I like replica pistols, playing Guitar Hero and rail surfing.

Switcharoo: Is rail surfing the new “gay”?

Is rail surfing for studs only, airs for the fragile and sexually transcendent? 

A couple of days back, Filipe Toledo put together the most extravagant ride in the history of pro surfing. He made J-Bay whimper in his arms and his competitors look like haggard masturbators.

But when I posited as much on Instagram, there erupted a debate as ancient as surfing itself, the whole “rail” versus “air” thing. Now, you would’ve thought this sorta argument would’ve disappeared long ago as surfers came to realise that doing a cutback is a hell of a lot easier than an alley-oop.

But, no!

As the noted filmmaker Rory Pringle wrote, “Uhhhhhh, can I get a rail carve in there? WTF is this, Ubatuba?”

Another commenter wrote, “Airs are shit. Lay down some power carves.”

Another, “Fuckn bullshit overhyped shite. This ain’t Trestles.”

Back to Rory, ” And doing two identical moves back to back is progress? … We’ve got six year olds in Hawaii dropping alley-oops.”

Filipe, meanwhile, replied thus:


What do you think?

Is rail surfing for studs only, airs for the fragile and sexually transcendent?

Or do you think a fabulous switcharoo has taken place and rail surfing, inhibited, safe, is the “new gay”?

For reference, here’s Filipe’s double oop, multi-hack, ten.


Watch: Every 10-point ride at J-Bay!

The comparisons are brutal!

Oh how J-Bay fed our open mouths with tens. Eight of ’em!

You can watch every single ten below (thanks to The Inertia for finding the clip).

But what’s gonna strike you is that not every so-called perfect ride is created equal.

Compare the ecstasy of Filipe’s double-oop, multi-hack wave with the beautiful, if not exactly white-knuckle, surfing of Frederico Morais.

Of course, as was once revealed to me in the judging tower, heats are judged according to the conditions and all that matters is consistency within that heat. i.e. if you’re throwing everything eights, then a markedly better ride is going to steal a ten. Similarly, if nothing makes you dizzy and a surfer’s gotta work like hell to get a six, you might throw out one ten a year.

But it don’t matter. Consistency does.

And, therefore, there can never be any meaningful comparisons of tens throughout an event, as this clip demonstrates.

Just as the entire 36 surfer, four-day format has proven to be utterly unworkable, J-Bay the rarest of exception, a judging format that renders any sort of heat by heat or contest by contest comparison deprives history of markers.


As I cribbed from a copy of The New Yorker a year ago after a similar raft of tens, maybe the answer lies with gymnastics.

Gymnastics was all about the perfect 10-pointer, a mix of artistry and athleticism, but then in 2006 they tweaked the game for a system that rewarded difficulty over everything.

Ten pointers? Gone!

Was there a consensus?

Not exactly.

“It’s crazy, terrible, the stupidest thing that ever happened to the sport of gymnastics,” the gymnastics supercoach Bela Karolyi told the New York Times. “How could they take away this beautiful, this most perfect thing from us, the one thing that separated our sport from the others?”

Reeves Wiedeman in The New Yorker explains:

“By the turn of the century the limitations of the ten-point scale had begun to stunt the sport’s growth. To score well, a gymnast simply had to meet a minimum level of difficulty and not screw up. Gold medals were being given to safe routines that limited mistakes, while gymnasts who pushed the sport’s boundaries received no reward… The new system, laid out in the Code of Points, is an open-ended one, in which gymnasts are given two marks: one for execution, worth up to ten points, and another for difficulty, which is theoretically infinite.”

Change gymnast to surfer and you start to feel it, right?

Should there be two scores, each from its own panel of judges, given to a ride?

The first, say, is the usual, best moves in the most critical part of the wave, combos, speed and flow etc. The second, is a score given to the technical difficulty of the moves, of the wave.

Do you say yes?

Plague: The chubby white man in Hawaii!

An immodest proposal to make Hawaii great again!

There is a great scourge being inflicted on our dear Hawaiian Islands that doesn’t get the coverage it deserves. A pestilence. And it is important to speak this evil’s name in order to fight it and someday maybe even free that glorious chain from the tip of Diamond Head all the way to the shores of Wainha.

I am speaking, of course, of the chubby white mainland transplant.

There he stands in line at Costco, buying a few steaks maybe thinking about buying a big fishing pole or some XXL surf trunks. There he sits in his older pickup truck at the stop light, adding to the general traffic congestion while also cursing it. There he paddles into the lineup on a high performance longboard grumbling at the blow-ins. There he goes home to a rented apartment.

The chubby white mainland transplant never buys property so never pays property tax. He doesn’t start a business so he never employs anybody. He spends little while consuming much and is very proud of this feat. Aggressively proud. He has achieved his life’s two goal already (1) wearing shorts while eating Costco steak. 2) Swimming on a full stomach after dark year ‘round.) so his existence is not only meaningless but generally harmful.

I am not racist by nature but if I was a running for political office in Hawaii my platform would be that all white people must weigh under a certain weight and make over a certain amount in order to stay. Like, weigh under 190 and make over $130,000.

Those who did not comply by year’s end would be shipped to Guam.

Just think how much better Hawaii would be then. No more smug do nothings. No more high performance longboards.

Do you think I should move to Hawaii and run for political office?

Filipe Toledo
Did you, like me, have a terrible fear that Filipe, who let's be frank won this event a dozen times already this week, would accidentally lose the final? That judges wouldn't separate the scores of the two finalists with enough gusto?

J-Bay Final: “Filipe makes hearts sing!”

Toledo's insane edge work beats Fred Morais' safety swoops!

Perspective is everything and I confess mine was sorely scrambled last night, drunk on Pro Surfing, and I was literally caught napping by events.

I had been thinking all event of a new CEO for the WSL, binge watching Oliver Stone’s interviews with Putin and reading the foreword for William S Burroughs Cities of the Red Night where the pirates live a life of free association and wondering if there was some possible universe where Putin could come aboard as putative CEO and somehow restore freedom to pro surfing.

Freedom through strength.

And no corpo speak, just black russian KGB humour. Not ignoring critics, but making them disappear. Completely.

Imagine how great that could be. Which BeachGrit writer do you think would look most pitiful hairless in the hospital crib stuck with tubes and how much would you contribute to a crowdfunding campaign to pay for an emergency Polonium-210 treatment to extend a life?

Me ?

A fifty for Derek, sixty for Chas and twenty dollar for Mike C. Chas would take the hair loss hardest so he gets the most money. He’d look like a little orphaned irradiated baby chihuahua from Hiroshima with no hair.

The Putin x WSL x KGB Collab will have to wait for now. We have a new Queen. Parsing Sophie’s Messerschmidt’s statement I read, there are no young people watching and they are betting the house on a chlorine dream. Money follows cool and wave tubs will be as cool as roller-blading the Santa Monica boulevard within a year.

In 1959, the poet Lawrence Lipton wrote The Holy Barbarians, depicting the lives of beatniks living in Venice Beach. In it he wrote, “The gulf between the cat and the square has become so great they can scarcely understand each other.” The quote fits the WSL. It’s impossible to overstate just how unaware WSL is of how deeply uncool is the marriage between Jock surfing and corpo-speak and how alienating it is to the young.

Back in the bus, driving busloads of kids to Splendour in the Grass (US equivalent Coachella) and not one little velvet bellbottom clad gal with mid-riff exposed, not one tatooed stud checking the WSL App.

The interest among the young is subterranean. The last flicker of cool snuffed out when Dane left the building and ZoSEa failed to capitalise on the fresh start by revamping the Tour. Speaker put the white surgical gloves on, scrubbed it bloodless and here we are.

Please let no-one offer John Florence as a counter-argument. John is not cool. He’s a fantasy wet dream for every locked in middle-aged work-a-daddy who dreams of putting a Beneateau 54 Oceanis (with mahogany interior, not oak) on a  broad reach between the Islands while they take the tiller and a loose-limbed backpacking lass in denim cut-offs salts up a margarita in the galley.

Still digesting the import of the  Big Bad Portugese Wolf gobbling up little Johnny Florence yesterday when the day started. I, finished work, with a turmeric Tequila shot at a local bar watching garage bands. Mark Twain observed there will always be the benign and the belligerent.

Which Jordy would show up? We know which one surfs better. But we got the soggy, philosophical Jordy and Toledo had him comboed all heat. Next. Jordy’s coach needs to get some slabs of meat and slap him around the head before each heat. Get him angry.

More comboes. A day lacking drama. The surf edging a little too big for the high performance we’d seen. I kept thinking it would look better with Derek Hynd weightless with the wind for a hundred metres across the coping than what we saw, which was surfers struggling to set the edge into a raw swell with wind.

Medina fell to the Wolf. Comboed. Wilson failed to draw blood on Toledo. And we had our Final two.

Morais was giving us safety swoops, Toledo insane edge work, roof top floats that weren’t finishing moves but punctuation marks. Hang on. Was this the Morais I saw yesterday, who I thought had comfortably beaten JJF not once but twice?

Was I completely fucking hallucinating? John has a “weak” turn and a “strong” turn, we agree on that. I saw too many weak turns to compete with a surfer, serving up meat and potatoes, yes, but so sizzling hot it burned everything it touched.

Now I wasn’t so sure. It felt like the justice of a JJF/Toledo Final, which was destiny, had been thwarted. And that didn’t feel good. Even surf journalist Nick Carroll, who in his 217 years of service to the craft has never written a paragraph questioning a judging decision was saying John wuz robbed.

I went back to my notes from last night as Toledo edged ahead in the final, where he remained at the end. Our Filipe, who makes our hearts sing. There was nothing, no record. Comments missing. A grand conspiracy. Where was the money at?

I conclude the coverage with an open Letter to Sophie Messerschmidt new CEO of the WSL.

Dear Sophie, you must admit now, after Toledos J-Bay performance, the greatest in Pro Surfing History that the WSL management look like pissant little ratfuckers disqualifying him from Fiji based on nothing more than youthful hijinks and ill-directed passion. To remedy that injustice and prevent this years World Champion from having an asterisk next to his name I implore you to order a resurf of the entire Fiji event sometime between now and Pipeline. We know now that there is provision in the rule book to accomplish this. 

Oh, and that personal welcome you have sent out to some surf journalists. I would like mine in handwriting please, sent Longtom Post Restante, Lennox Head.

Your faithful servant, L. Tom.

Turpel: “Another incident in the lineup!”

Is WSL commentator Joe Turpel the coolest customer ever?

And really, what do you think Joe Turpel has done in his life? Do you think that he might actually be in the witness protection program because he was a hitman for the mafia and gunned down 20 men in cold blood? Watching their guts spill across Italian restaurant floors before flicking a half-smoked cigarette at their corpses?

Do you think he served three tours of duty in Iraq watching mothers ripped from children and IEDs cutting down his best pals on earth?

Do you think he has spent time in a North Korean labor camp?

Was he a CIA operative stationed in Benghazi, Libya right when shit hit the fan?


How can the man be so cool whilst watching sharks try to eat professional surfers and calling the action live?

Two years ago, when Mick Fanning was almost gobbled whole, Joe Turpel encouraged him in an emotionless surf bro to “hop on the sled and reset.”

Two days ago, when a shark threatened Julian Wilson and some one else, Joe Turpel said, “A little moment in the water here.”

And yesterday, when the biggest shark in the entire world swam straight for Mick Fanning, Joe Turpel said, “Another incident in the lineup.”

It is the sort of cool only bred in the hottest of fires.

So what was Joe Turpel before he was a World Surf League commentator?

Also, what has Ron Blakey done to close God’s ear?

Listen here!