Prior to that wildcards Kael Walsh and Mikey Wright (pictured) took out Wilko and Ace. It was obvious by that point, and reinforced through the day, that no-one had learnt the lessons of last year and tried to replicate the JJF line going right at Mainbreak. You really would think they would have studied the videotape, learned to draw the bottom turn a little earlier before the flat faced wave with it's lack of what George Greenough calls “bottom tension” ate up all their speed and initiated the high speed top turn arc earlier. But no. No students of the game on show today. | Photo: WSL

Margs, Day 3: “A swamp of mediocrity!”

What works great as a live event sucks donkey dongs as a broadcast product.

Do you have a favourite cause, something you champion? Something lodged deep in your heart? I have two: orangutans and the Kurds. 

The thought of those wise old men of the forest getting burnt to death so sanctimonious vegans can get fat on palm oil saturated bikkies drives me wild. Even worse, those Pashmerga babes who made ISIS cry for their mummies now getting hung out  to dry by the west so a bunch of recycled jihadis backed by Turkey can overrun their beautiful gender neutral society just kills me. For real. If I had any bottle I would don the fatigues and jump the next plane to Kirkuk. I already have the camo.

But I’m thinking I, we; we being the ambivalent surf fan might have to champion a different cause. That cause being the Australian leg of the Pro Tour, maybe even pro surfing itself, because all leg it has looked, today included, on very shaky ground. Unable to lift itself out of a swamp of mediocrity, trapped in a dreadful paradox. 

The disconnect between what the public is viewing, what they say is their experience of the product, what the judges are seeing and the hype being put out by the WSL media machine which controls the broadcast is growing and reaching critical levels. The judges are saying it is fair to mediocre, the public agrees and the WSL is still stuck on a loop of “best ever, historic day, incredible action etc”

That paradox, heretofore unmentioned, is that the Australian pro surf contest has evolved hand in hand with the state, deriving funding for its ability to drive tourism and put bums on seats in regional areas. It works brilliantly doing that. People show up for the spectacle and the atmosphere and the surf contest bubbles away in the background.

What works great as a live event sucks donkey dongs as a broadcast product. A paradox with no resolution in sight. And seeing as the WSL has already shown that a contest – even the acknowledged best one on Tour, Fiji – is not viable without state backing we are in a quandary. Stay with the status quo, take the government money for the bums on seats and bore the global audience witless or take a chance on something new and risk all that juicy, guaranteed taxpayer underwriting. There’s no easy option there unless they want the next 10 years to look like the last 10 and Sophie G has already said that is not an option.

The disconnect between what the public is viewing, what they say is their experience of the product, what the judges are seeing and the hype being put out by the WSL media machine which controls the broadcast is growing and reaching critical levels. The judges are saying it is fair to mediocre, the public agrees and the WSL is still stuck on a loop of “best ever, historic day, incredible action etc”

Between the idea and the reality falls the shadow. Sooner or later, unless Ziff is happy for a conga line of CEO’s to pass through the revolving door, reality must be faced.

Four heats went by this morning in wobbly, mostly flat-faced, morning-sick Margaret River Main Break before two Brazilian goofyfooters, thank God for Brazilian goofyfooters, lit it up and provided premium entertainment. Miguel Pupo, my favourite goofyfoot for years came out with the best wave of the contest as his opening gambit; just a beautifully smooth high-speed, top-to -ottom piece of edge work. But he couldn’t quite find anything equally amazing to back it up and Italo hunted him down with brutal closing manoeuvres before spiking a set wave for the win. Sad. To see Miguel go so early. If anyone has looked world title material, apart from the no show at North Point, it is Italo. But you still get the feeling none of this may matter years end, that the tour hasn’t really kicked off, and remains in some strange sort of limbo.

Prior to that, wildcards Kael Walsh and Mikey Wright took out Wilko and Ace. It was obvious by that point, and reinforced through the day, that no-one had learnt the lessons of last year and tried to replicate the JJF line going right at Mainbreak. You really would think they would have studied the videotape, learned to draw the bottom turn a little earlier before the flat faced wave with its lack of what George Greenough calls “bottom tension”  ate up all their speed and initiated the high-speed, top-turn arc earlier. But no. No students of the game on show today. Sure, Bourez looked powerful enough in one of the better performances of the day but it was well down on expected levels.

I thought Seabass summed it up when in the booth, talking about his own performances and how he was frustrated with plateauing and not improving. He was asked how he could improve and he shrugged his shoulders, he had shades on, maybe baked?, and quipped “I dunno, train harder, eat better, stretch?” That just produces more meat and potatoes. It’s something else required here. An imaginative act. Not an athletic one. Thing is,  no imagination required now, JJF left a template to follow. 

Do I sound frustrated?

I couldn’t imagine the judges are filled with serotonin and dopamine after a another long, long day of pro surfing with a single wave in the excellent range. Count it. One. That’s hard graft for judges, surf journalists and an online audience alike. The numbers don’t lie and the numbers are terrible.

Joan Duru looked very strong in the last heat of the day. Dark horse pick.

John Florence comes up against Mikey Wright in round three. That will be the litmus test as to whether Florence is back on the pony proper or still lost in his own mind noise. 

Margaret River Men’s Pro Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 9.77 def. Dave Delroy-Carr (AUS) 5.43
Heat 2: Kael Walsh (AUS) 9.77 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 5.07
Heat 3: Mikey Wright (AUS) 14.17 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 9.14
Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.67 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 13.16
Heat 5: Michel Bourez (PYF) 14.16 def. Ian Gouveia (BRA) 9.10
Heat 6: Michael February (ZAF) 12.73 def. Frederico Morais (PRT) 9.17
Heat 7: Yago Dora (BRA) 13.76 def. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 11.93
Heat 8: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 14.34 def. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 13.27
Heat 9: Conner Coffin (USA) 11.83 def. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 9.57
Heat 10: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 13.50 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 12.50
Heat 11: Jesse Mendes (BRA) 9.37 def. Tomas Hermes (BRA) 9.10
Heat 12: Joan Duru (FRA) 14.57 def. Wade Carmichael (AUS) 11.80

Margaret River Men’s Pro Round 3 Matchups:
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Keanu Asing (HAW)
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Heat 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Michael February (ZAF)
Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Michael Rodrigues (BRA)
Heat 5: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) vs. Conner Coffin (USA)
Heat 6: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Kael Walsh (AUS)
Heat 7: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Jack Robinson (AUS)
Heat 8: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Connor O’Leary (AUS)
Heat 9: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 10: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Yago Dora (BRA)
Heat 11: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Joan Duru (FRA)
Heat 12: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Mikey Wright (AUS)


Look: Another celeb goes to Surf Ranch!

A famous quarterback!

I’m tired of this, damn it. Sick and tired. Spring has sprung, the weather is warming, gender fluid teenagers are falling in love. It is a beautiful, beautiful time to be alive but I have not been able to enjoy any of it and do you know why? Well do you? It is because of Surf Ranch, damn it. Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California.

Spring also means the gates to Kelly Slater’s phantasm are open once again and the World Surf League is on a mission to have it on the tips of peoples’ tongues, always in their hearts, and therefore a new celebrity is being rolled out every week.

Every week.

Do you know how exhausting this is for the surf journalist? Well do you? Let me tell you. It is exhausting. There I am, at the end of my day with barely enough energy to even mix a cocktail. Totally spent having broken stories on Mick Fanning’s un-retirement and going deep into surf coaching. All I want is that cocktail that I barely have enough energy to mix. That cocktail and a mindless jaunt through Instagram.

So peaceful. So nice. There’s Luke Davis traveling somewhere new. There’s the kook of the day. There’s the New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees on a little Surf Ranch nugget and The Inertia has already pounced writing that Drew Brees got “pitted out of his mind.” I don’t think The Inertia knows what “pitted” means.

Son of a bitch.

My surf journalist heart begins to pound. It beats, “This is a story. This is a story. This is story.”

“But I’m exhausted…” my brain tries to protest. “…I’ve just cracked a piece on Australia’s surf clubs changing their sexist rule.

Every damn week.

Now that the World Surf League has trapped the allure of the ocean in a controlled environment, one where celebrities can look ok surfing, they can roll this out again and again and again, dominating the news’ cycle, staying on top of the feed. I can feel Senior Vice President of Global Brand Identity Dave Prodan sneering at me from atop his gilded knock-off Aeron chair. Sneering at me and thinking he has a collar wrapped around my neck while he tugs the leash.

Well, I’m not giving in, World Surf League. I am not going to dutifully report every single celebrity that attends Surf Ranch this spring/summer.

I am not.


Yes it was slow, yes it was weird: it's a tricky wave with lots of moving parts but ain't that what they are paid to do? Figure that shit out and get the job done? What is a pro surfer? What does a pro surfer do? It was a day when basic questions looked in the mirror and found nothing but awkward answers staring back at them. | Photo: WSL

Margs Day 2, “Baffling fail by world’s best!”

Like watching patients with early onset dementia, lost and confused and unable to find the way home.

What if I told you there were going to be five heats run at a world class reef-pointbreak in clean, double-overhead conditions without a single excellent ride, and only one heat total besting 10 points (out of a possible 20)? What would you think?

I need some help, I don’t know what to think.

My own thoughts are depressing me and I’m desperately scrambling for an anti-depressive take on this baffling performance fail by the world’s best. Even the most generous and generalist analysis couldn’t amount to anything more than a golf clap – a very slow and equivocal one –for what was broadcast today.

Peter Mel said WA locals were underwhelmed by the level of performance yesterday at full throttle North Point. Today’s efforts must have left them contemplating self harm. The strategy fails alone were dissonant and dismal. Air sections were everywhere and in low-scoring heats, every heat was low scoring, any made air would have won heats. Wave after wave was ridden with surfers kicking out or gliding past air sections.

By the time the penny dropped, a strange palsy seemed to have overcome the surfers. Michael Rodriguez had nine attempts at a make… nine!… and limped away with a high score of a 1.30. In the same heat, Italo Ferriera ended up with a heat total of 2.90.

It was like watching patients with early onset dementia walking around their own neighborhoods, lost and confused and unable to find the way home.

Yes, that is correct. I just double checked to make sure.

Seabass won with a majestic total of 5.4. And that was not the lowest winning score. Adriano De Souza took that dubious honour with a five.

Kolohe Andino looked like the man who might finally bust the thing wide open with a very big attempt at a full-rotation air but then reverted to the timid and confused surfing that characterised the day. It was like watching patients with early onset dementia walking around their own neighborhoods, lost and confused and unable to find the way home.

With fifty seconds remaining, and Kolohe needing a 1.37 to win, he scrapped into a small insider on the inner ledge ducked in and out of a little hole and did the obligate turns necessary to win. It was the epitome of winning ugly on a day when winning beautiful seemed maddeningly out of reach.

Yes it was slow, yes it was weird. It’s a tricky wave with lots of moving parts but ain’t that what they are paid to do? Figure that shit out and get the job done? What is a pro surfer? What does a pro surfer do? It was a day when basic questions looked in the mirror and found nothing but awkward answers staring back at them.

Not much more to say comrades. Joel Parkinson looked positively magisterial in heat twelve with a couple of clean makes and an incomplete alley oop on the end section. His heat total snuck into double figures, the highest of a weird day on a weird Aussie leg in what is shaping up to be the weirdest year in Pro Surfing history. As Parko’s heat ended, a perfect bomb set steamed through the lineup barrelling unridden to the inside and a collective groan could be heard to echo around the world.

The polar opposite to Art Linkletters’ “Genius ’round the world stands hand in hand, and one shock of recognition runs the whole circle ’round.”


Watch: Lisa Andersen shine in epic advertisement!

I am completely biased, seeing that Lisa Andersen is my favorite surfer, but the newest advertisement from UK pharmacy chain Boots is the best of the year. I, like, you perk right up anytime surfing crosses into the mainstream. I watch Point Break (2015) and cringe. I watch Jeep’s Discover the Journey feat. Jordy Smith and turn away with tear-filled eyes. It’s just not right. It’s never right.

Until Lisa Andersen.

The beauty of this advertisement, featured in Adweek, is in its figurative approach. Surfing is very difficult to translate to a mainstream non-surf audience. It seems as if creatives always fall back on cliche or hyperbole when trying to capture elements of the lifestyle. This one succeeds by being gorgeously abstract. And of course Lisa is gorgeous.

I spoke with her just after she had come back from South Africa, where the piece was filmed, and she said the responsible ad agency (Mother London) was phenomenal. I asked what the most difficult part of the campaign was and she told me that she would have to sit in the cold water for long stretches at a time. The production crew would worry and ask if she needed breaks but, like a true, surfer she never flinched, knowing that it is impossible to get back in to cold water once exiting.

And let’s chat with her again!

What was the best part of the experience?

The best part was acting in a studio with such cool people in the cosmetics industry and the overall feeling of accomplishment at the end of production. Hard work and it has hopefully paid off and everyone enjoys the ad.

What was the most difficult part?

It was challenging to get the surf clips because the surf wasn’t very cooperative. We only had so many hours to complete a few shots that had to be very specific for the production crew. I’m used to just surfing for surf photographers and this was very different.

Is acting or surfing more difficult?

Hahaha acting for sure! I had so many takes for some scenes but at the same time it was fun and worth every take to get it right. It was important for me to come across as natural and not awkward even though I am an awkward person. (ed. note: She is not an awkward person. At all.)

Which pro surfers on tour are your favorites right at this moment?

My favorites to watch right now are Caroline Marks and Griffin Col. The young guns are inspiring and, like with all new generations, are raising the bar. I like seeing the change. It’s what surfing needs.

Amen and we will be hearing more from Lisa in the very near future. As you may, or may not, know I am almost almost almost done with Trouble: The Lisa Andersen Story. The incomparable editor, Jesse Schluntz, worked an honest to goodness 24 hour shift last week. I would be but a clanging gong without that man.


First thought, 'How the fuck is that guy not on Tour?' Seriously, can someone explain to me how the fuck Jack Robinson is not on Tour. A thousand journeyman flowers can bloom but we can't get Jack in the big leagues? | Photo: WSL/Cestari

Margs, Day 1: “How is Jack Robbo not on tour?”

A thousand journeyman flowers can bloom but we can't get Jack in the big leagues?

Did you get caught out by the start of the comp today/tonight like me? Wasn’t it weird. I got no notification from the WSL app and was right down a worm hole reading comments on a story about a canuck who carved up a deer leg in front of a bunch of protesting vegans when I flicked over to the WSL site and caught Jack Robinson doing an absolute number on eight-foot North Point. A number that turned out to be the pinnacle performance of the day.

First thought, ‘How the fuck is that guy not on Tour?’ Seriously, can someone explain to me how the fuck Jack Robinson is not on Tour. A thousand journeyman flowers can bloom but we can’t get Jack in the big leagues?

Second thought, is Kieren Perrow starting to look a little bit gaunt these days, maybe a bit…haunted? It’s not like his superior skills at determining when to run and when to go on hold, and whatever else the Commissioner does are going to be in high demand at the Wave Ranch. Ergo, the WSL Commissioner looks like being one of those jobs like chimney sweeps and bus drivers that will be steamrolled by the techno-utopian avalanche. 

Jack gave two pressers, both classic. The first, in a baritone, when he declared “It’s not toddler North Point” and the second, in a falsetto where I could not make out what he was saying because I was so stunned at the pitch. It was like watching Barry Gibb from the Bee Gees warming up at a sound check. This is obviously a very loosely wound cat.

Eight-foot North Point is a hectic deal, if you haven’t surfed. It’s no wave for gimps. Keanu Asing made a deep one and backed it up to make double figures for the first time this year and make a heat. Prediction: Asing to win the Surf Ranch CT with sterling meat and potatoes surfing after Filipe Toledo falls on both waves attempting 15-foot alley-oops. Asing fails to requalify and comes back 2020 as Olympic Coach for Team USA.

Heat 3: Jack Robbo was back against Owen and Miguel Pupo. It was finally made clear why he was surfing North Point before the comp started. It was a repercharge heat from the Trials to see who would replace the injured Caio Ibelli. Jack just went straight back to doing what he was doing before, completely toying with the wave and making it look delectably attainable for the average gimp. Easy win. How can a guy not even on Tour come out and suddenly look like a red hot favourite to win the event? How can the best in the world suddenly be made to look second-rate by a guy who can’t get out of the QS?

Sophie, fix the broken QS.

You were pining to see John Florence in round four against Mikey Wright and Wade Carmichael. A very big match-up. Crucial heat for the champ’s confidence. Peter Mel said John looked “gritty” but when he strode down the beach he looked more nervous to me, like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. And that Le Rouge et Le Noir board spray just seems a bit downbeat. Ten minutes in, John sat motionless out the back. Remember how the “old” JJF, when he was a kid would do that? Just sit there, staring out to sea. Then he seemed to snap back to reality, maybe the coache’s plan suddenly impinged on his cognition. He looked weak and shaky on his first couple of rides. 

Mikey Wright hassled him a bit and with priority took a bomb that destroyed him. That was the turning point. John relaxed and started to surf, pounding away on some deeper tubes and adding deep rail work to the end section. He came off looking every inch the cucumber but he looked vulnerable despite declaring in the presser that he hadn’t thought of Mikey Wright at all. That statement lacked credibility and his mental state was far more revealed when he said that in the break between Bells and Margaret River he’d “figured some things out”. He surfed like a man struggling with mind noise and lack of confidence until he finally snapped into the reality of where he was. Eight-foot barrelling surf. 

A tetchy Julian Wilson made a promise after his heat win “not to be timid”. And in the final heat of the day a herd of freesurfers seemed to mock Filipe Toledo’s ability to “hold the space”. He did not rise to the occasion. He did not hold the space.

What a weird sport.

The highlight of the day comes from a wildcard who gets a second chance in a heat before the main event even kicks off and then makes the rest of the field look like Chris Hitchens’ “herd of anti’s in search of a climax”.

Tell me again how Jack Robbo is not on Tour?

Margaret River Men’s Pro Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: 
Keanu Asing (HAW) 10.70, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 5.33, Connor O’Leary (AUS) 4.64
Heat 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.17, Ian Gouveia (BRA) 10.67, Tomas Hermes (BRA) 2.54
Heat 3: Jack Robinson (AUS) 13.94, Owen Wright (AUS) 4.03, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 2.40
Heat 4: John John Florence (HAW) 14.60, Mikey Wright (AUS) 11.87, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 8.50
Heat 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 10.16, Kael Walsh (AUS) 8.96, Joan Duru (FRA) 1.97
Heat 6: Julian Wilson (AUS) 10.56, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 10.00, Dave Delroy-Carr (AUS) 3.40
Heat 7: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 6.14, Conner Coffin (USA) 5.87, Michael February (ZAF) 2.57

Margaret River Men’s Pro Remaining Round 1 Matchups:
Heat 8: Adriano de Souza (BRA), Kanoa Igarashi (JPN), Yago Dora (BRA)
Heat 9: Adrian Buchan (AUS), Griffin Colapinto (USA), Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 10: Italo Ferreira (BRA),  Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Michael Rodrigues (BRA)
Heat 11: Kolohe Andino (USA), Frederico Morais (PRT), Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat 12: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Michel Bourez (PYF), Patrick Gudauskas (USA)