Olympics: Jordy Smith left out in the cold!

And other fascinating Olympic surf scenarios!

Okay, we’re not going to the Olympics, but some surfers are going! Forty, to be exact. It’s going to be so exciting. I am the kind of person who reads Olympic qualification rules. This is my confession.

The US Olympic Trials event is widely considered the fastest swim meet in the world. Held ahead of the summer games, the trials meet decides the US Olympic team. The top two finishers in each event go to the Olympics. Everyone else goes home. There are tears of elation and crushing disappointments. It’s all very high drama.

If you were hoping for a similarly tear-filled dénouement for surfing, you will be disappointed. Sorry! But the selection process does guarantee some excellent subplots for the 2019 CT events. Spicy!

Here’s your handy guide to surfing’s Olympic selection, so you can impress your friends with your arcane knowledge. You can actually like a pro in the parking lot next weekend. Friends always enjoy that kind of thing.


First, some details. Twenty women and twenty men comprise the Olympic field in Tokyo. Each national committee may send a maximum of two men and two women. That’s a team of four total, if you’re trying to keep track at home. Thankfully, there is no complicated math by which countries receive different allocations based on their standings in the world rankings. (Hi, cycling) Four. You get four.

If you want to surf the Olympics, you must also surf the 2019 and 2020 World Surfing Games. Qualifying standards for the World Games appear to be still under construction. I did not see them, in any case. Maybe I did not look hard enough.

World Tour Spice!

The selection process begins with the 2019 CT standings. Fuck yeah! Now, we’re getting somewhere.

The first ten men — and the first eight women — in the CT rankings in December 2019 go to the Olympics. That sounds simple, but remember the part where each country may only send two surfers? If you’re from the US, Australia, or Brazil, you’ll need to be among the top two ranked surfers from your country on the CT. This is where the fun begins.

Let’s pretend that the women’s Olympic selection were right now, today. Steph Gilmore and Nikki Van Dijk would represent Australia. Two-time world champion Tyler Wright would be left out in the cold. Tati West snags one of Brazil’s two slots, while Silvana needs to keep an eye on her overall ranking to stay inside the selection window. I’m sure Silvana was stoked to welcome her new… teammate.

For the US team, meanwhile, Lakey Peterson and Carissa Moore would take the honors, but Caroline Marks is oh-so-close to overtaking Moore. The joint marketing from Red Bull of Moore and Marks gets a little extra zesty in this context.

The plot thickens significantly for the US team if Courtney Conlogue reclimbs the rankings after her recent injury. Or if Malia Manuel were to make a sudden run up the rankings. At the moment, the judges look to love what Lakey’s selling, but if that changed, the door might just swing open.

On the men’s side of the draw, the three-way battle among the Brazilians Filipe Toledo, Italo Ferreira, and Gabriel Medina is going to be lit as fuck. If it were up to me, I’d say send all three. But I don’t make the rules around here.

The US selection, based on current rankings, would be Zeke Lau and Griffin Colapinto, with Kolohe Andino breathing down Colapinto’s neck. Florence is ranked fourth among the Americans at the moment, which isn’t exactly where he’s going to want to be next December. Surely, there’s an Olympics bonus in his contract.

Now pretend you’re Jordy Smith. You’re psyched, because you don’t have to worry about beating out three other guys from South Africa. But you still have some work to do. Because only ten men receive selection from the CT, Jordy Smith would miss qualifying based on current rankings. The ten slots available from the CT are exhausted before we’d reach his ranking, which is currently tied for 25th. Bummer, dude.

But Smith is not out of luck! He could still qualify without climbing the pesky CT rankings. Read on, for how!

Second chances!

Four slots for men — and six for women — are on offer to the top finishers in the 2020 ISA World Surfing Games. So if Jordy were to finish in the top four at the World Games, he could still qualify, even if he were outside the CT selection window. This is also a potential qualifying route for women such as Silvana, Pauline Ado, or Bianca Buitendang.

If your country has already exhausted its allocation on the CT — like say, the US or Australia — you can’t qualify by way of the World Games. Basically, this is the route for QS and lower-ranked CT surfers whose countries have not yet qualified two athletes.


Continents, we have them. They number five.

One surfer from each of the five continents will be eligible for Olympic selection. Who will it be? The highest finisher from each continent at the 2019 ISA World Surfing Games will qualify. For the Americas, the 2019 Pan-American Games serve as the selection event.

There’s a catch — they must finish with the top 30 overall at the World Games. So, no Jamaican bobsled action, basically.

Here again, the two-surfer quota per country comes into play. The qualifying standards form a hierarchy with the CT at the top. If a country qualifies two surfers through the CT rankings, that’s it! There are no other opportunities.

These additional qualifying routes offer a route for countries with fewer top level pro surfers to send athletes to the Olympics. Maybe there’ll be an upset! That could be fun times.

Locals Only!

Two surfers from Japan will be included in the event, if they do not qualify by any other route. If Kanoa Igarashi failed to qualify via the CT rankings, a high finish at the ISA Surfing World Games, or as a continental qualifier, he could still pick up the local ticket.

If Igarashi does qualify through the standard routes, the extra slot gets thrown to the ISA Surfing World Games and an additional athlete from the Games can qualify. So if you’re from a country without CT athletes, you’re definitely hoping Igarashi finishes high in the CT rankings.

There. You are all smarter now! You can impress your friends with all your knowledge. I confess that I love few things more than Olympic selection drama, so I will totally enjoy next year’s CT even more than usual. Maybe you will too!

The Argument for Diversity in Surf!

Maybe it's time to give others a chance to fuck it up too?

The surf industry has been in a dizzying fall for the past… what… ten years? At least ten years. An utter collapse. We’ve seen giant Quiksilver declare bankruptcy only to come out, shepherded by distressed asset management firm Oaktree Capital, and buy Billabong for pennies on the dollar. Rip Curl has floated the idea of a sale for years now with nothing materializing. Brands rolling over. Brands disappearing forever. Shrinking bottom lines. Vanishing jobs

It is bleak with no real end in sight and as I have pondered the whys and wherefores have come to the conclusion that the surf industry is dying because it has lost its center. I have, in fact, written a whole book on the subject called Cocaine + Surfing: A Love Story!

But maybe the failure to embrace the love story with cocaine is not the problem. Bobby Kim, co-founder of streetwear’s very successful The Hundreds gave a speech at the recent Surf Industry Manufacturers Association titled Can Surf Learn From Streetwear? The entire thing is worth a read but let’s read a passage together.

I had breakfast with Bob McKnight, founder of Quiksilver, a few years ago, and he told me to exit the industry because the kids didn’t care about clothing anymore. “They just want to buy apps.”
But Bob, with all due respect, was wrong. Since our breakfast together, my sector of men’s fashion-STREETWEAR-exploded. There’s Supreme, of course. The New York skate brand’s valuation topped a billion dollars, thanks to global line-ups for limited items and high-profile celebrity endorsements. Kanye’s adidas Yeezies are this generation’s Air Jordan. Off-White’s Virgil Abloh and his sneaker collaborations arguably put Nike back on the map. It’s not unusual for me to look down at one of our customer’s receipts and see that he’s spent hundreds of dollars on T-shirts and pants. Kids aren’t spending hundreds of dollars in an afternoon on apps, but they are tossing that kind of money on streetwear brands like Anti Social Social Club, Pleasures, and Vetements.
I can also give 10 speeches to outline why and how streetwear has gotten so popular.

– It’s the limited edition thing.
– It’s the collaborations and the high fashion crossover.
– It’s the meticulous attention to brand integrity.

Yet, today, I’m going to zero in on just one theory as to streetwear’s resounding success in 2018. And, this hypothesis also intersects with an obvious void that I see and feel in surf.
It’s the presence and power of racial diversity.

The case that Mr. Kim goes on to make is compelling because it is about the bottom line more than moral integrity though I think he should also speak to gender diversity. White men get blamed for lots and lots but they deserve every ounce of blame for fucking the surf industry up so badly. Maybe it’s time to give others a chance to fuck it up too?

What do you think about that?

Anthony Walsh Tevita Gukilau
Here, Walsh points his nose-mounted GoPro at the Fijian boatman Tevita Gukilau inside a twenty-foot tube as a bailed ten-footer goes over the falls. | Photo: Anthony Walsh/@anthony_walsh_

Watch: Cloudbreak swell from paddle perspective!

Come into the meat locker with Anthony Walsh's POV angle…

Did that big Cloudbreak swell three days ago make you almost grateful to be alive? All those men (systemic sexism! Intersectionality!) in three layers of impact vests and inflatable vests towing and paddling a Cloudbreak swell so rare there hadn’t been anything like it for six years?

Even watching gave me a vampirish panic.

The Australian-born, Hawaii-living surfer Anthony Walsh, a man with a gorilla chest and unwashed straw hair who will ride the tube behind Laird at Teahupoo for a clip, was there with an eight-eight Gunther Rohn and his usual arsenal of GoPro cameras.

In the short below, we see Walsh, who is thirty-four, pointing his nose-mounted camera at Fijian boatman Tevita Gukilau riding a twenty-foot barrel as a ten-foot gun from a bailed surfer goes over the falls.

Walsh paddled for three hours, looking for fifteen-footers amid the twenty-five foot tow-waves that hit every hour or so. The number of tow teams was small – there were three jetskis and he’d spend the morning and late afternoon towing Maui’s Kai Lenny into sets – and he says there were seventy paddle surfers jockeying, hassling, for sets which would arrive every twenty minutes or so.

“It was the most hyped up, biggest paddle swell ever and everyone and anyone was there. But… it was slow,” he says.

The second wave in the short is Walsh on a wide set.

“It kept going, going, going and…growing,” he says. “I could see it heading for shish kebobs. I knew I had to get off this thing. I couldn’t pull off so I had to jump over the lip and I got over it and didn’t get clipped. I was lucky the Hawaiian lifeguard Ryan Hargrave was there to pick me up. There was another wave behind and it would’ve got me.”

Other notable moments according to Walsh:

It looked like Teahupoo except longer.

Swells like this at Cloudbreak are rare because there’s not a lot of ocean distance between where the swell’s form (between Australia and New Zealand) and where they hit. Gotta intensify quickly. Can’t get too close to land. The winds have to be good. Unlike Hawaii or Chile where the swells have room to form and push across. “Everything has to start in the right place and end in the right place,” says Walsh.

A Brazilian surfer wiped out on the wave before Ramon Navarro’s bomb and busted his leg. For added kicks, he got Ramon’s wave on the head, too. “We saw the wipeout, we were close to him when he took off,” says Walsh. “Then we saw him nose-dive and then Ramon’s wave came and we forgot about it. It’s hard to know what’s happening on the inside. Abe Lerner, Ryan Hargrave and Kaiborg were doing pickups for everyone, keeping everyone safe.”

Kelly paddled for maybe an hour-and-a-half and caught two waves, one a twelve-foot insider

Most surfers wore three layers of flotation: impact vest (padded), inflation vest (with canisters of air) and another impact vest. Walsh just wore the impact vest.

“Too restricting,” he says.

Enter the meat locker here!



Amendment: Surfing’s best brother combination!

Thank you for your understanding.

Shit. Hell. Damn it. What did I do? I mean what did the Committee on Choosing the Best Brother Combinations in Surfing do? Clearly they failed by announcing that Justin and Chris Cote were winners. Clearly they fucked up.

I mean, I personally know that Justin and Chris Cote are deserving but how could the Committee forget Nick and Tom Carroll?

Like, how?

All they had to do was read the first paragraph of each of their entries in the Encyclopedia of Surfing and let us do that together now.

Nick Carroll

High-output Australian surf journalist and editor from Newport, New South Wales; Surfing magazine editor from 1993 to 1996; Deep magazine editor from 1997 to 2000; regarded by many since the mid-’80s as the sport’s most popular and knowledgeable writer.

Tom Carroll

Dynamic and durable power surfer from Sydney, Australia; world champion in 1983 and 1984, and one of the sport’s premier tuberiders. Carroll was born (1961) in Sydney, the son of a newspaper editor, raised in the beachfront suburb of Newport, and began surfing at age eight, a few months after his mother died of pancreatic cancer. Hawaiian style master Gerry Lopez was an early influence on Carroll, as was hard-turning local surfer Col Smith.

I’ve been around the Encyclopedia of Surfing long enough to know that Matt Warshaw writes the best first paragraph, first few words even, in not only surf but history. He boils everything down to its purest essence.

Nick Carroll is a high-output Australian surf journalist. Tom Carroll is a dynamic and durable power surfer from Sydney. Derek Rielly is a bright and mischievous surf journalist, originally from Perth, Western Australia. I am a bright, hyper-ironic surf journalist, author, and bon vivant from Coos Bay, Oregon.

Justin and Chris Cote don’t even have entries.

Maybe it is just ego speaking but Warshaw’s catalog is worth subscribing to, if you haven’t already, for the first word of each entry alone.

Do it today asshole!

What was I writing about again?

Subscribe to the Encyclopedia of Surfing here!

Revealed: Surfing’s best brother combination!

He ain't heavy! He's my brother!

Ain’t family grand? A wonderful admixture of parts and pieces that you have absolutely no control over. There you are, born one day, to a mother and a father whose genetic code makes up your very own and if you are lucky then brothers and sisters too. Maybe you like them, maybe you don’t but in this one matter your opinion does not change anything. They are yours. All of them are yours and forever. And ever.

It feels that this moment in professional surfing is particularly rich with good brothers and, thankfully, we have science to figure out which current set is best. So let’s rank in order from worst to winner.

Eric and Evan Geiselman

These two brothers make Florida look good and this alone guarantees a spot on the list but the Geiselman’s are more than just south east ambassadors. They both surf very well and have both surfed very well for many years, popping up time and again in various social feeds and surf-centric websites making airs or carving boisterously. They are handsome, too, and seem like they enjoy each other’s company. You can watch them here.

CJ and Damien Hobgood

Are like the quintessential brothers because they are identical twins but also forever fixtures in our surf constellation. CJ has, of course, won a world title. Damo is every surfer’s wet dream. They rode the foamball of industry largesse though the 2000 and got spit out into even better careers afterward with Salty Crew etc. The Hobgoods are the brothers you wish you were instead of the brother you are.

Mike and Owen Wright

Australia’s most famous pair since Ned and Dan Kelly, the Wrights beacons of family pride. Each brother has his own accomplishments, I think, but together they are a complete package. Owen, the clean-cut athlete. Mike, the rebel without a care. Right? I don’t really know but in my mind this is what they are each making up for the other’s lack. When Owen loses his hair in the front Mike grows his in the back. Etc. Right?

Nathan and John Florence

All the five Florence brothers should be included here (Ivan, Jamie O’Brien, Grayson Fletcher) but we are focusing on pairs and this pair oooooooeee. Seriously. John is the two time world champion and Nathan just paddled into some of the bigger waves I have ever seen recently during the famed Fiji swell of ’18. He surfed it on a Pyzel Padillac and I spent much of last evening thinking that “Padillac” is a great name for a surfboard. If you had to pick only two brothers to take around the world and be impressive Nathan and John would be hard to beat. Hard to beat if it weren’t for the Cotes.

Justin and Chris Cote

These two are basically why the surf industry still exists. Without them, and their tireless zeal, surfing would have turned into professional log rolling long ago and so it is with pride that I announce Justin and Chris Cote as the best brother combination in the game. Feast on them.