I know you don’t want to read another word about Surf Ranch. About Lemoore or greater Lemoore or the Grapevine. That you are thoroughly and completely exhausted so I’m sorry for this here but we still have things to ponder in our hearts. Therefore, pull your work pants up and let’s get to pondering.
I saw many things while walking, people and Dirk Ziff in cream-colored dress shorts w/leather topsiders and Barefoot wine signage. I heard many things too. That Surf Ranch offered 88 days for lease this year or rent or whatever it should be called. Loan? Whatever. That Surf Ranch offered 88 days for loan this year, $50,000 each day, and has completely sold out.
Big blue chip corporations are using the Lemoore facility to host employee appreciation events or gold member perk nights, tossing foamies into the pool and turning the wave down, letting senior vice-presidents from Omaha feel the rush. Or turning the wave up and letting Jim from accounting release the fins a la Sebastopol Zeitz.
Just kidding. Jim from accounting can’t release the fins at all but I was thinking anyhow, if you worked for a big blue chip corporation and they gifted you a day at Surf Ranch wouldn’t you be hyped? Oh sure you’re in Lemoore BUT also at Surf Ranch and Mary from legal is in the hot tub watching the last little barrel bit of the left.
All to say, when I heard the 88 $50,000 days had all been sold out it made me think the WSL is really on to something in turning surfing into the ultimate team-building exercise and suddenly $50,000 didn’t seem like very much at all.
Also, did you see Kelly Slater doing his Wim Hof breathing before his final run?
But back to team-building days at Surf Ranch. A steal at $50,000 no? I would imagine a speaker (not Paul), some nifty hula-hoops and a catered meal from Buca di Beppo costs more than $50,000.
BeachGrit is going to book a corporate retreat next year once we pay off the billboard. We all need better teamwork and more trust etc.
Surf Rage: Father of famous shaper allegedly tries to drown former champ!
"The woman resurfaced three times but was pushed back underwater again..."
Surf rage is the oddest virus and it affects us all. It affects me (I’ve screamed at a 70 year-old woman), Derek Rielly (the stories I’ve heard…), you (the stories I can only imagine…), Backward Fin Beth (listen to her bowl over the fantastic Nick Carroll…) and famous surfboard shaper Daniel “Tomo” Thomson’s surf mat riding father.
Now, this story came to me last week via Surf Splendor’s totally phenomenal anonymous tip line but I had been burned twice in rapid succession first by hearing that Namotu had been bought by Google and second… something. I can’t remember and ain’t about to look up because the shame cooks. Plus surf rage is not that pretty to examine with the allegations and counter allegations and vehement denials.
So I let it go and go and go but… ugh. It’s still funny-ish right? Oh not the feeling of drowning but people getting very very very very very allegedly very angry over waves. Especially in the hands of Australia’s Daily Mail.
Shall we read together?
A well-known female surfer claims a fellow board rider held her underwater in a ‘surf rage’ attack.
Former professional surfer, Jodie Cooper was allegedly held under the water by surfer Mark ‘Carcass’ Thomson on the New South Wales’ north coast.
The 54-year-old says the incident happened while surfing at Lennox Head break on August 22.
Ms Cooper claims she only survived because she went limp and pretended to be unconscious.
Detective Chief Inspector Cameron Lindsay from Richmond Police District said the 56-year-old local was charged last week, according to the Daily Telegraph.
‘We will allege that he held this female underwater to the point that she thought she was going to drown,’ he said.
‘The woman resurfaced three times but was pushed back underwater again,’ a police statement read.
It is alleged the professional female surfer and Mr Thomson collided while surfing the wave.
Ms Cooper said her alleged attacker ‘dropped in’ on her while riding on one of his custom-made surf mats at the idyllic surf break.
‘I’m not a wilting flower. I was brought up to be a strong person and I will stand up for myself and I always will,’ she told the paper.
‘You get a lot of frustration in the surf and it is becoming a popular sport and getting more crowded, there have to be rules.
‘This character, he didn’t follow the rules, he dropped in on me. If you don’t follow rules it’s like driving up the right side of the freeway and saying ‘eff you’.’
Mr Thomson vehemently denies the charges but admitted to an ‘altercation’ with the fellow surfer.
He said: ‘I was entangled in a leg rope (and) once I removed myself from the entanglement I was free from the situation. I was too injured to continue surfing.’
Mr Thomson will appear in Ballina Local Court in October.
Too injured to continue surfing. Does he mean riding his surf mat? That’s the damned thing about surf rage. It is nothing if not confusing because I would have assumed that surf mat riding is for mostly the injured.
But what the hell do I know? I pounced on Namotu being purchased by Google (false) and slept on Tomo Rage (alleged).
Gabriel Medina wins Surf Ranch Pro: “A pure corporate dusting of the intangible!”
For the third time in a pool event, Gabriel Medina leaves other competitors (exception: Filipe Toledo) like caught fish, gasping for air!
Soz, but your burnt-out hack got the lay-out and implications of Finals Day, Surf Ranch Pro, horrendously wrong. I can only blame the cognitive deficit of four days of compounding sleep deprivation but I thought Finals Day was remaining top eight men and to four women having one run each.
One left, one right to decide the matter.
Which would have placed a premium on conservative, finish-the-wave type surfing.
As it happened there was a glut of surfing. The basin was playing up and “defect” waves plagued some competitors. When replacement left waves were added to both men and women the empty rights got pounced on by Strider, who was the closest and loudest seagull to the chip.
Strider live-narrating a funnelling right hander was almost the highlight of the Finals Day, for me. It was a welcome break from the monotony of mandatory high performance – as compelling as one of those live car chases shot from a chopper that American TV does so well. Apart from Kolohe’s dummy spit yesterday about the only true non-scripted moment.
There were a lot of fails in the opening rides from the men.
Stage fright? Some weird wind ribs and general funkiness in the lefts that made accurate reads hard to come by.
The first excellent ride was an insanely well ridden right from Filipe Toledo. The foot forwards tube technique was a cross gendered homage to Steph Gilmore who had looked shaky in her opening run. It was obvious from the 8.33 that judges had reset the scale overnight, because by the scale set by Kelly’s opening day wave it was a mid nine.
Kanoa’s opening right with a failed air on the end was awarded a 8.17. It caused consternation in the booth. Blakey must have been getting a little BeachGrit into him overnight because he came out firing.
“Would you stick that in a free surfing clip?” he mused, “because that’s my definition of high-performance surfing.”
Hate to break it to you Ron Dog but by that standard less than a dozen waves ridden in four days would make the High P cut. The judging applied to Filipe was curious. He was measured against a theoretical limit of what he might produce, versus what he actually did.
Gabe’s first right was ridden with a mixture of brute power and palpable relief; he slotted deeper into the end section than anyone and emerged with pale hams quivering with lactate in the Steinbeckian sun.
Again, we were treated to passionate discourse from Pete Mel telling us rides would have to feature the progression of above-the-lip surfing if they wanted to get in the excellent range.
Unless you’re Kelly Slater.
Three thousand four hundred fans in Oceania tuned in on Facebook to watch him score an 8.60 without loosing the fins and falling on the end turn. It did not raise an eyebrow.
Wobbly, weird lefts caused confusion for gals and guys. Carissa’s power game on the forehand was imperious but her lefts looked a little forced. No matter, she held a winning lead from start to finish, despite a fast finishing Lakey Peterson and an air game from Caroline Marks who somehow, out of all the surfers this weekend looked more stylish in the tub than the ocean.
Julian was going big, skate style big. But couldn’t stick a single one of the varial/big spin attempts on the lefts and just wasted too much real estate on the right boosting on the end section.
Which bought Toledo into the mix on run two. Righthander. Three clean, boosted and greased airs, the first one launched near the outside pole 69, if my eyes did not deceive. Huge hacks, tube-rides. The best wave of the event by so far it wasn’t funny. The one wave that did deliver on the promise of the wave systems vision of the future.
Ten, I wrote in the notes. Got to be.
Got to be.
Except it wasn’t. Judges short changed it in a miserly display.
Kelly deserves his plaudits. His janky, jangly angular foam climbs and twitchy backside re-entries were definitely not to my eye or taste but they impressed the judges and made a hometown crowd – as close to hometown now as he will get – wild with joy.
“What do I have to do to get a ten?” he announced to fans who had erupted in boos when the judging call was announced.
Fucked if I know. Maybe shave your head and stick an outerknown sticker on your board?
Now, now, that is unfair. Kelly deserves his plaudits. His janky, jangly angular foam climbs and twitchy backside re-entries were definitely not to my eye or taste but they impressed the judges and made a hometown crowd – as close to hometown now as he will get – wild with joy.
Gabe was the only one to capitalise on the bonus left. The drive, zap and drift through turns was stunning. The ability to redirect with deep gouges and not lose forwards momentum, a notch above. Just before a live TV audience on CBS was cut he stuck a lofted Kerrupt flip that crop-dusted the entire end section with rad from a frothy height. The winner of last year’s Future Classic, the best surfer at the Founders’ Cup was again the best surfer in the basin. Even if Filipe got a ten, he would not be bested. The Medina family went nuts, tears of joy flowed freely etc etc yet the silent evidence seemed to fill the room. Facebook audience stayed static between two and three thousand. Pitiful. Everyone I spoke to pronounced: boring.
Is this Betamax or the internet?
I know I’m a bum, the very essence of Teddy Roosevelt’s nameless critic who does nothing compared to the great ones etc etc. I never pretend otherwise. Kind to my kids, polite in the water, try to write the best sentence I can. That’s the best of a very flawed package. I take my lessons from what’s poor: as Bonnie Prince Billy said. That’s what God has put me here for.
But bizarrely I have friends in high places. One of them texted me as the show wrapped. I give the last word to her: A pure corporate dusting of the intangible.
Thank you for reading, hope you enjoyed the coverage.
If you’ll excuse, there’s something involving a man and a mat I need to investigate.
Surf Ranch Pro Men’s Final Results:
1 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.86
2 – Filipe Toledo (BRA) 17.03
3 – Kelly Slater (USA) 16.27
4 – Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 15.77
5 – Owen Wright (AUS) 15.40
6 – Julian Wilson (AUS) 15.37
7 – Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 15.07
8 – Miguel Pupo (BRA) 12.96
Surf Ranch Pro Women’s Final Results:
1 – Carissa Moore (HAW) 17.80
2 – Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 16.70
3 – Lakey Peterson (USA) 16.57
4 – Caroline Marks (USA) 14.77
The door to my hotel room is stuck. I have warm pizza and cold beer and I can’t get into my hotel room. I wait in the hallway. My beer warms.
The woman from the front desk in Visalia asks if I’ve been at the surf event. I’m not sure what gave me away. Maybe the Patagonia bag, the cut-off corduroys, the blonde-streaked hair.
I’d love to check it out, she says of the Ranch. And Social D is playing! That’s going to be a great show. But she has to work and she’s envious that I get to be there. My feet hurt and I desperately need a beer, but I try to absorb her enthusiasm. I want to carry it with me when it’s time to do it all over again tomorrow.
I awaken in the dark and pull another lululemon top from the pile I brought with me. Lululemon is my hot-weather uniform. No one can see me sweat. I blend into the scenery. A woman walks by in lululemon. Do you notice? Probably not. Sometimes, it’s nice to slide through the world unnoticed.
I drive toward the sunrise. I stop at Starbucks and slam my two espressos in rapid succession. It’s best not to taste the coffee at Starbucks in my experience. Just get it down. I crank the radio to ear-splitting levels. I’m not a morning person and I need all the help I can get. I find the right exit this time and my spirits lift. I’ve got this Surf Ranch thing dialed.
I pull into the dirt lot that serves as general admission parking. Then I wait for a shuttle that never comes. Eventually a Tachi employee drives up in his maintenance cart. We’re closing this lot today, he says. You have to take the shuttle from the hotel. I repark and ask around until I find the shuttle. I’ve missed the start of the event, but it’s fine. I got this. I totally got this.
It’s not a surf spot until it has a name. I’m not sure I would have chosen The Basin, but no one asked me. The North Basin. The South Basin. Upper Basin. I play with the possibilities. Kelly’s Right. Jackson’s, after the street name. Where’s the drunk in the parking lot? We need the local parking lot drunk to name this thing properly.
I stand against the wall of the Basin and watch the lower seeds fall. It’s as though every wave is the last set of the heat. Everyone’s racing the buzzer, needing a high score to advance. Very few make it through. The stakes add an intensity to the proceedings that was missing during the previous day. Amidst the whirring of the cables and the pulling of the plow, Wilko gives the sport a human face. His hopes and dreams are sucked under. He’s out.
I try to get into the headspace required to compete here. It’s a one-minute effort. You have one chance. There’s no warm-up. You’re sitting in the pool, waiting for the train, facing an all-out, one-minute effort from a standing start. And nothing can go wrong during that short slice of time.
In heat surfing, there are second and third chances. A competitor might come out swinging and nail their best score on their first wave. Or they might “build house” throughout the heat. There’s no building house at the Basin. Some surfers very obviously manage the shift in headspace better than others. Anyone who’s surfed a crowded line-up understands the hassle of heat surfing intuitively. We do a version of it everyday.
I imagine trying to surf here and my brain seizes. No paddle-out. No quick insider or two to get going. Just straight on to a perfect set wave. I get stage fright just thinking about it. My brain spins up a new anxiety dream. I’ve been invited to surf the Basin. I hear the train coming. The count-down. I’m ready. Paddle in. Stand up. Feeling good. Then I take off and go the wrong way, straight into the white water.
The crowd is sparse in the morning, but it fills in steadily by the afternoon. A woman passes pulling a wagon packed with kids. They could be headed to any beach in California. Dad is watching the surfing. The kids are going to the beach. There’s a lake that runs parallel to the Basin and Hurley has set up umbrellas and floated blow-up toys. By late afternoon, there are kids splashing happily amidst the giant swans and flamingos. My bikini is in my car, parked a shuttle-ride away, or I might join them.
I lounge in the shade during the break and then it’s on to the higher seeds. I swim through the crowd along the pool’s walls. They cheer for the airs and groan at the falls. They’re into it — and most of the people seem to understand what they’re watching. They love Julian’s wave with its straight air on the final section. They like Kelly’s barrel on the left, but the airs get the biggest reaction.
From the side of the pool, I watch part of the wave live and part of it on the video screen. Kelly feels overscored, Kolohe under. But I’m not sure if that’s because the judges are wrong or because I can’t see the full wave from my perspective. Kolohe’s angry interview injects a necessary human element. He gives a shit. Maybe we should, too.
Chas shows up and I’m not sure I see another wave for the rest of the day. We stand together and toy with the joke about how we’re supposed to be the same person. Me, in my lululemon. Chas, well, you can see him coming from a mile away. He does not slide through the world unnoticed. We gossip and circulate. We forget about the surfing. I still haven’t seen Nick Carroll.
Then it’s time to go. The heat begins to press. I’ve had my watermelon agua fresca and my avocado toast. I’ve seen some good surfing and laughed with some entertaining people. I’ve napped in the shade and walked until my feet hurt. The coast is calling.
Back at my car, I peel off my sunscreen-crusted clothing and wipe away the dust. I slide gratefully into a cut-offs and a tee. Then I down another espresso and drive southwest across the valley’s flat terrain.
I stop for ice cream in Kettleman City. My phone buzzes. It’s Chas.
Nick Carroll says, Where the hell is JEN SEE?
I laugh and slide through the golden hills to the coast and home.
The future of Surf Ranch revealed in a mutual vision!
I woke up yesterday at 4 in the morning, darkness outside, darkness in my heart, grim about the mouth. It was time. Time to drive to Oceanside to catch a train to Fullerton to meet Travis Ferre and continue driving to Lemoore, California. Home of cows, more cows and Chas Smith’s damned ex-wife.
Son of a bitch.
It was appropriate to join with Travis in Fullerton, I thought, as the train crept through black fog, because it is home of The Spaghetti Factory, collegiate baseball and Social Distortion. The new headlining act for the Surf Ranch Pro. In Lemoore, California. The future of professional surfing. The beating heart of professional surfing.
Travis and I chatted and sipped his black coffee as we headed north and east, away from the coast over the hills into a valley that stretches the length of California. If not for the sheer joy of spending time with him my mouth would have stayed grim. Lemoore, California. Going to Lemoore, California.
I would not have been going to Lemoore, California had I not spent the past nine months glibly and smirkily dancing upon Surf Ranch and the World Surf League. Laughing, poking, laughing, poking, Backward Fin Beth, Dirk Ziff, no grumpy locals, laughing some more. There was nothing for me to write, no possible way to add to the tandem beauty of Jen See and LT, but I have a personal ethic, maybe my only one. When I make fun I need to go look the thing in the eye in case it wants to slap me. I need to give it, whatever “it” is a chance to re-re-re-rebreak my nose and then feel we can laugh together.
And so we drove and drove and finally arrived at the Tachi Palace where we parked and took a shuttle to hell. It was early and already too hot but my hateful attitude continued to dissipate as we passed Matt Biolos, Jesse Faen, Danielle Beck, Evan Slater, David Lee Scales, Jen See etc. etc. etc. All of my friends and family.
Live professional surfing, I realized instantly, is enjoyable because of the spectacle certainly but mostly because of the other people who go and watch live professional surfing for whatever the reason. The WSL could have hosted a contest anywhere, from Alice Springs to Pittsburgh to Brasilia to Lemoore and the friends and family show up, the People too, and it is fun to be together.
And so it came to be that I was in Lemoore, California in front of my favorite surf journalist of all, Mr. Nick Carroll feeling very happy. Clearly seeing the problem of Surf Ranch and the solution to Surf Ranch.
In creating this perfect inland wave man effectively killed God but then took a giant nap. The wave is there, churning and driving. The surfers are there surfing and not duck-diving. The skis are there Raimana yelling just like in the ocean.
BUT THIS IS NOT THE OCEAN!
The powers could have done anything. Anything at all. They could have, and should have, put Slayer on the plow, having them play Raining Blood with flames shooting up around them or the bass player from Mad Max. They should have had carnival tents with freaks and strippers tempting wayward youth. They should have had a Waterworld-style barge in the pool with actors and actresses dressed in fine dystopian chic. They should have strung cables over the top of the pool and had contortionists swinging on swings.
Lemoore is hell and they should have decorated it appropriately. Like the Titty Twister in From Dusk til Dawn.
Future wave tank and wave tank events should also be themed because why the hell not? The ocean is beautiful, wonderful, home but also presents certain constraints. Those are gone when the wave is removed. So why not party? Like really really party?