How well do you know the men that hang professional surfing in the balance?
I will tell you what, the 2018 World Surf League’s Championship Tour kickoff yesterday was fantastic. It showcased drama, skill, new blood and old hands but most of all Steve “Longtom” Shearer’s jump back into the saddle. If I’ve written it once, I’ve written it a thousand times… a day of professional surfing doesn’t end until Longtom says it does. I have no doubt these years will be looked back upon with wide-eyed wonderment by the future’s children. They will read The Collected Works of Professional Surf Contest Coverage 2016-2019, skipping every collected work except his and they will marvel.
Longtom, anyhow, ended yesterday’s offering by pointing to the fact Ben Dunn is now a surf judge and has been for five years.
Ben Dunn. What in the world? And I decided then and there to go on a mission to uncover each and every WSL CT judge. It would be hard work, seeing as the League likes to keep them sequestered but I was hungry and driven. Nothing but nothing would stand in the way of true, hard-nose surf journalism and…
…oh. The WSL published a whole story about the judges, complete with first day of school pictures weeks ago and Tinder profile question/answers. It is all quite brilliant and go here to see but one thing was left off. Which sort of music each judge listens to. Should we speculate together? I’ll start.
Head Judge: Pritamo Ahrendt (40)
Maybe listens to: LCD Soundsystem
Priority judge: Iain Buchanan (56)
Maybe listens to: Bon Scott era AC/DC
Senior judge: Ettiene Buys (41)
Maybe listens to: Vintage Kenny G
Judge: Mikel Zalakain (41)
Maybe listens to: Fleetwood Mac
Judge: Ben Lowe (38)
Maybe listens to: Powderfinger
Judge: Luiz Fernando (44)
Maybe listens to: Shakira
Judge: Luke Redding (31)
Maybe listens to: Young Thug
Now it’s your turn!
But first… this one goes out to Ben Dunn. Welcome to the show!
It’s the opening scenes toThe Empire Strikes Backwhen those mechanical boxy giraffes belonging to the evil Empire are striding across the frozen landscape.
Is that not the perfect visual metaphor for the pro surfing Juggernaut under Sophie’s Reign on Season Opening Day One at Snapper Rocks? The control room so high above the Earth, those long, long legs, so impressive in full stride and yet so vulnerable.
Say what you want about the Paul Speaker Era but he steadied the ship, kept a full roster of events even if he did have to rattle the can for Ziff to chip in to keep J-Bay and Fiji on Tour. Now, not even a year into her reign, and Sophie has lost Pipe as the season opener for 2019. The only truly irreplaceable event on tour according to surf journalist Charlie Smith.
And how solid is the Aussie leg?
I know permit chasing is the purview of Rory Parker but before this contest croaks we will have the facts on the table.
Dating pro surfing back to 1976 gives us 42 years of market-testing the dream of Antipodean surfers who never wanted to work a real job. In that time, little ol’ Australia, Deputy Dawg for the US of A in the Asia/Pacific, stands alone as the only country on earth to invent and perfect a sustainable business model to keep the pro surf dream afloat. That being Big Top surfing underwritten by the State in good to classic locations. Bums on seats, all hands to the pump to man the deep fryers and coffee machines and pro surfers more or less happy to look a gift horse in the mouth. They should slap a tariff on it and export it to the world. If the Australian leg one day falters that mechanical giraffe would hit the deck faster than a bucket of prawns goes off in the Queensland sun.
The comp started with a long, dreary stanza of low-scoring heats in grey-green water, a combination of safety surfing and a Snapper sandbar that has only half-way filled in to Little Marley after an excoriating reaming from TC Gita. Innovation is the buzzword coming from the WSL brass and as part of the push the format has been tinkered with. No more round five and the possibility now of over-lapping heats for Snapper.
Nice, but far more radical conceptual surgery was/is needed. Jazzy P outlined a one-day format. I propose a two-day format. A 24-surfer tour. Six four-man heats lasting 80 mins with a leaderboard set-up on day one. That would penalise and make completely redundant safety surfing. Surfers would be effectively competing both against the “course” and the rest of the field. Best two or three waves go on the continually updated leaderboard. That is something anyone can understand.
Day two is the Top 16 surfers from day one in man-on-man heats to the final.
Pro surfing looked to the wrong sport for inspiration. Golf is a shit game but an awesome format. That’s the model they needed to emulate.
Portugal will never open the tour despite what Doherty says. On what basis do I assert that? On the basis that there isn’t a person alive on earth or as yet born who could think that having the season opener for the Championship Tour in the dark depths of a European winter is a good idea. It is, as they say, Bad Optics, and that is something the managerial class in the WSL do understand.
Heat five erupted. Gabby paddled over the top of Leo Fioravanti and having established physical and psychological dominance dropped a total backhand blitzkrieg on the next set wave. Got shacked came out, did the first full-throated roundhouse cutback of the day then chopped it into little pieces and dropped it in a bag with a bowtie on it in front of the judges. It wasn’t just the best wave ridden all day it was the best by orders of magnitude. Judges rewarded him with a priority error because Leo had had the sneakiness to slide in behind Gabby and take-off, too deep to make it.
Travesty! Blatant injustice! Gabby had established priority at the start of the heat, it should have been his wave.
I know he is friendless amongst recreational surfers for these tactics. He’s been hanging at my home breaks winning friends and influencing people the last month. But that’s life, that showbiz, that’s entertainment. Ranking the Brazilian Goofyfoots: Medina 1, Italo 2, daylight next. Italo through with intensely sharp backhand stabs.
Can’t remember much about Jordy’s heat except he won and laid down more home spun parables in the presser with Rosie. Said he’s been on the anti-aging cream because his looks are holding. There’s only one secret to anti-aging and thats stay out of the Queensland sun. Nothing makes for more beautiful youths at twenty and more hideous shipwrecks of human beings at forty. And I am one, with three frozen-off cancers sitting on my head like syphilitic chancres: the price paid, with interest compounded, for chasing tubes at Burleigh in my twenties.
Anyone who has done time in Queensland pointbreaks knows how tricky Snapper can be and was today. The wave is literally part of the current pushing down the bank. Finding it means hard graft fighting the rip and swinging on anything that moves. Over a day, a swell, that builds a wave count but in a thirty-minute heat the relentless metronome of short period tradewind swell hitting the bank from all angles and with all sizes grinds the clock down more quickly than you could imagine. John Florence got caught without a good one. Griff Colapinto found a couple gems and did the biz. Lets hope the WSL doesn’t squash the fruit out of his game. His beat is nice.
Filipe sizzled, as per, as per. If you dream of a Filipe Title then the boy would have buoyed you today.
Day one done. Have you looked at the WSL press releases lately? Lots of innovation.
What’s your favourite? Mine is this one: “With the goal to make surfing more accessible to the public, the WSL is about to deliver a season-long campaign to educate and demystify some of the more technical and complex elements of the sport, through all WSL channels, with ten initiatives”.
A whole season long campaign to demystify! Might I just say here Soph, that I am very, very skilled at demystifying campaigns and my rates are more than reasonable. I’m cheap as chips in fact!
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 9.90, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 5.20, Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 4.57
Heat 2: Michel Bourez (PYF) 13.17, Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 11.26, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 10.67
Heat 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.66, Conner Coffin (USA) 10.10, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 7.64
Heat 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) 12.60, Joan Duru (FRA) 11.30, Ian Gouveia (BRA) 7.27
Heat 5: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.26, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 8.44, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 6.05
Heat 6: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 12.50, John John Florence (HAW) 7.50, Mikey Wright (AUS) 2.00
Heat 7: Kolohe Andino (USA) 9.63, Keanu Asing (HAW) 7.83, Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 5.60
Heat 8: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 10.30, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 8.67, Willian Cardoso (BRA) 8.07
Heat 9: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.24, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 9.94, Yago Dora (BRA) 6.86
Heat 10: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 15.56, Frederico Morais (PRT) 9.00, Tomas Hermes (BRA) 5.50
Heat 11: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 13.16, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 7.63, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 7.46
Heat 12: Mick Fanning (AUS) 11.60, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 9.80, Kelly Slater (USA) 0.00
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Round 2 Matchups:
Heat 1: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Mikey Wright (AUS)
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 3: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Michael Rodrigues (BRA)
Heat 6: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat 7: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Keanu Asing (HAW)
Heat 8: Frederico Morais (PRT) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 9: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Yago Dora (BRA)
Heat 10: Caio Ibelli (BRA) vs. Tomas Hermes (BRA)
Heat 11: Conner Coffin (USA) vs. Wade Carmichael (AUS)
Heat 12: Joan Duru (FRA) vs. Jesse Mendes (BRA)
And it was in this house, one hundred metres from the famous sandbottom left, that the surf movie classic Doped Youth was filmed in the summer of 2003-4. The movie, which was conceived and made by Ozzie and Waves editor Adam Blakey, starred Kelly Slater, Tom Carroll, Ozzie, Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson and was released as a DVD with the magazine Waves.
After around a decade in the Narrabeen house, Oz and his singer wife Mylee Grace , bought another house, this time in Newport, a short drive north. In 2015, the pair, with kids, joined the Sydney exodus north to Byron Bay, buying a house in Suffolk Park for $1.15 million.
The Newport joint got sold last year for $2.3 million and, now, Oz has put the historic Doped Youth house on the market. It don’t look a thing like the shanty town that featured in the film. I had to go back and look a few times to make sure it was the actual house for sale.
It sure is… different. From artist warehouse to stiff mammy, pappy chic.
Anyway, if living near Sydney’s best wave is your thing, it ain’t a bad place to stack your boards.
Price? Well over two million dollars, I’d suggest.
I sat down this morning with a hot cup of coffee and flipped open my computer to see if anything interesting happened in the surf world overnight. The Inertia found a #vanlife they liked very much, Stab was busy selling FCS’s new leash and then there was Sean Doherty, like a breath of fresh air, penning an ode to Snapper’s last dance as first gal on tour for Surfer. It was wistful, informative, nice.
He drove through Coolangatta, remembering what it once was when surfers were not welcomed and then went to Mick Fanning’s house.
“Joel was there.” he wrote. “Mick was asleep. He’d spent the day hanging out with Henry Rollins, the punk legend now spruiking cars more than revolution.”
Mick spent the day hanging with Hank Rollins and Joel was there? At first my mind raced to the most logical conclusion. That Rip Curl was following Billabong’s gilded path and doing a radical collaboration with Rollins and/or Black Flag. It’s got all the ingredients the surf industry loves and I wondered if Joel was jealous and trying to pry Henry over to Billabong, showing off his Iggy Pop trunks etc. but then I searched Mick Fanning and Henry Rollins and found this video.
Henry Rollins has or maybe had a radio show on KCRW in Los Angeles.
It is/was torture.
Like, real true torture.
It always made me feel better watching him get thrown through a window though. Maybe it’ll help you too.
And here we sit just one day away from the start of the 2018 World Championship Tour feat. all your favorites minus Mick.
Are you excited? Did the time between Pipeline’s closing curtain and this moment totally drag or did you sober up enough to think, “Why the hell do I waste my time watching professional surfing?”
Well that’s rude and it might take you a few moments to get back into the swing of things but by the time the tour lumbers into Brazil this May you’ll be craving the sauce once more. Who do you think will be atop the Jeep Leaderboard in May? You can now put your money where your mouth is and exciting things will be happening re. BeachGrit and surf gambling. Stay tuned.
Do you recall what else is happening in May?
That’s right! The Founders Cup at Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California. It will be open to the public and your first chance to buy a ticket and peek inside but it won’t be your last time.
For just minutes ago a conversation was intercepted on social media by a watchful friend between a person very much involved in Surf Ranch operations. That person told another person that Surf Ranch is officially opening to the public after the Founders Cup.
Like, you can drive to Lemoore, stay at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino and surf the ranch just like your favorite surf journalists.
Can you believe? Do you excite?
Price per hour/session was not revealed but let’s also put our money where our mouths are here. I’ll start. I bet…. $150 an hour with a long waitlist.