“I can win the world title one day because I am the guy who has the perseverance.” Bells, 2018. | Photo: WSL

The Profile: Italo Ferreira and the Vengeance of the Leopard!

On the road with the world number six, Brazil's Italo Ferreira…

The stubby, handsome, friendly face of the Brazilian surfer Italo Ferreira answers the door to his Margaret River rental like a surprised big-eyed animal.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah!” whoops the twenty-five year old, flinging open the door to a scene of Timmy Patterson surfboards dressed in yellow camouflage and cast around the lounge room as if his board bag has unexpectedly erupted.

Of all the world title contenders, a category Italo firmly belongs in, three contest wins last year and a last-minute 540 on a two-foot wave to win the Quiksilver Pro this year and that is still being discussed in the Margaret River carpark one month later, he’s the only one that carries the perpetual ecstasy of the looter.

It’s an old and hackneyed story, but in Italo’s case it’s true: the key to the pro surfing kingdom wasn’t presented to him on an upholstered velvet cushion via a dad that surfed, a benevolent sponsor and a training program where men stand on the beach under an umbrella filming the children for later review of technique.

Italo grew up in a fishing town in north-east Brazil, population eight thousand, called Baia Formosa; a joint where the only paved roads are the ones that lead into the village.

Italo’s pops would wander the beach and buy the catch of local fisherman and make his profit, a slender one but enough to feed his family, selling fish to restaurants.

His skinny son wanted to surf so Pops gave him the foam lid from the box he kept his fish in.

Eight-year-old Italo was so small it just worked on Baia’s little righthander.

Then, and in short order, an older friend who saw the boy’s love of surfing gifted him a fibreglass surfboard, he won the first contest he entered, moved onto regional events and then national, trying to win “cars, motorbikes and tickets to fly overseas.”

The rest, the elevation to stardom, came quickly

In 2014, when Italo would finish seventh on the WQS, Dino Andino, whose own son would miss his first tour victory four years later because of Italo’s preternatural ability, came up to Timmy Patterson, Italo’s shaper since he was fifteen, and said, “Who is that Italian guy? He’s doing floaters on eight-foot closeouts on grinding beachbreaks and making ‘em. He’s going to be on tour next year. That guy’s a freak.”

The following year, Italo was the in-form rookie on tour, third in Rio, fifth in Fiji, fifth in Tahiti and second in Portugal, finishing seventh in the world and rookie of the year.

Patterson had been turned onto Italo’s talent in 2008 when Italo’s manager, Luiz “Pinga” Henrique, told ’em they should get in on the ground floor with this kid. Patterson, who builds the boards via Silver Surf Surfboards in Brazil and until 2011 with Oakley picking up the tab for the raw materials, made him a five-four that was barely fifteen inches wide from a modified version of Adriano de Souza’s CAD file.

“I think Pinga sent us the wrong dimensions,” says Patterson. “The boards looked kind of weird but he managed to make them work.”

When he first met Italo, Patterson describes the skinny little kid with the big hair him as looking like a “match”.

And then he saw him surf, for real.

“That was when we all saw his potential,” he say.

When you interview Italo, who along with another Brazilian, Yago Dora, is redrawing the lines a goofyfooter can make, it’s not the usual exchange over a table or on the beach, a telephone doubling as a voice recorder.

When you come to interview Italo, you live with Italo.

You eat, you surf, you train, you sing.

Italo travels with his girlfriend, the Disney Brazil host and singer from Rio, Mari Azevedo, whom he met last September on a shoot; she, host, he, talent.

Mari, the big city girl, Italo, the archetypal country mouse.

The difference in lifestyle between Rio and Baia Formosa is stark.

Heels versus bare feet; flashy city money versus men buying fish on the beach to feed their families; jewels v shells.

When I ask ‘em if Mari’s on the tour full-time, Italo barks a definitive and relationship confirming, “Yes!” over Mari’s shy “Ahhhh.”


Later, after a surf where Italo scoops up the inside cream at Main Break, he makes the interviewer a Brazilian-Style lunch of beans, chicken and sliced banana, a concoction that tastes better than it sounds, the tender fruit collapsing through the meal of flesh and legumes.

Beans and banana. Photo: DR/BeachGrit

Over lunch, Mari, who is twenty-three and who has barely left Italo’s side since they met, hits play on the song, Voce, which she wrote about Italo, and which you can download from Spotify.

Translate the Portuguese lyrics and you get,

“Butterflies that were never there come with your scent”

“The heart of stone you melted”

“You took care of me in ways that I could never imagine.”

You’ll note the cover of two lovers’ hands entwined, one forearm dressed in tattoos that will be immediately familiar to surf fans. The pair shot the photo on their iPhone, using the timer feature, and Mari designed the cover on her computer.

Mari shows Voce cover art; Italo delivers horns. Photo: DR/BeachGrit

Mari’s English is a little better than Italo’s and he’ll defer to her mid-sentence to make sure his intended meaning is conveyed.

The language barrier does mean no great truths will be discovered although this isn’t any different to those English-speaking pro surfers for whom education was removed from their lives like a troublesome cyst some time around their twelfth year.

At one point, and at my request, Italo’ll show me the Instagram post which he’d examined prior to their first meeting and that made him fall in love with her.

Mari sits astride a chair in white bikini bottoms. Her yellow hair waterfalls over brown skin and a red brassiere. Both eyes are closed and Mari’s tongue laps at an imaginary milk bowl in the sky.

Italo looks at me. One man to another.

I get it.


The ankle. Look at the right ankle. It’s perpetually swollen to hell because, as anyone who can spin 540 degrees using the Cote/Richards method (“The full rotation is a 540, it’s obvious,” says Italo), you land on the front foot. In Bali, while training for the Keramas event, Italo’s foot was pushed backwards on a bottom turn.

Two year earlier, same thing. Blew it out at D-Bah. Missed three events.

This year, he sent for his physio from Brazil who worked on him for ten days straight.

Italo is serious about winning.

And Italo is, like Filipe and Gabriel, among the only surfers on tour who can huck 540 on a two-foot wave, something Kolohe learned to his eternal chagrin at D-Bah.

To demonstrate how the front foot gets worked on 540s, Italo will perform the 540 motion, leaping off the carpeted floor, comparing it to a 360 where the back foot jams the car back into gear.

The ruined front leg means Italo has had to become an animal on the leg machine at whatever gymnasium he’s hitting.

It also means he’ll freesurf four times or so a day, but call it at ten waves, one hour max.

“Save my body,” he says.

Or, in the case of Western Australia he won’t surf for four days because there’s nobody around and the last time he was here Whites hit two surfers in two days and the contest was cancelled, partly at his and Gabriel’s behest.

The Australian writer Tim Winton, whose surfing-themed book Breath had just been turned into a movie, described Italo and Gabriel as “conniving”, as if their concern was contrived for competitive advantage.

If you could see Italo now when you start talking hits by Great Whites, the panic in his eyes, the stutter in his voice, you’d know the fear isn’t a confection.

For four days, Italo and Mari, who doubles as filmer and shark-spotter, got up as that gorgeous citrus sun rose over the vineyards in the east, the grapes dressed in a hiss of fog, put on their signature all-back outfits which contrast perfectly to hair on both heads bleached white, and drove to the beach.

But, there wasn’t a soul around.

For four days.

No surfers.

For Italo this meant no surfing.

“We watched a lot of movies,” says Italo, who jokes that if he wins Margaret River he’ll have a shark inked on his back.

(He doesn’t, of course. His event highlight is a wave at the Box that involves a miraculous escape from the lip and into the barrel which earns a ruthlessly underscored eight and a piece. We’re told it was his first-ever ride there. It wasn’t. Italo had surfed there before, took one wave, face planted and came in.)

Italo’s head noise about sharks got the point where he hit up an old pal from Brazil who was living in Perth and who subsequently dropped everything to spend a week down south with Italo.

Big sharks aren’t a theoretical construct down here in the south-west, three hours drive from the capital city, Perth. They’re real.

People, mostly surfers, die.

The names Brad Smith, Nick Edwards, Kyle Burden and Chris Boyd, all killed by Great Whites at popular waves, carry a weight, a gloom.

Italo shakes his head.

He doesn’t feel good, he says.

Usually when he goes for a surf he can delete everything, problems with his life, his family, the tour, and just surf, focus on moves, combos, all the elements that will deliver a world title.

But in Margs?

“The energy is bad,” he says.


Energy. Spirit. Passion. More hackneyed phrases.

But, for Italo, they just work.

SCENE: A portable toilet at Bells Beach in 2018. Italo is in the second semi-final against Gabriel Medina. Spectators see Italo enter the toilet with his surfboard. He gently closes the door for overt politeness is a character trait of the Brazilian. The door clicks locked an the crowd watches as the little tower suddenly starts shaking from side to side.

There’s a fortississimo boom…boom…boom… as the walls are, what, punched?

Inside, Italo is bouncing off the walls, telling himself, “Just one more! Just one more!”

Before the final against Mick Fanning, who is in his farewell event, Italo enters again.

The toilet shakes and bangs.

“Just one more!”

Italo punches the wall.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

He leaves, smiles meekly at his fans and takes out Fanning.

At Bells. At Fanning’s final event.

He walks the stairs, steps back into the toilet.

The toilet reverberates with such violence it appears it may topple.

Italo explains to me,

“I was talking to God, just saying, I got it! I got it!”

Contrast 2018 to the following year’s event where he was left to drown in front of the cliffs at Winki Pop by water safety unable to pick him up in the fifteen-foot seas, and was booted from the event in the quarter-finals on a contentious interference call, a newly introduced rule, against a belly-boarding Jordy Smith.

After the interference was confirmed, Italo bypassed the portable toilets and headed to the competitors’ locker room where he “broke everything.”

Mari interjects, “I think in the athletes area they should have a punching bag. Yes! Yes!

I ask Italo if he feels pain when he loses, punching plywood walls and “nearly breaking my fingers” notwithstanding.

“A lot, a lot,” he says shaking his head. “I came out of the water looking for the judge, like, fuck that guys. I saw the photo, Jordy was on the whitewater holding his board.”

Still, he knows he blew it.

“All the Brazilians, we do crazy things, we always hungry, we do everything to win. That’s why the rule was changed. (And) Jordy played the game with the rules.”

The previous day, in the biggest waves in a contest at Bells since 1981, Italo was caught inside and became quickly convinced he was going to die, that his Catholic God had decided to vacuum him to the heavens.

Italo’s board hit him in the face, he was held under for what he estimates was thirty seconds and when he surfaced he couldn’t get to the water safety crew’s jetskis.

“In that moment, you rely on instincts. I tried not to panic or do desperate things, to lose energy,”

Mari, meanwhile, was panicking, asking anyone who would listen, “What about Italo? What about Italo?”

Eventually, he got onto the Winki stairs and had started to climb when a local said the water part had made it to the inside and was looking for him.

Italo jumped back into the maelstrom, got back on the ski, competed, and won, the heat against Jeremy Flores.

On the walk back up the Bells stairs, Italo collapsed, Mari’s arms around his neck.

“I was exhausted. I have no energy, nothing. I can’t feel my legs. My adrenalin went from a hundred percent to nothing. I stayed there for minutes, breathed and drink waters and came back again.”

Photo: WSL

I ask Mari if Italo said anything to her.

“The first thing he told me, the first one,” she whispers.

Italo watches her face.

Mari chokes up.

“He said,” says Mari, “the first thing. First thing!

“‘Mari, I thought I was going to die.’”


Bells, 2018, Italo’s first WCT event win, was one of three for 2018, which included Bali and Portugal.

When he got back to Brazil, Italo went straight to a tattoo artist who drew a roaring Koala ringing the Bells trophy across the not inconsiderable canvas of his right bicep.

Photo: DR/BeachGrit

Italo, like most of the Brazilian surfer on tour, has been getting on the (ink) spike since he was a teenager.

If the reader will allow the interviewer a brief indulgence, we’ll take a tour of Italo’s illustrative body.

He has a map of his hometown Baia Formosa on his left forearm, Believe In Your Dreams (in Portuguese) written under a feather on his right; the word Jesus, the majuscule J crowned, fills the nook near an elbow; on his left deltoid there’s a drawing of himself at sunset and holding a board with the phrase Let The Light Illuminate You (in Portuguese); his birthdate in Roman numerals is written under his neck near where his gold chain falls; Blessed is written between his shoulder blades and a lion owns the back of his neck.

On the side of one hand is the word Surf; one the other is Fé, the Portuguese word for Faith.

There are more, of course, bats and angels and so on, but those are the most significant.

Of course, it’s all window dressing to Italo’s surfing.

For Italo is a surfer who leaves waves ruffled and ravished beyond words.

His secret, he says, is…

Italo, pauses, whispers to Mari,



More whispering.

Mari and Italo go into conference to find the word.

“The word,” announces Mari, eventually, “is Perseverance.”

If you’re ever at WCT event you’ll note that Italo is the first in the water, and last out, with the obvious exception of Margaret River.

Event security know him and Mari well.

The dawn shift guard will lift the gate to the carpark to let them and their rental car through and make the same joke, “You again!”

“Thats why things happen, win contests, get good sponsors, you need to dedicate one hundred percent to your job,” says Italo. “I can win the world title one day because I am the guy who has the perseverance.”

You almost won it last year, I say.

“Almost. I know. God’s plan. We never know. I’m here and I have all this opportunity to win again. That’s why I work every single day.”

Italo has a piece of paper with his career and life goals written on it. He looks at it most days, more when he’s stressed.

“When bad things happen,” he says.

Italo won’t tell me what’s on it or, for that matter what his ongoing family problem is that he says is troubling hell out of him, but says that when he wins the world title, and he emphasis when, he’ll post a photo of the page on Instagram.

Italo likes his social accounts.

There’s @italoferreira, his athlete page, 419,000 followers,


and there’s @ittalot_, for Italo’s nickname is Eat-a-lot, named so for his insatiable appetite. The account shows his photography: African animals, drone shots of beaches, sunsets and so on.


What he don’t dig about Instagram, what he don’t understand is the anonymous hits he, like everyone else who puts it out there, gets.

“Sometimes stupid people say stupid things because some peoples didn’t know what I do, what work I do outside the contests. I wake up early, go to the gym and surf and when I surf a heat like with Jack (Freestone) at Keramas…”

Italo stops and shakes his head.

His mango-sized deltoids pop as he squeezes his hands together.

That heat at the Corona Bali Protected. Round of 32. Caught two waves, one a botched turn for a 0.80, the other, three standard turns for a miserly 3.97.

The year before he owned the joint, scored a ten, and won the event.

This year?

“Every single day I was in the gym. Every single day at five-thirty I was in the water. I train and I try to win that thing and when I lose the stupid people say shitty things. Mari knows. She saw the other surfers enjoying the pool and drink beers while I was training and surfing five times in one day. I think this is not cool.”


You might’ve guessed that Italo ain’t your usual jock surfer. He’s uncommonly, now what word we gonna throw in here that doesn’t rip the top off his swinging masculinity…



They all work. He’s a man with a sentimental feeling.

When Italo’s bank account started to get filled with sponsorship cash and prizemoney his first goal was to set his family up in Baia Formosa. He bought ‘em a hotel and restaurant called Pousada do Porto.

Once they were sorted, he bought himself a house on the beach in Baia and a restaurant in nearby, and fancier, Pipa Beach.

“Always trying to invest with my money rather than spend it all on shitty things,” he says

Italo hates drugs and doesn’t party. Three pals died chasing the dragon.

“You have two ways to go, the good one and the bad one. It’s a choice,” he says.

I ask a final question.

What’s your path in life?

Italo doesn’t hesitate.

“To be a good surfer that everyone can remember…”

The problem is schmaltz, the problem is too much vanilla, the problem is lack of drama, conflict; even anything as basic as a sense of winning and losing. | Photo: @elo_eriklogan

The schmaltz problem: Has the WSL’s Erik E-lo Logan lost the room?

We gave him the floor, listened and watched without prejudice. What did we get? Films as obedient as a tame animal…

Since Erik Logan quit his post at Oprah Winfrey Network on October eight last year to head up the newly formed WSL Studios, he promised to shine the light on countless stories from compelling characters, both within and beyond the reaches of competition.

We gave him the floor, listened and watched without prejudice.

Judged on the output of nine months worth of labour, I think he’s lost the room.

I’ve never met the cat, but from the spicks and specks I heard from Chas’ podcast he sounds like a sterling dude with the white hot charisma and confidence only the bona fide American winner can project.

A genuine and untouchable positivity exudes from every pore.

The problem is schmaltz, the problem is too much vanilla, the problem is lack of drama, conflict; even anything as basic as a sense of winning and losing.

As a human being it’s a recipe for success, as formula for content; as basis and lens with which to tell story of compelling character and story it bores terrifically.

The problem is schmaltz, the problem is too much vanilla, the problem is lack of drama, conflict; even anything as basic as a sense of winning and losing.

The much ballyhooed Sound Waves series where CT surfers are mic’ed up could be sick. It’s a slog to get through a ten-minute ep. The second one with Connor Coffin at perfect Keramas, a comp that had incredible drama, performances and world-title implications had 18 thousand views on You-Tube, with 18 comments.

An ep of Koa Rothmans This is Living stacked 224, 579 eyeballs to the screen and garnered 265 comments.

The latest series, Brilliant Corners, hosted by Cornish longboarder Sam Bleakley is very nice, very pretty and as obedient as a tame animal.

The first two eps are focussed on Madagascar, très interesting. The most vital scene is the mild but palpable sexual tension between Sam and the proprietoress of the hotel as she tries to teach him some words of Malagasy in a low-cut red dress.

Surf travel is grand. It’s great.

In the Phillipines with two pals we ended up in the market town of Tuegugaro, sandwiched up on a high plateau between the Sierra Madres mountains to the east and the Cordillera mountains to the west. The last holdout of the New People’s Army, a Maoist insurgency famed for levying “revolutionary taxes” on regional small businesses and attacking isolated garrisons. We slept on wooden benches outside the bus station until woken by a Jeep carrying soldiers armed with M-16’s.

Minutes later, we’d been transported to a bar in the red light district of the town, nothing more than a pool table on a slab of concrete surrounded by shanties with prostitutes washing their hair into muddy ditches.

A huge black-and-white pig lay on its side by a heap of dumped vegetables.The Captain wanted to drink and toast the good fortune of the unexpected arrival of foreigners. He woke up his pal, who hosed down the concrete and fetched us cold San Miguels.

From there, it gets blurry.

In the northern Phillipines it’s customary, in between beers, to drink shots of gin. A small shot glass is filled, drunk and then passed around, until the bottle is empty.

A karaoke machine will be found in even the smallest village, powered by battery, or generator, or solar panel. The Captain called his pals in: the Mayor of the Baranguay, the chief registrar.

By midday, we were so drunk our eyeballs were sweating. The Captain looked like Charles Bronson in Death Wish, his pals looked like Charles Bronson.

More bottles of gin, more beer.

Then the Captain pulled a nine mm pistol out of his back pocket and started waving it in my face while I was singing Air Supply’s Love and Other Bruises. He was saying something about his daughter – had I offended him? – no not me, thank God. Anyone who screwed with his daughter he would shoot and feed to the pigs.

He waved us into his jeep with the registrar up front. We drove about ten miles out of town to a small clearing where some mangy cattle grazed.

Was he about to execute us?

Even in my drunken state I exchanged nervous glances with my companions. We were completely at the mercy of the captain.

No, the Captain merely wanted to loose some rounds on a shooting range. Ping, ping, the bullets richocheted off the small metal targets scattered around the clearing.

“You shoot, you shoot!”

I waved the gun away. Since my aunty got shot in the face by her husband in a shooting accident, I could not stand the sight of guns.

I’m not saying guns, booze and prostitutes are a stable foundation for WSL studios to showcase sustainable surf tourism. Just noting they make for interesting tales.


Remember him? I know, you’re sick to the back teeth of the Russians. He was sent into House 6/1 to deal with a rogue Captain who was holding off the German advance single-handedly and did not take kindly to having his balls busted by a Soviet apparatchik.

The Captain shot Krymov.

The wounded Krymov wrote his report from hospital denouncing the Captain only to find the Germans had over-run house 6/1 and the men were now official Soviet War Heroes.

It was Krymov who was denounced and thrown in the Gulag.

I’m not saying the WSL should arrange to have a CT athlete arrested and thrown in jail for arbitrary reasons.

But what a secret thrill to even imagine some mad little drama happening.

Like when unofficial John John Florence security detail Peter King tried to manhandle me off the beach.

My own fucking beach! Glorious.

Elo, you’ve lost the room.

Until you can find a way to put some grit in with the corn syrup you’re going to find yourself shouting into a whole room of nothingness.

ISA/Pablo Jimenez
ISA/Pablo Jimenez | Photo: ISA/Pablo Jimenez

License to Thrill: Olympic preview ISA World Surfing Games feat. Kelly Slater set to run this weekend!

A who's who of surf stars!

And we’ve been so busy discussing sharks and things that we haven’t caught up with Olympic surfing in quite some time. Are you still on the edge of your seats about who will qualify and for which country? You should be. Things are very tight after the just wrapped Tahiti Pro Teahupoo presented by Hurley.

As you well know, the top two surfers per country on the World Surf League Championship Tour rankings are invited to attend but they also must attend the 2019 or 2020 International Surfing Association World Pyramid Scheme Games, this year in Miyazaki, Japan. Very close to where the Olympics themselves will be.

Therefore, a who’s who of surfing celebrities will be participating including, but not limited to, Kelly Slater.

The greatest competitive surfer of all-time is currently number 10 in the world, behind Seth Moniz, John John Florence and Kolohe Andino. John John Florence is currently injured and will likely fall down the rankings… or will he? Kolohe Andino has not shown a stretch run gait yet in his career, Seth Moniz is too young to get a proper read on and then there’s Kelly Slater, surfing in his own pond next, surfing France, Portugal and Pipeline after that. All waves he can successfully weave assuming he doesn’t get cute like he did in Teahupoo.

So let’s say Team USA will be Kelly and John John.

Team Australia, as it stands now, will be Owen Wright and Julian Wilson

Team Brazil will be Filipe Toledo and Gabriel Medina

Team South Africa will be Jordy Smith and Michael February

Team Japan will be Kanoa Igarashi and Shinzo Abe

Team France will be Jeremy Flores and Yves St. Laurent

Team Portugal will be Pastel de Nata and Sopa de Pedra

Very exciting.

The World Pyramid Scheme Games kick off Sept. 7 and runs until Sept. 15.

I might be busy but you should watch here.

I wish this picture was wearing a yellow beanie.
I wish this picture was wearing a yellow beanie.

Cursed: World’s biggest surf tradeshow cancelled due to threat from hurricane!

But which hurricane?

It was announced, two days ago, that the world’s largest, the world’s oldest, the world’s most important boardsports and beach/lifestyle tradeshow would be cancelled due to potential damage from an impending hurricane.

The pageant is conducted bi-annually, once in January, again in September in Orlando, Florida’s Orange County Convention Center very near other attractions like Disneyworld and Crazy Horse Gentlemen’s Club.

Now, Surf Expo’s official press release reads:

Due to the continued threat of Hurricane Dorian on Orlando, the state of Florida, the southeast and the east coast, Surf Expo announced today that it will cancel the 2019 event, as well as the pre-show outdoor festival, Waterfest, on September 4, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. Surf Expo’s leadership team has been constantly monitoring the storm closely and evaluating information from both local, state and federal officials and partners to determine the best course of action.

But I wonder if there were some other gale force winds playing into the board’s consideration. Powerful nine-mile-per-hour gusts swirling behind the mighty fistpalm of Stab magazine editor-in-chief and heavyweight Ashton Goggans.

You haven’t forgotten, have you? Haven’t let the recollection of the Punch of Social Justice slip from your memory? For it was at the last running of Surf Expo that Stab magazine editor-in-chief and Urban Outfitter ring aficionado Ashton Goggans uncorked his Storm of Hurt Feelings and sent that mighty fistpalm right into my jawneck and my vintage Ray-Bans to the floor. I fixed them very easily though they did break a month ago when I leaned over to take a sip of tea and they slipped from my nose onto the zinc countertop.

Those were the days and I truly hope Surf Expo was canceled because of Hurricane Dorian not because of Hurricane Ashton but if it was cancelled because of Hurricane Ashton then at least I had a small part in it.

Fashion: Helmets, long the domain of jocks and young children with misshapen heads, are back in vogue!

Will you be sporting one next time out?

While Owen’s helmeted Chopes heroics have eaten up column inches in the surfing press, mainstream media outlet The Guardian has swung its left-leaning spotlight onto the broader issue of head injuries in surfing, with a story on big-wave surfer Mercedes Meidana’s post-concussion injuries.

Read here.

Or if you don’t read it, here’s the gist: Mercedes wiped out in a comp up at Nescott Reef in Oregon back in 2014. Head injury, minor abrasion etc. Thought it was ok at the time but has since had her world crumble as the full extent of the damage played out.

It’s a heartbreaker, absolutely.

A few interesting points from the article, though, which seems to be pushing for increased regulation and cultural change in big wave surfing.

The researcher quoted says big-wave surfing has a gung-ho, anti-safety culture. Would you agree?

Big wave surfers are explorers, yes. Constantly charting new territory. And like explorers, they need to be intrepid. A level of risk must always be factored in. Mark Foo’s quote about the “unridden realm” still rings.

But I’d argue the elite crew (Mercedes included) are meticulous in their preparation. Training, gear, support crews.

So why don’t we see more of them wearing helmets?

Because they inhibit performance?

It didn’t slow Owen down.

(As an aside, his absence from this article is a big boo boo. Like writing a story on professional golf’s sex culture and leaving out Tiger).

Flores, Vaast, Seabass, O Dog. All rocked Gaths at Chopes, and they were the form surfers of the comp.

A million copywriters on a million Macbooks couldn’t match Owen’s line “I remember thinking, you’ve got a helmet on, just go!”

Are Gaths due for a comeback? If they can avoid more horrific injuries like Mercedes and O-daddy’s, ain’t that a good thing?

And have you ever worn one? Do they hinder your performance? Are you Liam McNamara? I’m keen to know.

So many questions. One helmet-curious surf writer seeking answers.