West Oz newspaper: Blame Gabriel Medina!

The Margaret River Pro was canceled last week but who's fault was it?

The Oi Rio Pro kicks off in just a two short weeks and can you even wait? Are you thrilled? I would imagine these days are going by very slowly for the powers at The World Surf League. The dust has almost settled from the near blanket coverage of the decision to cancel the Margaret River Pro. While, at some level, all exposure is good exposure, I’m sure the slight whiff of incompetence that accompanies the stories is… uncomfortable.

Uncomfortable and maybe sometimes downright painful. For yesterday, Western Australia’s leading newspaper published a story examining the reasons for the cancellation and concluded that it was mostly Brazilian surfer Gabriel Medina’s doing. Let’s read the choicest bits.

In an inflammatory post that day on his Instagram account, which has six million followers, Medina said he did not feel safe training or competing in Margaret River and he wanted his opinion known “before it’s too late”.

Remaining heats for the day were postponed, with surfers advised not to go in the water until the situation improved.

The decision (to ultimately cancel) is understood to have blind-sided the contest’s organisers at Surfing WA, who had spent the previous 36 hours doing everything they could to assuage the WSL’s concerns.

Among the measures they had proposed was a virtual armada of jet-skis, as well as extra drones to monitor the water and safety staff on standby for anything that might happen.

Nothing they could do would change the course.

In a further blow, Medina shortly after the announcement doubled down on his attack on the Pro, declaring he would “probably not come” to the event in 2019, even though it has another year on its current contract as a WCT contest.

The remarks are believed to have infuriated those who had worked miracles to keep the Margaret River Pro on the elite world tour.

Medina’s outburst dredged up memories of similar behaviour at the event in 2015, when the then reigning world champ refused to surf his heat at a break known as the Box, holding up the entire contest and its broadcast.

He would eventually surf the heat under threat of sanction from the WSL, before losing to local wildcard Jay Davies.

Mention was also made of the poll among WCT surfers about whether to return to Jeffreys Bay in 2016, when Medina was one of only two to vote against it.

Kelly Slater, the 11-time American world champ, this week mused about whether Medina’s real motive for attacking Margaret River might have a competitive edge.

The 24-year-old has a poor record at the stop, routinely finishing near the bottom of the draw.

By contrast, his great rival for the world title, Hawaiian prodigy John John Florence, excels at the event, having won there twice and proclaiming it one of his favourite stops on the tour.

“There are a few theories about who did and didn’t want to surf and the larger effects on the (world) rankings,” Slater said.

“The most vocal against haven’t had a great record at Margs so we can only be left to wonder if that played into the fear of surfing.”

Brazil is one of the world’s biggest surfing markets but, perhaps more importantly for the WSL, it is also a vital growth market, with a huge and increasingly surf-mad population.

Oooooeee! You catch all that? As the theory goes, Medina is not only too chicken to surf in Western Australia but also nastily undercutting his biggest competition at the same time. Such power for such a cleanly shaven man.

But you. What do you think? Is Gabriel Medina completely to blame or just a very easy scapegoat?


Kelly's remarkable tank: 700 metres long by 150 metres wide. And how does he tweak? By upping or lowering the volume of water and changing the angle of the foil. Griffin Colapinto, post-renovation.

Wow: How Kelly improved Surf Ranch!

It ain't what y'think… 

It’s hardly news by now that Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch was closed in November for what you would’ve supposed to be a bathymetric renovation. Raise the vinyl-covered bottom a little here, a little there, make it hollower, faster and so forth.

It reopened a couple of weeks ago with its usual drip-feed of footage, the most significant, or exciting, tour rookie Griffin Colapinto’s tuberiding (and clean fin-throw to tube) there.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bh4BlRtHGsQ

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bh5mPguBVex/?hl=en&taken-by=ronnieblakey_

But what was presumably a makeover of the man-made sea’s bottom was actually nothing of the sort. The bottom is static.

Instead, says Kelly, it’s “tuning of speeds and water depths. Just like a pool or lake, water depth just changes by taking out or adding water. Speed of wave matches the foil and whatever angle it comes off the foil.”

Get that? A little more volume in the pool, change the angle of the foil.

And the tube of Griff? Is the shape and length of the tube different?

“Not real different. It was probably a first wave after long pause and super calm. I was surprised he made it ’cause he was so deep. Really cool.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bh4BlRtHGsQ/?hl=en&taken-by=griffin_cola

Does USC scientist, Adam Fincham, the man who, in 2006, began to breathe life into Kelly’s outrageous dream with the use of parallel super computers, oversee these changes?

“He’s constantly helping with tweaks,” says Kelly. “He’s committed to making sure waves are consistently working right.”

I wondered, how many waves has Kelly caught in the pool?

“Not as many as you’d assume,” he says. “I generally surf less than anyone on days I’m there. Last week I probably surfed a half or third of what the other guys were surfing, maybe even less.”

When I was at the joint, I was struck by two things: the size of the pool – almost as long as Bondi Beach or 700 metres – and the empty man-made lake next to it. Back when Kelly and co bought the current lake in the first place, the owner who is a keen wakeboarder, I was told, wanted to retain one of ’em.

If he’d sold, would Surf Ranch have been twice and wide?

Bigger, hollower?

“The sheer scale freaked us out enough with just one,” says Kelly. “We just didn’t all the possibilities of future design.”


A fly's paradise. Dylan McWilliams' bear (left) and shark wounds.

Bodyboarder survives shark, bear and rattlesnake attacks!

 "I still go hiking, I still catch rattle snakes, and I will still swim in the ocean."

There is little that gives me as much pleasure as he shit and the bickerings of the human world. I have tabloid fever bad and it is reflected, I think, in my choice of stories.

Earlier today, it was reported by every major news agency that Colorado man Dylan McWilliams, a part-time bodyboarder and “outdoor enthusiast”, had been hit by a tiger shark while on his lid in Kauai.

“I saw the shark underneath me. I started kicking at it – I know I hit it at least once –and swam to shore as quickly as I could,” Dyan told the BBC. “I didn’t know if I lost half my leg or what.”

Last July, while sleeping outdoors on a camping trip, Dylan, who is twenty years old, woke up with his head in the jaws of a bear.

“This black bear grabbed me by the back of the head, and I was fighting back, poking it in the eye until it let me go.” After stomping on Dylan the 300 pound bear walked off. Later, it was caught by park authorities where tests confirmed Dylan’s blood was under the bear’s fingernails. The animal was subsequently destroyed.

And three years ago, Dylan was attacked by a rattler while hiking in Utah.

“I was walking down a trail and I thought I kicked a cactus but couldn’t see one, and then saw a rattlesnake all coiled up. There was a little venom so I did get a bit sick for a couple of days. We have to respect [animals’] boundaries but I don’t think I was invading or provoking any of the attacks – they just happened.”

After the three-pack of bites, Dylan says he’s still enthral to the poetry of nature.

“I still go hiking, I still catch rattle snakes, and I will still swim in the ocean.”

 


Kauai: Surfer arrested for alleged “despicable act!”

“And to the people who are doing these things, we’re gonna hold them accountable.”

Last week’s devastating floods on the island of Kauai have been absolutely heartbreaking. Floods, landslides, destroyed homes, towns cut-off. A local resident friend told me the scope of the damage is difficult to even comprehend and yet there he is, like so many others, rolling up his sleeves and helping neighbors and strangers alike. “It is beautiful the way the community is banding together in the face of tragedy…” he says. Even part-time resident and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has pitched in a million dollars for relief efforts.

It is a silver lining, I suppose, to see human beings acting so generous, so thoughtful. But yesterday, Kauai’s police arrested a man they alleged was being a little too thoughtful and let us turn to the news organization that fell Richard M. Nixon for more.

While authorities did their best to move people to safety, and neighbor helped neighbor in the best Hawaiian tradition, one boat crew was up to something else, Kauai prosecuting attorney Justin Kollar told The Washington Post.

At first, they seemed like good Samaritans. The three men would pull their small fishing boat, about 15 or 20 feet in length, up to the shore where people were waiting for evacuation with a few belongings and offer them transportation from Tunnels Beach at Haena to the St. Regis Resort in Princeville, Kollar said.

But then, while still in the water, the men demanded money. “They would get a couple hundred yards offshore,” said Kollar, “and stop and say, ‘by the way, it’s $200 per person. Cash or credit. Pay now, or we’re going to leave you here.’ ”

People paid, he said. “They felt like they didn’t have any choice.”

One visitor, Liana Leaulii, described her experience to Hawaii News Now. She and a group had been hiking along one of the mountainous trails along the coast when the torrential downpour and lightning storm that would continue for 36 hours began. They managed to make it to Tunnels Beach when they encountered the crew with the boat.

With relief, they gladly accepted the ride. But “once we were out in the middle of the ocean, they were like, ‘Did so-and-so on the beach tell you it was $200 a head on the boat?’ ”

“So and so” had told them nothing of the kind.

Kollar said authorities started learning about it on social media. He didn’t have an exact number of victims, but there were more than a few. “We’re still working that out,” he said.

Once the word got out, with Kollar telling local media the men would be charged with extortion, they “laid low,” he said.

“We’re not going to tolerate these type of extortion [attempts] of any visitors or locals, Chief Bryson Ponce of the Kauai Police Department told Hawaii News Now. “And to the people who are doing these things, we’re gonna hold them accountable.”

But people knew who they were.

On Thursday, police arrested Stephen Koehne for extortion, robbery and terroristic threatening, Kollar said. Koehne, who bills himself as a “pirate” on the Internet, could not be reached for comment. It’s unclear what’s happening with the other two men reportedly involved.

Oops!

You may recall Stephen Koehne as a younger member of the exceptionally talented Kauai group that burst onto the scene in the middle 2000s. Andy and Bruce Irons, etc. He has since turned mostly to fishing, it seems, and maybe extreme capitalism.

Here he is, in happier times, surfing and fishing!


Momentum: Surfers “forever reshape world!”

Turn the dial to 11!

As you may, or may not, know I have spent the past two-ish years working on a documentary about the wonderful Lisa Andersen. During this period I have thought constantly about documentary films. About what makes them good and what makes them bad. About triumphs and pitfalls. It is a deceivingly difficult genre, I think. The narrative seemingly writes itself but each decision along the way colors the truth and either alters or focuses history.

My favorite documentary of all time is The Kid Stays in the Picture.

My favorite documentary of the year is Wild, Wild Country.

They are as brilliant as they are beautiful and if you have not watched I highly recommend.

My least favorite documentary is any that falls headfirst into hyperbole. Sport’s documentaries are particularly plagued by this disease. On the field exploits somehow get magnified through the camera lens and turn into momentous, earth shattering, never-before-seen-or-imagined events. Athletes turn into world re-shapers. It is unfortunate, I think, because the amplification of everything to “totally, once-in-a-millenia amazing!” means that nothing is totally amazing. When the dial is constantly at 11 where else can it go?

And so it is with a bit of wincing that I anticipate the upcoming Momentum Generation documentary. You, of course, watched the original surf films by Taylor Steele and starring Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Ross Williams, Paul Roach, Benji Weatherly, Shane Dorian etc. For surfers, these films form an important part of the canon but let us read a touch from Rolling Stone, who interviewed some of the boys while they play in New York.

A crew of surfers who helped change the sport tumble into each other’s company in a new clip from Momentum Generation, a documentary executive-produced by Robert Redford (among others), that’s set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The film tracks the rise of athletes who eventually “win world titles and forever reshape worldwide culture in the 1990s and beyond,” according to a statement from the directors, Jeff and Michael Zimbalist.

In the Momentum Generation teaser, the surfers come together as a group for the first time. “We all knew each other from surfing different amateur events,” Rob Machado says. “But it wasn’t until we stayed at Benji’s house that we became a posse.”

The fact that Benji Weatherley had a house ideally situated for surfing was actually accidental. “My mom and dad split up,” he remembers in the film. “She went to Hawaii on vacation. She came back and said, ‘hey boys, get in the car, we’re moving to Hawaii.’ And it happened to be the north shore of Oahu.”

“We didn’t even know that Pipeline and Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach [all popular surfing destinations] were down there,” Weatherley’s mother adds. “This was how naïve we were.”

That changed quickly. Ross Williams and Shane Dorian were two of the first surfers to start visiting Weatherley’s house regularly. Soon the group of aspiring stars ballooned to include Kelly Slater, who went on to win 11 World Surf League world championships, Taylor Knox, a member of the Surfing Hall of Fame, and many others.

Oh I want to see, I want to like, but the director quote, “…forever reshape worldwide culture in the 1990s and beyond…” worries me. Did Benji et. al. really forever reshape worldwide culture in the 1990s and beyond? Do mothers in Tibet’s isolated mountain villages name their sons Conan Hayes Namgayl Wangchuk? Do fathers in the Congo’s dense jungle regale their daughters with stories of a longhaired man named Donovan Frankenreiter? Has anyone, literally anyone, on earth who is not a surfer and/or related to a surfer ever heard of Ross Williams?

Or am I just being a picky bastard?

You tell me!