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Vital: Pre-Pipe Power Rankings! (Part 1)


by Longtom

More blood, more sex, more tears!

Earlier today, after much hustling, the writer Longtom aka Steve Shearer aka the man who drives the bus from Ballina airport to Byron Bay (I think), emailed his pre-Pipe Power Rankings.

It is a vital analysis of the top 13. Why thirteen?

“I honestly think 13 is all I’ve got, unlucky for some,” he said. ” (Although) there’s meat on the bone.”

Pertinent quotes: 

“Soft target for dickhead critics like me who see him as the inevitable result of a broken down Qualifying system that too often rewards mediocrity and produces surfers ill prepared for real surfing at real locations.”

“He’s a passive-aggressor not scared to have his throat throttled. A rare quality.”

“Don’t worry it’s an open secret. Don’t be shy. Come on in and make yourself known. Don’t treat us like Speaker did, like a piece of shit on your shoe.”

“He was the victim of the fickle fashion of the judging panel and  roll with Lester Bangs call on that: fashion is fascism.”

Here’s the first seven; the top six will drop tomoz!

7. Mick Fanning

Current WCT rating: 12


Hard to see, when Team Fanning rolls the videotape on 2017, where it went wrong. Performance-wise, he surfed better than ever. Sharper, harder, more precise, if that is even possible. At Snapper, at Bells, J-Bay, Trestles and Europe. Coupla soft patches here and there and that rock -solid mind-game just seemed a little more porous and susceptible to outside influences seeping in.

More than anything he just seemed a touch on the nose with the judging panel, god knows why, it’s not like there was any performance revolution happening other than the one John Florence was laying down. I say he was the victim of the fickle fashion of the judging panel and roll with Lester Bangs call on that: fashion is fascism.

8. Kanoa Igarashi

Current WCT rating: 20


Soft target for dickhead critics like me who see him as the inevitable result of a broken down qualifying system that too often rewards mediocrity and produces surfers ill-prepared for real surfing at real locations.

Pro surfing is a kind of language and to succeed surfers must develop and be able to communicate a dialect understandable to a judging panel first, and to the surfing fan base as a secondary priority. Kanoa has developed just this type of dialect, based not on surfing performance but a weird type of toughness.

Example: the biffs with Stu Kennedy. There are other examples. He’s a passive-aggressor not scared to have his throat throttled. A rare quality. While the danger for the pro surfer is the language they speak stops making sense, the danger for the critic is the internet never forgets and sooner or later they’ll be hoist on their own petard, swinging in the breeze, a witness to their own digital execution. That’ll be me if Kanoa goes one better at Pipeline this year. Kanoa takes toughness, a late-drop-to-drainer at Supertubos and last year’s runner-up finish into Pipeline as a below the radar stalking horse.

9. Owen Wright

Current WCT rating: 5


It has been a topsy-turvy year with a group of title contenders clumped at the top and differing event winners. But if we can just talk honestly among friends for a brief moment, this is nothing more than a visual trick of the light. A “sliding doors” artefact produced by some key judging calls at certain junctures.

Owen was the beneficiary, then on the rough end of the pineapple of some of these calls. 2018, as currently structured, looks a write-off for O. 2019, with a start at Pipe and a finish in Indo, looks a much smarter bet.

10. Matt Wilkinson

Current WCT rating: 6


Pretending something is something, when it’s not something – eg surfing is a counter-cultural act or a mainstream sport –  is something that surfing does better than anyone. It’s something surfing, pro surfing especially, can truly be proud of.

To maintain a fiction for a prolonged period of time, when all facts point in the opposite direction,  takes the unified efforts of a lot of talented people. That should be the Mission Statement of the WSL. You think I am fucking with you? I am not fucking with you. What does this have to do with Matt Wilkinson? Hang on a sec, I am trying to figure it out. Something, something World Title contender. Kind of, but not really. Close enough?

11. Kelly Slater

Current WCT rating: 29

Photo Sherm/WSL


For my sins God made me a surf writer, but , Inshallah, gave me the mephistophelian figure of Kelly Slater to write about. God is great. I was on the beach at Pipe when he won his first title, tripping balls on some very high grade LSD that my gal and her mainland boyfriend had brought over from the Sunset district.

Do you remember the day? It was glorious and now here is little Kelly from Florida, Jimmy Slade, almost forty-six years old and maybe about to surf in his last Pipe Masters, maybe surf his last heats, ready to revolutionise the surf game with his power hungry tubs full of very expensive, very exclusive perfect waves.

Be honest now. Are you with him or agin him? This late career tilt at the uber-rich, the one percenters, is a high stakes play, is it not? Oh, the rewards, I mean the money, is there if you can make the cut but if you lose the love of the people, then what?

We remember Ali for what he stood for and Mayweather just seems like a vicious greed head despite the better record. I want to love but the mention of the name Kelly Slater is now as likely to draw a snarl as a smile. Chances at Pipe? Looking into the forecast, I see a weak blocking pattern with a pinched jetstream cutting off storm development for Pipe.

Ergo, small weak Backdoor. For Kelly, not good.

12. Filipe Toledo 

Current WCT rating: 9


No Cloudbreak, wavepool at the crunch end of the season. If 2018 can’t see Jesus’s favourite water walker reigning supreme then 2019 with the tour starting at Pipe looks increasingly unlikely to. La Nina Hawaii means small Backdoor likely so an Holy Toledo Pipe Master is on the cards.

13. Sophie Goldschmidt

Current WCT rating: CEO



Big fan, massive fan, so far in these early, early days. Something needed to be done, something radical. Couldn’t keep trundling out the same old sow with a different lipstick year after year. And whether or not she is the architect of the changes (Dave Prodan could not confirm by email), she is overseeing it. It’s on her watch.

It’s a tour structure (2019) that fits, by design or coincidence, the talent, skill set and aspiration of a John Florence dynasty, in the same way that the current tour schedule was tailor-made for Slater dominance. The Pipe opening, then the Australian leg, finishing in Indonesia. Couldn’t design it any better. For that reason alone, I support it.

Hi  Soph, I see you! Sneaking a little peek at the Grit to see what the plebs are muttering about? Don’t worry it’s an open secret. Prodan is on here all the time. Don’t be shy. Come on in and make yourself known. Don’t treat us like Speaker did, like a piece of shit on your shoe. Don’t talk over us, try and go behind our backs, circumvent us.

As for politics, as for  Pro Sports: You lose your base, you lose everything. A basic fact pro surfing has never understood. You don’t get our buy in, as the jargon goes and you’ll be looking over your shoulder, very, very quickly.

After reading your press call I now know, we all know, and we know you know we know that you don’t know what the fuck you are talking about. But that’s fine. We’ll all muddle along on Dirk’s scratch for a while longer. Just get Cloudbreak back on tour for 2019.

By the way, you seem to have…um… mislaid my welcome email. The one that Carroll got and Chas. It’s nice to be friendly to people on the way up, even to dirtbags like me. We have long memories. As long as geological time. Pro Surfing CEO’s pass like lightning in a summer sky to us, flashes in the phenomenal world, as the Buddha says.

We outlast you and we write your epitaphs. If you want to make right, you know where to send it. I’ll take it handwritten thanks.

As always, Longtom. Post Restante, Lennox Head.