Billabong Pipe Masters, Day Two: “There isn’t a name for that psychological condition of hating Kelly and then turning around and loving him!”

Loving him in the sense of being awestruck, wishing he would go on forever and secretly believing in your heart of hearts that despite the looming cold blade of reality perched above his career that this could be possible and you will be here to witness it.

Ending a sentence with a preposition after, what? –  the best Pipe waves in five years, easily the best stanza of pro surfing since last years Pipe – then, how about this?

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

As an epitaph for Kelly Slater, his career, life and heat today it would be perfecto.


Kelly’s opening ride won’t make any highlight reels, it’ll be the Backdoor tense negotiation of four collapsing sections that gets the airtime but it is worth considering as a statement of intent.

Two stories worth of Pacific Ocean heaving onto the Backdoor side of the reef and all five-feet-nine inches and forty-seven years (forty-eight in February) worth of Kelly Slater standing erect in the tube as the wave closed out on him. Most would go, yeah but nah after that pounding but Kelly saw that closeout somehow as invitation for future dalliance and not closed chapter.

Evolution is a funny thing, as prone to blind alleys and reversals as steady progress.

Kelly himself in a recent SW interview claimed progress on the World Tour and the surfing being done at present was not as impressive as seven or eight years ago. I presume he meant the Dane era.

At Pipeline the lack of progress is even more stark.

There is no generalised evolution in performance across the Pro Tour’s CT level surfers at Pipeline. The reverse is true, if anything. A handful of masters, a few more competent and then a long tail who are clearly struggling. That is producing an artifact which Ronnie Blakey diplomatically referred to as “favourable match-ups”.

There were many today. Italo being a major beneficiary.

His heat this morning with Jaddy was again marked by solid performances and recklessness. Luckily for him Jaddy had a similar predilection for errors in judgement. It’s not enough to have the skill set in the bag of being able to throw the board under the body on a beyond vertical face, you need the judgement and positioning to be able to perfectly deploy it.

Italo squeaked through. He faces Peterson Crisanto next round. That is as close to an easy draw as he will get. A gift from God, with all due respect to Crisanto.

Blakey correctly called Owen Wright one of the biggest under-achievers at Pipe after he let Yago Dora slowly slip away from him. Pipe should be a guaranteed QF for a guy of his skill set and temperament.

Filipe looked comfortable enough in the front half of his over-lapping heat with Ricardo Christie and then spilled his marbles on the way home after Christie dodged a guillotine lip to take the lead.

The presser afterwards showed the fragility of Toledo’s charge for a world Title.

He alluded to mistakes with priority but the mental exhaustion was apparent.

”I’m just tired, whatever,” he sighed. The mental burden of career, sponsors, family and “the pressure of trying to prove yourself” to those people was clearly overwhelming for the Brazilian.

How to escape that bind for Pip? He’s now clearly got the skill set. The crushing sense of pressure is another thing entirely.

I’d be on the phone to Bede Durbidge if I was team Toledo.

He needs help.

It took until Heat six before we had the first legit contest between competent Pipe surfers.That heat marked the beginning of an epic two-hour stanza of Pro Surfing. Kemper was solid as fuck, there were subtle little pumps in the tube, crazy drops and broken boards.

You could see Kemper play a slight alpha male game with Seth, he just hustled to get the pick of the waves, but in so doing he left Moniz out the back and on the best waves that came through. It was a case of anything you can do I can do better. Moniz burrowed in tight caves hiding back in tight spaces between shockwaves and foam balls and pitching lips.

Kemper, with a favourable matchup would have won many heats today.

There isn’t really a name for that psychological condition of hating Kelly, I mean being sick to the back-teeth with what appears to be an insatiable need for the adulation of the public, and then turning around and loving him.

Loving him in the sense of being awestruck, wishing he would go on forever and secretly believing in your heart of hearts that despite the looming cold blade of reality perched above his career that this could be possible and you will be here to witness it.

He looked sleepy in his start against Duru after packing the Backdoor closeout we mentioned in the preamble. Duru started gaining ascendancy with inside nuggets and Backdoor ropers. Kelly manufactured a deep double tube but I felt very proud of the judges and fellow surf fans. We were not fooled, as we have been many times before. We knew, we could see what Kelly had done. He was awarded a mid-seven and Duru looked solid for the win.

Minutes later, everything that had come before was preamble, there were people openly losing their shit on the beach. Dancing, crying, waving their arms in the air. Kelly had just emerged from the belly of a four-chambered beast, a ride through the heaving, convulsing digestive system of a living thing.

Immediate, unanimous ten.

I went back to the stats. The fuckdest thing: Kelly of 2019 could beat the Kelly of ten years ago. When we talk about best-ever athletes that needs to be considered. At the twilight of his career, Kelly is still besting performances of a decade ago.

The camera pulled out on Kelly and we got the optical illusion of Gabe and Kelly sitting side by side.

Gabe, intense and scowling. Kelly, laughing, making prayer hands.

Medina, imperial again. There won’t be a dynasty though while Kelly and John John slip on the jerseys. With the intensity of the action, time slowed to a crawl. Medina, well in front, had the wildcard Devault comboed. He signed off on a signature deep, deep tube with a vogued straight air.

Total control.

We comprehend things in the moment but only understand them later, in retrospect. Such is the strange, backwards looking life of the world’s most successful primate. It will be hard for Devault to understand the position he had the champ in as the clock ticked down, even with the benefit of hindsight.

He had him on the ropes, after a very long, expertly ridden wave at Pipe that had a look of such sun-drenched perfection that even rec surfers may have secretly yearned to ride it.

Nine points and change, he only needed a seven to get past Medina. That five minutes of waiting, staring, wondering, praying was the most tense five minutes of pro surfing this year.

Refutation of wavepools. Not only is skill and bravery required but you may not even get the chance to display it.

When you think of pro surfing and what it can be, you think of John John at perfect Pipe. Taking the drop and pulling in.

How could that simple process become so elevated, beyond the realm of sport?

I have surfed with John at Teahupoo, I mean I scrambled around in a state of near panic dodging sets, John surfed. Time and space contract in those moments for most people, the best of the best included.

Somehow, for John, they expand. Paddling late into a ten-foot Pipe bomb, there is not one neurone that screams “He won’t make it!”.

He’s in slow motion: very simple, deliberate movements that taken as a whole attain some kind of perfection. The hands behind the back claims and tongue lolling out like a labrador showed the emotion. The relief of coming back to competition at Pipe.

He alluded to the competitive fire in the presser when he said a third Medina title would make him “pissed off.”

He has legitimate reason to believe that Title should have been his.

The wind turned onshore. Jordy choked. Big time. Gave away priority with five to go. Could not close. The arc of history does not bend towards more Pipe mastery. Which is why we, the true believers, will enjoy the fuck out of those who display it, for our entertainment, and their glory.

An epic finish awaits.

PS: Winds laid down they finished off the Round. Bourez smashed Silva and Andino held nerve to run a sword through Seabass career in glassy backlit caverns at the Pipeline. Did you watch? Analysis below please, I thought they were off for the day.

Warning: Disturbing new reports suggest excess carbon dioxide in the ocean is deadly and what it means for our children!

This one's on us.

The world’s oceans are dying, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but according to many recent headlines from many reputable news sources it’s true. Dying due an excess of carbon dioxide from, I think, climate change killing corals, killing fishes, killing… the ocean which means killing waves. Killing us.

And such a bummer, certainly, but we’re oldish and will certainly have a few more years of wild surfing climate change.



But the children.

Our children suffer.

Suffer a surf-less future. A dead ocean. Disease. Rabies.

But what can we do?

What can mere surfers do?



We’re surfers, drop that damed “mere” after all, and know deep truths. Know, for instance, the power of shame and that’s what the Save the Ocean debate needs right now. A hefty wooden spoonful of shame. Nixon also knew how to do it. How to make and keep a book of enemies.

Are you #TeamOcean?

Well unlike Jeep and Erik “ELo” Logan you should be. This one’s on us.

Comment Live: Round of 32, Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons!

There will be blood!

We’ve had two incredibly enjoyable days in a row. The Pipe Invitational sent spirits soaring and yesterday’s Seeding Round also kept us in mirth. The only problem was that nobody lost in the Seeding Round. That every single surfer will surf again.

All of them.

Well, what a lousy thing about which to complain.

Real quick, how do you feel about avoiding sentence ending prepositions at any cost?

I’m a fan.

Now, on to the action. Watch here. Tell the world what you think below.

89 is listening.

Eat whatever you want, surf and STILL lose weight!
Eat whatever you want, surf and STILL lose weight!

MythBuster: Reality television star Lucie Donlan credits surfing with “incredible weight loss” but is she lying through her veneers?

Bringing much needed clarity to the hot new fitness trend.

This holiday time, this wondrous season, puts joy in all of our hearts, smiles on all of our faces, food in all of our bellies. No matter our traditions, Christian or Jewish, Hindu or Jain, eat and drink are part of the equation. Some handle the increased calorie load better than others and, according to well-respected medical journal The Sun, surfers handle best of all as our chosen pastime melts away the pounds, kilograms, stone.

Don’t believe?

Me either but let us examine the case of reality television star Lucie Donlan who might or might not be a professional surfer from Corwall.

The 22-year-old reality star showed off her incredible figure in sexy snaps while holidaying in Bali this week.

Despite always being trim, Lucie’s weight has fluctuated before and after the villa.

She lost a whopping two stone before signing up for the ITV2 dating show, going from a size 12 to six.

And although she has faced temptation at boozy parties and free dinners, Lucie has managed to keep losing weight ever since.

She puts it down to a healthy diet and keeping herself fit with her beloved sporting hobbies.

Before going in the villa Lucie described herself as “more into sports as well as being glam” – and that’s still true today.

As a keen surfer from Cornwall, Lucie has been riding the waves, skiing and pushing herself to go to the gym to keep herself in tip-top shape.

In her spare time she helps teach anxious children how to surf as part of her work with surf therapy charity The Wave Project .

She is qualified as a life coach and now an ambassador for the charity.

So there we have it, I suppose. I have always marveled at surfing’s ability to do absolutely nothing except make me paddle for a very long time without tiring. My arms don’t get bigger, shoulders don’t get broader, I can just paddle, at a slow steady pace, all day long. But that’s it. No weight loss. No weight gain.


Are you like Lucie Donlan just melting away those pounds, kilograms, stone while out ripping cutbacks?

More as the story develops.

Billabong Pipeline Masters, Day one: “Gabriel Medina’s form imperial; Kolohe moves beyond Ego itself; Lots of god-praising!”

Medina awesome, John John half-cooked, Billy Kemper hot wildcard.

I tried to keep pace with the Triple Crown but was forced onto a low information diet, so only got to watch bits and pieces.

But it did feel strangely disconnected from the season finale at Pipe, in a way that appears to be becoming more prominent. John Florence’s 2016 Triple Crown was the last great unifier, tied in with his World Title.

Griffin Colapinto’s 2017 win and Jesse Mendes 2018 victory, along with Fred Morais potential 2019 win seem cut off from Pipe mastery.

Medina having no input into the Triple Crown this year was significant, Toledo doesn’t seem interested.

Was Jordy in there? Kolohe? Not with any impact.

The Triple Crown tied the QS and CT together into a credible finale that seems to be ebbing away.

Or is it just cyclical?

Pipe seems more on its own this year. Looking at the heat draw and the contenders all looked locked into relatively safe heats. On paper, Kelly’s round one heat with Seabass and Bourez was most competitive.

Lot of funky, low-scoring heats. Filipe over-cooked a high-line exit on an opening tube-ride after a deep tube. It could have been a seven, judges gave it a 1.13. Pip relaxed though and easily took out Deivid Silva and Ricardo Christie. That was a heat that showed just how many of the Top 34 have severe deficiencies in the Pipe skill set.

Peterson Crisanto in his narrow victory over Jordy Smith claimed it was the first time he had surfed Pipe.

Lots of god-praising and life coaching cliches.

Filipe said, “a connection to God has been super healthy for me”. It made me think of a conversation I had with my son’s pal, a nine-year-old who goes to a Catholic school.

He said, “I don’t believe in God, I believe in the big bang.”

Explicit faith now is a prerequisite for success at the CT level.

In a sense, it makes perfect sense. You can’t deny the utility of the belief.

Kolohe thanked God and went even further, claiming he had moved beyond Ego itself. I think he meant in terms of producing a performance and that “advancing is the most important thing”.

Heats five and six gave us a head-to-head comparison of the two frontrunners and their respective approaches and current form. Halfway through his heat Medina was sitting on 15.50. He shifted gears between buried arm stall take-offs, aggressive tube pumps from very deep on the reef and big hacks. Perfect makes, no wipeouts.

The biggest threat he faced was himself. That mix of arrogance and dominance tends to the kind of catastrophic priority error we saw in Portugal. Gabe kept himself in check. His form looks imperial.

Italo was more scattered, more haphazard, more reckless, risky. He wore heavy water. Got pounded by waves that could have easily injured him. He has put in a lot of time on the reef, with Shane Dorian as coach.

Even with the Doz back-up that would not be easy for him. A recent Surfers Journal interview with BG Principal Derek Rielly revealed the Italian Ferrari had no love of localised line-ups and line-ups don’t come more localised than Pipeline.

If it wasn’t for Billy Kemper he would have looked good. Billy said in the presser he “loved to rough ’em up” meaning the title contenders and that’s exactly what he did.

With nine minutes to go a three-wave exchange went as follows: B.Kemper, big Backdoor wedge from deep on the Pipe side. Scary, technical tube-ride expertly wrangled.

M-Rod, freefall Pipe drop to shallow tube.

Italo, super intense late drop to Pipe tube.

Italo will go, we know that now, after the Box and Tahiti.

The question marks are over judgement and mastery.

Medina would have crushed him, as Kemper did.

One more thing about Billy. Has any surfer in history faced down a schedule as insane as his looks for this week? Multiple heats at moderate to macking Pipeline and a Jaws comp thrown in, for good measure.

How do you go from ten-foot Pipe to twenty-five-foot Jaws and back again without your adrenal gland exploding?

John John was subdued in his seeding round heat with Ace and Mendes. He sat there, unmoved for twenty minutes, then tried to scratch into one on the buzzer when Ace had the P.

He admitted in a later presser that he was a long way from being fully prepared. There were a lot of non-makes, hesitant kick-outs. Still, a John John at fifty or sixty percent is still going to beat a lot of the Top 34 at Pipe. The x in the equation will be how he goes against a fired up Pipe guy.

Like Zeke Lau.

There was a lot of heat in the hustle in the opening exchanges of Zeke’s heat with Caio and Flores. Mostly with Caio. Nothing physical, although Billy Kemper in the booth said Zeke was the modern day Sunny Garcia and Sunny was not averse to a physical encounter.

Splashing water, stern words and angry faces was the limit of it. Zeke spiked the wave of the day soon after. Rocket drop, no-grab pull in and a couple of Hail Mary pumps while levitating on the foam ball.

I wrote a little ten next to his name straight away. Strider in the channel, agreed. Judges low-balled a 9.73 and tightened a spread with Caio who had a clearly inferior ride given an 8.33.

Lau took it out of the judges’ hands with another critical ride.

Will he put the hustle on John again, seeing as it is a proven strategy? I know people disapprove, but I hope, yes.

The Slater/Seabass/Bourez heat was a dud. Slater skipped out to an early lead, Seabass fucked up several rides and Bourez did enough to advance.

The broadcast was wavering badly by then. After watching Brazilians, Hawaiians, Australians and a token South African and a European or two, basically the status quo for the last decade, Barton was chewing up minutes telling us how globalised and diverse the Pro Surfing world had become.

Say what? Where? Who?

Dorian did great in the booth but he went off script telling us there were more unbelievable kids coming through than ever before.

Really? I thought. Who?

Where is the next John John, who was a superstar at thirteen? The next Medina? Toledo?

Do you seen ’em?

(Editor’s note: Yes! Cruz Dinofa, Jackie Doz)

Kelly seemed to veer dangerously close to saying that even were he to finish ahead of John John in the ratings he might give up his Olympic Spot for JJF.

But then he walked it back, saying “I’ll think about it”.

Leo Fioravanti got axed in round two and the WSL cannily wheeled out Renato Hickel to explain that three injured surfers would not go into two wildcard spots.

A smart move to get out in front of the story. Basically, Leo would have to re-qualify through the rankings, and that ain’t gunna happen, so he’s out.

Or is he first injury alternate? Those rules never seem clear to me.

TL:DR: Medina was awesome. JJF looks half-cooked. Everyone else was off the pace, bar Billy Kemper who is setting an unprecedented pace.

Billabong Pipe Masters Seeding Round 1 Results:
HEAT 1: Soli Bailey (AUS) 14.33 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 7.17, Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 4.70
HEAT 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) 7.27 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 4.34, Jadson Andre (BRA) 3.33
HEAT 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 11.93 DEF. Deivid Silva (BRA) 6.07, Ricardo Christie (NZL) 4.10
HEAT 4: Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 7.36 DEF. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 7.33, Frederico Morais (PRT) 2.60
HEAT 5: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.30 DEF. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 7.56, Imaikalani deVault (HAW) 6.10
HEAT 6: Billy Kemper (HAW) 15.63 DEF. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 10.67, Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 5.60
HEAT 7: Owen Wright (AUS) 7.94 DEF. Jack Freestone (AUS) 4.90, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 1.40
HEAT 8: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 7.76 DEF. Jesse Mendes (BRA) 7.33, John John Florence (HAW) 4.57
HEAT 9: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 16.93 DEF. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 15.00, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.60
HEAT 10: Michel Bourez (FRA) 11.33 DEF. Kelly Slater (USA) 9.10, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 4.90
HEAT 11: Joan Duru (FRA) 15.00 DEF. Julian Wilson (AUS) 4.60, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 4.23
HEAT 12: Seth Moniz (HAW) 9.34 DEF. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 5.77, Yago Dora (BRA) 1.90

Billabong Pipe Masters Elimination Round 2 Results:
HEAT 1: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 13.60 DEF. Imaikalani deVault (HAW) 8.00, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 3.26
HEAT 2: John John Florence (HAW) 10.93 DEF. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 9.16, Frederico Morais (PRT) 2.70
HEAT 3: Yago Dora (BRA) 8.60 DEF. Ricardo Christie (NZL) 6.80, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 6.04
HEAT 4: Jadson Andre (BRA) 12.40 DEF. Wade Carmichael (AUS) 9.57, Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 8.07

Billabong Pipe Masters Round of 32 Results:
HEAT 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
HEAT 2: Peterson Crisanto (BRA) vs. Conner Coffin (USA)
HEAT 3: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Yago Dora (BRA)
HEAT 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA)
HEAT 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Ricardo Christie (NZL)
HEAT 6: Ryan Callinan (AUS) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)
HEAT 7: Seth Moniz (HAW) vs. Billy Kemper (HAW)
HEAT 8: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Joan Duru (FRA)
HEAT 9: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Imaikalani deVault (HAW)
HEAT 10: Wade Carmichael (AUS) vs. Caio Ibelli (BRA)
HEAT 11: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
HEAT 12: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Soli Bailey (AUS)
HEAT 13: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Jesse Mendes (BRA)
HEAT 14: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Griffin Colapinto (USA)
HEAT 15: Michel Bourez (FRA) vs. Deivid Silva (BRA)
HEAT 16: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)