John John Bells
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. | Photo: WSL

Bells, Day One: “Fuck I’m glad I’m not there!”

Bad thoughts on Good Friday…

I’m so fucking glad I’m not at Bells. 

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 Shock described 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.

Rip Curl Women’s Pro Bells Beach Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.50, Sage Erickson (USA) 9.33, Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 8.80
Heat 2: Coco Ho (HAW) 12.80, Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 11.93, Keely Andrew (AUS) 10.77
Heat 3: Silvana Lima (BRA) 15.67, Kobie Enright (AUS) 11.00, Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 10.44
Heat 4: Tyler Wright (AUS) 13.83, Paige Hareb (NZL) 10.83 Malia Manuel (HAW) 8.63
Heat 5: Lakey Peterson (USA) 14.17, Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 13.07, Macy Callaghan (AUS) 9.73
Heat 6: Johanne Defay (FRA)12.87, Caroline Marks (USA) 12.34, Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 7.63

Rip Curl Women’s Pro Bells Beach Round 2 Matchups:
Heat 1: Keely Andrew (AUS) vs. Caroline Marks (USA)
Heat 2: Sage Erickson (USA) vs. Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
Heat 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Kobie Enright (AUS)
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Paige Hareb (NZL)
Heat 5: Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) vs. Macy Callaghan (AUS)
Heat 6: Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) vs. Malia Manuel (HAW)

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 12.53, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 11.50, Michael February (ZAF) 8.43
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) 10.73, Conner Coffin (USA) 9.10, Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 6.17
Heat 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.30, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 14.27, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 12.16
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.50 Italo Ferreira (BRA) 11.40, Ian Gouveia (BRA) 8.23
Heat 5: John John Florence (HAW) 13.76, Tomas Hermes (BRA) 10.30, Mikey McDonagh (AUS) 8.34
Heat 6: Julian Wilson (AUS) 11.10, Joan Duru (FRA) 10.83, Carl Wright (AUS) 7.83
Heat 7: Michel Bourez (PYF)14.10, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10.97, Keanu Asing (HAW) 10.87
Heat 8: Matt Wilkinson (AUS)11.70, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.00, Yago Dora (BRA) 10.16

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Remaining Round 1 Matchups:
Heat 9: Kolohe Andino (USA), Frederico Morais (PRT), Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 10: Adrian Buchan (AUS), Connor O’Leary (AUS), Michael Rodrigues (BRA)
Heat 11: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Kanoa Igarashi (JPN), Wade Carmichael (AUS)
Heat 12: Mick Fanning (AUS), Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Jesse Mendes (BRA)

Help: I was blocked on social media!

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.

And 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?

I’m asking seriously.

Andy Irons
What was the high-water mark for Billabong? Andy Irons? Teahupoo? The Japanese imperialist trunks? When they combined to rule the world? | Photo: ASP

Billabong sale: “We got totally screwed!”

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.

Whoa: Kolohe Andino has very big muscles!

He is here to pump you up.

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?

Are you sad that Playgirl is out of circulation?

Review: “I tried Laird’s Superfood!”

Gluten free! Vegan! Non-GMO!

Laird Hamilton, best known for his theories about sharks and women’s periods, has a line of drink mixes, Laird Superfood. According to the brand’s website, Laird apparently had an epiphany one day when he was adding his usual scoop of butter to his coffee. There must be a better way!

I received some samples of Laird Superfood. I tried them, so you don’t have to. Unless you want! I mean, you can! You do you, you crazy diamonds.

Laird Superfood is sold in single-serving 24-gram pouches. They are tastefully designed in shades of green. Gluten free! Vegan! Non-GMO! The logo features the outline of a figure, presumably Laird, riding a SUP. In the logo, he is depicted as a regular foot.

My samples included two flavors: Hydrate, which contains freeze-dried coconut water, and Instafuel, which the packaging describes as “premium instant coffee” with superfood creamer. The Instafuel requires boiled water, which doesn’t feel all that instant. But it does promise to take our coffee experience “to the next level.”

The Instafuel package has a large photo of Laird. He paddles a SUP in a giant, photogenic wave of the sort that Laird is famous for riding. In the picture, Laird, a regular foot is surfing backside on a right. This hurt my brain. It reminded me of the time I saw a stock photo showing a left used to depict Malibu.

But I’m sure all of this is totally fine. Maybe Laird was SUPing switch to make it harder. Maybe that’s what happens when you eat the Superfood. You SUP switch in giant, photogenic waves.

Laird Superfood includes the supplement Aquamin. Derived from ocean algaes, Aquamin contains calcium, magnesium, and assorted trace minerals. The health benefit claims of Aquamin depend on sciencey studies about calcium depletion and bone-density loss during exercise.

According to the manufacturer’s website, Aquamin provides uniquely deliverable calcium supplements that’ll make your bones stay strong even when training or growing old. No word on what it’ll do for your sex life. I know y’all are super disappointed.

When I ate the Superfood I did not immediately acquire the ability to fly or anything useful like that. Presumably it added calcium to my bones, but I felt nothing. Not even a tingle. This was slightly disappointing.

I mixed the Hydrate with bottled water in a 12-ounce container as the instructions demanded. Once mixed, it has a milky, white color. The flavor is nothing to write home about. Not terrible! Just not super exciting.

It needed something. I rummaged around the kitchen and found vodka of questionable vintage. I added the vodka to the Hydrate. Mmm, vodka. I added more. Even better. Then I was out of coconut water Superfood. More Vodka. What were we talking about again, I don’t know. Vodka, good. Next time, I skip straight to vodka. More vodka.

I approached the Instafuel with trepidation. Instant coffee. I once carried a French Press in my camera bag on a bike-packing trip in Oregon. This was a stupid decision, because packing out wet coffee grounds is stupid. But it does give you an idea of my feelings about instant coffee.

I again entered the kitchen to boil the required boiled water, which just about exhausts my kitchen repertoire. I added boiling water to the instant coffee and Superfood mixture. It dissolved! Magic! A thin layer tan bubbles, resembling crema, appeared on the surface. I know this game. I see you, Instafuel! I see you trying to fool me into thinking you are actually good coffee! You can’t fool me.

In graduate school, I did research at the French Foreign Ministry archives, which at the time were housed in the Foreign Ministry building. They took our passports and escorted us through the hallways. We were allowed at intervals to leave the reading room and down in a basement, there was a coffee machine. It dispensed espresso in tiny paper cups. I never figured out how to turn off the sugar, so I downed many tiny, heavily sugared espressos. It kept me awake long enough to read piles of diplomatic documents, but it was not a good coffee experience.

I recount this story, because the Laird Superfood Instafuel reminded me of the coffee dispensed from the machine in the Quai d’Orsay basement. There is a hint of coffee flavor and a creamy mouth feel. An intense coconut flavor, reminiscent of sunscreen, lingers on the palette. As I sipped, I tried to imagine Hawaii and wafting palm fronds and giant, photogenic waves. I failed.

If you like your coffee very sweet and you enjoy coconut-flavored things, Laird Superfood Instafuel is your dream morning libation. It is easy to make! And almost instant! But so is Starbucks Via, which more closely resembles coffee.

Mostly, I’m just sad I didn’t suddenly acquire Laird superpowers. Maybe it’s the wrong time of the month.