Seb Zietz
Seb Zietz lays the foundational bacon on a club sandwich. | Photo: WSL

Bells, Day 2: “Drenched in gothic gloom!”

Come thrill at another day of professional surfing!

Soz for the appalling misery guts who filed yesterday. What a negative Nancy, as Dave Wassel would say. Anyone would think Saint Mick himself had been put on the cross and crucified.

Y’see when Derek asked me to cover all the comps this year a current of cold fear ran through me. Every day. Of every comp. Something no surf journalist has ever attempted. For good reason, as it turns out. The problems with intensive pro surfing coverage are despair and gaffes. Already I compared Sophie G’s enthusiastic embrace of wave systems to the Nazi’s extermination of Jews in World War II, a completely unintentional Freudian slip and we are only at stop two on the Tour. Despair?

Well, I came up with the solution to that today.

While head judge Pritamo Ahrendt has raised the bar, very high as it turns out, on what is excellent surfing, I did the opposite. I dropped expectations so low that any heat, no matter how mediocre would effortlessly reach them.

And they did! To quote Freddy Nietzsche, “Nothing succeeds in which high spirits play no part”.

Seeing as the Grit has a man on the ground covering the play by play I guess that allows me to freestyle as the colour bloke. Or color guy. In which case, let me tell you about the time I pulled a root from the Torquay pub and maxed out the points, as Rondawg Blakey would say, in the judging platform at Winki. No, let’s a put a more wholesome subject on the block. Let’s put Fanning’s legacy on the judging into context instead.

Dane punched a huge hole in the judging criteria in 2009/10. Judges lost their minds. A crossroads was reached in the final at Bells, 2012. Kelly dropped a huge air for a ten and a bunch of weird stuff. Fanning produced classic Fanning rail-work and the judges, seeing the two side-by-side chose the Australian. That set the template for the next five years: Neo-Classical Australian Power Surfing. Everyone adapted. Adriano mastered it, Medina did, even John John developed mastery of the form for his twin titles.

Now, Pritamo has junked the script and the pro’s look lost. Deers in the headlights. There’s a call for new blood and new surfing but exactly in what form that will manifest is yet to be fully determined. There seems a lot riding on the slender shoulders of Griffin Colapinto. Weirdest thing for me yesterday was watching Griff huck and Filipe trying to best him with power surfing. The script has been flipped Filipe, I wanted to shout, and you’re the new fucking author. The old game is deadly bones.

Bells was at its prettiest early, as it always is. Unlike Snapper which becomes more sublime as the day wears on Bells reads like an Edgar Allen Poe story: glittering and sun-drenched early, becoming drenched in gothic gloom as the day wears on. Fanning waited, and waited, for an opening ride. In the end, he stitched together a couple of sixes for the win. It was utilitarian surfing at it’s finest.

It set the tone for a day of hard yards in the Bells Bowl. Pro’s seemed content with sixes and sevens, happy enough to limbo the new judging bar rather than high jump it. Seabass, J-Flo impressed in that space with neo-classical surfing that at least demonstrated some fine edge work. I started writing my own number next to heats as a measure of entertainment value, then looked at the lengthening list of fives and sixes and stopped. No point.

We agreed yesterday that mental health is a vexatious bitch. It was for Michael Peterson, it is for Shane Herring, was for the late, great Andy Irons, even the great Kelly Slater struggles. It sure was for the gal who threw herself off the cliff at Lennox Point yesterday eve. My go-to self-help to rebuild the psychic shield after a rugged day on the internets has been Marcus Aurelius or that little Thai buddhist Thich Nat Han, but after today I’m switching to listening to pro surfer pressers. Ace Buchan said competing at Pro Surfing helped him be the “best version of himself.*”

Could any surf writer stand before the creator on Judgement Day and say the same? Or do we blame God for admitting the awful truth that our good and bad are so intertwined that by throwing away the worst of ourselves we also discard the best?

Finally a heat appeared from the Victorian gloom where someone, both surfers, had a crack at broaching the new judging bar. Rodrigues signalled an intention to go big with a clean, tail-high air and Italo put the pedal down, hammering huge high speed hits. If you watch one wave today on the Heat Analyser watch his 8.33 and appreciate the speed. With the Griff in the box commentating it was a sublime moment of entertainment.

This part of the demystifying campaign, where they get the pro surfers in the box, is working brilliantly. From Jordy’s home-spun parables and definitions to Griffin’s kooky, semi-articulate but rock-hard assessments to Kelly’s pitching the Wave Tub Davis Cup Tennis Tournament, it’s all working wonderfully, wonderfully well.

After a day where, once again, too much pro surfing was barely enough it put me on the top of the forking world, guv’nor.

*Sadly, but truly my wife thinks the best version of me is the one heavily sedated on tramadol and…

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Remaining Round 1 Results:
Heat 9: Kolohe Andino (USA) 11.63, Willian Cardoso (BRA) 11.53, Frederico Morais (PRT) 10.26
Heat 10: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 12.00, Connor O’Leary (AUS) 8.40, Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 7.53
Heat 11: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.33, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 9.90, Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 8.50
Heat 12: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.03, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 11.27 , Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 10.70

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 9.50 def. Carl Wright (AUS) 8.33
Heat 2: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 11.57 def. Mikey McDonagh (AUS) 8.87
Heat 3: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 15.17 def. Ian Gouveia (BRA) 9.43
Heat 4: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 14.33 def. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 11.03
Heat 5: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 11.43 def. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 10.00
Heat 6: Frederico Morais (PRT) 7.73 def. Michael February (ZAF) 6.43
Heat 7: Jeremy Flores (FRA)11.60 def. Keanu Asing (HAW) 9.84
Heat 8: Conner Coffin (USA) 13.74 def. Yago Dora (BRA) 13.64
Heat 9: Willian Cardoso (BRA) 13.36 def. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 11.33
Heat 10: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.83 def. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 9.73
Heat 11: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 14.00 def. Tomas Hermes (BRA) 11.70
Heat 12: Jesse Mendes (BRA) 14.26 def. Joan Duru (FRA) 12.80

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Round 3 Matchups:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Wade Carmichael (AUS)
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Heat 4: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Griffin Colapinto (USA)
Heat 5: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
Heat 6: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 7: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Frederico Morais (PRT)
Heat 9: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Conner Coffin (USA)
Heat 10: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Heat 11: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Jeremy Flores (FRA)
Heat 12: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA)

Just in: Shortboards banned from Trestles!

An inglorious fall.

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.

Son of a bitch. The end is certainly nigh.

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.