Board review: Longtom on the Sharp Eye HT 2.5 “Something special happens when you lay this board into a tight turn!”

But run a mile from this board if you are injured, fat, old, slow or any combination thereof.

One of the greatest myths in the whole of surf is the applicability of the pro surfer whip to the non-paid rec surfer.

Joel Tudor, the great alterna-board master from San Diego, emphasised the same point in a Stab in the Dark movie featuring Dane Reynolds surfing non high-performance boards in Mexico. Dane is the one percent, he said, or the one percent of the one percent, I forget exactly which, and thus there is no point trying to extrapolate from his skill level to the experiences of the other 99.99%.

Obviously true, right?

So, that’s Dane. A freak but a freak with a Dad bod and a few screaming kids who reckons he struggles to get his go outs.

How much more freakish then and unrelatable is Filipe Toledo and, via extension, his equipment, to the average Joe?

Don’t answer, it’s a rhetorical question.

There is no less relatable surfer on the planet than Filipe Toledo.

Which means you can understand the trepidation running deep when waxing up and paddling out at the home point on his HT2.5 model for the first time. It’s a pro model according to the Sharp Eye website.

You know the one. The curvy little swallow tail with the very sexy tail channels; same one he blitzed Keramas on.

It’s pitched as a high-performance board oriented towards smaller waves, more ordinary conditions.

Right before paddling out I got a text from BG biz guy Jazzy P. He said the rocker was insane and “threw you onto the back foot”. That did not reassure. The initial paddle out took place on the day Kelly was robbed at D-bah.

Three foot of surf at my local Pointbreak, lightly attended. Pretty much perfect.

Under the arm all the elements of the board are subtle: no radical shifts in rocker or distinctive curves like a Pyzel Ghost, slight single concave under the front foot and a deeper concave with slight doubles between the fins.

Straight away you can feel this is a board that works in two halves.

The forward rocker feels more pronounced paddling, it’s not a good paddler, you need to get up and over it to catch waves. On a wave the board sits down into the aft rocker curve. Initiate a turn and it slams you back onto the back foot.

That has interesting and exciting results for the non-pro. It carves a very tight arc with an engaged back foot. Through a vertical backhand turn I loosed the fins out the back, nose picked halfway through and finished the turn with more speed than I went in with. A very invigorating opening session.

To compensate for the poor paddleability, to generate the necessary rider input. I gave up drinking, pretty much, getting on the end of one with my pals, again: pretty much. Embraced Russian kettlebells, deadlifts, chins (hundreds of them), superfoods, clean eating, Laird Hamilton videos on Yootoob. Embarrassing.

What would you give up to ride a high-performance shortboard?

To compensate for the poor paddleability, to generate the necessary rider input. I gave up drinking, pretty much, getting on the end of one with my pals, again: pretty much. Embraced Russian kettlebells, deadlifts, chins (hundreds of them), superfoods, clean eating, Laird Hamilton videos on Yootoob. Embarrassing. How I will survive the inevitable and inescapable meeting with Chas Smith I do not know. A night at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino going whiskey for whiskey with D. Rielly would destroy me.

So the driver has to be on. Run a mile from this board if you struggle for go-outs, are injured, fat, old, slow or any combination thereof. The vehicle, as we have established, is tuned for high performance. The track needs some steepness. It’s a small-wave board, but a good small-wave board. It needs a wave with some cup. Lots and lots of Australian beachbreaks and reefbreaks and Pointbreaks fit the bill. It’s obvious how good it goes in small Indonesian reefbreaks. It might be more of a daily driver in Californian surf. French beachbreaks would be a stellar match.

It’s not a groveller. Remember that pre-season video of John John at small, weak Snapper and how mediocre he looked? I saw him saw him surf equally weak shapeless surf during the Quik Pro and he looked less impressive than the local kids. He’s tuned his equipment for better waves. I use as an example of how the HT2.5, even allowing for the quite generous tail block planing area needs some steepness and shape to carve against.

In truth, I did not find this board difficult to ride. And that surprised me. Almost shocked me. If you’ve got some game and regular go-outs at your disposal I would have to swallow my initial posit and say there is something in this for the 99 per center. I rode mine at 6’0” just under 30 litres and that felt spot on.

Marcio Zouvi has something going on with his shapes right now. That’s obvious from the quantum leap from Igarashi Kanoa after jumping on the swords pre J-Bay and how good he looked at Keramas. I’m tempted to write them off as an aesthetic afterthought but I believe there is something going on with the sexy little tail channels that cut into that curvy swallow-tail. Zouvi claims they give speed, bite and drive and despite wanting to rebel against the vagueness of those terms that is the case. Something special happens when you lay this board into a tight turn.

In truth, I did not find this board difficult to ride. And that surprised me. Almost shocked me. If you’ve got some game and regular go-outs at your disposal I would have to swallow my initial posit and say there is something in this for the 99 per center. I rode mine at 6’0” just under 30 litres and that felt spot on.

I whacked some AM2 honeycomb fins, quite large, straight in and they also felt perfect. The AM2 is the basic reference point fin for any slightly wide tail block. You’ll see that distinctive yellow and black fin adorning the rump of many pro boards.

Controls a board beautifully with it’s moderate rake and stiff flex pattern. Even a mad old fin bitch like me felt no desire to change them up. You could tweak the boards range if you did.

I know that fin talk makes people angry so I conclude the review here.

Any questions?

Question: Would you trade your grumpy local status for the life of a rich VAL?

Is the grass always greener?

Now this is a serious question. Would you? Imagine how many hours you’ve spent in the water, perfecting the little things like balancing your board when paddling so its nose neither points straight to heaven nor dives beneath the brine. Or popping up sans nobs and also without a hitchy knee nor hobbled stutter.

Duck diving.

The hours upon hours pushing first with hitchy knee in middle then graduating to foot on tail, gliding underneath the most menacing white wash barriers.

I could go on and on all day here without even arriving at actual surfing. Actually standing on a wave and gliding upon its surface.

It’s the little things that make surfing so difficult to master and the bigger things too.

So would you trade it all, the hours, the pain, but also the elation, the singular glories to be like the Moroccan/New York rapper French Montana if you could live like him too?

Would he trade his life for yours?

Much to ponder.

Dreams come true: “We just got married at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch!”


Are you a fan of weddings? Cute ringbearing boys and cuter flower girls? Matching bridesmaids’ dresses, matching groomsmen cummerbunds? The blazing 2:00 pm sun shining overhead, mother-in-law tears dripping on new Michael Kors dresses, father-in-laws toesies hurting in new Cole Haan shoes? Korbel Brut raised high while best men and maids of honor regale attendees with lightly embarrassing stories?

I’m going to be honest with you here, like I always am. I don’t like weddings (besides my second and final), especially since they are usually at 2:00 pm thereby gutting the day/weekend and somewhere annoyingly difficult to find, headache inducing, filled with shallow conversation, not fun and generally not funny.

Then again, I was never invited to a wedding at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch and it’s true. Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch is now open for the wedding business and could you imagine anything more wonderful, more glorious?

If you’re thinking about getting married but haven’t yet please convince your significant other that a Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch wedding is the only way to go. I know from experience the food is good, the staff is impeccable and no beach on earth can conjure this on demand.

If you need more convincing then you love Korbel Brut.

Here’s to the happy couple!

Women’s tour analysis: Crowded top of rankings sets Margaret River up to be a thriller!

This could change everything!

The perfect hook of the first turn. That midface dance step. The barrel so deep, it looked like it must surely be a close-out. The exit. The lookback as if to say, well yes, I made it. Of course, I made it. And a quick bang of a close-out move to finish it.

Surely, Steph Gilmore’s final wave was one of the best perfect tens I’ve ever seen. There was no need to second-guess it, to hesitate, to ask, but was it really. It certainly was. Emphatically, Gilmore won Keramas and took over the lead in the world rankings. That final wave made the outcome look inevitable, as though it were preordained, but it was only a month ago that Gilmore made an early exit from Duranbah, defeated by Caroline Marks. A lot can change in a month.

Before we go further, I will go ahead and confess: This story is late. In internet time, it’s several years past due. Blame Yemen. If Chas sent you his book manuscript about Yemen, what would you do? You would drop everything and read it.

So really, this is all the fault of Chas. And Yemen.

Someone was going to have to surf in the crumbling onshore conditions on Friday (local time), if the contest was going to finish on time. Women’s quarterfinals drew the unlucky short straw. I came home from a surf in shitty, cold, wind-fucked conditions, hoping to see dreamy Keramas. It was… not that dreamy, really.

The judges enjoyed Brisa Hennessey’s surfing more than I did. She felt consistently overscored to me. She had speed and variety, but also some dodgy rails and awkward, off balance moments. Yes, the waves had weird wind bump. Sure. But when they threw her an eight for that final wave, where she barely held on for the close-out, it seemed a point or two on the side of generous. It was an 8.37 and won her the heat in the final minute.

Carissa Moore’s top-scoring wave involved — and involved is the correct word here — a beauty frontside reverse, followed by three tidy turns and a fairly standard close-out move. No bobbles, no warbles, and a big turn straight off the start. The judges gave it a 8.6. The spread between Moore’s 8.6 and Hennessey’s 8.37 left me guessing. Moore’s score looked right. Hennessey, well, let’s just say, I wasn’t convinced.

The heat between Courtney Conlogue and Steph Gilmore promised fireworks. With Marks out early, either Conlogue or Gilmore could take over the ratings lead. It started slow before Conlogue threw down a seven, and until the dying minutes, it seemed as though Conlogue had it.

Not so fast.

On her final wave, Gilmore strung together three characteristically stylish turns. Then she slid out on the closeout move. Gilmore has said that she thinks the judges sometimes throw her a little extra for her style and flow. I’m not sure that’s entirely a bad thing, though I suspect Conlogue would not agree. They threw Gilmore a 7.23, weighting the three completed turns more heavily than the failed closeout move. It won her the heat, and I’ll confess I had to watch that final wave a few times before I agreed she deserved the score.

The highlight of the semis for me was Sally Fitzgibbons’s cheeky barrel. Fitzgibbons came out firing in this heat — as with Conlogue and Gilmore, Fitzgibbons also had the top spot in the rankings in sight. She succeeded in keeping Hennessey in check and advanced on the strength of a 6.90 and an 8.70. Between them, they rode 14 waves. Let’s just say, there was a lot going on.

The second semifinal could not have been more different. Gilmore played it safe and did enough to defeat Nikki Van Dijk, who tried valiantly to throw big turns, but consistently misjudged her timing. As perfect waves rolled through the lineup, Gilmore’s conservatism frustrated. Come on, Steph, please? Please take a set? But in truth, why should she, when she had Van Dijk comfortably under control.

Gilmore’s decision to play it chill may also have served — whether intentionally or not — as a bluff directed at Fitzgibbons. Why not allow Fitzgibbons, hot off a high-scoring heat against Hennessey, to believe Gilmore just wasn’t that on? It’s the kind of strategy Slater might pull — and Gilmore isn’t really known for tactics. Without intending to, though, Gilmore may have set up Fitzgibbons to hit the water overconfident.

Whatever the tactics, Fitzgibbons trailed Gilmore from the start. Steph’s first wave was a tidy 6.83 — and turned out to be a keeper. She consistently kept the pressure on Fitzgibbons, who couldn’t muster more than a 5.50. Even without the ten, Gilmore had the heat won.

But the ten is what we’ll remember, long after anything else. It won’t be the onshore slog, or how long it took to get to finals day. It’ll be that ten. The wave gleamed green jewels. Overhead, perfectly clean. Who even saw that barrel coming, I certainly didn’t. In those conditions, when the waves are insanely good, Gilmore’s unstoppable.

Gilmore is world number one again — but the title race is far from over. Six women crowd the top of the rankings: Gilmore, Marks, Conlogue, Moore, Fitzgibbons, and Malia Manuel. A win from any one of them at Margaret River could change everything.

Opinion: To Know Kanoa Igarashi is, necessarily, to love him!

A spirited defence of the world number two…

In 2010 Kanoa Igarashi went to France for the first time. He was 12 then, just about to turn 13 and the waves pumped every day of his trip.

I was there filming and chaperoning for Quiksilver and I’ve never seen the banks as good as they were that year. Kanoa was small for his age, but maybe up for it with incredible technique in small waves.

He put on a full mini-shred tube and air show on a small dreamy day in offshore beachbreak. When it was six foot, though, he looked out of sorts. Leo Fioravanti and Mikey Wright found a spot they liked one morning and sprinted through the thick, grainy sand to get after it.

They were pulling into stand-0up barrels within a minute of paddling out. Kanoa, on the other hand, sat on the beach and looked scared. He was a nice, friendly kid and I didn’t want to give him a hard time. I said, “Look you’re definitely more than good enough to surf waves like that, but if you don’t want to today it’s ok. But if you do go out and get a barrel then Leo and Mikey won’t be able to give you any shit.”

Eventually, he paddled out, took off on the shoulder of a couple waves and came back in. Leo and Mikey of course teased him mercilessly afterwards as kids do, but I gave him credit for at least giving it a go.

Kanoa is 21 now and I give him huge props him his first win in Bali. It’s honestly hard now though for me to see the amount of shit he’s still copping, maybe not from his peers, but from random people online. In some ways I get it, the bleached hair, gold chains, odd social media posts, the claims, surfing for Japan, the awkward celebrations, they aren’t things that tend to inspire core American or Australian surfers.

If people think Kanoa’s a typical spoiled So-Cal rich kid, as some comments have stated, they’re flat-out wrong. Kanoa’s parents are Japanese immigrants who came to the USA with nothing because they wanted to raise Kanoa to be a professional surfer.

I don’t really know him that well anymore, but I think he’s just trying to figure out who he is and is trying out some things along the way. Who out there had a rock solid sense of their identity at 21? I sure didn’t.

I also didn’t grow up the way he did. If people think he’s a typical spoiled So-Cal rich kid, as some comments have stated, they’re flat-out wrong. Kanoa’s parents are Japanese immigrants who came to the USA with nothing because they wanted to raise Kanoa to be a professional surfer.

And not just any professional surfer, a world champion professional surfer. They spoke little to no English and worked low-paying jobs to survive. They moved from LA, which has a large Japanese community to Huntington Beach, which doesn’t really have one at all, so Kanoa could learn to surf in an area with decent waves and a strong surf culture.

Having the pressure of your parents dreams for you put squarely your small shoulders isn’t easy for anyone, but it was especially challenging for a Nisei (second generation) kid like Kanoa. English was his second language but from the time he could speak a lick of our native tongue he was his parents’ link to the outside American world.

Imagine trying to explain things like sponsorships and contracts to your parents in another language when you’re 10. Think about how bewildering it was for his parents too. I went to Japan last year and never felt as lost as a did when I got outside of Tokyo. I became functionally illiterate. The street signs and restaurant menus were unintelligible to me. Even the prices were written in characters and not in numerals. Anyone coming from Japan to the West experiences the same disorientation in reverse.

Kanoa qualified for the world tour at 18 on the strength of his beachbreak QS game. With the precision of a Japanese technician, he figured out a way to frame his turns so they threw maximum spray and compensated for how small and light he still was. If you watch his round three heat in the 2017 event at J-Bay against Mick Fanning you’ll see a boy trying hard to compete against a man.

Despite the inherent physical disadvantage he had in every event, he managed to avoid going down in the losers round for the entire year. He then showed his potential in hollow waves by taking second at the Pipe Masters in small Backdoor runners.

A growth spurt and three years of heavy training have now gotten him to a point where he’s ready for anyone. He’s always surfed fast and with a clean, smooth style, but I feel like he’s been holding back in heats.

If he’d spent the last three years filming a signature film the way Dane and Julian did when they were his age, rather than taking his lumps on tour, we’d probably have a totally different perception of him.

He never puts out edits and we’ve seen anything close to his full potential on a webcast.

Watch his Round of 32 heat again in Bali for a glimpse of the rail/air combo game he’s holding. Now that he’s second in the world and ahead of freaks like Filipe, Italo and Gabriel, I’m hoping now is the time when he shows his full deck of cards.


Good job, kid.