What an epic, and deeply ironic, occasion it would be if Filipe, who wants to erase doubts about being able to surf big lefts more than anything, wins Teahupoo in waves sub-par to a wakeboard lake in Central California. | Photo: WSL

Day Three, Tahiti Pro: “Filipe Toledo’s Epic Story of fate and fortune!”

Brazilians Medina, Toledo and Ferreira storm to finals in teeny waves at Teahupoo…

Where are you at with the backlash to Ziff’s speech… are you part of the backlash to the backlash?

Feeling sorry for WSL?

I confess when I saw that frothy baby food on offer this morning I couldn’t help think of Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road. The opening scenes of the novel are a brutal, brutal depiction of bush league batters and their dreams dying on the diamond.

“She was working alone and visibly weakening with every line.”

Cue Surf Ranch ad.

“She had begun to alternate between false theatrical gestures and a white-knuckled immobility… you could see the warmth of humiliation rising in her neck.”

Watching made me ponder whether there was a universe where I could come on over to the Team WSL, transgress completely, just for the sheer thrill of it. If surfing takes its rightful place among the great and elite competitive sports , says Ziff, everyone connected with it will prosper.

I am connected with it. I’ve watched, paid careful attention to more pro surfing than Jehovah himself. Written thousands and thousands of words. Do I not have a legitimate self-interest in pumping up the tyres, in grabbing a slice of the action?

Well, I’m gunna.

Straight after Surf Ranch. I’m thinking of a number, WSL, sufficient to let me spruik Blink 182 full bore, full-blast without gagging.*

Medina looked the hottest pick today, no real change to the forecast or his prospects for victory but before I go full 100% positive sicko mode I just need to clear up two little misconceptions which Coté and Mel have been pumping all comp. Coté kept saying during close losses that hard work will pay off. He said it after Jesse Mendes lost by a tenth of a point to Wade Carmichael. Mendes has been working his arse off. He needs the opposite of a Calvinist approach. Less work, more flair.

Mendes himself had a much more accurate read: “ I guess the judges don’t like my surfing.” A much tougher nut to crack.

Mel continued the innocent fraud by repeating the conventional wisdom that the “talent level keeps rising each and every season.”

I’m afraid your own judging panel disagrees with you. Talent ebbs and flows but you’d be brave or myopic to discount Dane then JJF, Medina in 2011 as great leaps forwards in talent. Many, many one-year rookies and journeymen ground to sausage meat since then. Italo is probably the one exception that proves the rule.

Great and elite competitive sports realise the rarity and the extraordinary value of marquee talents. And there will be a deficit when half the Tour retires at the end of this season. Recycled Aussie rookies will have to do a lot of heavy lifting to raise any kind performance bar if staying on Tour remains the end game.

Today in the course of the coverage I met not one, but two of the mythical unicorns the WSL once counted as “hand raisers” for pro surfing. The no- surfing surfing fan. Well close enough. A Prague local, twenty-something, now living in Sydney. Rides a 7S fish at Bondi. I gave her the screen for the ADS/Igarashi heat. Put it on full-screen and silent so she couldn’t see the scores. Told her to write a number beside every wave then add up the top two for each surfer at the end.

She had Adriano winning by three points. I told her Igarashi won.

“Why,” she said. “How?”

“In the same way we can’t understand quantum physics, we cannot understand pro surfing judging,” I assured her.

On the return journey I got a forty-something naturalised German, aid worker for the UN just back from separating warring tribes in Ethiopia. Sometime surfer. Could name Kelly and the “guy who fought the shark, the albino guy”. He correctly identified, with German precision, Yago Dora as winner against Mikey Wright.

“How did you tell he won?” I asked.

“The scarecrow with the mullet fell off too many times,” he said.

It was noted that Wright offered no handshake to his Brazilian victor.

Did you see Strider find his own version of the unicorn late in the afternoon in the channel in one of the boats? Dangerous blonde here on her own for a month. Looked like someone straight out of a Raymond Chandler novel. Poor old Strider went into full sicko mode himself when he heard she was here alone

“Whoa boys…come on down!” Settle sick boy.

Toledo was dominant on a quad against wildcard Smith in heat six. His equipment has looked a notch above all season.

Mike February won his round four heat to advance to the quarters. I’ll let that sit there, while it sinks in.
And then be a wanker by reckoning I would put even money on me beating him in barrelling four-to-six-foot Teahupoo.

Owen waited for two bombs on a day when they might not come at all. His surfing drew the high pitched yuk-yuk-yuk excited whinny from Barton that showed it was legit.

Medina blew a bomb on his opening strike against Brother and Yago Dora and then relentlessly regained control of the lead with two massive rides. Massive in the context of the day, that is.

The last heat of round four, to finish the day was epic entertainment. A worthy half-hour if you wanted to watch one heat in it’s entirety. J-Flo hula-hooped his way through a blue-hued traveller then burrowed in like a tick to suck the last drops of tube plasma from a tight and technical ride.

Connor O’leary and Italo Ferreira fought a pitched battle to progress. A flurry of rides in the last three minutes decided it. Italo launching a clean reverse then a rotation into the flats onto dry reef to better both scores. Connor answered with power surfing, spray turning golden against a low slung sun. An age passed after the heat as judges reckoned with the rides. You could not imagine our unicorns being able to split them. Italo got the nod. He roared and punched his board with delight.

Brazil remains the dominant pro surfing nation as the sun sets August 17, year of our Lord 2018.

Wait, August 16… it’s yesterday in Tahiti!

*80 Grand, plus super. Paid leave. Company car and phone. Cheap as chips.

Tahiti Pro Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Michael February (ZAF) 9.66 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 4.83
Heat 2: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 12.50 def. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 5.07
Heat 3: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 9.50 def. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 9.40
Heat 4: Owen Wright (AUS) 14.27 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 10.83
Heat 5: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 11.40 def. Adriano De Souza (BRA) 11.17
Heat 6: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.66 def. Tikanui Smith (PYF) 6.90
Heat 7: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.73 def. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 13.67
Heat 8: Kolohe Andino (USA) 13.27 def. Frederico Morais (PRT) 12.36
Heat 9: Yago Dora (BRA) 12.90 def. Mikey Wright (AUS) 8.24
Heat 10: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 16.53 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 11.34
Heat 11: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.14 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 9.93
Heat 12: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 12.14 def. Ian Gouveia (BRA) 10.34

Tahiti Pro Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Michael February (ZAF) 14.10, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 12.07, Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 10.97
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) 12.69, Filipe Toledo (BRA), Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 8.26
Heat 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.67, Kolohe Andino (USA) 10.43, Yago Dora (BRA) 9.50
Heat 4: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 15.24, Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.10, Connor O’Leary (AUS) 11.34

Tahiti Pro Quarterfinal Matchups:
QF 1: Michael February (ZAF) vs. Filipe Toledo (BRA)
QF 2: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Wade Carmichael (AUS)
QF 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
QF 4: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)

Feedback loop: “Blink and surfing are perfect!”

Who will be the last man standing? (Hint: The People™)

I had one moment of respite today and it coincided directly with the thought, “I wonder what people are saying about blink-182 + Surf Ranch on the World Surf League’s own Instagram?” I know mine has been blown up with, “Can you believe this shit?” And, “What in the world surf league were they thinking?” And, “Seriously?” And, “Alien Goblincock.” And, “Imagine having to pay to watch a surfing comp and then listen to these cunts? Fuck that!”

But what about @WSL’s social media? Were they copping an equal amount of… passion?

I used that one moment of respite to find out and was shocked by the complete positivity.

taufik41 Wish i could be there!!!!!! Blink and surfing are perfect

tiannephotoWhhhhaaaaaattttttt?!?!?? 😳😳😳 you get to see blink at the contest?!?!? @jeremyryan__ … I’m soooo jealous 🙈🙈🙈🙈🙈🙈🙈🙈🙈😩😩😩😩

jonnyyybgood @allierenees we’re going. It’s not even a question

jackfreestone So sick

On and on it goes a whole 250 times with the odd grumpy surfer comment thrown in for good measure but the excitement, once again, shocked me. Shocked me before the reality landed. The WSL and I are both stuck in feedback loops. Pushing an agenda then getting buoyed by the response. Of course I know that my agenda, making surfing dirty again, cocaine (buy here!), etc. is correct and the WSL’s is misguided and/or very sinful model is bound for ultimate failure but, I suppose, Backward Fin Beth and the lot must only be getting hyped and it makes more sense how emails like this get sent.

Beth: Mr Ziff, hope this email finds you well. Just wanted to point out that @trent_vy is telling @br0ckmiller “bro that would be the coolest thing we could ever do.” in regards to our Surf Ranch + blink-182 rollout. Have a great lunch. Order the poke but remember it is pronounced pok-é not poke as in, ‘Jack Freestone just poked you on Facebook.’ Big Shakas, Beth.

It’s gonna be a real letdown when they realize Chas Smith is one of 700 other blink-182/professional surf fans attending over the four day run.

700/4 = 175 per day.

Feedback loops are the worst.

Matt Wilkinson is Lemoore ready!
Matt Wilkinson is Lemoore ready! | Photo: Steve Sherman/@tsherms

Matt Wilkinson: “The wave pool should be… fun?”

Are any pros excited for Lemoore?

I have always been a fan of Matt Wilkinson though became very much less so when he jettisoned the good-natured, blue-collar thing for front-running, weight-lifting, no-cocaine-sniffing potential World Champ.

Do you remember? A few seasons back when he won three events in a row? It seems like he lost his sense of humor during that run. Like it drowned at the bottom of a protein shake. Like when the great Australian journalist Fred Pawle called him a “yobbo” and Wilkinson took great offense threatening physical violence etc.

What a strange time it was and sad for what is surfing without being laughable?

Today, sitting outside the qualification bubble after a tough luck stretch, Matt Wilkinson feels back. Honest, real, though semi-depressed. His post-heat interview with Rosie after his loss to someone is a study in manhood.

I would imagine he would rather not talk through his frustrations but he does, eyes betraying genuine feeling, soft voice working through the pain. The most interesting part of the chat, though, is when he speaks about his prospects for the rest of the tour.

Rosie: Matty you are outside of qualification at the moment. How are you gonna turn your season around?

Matt: Yeah, I’ll keep plugging away and the wave pool should be… fun? I kinda don’t really know what to expect there. I’ve done a few days there and put some practice in and hopefully put more than a five on the board and… I don’t know… do the wave pool…

His voice loses all steam as he goes along, deflating entirely by the end. There clearly seems to be no relish in going to Lemoore and, now that I think about it, I haven’t heard any pros talk with gusto about the Surf Ranch event.

Why? Are they hedging bets in case the performance is found wanting? Genuinely not excited about four days in Lemoore? It is a known quantity by now. There are no surprises left and I wonder if the woke feel the tug of history pulling away from tubs.

Or maybe the deflation has directly to do with how the World Surf League has marketed the event. Inside sources tell me ticket sales are lagging far behind expectations but this information came before the blink-182 announcement so who knows.

Whatever the case, I’ll be there cheering for the Matt Wilkinson I used to know and love. High-fiving Tom DeLonge (emotionally).

Travis Ferré: “We’re defending our favorite dive bar from being gentrified by a surfing fraud with a Blink-182 contact!”

"Call everyone you’ve ever rocked out to Blink with and let’s do this."

I surfed Bolsa Chica with my dad today. Bolsa Chica being the much mushier and grumpier California State Park on the north end of Huntington Beach. I love it there. It is the local dive bar of beaches. It’s also where I learned to surf, but more importantly, it’s where I learned to “be a surfer.” The way you operate in that parking lot is a tell-tale sign of how you will operate in the lineup. And at one time, that was important. 

It is also precisely where I was this morning when I received an email from the WSL that read (and I kid you not, this is the exact header of the email verbatim: punctuation, capitalization, hyperbole and all): 

What’s my age again! All the small things! Kings of the Weekend!

Get ready for California’s own blink-182 to light up the Surf Ranch Saturday night. Epic surfing. Epic sundown show. Call everyone you’ve ever rocked out to blink with and let’s do this.

Let’s not. Well, unless Chas and I are “somewhere around Lemoore when the drugs begin to take hold.” 

Let’s return to the Bolsa Chica dive bar for a second. 

For me, surfing Bolsa Chica comes with memories of jumping out of my dad’s toxic fume filled Chevy Astro Van (he’s a painter) with all my other friends who’d “quit the team” to infest the lineup with our attempts at roundhouses and 360s on boards that were way too long and narrow for the waves. On the drive over, we’d play tapes of bands no one else at our school knew about — bands like Bad Religion, Offspring, AFI, Social Distortion, Minor Threat…even Blink-182. 

At the time, these bands were ours. Surfing was ours. And this parking lot and lineup would be ours, but not quite yet. Not until the roundhouses had whitewater rebounds and “Archy” knew our names. And the path to achieving those ridiculous goals has been the greatest journey of my life. And I must say, introducing us to this parking lot and beach is still the greatest gift my dad has ever given me and my friends. I hope you all have a Bolsa Chica — for us, that was him handing us surfing’s launch codes. And as we grew up, surfing became the reason we had a better shot at the cheerleaders than the quarterback did. It’s why we’d see Chile before we saw college. And it’s precisely why we’re all fucking grumpy and defending our favorite dive bar from being gentrified by a surfing fraud with a Blink-182 contact.

Sorry Dirk, but you’re getting vibed.   

Today as I read the email and thought about the fragments of the speech he gave at the Waterman’s Ball directed at “haters” before using Caroline Marks and Griffin Colapinto as human shields, I noticed that the Bolsa Chica parking lot looked exactly the same today as it did back when Blink was a thing we actually listened to.

I didn’t see one RinseKit. I didn’t see one Audi.

There were no surf academy bred groms whipping up to check it in a fucking golf cart. It was nice. Grumpy old guys. Soft top beginners (welcome to the journey!). A few underground and silent rippers. It was wonderful.

And while my friends now all have jobs, back injuries, girlfriends, wives, kids, financial troubles and bee hives in their eves, I’d like to think that if they saw Dirk Ziff walk into our local dive bar to order a Michelob Ultra before putting Blink-182 on the jukebox that they’d be very grumpy and would send him right back to the parking lot to try again.  

"Surfing gives me different thrills on different days. Sometimes it’s just habitual, transactional, daily bread stuff; to get to Y I do X…. X being a go-out and Y being a whole range of things to taking my daughter surfing, scrubbing the edge off a bad day, splashing around in babyfood on a new board, grabbing a half-hour on the right tide etc. It rarely fails on that practical level of making the day go better. At the least, you feel clean for having gone in the ocean.'

Meet your WSL Correspondent: “I feel zero kinship with the entire body of surf writing published to date and am deeply ashamed to have been ensnared in it!”

Feel the electricity of the subhuman redneck scum who reports every day of each WCT event. Steve Shearer aka Longtom.

Steve Shearer is Bribie Island subhuman redneck scum who writes surf at the Grit under the name Longtom, after a Pacific Ocean fish with a long snout full of needle sharp teeth that once attacked his friend in the lagoon at Lennox Head and made the front page of the local papers. He subscribes to the losing doctrine of anarcho-primitivism, feels zero kinship with the entire body of surf writing published to date, is in fact deeply ashamed to have been ensnared in it. Without the existence of BeachGrit he probably would have been able to make a clean getaway.

A guiding light is the statement: “There a thousand paths that have never yet been trodden, a thousand forms of health and hidden islands of life. Man and Man’s Earth are still unexhausted and undiscovered” which will surprise no-one by being attributed to German philospher Fred Nietszche.

He has always had a real job, usually something backbreaking like commercial fishing or banal like bus driving which has allowed him the great luxury of never having been fatally compromised by commercial considerations in writing about surf. Fucking stupid though, because in so doing he missed many paid trips to Indo and elsewhere.

He has always had a real job, usually something backbreaking like commercial fishing or banal like bus driving which has allowed him the great luxury of never having been fatally compromised by commercial considerations in writing about surf. Fucking stupid though, because in so doing he missed many paid trips to Indo and elsewhere. He managed to fund 20 years of round the world surf vagabonding by serial working binges and low level hustling of varying degrees of legality. He harbours great fidelity to the people he met along the way and considers them his natural readership.

He is father, husband and stewards a small goat herd, as well as chickens and vegetable beds in Lennox Head; which used to be a working man’s paradise but is now under the jackboot of the developer’s bulldozer. He rockfishes religiously in his spare time, which, when surfing, writing and family duties are subtracted is minimal – usually solo and at night – and is currently working on two books: a memoir titled Big Tits, Blue Water and a book on the reality of surfing with sharks titled Predatory Disruption.

On the the thrill of surfing: Different thrills, on different days. Sometimes it’s just habitual, transactional, daily bread stuff; to get to Y I do X…. X being a go-out and Y being a whole range of things to taking my daughter surfing, scrubbing the edge off a bad day, splashing around in babyfood on a new board, grabbing a half-hour on the right tide etc. It rarely fails on that practical level of making the day go better. At the least, you feel clean for having gone in the ocean. Barrels, bigger waves, epic days can elevate the thrill to any number of ecstatic/transcendental states. Then there’s all the peripherals: the oceanography, meteorology, natural history, surfboard design, carpark bullshitting, small-town politics, phenomenology blah blah, ad infinitum. Riding a wave is a tiny thrill, which is why the wave pool interests me not at all.

On what he’s trying to hit with his words: Something thats feels good to write, or sometimes that feels terrible to write, because you feel so exposed, and that others get something from reading. Who knows, really, where that comes from? Where does an idea come from? A word, or sentence? It just arrives like a song, so most of it might be just paying attention. Trying to gauge how something might be received doesn’t work. I’ve wrote things I thought were awesome that stumbled in public like three-legged dogs and other things I thought were bland which took off. No point overthinking it.

On what repels and excites in writing: Michel Houllebecq said the unique thing about writing was it gave direct access to the interior life of another person… so anytime I gain access to a place where someone has bothered to develop a lively mind with a point of view, a reason for writing in other words, I dig. Even if I disagree with the points expressed. I despise the neutral tone in journalism. Nothing is more phoney. Houllebecq also said the reason he wrote was to put down in words the scenes that played out in his mind which he found moving, or which gave him pleasure. Something like that, the interview is behind a paywall now so I can’t check exactly what he said. That’s a fair enough assessment on what excites about writing.