Watch: Self-aware VAL film warms hearts and soothes frazzled nerves!

How to Learn How to Surf!

I don’t think that VALs are Enemies of the People, per se, but usually the VAL lack of self-awareness makes for rough exchanges in the water and/or on land. Lack of self-awareness is a nasty bit of business wherever it’s found. I was standing in a crosswalk a few days ago, for example, with the crosswalk light blinking, waiting to guide my daughter across when a car blazed right through. Of course I kicked his door as hard as I could sending him to a screeching stop. He stuck his blubbery head out the window, shouting “Do you have a problem?” I shouted back many swears that HE broke cherished crosswalk RULES at which point he angrily squealed away.

The man in the car was not necessarily a VAL but his attitude was metaphorical. VALs heedlessly break our cherished rules then don’t care. They don’t know not to care and don’t care to learn etc.

Which is what makes contemporary artist Tom Sachs’ movie How to Learn How to Surf so pleasant. It is not a movie about how to learn to surf or how to surf but how to learn how to surf.

Very self aware.


Pip knocked one out in the final, second wave after a cute tuberide. With a mid-nine and then a blowtail the final followed the pattern of asymmetrical heats. Jordy was comboed in the first five minutes and never looked like threatening. Filipe alluded to personal problems in the immediate post-final presser, admitting it had been a “really hard year mentally.”

Oi Rio Pro Finals Day: “Filipe Toledo smashes world; untouchable in performance surf!”

Jordy Smith makes final cameo, Gabriel Medina sad, John John's yanked knee finishes his Brazil campaign…

Sleep deprivation makes cats say crazy things. I woke up this morning thinking I might have over-egged the omelette last night re: Brazil but after watching a very, very anti-climactic Finals Day I feel very much soothed because Barton just wrapped it saying it was one of the “greatest events in pro surfing history.”

Yeah, but nah. Really, really one-sided affairs with Pip smashing all and sundry in surf half the size of yesterday.

Twenty two minutes to go and Filipe had a sixteen-point total against Fred Morais, for example. In the ensuing twenty-two minutes, in mostly closeouts with the odd “cute little barrel”, Fred racked up a three to answer back. Pip’s quarter-final against Kanoa looked the closest result on paper but was nowhere near, in real life. Igarashi found a one-pointer to back up a six. Pip smashed him with an eleven-point total.

It was shades of D-bah this year where the Finals Day was a major let down.

Why the unseemly haste to finish?

Plenty of days left in the waiting period and another swell cycle on the radar. Not enough scoreable waves in the heat was the major problem.

And no John John.

With JJF and Slater out I felt depressed.

Gabe Medina also very sad after being knocked by Kolohe Andino, funky little right hand semi-closeouts being not to his taste. He wanted “more fair opportunity”.

Fair call, yes?

Let the historical record state that this is the second time this year the call to run in sub-par surf has diminished the Champ’s prospects. Kelly had the Tour wrapped around his little finger for 20 years, calling off the Volcom Fiji Pro, June 10, 2012, to halt the momentum of a rampaging Medina and surf against him the next day in conditions that suited him more.

We remember Kelly.

Why can’t Medina be afforded a similar amount of latitude to call the shots?

Who has your favourite entourage on Tour? With Ross Williams disappeared from history I like John Johns minimalist one with his manager Brandon Wasserman, who looks like an extra from Interpol*. Jordy seems to be flying solo in Brazil and Gabe and Pip are obv’s rocking mega entourages on home turf.

Christian Fletcher deserves royalty payments today, if the straight wheelie air with or without a little tail tweak had been patented in 1989. Kolohe dropped one first in his win against Medina. Followed it straight up with a turn and rotation and a grinning death stare claim with an obvious contempt in his demeanour. That was a winning wave so the strong-arm tactic worked but where does he go next if he wants to make an emotional statement? A horses head in Pritamo’s bed?

Jords got the walk through in his QF with John’s dicky knee and had the semi against Kolohe wrapped up in the first five minutes. One cute little tuberide expertly threaded for an eight and change, one lofted alley-oop for a mid-seven and Kolohe was gone. He tried a little fightback with a slob grabbed rotation but all the insouciance of the quarter-final against Medina had evaporated into the crowd.

Christian Fletcher deserves royalty payments today, if the straight wheelie air with or without a little tail tweak had been patented in 1989. Kolohe dropped one first in his win against Medina. Followed it straight up with a turn and rotation and a grinning death stare claim with an obvious contempt in his demeanour. That was a winning wave so the strong-arm tactic worked but where does he go next if he wants to make an emotional statement?

A horses head in Pritamo’s bed?

Pip knocked one out in the final, second wave after a cute tuberide. With a mid-nine and then a blowtail the final followed the pattern of asymmetrical heats. Jordy was comboed in the first five minutes and never looked like threatening. Filipe alluded to personal problems in the immediate post-final presser, admitting it had been a “really hard year mentally.”

As a rebound from the debacle at the Box and with J-Bay ahead there couldn’t really be a better place for Toledo to be. Except it feels like deja vu all over again. Toledo untouchable in performance surf, the needle not really moving in heavy reef surf and Teahupoo and Pipeline ahead.

The best heat of the day was the semi between Carissa Moore and Steph Gilmore, not because the surfing was anything insane but because it was a tight contest that came down to a last wave Steph rode on the buzzer.

“Did she get the score Barton?” asked Bricknell.

“I feel, no,” said Barton trusting the best gut instinct in the booth. Which was correct.

Apart from wearing the insult from Kolohe’s grinning death stare it was an easy day for judges. Carissa bombed a set wave in the womens final, Sally tagged an end section after a clean entry and exit from a hollow section. The precedent for paying end section hits was well established which made for an obvious high-ball score on a winning wave.

Sally and Steph show the energy in Australian pro surfing is with the women.

Here is Filipe Toledo’s victory speech, never delivered, as written by his alternative speech writer, the noted Russia expert Lucky Al, who snapped off the fin on my surfboard I lent him. T

Take it away Filipe: “Thank you, thank you! Wow, you guys and girls! Wow, wow, wow! Thank you so very much. I am so happy and honoured to be here. This place, Saquarema, is so amazing. So amazing and beautiful! And you people of Saquarema are amazing and beautiful! The waves today were great, okay, but yesterday they were even better. Yesterday they were great! Did you see me beat Kelly Slater? Haha. This is a great surf spot! Thank you for letting us have this contest at your surf spot, surfers and people of Saquarema. I want to come back here all the time and surf and hang out. This is such a great place. Thank you, my fellow competitors. Jordy, please try to do better next time. Haha, it’s a joke. Kelly, you don’t have a next time. It’s not a joke. Smiley face. Gabriel Medina, I’m going to smash you in the face, this year is mine. Haha! Let’s party and have a good time everybody! Yeah woooooo!!!!

~Crowd goes wild~.

*The New York post-punk band, not the international cop organisation.

Oi Rio Pro Women’s Final Results:
1 – Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.64
2 – Carissa Moore (HAW) 12.57

Oi Rio Pro Women’s Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 7.63 DEF. Keely Andrew (AUS) 4.40
SF 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 15.30 DEF. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 14.83

Oi Rio Pro Women’s Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 14.17 DEF. Lakey Peterson (USA) 1.20
QF 2: Keely Andrew (AUS) 7.24 DEF. Silvana Lima (BRA) 6.46
QF 3: Carissa Moore (HAW) 12.33 DEF. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 12.04
QF 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 10.90 DEF. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 10.66

Oi Rio Pro Men’s Final Results:
1 – Filipe Toledo (BRA) 18.04
2 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) 8.43

Oi Rio Pro Men’s Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 16.00 DEF. Frederico Morais (PRT) 10.30
SF 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.06 DEF. Kolohe Andino (USA) 10.40

Oi Rio Pro Men’s Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 11.00 DEF. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 7.57
QF 2: Frederico Morais (PRT) 13.17 DEF. Julian Wilson (AUS) 11.83
QF 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) DEF. John John Florence (HAW) INJ
QF 4: Kolohe Andino (USA) 13.10 DEF. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.00

2019 Women’s CT Jeep Leaderboard (following Oi Rio Pro):
1 – Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 32,580 pts
2 – Carissa Moore (HAW) 31,175 pts
3 – Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 30,320 pts
4 – Courtney Conlogue (USA) 26,845 pts
5 – Lakey Peterson (USA) 26,050 pts
5 – Caroline Marks (USA) 26,050 pts

2019 Men’s CT Jeep Leaderboard (following Oi Rio Pro):
1 – John John Florence (HAW) 32,160 pts
2 – Kolohe Andino (USA) 27,760 pts
3 – Filipe Toledo (BRA) 27,195 pts
4 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) 26,045 pts
5 – Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 24,705 pts

Open Thread: Comment Live, Oi Rio Pro Finals Day!

A glorious finish!

I am not a sleeper-inner by nature but, for some reason, I cannot wake up early enough for this contest. Well, better late than never. Pottz just said there are “cute little barrels” for this perfect finals day. “Days like this you dream of being a free surfer…” he just said.

What did we miss?

Filipe beat Igarashi in Quarter 1

Fred beat Julian in Quarter 2

John John has dipped out due injury, sending Jordy through.

Kolohe beat Medina and I will go watch that replay now but after the rest of this fabulous day.

Let’s get it on here!

@no_ocean_required surfing Lake Ontario for the win!

A Modest Proposal: Gift the best freshwater surfer in the world a wild card to the Freshwater Pro!

Cultural appropriation at its most bald-faced!

The World Surf League’s paid post advertising the upcoming Freshwater Pro has been playing non-stop in my Instagram feed and I now hate Jack White. Or, not Jack White per se. That was a mean statement and over the top. Rather I hate The Raconteurs. The song used to advertise the Freshwater Pro is obnoxious and it makes me recall how I’d never really liked a The Raconteurs song while liking very many from Jack himself or Jack paired with Meg.

Anyhow, the comments on the paid post are very funny with 7 in 10 cursing the World Surf League for cancelling Trestles and/or Cloudbreak and/or Mundaka. One, in particular, snagged my attention. It was not mean or hateful but wise and interesting.

@no_ocean_required tagged both the League and Kelly Slater asking, “As this is freshwater event, how about a freshwater wildcard from the Great Lakes?”

And as far as cultural appropriation goes, I believe @no_ocean_required makes a fine point.

We are all evolved, aren’t we? And especially Kelly Slater. Evolved to the point of shunning the shaka on the grounds of cultural appropriation and I think it is only right for him to listen here. Oh, of course he should look beyond the Great Lakes to Munich’s river surfers and other tidal bore surfers and should probably open it up to wake surfers as well, seeing that loud machines create both wake surfer waves and Surf Ranch ones too.

A fine point entirely. I’d be more interested tuning into the Freshwater Pro Freshwater Trials than the main event.

But what about you?

Oi Rio Pro, Day Three: “John John Florence yanks out knee, Kelly Slater loses beautifully!”

And the power shifts from the anglocentric world to the Latin…

Since when did Brazil become the new heavy water location on Tour?

Is this something that has been happening under our noses for years and only a seasonal shift deeper into winter and a location move to Saquarema has unlocked?

Can one of our Brazilian experts here please educate?

Barrinha today at times looked like North Point, Backdoor, that air wave in Reunion from Modern Collective and one of those Mexican right points in Barra. A wave outside the limits of most recreational surfers.

Medina, as golden light streamed through the Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Nazareth, was the only goofyfooter skilled enough to tame Barrinha this afternoon. We’ve seen more angry double overhead waves in Brazil in the last 48 hours than the last two years in Tahiti.

It is strange, it is bizarre, it is true. Time for a reassessment.

Did I miss the hype for the Slater/Toledo super heat today? Surfing’s official historian, Matt Warshaw, alluded to it but I thought going into it WSL had underplayed it. There were no leaked videos of Slater “praising “ Toledo as the best small-wave surfer on earth in the lead-up, no sly trash talk at all, far as I could see. Just a huge crowd (with the average person a little more out of shape than we might have expected, if I could be provocative) and a military escort for Filipe to make it to the beach.

As an opening heat at Barrinha it couldn’t have been better. Cross-shore, backwashy, devilishly tricky double -overhead barrelling wedges. Sebastian Inlet on a triple helping of growth hormone. There was nothing “relatable” about it. Which usually means Kelly Slater will make the insane happen.

He did, he did.

But first, Filipe sliced a wave and landed a greased rotation, on the bolts, as they say and all observers thought “That’s it, Kelly’s cooked, good night old man etc etc”.

If you’d said at the start of the year Kelly would fight back with a double-overhead, technical tube-ride, as heavy as Backdoor, with a degree of difficulty off the charts, you would have been mocked, ridiculed, denounced as an enemy of the people, called a stooge, a nut job, a fantasist, a WSL stool pigeon or much worse.

That, though, is what happened.

Kelly bested Filipe’s generous 9.17 with a 9.50. Game on.

What I find most staggering about the 47-year0-old version of Kelly is his willingness and ability to absorb punishment. At Pipe last year Kelly took beating after beating. The consequences, even for young studs, are not trifling. Head injuries, pelvises snapped in half, arms ripped out of shoulder sockets, knee ligaments snapped, grave surgeons delivering bad news about broken backs.

At Barrinha he repeated the formula.

A free-fall drop with the board fluttering around a cascading section yielded only a five. Filipe held his nerve and calmly slotted a set wave and that was it. You got the feeling Kelly was only one more wave from a ten but a hellaciously long time stranded in the shorebreak while sets strafed the line-up killed his chances.

A very significant heat. He won ugly yesterday and lost beautiful today.

That heat made the following heats look very pedestrian by comparison. Kanoa, Fred Morais and Julian all besting opponents without grabbing Barrinha by the neck. Julian admitting in the presser, the rambunctious lineup made him feel like a kook.

Forty-six-minute over-lapping heats in heavy lineups are tailor made for John John Florence. Time to relax and surf. Like Kelly he took multiple chances on waves that looked like closeouts, were closeouts, but could have been ten-point rides. Four attempts for four non-makes.

Wade Carmichael refrained from catching a wave in that time.

One clean make for a high seven then a backflip attempt, maybe not a backflip but something else, clean and lofted, which he landed but fell on. That would have been a ten. But it also exposed John’s weakness. Going big in the air has caused serious injury to the champ. High ankle sprain, ruptured cruciate ligament. At 20 years younger than Kelly it’s hard to see John lasting into his thirties with the injury toll already mounting. All that scar tissue has a way of catching up to you.

It happened on a big set wave. As Kolohe said, the potential to do the biggest airs ever seen was present. Huge wedge sections, oncoming breeze, massive crowd on the beach. A very tempting scenario. John put it up into space and then let it go. He said later it was the initial impact as he hit the take-off ramp that caused a serious pain on the previously injured knee. That does not sound good, indicating instability in the knee joint. He limped up the beach with a hang-dog look and ten minutes to go.

Ten minutes for the Avoca Jesus to get a low six. Ten long minutes. He spiked a small wave for a small score. A minute and fifty and a single set wave detonated on the melon. Board snapped in two and Jesus was left gesticulating for, who?….God? A jet ski? Either could not rescue him.

Gabby came out pricking and prodding and jabbing at smaller waves under the gaze of an ashen-faced Charlie. Unlike Jordy he could not stick airs. “He’ll go to turns” I thought. I love the way he shifts gears in a heat. A worshipful crowd bathed in the holy light, Bourez surfed like a drunken prophet, like the ancient king in a Rumi poem who has “let go of the reins” in the tavern.

The crowd surged in behind Medina and you could almost feel the power shift from the anglocentric world to the Latin.The energy flowed through the ether into homes thousands of miles away. It was a moment of pure Hegelian history: a new form of life had progressively undermined the old and had now replaced it.

The transition was almost complete. It’s up to Medina now to join the circle tomorrow.

Oi Rio Pro Men’s Round of 16 (Round 4) Results:
Heat 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 17.84 DEF. Kelly Slater (USA) 14.83
Heat 2: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 13.17 DEF. Joan Duru (FRA) 10.83
Heat 3: Frederico Morais (PRT) 12.83 DEF. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 7.43
Heat 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.00 DEF. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 13.60
Heat 5: John John Florence (HAW) 12.66 DEF. Wade Carmichael (AUS) 10.33
Heat 6: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.53 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 9.67
Heat 7: Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.07 DEF. Deivid Silva (BRA) 11.53
Heat 8: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.43 DEF. Michel Bourez (FRA) 9.27

Oi Rio Pro Men’s Quarterfinal Matchups:
QF 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN)
QF 2: Frederico Morais (PRT) vs. Julian Wilson (AUS)
QF 3: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Jordy Smith (ZAF)
QF 4: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Gabriel Medina (BRA)