Kenny Igs, from Japan, slaughtered returning-from-injury world champ Adriano de Souza and punchy Brazilian Jesse Mendes in the seeding round.

Open thread, Comment live: Day Two, Corona J-Bay Open!

Pull up to our bumper etc.

I’m not exactly sure why my impulses didn’t remind me to kick open the Comment Live post on yesterday’s opener at J-Bay? I was watching, though drifted off during the slower heats into dreams of a better life, perhaps a job as a character at Disney World.

Chas woke to the midnight push notification from the WSL on his phone but the journey downstairs and into blackness was unappealing.

Today we’re back and we got an elimination round featuring Ryan Callinan, Jack Freestone, Beyrick De Vries, Seth Moniz, Adrian Buchan, Jorgann Couzinet, Jeremy Flores, Jesse Mendes, Frederico Morais, Willian Cardoso, Peterson Crisanto and luckless Jadson Andre who may as well snap open a beer and enjoy the sun.

Climb inside.

Opinion: Sal Masekela* is the worst thing to happen to pro surfing since non-elimination heats!

*And by Sal Masekela I mean cloying fan boy-ness!

The J-Bay contest is very rough for every single professional surf fan outside of South Africa. Oh, the wave is gorgeous, a dream, perfect, iconic and the culture is fascinating, interesting, fabulous and the history is unique, long and important but the time… that damned time… ooooeee!

Very rough.

I somehow imagined that the Corona J-Bay Pro would get underway before my tired eyes closed in the, admittedly, early evening. I was wrong. I also somehow imagined that the time would be in Australia’s wheelhouse and that Derek Rielly would get our patented “Live Chat” feature up with ease.

I was also wrong.

South Africa exists in a timezone unto itself. Like the store in O Brother, Where Art Thou? that serves FOP for Men but can’t get the auto part from anywhere in a reasonable time, South Africa is a geographical oddity.

Two weeks from anywhere.

And so I didn’t watch the contest, you didn’t watch the contest, thankfully Longtom did watch the contest (read here!) but as I went over the replays I experienced a shocking bummer.

Sal Masekela in the damned booth.

Now, you may like the man’s velvety pipes as he calls the action but there is a profound and troubling truth about Sal Masekela. A virus that threatens to infect even Joe Turpel, ’89 World Champ Martin Potter, Ron “Dog” Blakey and even our happy savior Barton Lynch.

Sal is surfing’s biggest fan boy.

Biggest by far, and you can’t even imagine how many dinners I’ve sat across from Sal as he pulled out his phone to show the audience text messages from Kelly Slater etc., how many times I’ve heard him derive personal value from his professional surfer “friends” but the fan boy drive is not his alone.

Surf media, in general, suffers from wanting to be “liked” by the professionals who dance across the waves. Wanting to be acknowledged and accepted by the hot, now surfer demanding attention but this instinct cuts across surf media’s very job.

Shouldn’t we be clinical, analytical, unmoved by personal preference or desire for hunger for proximity? Shouldn’t we all be ruthlessly immolating ourselves for the truth and for The People™?

It’s why Longtom shines. He doesn’t want friends, he wants to do the best job he possibly can. It’s how any sport’s writing/commentating works when it actually works. When writers and vocalists are free and willing to gut golden calves in order to share what matters.

And certainly what we do is not important. Certainly we operate in a backwater of a backwater but I think it’s time to demand a separation of church from state, or rather bro from bro, and bring some actual, honest critique to the booth.

Gimme Paul Evans.

Gimme Jen See.

Gimme a woman or man that has enough smarts to call it like she sees it and enough backbone to not shirk from truth.

The action in the water has never been better but, like in O Brother, Where Art Thou? the allure of popularity and closeness is pulling us toward the rocks.

It’s high time we demand a fix.

J-Bay seeding round: “Standard day in head-high rockrunners and Pip looking unbeatable!”

"There, I put the last sentence as a one sentence summary in case you are short on time."

Covering Pro Surfing is a brutal game. It took me a week to get over Brazil. Times zones, sleep deprivation, “jet” lag , all that. I know you scoff.

It’s hard to think of an equivalent sport that drags on and requires so much sustained attention over such an extended period. Maybe test cricket if it had a two-week waiting period?

I’m not complaining: living the dream, enjoying the journey as Filipe said today etc etc. The hourly rate is measly but there is a side benefit. I noticed it before I turned pro, getting up to watch Dane Reynolds. Watch enough and the body might feel stiff but the mind opens up to technical advancement. One day with coquettish amazement I did something on a surfboard I had no right to do. I call it the Dane effect. One day you just surf better than you should. Somehow the mind has absorbed a new technique and been able to translate into action.

It really almost should be a raison d’etre for a rec surfer to watch pro surfing.

But it’s not everyone in the top 34. In fact, it’s the very few. Which makes the John John injury such a blow for scribes as well as fans.

As Italo Ferriera said, “So sad about John, he’s so fucken good.” He said that to Rosie and straight after she disappeared from the broadcast. Co-incidence? Was she skyhooked to a secret WSL retraining encampment? Why? It wasn’t her fault Italo dropped the f-bomb.

So no John and a day late for the swell of the year at J-Bay. Made a steep mountain to climb, as far as providing an entertaining product for fans. Head high rock runners on offer. Strider Wasilewski with attack dogs tits well sheathed in a 4/3 made the astute comment that it’s an easy wave to run down the line on, hard to hit the corners.

So no John and a day late for the swell of the year at J-Bay. Made a steep mountain to climb, as far as providing an entertaining product for fans. Head high rock runners on offer. Strider Wasilewski with attack dogs tits well sheathed in a 4/3 made the astute comment that it’s an easy wave to run down the line on, hard to hit the corners.

I would have chosen a little Bonzer octafish and done just that. Run it down the line all day long.

Gabe Medina in heat one found no difficulty squaring it up and “hammering it shut”. It was soothing to have Turpel back in the booth. You’d want Joe there at the end to send you off into heaven “There he goes, closes his eyes for the last time, hammered it shut, sends it off and the judges should like it” It would be a nice way to go.

Medina was mechanical but in the nicest possible way. I ain’t a watch guy but if I was I imagine there must be some aesthetic satisfaction in contemplating the fine mechanics of an expensive watch. Which is what I feel when I see Gabe putting head-high waves to beddy-byes. The conventional narrative is that Gabe starts his year at J-Bay and there was nothing in today’s performance to counter that.

Italo was similarly sharp and tactile in heat two. A little faceplant on the bricks after a shallow finish was the only blemish. Soli Bailey got the best waves and showed some hints that he might be capable of opening up and showing some repertoire. There’s been something cramped about the way his front arm has led through the turn this year. An unfortunate tic that has made his surfing look nervous and forced. If he can relax and open up he could win some heats, and that would be good.

Jordy had ultimate flow. Jorgann Couzinet had terrible flow. Ciao had moderate flow but jiggled and bobbled too many turns to threaten the multiple Jbay winner. That question of flow is a strange one. Kolohe came on like a sorority gal with one too many trips to the sangria bowl before settling down and laying down one turn after another.

G-med gives me the Dane effect, so to Italo. Not so Filipe. Too frenetic, too otherworldly maybe? Maybe just a goofy/natural thing. No matter, Pip cranked up the heat of the day, which will surprise exactly nobody. Like Gabe he rocked a green board which looked very slick on blue walls. Despite the timing of the dropping of the WSL edit which details the capitulation at the Box (one wave where Jack Robbo takes a wave off Pip while he has priority: brutal) it could have been a lifetime ago for Pip. Electric, electic King of variety laid it all down in head-high walls. The 9.10 was the highest score of the day, the 8.5 was the better ridden wave, for mine. If you are catching up on the heat analyzer, start there.

Pottz was praying Michael February was surfing on a twin fin, my preference would have been a sleek Bonzer like the one he rode in Ghana. He looks better on alternative boards. That awkward angularity becomes perfect flow, on the modern shortboard trying to surf CT style it just ain’t right.

Don’t know about you, but I’ve never felt any relationship to Kelly Slater’s surfing. But I am enjoying this year, his 27th and possibly final year on Tour more than any other year. If the surfing is unrelatable the guile, the presence, the trash talk is not.

It’s all deeply engaging.

Having Slater surfing head high J-Bay with a head of steam for the year and Sal Masekala in the booth was close to heaven. He was off, by his own admission, after a dose of the flu. Turns a bit janky, a bogged cutback but two fives was enough to progress, as Pottz had predicted in the first heat of the day.

Standard day in head high J-Bay rockrunners and Pip looking unbeatable. There, I put the last sentence as a one sentence summary in case you are short on time.

J-Bay Men’s Seeding Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.03 DEF. Joan Duru (FRA) 10.57, Frederico Morais (PRT) 9.00
Heat 2: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.43 DEF. Soli Bailey (AUS) 10.67, Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 10.34
Heat 3: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 12.16 DEF. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 7.33, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 6.74
Heat 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.77 DEF. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 9.27, Jorgann Couzinet (FRA) 8.67
Heat 5: Kolohe Andino (USA) 11.43 DEF. Yago Dora (BRA) 9.84, Beyrick De Vries (ZAF) 8.30
Heat 6: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 17.60 DEF. Michael February (ZAF) 12.83, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.77
Heat 7: Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.97 DEF. Deivid Silva (BRA) 10.60, Jadson Andre (BRA) 10.56
Heat 8: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 13.17 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 11.84, Willian Cardoso (BRA) 5.27
Heat 9: Ricardo Christie (NZL) 10.66 DEF. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 9.03, Ryan Callinan (AUS) 6.10
Heat 10: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.40 DEF. Kelly Slater (USA) 10.67, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 9.27
Heat 11: Michel Bourez (FRA) 12.24 DEF. Owen Wright (AUS) 12.00, Jack Freestone (AUS) 11.86
Heat 12: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 13.24 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 13.23, Seth Moniz (HAW) 10.83

J-Bay Men’s Elimination Round 2 Matchups:
Heat 1: Ryan Callinan (AUS), Jack Freestone (AUS), Beyrick De Vries (ZAF)
Heat 2: Seth Moniz (HAW), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Jorgann Couzinet (FRA)
Heat 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA), Jesse Mendes (BRA), Frederico Morais (PRT)
Heat 4: Willian Cardoso (BRA), Peterson Crisanto (BRA), Jadson Andre (BRA)

Women’s Seeding Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 14.80 DEF. Johanne Defay (FRA) 12.57, Macy Callaghan (AUS) 8.40
Heat 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 12.33 DEF. Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 11.70, Sage Erickson (USA) 9.97
Heat 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 12.60 DEF. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 10.30, Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 9.83

Women’s Remaining Seeding Round 1 Matchups:
Heat 4: Courtney Conlogue (USA), Brisa Hennessy (CRI), Paige Hareb (NZL)
Heat 5: Lakey Peterson (USA), Malia Manuel (HAW), Keely Andrew (AUS)
Heat 6: Caroline Marks (USA), Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), Silvana Lima (BRA)

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.