"Let me get this straight, BL, they… literally… take the coral and put it into the bamboo and let it sprout?"

Opinion: “The 2019 Tahiti Pro had the worst commentary in the History of Sport!”

Any sport, anytime, anywhere.

We now know, more than ever, that in our modern world words have the power to hurt. I felt hurt when old mate from Zig Zag said BeachGrit were snark merchants and the comments were where “human hope comes to die”.

That seems not just unfair, but untrue. Hold that thought, please.

I know Chas has already had a swing at the following subject but it does deserve, I think, a story all it’s own.

After much research and deliberation I think we can make the claim, and have it both true and fair, that the 2019 Tahiti Pro had the worst commentary in the History of Sport.

Any sport, anytime, anywhere.

The big day before the finals was a true gift to the WSL as a sporting spectacle. The last such day was 2014.

Five long years ago. Five years in professional surfing is an epoch.

Five years ago the WSL did not exist.

Five years ago there was no Willian Cardoso, no Yago Dora, Wade Carmichael, Ricardo Cristie, Kanoa Igarashi.

Five years ago Filipe Toledo sat out Teahupo’o with an ankle injury.

For a professional league that has now laid on, what I call the narrative pivot, and considers itself, in the words of 2IC Pat O’Connell to be in the “business of telling stories” never has so much ripe material for commentary gone so unremarked.

A truly stunning negation of reality.

Ross Williams was the best of a truly woeful bunch but his fallback line “There are no easy draws on Tour, everyone is a weapon” sounded more and more peculiar as events transpired.

He first employed it as Kanoa Igarashi was giving a tepid performance, that was far from the worst of the day. A generous appraisal is that he was just thoughtlessly repeating a rote phrase.

The actual story was the exact opposite: here we had an actual world title contender who had not been tested in heavy water and was being found wanting, right in front of our eyes.

The story of the coral was comic.

Of course we want Coral Gardeners; not a pre-school kiddie between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn should be allowed to start school until they have mastered the art*. But to have the wozzle send in Joey and Kaipo as the pitch men, and call the play by play was…..it seems too snarky to call it weird.

Whatever is weirder than weird. Joe calling the glowing coral a “cry for help”; there is no precedent in the annals of sports commentary.

Barton was woeful. During the insane Italo/ADS heat Italo’s first wave was ridden in silence.

Action: Adriano De Souza standing tall in a huge watery cavern, one of the best waves ridden in five years.

Commentary (BL): So they literally take the coral and put it into the bamboo and let it sprout?”

(Lea Brassy): “Yeah!”

Missed: an eight-point ride from Italo (Interview with Bourez).

Missed: another eight-point ride from Italo (his best).

Missed the start of another one.

Missed the start of ADS’ heat-winning wave.

BL: “I can’t stop smiling (laughs) These are the days you dream of being a pro surfer (Cardoso safety surfs a shoulder without remark). It’s hard to get to the point of talking about coral but how was it for you?”

If I am being snarky, can you find me another example of a sport that on its day of days so spectacularly loses touch with the play by play?

I spent the weekend searching, looking through thousands of hours of You-tube videos and cannot.

There are clips of commentator gaffes, clips where a guy misses a Touchdown conversion and the commentator claims he kicks it, but nowhere does the commentary completely lose touch with the action.

Medina’s ten-point ride: “I was watching that interview more than the wave and enjoying Jeremy’s insights” (BL).

He missed the days only ten-point ride!

I don’t want to be unfair. I don’t want to trade in snark.

Is it over-reach to claim a new, world-historical low has been reached?

There’s an exchange somewhere between BL and Joe, about Owen and helmets and coral that is better that anything Monty Python every wrote.

And it’s serious.

Real sports have oversight committees or arms-length commentary. It feels terrible to flog this dead horse we all love so much for putting on free live surfing for us to watch, but how could they blow it this badly?

And, what was your favourite piece of commentary gold from the day of days?

I will never get past the “cry for help”.

My shameful secret: the worse it gets, the more I enjoy it.

One more: have we now officially entered the post-sport phase of professional surfing?

*A bootie ban in tropical waters is surely the best way to save corals. Keep schlubs from stepping all over it.

Innovative: Cape Cod residents propose clubbing baby seals in order to chase away “man-eating” Great White sharks!

Is the enterprising surfer looking at the wrong enemy?

I trust that you have been following along, closely, with this wild summer of Great White sharks. Oh they’re everywhere in America. They’re shutting down beaches in my once-Arcadian North County, San Diego. They’re bumping fishing boats, feeding on whales and speaking an unflattering dialect of English off Massachusetts’ Cape Cod.

Worse, though, they’re chasing off tourists from that area depending on the influx of those seasonal dollars. My once-utopian North County, San Diego is fine. It never gets cold here but Cape Cod? Oooee! Summer is its only habitable season.

And what to do? How to possibly solve this pointy-toothed, rolled-back-eye’d man-eating problem?

Well, some Cape Cod businessmen and longtime locals are blaming seals, Great White sharks’ favorite snack after surfers. According to the august Yahoo! News:

Gray seal populations in New England were nearly eliminated by hunting through most of the 20th century, but federal protections passed in 1972 have allowed their numbers to proliferate. Today there are an estimated 50,000 seals around Cape Cod.

One proposed solution is killing seals to control their population. The practice, known as culling, is a relatively common tactic that has been used to manage species like birds, rodents and even kangaroos.

Proponents of seal culling say it is the most effective and efficient way to reduce the number of sharks in Cape Cod’s waters. Businesses that rely on tourism are suffering because the attacks are scaring off summer visitors, they argue. Others say the seals have become so numerous that they’re creating problems beyond just attracting sharks, such as stealing fish from fishermen and creating an unpleasant odor on beaches.

Has there been any backlash to this innovative plan? Surprisingly, yes, and from environmentalists, no less, who claim the number of human fatalities is still minimal compared to the absolute carnage a bacchanal of baby seal clubbing would cause. The “proposed solution” anyhow, as Yahoo! News points out, is moot seeing as gray seals are still a protected species in Mass.

But a boy with a club can still dream, can’t he?

Also, dear Australian friends, is there backlash in the Lucky Country to the clubbing of baby kangaroos?

More as the innovation develops.

Unexpected: Corn-fed midwestern jocks show the World Surf League how to be edgy and interesting!

Everything is not awesome!

It is Labor Day weekend in America. Time to drink American beer, eat American cheese and watch American college football. Saturday found me doing the latter while drinking a cold Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough wine growing region. The game featured Stanford vs. Northwestern, two all-American programs known, amongst other things, for being wildly boring.

Like, good fundamentals-style boring.

So there I was watching, or half-watching, when the Stanford quarterback scrambled forward on a third and long play. He gained five yards before starting his slide, like American quarterbacks do to avoid getting hit, but Northwestern’s defense player went in hard anyway, leading with his forearm, smashing it on the chin of the quarterback, who was laying back in slide position, knocking his helmet off and likely knocking him out.

The announcers, one blonde, one brunette, both boring, jumped into action. One said, “That is going to be a personal foul and there is going to be an extra fifteen yards thrown on for targeting a defenseless player.” The other agreed. The play repeated over and over in slow motion while the announcers went back and forth, discussing the egregious nature of the hit, while Stanford’s quarterback was carted off the field.

And then the official on the field issued a simple personal foul penalty. The blonde announcer flew off the hook, calling it an atrocious, unforgivable missed call and lit into the officiating crew for a solid thirty seconds, invective after invective, until the game cut to commercial break.

When it came back on, a few minutes later, the blonde announcer was still incensed and said, during the break, that he had marched into the officials replay office, next to the announcers’ booth, knocked on the door and demanded an explanation. They gave him one that was unsatisfactory and he simmered down with a, “We’ll just have to agree to disagree.”

Now, this is a very long story and I apologize but it was an amazing display of how announcers’ can be on the side of the viewer, on the side of interest, intrigue, fun, opinion and information and I wept for what we, as professional surf fans are forced to deal with.

Remember, these college football announcers were corn-fed midwestern jocks and CBS, the station airing the game, has a multi-multi-million dollar deal with the NCAA, an organization so greedy, so authoritarian, as to give Kim Jong Un a run for his money and yet they felt it was not only their duty, but right, to elucidate.

Professional surfing is supposed to be the “youth sport.” It is supposed to be untamed, raw and “cool” and yet all we get is a Wall of Positive Sound. Cotton candy stuffed in our ears. Zero critique, zero disagreement, zero opinion besides the opinion that everything is awesome.

What the hell.

Imagine, just imagine, if Pete Mel stormed the judging tower after a botched call and demanded an explanation. Just imagine if Joe Turpel said how a professional surfer made a bad choice. Just imagine if the 1989 World Champion Martin Potter turned his naturally grouchy dial up a notch and let them all have it.

But no. The World Surf League has decided to build the safest space on earth where good feelings are allowed to flourish and all those grouchy grumps can leave and go to frown town all by themselves.

Moreover, that damned Wall of Positive Sound seems to be the way the League is trying to push surfing writ large with happy little stories about happy little men and women drawing happy lines upon the happy sea. Everything is the awesomest.

And my stomach hurts from all that pure saccharine. Well, as long as I’m alive BeachGrit will be anti-depressingly cranky and I really think it’s time to pull the best and brightest from Silicon Valley, or at least Silicon Beach, and figure out how to run a pirate stream.

I once tried, with the great Sterling Spencer. We set our computer screens up face to face, one playing the World Surf League broadcast, the other recording the feed with its little camera, us talking. It was not, if you can believe, a “high quality” production.

Silicon Valley, are you reading? Silicon Beach, any advice?

What I appreciate about Gabe is his lack of pretense. He does not want to charm you or win you over. He is the Bride, except male and dark-haired; he is tactical and skilled and remorseless, picking off one surfer after another on his way to who knows how many world titles. | Photo: WSL

Warshaw: “I find it purifying that Medina goes about his work with so few fucks given!”

Keeper of surfing's history explains why Brazilian world champ holds the key to his heart… 

My work productivity, and maybe yours too, was WAY down last week during the final two days of the Tahiti Pro.

A WCT contest in great surf will always tug at my attention. When the surf is both great and death-defying, like it was at Teahupoo, I hold on to my laptop as I go about my day the way my son used to hold onto his stuffy, and do not miss a single moment.

I want the ups and the downs and everything in-between.

I want the hair-outs and the shoulder-rides as well as the perfect scores.

Unless something happens that needs explaining, however, I do not want to hear a thing. The mute button is Viagra for my WCT attention span —the quieter it is, the longer I last.

And the longer I last with a contest like the Tahiti Pro, the more it seems to become a movie or a play, writing itself as it goes, with plots and subplots and twists, and characters of every description, many of whom I have strong if temporary feelings for. Not real feelings. Sports-fan feelings, which are subject to change year to year, event to event, sometimes even heat to heat.

Bringing me to Gabe Medina.

Medina does not want to charm you or win you over. He is tactical and skilled and remorseless, picking off one surfer after another on his way to who knows how many world titles. I find it refreshing, purifying even, that Medina goes about his work with so few fucks given as to what we all think about him.

Not everybody swoons for his surfing. I always have. Riding aside, what I appreciate about Gabe is his lack of pretense. He does not want to charm you or win you over. He is the Bride, except male and dark-haired; he is tactical and skilled and remorseless, picking off one surfer after another on his way to who knows how many world titles.

I find it refreshing, purifying even, that Medina goes about his work with so few fucks given as to what we all think about him.

Then last April I saw Gabe on a video chat with Jair Bolsonaro and Bibi Netanyahu and Neymar, and you know me, I’m so left I can barely turn right at the corner to get my quad-soy latte each morning.

Ever since I’ve been trying to maintain the righteous dislike for Gabe I felt after watching that grinning four-way reacharound of a conversation.

But I’ll tell you something, and I’m at a loss as to whether this makes me proud or ashamed. As a WCT fan, surfing beats politics.

Watching Tahiti last week, I gave up. Gabby is still my guy. He met Owen Wright in the final, and with Owen holding a lead going into the last few minutes my eyes locked onto the screen, trying to conjure up a set.

It didn’t come.

Owen first, Gabe second, and me still sulking later that evening as I pulled the cork on a nice dry Alsace Reisling.

Being a fan means never having to say you’re sorry.

(Editor’s note: If you’re a subscriber to Matt Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing, which costs three dollars a month with a twenty percent discount if you take it over a year, your Sundays will be gifted with a long email from Warshaw himself. This story is pulled from today’s letter, which also includes a link to a thirty-three minute cut of the 1968 World Championships, and which was won, controversially, by Fred Hemmings.)

Don't worry, Mavericks. You are beautiful no matter what they say.
Don't worry, Mavericks. You are beautiful no matter what they say.

Question: Why does the World Surf League love to endlessly humiliate Mavericks?

Why does the League go so far out of its way to embarrass, mock, dishonor and discredit California's premier big wave?

The big story at the end of last week was the re-jiggering of the Big Wave World Tour. As you know, every event other than Jaws and Nazare were tossed in the garbage, replaced by a “strike mission” scenario where big-wave surfers will go, followed by World Surf League cameras and put their lives on the line for free. I also know this last bit got some of you down, the ruthlessly capitalistic cost-cutting of Dirk Ziff, who happens to own professional surfing and also happens to be a billionaire. The turning of “World Surf League” from an actual sporting league to a content platform mining poor souls’ desire for fame and refusing to pay thereby spiking the bottom line.


I only see possibility. I only see the wonderful opportunity for big wave surfers of the world banding together and forming a union, refusing to paddle on the big days if World Surf League cameras are present and they’re not getting paid. Brutalizing scab surfers who cross the lines and paddle in exchange for an Instagram post on @wsl. I have no doubt that big wave surfers could bring the World Surf League to its knees. Look at all the good press WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt and her righthand WSL President of Content, Media, Studios and Mild Salsa Erik “Elo” Logan for bringing “equal pay” into the game. Imagine all the bad press for treating big wave surfers like second class citizens. Like the transgendered of old.

Rise up, brave men and women! Rise up and conquer the giant from Santa Monica!

In other news, why does the World Surf League love to endlessly humiliate Mavericks?

It was one of the big waves tossed in the garbage but for years and years it seems the WSL goes far out of its way to embarrass, mock, dishonor, discredit humiliate Mavericks. The contest doesn’t run, even when there are spectacular waves, and even though it is a spectacular venue only gets mentioned in the latest press-release as “possibility” for a “strike mission.” It seems, to me, the World Surf League acquired the event simply to make fun of it for years before a public execution.

But why?

Do you think co-Waterman of the Year tried to surf Mavericks once yet was too chicken to drop, thus creating a life long vendetta wherein he tries to bury his shame?

Something else?