He stood in the chest deep water and breathed. Not steady, compose-yourself breaths, but deep, theatrical Wim Hof breaths. He had soft eyes which alluded to intense focus but was actually flirtation. This is my moment, this is me, this is what I do...went the internal monologue...likely to a pounding backdrop of: LOOK AT ME. LOOK AT ME. LOOK. AT. ME.

Opinion: “Kelly Slater slain by own creation!”

Was the Founders Cup a fitting or sad end to Kelly Slater's illustrious career?

The Emperor’s New Clothes. You know the tale, right?

A particularly vain emperor, who cares for nothing except basking in his own glory, employs tailors to make him the finest garments ever seen. In an elaborate con, the tailors convince the Emperor that his clothes are made from invisible material. The Emperor parades in front of his court and townspeople, showing off his wonderful new clothes.

In reality he is naked. Of course his subjects go along with it, telling him how wonderful he looks. Until a boy, too young to understand the pretense, shouts the truth and strips the whole sham bare.

Derek Rielly believes that we have seen the future. He believes our world class beachies, our Hossegors, our Supertubos, all will be gone. He even suggests the goose of Snapper rocks might be cooked.

I think he’s being hasty. But it’s also true that with new technology we often overestimate the impact in the short term but underestimate it in the long term. Today it is The Emperor’s New Clothes; tomorrow, it might be real.

But for now, in the opinion of many, The Founders Cup was a flop. Even Stab didn’t seem to be tripping over themselves with their usual brand of effusive flatulence.

And didn’t the finale just sum up the weekend? We looked on as Slater’s wave ran off without him, and the production pretended they’d seen something else entirely.

Let me recap…

The crescendo of an inaugural event! A glimpse into the future, a harbinger of the explosion of competitive surfing in the collective mainstream psyche!

And of course it was left to Emperor Slater (46) to play us out.

He stood in the chest deep water and breathed. Not steady, compose-yourself breaths, but deep, theatrical Wim Hof breaths. He had soft eyes which alluded to intense focus but was actually flirtation. This is my moment, this is me, this is what I do…went the internal monologue…likely to a pounding backdrop of: LOOK AT ME. LOOK AT ME. LOOK. AT. ME.

Turpel promised us we might get “a crazy tie break sudden death experience”. We didn’t. I’m not sure Joe knew what that was anyway. Instead, we watched the spectre of the GOAT, gutted and laid bare by his own fair hand.

The wave was too fast. Too fast for 40 years of muscle memory and 20 years of competitive mastery. Those final two waves are among the most awkward, out of rhythm attempts I have ever seen from Slater. His trademark cat-like balance was still there. But what looks superhuman falling out of the sky at La Graviere, doesn’t so much at a shoulder high, off-green, man-made tidal bore replica. His arms flailed. There were spasmodic pumps down the line and half turns, all for a whitewater bash half a second too late.

You might get away with half a second in the ocean, son, but not in this tub. The wave is relentless, like the passing of time, or aging, for that matter. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

His barrel riding was still great. He can do that. His set-up on the left was sublime. One might get the impression that most of what he’s done here is practise crouching.* Is Slater such a conehead that he built a place where he can just set his line and hold on til grim death?

He did one “big frontside wrap”, so expertly called by Joe Turpel. Martin Potter said “ooooooff”. The progression in the commentary box hauntingly symbolic of what we saw in the pool.

They desperately tried to attach meaning to the ending of his lefthander. Turpel said it was a rodeo flip. Pottz called it a backside rotator. Everyone else saw it as a fly away kick out.

A pudgy, shirtless man in the crowd with a GoPro strapped to his red-faced head waved a large American flag vigorously from the stands. “U.S.A! U.S.A!” I’m certain he shouted. He is our future.

Slater mounted his board in the afterwash, the foil jizz (we need new language, as per Jen See). He seemed, momentarily, to catch a glimpse of himself, hunching his shoulders and ducking his head under the water. But when his face lifted he was back to his impervious best, the facade of a smile as he raised his hands to golf clap himself.

Pottz said: “Wow, that was insane!” I wondered if he was.

I felt embarrassed hearing the echo of Martin Potter’s voice, like it was a dirty secret that only we should know about. I cringed to think it was being broadcast live to the public.

Jen See said Lemore was like the setting of a Steinbeck novel. I desperately wanted Turpel to take Pottz down to the water’s edge and ask him to look towards the horizon and imagine his future.

As a fitting visual metaphor for his demeanour and impact throughout the event, Strider was towed behind, head down and prone, like a piece of seaweed caught on a fin.

I was sad, I turned it off.

Just before I tapped out I watched Slater do his non-victory victory lap, a pre-diabetic Raimana* beaming from the front of the taxi ski, struggling onto the plane at full throttle. As a fitting visual metaphor for his demeanour and impact throughout the event, Strider was towed behind, head down and prone, like a piece of seaweed caught on a fin.

Slater is the tailor and the emperor. He wouldn’t have it any other way. You might say it’s a tragic end to an illustrious career, or you might consider it a fitting one. Slain by his own creation, or perhaps self-mutilation by masturbation.

“Slater needs to finish!” said Joe Turpel on the final wave, raising his tone for the occasion, and unwittingly reaching a level of profundity which escaped everyone.

“But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” A young boy in the crowd cried.

And it was over.

*Credit Longtom. For everything.

Raimana Van Bastolear
Raimana once earned a living ferrying surfers to and from Teahupoo, now, as a full-time resident of Lemoore, California, he runs Surf Ranch. | Photo: WSL

Long Read: Raimana is the king of Lemoore!

Formerly, the king of Teahupoo, where this story takes place…

Paul Gauguin had it right. It’s the tropics, man. The palm tree, salmon sunset, rainbow tropics. The slow time, trade wind, warm coconut scent on a patch hot sand tropics.

And the best tropics? French colonial ones. Paul Gaugin had it oh so right.

But Raimana Van Bastolear has it righter. He is the eminence of Teahupo’o, arguably Tahiti’s most precious resource. Most surfers have consumed this mutant wave via magazine spreads and surf competition webcasts. There its craw gapes like a hungry troll. There it eats one surfer and sends another to barrel spit’d fame. It is adorned in Billabong, Red Bull, badly color blocked trucker hats. Its voice is a WSL commentator using adjectives poorly and metaphors hyperbolically.

In person, though, Teahupo’o is neither mutant nor surf garbed yokel. It is postcard with soaring green crags and lavender water. It is a pile of French rot at the end of a two-lane road and it is perfect.

Nothing, you see, rots better than French. It’s as if French colonizers, architects, chefs and priests in their wisdom, built a culture that looks and feels best coming undone. The Tahitians speak the language with a buttery patois drawl and it sounds more magnificent than it does on the Left Bank of Paris’s Siene. They worship God with many French misspellings in the prayer book and it becomes raucous southern gospel. They cook the food without actually cooking it, serving poisson cru bathed in coconut milk for every meal. They defy Western ambition by driving 40 km. Max. Which makes Western ambition seem a foolish pastime.

And I sit on a weathered deck hanging over perfectly temperate water and try to sit back even further. Like, the furthest back without actually laying down, soaking in the slow time and the French rot and not caring about anything at all. Especially not fast internet connections.

And even though slow time is one of the things that makes the tropics oh so right I see Raimana moving in front of my half-closed eyes, through the postcard, like a bolt. His cell phone buzzes. His jet ski whines. His many family members, friends, helpers, employees run this way and that, cooking, cleaning, sailing, loading, building. Being the eminence of any place is work but very much more apparent in the oh so right tropics.

To the uninitiated, the professional surf life is two very disparate things at once, free and structured. It is the vast oceanic playground sans the traditional “stick and ball” rules-based ethos. It is also a business where talents are groomed according to a specific, painstakingly followed, code.

This happens, of course, every winter on Oahu’s North Shore. Young charges are sent into homes owned and operated by the surf brands. There they learn where to paddle out, when to paddle out, what boardshorts to wear with what t-shirt, who to talk to and when, etc. Strict guidance is surfing’s manna.

The North Shore, however grand a social experiment as it is, is not the only school. Young charges get taught at contests, photoshoots, and when they travel to the middle of the South Pacific. It is, genuinely, a wonder that eighteen-year- old boys can even get to a place as remote as Teahupo’o to begin with. The nearest airport is an hour plus away, there are no hotels, real restaurants or infrastructure and the language, however buttery, can be a real barrier to entry.

Its remoteness necessitates a Raimana. He feeds, ferries and looks after the future of the sport. He also, quietly, provides the best education they will ever receive, as it relates to surfing one of the heaviest waves on the planet and living well. And this combination makes him invaluable.

I watch him while sipping on a lukewarm Hinano but watching Raimana’s spark I remember that without ambition there would be no refrigeration. Or colonization. And I hoist myself up to go speak with him, which is harder than it sounds. Raimana Van Bastolear is in demand. There is Quiksilver, and all the Quiksilver surfers, in one of his houses causing trouble and dreaming up schemes. There is a crew of seventy shooting a Visa commercial in one of his other houses. It stars Kolohe Andino, apparently, ordering pizza on a cellphone in a barrel. There is the Point Break production team, somewhere. There was Giselle Bundchen and a Chanel crew who just left. And there is the Billabong Pro coming in just five days and with it badly color blocked trucker hats and Red Bull.

Raimana runs it all and that is why this pile of French rot at the end of a two-lane road is called Raimana World. When I finally reach him (my legs feel like they are wading through sweet black molasses) I assume he is going to bark at me that he is busy (because he is) and send me back to my virtually laid-back position, warm beer in hand. I don’t necessarily rue this fate but he does not. He looks at me, eyes smiling, and tells me to meet him on the dock where we can sit with our feet dangling in the water because it is cooler then the deck.

Teahupo’o, the wave, can be heard thundering on the reef a kilometre out to sea and my very first question to him is how he first came to ride the wave. His face lights up. It is always light. It is warm like very few faces I have ever come across but it is both warm and wistful when speaking about that wave.

“Ahhhhhh I used to bodyboard out there in the middle 1990s. One day I was out there with my brother-in-law Kahea Hart…brother-in-law…that’s how you call your sister’s husband, yeah? Yeah. And anyhow he yell at me to go get him his board from the boat. So I paddle to the boat and get his board and start paddling it back out to him. He used to ride for MCD. Remember MCD? Used to be owned by the same guy who had Gotcha? Ha! That guy liked to party. And I was paddling back out when a huge set came through. I was in position because it swung wide and the boys were shouting, ‘Go Raimana! Go!” So I went. I paddled into one and got barreled. That was my first wave surfing out there. It was a two-page spread in Surfing magazine.”

Every part of this first story is perfect. A young man lost in bodyboarding’s false glory is perfect. A call to surfing arms is perfect. More Core Division and its place in fashion’s lore is perfect. Micheal Tomson is always perfect (he really does like to party). And getting a two-page spread in a surf magazine on the first wave ever ridden while standing up is perfect. It is so perfect that it sounds apocryphal which, in turn, makes it so very French, Joan du Arc-style French, and it feels just like it should.

Raimana’s expression does not change during its telling. He is neither reveling in his own legend nor disappearing behind a cloud of false modesty. It is as light as Scandinavian summer and as easy as Sunday morning. I hear a bustling off to my right. Raimana’s people are loading a boat with either Point Break people or Visa people. His cell phone buzzes but he ignores it like he ignores them and keeps his focus straight ahead.

I gesture while asking, “How did you go from a bodyboarder cum surfer du jour to the man in charge?” and he stays the same amount wistful.

“Soooooo it was back in the day and I was cruising in town and I saw Pancho Sullivan and Noah Johnston sleeping in their car on the beach. I went up to them and said, ‘Where are you guys staying?’ and they said, ‘Here in our car.’ and I said, ‘No way. You come and stay with me in my house.’ They came with me and then went back to Hawaii and told all of their friends, ‘Hey there is this guy Raimana and you have to stay with him when you go out and surf Teahupo’o so then all the boys started staying with me…”

A boat speeds near, cutting the engine right in front of Raimana. Its driver shouts something in sexy, decrepit French. Raimana answers in the same patois. The boat driver nods, sparks the engine and speeds toward a sun sliding lower down the sky. Watching the boats, here, it is amazing that more of them don’t end up on the reef. They fly so fast, skirting deadly shelves with studied abandon. I would, for sure, put all of the boats on the island on coral outcroppings, if I was left in charge, and it would be a monument to myself and oceanic incompetence but also a roaring good time.

Raimana watches him go and then turns to me again, having lost his train of thought.

“…what was I saying again?”

I tell him, “About Hawaiian surfers who flocked to your home but that part I get. Surfers are always looking for maximum ease and your home on the beach, as close to the wave as possible, provides maximum ease. You could have fed them Spam and had them sleep in hammocks and they would have kept coming. But Visa and Point Break are two different things, altogether. Those sorts of bastards are demanding…to mention nothing of Giselle.”

Raimana does not struggle to come to terms with the difference between feral Hawaiian surfers and international supermodels. He answers both quickly and at once, “I love to show the world what we Tahitians have. We have so much to give. There are no paparazzi here. The people respect each other, pretty much, and respect the stars. No one approaches a famous person and says, ‘Whoa! Give me blah blah blah.’ They either ask first or just let people be.”

It could sound like a cliché except it is not.

Corporate interests, which grow in both size and scope, and celebrity guests, which flock more and Johnny Depp-er are testament to the special little world Raimana has built on the back of a decayed colonial system. French hospitality has never been a “thing.” Gauls are known for superiority complexes, snootiness and a general dismissiveness of all things non-French. But “French hospitality,” coming undone in tropical Tahiti, is, again, the dream at its zenith. It is not that Raimana is overly attentive to the needs and whims of monied Western interests. It’s, maybe, that he provides them enough to be happy, in the simplis and no more.

Roofs, if they need. Boats, if they need. Food cooked simply by his family, if they need. Otherwise people are left alone in a tropical milieu that will drive the most heartless toward luminescent adjectives.

Another boat speeds toward Raimana. This time its driver doesn’t bother speaking. He just contorts his face in a way readily understandable then speeds off. So French! I ask Raimana if all of these boats are his and he laughs. “No. I owned a boat for a little while but then sold it and now I just rent them from the guys.” So smart! It is a known fact from Papeete to Pittsburgh that boat ownership is a losing proposition. It is pure ego and Raimana does not want or need the extra headache. He is smart enough to know where living well runs over pride and consumption.

I ask him what his big dream is. Does he, for example, want to build a hotel on this magnificent land and get rich and host Vanity Fair parties? He laughs again, “No no no. What I would love to do is buy a big piece of land and build one house, like the Volcom House on the North Shore, where all the surfers can live together like a family…”

The houses he has now are not quite big enough to host everyone all at once. Team managers, photographers, surfers and various hoi polloi scatter between a few houses that are all beautiful and simple but still scattered. “…and then I’d build one house for corporations or people who want to come over here and do stuff but that’s all. I wouldn’t do anything bigger because then you can’t give the people quality. That’s why people come here. They spend all that money on plane tickets and rental cars and they come here and just want to be taken care of. It’s the one time in their lives that they can get that and that’s what I want to do.”

Again, it sounds cliché but speaking to the Quiksilver team, currently occupying one of the houses, their experiences at Teahupo’o are exceptional. They feel safe on an extremely unsafe wave. They feel cared for even though their own families are thousands of miles away.

Raimana wipes a bead of sweat from his brow and I ask, “To what end? It is very great to provide such a wonderful time to foreigners, and also to help prop up the local economy, but what is in it for you?”

And there is that smile again, that magical tropical smile. “I still want to surf those big waves at Teahupo’o. I want to do what Laird does. He is 50 and still playing in the ocean. I want to play in the ocean.”

And with that a third boat driver whips in. There is some minor emergency somewhere and Raimana is needed. He bows out, politely and apologetically, and I hop on a vessel heading out toward the wave. The sun is low now and everything looks ridiculously beautiful as we skim over turquoise, blue, green velvety water. Then I see the iconic judges stand bolted to the reef. Then I see the wave itself, which is jaw-dropping to even the most jaded of surf journalists. It is not giant Teahupo’o but it is big, solid and spitting. Koa Rothman and Mikey Wright hoot while hopping out and joining the rest in a lineup getting ready for the contest. I ask the photographers and Quiksilver’s legendary Nicholas Dazet, who remain on the boat, if they have ever surfed it. “

Are you kidding me?” is the consensus. “Anything that is safer when it is bigger is not to be touched.”

I happily sit and drink it all in as the sun goes very low. It is the tropics, man. The perfect Tahitian coconut scented tropics.

And when the sun is all the way gone and the stars twinkle overhead the boat heads back to one of Raimana’s houses. A feast has already been laid out and cast and crew launch in with reckless abandon.

I sit at a quiet corner table with Raimana and his mom. He seems exhausted, eating his French bread and poisson cru slightly hunched over, but he also seems satisfied. The young charges are safe. The Visa crew, in another house, got the clips for which they came. It has been a successful day. We make small talk, surf gossip, laugh and then he excuses himself to go sort another minor emergency.

Soon the Teahupo’o season will come to a close and Raimana will have a moment’s peace. He can let the slow time wash over him. He can dangle his feet in the water and drink lukewarm Hinano and just be.

We are passing through, but at the end of the day, it is Raimana World. Or as Jay-Z says, “I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man.”

(The Surfer’s Journal, as discussed on this very website, is a thing of art and I am lucky enough to, at times, contribute. Some time ago, I wrote a story on Raimana Van Bastolear, the mayor of Teahupo’o.)

Stephanie Gilmore
Stephanie Gilmore, million-watt smille.

Live from Surf Ranch: “We don’t have a language for this!”

Final day reflections on surfing's Brave New World…

I’m standing in front of the stage, waiting for the awards ceremony. A perky song plays over the loudspeakers. Steph Gilmore dances in place with a million-watt smile. Though some people have left for the day, there’s a solid crowd gathered. Hay bales covered with beach blankets serve as seating. I’m waiting for Kelly. So was everyone else. 

Free of my cameras’ weight, and the need set up specific positions, I’d wandered more widely today. It was hotter than Saturday, even with the breeze. The left had an onshore. I’m not even sure if that’s how we’re supposed to describe it now. But it was onshore. The wind gave the right a slight texture that wasn’t quite a true offshore.

When construction started on the Surf Ranch, he’d thought they were building a wave to boogie board. Maybe $10 for the day. The reality was a long way from what he’d imagined and he was having fun.

We don’t have a language for all of this just yet.

I talked to Jonathan, a mechanic from the local navy base. He works on the F-18’s that occasionally overflew the lineup. A friend lived a mile or so away from the Surf Ranch in Lemoore and they’d wondered what was behind the fence. By the time he bought his ticket, only Sunday was available. When construction started on the Surf Ranch, he’d thought they were building a wave to boogie board. Maybe $10 for the day. The reality was a long way from what he’d imagined and he was having fun. 

After the morning round, I lost the plot and had to reread the format. I confess, I had a hard time keeping it in my head. During Brazil’s final round, I stood near the team area, designated for athletes and staff to watch the event. They were pure joy. They sang and clapped. Then they sang some more. I decided that I wanted to be Brazilian when I grow up. They made me care desperately about the outcome. I enjoyed the feeling. 

The most popular viewing spot by far was the middle of the pool, where you could see turns on both the left and the right. The low-growing trees that run at intervals along the pool’s edge were also almost certainly a draw. Lots of people brought beach chairs and lounged comfortably. They had the right idea. 

I ran into one of my neighbors from Santa Barbara. He’s Australian and was there with a crew. He likes parties and surfing, and figured why not come out for a chance to combine the two. I ran into them in the VIP zone, but they said they’d walked, like, six miles on Saturday to see every angle. You and me both. 

O’Neill. A surf shop. Another surf shop. Hurley. I read the t-shirts as I walk down the line. Most of the men are in boardshorts. The women are in cute dresses or cut-off shorts. The crowd who buys tickets to surf contests plainly also buys surf t-shirts and boardshorts. There, I did your market research for you. 

I stand in a knot of fans under the trees. Someone surfs by on the right and enters the barrel. A grom watches avidly. “That’s the only part of it I care about,” he tells his friends. He’s already well-traveled. He’s wearing a shirt from a surf shop in Panama. 

I watched Toledo’s last two waves near a group of Brazilian fans. They chanted his name rhythmically. When he fell, they were devastated. 

By Sunday afternoon, sunburn had reached epidemic levels. In the VIP area, there were Sun Bum bottles on the tables. This is the kind of brand giveaway I especially appreciate. Useful, relevant, well-played Sun Bum, well-played.

A thoroughly sunned-out crew from Santa Cruz held down a space near the start of the right. They wore boardshorts from assorted brands, extensive tattoos, and not much else. One wore a Trump hat, another wore two pairs of sunglasses. They waved an American flag with vigor and animation. When the time came for Kelly’s final waves, they heckled good-naturedly, entirely without malice. 

As Kelly surfed his final wave, I sat in the crowd, who reacted to each and every turn. At the end of the right, he went up for a final air. The crowd went with him. They wanted him to win so badly. When he fell, there was a collective groan. No. He couldn’t possibly have missed it. He’s Slater. He always wins. Not always, not this time. 

I watch the awards ceremony. I check my voice recorder. I read my notes one more time. I’m brought past security and through the fencing behind the stage. I wait where they tell me to wait. The waiting is sometimes the hardest part of this job. You have to stay there. You can’t lose sight of your mark. So you wait. I’ve learned eventually the art of patience and the ability to stand in exactly the same place for as long as it takes. 

Slater’s mom is behind the stage wearing an orange shirt with matching lipstick. She chats cheerfully with his publicist. She’s wearing a necklace with a VW bus charm that’s painted with bright-colored flowers. Slater comes over after the awards are complete and the warmth of their relationship glows amidst the chainlink fencing, the dust, and the security guards. 

Slater is pulled away for a quick interview. And then for a photo. Then he disappears into a tent. Still, I wait in the same spot, my feet barely budging at all. 

And then he’s done. It’s time to move. I’m to follow him as we walk from the secure area behind the stage to the Outerknown booth where he’s due to do a signing. It’s not much more than 20 feet, maybe less. The security guard shifts position. We walk into bedlam. 

When Lance Armstrong used to pass through crowds, he’d walk fast, head down, without making eye contact. He was like a ghost, passing through the world as though nothing existed around him. I’d guess the crowds registered with him, but he’d keep walking. 

Slater seems to know he should do it that way, but it also seems as though it’s hard for him to say no. I’m on his outside and I turn to look toward the crowd, to see it as he does. A wall of phones. Outstretched hands. Kelly, can you — 

I move ahead. I reach the booth just ahead of him and the crowd slams in. We’re in a fish bowl. They watch avidly as I ask my questions. Slater loves talking about surfing, but our time is limited. I ignore our surroundings. A videographer moves in close. I hope my my face is clean. 

I tell him about the grom, the one who was so stoked on the barrels. Kelly’s whole face lights up. It’s like I’ve brought him a gift. It matters to him that people like him, I think. I feel like it’s the least I can do. After all, I’m just one more person asking for a piece of him. 

We finish talking and I stand for a moment just off his right shoulder. The crowd pushes closer. Phones up. Hands reaching. 

I walk out of the light, grateful to escape. 

team world founders cup
Team World, led by Jordy Smith, with pool co-creator and US captain Kelly Slater.

Founders’ Cup: “Team World for Win! Yay!”

Down with nationalism. Good for nothing nationalism. A poke in the eye to fascist thugs.  

“How you like me now, eh?” said the Founders’ Cup wavepool comp to the World. Mild entertainment, world-historical event or one more salvo in the propaganda war for the soul of surfing?

Who to believe?

Marcus Sanders writing for Surfline boldly declared that he wasn’t bored. Thirteen out of the seventeen comments below the Facebook posting said they were bored shitless. The Guardian Australia reprinted the almost panic-stricken breathlessness of the WSL presser as a feature in the online sports section. Below-the-line commentators, almost to an anonymous man, woman and child decried the pool as sterile, predictable and  “an incredible and irresponsible waste of energy, water, money and human ingenuity.”

Hacks and ex-hacks elbowed themselves out of the way on the ageing ex-hacks social media of choice Facebook to stridently declare their love for the newly arrived Future of Surfing and decry anyone who thought otherwise as angry,  reactionary, ageing golfers. It was all so very peculiar and hotly contested. 

More contested than the actual contest, at least as far as the last run of Round One went. Was that Run three? I haven’t got the terminology on lock yet. Any hopes that performance levels might elevate after yesterday’s opening day, with it’s expected jitters and allowances made (why make allowances for professional athletes?), were dashed as first Team Australia choked and then Team America, comfortably into the Finals Series produced a lackadaisical performance, mostly down to John Florence who again failed to fire. Kelly came up with two non makes. 

Bizarrely, no one looked fit enough. A recurring very naughty and transgressive thought kept intruding on my viewing pleasure: By God, PED’s would help light this thing up. I kept waiting for someone to launch a clean, distance covering functional air somewhere between the first and second barrel sections, so did Pottz, who boldly went off script to declare, “ I want to see something above the lip.”

Why? Because you are boring the tits off us*. 

Parko admitted, “The left I surfed so safe.”

It was his first make of the event. Futuristic surfing had morphed overnight into our oldest ally “mistake free surfing.”  Kaipo’s hair looked nice. It glistened in the morning sun. Don’t lie, you noticed it too.

Parko’s safety surfing inadvertently led to an unexpected highlight. A tie with Team World. Suddenly in front of the Michelob glass, the Commissioner showed up, looking very perky.

KP! I thought he was at home feeling sad and left out, watching on the telly box or commenting on Facey… probably not allowed… but there he was, explaining the surf-off. Two surfers one going left, one going right from each team. Best wave tally wins. Epic. If I could have, I would have reached through the screen and kissed him. 

Finally, the day, the event, started to fire up. Team World went first. Paige Hareb punched portholes in that insolently irresponsible sloppy and slopey left as she did all event. Jordy fired up and went ham on the right. He probably did an air on the end section, my notes are inconclusive. But it was a score. And a big juicy one. A big fat juicy score whacking Team Australia around the chops.

Wilko looked dizzy and and lightfooted, like a drunk man dreaming about treading on spiders. He fell.  That left Tyler Wright the impossible task of scoring more than 10. Again, she showcased the fact that the girls surfed it better than the men. Why? I don’t know. It was just a fact, one of the few uncontested ones of the whole event. 

And then we were into the finals. Cote was adamant that, “You’re not going to win by surfing safe”, ignoring two days of competition that proved otherwise. In the midst of a lingering camera shot over a half-empty bleacher he declared the event “absolutely sold out!”

Fine, people can choose their own facts these days. 

Medina was magnificent in Heat 1… he smoked that tub up like a pound of weed in the Wu-Tang den. Bourez fell on both. John just looked woebegone trying an air on the back section. Even an ageing hack like me could see that was not the spot for an air. It was between the first and second tube sections. His numbers were terrible. He did not click with the tub. At all, despite the Hail Mary air which won the Quik Big Air comp (another job for KP!). Next Founders I suggest subbing Keanu Asing in for Florence. He would murder that chubby little left. 

All of a sudden, the end game revealed itself to me. It was blatantly obvious, of course. Slater had engineered a dramatic home run in the bottom of the ninth scenario for himself as anchor and last surfer for Team USA. With the points stacked for Heats 4 and 5 it was almost impossible, despite John Florence choking, to not have everything, the glory of domination in his own Creation in front of the baying crowd to play for. 

I started feeling incredible anxiety at this point. Was there an interventionist God, the God of Sunday school? It was a long way back, but I started praying. No, please no. Don’t let him win. 

Lakey got the two points for USA in Heat 2, Kanoa blitzed for Team World in Heat 3. Carissa and Silvana were insane in Heat 4 with Silvana just getting the nod after maybe the first totally legit tube-ride of the event.

It was working! I was sucked in, helpless as a dribbling dementia patient. The tub had me by the the short and curlies. 

The Final Heat was upon us. Everything in play. Jordy started. And crushed. He was the Wagnerian imperious lord prophesied by D.Rielly. Yeah, his lofted alley oop was on the end section but it was a pressure move and he pulled it. 

Kelly will pull out of Rio citing injury. He’s playing the WSL and sports fans for fools. Almost thirty years of rabid support and he won’t show his face now unless the fans pay for the privilege? Do not dig.

Unlike Filipe, who couldn’t stay stuck and once again made the wrong read on the outside section. If Team Coaches are reading, do the big air between the first and section tube sections. Not before the first tube section. You’re welcome. 

I felt so guilty for hating on Kelly so much at that point. Why? For one, because his hoof was obviously fine. He jogged back the whole way bathing himself in applause from his captives, sorry fans. And he’ll pull out of Rio citing injury. He’s playing the WSL and sports fans for fools. Almost thirty years of rabid support and he won’t show his face now unless the fans pay for the privilege? Do not dig. With the pressure maxing out Kelly did what he has always done, cranked up the Kelly factor to 11 and tried to manufacture a score. He did eleventy million weird foam climbs on the left for an eight. 

Last wave Kelly, whaddya got? Seriously, what have you got? It was a moment of genuine drama, even if highly scripted.I can’t even describe his Final Wave, the final wave of the Founder’s Cup. It was weird, it was wonderful, it was manufactured. It was quintessential Kelly. It was not enough. 

Team World for the win. Yay! Down with nationalism. Good for nothing nationalism. A poke in the eye to fascist thugs.  

The court of public opinion finds the defendant – Kelly Slater Wave Ranch – on the charge of failing to live up to the hype of promised progression in performance… Guilty. 

On the matter of whether this is the Future of Pro surfing the jury is unable to reach a verdict. 

*My thoughts not 1989 World Champ Martin Potter’s.