Filipe Toledo
Filipe, spicy!

Day One, Tahiti Pro: “Facebook reveals 1700 people revelling in Filipe’s mastery of head-high Teahupoo

Filipe Toledo, looks spicy, maybe headed towards insurmountable title lead!

Greetings brothers and sisters of the eternal sun. Welcome to a drearyish little day at Teahupoo with a lackdaisical forecast graffitied over the Tahiti pro 2018.

I doubt a surfer alive wouldn’t straight away think: advantage Toledo.

And if he did take Tahiti, then became almost impossible to stop we’d all be balls deep in surfing’s most famous adult learner and pro surfing bankroller, as well as SIMA Waterman of the Year*, Dirk Ziff’s most-hated scenario. One, if I might add, that causes such confusion to the legions of new surf fans, that being an “insurmountable lead” in the World Title race.

V much was confusing in Ziff’s speech but that did make me roll eyes (constructively, not cynically). Does it not take a Tour to make a Title? If so, and points are awarded is it not an inescapable rub of the green that someone could generate an insurmountable lead?

The very real phenomenon of the confused new fan has its roots buried much deeper in the structure of surfing as sport. More on that later.For those short on time, the diamonds pulled out of the days South Pacific digging as follows. Italo, brilliant in heat three. Looking full strength. Biggest threat is injuring himself. Wildcard for this year’s Title, far more likely than Julian, Jordy or Owen for the next.

Gabriel Medina: scintillating. Very lofted tail-high punt with a greased landing in heat four. Typical superior selection of deep reef runners that grew down the line. Non-forecast dependent outcome.

Filipe Toledo, very spicy, very confident, total heat control in heat six. Dickie Toledo getting very, very fat. I feel after Jonny Cabianca’s assessment of Medina’s physique it is oaky to mention the increasingly buddha-like appearance of R. Toledo. A quick flick to the Facebook feed revealed seventeen hundred people logged on and revelling in Filipe’s earned mastery of head-high Teahupoo.

Julian offered a shaky performance in heat five against Parko and Tahitian wildcard Hiquily.

Like you, I love propaganda wars and so am eternally grateful for SIMA for awarding the Ziffs the waterfolk awards and smoking them out of seclusion. Ever since I broke the news during Bells 2012 that it was billionaire heir to the Ziff publishing fortune, Dirk Ziff, who was the mysterious money man behind the ZoSea takeover of the ASP I have been itching to get an insight into his thoughts and conceptual understanding of pro surfing.

To use the kindest, most constructive and non-cynical word I can muster it was… queer.

I have to assume the speech was proofed but by who? How could fake news like this clanger make it onto the public record?

We continue to have an antiquated system for determining world champions, in which all events count the same, and points are simply added up until someone has an insurmountable lead, regardless of when that happens.

This all too frequently results in confusing scenarios at the end of the season. Many times since we have become involved, the new world champion was sitting on the beach, not even at the last event of the year, hoping for someone else to lose. This is when many fans tune out.

This just didn’t happen. Not even once, let alone many times.

Twelve hundred engaged fans on Facebook watched a very entertaining all goofy-foot heat eleven. Ice-blue tubes under steely grey skies were threaded by Ace, by Owen and by Jesse Mendes. Leads see-sawed until in the closing stanza of the heat Ace speared one expertly then carved back into the best high rebound hook of the day. That was the heat.

With a feeble South Pacific storm track in the offing Commissioner Perrow strode boldly into round two. Julian Wilson will rue that decision. The late-afternoon lineup had turned somnolent on the high tide. Wilson opened with a mid-ranger against injured Tahitian wildcard Tikanui Smith. Smith responded with a similar score. Time, and Wilson’s world title hopes, seemed to drip away from the heat in extravagant dollops. Smith caught a small wave and took the heat lead with a low two. The Facebook feed, as if it contained an algorithm that could sense Wilson’s humiliation, had frozen.

JW sat in the lineup twitching and fidgeting like a tweaker on a Friday night. He set his jaw into the maw of an uncaring Pacific. It made me twitch; drama a wavepool will never be able to match. The clocked ticked down and Julian Wilson lost having ridden one wave.

That wasn’t the highlight of the day. The high point was a hard hitting interview Rosie Hodge conducted with WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt. Did you see? Did your jaw drop to the floor like mine? Sophie said the focus for 2019 was iconic locations as long as the reality of commercial considerations was taken care of.

Ok. No drama.

Then she dropped a bombshell.

She let fly a riff on Kelly’s surf ranch and the upcoming CT event there. She said they would be monitoring the results and we’ll “see how that features in the future”.

Huh?! I thought Soph was all in up to her eyeballs with “wave systems”. That was the plan, to bet the house on the tub. Now we find out it’s only a provisional commitment and the future is not yet written.
Oh Soph!, you do know how to keep your adoring surf journalist fans (me) on a string. Please tell me the tub is merely a novelty, maybe a QS location. Maybe what it always was and should be: a toy for billionaire adult learners and showcase for those with a messiah complex.

I think more of the same for tomorrow surf fans. And I hope Filipe wins (the Title) and doesn’t show up for Pipe. Sits on the beach in another country sipping a rum cocktail while Ricardo hits up the buffet, just so we can interpret Ziff’s speech as prophecy.

*Not to forget Natasha Ziff as co-winner.

Tahiti Pro Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 12.23, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 10.00, Joan Duru (FRA) 8.20
Heat 2: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 11.23, Ian Gouveia (BRA) 8.60, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 7.70
Heat 3: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.84, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.17, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 9.63
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.16, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 9.20, Tomas Hermes (BRA) 2.56
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 11.63, Julian Wilson (AUS) 10.67, Mateia Hiquily (PYF) 8.94
Heat 6: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 15.50, Yago Dora (BRA) 7.83, Tikanui Smith (PYF) 2.50
Heat 7: Frederico Morais (PRT) 11.16, Willian Cardoso (BRA) 10.84, Michael February (ZAF) 10.80
Heat 8: Michel Bourez (PYF) 12.40, Keanu Asing (HAW) 9.50, Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 7.56
Heat 9: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.96, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 12.17, Mikey Wright (AUS) 11.17
Heat 10: Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.83, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 9.84, Griffin Colapinto (USA) 8.83
Heat 11: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 12.66, Owen Wright (AUS) 11.47, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 11.00
Heat 12: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 12.67, Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 8.76, Conner Coffin (USA) 8.53

Tahiti Pro Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Tikanui Smith (PYF) 7.67 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 5.83
Heat 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.10 def. Mateia Hiquily (PYF) 6.67
Heat 3: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 13.00 def. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 12.94

Tahiti Pro Remaining Round 2 Matchups:
Heat 4: Mikey Wright (AUS) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 5: Griffin Colapinto (USA) vs. Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 6: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Joan Duru (FRA)
Heat 7: Conner Coffin (USA) vs. Michael February (ZAF)
Heat 8: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) vs. Keanu Asing (HAW)
Heat 9: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) vs. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 10: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 11: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) vs. Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Heat 12: Tomas Hermes (BRA) vs. Yago Dora (BRA)

Revelation: Are surfers simply Bikers for Trump?

Ridiculous oddities coalescing around transportation?

So late last night I was flipping through the news on my very little iPhone when I stumbled upon the headline “President Welcomes Bikers for Trump to N.J. Golf Club for Rain Soaked Rally.” The story continued:

As rain dumped on his golf club, President Donald Trump raged on Saturday, lashing out at his Justice Department on Twitter before welcoming members of a “Bikers for Trump” fan group to the manicured grounds.

Dozens and dozens of gleaming Harleys, Hondas and other motorcycles descended on the central New Jersey property for what had been billed as an outdoor photo-op with Trump. But pouring rain and flash-flood warnings scrambled the plan, sending soggy bikers inside a crystal-chandeliered clubhouse ballroom, where Trump signed autographs and posed for selfies and his guests booed reporters.

And I thought, “Gleaming Harleys, Hondas and other motorcycles? What the hell is this? Just because a diverse cross-section of folk happen to ride a diverse grab bag of motorcycle doesn’t mean they should self-identify as a group. It would be like…”

And then, then long minutes later, I was struck by a bolt of lightening.

“…it would be like people who surf self-identifying as ‘surfers.'”

Son of a bitch.

Is this true? Is “surfer” as ridiculous a demarcation as “biker?” I completely understand subsets like the Hell’s Angels or Da Hui rallying around a shared set of specific principles but surfers? Bikers?

I totally thought the bikers, with their Harleys and Hondas and Polaris Slingshots looked completely ridiculous for those ten long minutes. Giggling at how hyped they were on their preferred method of transportation. Hahahah… shit. Now I wonder if the world looks at surfers the same way.

Son of a bitch.

Dennis Oda/ [email protected]

Island Justice? Man snakes Waikiki Beachboys, house catches fire!

Welcome to paradise, now go to hell!

And of course you recall three months ago, at the very beginning of the northern hemisphere’s summer, when the County of Honolulu awarded the beach concession long held by Waikiki’s famous Beachboys to an outfit called Dive Oahu.

Oh there was much rage emanating from every corner of the globe. The Beachboys are iconic, the very lifeblood of the Waikiki. The owner of Dive Oahu, Brian Benton, was not from the island which caused an understandable rift. You can read about it here but it last night, in a wild twist, the man’s house burned down.

And let’s turn to Honolulu’s Star-Advertiser for more!

Honolulu police have opened an investigation into a fire at the Kailua home of the owner of the company that recently took over the Waikiki Beach concessions, even as the Honolulu Fire Department is unable to determine the cause.

HFD said it received the fire alarm for a home on Iliaina Street at 6:08 p.m. Friday. When the first responders arrived a minute later they found flames to the two-story home fully involved.

Nine units and 34 HFD personnel responded to the alarm and got the flames under control by 6:26 p.m., and fully extinguished by 8:01 p.m. No one was injured in the fire.

HFD fire investigators were at the home today and estimated the fire’s damage at $800,000 to the structure and $400,000 to its contents. The investigators, however, were not able to determine the cause of the fire and closed the case after classifying the cause as “undetermined.”

HFD Capt. Carlton Yamada says undetermined means the investigators analyzed all possible causes but there was insufficient evidence to identify any one specific cause. He said undetermined also means there was insufficient evidence to eliminate other potential causes. He said the department can reopen the case if new information becomes available.

The Iliaina Street home belongs to Brian Benton, the owner of Dive Oahu Inc. The company is the vendor for two Waikiki Beach concessions after submitting the lowest bid to the city.

Benton or his company manager did not respond to requests for comment.

Dive Oahu didn’t take over the concessions immediately after the city awarded the company two five-year contracts in April. One of the other previous vendors, Star-Beachboys Inc., sued to prevent the city from installing Dive Oahu. Star-Beachboys moved out in May after a state judge denied the previous vendor’s request for temporary restraining order.

The story is… intense! And do you think Mr. Benton is packing what’s left of his bags in order to get on the first flight out or do you think his backbone is steeled?

Murderous in Fiji! | Photo: WSL

Long read: The surprising secrets Inside Gabriel Medina’s Surfboards!

The surfboard as boat!

Here’s something you don’t know. Gabriel Medina, the 2013 world champion with the slicked-back oiled hair and the eyes so dark they look like they’ve been stolen off a gingerbread man’s face, has been riding the same surfboard models since 20o9.

Yeah, a few tweaks here and there to allow for fluctuations in weight and height but, for almost a decade, Gabriel, who is twenty four, has been riding two surfboard models shaped by the Brazilian-born, Spain-based shaper Johnny Cabianca.

For years I’ve heard about how wide, how thick, how straight these boards are. Designs unlike anything ridden by other WCT surfers.

I try not to fall for bullshit spells, but this hooked me.

On a recent hot summer’s night in Zarautz, a gracious little beach town in the Basque country near the French border, I called Johnny, who is fifty four, to talk shaping and the secrets inside Gabriel’s boards.

First thing.

Johnny has known Gabriel since he was born. He grew up in Maresias beach, north of Sao Paulo, a pal of Gabi’s stepdad Charlie who owned the local surf store. And when Gabriel was born, he’d carry him around, make faces at the cute baby.

Gabriel started to surf when he was nine and a couple of years later, Gabriel’s mother asked Johnny to make the kid his first custom. Johnny doesn’t remember it so well, but it was probably a five-one and he made it after stripping all the glass off a bigger, older board.

“That was normal at the time,” says Johnny.

These days, Charlie’s old surf store is Gabriel Medina Rip Curl and on the other corner is the Gabriel Medina Institute of Surf, a joint where talented kids, aged ten to sixteen, can train as well as get medical care, dentistry and language instruction.

Gabriel hasn’t always invested his money well, he’s helped a pal out with a gas station that didn’t work out, with a restaurant that ended up face-down in the ditch. But the Institute and the surf shop, says Johnny, are “very strong. The media is talking very well about it.”

When Johnny left Brazil to live in Europe in 2000, he only saw the Medinas at Christmas. Made him that first board etc although it was another shaper from Rio who built Gabriel’s boards as a junior. Problem was, says Johnny, he didn’t have enough time and money to meet the kids’ needs.

“Gabriel was always without boards for contests and he and Charlie were always travelling without any money, ” he says.

Then in 2009, Gabriel won a six-star in Brazil and Charlie called his old pal to make boards for the European leg of the WQS tour.

“Then he did that famous King of the Grommets contest in Hossegor. Five tens and two in the final. It was a beautiful contest and it was my start with him,” says Johnny. “Since then we’ve only had good results with him. The year after he was the world junior champ, he qualified when he was sixteen and after that, at seventeen, he won two contests in the WCT. The rest of the history, the world title, everybody knows. We’ve had many ten points.”

And the boards?

Yeah, they haven’t changed since 2009. Johnny threw three rockers at Gabriel and they settled on an average rockered board, although with a surprising volume, that he debuted at the King of the Grommets. The commentator Martin Potter kept referencing Gabriel as The Freak Kid on the webcast. So they named it The Freak Kid although this later morphed into DFK (Da Freak Kid).

The board that’ll surprise the hell out of you if you ever pick it up is The Medina (it used to be called The Game, as in Gabriel-Medina): a wide-nosed, wide-tail, low-rockered, full-railed, concave-to-vee-bottomed, well, let’s call it as it is, a boat. The Medina Gabriel will ride at Surf Ranch will be a five-ten by 19 3/8 by 2 3/8 inches. Twenty-nine litres.

Gabriel rides either The Medina or the DFK depending on the heat. If it’s against Filipe or Italo and he’s gonna fly he’ll use The Medina. If it’s about rail turns, against Adriano for instance, he’ll use the DFK.

At Teahupoo, like now, all he has are DFK‘s.

Johnny and Gabi.

Since 2009, the elements of his boards have started the same, the dimensions changing slightly as he’s grown from a boy to a man, and as his weight changes. Their volume from 28.5  to 29 litres.

“Gabriel today is 182cm and 82 kilos,” says Johnny. “He’s always changing, from 78 to 82 kilos. In Europe he’s a little bit fat, I saw some pictures from Tahiti and he’s a little bit heavy, a little bit belly, but when he’s partying in Brazil he’s more skinny.”

Johnny with Gabi’s world title trophy.

So you want a Medina, right? I do. Stable. Fast.

But good luck trying to get one. Johnny married late and so he’s got a baby and an infant and slipping off to the US or Australia to shape boards ain’t real easy. Ordering a Cabianca online is…possible… but the shipping is gonna kill you.

So here’s what you gotta do.

Get to Europe, drive down to Zarautz, which is just west of San Sebastian, and give Johnny a call. He says he’d be thrilled to service a good reader of BeachGrit and he’ll have your shape ready to glass in a  day or two.

“If you need super urgent, no problem,” says Johnny.

Contact here! 

Discover: What the fashion world thinks about Surf Ranch!

A shocking surprise!

One thing that I enjoy very much is sharing real truths about surfing with the non-surfing world. The WSL, in its mission to expand expand expand expand, spends much of its time spreading misinformation about the number of surfers, the potential reach of surfing, what surfers actually crave besides Michelob Ultra Gold brewed with Organic Grains etc. I am only but one small voice but want everyone to smell the cowshit of our future and especially the beautiful fashion world.

In the most recent Flaunt (the world’s current greatest fashion magazine) I was asked to write about “The Next Wave.”

So I did.

The next wave smells like horseshit and cowshit and Immigration and Customs Enforcement two day old Old Spice rotting underneath unnecessary bullet proof vests. Did you know that? Like Diesel Ford F-350 exhaust and also unwanted steak cut fries with the slightest touch of Indian casino cut-rate air filtration. It’s true.

Did you also know that the wave you grew up either surfing or watching, the one that smells like salt and baked sand and coconut suntan oil and cigarette smoke has been made redundant? That the ocean is no longer meaningful? That the dysphoria is here? I mean dystopia, of course, but really it’s all the same damned thing because, like sex/gender categories, the ocean is no longer meaningful and all thanks to the greatest surfer to ever live.

The Syrian named Robert Kelly Slater.

His creation is called Surf Ranch and it thrust itself onto the world consciousness not yet two years ago via Instagram. A year and a half ago, I suppose, in December when civilians are thinking about Christmas and Chanukah and (the atheists) New Year’s Day and Instagram is filled with “Happy Holidays” messages but surfers are thinking about professional surfing and the always scintillating end to professional surfing’s calendar on Oahu’s North Shore.

A wonderful work-a-day Brazilian plumber had just been crowned Surf Champion of the World after winning the World Surf League’s final stop at Da Banzai Pipeline, you see, and Da Banzai Pipeline is the most iconic wave in the entire world, smelling of frangipani and Heineken and cocaine.

Pipe, what locals and hangers-on call it, breaks there in Hawaii with its iconic “beach vibes” and “aloha spirit” etc. in the ocean and the Li’l Plumber was thrilled, beyond thrilled, as was his right. He had conquered the seven seas. He had smashed other professional surfers in Australia and Europe and Africa and America and Oceana and was now he was in Hawaii, the birthplace of surfing, hoisting a Koa wood trophy above his head on those perfect Hawaiian sands but R. Kelly Slater thought otherwise. He thought, “This is the moment for the dysphoria to take its hold.” And so he posted a video of the wave he had been working on in a repurposed waterski lake in Lemoore, California some 100 + miles away from the Pacific to his 1.3 million follower strong Instagram.

All of those 1.3 million followers stopped dead in their tracks. The entire world for that matter, stopped wishing each other happy holidays and stared. They stopped and stared at this… this… this perfect wave peeling for hundreds of yards and barreling as it sped down the line. Gurgled off of a giant plow in a repurposed waterski lake some 100+ miles from the nearest ocean.


Do you even know how… how… unreal that is? Every single other attempted manmade wave had been an abortion. A mockery of man’s ability to replicate what God does so effortlessly. They looked like waves, if the looker was high on drugs, but didn’t act like waves. They were gutless and feckless and downright silly.

But Kelly’s wave, his Surf Ranch, barreled and that first Instagram clip was passed from surfer to surfer to surfer with a breathlessness not seen since… well, not seen since ever.

It did not seem to matter, at the time, that Pipe with its palms and coral heads and salty blue water that is always the perfect temperature had just put on a show. It did not seem to matter, at the time, that Surf Ranch was shrouded in industrial farm mist and its water was the same shade of brown as horseshit and cowshit.

Surf Ranch seemed perfect. And Kelly Slater kept his foot on God’s throat releasing clip after clip after clip of himself crouched in minute long barrels, of his friends crouched in minute long barrels, of a few of his famous movie star friends trying to crouch in minute long barrels but getting lipped in the head instead, of his Surf Ranch and the future of surfing. Waves that can be conjured on demand. Waves that do the best thing on demand.

I stared like all surfers, like you, but felt a sickness in my heart. The dysphoria. And wondered if the future of surfing would be ugly, for lack of a better word. Tacky.

And then I got to go. An invite to Surf Ranch before many of Kelly’s other famous movie stars even received their invite. It was a gift to the fifteen very top surf journalists in the game and I wanted to be proven wrong and have the feeling of sickness in my heart washed away by perfect barreling waves on demand. I wanted to join the howler monkeys in their songs of praise for the death of God.

So I drove north and east, away from the ocean, with my best Australian pal who is also a very top surf journalist and we stayed the night in the nearby Indian casino sucking down the cut-rate air filtration and bourbon sodas in unfortunate small plastic cups and the next morning we woke early and drove the 1.3 miles to Surf Ranch.

It had been themed to look like a real ranch with natural wood finishings, branded logos, bad coffee and the smell of artichokes or some green vegetable rotting because the immigrants were too busy searching for their incarcerated babies to work the neighboring fields.

The very top surf journalists were all excited as was the staff and after a small breakfast the button was pressed and the wave, the perfect wave bubbled to life.

Wow. Wow wow wow wow wow and we all hung on the hewn wood railings and watched like dudes at a dude ranch except we were dudes at the Surf Ranch and going surfing. Four surf journalists stripped down, climbed into wetsuits then went and sat nervously along the chainlink fence that runs down the center of the lake, the entire two football field length.

That is where we were supposed to sit, we were all informed by the kind staff, along a chainlink fence in the middle of a repurposed waterski lake staggered all the way down like detention kids lining up for lunch. And then came the wave. The magnificent barreling wave and that first group of surf journalists surfed while the rest of us surf journalists ran up and down trying to figure out the best place to sit, the best place to tuck, the best place to get barreled, the worst place to fail in front of everyone on this perfect wave.

I was in the second group and was the second detention kid lined up for lunch. The water wasn’t too cold and the lack of salt didn’t seem to matter too much. The sky was grey and there were no palm trees and it smelled like John Deere but I was so nervous about failing in front of everyone that I didn’t seem to care.

And then it was my turn. My first wave, a right, was fine enough but I safety surfed, not wanting to make a wrong move and so looked as dumb as I felt. My second wave, a left, felt boring so I kicked out midway and a kind water safety man riding a jetski told me I was the first person to kick out midway on purpose. My third wave murmured toward me and I caught it and tucked for the barrel and crouched for two full seconds until the wave, the perfect wave, lipped me in the head, smashed me off the vinyl bottom and dislocated my shoulder.

I popped up knowing my experience was my bad attitude’s fault but also hating the future. Getting hurt in nature feels manly. Getting hurt in a repurposed waterski lake feels goofy.

Fuck the next wave.