Discovered: What the elusive non-surfing surf fan loves most about our favorite pastime!

An absolute shock!

You well know that, in order to reach its stated potential audience numbering in the hundreds of millions, the World Surf League is going to have to appeal to the elusive non-surfing surf fan too. Oh, President of Content, Media, Studios and Pizookies Erik “ELo” Logan talks a good line about the inherent beauty of the Pastime of Kings, the uplifting-ness and there are undeniable signs the strategy is working. Who could forget Ms Cornelia Van Helden, the middle-aged divorcée from the Netherlands…and fan of the WSL’s Facebook livestream?

Well, technical barriers made it difficult to ask Ms. Van Helden what she most enjoyed about the game and we were all left to wonder. Was it the scintillating commentary from the dynamic duo of Joe Turpel and the ’89 World Champ Martin Potter? Air-reverses? Uplifting Oprah-esque cinematic shorts?

A great puzzle and then, yesterday, as I was perusing BeachGrit‘s own comments, I stumbled on a new non-surfing surf fan. Unlike Ms. Van Helden, @Anrky22 appeared real and wrote:

Live in Colorado, ride dirt bikes in the summer and snwbrd in the winter….but read beachgrit comments year round because they are the most entertaining and hilarious statements posted on the internet!!!! Lol!!! Go surfers!!! Fuck sharks!!!


And imagine the shockwaves reverberating through Santa Monica’s Wall of Positive Noise when it is revealed that what the non-surfing surf fan loves most about surfing is you.

Prognostication: Kelly Slater to get beaten by cripple for final Olympic spot thus ending glorious competitive career!

Happy Halloween!

And can you believe that this professional surf Olympic qualifying season is basically over? Almost finished? I can’t. I can’t at all as it seems like just yesterday we were introduced to the concept of “Olympic Surfing?” altogether. That we were forced to wrap our minds around precious medals hanging around wetsuit tanned necks etc. but we’re here, excited, thrilled and Kanoa Igarashi.

The Huntington Beach transplant will be surfing for Japan, locked and loaded, and how wonderful is that? In this day and age he represents a beautiful trans-national success story. Parents bravely crossing borders, oceans, barriers in order to realize professional surf dreams for their youth. A wild victory.

An unmitigated success.

The American dream.

Plus Kolohe Andino confirmed for the United States of America. What better story could there be? A legacy surfer from Moldova’s legacy wearing the Stars and Stripes as he waltzes in to Tokyo’s opening ceremony. Surfing for gold, surfing for us.

Except the last American slot is up for grabs. According to the World Surf League’s wave forecasting partner:

Despite missing half the season due to his ruptured ACL and subsequent surgery, Florence is still in the top 10 on the CT rankings, and 3,130 points ahead of Slater. So, that means that it will come down to the Pipe Masters to decide who gets to join Kolohe Andino on the US Olympic surf team.

But what will it take for Slater to overcome Florence and snatch the Olympic qualification? We reached out to the Evan Quarnstrom – media manager for the ISA and Olympics qualification expert – for a breakdown of the John vs. Kelly scenario:

If Florence does not compete, Slater would need a fifth-place finish in Pipe to pass him. Seth Moniz would need a second-place finish, with Slater getting no better than third.

If Florence does compete, a third-place finish would guarantee him the slot, even if Slater wins.

Do you think the Kelly Slater of Sound Waves fame and recent form will get a fifth at Pipe?

Oh, he very well might but I will claim right now, if he does it is because the Biggest Little Website in Surf pushed this narrative right here thereby infuriating the 11 x World Champion while inspiring his Svengali Charlie Blackman to conjure up some dark, dark magic and kick our hero over the line.

A gold medal for us, the passive viewer, either way!


More as the story develops.

Bizzack (pictured) leaving court.
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,

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.