Update: Kelly Slater and John John Florence get WSL Injury wildcards for 2019; Caio Ibelli feeling sad!

"I disagree with the decision, Kelly used and abused. Is it fair?" asks Caio Ibelli.

Well, that ain’t a surprise. Despite everything, Kelly’s busted foot that functioned at favourable events, John John’s theatrical exit mid-year and gadflies that insisted Caio Ibelli take at least one of the wildcards, the two world champions have been awarded the WSL’s injury wildcards.

Here’s the presser:

“It’s always a challenge when we have a large number of applicants for a limited number of wildcard positions,” Kieren Perrow, WSL Commissioner, said.

“We truly appreciate and understand the value of being on tour and take this process very seriously. As it has for years, this process includes an independent medical review board, which assesses the applicants based on severity of injury and the impact it has on the surfer’s ability to compete at the Championship Tour level. In the case of 2018, all three applicants were deemed to have severe injuries that prevented them from competing in multiple events. From there, we apply our technical criteria and career achievement factors – which include World Titles, career results, prior year ranking, and ranking at time of injury. While all three have strong cases, we have determined that Kelly Slater (USA) and John John Florence (HAW) will receive the WSL wildcards for 2019 and Caio Ibelli (BRA) will be the first replacement for the tour – not something we guarantee to a third applicant most seasons but is deserving in this case.”

Here’s Kelly, two days ago.


And, John John on Sunday at D-Bah.

A Solomon-esque decision and I doubt Caio is anything but thrilled with his place very close to the grid.

Midday update. As the writer Longtom has since pointed out, Caio is very said, as evidenced by an Instagram post that reads, after going through the Google Translate wringer,

Today @wsl announced that next year’s Injury Wildcard will be Kelly Slater and JJ Florence. Sincerely, I disagree with the decision, Kelly used and abused. She went to Fiji 20 feet during the Keramas event, stayed 3rd in the pool and did not go to France next week. This is the second consecutive year that he uses the same wave. Is it fair?


The two other replacement surfers on the men’s side are Portugal’s Fred Morais and the Australian Bruce Irons-alike Ethan Ewing.

The defending women’s world champ, Tyler Wright, who disappeared from the tour mid-year in a still-to-be satisfactorily explained manner, is the women’s wildcard. The replacement surfers are the Australian Keely Andrew and Santa Babs’ Sage Erickson.

Oh and more from the presser, which I’ve thoughtfully cut and pasted here.

The 2019 WSL CT will be the primary Tokyo 2020 Olympics qualification avenue for the world’s best surfers. The world rankings at the end of the 2019 CT season will determine 18 of the 40 places at the Olympic Games (10 men and 8 women). The remaining 22 places will be determined at the 2019 and 2020 ISA World Surfing Games, the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, and a single slot (each for men and women) for the host nation, Japan.

Of these 18 places determined by the WSL, there is a maximum of 2 men and 2 women for each country (e.g. if there are 3 women from Australia in the Top 8, only the Top 2 female Australians will qualify). 

The 2019 Championship Tour starts in April and runs until December. This is a year-long, multi-stage tour that tests the world’s best surfers in a variety of different waves and conditions. The CT schedules are listed below:

2019 Men’s Championship Tour schedule
Gold Coast Men’s Pro: April 3 – 13, 2019
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach: April 17 – 27, 2019
Bali Men’s Pro: May 13 – 24, 2019
Margaret River Pro: May 27 – June 7, 2019
Oi Rio Pro: June 20 – 28, 2019
J-Bay Open: July 9 – 22, 2019
Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o: August 21 – September 1, 2019
Surf Ranch Pro: September 19 – 22, 2019
Quiksilver Pro France: October 3 – 13, 2019
Meo Pro Peniche: October 16 – 28, 2019
Billabong Pipe Masters: December 8 – 20, 2019

2019 Women’s Championship Tour Schedule
Gold Coast Women’s Pro: April 3 – 13, 2019
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach: April 17 – 27, 2019
Bali Women’s Pro: May 13 – 24, 2019
Margaret River Pro: May 27 – June 7, 2019
Oi Rio Pro: June 20 – 28, 2019
J-Bay Open: July 9 – 22, 2019
Surf Ranch Pro: September 19 – 22, 2019
Roxy Pro France: October 3 – 13, 2019
Meo Pro Peniche: October 16 – 28, 2019
Hawaii Women’s Pro: November 25 – December 7, 2019


From the own-goal Dept: The World Surf League’s bizarre Mavericks PR debacle!

International media swoons while the World Surf League stays invisible!

The sun should be shining very brightly this morning in Santa Monica, home of The World Surf League. The best day of professional surfing history just wrapped in epic conditions. The new champion, Gabriel Medina, is talented, handsome and theoretically marketable. He didn’t win by just hanging on. He won by destroying the competition. By sending a grown man with interesting nipples straight over the falls.

But another narrative is being squeezed through the lamestream media. The story of Mavericks, what an epic day it was and how there was no competition. Shall we read some headlines?

Surfers brave monster Mavericks waves, despite no competition (ABC 7 local news)

Despite Mavericks delay, surfers still ride 5-story ‘raw and rugged’ waves (SF Gate)

Massive waves arrive but a Mavericks contest is a no-go (The Mercury News)

Despite really big waves, no Mavericks surf contest this week (San Luis Obispo News)


Surfline’s Marcus Sanders had the day’s best wrap (read here!). He was there, trying to corral surfers for interviews etc. and had a first-person view on the day. Let’s read a smidge?

And the spectral buoy readings would’ve never said in a million years that Lenny was one of the first to paddle and shred at 10am, or that he was joined by a crew of other young Hawaiians, including Nathan Florence, Billy Kemper, Koa Rothman, Danny Fuller and Torrey Meister, who were in the lineup from dawn to dusk, bobbing around on a little boat in between making giant drops and/or taking serious beatings alongside a solid-and-growing local crew.

Oh it was wild, and maybe the World Surf League was correct in not running but when some of the world’s best big wave surfers are out putting on a show and the world’s media is starving to witness the “biggest swell event in 10 years” doesn’t it beg for… an real, honest explanation?  Maybe their model was right but… don’t you think the governing body of professional surfing would have tried to get ahead of the story a bit?

Or market it as an “expression session?”

Or have a make-shift contest where people vote at home for who went the biggest?

Or anything other than looking like Chickens of the Sea?

Will Gabriel Medina’s sheer domination hasten the return of John John Florence?

I've asked before but after yesterday's straight demolition it is time to ask again.

Looking back on the 2018 World Surf League Championship Tour it seems silly that anyone could have won other than Gabriel Medina. Oh certainly many talented surfers rose as the year meandered from Australia to Brazil, across the world to Indonesia, South Africa, Lemoore, etc. Filipe Toledo proved himself to be the most talented. Italo showed flashes of Occy-esque burger domination. Julian surfed well but nobody was going to beat Gabriel.

It seems as if he as harnessed a next-level competitive drive and latched it to incredible natural ability (though not as natural as Filipe’s) and Kelly Slater mind tricks.

You watched Jordy Smith go over the falls with priority in his semi-final heat, didn’t you? Gabriel Medina willed Jordy Smith over the falls and Jordy is not a wet-behind-the-ears fella either. He is a ASP/WSL veteran, clocking time and collecting year end bonuses.

The combination of ability, competitiveness and tricky business means that 2019 will be his too. Who on tour can beat?

Oh yes, John John Florence.

While Gabriel was being hoisted unto shoulders, draped in the Brazilian flag after surfing what many, including Steve Shearer, considered the best day in professional surf history; John John Florence was in Australia. Surfing some little waves. Having fun.

Now, maybe his competitive fire has gone out but he and Gabriel Medina both have two world titles and, if John John can muster his internal forces, the fight between the two will be as good as the ones between Andy Irons and Kelly Slater.

Possibly even better.

I’ve asked before but now since it is over, it is time to ask again. Do you think John John feels the burn or do you think he is happy letting Gabriel roll of a quick four titles in a row? It seems like something we could bet on.

Pipeline Masters Finals wrap: “The best day of pro surfing ever!”

Or at least top 3 with the Final Day Tahiti 2014 and Smirnoff Pro 1974.

Best day of Pro surfing ever? I say yes. Or at least top 3 with the Final Day Tahiti 2014 and Smirnoff Pro 1974.

Too much? I’ve watched more pro surfing than God himself this year; sat through dreary round two days that made me want to put a bullet through my brain. Been publicly shamed by the owner of the Sport as a dream crusher and hater for doing my level, level best to cover his baby truthfully. Forensically.

To present it to the public as a legitimate sporting activity and not some rinky-dink two-bit marketing activity staffed by semi-literate rejects from a self-help course. Through it all Gabe Medina has laid it down, hard. A hard, uncompromising track without an atom of safety surfing involved.

To see him surf four times at close to perfect six-to-eight-foot Pipe and do what he did made me a happy man. Deliriously so.

The day had anti-climax written all over it early when the sun sat low behind Sunset Elementary. It looked more like wonky Indo than Pipe. Jordy won round four on the buzzer.

Medina’s first wave laid down a hard, high mark for the rest of the field. Very deep, impossible tube to alley-oop. A dream start that straight away had a whiff of inevitability. He sat closer to the Sunset side of the reef, nearer the sand-bar, his genius for finding his waves in full effect. His last ride was a high score that gave him an early shower with a minute to go.

He told Rosie he woke early and “I don’t feel pressure”. Compared to Filipe who looked like a shattered refugee begging for clemency after his loss to Kelly yesterday Medina had an inhuman look to him.

Parko started with a casual tube-ride to flyaway kick-out for a six and never looked close to replicating it. Julian had what Pottz called the “whereabouts” to get out of a barrel you could drive a bus through.

Almost ten minutes to go and sets approached every part of the reef. Parko needed a 6.45 to relegate Joycey. Would he throw it?

Two big spitting teepees went through the line-up to gasps from the crowd. No paddlers. Parko had already punched the clock and timed out on his career. The clock ticked down on Parko.

“It’s all over,” he said to Rosie. “I’m so glad it’s over.”

Kelly looked off in heat four. Like the impact of yesterday had taken it’s toll and his recovery was not complete. He packed close-outs and surfed four waves for nothing. Thirteen minutes to go and the GOAT is sitting on a heat score of 3.07, which was, if I’m not mistaken, the score given to his miraculous make from yesterday. A minor cosmic joke on the King, no doubt.

8.25 to go, Kelly paddles into a ledging Pipe wave and with that famous no-hands-back-on-his-heels drop that makes you stop breathing, pulled into a deep tube and emerged with the spit. That’s the wave he needed. Australian and Brazilian judges low-balled it as a low six but the low seen given by others puts it as a high six. Duru has won the heat but Slater is through.

Jordy fired in Quarter One. Looked at home at Pipe for the first time in his career. Too late? During his heat with Seabass they had one of those All-In profiles. Very slick, no? Affecting. Informative. This sport is getting so much right, right now. The webcasting, the profiles, even the commentary with Ronnie and Ross and Dorian and Fanning guesting.

All the wrapping is perfect.

But the thing that needs reforming: the product itself, seems impervious to change. Why?

Connor vs Gabe. Quarter-final two. Best heat in pro surfing history. No? Come for me, bro. I’ll drop kick your acai bowl into next week. Connor tested Gabe’s one weak spot: over aggression with a tendency to interfere on the take-off of the opening ride and Gabe backed off. Connor nailed a pig of a Backdoor pit. Then nailed another, and another. Three dreamy makes to start the heat.

Gabe faltered, then again, and again. I would not call it a “soft combo” but something closer to a chokehold.

Nineteen minutes in and Connor’s close-to-perfect heat has sucked out all the emotional energy out of the largely Brazilian crowd. They are silent. Charlie looks close to death. Like an errant mosquito bite would finish him off.

Gabe sprinted to the crest of a ragged pyramid, whipped it, went straight down and tail stalled into a big round tube. Came out and threw a straight air into the light tradewind. I think, the most outrageous display of skill under pressure all year. To that point.

Paddling back out he sprinted straight past Connor Coffin went over the edge of a threatening wave stretched out to Off the Wall, did two flamboyant no-hands pumps and spiked the deepest throatiest and deepest pit of the contest. Ten, no question. Awarded. The camera shifted to Julian who looked, according to Ron Blakey, “like he was trying to swallow an avocado seed”.

The crowd energy came flooding back in. The combo was reversed with interest. Connor was cooked after surfing the best heat he’d ever had at Pipe.

Kelly took a lot of gas in his quarter-final; against Yago, who had looked, a fair combo of Rob Machado and Gerry Lopez. Even though I hate Lopez comparisons, it’s true. With eight minutes to go Kelly asked for and received a big perfect Pipe wave. The toll taken would determine his next heat against Julian, who accounted for Duru, it must be said, with the help of a Good God.

Semi-Final One. Jordy vs Gabriel. It was stunning, to me, that even this deep into the comp, Julian was still a chance of winning the Title.

What followed was controversial. It began with the biggest broadcast fail of the season. A long ad break ensued, cutting deep into the start of the heat. The broadcast came live on Jordy framed by a rotund backdoor lip, emerging triumphantly. The broadcast had missed three rides. Three critical rides.

Don’t call me a hater, or a dream crusher, Dirk. Those are just facts. With a world title on the line, the webcast missed live, critical action.

Jordy had amassed a heat total of 15.83 in the first 4mins. Jeezus christ!

There were shades of Keramas, when a testosterone laden Jordy out-muscled Gabe in a paddle battle. It was a rare primal display.

And while the victorious silverback tried to digest his meal in the sun Gabe paddled around him. In. Out. He looked seaward, he sniffed the air like a terrier. He paddled right onto Jordy’s shoulder and accompanied him like a guide dog does a blind man, straight into a close-out, ditching his board in the lip and pin diving from crest to trough.

That’s it, I thought. Jordy’s blown it. He bought the worst used car in history.

Earlier, in his presser, Jordy had make a diagnosis for success.

“Just 4 more great waves,” he said.

Yes, and he had already ridden two of them. But he missed something vital. They had to be better than the other guys. And no stupid mistakes. Gabe spit-roasted a double sectioned Backdoor cavern with a highly technical outside knee stall. That stalling technique he learned, and perfected at the Wave Ranch. It’s made him the most technically proficient backside tube-rider on earth. Or any other planet.

Was the score highballed?


Did Jordy get the mid-range seven needed on his next ride, a double peace signed no hands tube?

I thought, yes.

It was a call that could have gone either way… just one of those emotional artefacts of a subjectively judged sport when it encounters the irresistible force of a human being making magic.
Don’t be sad.

Jordy can be sad. But you have to earn the right to an over-score, and Gabe did that. And then some.

Three minutes to go, I could not watch. I paced the halls. The clock ticked out, Gabe did it. Cosmic justice restored. Or, as a commentator noted when 49’er’s Quarterback Joe Montana returned to the fold “the world is turning right”.

Kelly looked cooked to me in his curiously impotent semi against Julian. The heat was there for him to win. Nine mins to go and with priority, needing a four and he gave control of the heat to Julian riding a toy little Backdoor wave , then spent precious minutes battling to get back out. He gifted the final to Julian.

How’d you like that Final? I enjoyed, very, very much. Gabe hit the gas pedal. Hustled the shit out of Julian and forced him into a closeout, then threaded an impossible tube at Backdoor for a sketchy make out the doggy door.

A make? Yes. Judges agreed. 9.57.

He threaded them front-side and backside and threw a little back-flip into the victory wave.

Very fine. Best day ever.

That concludes the coverage. I’m off to get my skin cancer cut out then a leisurely afternoon on pain-killers and beer.

Thanks for reading, it’s been emotional.

Billabong Pipe Masters Final Results:
1 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 18.34
2 – Julian Wilson (AUS) 16.70

Billabong Pipe Masters Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.27 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.83
SF 2: Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.20 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 11.17

Billabong Pipe Masters Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.16 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 6.93
QF 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 19.43 def. Conner Coffin (USA) 14.26
QF 3: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.53 def. Yago Dora (BRA) 10.17
QF 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.50 def. Joan Duru (FRA) 10.07

Billabong Pipe Masters Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.50, Conner Coffin (USA) 9.43, Ryan Callinan (AUS) 7.93
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.90, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 11.93, Michel Bourez (PYF) 6.57
Heat 3: Yago Dora (BRA) 15.97, Julian Wilson (AUS) 12.44, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 7.77
Heat 4: Joan Duru (FRA) 10.80, Kelly Slater (USA) 9.20, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 7.00

Men’s 2018 Jeep Leaderboard (after Billabong Pipe Masters):
1 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) – 62,490 points
2 – Julian Wilson (AUS) – 57,585 points
3 – Filipe Toledo (BRA) – 51,450 points
4 – Italo Ferreira (BRA) – 43,070 points
5 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) – 36,440 points

Final VANS Triple Crown of Surfing Top 5:
1 – Jesse Mendes (BRA)
2 – Joel Parkinson (AUS)
3 – Jordy Smith (ZAF)
4 – Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
5 – Joan Duru (FRA)

Gabriel Medina’s 2018 WSL Championship Tour Results:
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast – 13th
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach – 3rd
Oi Rio Pro – 5th
Corona Bali Protected – 9th
Uluwatu CT – 5th
Corona Open J-Bay – 5th
Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o – 1st
Surf Ranch Pro – 1st
Quiksilver Pro France – 3rd
MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal – 3rd
Billabong Pipe Masters – 1st

Gabriel Medina’s Championship Tour Career Rankings:
2018 – 1st
2017 – 2nd
2016 – 3rd
2015 – 3rd
2014 – 1st
2013 – 14th
2012 – 7th
2011 – 12th

Breaking: Gabriel Medina beats Jordy Smith in semifinals to claim 2018 World Title!

Jesse Mendes wins Triple Crown. Obrigado to all!

Do you know Jordy Smith owns a house on the North Shore? If you were watching the Pipeline Masters in tender and loving memory of Andy Irons then you certainly do but Jordy Smith’s North Shore house did not help him beat Gabriel Medina and with Gabriel Medina’s semifinal victory gifted him the 2018 World Title right in front of Julian Wilson and Kelly Slater, who was no doubt thinking, “Cool. two down, nine to go.”

What an amazing day!

What an amazing heat!

Gabriel and Jordy both traded big barrels, extraordinary barrels, each weaving, each regrouping, each not getting too ahead of themselves but… the scoring?

Did you agree with the scoring?

Ross n Ronnie sure didn’t. They thought Jordy got robbed. But… what did you think?

Oh that’s rude. We can talk about that later. Right now you should crack a room temperature bottle of cachaça, take a sip and feel the burn because that burn is going to be in your esophagus for two/three months.

Gabriel Medina is your 2018 World Champ!

Obrigado to him. Obrigado to Jesse Mendes who won the Triple Crown. It’s order and progress all the way around!

But, real quick, how sweet do Ross n Ronnie sound together? I’m going to write a poem or maybe direct an art nouveau film called Ross et Ronnie but let’s not get distracted.

Brazil for president!