Preview: “Watching Gilmore at J-Bay is a near-perfect marriage between wave and surfer!”

But Moore and Fitzgibbons are ready to pounce!

Before last year, Steph Gilmore had never surfed J-Bay. That is insane to imagine. In truth, the two are made for one another. J-Bay’s stretched canvas perfectly suits her clean, swooping style. It’s hard to look past Gilmore to repeat this year, especially after seeing her Instagram clip from a day or two ago. Hi, my name is Steph, and I’m going to get barreled now. Yes, yes you are, Steph.

Do you dream of point breaks? Shaun Tomson once described surfing J-Bay to me as being like flying. For the Californians, imagine the best day you’ve ever seen at Rincon. Then, imagine it better — faster and more powerful. Imagine the puff of offshore wind that pushes you up the face, faster and still faster. Imagine the long wall stretching out in front of you, and the burn in your legs when finally reach the end. Sharks, cold water, whatever — visions of J-Bay dance in my dreams.

When we last saw the women’s CT, they were in Brazil, which is pretty much the opposite of J-Bay in every way. Sally Fitzgibbons won in a final against Carissa Moore, and jumped up to the top of the world rankings. Moore heads to J-Bay in second, with Gilmore currently in third. The top three remain close in the world title race, and they’ve begun to pull away ever so slightly from the rest. Just over 2000 points separate Fitzgibbons from Gilmore — and a win throws 10k points in the bucket.

Stacked up behind Gilmore are Courtney Conlogue, Lakey Peterson, and Caroline Marks. At the start of the year, did you expect to see Peterson and Marks tied for fifth? I did not, but here we are. If you are playing Olympic selection bingo, the tense battle among Conlogue, Peterson, and Marks has an extra zing. If Moore holds her lead, the second slot will go to one of these three women. That reality certainly adds some pressure to the game.

Last year at J-Bay, Moore went out in round three, which I had completely forgotten until I looked again at the results. That’s a surprise, because I’d expect J-Bay to suit her. This contest surfing thing is a crazy old game. Caroline Marks also went out in round three last year, which we can expect her to better this time around. No surprise at all, that Gilmore and Peterson met in last year’s final. Both surf right points beautifully, and the title race was pretty much all about Peterson and Gilmore in 2018.

Fitzgibbons, Moore, Gilmore: The top three in the rankings are a study in contrasts. Fitzgibbons has smoothed out her style, but hasn’t lost her trademark animation. Fitzgibbons reminds me of a gymnast after a big floor combination, all smiles and arms in the air. I’m not sure Fitzgibbons 2.0 has moved far enough away from her old skitters to win at J-Bay, but by leading the world rankings, she’s making a strong case for herself.

Moore is understated, much like Florence. Big powerful, precise turns, nothing out of place. When she throws something unique, like the reverse at Bali, there’s no showmanship, no hey, look what I just did. She expects the surfing to stand on its own and there is much to respect in that approach. But this may also be why Moore often seems underscored. When Moore loses a heat, it’s generally because she can’t find the waves that’ll let her do the turns she sees in her head. She can grovel, but she’ll avoid it, sometimes until much too late in the game.

Gilmore is all style and so much of what makes her surfing stand out is what happens between the turns. With Gilmore, it’s a wild, joyous dance and it’s easy to miss the clean rail work that makes all that stylish vibing possible. Watching Gilmore at J-Bay is a near-perfect marriage between wave and surfer. I’ll be following this one mostly on replay. Do I watch Gilmore’s heats first? Or do I save them until last like a scrumptious dessert?

If we’ve learned anything this year, though, the top three do not have a lock on this thing. Not at all. I like Malia Manuel to make a run up the rankings. She finished second at Bells and if the waves are good, her smooth arcing turns are well-matched to J-Bay. Of the Conlogue, Peterson, Marks triad, anything could happen there. All three have won events this year, but none has been consistently on form. That’s Moore’s super power this year so far: Rock solid consistency.

Last, but not least! Coco Ho is out of J-Bay, the first event she’ll miss in her 11 years on Tour, she says. She tore her MCL doing an air. Apparently, this breaking knees doing airs thing is contagious. Last year, Ho made the quarters at J-Bay and she’s currently ranked tenth, tied with Johanne Defay. Come back soon, Coco Ho! We miss you already.

The waiting period starts tomorrow, 9 July. Let’s all dream of point breaks together. It’ll be fun, maybe!

Opinion: Sympathizing with the Devil (VAL) will be our downfall!


It’s long been thought that encouragement makes us better at things. However, the rash of participation awards in kids’ sports has cured us of that belief.

Surfers are no strangers to an obstacle. Bad waves, bad boards, crowds, rocks (get outta my way kooks!) fights, hold downs, sea monsters and one hundred others. The people that stick with surfing have somehow reconciled the horrors mentioned and have acquired the survival skills necessary for longevity.

Some things in life come easily. Treat people well, work hard – reap fruits.

But surfing is trickier than other things.

Recently, the beloved IG account “Kook of the Day” had a post featuring a hapless girl who had her fins pointed Bethward being interviewed. Of course weʼve all done silly, naive stuff but imagine if the camera was rolling for your first surf, or your last surf, or putting a knife in the toaster, or jumping off a 20ft bridge into 4ft of water?

Surfing will haze even the most pure and innocent. We’re mean.

Which is why it’s awesome.

Coaches, instructors, clips and edits? Nope. Surfing has to be learnt by yourself. Try describing a top to bottom six foot wave unloading a foot in front of you to a non surfer. Suddenly youʼre speaking at crazy, ridiculous Armageddon*, end is nigh levels of hyperbole. You gotta see that watery guillotine for yourself.

Remember the stories we heard before fact checking and iPhones? The you shoulda been here yesterdayʼs, the legend this… the mystic that… sea monsters everywhere. Bullshit ran freely and unassailable. Read here. And here and here. Or just read BeachGrit.

About ninety percent of my sessions are solo but rarely alone. I live in a big city with consistent surf and consistent crowds. As a perennial blow in, Iʼm usually on the receiving end of territorialism.

Yet somehow the whole dance of localism comforts me. And itʼs imminent demise concerns me.

Let Localism Rule. Weʼre the better for it.

(Just donʼt be a fucken dick about it. And no rock throwing you fucken dick.)

* A vastly underrated film, Bruce Willis – sublime.

Surf fans the world over are feeling very glum after John John's season wrapped early.
Surf fans the world over are feeling very glum after John John's season wrapped early.

Preview: The Corona Open J-Bay starts tomorrow under a cloud of overwhelming depression!

Still, many questions remain.

And it is time to think about professional surfing again. The last time we were thinking about it, some two weeks ago, Filipe Toledo was thrilling near Rio while John John Florence broke our hearts. Oh the pop of that anterior cruciate ligament threw the entire 2019 World Surf League Men’s Championship Tour race right into the trash. Or not the trash, per se, but… don’t you think the eventual winner will forever have an asterisk after his name?

John John Florence wasn’t just leading. He was lapping the field. He was doing so well that there was word the World Surf League was going to drop him to the very bottom of the World Qualifying Series rankings to see if he could re-climb into the Jeep Leaderboard Yellow Jersey just for fun.

The odds were set at even.

Well no more. Gone in a puff of flyaway. Disappeared certainly now and likely forever. Two world championships and a dump truck load of what might have been.

But I’m sorry, this is BeachGrit where anti-depressiveness is a way of life and there are still fun storylines to parse.

Like, will Kolohe Andino finally shake off the burden of great expectations and stamp his mark on 2019? Dino Andino’s second favorite child is sitting in second place and J-Bay’s racetrack rights are custom made for a coming out party. Agree?

Will Filipe Toledo strangle his countrymen or will Gabriel Medina regain form or will Italo Ferriera stomp all-comers? I’ve liked the cut of Italo’s jib the most this year. Haven’t you?

Will Kanoa Igarashi accidentally win another few events, getting lucky by catching miniature J-Bay (forecast looks bad) Teahupo’o etc., then become an international sensation like the Korean boy band BTS (pictured above)?

Will Jordy Smith slide one spot or three spots after choking in his hometown event?

Will Kelly Slater continue to inspire? Now that John John is out of his way is he smelling non-shark attack related blood in the water?

And what questions do you have?

I must say, I thought there really was going to be an overwhelming cloud of depression when I began writing this little jingle but now my sails are filled with wind.

Tell me you aren’t almost too excited.

See you in fourteen-ish hours!

#murfers: Vanity Fair profiles hottest new subset of VALS!

Australia's Byron Bay is a utopia of unfettered surf dreams…

If you like a little satire in between your airport blockbuster novels, you’ll know the writer Tom Wolfe, a pioneer of what is called the New Journalism where the techniques of the novelist are used in real-life reporting.

Think: full dialogue instead of direct quotes, the reconstruction of scenes as if the reporter had seen it with own eyes and so on.

In the hands of a great writer it’s a thoroughly entertaining way to lampoon the overblown.

Wolfe, who was one of the best, could yank the mask off any phonies just by recording what he’d seen and heard. His best essay is Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s which satirised upper-class New Yorkers raising money for the Black Panthers, whose righteous mission was to annihilate white devils like those writing the cheques at the party.

If you surf, you’ll dig The Pump House Gang. Read a little here. 

In the latest issue of Vanity Fair, a reporter, who uses many of the same techniques as Wolfe, goes to Australia’s surf-hippy utopia Byron Bay and follows a gang of Instagram influencer mom-surfers, murfers.

Courtney Adamo’s minimalist, Shaker-style kitchen is gorgeous, but you already know that if you follow her. The house—one of the first built in the historic town of Bangalow, New South Wales—might just be the most overexposed house in Australia. With its clapboard cupboards, wooden stools, bulk dry goods in mason jars, Blanc Marble countertops (“slightly more expensive than the Carrara,” she explains in a blog post about her kitchen renovation, “but we are so happy with the decision”), Dunlin Chelsea Pendant Lights ($669 each), SMEG refrigerator ($2,870), Lacanche oven and stove (“range cooker of my dreams” and, at about $10,000, a “splurge”), the kitchen is like a scene out of Little House on the Trust Fund Prairie. Adamo (@courtneyadamo, 250K Instagram followers) is a midtier family lifestyle micro-influencer, which, if you don’t know, is a thing.


Courtney, Michael, and their first four kids (Easton, 14; Quin, 12; Ivy, 10; Marlow, 6) sold the house, the car, and many belongings, and embarked on a “family gap year” around the world. Adamo kicked off the voyage with a farewell piece in the Telegraph and the launch of her travel blog, Somewhere Slower. Then, after a highly publicized, lightly sponsored 18-month global search for the slow life (they never really considered a return to the U.S., she tells me, because Michael dislikes the consumerism), they alighted in Byron Bay, Australia. Wilkie was born there, the older kids were enrolled in school, and, after spending a year and a half working on their visa applications, Michael began a job from home as a managing director for a Melbourne animation company. Two and a half years after arriving, the Adamos are fully settled. They might start the day with a “surf sesh” before school. In the afternoon, they might “work together as a family.”


All the “murfers” are here—the portmanteau of mum and surfer are Adamo’s clique of pretty, stylish, entrepreneurial, and creative young mothers of multiple children whose laid-back, unstructured lives generate a dizzying combination of FOMO and squad goals. They live in old-fashioned houses and give their carefully unstyled children names that sound dreamed up for a Goop collaboration with Lemony Snicket. They’re married to supportive, handsome, and scruffy men of purpose. They make their own hours and dinners and soap. They have their own brands. They are their own brands.


On first impression, Byron looks like beautiful but crowded beaches, high-end stores and cute cafés, quotidian spring breakers, tourist shops and Greyhound buses, linen at a startling array of price points, and nourishing grain bowls sprinkled with petals. The Byron of your digital and increasingly brand-sponsored imagination, however, is all that minus the bad stuff; a carefully curated bank of images designed to stoke your lifestyle longings. (If such are your dreams.) It’s a land of large, “nomadic” “broods” who “find their tribes” on life’s “journey.” Never mind that Australia’s policies on immigration and refugees are draconian bordering on vicious. In this young, mostly white, ahistorical, neoliberal utopia of the imagination, anyone can go anywhere. All you have to do is have a yard sale, hop in the gypsy caravan, point a finger at a map, and take up legal permanent residence anyplace that best showcases your lifestyle.

And so on.

Oh god it’s cruel, although it barely scratches the surface of that enclave, which is a haven of narcissism and clandestine infighting etc.

Read here. 

This bro only wishes that he was a surf journalist instead.
This bro only wishes that he was a surf journalist instead.

From the Infinite-Jest Dept: Surf culture has gorgeous unfathomable depth!

An art more important than inline rollerskating!

Yesterday found me at my young daughter’s best friend’s house. It was a lousy, freezing cold day at the beach like it has been all summer long. Bleak and depressing, creating fouled moods amongst Independence day weekend revelers. Glum frowns etc. Much piqued yelling at the children to keep their fucking sandy feet out of the Sprinter. Etc.

Thankfully my young daughter’s best friend’s house is slightly inland, featuring manicured property and a gorgeous swimming pool. Most importantly it is beyond the now Satanic marine layer and the sun shown brightly.

So there I was, picking her up after a playdate that, by all measures, was an extraordinary success and really studying the LeRoy Grannis photo hanging on the wall. You of course know LeRoy Grannis, one of the most iconic surf photographers of all time. Matt Warshaw introduces him thusly in his award-winning Encyclopedia of Surfing (subscribe here):

Gruff-voiced photographer from Hermosa Beach, California; best known for the lucid, unadorned, well-composed surfing images he took during the 1960s; also a cofounder in 1964 of International Surfing magazine—later shortened to Surfing. Grannis was born (1917) and raised in Hermosa, began surfing in 1931, and was one of the state’s top wave-riders in the ’30s and ’40s; more than a half-dozen photographs of Grannis are featured in Doc Ball’s 1946 book California Surfriders. Grannis and Ball were both charter members in 1935 of the Palos Verdes Surf Club.

Anyhow, this particular photo featured three surfers in different poses riding a Waimea bomb.

It’s beautiful and as I was studying my daughter’s best friend’s father commented that he had received the print from LeRoy himself but didn’t know who the surfers were. I guffawed and said, “No? Well I’m a surf journalist. I’ve got this.” And immediately proceeded to text the aforementioned Matt Warshaw, asking, “Which surfers are in this Grannis photo?”

He responded straight away, “I can’t ID on sight but can maybe look it up.”

I was slightly confounded. The image is semi well-known and I imagine surfing’s premier, foremost and only historian having this knowledge in the very front of his mind. How many semi well-known surfing images are there in the world? Twelve? Thirty? Definitely under forty and I thought surfing’s best, most thorough and only historian had them all in the very front of his mind.

Hours later as I was tucking into bed Matt Warshaw responded, “Top to bottom: Ron Newman, Ponce Rosa (eating it), Unidentified. None of them surfers I’ve heard of! Waimea 1966.”

And can you believe it? Can you even believe it? There are still bits of surfing flotsam and jetsam that Matt Warshaw, surfing’s best, brightest and only historian doesn’t know.

It made me extraordinarily happy.

I sometimes feel that surfing is a shallow backwater and we’re all retards drowning in 2 inches of water but then something like yesterday happens and I realize surfing has gorgeous unfathomable depth. Secrets, truths, bits and bobs that will keep our minds spinning forever and ever. A rich tapestry as profound as any. An art more important than inline rollerskating.