I turned up for Owen's heat just in time to see him doing the death march under a blue-grey axe before being spat out of the gas chamber untouched, slouching. I scribbled 8.17 with a Bic Classic fine and the judges awarded 8.5. Fair enough. | Photo: WSL/Ed Sloane

Fiji Pro: “This dream’s too beautiful to die!”

Expert contest analysis, day one, OK Fiji Pro… 

Good afternoon in Australia, evening in America, middle of the night in Brazil and welcome to the Beachgrit coverage of the Pacific leg of the WSL.

I had a nervous bobble of a start this morning after a little DMT around a campfire last night. It was a very, very successful trip, believe me. Missed the opening exchanges and turned up for Owen’s heat just in time to see him doing the death march under a blue-grey axe before being spat out of the gas chamber untouched, slouching.

I scribbled 8.17 with a Bic Classic fine and the judges awarded 8.5. Fair enough. We are all hyper-vigilant now about being made a laughing stock by the judges keen to propel fairytale storylines as a way of propping up a title race.

Well, while the Grit is alive and publishing, they won’t. They won’t. Believe me.

Speaking of compliant media, wasn’t that the biggest own goal, ever, in sport’s history? I mean the way Speaker came in and tried to put a massive claim over every piece of WSL content.

“We own everything now!” he said, \alienating the greatest asset the ASP/WSL ever had, a tame surf media ready to cheer-lead until the crack of doom.

How could you fuck that up?

Second biggest own goal was disowning and turning away from the sport’s drug culture which spawned modern surfing. They tried to scrub it clean and sterilise it to capture middle Australia and America and in doing so forced it into a future of perpetual lies, confirmed it’s status as third tier sport doomed to mediocrity, constantly running in fear of it’s own shadow.

Speaker doubled down on the bland and made pro surfing as cool as tiddlywinks. Mainstream culture now makes pro surfing look hopelessly reactionary and conservative. You disagree Shaun Tomson, Fred Hemmings, Ian Cairns?

Come on down into the comments and prove me wrong. The false dawn and the slow fade out are the hallmarks of professional surfing and I say that with complete joy in my heart.

This dream is too beautiful to die.

I was watching JJF, looking for his ability to read the line-up. Multiple swell angles, too much west in most of them put clean makes at a premium. And we got dead air for the start of the heat. Not even a shot of Barton in the mother ship swaying to yacht rock, just an unidentified Fijian man cruising on the deck while head high Restaurants peeled off in the background.

When we got back to live action JJF had an 8.17 next to his name. Must’ve been good. They showed a replay…..a drive through a chandeliering section before a non make. That couldn’t have been it. But it was. Bizarre. That over-score was enough to distort the spread and keep him clear of his opponents. Still, it seems totally counter-intuitive but Cloudbreak remains a weak point in the JJF arsenal.

Jack Freestone flew the flag for millenial fragility in the heat before. Coming in from a good ragdolling and a snapped board Barton asked him if he was back out there with five to go.

“No more boards”, was his terse reply.

What? He only bought one board to Cloudbreak?

A long period of two or three heats of ratty Cloudbreak ensued. It’s like that. As a recreational surfer you surf it in long dream-like sequences covering four, five, six hours, shivering in the squalls getting swept up or down the reef trying to make sense of it before the wind clocks around behind the brown hills of the main island and the surf goes perfect again.

Which it did, for Julian Wilson who enacted the Michelle Obama doctrine, “when they go low we go high” or as Rosy put it, “ it’s so crucial to stay har.”

That 9.5 was the best wave of the day, up to that point.

It went dreamy for Bourez, Miggy and Ace. Gunmetal grey cylinders went glacial blue and they were threaded, first by Ace, then Miggy before Bourez locked them both out with a pair of nines.

Kelly was in the mothership watching on. Salivating no doubt. He paddled out with Fanning and Bede and it immediately turned back to mud. Could there be a clearer sign for a man who believes how you surf in heats is a kind of spiritual litmus test of how your life is progressing that maybe the tour has moved on from Kelly? That it just isn’t that into him anymore? I hope not.

It was disconcerting seeing Kelly in single figures at six-to-eight-foot Cloudy. He had nothing, a total absence of what Foucalt calls pouvoir-savoir-knowledge, power.

An almost make on a weird bulbous inside section that he tried to grope his way through before being roughhoused into the reef was about the best of it. They ran a heat of round two and Brother eliminated Fijian wildcard Tevita Gukilau, who looked deserving.

That was the day. It was OK, better than Brazil.

Are you with me on that, or have I read it all wrong?

Christ, I forgot Europe. Good evening Europe.

Enchanted: Slater’s OK Fiji Pro Gift Bag!

Includes Pulitzer prizewinning book!

Did you know that at every event on tour, each surfer is gifted a bag full of sponsor produce? Typically, items include a towel, sunscreen and so forth.

Of course, these gifts do lead to conflicts of interest. A Hurley towel, for instance, is of little use to a Billabong surfer, who might be fined for appearing in public wrapped in his master’s competitor’s haberdashery. Oh the daily headaches of the very best! Mostly, the items end up gifted to friends, occasional lovers etc.

Kelly Slater and his band at OuterKnown (John Moore, Zak Bush and so on), however, have curated a collection for their Fiji contest (watch now etc) that mixes practicality with promotion and all contained within an elegant valise.

Each surfer receives:

A copy of the Pulitzer prize-winning book, Barbarian Days by the heavyweight champion of surf writing William Finnegan. Did you know Bill was one of the first surfers to hit Tavarua? Oh you will if you read the best surf book ever written.
Fair Trade Certified Outerknown Lowtide Sweatshirt
Outerknown 100% organic pima Cotton Sojourn Pocket Tee
Outerknown It’s Not OK Towel (100% of profits of these go to support the Ocean Conservancy)
Electric Sunnies
Do these gifts make the minute hairs on your body bristle ever so slightly too? Does it make your innocent shanks tense with joy?
And, if you were given the job of curating a tour event gift bag, what would you include?

Help: The WSL judges needs us!

Bizarre scoring coming out of Fiji has only one remedy. Me! And you!

The Outherknown Fiji Pro is on RIGHT NOW and what a great joy it is. The waves are almost in the very good range. Martin “Pottz” Potter has found some sort of digital pen and can now draw on the webcast like the great John Madden used to draw on your TV.

And the judges! They still fucking suck!

I’m sorry to have to say it but at this point it is just plain self evident. Let us take heat 5 of round 1 as a very bland but standard example of their incompetence. Jordy Smith vs. Yago Dora vs. Jack Freestone. Jordy Smith caught a not very big wave in the first few minutes, threw a meaty turn and was scored…


One turn. Near the beginning. High-ish score. And the rest of the heat was fairly fucked though it didn’t really matter at the end as neither Yago nor Freestone did much.

But still.

I knew that 6.33 was too high for one turn at Cloudbreak. You knew that 6.33 was too high for one turn at Cloudbreak on a day featuring almost very good surf near the beginning of a heat. Which makes me think the judges need us! They’ve lost all touch!

And how easy would it be for the judging crew before locking in the final score to throw to the BeachGrit comment section real quick? Just a…

“Hey guys. We think Jordy got a 6.33 for that one turn. Yeah?”

And we’d respond…

“What the hell? Try no. It’s still way too early in the heat to score a one turn wave. Give him a 5.23.”

And all would be right with the World Surf League again. We’d even do it for like…. a case of whisky.

Am I right?

Hi li'l fellas!
Hi li'l fellas!

Fantasy Surfer: The impotent science!

Like standing in a baseball card shop at thirteen!

I remembered this morning that BeachGrit has a Fantasy Surf Club with some two-hundred some participants. The current winner, oceanyeti, has 3357 points. The current loser, chassmith, has 0. And where the hell is real surf gambling?

Oh I ain’t talking Fantasy Grudge where I might, maybe, could win a few thousand dollars over the course of a season. I’m talking Vegas-style over/unders etc. where I could lose my house over the course of a round.

And I’ve wanted this for such a long time and tried, for a brief moment last year, to pretend Fantasy Surfer was this. But doesn’t Fantasy Surfer feel… childish to you? Oh I know that all of surfing is childish but doesn’t Fantasy Surfer feel… childish and impotent?

To me, it feels like standing in a baseball card shop at thirteen. Like going to see a movie with your parents at fourteen. Like going to a dance with your own sister at fifteen.

Australian friends. You are able to bet the surfers. You are able to bet them like Americans can bet ponies. Do you? Do you win? Do you lose? Tell me what it feels like to really gamble on surfing. And if there are any Las Vegas casino owning BeachGrit fans reading right now, please tell me how we can host WSL Nite at your fine establishment.

Or maybe I’m wrong and should just play Fantasy Surfer. Maybe going to a dance with your own sister at fifteen feels awesome.

When will Johnny find a W in the South Pacific? | Photo: WSL

Fiji: Who Will Tame the Beast?

It's gonna be a good week!

As previously stated, I think it’s wonderful that the women will finish their side of the OK Fiji Pro at pumping Cloudbreak. That said, I ain’t exactly upset that the guys are the ones scoring this year.

The forecast for the men’s event is strong. The first three days offer up well-overhead surf and, after a slight break, more waves look to be marching up the Aussie-NZed chute. If I were to guess, the comp will likely run up to the quarters during the first round of swell and finish with the secondary pulse.

Selecting a team for Cloudbreak is more science than sentiment. Experience pays dividends at a wave of this caliber, especially with swell on tap. So, here are my picks:

John John Florence: 11.75 mil
John fell out early in Brazil, which hurt my team but helped in a number of other ways. For one, it opened up the world title race. Two, it gave a Yago a chance to shine (and Yowza!). Three, he’s now three-quarters of a mil cheaper, which will help throughout the rest of season (if you hold onto him).

John’s never had a CT win in barreling reef-break conditions — a stat that is bound to change sometime in the near future. Talent-wise, the only people that can touch John at Cloudy are Kelly and Gab, but as we know, it takes a lot more than talent to win an event nowadays. He’ll have to fight through the Ace Buchans and Jadson Andres (two wildly capable tube riders) if he wants to earn the taste of Fijian victory (a double-skulldragger).

Gabriel Medina: 10 mil
In the past three years, Gab has been the world’s best Cloudbreak surfer. Aside from his two victories, he’s pushed the boundaries of progression in sizeable, shallow surf. His barrel-to-oop last year, a head-scratching 6.97, was something from a different era. A future era.

Budget-wise, I had to choose between Owen and Gab. While Owen has had an exceptional year to this point, and has a striking record in waves of this sort, my gut tells me to stick with GQ.

Kelly Slater: 7.5
With waves on the horizon, it’d be foolish to look past Slater. If there’s one thing in this world that can save him from faulty boards and a bad back, it’s pumping Cloudy. Kelly may not win the whole thing, but if he does, would you really want to be the idiot who sat him out? This is his event, in more ways than one.

Ace Buchan: 6.25 mil
It’s a shame Ace did so well in Brazil, not because I dislike the guy, but because that second-place finish upped his Fantasy price significantly. When Kai Otton was on Tour, every year I would pick both he and Ace at Cloudy and Chopes, and to memory, those purchases often paid dividends. Hopefully Ace will keep his foot on the accelerator, or rather, the front-third of that shimmering JS. The man’s got giddy-up.

Mick Fanning: 4.5 mil
I’m not sure what Mick’s real price is, as I’ve had him since Snapper and will hold onto him through Pipe, but at 4.5 mil he’s a steal out at Cloudy. Evidence suggests that left tubes may be a weakness in Mick’s game, but if you watched the 2016 event you know he’s more than capable of nabbing nines and tens when the conditions are right. Even when it’s smaller, well, let’s just say his backside snap is nothing to sneeze at.

Jeremy Flores: 4.25
Jer’s got all the passion in the world and his surfing has never looked so fine! If it’s on, and it looks like it will be, Jeremy is one of the best backhand tube riders in the world. He’s also not afraid of anyone on the CT, nor anything the ocean can throw at him. Do you remember the wave he almost made at Teahupo’o during the Code Red year? Jeebus.

Italo Ferreira: 4
I can’t tell you how happy I am to see The Italian Ferrari back on Tour. With a healed ankle and renewed sense of motivation (nobody wants to rely on the injury WC for requal’), I can’t see Italo falling out before Round five. Fiji is his favorite place in the world, and the kid is shockingly good in forehand tubes. Do you remember, in his rookie season, when Italo smashed Slater at eight-foot Cloudy? Kelly remembers.

Nat Young: 1.5 mil
It’s tough to pick between Nat and Yago here. My heart says Yago, but my mind looks to seeding (Nat is number 30, Yago, 35) and history (Nat is a former finalist, while I don’t believe Yago has surfed in Fiji before).

While I like Yago’s first round one heat against Jordy and Kanoa, the idea that he might be paddling out to his first session at sizeable Cloudbreak in a jersey is too risky for me. You can’t just show up to that wave and get two good waves in your first thirty minutes… I think.

Nat gets the nod.