Here, Gabriel and Mick, with fans, at Gabs’ world title party. “Rip Curl had rented a condo at the Turtle Bay. It was a really close knit affair with all Gabriel’s Brazilian friends. Mick was in good form. Him and Gabriel are tight. There’s a definite bromance going down. They were talking for so long, telling each other how much they love each other. Mick gets really sappy after dark and he was being very social on the North Shore this year. He was having a good time every night. Gabriel was drinking a little bit but not the point where he was drunk. He was very in control. That freckled kid? Not sure who it was but Mick was engaging him as well and the kid was having the conversation of his life. | Photo: Steve Sherman/@tsherms

From the living history dept: Steve Sherman goes behind-the-scenes on the North Shore!

Gabriel's victory party, cops take over the Shore, Brazilians rule everything else!

There is very little that separates the work of most sporting photographers. A slightly different angle here, a different lens there. Any sorta lifestyle shot is perfunctory, at best.

Surfing is very lucky, then, to have Steve Sherman, a skater and surfer from southern California. His photography is a kind of subdued magic, controlled and exquisite, the kind of things you get from a good movie. More than any other surf photographer, Sherman has a sense of living history.

For the month of December, Sherm flew, on his own dime, to the North Shore because, what, he was going to miss the title showdown?

“The WSL cut me off, Channel Islands cut me off, so it was a full art trip,” says Sherm. “I lost everything. They’re all blaming budgets. I didn’t have to be anywhere, I could just do my thing and I had the best artistic year of my life so I can’t be too bummed.”

Apart from looming poverty, it was a different experience this year for Sherman. He’s on the wagon with only the occasional breeze of weed entering his temple. Already, he’s dropped twenty pounds from his linebacker frame.

“I got off the beer because I was feeling shitty, my liver wasn’t get rid of it fast enough. It was slowing me down. I went to a part the other night and, fuck, I was seeing more things than when I was lit up. And, I figured, if I want to keep surfing until I’m seventy I’m going to have to clean things up a bit.”

Let’s stroll though the best of Sherman’s North Shore photos.

First, the wonderful Mark Occhilupo who, like Sherman, was on the wagon. “Occy hasn’t drunk for nine months and he looks great, physically he looks…so…good and he was ripping at Pipeline.”Gabriel Medina and Brazilians after he won the world title, but before Pipe Masters final, which he’d also win. “There was no way he wasn’t going to win the title,” says Sherman. “They’re walking down Ke Nui Road for that three-block walk to his house. Everyone was very happy. It was Brazilville over there. I gotta tell you, the Hawaiians put up with a lot. I was tripping that the Brazilians don’t give a shit. They don’t seem worried that some Polynesian guy is going to punch them out for being loud and obnoxious and flying the flag. Twenty years ago, this never would’ve happened. When Americans go to Brazil, the last thing we do is put flags on our houses and wave flags on the beach and sing the national anthem. I mean, fuck, it’s so heavy. I don’t think they have any idea how heavy the place was thirty years ago. There would be dead bodies scattered if this had happened back in the day.” Jack Robinson and Brazilian girlfriend Julia Muniz. “Yeah, she’s a hot little number,” says Sherman.  Kelly Slater and Joel Parkinson, Pipeline. “Those guys don’t know what they’re doing. It’s some weird handshake,” says Sherman. “That’s right after Joel retired and Kelly’s congratulating him. Historically, they’re not the closest of people but they respect each other even if, behind their backs, they tease each other.” Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson. “I sent that to Mick and he pulled me aside, later, and said, ‘I love you Sherman’ and gave me the longest hug he’d ever given me. He’s going to get it for his house. That’s when I knew I’d done something well. They’re both walking into the retirement sunset.”
John  John Florence and brother Nathan watch Herbie Fletcher’s Wave Warrior’s shoot unfurl. “It’s always supposed to start at twelve but never starts on time. They were hanging out at the RVCA house. RVCA’s the new power company here. They fucking sponsor all the Hawaiians, they have (Dustin) Barca, it’s crazy. Even Pat Tenore’s with Andy’s ex-wife.”
Matt Wilkinson, Backdoor, Conner Coffin, Pipe. “That’s comic-book like. That will be in my archive for a while. Conner told me hit the bottom real hard.” Pottz and Occ, pre-Occ-cast. “Legends, nice guys. It’s great to see Occ looking so good, I could see it in his face and his body weight. He’s proud he’s not boozing it.” Kelly, creeping out to Backdoor. “He’s creeping out, running down from his house to the Johnson’s yard to surf Backdoor one night. It’s my classic creepy Kelly moment. Kelly’s daughter was on the North Shore, she was having an art show. She’s a sweetheart, a sweet little woman. But Kelly doesn’t want to have any more kids. He told me, I just don’t want to have kids. I’ve done that. I’m done.”
North Shore Justice: “Yeah. Fuck. Heavy. That’s the new thing now. I’ve never seen such a police presence on the North Shore. There were cops everywhere, signs everywhere. Everyone’s watching, police are writing tickets and pulling people over.”  Parko, Bruce Irons, Mick Fanning, Parko’s retirement party: “That was right after Mick did the all-time speech. Mick has two beers in his hand, which was par for the course this trip. One night I said, ‘Why the two beers?’ and he said, ‘Because this one is almost done.'”


Carnage: Dane Reynolds and Sage Erickson unfollow BeachGrit’s Instagram after recent revelation!

Miguel Pupo and Sunny Garcia too. Michael Rodrigues blocks.

BeachGrit‘s Instagram account has been dealt a deadly blow, a debilitating blow from the World Surf League thanks to the likely racist injury wildcard decision involving the now famous Brazilian surfer Caio Ibelli.

Oh what a tangled web we weave and do you need a quick catch-up? It would be my pleasure.

There are some 28 odd professional surfers on the World Championship Tour and none of them, not one of them, follow BeachGrit on Instagram. One did last year though. His name was Caio Ibelli but he is not on the World Championship Tour anymore because he has been relegated to the World Qualifying Series even though the rules clearly stated that he should have been gifted a wildcard for the 2019 season.

Caio was properly injured, you see, but two other “injured” surfers were allowed into the 2019 draw before him.

Why?

It can only be reasoned because he follows BeachGrit on Instagram.

Professional surfers took note,  the ones not on the World Championship Tour (since Caio Ibelli was the only one there RIP) unfollowed immediately.

Dane Reynolds? Gone.

Sage Erickson? Gone.

Miguel Pupo? Gone.

Sunny Garcia? Gone.

Michael Rodrigues? Gone and then took the further step of blocking. (May I speak to Michael directly? Do you mind? “Michael. I see you. You had better hold your damn acai bowl with two hands from now on cuz you never know when I’ll hop around the corner and STRIKE!)

I don’t blame them. The World Surf League is a juggernaut, an evil empire and should be greatly feared. I just always hope in my heart of hearts that a brave prophet will rise from amongst the bleating sheep. A man or woman we can look to as example, as our hero. I imagined once in my life it would be Dane but… alas. Yet another disappointment.

Oh wait. Would you like to know who still follows?

Caio Ibelli.

My new favorite surfer Caio Ibelli.

The man who will lead us home.


Dirk Ziff, far right (geographically speaking), with famous pals including WSL world champ Gabriel Medina, Kelly Slater, Stephanie Gilmore and noted film impresario Harvey Weinstein.

Breaking: The World Surf League implicated in ongoing Russia intrigue!

The last time surfing was so close to nefarious international plots Richard Milhous Nixon lived at Lowers.

I don’t know if world news gets anymore fabulous than this, to be honest. The last time surfing was so close to nefarious international plots, subplots and counterplots Richard Milhous Nixon lived at Lowers.

Or Cottons.

And what am I on about?

Four Coors Golden Banquet Beers before lunch but also the just released news that the owner of professional surfing, Dirk Ziff, has run afoul of the Kremlin in a new exclusive revelation and let’s read some together from BuzzFeed.

US Treasury Department officials used a Gmail back channel with the Russian government as the Kremlin sought sensitive financial information on its enemies in America and across the globe, according to documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News.

The extraordinary unofficial line of communication arose in the final year of the Obama administration — in the midst of what multiple US intelligence agencies have said was a secret campaign by the Kremlin to interfere in the US election. Russian agents ostensibly trying to track ISIS instead pressed their American counterparts for private financial documents on at least two dozen dissidents, academics, private investigators, and American citizens.

Most startlingly, Russia requested sensitive documents on Dirk, Edward, and Daniel Ziff, billionaire investors who had run afoul of the Kremlin. That request was made weeks before a Russian lawyer showed up at Trump Tower offering top campaign aides “dirt” on Hillary Clinton — including her supposed connection to the Ziff brothers.

Etc.

The story goes on forever and ever and maybe we should also read together but let’s not. Let’s speculate blindly and wildly that if it’s true that the Russians were able to manipulate the United States elections then might they also be able to manipulate the World Surf League’s judging tower?

Things have been awfully strange this year, score-wise.

Awfully awfully strange.

Does anyone have a line into the Kremlin here? Like a real one and not just a random Russian cousin. I think the long-whispered “Rebel Tour” may finally have some legs.

I’d hold three events in Kamchatka if I was named lifetime commissioner. I’d drug test all the surfers and a “fail” would be if no vodka showed up in their systems. Dane Reynolds would be back and John John Florence too whether they wanted to be or not.

Mr. Putin? Are you there?

Can we have a quick chat re. professional surfing and a possible “under new management” sign?


Changing of the Guard: Maxim magazine declares the end of the Kelly Slater era!

"Step aside, Kelly Slater!"

I haven’t slept well since the Pipeline Masters in love me tender memory of Andy Irons got underway. Oh sure the thrill was enough to keep any sensible man awake but my own insomnia has been born of regret and shame. The last time David Lee and I chatted, you see, I declared that Kelly Slater would lose in round 1 then lose again in round 2 and be finished. That his creaky old body wouldn’t be able to adjust like it once did, cat-like reflexes slipping all the way away.

Then he went and made it into the semis with a now famous “Miracle 3.”

How could I have been so wrong? I felt something… felt the end.

This morning, though, my initial instinct was proven correct. Sure Kelly did very well at Pipe but Maxim magazine just declared the end of his era and the birth of our new star. Let’s read!

Step aside, Kelly Slater. There’s a new surfing superstar who’s taking the Internet by storm with a crazy viral video.

Big wave surfer Tom Butler (who’s English!) rode an absolutely ginormous wave that was estimated to be 100-feet tall at Nazare, Portugal on Friday in what many believe will set the new world record for biggest wave ever surfed.

Good Lord.

“It’s the biggest wave surfed in the world this season and could beat the current big wave world record,” Butler told Cornwall Live.

The current record holder is Brazilian Rodrigo Koxa, who rode an 80-foot wave in November 2017, also at Nazare, a famed big wave surfing spot.

The record is unlikely to be confirmed until the World Surf League Big Wave Awards in April 2019, filmmaker Pedro Miranda posted in the description of the video he shot showing Butler’s feat.

“This [record] is tricky,” Miranda said. “Tommy is a very tall guy, measuring 6-feet, 2-inches. Any wave ridden by him will always look way smaller than it really is. Not calling this a world record because I don’t like to go into speculation, but whatever measure you think it is, the wave will be way bigger after analyzed by the WSL experts.

The 29-year-old surfer teamed with German big-wave surfer Sebastian Steudtner, who towed him into the wave.

“I reckon it was maybe 90 or even 100 feet. When I get home I’ll try to figure it out. It was a monster, I know that for sure.”

Tom Butler. It’s got a ring to it, no?


The sorta wave that gives a violent gastric disturbance, skilfully wrangled by Ken Collins. | Photo: Frank Quirate

From the melancholy love department: Santa Cruz Big-Wave Legend Quits Mavericks for good!

"I'm hanging up my Mav's guns and never paddling out again."

Earlier today, the noted big-wave surfer from Santa Cruz, Ken Collins, also known, variously, as Skindog and Skin Dizzle, announced he’d quit Mavericks for good.

Via Instagram,

12/18/18 Monday was one of the best days I have ever been out at Mavz. Grateful. @small_wave was calling it a Collectors Edition Mavz Dayz. With all the special features n shit. And that’s how I want to remember my last day surfing Mavericks for the rest of my life. So that’s it, that’s a wrap, I’m hanging up my Mavz Gunz and never going to paddle out again. I don’t want my last day to be an injury, because I feel too old, or I am bitter at the crowds. It’s because I am 50 years old (old af) and the timing is perfect. The day was perfect, the vibe was perfect, and my time to kick out…..perfect. Don’t worry y’all will see me on a boat or ski smashing a Modelo, watching the Best Show On Earth screaming from the side lines, cheering all the players in this epic game. I have been Chasing Monsters for over 30 years and now it’s time to start chasing other dreams, like epic powder days in Tahoe with my family.

An elegant sign-off and reminiscent, I think, of Matthew 5-13.

“Ye are the salt of the earth. But if the salt hath lost its favour, wherewith shall it be salted?”

A very brief recap of Collins’ career.

In 2007, he won the Billabong XXL Ride of the Year and Monster Tube category on the same rowdy Puerto wave, netting fifty gees.

The win came two years after a wipeout at Jaws two years previous that cracked his emotional plate.

“I told myself I wasn’t going to do this anymore, but then I had a complete change of heart,” Collins told Surfer. “I went back and changed my equipment and focused on the safety angle a bit more and it all came together.”

In 2013, Collins turned on Laird Hamilton who’d said unkind things about Carlos Burle and Maya Gabeira and their pet wave Nazaré.

And, in 2016, he nearly drowned at the Titans of Mavericks contest.

“The water hit me. I was so disoriented, going in all directions. This is the scariest thing I’ve ever done,” said Collins, who was held under by three waves. “Things happened fast. So easy, so quick, when the water hit me, it felt like the whole ocean came down on me. I thought I had a concussion at first, I was so dizzy. I’ve never been hit so hard. It was coming down my throat.”

Mavericks, of course, ain’t a stranger to killing.

The Hawaiians, Mark Foo and Sion Milosky, died after hold-downs in 1994 and 2011 after chasing swells from their Pacific island homes.

“When u know u know,” Flea Virotsko wrote in response to Collins’ announcement.

In 1998 Flea almost died when he was washed into rocks on a day Collins described, then, as “tubing death wishes.”