Staggering: “Thousands” tune in to J-Bay Women!

Click to reveal the popularity, staggering or otherwise, of women's pro surfing v the men…

Transparency is a fine thing, in biz, relationships and so forth. Until it isn’t.

And just as YouTube views demonstrated a less than y0u’d expect viewership of WSL event clips, Facebook Live has done something no other app, news organisation or company has been able to do: directly compare viewership numbers between the men’s and women’s events at J-Bay.

This would normally be little more than a curio, a side-note, if it weren’t for the fury over a recent junior event where the winner of the girl’s received a winner’s cheque that was exactly half her male counterpart.

(In little-boy-standing-on-the-corner-with-newspaper-bag voice, “Reeeeeeead all about it!”)

So, in similar waves, on the same week, with the same infrastructure, how did the women rate against the men? I figured it’d be roughly half. Five k or so. I don’t miss a heat with Carissa, Gilmore, Ho or Peterson. The rest I don’t watch. By force of numbers I presumed the men would be twice as popular.

From a glitchy start (don’t worry, I called around to see if it was just my connection), numbers hovered around 500, gradually got to a thousand, climbed…climbed…and peaked, as far as I could see, at around 2200 heads watching the English feed.

The best I saw on the Spanish feed was 302. The Portuguese around 350.

I emailed a pal in the UK who replied: “Ok, you ready for this. In a marquee Rd 2 match up between Carissa and Courtney, the numbers are hovering between 240-270! Staggering.”

It’s here the WSL will interject, of course, and remind us that these numbers are geographically specific. Two thousand in Australia, 302 Spanish viewers in Australia, 350 Portuguese and Brazilians watching in Australia and so on.

And, yet, in the Australian feed.

“Hello from sunny Ireland!” wrote Paddy Keane.

And the names of fans liking the feed were distinctly monocultural. Was Australia’s famously surf-crazy Arabic community all tuned in to the women? Hello Mustapha! Hello Fatima!


At some point during the feed, the WSL switched their app back onto live streaming.

Did that drain the viewer numbers?

In Australia, was the nation tuned into the broadcast on Fox Sports?

A few minutes ago, and unprompted, a noted professional surfer texted me and asked: “Is the WSL or dead or is FB that’s dead? Or both? So fascinating how podcasts are so much bigger than everything.”

Still, the numbers aren’t definitive. Tonight, howevs, and thanks to an IT pro, we’re going to get numbers from every continent.

Stay tuned, as they say in the classics.

Apply: Keep your favorite break pristine!

No ugly hotels or nasty tourist camps!

Are you proud of your local break? Like, really really proud? When someone asks, “Where do you surf?” do you tilt your head back, puff out your chest and say, “D Street, bro.” Or do you hate surf your local break? Like, grimace and complain and slap the water and be all annoyed?

Well, if you are the former did you know that you can kick big bizness in the balls and set it up as a World Surfing Reserve? It’s true!

A fine group called the Save the Waves Coalition has a process where you can apply for your break to be recognized. It will proudly appear alongside current surf reserves Malibu, Ericeira (Portugal), Manly Beach (Nick Carrol), Santa Cruz, Huanchaco (Peru), Bahia Todos Santos (Mexico), Punta de Lobos (Chile), Gold Coast, Noosa and Guarda do Embau (Brazil).

How difficult is? Well has a tab on its website that walks you right through. Before beginning maybe take a few moments to discern if your local meets the criteria.

1) Quality and Consistency of the wave(s)


2) Environmental characteristics


3) Culture and Surf history


4) Capacity and local support


D Street? Are you ready to shine?

Apply here!

Jamie O’Brien: “I almost died at one-foot Waikiki!’

"Death is always just a stone's throw away," says Jamie.

Who knows when the reaper will strike? He lurks, as you must be aware by now, around every corner.

A moment’s distraction crossing the road meets a driver answering an email. A punch you don’t see coming outside a bar. A shooter in a cinema. A religious nut pops his belt on a train.

The Hawaiian surfer Jamie O’Brien, daddy of the insanely popular WhoisJob series with Red Bull, almost bought the farm, as they say, on June 9, his thirty-fifth birthday.

Fooling around in Waikiki, as part of his new YouTube vlog, Jamie was examining an interesting rock on a breakwall and “stating the obvious,” says Jamie, “I turned my back on the ocean. Honestly, I had put my hand up in front of my face at the last second and I face-planted into my hand. It almost knocked me out just hitting my hand. I almost died at one-foot Waikiki. I almost died at one-foot Waikiki. Frick. I got so lucky.”

Jamie says the incident knocked him around mentally and continues to haunt him.

“I was thinking about it a lot. You do all this crazy shit your whole career, crazy waves, sitting yourself on fire, and you almost die at one-foot Waikiki. Death is a stone’s throw away, always, but to realise that. I was overwhelmed. It was one of the heaviest moments of my life. I still trip out when I watch the clip. That night, I was laying in bed, thinking, that I almost died at Waikiki. Literally.”

On the upside, engagement on his Instagram post was excellent.

“I knew I had a really good clip on my hands,” says Jamie. “People were psyched. It had a tonne of engagement.”

But, still, “It’s hard not to take something like that seriously. You always wonder in life, when am I going to die? And then it almost happens. Frick.”

(Editor’s note: Jamie created his new vlog as a way of getting a piece of the YouTube pie and to show fans more of his day-to-day life, rather than the big Red Bull strike missions for his show. “We film with Red Bull then we don’t have anything to do for five months. This shows a little more of me and how we have fun.”)

Stephanie Gilmore
Stephanie Gilmore, the crossover superstar at the centre of the narrative: just how popular is women's surfing compared to men. | Photo: WSL

Tonight: WSL and Facebook to reveal popularity of women’s surfing!

Scenario: Facebook Live reveals women's surfing to be twice as popular as the men. What happens next?

Do you remember the melodrama six days ago when event organisers of the Ballito Pro Junior photographed the male and female winners side by the side, the boy holding a winner’s cheque double the girl’s?

Revisit that scenario here. 

And here. 

Mmmmmm, one more. 

Wait! And here. 

The prevailing narrative was that this was further evidence, as if further evidence was necessary, of the brutal patriarchy that keeps women’s necks under the jackboot of “straight white males.” That women must work twice as hard to earn the same money and so on.

The counter-argument was…mmmm…half the competitors means half the money. Don’t matter if you dick or pussy. It’s a numbers game.

But then, how many girls are in the top 100 paid athletes in the world? 




Yeah, it is. H0w many gals you know park ’emselves on the couch to watch the game? Or throw their livers away at sports bars, eyeballs glued to giant wall-mounted televisions? Men like to watch men.

Anyway, tonight, thanks to the WSL’s collaboration with Facebook, the lingering question…how popular is women’s surfing compared to the jocks?…is going to be answered.


That little number in the top left corner?

During the men’s event at J-Bay, it hovered around ten k and peaked at twenty-ish during the finals.

Let’s imagine the scenarios.

Steph and Carissa paddle out in luminous green four-to-six-foot alls and it hits forty k.

Does that mean women should have their prizemoney doubled?

They paddle out and it scratches five k.


I watch with great interest and I encourage you to do the same.

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!