Propaganda: “Thank you sir may I have another?”

What the WSL (and a mountain lifestyle blog) is missing about its fanbase.

What a fantastic few days of professional surfing we all just experienced. Monumental even. Each professional surf fan across the globe pleasantly surprised by joy. 100s of people, sometimes even 1000s watching Filipe Toledo grab the reigns and bear down on the rest of the League. Does anyone now stand a chance? Can anyone knock him out of the Jeep Leaderboard Yellow Yellow Jersey?

Sure, the Facebook rollout was, can we say, less than ideal. Laughable even but we professional surf fans endured and applauded at the end. Oh, not the Facebook rollout nor Facebook nor the rising tide of surf fascism no no no. We applauded the show, the whole show, and we laughed at the WSL and we laughed at each other and we laughed in the warm sun and felt happy even though 100s, sometimes 1000s, of angry emoji faces rained down upon the feed.

When I read the World Surf League response to the botched rollout I almost felt sorry for Soph et. al.

Our switch to Facebook was to enable the entirety of our audience to continue to view each event for free, and also to further expand our fanbase throughout the world.

That being said, we apologize for any issues you may have experienced during our transition over the last two days and we hope you continue to enjoy the Corona Open J-Bay.

Then later…

There has been much conversation about the concurrent viewership number displayed in the top-left corner of our live broadcast.

The number displayed on your stream does not represent the total concurrent audience viewing the event. Because we’re serving localized ads against our programming, what you’re seeing is the audience total for the regional stream that you’re connected to.

The total cumulative audience will be defined as the summation of all regional streams across all platforms and connected devices.

In short, what you’re seeing is a much lower number of people viewing than actually are.

Certainly cute but something seemed… off and I couldn’t quite tell what until this morning when that damned outdoor lifestyle blog residing almost spitting distance from Venice, California posted the story Opinion: The WSL’s Facebook Live Stream is Proof that Surf Fans are Fickle A$$holes.

Shall we read a paragraph together? No? Well, will you humor me? I’m still smarting from Instagram stealing my surf-related meme account.

We’re a fickle bunch. Remember when we hated the ASP? We called for more professionalism. We called for better webcasts. We called for legitimacy. Now we have the WSL, with its Sophie Goldschmidts and Dirk Ziffs and droning commentators and jerseys with numbers and athlete profiles. We have (had?) a webcast that worked with heats on demand and heat analyzers. We had it! But we hated it. We shouted for change. We shouted for a better viewer experience and we shouted for no experience at all. Now, the WSL’s weird switch to Facebook Live has given us something else to shout about.

And leave it to The damned Inertia to push out ill-thought propaganda whilst  trying to be radical. Core surf fans are not fickle at all. Core surf fans endure all manner of ’89 world champ and strange Kieren Perrow calls and bizarre judging decisions and extreme time zones and the World Surf League itself in order to simply watch surfing.

Surf fans may even be the most long-suffering of any sort of fans on earth.

The World Surf League, while chasing non-endemic dollars and the giant pool of “potential” utterly ignore the core while also shaming us with their condescending “…enable the entirety of our audience to continue to view each event for free…”

For free. Like they are doing you and me and Longtom and that one guy on Twitter a humongous favor by offering each event for free.

That is where they are totally and completely wrong.

The World Surf League has zero idea what the core surf fan wants because they have studiously ignored her and him from inception. The ASP may have been clunky but its CEO, Brodie Carr, was himself a core surf fan and never shied from arm wrestling another one. The ASP was a reflection of its derelict base. The WSL is a reflection of branded marketing.

But hope springs eternal! Soph, Backward Fin Beth, Herr Speaker… I know you all read BeachGrit. Pop into the comments and ask for honest feedback from the greatest surf fans on earth. You won’t be sad! Or maybe for a second you will be but if you stick around long enough you’ll discover what makes professional surfing special and how you can exploit that for great gain while charging many dollars per contest and re-alienating everyone.

The world is still your oyster!


"Filipe picked up a mid-sized wave under priority and if it had been midnight he would have lit up Jeffery's Bay, such was the incandescent intensity he surfed it at."

Finals, J-Bay: “Filipe Toledo as good as a human can surf!”

Filipe Toledo wins J-Bay Open. "He was more than a level above."

Thats it: it’s run, won and done in a straight four-day sizzle down the straightaway of J-Bay perfection. A lot of good surfing, a lot of really ugly surfing and then the truly sublime,a winning performance from Filipe Toledo that Shaun Tomson described as being “as good as a human being can surf”. 

He was more than a level above. His only competitor was fatigue and maybe a fridge with jaws and fins like the one that put another stoppage on the event as quarter final drew down to its conclusion. 

Were you amazed at how shallow a draught those apex predators like to luxuriate in as they cruise the edge of the bottom contour? 

Carmichael took down Connor Coffin in a sleepy, wonky lineup in a heat that threatened anti-climax after yesterday’s high water mark. 

Jordy and Julian did not much to dispel that notion. When Jordy did bring the hi-fi game it looked rusty and forced, like footage of a street fight where a donkey throws haymakers that don’t connect. Julian likewise suffered from lack of impact. He was stunned later in the presser that judges weren’t rewarding his offerings with big scores.

Can anyone truly say the Jordy we see in 2018, the Julian Wilson who wore the yellow jersey until today’s denouement, are the equals or betters of the surfers they were when they first came on Tour? I would argue they are worse. Their surfing has become safer, more predictable, mired in conservatism. Filipe is making them look increasingly irrelevant.

“I felt like I threw everything at a wave,” he said, “and all I got was a six”. 

There’s a perception problem here, outlined yesterday. A question of declining not ascending skills. Can anyone truly say the Jordy we see in 2018, the Julian Wilson who wore the yellow jersey until today’s denouement, are the equals or betters of the surfers they were when they first came on Tour? I would argue they are worse. Their surfing has become safer, more predictable, mired in conservatism. Filipe is making them look increasingly irrelevant.  

Why? The answer is not so obvious.

Gladwell’s 10000 hours to expertise and Erikssons science of peak performance both indicate that increasing practice should lead to increasing skills. In the words of Eriksson, “There is no point at which performance maxes out and additional practice does not lead to further improvement.” So, why the stagnation and even reversal? Nick Carroll pointed out in a civilised internet beef that it was highly unlikely that any human being had ever achieved the 10000 hours of actual wave riding time so the theoretical upper limit of performance was even greater than imagined. 

Shaun Tomson took aim at Jordy’s boards as the source of the problem but I disagree. His losing presser after going down to Carmichael in the semi pointed to a deeper problem  with this surprisingly candid analysis.

“The way I surf a wave,” he said, “It obviously doesn’t feel like it looks”. The lament of every recreational surfer on the planet. Get a coach Jordy and get real. 

The contrast in hi-fi surfing, risk, progression, speed, repertoire you name it between the Julian/Jordy QF and the Filipe/Medina QF was epochal. It was watching surfing from different eras. Toledo landed an inverted air on the bricks as cool as a cat thrown off a roof before signing an extensive claim. Medina laid down huge turns, which Pottz failed to understand. The man does not understand backhand surfing, he showed that with his incomprehension of Italo’s surfing here last year.

You had to feel pity for Kanoa Igarashi in semi two against Filipe. He murdered him on the opening exchanges then dialled in another mi-nine for his second wave to put the result beyond doubt. It was all over in those two insanely ridden waves. As good as a human being can surf. Maybe not theoretically, but up to this point in human evolution, yes. Very much so. 

The final was actually a little more entertaining a contest than it should have been on paper. The pre-show had a really nice little doco on Filipe showing that behind the stunning “how” of his surfing skills there was a solid why. A gal can figure out any how if they have a good enough why…I know, I’ve butchered it but you get the drift. 

Filipe fell on his first wave. He looked tired. Please don’t let him choke, please Jesus; I’ll be good from now on. I just want my tiny mind blown one more time.

He dropped a solid score. Carmichael came back with a slightly lesser one, but it was the best he surfed all event in my eyes. He just added a little spice, maybe paprika, maybe chipotles to the biltong he’d served up all event. It was big, it was good. I scribbled down Adv Wade. Judges saw differently. 

Filipe fell again. Long seconds passed before he got back on his board and paddled. He’s gassed. 

A long lull was his best friend. A period of recovery. He picked up a mid-sized wave under priority and if it had been midnight he would have lit up Jeffery’s Bay, such was the incandescent intensity he surfed it at.

That was is it, all over. In the freezer, as Strider would say. A perfect winning record in finals surfed. I think I can get used to this mild-mannered llama as World Champion, even if the claims are not always exactly to my taste.

You?

As for the rest of the field… the other so called contenders… a good long walk with a good hard look in a room full of mirrors is needed. They is way off the pace.


surf quiz: Do you think you’re Kelly Slater?

Are you a slightly better than beginner or sub-intermediate surfer who believes he surfs "kinda like Kelly Slater"?

One day, I suppose, we’ll stand before our maker and she’ll ask: what kind of surfer were you?

Now we all know that there is enough complexity and variety within surfing to keep us amused from the day we start, early teens perhaps, to the cold morning we decide enough is enough twenty, thirty, forty years later.

What will you say?

What kind of surfer were you?

Where I live, a rotten-to-the-core beachbreak exposed to plenty of swell in one direction, but none in the other, which rarely has a sandbank that allows you to promenade more than three turns, the majority of surfers, short-term visitors to the town mostly, are of the belief they are Kelly Slater.

It is, as if I have to explain, a feeling of overwhelming superiority very common to the slightly better than beginner but still sub-intermediate surfer.

Do you remember the feeling? When every takeoff isn’t a fifty-fifty proposition anymore. When your tail moves slightly at the apex of a turn. When you start to see parts of the wave that feel utterly new and dangerous and radical. When you’re yet to see video of your heavy-footed, rarely-in-the-pocket jerking.

It’s elevating, until it’s not course. But that comes later.

My Kelly Slater moment came while I was living near one of those easy-to-surf Gold Coast points where even parallel stance longboarders can wrangle accidental five-second tubes. I was riding a Greg Webber surfboard, a six-two, and for an entire wave, I felt as if I’d drawn the perfect line. I remember wondering, have I mastered surfing?

I felt just like Kelly Slater.

(A video reveal one year later would show what looked like an aged colonel sitting down between turns, hands twitching as if he was manipulating the dials of a bedside radio.)

Now tell me about you. Do you think you’re Kelly Slater?

And by Kelly Slater, I mean, 1996-era etc. Unstoppable, brutal, aesthetically gorgeous. 

 


Call-to-Arms: “Free-dumb isn’t free!”

Don't let the surf fascists win!

Today it is the day we celebrate freedom in the United States of America. The day we shoot fireworks into the eye of tyranny and eat lard-ass food. Jose can you see by the donzerly light etc. But today not all is well for today the forces of surf fascism have moved, thinking that maybe nobody would notice. Thinking that maybe the lard-ass food and lukewarm beer would shield its bald-faced authoritarianism.

Well, bummer.

For today, on the Fourth of July, Instagram deleted my account @reportsfromhell, sending a small note that read “Your account has been disabled.”

You’d be forgiven for never visiting @reportsfromhell. It only featured very dumb videos and BeachGrit stories but it had grown to 188,000 hungry souls who feasted upon benign surf jokes. Poking at Herr Paul Speaker etc. Giggling about wipeouts and backward fins and all those goofy -isms that make surfers “surfers.” Etc.

At first, I assumed the account’s disappearance was a mistake and tried to find someone at the Instagram Help Desk before calling in bigger guns who informed me that a group of “appropriate Instagram professionals” would be “reviewing” and “getting back to me.”

That is when the truth sank in. Or the possible truth. Follow with me here. BeachGrit has been having many laughs at the recent and botched Facebook/World Surf League rollout. So many laughs, in fact, that the World Surf League took the very rare step to explain what happened, on its own website, and it seems it was written directly for you and against Longtom. It is very much worth a read and I’ll be making fun of it again tomorrow but where were we?

Oh yes, the truth. So BeachGrit was having many laughs and I was posting stories about those laughs on my Instagram account. Now, Instagram is owned by Facebook and I had just been sent some messages via Instagram by WSL higher-ups about my general conduct and…

voila. @reportsfromhell disappeared leaving 188,000 very sad souls in its wake.

Poof.

Gone.

Instagram could be vaguely angry at the content, I suppose, but it was no worse than the myriad other accounts featuring all manner of nasty. The arbitrarily enforced rules are certainly… troublesome, to say the least, and I am going to be chasing this story as doggedly as I am chasing WSL corruption but in the meantime do not fret dear People™ for I am your voice and we will neither be shaken nor stirred by the forces of evil because we believe that surf is best taken with a heaping side plate of laughs. We know that “professionalism” and “surfing” will never make good bedfellows because “cocaine” is already tucked in tight next to her lover. (buy here!)

You can follow now at @surfjournalist

And I’m coming for you, surf fascists. Coming for all of you.


Day 3, J-Bay: “Colapinto one of the rare mutants!”

...a total refutation of the piece I was going to write but have to now choke on.

Ever have those nightmares where you’re trying to run away from some beast in the night but you can’t run? You can’t run, you can’t scream and the sticky tentacles of some grisly fate seem to inexorably drag you downwards. S’how I feel about covering pro surfing. I try to escape and I can’t. Just end up alone in a room under a single bulb at 2am trying to make sense out of the nonsensical.

Which in this case was a whole day spent in a funk wondering why pro surfing seems to inevitably drift towards the safe and the conservative. It was dragging me with it, serving up lukewarm meat and potatoes camouflaged as surf writing and there seemed no escape. No Dane clause I could invoke.

Stick with me. Risk does not equal reward under the current format. A subjective sport pitching itself as the elite surfers surfing at the highest level has an existential problem – an ugly monster David Lynch himself would be proud of – that all the sports management jargon in the world can’t hide.

Y’see I wrote that as the opening heat siren went to begin another days competition in perfect Jbay. An a priori observation. What happened next was the most stunning counter-factual to the above argument. I’m still stunned by it.

Filipe came on stage the third heat of the day and dialled up the intensity 20, 30 percent on what had transpired previous. The turn speed, vicious angles and repertoire made the screen sizzle. He put Yago Dora in what Joe Turpel called a “subtle” combo and then what I call a brutal combo.

It was a total refutation of the piece I was going to write but have to now choke on: That somehow skill development and risk became stymied in professional surfers and that what we, the general public and pro surfing fan base get served up, are slowly degrading versions of the surfers who come on Tour. Maybe the argument still holds, but huge exceptions now need to be carved out, weakening it; perhaps fatally. Kelly Slater in the Dane Reynolds Era is exhibit A for the rebuttal. Filipe Toledo, Exhibit B.

Griffin Colapinto, one of the rare mutants to drop out of the QS womb fully formed, gave a clue as to how the progression might take place. It accords with the science of expertise and skill acquisition analysed by Florida State Professor Anders Eriksson. Eriksson highlighted the importance of “mental representations” in becoming a master. Colapinto in his post heat presser said he’d been lying in his bed dreaming, imagining the pure Joel Parkinson line at Jbay. He outdid the master and outclassed another scrappy dog performance by Mikey Wright. Griff was sharp and smooth but not sterile, his Final wave was fucking blem. A 9.57.

Medina and O’Leary tore into sunlit walls that had what food writer AA Gill might describe as a “delectable texture”. I’ll say what you were thinking: Medina now has the best style with the fewest interruptions to the pure top to bottom speed line of any Top 34 surfer. The lack of nervous movement is a gorgeous divinity and no, I’m not high.

The final 4 heats of the day, being Rd 4 heats one to four cumulatively represented the best sequence of pro surfing heats this year. Jbay specialists Joel Parkinson, Jordy Smith and Connor Coffin derived top flow and tremendous rail turns in Ht 1 as the lead seesawed and then reversed. Parko took off from the gates like a 2 year old at a barrier trial and then was run down by a fast finishing Connor Coffin. His last place was a savage indictment on his inability to find another gear. As a swansong it was both elegant and elegiac. His presser was an examplar of grace. Please find it and listen.

Julian kept his shot at the title alive after an indifferent heat with a wave of brilliance in the final minute to go from last to first.

Three man heats in perfect surf are a sweet spot of performance and entertainment. We can agree on this, no matter our country of origin, sexual identity etc etc , yes? I think we can. Waves being ridden, nothing going to waste, a mini leaderboard. Drama. Filipe took it to another level in Heat 3. It was obvious that he was prepared to build on his performance from last year. He fell on the end turn of a wave that was a certain 10 , a wave that made my body twitch with pleasure. Adriano was magnificent; another example of one of the rarified few who have managed to improve their skill set while on Tour. I think, I hope, all the talk of the ugly squat style will be banished, will become as offensive as the n word after Adrianos surfing today. No disrespect intended.

Seabass was a cooked goose, shot. Stick a fork in him and pull him out of the oven. With half the heat done it was like he was shot out of a star cannon. He ditched Adriano from second to elimination with brutal radical precision.

I was glad they called it off after the end of Heat 4 , Rd 4. I couldn’t take much more. I did not know Kanoa Igarashi could surf that good. Total revision of my opinion of him required. Medina looked bemused, almost shocked as Griff elbowed him out of the way to ride a wave on the buzzer. It was not enough. But still an almost comical end to a heat that Medina looked to have squashed between his thighs with two powerful 8 point rides.

Did you watch? Thrilled? Almost as much as by Stone Dead Soph’s mea culpa on Facebook posted on the WSL site today. What a great day it was. What a turnaround! There is hope for us all, even us

Men’s Corona Open J-Bay Remaining Round 3 (H5-12) Results:
Heat 5: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 16.77 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.70
Heat 6: Julian Wilson (AUS) 12.80 def. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 12.23
Heat 7: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 16.60 def. Yago Dora (BRA) 7.94
Heat 8: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.77 def. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 10.84
Heat 9: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) def. Owen Wright (AUS) INJ
Heat 10: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 15.83 def. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 7.67
Heat 11: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 17.70 def. Mikey Wright (AUS) 11.67
Heat 12: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.63 def. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 14.20

Men’s Corona Open J-Bay Round 4 Results:
Heat 1:
Conner Coffin (USA) 16.03, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.56, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 14.20
Heat 2: Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.66, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 13.00, Frederico Morais (PRT) 12.90
Heat 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 17.23, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 16.13, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 15.23
Heat 4: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 18.04, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.50, Griffin Colapinto (USA) 9.50

Men’s Corona Open J-Bay Quarterfinal Matchups:
QF 1: Conner Coffin (USA) vs. Wade Carmichael (AUS)
QF 2: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Jordy Smith (ZAF)
QF 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Gabriel Medina (BRA)
QF 4: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)