backing it. People in California might not throw grenades but they do here Chas.

“Back in your fucking box Longbong”, someone shouted across the bar.

Thank you ball-boys, thank you ball-girls and if it’s your shout I’ll have a Grey Goose and Gatorade thanks.

PS. If you’re reading Wilko, my caddy fee was ten thousand dollars.

One last thing: if the Giant Clam has been the totem animal of Fiji, what will the totem animal be for J-Bay?

Longtom, Post Restante, Lennox Head. Cheers.

Have you seen a man so obnoxiously complain about his own preferential treatment? | Photo: WSL

Parko: The Sportsmanship Award!

Typically such an award goes to a no-talent loser, but Joel could still win the event!

It’s the final day of the Half Decent Fiji Pro and the waves are pumping! Small, but bloody beautiful. Eights and nines are falling like conservative leaders and it’s a pleasure to watch.

I won’t steal Longtom’s thunder, as his daily wraps have been, by in large, better than the actual webcast, but there’s one situation I must bring up.

We know Joel Parkinson as many things. A style master. A tube hound. A world champ.

We don’t know Joel as a limp-dick pussy. As someone who would take any less than a mile if given half an inch. He is, or at least has always been, a ruthless competitor.

But recently we’ve seen a different side of the Coolie kid. There have been whispers that this could be his last year on Tour, and in that way he’s treating the season as year-long vacation rather than a legitimate title run. Ronnie Blakey, before the start of Joel’s heat today, remarked how loose and happy Parko has seemed throughout the season.

So that’s the context we’re working with, and it sheds an important light on two sportsman-like gestures that we wouldn’t necessarily expect from Joel Parkinson. Both of them in Fiji, both of them relating to priority.

Parko has a notorious history with priority. He’s the guy who, in the early-2000s, was infamous for commanding the inside position during non-priority portions of a heat. Through years of continually stealing the inside, Parko created such a psychological advantage that guys literally stopped trying to compete for the first wave of the heat.

Now back to Cloudy. In round three heat nine, Joel faced the formidable Jeremy Flores in windswept afternoon conditions. With similar experience and approach, the heat was essentially a toss-up. Joel knew he would need any advantage he could get to ensure victory.

Then it happened — a mid-size double-up rolled into the lineup, Jeremy holding priority. The Frenchman saw the lump, made a motion toward the beach, but quickly realized he wouldn’t be able to catch it. He put his hand on the nose to signify non-commitment, but the judges didn’t buy it. Priority switched to Joel.

We later learned, in Joel’s post-victory interview, that he disagreed with the judges’ assessment. “You don’t want to win like that,” he told Barton.

Today, another incident. Stu Kennedy took the first wave of the set and fell somewhere down the line. Joel took number two and made it a bit further. Parko’s ski made its retrieval quicker than Stu’s, resulting in Joel’s earlier arrival to the lineup. Priority was given to Joel, despite the WSL’s constant reminders that in such a situation, priority would likely go to the person who took the first wave of the previous set.

Joel wasn’t happy. He motioned, for maybe ten seconds, in a way that demonstrated his disdain for the call. It should have gone to Stu, his hands said.

That’s when Ronnie reintroduced the Jeremy situation, mentioning that not only was Joel unhappy with that call, but that he allegedly told Jeremy, mid-heat, to take whichever wave he wanted. That the judges messed up and he shouldn’t have to suffer because of it.

I’m not sure if he said the same to Stu, but the Lennox-local took a nothing wave shortly after which presumably quelled the situation. Either way, this is one of the most sportsman-like gestures I’ve seen in some time. That it came from a dogged competitor like Joel Parkinson makes it all the more interesting.

Joel won the heat by way of a last-second seven, which was perhaps facilitated by his own karmic justice.

Which makes me think — maybe Joel hasn’t actually lost the competitive edge. Maybe he’s just found a new method to gain favor with the Ultimate Judge (AKA God, AKA Richie Porta).

He surfs against Bede in Quarter four.