Sea Change: The World Surf League radically alters their Big Wave World Tour!

"People are small, waves are big and far away!"

Were you on the edge of your seat, wondering what the World Surf League was going to do with their Big Wave World Tour leading into the northern hemisphere fall/winter 2019/2020? Neither was I but an important press release sent out this morning also sent ripples across the surf journalism world. Ripples so big, so robust, as to form into a “big wave” themselves and shall we read together? We have to. We can’t not.

Today, the World Surf League (WSL) announced its new and enhanced Big Wave platform. WSL’s new platform for big wave surfing will deliver unrivaled big wave action through the new Strike Missions series, reimagined events, the Big Wave Awards, and year-round content, all centralized into a new digital home designed to spotlight the boundary-pushing performances by big wave surfers.

The new WSL Big Wave platform raises the profile of big wave surfing and empowers its athletes by capturing and showcasing more exciting big wave moments. Instead of waiting for swells to hit, the dynamic new platform will allow the WSL to be faster to react, going deeper into the action whenever and wherever the biggest waves are breaking. This will offer fans the most thrilling content, including strike mission highlights, and the latest news in the world of big wave surfing.

The WSL’s new platform will feature four distinct areas, in addition to year-round content: the Strike Missions series, the Jaws Big Wave World Championships at Pe’ahi, the Nazaré Tow Challenge, and the Big Wave Awards.

The Strike Missions series will track swell models and deploy WSL camera teams into the eye of the storm in order to showcase big wave surfing beyond competitions. With the launch of WSL Studios earlier this year, this new content will bring fans closer to big wave surfing than ever before through exclusive behind-the-scenes storytelling and unparalleled highlights.

“I am excited about the big picture here and looking at big wave surfing differently with this new platform,” said Keala Kennelly, reigning Big Wave World Champion. “The new approach is going to reflect the reality and adaptability of big wave surfing where these incredible feats happen at any time, and with WSL, I want to be able to share these epic moments with the world.”

The WSL will host two reimagined events this season at Pe’ahi, Hawaii and Nazaré, Portugal. The Jaws Big Wave World Championships at Pe’ahi will feature the best and most proven big wave surfers from around the world to decide the men’s and women’s Big Wave World Champions. Big wave surfing’s most iconic break, Pe’ahi (aka Jaws), is known as the greatest test of skill and courage in the paddle surfing universe. The Nazaré Tow Challenge will host invitees as they utilize jet skis to tow into Nazaré’s biggest waves. Nazaré is the home of world record-setting waves and will display barrier-breaking surfing in this never-before-seen competition.


Important but do you really really care about the Big Wave World Tour? I didn’t until today but this “Strike Mission” business mixed in with a grand slam format seems the future of professional surfing and I just had to call Senior Vice-President of Tours Etc. famous professional surfer and star of Endless Summer II Pat O’Connell for more. He was gracious enough to take my call and also gracious enough to speak truth.

Chas: I don’t care that Mavericks has been disappeared. Those locals should be stoked. They get the best days of their year back. Any Mavericks aficionado will be partying in the streets right now. Freedom!

(I laugh)

Pat: So what we’re really trying to do here is deliver on a year ’round proposition. To capture the pinnacle moments and let’s take Tahiti for example. If we can capture that content of epic swell days and deliver it to the people quickly, why wouldn’t we do that? People are small, waves are big and far away. All we’re trying to do is make this more accessible and with this new format I think it’s the best way to make that happen.

Chas: I completely agree and think you should shift this format onto the regular tour?

Pat: There’s no plans for that yet but we take things as they happen every day.

Chas: Well hurry up with those plans!

We chatted lots more, a freewheeling discussion about surfing, in general, and professional surfing, specifically. Pat is engaged in the process and  but ruthlessly narrowing down the big wave events to two that are guaranteed to run every year then adding a fun, reflexive video component seems the way the entire enterprise should go.

Don’t you agree?

Joel Tudor on Amazon rainforest fires: “Don’t believe the hype!”

"Is the forest burning?" "No burning."

And have you been following along with the troubles in the “lungs of the earth?” Of course you have. Of course you know that the Amazon is burning thanks to either a relaxation of restrictions from Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, record heat or, as President Bosonaro claimed, non-governmental workers frustrated that their wages have cut and are taking it out on the rainforest.

All news outlets report that fires in the Amazon are up over 80% compared with last year. Many fires. Many many fires. Or are there?

Two days ago, professional longboarder Joel Tudor posted a video on his very entertaining Instagram account featuring a Brazilian jiu-jitsu aficionado and a one-time director of sports from the Amazon region.

The BJJ aficionado introduces his friend then asks, “Is the Amazon burning?”

The one-time director of sports answers, “No burning.”

The two go on to profess much support for President Jair Bolsonaro claiming that the only thing burning are the hearts and consciences of those disrespecting him.

Joel Tudor captions the post “Don’t believe the hype!”

So, is the rainforest really not burning?

Have we been scammed?




Longtom on the Cabianca/Medina DFK: “The easiest pro level board I’ve wrangled!”

Our reviewer finds the Holy Grail of surfboards, an ultra-high performance sled for the immediate surfer…

It does seem a little like cheating when you get, not just what you want, but what you need and with perfect timing.

Thus it was, that around the same time Medina had slayed J-Bay on his 6’0” DFK by Johnny Cabianca I received mine in the same dimensions, in time for a six-week run of perfect waves where my local resembled a sub-tropical warm water version of J-Bay, except better.

Sure, I got chipped for it by local wags.

“What, you think you’re fucking Gabe Medina?”

Yeah, if Gabe was reincarnated as a bald, albino with intermediate skills. I do, after many hours in the sun look like a plucked and cooked turkey, so I guess me and Gabs (armpits) do have that in common.

The dominant narrative on Gabe’s boards is that you could stick deck chairs on ’em and host baby boomer cruises to the South Pacific with very little modification.

That did not gel with my initial impression.

I felt a very balanced, slightly lower rockered round tail shortboard with the only noteworthy features being a slightly thicker tail foil and a very crisp edge on the bottom tail rail extending forwards of the fin cluster. Subtle bottom contours.

The thing felt damn good. Substantial.

Almost invariably the initial impressions of a new sled are determined by context, what you’ve been riding and where. I’d been cycling through some insane surfboards for good point waves: a 6’3” roundpin Maurice Cole Protow custom, 6’6” Desert Storm custom swallowtail and, on days when the westerly wind was howling or the devil wind was in, a 7’3” Aleutian Juice custom Vector-Cuda. The best quiver I’ve ever had for good waves.

A 6’0”, no matter how generously foiled, was always going to be easy to power up after cycling down from those boards.

I’m shit with my hands but before I rode the DFK I did a little DIY mod to the BeachGrit tail-pad, based on a positive experience with a Necro pad and negative one with a Connor Coffin pad. I figured a low, subtle kick was to my taste so took a stanley-knife and hacked the kick in half. That turned out to be a very good move.

A ruled-edge long period east swell greeted my maiden voyage.

Crisp, before sunrise on a Sunday morning. Strangely uncrowded. Sizzling little head-high racetracks. It took very little to get this board humming. Maybe the first wave or two felt little sketchy, a bit under-powered due to coming off much longer rail lines.

It took less than half the session to figure out the board wanted to be surfed simply and definitively from top to bottom with no wiggles or double pumps to keep the water flowing through the fins or the concaves engaged.

Since I T-boned an elderly Vietnamese man on a rainy night in Byron Bay and got shown the door from bus driving* I’ve had to account for my time with more prudence.

As a full-time freelancer two go-outs in a day is rare. Feels too indulgent.

But my Bribie pal had come back from FIFO in the Tanami desert, which is the middle of Australia if you’ve never heard of it. He was keen for a paddle, and although I’m not a leave passer I did get the second bite of the cherry with the blessing of my spouse.

Second surfs always feel better.

I never pretend to be anything more than high intermediate, competent is the vain term. The DFK is a board that is reassuringly easy to come to grips with. After riding various high-performance shortboards I’ve come to believe that control is the most important variable.

In sunny head-high point surf, with just a ruffle of side breeze, the DFK felt very, very solid. Leveraging speed off the bottom to go straight back into the top third felt seamless, and you can push that as hard as you like.

Generating rhythmic momentum from turn to turn very much within my grasp.

I never pretend to be anything more than high intermediate, competent is the vain term. The DFK is a board that is reassuringly easy to come to grips with. After riding various high-performance shortboards I’ve come to believe that control is the most important variable.

That balance between sensitivity and drive has to be tilted firmly in the drive quadrant, for me, to be able to get the board where I want it go. Struggling with control is almost the definition of a board outside your area of expertise.

I felt confident pushing this board very hard, from that second surf onwards. That had generally positive results. We can all agree, I hope, a point of difference for Gabe’s surfing is the ability to switch from hi-fi, fins-free or aerial attack to classic power-based carving.

My skill set did not extend to the former but very much enjoyed the latter on the DFK.

The only mixed bag came in a crowded Saturday surf where the Grace of God smiled upon me and I jagged three set waves in quick succession. Threading through a heavy pack I thought I could blast a backhand high hook on the corner of a tubing section with multiple people to dodge. Ended up catching an outside edge and slamming hard.

Not sure whether it was the rail of my board or someone elses or the wave but I spent the rest of the day thinking I was having a heart attack. Rib cartilage or broken rib. Nothing Nurofen before and after a surf couldn’t fix.

The only other slight caution is to be on your fin game.

I started with JJF M’s, fins made from recycled fishing nets (sourced in Chile) and carbon. Beautiful fins and they felt great, but at speed, under pressure, I was able to blow them out under load a few times. It wasn’t bad enough to swap them out so minor problem.

I think Gabe’s DFK is the easiest pro level board I’ve wrangled.

The trend among most pros has been to increase volume. You’d have to give Matt Biolos credit for that. When Fanning jumped on the Mayhems (at Trestles) and changed the emphasis to more volume he got better immediately.

All up, from pro to Joe people mostly look better and surfing feels better on something that paddles and has some glide, even at the high-perf level. There’s really only one human being alive who looks good on an underpowered sled and we call him the greatest of all time.

Toledo gets away with bladier boards.

Julian’s still look underpowered to my eye, especially now compared to Medina.

JJF has added litreage.

All up, from pro to Joe people mostly look better and surfing feels better (to me) on something that paddles and has some glide, even at the high-perf level. There’s really only one human being alive who looks good on an underpowered sled and we call him the greatest of all time.

A way forwards for the rec surfer is to get your top end dialed and customised, make sure your good-wave sleds are as good as they can be. That gives latitude for experimentation in the high-performance “space”, if you’ll pardon the corporate malapropism.

Johnny Cabianca has put a high-performance sled square into the Goldilocks zone for the average recreational surfer. I cannot recommend highly enough.

I rode my DFK as a stock 6’0”, just under thirty litres of volume.

* I had two witnesses who testified he was driving without lights on. No matter, I got shitcanned.

Buy, examine, here. 

Innovative: Florida man attempts to surf six-foot shark; gets bit!

"I felt like a train hit me..."

What is the weirdest board you have ever surfed? A smooshy little fish? A long n lean gun? A Tomo, asym, swallow? Well, a chiropractor from Florida has you beat, surfing a shark for a few exciting moments, and let us learn, together, about Donald Walsh and his New Smyrna adventure.

Donald Walsh, a chiropractor, was surfing when he went airborne and crash-landed on the shark, as The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.

“It felt like a freight train hit me and the first thing I could think of was to literally push him away from me and as soon as it happened, I grabbed my board and started to paddle as fast as I could,” Walsh told Click Orlando.

Walsh was making his way back to shore after he had been surfing for several hours and attempted to “go airborne,” something he doesn’t typically do, when he landed on the shark. Walsh tried to flee, and the shark bit him once, resulting in lacerations on his arm and his calf.

“I never did see the shark as I was coming down,” Walsh told the News-Journal. “I did see it after the bite happened.”

The story goes on and includes a happy ending, Mr. Walsh will return to the lineup as soon as his wounds “close up” but I think serious concerns are raised here.

First, what is Aaron Cormican doing today? He put New Smyrna on the map, for me, and when I visited there as part of my Florida Surf Film Festival vacation, I felt star-struck just being in his same town.

Second, does attempting an air and potentially landing on a shark give you pause? The last time I attempted an air my board flipped upside down and I almost landed on my fins, which would have hurt. I assume, from the beach, it looked like I was trying to do a kickflip, which would have made me Zoltan Torkos, which would have also hurt.

Third, why are sharks such buttholes? If Mr. Walsh did an air and landed on a person and that person bit his arm and calf then he or she would certainly be facing assault charges. Should we hold sharks to a higher standard?

Fourth, seriously, what is the weirdest board you have ever surfed?

Conspiracy: Is the World Surf League purposefully trying to bury the Mavericks contest?

The event window opens in 2 short months and yet the permits, which take six long months, have not been applied for.

Now that Teahupoo is over it is time for us to turn our eyes from those gorgeous green folds, that turquoise water, those reefs all the colors of the rainbow that we learned from Joe Turpel is not a sign of health but rather a cry for help and gaze upon the cold grey fog of California’s Bay Area. Upon Mavericks herself.

And when was the last time you thought about Mavericks? To be honest with you, it is fading from my memory just like Marty McFly and his brother and sister were fading from his wallet picture when he pushed his future father, George, away from an oncoming car, altering the course of history and having Lorraine fall in love with him instead of his future father.

The space-time continuum is very confusing but back to Mavericks. The window for it to run opens in two short months and, as you recall, under the World Surf League banner who rescued the event from bankruptcy.

Yet the contest has not been held in three years and let’s turn to a San Francisco news source where a possible conspiracy is unfolding. Read with me?

More drama continues to surround the world-famous Mavericks surfing contest.

The window to hold the contest opens on November 1. But there is also a window to get things done so the so-called Super Bowl of surfing can even take place, including obtaining crucial permits — and that window is just about shut.

Now officials realize while the WSL holds the contest permit, it has not applied for all the other permits needed — a process that usually takes six months.

“To start the permit process now is definitely late in the game,” said Sabrina Brennan, San Mateo County Harbor Commission president. “It’s going to be challenging to pull it off.”

Mavericks surfer Bianca Valenti on Wednesday told NBC Bay Area she is worried.

“Each time we think we’re going to be getting the opportunity, something seems to happen,” Valenti said. “So fingers crossed that everything lines up and we have the best event ever.”

Local officials said they have not hear(d) back from the WSL about their concerns.

A few things. First, when has anyone called Mavericks “The Super Bowl of Surfing?” I believe I’ve heard Pipeline described as such and also The Eddie but never ever Mavericks. Have you?

Second, and more importantly, why hasn’t the World Surf League applied for the permits? Was the “rescuing” of Mavericks simply a move to disappear it from the earth forever? Is Jeff Clark behind this, wanting to kick the wave back into obscurity so he can surf it alone again? Last year, you recall, the WSL refused to run the event, citing too many big waves. It was, as noted at the time, the day of the year.

What is the World Surf League trying to hide?

More as the story develops.