I can feel your halo (halo) halo
I can feel your halo (halo) halo

Miracle: The Making of St. Mick!

The hero of Australian surfing on his greatest journey yet!

You are well-aware, by now, that the 2018 Bells Beach Classic is Mick Fanning’s last stand. The Coolangatta local and 3 x World Champion, 37, will no longer don a colorful singlet nor will his rich baritone fill a World Surf League branded microphone again. It is almost over but not quite as Mick will paddle out against stablemate Owen Wright in the quarterfinals when competition next begins.

Breathless superlatives will flow, each and every one obviously deserved, as Michael Eugene Fanning is hurtled toward full sainthood.

And I must say that I have never seen anything like this in all my days upon this earth. In order to achieve full sainthood it is a well-known fact that a holy man or woman must first die and then three miracles must occur in his or her name. The process can take anywhere from six years to hundreds of them and is by no means assured even for the holiest. But Mick is special and the hero of Australian surfing has already been marked with his first miracle.

Yes and as reported by the Daily Mail, Mick’s ex-wife, wedding industry titan Karissa Dalton, not only watched him surf on the WSL webcast and not only cheered him on but posted an image of the affair to Instagram. Let us read for it is meet and right so to do.

They ended their relationship in January 2016 after eight years of marriage.

And despite ending things romantically, Karissa Dalton and Mick Fanning are still on friendly terms.

On Tuesday, Karissa took to Instagram stories to cheer on her ex-husband during a surfing competition, alongside best friend Pia Miller.

Karissa shared a photo of her and Pia drinking martinis as they watched Mick compete on a laptop.

‘Go Mick!’ Karissa captioned the photo, while Pia shared the same image and wrote: ‘Go Mick you good thing!’

Karissa and Mick have remained on good terms, despite that the surfer is believed to have moved on with American model Breeana Randall.

Lending her support! Karissa shared a photo of her and Pia drinking martinis as they watched Mick compete on a laptop.

A true miracle without any shade of doubt. Turning on the World Surf League’s webcast, listening intently to Martin “Pottz” Potter and Joe Turpel, watching an ex muscle turns through chubby runners… one down, two to go.

And I have written a poem to celebrate. Would you permit me to publish?

Remember those walls I built
Well, baby, they’re tumbling down
And they didn’t even put up a fight
They didn’t even make a sound
I found a way to let you win
But I never really had a doubt
Standing in the light of your halo
I got my angel now

It’s like I’ve been awakened
Every rule I had you break it
It’s the risk that I’m taking
I ain’t never gonna shut you out
Everywhere I’m looking now

I’m surrounded by your embrace
Baby, I can see your halo
You know you’re my saving grace
You’re everything I need and more
It’s written all over your face
Baby, I can feel your halo
Pray it won’t fade away

I can feel your halo (halo) halo
I can see your halo (halo) halo
I can feel your halo (halo) halo
I can see your halo (halo) halo

Hit me like a ray of sun
Burning through…

John jOhn Zeke
Zeke v John John: It was thrilling and almost wincingly painful to watch, like a David Attenborough documentary where the elegant ruminant gets savaged by a lion then has its insides ripped out by a pack of hyaenas. The champ looked so helpless. All that insouciance at the Gold Coast was gone and in its place was a  lonely blond-haired kid being frowned upon by an older man on the stairs who shook his head sadly as the siren sounded. 

Bells Day 5: “Florence’s insides ripped out by hyena!”

Zeke Lay eats John John alive, Parko surfs like new-born giraffe with foetal alcohol syndrome!

Isn’t life the most whimsical, curious and inscrutable of affairs? It’s what I love about Pro Surfing, above all else: this eternal tilting at the windmill of a mainstream audience, its earnest and blackly (unintentionally) comic embrace of total corpo-speak, the smoke and mirrors faking it until you make it pieces in the mainstream business media. Its subtle and none-too-subtle shifts and changes that seem to leave all concerned – especially the surfers, sorry athletes – clueless and gawping like goldfish in a bowl.

I do not jeer. Believe me. Especially after a day like today. 

People say to me all the time: “Why do you fucken write about pro surfing if you fucking hate it so much?” Lovers of the game think I should love and true haters think any attention is legitimacy to the evil commercialisation in surfing.

Jared Diamond in his foreword to Guns, Germs and Steel said in relation to similar objections to writing about Human History : “This objection rests on a common tendency to confuse an explanation of causes with a justification or acceptance of results”, which sums up my response on the matter perfectly. 

You’d go a long way to find a more curious, bizarre in Strider’s words, morning in Pro Surfing history. I tuned in and after wrassling with the WSL webby which persisted in locking into yesterday’s stream and got live action halfway into the Zeke Lau/JJF round three heat. Replays showed Zeke, with a face like an Easter Island statue and physique to match, had monstered John, got all up in his grill and had sent the world champ into a tailspin. Combo’ed, Florence fell, then fell again as the clock ticked down. It was thrilling and almost wincingly painful to watch, like a David Attenborough documentary where the elegant ruminant gets savaged by a lion then has its insides ripped out by a pack of hyaenas. The champ looked so helpless. All that insouciance at the Gold Coast was gone and in its place was a  lonely blond-haired kid being frowned upon by an older man on the stairs who shook his head sadly as the siren sounded. 


John’s presser was abject. He looked terrible. Bags under the eyes like a parkie who’d skulled a flagon of cheap port and spent the night curled up in a bus stop. He called Zeke’s aggression “kinda lame” and said “I might do it in the next event.” Which made me snort my coffee and shout aloud “As if!”

John has no aggro in his game. None. Unlike Fanning, who brings an intensity to any recreational lineup, I have no qualms getting my quota if John showed at my local breaks.

Putting it bluntly, and regretfully, Parko’s surfing in his heat with Fred Morais was farcical, almost risible. It was borderline slapstick. He looked as coordinated and solid as a new-born giraffe with foetal alcohol syndrome stumbling it’s way across New York’s central park on New years Eve. Yes, it was that surreal. Only a faint vestigial image of something graceful and elegant was visible in the bumbling performance he laid on. To be charitable, and in his own words, he had a shocker. 

Strider said it might be something in the water, as even the king of three turns and a solid finish Adriano De Souza struggled with standing on a surfboard. But what? There are drugs that make people smart, like Modafinil and Ritalin and Coffee. What could have made the best in the world stumble about like English accountants on a Friday night? Rohypnol? Ether? Had the earth’s magnetic field been reversed, as has happened before, overnight and suddenly everything was topsy turvy and upside down? Maybe it was just sleep deprivation, the Top 34 seems like Daddy Day Care these days and every Dad knows that wobbly burnt out feeling of being kept up all hours by a screaming kiddy. I don’t know. 

It took four heats before the curtain was drawn on the slapstick and Filipe and Italo took the lineup. If you read any of the Snapper coverage you’ll know Italo is my boy. Using Nick Carroll’s objective analysis method I determined him to be the fastest surfer on Tour and the best goofyfoot and believe, to date, he has been crucially underscored. Like the Gold Coast, it’s a shame he had to meet Filipe so early in the draw. It’ll probably be the best heat of the comp. Toledo made a grey, wobbly lineup and grey sky shine with the light of a thousand suns. He blitzed and shralped and threw high speed edges at every half lip and corner he could find. Alone, he made it seem like a different lineup. But Italo was better. Very, very big high-speed cornering from bottom to top and massive finishes with perfect handling. My heart was in my throat watching Italo’s second ride with six minutes to go and needing a score. when he stuck a huge landing I found myself fist-pumping and saying “Yes!” First heat I’ve watched where Occy Skins ’97 looked dated. Could have gone either way but I think the judges have finally caught on to the fact that Italo is leading this wobbly old peloton. 

An hour’s break and back to Winki with more gurgle to deal with for round four. Maybe something is biding its time, over the horizon and is ready to announce its arrival. Give this year it’s shape and definition; the way John’s performance at Margaret River did last year. 

Michel Bourez was simply sensational and for all the big new meathead journeymen on Tour with hams the size of Sally Fitzgibbon, there is no one even close to him as the premier power surfer on Tour. That reminds of a post Chas Smith wrote about the rise of midget surfers… hold that thought, we’ll come back to it. 

Mick Fanning was several shades off the pace in his round four heat with Wilko and Pat Gudauskas, and I feel like a worm for insinuating yesterday that Pat had nothing to offer except a few miserable sixes and sevens. He just looks… a little too hyped up for my taste. At least he didn’t get his coffee spiked with rohypnol this morning. Mick made a mistake, gave Wilko a scoring wave, looked resigned to losing and having his last heat, was over-scored on a ride which got him back into it and then loosed the old instincts to win the heat. Pressure now for a fairytale finish will be acute and severe.

Zeke Lau, Fred Morais, Italo and Gabe are through from round four. 

Am I seeing this correct?

I often lie awake in the wee hours, unable to sleep, listening to the whine of a mosquito, wondering. what if I’m dead wrong? I don’t do Facebook much but I saw an update from the surf journalist Nick Carroll who stated, “There’s a potentially great and very challenging round three draw in the Bells men’s event. A lot of good surf coming, and some of the heats could go very big. I don’t normally hype the CT, it gets enough of that, but whoa. Take a look if you can.” 

That is a totally different perspective to mine. I have to cleave to the view of commenter Wiggoly’s Paddling Style, who with his great flair for the scatalogical, sent me an email today saying, “This Bells is about as exciting as a half-sucked cock at a wedding.”

What are you seeing? Where does the truth lie?

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Remaining Round 3 Results:
Heat 7: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 13.07 def. John John Florence (HAW) 9.76
Heat 8: Frederico Morais (PRT) 11.60 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 9.07
Heat 9: Conner Coffin (USA) 9.83 def. Adriano De Souza (BRA) 9.63
Heat 10: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 16.60 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 15.40
Heat 11: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.86 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.73
Heat 12: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.16 def. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 13.30

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.77, Owen Wright (AUS) 12.00, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 10.60
Heat 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.33, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 14.00, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.17
Heat 3: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 12.57, Frederico Morais (PRT) 11.16, Conner Coffin (USA) 11.10
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.33, Italo Ferreira (BRA) 12.17, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.00

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Quarterfinal Matchups:
QF 1: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
QF 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Owen Wright (AUS)
QF 3: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
QF 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Frederico Morais (PRT)


pat tenore
How smart is Pat Tenore? He got the biz, he got the cash, he got the girl. Want life advice? Direct questions directly to Mr Pat Tenore.

Biz: RVCA founder’s $37 mill payday!

Why Pat Tenore is the smartest cat in the surf game… 

How much do you know about the RVCA story? It’s as odd as it is mysterious.

Two twenty-somethings start an underground surf label in 2001. One is the pro surfer, Conan Hayes, the other is a designer, Pat Tenore.

“Our relationship has always been ‘One foot in a limo, the other in the gutter,’ meaning we’ve always been fortunate enough to view and see many things that aren’t normally accessible for a pro surfer and a designer,” Tenore said at the time. Their debut range was called the “Recession Collection.”

Almost a decade later, Conan had sold his share for $7.5 mill, apparently to Tenore, but the newly minted multi-millionaire would later be charged with fraud after allegedly short-selling his house.

What’s a short sale? In the US, if you’re doing it tough, a bank agrees to the sale of a home for less than the amount owed on the loan. In Conan’s case, the bank claims he fraudulently told ’em he was unemployed and broke hence the sale. The bank says it lost $586,245 on the short sale.

The prosector in the case was so zealous in hunting Conan she illegally obtain his tax records. Conan’s bail was set at exactly the amount the bank says it lost.

It gets weirder.

Pat Tenore Snr, an Orange County realtor and daddy to Conan’s former partner, facilitated the short sale. (No wrongdoing is alleged on his behalf although the prosecution is attempting to limit contact between Pat Snr and Conan.)

And, then there’s the sale of RVCA to Billabong shortly after Conan apparently sold his piece to Tenore.

What’s mysterious about the sale are the words “undisclosed amount” given for the price of the sale. And while I was digging around financial statements in the post-Quik buyout the words “RVCA Compensation” kept popping up.

So how much did Billabong pay for RVCA, a company the Wall Street Journal estimated to be worth US$50 million in mid-2013 and what was the “RVCA compensation”?

As with any good deal there was a cash amount, some targets to hit (for more cash) and a share-option grant.

But what strikes me as odd in this deal is that there appears to be no cash laid out up-front for RVCA.

All the cash (or at least the majority) was deferred till after July 1, 2015 (five years after the sale date). Those targets aren’t available for public scrutiny. I’m assuming Tenore, who is forty four, had a pretty salary, so the prospect of waiting five years for the big pay day wasn’t too tough.

On Feb 6, 2014, Tenore signed a four-year contract to remain at RVCA till 2018. With this came a slight restructure to his ‘earn out’ from the acquisition contract he signed in 2010. Pat pocketed $20 million cash, had a $7.5 million loan forgotten about (Was that the money that paid-out Conan? It ain’t clear.) and was granted 1.2 million share options in Billabong (worth about $720,000).

Over four years, the total “earn out” package, as they like to call it, looks like it was worth $37 million in guaranteed cash. A further $45 million would be earned if performance targets were hit before 2018. However, as at 31 December 2017 Billabong reported that the targets are unlikely to be met.

In 2017 Billabong wrote down the goodwill on RVCA from $78.1 million to zero.

Weird? Odd? Mysterious? Confusing?

That’s surf biz!

Jordy Smith Reunion Island
Jordy Smith at his freesurfing best, Reunion Island, 2009, for Modern Collective. | Photo: Kai Neville

J’Accuse: “The tour castrated Julian and Jordy!”

Two great surfers forced to suppress their native brilliance… 

Is there a sadder tale than the one of Julian Wilson and Jordy Smith? Two men whose brilliance was beaten out of ’em? Two men for whom the world title beckons but remains out of reach? Yesterday, Jordy was beaten by Wade Carmichael and Julian by Pat Gudauskas, “those torrid journeymen viciously hurling sixes and sevens.”

How? Why?

Jordy and Julian, both of whom will turn thirty this year, began their tour lives at a time when progression and risk wasn’t adequately rewarded. In other words, the progressive surfing that they were known for before joining the tour had to be dramatically suppressed.

Over the years, Jordy and Julian adapted their surfing and fully embraced a castrated approach to surfing heats. As a fan, it was devastating to watch. The difference between their freesurfing and their contest surfing was so wildly exaggerated it allowed movies like Modern Collective to have the impact they did.

Surfing safe, smooth and consistent is what racked up the scores and led to world titles. Cue: Mick Fanning and Adriano de Souza.

Over the years, Jordy and Julian adapted their surfing and fully embraced a castrated approach to surfing heats. As a fan, it was devastating to watch. The difference between their freesurfing and their contest surfing was so wildly exaggerated it allowed movies like Modern Collective to have the impact they did.

The tour was for boring, athletic surfing and Kai Neville’s movies were for exciting, risky surfing.

Jordy and Julian obliged and continued to live their double lives.

Then, out of nowhere, came John John and the Brazilian Storm and the floor fell out from under them completely. Within a season, the paradigm completely shifted and the best surfing in the world, by a long shot, was happening on tour.

Jordy and Julian spent the first half of their careers reigning in the progressive aspects of their surfing only to be blindsided by the highest level of in-jersey progressive surfing ever seen by John John, Gabriel Medina and Filipe Toledo. 

The saddest thing of all is that they never truly did their best surfing in a jersey. 

Fanning, Parko, Slater and Andy did their best surfing during contests. Look at any of their movie parts and the level is the same while Slater pulled shit in a jersey that you would never have seen from him in a movie. The same can be said for John John, Medina and Toledo. Their heats are the ones to watch and are at least as exciting/progressive as their freesurfing clips. 

Jordy and Julian have been left to wallow in the void left between Fanning/Slater and John John/Medina/Toledo. As hard as they tried, they were never able to beat Fanning at his game and sure as hell aren’t going to beat the progressive young-bloods of today, at least over the course of a season. 

NY locals plagued by “Instagram moments!”

The once inhospitable now friendly!

If you were paying attention to global weather patterns this past winter then you certainly watched with interest as New York City got pounded with “bomb cyclone” after “bomb cyclone.” Weatherpeople are uniquely talented at word play. It feels as if they are able to re-brand phenomena with the greatest names thus breathing life into an otherwise staid field.

“Bomb cyclone.”

I mean, have you read or heard anything quite so… cool sounding this year? I haven’t and not even close. In case you were not paying attention, a bomb cyclone is the rapid deepening of an extratropical cyclonic low-pressure area resulting in cold, snow and waves. New York surfers rejoiced but not all was as perfect as the barreling chill pounding their shore.

Technology, you see, has destroyed their way of life. It used to be too cold to surf and so only the hardened few would have the guts to paddle out. Wetsuit technology has improved to the point of freezing cold comfort though and now the lineups are choked.

The New York Times reports:

Joe Falcone looked past the snow-covered sand to the surf and saw a fleet of humans bobbing up and down on boards. Dozens of them. His blood pumped hot with frustration.

“There were at least 50 guys just in my eyesight,” Mr. Falcone said, describing the scene as “mayhem.” He believes that surfing should be like a meditation. “But it’s hard when you’re sitting shoulder to shoulder with someone you don’t know. Out goes the intimacy between man and Mother Nature.”

Surfing Rockaway Beach in the bitter cold used to be a solitary affair, only for locals and the hard-core. But because of a boom in popularity of the sport, the gentrification of the neighborhood and advancements in wet-suit technology (a $600, five-millimeter- thick suit can keep you warm for two hours), the frigid city surf has gotten crowded, locals say.

“The newcomers are not respecting the natives,” said Mr. Falcone, a sort-of local surf icon who builds surfboards in a garage, blocks from the beach. There’s a lot of posing in Rockaway, he said. “People think of it as an Instagram moment.”

The story goes on to record the injuries sustained by the horde etc. and I very much felt Mr. Falcone and the other locals’ pain. I too grew up surfing freezing cold water. Not only were the crowds non-existent but I felt like an old-fashioned tough guy as I bobbed and froze in my two rotten 3/2s. Like Burt Lancaster. Self-delusion would not have been possible in a crowd and it makes me sad for the New York locals.

Damn Instagram moments.