Billy Kemper wins Third Jaws Challenge at “windy, small, average” Pe’ahi!

The king of Jaws!

Oh, you heard all the hoo-ha yesterday, when mean ol Mike Parsons turned off the Jaws Challenge when the waves got real big, real scary. 

Today, in waves Albee Layer described as “windy, small, average”, Billy Kemper won his third Jaws Challenge, another trophy to stack alongside his two XXL Ride of the Year cups, his XXL Wipeout of the Year and his 2017 Big Wave Tour Champion trinket.

Little Billy, who is twenty eight and looks like the kinda man dogs kick, finished the final ahead of Kai Lenny, Albee Layer, Tyler Larronde and Grant Baker.

In an emotional speech and in response to a question about his apparent calm, Billy said,

“There’s so much behind the calm and collective and seriousness. A month and a half ago, less, I was sitting in LA getting MRI’s and wondering if I’d surf this winter. I didn’t do this on my own.”

(Billy thanks various doctors.)


“My fucking beautiful wife and children, I love you so much…a few years ago, I was a wildcard and I won it. I told myself I’d never stop doing it. Every time I surf a heat my goal is first and only first. I put blood, sweat and tears into it. It’s my pride and joy.

“Everyone of these athletes are not just surfers. This is our livelihood out here. Yesterday was the most radical day of surfing competition in history. I’m glad I got to kick that day off and I’m glad I got to end this event.

“(Yesterday) we set the bar for this event. I was bummed out that not everyone else had to surf the conditions we did, and push the limits, but I’m over the moon.”

At this point, Billy looked to the heavens. His mom Lisa died recently of lung cancer. 

“This is for my mom. I know you’re looking down on me mom. This is for you.”


Jen See: “A Vindication of the Rights of Women!”

Come and have your mind changed!

One of the lasting images of yesterday’s contest at Honolua must surely be that of Steph, world title secured, standing tall in the barrel. A hint of a soul arch bathed in golden afternoon light. You could instantly imagine it on the wall of a Roxy store, Queen Steph, larger than life.

That she fell rather than make it out clean is perhaps emblematic of the women’s contest at Honolua. There were moments of beautiful surfing, moments where we saw how far the women’s sport has come and where it’s headed next. But Hanaloa’s perfection also shows every weakness in high relief. In the morning in particular, many of the women struggled as their boards chattered across the face and the wave’s power threatened to send them flying off into the next county.

Lakey’s early exit in round two came as a surprise to just about everyone — including Steph. While Lakey’s world title chances felt like a long-shot, she has determinedly pushed Steph to fight for every last heat. But like many of the women in the draw, Lakey has yet to sort out how to surf Honolua and it revealed a brittleness in her approach. She’s athletic, talented, and well-coached, but she often struggles when the waves don’t do quite what she expects — and Honolua offered way more speed than Lakey quite knew what to do with.

The match-up between Steph and Lakey for the world title has offered a study in contrasts. Steph makes it all look easy, even when it isn’t. She doesn’t look coached, or even coachable. Steph’s surfing looks intuitive and inevitable. Lakey is competitive and she trains hard. She hasn’t yet learned the secret to putting all that aside and letting her surfing flow when it needs to. When Steph doesn’t quite know what to do on a wave, she slows down. When Lakey is uncertain, she tries to do more and do it faster. But she has time and she’ll only get better.

What’s true for Lakey is true of the women’s side of the sport, as a whole. Yes, there remains a significant gap between the top end of the draw and the rest. The barrel dodging isn’t a great look. Worse, there were many times when perfect sets rolled through the lineup and the competitors sat on their hands and watched them. Did you want to yell at them? I confess, I did. Fucking go! What are you waiting for?

It’s the unique burden of women athletes that they have to argue for the existence of their sports. If an event isn’t interesting, critics are quick to jump to the conclusion that women shouldn’t have contests and shouldn’t compete at all. Men’s sports, well, of course, we have men’s sports. Men are considered the default. No one would really argue that men’s sports shouldn’t exist. And yet, it happens all the time with women’s events. No one got barreled? Well, why do they even have a contest of their own. Or at least, so runs the argument.

But we all know that the nature of heat surfing imposes a certain conservatism. You can go for broke, try to get barreled, and get nothing. Or, you can throw a few turns, get a six, and paddle comfortably back to the lineup. We see this dynamic play out in men’s surfing all the time. Safety surfing is hardly just a girl thing.

Though Steph won the world title yesterday, Carissa provided the gold standard. She has the power and technical finesse to turn Honolua into her playground. She found a couple barrels and threw big turns. Her boards looked exactly right for her without the speed wobbles and chatter that some of the other women experienced. But Carissa has grown up surfing in Hawaii. She’s competed in Triple Crown events. This is, in fact, her playground.

How many of the other women have the time and resources to put into surfing Hawaii regularly? Arguably, not many. The marketing narrative around women athletes has remained focused on lifestyle and fashion. The incentive structures in many of their contracts almost certainly reflect that way of thinking. How often have you seen a women’s brand send their surfers on a boat trip? Not too often. How many edits of women just surfing — no narrative, no lifestyle — have you seen? Again, not many.

There’s a sea change coming, though. You can already see it in how some of the brands have begun to shift their marketing and in how some of the younger surfers approach their sport. It’s only been a generation since Title IX in the United States, which opened the way for women to participate in sports on an equal level in high school and college. As those women have grown up and had girls of their own, the cultural attitudes around women athletes have steadily shifted. And they will shift even further still.

When I think of Steph’s world title run, sure, her timeless style stands out. That golden soul arch. Morgan Maassen’s magic pictures of J-Bay, Steph jiving along those glorious green walls. What a beautiful highlight reel.

But the heat that stands out to me was not about any of those things. It was a semi-final match-up between Steph and Carissa in ferociously mediocre Huntington. The thing was a fucking bare-knuckle street fight. Steph needed to advance to hold her lead in the title race against Lakey. Carissa was trying to dig her way out of an early season slide down the rankings. They must have ridden a dozen waves each. Fierce, no holds-barred contest surfing that went all the way to the buzzer.

In a rare glimpse behind the curtain, the webcast showed us Carissa as she waited for Steph’s final wave score to drop. The producers must have thought Carissa had it won. But in fact, the judges handed the heat to Steph. In that moment, we saw just how much Carissa wanted it, just how much was at stake for the athletes involved.

Yes, the absolute level in women’s surfing has room to grow. Sure, it does. But that white-hot competitive fire. I’m so here for that.

And it’s only going to get better.

CI Rocket Wide Spine-Tek Board Review: “Disrupts the flow of sexual energy between a man and a woman, or a man and a man, woman and woman.

I made a three-foot left my little bitch on this board…

Took this brand new CI Rocket Wide with Spine-Tek construction, unwaxed, down to Iluka. Iluka, if you live in America, Eurasia, or the UK is a regional shithole in sub-tropical northern NSW full of fishermen who love to get punchy drunk at eight am, sand dunes infested with brown snakes (true) and brown water surf probably infected with nuclear debris from Fukushima.

White sharks? Yes ma’am. My pal Abe got his JS snapped in two when an over-swoled goldfish with teeth launched him like a scud missile September 2 years ago.

“Fuck off,” he said, as it ragdolled him around the line-up. “Fuck off!”

White sharks? Yes ma’am. My pal Abe got his JS snapped in two when an over-swoled goldfish with teeth launched him like a scud missile September 2 years ago.

“Fuck off,” he said, as it ragdolled him around the line-up.

“Fuck off!”

I only go there because the spring flathead bite is insanely good, my wife loves the pub and it’s the last place on the east coast of Australia where you can find an instant coffee in a cafe served by a surly teenaged waitress with volcanic acne.

Placed on the marital bed, on an anniversary weekend away the board presented a very sexy combination of curves. Full figured nose, curvy outline and a tight-ish swallow. New boards are a problem like that. They disrupt the flow of sexual energy between a man and a woman, or a man and a man, woman and woman.

I know both Chas and Derek have experienced marital strife because of this fact. Also why I need to quit pro surfing coverage next year: it’s a major boner killer. The lady lies in bed naked while the man watches Keanu Asing throw a six at Pat Gudauskas and nothing moves, if you get my drift. Thats all fine for neo-puritans coming from the Oprah Winfrey network but not so good for worker daddies who need and want to keep a woman sweet.

Family friendly website and kids think it’s yuck, but it’s true. Surfboards are objects of lust, adventures in polyamory. You can love them. S’why grown-ups hide them from their partners. Stout Scotsmen build locked sheds to house them like mistresses. Nick Carroll leaves his lying about in the long grass, so a tryst might happen accidentally.

“Hello, fancy stumbling over you today, how bout a quick ride?” etc etc.

All of which is to say, like Jamie Brisick and his martinis, I approached this board with very high expectations. Tumid, even.

The first surf at Ilukan beachbreak was sizzling but short. I was so destroyed physically and mentally from pro surfing sleep deprivation and marital disharmony that a couple whacks on a running left and a shorebreak hit was about the size of it. Felt loose, very reactive, very whippy. Tight. I was excited, very, to surf again.

Placed on the marital bed, on an anniversary weekend away the board presented a very sexy combination of curves. Full figured nose, curvy outline and a tight-ish swallow. New boards are a problem like that. They disrupt the flow of sexual energy between a man and a woman, or a man and a man, woman and woman.

Then things went south over the next few days. I wrote the following on a US surf forum, after some very disappointing consecutive surfs.

Could not generate speed. Could not drive this board into or out of turns. Stopped dead in any dead sections. 
Felt weirdly like I could not engage the front rail in speed generating pumps at all. Felt like the nose kept wanting to rise up and I was left with this strange feeling of pushing water and surfing off the fins. I felt with the Rocket Wide like I was trying to start a secondhand lawn mower. I could not get the motor running.

Three surfs in a row went horribly wrong. I felt like LBJ’s “Jackass caught in a Texas hailstorm”. I couldn’t run, I couldn’t hide and I couldn’t make it stop. Well, I could make it stop, I just couldn’t make it go.

Helpful Americans including someone connected with CI California suggested the issue was with the rocker curve.

All those surfs were in shonky b/c grade pointbreak. Mid-period swells, lots of dead sections. Picture high-tide Rincon Bells and you’re in the ballpark.
The next go out went differently. The problem had to be me.

I reported it thusly: Rocket Wide in punchy two-to-three-foot beachbreak, mostly weird but steep little lefts breaking into a rip. The kind of low-energy swell but steep faced surf that is daily bread here in summer.

I think I figured it out. At least a minor breakthrough. 

I knew it was a rocker issue and it had to do with the front foot and the planing area around the front foot. That felt so bad.

 Clues were in the posts about narrow stances and boards that were stance sensitive. 

Probably in Indo, I got a bit too used to a little more forward stance for tuberiding and since I’ve been back I’ve mostly been fucking around on a six-foot foamy where you can stand wherever you want.

So, I just shuffled the front foot back… a couple of inches, maybe. Instantly the brake came off and the board lit up. Little top turns became fully whipped frontside wraps… the board started to feel really good turning. really good. 

Still didn’t feel gold-standard to me at generating speed as a groveller, and I’m deeply sceptical 
this board will plane in knee-high surf.

 But fun as hell.

From there, I made Tallows my little bitch on this board. Jumped-up little lefts got mown down. Three pumps into a section and I launched a little straight front-side air that caused a dutch chick to exclaim, “Whoa, nice board man”.

(Fins used, if you’re curious, were Futures AM1’s and AM2’s. I’m a heavy-footed clod who likes to push. And Futures is a superior fin box, no doubt.)

Hunter gatherers had no dentistry or iPhones but did have tremendous sexual freedom. Gals were often free to choose sexual partners. Agriculture and private property rights fucked all that up for good. As such, polyamory today is mired in risk and mostly doomed to bad feelings all round, Mormons and some Muslims excepted. Surfboard selection remains one avenue where an appetite for variety can be pursued in a morally risk free environment.

Is this a sled that would make a good partner for you?

Where and how do you surf?

Not why, that’s meaningless.

I’m an opportunist who roams a thirty-k stretch of coastline on the daily, sharing an ecological niche with an increasingly territorial white shark and a spectrum of surf spots that includes punchy breakwall wedges, ledgey little slabs, world-class and not so world-class pointbreaks and tons of variable beachbreak. With the Rocket Wide in the back of the car I had (mostly) the small-wave spectrum fully covered.

Backside on my local points I continued to struggle.

I think the materials factor in. Spine-Tek is a carbon strip that is routed into an EPS blank and stiffens and controls the flex of the board. With epoxy glassing it makes for an incredibly reactive and lively board. On my forehand in punchy beachbreak it was like a three am Ritalin buzz on the dance floor. If you like/love the feeling of EPS/epoxy; you’ll love Spine-Tek. If you’re a PU/PE kind of gal, it’s worth tuning in for zest in a small-wave board.

On my backhand, I surfed like a love child of Michel Bourez and Pat Gudauskas born with a genetic defect that caused epileptic fits on contact with saltwater. My spastic limbs made board control difficult.

On my backhand, I surfed like a love child of Michel Bourez and Pat Gudauskas born with a genetic defect that caused epileptic fits on contact with saltwater. My spastic limbs made board control difficult. Quietening everything down and throwing very simple shapes at the wave made everything happen. Not every wave, but I felt fins going out the back where I had been bogging or over-rotating.

This board will be a feel-good hit of the summer. Globally, I predict. It has Fishy DNA but surfs like a high-perf. shortboard in small surf.

My Bribie friend, best one in the world, and I, share a lot of things. We’re like Aboriginals in that respect. Common ownership, especially of surfboards, is assumed. And he’s been eyeing off and angling to get his hands on the Rocket Wide for a while now.

We both ended up down the inside of the Point, on Sunday, down near the hut.

“Hey,” he said, “give me a go on that board”.

“Um, later,” I said, “I’m keeping it”.

Watch before it’s too late: “Jaws is a pitbull the size of an elephant!”

But not as big as yesterday. So maybe a mid-sized elephant.

If you blinked, yesterday, you missed a very fine few minutes of professional big wave surfing. There were thrills, there were chills, there were spills and then the whole thing got called off so Kai Lenny could go and do this…

Was it the right call? We will never know but you had certainly better tune in right now because it may disappear again without warning, without hint or head nod.

But can we talk about Dave Kalama in the booth? I am a very big fan, I think. He’s got a sort of woodsy charm coupled with an inflection that sounds boozy. Like he has been up all night drinking before wandering into the booth. Right now he is talking about the size of bumps on the wave and… I’m just gonna spend a few seconds transcribing exactly what he says

“Yeah I mean the start of a boxing match, right? You don’t come swinging haymakers. You swing a couple jabs, seeing what the water’s like, seeing how the bumps are like…”

“If you stick your hand out the window going 40… now picture holding your surfboard out the window going 40. You can’t!”

Good yeah? Folksy and boozy.

Anyhow, let’s not waste any more time here. Click now and watch because who knows when mean ol’ dad Mike Parsons will shut it all down.

Listen: “I sometimes wish Shea and Cory Lopez’s dad was my dad too!”

And much chatter about bad surfing!

I’m not a good surfer but I expect good surfing from my professionals. Is this so wrong? Is this so egregious? Maybe yes but I crave excellence. I need excellence especially when confronted with legitimately perfect waves in a legitimately perfect arena like Honolua Bay. I need for the professional surfer to do what I can’t. I need them to float my dreams and yesterday, outside of Steph Gilmore, Carrisa Moore, Sally Fitz and a smattering of others, professional surfing let me down.

Oh how many glorious waves went unridden? Oh many barrels opened their mouths wide yet found no partner willing to dance?

I’ll answer. Too many. Too too many and Stephanie Gilmore’s performance emphasized the disparity. She had a marvelous season and has seemed to find another gear altogether. She snared her 7th title yesterday but at this rate who could say that 12 World Titles are out of the question? Even 13?

Back to the rest of the field, though, whose fault was the general lack of performance? Did the athletes simply not step up, having a collective off day? Does the World Surf League not provide enough world class waves on tour?

Or maybe this is all my own personal problem, my own private Idaho.

I spoke with David Lee yesterday morning right as Jaws and Honolua were getting underway. He had been in Florida, planning on a month long tour though had to hurry back for Thanksgiving which worked well since we were able to spend a few hours talking about the Pastime of Kings.

I shared with him that I just began surfing again, like really surfing, after a whole year off and the results have been less than pretty. First, my mind is broken and fearful. I paddle for waves with my surgically repaired left shoulder whilst an internal voice screams, “It’s going to blow! It’s going to blow!” Of course it cannot blow seeing as my bicep has been severed then screwed in front of the ball joint making it an almost possibility but I am, apparently, traumatized. Like an old Vietnam vet.

Second, my pop is rusty and lame. I struggle to my feet, partially due weakness that I am trying to remedy with pushups at home, partially due to rust. I teeter and totter all out of sorts, having dropped officially from low intermediate to middle beginner.

Third, my feet are all wrong. I don’t remember where they’re supposed to go not that I ever really knew in the first place. David Lee told me a story about Shea and Cory Lopez’s dad. He said that he put duct tape for where the boys’ feet were supposed to go. I wish he would do that for me now. I wish he would put duct tape on a board appropriate for me which, at this point, may well be an egg (damn that Devon Howard).

I’m trying to keep positive. I was never that great to begin with and maybe this is my chance to rebuild from the ground up. Do you think that’s possible? I hope and until then I hope everyone surfs better at Honolua today.

Listen here!