What an inglorious gut punch this year has been for southern California’s most iconic wave. Trestles, located just south of San Clemente in bucolic San Diego County, has long enjoyed its position at the top. Two whole generations have explored the very fringes of progression while photographers stood shoulder to shoulder upon the cobbled stone, bringing super-human feats to our attention.
The wave has hosted the world’s best surfers and judges as an important stop on the World Surf League’s Championship Tour and it seemed like nothing but nothing would ever get in the way. Air reverses ad infinitum.
Except then the wheels fell entirely off.
First, Trestles was dropped from Tour, leaving the entire United States of America with zero events.
Now, shortboards, and progression, have been banned from Trestles.
You read that right. This September 9 – 19 there will be a minimum 9-feet-of-surfboard required to paddle out for the alt longboard tour Relik is coming and has captured the permit. Let’s read from the event website:
Relik unites the global longboard surfing community while building a sustainable competitive platform for all disciplines of longboard surfing. A modern and classic Longboard World Tour hosting 50 of the top longboard surfers from around the world.
Our goal is to perpetuate the growth of modern longboarding as well as honor the masters of traditional logging and style.
Relik’s modern pro division is complemented by an equally impressive line-up of sixteen traditional standout competitive loggers. These mavericks of style continue to perpetuate the art of surfing and have been influential in enriching the longboard community by honoring tradition and authenticity.
I’m kidding, it’s an annual pilgrimage of impeccable history where the best surfers in the world gather to test themselves, longest-running surf contest in the world, best surf journalists on hand, you can pull a root from the Torquay pub, best CEO’s and the best crowd etc…
Fuck I’m glad I’m not there.
It’s as cheery as solo drinking a warm beer in a mausoleum.
Kidding but not kidding, watching a CT live is so incredibly different to watching on the webby it might almost be a different event. After Snapper, I had to spend hours reviewing the video tape to see what I had missed watching live and to parse the data. Live, the crowd responds like a single organism and, by and large ,historically speaking they get it right. They responded in the past to Slater, to Dane, to Fanning in his prime, Parko. Look at this vid of Dane vs Parko 2009. You couldn’t get near the beach. In 2018, it felt like it needed the defibrillator most days.
At Snapper they responded to Toledo, Mikey Wright and the rest might have well as been rubber dummy’s sitting in the lineup.
Ace Buchan? I couldn’t find a single note on him, not a murmur, maybe a polite golf clap, and he made the finals! Has this new judging direction taken the surfing away from the people? Question one for Bells.
The context of the question. Commenter Twillsy detected a sad note in the coverage of Snapper and he was right, but I couldn’t work out why. Days later it hit me like a wet fish in a cold sock. The crowd. T
The crowd was way down on highlight moments in the past and maybe the people, the Australian surf fan in particular have turned their backs on pro surfing. If so, and in the rush to “audience build”, the antipodean surf fan is alienated, disaster awaits. There is nothing more fundamental to the continuation of pro surfing than the Australian surf fan. They lend legitimacy to the whole enterprise. It’s the bedrock on which the whole creaking edifice rests.
In the parallel universe where Sophie G is the under-employed surf writer and L.Tom is WSL CEO, the first order of business is to make sure the Australian surf fan is the most duchessed, cosseted sports fan on Earth. If the Australian surf fan don’t like it, it don’t happen.
Back to Bells. Wimmins kicked it off in sunlit dreamy runner at Winkipop. The opening wave, of the opening heat from Carissa Moore was close to the highlight of the day. Coco kicked the tail with abandon, Silvana looked formidable and Lakey looked sharper, more powerful than the men.
Later, when Jordy was in the booth as part of the demystifying campaign he was asked by Joe Turpel to define flow. To his great credit he said the simplest definition of flow was no double pumps. Which I heard as spaz pumps. By this definition, the women were all over the men and the men showed horrible flow. Worst offenders: Pat Gudauskas and our World Champion John John Florence. Terrible, terrible spaz pumping. I am a horrible horrible Judas having dark thoughts about our beloved pro surfing comrades.
Why can’t it be…cool? Why can’t it be something we can all get behind? How did we ever lose faith in our beautiful little endeavour and hand it over to opportunistic suits?
Alvin Toffler in his book Future Shockdescribed the surfing sub-culture as a “signpost pointing to the future.” As the wind turned onshore and we ground through heats it seemed an almost irredeemable throwback to the past. Bad thoughts on Good Friday.
And the weirdest thing: Bells works. People pay, real money!, to show up and imbibe the pro surfing Kool-aid. Always have, always will. In 2025, when the rebel Real Ocean Tour presented by Oculus Rift tussles with the WSL over locations and talent Bells Beach will be the site of the turf war to end all turf wars. Dreary old Bells. The beginning and the end.
The surf turned to gurgled-out runner. I was rooting hard for Local Lennox Grom Mikey McDonagh to do some damage. He’s a smart kid who rips, but he couldn’t get started and he couldn’t finish. John Florence looked unconvincing, to my eye.
The smoothest goofy was Owen Wright with Wilko second. Did you see that 1997 Skins Video posted up the other day? Supposedly, Occy did the best surfing ever that day allegedly with a fair amount of psycho-chemical assistance and a wonderful Dalhberg channel bottom. I believe he would have won any heat today. That is the most objective comparison I can muster.
Mental health is a bitch, is it not ? I thought succour from this dour assessment may lie in the last heat of the day with the final round one appearance of Saint Mick. He has been elevated beyond a champion sportsmen, which he is, total champion, and been fully canonized as a saint. A barefoot messenger of the divine who walks among us mortals, bringing us ‘strine, beer and performances to soothe the dark thoughts and inner demons of the Australian surf fan.
But in the end, as the gurgle worsened and the gloom deepened, even that hope was denied us by the commissioner. He pulled the plug after heat eight.
Day one at Bells was left on the cross, flapping in the onshore breeze.
Left out in the cold where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Last week someone on Instagram sent me in a post belonging to @ashtonsealegs. I remembered the handle belonged to Stab magazine’s editor Ashton Goggans and was suddenly very curious as to how life’s been treating him these days. We don’t interact much anymore, save the random call from a police detective, so I happily clicked and… nothing.
I tried again.
But Instagram told me both times, “User not found” and “No posts yet”.
Which confused me to no end. I know that @ashtonsealegs used to be his handle and someone just sent me a post from his account but… nothing.
At first I thought that application itself must be broken before it dawned on me that I had been blocked.
Completely barred from radiating in the warm glow of Ashton Goggans’ curated life.
I only know that I was blocked because my ex-wife did the same thing a few years back in probable retaliation for writing that I hated her in the PEN Award nominated book Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell (Buy here today! It makes for a wonderful Easter gift.)
And I’ve been meaning to ask for quite some time because I’m genuinely curious. What does taking punitive measures on social media say about a person?
I’m assuming Ashton, and my ex-wife, had to jump though a few hoops in order to set the blocking. Now, what is the hope? That I won’t sneer at them? That I won’t nuisance comment on pictures of loaded potato skins and longboards? That I’ll forget either of them exists?
What the hell is the point of blocking someone on social media?
Billabong sells to former rival. Investor says, "Quiksilver just got the deal of the century!"
Two hundred and eight million Australian dollars. That’s how much Boardriders aka Quiksilver aka Oaktree Capital bought Billabong for yesterday.
An offer of a buck a share had been on the table for months but at the last minute, literally the last minute as the meeting took place to accept or reject the deal, Boardriders upped the bid to a buck and five cents to seal it.
This was to swing a group of rogue shareholders, who owned fifteen percent of the shares and who believed that a sale of a dollar a share grossly undervalued the company.
Still, in the aftermath.
“We got totally screwed… Boardriders have got the deal of the century,” said Peter Constable, the CEO of Ryder Financial CEO and who owned around 10% of Billabong’s shares.
Investors like Constable claim that the true value of Billabong is currently around $1.40 – $1.50 per share, which values Billabong close to three hundred mill.
So did they get screwed? Did Quik get the deal of the century?
You gotta always suspect that a company with almost $1 billion in revenue per annum and $300 million in cash, property, and receivables was a relative bargain at $200 million. Y’get bricks and mortar, warehouses, online, wholesale, retail, a brand… the fully vertically integrated worldwide package.
If you look at the company balance sheet the $220 million debt will scream, “Abandon hope all ye who enter.”
As well, you see dropping sales and rising inventory (stuff that hasn’t sold) over the past couple of years, a cyanide pill for any business. Design, order, sell it quick and don’t hold onto a damn thing is the mantra of a company like Zara, who just made a three billion dollar euro net profit on sales of twenty-five billion euro. (Staff got to share in half-a-billon euro in bonuses.) In December 2017, with sales at $476 million, there was inventory holdings of $190 million. Crippling inventory management almost brought down Apple in the nineties and Tim Cook rose to prominence as the the man to sort it out for them.
Expenses were fat too. You’ve got cost of goods sitting at around 50% and sales, general and administrative expenses at around 40%. Size this up against other brands that sit at around 40% COGS and 30% SOGA. You just trim those bits of fat into the market average and you turn your 2017 half-yearly result from a $18.5 million loss to a $20 million profit.
The big-ticket question in this whole thing was debt. The 220 mill. Could Billabong have met its short-term debt obligation? Yep.
But the ability to repay and service that debt in the long term would be dependant on how the business performed. And as a shareholder you had the choice of cashing out now at a 20% premium over the last traded share price. Or you could go long and put your faith in the generals up top to pull everything into line and return the company to its former profitable glory.
It could be done. But given their recent track record I would’ve sold, too. Let someone else deal with it. Park my money elsewhere.
But if I’m Oaktree, and I’ve got a pockets full of Benjamin’s, the ability to call the shots, and another limping surf co in Quiky… (Benjamin’s too because in USD this deal is worth just $160 million) then I’m all in.
Will Oaktree be able to merge the two back ends together, trim the fat and start pumping out dollars? Most likely.
And once QuikBong is at fighting weight, you enlist her back on the stock market with an IPO of around $10-15 per share, take a cool payday, and everyone gets a Ferrari.
Now, over the course of my very many years as a surf journalist I have seen a few different body types excel at professional surfing. When I first began in this wicked game, for example, Mick “Keg with Legs” Lowe was on tour. Luke Stedman was too like a stringy tall scarecrow. Professional surfers could have beer softened stomachs or meth trimmed abs. They could be like you and they could be like me.
This was before the real performance boom of the middle 200os where airs became the thing and so the ideal professional surfer body type transitioned to short and light. Small little birds who could fly and land without much damage to joints and tendons.
In my mind, this trend was going to continue on and on and on until the average professional surfer is 5’4 125 lbs. Like cute little gymnasts or skateboarders. Of course there will always be outliers. John John Florence springs instantly to mind along with Michel “The Spartan” Bourez.
Speaking of The Spartan, I saw the above picture of Kolohe Andino the other day on Instagram.
Look at those muscles.
If I was told he eats small little birds who can fly and land without much damage to joints and tendons for breakfast I would simply nod. Who would win in a fight between The Spartan and Kolohe? Who would look best on the cover of Playgirl?