pat gudauskas
Journeyman viciously throwing sixes and sevens! Hello pro surfing 2018. San Clemente's Pat Gudauskas sinks tour leader Julian Wilson. | Photo: WSL

Bells, Day 4: “Torrid journeymen throwing sixes!”

Pro surfing in the post-Kelly, post-Mick era in limbo as Aussie leg fails to fire… 

Doom and gloom? Not me boss. I’m a cheerful pessimist, by nature.

When this planet goes up in smoke the chosen ones will board a silver spaceship and fly mother nature’s seed to a new home in the sun.  It’s just that in the post-Kelly, post-Mick, pre-wavepool era, pro surfing is in limbo. This Aussie leg is failing to fire and we, we being all of us Australian surf fans who are the bedrock of the tour who can support 3 CT’s with a population of just over 20 mill, are wondering if the ground we are standing on is solid.

Or not.

Soph is not reassuring us.

We are bewildered by pro surfing 2018, not depressed.

Do you recall those wonderful scenes from the concluding stages of the best surf film ever made, Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now? Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz and Martin Sheen’s Captain Willard are facing off finally after a long tortuous journey. In a tense and extended tete-a-tete, Kurtz delivers his Philosophy of War to Willard, detailing the story of how Viet Cong soldiers went into a village and hacked off the arms of little children who had been vaccinated for polio by the west.

“My God, these men who had love in their hearts,” Kurtz said, “had the strength… the strength to do that… if I had ten divisions of those men, then our troubles here would be over very quickly.”

Correct if wrong, but could not Sophie G solve her audience growth problems, very, very quickly if she had ten divisions of the Australian surf fan at her disposal to import across the world at will?

The American surf fan, with all due respect, is useless.

Utterly, utterly useless.

Can’t support a single CT on either Pacific or Atlantic shores. The hopped-up Okie they appointed to Ambassador of Leisure and Stoke, the great representative of middle America, disappeared without trace down god knows what Hawaiian rabbit hole. Middle America cared more, paid more attention to pro surfing in the mid-sixties when CBS network covered live the Duke Kahanomoku classic. Fact.

Kelly was the most bankable and reliable magic maker in world sport. And for a little while it seemed like John John Florence might repeat the dose, might bestride the pro surfing landscape like Genghis Khan did the Eurasian steppe, as Kelly once did. Conquering all. Vanquishing all. On our behalf. So we could be entertained and transcend our miserable little existences and forget all our flaws and deficiencies.

Being a pro surfing fan, even a reluctant one, was an easy game to play for twenty years. Lock in behind Kelly, then Andy, then Dane, or whatever member of the Coolie crew got you hard, get your mind blown, then hit it and quit while you were ahead. Ignore the back-markers unless they went deep into the draw.

Kelly was the most bankable and reliable magic maker in world sport. And for a little while it seemed like John John Florence might repeat the dose, might bestride the pro surfing landscape like Genghis Khan did the Eurasian steppe, as Kelly once did. Conquering all. Vanquishing all. On our behalf. So we could be entertained and transcend our miserable little existences and forget all our flaws and deficiencies.

But no, now we have to wade through acres and acres of over-coached torrid journeymen viciously hurling sixes and sevens at each other. At least, so far anyhow. John is no Kelly. He won’t dominate generations the way Kelly did, or maybe even Andy did. Ronnie Blakey said the new judging scale was a boon for spectators, that it made it more exciting. Ronnie, as someone who has mingled their sweat down in cattle class with the great unwashed, I know, and you know, that ain’t so.

It seemed as if judges had completely screwed the spread on the opening exchange with Wade Carmichael, handing it to Wade instead of Jordy. A second look showed Wade clearly out-powered him, and did so again to take the heat. Jordy raged against the judging scale but the brutal truth is he safety surfed, knowing safety surfing was to be penalised.”

Six heats played Lumpelstiltskin in raggedy Bells Bowl this morning beginning with Jordy and Wade Carmichael. After Jordy’s definition of flow went public I was ready to deduct a .25 for every spaz-pump he laid down between turns, but he conducted the first wave with perfect flow, throwing golden showers heavenwards on each turn.

It seemed as if judges had completely screwed the spread on the opening exchange with Wade Carmichael, handing it to Wade instead of Jordy. But in retrospect a second look showed Wade clearly out-powered him, and did so again to take the heat. Jordy raged against the judging scale but the brutal truth is he safety surfed, knowing safety surfing was to be penalised and suffered the consequences.

Bourez and Owen Wright were too good for Kolohe and Jesse Mendes. Both could be finalists or winners on current form but you’d be crazy brave to make that call based on the year to date.

I was curious to see how Fanning would be scored now that the judging panel has decreed the Fanning era over. And the answer was, as expected, low. Seabass opened up a two-point spread on the opening exchange and that really should have been a heat winning lead, based on current scoring. The crux of the heat turned on a very, very shonky used car Fanning wheeled to the front of the lot, put the keys in and convinced Zietz to drive away in, “Just give it a test drive maaaayte, great runner, comes with a free case of Balter beer and a softboard for the kids!”

Seabass bought the pup, scored a three and Fanning had nothing much more to do except ride a set wave, protect the lead with priority and enjoy the love of the victorian surf fan.

By the by, how refreshing, how relaxing to just have six heats for the morning then call the thing off? If the Wave Pool comp does nothing else than make suits reconsider format it will have been worth it. Eight hours straight of pro surfing would drive the Dalai Lama to pharmaceuticals. As it turned out, three hours, six heats, felt sublime.

Griff had plenty to say in the booth yesterday. He identified the opening turn as the one being paid most heavily by judges. Incorrectly. At Bells it’s the opening and closing turns. The primacy, recency effect. It’s the first and last things in a sequence that have the strongest effect. The things we remember, judges included.

That is no slur on Griff’s surfing despite a growing mountain of hype. He has the best closing turn on tour. As seen at Haliewa, as seen at Bells this morning. That whole-body huck will win many heats but you need something at the start to make it conclusive. Wilko put two huge turns with air drops as punctuation on a heat winning wave to put the heat away. Griff’s buzzer air-reverse was not enough but did it at least show he knew what could win.

Is Bells going to mean anything by years end? Is Snapper? The deck seems to be completely reshuffled and no one is standing on solid ground. Julian won Snapper then put on a tepid performance for the final heat of the day against Pat Gudauskas. So often he follows up something brilliant with something lame, can’t seem to produce what is needed, despite an army of cliches at his disposal for the post-heat presser and the best all round technique on tour. Is that a problem of will, of destiny or maybe some deficit that can be overcome in time?

Time that is running out. For him, for you, for the human race.

Kidding. Take a joke you misery guts!

Silver spaceships will save us all! And the Australian surf fan will be first picked to colonise space.

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 13.30 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.17
Heat 2: Michel Bourez (PYF) 12.84 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 9.66
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) 15.14 def. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 10.33
Heat 4: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.77 def. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 12.33
Heat 5: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.56 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 9.10
Heat 6: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 10.73 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 9.37

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Remaining Round 3 Matchups:
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)

kelly slater jetstar
Kelly Slater complains of check-in staff receiving "kickbacks" for slamming passengers with excess baggage charges.

Just in: Kelly Slater complains about money!

Getting robbed on an ultra low cost regional airline!

There are only four certainties left in this life. The sun will rise in the morning. Guns don’t kill people, I do. Three is a crowd. And Kelly Slater hates spending money. He hates spending it, I think, on anything but really really hates spending it when he thinks he shouldn’t be. Like today for example. It is Easter Sunday in the United States of America and also April Fool’s day. I generally loathe April Fool’s jokes, especially April Fool’s surf jokes but I haven’t seen any today so am hoping that Easter mowed over the lame.

Whatever the case, 11x World Champion Kelly Slater took moments out of his Easter/April Fool’s celebrations to complain about ultra low cost regional airline Jetstar’s baggage policy.

Kelly writes on Instagram:

@jetstaraustralia loves thier baggage charges. Apparently the people checking you in get a kickback on what they charge you at the end of the month. Overweight charges equate to about $.50/ounce!

Just paid over $200 MEL – OOL for baggage, more than the price of my ticket… again. I’ll never learn. Just FYI, not an April Fool’s joke.

Now. $200 Australian is roughly $150 U.S. which is a smokin’ deal for a ticket from Melbourne to Coolangatta. But with smokin’ deals come nightmare headaches. I don’t know if anyone has informed Kelly yet but the low ticket price for ultra low cost regional airlines is what’s called a loss leader. It doesn’t cover the gas in the plane much less the upholstery on the seats. Those who feel they are getting a deal are soon dealt a full deck of $50 dollar charges covering everything from wearing shoes onto the airplane to breathing. I was once charged $50 for bringing a briefcase onto Jetstar and another $50 for breathing (after I passed out and my body started doing it reflexively).

I get that surfboard baggage fees can be extreme but how much does it cost to surf Surf Ranch again? Is it $10,000 for a few hours?


Career change: Dingo starts boxing!

Coolangatta star steps into the ring!

Oh man oh man oh man oh man… Oh man. Have you ever thought about changing careers? Of course you have. You’ve looked across the aisle and wondered how you’d look in a pilot’s hat or fisherman’s overalls. You’ve drifted off to sleep imagining that you are saving lives/changing the world. But a new day always dawns and that new day features the career you are accidentally in. There is no saving lives/changing the world, only TPS reports and shared fridges.

Well, at least we have Dean “Dingo” Morrison. You might remember the li’l charger as part of the Coolangatta explosion that brought us Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson. He, alongside those two, played on the championship tour for some time before drifting into the big wave game and then away.

Until now.

Dingo is back but as a boxer instead of a surfer and let us turn to the Gold Coast Bulletin for elucidation.

“It was a real life experience and I was really proud of myself, proud of myself for facing those fears.”

Morrison, who has been sparring and training for fitness and to learn the sport the past few years, says he felt he acquitted himself pretty well against opponent Chris Hodges who already had several fights under his belt.

Hodges won the three, two-minute round bout in a split decision on points and Morrison said he was “no push over” and he was just relieved to be standing at the final bell.

“It was a crazy experience and I have never been so exhausted in my life. I was just gone and it took me 30 minutes just to talk afterwards.

But despite the intensity of the experience, Morrison said stepping into the ring at Seaguls Club in Tweed Heads was one of the best things he’d ever done: “I love learning new things and that was one of the best experiences.

“I wouldn’t say it was enjoyable but I learned a lot about myself. But I won’t be jumping back in there any time soon, that’s for sure.

Morrison says he can’t even remember much of the fight but it was something he had always wanted to do.

Mmmmmm. Won’t be jumping back anytime soon? I suppose that’s the thing with career changes. The grass being always greener etc.

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.