Podcast: “The Legend of Dirty Gabe!”

Is he your favorite surfer yet?

I was invited to attend a performance at the local high school, when I was five, because my father had a role in it. I remember sitting on the hard wooden bench in the gymnasium. I remember being transfixed my the cheerleaders. I remember wishing I was in something other than bellbottom overalls.

The show was fine enough, a cowboy sort of thing where my father played Black Bart, the maudlin bank robber. There was much exaggerated shouting and big arm movements. Eventually the sheriff and Black Bart met in the town square for a duel. The sheriff shot. Black Bart fell to the parquet. And next thing I knew, the cheerleaders were all surrounding me, begging me to come and give Black Bart the kiss of life.

I was very frustrated that I was in bellbottom overalls and really not wanting to be the center of attention but it was one of those moments that couldn’t be escaped and eventually I was dragged toward my father’s “dead” body. I kneeled down, kissed his cheek, he came back to life.

It might have been that moment, there, that I started cheering for the bad guy. For Darth Vader, Cal Hockley, the marines killing those damned Na’vi. Would you like to know a secret? I cheered for Gabriel Medina too. His antics, two days ago, put him in rare company. Dropping in on Kelly Slater then trying to milk an interference? Dirty. Sitting on Jeremy Flores and not letting him paddle? Dirty.

I would kiss his cheek, if I could. Maybe someday I will.

In the meantime, here is another podcast that speaks to Gabriel Medina’s essential role in the World Surf League pantheon, the poor quality of WSL judging and the last days of Turp n Pottz. Listen if you feel like. I don’t know how good it is, frankly. I was hungover and my brain was not working well.

Kelly to Gabs: “What are you doing? There’s no left here!”

Kelly on Gabriel's bullish fade and John John Florence's world title celebration!

Is it too much to manipulate the teats of the Pipeline Masters one more time?

In the final episode of #TourNotes, Peter King’s WSL-funded contest wraps, we are gifted a reasonable insight into the machinations of the WSL’s stars behind the scenes.

Kelly Slater stars of course, a man as beautiful as they come, but unable to drift silently into the shadows. And there is no wasting of his good electricity.

First, he makes a crack about not being sponsored and asks whom I presume to be Bob McKnight from Quiksilver’s kid (surf industry people, correct me if I’m wrong) for money as he’s currently not sponsored.

“As you know I don’t have a sponsor…technically… any more and you know your father has sponsored me for years,” says Kelly.

The man opens his wallet and says, “I don’t think there’s much in here.”

We cut to the Gabriel and Kelly almost-collision, which Kelly theatrically enlivens with a double shaka.

“Gabby trying to pull a slick one and turn into him,” says Ross Williams, exhibiting a candour missed from the commentary booth.

“I was stoked because I knew I got a score and didn’t get an interference,” says Kelly. “I needed an eight…”

“How did you…know… you didn’t get an interference?” asks King.

“Because I didn’t interfere on his wave… on his scoring potential. He turned left into me and and hit my feet. And I was, like, what are you doing? There’s no left here!”

The episode then shifts to John John and to the celebration of his world title that was missed during the contest webcast.

However hokey the individual angles, the modernistic yammering, the total effect is supple and structured.

Watch here.


Jon Pyzel, left, is the man whose strong hands can build Risky Biz Casual, for the average man, or High Risk Danger for the very special man like John John. | Photo: Steve Sherman/@tsherms

Surfboards: I like “Risky Business Casual!”

Seven important truths about your weapon!

What sort of surfboard turns your screws? Are you a rider of stumpy little thing with a wide tail and fins like the forward flippers of the sea cow or do you like to order boards of the sort favoured by the professional surfer: the continuous curve, the lithe outline, curves so subtle even the shaper can’t find ‘em?

Lately, I’ve gone for something I call Risky Business Casual™. I like the idea of piloting High Risk Danger™ boards but when I consider the waves I ride, and my ability, I need something looser on the hams and fuller on the waist. An elastic waist as opposed to buttons and clips.

More Stubby Bastard than Ghost. 

It’s the finest line to walk because no one likes to be caught riding those blunt instruments called Fun Boards. And, so, because I fell into the surf writing game so many years ago, and because the fundamentals of surfboard design fascinate me, I spend much of my interview time with a microphone under shapers’ chins. Biolos. Pyzel. Cole, Webber and so on, each thirty minutes or one hour conversation a masterclass.

And, it’s interesting to talk to these men, because for all the great leaps forward in materials or some revolutionary curve-rocker combo, the fundamentals are still the, yeah, fundamentals.

Therefore, in the spirit of Christmas, I’d like to list seven important truths about your surfboard. Learn ‘em, and know ‘em, because, at some point, you’ll find yourself in some shop, under the spell of a salesman, and you gotta know what works, what really works, or else you’re going to climb down the same old holes.

  1. Thin surfboards are a vanity project. They feel very nice to hold under your arm, and are good things to show your friends. “This feels insane,” they’ll say, sliding the twig under their armpit. Do this experiment for me. Go to a board store. Examine the racks. Without looking at any dimensions, grab the board you think would be perfect for you. Now look at the numbers on the stringer. It’ll be undercooked by three litres. Which is revealing. Because what looks good, what feels good, ain’t necessarily what’s going to hold and push you. Look at Jordy. Big cat, yeah, but he runs on thirty-six litres. Don’t be afraid to go fat. (Note: it’s why the custom board you ordered and called a pig is so thick. Your shaper knows. Trust him.)
  2. You can’t beat hydrodynamics. If you need a stable board, ride low rockers. If you can keep a board in the pocket, find a curve you like. Most surfers ride horizontally. Flat rocker. If you want to chance your arm, climb into something with a little curve and a little concave. But only a little. Ferraris don’t work on the street. And know that while you can ride a flat-rockered board in anything except the most outrageous barrels, a curved slipper will sink in anything but bowls and tubes.
  3. Look at the outline of your board. Straight lines go fast. Curved lines turn. Simple.
  4. Balance in a surfboard is everything. Shapers walk a tightrope every time they build you a custom board. Wildly experimental is fun to read about and celebrate and so forth; ain’t so great to spend a thousand bucks on.
  5. Ultra-light epoxy boards have their moments but their great crime, and it’s a crime committed by the Fish too, is they make a man feel like he’s surfing thirty percent better than he really is. Right now, PU boards have the edge on drive and momentum.
  6. Tails don’t matter so much. They just don’t.
  7. Once you get stuck on wide-nose boards there ain’t no going back. At least not without a lot of mental anguish and embarrassment.

You know what else? It don’t matter if it’s new or if it’s ancient. The only requirement of a surfboard is that it has to go.

Just go. 

Gross: Kelly Slater’s nasty foot!

Featuring Gabriel Medina's beefy thighs!

I am still catching my breath after yesterday’s day of Pipeline action. Does it get any better? But does it really? The waves were inconsistent in the best way possible. Each heat had a handful of very fabulous gems but it was the little inside runners that provided drama after drama. The stand-outs surfed well, Jeremy Flores beat the number one and number two surfers back to back. Gabriel cemented his role as surfing’s greatest villain by dropping onto Kelly Slater’s head and Kelly Slater surfed with a disfigured foot.

A disgusting foot.

You recall that it was broken whilst driving through a closeout barrel in J-Bay and broken badly. Kelly described as being “folded in half” if I recall correctly.

Well, Kelly surfed Pipeline anyhow and while he didn’t exactly look himself he still made it near the quarters which is very fine by any accounting and then the World Surf League posted a picture of his foot.

Ooo-ee! Did you see? Black and blue and very gross. It was a wonder he was even walking much less near the quarters. Does the fact that Kelly is both old and crippled make Gabriel’s offense worse?

Do you like Gabriel Medina’s thighs?

Would you like another angle?

Jeremy Flores wins the Pipeline Masters, his second, with a buzzer beating wave. Commentator Barton Lynch says moment so charged he wept!

Jeremy Flores: “I hate doing this!”

Wins Pipe Masters. Dirties John Florence's dream of a world title/Pipe Masters combo… 

Ten minutes ago, the Reunion Island-born surfer Jeremy Flores dirtied up John John’s perfect day when he beat the Hawaiian in the final of the Pipeline Masters.

Jeremy, who is twenty nine years old, stole a wave in the final seconds, needing an 8.2-ish, scoring an 8.3-ish. The final scoreline, 16.23 to 16.16.

Seven years ago, Jeremy won the Pipe Masters against Kieren Perrow in similar circumstances.

The moment was so emotionally charged the commentator Barton Lynch trembled and wept.

When I beat  Gabriel I felt so bad. To see the emotion on his face… I hate doing this… Surfing is not supposed to do stuff like that. Supposed to be pure good vibes!

“Winning the Pipe Masters against John John Florence in perfect Backdoor, in the last seconds? I couldn’t think of a better way to win,” said Jeremy. “Don’t count me out. I never let go. I see everyone with their (Hawaiian) flags.”

En route to stomping on John John’s dream of a first Pipe Masters win, Jeremy squashed Gabriel’s dream of a second world title.

“To be honest, I don’t like to be that guy to decide the title,” said Jeremy. “It should be a showdown between John and Gabriel. When I beat  Gabriel I felt so bad. To see the emotion on his face… I hate doing this… Surfing is not supposed to do stuff like that. Supposed to be pure good vibes! It was good for John, though, so I was stoked to make it happen… a second time. He owes me a few waves at Pipe when it’s actually pumping!”

Watch the final here!