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.

15-foot White Stops Junior Surf Contest!

Healthy ocean, yes?

Yesterday, the Western Australian junior surf titles fled a hundred k’s north after a fifteen-foot White announced itself by breaching during a second round heat.

The White breached “multiple times” about fifty feet from twenty teenagers at Avalon beach in Mandurah, an hour’s drive south of Perth.

Understandably, Surfing WA packed up its contest tents and the event was relocated to Trigg Beach, one of the few reliably rideable waves in Perth.

From the press release:

Surfing Western Australia’s first and foremost priority is to provide our members and competitors with the safest and fairest conditions possible. We’re not confident in light of today’s events is that Mandurah is that place.

Earlier today, BeachGrit reader, Matthew Wilson, sent me an email with a little background.

“All authorities were contacted and no authorities bothered attending. The shark then stayed in the area for a few hours at which point parents became frustrated that the beach had not be closed or a helicopter or drone sent out or fisheries sent to inspect.

“The beach was eventually closed around four pm after many phone calls to authorities from multiple parents. One of the guys involved in resuscitating Ben Gerring (the surfer who was killed two years ago by a Great White nearby) was informing people as they turned upon after work to go for a surf. The shark was still being sighted in the area at five pm.

“The new government shark mitigation strategies are a shambles, No technology will stop a five-metre GW except a hook.”

Now you can look at all the Great White action in two ways.
That its protection  since 1999 has proved a tremendous success and we should all be grateful for the foresight of our leaders who passed the necessary legislation.
Or, two, we might admit the shark thing is out of fucking control and ice a couple to restore the delicate balance we all claim to seek.
In which camp do you reside?

RIP: The iconic Jack O’Neill!

The coolest looking surf industry titan ever!

Jack O’Neill, founder of O’Neill wetsuits, died today in Santa Cruz, California. He was 94 years old. And has any founder of a surf company looked cooler? Looked more like a pirate? I think not. Matt Warshaw writes in his Encyclopedia of Surfing:

O’Neill lost sight in his left eye in 1971 after his leash-tethered surfboard snapped back and hit his face; the surf leash, ironically, had been invented the year before by Pat O’Neill, Jack’s son. (A stylized piratelike image of O’Neill with a full beard and eye patch would later be used as the company logo.)

O’Neill was by that time the consummate behind-the-scenes operator of what was turning into a small international empire, hiring talented managers so that he could continue to surf and sail around Santa Cruz. He never brought attention to himself, and on the rare event when he spoke to the surf press he modestly attributed his success to little more than good timing. Industry insiders, however, regard O’Neill as perhaps the coolest and shrewdest surf businessman alive—the “rubber baron,” as surf journalist Ben Marcus later called him.

(read the rest here and subscribe you cheap bastard!)

Cause of death unannounced at this time but I sure do wish there was another surf industry founder who sported an eyepatch.

O’Neill will be missed.

Smells like teen spirit!
Smells like teen spirit!

Panic: So Cal sharks here to stay!

They were on their way to Mexico but then Trump!

Oh of course you are aware of all the shark sightings and attacks in what used to be bucolic southern California. People in the lower 1/3 of the state used to sigh thankful sighs of relief when considering the countryside north of San Francisco, Australia’s western and eastern halves, South Africa, etc.

“Thank heavens its not us…” they would whisper to surfing friends bobbing in Orange County’s warm waters who would respond, “Oh goodness me…” while placing a gentle hand over a suddenly troubled heart.

And then the troubles came. Oh how they came! Nipping and biting and breaching and bringing hell with them. There has been a general consensus, though, that they were merely passing through. Migrating to the warmer waters of Baja.

Except let’s read from shark expert Chris Lowe of Long Beach State in today’s Los Angeles Times.

Lowe, however, has a different theory. Usually, those juveniles would have migrated south to Mexico for warmer waters. But they didn’t, and they might not leave at all.

“The best evidence I have is that the last two winters none of those animals have migrated south to Baja but one — a 2-year-old, 8-foot shark,” Lowe told patch.com. “That, we attribute to El Nino because the water [temperature] never got below 60 degrees.

“The sharks are now getting bigger. They may be able to tolerate slightly cooler conditions. The bigger they get, the less likely they are to migrate. It all depends on feeding here.”

And the feeding is looking pretty sweet this coming fall when the Hurley Pro rolls into town. Am I right or am I right?

Say hello to the Pisauridae mickfanningi!

Breaking: Spider Named After Fanning!

If this ain't the difference between America and Australia, I don't know what is!

In America, mainstream society bothers itself mainly with football, beer, and reality TV. In Australia, it’s footy, beer, and… surfing! What a people, those British-rejects!

And the Aussie devotion to surf often leads to unimaginable outcomes. Most recently, in fact just yesterday, Mick Fanning was honored with the namesake of a newly discovered species of arachnid. I kid you not.

Let’s read from ABC:

A competition was held to name the new species of water spider at the recent World Science Festival in Brisbane.

Entrants were asked to pick a name that not only captured the essence of the spider but drew inspiration from World Science Festival Brisbane, World Water Day or a Queensland connection.

Brazil’s Hector Manuel Osório Gonzalez Filho submitted the winning name, mickfanningi, in honour of the Gold Coast surfer.

And how do you think Mick Fanning feels about this Brazilian-born expansion of his legacy? Is he ecstatic or slightly disturbed? Let’s see!

And this acknowledgement, something I’ll label as gracious indifference, is the only professional response to the fact that a hairy, eight-legged menace was named after you. He continued:

“It’s pretty awesome to know that the spider is quite local to the Gold Coast and only a short drive from Snapper,” Fanning said.

You hear that? An almost-Snapper-local! Which makes me think the mickfanningi would have been better suited as a snake… or maybe a shark?

Better luck next time, science.