Brave: Steph Gilmore defects over WSL’s “Wall of Positive Noise” and offers critical opinion of tour!

Cut it all down!

When I was a young boy, those brave souls who challenged the authority of East Germany’s State Security Service, or Stasi, fascinated me. There they were, walled into a metastasized communist garden, spies on their left, listening devices on their right, boldly defying the odds. Penalties for getting caught with forbidden literature or stating a contrary opinion were wildly stiff. Penalties for helping people escape over that wall included the very real possibility of death. Oh how scary, but thrilling, it must have been to be a rebel.

Today, I feel much the same about those who defy the authoritarian World Surf League and dare sail over the “Wall of Positive Noise” with anything resembling criticism. As you know, the WSL refuses any opposition, stuffing ears with Joe Turpel’s syrupy nothings and cotton candy. There was a press conference at Surf Ranch, yesterday, ahead of the Freshwater Pro and questions were not allowed.

No questions at all.

Surf journalists who speak out are forbidden to appear in any of the World Surf League’s new productions including, but not limited to, Surf Ranch Sessions and Transformed. I can’t even imagine the penalty for professional surfer dissent. These brave souls are even more rare than those 1980s East Germans and, therefore, more inspiring.

And let us turn our gaze on seven-time World Champion Steph Gilmore who recently let fly an amazing refutation of Santa Monica’s business model. She was being interviewed by Pablo Zanocchi of the wonderful Spanish-language and, to the question, “Speaking of surfing equity, have you asked the authorities to have 32 women as there are 32 men?” answered:

I think we can get there one day, I don’t know if now that … To be honest, I think there should be fewer men. I think we spent so many days at the events waiting for swells that if we had fewer men, maybe 18 and 18 we could finish the events much faster, in a good swell, instead of waiting for two.


And I hope beyond hope that Ms. Gilmore is too high profile for the League to disappear. I hope beyond hope that she is not relegated to the WSL’s own gulag but I fear it might already be too late for that.

I saw her in line for the Tachi Palace’s Coyote Grille restaurant, two days ago, with Jake Patterson. She turned around, before being shown her table in the windowless space where the fluorescent lighting is turned down low to create “mood” and offered a very gracious hello. I looked deep into her eyes and saw life vanishing.

Derek Hynd, surfing's great intellectual and, may god strike me down for using the word, influencer. | Photo: Jon Frank/Beyond Litmus

Surfing’s greatest influencer loses house, iconic surfboards, and dog, in fire!

Creator of The Search, friction-free surfing and the fish craze loses everything. Want to help him out?

A couple of nights ago, iconic surf writer, former pro surfer, creator of Rip Curl’s The Search campaign and fins-free pioneer, Derek Hynd, lost his house, and most of his, his son’s and a pal’s stuff, in a fire.

Now, when you’re Derek Hynd, a former world twelve, whose writing and ideas influenced everyone from Tom Curren to Andrew Kidman to Ellis Ericson, it ain’t just junk that goes up in flames.

DH’s house on Tyagarah Road, Myocum, NSW, during and after. Photos: nbnnews

Hynd, who is sixty-two and whose “friction-free” surfing and reflections on his throat cancer form the nucleus of Beyond Litmus, this year’s sequel to the seminal 1996 film Litmus, saw a forty-year collection of writing, memorabilia and his surfboards, including the little five-eight Skip Frye fish from Litmus, disappear in the flames.

(Note: Andrew Kidman photographed the iconic board before it combusted.)

And, so, a Facebook page has been set up to raise twenty-gees for DH who, despite his influence never really saw much cash, to get back on his feet.

He lives simply and is reflecting on how little he really needs despite this devastating loss to family and the general archives of international surfing. He is completely off grid and does not like asking for anything but right now needs basic help from friends and community.

Urgently required is a water tank, an old cleaned computer and the gaming equipment that many sons are locked into. He also needs a decent lightweight wheelchair for a mate who also lost the lot on Monday night. Thereafter, simple resources to demolish, remove, restructure, rebuild. It was a recent dwelling thus no asbestos.

That’s about it. Bit of a bummer. Help pretty well welcome.

Derek’s email is [email protected]

So far, a little under $A1500 has been raised.

Help a brother out, yeah?

Photo: Steve Sherman/@tsherms WSL
Photo: Steve Sherman/@tsherms WSL

Live from Lemoore: “And Kelly Slater cast them into a furnace where there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

The horror. The horror.

I swore on my ex-mother-in-law’s Avenal double-wide that I would never ever ever return to the California’s central valley but yesterday found me there underneath a relentless sun, standing in Lemoore’s dry dirt thinking, “What on earth has Kelly Slater wrought?” It would be impossible for even the most poetically apocalyptic mind to dream up a more torturous scene. A tableau filled with more… hopelessness.

John of Patmos, Dante Alighieri, Stephan King all prostrate themselves at the eleven-time World Champion’s surgically repaired foot.

And I wish I could tell you that I was there for some great joke, a follow-up to last year’s billboard but alas. We kicked around a few ideas. A giant image of smiling John John with the words “Do you miss me yet?” underneath. This one of the World Surf League’s President of Content, Media, Studios and 1/2 lbs. Big Mouth Burgers Erik “ELo’ Logan and me with some glib line but nothing stuck and our window closed.

No, I was in Lemoore for something far more prosaic though beautiful, a project you will enjoy soon, but did have the occasion to speak with many professional surfers. To peer into their eyes and sense the deep ache in their souls.

Did you know each professional surfer gets two waves a day leading up to the event? Not two hours but two waves? One left. One right. Their two waves are slotted throughout the day. They get their practice schedule, head for the pool, surf down, surf back and are finished until the next day.

Roughly one minute of surfing coupled with one four minute wait.

Imagine that.

Imagine you a professional surfer and your two wave slot is 8:30 in the morning. You wake up, eat breakfast, spend your five minutes in the tank then stare down the barrel of twenty-three hours and fifty-five minutes in Lemoore.

I spoke with Ryan Callinan from Australia’s Newcastle. He fell on his first turn, busting his fin out but he didn’t know until the next wave when he slid around strangely and that was it. No more. See you again in twenty-three hours and fifty-five minutes. Then again in twenty-three hours and fifty-five minutes. Then again in twenty-three hours and fifty-five minutes.

I asked how he planned on spending his time. He said he was thinking about driving to Yosemite. I told him it was a 3.5 hour drive. San Francisco? A 3.5 hour drive. Los Angeles? A 3.5 hour drive. The nearest beach? A lousy one and a 3.5 hour drive.

Kelly Slater conjured a place that traps fit, tan, healthy, physically gifted specimens 3.5 hours from anything resembling life breathing cow stink and second-hand Marlborough Red and jet exhaust from Lemoore’s naval air base. He feeds them their choice of hot dog, hamburger, hard-shell taco, encourages them to play rigged Indian casino slot machines, the only form of entertainment within the 3.5 hour bubble, and teases their minds with two waves. One right. One left.

Imagine that.

David Lynch’s most experimental bio horror is a romantic comedy in comparison. Dutch filmmaker Tom Six’s work is no more disturbing than an episode of Friends when juxtaposed with Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch.

I spoke with current world number 6 Italo Ferreira and asked how he was spending his time. He smiled and said, “I go to my room, put on music and dance.”

Italo for the win, I suppose.

Proposal: Two-day surf contests with million-dollar winner-take-all first prize!

"Ten surfers put in $US100,000. Each. First come, first served. Let's see who, or what brand, really believes in their world championship ability. Volcom and Jack Robinson perhaps?"

Derek, Chas, Longtom and Jen See,

I have discovered the antidote to our discontent.

As BeachGrit so adamantly proclaims, we must free ourselves from the shackles of corporate perceptions in regards to professional surfing.

And I agree, Goddammit.

And I have discovered that all roads lead to Grajagan and Keramas.

In order to heal the pain a great many of us feel regarding the WSL’s hijacking and re-branding of the professional aspect of our sport as a soulless pansy fest, please consider the following:

I challenge any and all surfers on earth to compete in a new competition of my design which I call the:

The Global World Surfing Championship Cup

And bear in mind that I have already held three prototype experimental preliminary events. And I have proven the concept works. See the link below.

Dig this:

1. Ten surfers put in $US100,000. Each. First come, first served.

2. This will comprise the million dollar winner-take-all prize money. Let’s see who, or what brand, really believes in their world championship ability. Volcom and Jack Robinson perhaps?

3. The surfers will surf together all day, dawn to dusk, over two days. They can take breaks from the line-up whenever they wish.

4. They will surf one day at perfect Grajagan.

5. One day at perfect Keramas.

6. No heats, no horns, no jerseys, no judges, no fanfare, no bullshit.

7. There will be one experienced master surfing observer who will watch both day’s performances. There will be no points given or read. This master’s word will be enough at the end of the tournament.

8. At the end of the second day, based on his close observations of live surfing and replays, this master will proclaim the winner and the recipient of the Global World Surfing Championship Cup and the million-dollar first prize.

9. Sportsmanship in the line-up will be a considered factor.

10. This event is designed to be globally televised as a true representation of the unique and ancient spirit surfing combined with the best performances on earth.

11. This event will be globally televised with insightful commentary whose hallmarks will be honesty, integrity and experienced perspective.

12. This format is based on the ancient Polynesian surf competition format. So please, no comments that this competition would not have soul.

Please see the YouTube clip, below, as an example of just one of the experimental prototypes events that I have already held in Indonesia.

And imagine, if you are capable, of turning this experiment into the real deal.

I am open to any and all inquiries.

Two surfers who love The Machine, Gabriel Medina, Pip Toledo. | Photo: Steve Sherman/@tsherms

Opinion: “The Freshwater Pro is vital; a surfer can get lucky in France, not in Lemoore!”

The Machine exposes the weaknesses of the top 34 professional surfers. And that's something that deserves to stay.

The WSL is in full social media promotional mode for the Freshwater Pro this weekend and if you scroll down you will see the comments, probably left by some of you.

“Bring back Trestles.”


“Worst Event Ever.”

There’s very little variation to these comments. It’s overwhelmingly negative.

And, yes, the marketing screams VAL-Kook. The overall feel seems to be inspired by Slater’s Pottery Barn Teen collection.

But, is The Freshwater Pro that bad?

It deserves its spot on the Championship Tour. It is the necessary thorn in every professional surfers side. A surfer can get lucky in France, not in Lemoore. The Machine exposes the weaknesses of the top 34 professional surfers. And that’s something that deserves to stay.

Last year, the best surfers made it to finals day: Medina, Felipe, Slater, Wilson, Igarashi, Wright.

Out after the first day? Wiggoly, Mikey Febs, Jesse Mendes, Willian Cardoso, etc.

It was reported, here, that there will never be another World Tour stop in Lemoore because “the pros hate it”.

They hate it because it’s difficult to surf.

They hate it because it’s different than the other waves on tour.

They hate it because it’s ruthlessly perfect. The machine pulls no punches and has even the world’s best fumbling through the owner’s manual with furrowed brows.

Should it be easy because it’s man-made? Nay, for Slater created it in his image. And even he sometimes bogs a turn or gets caught in the foam.

I’m sure the complaints were cast by those whose weaknesses are most magnified in the pool. The best waves on tour humanize professional surfers. They instill fear and inspire greatness. They get thumbs caught in door jams. They expose weaknesses. This is exactly what The Machine does. When those absurdly loud engines start chortling coal and that train screams down those tracks bringing with it a force of human will, it’s do or die.

It’s wonderful!

We’re also assuming most of the online hate comes from people who have never been to Lemoore. Yes, it’s a methy backwater of a town, and a little depressing. But that’s what makes it great.

Romanticize with us for a moment…

It’s a waterless, droughty day in Lemoore, California. You’ve just driven in from Los Angeles. Your first stop: The Tachi Palace and Casino. As you walk into the lobby, you’re hit with that sterile, hand-sanitizer scent of casino dreams crushed. You saddle up to the bar and order yourself a two-dollar Bud. You glance to your left. There’s a rancher and his girlfriend canoodling, engulfing an armada of cigarettes after a long week of wrassling cows and tending crops. You note the dried dirt beneath their fingertips and the tobacco staining their gums. Then to your right. There’s a duo of Slater fans (you can tell by their merch) suckin’ on Mickey Ultras.

You smile to yourself and wander to the tables, where you are soon gambling with every Australian on tour. Last year, this became reality when we gambled for hours with Parko, Kerr, Gilmore and watched Medina and his posse lay down some heavy vibes at the bar.

Kerrzy refused to place another chip on the felt until drinks were served. And demanding all in attendance join him on this worthy demonstration.

The pit boss was not pleased, but that did not deter Sir Kerrzy.

“Flip a chip, win a chip!” he bellowed as he catapulted a token in the air with his thumb.

The thing nearly nicked the pitty’s nose before dropping down into his open palm. “Another one for me, ya cunt!” he said, cackling as he did. NOT until the drinks were brought would we relinquish our hold on the casino floor and continue our staking.

Where else on tour can you go hang with surfing’s elite and play some cards while blasting cigs inside? It’s a throwback to the punk rock days of the ASP, and we can’t get enough.

As you arrive to the Surf Ranch Gates with a Tachi hangover, you begin to feel the earth rumble beneath you. The preliminary tests are underway. After winding your way through the dry-dirt parking lot, you finally lay eyes on The Machine. It roars to life and you watch the world’s best surfer’s attempt to tame it. It’s a fucking water-logged nightmare, and I love everything about it.

As far as the broadcast and the live viewing event go, they’re too long and static. There’s no music to it, at all. That’s on the WSL. There are so many opportunities to spice up the day.

Why not pick a random person in between heats to surf a wave?

Why not have a band play during the competition?

Why does it have to be two days?

Let’s mix up the scoring! We can all agree the current contest formula does not work at The Machine of Lemoore. It’s too perfect. It’s too consistent to be judged like other waves.

One bright spot of last years broadcast that ELO should, in Santa Monica corporate speak, “lean into” is give us more Strider. That guy is the kid at the pool party who ate too much cake and is rocking a glorious sugar high to the hall of mirrors. He was in full froth mode in the tub while commentating himself weaving through a wave. Strides pulled into a barrel with a clunky backpack weighing him down, shot out and screamed upon exit, before levying two nooner snaps! Each one was adorned with a screeching “BANGO!”. Weighty and potent.

The people demand more Strides. Unleash him!

With this year being possibly the last year before the VAL Corporate Takeover, let’s appreciate The Freshwater Pro for hosting an event that rewards the best surfers with points, and hope the WSL delivers on the production side.

Give it a chance.

Get lost in the majesty of the cow shit.

The novelty of the man-made wave.

The power of its grip.

The exposing of weaknesses of the world’s best surfers.