Bizzack (pictured) leaving court.

Breaking: Kelly Slater’s ex-partner and one-time World Surf League exec receives jail time in college admissions scam.

A hefty bill.

Those who have plead guilty to crimes associated with the college admissions scandal have been rolling into court for the past few months to receive their sentences. The scandal burst into view last winter when charges were brought against parents who had bribed university officials in order to get their children accepted. Famous names have graced the headlines including, Aunt Becky and founder of surf-adjacent brand Mossimo, Mossimo, Felicity Huffman though not her husband William H. Macy and less famous but equally rich including Kelly Slater’s ex-business partner and one-time World Surf League executive Jefferey Bizzack whom, in a 2017 Tracks interview, Kelly referred to as “…partner in everything I’ve done in the past few years… I’ve been the face of it but Jeff is just the bones and structure of everything that we’ve done.”

According to The Los Angeles Times:

Like 11 parents who have pleaded guilty and were sentenced before him, Bizzack admitted conspiring with William “Rick” Singer, a Newport Beach consultant who fixed SAT and ACT tests for his clients’ children and passed them off as top recruits for sports they didn’t actually play.

Bizzack — a former executive for the World Surf League, the clothing company Outerknown and the Kelly Slater Wave Co. — met Singer (the mastermind  in April 2017, after being introduced by a mutual friend, according to a report prepared by a probation officer.

Just a few months later, prosecutors wrote in a memorandum, the two had agreed to tap what Singer called his “side door” at USC — a scheme that required bribing coaches or school officials to usher in his clients’ children as phony athletic recruits.

Singer tasked a former USC coach with creating a bogus recruiting profile for Bizzack’s son, which depicted the boy as a “nationally ranked volleyball player, high school team captain and starting setter, and the recipient of a number of league awards,” Kristen Kearney, an assistant U.S. attorney, wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Because Bizzack’s son didn’t play volleyball competitively, his profile featured a picture of someone else playing the sport.

For his crime, Bizzack, sentenced yesterday, received 2 months jail time, a fine of $250,000 and 300 hours of community service and…I’m going to be real honest here. This whole college admissions thing has confused me greatly from the start. USC, most often referred to as the University of Spoiled Children, is a private school very popular amongst wealthy southern Californians.

How is this behavior not par for their course? I mean, it ain’t like Bizzack’s kid stole a volleyball scholarship from a deserving inner-city youth or a spot in the Freshman class of ’19. I’m sure he got zero scholarship and, furthermore, his dad paid a ton of money to the university along with Rick Singer for his boy to attend. USC lets anyone with money right through those brick gates, especially big donors.

Now, I get our current “eat the rich” climate and am not defending this sort of lazy, entitled behavior but… can someone please explain how this is not business as usual for the 1%ers and especially at USC?

Is this truly shocking behavior?

Also, will Kelly Slater and/or the World Surf League release a statement defending their bro or is Santa Monica’s finest astride a very high horse furiously tsk-tsking? Every headline includes the phrase “Surfing executive” or “World Surf League” or Kelly Slater’s ex-partner.”

A bit hard to ignore and not release some sort of statement, no?


Breathtaking: Watch Russell Bierke in “Pull the pistol’s foreskin back and enjoy the orgasm of a crushed trigger!”

An excellent document of a young big-waver operating giant surfboards in uneasy waves…

A few words about the Hawaiian-born, Australian-raised big-wave dealer Russell Bierke while the going is good, before another leg snaps, before his tiny antlers are sucked dry like they were at monster Nazaré last year.

(Or, two years before that, when he was blue as a Smurf” and “on all fours spewing” after a wipeout in fifteen-foot waves in Victoria, an injury that put him in intensive care.)

Russell is twenty-two years old, diminutive and old world, deceptively fragile looking. He is the son of the noted Californian-born shaper Kirk Bierke whose boards are sold under the label KB Surf and made in Ulladulla, three hours south of Sydney. Russell’s earliest memories are of watching his dad run out the door whenever the surf was big, going to the beach and seeing him ride these big, blue-water reef waves, and wanting to be part of the game.

Kirk’s been making boards since 1975. He likes big waves and shifted to the North Shore, made a baby (Russ), then moved to Australia where Russell was schooled and raised in the art of strangling reef ledges. Russell grew up riding Kirk’s seven-foot and eight-foot guns at a lefthand outer-reef that had only ever been towed before the Bierkes got to town.

This film, which is called Flow State, was made by the Sydney filmmaker Andrew Kaineder and, in a neat twist, has another South Coast big-waver Brett Burcher interviewing Russell in the front seat of their four-wheel-drive.

It features footage, mostly, from 2019 although a failed paddle-in at the start and the closing wave are from a Shipstern session in 2018 which Russell says is the best he’s ever seen it.

“And the last wave was the wave of my life,” he says.

You’ll examine Russell in Flow State and note his tight mouth and the very plain-face in his black rubber headgear tinkering with waves that have the ferocity of an angry cuckold, a cranky Italian denied his lunchtime siesta.

I can’t recommend highly enough.


Moneyball: The hard stats reveal Gabriel Medina to be sure thing for world title in 2019; Italo Ferreira, 2020!

There are five surfers going into Pipe with a shot at the world title. Each of them comes with their own baggage, context and metrics…

Generally, my shtick is numbers, not words. Average heat score, win percentage, event/wave direction/wave height metrics, yada fucking yada.

(Click here to examine Balyn’s website, surf-stats.com)

Boring as fuck to most red-blooded surfers 93.67% of the time.

When I first spoke to Derek about analysing the title race, he didn’t tell me I’d be following a similar piece by a certain surf-writer doyen, and which you can read here.

I’m under no illusions. The numbers always pale in significance to the broader stories of the surfers themselves. The pros are just as fragile and flawed as the rest of us and there aren’t many metrics to reflect that accurately. Watching Kelly reluctantly coming to terms with his fading success is a gorgeous train wreck that no data set can accurately replicate.

The numbers do have a place, though.

When I find a stat that complements or even heightens the broader context of each surfer’s situation, I can offer a more resounding argument for or against them.

So, here we are.

There are five surfers going into Pipe with a shot at the world title. Each of them comes with their own baggage, context and metrics*.

Italo Ferreira
Pipe Win %: 54.55
Pipe Average Heat Score (AHS): 9.19 (11 heats)
Average place at Pipe: 11 (4 events: 13, 13, 5, 13)

Needed to win a title: A Pipe win is the only way to seal it outright.

Background: Derek’s favourite surfer (and mine) hadn’t won an event until 2018, when he proceeded to win three. Italo still found himself out of title contention due to consistency issues, which he’s improved this season while still locking in two wins from four finals. Peaking beautifully through Europe, and wearing the yellow jersey coming into Pipe, Italo looks like a genuine chance. The problem is, he hasn’t had any standout performances at heavy reef breaks (his best has been a single fifth place result at each of the Pipe/Fiji/Tahiti events and one Box bomb this year).

What to look for at Pipe: There have been several well-defined World Champion archetypes over the past few years: the workhorse (Adriano), the gifted natural (John), the talented contest machine (Mick, Gabriel). Italo isn’t any of these, or to be fair, maybe he’s all of them, he works hard, he competes well, he is focused and he’s certainly talented. What’s different is that none of those traits define him quite like they did the others. For Italo, who surfs fast, hucks any section, slays coffees and throws down some of the most entertaining claims on tour, it’s raw energy that will define his success. A fantastic trait, no doubt, but the question of whether it will be enough to get him through the tightest title race in years, at the biggest venue on tour, will be fascinating to see answered.

Gabriel Medina
Pipe Win %: 75
Pipe AHS: 13.78 (35 heats)
Average place at Pipe: 6.25 (8 events: 5, 9, 13, 2, 2, 13, 5, 1)

Needed to win a title: To finish one round/place above Italo and not behind any other contenders.

Background: Since 2013, Gabe regularly made Europe his bitch and cruised to three Pipe finals. But after his worst-ever France result and a priority mistake in Portugal, Gabriel’s seemingly inevitable third title was put on ice. He still has the second best win percentage and best AHS of all surfers this season, and he has the best record at Pipe of all the contenders. His error against Caio, while stupid, did result from him being so fucking hungry to win, a characteristic of champions. While he has cooled recently, there are still plenty of positives for Medina heading into the chaos of Pipe, with most betting agencies keeping him as the favourite to win this year.

What to look for at Pipe: Could the ice-cold Medina suffer another uncharacteristic melt? Will he back off with his hassling strategies and just let his surfing talk? What will Neymar and his millions of keyboard warriors to do to Gabe’s opponent if he’s eliminated early? With a solid history at Pipe and heavy favouritism, Gabe’s real story will be whether he will bounce back from Europe or continue to end the season with a whimper.

Filipe Toledo
Pipe Win %: 36.84
Pipe AHS: 9.68 (19 heats)
Average place at Pipe: 15 (6 events: 25, 5, 13, 9, 25, 13)

Needed to win a title: He will need a best-ever result at Pipe. If he wins, and Italo/Gabe don’t make the final, then he’ll be the 2019 champion. Anything else, and the variables become all-consuming.

Background: Filipe managed to move beyond his ‘small-wave specialist’ reputation with an increasingly formidable rail game and solid performances at respectable rights including J-Bay and Bells. What he hasn’t managed to shake is his reputation for holding back in juicy waves, especially on his backhand. Poor efforts in Tahiti and at the Box this year only entrenched the perceived depth of Filipe’s big wave weakness. It’s increasingly likely that, if he’s ever going to win a title, he’ll need to wrap it up in Europe.

What to look for at Pipe: Remember when Pipe was meant to have been pulled from the tour? Permits and politics were all stacked against the WSL and there was talk of an alternate season-ender in friendlier reef breaks off the coast of Western Sumatra? Filipe must be pining for that alternative reality right about now. The big question everyone wants to know about Filipe in this title race is, Will he go? If we get proper Pipe, then all eyes will be on Pip. At least he’ll be too consumed by the waves to worry about the title details.

Jordy Smith
Pipe Win %: 52.94
Pipe AHS: 11.43 (23 heats)
Average place at Pipe: 11.89 (9 events: 17, 5, 13, 13, inj, 25, 13, 5, 13, 3)

Needed to win a title: “If Jordy wins the Pipe Masters and Italo loses before the final, he will win the Title,” says the WSL. Ain’t that a big ask.

Background: This hyper-talented serial under-achiever had his best Pipe result last year with a close semi-final loss to eventual winner Medina. While Jordy’s consistency this year has been an asset, it’s also a weakness as he must progress further than his peers to improve his overall total. He’s peaking at the right time, with a positive result in Portugal and clutch effort against Kanoa, but Jordy again showed fragility in the final when presented with a red-hot Italo.

What to look for at Pipe: Jordy won’t have as much to prove at Pipe as Italo/Filipe/Kolohe. If Backdoor fires, he could be right there amongst it. But if a competitor drops a 10 on him, he will need to do more than simply burn them while in a combination situation. Jordy’s biggest obstacle seems to be between his ears, so it will be high drama watching to see when/if he’ll crack.

Kolohe Andino
Pipe Win %: 37.5
Pipe AHS: 9.35 (21 heats)
Average result at Pipe: 17.75 (8 events: 25, 13, 25, 13, 25, 3, 13, 25)

Needed to win a title: Divine intervention. This sucks for Brother as the big man seems to be working for the Brazilians. Technically, Kolohe can win if he makes the final at Pipe. This is good because it doesn’t require him to win an event. It’s bad because it requires all four of the other contenders to get, at best, seventeenths (Medina, Filipe and Italo) or ninths (Jordy). If they progress further, then the numbers get tighter and tighter. For example, Gabriel or Italo need only a fifth to negate Kolohe’s result entirely.

Background: After wearing the Yellow Jersey in Tahiti, Kolohe flatlined with consecutive seventeenths and missed a title via his one possible avenue: consistency (winning events doesn’t seem to be his thing). He got thrown a massive bone via Medina’s European fade, but again managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of potential victory against fellow title choker Jordy in the Portugal quarters. His Pipe record smells worse than Griff’s Quik Pro France wetsuit.

What to look for at Pipe: The only acceptable outcome for Kolohe would be to pull off an inexplicable and long-overdue event win. It still wouldn’t guarantee a world title, but it might be enough to get the monkey (and keyboard hacks like myself) off his back going into the 2020 season. My biggest consideration towards Brother at this event is trying to guess which local wildcard will bring him undone, as I’m looking for a cheap option to round out my fantasy team.

So, who will win?

The numbers say Medina. If Jordy hadn’t been pantsed by Italo in the final a few days ago, I’d say he’d have had a good shot. His numbers would have been slightly better than Italo’s and he would have had the confidence needed to pull it off. Kolohe’s situation is too schadenfreude, dependent on the failure of others. Filipe needs to overcome so many years of well-supported data against him in big waves. Italo could definitely win, especially if he builds momentum and starts running off pure adrenaline, but I feel this may be his cliched ‘lose one before you win one’ year.

So, Medina for 2019.

Italo for 2020.

*All stats taken from my own databases. They vary from some WSL stats as they only include 2013-2019 data and because the WSL scores a second place in a three-man heat as a loss.


"Trick-or-treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat."

Breaking: One-ton Great White shark enters Gulf of Mexico; Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Commission warns surfers to “be aware of surroundings!”

Boo!

A grossly overfed female Great White shark weighing more than 2000 lbs has just entered the Gulf of Mexico forcing Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to issue an edict warning surfers to “be aware of your surroundings.”

And as if Halloween isn’t scary enough. As if all the ghosts and ghouls, vampires and child predators, razor blades hidden in apples and Rohypnol slipped into drinks aren’t scary enough but no. Much like Floridian surfer Kelly Slater, it appears as if Great White sharks demand the perpetual spotlight, never letting it stray, always pulling focus and let’s quickly meet Unama’ki, which means “Land of Fog” in a native Novia Scotia language as Novia Scotia is where the beast was first tagged.

OCEARCH says the creature, which measures 15 feet, 5 inches, is the second largest great white shark it’s ever tagged in the northwest Atlantic. The nonprofit has teamed up with SeaWorld to follow great whites in the hopes of finding out more about their eating and breeding habits, and it’s hoping Unama’ki will bring them right to a major site. “As a big mature female, Unama’ki has the potential to lead us to the site where she gives birth and [expose] a new white shark nursery,” OCEARCH says.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said that while Florida beaches and waterways “more than likely contain sharks,” the animals have played a major role in maintaining balance in the state’s ecosystem.

“Shark activity is at its peak in Florida waters during April through October,” the FWC said and also urged visitors to be aware of their surroundings and understand the risks they take swimming in the waters.

And just imagine, there you are getting in a little pre-Trick-or-Treat surf in Florida’s normally placid gulf. Already on edge from a Halloween marathon, visions of Michael Myers teasing your overwrought brain when all of a sudden…

…BOO!

Up pops over 2000 lbs of Unama’ki all teeth and appetite.

I don’t think you’d ever recover from the fright.

I certainly wouldn’t

More as this horror story develops.


The great Peter Townend, pioneer of pro surfing etc, bows before the might of the Chinese Dragon. | Photo: Birdwell Beach Britches

From the Growth-and-Development Desk: A record-smashing 300 surfers to participate in upcoming Republic of China surf contest!

The world's most popular sport!

Now, to be all the way honest I don’t know if 300 surfers smashed the previous Taiwan Open of Surfing record or the all-time record for any surf contest anywhere ever but 300 surfers does seem a whole lot and maybe the most. Just imagine all the lips being licked in the International Surfing Association offices, all those entrance fees, all that hot hot pyramid action. The potential new uplines and downlines etc. and let’s quickly learn about The Scam in Siam*.

The 2019 Taiwan Open of Surfing will once again crown the champions of two of the World Surfing League’s (WSL) four major events, according to a press release issued by Taitung County Government on Tuesday (Oct. 29).

As happened last year, the winners of the World Junior Championships and World Longboard Championships will be crowned. In addition, the QS Men 1,500 Shortboard WSL will also be held.

The event will be held on the coast at Jinzun (金樽) in Donghe Township (東河鄉), Taitung County, during a 15-day period from Nov. 23 to Dec. 7. More than 300 constants from 28 countries, a record number for the event, will take part, say the organizers.

Oh.

300 surfers over 4 events? That seems reasonable but, while you’re here, can we briefly discuss Taiwan? When I was a boy it seemed as if a full-blown invasion of the little rebel island by massive Red China was always but an accidental button push away. Did the two reach some detente during the 20-odd years I wasn’t paying attention?

Is the One China policy a wildly successful and unmitigated foreign policy success?

Help!

*I know Taiwan is not Siam but I couldn’t resist such a clever turn of phrase.