Big Brother: The WSL is watching you!

Watching you watch professional surfing!

Can I be very honest with you all right now? I am not a smart man. I spend the vast majority of each day bumbling around in a fog of surf tangents and narrative nonfiction book ideas that feel like pure genius for ten minutes. Like a book about all the different white supremacist groups in the United States and what sorts of parties they throw, how they let their hair down and cut loose called White Knights: Racism After Hours!


And so it is with great awe, and complete bafflement, that I “read” an interview this morning with the World Surf League’s Vice President of Marketing Mr. Chris Culbertson. Would you like a snippet?

What’s unique about surfing from a marketer’s standpoint? How is it different than, say, marketing football?

We don’t know when we will necessarily run an event. We’ll host an event over a two-week window and during that two-week window, we’ll probably run four to five days and it’s really dependent on weather, wind and wave quality. So the commissioners look at the conditions every morning and decide if they run or not. We don’t typically know until 15-20 minutes before an event that it’s going to happen that day.

Imagine the head of marketing for NFL not knowing until 15 minutes before the coin toss whether they’ll play a game that day. Because of this, we absolutely had to connect with our fans through digital channels and create a one-to-one connection in real time to let them know what was happening with competitions.

What was your business need?

We needed a way we could triangulate around all of that data, but there had to be this consolidated view. Our partners AnalyticsPros introduced us to Google’s BigQuery, which is where we could pull all of the data into an unstructured data lake with Google Analytics at the core of it.

So you’re creating your own attribution play in a sense.

We started to pull all the data into BigQuery from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, ad-serving partners – anywhere we felt we could inform strategic business decisions if we had that social data, as well as behavioral data from fans.

In many cases, you can’t understand within the walled gardens how the consumer behaves across those platforms, but what you can see are different variables that match up – such as time a certain campaign ran. Then there are looser variables you can match up that allows us to get a sense for how our fans are behaving in all these different places based on what’s happening with our products and marketing plans.

Why didn’t you go with a marketing cloud or more traditional data management setup?

I think for a traditional marketer or ecommerce company or retailer, [marketing clouds] have a framework set up that’s probably really easy to work in, but being an unpredictable digital media and sports-focused business, we needed a little more flexibility.


I am part owner of an online business (stop laughing) and did not understand one word of this because of my not smart problem. But it seems maybe like the World Surf League is catching our data? And… something?

Is this why there is a new and fabulous partnership with Facebook? Are we professional surf fans but Xs and Os? Or wait, I mean 0s and 1s? Not passionate evolved spiritualists?


Shark “knocks” surfer from board at Main Break!

Margaret River? Another day, another shark hit… 

Knocked, swiped, hit, bit. Another day in Margaret River, I suppose.

At around one pm today, Rob Bruce, who is sixty, was paddling out to Main Break, the site of the probably gone-forever Margaret River Pro, and “knocked” off his board by a shark. (Species unknown.)

From Perth Now.

“I wasn’t a long way from shore, maybe only 100m, and the shark just hit me from my right side and knocked me off my board,” Mr Bruce said. “I could only see the back half of it but I could see the fin and the tail fin so I definitely knew it was a shark. It thrashed around a bit but the whole thing only lasted five seconds. I was terrified and screaming and trying to alert surfers I could see in the distance.”

Mr Bruce said he immediately paddled in and was followed by some of the 15 other surfers in the water.

After watching from the shore for an hour as others returned to the water he decided to get back out there but admitted he did not feel entirely comfortable.

“I was shocked,” he said. “It felt like I’d had five cups of coffee and it was hard to relax when I got back out there.”

The impact of the shark’s hit left a small crack in Mr Bruce’s 2.5m board. He credits the size of his board and the black and white stripes as possibly keeping the shark away after the initial blow.

“The black and white stripes are meant to deter sharks,” he said. “Maybe it changed it’s mind at the last second. It might have saved me.”

Mr Bruce said until recently he had only seen a shark out surfing about every 10 years. In the past two weeks he has seen three out in the surf.

He said the protection of great white sharks was something that needed to be looked at along with smart drum lines and and GPS tagging.

Yesterday, authorities closed beaches from North Point to Ellenbrook after a teenage surfer was “swiped” by a twelve-foot White at South Point just across the bay from another Margaret River Pro site, North Point.

The closure created a ruckus among local surfers who were very unpleased the coastline north of the Box was going to closed, with fines threatened etc, just in time for the arrival of classic autumn swell.

From Perth Now.

“As far as the surf goes tomorrow, I can’t speak for everyone, but a couple of guys I have spoken to, we will be going surfing,” shaper Mat Manners said. “I’m not sure where we will go yet. It doesn’t seem like the Government is going to do anything any time soon, so what do you do? Do you just stop what you are doing and wait for them? It is my livelihood as well.”

The State Government all but ruled out drastic action to manage shark numbers last week, despite a shock decision by world surfing’s governing body to cancel the Margaret River Pro.

Mr Manners said there had been an “awful lot” of white shark sightings off the local beaches recently.

“How many people need to be taken before the Government does something?”

Augusta-Margaret River shire ranger co-ordinator Mick O’Regan said people who ignored closures could be fined.

“Given we know the surf is looking good for tomorrow and there’s a lot of visitors in our region … we feel another temporary closure is warranted,” he said.

Of course, today’s knock, and yesterday’s swipe, come just one week after two Great White attacks on the one day that caused the cancellation of the Margaret River Pro. 

I asked one local surfer about the mood in the south-west and he said “Some guys are taking a break or going up north or to Indo. But most guys are, like, ‘Fair bump, play on.'” (It’s an Australian football analogy.)

After today’s incident, two rangers from the Department of Fisheries stood at the top of the stairs at Main Break advising surfers not to paddle out.

At dusk tonight, the surf had pulsed to eight-to-ten feet and fifteen guys were still out.

5 Lessons From Andy Irons’ Overdose

Opiates ain't toys, re-evaulate what it means to be "bad-ass" and love doesn't conquer all… 

Earlier today, the trailer for the Andy Irons documentary Kissed by God was loosed ahead of its May 2 world premiere.

It is a cautionary tale of a life lived as a banquet but found bitter.

“A film about bipolar disorder and opioid addiction etc.”

I remember, vividly, the Wednesday morning when Taj Burrow fired a text message from Puerto Rico to a mutual friend saying that Andy Irons had been found in a Texas hotel room. A few calls and I was into the Tarrant County coroner’s office. AI’s body was inside. He’d been found by two hotel workers at the Grand Hyatt at Dallas-Forth Worth airport, dead, bed sheets pulled to his neck, an empty Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup on the floor beside him.

Andy Irons, who was thirty two, had died six thousand clicks from a wife pregnant with his son Axel and a home gilded by the rays of a Hanalei sun.

Andy brought light but he also summoned the executioner. And there are five things we should learn from his death.

    1. It’s okay to tell your heroes “No”: If you’ve ever hung around a famous athlete, surfer, baller, whatever, you’ll know the dynamic. It’s a sea of sycophancy. Prior to landing in Dallas, Andy had been in Miami trying to score…well… it wasn’t weed. That happened all around the world. He didn’t have to try real hard to get high. Everyone’s your friend at midnight. A few years ago, I was shocked when a shaper pal worded up a noted pro surfer who’d done something stupid with the line, “Everyone here is so intent on sucking your ass they won’t say a damn thing. Well, I will.” Andy needed a few men like that.
    2. Opiates ain’t a toy: Back in 2010, we were all still under the impression that it was okay to throw a few Oxy’s down our necks. Government approved. Made in commercial factories. So clean and safe and… ooowee, that numb feeling. What we didn’t get was it was this was a roundabout way of chasing the dragon except it came in a neat little pill. More than two million Americans are now hooked on legal opiates. The result? Drug overdoses killed more people in the US last year than in the entire Vietnam War. 
    3. Love doesn’t conquer all: Andy had a wife he loved, a house on his favourite beach and a kid about to be born. And, still, he needed to get high.
    4. Nihilism is lame: Andy told me, “I’m not going to worry about tomorrow, because you don’t even know what’s going to happen right now.” If you live like there’s no tomorrow, one day you’re gonna be right.
    5. Re-evaulate what it means to be radical and bad-ass: Andy’s best friend was Cory Lopez. A few years ago, I called him to talk about his old pal. “Life and death is such a fine edge we ride. Andy wouldn’t have been who he was if he didn’t do what he did. That’s why we loved him so much, because he was so extreme. We lived vicariously through his radical and wild life.” Is being radical, a “bad-ass” worth dying for?

Get Andy talking about surfing and he’d light up like a damn Christmas tree.

“Surfing’s the only thing that’s always been there day in, day out, fucken girlfriend breakups, fucken report card fails, surfing always makes you feel better. No matter what, when I’m in the water, even if I don’t catch a wave and just swim in the ocean, I always come out a better person.”

What if Andy had found a way of kicking the pills?

What if he was happily retired, surfing with his little boy in front of the Hanelei bomber, Lyndie maybe ready to burst with another kid?

Wouldn’t that have been radical too?

The Inertia reveals surfing’s biggest secret!

Almost guaranteeing CT results in mere weeks!

There you are bobbing in the water, having surfed for 30 years and not a pro. 30 years and not a pro. Crazy, right? You’ve surfed an average of five hours a week during those thirty years which equals 7800 hours. Not what Malcolm Gladwell prescribed but close and you are no better a surfer then you were 27 years ago.

Oh those first three years were delightful and saw progression each and every second.

There you were riding straight on your belly in the whitewash. There you were getting to a knee while riding straight in the whitewash. There you were getting all the way to your feet and then, weeks later, motoring down the line. At that speed you were going to be a professional in no time. Fighting it out on the QS before getting a few wildcard entries before cementing yourself as a mainstay.


But as soon as you locked in a stuttering wrap to whitewash reentry all progression stopped. Ceased. Nothing.

And you have spent the past 27 years repeating stuttering wrap to whitewash reentries.

But then you read a quiet little article on Venice-adjacent’s favorite alternative lifestyles blog The Inertia succinctly titled This One Mistake Slows Down Most Beginning Surfers; Here’s The Simple Fix and it said:

This simple drill is called the Bird Dog and it can help you find better balance from a prone paddling position as part of my five-minute pre-surf warmup (you can get the entire warm up as a one-page cheat sheet here). By doing it regularly, you can also use it as a strength exercise for the core, upper back, and trunk.

Make sure that you focus your energy on using your core muscles, not the momentum of your arms or legs to complete reps. Do this slow and steady.

-Each motion should originate from your glutes, core muscles and shoulders.
-The goal is to keep everything tight and the hips steady throughout.
-Start on all fours, with the knees under your hips and palms directly under the shoulders.
-Look straight down at the floor with the chin tucked.
-Brace (contract) your stomach muscles (as you would instinctively protecting yourself from a punch).
-Lift one leg and extend it straight backward in line with your torso.
-Make sure you keep the glutes active (squeeze) and reach with your heel.
-In the meantime extend the opposite arm straight.
-Take a deep breath in the starting position and exhale during the motion.

If you find 3×8/side too easy, do it with a water bottle or light weight in your hand and put on leg weights. This will make it 10x more difficult and strengthen you further.

And it looked like this.

So now you think, “Look out John John Florence. I’m coming for you and hell is coming with me.”


Watch: New Andy Irons film trailer!

And release date!

There is little in our surfing world, at this moment, as hotly anticipated as the almost released Andy Irons documentary Kissed by God. That is was being made has been whispered for years. That it was going to someday come out whispered for more and now it has officially arrived. It is here.

The world premier is slated for Los Angeles’ New Regency Theater on May 2 and the film’s website says, first, as a description:

A film about bipolar disorder and opioid addiction as seen through the life of three-time world champion surfer Andy Irons. Andy struggled with the same demons that millions of people worldwide battle with daily. Andy was an incredible presence on the world stage as the “People’s Champion.”

And will be very interesting to see.