julian wilson jbay
Julian Wilson, beaten by Joel Parkinson in round one, shimmies past the South African wildcard, and only just let it be said, Matthew McGillivray. | Photo: WSL

Day 1, J-Bay: “Soccer Mom Kills Pro Surfing!”

Surfing officially as popular as "cake stall in a small country town…"

Say something so that WSL Live knows you’re here.

OK, how about a charming non-surfing lass from England who looks like a suburban soccer mum just killed pro surfing. No? Too harsh? 

The great Facebook reveal was a shitshow of biblical proportions. Maybe Soph has really killed it. We’ll look back at this day – the opening day of the exclusive Facebook broadcasting deal – like historians examine the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo.

Sure, there were signs and portents, the Pipeline permit debacle, the cancellation of Margarets but this really does feel like we have crossed the rubicon.

The great Facebook reveal was a shitshow of biblical proportions. Maybe Soph has really killed it. We’ll look back at this day – the opening day of the exclusive Facebook broadcasting deal – like historians examine the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo.

The impact of the debut, I believe, will be studied for years to come in the top business schools, as a textbook case of how to infuriate and alienate your core fans and maybe kill a sport stone dead. Deciphering the WSL’s official line beforehand on their help page I felt pretty safe I would not need to enter the Zuckerberg garden of evil.

It clearly stated (and still does): If you’d like to watch the WSL Live Experience from your computer,  just head to www.worldsurfleague.com and land straight in the action.

Does that not clearly state the webcast will be broadcast from the website? It wasn’t. It directed you to the Facebook Live stream. The rage drifting up the comments thread on Facey was almost worth the price of admission to the scratchy and buggy feed. Dropping angry face emojis into the storm cloud of anger was surprisingly cathartic, for a little while.

6.3K people were logged in and watching live for the first heat of the day. Primetime in Aus, midnight in LA, morning in Europe. Six-and-a-half-thousand people globally, about half the crowd who show up to a suburban sports ground to watch a weekend Rugby League game in Sydney, watched Fred Morais wrangle head high windy J-Bay away from Jordy Smith and Michael February for the opening heat of the day. 

The numbers climbed in anticipation of the return to competition of greatest drawcard Pro surfing has ever known. Seven thousand and change out of the, what were the numbers of Pro Surfing fans estimated by Speaker, millions? trillions?,  were tuned to the Facey feed to watch Robert Slater return to J-Bay to take on Italo and Kanoa Igarashi. They, we. got a blank screen as the feed crapped out. 

My conspiracy theory: that Kelly had been strong-armed into surfing J-Bay by Sophie to cover for the lack of JJF and boost the viewing numbers for the FB roll-out was shot down in flames. Minutes of nothing passed before we were directed to the Portugese feed. Three thousand eight watched Kelly in his first ocean heat in a year. Four thousand stayed glued to the English feed which gamely stayed glued to a blank screen. 

Kelly looked spicy early on a 5’3” Cymatic despite the barely contained disgust of Pottz, then fell to pieces as the heat went on. Maybe, as Pottz mused, it was “good for his own personal headspace.”

The numbers climbed as the heat went on. seven  thousand, eight thousand, nine thousand, almost ten thousand watched as a nervous performance from the greatest of all time, where he failed to reach double figures, drew to a close.

Ten thousand people.

Could we be bold and assume that is about the size of the global pro surfing fan base? Maybe double it for good measure. I took my own Cymatic out of the Camry and put an axe through it. Jeezus fuck, if it looks like that under Kelly’s feet.

kelly slater j-bay
Kelly looked spicy early on a 5’3” Cymatic despite the barely contained disgust of Pottz, then fell to pieces as the heat went on. Maybe, as Pottz mused, it was “good for his own personal headspace.” Photo: WSL

The surf was pumping for heat five. Big, windy walls. It was heartening, amidst the misery of the FB debacle to hear Shaun Tomson declare that people “should be shot for the double-pump bottom turn”. If only we had such boldness and clarity at the top of the WSL.

Filipe started where he left off last year. His opening turn on his opening wave shaded anything done by any pro today. Eleven thousand people watched world-wide. His massive three-turn combo-to-deep-tube was a bona fide ten-point ride, as distinct from the plethora of emotional tens from last year. Judges awarded a 9.17. It was to be the high point of the day’s action. If you only see one ride from today, that is the one.

Filipe started where he left off last year. His opening turn on his opening wave shaded anything done by any pro today. Eleven thousand people watched world-wide. His massive three-turn combo-to-deep-tube was a bona fide ten-point ride, as distinct from the plethora of emotional tens from last year. Judges awarded a 9.17. It was to be the high point of the day’s action. If you only see one ride from today, that is the one.

The audience peaked through heats six and seven, reaching thirteen thousand people and change, if we are to believe the numbers on the screen. They were dull heats, even allowing for Parko’s retirement declaration (which has been obvious since the opening event). Owen Wright looked the sharpest goofy-foot of the day to my eye and came last. His surfing was fluid, vertical and whipped out.

Kolohe Andino lofted a big alley oop into the wind as the audience started to dwindle. 

It was surreal watching the numbers head south, back to eight thousand, then seven, then six, as Kelly commentated in the booth and announced his last year on Tour would be next year. I guess the injury wildcard is a given now, if he fails to requalify. Colapinto looked comfortable in the clutch, as he has all year to ice heat eleven on the buzzer, despite looking the best surfer all heat. 

America woke up as Adriano choked on the two best waves of heat twelve, but the audience continued to shrivel. Down to five, then four thousand. About what you would expect for a cake stall in a small country town. The bruised sky bore witness to greased walls fringed with white zippering crests and two final heats of round two.

In the first, Julian was overscored to defeat local wildcard Matthew McGillivray. In the second, Italo’s World Title hopes disappeared into the darkening gloom of an African sky. The rage-filled emojis continued to soar. 

Men’s Corona Open J-Bay Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Frederico Morais (PRT) 11.93, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 10.17, Michael February (ZAF) 7.24
Heat 2: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 14.03, Michel Bourez (PYF) 13.67, Ian Gouveia (BRA) 6.66
Heat 3: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 13.50, Italo Ferreira (BRA) 11.94, Kelly Slater (USA) 8.73
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 11.83, Tomas Hermes (BRA) 7.83, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 6.73
Heat 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 13.84, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 12.14, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 10.67
Heat 6: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 10.10, Julian Wilson (AUS) 9.90, Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) 9.86
Heat 7: Willian Cardoso (BRA) 12.30, Keanu Asing (HAW) 11.76, Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 11.06
Heat 8: Conner Coffin (USA) 16.14, Joan Duru (FRA) 15.67, Owen Wright (AUS) 12.73
Heat 9: Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.87, Mikey Wright (AUS) 13.26, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 6.00
Heat 10: Yago Dora (BRA) 13.23, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.67, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 11.23
Heat 11: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 13.63, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 12.23, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 10.94
Heat 12: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 15.80, Connor O’Leary (AUS) 15.07, Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 10.96

Men’s Corona Open J-Bay Round 2 (H1-2) Results:
Heat 1: Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.43 def. Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) 13.50
Heat 2: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 11.77 def. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 9.73

Men’s Corona Open J-Bay Remaining Round 2 (H3-12) Matchups:
Heat 3: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Kelly Slater (USA)
Heat 5: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 6: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Michael February (ZAF)
Heat 7: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) vs. Keanu Asing (HAW)
Heat 8: Wade Carmichael (AUS) vs. Joan Duru (FRA)
Heat 9: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 10: Mikey Wright (AUS) vs. Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Heat 11: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) vs. Connor O’Leary (AUS)
Heat 12: Tomas Hermes (BRA) vs. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)


Not for long!
Not for long!

Of course: Kelly Slater steals Parko’s thunder!

And announces his retirement too!

Kelly Slater has a well-known penchant for redirecting the spotlight whenever it strays, slightly, from his still very handsome visage. Who could ever forget the rollout of Surf Ranch? There stood Adriano de Souza, dripping wet from his just clinched World Surf League and Pipeline championships. The proud nation of Brazil’s first ever title. A smile spreading across his face for exactly 30 seconds…

…until he saw everyone around him staring at their phones. Whispering, “What is this? Have you seen this?”

It was Surf Ranch and no one ever cared about Adriano de Souza again.

Today, Joel Parkinson announced his retirement from professional surfing. Though I was surprised, thinking Parko had retired a few years ago, Kelly Slater knew because the man has a photographic memory when it comes to surf and surf history.

Kelly, anyhow, feeling the spotlight stray, grabbed it right back by announcing his own retirement too.

Joel who?


Time to hit the showers, ol' pal.
Time to hit the showers, ol' pal. | Photo: Steve Sherman

Miracle: Joel Parkinson wasn’t already retired!

Coolangatta's second most famous surfer has been here all along!

It was revealed just a few hours ago that one of the greatest surfers of the past decade, Joel Parkinson, has not been retired for the past five years. Read again, has NOT been retired for the past five years. I’ll be honest, when I woke up this morning hungry for news from J-Bay and saw the World Surf League’s Thank You Joel Parkinson headline I thought something terrible had happened. Maybe even an unthinkable repeat of the 2015 incident starring Mick Fanning.

“Do South African sharks have a sickly taste for Coolangatta flesh?” I wondered before realizing it was a retirement announcement which confused me more. I thought my computer was stuck in some time warp. Some glitch, though everything else seemed in order.

Once I realized my error it made me very happy that Joel Parkinson has been competing all along because I did not want to miss his retirement party. It made me go to his Instagram and read his eloquent words.

The first time I went to J-Bay was 19 years ago. I was just a kid back then. I’d just finished last in a contest in Reunion, turned up at J-Bay with a toothache, but then got my first glimpse of the wave and the pain went away. It was six foot and perfect from Boneyards to Impossibles, I paddled out through the keyhole, caught my first wave and that was it. I was gone. I lost my mind. Next thing I was standing there on stage holding the trophy, not sure what had just happened, but I knew I’d found my second home. This is where it all started for me on tour, and that’s why I wanted to be here in J-Bay to let you know that this will be my last year on tour. The Pipe Masters in December will be my last event. The fire just hasn’t been there for a while now and I never want to surf without it, so it’s time to go look for it somewhere else. The tour has given me so much. So many memories, so many friends, the chance for my kids to see the world, but it’s time to move on to the next chapter. That means one last lap of the tour and I can’t wait to catch up with a lot of old friends and get a few waves along the way… starting this week at J-Bay.

Bravo Joel!


Austin Keen
"Everyone was frothing over the slide out to the wave, And if you look closely you can see me shaking like a leaf, hoping I time it right, slide out far enough, and don’t blow it!"

Lemoore Miracle: Watch this no-paddle, run-in takeoff at Surf Ranch!

No ski. No paddle. Just a man and his disc.

It ain’t no secret that I got a little crush on the new era of skim. Beserkers like Brad Domke skimming Nazaré, Jaws and Puerto Escondido on a  fifty-three-inch, flat-rockered, finless disc. 

And Austin Keen, the two-time world champ, and his gotta-see-to-believe boat wake hijacks. Oowee etc.

(Click here for that)

Last Tuesday, Austin, who is twenty eight years old, was invited to the Surf Ranch by a skim fan who’d hired out the tank. And Austin, who’d spent the last two years dreaming of hitting the joint and who went to the Founders Cup just to get a feel for it, figured he’d make his first wave a run-in takeoff.

“I wanted my first experience to be skimming right into it,” he says. “I was shitting my pants. I didn’t want to blow it. Every wave counts. But I’d been wanting to do this for a long time. If you look closely you can see me shaking like a leaf, hoping I time it right. ”

The no-paddle, run-in takeoff ain’t easy.

“I watched the other guys I filmed the wave and watched the timing over and over. The wave moves really, really fast. I was in the back room for thirty minutes, scrolling through my phone, watching it, making sure I had the timing right. I had to get out super early because while you’re sliding, the wave is moving fast.

“I was on the sidelines and you hear that train moving and as much as I wanted to wait longer, I made myself run before the wave was even there. I knew by the time I started sliding out, the wave would be forming and then starting to break. I got there right as it was lipping up and I hit it and beat that first mini barrel section, where the pro’s take off, and then got a nice little barrel section off the bat.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BkrpYy-j1bf/?taken-by=beach_grit

Austin says that everyone, from the lifeguards, to the jetski guys to the workers and his skim-fan patron were thrilled by the event, but somewhere out there in the ether, watching on some webcam, was an overseer who told Austin he couldn’t skim anymore unless he had a leash attached to his board.

(The pool owners fret that a leashless board will bounce around, get washed over the bank on the side of the pool and damage the lining. It ain’t paranoia. Both commercial Wavegardens have been closed down for ripped linings.)

“So I called the maintenance guy over and asked him to drill a hole in my board,” says Austin. “I was able to skim for the rest of the session, sometimes paddling into waves on my surfboard, sometimes stepping off the ski and skimming the wave.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BksflDsB3jO/?taken-by=austinkeen47

After posting of his adventure, Austin says he was contacted by Kelly Slater who was “curious” how, a, shimmed onto a wave, and, b, how he got into the pool in the first place.

“He thought it was pretty rad,” says Austin.

Now…now… you ain’t feeling these skim jams?

“Me and guys like Brad Domke, we’re all surfers,” says Austin, who rode half his waves on a five-ten Gamma. “It’s another avenue for us to surf and this is our little niche way of doing it.”


Future: “The thrill of surfing without the effort!”

It's easy to master and a hell of a lot of fun!

We’ve all been caught up in Surf Ranch and BSR Waco and etc. fretting over how the creation of genetically modified waves, wondering how these genetically modified waves will poison or benefit our DNA. Losing sleep at night just wondering about how the future will look. How our children’s children will surf. How our children’s children’s children will surf. Etc.

But while we’re distracted by waves and their creation the intrepid reporters from international wealth magazine Forbes know that surfing requires effort, even surfing perfect artificial waves, and the march of technology always seeks to limit effort.

Have you not watched Wall-E?

And let us read now, together, from Forbes.

Surfing is without a doubt a very fun sport, but not only is it difficult to master, it’s pretty tiring, too. You can sometimes be paddling for what seems like forever before you’re ready to catch your next wave, and even then it might not be worth the effort.

So, what are the alternatives out there? Well, I got the chance to try out a brand new innovation that looks to catch the eye of those that either already love surfing and fancy a change, or can’t quite master it and want the thrill without the effort.

That innovation is the Lampuga Boost, and it’s essentially the birth child of a surfboard and a jet ski, or in other words, an electric surfboard.

I can hands down say it’s one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done out at sea and by far the best watersport that I’ve ever tried. Why? Well, from the video below you’ll see it doesn’t look like I’m going that fast, right? But in reality, when your feet and stood precariously on a board in the ocean and you have the addition of the natural movement of the sea under you; 32mph feels a lot faster. As a result, it can sometimes feel like you’re holding on for dear life. This fear, though, is easily translated into excitement because you’re in control of how fast you’re going at all times thanks the board’s speed-variable trigger, which at the flick of a thumb, can slow things down a bit, or equally speed them up.

After a few attempts, I found myself using this control to my advantage, skillfully releasing it to slow down slightly when I wanted to carve into the sea and turn direction. It’s the little things like this that instantly make you feel like a pro. This was my second time on the board, and my fourth time ever surfing, and already I felt like I knew what I was doing. It’s easy to master and a hell of a lot of fun.

And there we are. The future. You children’s children’s children’s children’s other favorite thing to do besides drinking calories.