Julian Wilson
Julian Wilson swings into the quarter-finals, despite rupturing his AC joint at the end of January. Here, with big brother Bart. | Photo: @tsherms

Day 4, Quik Pro: “Zero tolerance for score faking!”

Mick Fanning disappears; Filipe soars; judges discover the joys of tough love.

Kelly and I share many traits and life circumstances, including teenaged daughters, bad backs, suspicion of the media and bad insomnia. Laying awake listening to the vast industrial hum of 999 Twin Towns pokies in the wee hours I fretted that calling the mood yesterday soviet and sour was too harsh, just a reflection of my inner state after too many Coronas drunk with the great Mullet.

When Kelly announced his withdrawal I thought: the sport has moved on, you won’t be missed, we’ll get on fine without you. But we didn’t. Not yesterday anyhow. Save Medina and Parkinson, a world without Kelly felt smaller, more constrained and predictable: a QS World with a bush league vibe. The surfing, in waves tailor-made for flaring and high perf, was safety to the max and I am very, very, very, very happy that Pritamo Ahrendt scored it accordingly. A ballsy statement.

Today, was different.

Launching the Fanning Foamy out of Mermaids corner in the dark I got throttled by a squadron of gaping Snapper rocks caverns (do not Google) and smoked down to Rainbow Bay. A close range cyclone swell. I know this fucking music! Every Queensland pointbreak surfer does. Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Ragged Glory. Find the bass line and enjoy the guitar squalls. Shut up and paddle.

The crowd finally engaged with the surfing, but it wasn’t Fanning they cheered. It was Toledo vs Ferreira that raised the crowd from three days of somnolence.

After watching the Fanning Coffin heat, magnificently eulogised by Joe Turpe,l I realised there really is only one path forwards for a man described as an “angel” by Owen Wright. He must become the next Secretary-General of the United Nations. Imagine the global one-two punch of Parko as Mayor of Coolangatta and Fanning as Secretary-General of the UN. That would really put pro surfing into audience growth mode.

Italo’s backhand, best on tour, seemed undeniable against Filipe. But the crowd thought otherwise and judges seemed to cripple it by a crucial margin. Incensed, I stormed the media room to demand a judge breakdown. The spread on the best scoring waves differed by a point and a half which would have made all the difference in a heat decided by less than a point but Filipe had the crowd, had the jazz and by close of play the ends justified the means.

Mikey Wright has a schtick but it’s real, at least as far as the old skool warm-up goes: throwing a football around, the jumping jacks and the bush hat and big shaggy dog. Big man up close, well-muscled, 15-17% body fat. Could be a second-rower or a wide receiver. Behind the bogan facade are rock-solid skills and the crucial trait of composure.

Mikey Wright
Mikey Wright warm-up routine with dog etc. Photo: Longtom

“Whats the strategy against Medina?” I asked his coach Troy Brooks.

“Start strong and find the better waves. Mikey will do the bigger turns.”

That is a supremely confident strategy for a Wildcard to take into a heat against a World Champ and event winner.

Verging on arrogance. He will do bigger turns than Medina? OK, lets see it.

Medina was preparing up on the rocks. Strange scene. Very quiet, very holy. A crowd was gathered around. Girls on their haunches, boys with heads bowed. Medina himself was still and silent. Seconds passed like minutes. Sweat flowed like rivers. Then he raised his head and started to move. The silent crowd erupted with cheers and hallelujahs and speaking in tongues. A feeling like electricity passed through the crowd in sizzling ripples. A Brazilian girl fell backwards into me. I put my hand up to say it’s OK.

She said, “No prablem, eets tha life man”.

Mikey put the game plan into action, perfectly. Big strong, raw opening ride with completed powerful turns. Did exactly what he did to John Florence: overpowered him in the opening exchange to the tune of a two-point spread. A two- point spread is hard to overcome if a surfer can maintain composure. It was wonderful to watch Medina try and jam against Ragged Glory and find his own rhythm.

The judges were showing zero tolerance for score manufacturing and faking. Medina got a four for the best backhand blast I’ve ever seen. That turn felt like a kick in the guts from a mule, on the beach, well in the Corona Pavilion. The Australian Mullet put another big, brutal ride on the scoreboard and then let Medina swing away on shittier waves, only losing priority with two minutes to go. Gabby got choked out by the clock. Gone.

“How do you rate that performance?” I asked Troy Brooks.

“On par, for Mikey,” he said.

“Anything to improve upon?”

“He made a tactical error two minutes to go handing over priority but had such a mental advantage from the opening spread he got away with it.”

The Colapinto/Parkinson heat had mad drama. Gaping holes spitting from deep behind the rocks (no Google) were waiting to be stuffed by J-Parko. But it was Griff who proved to be the rarest of all phenomena: a fully formed rookie. He had the strategy elasticity to lash the wider sections with an abundance of repertoire and then out Parko Parko when he bomb-dropped into a bulbous keg and slithered out a tiny foamy hole at the top. If Team Parko review the tape honestly they might revise retirement plans. There is a world of pain ahead in those match-ups for Parko. For real.

My notes go squiffy here, sometime after noon. Coronas were making me see double, the Queensland sun cooked my brain but I think I had fully flip-flopped on the Slater position by then. The sport is fine without him. It’s just the dead wood of round two that distorted perspective.

Fanning’s last heat was odd, to the max. Like Medina, a small crowd gathered around him as he prepared. The mood amongst the crowd was tense and expectant. Fanning rocked off, people pushed closer to the sea. The webcast gave almost zero indication of the crazy energy focussing on Snapper Rocks.

But it wasn’t Mick who harnessed it. The big O grabbed the heat by the neck like a pitbull and just savaged it. From a close vantage point it looked very committed and big surfing.Mick struggled, got a legrope tangled around his feet, stumbled, couldn’t find a deep tube and in the end went out with a whimper. Fanning. Out!

The crowd gathered, waiting to pay their respects. But Mick went around the back of the main WSL structure and never re-appeared. A strange feeling came over the crowd. Was that it? It ends like this?

Filipe’s first ride passed in this strange, respectful silence. The great Mick Fanning had just surfed his last heat at Snapper, something should be happening. Some ceremony to commemorate the occasion. Not just business as usual.

But nothing did and on Filipe’s second wave, about which my notes read: Say fucking what?! wrt some piece of outrageous showmanship, maybe the tweaked club sandwich, the crowd erupted and Mick was……..was forgotten. Terrible to say, but true. Finally judges saw what they wanted to see and Toledo started strafing the scoreboard with 8’s and 9’s.

By chance, I saw a line of people stretched down the street down near McDonalds Greenmount. Families clutching posters mostly and there, wearing dark shades, Michael Fanning, an angel to all was discharging his duties as a World Champion surfer, apparently, as far as I could see, with great distinction.

Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 14.50 def. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 9.04
Heat 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 11.67 def. Conner Coffin (USA) 7.37
Heat 3: Tomas Hermes (BRA) 12.40 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 9.60.
Heat 4: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.60 def. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.70
Heat 5: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 13.36 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.10
Heat 6: Mikey Wright (AUS) 16.07 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.90
Heat 7: Julian Wilson (AUS) 7.30 def. Michael February (ZAF) 7.10
Heat 8: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 15.26 def. Frederico Morais (PRT) 11.10
Heat 9: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 13.50 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.94
Heat 10: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 15.07 def. Wade Carmichael (AUS) 13.60
Heat 11: Michel Bourez (PYF) 12.50 def. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 6.43
Heat 12: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 15.00 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.40

Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 17.00, Tomas Hermes (BRA) 11.20, Mick Fanning (AUS) 10.43
Heat 2: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 15.70, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 14.60, Mikey Wright (AUS) 11.20
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) 15.97, Griffin Colapinto (USA) 13.83, Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 11.67
Heat 4: Michel Bourez (PYF) 13.97, Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 13.83, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.53

Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Quarterfinal Matchups:
QF 1: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS)
QF 2: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Tomas Hermes (BRA)
QF 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Michael Rodrigues (BRA)
QF 4: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Griffin Colapinto (USA)

Roxy Pro Gold Coast Semifinal Matchups:
Heat 1: Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Malia Manuel (HAW)
Heat 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Keely Andrew (AUS)

Rumor: Joel Parkinson to be dropped by ‘Bong!

Jack Freestone too! Off the books, allegedly, for 2019!

Joel Parkinson is not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time in his career. But here he is, allegedly, though he cannot say the terrain is entirely unfamiliar. He is on the Gold Coast right now, participating in the World Surf League’s 2018 kickoff and, by all accounts, surfing well. But a rumor just floating past my ears as I picked up dry cleaning that his relationship with Billabong will end in 2019. Stablemate Jack Freestone’s too.

And he has certainly watched many of his friends leave, or be left by, longtime sponsors. He watched Andy Irons’ younger brother Bruce and Volcom part ways. He watched Kelly Slater and Quiksilver go on without each other. And now, if the whisper is to be believed, it is his turn. Still a young man, by some accounts, but the product of a different generation.

He traveled in the course of his career from the meticulous to the slime, witnessing the Association of Surfing Professionals become the World Surf League along the way and winning one of their world champion trophies in 2012.

But what now? What happens when an arguably young man reaches the end?


I’ve always thought Joel Parkinson had a bit of the statesman in him or at least since the first time I spoke with him on Oahu’s North Shore. His voice is uncharacteristically high though he can be easily understood. Bogan is a language as natural as human breath, I’ve come to find. It is a chipped tongue in which the endings fill up the pauses, covering those gaps and gaucheries of conversation that embarrass Americans and the British. It’s a language whose inertia has remained on the plus side. It’s a language in which the voice runs to all levels and Joel Parkinson’s voice mostly runs very high.

I cannot remember what we spoke about but my memory has him as a statesman. And if it is true that Billabong is indeed taking his contract off the books for 2019 then I hope he runs for Coolangatta city council. I think he would do well there. I think his star would rise and he would someday be elected Prime Minister.

If not politics then what? The Mad Hueys?

Let’s discuss Jack Freestone tomorrow.

Ms. Goldschmidt at Surf Ranch.
Ms. Goldschmidt at Surf Ranch.

WSL CEO: “Wow, this exists?”

Come read Sophie Goldschmidt's vision for the surf future!

I had the opportunity to meet Sophie Goldschmidt, the World Surf League’s chief executive, at Surf Ranch alongside the most important surf journalists of our day (minus Steve Shearer, Matt Warshaw and David Lee Scales) at a small Mexican restaurant on Lemoore’s main drag. I cannot properly recall if she was drinking margaritas or not, nor if she ordered a chimichanga, but I was happy for professional surfing that she was there.

Her predecessor, Mr. Paul Speaker, did not possess the temerity for face to face meetings. If I’m allowed to parse his brief run at the top, I would say that he believed in surfing without surfers. That he could take the core physical/competitive activity, burn off the ugly cancers, repackage and sell it to the rest of the world. Bigger than football. Bigger than life.

Unfortunately for him, surfing’s ugly cancers metastasized long ago and cannot be cut away.

Ms. Goldschmidt seems to recognize this fact, see her meeting at a small Mexican restaurant and read her words in a new, wide ranging ESPN W interview. It is well worth a read. My favorite bit was when first told about professional surfing, her response was, “Wow, this exists?”

I also enjoyed her take on the new Facebook partnership.

We feel for our long-term growth, we need to invest in technology in our events, in the infrastructure that we’re building out around our operations, in the Kelly Slater Wave Company, in our marketing and communications resources. I wouldn’t say we’re niche, but we’re not nearly as mainstream as we’d like to be. We’re really in audience-growth mode. We were so excited to expand our Facebook deal, which was pretty groundbreaking for us. One of the key reasons we went with it is because it’s free. You don’t have to pay to watch content on Facebook, and that’s really important to us. Maybe some at some point down the road, we will have some kind of subscription service for content, but I think, philosophically, it’s always going to be important that a significant amount of our content is available for free. It’s kind of the surfing ethos to a certain extent.

Gross, unrealistic expectations certainly are the surfer’s ethos. No wonder Paul Speaker tried to perform surgery.

John John Florence
John got his head held underwater by the Australian mullet on the opening exchange and ended up getting his arse well and truly beat by the wildcard. | Photo: WSL

Day 3, Quik Pro: “A Sour Soviet Mood!”

Round two was terribly dull. Goodbye John John. Joel P gives a little dazzle.

Stumbling into Ross Williams on the path between Greenmount and Snapper I intro’ed myself as Steve Shearer writing for BeachGrit. He said, “Uh huh.”

Big man in the flesh, over six foot, Dad bod.

I asked him if I could chat to him about his coaching of John John 2018.

He said he wasn’t doing any media and I said, “Uh huh.”

“Any changes to the formula,” I pressed.

He said, “Nah”.

The reticence I believe was due to the arctic camo and syphilitic skin cancers up in his grill.

“What about boards, putting more volume in made a massive difference last year, any changes this year?”

“He’s a big dude,”he said. “Still growing, so we need to keep evolving the equipment.”

It was a low-energy exchange and it left me worried about John.

There is a growing trend in him towards philosophicalism, a character flaw I am well acquainted with. Anyone seeking self knowledge via a surfing competition is prone to wandering in a wilderness of delusion. That is called, in the school of Surf Journalism I subscribe to, as The Kelly Error.

John did start low energy against Mikey Wright. He got his head held underwater in the opening exchanges by the Australian mullet and ended up getting his arse well and truly beat by the wildcard.

Gabby played rope-a-dope against Leo slipping away from expected confrontation and laying hammer blows on smaller waves, drawing the pity of Ronnie Blakey who called the wave Gabby surfed a “poor thing.”

The bigger showcase was the judging signal laid down by new Head Judge Pritamo Ahrendt. It was a major and much needed correction of Porta Era over-scoring. Leo threw a technically perfect tail high throw and got a 3.77. It would have got a high six under Porta. In the rush to establish the scale Medina was probably underscored, especially in the context of a day of mostly mediocre round two surfing.

Wilko choked against new rookie Michael February. For perfect two-to-three-foot rippable point surf it seemed incredibly easy to get lost out there. I’ve long thought incumbency is as much of a hindrance as a help at Snapper and Wilko proved my point.

I needed some expert advice to find out why and sought the counsel of Irish Super Strategist and Coach of the most lethal team in pro surfing history, Glen Micro Hall.

Once again I intro’ed myself and we shook hands. Little man, clean cut, ripped. Shaved down if I’m not mistaken.
“Glen”, I said “Why are Wilko and other top seeds finding this lineup so hard to read? There are good waves everywhere out there.”

“I don’t know,” he said.

“Any theories?”

“Nah, not really.”

Is that not core business?

Do coaches not collect their ten percent to figure this shit out? Or am I reading this wrong?

There was no question of rookies over-respecting incumbents and the day was looking tedious until Parko took the water behind the rock against Pat Gudauskas. In the last two days I have seen hundreds of waves spit their guts out after barrelling from behind the rock. And not one pro surfer has paddled over and caught one.

Parko threaded one, then two, then three. Putting the big swinging top turn carve on the end for emphasis. The only waves ridden in two full days of mens competition that reached into the eight-plus excellent range.

Objectively analysing the crowd using scientific transects and language detection I estimated the official language of QuikPro as Portugese. Lots of gals, lots of brown guys. Not White Australia at all. A gal in front of me and Jazzy P swooned and dropped to the floor in the Corona Pavilion. Two babes in front swivelled bottoms slowly from side to side like honeybees at the hive. The air was thick with the chemical smell of sunscreen and human pheromones.

A cadet surf journalist interned to me by Derek Hynd asked me if I had any advice and I said, “The best way to avoid a hangover is not to drink but the best way to deal with a hangover is to have another one.”

“Jazzy P, have you got your hands on the BG purse strings, I need another Corona.”

M Rod was the only other pale sun to shine on a dull day when anticipation of much greater things to come infused the day with a sour, Soviet mood emanating from judges, surfers, fans, coaches and surf journalists alike.

Round two. We should all write a letter to the Commissioner and ask them to drop-kick it off a cliff.

What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

Cyclone 13P named by the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre in Honolulu is bearing down on the QLD coast and on track to deliver a finals finish at Kirra if WSL can play their cards right. If, comrades, they had run overlapping heats today they could’ve been in a go position to pick the eyes out of what may be a small window of cyclonic opportunity and enlivened an otherwise dull day.

Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Mikey Wright (AUS) 15.10 def. John John Florence (HAW) 10.76
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.00 def. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 7.90
Heat 3: Michael February (ZAF) 11.03 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 8.97
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 11.40 def. Ian Gouveia (BRA) 10.07
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.03 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 9.67
Heat 6: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 14.67 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 10.80
Heat 7: Frederico Morais (PRT) 12.16 def. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 9.90
Heat 8: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 10.60 def. Keanu Asing (HAW) 8.86
Heat 9: Willian Cardoso (BRA) 12.90 def. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 10.83
Heat 10: Conner Coffin (USA) 12.20 def. Yago Dora (BRA) 10.60
Heat 11: Tomas Hermes (BRA) 14.93 def. Joan Duru (FRA) 12.17
Heat 12: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 11.74 def. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 11.13

Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Round 3 Matchups:
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Conner Coffin (USA)
Heat 3: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Tomas Hermes (BRA)
Heat 4: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Heat 5: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS)
Heat 6: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Mikey Wright (AUS)
Heat 7: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Michael February (ZAF)
Heat 8: Frederico Morais (PRT) vs. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN)
Heat 9: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Griffin Colapinto (USA)
Heat 10: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Wade Carmichael (AUS)
Heat 11: Connor O’Leary (AUS) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)
Heat 12: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Michael Rodrigues (BRA)

Roxy Pro Gold Coast Semifinal Matchups:
Heat 1: Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Malia Manuel (HAW)
Heat 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Keely Andrew (AUS)

Ten gees and you're in the pool for an hour (four, five waves), with land and water video-stills angles!

Open: $9788 to Ride Surf Ranch for 1 hour!

Tickets for Founders Cup released including ultra-VIP, ride-the-pool package… 

A few minutes ago, the WSL released tickets for its Founders Cup team event at the Surf Ranch on the weekend of May 5 and 6.

A hundred and five bucks will get you through the big cedar doors for one day ($86.20 for kids under ten), $157.27 for the weekend ($127.40 for kids) and a VIP all-weekend ticket is $517.77. The VIP ticket grants its holder “VIP seating” for both days, access to a lounge, food and booze and a parking pass.

Oh but that ain’t it.

The ticket you’ll be dressing up in your tightest leather mini-skirt, sequinned silver halter and precarious heels and throwing fat wads of cash at is The Surf Ranch Experience™. It costs $9500 (plus the $288 booking fee) and “after an entire weekend of watching perfect waves, you’ll get your chance to join the very short list of people who have surfed Kelly’s creation. The Surf Ranch Experience™ provides a one-hour surf session in the pool on Monday, May 7. You’ll feel like the pro’s you just spent a weekend watching, with a personalised locker, coaching and professional photography and videography from both land and water. The experience includes full VIP treatment through the event complete with VIP seating, lounge access, free food and beverage, premium gift bag, parking pass, and Tachi Palace hotel room for Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. In addition, you’ll get an exclusive invite to the pre-event party and dinner on Friday, and the invite-only concert afterparty on Saturday. Get ready for the experience of a lifetime. Questions about this package? [email protected].”

I hardly have to ask.

But, are you in?

Oh, and the teams, if you’re wondering:

Captain: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
Mick Fanning (AUS)
Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Julian Wilson (AUS)
Tyler Wright (AUS)

Captain: Gabriel Medina (BRA)
Adriano de Souza (BRA)
Filipe Toledo (BRA)
Silvana Lima (BRA)
Taina Hinckel (BRA)

Captain: Johanne Defay (FRA)
Jeremy Flores (FRA)
Frederico Morais (PRT)
Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Frankie Harrer (DEU)

Captain: Kelly Slater (USA)
John John Florence (USA)
Kolohe Andino (USA)
Carissa Moore (USA)
Courtney Conlogue (USA)

Captain: Jordy Smith (ZAF)
Michel Bourez (PYF)
Kanoa Igarashi (JPN)
Paige Hareb (NZL)
Bianca Buitendag (ZAF)