Tahiti Pro Finals Day: “Owen Wright wins by fluttering on inside nuggets while Medina sits motionless on the outside and Charlie fumes like a wounded bird at the end of Owen’s flight path!”

"Poetic justice," says Kaipo Guerrero.

I do feel some sympathy for the minions at the coal face of the WSL hype machine.

When you’ve OD’d on the most historic, the most epic, the most crazy etc etc the comedown in the cold light of the next morning will never be a pretty look.

Thus, groomed six-foot Teahupoo looked underwhelming for this Finals Day.

For the first time in history I agreed wholeheartedly with Turpel when, after Owen completed his five hundredth deep tube ride, he intoned “Wright can do no wrong.”

I could not agree with the judges when they awarded Owen a perfect ten for a leftover bomb wave from yesterday’s mack-fest. That robbed fans of a genuine contest in the closing minutes of his tube duel with OG Jaddy baby who was charging into them like a maniac.

He deserved a shot, no matter how infinitesimally small the odds, of taking the heat. The ten put him in combo land with a minute to go. In the end though, it was nothing more than cosmic justice: the Wright guy won and got to where he deserved to be.

Cosmic justice made a mockery of the next quarter between ADS and Jordy. Deep charging goofyfooters were a cut above naturalfooters all event and this heat seemed ghosted by the lack of Italo Ferriera.

Both Jordy and ADS looked shakey and not quite up to the task. The heat turned on a decision by Adriano to let Jordy go on the only proper set wave and when judges lost control of their scoring rigour and awarded a 9.23 the whole contest was in danger of spilling to a very messy conclusion.

“How do you know what you don’t know?” asked Barton Lynch in the booth, pertaining to the decision making process.

He claimed a vague interior process that lay beyond the bounds of rational thought, which he called “feeling”, that was the superior mechanism.

Whatever it was, or is, Gabe Medina had his Feels all lined up in quarter-final three against Jeremy Flores. On paper, the best quarter final of the contest. The waves did not show up.

No matter for Gabe. He walked Jeremy up the reef like a small dog on a leash, and then walked him back. Jeremy cracked first and took a small south insider, for a small score. That left Gabe with an open lineup, which he luxuriated in for twenty minutes before calmly opening up on very clean mid-rangers for an easy win.

The Seth Moniz-Caio Ibelli quarter was a mystery bag which, despite the lack of any semblance of rivalry, Kaipo tried desperately to spin as a grudge match.

Ibelli got the wave of the heat, a thick-set bouncer of a wave that he snuck in under after slippery fins finally engaged to bear hug to the safety of the channel. If it wasn’t for a display of cockiness, paddling arrogantly up the inside of Seth and trying for a too deep inside nugget he may have won the heat.

Moniz, like he was all event, backed his skill set and took the next set on offer to take it out.

How many tubes did Owen complete against Jordy in their semi? How much total tube time did he log for the event? Must be minutes It seems a little obscene. A very one-sided affair. I lost track of the final third of the heat after a kerfuffle out the back door distracted me.

It was a duck beating up on a rooster. Have you ever seen a drake beat up on a rooster? He was really kicking his ass. I didn’t know whether to punish the perpetrator or comfort the victim.

In the melee, I could not help noticing the duck, tall and handsome with slender but powerful neck, bore an uncanny resemblance to Owen Wright and the rooster with his powerful physique, plumage and proudly erect comb reminded me of Gabriel Medina.

Pardon me Barton Lynch, but that was how I based my decision making on who was going to win the final. My “feels” if you like.

Seth simply made too many mistakes to trouble Gabe. And judges could not pay the faked exits. Valuable learning for him. He’ll be on the podium here before too long.

Which put us to the final, with the two best guys of the event. Judges got the feels right. There were vapour trails from Owen and Gabe paddling each other up and down the reef. A ritual that did feel a bit played out by that point.

Priority was confusing and in the end all that tactical showboating made no difference. It was past halfway when the wave riding began. Gabe had the best of it, but the medium, large sets now looked fluffy and inconsequential compared to the inside nuggets which ran square across the very shallowest part of the inside reef.

They shared an exchange.

Gabe came out low with a fade out of the tube, Owen came out high with a speed pump. Scores could have gone either way. Owen was favoured by a half point.

Five minutes to go.

Medina defended a slender lead that never looked like being enough. He sat while Owen drifted in and measured up on an inside nugget, fluttering on the foam ball the whole ride. That wave turned the heat, paddling back out he repeated the dose while Gabe sat motionless on the outside and Charlie fumed and fussed about like a wounded bird at the end of Owen’s flight path.

Game over. Poetic retribution, Kaipo called it.

The Gods must be laughing to have Filipe Toledo, after all that transpired at Teahupoo, leading the race into the Wavepool.

Meanwhile, in a stunning counter-factual, John John Florence, who watches somewhere, surrounded by tasteful walnut and mahogany fittings, in my imagination at least, remains in the top five.

South African surf mag publisher to Jamie Brisick: “Bugger off New York shit talker!”

"A place where hope for humanity goes to die."

I’ve been lulled to complete sleep by the Tahiti Pro Teahupoo presented by Hurley. When the waves go dumb there’s not enough on the broadcast to keep a boy entertained. My mind wanders here and there and then I feel bad for letting you down too. For only posting “comment live” and “event wrap” back to back to back to back.


You deserve more than Strider Wasilewski duck-diving a wave with microphone in hand while Joe Turpel says, “Epic conditions on a historic day here at the end of the road.”

So here.

You certainly read Jamie Brisick’s New Yorker masterpiece from a few days ago wherein he discussed our new era where cameras are ever-present and how they have created self-aware styles like the one possessed by Mikey February.

A passage:

His hand jive, soul arches, and toreador-like flourishes play to the camera in a way that breaks the spell of the itinerant surfer in far-flung solitude. His style is as self-conscious as the duck-face selfie.

Well, South Africa’s Zig Zag magazine took offense to the slight. (Disclaimer: I love Zig Zag magazine more than any American or Australian surf pub.) Publisher Andy Davis headed straight to computer and wrote In Defense of Aesthetics and MFEB’s Style and shall we sample?

Surf media hyenas and outrage specialist Beachgrit immediately jumped on this passage and shared it under the headline: THE NEW YORKER: “MIKEY FEBRUARY’S STYLE IS AS SELF-CONSCIOUS AS THE DUCK-FACE SELFIE!” A brief scuffle ensued in the comments section. A place where hope for humanity goes to die.

(Disclaimer: being described as surf media hyenas and outrage specialists gives me a unique thrill.)

And then…

Ultimately, Brisick has fallen into the trap, of judging February by a feckless and imperial first world Californian surfing standard, where being caught trying too hard is the ultimate sin. It’s a curmudgeonly and spiteful comment, that fails to grasp a broader global context and ends up saying more about his own privilege than whether Mikey February’s style is pretentious.

And all this to justify a perspective that itself rests in the eye of the beholder and is as ephemeral as the mist on a morning up the Wesksus. Here at the Zag, we say viva MFeb style, voetsek New Yorker kakpraat!

Which, I was gracefully told, translates as “Bugger off New York shit talker!”

So, is dear Jamie Brisick a feckless imperialist? Is Mikey February’s style misunderstood? Are you where hope for humanity goes to die?

Much to discuss and much better than current Teahupoo.

Eat it, Joe Turpel.

Comment live: Finals day of the Tahiti Pro Teahupoo presented by Hurley!

Come celebrate one last hurrah!

Yesterday, a hot full day of professional surf action, was fun. There were controversies, upsets, fear, bravery and the omnipresent Wall of Cotton Candy Sweet Positive Sound coming from the World Surf League’s wood pallet wall’d booth. And what do you imagine happens during World Surf League commentator training, or rather what did happen those five years ago when Joey Turpel and gang received their first new order training?

Did onetime World Surf League CEO Herr Paul Speaker say, “I don’t care what you think you see, what you say must be POSITIVE” or some equal directive?

I do not understand it and it feels insulting. It feels profoundly insulting when Yago Dora sits for 35 minutes in non-stop waves, catches one and Joey Turpel says, “Dora gets one and is hustling back out to get back into the heat.”

But Dora was scared. He was not hustling to get back into the heat. He wanted it over. Everyone could see it yet no one in the booth could say it.

Infuriating and it makes me rage inside, shaking an impotent fist at the screen, cursing both 1988 and 1989.

Well, Longtom wrapped yesterday’s hot professional surf action almost too beautifully, and please forgive my rude fist shaking, for yesterday’s hot action also brought the return of the Li’l Plumber and the unveiling of Caio Ibelli. Do either have a shot to win the 2019 overall crown? Hope springs eternal.

And today is the last Teahupoo we’ll see all year before we head inland to cow country. A gorgeous day before hell truly cometh.

Let’s watch together and chat!

Tahiti Pro, Day 3: “Medina imperiously calm; close to perfect; Kelly Slater too cute for judges!”

Six-to-ten-foot waves distended nostrils and quickened hearts in the best contest day at Teahupoo in five years…

Going to the land of nod last night knowing I/we would be waking up to a day of eight-foot Teahupo’o broadcast live made me feel quite deliriously excited.

I didn’t need to neck any sleeping pills like Filipe Toledo, but then I wasn’t one who would be paddling out with the whole world watching.

If the Tour disintegrated under the weight of its own contradictions and all we were left with were a couple of speciality events: Chopes, Pipe, maybe something in Indo it wouldn’t be the worst outcome in the world.

Long as we got to watch it live.

Gotta say though, the draw did not excite as much. Lot of one-sided encounters on there, some of which did run to script while some turned out to be almost surreal in their reversals of expected fortune.

Barton Lynch was enthusiastic to a fault in the post-show wrap claiming despite the evil nature of the surf, “The world’s best surfers had a dig” The missing qualifier “some of” was starkly visible to all, except the commentary team.

Only the most timid observations of reality were allowed to escape, if at all.

Overlapping heats seemed a disastrous choice for the day. Confusion was the dominant theme, in the judging panel, in the broadcast, amongst the watching fans. Too many waves were missed, commentary had no clue what was going on, it was a mess.

Inconceivably, the WSL looked to have shot the one Golden Goose that managed to fly into its orbit this year. I never thought I would utter these words about pro surfing: there was too much action.

Riding forwards on a longer board, Italo sat deeper than Adriano, surfed on the foam ball and threaded multiple huge carverns perfectly. I am sure one of his eight-point rides was critically underscored. Maybe all of them.

Italo Ferreira and Adriano De Souza were the first to give the day some shape and an epic flavour. I’m still deeply baffled by how Italo lost.

Riding forwards on a longer board, Italo sat deeper, surfed on the foam ball and threaded multiple huge carverns perfectly. I am sure one of his eight-point rides was critically underscored.

Maybe all of them.

The final exchange was emblematic of the day: the second wave of the set was the heat-winning wave and De Souza rode deep and long on a …..what do we call it now in the Wavepool Era? Twenty-foot wave?

It was a surreal close, commentators had brought in a babe to discuss the coral gardening. Barton spent half the heat engaged in WSL talking points while the best heat of the year played out in front of him.

Barton’s worst day on tour as a commentator. He missed the other high point of the day. Medina’s ten. More on that later.

De Souza could not be denied.

But even after rewatching I still can’t reconcile the Italo loss after one of the most incredible performances ever seen at Chopes. That he was beaten while another surfer in the concurrent over-lapping heat barely caught a wave seems a criminal travesty.

In round fucking three! Wasn’t the seeding round supposed to fix this?

De Souza claimed a spiritual advisor in the departed Ricardo Dos Santos accompanied him to his epic win.

His advice, according to De Souza,“You have to treat Teahupo’o like you treat your wife” was wisely left uninterrogated by Rosie Hodge in the presser.

Cardoso could not take off. Ricardo Cristie struggled. Wade Carmichael was a deer in the headlights. Thirty-five minutes of a heat passed without Yago Dora molesting a wave,or seducing it ala De Souza. This caused the mellow Williams to declaim without a trace of irony, “Some guys are a little better than the other guys”.

Do not get me wrong. I do not judge.

CJ Hopgood in an impassioned commentary performance of mostly unintelligible gibberish said when you surf Teahupoo the “the black pearl is right behind you” and that you get to find out “what’s on the other side of your fears.”

Real things, as it turns out. Shallow reef to be slammed into. Death, serious injury. As a rec surfer who has looked down into the belly of the beast as those west bowls bend at you and drain the reef, it is the most frightening reality imaginable.

Brother had everything to overcome in his heat to hold the yellow jersey. His own fear, the hometown crowd baying for his seventeen-year-old Tahitian opponent, the waves themselves.

He did not let himself down.

He surfed a smart, brave heat. And then with a minute remaining the broadcast inadvertently captured a moment of pure pathos. Vaast paddled right past Andino and Andino’s expression of startled, unknowing arrogance as he watched him segued perfectly into Vaast stroking into a blue cement mixer which delivered a wild foam ball victory ride for the wildcard. It was beautiful sport.

The yellow jersey now shifted to Filipe Toledo, if he could somehow prove the naysayers wrong and make sense of full throated Teahupo’o.

He did, barely, against Jesse Mendes. It was obvious he wanted nothing to do with it. Christ, the man was coming down from sleeping pills! You want to be up to surf Chopes, not down. He could not force his way in there and wrangle a bomb.

With a heat almost spent Pip did get behind one and threaded it. Judges were generous but as Pip paddled back to the boat the look he gave Tatiana Weston-Webb clothed in a black Thrasher T-shirt was not one of machismo, but more of sheepish acknowledgment that he had done just enough to get the job done.

Ace Buchan in the booth spent the heat throwing shade at both men. On Jesse Mendes he noted that Jesse was the defending Triple Crown champion but was yet to really pack a bomb. He wryly observed that Toledo “needs to be deeper”.

With a heat almost spent Pip did get behind one and threaded it. Judges were generous but as Pip paddled back to the boat the look he gave Tatiana Weston-Webb clothed in a black Thrasher T-shirt was not one of machismo, but more of sheepish acknowledgment that he had done just enough to get the job done.

In the presser, as he accepted the accolade of the yellow jersey he said “I’m blessed” four times in one sentence. He did not look like a man blessed. He looked shell shocked and half dead.

Jeremy Flores in a helmet was magnificent, but that is not newsworthy. Same with his fellow helmutee Owen Wright. Both were almost insanely competent and hungry for the bombs.

The surprise was Kelly Slater.

After watching all day the danger was Kelly would get too cute and try and showboat his way to scores. Which he duly did, and which judges duly lowballed.

The second wave of the set had been the heat winner. He took the first. Jack Freestone was solid, just drew a clean line from A to B under the axe.

Kelly needed one bomb to make the heat.

The set came.

Kelly, after spending most of his commentary session the other day detailing how to make the drop, could not get in. He pin-dropped from the top. And watched as Jack Freestone rode the second wave to a heat-winning score.

Either wave successfully ridden would have been Kelly’s heat winner.

After calling Kelly and Italo on day one it was a bitter pill to swallow to see both gone while a third of the tour floundered like toddlers in a wading pool.

It was pro surfing overload but somehow the Bourez/Owen Wright heat cut through effortlessly. Owen rode a million deep tubes. Bourez was crushed beneath a collapsing west wedge that was so, so heavy.

On the ski ride back over dry reef into the lagoon he looked like a floppy puppet.

He can’t come back from that, can he?

Minutes later he paddled into an even heavier one. A legit tow wave. Impossibly heavy. He needed a high Nine. They gave him a 9.43. For a fucking tow wave! If there was ever a noble defeat this was it.

Moniz and Ibelli were grand. They get short-changed here in the hope tomorrow gives them the coverage they deserve.

The final word has to go to Medina. He was imperiously calm and composed in dispatching Zeke Lau. Against a hard-charging Colapinto in heat six of round four he was much much closer to perfect.

He rode two waves separated by more than 30 minutes.

The first to open: a deep, travelling tube, weaving in and around the foam ball. A type of tube-riding he specialises in.

The second a much bigger throatier set. Delaying the bottom turn for a micro-second put as deep as humanly possible. The foam ball pushed him around and almost threw him to disaster. He emerged and splayed ten fingers out to the judges with a shrug. The only thing unseemly about it was the time taken for judges to award a perfect ten.

And Barton missing it while an interview with Flores played on the split. He missed it! The two peak moments of a day of days missed by the booth, for shame.

A day where almost too much pro surfing was barely enough.

Thats a long wrap and so much has been left out.

Much to discuss etc.

Comment Live: Day 3 (again) Tahiti Pro Teahupoo presented by “Behold a pale horse and upon him sat death!”

...and Hurley!

So tell me and tell me true, is today’s Teahupoo forecast really going to be what World Surf League President of Content, Media and Hyphy Rap Dancing Erik “ELo” Logan calls “48 hours of #mustsee?” Is it going to be, as he also calls “EPIC TAHITI?” The “monster swell of Kanoa Igarashi’s young life?”

Oh he didn’t describe it as the monster swell of Kanoa Igarashi’s young life but will it be?

Do you believe?

I was in the channel, on a boat during a medium-sized Teahupoo swell once many years ago with Mikey Wright, Leo Fioravanti and Kanoa Igarashi. Kanoa did not like it and refused to paddle. Oh, I didn’t blame him. Seeing that beast up close is something that will haunt me for the rest of my life. The reef is right there, like right there, and the lagoon that folk gets washed into is literally* filled with razor blades and MMA fighters pointy elbows and the wave, that wave, is thick and fast.

Reflexes, man. You need reflexes.

Will any surfers chicken out? There are a full 32 of them. The entire field minus four and one of those four is a young Tahitian hell charger.

*Various dictionaries have officially changed “literally” to “figuratively” to reflect usage.

Watch here!