Margaret River Pro, Day one: “You can’t let the hair in the salad spoil the salad!” says Jordy Smith

Gorgeous backlit peaks, Gabriel, Toledo, Smith, Italo and John John dominant…

Three events and one day down on the fourth, I think sufficient time has elapsed to make some judgements about the format changes for the CT this year.

Over-lapping heats: brilliant, transformed what would have been a debacle at Bells beach into an historic day.

Seeding Round and Elimination Round: Bollocks, as our English Pals would say.

They front load the contest with inconsequence. Drag it out interminably. Even the great Assenter, Joey Turpel, after another long, long fatally unspecific day, was wont to drift off script. Towards the end of the day, in gorgeous backlit peaks whose silken dresses were shunted skywards by professional surfers Turpel riffed that he couldn’t think of a more open-minded sport than surfing.

Emboldened, he proffered the first original thought I have heard him utter in, what, ten years?

“What about a shot clock for priority, Pottz?”

For a bloke who has never once stared pro surfing in the eye and wondered “why is there something and not nothing” it was revolutionary.

You know if Joey is visibly drifting the action is slow. Pottz shoved him back in the box, quick smart.

“What about the bloke who waits all heat for priority?”

Bad idea. Or words to that effect.

Not much more controversy today than Joe’s blue-sky thinking. I spent the duration of the time from the end of Keramas to Margies going over each of the scoring waves from the heat analyser. Kanoa’s 9.1 in the final still makes no sense.

Therefore the first question of day one at Margs: Would judges recover their composure and bring the scale back to sanity and comprehension.

By and large, they did.

Second question. Would John John Florence show up with 2017 form and potentially create an almost unassailable gap between himself and his pursuers?

One of the favoured cliches uttered in the pressers is that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Not really true. John had the Title wrapped after Margs in 2017. Kelly had many won before the halfway mark. Poor starts have cost Gabe Medina at least one world title, possibly more.

JJF overpowered Kelly and Jaddy Andre in heat one. His 2017 form looks within reach. It was good to have Barton back in the booth. He said Kelly looked great. He did not look great. He looked terrible. Board choice is a nightmare for him. The Akila Aipa seems locked in a goldilocks zone, too easily overpowered by Kelly today in textured-up mainbreak.

Is there a bigger irony than the fact that the only guy on Tour who owns his own surfboard company can’t get his personal whips dialed? Kelly’s next heat is likely to be in ten-foot surf.

Will he have a board to deal with it?

Third question. Would Italo Ferriera bring an injured repertoire into Margs from Keramas. The ugly moon boot was there, but infringement on the repertoire there was not. In twelve heats Italo launched the only successful rotation and was highly rewarded for it.

Easily took the heat.

Do you get a feeling when you see him and his gal walking up the steps together. Not quite Mickey and Mallory in Natural Born Killers, not that doomed.

But there is something rock and roll: it’s you and me against the world babe, no?

Gabe Medina is in tenth spot on the rankings. That is an aberration. Gabe Medina has been the best surfer on Tour this year. Cruelled by the decision to sit out perfect three-to-four-foot D-bah and hold the Finals day in slop on the Gold Coast, loser of a line ball call against JJF at Bells and one landed huck or tube ride away from beating Fioravanti in Bali.

The second I wrote Gabe: Whats wrong? In my notes he exploded into the best wave of the day. No one comes harder and more definitively off the bottom on the opening manouevre. It was the first and best excellent score of the day.

Kelly Slater rode a 5’8” and looked short changed. Jordy rode a six three-and-a-half and was alpha. Big turns, full turns. He admitted to Rosie Hodge that the Keramas loss had really hurt but had come to the conclusion that you “can’t let the hair in the salad spoil the salad.”

Which would be the opening line of the opening lesson in kids’ sex education classes if I ever designed the curriculum.

I know this will sound silly but hear me out.

After J-Flo’s tight loss to Igarashi in Keramas and watching him surf today the top turn match up I would most like to see in big Margs, or even tube-riding at the Box is JJF and Jezza Flores.

Jezza lost the heat. Sorry, there are no losers in the Seeding Round. Barton waxed lyrical about the Seeding Round, about how it could incentivise you and make the seeding bracket dynamic. Eyes glazed over here, Barton.

You can’t explain it. No one can. John Florence doesn’t understand it. I bet Jake Patterson is the only man in pro surfing who does.

Jesse Mendes threw the biggest golden showers. Jack Robbo missed his heat, on the way back from Chile, which seemed a very Robbo thing to do. God I would love to see him give Kanoa a good old fashioned flogging at the Box or North Point.

Not to hate on Iggs, we are all learning to love him. Each in our own imperfect way. Such is life.

Twelve heats in very nice surf, three excellent rides, no losers: was the return on investment.

Margaret River Pro Men’s Seeding Round (Round 1) Results:
Heat 1: John John Florence (HAW) 12.84 DEF. Jadson Andre (BRA) 11.64, Kelly Slater (USA) 10.34
Heat 2: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 12.73 DEF. Soli Bailey (AUS) 11.80, Yago Dora (BRA) 9.33
Heat 3: Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 10.56 DEF. Julian Wilson (AUS) 10.27, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 10.17
Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.03 DEF. Joan Duru (FRA) 12.84, Frederico Morais (PRT) 11.90
Heat 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.70 DEF. Deivid Silva (BRA) 11.94, Jacob Willcox (AUS) 11.60
Heat 6: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.73 DEF. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.00, Jack Robinson (AUS)
Heat 7: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.77 DEF. Ricardo Christie (NZL) 9.14, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 8.93
Heat 8: Kolohe Andino (USA) 11.70 DEF. Seth Moniz (HAW) 11.23, Jack Freestone (AUS) 10.73
Heat 9: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 11.57 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 9.77, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 9.57
Heat 10: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 13.53 DEF. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 12.67, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 11.50
Heat 11: Jesse Mendes (BRA) 14.60 DEF. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.34, Willian Cardoso (BRA) 9.70
Heat 12: Owen Wright (AUS) 12.10 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 12.00, Michel Bourez (FRA) 5.33

Margaret River Pro Men’s Elimination Round (Round 2) Matchups:
Heat 1: Wade Carmichael (AUS) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS) vs. Jack Robinson (AUS)
Heat 2: Michel Bourez (FRA) vs. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) vs. Jacob Willcox (AUS)
Heat 3: Willian Cardoso (BRA) vs. Yago Dora (BRA) vs. Frederico Morais (PRT)
Heat 4: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Caio Ibelli (BRA)

Open thread: Comment live, Day One, Margaret River Pro!

John John Florence's surfing justifies Margaret River as a tour event says BeachGrit's tour reporter. And, guess who's opening the seeding round? Post your comments here…

Yesterday, I was in Margaret River examining the machinations surrounding the tour event there, as well as spending a day with Italo Ferreira who has returned to Western Australia despite reservations regarding the wisdom of holding an event within the habitat of the Great White shark.

I can report that the waves have been very good, four-to-six-foot and brushed by that rarest of phenomenon in the west, the offshore, and that the Box just across the bay there, was open for biz.

It’s a little smaller today, I believe, and the women will mow through their seeding round, which comprises six heats, before John John opens the men’s in roughly three hours.

Joining John will be the steamrolling Kelly Slater and perennial underdog Jadson Andre.

Watch here.

Facebook Live. 


WSL website. 

Margaret River Pro Women’s Seeding Round (Round 1) Matchups:
Heat 1: Caroline Marks (USA) vs. Johanne Defay (FRA) vs. Paige Hareb (NZL)
Heat 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) vs. Keely Andrew (AUS)
Heat 3: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Coco Ho (HAW) vs. Mia McCarthy (AUS)
Heat 4: Courtney Conlogue (USA) vs. Brisa Hennessy (CRI) vs. Macy Callaghan (AUS)
Heat 5: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) vs. Silvana Lima (BRA)
Heat 6: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Bronte Macaulay (AUS)

Margaret River Pro Men’s Seeding Round (Round 1) Matchups:
Heat 1: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 2: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Yago Dora (BRA) vs. Soli Bailey (AUS)
Heat 3: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Peterson Crisanto (BRA) vs. Caio Ibelli (BRA)
Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Joan Duru (FRA) vs. Frederico Morais (PRT)
Heat 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Deivid Silva (BRA), Jacob Willcox (AUS)
Heat 6: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Jack Robinson (AUS)
Heat 7: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Ricardo Christie (NZL)
Heat 8: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Seth Moniz (HAW) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)
Heat 9: Conner Coffin (USA) vs. Ryan Callinan (AUS) vs. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 10: Wade Carmichael (AUS) vs. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat 11: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA) vs. Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Heat 12: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Michel Bourez (FRA) vs. Griffin Colapinto (USA)

Exotic: Go surf Hawaii and catch the most horrifically named disease since “brain eating amoeba!”

I triple-dog dare you.

Brain eating amoeba, once allegedly featured in the Waco, Texas BSR wave pool, is a very scary name. Amoeba is bad enough. Once, I contracted amoebic dysentery in either Egypt or Jordan, likely from trying to develop a cast iron stomach by drinking tap water. Anyhow, there I was in Aqaba on the Red Sea feeling fabulous, going to sleep then waking up a few hours later with diarrhea.

“Classic.” I thought, went to the bathroom then went back to bed. An hour later I was back. Then 30 minutes. 15 minutes after that I was both diarrhea-ing and puking and that continued until my two great friends rolled me into a hospital. I was so delirious that I don’t remember much. The doctor told me that the amoebas has started eating through my intestinal walls and I stayed in that hospital, hooked to an IV, for seven days.

Maybe they got to my brain too. We’ll never know but I digress. Guess what just popped up on the Big Island?

Rat Lungworm disease.

Have you ever read anything so terrifyingly disgusting? And let’s learn all about it. Let’s head straight to the respected medical journal The New York Post for the most up to date information.

Health officials have now confirmed a total of three cases of rat lungworm disease in travelers who spent time in Hawaii. A report from the Hawaii Department of Health confirms the cases, which are believed to be unrelated to one another.

The disease, which is officially known as angiostrongyliasis but is also called “rat lungworm disease,” is caused by a parasitic infection. The parasite is known to target rats, hence the name, but its life cycle can bring it into contact with humans as well. The severity of the infection can vary from person to person, but the disease can be deadly in some cases.

The parasite in question, a rat lungworm, has a habit of infecting rodents which can spread the parasite through feces. The parasite is known for hitching a ride on slugs and, when a rat finds one of the slimy critters to feast on, the rodent becomes infected and the life cycle begins anew.

In humans, the parasite can wreak havoc on the nervous system. Late last year a man died after eating a slug on a dare resulted in a rat lungworm infection that left him paralyzed. He remained in a compromised state for eight full years before he died. One of the three infections confirmed by Hawaii health officials appears to have happened in a similar way.

“One of the individuals visited East Hawai‘i in December 2018 and became infected by purposely eating a slug on a dare,” the state Department of Health explains in a statement. “The individual became ill in late December and was not hospitalized for their symptoms.”

Would you eat a slug on a dare?

I don’t think I would.

Cinema: Kelly Slater plays “hardboiled cop,” Gabe Medina the “damsel in distress” in WSL epic “Margaret River!”

What is your favorite archetype?

The waiting period for the fourth stop on tour opens today and how thrilled are you that Margaret River is still on tour? How over the moon? It is a perfect place for the world’s best surfers to come ply their trade as it has everything from scenic backdrops, hearty locals, multiple waves ranging from scary good to scarier better and terror below.

Margaret River is as close as the World Surf League has to a blockbuster film, like Avengers: Endgame, and it’s difficult to imagine it getting pulled out of multiplexes but it almost was and just last year.

Who could forget the multiple shark sightings and attacks that led to the cancellation of the event, its moving to Uluwatu and possibly never screening in Western Australia again?

Well, magic was made behind the scenes to keep the show going on until 2021 and this year’s cast is the best ever. Reluctant leading man John John Florence is back and sitting atop the Jeep Yellow Jersey Sand Dune Aerial Leaderboard. “Ingénue” Kanoa Igarashi nipping at his heels. “Bad boy with a heart of gold” Jeremy Flores is in the top ten and “hard-luck heartthrob” Julian Wilson needs a result just to keep from being let go.

And two great stars have been recast in wonderful new roles. Gabriel Medina as the “damsel in distress” and Kelly Slater as the “hardboiled cop.” Let’s turn to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to listen as they get into character.

The Margaret River Pro, held in the south-west of Western Australia, was abandoned mid competition last year after two non-fatal shark attacks occurred on the same day.

The two recreational surfers had taken to the waves in Gracetown, 15 kilometres north from where the competition was being held, when they were bitten.

It prompted Brazilian’s Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira to take to social media with claims they did not feel safe surfing in the area.
Despite his safety concerns last year, Medina has returned to Margaret River.

The reigning world champion said the extra safety measures announced for this year’s competition helped to lure him back.

“Last year was a tough one, everywhere we were surfing, we were seeing sharks,” he said.

“This year, they’ve put in place more security — jet skis, drones and planes.

“I feel much more confident.”

Justin Majeks from Surfing WA, which has helped to organise the competition, said this year a drone would take to the skies to protect surfers.

“It’s a dedicated drone that will essentially fly all competition day, pretty much from first light,” he said.

He said there would also be a fleet of jet skis and trained water patrol staff on duty.

Surfing legend Kelly Slater is on his final year of the pro circuit and said he felt comfortable in the Margaret River water.

“I’ve never really had much of a fear of sharks,” he said.

Oh I just love it. I absolutely just love it and will be on the edge of my seat, munching popcorn and cheering on the bad boy. Always my favorite archetype but what’s yours?

Who are you hoping will steal the show?

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?