Surfer attacked by shark at Lennox Point: “God, I love this place!”

Eight-foot Lennox, four surfers, one hit…

The last bite in Feb to local chalkie Sam Edwards was major. Maimed and a near fatality. White shark.

One before that, in Nov last year, to another chalkie, Lee “Grimace” Johnson was a stitchable leg bite. Also a White.

Fifty or so stitches, good story to tell. He had to fight it off.

Someone, not local, got themselves a Ballina tattoo surfing Lennox Point around lunchtime. Not serious, but plenty of blood spilled. Likely culprit a small bull shark.

Biggest day of the year at the Point, biggest day for over a year. I checked it at dawn, then nine am.

Walked the length of the Point with Santa Babs pioneer George Greenough and sat down and watched for an hour while we had a great old gossipy bullshit session. My doggie dropped a little caca next to George’s foot and I had to pick it up with sticks. The surf was raggedy and eight foot, a very strong current and a very big paddle.

Good to great chance of getting beat up jumping off the rocks.

George told me not to fuck around and to just get my biggest board if I wanted to paddle out.

So I dragged out a nine-o Brewer from under the house. Ludicrous for eight-foot surf, but when you’ve spent a few sessions out near the shipping channel beating into a five-knot current and twenty-knot headwind you don’t think twice about how ludicrous it looks.

Drove back to the top of the Point. Carcass was hanging with a crew. There was less than a handful out. Forgot my wetsuit. Thought: do I really want to deal with that paddle, that wild and feral ocean?

I did not.

But I went back and suited up anyway, had a discrepancy in the carpark with a kind of frenemy who reckoned I had called him a pest on the internets.

Possibly true. But I couldn’t remember it.

Ambled back to the top of the Point and had a strange chat with a toothless old man who said it was the worst year he’d seen in forty years. The Brewer felt great cleaving through the water except the fine red dirt had now turned to a slippery mud.

Paddled for another 45 minutes, the wind shifted from west to south-south-west and came in hard against us and the dropping tide made the whole ocean start to drain. From my lineups I could see I was, in fact, making no headway and going backwards. On a nine-0. And we were way the fuck out near the shark listening buoy.

Paddled for forty-five minutes and got halfway out. There were four surfers. Ballina kid on a red Arakawa nine-0 and two others, I thought Euros.

Paddled for another 45 minutes, the wind shifted from west to south-south-west and came in hard against us and the dropping tide made the whole ocean start to drain. From my lineups I could see I was, in fact, making no headway and going backwards. On a nine-0. And we were way the fuck out near the shark listening buoy.

I turned.

Drifted and then began a long paddle cutting across the grain of the current and wind. The thought of sharks began to play with me. A school of mullet came drifting past, flicking and nodding. I was well down past the boat channel by the time the Brewer reached land.

A big paddle for one wave.

A long walk back to the Point.

That was 12.30. Half an hour later, there were two left in the lineup. One of which got tagged on the wrist, almost certainly by a small bull chasing those mullet schools. Eyewitnesses report frantic paddling from the other surfer and a mad scramble up the rocks.

The bite victim was driven to Ballina hospital.

Richmond-Tweed police refuse to release any details on the man but local sources say he is a WA surfer.

Most likely one of the two crew I thought were Euros.

God I love this place on days like these.

Beaches closed with shark signs up etc etc.


EJ Coffey, popping like a fireworks display.

Queer fever: Surf Star flies rainbow flag!

Ellie-Jean Coffee gleams a diamond white amid the dull fluorescence of heterosexuality…

It ain’t easy being a gay man, which I can report from experience. I’ve been shouted at, run after and called a faggot on more occasions than I can remember. I got ambiguous fashion sense, I think.

Our gay brothers got it tough.

Women, on the other, hand are gifted the freedom to explore the entire rainbow spectrum.

Recently, the Gold Coast surfer, Ellie-Jean Coffey, made an important announcement to her one million followers, and which you can see below.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BxJhL8fFGWA/

 

The comments were pleasingly supportive.

The Instagram model, Noni Janur, who illustrated her comment with a row of love heart emojis, was met with a two-word response from Coffey.

“Date me.”

Now, let’s imagine, mmmmm, I don’t know, let me pull a name out of the hat, a man’s man, Craig Anderson, say.

If Craig dressed up in a sheer rainbow t-shirt that showed the pleasing curve of his plumb-like breasts,  posted it on Instagram and then suggested one of his more handsome followers yank down his jeans, do you think the response would be uniformly favourable?

And, if not, why not?

As men, why do we cower from a strong hand? A stubbled chin?


An immodest proposal: Let non-surfers judge professional surfing on an infinite scale!

A perfect solution!

And another professional surf contest is in the bag, tied shut, stored in a cool, dry place. Margaret River had its moments no doubt. That day at The Box? I don’t think professional surfing gets better than that. A John John win? Ballyhooed on a certain continent but the right man stood alone at the end. Still, ballyhooed and why? I think it is because the judges have painted themselves into a corner. We expect perfection on each score and we also expect the right surfer to win which leads to a heat like John John v. Caio Ibelli.

Now, it was clear that John John was the better surfer in that semifinal. His turns had more oomph. More of the undefinable elements that make us feel and yet the judges are locked in a garden of numbers and analysis, trying to attach arbitrary points scientifically. John John was better and barely won, the margin so slim that it should have been called a draw.

I could sense the judges cracking this contest, coming undone. That Italo 8.17 on the clearest 10 of the year, acrobatic, incredible, inhuman. The lowball was shocking but makes sense for the men in the booth are now too good and can’t see the forest for the trees. They see numbers and attach them properly but those numbers aren’t properly reflective of what we’re seeing or, more importantly, what we’re feeling.

How to fix?

Let non-surfing, never-even-seen-the-ocean folk judge our contests and give them an infinite scale. These non-surfers will get the right winner every time because they won’t be fighting against the numbers. They’ll be free to judge spinners, tacos (what my six-year-old calls barrels) and big wipeouts however they feel and honestly without thinking about precedent or wave comparison or any other arbitrary nonsense.

There was so much talk about leaving headroom in the damn scale this year but why does it need headroom? Why not continue to blow through until heats are being scored in the millions?

We’ve made it all so fussy and complex but better surfing is easy to spot and easier to understand. It’s the moments that make a heart beat faster and I wonder if the World Surf League would attract the masses they want by actually synching winners with performance.

What do you think about that? Tell me how it won’t work.


Surfing’s Grand Inflection Point: How everything you love will soon shine only for the VAL!

(If if doesn't already!)

Social scientists and computer scientists aren’t exactly sure when it happened but both agree that the Internet is now more fake than real. Fake “people,” fake algorithmic views/clicks/likes, fake analytics, fake everything and let’s turn to William Finnegan’s magazine The New Yorker quickly for substance.

How much of the internet is fake? Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot. For a period of time in 2013, the Times reported this year, a full half of YouTube traffic was “bots masquerading as people,” a portion so high that employees feared an inflection point after which YouTube’s systems for detecting fraudulent traffic would begin to regard bot traffic as real and human traffic as fake. They called this hypothetical event “the Inversion.”

This is problematic but doesn’t concern us much here in our walled garden. OttoBeenThere you’re real. Right? Absolutely no way a bot could spew Wiggolly’s Paddling Style-esque filth. Right?

But.

We have our own troubles. After much research (surfing and being a surf journalist), I have concluded that 95% of the surfing public is now officially VAL which is the highest percentage in recorded history. What does this mean? I have no idea except that surf companies will likely up production of wide-brim’d sun hats and cut production of cool water surf wax. Also, now that we’re so far past the inflection point we’re going to start seeing “cool” surf characters being introduced in mainstream film and television. “Cool” devil may care surf characters in reef booties and surf sunglasses throwing “shakas” and driving Jeep Wranglers.

Or wait.

That happened years ago but still we’re even further past the inflection point than we were years ago so I honestly don’t know except that VALs will now be serving up content and product for other VALs just like internet bots are serving up content and product for other internet bots therefore changing the very idea of “reality.”

Will you accept this inertia or will you rage, rage against the dying of the light?


Margaret River Pro, Final’s Day: “John John Florence is both saviour and executioner of the WSL business model!”

"My dream now is that John wraps the Title at J-Bay and boycotts the tub, maybe releases a few clips sailing in the Tuamotus. Treats the Tour the way Kelly used to."

Never feel happier with pro surfing than when John John is winning in six-to-eight-foot surf. The business model as of June 2019 is him, and him alone.

For those of you who have never been to Western Australia, the state of excitement as my mate Diggsy likes to call it, it’s a windy place. Blow a goat off a chain windy.

I used to sit in the Kalbarri pub with my old skipper, day after day, watching the smooth white trunk of the Kalbarri eucalypts bent in half and the bar an impassable washing machine.

“It’s not so easy on the old blue briney,” he’d say.

The other thing: the offshore wind blows weakest just before dawn, so if you wake up and it’s 20 knots at Cape Naturaliste, the northern end of the Margaret river prominence, you know it’s only gunna get stronger. And harder to surf when you’re sitting 500 yards out to sea at Main Break. Great fun on an eight-foot single fin with a triple-six glass job.

Hard, hard work on a six-0.

Tatiana brushed past Sally Fitzgerald with a wave on the buzzer but it was the next heat that threatened to be the heat of the day. Carissa and Lakey went at it with plenty of hustle, not that we ever hear about it or get an insight into the fierceness.

Moore inexplicably gave a wave to Lakey and Lakey dismantled it.

All day it was the second turn that paid the biggest dividends, John proved that later in the event, and Lakey got an incredible whip through it against the grain of the wind. A late exchange went unscored for a long period of time, Peterson repeatedly waving her arms to call for the score.

Dominant win.

When John loses it’s because he falls on the last turn. Ala the loss to Adriano De Souza in 2015, ala the loss in Keramas. He fell on the first three waves he caught against Caio Ibelli despite really connecting with the opening turn of the opening wave.

God, he’s changed. Remember the Machado-like nonchalance? That would never stoop to engage in something as barbaric as a paddle battle? I thought the faux-hawk was bad juju at the start of the year but when he paddled straight over the top of Caio after the opening exchange it finally seemed fully warranted.

God, he’s changed. Remember the Machado-like nonchalance? That would never stoop to engage in something as barbaric as a paddle battle? I thought the faux-hawk was bad juju at the start of the year but when he paddled straight over the top of Caio after the opening exchange it finally seemed fully warranted.

It’s not quite a tragedy to see a nervous John John prepared to win ugly against an opponent with a superior record against him. Not if he wins in the end.

Which he did. He couldn’t close in a shaky, unconvincing performance. Caio was a zombie antagonist who would not die and in the final analysis he’s got grounds to feel a bit ripped.

In the end the judges did the work that John should have done to dispatch Caio.

What to say about the Julian/Kolohe semi. Not much. Both struggled to make any sense of an increasingly wind thrashed lineup. Julian tried to sell a very weak wave as a winning score with a claim even he didn’t look convinced with. Kolohe fell over the finish line with a couple of fives.

Tati never really looked capable of taming a steep section and that very awkward counter rotational upper body style seemed increasingly discontinous with the actual movement of the board through the water. Which is what Joel Parkinson correctly identified as the marker of a good surfboard top turn. Lakey took a lot of punishment and connected with the middle section to win easily.

I thought John’s equipment had looked a bit shakey during the semis. Bald tyres, lack of traction.

Bigger fins needed?

As you know, he elected to ride the same 6’0” Ghost (bee’s dick under 30 litres) in the Final with the same M fins.

Completes the first wave and he’s won the Final, I wrote in my notes.

We were three waves ridden in the Final before the broadcast kicked in.

Kolohe kicked it off with a seven and a four. John calmly finished for a 7.67.

It’s done, I wrote in my notes.

Andino had been talking a big game since the Gold Coast about a power attack that no one had seen and that he claimed was the equal of anyone on Tour. Cruelly, they played the audio grab before the Final began.

Reality delivered a humiliating riposte.

We were watching an interview with Lakey, the live surfing was on a small screen.

I wrote “Johns turns a notch below 2017” as he dropped in with the lip already breaking on his head. His riposte was not just to Kolohe but to the standard he set in 2017. The searing rail-buried-to-the-nose carve with extra rotational torque was there in the middle section of the wave. It was framed with extra variety in the repertoire with turns one and three.

The crux of the technical advantage of the Ghost is the way it breaks from the hydrostatic to the hydrodynamic, as seen in that late take-off. The forwards rocker and rail line engages quicker and more resolutely which means John was at the lip faster, in time, and with more speed. It was almost an unfair advantage.

It was about the easiest nine judges have had since 2017.

The crux of the technical advantage of the Ghost is the way it breaks from the hydrostatic to the hydrodynamic, as seen in that late take-off. The forwards rocker and rail line engages quicker and more resolutely which means John was at the lip faster, in time, and with more speed. It was almost an unfair advantage.

From that point on there were no vital signs left in Kolohe’s Final. It was time to reflect.

John is both saviour and executioner of the WSL business model. Their model has become two-pronged with the departure of Paul Speaker and the failure to find non-endemic sponsorship and broadcast deals.

On the one branch, WSL is building an entertainment company with control, manufacture and distribution of content. John is crucial to that success.

On the other, WSL is balls deep as a licensee and manufacturer of wave pool technology and IP. That dream looks dead in the water.

Do you remember the day it died?

Last year, after the most sustained and brilliant marketing blitz in sporting franchise history the WSL ran the Founders Cup in May. And John Florence, the best surfer in the World, falling and falling and looking at the tub like a fifteen-year-old with maths homework in front of her. It was a wholesale rejection, in body language if not actual speech. All that marketing brilliance made irrelevant in a single gesture.

My dream now is that John wraps the Title at J-Bay and boycotts the tub, maybe releases a few clips sailing in the Tuamotus. Treats the Tour the way Kelly used to.

But we dream too much.

The Final ended about emphatically as could possibly be imagined. John duckdived under Kolohe on a feathering set pushing him out of position and then spun on the next wave and delivered the best surfing of the event.

I never feel happier with pro surfing than when John John is winning in six-to-eight-foot surf. It seems a pay-off for the huge investment in time that pro surfing demands and so rarely delivers on.

The business model as of June 2019 is him, and him alone.