Wave Ranch: “Elitist and Slimy!”

"Did I hear Coldplay? Fuck that."

I won’t lie. I have spent the day swallowing bitter gal. Nasty bile. Stomach churning ugh. I was rebuffed from attending the event of the week, the first ever competitive run at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California. Stab crushed your dear old BeachGrit by sending Mikey Ciaramella and Morg Williamson up to cherry-picker and drone the event. And I toddled around home, editing Cocaine + Surfing: A Love Story into a foreign bluetooth keyboard since I drowned my laptop’s in vodka/pampelmousse late last night, picking a four-year-old up from preschool and taking her to tennis lessons.


But then I read the best piece ever about the event and my spirit soared.

Oh of course it didn’t come from Mike C. nor did it come from Morg W. nor did it come from the ghastly intern writing the World Surf League’s live blog.


It came from What Youth’s Travis Ferre.

Travis, lest you forget, is the godfather of progressive surfing. Through his tenure at Surfing and then What Youth he was only and all about the next and a mile ahead of anyone else. And while we were all slobbering over Wave Ranch he wrote:

All day today there’s been a lot of hype, speculation and excitement around the WSL’s specialty event at Kelly Slater’s wave pool. I’ve spoken to people at the wave and people who rode the wave and people who attended the event — some invited and some not invited. We’ve texted with Kelly (who I must say has always been very accommodating to our ridiculous questions and concerns), some bystanders and gotten a glimpse inside with varying degrees of success. And while it’s definitely a bizarre spectacle they’ve created and has surely started a never-ending conversation that I’m going to have with every relative I have this Christmas, it’s becoming something I want nothing to do with.

Now don’t get me wrong, as a surfer, you’d be lying if you weren’t a little buzzed watching that thing peel down the line. It’s surreal. A fucking dream wave come true. But I get the same way when a car splashes in my gutter and makes a mini wave peel. Same reaction. We like to look at waves — I’m cursed by it. But after getting my glimpses at what’s going on behind the very closed doors at the Wave Park: I just don’t have any interest in their elite surf country club or the likely very sterile events they’ll be holding inside. Did I hear Coldplay is playing? Coldplay? Fuck that.

The way this whole wave-pool-WSL thing has been introduced to the world feels slimy. Elitist and weird. And while I can’t argue that riding it, watching it and the general excitement around the whole thing is noteworthy, I get the same quesy feeling I get around private golf courses and churches. Or when I hear the awkward clop of flip flops. I just don’t think I can buy into this cultish wave pool culture. I’m happy to stick to what I’ve got in the ocean. It’s never gotten old. Not once. Even the flat spells, obnoxious tides, difficult travel, shifting sandbars and reef bounces — it’s all that that keeps me around. The unknown. The fun. All I know about my chances at riding a wave in the KS Wave Park include waiting in line for a wave and a grape soda and I’ll no doubt be surrounded by corporate executives in WSL polos looking to buy a wave park of their own. And I’ll hack my golf ball down any old street before I pay to play that course.

“Did I hear Coldplay? Fuck that” is as near to genius as surf writing has come in the last decade plus.

And so Travis, thank you for correcting my course. And Coldplay? Totally fuck you!

John John Florence ain't riding a unicorn, Lemoore, California. | Photo: WSL

Warshaw: “We’ve traded magic for perfection!”

"Kelly’s wave is End of Days. It's heartbreaking."

With its historic location, farms and casinos sticky with margarita mix, Lemoore, California, was the oddest place to find the greatest collection of professional surfers, past and present, ever.

But Kelly and the WSL did it.

All because…everyone… you, me, Rabbit Bartholomew, Filipe and so on, was dying to see, maybe even ride, Kelly’s secretive pool. The sorta-event, called The Test at Surf Ranch, ran behind closed doors, the WSL providing a live-ish blog.

Now that the pool has revealed itself a little more, let’s pan back and examine the ramifications. Are they good, are they bad, what thrills and what don’t? I asked the custodian of surf history, Mr Matt Warshaw for his learned opinion.

BeachGrit: First, are you excited by the pool event?

Warshaw: Only in that we’re getting a broader, less-filtered look at the place. “Excited” isn’t the word, though. I’ve got a dread obsession with Kelly’s wave. I can’t look away. I’m turned on and despondent at the same time. Mostly despondent. For the surfer in me, Kelly’s wave is End of Days. We’ve traded magic for perfection, and it’s heartbreaking.

BeachGrit: Do you think this is Kelly’s coup de grâce? Now that world titles are out of reach, he redefines what surfing and pro surfing is?

Warshaw: Yes. Despite what I’ve said above, Kelly hasn’t done anything wrong, or evil. Mechanical surf was always in our future. Kelly was smart enough, and had enough juice, to get it there faster that it might have done otherwise. And yes, like you say, he gets to further reshape the sport way beyond whatever he’s done as a wave-riding innovator and champion.

BeachGrit: Let’s do a little role call. He’s got John John, Filipe, Gabriel, Carissa, Steph, alongside Hemmings, MR, Shaun, Rabbit, himself. Have you ever heard of such a gathering? And to do it in a shitty town peppered with crummy motels and an Indian casino four hours from LA. It’s a masterclass in PR.

Warshaw: There you go. Only Kelly could do that.


BeachGrit: Tell me, gut instinct. Non surfing UFC guy and new non-surfing-former-tennis-pro CEO Sophie Goldschmidt running the show. Good, bad?

Warshaw: Gut instinct is, it has to be good, for no other reason than they know that WSL thus far has mostly failed, and needs a massive restructuring. But I’ll hedge my bet. If we’re looking at small events, some jet-setting when necessary, if we’re into a Mentawai playoff scenario — fantastic. But if wavepools are the end game, pro surfing is well and truly fucked.


BeachGrit: Read this quote from today’s event and tell me what you think: “Put simply: this is a research and development exercise that allows all the stakeholders involved in any future event to understand the wide array of opportunities available. Everyone from competitors, organizers, judges, broadcasters, sponsors and even a delegation of the sport’s founders are on hand to witness the technology that will have a dramatic effect on the future of surfing’s evolution”

Warshaw: Oh. I hadn’t seen that. I guess we’re 25 degrees closer to well and truly fucked.

BeachGrit: After Steph, Filipe and John, I felt like I saw all that was going to happen. Did you have a similar experience? 

Warshaw: Every wave is a 10. You’re just ticking down point fractions. That, and as a viewer, you’ve already ridden each wave in your mind before it starts.

BeachGrit: In your opinion, as custodian of the sport’s history, what’s next?

Warshaw: As custodian of the sport’s history, I’ll remind people that, before automated surf shot it out from beneath us, we were riding the unicorn of sports.

Update: Real mini-event at Wave Ranch!

It's happening! This time for real!

I reported that the World Surf League was running a mini-comp at Wave Ranch on Sunday and I was wrong. It is today! Singlets in the pool! The World Surf League released an instagram clip showing Kelly Slater himself, in the Jeep Leaderboard Yellow Jersey bobbing and weaving and looking to be having very much fun.

I’ll admit sadness at not being there to witness live but happiness that it is actually happening.

Watch for yourself!

And more later…


But not cheap!
But not cheap!

Nasty: The plot to kill Filipe Toledo!

A foul plan to make the world's most exciting surfer look cheap!

Fame is a heavy, heavy burden. One moves from “a really nice guy” to “that fucking bastard” in the blink of a few high profile victories or few million dollars. And let us take the case of Filipe Toledo, current best and most exciting surfer in the world. The kind Brazilian has been the butt of a nasty viral campaign that makes it look like he is a poor tipper. And being a poor tipper

For our Australian, European, African-American and Japanese friends… tipping is a custom where United States’ businesses pay workers a very small wage while expecting the general public to pick up the slack. Waiters, valets, bellmen, barmen, baristas, etc., etc. etc., etc., all depend on the goodwill of the patron for to feed their families.

Nasty but institutionalized. 10% tip is a slap in the face 15% is for cheap assholes. 20% is considered a little high but what what I tip because I feel for the people.

Enter Filipe Toledo. A picture has been making the rounds that appears to show the Hurley Pro champ paying a $10.00 tip on an $847.00.

Oh the outrage!

I have been sent the picture no less than 15 times though email, text message and social medias and would have posted it but something didn’t set right. The way it was cropped, to cut off the total seemed… off.

And today my suspicions were validated. A source who knows informed me that the tip was included at 18% which is traditional for restaurants when the party exceeds six persons. So Filipe added $10.00 on top of the already nice $152.00.

Who then is seeking to kill Filipe Toledo’s image?

Did a waiter take the photo and was he a Jordy Smith fan?

Did Jordy Smith take the picture and was he a Jordy Smith fan?

Did a rabid anti-Brazilian take the picture and was he a Jordy Smith fan?

Many questions.

What do you think?

It's not as if the Hawaiian Albee Layer is an old fool ragged with bitterness, living a grim bleakness, hating everything. This is a progressive world-class surfer with ideas.

Albee Layer: “Other sports laugh at us!”

Why Jordy's "miracle" nine-pointer at Lowers should never have happened.

Albee Layer is a surfer who will dance a rigadoon in waves four feet or forty. Little surfboards and monstrous guns.
Nathan Myers, from Surfer magazine, wrote a profile on Albee a few years ago that spells out his arsenal. Read here. 
It’s the suckling artistry of twenty-six-year-old Albee’s mouth that we come for today.
After Jordy’s miracle nine-pointer at Trestles three days ago, Albee posted an Instagram story that showed the wave on his television screen and the line, Nine points, ha ha ha.
Albee ain’t afraid to call it as he sees it. Let’s talk.
BeachGrit: I laughed my ass off when Jordy got the nine in the final. Tell me your reaction. Did you think, wow, perfection!
Albee: My first thought wasn’t, ‘Wow perfection’. (Laughs). But it’s not like that wave was shocking or anything. They’ve been handing out nines for “good” surfing every heat.
BeachGrit: Were you watching the magic unfurl with pals? What was their reaction?
Albee: I was watching solo. Just a sad little lonely man making fun of surfing in his living room alone probably while eating something other than a sala
BeachGrit: What was the reaction on IG when you posted the clip?
Albee: I got more replies to that than maybe any other video I posted. Everyone seem to be very much on the same page as me, wondering kind of why it seems like every heat now judges back them selves into a corner in the first set of scores
BeachGrit: Do you think it’s remarkable that it was, in the judges’ eyes, almost the pinnacle of surfing, the “perfect ride”?
Albee: I believe they give high scores for a couple reasons. A. Because its what they are used to doing and a hard habit to break. I also don’t think they really familiarise themselves with modern-day surfing as much as they should. And B. This is a big one. High heat totals get views. No one’s scrolling through the videos from the day and clicking on a heat with 10-point totals. No, they will click on the 18-point total heats. In terms of clickbait, the surfing is almost irrelevant because it doesn’t matter if you like what you see once you watch the video. Getting you to start that video gets views and views equal value to sponsors and overall make the company more valuable. Also I’m not picking on WSL in any way on this. Clickbait is used by every company with a website. I use it as much as possible, it’s basically my career. What bums me out is the way they use it. I believe it halts the progression of surfing.
BeachGrit: All that said, the judges do, and they’re transparent about it, operate according to a heat-by-heat scale. And if a couple of floats on an insider is granted a seven, even one turn on a wave double the size has gotta be the nine. Do you like the concept of “the scale”?
Albee: Hell no. Other action sports laugh at us for awarding perfect scores. You can go through the history of all other sports at X-Games and stuff and people not even in that sport can probably list you every 100 point score that has happen because they were all historic at the time. That’s what we should be reserving tens for. Something no-one has ever seen before. If one of the lowest-rated surfers on tour can catch not the best wave of the  day and do not his very best surfing and still get an excellent score, no one has any incentive to learn anything new. And when no-one learns anything new people lose interest in watching and when that happens surfing as a business suffers and I’ll lose my job! Ha! So it’s all connected and that’s why I make such a fuss about these things. Surfing is a spectator sport and without surf fans none of any of this is possible. So it isn’t fair to deny surf fans the absolute best surfing and I feel like the way the scale is set now we are doing just that.
BeachGrit: The scale system renders all statistics, all scores, irrelevant, meaningless. Because if they’re gifting nines in one heat, but not another, how can there ever be any statistical comparison? What do you think?
Albee: It needs to be consistent for everyone in every heat. So what if one heat the waves suck. Give them small scores, it won’t affect the outcome. If one heat is firing score them accordingly but don’t give anyone a nine or ten unless it’s a wave we can all remember easily in five or ten years. That way heats would stay wide open till the end. If we kept those nines like Jordy’s and several others around sixes like they should be in the scale of what is capable in surfing right now then barely anyone would end up comboed. So come to the end of the heat and someone needs a score maybe they learned a new trick in the off-season and with a minute left they need a nine and it’s time to bust it out and create a moment we will all remember.
BeachGrit: Kelly likes to jump on your social (ok, he jumps on everyone’s social) to debate these sorts of things. Does that thrill you?
Albee: I love kelly. Even though he still won’t take me to his pool. I’ve talked to him a bit about all this and he doesn’t agree with everything I say but he agrees with quite a bit and it’s rad ’cause otherwise I’d feel like I was that crazy drunk surfer at the bar rambling about back in the day or something. But the fact that the GOAT cares enough to at least engage in these discussions with me and others means there is something too it.
(Watch Albee’s marshmallow moves in his film here.)

And how’s Albee swing in contests? A little irony, given his online debating with Kelly, is his biggest contest win was at the Surf Snowdonia wavepool.