Ain’t it the most wonderful thing in the entire world to have our boys back in the water? Professional surfing! Days that were, just last week, filled with dark depression now shine. My best friends Ron, Joe, Marty, Pete, the Waz and Kaipo!
Oh how their voices fill me with joy. How their voices chase my demons back to the recesses of my mind.
They are all at “The End of the Road” in “Tahiti” which is pronounced “taHIti” by Americans and TAhiti by Kaipo and Australians. They are at Teahupo’o.
But what does Teahupo’o mean? Either “heap pile” or “place of crushed skulls” or “pile of heads” I think.
But how is it supposed to be pronounced?
Why then do Ron, Joe, Marty, Pete and the Waz say, “Cho-poo?” Why then does only Kaipo get it right?
Linguists, the scientific study of language and my graduate degree, tells us that Kaipo is Hawaiian and does everything right.
Oowee, who saw that coming? But dry your tears! They're fish!
A new survey of shark scientists has revealed ninety percent of ’em believe sustainable shark fishing is preferable to sanctuaries and bans, and that hysterical voices in the conversation movement are overriding an evidence-based approach.
The result may seem counterintuitive, acknowledges lead author David Shiffman, but the finding points to the fact that wildlife conservation is more nuanced than the general public tends to appreciate. While people may believe that all shark species are endangered, and that any form of shark fishing threatens to push populations to collapse, Shiffman says the best available science evidence does not support those ideas.
The survey also reflects a concern among scientists that more extreme voices in the conservation community may be overshadowing a more evidence-based approach to protection.
“One of our conclusions from this is that those in the research community and those in the advocacy community should talk to one another more,” Shiffman says.
In general, the scientists favor policies that protect specific species, rather than those that set regional limits on shark fishing. Out of 12 conservation policies considered, shark sanctuaries and bans on shark finning received the least support from the researchers.
Does this sort of intellectual rigour excite you as much as it excites me?
That, and let’s use the example of Reunion Island here, it ain’t doing anyone any favours by protecting bull sharks inside the marine reserve there. All it’s done is create a length of coastline that has become unusable for humans.
Where, says Jeremy Flores, who ain’t a scientist but who grew up living in the ocean on Reunion, he won’t even surf anymore.
“Getting attacked is a fifty-fifty proposition,” he says. “I would say, stay out of the water. Stay… out… of… the… water.”
Day Two, Tahiti: “Can you live with a Jordy World Title?”
And what will Kelly Slater do to subtly delegitimise it?
Night sleeping is a bogey-man at Teahupoo. According to poet Morgan Williamson*, of all the elemental sounds of nature the sound of the ocean is the most awesome, beautiful and varied.
Subconscious dreams at Teahupoo are invaded by sharp rifle cracks, hollow boomings, vague roarings, splashing, whisperings, grave and solemn groaning and moanings.
Sleep is fitful. I slept fitfully, woken by sober, racing thoughts: why does the world title race suddenly feel so flat? The schizophrenic performances of Toledo? By turns bloodless and blazing.
Surfing has never been more omnipresent and felt more professionally impotent. It’s everywhere and it’s nowhere.
Or the absence, finally, of Slater who may come back but will never again challenge for a title. Fanning is making noises of retirement an Parko can’t be far behind. Bede is doing a testimonial lap.
Combined, that represents the loss of 15 world titles worth of experience. Not replaceable by the current rookie crop or anyone else on the QS radar. Surfing has never been more omnipresent and felt more professionally impotent. It’s everywhere and it’s nowhere.
Medina sat lifeless against Bede for an age, looking vague and uninterested before spiking a clutch bomb with a minute to go, making a mockery of my premise.
Who could replace the retiring veterans? Medina, JJF, Wilko? Yes.
Julian, Owen: Maybe.
Kolohe, Connor Coffin: Yeah, but nah.
Italo F: Definitely.
Did anyone else get the ad on the website for vaginal leaking pads? Market research from big data or a wild guess? As much of a mystery as the phenomenon of the boardshort riding up on the thigh of the backside tuberider.
No more off-message impressionistic wanderings – Derek hates it – and seeing as a new Pyzel Ghost is still in negotiation as part of the coverage fee, let’s go back to sportswriting, and nothing but.
Slow starts and sleepy heats were a symptom of a somnolent South Pacific and a funky breeze that laid down lips across sections that wouldn’t stay open. Zeke Lau and Wiggoly Dantas sat too deep up the reef for half a heat, while absolutely nothing happened. Emblematic. Zeke got pinched twice, Wiggoly racked up a couple of makes and that was the heat.
Wilko maintained command of his own performance against Ewing in the last scrappy heat of the day. Threaded one for a mid seven, incomplete on a bomb which could have been close to a ten. Ewing got, not much, but walks away with a heat win for the year.
Caulerpa is the brown seaweed that embraced and enhanced the vision of John Florence as he sat on the foam ball for a pair of nines against Nat Young. Edible, favoured by Okinawans and claimed to help increase longevity and virility. Available to citizens of the coterminous United States according to Ed Ricketts in the Log from the Sea of Cortez. If JJF goes through to the quarter-finals or better and Wilko makes round five or better then Teahupoo is essentially a dead rubber and we walk away and dream of Trestles.
Fear is an essential element of surfing Teahupoo, no doubt. Life changing wipeouts, according to Strider. The most fearsome image for the recreational surfer, sprint paddling for the horizon as the ocean sucks dry, paddling downhill, then uphill, up into the blue sky against the blue lip, so impossibly thick, looking over your shoulder into the pit and seeing someone beside you scratching into it, maybe Owen maybe a Tahitian, and looking into the pit. The mind rebels, goes blank, freezes in fear. Head snaps back to the horizon, no more waves, then back to the channel to see surfer gliding over the shoulder in a huge shower of spray. There’s no other wave like it.
But still, not the scariest thing about Teahupoo.
That is seeing Toothless and his mates well sauced on a weekend, getting corralled , fed warm beer after warm beer. Giving up on escaping and then being physically frog-marched down the road to the end of the road, gaining new drinking companions. Bottles getting smashed, shouts, preparing for some street fighting with “townies” from Papeete down for the weekend in jacked-up pickups and lithe girls lounging in tropical sun. A little whitey caught in a scrimmage of jacked up, tense drunk, hefty Polynesian men. The romance of the South Aeas. Bit of play fighting going amiss, someone throws a punch, Toothless has me in a headlock, friendly for now but too firm. Marching onwards, stuck in a granite strata of destiny. Cold fear. Drunk fear.
But no more digressions, I need that fucking Pyzel Ghost.
Winds turned trade, tubes stayed open. J-Dub and Ferriera indulged a tube duel in conditions that verged on the magical. I thought judges got the result wrong way around because they failed to give any account of Italo’s full speed, full-rail punctuation points on the ride.
Beatings to start the Fanning/Ace heat. Fanning should have had a ten for the biggest chamber of the day– what were judges waiting for? An aquatic unicorn? A new Global tour sponsor? Both would have been more likely than a better wave and better surfed wave than that today. Fanning made a critical error giving too much latitude to Ace, who, without priority, collected crucial scores under Fanning’s watch.
Last heat. Steinbeck looked forwards, with a masochistic contempt, to confounding his critics with Log from the Sea of Cortez, and knew it was likely to have limited appeal, but he never wrote for the internet and coveted a new Pyzel.
The greatest beneficiary of small Chopes is/was not Toledo but Jordy Smith and he is capitalising like Gordon Gekko on insider stock options.
Can you live with a Jordy Smith world title and what will Kelly Slater do to subtly delegitimise it?
Join us here tomorrow comrades for Finals Day and the final instalment in the Indo-Pacific leg of the coverage.
*Henry Beston actually, but Morgan woulda if he coulda.
“A state appeals court ruled Thursday that a billionaire landowner had no right to block public access to a San Mateo County beach without first obtaining a permit, rejecting arguments that a forced opening would be tantamount to stealing his property.
The 50-page decision by the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco affirmed a 2014 ruling by a San Mateo judge who ordered Vinod Khosla to give the public access to picturesque Martins Beach, near Half Moon Bay, which Khosla owns.
It was the latest slap-down of Khosla in a long, increasingly heated legal dispute with the Surfrider Foundation, which sued the co-founder of Sun Microsystems after he shut the access gate leading to nearly 90 acres of his coastal property in 2010. The nonprofit group founded by surfers charged that the closure amounted to development, requiring a permit from the California Coastal Commission. A judge agreed, prompting Khosla’s appeal.
“The courts said exactly what the Legislature said: The public has the right to access the coast,” said Joseph Cotchett, the lead attorney for Surfrider, in a hastily arranged news conference in his Burlingame office. “It’s their ocean. It’s their coast. It is not some private billionaire’s.”
Yes surfing, surfers, Surfriders, and the environment!
Good: 1 Evil: 0
This might be a terrestrial victory but is it a moral one?
Are we really happy that a single tech billionaire’s property was taken near Martin’s Beach so that a mass of tech millionaires could invade come in? Was this fight about the ocean or our greediness for waves?
Let me poke a stick at our collective proletariat stance for a moment before we gloat too hard.
Are we really happy that a single tech billionaire’s property was taken near Martin’s Beach so that a mass of tech millionaires could invade come in? (On the side, I wonder how much Surfrider attorney Cotchett brings in?)
Was this fight about the ocean or our greediness for waves?
The Surfrider Foundation does some wonderful things, but this legal effort doesn’t sit well. This isn’t like Mark Z’s Facebook Kauai land grab. (Hawaiians Crack Zuck! Read here.)
After all, if the Foundation really cared about the preserving the environment, wouldn’t it be better if they fought to keep Martin’s beach away from unknowns and in the hands of a man who has the resources to keep its sanctity?
And don’t try to convince yourself if you started a giant tech firm that you wouldn’t be the proud owner of a private piece o’ shoreline.
Maybe this is where our thinking goes afield.
In America, we don’t really hate the rich— we want to be the rich! This thinking is common.
It’s the same reason so many rip mercilessly on King Kelly. They don’t actually dislike him; they wish they had his fame, talent, and 11 world titles.
Sure, it’s fun to play Communist with other people’s stuff. But while we don’t have the time to talk Adam Smith, we should consider what it will be like the evening when Elon Musk comes knocking at your front door with that smug smile informing you of your eminent domain notice to allow his hyper-eco battery train to save the average shmo from overcrowding.
Hey, not so cool, now, right?
Why? Because we aren’t billionaires. Our property is important.
Man, I’m glad that Khosla got his can handed to him. Not because of my elevated sense of duty to the environment but because I’m selfish and want to surf anywhere I please.
The same is true of Surfrider, and of you, I suspect.
Now, close your eyes once more and imagine a crowded beach jammed packed with high-tech daytrippers on custom-colored resin drip boards waxed by their assistants. Oh, and all your hand-picked friends can squeeze into the lineup, too.
Filipe Toledo's title hopes shot. Jordy squeezes out of a hole.
News from the East, sire. Dawn breaks. The sky takes notes when we speak and Teahupoo whimpers to life. Conceptually, and as a sporting spectacle, the fire and fury of J-Bay was always going to be a hard act to follow. Maybe impossible. Impossible for surf writers too, and I think a fresh approach, experimental even, is called for.
The mental sloppiness of J-Bay has to be replaced by clarity so in deference to the missing presence of the greatest Teahupoo surfer ever, Kelly Slater, and the great and glorious backer of pro surfing Dirk Ziff, it’s time to go clear.
No booze, no drugs of any kind (even legal pharmaceuticals). Nothing ingested except the fruit of the tree, the fish and fowl slain by my own hand. I’m sure Andy would approve.
And the words of the greats to guide us. Someone mentioned Witzig, Kampion maybe Hynd, maybe Rottmouth? We take their words and feed them into a random generator, voila, automated surf writing.
Is this legal? It is the future. Algorithms will make surf writing extinct in this generation and if I can help write the obituary, so much the better. Look for the double asterisk. **
It was heat five before a decent tube was packed in anger. Or nonchalance. JJF packed it nicely for a pair of sevens. The only true rivalry in pro surfing? JJF vs Portugese meat and potatoes surfing. The Hobbit and the Wolf are his kryptonite.
Who here has paddled out at Teahupoo? Surfed it without a sponsorship? As a recreational surfer, a donkey? Not you, Kelly. Allow me to guide. We begin the journey on foot, opposite the harbour a mile or so from the end of the Road.
Which way to go? Left, or right? Let’s ask a couple of day drinking fishermen wetting a line in the small mangrove lined lagoon next to the harbour. They speak no English. French or Tahitian only.
A toothless man pulls a warm bottle of Hinano out of a gunny sack filled with beer and offers it over. Without wishing to offend local hospitalities Shearer, née Longtom, accepts and using a proferred bait knife levers off the top. The danger in accepting beer from day drinkers is not having to drink warm Hinano, which is gaseous but not offensive, or getting glassy eyed and impaired before paddling out for a maiden surf at Teahupoo.
The danger is that the drinkers are now impossible to pass without sharing hospitality. And my liquidity is questionable because the little debit card I bought from Australia doesn’t work, so I am racking up a daily beer debt to the gatekeepers of the harbour. It will end with Longtom giving the shirt off his back – a Bob Dylan/Joan Baez Don’t look Back tee-o in organic cotton – to a 250-pound ladyboy friend to clear the debt. We digress.
We are walking the narrow road left, to the south-west towards a setting sun, past neat houses with bouganvillea hedges and roosters and chickens in every yard. Under shady trees rest big fucking dogs, mastiff and pit bull crosses lazily eyeing off chickens and pedestrians. Of which there are few in this heat of the afternoon. It reminds of Kahuku or some other sleepy windward Hawaiian village.
The road ends in a cul-de-sac encircled by ramshackle restaurants and fun houses. Coke signs, plastic chairs, red and white plastic table covers. A large Polynesian man expertly butchers a bull mahi-mahi with a twelve-inch blade on a fillet table in front of a smoking grill.
Looking seaward into the sun and the wave is impossible to see. It is below sea level and out and to the left, way past the reef pass proper. A blast of spit blown up into the tradewinds is the most obvious sign.
Where do you paddle from? Here or over the little creek which has a bridge across it?
There are children playing in the creek, in clear running water. Might as well jump in and start paddling seaward, out to the pass. Without a boat and with a beer buzz, it’s a long way. Maybe thirty minutes in Shearer stops, sits up and looks back at the mountains. Staggering.
Silently weeping, he paddles on, a changed man.**
Outside the lagoon the reality of Teahupoo sets in. It’s not a reef pass, it’s a crack in the reef a quarter-mile outside the reef pass. One paddles up to the wave and wonders what to do now. Catch a wave? Join the pack?
It’s breaking from the west-south-west, a peak that breaks so hard in such shallow reef and grinds into dry reef it doesn’t seem rideable. But it is, because a bunch of cackling pro’s are getting spat of of backlit caverns. Shearer gets pitched, hits the reef, rickrolled and then tip toes off it into the reef crack. As the sun sets finally gets a clean open cave, sucked backwards with the reef below and mountains framed by the falling lip then spat out, gliding over the shoulder. The paddle back across the lagoon in the twilight then the walk home along the road. The scariest thing. The pit bulls and mastiffs are awake now, sniffing for intruders and this whitey smells weird. Like stale beer and fear. Whitey picks up a stick and walks in the middle of the road. There is no traffic, only the sound of a man playing a ukelule and singing a lullaby.
Wilkinson through, JJF through. Medina through. The second most important heat of round two was Jordy Smith v Taumata Puhetini, a man who embodies the Tahitian goofy foot tube-riding technique of burying the arm and digging in like a tick on a bull, holding the wall until the channel. But there are no tubes on this gurgly, scrappy day and Jordy scrapes through.
The most important heat: Filipe vs Ewing. Ewing knocks out Toledo and any hopes for a Toledo title.
This is going to be a grind but there’s no way out when the comp is spit-roasted by a forecast as grim as the prospect of a nuclear war before the winner is crowned.
Still, I feel fine. Don’t know about you.
Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 1 results:
Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 10.00, Jadson Andre (BRA) 8.30, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 7.50
Heat 2: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 8.77, Nat Young (USA) 6.27, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 3.63
Heat 3: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 12.50, Owen Wright (AUS) 9.40, Josh Kerr (AUS) 7.57
Heat 4: Joan Duru (FRA) 12.26, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 7.83, Ethan Ewing (AUS) 7.17
Heat 5: John John Florence (HAW) 14.90, Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 10.93, Aritz Aranburu (ESP) 9.37
Heat 6: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 7.33, Taumata Puhetini (PYF) 7.13, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 7.10
Heat 7: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 14.33, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 8.33, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 5.27
Heat 8: Julian Wilson (AUS) 12.77, Conner Coffin (USA) 12.40, Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 10.03
Heat 9: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.06, Stu Kennedy (AUS) 8.60, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 6.50
Heat 10: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 13.10, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 11.94, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 10.64
Heat 11: Kolohe Andino (USA) 13.57, Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.43, Jack Freestone (AUS) 11.67
Heat 12: Ian Gouveia (BRA) 15.00, Michel Bourez (PYF) 10.67, Frederico Morais (PRT) 9.56
Upcoming Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 2 match-ups:
Heat 5: Frederico Morais (PRT) vs. Nat Young (USA)
Heat 6: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 7: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 8: Caio Ibelli (BRA) vs. Kanoa Igarashi (USA)
Heat 9: Conner Coffin (USA) vs. Stu Kennedy (AUS)
Heat 10: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 11: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)
Heat 12: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) vs. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA)