One of Keala's two world title-winning wipeouts at Pe'ahi.

Warshaw: Women’s big-wave world title “an embarrassment. Not for Keala, but the WSL”

"On the WSL's master list of embarrassments, though, it's not even in the top 10."

Last night, after a pleasing vegan pizza (red lentil ragu, oven-roasted kale, tahini etc), I came home to, a, an apartment whose supply of Japanese whisky had been exhausted, and, b, a squall of social media activity.

It was enough to trigger some sort of sad feeling, if I was open to these sorts of things.

The social circuit buzzed because of a story, two days ago, where I wondered aloud if a world title granted after one event, with ten competitors, and where the winner didn’t make a takeoff, was a little overcooked.

I did forget what year I’m in and that any sort of critique is hate and so on, particularly if the person is female or gay. To question someone who is both, even if the issue has nothing to do with gender or sexing, is suicidal.


Keala Kennelly issued an invitation on Instagram for readers to pile on, which they did with gusto.

(Click here, it’s pretty long. Some very good points are raised. The Inertia’s Zach Weisberg and Blue Crush lead Kate Bosworth make cameos.)


Made me wonder.

Should criticism of one-event world titles be quarantined, should I have known this, and therefore did I deserve the scorn?

Who else y’gonna ask? Matt Warshaw, king of surf history, one-man operator of the Encylopedia of Surfing, the most valuable property in the game. 

BeachGrit: I got pitch-forked by mobs last night after questioning the validity of one-event world titles, with reference to Keala Kennelly’s big-wave crown and Cori Schumacher’s longboard titles. KK’s is an interesting subject to discuss. Didn’t make a wave in the final and there were only ten other competitors in the event although, yes, the waves were very dangerous and she’s a brave gay woman etc. Does it take, as the WSL suggests although it clearly vacillates on the issue as evidenced by the BWT award, a tour to make a title? In your opinion etc.

Warshaw: A one-event world title lowers the odds that the champ is legit. A tour is the way to go, but all that does is bump the odds that the champ is deserving. We’ve been flaying our pro tour champs as long as there’s been a pro tour. Not all, but some.

The obvious question, where do you place KK’s big-wave world title?

It’s an embarrassment. Not for Keala, but the WSL. On the WSL’s master list of embarrassments, though, it’s not even in the top 10.

Those pre-tour single-event world champions, like Midget, Felipe Pomar, Nat, Hemmings, Rolf Aurness, Jimmy Blears . . . how do you rate ‘em?

Midget deserved his title, just the way Damien Hardman deserved his. Smart, clean, beautiful surfing. Neither one ever set you on fire, but give ‘em the crown and congratulations. Felipe Pomar as world champ is a head-scratcher. Nat Young surfed circles around him. But you gotta go back and figure out what the criteria was that afternoon in Peru, probably it was a biggest-longest wave deal, and that makes it harder to gainsay.
Nat in ’66 was a hands-down winner. But here’s a twist. That was a three-round contest, and David Nuuhiwa won the opener, so if that event been like every other world title of the era, David is your world champ. Nat didn’t even make the final that first round. But he won the next two rounds, didn’t even break a sweat, there’s your champ, fair and square. Hemmings in ’68 rode the biggest waves the furthest distance, but Midget very much looked like the winner to me. Midget had a win and two runner-up finishes between ’64 and ‘70, so he’d be your champ for the decade. Rolf was totally legit in 1970. Blears in ‘72—the whole event was black comedy, the surf was shit in the finals. Bob Hawke could’ve won if he got the right waves. The women champs were on the level, start to finish: Phyllis, Joyce Hoffman, Margo, and the criminally unknown Sharron Weber were all deserving.

If there is a validity to single-event world titles, does that make whomever win the Olympics next year a world champion, even if it’s at one-foot Chiba and some donkey gets lucky? And might there, very soon, with big wave titles, ISA titles, junior titles, Olympics etc, be a glut of meaningless world champions, as in boxing?

“Olympic champ” is its own category, adjacent to but separate from “world champ.” Which sounds like hair-splitting, and yeah I think we’re already into a glut situation. In the Warshaw Manual of Style, Usage and Elucidation, “world champ” by itself refers to either the single-event gang we discussed above, or the world tour winners. Anything else gets prefaced: “1988 juniors division amateur champ,” or “1996 longboard world champ.” How boring is this? Is this more or less boring than the Round One heats Longtom was frothing on day before yesterday?

I can’t even express the thrills this gives me. Do you count Layne Beachley’s masters’ title among her world titles, making it eight not seven and still one tiara beyond Gilmore?


And Gary Elkerton, what did he win, four masters titles? Is he a four-time world champ? Same as MR?

Those four masters wins are worth more than the participation trophies my kid got for soccer, but they’re not world titles. Gary got tag-teamed out of a for-real world title that one year, though.

Let’s veer left slightly and recap that Pipe tag-team with Kong.

1993 world title showdown at Pipe, second semifinal, four-man heat, Gary, Derek, Larry Rios, and I can’t remember the fourth guy. Gary was in second and heading for the final, along with Derek, but Larry just needed a small score to knock Gary back to third. Seconds before the horn, the wave comes. Derek paddles on the inside and forces Gary to back out, then Derek pulls up and gives it to Larry, who gets the score. Derek went on to win the contest and the title. God’s honest truth, I was on the beach that afternoon at Pipe and didn’t notice that double-team thing. I don’t think there were any rules broken, in any event. But there are things you can do in a four-man heat, obviously, that you can’t do man-on-man. If Derek and Larry worked something out beforehand, and it wasn’t against the rules, then fair play to them. Hate the game, not the players.

Gimme your thoughts about CJ’s 2001 abbreviated tour world title after our Islamic brothers took their birds down on New York City and DC. It demonstrates, I think, CJ’s ability to see the world clearly that he doesn’t go around calling himself a world champ. Or maybe he does. Does he?

I think the point we’re making here is that the whole thing is maybe at best half serious. Suicidal jihadists gave us a world champ, and I think it’s surfy to laugh at that, and laugh harder at PT winning the first pro title without taking out a single event that year, while also acknowledging that CJ and PT are both world-class surfers. Then of course we wait for a new Kai Lenny edit, and I’ll take that very seriously indeed.

Breaking: Volcom just sold to Britney Spears, Paris Hilton’s one-time favorite brand Juicy Couture!

Introducing the Juicy Couture Pipeline Pro!

It is a wonderful time to be alive and enjoying the surf industry. Exciting developments happen every single day and sometimes even multiple times a day. Yesterday, for example, we learned that Harley-Davidson is the official motorcycle of professional surfing and today we learn that Volcom, the brand that pitted the Youth against Establishment, has just been sold to Juicy Couture!

“Juicy Couture?” I hear you say with a squished up face, like you don’t remember those velour tracksuits, like you don’t remember Paris Hilton or her toy Chihuahua Tinkerbell.

You know Juicy Couture and let’s first go straight to the press release for details before we carry on any further. Let’s get our facts straight (not as in “not gay” but as in “clear”).

Authentic Brands Group (ABG) continues expanding its fashion portfolio, adding to its collection of clothing properties with the acquisition of lifestyle brand Volcom. Formerly owned by Gucci and Saint Laurent parent Kering, ABG’s newest purchase sets the company up to make moves in the skate, surf and snowboarding markets.

Already the owners of Juicy Couture, Nautica, Aeropostale and several celebrity namesakes (including Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Shaquille O’Neal), ABG’s Volcom buy affords the company access to Volcom’s massive retail presence, with nearly 100 stores across the globe. “For nearly three decades, the Volcom family has created one of the most iconic brands in the skate, surf and snow markets,” affirmed ABG chairman and CEO Jamie Salter in a statement. One of ABG’s goal with the acquisition is to promote Volcom’s digital campaigns and influencer partnerships, with a focus on expanding its millennial and Generation Z customer base.

I love Gen Z and everything that is happening here but I am curious how much Volcom sold for?

I am also curious as to when The Stone will release its first velour tracksuit?

I am also curious if the Volcom Pipe Houses will now be called the Juicy Couture Pipe Houses?

I am also curious if the Volcom Pipeline Pro will now be called the Juicy Couture Pipeline Pro?

Many curiosities.

Diversity: The World Surf League celebrates South Africans, Australians and Americans in the booth!

A rainbow of flavors!

The recognition that diversity is important is a such a wonderful part of our modern era. Finally, finally, finally corporations, brands and media empires recognize the value that people from different ethnic backgrounds bring to prominent roles. We’re nowhere near where we should be but there has been a clear awakening, or at least the beginnings of one, and the World Surf League is there to ride the wave, as it were.

Beginning the 2019/20 tour over there in Australia, happening right now (watch here!) We have Strider Wasilewski, Rosy Hodge, Ron “dog” Blakey, Joe Turpel, Martin “’89 World Champ” Potter, Pete “Condor” Mel, and Luke Egan calling the action. A diverse admixture of South African, Australian and United States American.

A rainbow of nationalities and it makes very much sense seeing that a full 1/3 of the current tour is Brazilian and a full 3/3 of next year’s tour is.

The fact that they are all white may pose some problem, however, and might I be so forward as to suggest a solution?

I know who you are thinking. Rhonda Harper from Black Girls Surf and it such a great idea that I must praise your singular vision. She would bring a wonderful point of view to the action and would play off any of the principals nicely. The booth needs a dash of big, bold opinion.

Yes, it would be fantastic but might I also suggest Neco Padaratz?

Tell me you don’t see it.

Tell me it doesn’t sing.

Maybe both?

Day Two, Quiksilver Pro: “Kelly Slater was crucified in full public view and no one cared…”

Ruthless contest judges "fed Kelly to the pigs…"

There’s nothing harder in this polarised world than to get a handle on reality. I thought yesterday was a good day, a bold move going to D-Bah against the grain of commercial pressure, with a whole lot of entertaining surfing that was a massive upgrade from the QS that had been incubating on the shores of our sun baked continent for an eternity.

John John Florence back in the jersey, Slater on his testimonial testing his legacy.

In other minds, insurrection was fomenting. I took the early morning to take the temperature at my local where pro surfing is consumed by a very knowledgeable cognoscenti. A freshly waxed Sharpeye HT2.5 was incentive to take on sideshore rock runners, a story for a different time.

The mood on the opening day was contra my own.


“Sick of fucking watching Brazilians bunny hop and do air reverses.”

“Couldn’t watch more than five minutes.”

“Slater is gone” etc etc.

Not a kind word to be said.

I argued that Medina was a beast and worthy champ but the judgement was cast in stone: opening day was stillborn.

Got to the beach at D-Bah ten minutes before Slater’s heat started. Blue water was pulling hard out of the Tweed, a squall to the south-east trailed a rain cloud underneath it like a shroud.

Kelly was on the beach. A small flock trailed him. Notably small. For anyone who has seen full-blown Kelly-gasms before a minor respectful crowd was bizarre. He stretched. The double-jointed camel back was still there.

“Looks a bit stiff,” I said to the Maori security guard standing beside me.

“What do you think?”

He tapped his temple and said, “It’s all up here, eh”

“I don’t know,” I said, “everyone gets too old eventually. Doesn’t matter what you think about it.”

Kelly entered the water, the gathered crowd clapped quietly. A middle-aged woman in a WSL cap sighed deeply and contentedly.

She got what she came for: proximity to Kelly. Absent were the usual nubiles.

I can tell you from the beach the surf looked a lot better than on broadcast. It was confusing to watch.

Fifteen hundred, maybe two thousand, if that is too conservative lets call it three thousand people, were spread across the sand. Taking transects and methodically walking among them I estimated 70-75% spoke Portugese, Spanish, Basque or another Germanic language. The typical Australian surf fan was conspicuous by their absence.

I saw the young Brazilian up by the wall take a wave. Where was Kelly? He was down by himself at the middle peak, hundreds of metres away from Owen and Chrisanto.

He caught a wave. No-one on the beach saw it. No one responded.

It was wave three he did three big spicy turns and a high-speed layback to finish.

I scribbled down “7 +”.

Polite applause rippled around the crowd. An aeon later judges called it a 5.43.

Wow, I thought, they are feeding him to the pigs. How disrespectful.

A big power gouge snap under the lip, a move only Kelly can do, was given a 5.2.

Kelly was being crucified in full public view and no one cared. How strange for him. How very, very strange. A man with his own private fiefdom where a never-ending lineup of celebrities and billionaires are willing to line up to kiss the ring and his career is ending with a public humiliation on Duranbah beach in front of an uncomprehending and uncaring crowd.

Forty seconds to go and on my ticket Kelly has won the heat. In reality, he needs an 8.07., a score he once would have laughed at but that now seems completely out of reach.

30 , 20, 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

The countdown seems significant, as all of them will this year for the GOAT. If he lasts the year that is.

He ran up the beach and went straight to Rosie for the post-heat presser. There was no live cross, Ronnie and Pete were gabbing to longboard world champion Steven Sawyer while the GOAT was bleeding out… a very bad look.

Kelly said he needed to be hungrier, but that isn’t the problem.

The problem is much bigger, more intractable.

A year ago, he said he wasn’t content making up the numbers, he wanted to be contending for a Title. The reality of a last-place finish now removes that possibility entirely. Reality is overtaking him in a way that never seemed possible, but is happening right in front of our eyes.

His downfall in this manner diminishes us all.

Christie got through, that’s good news I guess.

Steve Sherman’s Quiksilver Pro photo of the day: “Brother and Daddy Dino!”

"They get into these intense moments of conversation…"

There is very little that separates the work of sporting photographers. A slightly different angle here, a different lens there.

Any sorta lifestyle shot is perfunctory, at best.

Surfing is very lucky 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.

Over the course of the Quiksilver Pro, we’ll run a different shot of Sherm’s each day.

One, ’cause no one does it like Sherm and, two, ’cause our brother runs off his own cash express and if we can peel a note or two off to keep him hitting the shutter, well, ain’t that just a good thing.

Today, Kolohe Andino aka Brother and his Daddy Dino at D-Bah.

“You can see when Dino and Kolohe get in conversations, how Kolohe takes it all in,” says Sherm. “He listens to his father…a lot. Intently. More than the average son. And that’s impressive. They get into these moments of intense conversation really quickly. They talk about everything: the way he was surfing,. what’s going on in surfing, this board, that board and what the fuck Kelly is doing. But…everyone…does that!”

It’s a relationship that’s gotten softer over the years.

“When he was younger he started rebelling but, now, I rarely see any tension between them. If Dino is saying something Kolohe is listening. I think he realises his Dad still has a lot to offer him.”