Oi Rio Pro: “Filipe Toledo saves pro surfing!”

The Brazilian wins the event and the crown!

I can say, without fear of being overly dramatic, that professional surfing was on its death bed after the Founders Cup event held in Lemoore, California. There it lay, cold and clammy. Its pulse could only be found by distressed asset management experts who merely shook their heads as they walked away, mumbling, “It won’t be long now.” The pool was a dud. It didn’t showcase the progression that the people craved. It didn’t provide any adrenalized thrill. The only benefit was that professional surfing could air live for one hour on CBS, a television channel preferred by geriatrics on their own death beds.

What a miserable end. And with the tour headed to Rio de Janeiro afterward it felt as if the damage sustained in Lemoore would metastasize in the muck and it would all be over. Distressed asset management experts sighed deeply, knowing the cadaver would be a difficult one to sell. Maybe Old Navy needs a fun backdrop to their Scorchin’ Summer Capris campaign? Maybe Bud Light Orange?

But then a miracle happened. Waves, for one, streamed into Brazil like the country hasn’t seen in decades. Fun waves, dancing waves, waves that you and I love surfing ourselves and love watching surfed by professionals too. Little sneaky barrel sections. Unexpected ramps that launched the Best Surfers in the World airborne.

And Filipe Toledo, for two. He won the event, beating Australia’s brave Wade Carmichael in a final that would not have been the same without him. There he put on yet another show of what professional surfing can actually be, how much fun it can actually look. He swished, he soared, he won the event and in so doing saved professional surfing.

The distressed asset management experts shrugged and moved on over to see what Rip Curl is up to these days. “I heard they’re not excited about the possible summit between the United States and North Korea…” one said as he walked away. “…I heard there’s worries that, if things go well, a lack of slave labor will hurt the bottom line.”

Analysis on the event and videos to come.

Dispatched: Controversial shaper disappears!

Likes games of "yellow face" and says, "Fuck Asian imports." Can you guess?

Yesterday it was revealed, via the comments pane below a Kelly Slater Don’t Like Brazil story, that the Instagram account of Peter Schroff had been disappeared.

Name familiar? Maybe.

The Newport, California, based Schroff is a shaper of note, if only regionally, who made his name in the nineteen eighties with his eye-catching graphic design and surfboards painted like happy goldfish.

In recent months, Schroff, who is sixty three years old and who calls himself “da pimp”, mounted an online attack on surfboards that were built in Asian countries.

It’s important to note… Asian countries… ’cause it ain’t Australian-made or Japanese-made boards he was going after, but those built in south-east Asia for fairly obvious labour-cost reasons.

Despite a power base of only a few hundred followers his often very funny Photoshopped images of Kelly Slater and Mark Price (who build their Firewire boards mostly in Asia) were successful in engaging everyone from Shane Dorian to Joel Tudor and innumerable shapers and surfers.

You may remember such classics as Blood Feud: Schroff v Hayden Cox, Relentless: Schroff’s War on Mark PricePeter Schroff Does Yellow Face, Modern: Peter Schroff Doubles Down and Three-Way: Dorian v Tudor v Schroff.

But now? The Peter Schroff show has gone. What…who… iced it?

Had Hayden Cox, an early target, or Mark Price/Kelly Slater, current villains of choice for Schroff mounted legal cases?

I called Hayden who said he had switched off from Schroff and hadn’t seen his account in a year or so.

Maybe I should call Price, he said.

I called Mark Price, a former pro surfer from South Africa turned Firewire CEO and whom I like, who said he hadn’t complained, via IG, Facebook or otherwise.

Price told me, “The only thing I can think of is that Facebook revised its terms of use, coming down harder on racism and homophobia and cyber-bullying. Maybe he hit that threshold in their estimation.”

Price added, “He has every right to advocate his position. Personally, I didn’t like how he did it. I’m sure it’ll rear its ugly head elsewhere. The issue is far from over.”

And Schroff?

The contact button is gone from his website, he doesn’t answer Facebook messages and, when his IG account was live, he didn’t respond to DM requests for a interview.

You out there, sissy-boy?

The look of a champion.
The look of a champion.

Championship: Is this Julian Wilson’s year?

The sneaky slider from Coolum is poised to make history!

There has been so much brouhaha surrounding this year’s World Surf League Champion’s Tour that traditional storylines are becoming lost in the weeds. Early on we had a major realignment, dropping Fiji, Trestles, Pipeline (I think) and introducing Lemoore. Mick Fanning retired in an emotionally touching Bells’ final. Sharks interrupting Margaret River. The ultimate disappointment of professional competitive wave pool surfing. Uluwatu becoming Western Australia’s Tourism Board’s new property, etc.

So many head twisting turns that it has been impossible to focus on the simple. Like, is this finally the year Julian Wilson takes home the number one trophy?

I have predicted his ascent to the very top since BeachGrit first launched some four years ago and have been stymied each. But is this his time?

It seems so. There he sits atop the Jeep Leaderboard wearing the yellow jersey. He has performed well in Brazil, still in the quarterfinals. His nearest competition, Italo Ferreira has been bumped out. Mick Fanning is now retired (emotionally touching) and the rest of the Brazilians are rabidly hungry, surfing incredibly but… I just don’t know. This feels like Julian Wilson’s year. He is a father now, as you know, and this father knows the powerful wings a child lends.

So what do you think? Sport’s gambling is basically legal now in the United States of America. Hopefully at this time next year I can wander down to my local bar and plop down $100 on Julian Wilson but this year at this time I’m stuck with mere theoreticals.

But theoretically let’s say Julian makes it to the semis in Brazil before being clubbed by Filipe. Then off they all go to Keramas and tell me there ain’t a better wave in the world suited to Julian’s game than Bali’s favorite playground. Let’s say semis and then J-Bay where Julian has been a regular finalist plus has bonus shark power™ from that incident a few years back. Chopes, France, Portugal are all quarters or above for the boy. Right? Then Pipe* and it is difficult to imagine another hoisting that number one trophy.

Tell me I’m wrong. I bet you can’t. I bet you $100 you can’t.*

*a theoretical $100 until next year.

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.

Just in: Brazil shits on Kelly Slater!

The caipirinhas are going to taste twice as sweet down there tonight.

For years the greatest surfer to ever live, Kelly Slater, has treated the country of Brazil very poorly. He has mostly refused to travel to there for professional surf competition or romantic rendezvous though he once dated crown jewel of Três de Maio, Rio Grande do Sul, Gisele Bündchen. He gladly takes the mulligan even when in actual World Surf League Championship Tour Jeep Leaderboard Yellow Jersey contention instead of flying LATAM south and east.

Yes, Kelly Slater’s disdain for both order and progress is well known and part of me wonders if this past month’s Founders’ Cup event at Lemoore, California’s Surf Ranch was held mere days before the Oi Rio Pro waiting period because he couldn’t but help twisting the knife, assuming that Rio would be uninspiring and his own Surf Ranch would continue an unfettered publicity run.

The future of surfing etc.

Well hmmm. By all accounts Surf Ranch competition is wanting and the almost wrapped Rio Pro is a revelation. Can we read a snippet from Nick Carroll the world’s current best surf writer (now that Tom Wolfe is dead)?

Well, how about that? Barrinha just kicked the shit out of the pool.

Best men’s round one of the year. Free, unpredictable surfing, just the way we know it to be.

There were lame heats and almost brilliant ones. There were peelers and heaving backwashy ones and sharp-edged little beauties. People did free-form things on closeouts. The two closing rides of JJF’s and the Mongrel’s in their round one heat obliterated everything done last weekend in Lemoore. Hell, the Mongrel’s free-fall off the lip move did that on its own.

Watching it, I kept thinking, “Maybe this is just me.” After all, I am an Australian surfer, thus my surfing eye is a sucker for five foot rock-wall wedged up beachies. It’s DNA for chrissake.

But then I thought, “Who ISN’T a sucker for five foot rock-wall wedged up beachies?” Anyone who doesn’t like that stuff doesn’t like life.

I don’t believe in karma but I do believe in Brazil and apparently in order and progress too. The caipirinhas are going to taste twice as sweet down there tonight.

Ding dong the witch is dead etc.

Filipe Toledo perfect ten
"Upside down, fifteen, sixteen feet across, four or five feet above the lip, fully inverted, 540 with a perfect landing. That was as snowboard as it gets when you’re surfing," says the commentator Chris Cote.

Cote: “Filipe just landed the air of the year!”

Chris Cote and Kaipo Guerrero analyse Filipe's ten-pointer in Brazil…

A short while ago, the Brazilian Filipe Toledo scored a raft of perfect tens with what the commentator Chris Cote just described to me as “an upside-down, fifteen, sixteen feet across, four or five feet above the lip, fully inverted, 540 with a perfect landing. That was as snowboard as surfing gets.”


Cote, who is a guest commentator in Rio although his terrific performance there and at the Founders Cup suggests he will be joining the roster full-time, was enjoying a hamburger dinner in Rio with Kaipo Guerrero when asked to discuss the manoeuvre.

He coils it up like a cobra and you know he’s going to strike and you know it’s going to be crazy. You become speechless even as he winds up. You have no choice but to get excited. The electricity flows.”

“I was in the booth with Pottz and (Brazilian tour rookie) Jesse Mendes at the time. And it freaked everybody out. One thing about Filipe that’s incredible is the way he telegraphs his airs. He coils it up like a cobra and you know he’s going to strike and you know it’s going to be crazy. You become speechless even as he winds up. You have no choice but to get excited. The electricity flows.”

I suggest to Cote that the air could’ve been a career-ender given his brutal on-the-flats landing. Filipe could’ve buckled both legs.

“Oh yeah, but he doesn’t think like that. He doesn’t think he’s going to fall. The way that he landed in the flats it equates to a skater doing a trick down fifteen stairs. It’s about the same distance. There’s a famous skate spot called El Toro, twenty something stairs, and it became the benchmark of landing a skate trick. People are always breaking boards and their ankles. With Filipe, you gotta look at how high he was above the wave. You figure it’s a four or six-foot wave, he was four or six feet above that wave, that’s at least twelve feet he’s coming from to the flats. That in itself is crazy. He’s almost upside down and he lands it. It’s like a snowboarder landing in the flats in a half pipe. And there was no bobble. It didn’t affect him. He had the perfect spring right when he landed.”

How was the reaction in the commentary booth?

“Jesse had to cough and he looked down right when it happened and he looked up and asked, ‘What just happened?’ He went silent too, but again, it’s Filipe so it’s not surprising to anybody when he does something like that. It’s shocking in the moment but it’s not surprising.”

“That wave will solve any discussion about the scale being set to the mid-range,” says Cote. “It was an easy ten across the board, there was maybe one nine-nine, but the perfect ten score came a second or two after he landed it.”

Nearby Cote, and also eating dinner, are the WSL judges.

“That wave will solve any discussion about the scale being set to the mid-range,” says Cote. “It was an easy ten across the board, there was maybe one nine-nine, but the perfect ten score came a second or two after he landed it.”

How does it compare to Filipe’s ten in the pool?

“Oh I mean, twice as high, twice as far and the wave was twice as big. Until they can make pools six feet there’s no comparison although those guys will figure it out.”

And compared to his backside huck against John John in France two years ago?

“Today’s air was more controlled and cleaner,” says Cote. “That was a silent sniper shot. This is the air of the year on tour.”

In the background, Kaipo hollers that Seth Moniz’s air at Waco is better. Does he say ‘mo bettah?’ I’m unsure.

I ask Kaipo to analyse. “It’s like comparing grass court over a clay court. It’s different. We don’t know how many attempts Seth needed to make his air. We do know how many Filipe made. One. There it is.”

And the ambience on the beach?

“Everyone jumped out of their seats in the competitor’s area. On the beach, men, women, children, grandpas, aunties, everyone jumped up.”

What’s most interesting about the air is Filipe had already won the heat. This was a little theatre for the crowd.

“You gotta put everything in context,” says Kaipo. “Whether it’s a get-a-score air or a victory-lap air. There’s a difference mentally between the get-a-score air and the victory-lap air. A victory lap allows you free your mind.”

Still, says Cote, “John John is the best in the air, hands down.”