Jen See: “You don’t win a seventh World Title then, a mere months later, become a washed-up has-been!”

A serious discussion.

I just woke up from the worst deadline hangover of my life. It took me three tries this morning to open the thing on my computer I use for writing. Then the file saved, well, to somewhere? I don’t exactly know where. What I’m saying is, it’s not going super great over here.

During the past month of deadline-a-palooza I did not surf. Also, I missed you guys the most!

One afternoon, I hung around a photo shoot at the Venice Beach skatepark. My job as a writer at a photoshoot is generally to show up, watch my story subject, and stay the fuck out of the way. My eyes strayed repeatedly from the skateboarding to the ocean just beyond the edge of the pavement. It was mostly walled up, onshore and crumbled, but I wanted to paddle out so badly I could taste it. Just say fuck it, forget the job I was supposed to be doing, forget the deadlines and the interviews, forget it all, and just go surf. Wisely, I’d left my boards at home.

Thanks to the skateboarding and the interviews, I missed most of the Gold Coast heats. I dipped in here and there, but not enough to get a feel for the judging or the narrative. Caroline Marks’s exuberance was fun to see and it’s been clear for a while that a CT victory was coming. Good on her for delivering. I do gently want to hold her arms to keep them from flying around, but the judges don’t seem to mind this stylistic quirk. Is it fair that I do? I’m not sure.

I couldn’t help but feel that the hype around her victory did Marks a disservice. It was as though one event win meant a world title was inevitable and the other top women had simply disappeared off the end of the horizon. Watching free surfing clips suggests that’s definitely far from the case. You don’t, as Steph did, win a seventh world title and then, a mere months later become a washed up has-been. You don’t, as Lakey did, give Steph a serious run for the World title, and then, well, do nothing. You don’t, as Carissa recently did, paddle out at Chopes and become irrelevant. It doesn’t at all work that way. And as we all know, few things are inevitable in sports.

As I dug into the women’s rounds at Bells, I felt disoriented, as though I’d lost any insight into the scoring during the off-season. The changing labels on the rounds — seeding, elimination, heat of 16 — left me more confused than usual. No doubt I’ll figure it out. Bells always surprises me by how simple it looks to surf, and yet how often it turns out not to be simple at all. In between mumbles, Curren said something to this effect during his time in the commentary booth. Rumble, mumble, some waves don’t work, mumble. There’s wisdom there, if you take the time to listen for it.

In yesterday’s round of 16, as round 3 (I think?) is now called, Steph, Carissa, and Lakey predictably came out firing. To my eye, Carissa looked the sharpest. I think sometimes her style is so understated that the judges underscore her — but I’ll admit straight up that I’m a fangirl over here. She’s working on a film, apparently, and I can’t wait to see that thing. Steph brought her usual long lines and graceful turns to the party — it’s classic and stylish, and I could watch it all day.

Lakey took a few waves to find what she wanted, but when a long wall opened up, so did she. The judges love her high-speed, multiple-turn approach. Really, I lost count of how many turns she fit into that single wave. It was an impressive number. If each of those turns looked much the same, the judges didn’t seem to mind.

Lakey is women’s surfing’s answer to Mick Fanning — and depending on your view of Fanning, that’s either a sick burn or a compliment. What’s missing is Fanning’s knife-precise rail work and tight control. Lakey often looks on the edge of losing it, like she’s hanging on by her toe nails. She makes it work. Is it fair to criticize her for surfing to what the judges reward? I’m not sure of that, any more than whether it matters that Caroline’s arms make me slightly dizzy. But we’d have nothing to talk about if we didn’t have opinions about these things.

I only saw the first exchange between Caroline and Bronte and they looked closely matched. I saw later that Caroline advanced, though Bronte seems to have let it slip through her fingers, more than it as any big statement from Caroline. The golden light called to me and I slid out for a bike ride. Bike fitness and deadlines are not the best of friends, but a girl has to try, at least.

A week or so ago, I sat on a wood pallet with a friend, drinking espresso out of paper cups. A large sheet of canvas swung in the breeze behind us. On the other side was a trade show booth stacked with thousands of dollars worth of mountain bikes, their swooping carbon lines gleaming and their intricate suspension systems engineered to tolerances precise enough for a moonlanding.

We were talking about Michelle Parker’s free skiing film from last year, All In. “I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for content like this,” I said. It came out far more earnestly than I had intended, but I realized I meant it. High-action, women-centered, big adventure. “More like this,” I said.

At the time of that conversation, the surf community was in paroxysms over Keala Kennelly’s incomplete wave and one-event world title. I watched this unfold through my peripheral vision. It’s for big wave surfing to decide whether they want to reward going for it or making it. For me, it mattered only that Keala won the event that was offered to her. People told her growing up that girls couldn’t surf. She’s a legend, because she proved them wrong.

Predictably, the argument over equal prize money became central to the argument over Kennelly’s title — and the women’s presence in the big wave lineup. The argument is inescapable now and we’re right back into it with the Bells contest and coming swell, predicted to be ginormously humongous. Just as the women struggled with oversized Jaws on the big-wave tour, the Bells lineup will leave some of the CT women fumbling and lost.

But that’s the only way women’s sports grow. They grow by taking on bigger challenges than they can necessarily meet right now today. They grow by trying — and sometimes, failing. You can dismiss them as not good enough, if you like. That’s your prerogative. But you can also measure the progress of women’s surfing in the distance between Keala and Caroline. I doubt anyone has ever told Caroline Marks that girls can’t surf. And that makes all the difference.

I’ve spent years watching films and clips and reading stories about men hucking mountain bikes off houses and surfing exotic destinations — because that’s all there was. And it’s fine, actually. When I talk to women in mountain biking or surfing, it’s an experience we share. We’ve known intuitively all along that these stories weren’t really for us. Certainly, they weren’t about us. Sometimes, when I read an especially caustic and dismissive comment about women’s sport, I want to punch walls.

But I also want to say, these stories aren’t for you. These stories about women dropping big snow lines in the Alaskan backcountry or women throwing themselves over the ledge at Mavericks or trying and failing to throw airs in contest heats — they aren’t for you. They are, finally, for us.

Question: Will Kelly Slater’s Bells’ heat win leave him completely resurrected and refreshed?

Another 1000 year reign?

I am almost finished with rough rough rough draft on next book and spend my days wrestling with word choices. Really logging hours going back and forth between “he told me” versus “he said” etc. and so you can imagine my thrill yesterday when I clicked over to the World Surf League’s website and caught Kelly Slater vs. Julian Wilson.

Oh you don’t me to describe, we have Longtom who wrote:

Kelly’s best wave featured a bogged first turn that he turned into an awkward slide which segued into a weirdly caught bottom turn into two more clean turns. His board looked chattery, catchy and unreliable.

It was charitably awkward but he won and could this mean that he wins again and again?

I ask because the film that best summarizes professional surfing in its current iteration is the wonderful Interview with a Vampire. A good friend texted me, this morning, comparing and he was inspired. Together we went through each character and here’s how it shakes out.

Tom Cruise’s Lestat is an almost note-perfect Kelly Slater. Lusting for life. Never giving up.

Brad Pitt’s Louie is John John Florence, more or less. Very talented. Very confused.

Antonio Banderas’s Armand is Gabriel Medina to a tee. John John’s foil. Very powerful.

We went on and on through the rest of the move, casting Julian Wilson as the boy who got nibbled by Lestat while Louie was nibbling poodles etc.

But let’s stop there and you tell me. Is one heat win all Kelly Slater needs to go from screen right (above) to screen left?

Is this the beginning of another 1000 year reign?

Or will these two put the stake in, as it were?

From the Biz-ventures-someone-else-should-start Dept: Play Reality Surfer Today!

Where the "mean" gets put into "mean-spirited!"

Fantasies can be fun, right? My top two fantasies are as follows:

• A dimmable light, tender foreplay and Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks on shuffle.
• A DeLorean, 1.21 gigawatts and a page-one rewrite of my formative years.

But fantasies and their inherent optimism can be a double-edged SUP foil fin. They can lead to disappointment, delusion and the sprouting of bona fide hope. Yikes! As it was so poetically put by some freedom fighter while being captured by some militia, “Hope can be dan—.”

In his great-to-read-in-a-Planned-Parenthood-waiting-room book, The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck, modern day thinkman Mark Manson (no known relation to Charles) illuminates upon notions of reality and value in ways that can take a deep dive into mid-life-crisis-induced, selfhelp literature to new depths. Paraphrased highlights include:

• To want a thing is to create a vacuum of the thing. Thus, to want is to lack.
• To accept a negative thing is a positive thing and to desire a positive thing is a negative thing.

Play some logical jazz… and… ergo… To want a bad thing is a good thing! Folks, I bring you the bottom up, critique’s wet dream, undeveloped photo negative, modern day realist’s platform for sports viewing adjacent entertainment: Reality Surfer!™* Why twist your brain into knots over hypothetical heat winners when you can choose the losers instead? Why let your emotions fly off into flights of fancy when you can embrace the modern era of microscopic scorn and disdain? Why place your analytical energy into a single event champion when you can up your odds of endorphin production by forecasting the four 33rds now known as the Bridesmaids’ Maids’ Maids’ Maids.

Functioning somewhat like the perpetual-case-of-the-Mondays Sartre to the TGIF! Kant, or Danny DeVito to Arnold Schwarzenegger from the endearing 80s monozygotic classic Twins, Reality Surfer! ™* won’t tempt one with victorious visions of grandeur but more so allow one to relish in the delicious pleasure of seeing others fail.

In mathematical form:

You Choose + They Lose = You Win

Imagine the matrix of speculative delight that could come from watching yourself weave dazzling hypothetical defeat through an event bracket before the event even starts. If you’re a hipster and “all about that retro,” look at it like a Roman resurgence — albeit more civilized — where plebeians packing the arenas were as pleased at witnessing both glory and carnage. I can’t recall if it was Potz or Turpel or Mel, but I’m certain that somewhere along the careening coastal road of interminable rebranding someone in camp WSL referred to these professional surf folks as “gladiators.” I think it was Potz.

Not only would this give the bottom half of the tour a valid reason for strapping on their leash and paddling out, just think of how entertaining this would make the nonsensically-titled “Seeding” and misleadingly-titled “Elimination” rounds. With Reality Surfer! ™*, every moment from the first buzzer is one of thrilling anticipation.

To note, this platform is not for haters.

It’s for lovers.

Specifically, those who love to hate.

In truth, we all love surfing and we’re doing our best to adapt to the vicissitudes of viewing our heroes devote their lives to the dream tour. Without them, where would we direct our passive aggressive, self-righteous superiority? However, if the competitive surfing of someone whose name rhymes with, say, No One Guru, Less He Vendes or Jack Fleestone bore you to the point where you want to slam your head into the reef, this merely provides an opportunity to snag a few snide points on the coattails of their professional mediocrity.

What do you say?

Are you with me?

Do you have the skills to actually launch this platform?

I don’t! But let’s do it anyway! Let’s ride that wave!Let’s embrace reality with some mother-fucking moxie!

Bonus Closeout Section:

Q: What did the realist say to the optimist while the optimist was being mauled by a 14-foot
tiger shark?
A: Damn. That bites.

*This trademark symbol was copy/pasted and serves as no ownership of this idea. However, if someone with an entrepreneurial spirit decides to successfully launch this platform and make boatloads of money as a result, please be ethical and give me 10%.

Remember, hell is very hot.

tom curren
“People don't like seeing old people on screens,” said fifty-two-year-old Stephen Malkmus, former front man of slacker rock band Pavement, “facts are facts”. It was my first thought after seeing a wiry, wizened old man hopping across the face on a Black Beauty. Followed by “Who shrunk Tom Curren?” It looked like Occy had eaten half of him and spat the rest out. The famous style, last seen so elegantly threading J-Bay, was almost entirely absent. | Photo: WSL

Rip Curl Pro, Bells, Day Three: “Who Shrunk Tom Curren?”

"It looked like Occy had eaten half of him and spat the rest out."

You got your sea legs on for the fifty-year storm, comrades, or as Kelly called it,  “the twenty-year storm from Point Break”?

Getting that so wrong must have made a mid-level marketing exec in the Santa Monica high tower cry after the blizzard of hype unleashed over the last 24 hours.

Beautiful, beautiful hype and has put me in the most positive frame of mind imaginable.

Go elsewhere if you want to read negativity; this will be pure positive vibration. Even scratching the opening sentence, “Sage Erickson is not a CT surfer” does not bother.

A “full reset” was in the works according to Luke Egan.

“A different event” in the view of Peter Mel.

And that is the truth.

Somehow, this event is stretching out across a Biblical timescale and Kieren Perrow seems as cool and insouciant as a Spanish matador as the end of the event window scuffs the dirt.

The luxury of overlapping heats must give the illusion of endless time.

Tomorrow will likely seem another event entirely as the fabled fifty-year storm arrives.

I know the talk is of Carissa Moore and Steph Gilmore but my gal is Lakey Peterson, and I think she can bring the best bottom turn/top turn combination on Tour into the vortex tomorrow.

She will not, as Rosie said, “make a meal of it”. That faux pas was even too much for Ronnie.

At some point during the Caroline Marks heat the conclusion became inescapable: she is the Number One ranked Female Surfer on Earth and I cannot watch her surf. Her turns look over-coached and formulaic and she makes the very act of surfing look difficult and awkward. Four-foot Bells Bowl made a lot of the ladies look less than stellar.

“We’re gunna feast on it Rosie,” he quickly corrected.

Did you watch the women?

For some reason I seem to have lost the capacity to enjoy it. Women’s pro surfing that is. Not that much of a mystery.

At some point during the Caroline Marks heat the conclusion became inescapable: she is the Number One ranked Female Surfer on Earth and I cannot watch her surf.

Her turns look over-coached and formulaic and she makes the very act of surfing look difficult and awkward. Four-foot Bells Bowl made a lot of the ladies look less than stellar.

Kelly beat Julian. It’s far more accurate to say Julian lost the heat – so badly you’d almost call for an investigation – than Kelly won it. You were rooting for Kelly? Me too.

Maybe I’ve just been spending too much time at the Pass watching leashless vixens glide on longboards, taunting impotent Dads in the shorebreak.

Kelly beat Julian.

It’s far more accurate to say Julian lost the heat – so badly you’d almost call for an investigation – than Kelly won it.

An appreciative crowd had gathered to show Kelly the love that was absent from the Gold Coast.

You were rooting for Kelly? Me too.

The waves slowed up. A restart was in the offing but Kelly caught a dribbler up near Rincon. Went a wave under priority. Three turns, one flubbed and fell off on a cutback rebound. A mid-five.

Julian failed three rides in a row.

Kelly’s best wave featured a bogged first turn that he turned into an awkward slide which segued into a weirdly caught bottom turn into two more clean turns. His board looked chattery, catchy and unreliable.

He later admitted that he “surfed nervously”.

Somehow, those two very ordinary waves were enough to put Julian into a subtle combo. With eight minutes to go it was time for Kelly’s much vaunted strategy game to come into play and he squeezed the life out of the rest of the heat.

That sent Pottz and Joe into a froth and they had basically granted him his Twelveth World Title by the time the hooter sounded. If he paddles out on one of those chattery plastic paddle pop sticks tomorrow he’s gunna get slayed.

Granted, he has to be the main pitch man for his board label but surely for the love of God there has to be an old Merrick circa 2006 they can paint up with a Posca pen for the rest of the event?

Ageing is such a strange beast.

“People don’t like seeing old people on screens,” said fifty-two-year-old Stephen Malkmus, former front man of slacker rock band Pavement, “facts are facts”.

It was my first thought after seeing a wiry, wizened old man hopping across the face on a Black Beauty. Followed by “Who shrunk Tom Curren?”

It looked like Occy had eaten half of him and spat the rest out.

The famous style, last seen so elegantly threading J-Bay, was almost entirely absent.

Occy was still Occy, thank God, the equally famous jawline expanding precipitously over the bull-like physique and threatening to over-topple the Occ on his first few waves.

It was deluxe viewing for the connoisseur: Kelly in the booth with an $84 OK fishermans beanie* (superfine Merino, organic cotton blend) along with Ronnie and Luke. Best commentary ever.

Tom got weirder than weird on a skimboard and everyone clapped along. Occy did the best turn of the heat, with the truly beautiful thing about it being the lead-up high-line. Post-modern pro surfing has relied on the tweak and extra pump at the bottom of the wave, a constant bugbear for aesthetes who value a pure line.

Occy added the tweak to the high-line, generating an effortless acceleration. The resultant backhand blast got the plaudits from the pundits but it was the set-up work that was sublime.

As for Tom’s skimboard surfing I simply don’t know what to think…. maybe someone from Santa Babs can chime in.

All this abundant time that KP had to play with seemed to evaporate at high-tide Winkipop. The swell had a few goes at filling in, without much success.

Lanky Aussie goofyfoots like Ryan Callinan and Jacob Willcox had the most success being able to fit the vertical backhand hook into what Luke Egan described as a “shorter distance of time.” Quite right.

Willcox, like Heazlewood, and even R-Call to a lesser extent, seem to come from this mould of under-the-radar pros who have been around for ever, over-looked and now are here on the scene fully formed as CT level pros.

Filipe and Ciao had the heat of the day. Filipe, many cuts above the level so far on display and under-scored, skipped out to a big lead. A wave with perfect flow and variety was discarded by judges.

Ibelli fought back gamely, in the words of the italian writer Roberto Calasso, “He has no style of his own, but uses every style”. The clock ticked down and Ibelli could not surmount the score required.

Seth Moniz will win rookie of the year. Furthermore, and this will offend some readers, but the diminutive greenhorn, with his flawless top-to-bottom repertoire and glue feet, is a replica Adriano De Souza with Hawaiian style. He easily accounted for Mikey Wright, who hasn’t looked right at all so far this season.

A shorter distance of time. A perfect zen koan for the day.

Nonsensical and yet perfectly understandable.

We are still only halfway through round three, can you believe that?

Tomorrow, I think, will be very entertaining. Worth getting stocked up for.

Whatever Tom Curren smokes; I’ll take that if it’s OK with you.

*A real Irish cable knit 100% merino wool beanie available for $24.95 from the Aran Islands.

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Men’s Round 3 (H1-8) Results:
Heat 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 11.84 DEF. Julian Wilson (AUS) 7.20
Heat 2: Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 11.97 DEF. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 11.67
Heat 3: Conner Coffin (USA) 13.43 DEF. Soli Bailey (AUS) 11.83
Heat 4: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 12.50 DEF. Michel Bourez (FRA) 10.76
Heat 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.50 DEF. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 13.07
Heat 6: Seth Moniz (HAW) 14.00 DEF. Mikey Wright (AUS) 8.50
Heat 7: Jacob Willcox (AUS) 13.24 DEF. Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.20
Heat 8: Deivid Silva (BRA) 13.17 DEF. Wade Carmichael (AUS) 11.87

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Remaining Men’s Round 3 (H8-16) Matchups:
Heat 9: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Reef Heazlewood (AUS)
Heat 10: Willian Cardoso (BRA) vs. Yago Dora (BRA)
Heat 11: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Ricardo Christie (NZL)
Heat 12: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 13: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)
Heat 14: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) vs. Jeremy Flores (FRA)
Heat 15: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS)
Heat 16: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)

Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Men’s Round 4 Matchups:
Heat 1: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Peterson Crisanto (BRA)
Heat 2: Conner Coffin (USA) vs. Ryan Callinan (AUS)
Heat 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Seth Moniz (HAW)
Heat 4: Jacob Willcox (AUS) vs. Deivid Silva (BRA)
Heat 5: TBD Following Conclusion of MR3
Heat 6: TBD Following Conclusion of MR3
Heat 7: TBD Following Conclusion of MR3
Heat 8: TBD Following Conclusion of MR3

bells beach
Bells tomoz, maybe.

From the equal-pay-for-equal-work dept: Will the WSL run the women at ten-foot Bells tomorrow?

"If the women are getting equal pay for an equal job, they can't say it's too big and rough," says Maurice Cole.

When I heard about the forceful forecast for the Bells contest, twenty feet and so on, I made a call to the shaper Maurice Cole, a Bells habitué for fifty years or thereabouts.

Maurice, who is sixty five, was standing on the stairs at Bells, wearing shorts despite the cold and staring at clean three-to-four-foot waves. He was greeted by every pro surfer, coach, administrator and fan who walked by.

Question: Is the forecast correct?

Is Bells going to be big?

Maurice paints me a little picture.

Two weeks earlier, it was eight foot on the back of a fifteen-second south swell. Maurice, who was riding an eight-foot long surfboard, sat fifty metres further out than the pack at Bells and still got cleaned up by a seven-wave set.

“I dived under the first one and I surfaced, gasping for air, just as the next wave was on top of me.”

That was a fifteen-second period swell.

Tomorrow it’s seventeen. And wrapped inside a forty-knot cross-onshore south-west wind.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a south swell at seventeen seconds,” says Maurice. “I’m a little bit hesitant to call it. But. It’ll be ten-for plus, twelve-foot sets, maybe. The biggest thing is the wind. I told Micro and Ace that it’s going to be that big and that far out to sea, you’re going to need to chip-shot into two of ’em. It’s a wave-catching contest when it’s that big.”

The big question, says Maurice, is what to do with the women.

Do you send ’em out when it’s ten-to-twelve-foot?

“There’s been a little bit of… ”

Maurice searches for the word…

Energy… in saying, well, if the women are getting equal pay for an equal job, they can’t say it’s too big and rough. And it’s going to be big. The strength of the swell, I wouldn’t be surprised to see virtually non-stop sets. That’s what happens. In a south swell it just racks up. West swells are inconsistent.”

The women, therefore, will be the first heats on Friday morning before the joint gets out of control, climbing back into the ring when it drops to six-to-eight on Saturday.

Other notes: The water is an unseasonably warm 17.7 C, (64 degrees), Maurice has been employed to supply step-up boards for various pros and the contest will, likely, run at Bells ’cause of the difficult of using skis at Winkipop when it gets big.

“If you get in trouble on the takeoff at Winki, getting a ski in there is pretty tough.”

And, how does tomorrow’s predicted swell compare to the famous day in 1981 when Simon Anderson showed the worth of his novelty three-finned design in fifteen-foot surf?

The difference, says Maurice, is 1981 was clean.

“It’s not going to be like ’81 at all. It’s going to be a shitload harder. Ten times harder.”