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?


Forty-four swimmers injured when Chinese pool goes rogue.

Revealed: Wave tanks leading to massive boom in “surf participation!”

Numbers through the roof!

Do the unintended consequences of new technologies keep you awake at night? Oh how many movies have we watched where a good-hearted inventor creates something for the sake of humanity only to have his creation spin beyond control hurting, killing, causing madness? My favorite in the genre has to be Harrison Ford’s The Mosquito Coast where he builds an ice machine for beautiful savages only to rip their culture, and his family apart.

My second favorite, though, is Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch where the invention of wave-producing tanks leads to a massive “surf participation” boom culminating in worldwide “gang” fight where ocean surfers and pool surfers attempt to drown each other into submission.

Well, us ocean surfers will be far outnumbered during those dystopian days as a new article in Forbes magazine reveals that “surf participation” is up in the United Kingdom a whopping 40% all thanks to artificial technologies and let’s dig in with our Sunday blueberry pancakes (bitter Monday cup of coffee for our Australian friends and delicious pint of ale for our brand-new English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish friends. Welcome!)

While hardcore surfers might lament a wave-on-demand culture, the reasons for the increase in “wave pool surfing” are simple. In the U.K. surfing is one of the fastest growing sports, with a 40% increase in participation between 2015 and 2017, according to the latest British Marine Association Annual Watersports Participation Survey.

There are now over 1 million surfers in the U.K., “but the coastline isn’t producing any more waves than it did before,” says Stoddart. Nor do most people live anywhere near decent surfing beaches.

But with world surf champion Kelly Slater putting his own name behind an artificial wave, with the Kelly Slater Wave Company, the concept has gained accreditation. Slater called his wave, “a complement or supplement to what surfing is,” and it now hosts World Surfing League (WSL) competitions.

All fine and wonderful and I don’t really think there will be worldwide “gang” fight in the near future pitting ocean surfers against pool surfers. I think we’ll all get along just fine, as long as these pool surfers don’t come near the ocean. My real question is, what happens when what Slater called, “a complement or supplement to what surfing is” eclipses what surfing is?

The day is coming.

Also, is the World Surf League too busy mocking Mavericks every year to actually build another pool besides Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in Lemoore or is there a cagy strategy behind being dead last in the wave tank arms race?

Build your dream home, here, where children with whisky breath can roam and where little dogs are trained to walk on their hind legs.

Gimme: Surf industry titans look to sell crummy apartment block overlooking Snapper Rocks for $12 million-plus!

Build your dream home overlooking most crowded wave in world!

If you were Ziff or his monied ilk, where would you pour your riches? Cars? Jets?

Boats you can park in international waters and play out your every illegal vice until your jaw is tired and around you are the desiccated husks of citizens from every corner of eastern Europe?

If was I, it would be this fine quarter-acre of dirt, currently home to a low-rise block of ghetto apartments with point-blank views of the Supa Bank, and with a price tag north of twelve-million Australian dollars, roughly 500 American or thirty British pounds.

I would commence destruction of the apartments immediately and build a home modelled after the French castle Vaux le Vicomte. It would include a 3,000-square-foot wine cellar with a tasting room, two-story library, commercial kitchen, cutlery room and spacious ballroom. Turkish baths would also be installed in every room.

The old Wolf Pak, which I’d bring back together, would be employed as full-time crowd control and installed in a pavilion at the rear. That part of the house would remain out of bounds to my girlfriends.

Children with whisky breath would be free to roam and little dogs sourced from Mexico would be trained to walk on their hind legs. 

Why the twelve-mill for the land?

Buy it and you can build almost forty metres (130 feet) into the Gold Coast sky.

The six owners are rumoured to include the four-time world champ Mark Richards, who owns the top floor apartment, and a prominent boat owner currently at sail in the Mentawais.

The sale is via expressions of interest.

Express yours here.