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.

Buy! Cheap!

Rumour: Buy Surfer (and co) for $40 mill!

The Enthusiast Network, owner of Surfer, maybe on the block for low low price!

This rumor is breaking fast and if you want to be a playa you’d best get liquid because a once in a lifetime opportunity might be here but it won’t be here forever.

The Enthusiast Network, owner of Surfer, Grind TV,, Hot Rod, Auto Trend, and others is allegedly on the block for the low low price of 40 million dollars!

And just think the fun you could have as captain of Surfer’s ship!

You could…… put yourself on the cover!

Grind TV? You could…… wait. Grind TV is still a thing? Well I suppose you could make it an even BIGGER thing by….. putting yourself on it? I’m sorry. I’m at a total loss as to what Grind TV actually is.

And then….. put your best friend on the next cover!

Grind TV? You could…… wait. Grind TV is still a thing? Well I suppose you could make it an even BIGGER thing by….. putting yourself on it? I’m sorry. I’m at a total loss as to what Grind TV actually is.

But Surfing! Shit. Never mind. Son of a bitch. Is this some kind of joke here?

Wait… this just in!

BeachGrit is allegedly on the block for the even lower price of 35 million dollars. Act fast! It is basically as robust as all of TEN’s surf titles and just think of the fun you could have as captain of THIS ship. You could…. have me n Derek over for dinner! We’ll bring the finest bottle of wine your local bottle shop sells!

Kelly Slater Judy Slater
Kelly and his mom Judy. | Photo: ASP/Cestari

Blood Feud: Kelly Slater’s Mom vs WSL!

Judy Slater infuriated by Fiji's poor conditions… 

The WSL tour is a bittersweet romance. Sometimes fertile, compelling, oftentimes the surfers, the best in the world, exert themselves in a void.

Yesterday at Cloudbreak, in rip-strewn three-footers, every surfer of note including the surfer whose company paid for naming rights, was thrown out of the event.

Read about it here.

Here, too. 

Were you furious? Or just bored by it all?

Judy Slater, Kelly’s mom, was the former. On Facebook Judy lit up on the WSL.

“You’re a bunch of yahoos! Even I, who have never surfed but know more than you, would have known better than to hold that contest in those shitty waves I think your judges are idiots. What, for example, constituted a score of nine in those waves? All of you should be replaced and the idiots that said hold the contest should be hung by the big toe. You could have done better to hold that contest at Kelly’s wave pool. Your score for your performance is -10.”

Judy’s pals concurred.

“Judy, I have felt this way for the past two years!!! When Kelly retires so will the WSL! I will certainly not be watching this lame ass crap!!!”


Whatever the merits of Kelly’s mom’s arguments, isn’t a fine thing for a mother to put her paws, protectively, around her cub?

Do you think when Kelly was roaming Facebook and he saw his mammy light up, he was thrilled? Or not thrilled?


Wilko don't look real thrilled but he gonna win. | Photo: WSL/Ed Sloane

Fiji Pro: “This contest is a stubborn mule!”

Pushing this stubborn mule of a contest over the hump into a manageable finals day… 

Four heats of round four completed in a somnolent South Pacific. Pushing this stubborn mule of a contest over the hump into a manageable Finals Day.

Anything to learn? Maybe an upgrade of the finals call from Kennedy/Wilkinson to Bourez/Wilkinson. Wilko looks sharp, looks tight. If it’s barrelling he can go in low and slow, like he did against JJF last year and come out with drama. I’s a Tommy Carroll line.

Horrible day here, flood rain and a howling wind from the south-east courtesy of an ill-tempered storm just to seaward, but I had to wash the computer grime off me so I went for a surf at the Pass. Someone I knew (a BeachGrit commenter?) yelled at me:,“Oi Longbong, no more fucking littry talk, stick to the facts”.

Nick Dee was that you? Memories of the time one of the honchos from the (then) ASP, accompanied by security (the now departed Woody, bless his soul), pulled me out of the press room at Bells to inform me that people in high places had taken exception to the tone of my coverage.

I gave him the Rosie Hodge defence.

“I was just trying to offer a ‘point of difference’, your honour.”

Aren’t her and Ronnie are making a beautiful team, even if her Californian inspired high self-esteem therapy speak becomes a little cloying at times. I pine for her to take the advice Kevin Spacey’s character President Frank offered his wife in House of Cards: “Put some steel back into your game.”

Yesterday’s comments led me to my daily focus of five minutes on insider/access journalism, usually performed by the good soldiers and true believers of pro surfing whose instincts, inasmuch as we can divine them, are to protect rather than reveal to hinder our understanding if it contrasts too  sharply from the official narrative.

As Nick Carroll constantly reminded us in his biography of Tom Carroll when referencing the drug culture on Tour, “ I didn’t write about the drugs.”

Who can blame him? Who would? Who would destroy relationships and the cosy, clubby atmosphere of being amongst friends and equals – of being accepted – by lifting the carpet and counting the scuttling cockroaches that fled from the light? Better to look away and be a myth-maker.

It’s why the best writing about surfing always comes from outside the inner circle. Our beloved Fred Pawle got a Pulitzer for his expose on Sarge or was it a Walkley for his story about gay tour surfer Matt Branson? Same difference.

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”.

Surf journalists as PR agents for pro surfers. Coaches as commentators. A sport that was handed over without a cent to an opaque organisation financed by a reclusive billionaire to be bleached and whitewashed to within an inch of its life, a blind eye turned to human catastrophes like Sarge’s sexual predation and AI. This is a sport that has had conflict of interest baked into it for so long it’s forgotten it’s there.

Thing is though, as Chas Smith showed in Welcome to Paradise now Go to Hell (shamefully, I’ve only read the free excerpts), we can all stomach the truth better than a handful of lies.

Enough? No Nick Dee, the joos aren’t to blame. Great times, the greatest to be a surf journalist!

We can write the truth and we only have libel laws to fear.

And being unable to visit Hawaii. And being coward punched by someone we pissed off.

And, ah, our own cowardice. And stuff.  Miaow.

Tune in tomorrow for the Finals Wrap sports fans.

*He said political.

Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 14.27, Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.93, Ian Gouveia (BRA) 10.40
Heat 2: Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.73, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 10.77, Italo Ferreira (BRA) 8.50
Heat 3: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 13.66, Joan Duru (FRA) 13.50, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 10.83
Heat 4: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 11.10, Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 5.54, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 4.67

Round 5 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Heat 2: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) vs. Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 3: Joan Duru (FRA) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
Heat 4: Stuart Kennedy (AUS) vs. Joel Parkinson (AUS)