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!

Filipe Toledo
"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.


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.



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.