Breaking: Rage explodes at World Surf League by Maui locals over “danger factor” of Jaws Big Wave Championships!

Bad parking etc.

And I am still coming to terms with the wonderful, the fantastic, the otherworldly end to our 2019 professional surfing season. Jaws delivering such a show then Pipeline, defying all odds, serving up the best final’s day since those ancient Peruvians, high on cocaine, first pushed their “little horses” into the waves (buy here).

Everyone, every single man, woman and child across the entire globe celebrating the week. Not one person, outside the extended Medina family, mad.

No?

Apparently.

For rage, pure angry rage, is coursing through the usually good-natured island of Maui and directed at the World Surf League over the aforementioned Big Wave Championships but don’t take my word for it, please. Let us turn to the well-respected San Francisco Chronicle for all the juicy details.

A World Surf League competition has drawn complaints of trespassing, blocked roads and parking overflow from Maui residents.

Residents near Peahi on the island’s north shore issued the complaints about the 2019 Jaws Big Wave Championships event Dec. 12, The Maui News reported Thursday.

Residents of the main access road to the event for both drivers and spectators said traffic was backed up due to minimal parking options, construction and spectator street crossings, while some roads were blocked.

On the piece goes, growling locals sneering at our WSL. Santa Monica’s response?

The World Surf League said it has prior knowledge of the start date and event details, but cannot predict attendance at the free event.

“While we control all access to the event venue because it is on private property, we were not able to control the County of Maui-owned land where all the spectators gathered,” spokesperson Lauren Rolland said.

Resident Kolette Gunnison believes the surfing league should be responsible for ensuring road safety.

“Everybody knows that there’s traffic and the worst part about it is the pedestrians in the street, bad parking, cars are sticking out,” Gunnison said. “It’s just the danger factor of it all.”

Hmmmmm.

I’m going to side with the WSL here. Grouchy neighbors are lame.

No?


Gabriel Medina cleared of breaking Rule 171.11 : “Interference on Caio Ibelli intentional but not unsportsmanlike,” says WSL.

"The maneuver was deemed as gamesmanship and did not pose a safety risk to either competitor.”

Much buzz yesterday at the Banzai Pipeline when world title contender Gabriel Medina dropped in on Caio Ibelli’s possible heat-winning wave during their round four contest.

Medina, and step-daddy Charlie, correctly calculated that Ibelli would not have enough points to win even if Gabe was served a priority interference.

As Longtom wrote in yesterday’s contest analysis, 

Gabe has split the surfing universe again.

In case you missed, final thirty seconds of his heat against Caio, Gabe has one score and change. Caio has not a single make. Charlie does the math and starts screaming on the beach: “Burn him! Burn him!”

Very medieval, which I love.

I don’t speak Portuguese, so when Gabe takes off on Caio on the final wave its utterly inconceivable, just a total WTF moment. A completely intentional priority interference, this time to win.

Perfect symmetry now attained with the Portugal debacle.

The villain, the heel, the bad guy excites me, gets me through long hours of pro surfing tedium. From that POV, Medina’s drop-in is the best thing that happens all day.

It directly contravenes Rule 171.11, or so it appears, which includes as possible sanction being suspended from the entire Tour!

Nothing from the WSL, though.

Medina pushes through.

Did it or didn’t it contravene Rule 171.11?

Would Gabriel lose his Olympic spot for Brazil over the matter?

Questions it seemed no one was in a hurry to answer.

Until a few minutes ago.

After a little pushing, the WSL’s Pat O’Connell released the following statement.

“The Tours/Competition Office and WSL Disciplinary Director reviewed the situation regarding WSL Rule 171.11 in relation to Gabriel Medina’s Round 4 heat during competition yesterday, and determined that while Medina’s interference was “intentional” (as he stated on the broadcast), it was not deemed “unsportsmanlike” or “of a serious nature” by the reviewing committee. The maneuver was deemed as gamesmanship and did not pose a safety risk to either competitor.”

I agree with Patty.

It was a hilarious and exciting moment that left me purring like a cat.

Case closed, yes?


89 and Turpel (pictured) getting back on the ski and resetting.

Listen: “Is our World Surf League the most flat-footed sport governing body in the history of mankind?”

Starting with when the ancient Greeks wrestled naked in the sand?

When the sun set yesterday on, inarguably, the greatest day in professional surfing’s history, I began to ponder the 2019 season as a whole and how truly fabulous it was. There were explosive performances, titillating scandals, scintillating rivalries, anger, joy, beauty, pain, wild wild almost too much wild fun…

…and a dull, monosyllabic hum emanating from the Wall of Positive Noise.

A fantastic season covered beautifully by Longtom, Jen See, Nick Carroll, Sean Doherty… even sometimes Li’l Mikey Cinnamon but fumbled at every turn by the sporting organizational and storytelling body that runs the entire show.

And how could the World Surf League fail to capitalize so spectacularly, so comprehensively on something so prima facie brilliant?

That damned Wall of Positive Noise put on absolute display yesterday, as it had been all year, when a simmering rivalry played out onscreen between world champ hopeful Gabriel Medina and his tormentor Caio Ibelli.

Gabriel burns Caio purposefully, payback for an interference in the last contest, that cost Gabriel his locking up the World Title, and admits it onstage during his post-heat interview while jaws from California to Calcutta remained on the floor.

A brilliant tactical move. A clear violation of WSL Rule 171.11. An arguable violation of WSL Rule 171.11, at the very least.

There was enough in that moment to power an entire two seasons of a Netflix series and yet, and yet, the WSL insisted on leaving it all to rot unpicked.

Silent.

Crazy.

Crazy that the surf fan world was buzzing across multiple platforms, from BeachGrit‘s first mention to Stab‘s clumsy attempt at getting in on the action to Kelly Slater dropping into Caio’s Instagram to comments, tweets, Facebook posts, phone calls, texts racing between friends spread across the globe.

But not one mention from Ronnie, Joe, 89 or Barton etc.

The mouthpieces of Vichy surfing.

I am certain there is much back-slapping and congratulating in Santa Monica today for a job well done but there should only be shame.

Shame and embarrassment at what might have been. A season worth the non-surfing sport fan’s interest. Shame for being the most flat-footed sport-governing body in the history of mankind.

Either unable or unwilling to perceive the utterly compelling narratives playing out in real time in a universe entirely in its own control.

Either unable or unwilling to dance.

See you next year when we tear this motherfucker down.

And listen to more unhinged ranting here!


John John (left) and Kolohe (right) as seen todayish.

Prescient: Obscure decade-old travel book predicts Kolohe Andino, John John Florence as 2020 men’s U.S. Olympic Surf Team!

Welcome to the future.

And you have have certainly heard of the French astrologer Nostradamus who penned the 1555 best-seller Les Prophéties which predicted, among other things, the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001 some 400-odd years early. His forward-thinking augury is, to this day, mind-blowing and many wonder if we will ever see his like again.

Well, these things too are hard to predict but it appears as if a modern Nostradamus is walking amongst us today, toiling as a surf journalist who also studies the behavior of sharks.

In 2012, he traveled to Oahu’s North Shore and there began a work of narrative non-fiction that would be published the next year under the title Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell (buy here). It was a relative obscure offering, though did earn a coveted PEN Award nomination but our interest lies in an entire chapter dedicated to two, then, very young surfers: Kolohe Andino and John John Florence.

Chapter 14: You Said That You Could Let It Go. Or, a Contest

But excellence at a young age in surfing guarantees nothing, except possibly a rehab-worthy drug problem. Being a prodigy is as much a strike against as it is a way forward. And Kolohe and John John are both prodigies.

Both have been in the spotlight since they were children and both are dealing with the shoulder-stooping pressure of being prodigies on the brink of adulthood. The speculation about what they may become is now meaningless. They will either become great, today in the biggest opening day of the Pipeline Masters ever, literally not figuratively, or sink into the annals of surfing’s folk history.

The surf industry hedges by betting on both Kolohe and John John. It speaks highly of both. But, truthfully, the surf industry doesn’t know shit. By and large, its last good idea was turning cocaine profits into boardshorts. By and large, it has become entirely reactionary, conservative, and petty. There are still some brands that maintain a fine image and make fine products that are both stylistically hip and true to the space.

But it is hard when everyone has gone public and boards and chairmen from equity groups have the final say. So most industry brands pull advertisements from magazines for controversial pieces and the most stupidly tame pieces alike. They complain, bitterly, about virtually everything just like a senile old grandpa. An article about sunglasses ran recently on Surfing Magazine’s website, for instance, and a small company from Encinitas, California, was not included.

A hundred and ten people looked at the story but the company felt so totally shattered that they sent nasty emails to Tony Perez about how unfair everything is and that they buy ads and expect to be included and blah blah blah. Blah. That is the surf industry. And even betting on both Kolohe and John John may bring only more hurt old feelings.

Kolohe Andino, down the beach, is the future of surfing and John John Florence, up the beach, is also the future of surfing but they are two different futures. They are a fork in the road. Kolohe is blue chip, corpo. He is million-dollar Super Bowl television commercials. He is kids in Nebraska buying Nike Surf trunks and wearing them to their local swimming pool.

And John John is core. Super core. He is the first explorers who tackled towering waves at Waimea, Sunset, and Pipeline. He is dingy kids fearlessly paddling out at waves that will crush them because that is what it means to be a surfer.

Kolohe and John John. The California prodigy with the Hawaiian name and the Hawaiian prodigy named after the most eastern-seaboard-establishment celebrity ever.

The chapter goes on and on, taking unexpected twists and turns but comes back around to Kolohe and John John, predicting their greatness.

Yesterday the two were announced as the official provisional men’s U.S. Olympic Surf Team.

The question now is, what else does this surf journalist with a passing interest in cocaine (buy here) know?

More as the story develops.


Billabong Pipe Masters, Finals Day: “Delivered on the ultimate potential outcome: Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira finalling for the World Title at solid Pipe!”

"Impossible not to be drawn into and swept up in the emotion of the good guy winning. The son of a fishmonger in a poor town now top of the world."

Anti-climax is a rhetorical device that can be defined as a sudden transition in discourse from an important idea to a ludicrous or trivial one.

Today’s Pipe final day looked destined to wallow around in a shallow swamp of the sports finest anti-climax.

And then, it didn’t.

I’m still struggling to come to terms with it.

On its own terms, it delivered on the ultimate potential outcome: One and Two finalling for the World Title at solid Pipe. Italo Ferreira, best in the air, now best in the tube led from opening bell to closing hooter to defeat Gabe Medina, whose own competitive strategy – as brilliant as it was black hearted – seemed not just to desert him, but to eat him from the inside out.

Gabe floundered from the start, gifted Italo the opening wave, continued gifting him waves all Final and then crumbled like a mouldy cheese.

Way back in the opening heat, under the watchful green eyes of Mari, Italo bested Peterson Crisanto doing what he did all event, including the final. He swung on lots of waves, he spiked ultra late take-offs, threaded deep tubes and launched off end sections.

It was a hyper-active approach that appeared vulnerable to a competitor that could punish his mistakes and non-makes but that guy never showed up.

In the presser after his quarter-final win over Yago Dora Ferreira was vibrating at such a high frequency he could barely talk. His elbow was under ice after smashing a lava spike.

He can’t maintain that level of emotional arousal, I thought, without dropping off a cliff at some point.

It was the exact counterpoint to Kelly’s mentally trained calmness. He didn’t just maintain it though, he increased it. He turned it up so high both Kelly and Gabe melted.

Gabe has split the surfing universe again.

In case you missed, final thirty seconds of his heat against Caio, Gabe has one score and change. Caio has not a single make. Charlie does the math and starts screaming on the beach: “Burn him! Burn him!”

V.mediaeval, which I love.

I don’t speak Portuguese, so when Gabe takes off on Caio on the final wave its utterly inconceivable, just a total WTF moment. A completely intentional priority interference, this time to win.

Perfect symmetry now attained with the Portugal debacle.

The villain, the heel, the bad guy excites me, gets me through long hours of pro surfing tedium. From that POV, Medina’s drop-in is the best thing that happens all day.

It directly contravenes Rule 171.11, or so it appears, which includes as possible sanction being suspended from the entire Tour!

Nothing from the WSL, though.

Medina pushes through.

Where he sails close to the wind against a clearly injured Florence who admitted his knee was “still super fresh.” Medina gave him an experience in claustrophobia in a two-man heat, living all over him. It made me feel uncomfortable watching, like the tax office when it sat on my face for twelve months over a bill.

Medina comboed JJF after cooly giving him the first wave of a set then slotting a huge tube to an air right in front of him. Fifteen minutes to go JJF sat in deep combination, the wind swung north, the lineup looked as ratty as a 1970’s New York alley. 5 to go, no change.

A minute and change and John concedes, hugging it out with Medina.

With Kelly’s buzzer-beater miracle against Jack Freestone and John’s loss to Gabe, the ducks were now all lined for Kelly.

Triple Crown, Pipe win, Olympic quals.

You could sense him furiously calculating, even as he sandbagged Rosie claiming he wasn’t. Huge day, retire, come out of retirement, for a second time. A monstrous day in the limelight. I was rooting for him. I really was.

Even when I woke this morning and found myself on the end of a testy DM exchange with the Goat on his wavepool proposal at Coolum.

He had nothing against Italo.

Butchered the first wave of a massive set, a straight closeout, while Italo threaded one from behind the foam ball and had to watch an enormous blue Pipe cavern blowing smoke into the channel as he wore the set on the head.

He was comboed from start to finish.

Start to finish.

There seems a curious, counterintuitive reversal in Kelly’s surfing. His instinctual waveriding still seems to be holding, but his wisdom and decision-making has been increasingly unreliable.

Which would be the opposite effect you’d expect from all the mind-training he’s been doing.

He got the Triple Crown and time on the podium.

You can hate on Gabe all day every day for his competitive antics, but it would take a peculiar variety of delusion to claim he had no place in the Pipe final.

With Italo now in the final, a great equalisation was underway. Italo had by far the easiest side of the draw, until now, having to face Slater and then Medina.

With Medina’s win against Colapinto it now looked like he had the cruise control into the final.

Italo has been kryptonite for Medina in the past, five-two head-to-head record.

But Medina smashed him at J-Bay, so it looked like that psychological hoodoo had been broken.

A strange, one-sided final showed Medina still oppressed by it.

By my analysis, it was over almost from the opening hooter. Medina let Italo get around him and into a hefty Backdoor cavern, which he emerged from untouched.

We kept waiting for a Medina comeback that never came.

He gave away bombs, took shitty waves and completely choked in the final ten minutes when he gifted Italo a throaty runner which he weaved his Timmy Patterson in and out of before launching a very greased full rotation air.

That was a classic Gabe wave, and he just gave it away.

Double anti-climaxes is a climax, right? The final was anti-climax, the day in its entirety massive climax. Twenty thousand watching on the Facebook feed, packed beach chairing Italo up the soft sand. Floods and floods of tears of joy for Italo, a victory dedicated to Grandparents who had passed into the next dimension.

Impossible not to be drawn into and swept up in the emotion of the good guy winning. The son of a fishmonger in a poor town now top of the world.

I continued to watch. The presentation was compelling. Sophie G came up on stage. She stood there. She did not speak.

Turpel made the Olympic qualifying announcements.

Kelly took the stage to accept the Triple Crown.

As he has been all year, he was in the mood for talking. Squinting into the horizon, clearly distracted, he said a rescue was taking place.

Sophie stood there, mute. Why was she there?

The camera suddenly cut away and the broadcast went back to the booth.

It was strange, compelling and somehow emblematic of a year that has produced greatness in spite of itself.

Nothing seems to quite hang together, to make sense but the show rolls on.

Somehow.

Italo is our new World Champ, how you feeling about that? I think, loved up all to hell.