Battle Royale: Kelly Slater vs. John John Florence for final Olympic spot shaping up as “can’t miss blockbuster!”

Who will the fates smile upon?

Now, I’m going to be honest with you here, this whole Olympic qualification thing confuses me. I know it shouldn’t, I know that the top two surfers on the World Surf League Championship Tour, per nation, get to go and that Japan has one bonus slot and then the surfers also have compete in the ISA Pyramid Scheme Games but… I’m still confused.

Like, are there only going to be ten surfers competing at the Olympics including one bonus Japanese?

The only nations I can think with surfers are Brazil, France, Australia, South Africa and the United States of America. I guess Portugal too. New Zealand? So fourteen surfers plus one bonus Japanese?

Also, when does the qualification lock in? I assumed after next year’s World Surf League Championship Tour but it will not even be half done when the Olympics swing in to Tokyo plus a comprehensive interview with John John Florence in ESPN today makes me think that it’s this year’s rankings. Would you like to read with me then clarify?


ESPN: How much did the Olympic qualifying weigh on that decision?

JJF: Luckily enough, I had a lot of points from doing well in the beginning of the season, so I still have a good shot at qualifying through the tour for the Olympics — and that is my dream. It would be so awesome to go to the Olympics. But I don’t have much control over that right now. I have to sit back and see what Kelly [Slater] can do.

ESPN: Why is qualifying for the U.S. Olympic surfing team important to you?

JJF: It’s the Olympics, the top of sporting, and being a part of it would be awesome. I think it would be so cool to have a Hawaiian on the team. And since it’s the first year in the Olympics for surfing, I imagine there is going to be a lot of conversation about how it can be better next time, and I would love to be involved in that conversation. To be part of the first one and growing our sport in the Olympics would be cool.

ESPN: You recently posted a video on Instagram showing you back in the water, prone paddling, with the hashtag #Tokyo2020, and it caused a lot of excitement. Why the hashtag?

JJF: I thought it was a fun one. And there is a lot of truth in it. It is still a goal of mine to qualify for the Olympics, and I wanted to let people know I am working toward that. It is my goal to get better for Pipeline in case I have to come back and compete and gain points. That is a short-term goal. And if Kelly doesn’t gain enough points the rest of the year, it is a long-term goal to be 150 percent ready at the start of the next WCT season and have ample time to train for the Olympics next year.

I still don’t get it. But more importantly, it feels like one of the greatest subplots during the rest of the 2019 season will be 48-year-old Kelly Slater vs. the specter of John John Florence for that final Olympic slot. Now, do you think it is bad sportsmanship for Kelly to try and steal qualification from a cripple? Does this story-within-a-story change your cheering interests?

Are you Team John John or Team Kelly?

Beyond Litmus Review: Cancer supersedes surfing!

If you are familiar with Andrew Kidman's work, the films, the books, the music, this is his best. The most accomplished. The most beautiful. The most moving.

Be you prime stud, or babe with the world at her feet, you’re going to get old and die, possibly of cancer.

That sounds about the most depressing statement ever but in Beyond Litmus, the reprise, twenty-five years on of Jon Frank and Andrew Kidman’s cult classic Litmus, that statement of fact becomes filmic and literary raw material of immense uplift and cheer.

Derek Hynd, the fulcrum of both films, calls the experience of dealing with throat cancer “total liberation”.

Litmus kickstarted the rebellion against Slater and the Momentum Generation.

It marked the signal failure of the pro surfing project up to and including the present day; that being the catastrophic lack of cross-over into the mainstream audience with Kelly as the front man.

Kelly is truly great, but he is ours.

He was never theirs. Theirs being Middle America.

Litmus dragged the fish out of it’s Sunset Cliffs/Pacific Beach lair and rebirthed it as a global phenomenon, thus driving the retro movement and hence becoming as significant as Morning of the Earth in steering Australian surfing culture (said with a straight face) and maybe more important than anything since Runman in giving confidence to the Californian underground which had heretofore been ignored by its own surf media.

Big calls, yes.

Beyond Litmus is more than getting the band back together for a sentimental romp through the old hits. Litmus was a case, according to Kidman, of “being lucky”.

“We were enthusiastic, but there was no skill in anything. It was punk rock”.

Twenty-five years later, the development of Kidman and Frank as filmmakers is obvious. Litmus was a slap in the face with a cold fish to the front lit, mainstream-Slater vision of surfing.

Beyond Litmus is altogether different.

An immersive, psychedelic trip of a movie, focussed as much on the “human-ness of becoming” and the nuances of history than the performance of riding a wave.

But that does feature, of course. Free-friction surfing isn’t everyone’s cup of chai, which is part of the reason Hynd embraced it so enthusiastically – as a mountain top where the herd would not or could not follow – but you’d need to have a perverse eye to not make the assessment that the lines he drew were a clear advancement on what he achieved with rudders.

Terry Fitzgerald, phlegmatic seventies surf star and scion of the Hot Buttered board-building empire and surf family said, “What’s he’s done there on the Edge”, referring to Hynd’s J-Bay free-friction surfing, “is the greatest”

I demur slightly.

I’ve seen Hynd do his thing in person. In the north-west desert of Australia, where as a fity-four-year-old and blind in one eye, he took on slabbing lefts sans fins.

We were there as part of a classical music art project – I had wangled on as an official forecaster. It sounds wank but was actually insanely good. One night Hynd had too much to drink and there was a disagreement, a pretty robust one between him and the director.

It got ugly.

Just talk, but still ugly. A lot of hurt feelings.

I know he won’t be particularly proud of that or even happy the anecdote is told but what I saw him do the day after with a savage hangover, in his fifties at a barely surfable slab, taking off wave after wave and setting an edge into oblivion, was the greatest display of surfing I’ve ever witnessed.

The centrepiece of Beyond Litmus is devoted to Derek Hynd’s experience of dealing with throat cancer. If ever there was a reason to quit, that would be it. Hynd says he felt no desire to get back in the water after chemotherapy, that a simple bowl of soup was about the highest pleasure imaginable.

Some of that desert surfing, shot by Jon Frank, makes the film.

Matt Warshaw made the observation in a recent newsletter that Australians, by and large, don’t quit surfing.

The centrepiece of Beyond Litmus is devoted to Derek Hynd’s experience of dealing with throat cancer. If ever there was a reason to quit, that would be it. Hynd says he felt no desire to get back in the water after chemotherapy, that a simple bowl of soup was about the highest pleasure imaginable.

Ravaged by cancer and its chemical and radioactive treatments he presents the very image of what the gas station attendant in Grapes of Wrath thought of the Joads when he saw them, “a hard looking outfit”.

You’re scared of cancer. We all are. I’m so terrified I wouldn’t even go to the Doctor to get mine cut out for over a year.

Hearing Hynd describe it as “raw and honest” and that it “superseded most life experiences”, including surfing was humbling and shocking. He describes it as an experience almost as pure and visceral as riding his dragster to the beach with dogs in tow in the dark hours before sunrise as a fifteen year old.

That seminal desire is turned into a lurid piece of psychedelic animation by Ben Jarvis. It’s the closest thing to a DMT trip without taking the trip. A wide awake dream scored by a haunting piece of post-rock soundscape.

Find that animation and see it. Even if you hate it it’s a trip worth taking. Believe me.

Tom Curren off tour and in his native habitat was a huge part of Litmus and his lengthy cameo in Beyond Litmus sings.

Were you sad when they wheeled Curren out for the legends heat with Occy at this years Bells? I felt very sad to see this shambles of a man being wheeled out for our entertainment. On his skimboard with his mumbling and his anxiety, there was something cruel about it. And his surfing looked terrible.

Made up like a clown, his expressions are so much better than words at bringing the inner Tom Curren to life.

Were you sad when they wheeled Curren out for the legends heat with Occy at this years Bells? I felt very sad to see this shambles of a man being wheeled out for our entertainment. On his skimboard with his mumbling and his anxiety, there was something cruel about it. And his surfing looked terrible.

In Beyond Litmus, Curren presents a rationale for the single fin and follows up with a fluid demonstration on a self-shaped singley. The lines we love are there. The deep cut off the bottom and the fluid swoop. The position forwards tube stance. It’s reassuring. Uplifting.

Weirdness is a funny thing and Curren wears it better than anybody but to see Curren surfing like Curren is alone worth the price of the ticket.

Hows your attention span?

Mine’s shot, for surf porn. Halfway through a three-minute POV Skeleton Bay tube-ride and I’m hitting pause. Fuk that noise, already seen it.

Yet, I’ve just spent six months getting through Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate and the hour and twenty of Beyond Litmus flew by like a dream.

What I’m trying to say is, if you are familiar with Kidman’s work, the films, the books, the music, this is his best one. The most accomplished. The most beautiful. The most moving.

The biz model ain’t for everyone either.

You buy direct and you pay more.

But every cent goes into the right pockets, into the next project. I think this is a good thing to own.

To watch sober, sideways or hungover and wondering what the fuck to do with your life, with the time you have left.

If nothing else it exists as a document to remind us of the value of our own freedom.

(Beyond Litmus Derek Hynd a film/book project by Andrew Kidman and Jon Frank
100 page hardbound book (210 x 210) and DVD containing archival and never before seen footage, photographs and interviews with Derek Hynd, compiled and produced by Andrew Kidman and Jon Frank. Buy here.)

Apocalypse: Over 300 “Man-eating” Great Whites force closure of 60 beaches on U.S. eastern seaboard!

"Let's go kill some sharks!"

Just over one week ago, you read here about how my bucolic North County, San Diego seaside paradise has been transformed into a Great White-infested hell. Oh, beaches were closed as juvenile sharks circled and jumped like the waves were their own, shuttering breaks from Carlsbad to Del Mar.

Del Mar’s chief lifeguard, John Edelbrock, described the sharks’ behavior as docile — “not aggressive in any way.”

Well, those Great Whites swimming on the eastern seaboard must have taken note and, like the great east vs. west rap battles of old, threw down an absolute hammer track. Over 300 sharks have forced the closure of 60 beaches this summer so far.

Are these sharks docile, not aggressive in any way, like their west coast foils? We must turn to the Brexit’s Daily Mail for more.

Charles Vansant was the first victim, a strapping 25-year-old stockbroker swimming in water only chest-deep when the shark struck.

Anxious to encourage a reluctant dog to join him, the young American hadn’t noticed the dark shadow and tell-tale protruding fin behind him. The Great White shark shredded his left leg to the bone, virtually tearing it from his body.

Mr Vansant was helped back to the beach, but bled to death at a nearby hotel. ‘His death was the most horrible thing I ever saw,’ said a witness.

That incident was, of course, the first 1916 attack, likely by a Bull not a White, that lead to many more and a run of shark paranoia on the east coast, eventually fictionalized by the film Jaws. Well, the Daily Mail pivots straight from early Jaws folklore to our modern day.

Between July and early August, some 60 beaches have been closed because of shark sightings around Cape Cod, the Massachusetts summer paradise near where Jaws was filmed.

At least 300 Great Whites — sometimes 15ft-long monsters in just 5ft of water — have been spotted around the Cape. Officials have responded by putting up new warning signs about Great Whites and issuing lifeguards with tourniquets to staunch bleeding from bites. Purple shark-emblazoned warning flags fly at beaches at all times.

On and on the Daily Mail piece goes, whipping the reader into an absolute frenzy, pivoting back and forth from yesteryear to modern times, begging the readers to take up pitchforks, or harpoons, and go out a stabbin’.

Like… Lifeguards, hearing a bloodcurdling scream, turned to see what they thought was a red upturned canoe in the water. It was Charles Bruder, a 28-year-old hotel bellboy, swimming in his own blood that had pooled around him.

And… ‘Let’s go kill some sharks!’ became a popular rallying cry. Just as in Jaws, fishermen took to their boats looking for the shark, while police officers reported blasting away at suspicious shadows in the water. However, in the midst of the panic, Dr Lucas and other experts still insisted further attacks would be very unlikely. They were wrong.

So should we?

Should we take up pitchforks and/or harpoons and/or big ol’ guns?

Also, were you Team Bad Boy or Team Death Row?

More as the terror develops.

Angry old bird takes on pro-pool man with bird's nest hairdo.

Revolt: Violent anti-wavepool protests rock france; mirthless locals fight filthy garbage surfers!

Environmentalists ask, how can we build wavepools when there are people starving in Africa?

This story might be a little cold given the violence is a few weeks old, but the community of a farming town in north-west France remains torn apart by violent protests over plans to build an American Wave Machines pool that would be bigger than BSR’s in Waco.

Saint-Pere-en-Retz, home to four-and-a-half-thousand, was gonna get itself a seventeen-million American dollar tank, and charge fifty bucks an hour, but has been stymied by environmentalists who weep about the “destruction of the natural heritage and agricultural space, Co2 emissions and the water consumption.”

There have been street riots, cops with batons, pro-pool surfers rolling around in a gang of three tractors and fighting with farmers, old friends turning against each other (one man says he’s scared to leave his house), all sorts of thrills.

It’s been so visually pleasing for news organisations that for a brief moment it even knocked the gilets jaunes protests from French television screens.

A group calling itself Zap la Vague (Zap the Wave)  says the joint is an “aberration”, “useless”, that one hour of artificial wave-making uses the equivalent of three weeks water consumption and three weeks electricity for a regular household and, anyway, surfers won’t go near the place.

“This project is absurd. Surfers love the contact with the elements. They will never go to a wave pool which is located only ten minutes away from the ocean,” said a spokesperson. “To its core, surfing is a prayer.”

While the future of the development remains in limbo, do you agree with the central premise of Zap the Wave?

That surfing is a prayer?

And that if you lived on a part of the coast where the waves, mostly, suck, you wouldn’t go near it?

While you ponder, here’s a song for any French speakers that asks another pointed question: how can we build wavepools when there are people starving in Africa and so on?


Comment Live: Day 1, Tahiti Pro Teahupoo presented by Hurley!

Kelly Slater says, "For sure Tahiti is more in my wheelhouse than many other events."

I think, pray and hope that professional surfing is back today. The countdown clock on the World Surf League’s patented timer is ticking all the way to zero over at “The End of the Road” but I have to get in the car and drive north on “The Endless Road” before it actually reaches zero.

What’s a surf journalist to do?

If it runs and there is no “Comment Live” feed up and running, shame will haunt me for multiple hours.

If it doesn’t run and there is a “Comment Live” feed up and running, shame will haunt me until I can delete.

I’m opting for the later!

Kelly Slater says, “For sure Tahiti is more in my wheelhouse than many other events. I do have a lot of confidence there, but that doesn’t detract from needing to get out there and figure out the lineup and take note of how your competitors are looking and getting yourself on the good waves. The confidence goes up for sure though and I focus a lot more on my performance and what I can control than my competition.”



Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o pres. by Hurley Seeding Round (Round 1) Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Peterson Cristanto (BRA), Soli Bailey (AUS)
Heat 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 3: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN), Caio Ibelli (BRA), Adriano de Souza (BRA)
Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA), Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Kauli Vaast (FRA)
Heat 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA), Joan Duru (FRA), Tyler Newtown (HAW)
Heat 6: Kolohe Andino (USA), Yago Dora (BRA), Matahi Drollet (PYF)
Heat 7: Kelly Slater (USA), Deivid Silva (BRA), Francisco Morais (PRT)
Heat 8: Ryan Callinan (AUS), Willian Cardoso (BRA), Ricardo Christie (NZL)
Heat 9: Julian Wilson (AUS), Michael Rodrigues (BRA), Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat 10: Michel Bourez (PYF), Jeremy Flores (FRA), Griffin Colapinto (USA)
Heat 11: Owen Wright (AUS), Wade Carmichael (AUS), Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Heat 12: Conner Coffin (USA), Seth Moniz (HAW), Jack Freestone (AUS)