Yeah, there's vineyards and gorgeous houses to rent and beautiful clean water and waves galore but…sharks too. Big fellas. | Photo: WSL

Shark Attack Puts Margaret River Pro on hold!

Argentinian surfer hit by shark at nearby Cobblestones… 

An Argentinian surfer has been flown to Perth from Margaret River after a shark attack two hours ago at Cobblestones, a hollow reef peak near Margaret River. The man, in his thirties, was reported by paramedics to be “conscious and breathing.”

Friends of the man used leg-ropes to stanch leg wounds.

The surf photographer Peter Jovic, who saw the attack, told the ABC, “There was a lot more thrashing around. After that it was hard to see what was going on. [I] saw the guy who had been attacked get separated from the [surf] board and then start to paddle for an inside wave, which he managed to body surf all the way in. They got him to shore and started working on him to stem the bleeding.”

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The WSL responded by suspending competition.

“The World Surf League (WSL) has been alerted to a shark incident that occurred near Gracetown. The safety of our surfers and staff is a top priority for the WSL. We have mitigation protocols in place and will be enhancing those when competition resumes.”

The, ah, women will resume round two when the contest restarts at 10:40, local time with “further enhanced safety measures, including ski and drone presence.”

In 2004, Brad Smith, who was 24, was killed by a shark while surfing at the nearby reef, Lefthanders.

In 2010, Nick Edwards, who was 31, was killed by a shark while surfing South Point, across the Bay from yesterday’s competition at North Point.

In 2011, the bodyboarder Kyle Burden, who was 21, was killed at Bunker Bay, a short drive around the Cape.

In 2013, Chris Boyd, who was 35, was killed by a shark while surfing at Umbies, near Cobblestones.

Meanwhile, Hamelin Bay, which is fifty clicks down the road remains closed after a mass whale beaching resulted in the deaths of more than 140 short finned pilot whales.

“There were concerns over the weekend that the carcasses could attract sharks,” reported the Guardian Express.

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All-American good looks don't seem to stretch as far these days...
All-American good looks don't seem to stretch as far these days...

Judging: Is there an anti-American bias?

The tour is in Australia (still) with an almost all-Australian judging panel!

Are you caught in the rapture of this third event on tour, the Margaret River Pro, with its baffling fails and swamps of mediocrity? Is your favorite surfer still swinging for the fences with a chance to take it all home or is your favorite surfer an American and possibly being ruled against by the judges based solely on his nationality?

Oh I’m not suggesting or even hinting that there is bias in the judging tower but it was brought to my attention that the only American judge on the this leg either had to go home from Western Australia or was never there in the first place leaving only Australian judges with a sprinkle of Brazilian judge too.

Now, I believe that these fine men check their flags at the door and only see shades of 7.8 and 6.3 once seated in their cubicles but did Australia’s Connor O’Leary really beat America’s Patrick Gudauskas in Round 2 Heat 10?

Patrick was looking very fierce on this forehand while Connor shucked and jived backside. Sometimes, I believe, picking between a solid front hand and a decent back hand is like picking between apples and oranges and maybe the judges had this problem too but how did Connor shake out as the winner? I’ve watched the heat now three full times and I don’t see it. Patrick looks slightly better each and every time. He looks like the better professional surfer.

Is this my own bias showing through? Oh I hope not. I think of myself as a man of the world, an inspiration to peoples from Cairo to Coolangatta, but maybe… maybe there’s a touch of jingoistic pride buried in there? A blind spot?

Maybe.

But look at Patrick Gudauskas. Watch him surf and watch Australian Connor O’Leary surf and tell me who won. Of course Connor O’Leary won but tell me who won won.


Mikey Wright
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.


Michel Bourez
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.”