Opinion: “John John Florence film ‘Space’ casts shadow over world title race!”

Never has surfing looked more at home in the ocean.

The timing of John John Florence film Space casts a shadow over Gabriel, Filipe and Julian. Their pool battle, and their title race.

The fact the film follows traditional surf film formula, surfing set to music, starting with innovative airs (flips), then big turns and crescendoing with a big barreling Hawaii section, allows for the profound greatness of John’s surfing to remain the central focus.

Space almost immediately reaffirms John John’s position as the greatest surfer in world today, mainly because almost all his surfing is performed on waves of consequence.

The timing of it marks a transition that is difficult to understate. It showcases the value of a talented support crew. The filmmakers at Parallel Sea are nearly as talented and focused on their craft as John is on his. They understand cinema. They understand mood and character. They treat John’s surfing as high art without fawning over him. They include zero lifestyle shots. They fill those spaces with nature.

I found myself wondering how we might perceive Gabriel Medina if he had a similarly talented crew reflecting his surf experience to us. Space marks a transition into an era where simply capturing incredible surfing on film will no longer garner audience attention. There is a glut of thoughtlessly edited, hi-fi surfing available. When was the last time you watched a six-minute surf edit? We’ve had our fill. Cinema will now be required to capture our interest. We’ve seen examples of surf cinema in the past, Space now mandates it as requirement.

Parallel Sea’s choice to include the preaching of TD Jakes adds gravitas. In any other instance, it would feel contrived and cheesy, but it works here. There is no secret meaning, innuendo nor subliminal messaging in the preachings. It’s Jakes’ delivery style that adds gravitas to the piece. His baritone and intensity accentuates the seriousness of John John’s surfing.

And it is serious.

So serious that one of his aerial attempts resulted in a year-ending injury. In a year when John John would be defending his two back-to-back world titles.

The timing of the release of Space was undoubtedly strategic. Everyone will attribute John’s injury as the reason he was unable to defend his world titles in 2018.

But let’s not forget that prior to injury John had a 25th at Snapper, three 13ths, and his best result was a 9th. He was not in position to win a third title. And, specifically, his paddling incident with Zeke Lau at Bells Beach highlighted a shortcoming in his competitive game. He lacked zeal, fire, and tenacity. That moment also seemed to cultivate a mental fragility that followed John throughout the next events. He fell. He made odd decisions. He had four opportunities to better scores in his round three heat against Jesse Mendes at Keramas and he simply didn’t. He went huge a couple times and fell, which is commendable, but it was round two, and he could have easily out-surfed Jesse Mendes.

Zeke exploited a weakness in John. Not just a weak moment.

Wounded athletes often return to competition stronger than ever, with a renewed focus. Eight months on the sofa breeds appreciation for what may have been previously taken for granted à la Mick Fanning in 2005 or Lakey Peterson this year.

We should expect a similar return from John. Moreover, John won his first two titles with freakish talent. Zeke Lau found a way to disable that confidence and injury has provided enough respite for John to reflect. He’s displayed humility in the past and he has a team of coaches, trainers, sponsors and, most important, family who have proven to be focused on a very long game. They are watching every event and taking notes of other competitors weaknesses, tells, and blindspots.They are using this down time to formulate competitive tactics and strategy that will fortify John’s 2019 title campaign.

The timing of Space serves to redirect any attention that was focused on Surf Ranch and the world title race. As viewers of Surf Ranch found themselves looking away while surfers sat in the tube. The Ranch wave only grabbed viewers attention once the end section approached. One is unable to look away from Space. The Phantom Flex 4k footage reveals intricacies of water moving and John’s contortions the closest approximations of real-life viewing that we’ve ever seen in surf film.

One nearly motionless moment shows a barreling, overhead right gurgling with foam. The tip of John’s board appears, seemingly unmanned, spit veiling its rider. Then the wave breathes and reveals John casually levitate over a foam ball. It’s a genuinely brand new moment in surf cinema.

The timing of the film serves to remind us that winning world titles is an impressive achievement, but not a reflection of who is the best surfer in the world.

It’s timing also serves to remind us of the irreplicable beauty and wonder of the ocean. Space offers a glimpse at the ocean’s majesty, harnessed by John John, and on display through the cinematography of Erik Knutson and Chris Bryan.

Never has surfing looked more at home in the ocean.

And never has the ghost of an injured surfer cast such a long shadow over a world title race.

Jimmy Buffett: “Ain’t afraid of dying… I’m surfing a hurricane!”

Margaritaville star bravely conquers Hurricane Florence!

If I’ve written it once, I’ve written it 1000 times… surfers are craaaaaaaazy! With our bushy bushy blonde hairdos, our baggies and our huarachi sandals too ain’t no telling what kind of no good we might get ourselves all mixed up in. Like waking up really really early in the morning to check the waves,  or surfing in hurricanes.

You already know how much I love madcap defiance of both nature and man but, I’ll be honest, I didn’t count Jimmy Buffett amongst the loons.

Jimmy Buffett, whose music is described as “island escapism” and is equally famous for the Margaritaville restaurant chain, posted an Instagram photo this morning telling the world he is not afraid of dying and he is going to surf a hurricane.

Folly Beach is in South Carolina, if I’m not mistaken but real quick have you ever eaten at a Margaritaville? I thought about it, once, in Honolulu but ate at a sushi place instead.

I’m looking at the menu right now, though, and if you and I were meeting at Margaritaville today for lunch I believe I would order the crispy chicken cobb or maybe the California club. If we were meeting for dinner I’d order the Lava Lava Shrimp and possibly a Cheeseburger in Paradise. No, strike that I’d order the Lava Lava Shrimp and the blackened grouper sandwich with sweet potato fries.

Most importantly I would order a Stolichnaya and soda. I totally know that you’d look at me with your nose all scrunched and say, “But we’re in Margaritaville, bro?” And I’d respond, “I know, I know, I just can’t do it.”

A bummer for me in the moment, but I’d be happy later when my mouth didn’t feel like a puckered bowl of fruit.

Michael Wright, brother of O and Ty, releasing his bats in Lemoore. | Photo: WSL/Cestari

Opinion: “Surfing can’t go on being smothered in a cocoon, free of outside forces!”

"Letting go of the idea of surfing will liberate you from its perceived demise. It's acceptance through transcendence."

As the King rolled broken-pawed into his last high-scoring Ranch run on Sunday po-faced surfers bemoaned the latest corruption of surfing. This giant aquatic simulator, a hundred miles from the ocean, pumping out folded lumps of dam water with a Disno-reptillian conglomerate greasing the plow.  

To paraphrase the great philosopher Garth Algar: it looked like surfing; only, that’s not surfing.

There’s no need to peer in to that existential maw again.

But after seeing Surf Ranch in full flight it could be easy to  say surfing finally jumped the shark. To plant a flag in the fake Lemoore sand right under the Polo Ralph Lauren booth.

This is where we sold out. Yet it wouldn’t be the first time…

This is the cover of a Tracks issue from 1977.

Let’s read inside.

“Commercialism is sponsors, endorsement, propaganda images, hard sell, soft sell and the whole crazy game. It will hurt some aspects of surfing and it will help others. But whichever way you look at it , the age of commercialism in surfing has arrived. And it’s the most important surfing development of the decade.”

Sound familiar?

Phil Jarratt was coming to grips with the Bronzed Aussies 40 years ago, but he could just as easily be describing Lemoore and the WSL in 2018. Just replace ‘commercialism’ with ‘The Ranch’.


Lemoore is a marketing team’s dream. Everything’s on demand and ready to be packaged. It is the most important surfing development of the decade, at least from the WSL’s perspective. Dirk, Sophie and backwards Beth are (in Ronnie Blakey voice) absolutely frothing at the possibilities. A wave pool for every strip mall. The WSL aren’t the first to try and make a buck from surfing and they won’t be the last.

But for many it left an uneasy feeling. Is this really where we’re headed?

Well, just as experiencing ego death can lead to true enlightenment of the self, letting go of the idea of surfing will liberate you from its perceived demise. It’s acceptance through transcendence.

Dig it: Trying to put a label on surfing is like trying to sweep leaves in a breeze. It’s in a constant state of flux. Is it a professional sport? A counter-culture movement? A spiritual release?

All of the above?

Probably, and more.

The problem isn’t which direction surfing is heading. It’s  more fundamental. We need to stop thinking of surfing as a singular identifier. The concept no longer stands up. It’s a misnomer. We’re not a broad church. We’ve branched out into entirely different religions. You can still surf in verb form, sure.

But surfing as a common noun? It’s no more.

Just like the electric foil ripping through the waterways of Florida has fuck-all in common with the beak-nosed quad paddling into SA desert death slabs, so to does the WSL action sport enthusiast target market have no connection with me, or how I value surfing. It’s the crazy 88s in Byron vs corporate surf retreats in Costa Rica.

On the Edge of a Dream vs the Ranch instant replays. Surfcore vs Get Sent.

The idea of surfing as a blanket term no longer fits. Lemoore’s just another fork in a road that left the highway ten turns back.

Surfing is a medium. An interpretation. It holds up a mirror to the user and nothing more. The cathartic nature of surfing has more to do with drug consumption than it does with a sport. It’s a way for some people to get their kicks. And a way for others to make money.

But there’s so many different ways to do it now that trying to skin it is a futile effort.

Again, this isn’t a new idea.

Here’s Graham Cassidy from that same Tracks  in ‘77.

“What has to be remembered in the outset is that surfing, whether amatuer or competitive or day to day fun, is what the individual makes it. No one can take that peculiarly personal element out of the pastime. Not money, not hype, not media overkill. It is what makes the act of surfing so inviolate. Surfing is no longer a counter culture, but a thing of the masses. It can’t go on being smothered in a cocoon, free of outside forces. The pastime is too popular, too big and too unwieldy for such utopian-like detachment. This is, of course, the unfortunate way of life.”

So criticise The Pool if you need to.

Hold the WSL to account. Especially when it’s as fun as the BG comments section.

But embrace the absurdity of it all. And don’t cry for surfing. It’s already dead.

Long live surfing.

Blood Feud: Kalani Robb launches Hawaiian jihad on surf blog!

Former top-rated WCT pro calls on Rothman family and Da Hui to strike this North Shore winter!

Doesn’t the arrogance of the elites drive you just mad? Just blood bursting in the temples livid?

It does me.

The upper crust with their cuffed tweed pants and designer soccer slides. The elites with their barely disguised disdain for The People.

Today, Sam McIntosh workaday publisher of the surf blog Stab, trying as hard as he can to make a living for the workaday surfer too by hosting an air competition in Waco, Texas, that I am very excited for, wrote about his dreams.

Shall we read?

We don’t want some of the world’s best non-WSL surfers to become Vloggers to save their hide. Our goal with Stab High is to provide a platform for these guys to showcase their skill in a controlled environment. It isn’t meant to be too serious; just the world’s best aerial surfers, raw, all laying it on the line on the same section, for a couple of hours on a Saturday night.

Oh I dream of saving the world from vloggers too. From the Kardashians and PewDiePie and Smosh and their millions and millions of dollars and millions and millions of followers for talking about makeup and anal sex.

Kalani Robb, who makes video logs for Catch Surf, felt the burn and responded with a call for Hawaiian jihad.

“Not the smartest move talking shit about Hawaiians before u go there this winter.”

CC’d on the fatwa were Eddie Rothman, Koa Rothman and Da Hui.

Oh but Kalani, oh but the world is yours.

It is yours and the Kardashians and PewDiePie and Smosh. You are the future with your millions and millions and millions and millions.

Can you please leave us blogs alone?

To toil in obscurity with our tens and tens until progress rolls us up into a Persian carpet and tosses us in a dusty closet.

Have you ever considered bloggers’ feelings, Kalani?

Well have you?

Dreams-come-true department: Surfer/snowboarder mortgages house, buys ski chalet, never has to work again!

You living your dream?

It’s a hoary old line: find something you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.

Easier said than done, as we all know. I love cupping the pendulous bosoms of middle-aged Jewesses and eating hot bread rolls that have been buttered with a particular Scandinavian butter but I’m yet to make a dollar out of it.

One lifelong surfer, and snowboarder, who has cut himself a piece of the lifestyle pie is the Australian Dan Solo. This is a man who wanted to be the master of his own ship but, like most of us, got caught in the gotta-make-cash wheel. He had a pregnant girl and was trying to live and survive in one of the most expensive cities in the world, Sydney as if you had to ask.

Dan earned his bread as a web developer but says that every day, as he rode the ferry to work, “I felt sad. All these grey men in their grey suits with their grey frowns. My mantra is, you get one crack at life, so you better make it a bloody good one. And I wasn’t making my life a good one.”

For twenty years, Dan and his girl, Andy, worked hard and didn’t save a cent.

Dan and Andy had a talk.

“We can’t do this for the next twenty years. We’re miserable.”

When he’s not surfing around Sydney, Dan and Andy like to take off for Japan. Buckets of powder. Real nice people. Good electronics. Warm Saki.

Dan had always loved the Japanese vibe. When he was thirteen he told his best pal that when he had a kid he was going to call him after the protagonist in the Japanese post-apocalytic animated film Akira.

By the time they’d hit their thirties, Dan and Andy had ridden all over Japan. And so they figured, why don’t we open a little boutique chalet in the mountains? The pair had  been pouring their lives into their Bondi apartment (Sydney is the second-most heated property market after Hong Kong), a place where a crummy two-bedder a click from the beach starts at a million bucks, and had enough equity to peel off a slice and invest in their dream.

(Their kid Akira wasn’t so little anymore either. He was sixteen, fluent in Japanese after a life in the International School system and loved to ride Japan’s powder.)

The luxe room at Snowball. What games of the flesh you might play here!
The joint pukes. The snow equivalent of Cloudbreak or G-Land.

And the thing about Japan is, because of the big ski resort bust in the late-nineties and the subsequent reticence of banks to lend money to anyone buying property in the snow, it’s cheap, at least relative to Australia.

So, three years ago, they bought a dreamy nine-room chalet for a couple hundred thousand Australian at Madarao Mountain, two hours by bullet from Tokyo. They’d driven past it and, on a whim, had stopped and asked the seventy-two-year-old owner if she’d sell. Her eyes lit up. Property is hard to shift in these parts. When they went to sign the deal, it turned out they’d bought two blocks of land.

Snowball Chalet, post-renovation.

Dan and Andy renovated the existing chalet, turning a trad pension into a hip, but luxe, ski chalet. They stuck a yurt on the other and turned into a buzzy little bar called the Shaggy Yak. They’d banked on a twenty-five percent occupancy rate, something they thought might be a little bullish, but it wound up at fifty-five in that first year.

This year it’s shaping up to be over eighty percent.

Sexy apres ski in Snowball’s lounge.

The success of Snowball Chalet means Dan gets to split his time between snowboarding the northern hemisphere winter in Japan and surfing the rest of the year in Australia.

Sure he’s got a little work to do in the off season, dealing with the website, online bookings, improvements on the joint, and when he’s on the mountain his role is to host guests, riding with ’em on mountain, showing off the hot pools and snow monkeys that live nearby, dinners etc.

The Japanese snow monkeys that live nearby. Lovely pink snouts.

It sure ain’t digging ditches.

It’s a story, a lesson, I think, in learning think in a way that examines, first, what you love, how you gonna earn your bread and in what manner you plan on spending your pitifully short time here on earth.

I see Dan in the surf, around the beach and it’s like he’s seen, I dunno, the truth, I suppose. That killing yourself at work so you might retire with a little cash at seventy ain’t the only way to cut the pie.

More than that: you don’t need to be rich to live a rich life.