Exposed: What the World Surf League doesn’t want you to know about big wave surfing competitions!

Dirty secrets from the belly of the ocean.

We all thrilled at Jaws, each and every one of us, at the bravery the skill the bravery. It was a spectacle that made us forget Pipeline and, apparently, the World Surf League forget Pipeline too. Is it still on? Has it been concluded? Who is the men’s World Champion?

Except while I was watching Jaws, thrilling etc., I became extremely disturbed by the use of flotation devices amongst every single competitor.

Oh my beef wasn’t aesthetic, though it was that too. Big weird bulky things making every single competitor look as if he and she forgot leg day forever. So, yes, that but mostly it was the fact the CO2 is used to inflate the bladders and CO2 is precisely what’s killing the ocean.

The exact thing.

As you are aware, I’ve had a recent rebirth as an activist-cum-surf journalist, knowing that there’s not one organization currently doing anything about the death of the ocean, our ocean. Knowing that it is up to us to save her.

And how will we save?

First by declaring Enemies of the Ocean and shaming them into right behavior.

In today’s episode we will add Big Wave Surfing Competitions to a list that already includes Jeep, Erik “ELo” Logan, Wave Pools, CO2 and possibly Kelly Slater.

Doing good feels good and now I finally understand Greta Thunberg’s whole “thing.”

The frailties of Prophecy: How the WSL and Surfline got the Pipe Masters forecast so wrong!

The beautiful unpredictability of ol ma ocean…

If there’s one beautiful thing left in this charred piece of steak we call mother earth, it’s the unpredictability of the ocean.

Even with all the buoys, virtual and real, computer modelling and so on, man still can’t correctly predict what the surf’s going to be like even one day out.

To wit, for the past few days, the Pipe Masters has been readying itself for a six-to-eight-foot west swell.

“Finals Day is looking really likely for tomorrow” has been the mantra although each morning sleepy eyes on the North Shore reveal nothing like the official surf forecaster, Surfline, predicted.

Here’s a few days of tweets.

Now with two days left in the waiting period, one presumes tomorrow is the day.

But who knows, yes?

The one man I can always count on, and whose eponymous youtube channel always leaves me feeling moderately high, is Jamie O’Brien, who grew up in a rental house at Pipe, won the Pipe Masters in 2004 and who bought his own domicile behind the famous Lopez house, one hundred or so steps from the sand.

Jamie, now thirty-six, was shopping for Christmas presents in Haleiwa when I called.

“Everyone kept asking for my two cents, it doesn’t matter for me, I’m not in it,” says Jamie.

I point out that as a former Mr Pipe Masters and a long-term resident of that stretch of sand and reef, his opinion is worth something.

Jamie laughs and says, “I think it’ll be stressful to be one of those three guys trying to win a world title trying to figure out if it’s going to be the beautiful Pipe they’ve been training for or an air contest.”

For tomorrow, he says it’s going to be “pretty dang good. The swell is 320 degrees which is the almost perfect direction (north-north-west). The wind looks tremendously better than today. I think it’ll be six-plus but the winds might be weird. It’ll start off north-east (good) but then it could be funky. This season has been hard to judge. All the wind models have  been wrong this year.”

And the sand that promises a terrific closeout end section?

“Well, the sand was crazy, the north-east swell brought a lot of sand in. The sand’s not all gone but it definitely looks a lot better than the other day.”

I mention that it’s been fifteen years since he won the Pipe Masters.

“Goddammit,” says Jamie, who won the event as a Rip Curl wildcard. He adds that the labyrinth one must navigate to get into the contest is too much for most to bear.

“You need to have enough points to qualify for the Volcom Pro, then you have to get through four heats or better to get into the Billabong Pipe Masters trials and then you have to get a first or second to get into the Pipe Masters. It’s a nightmare.”

Is he excited for finals day?

“I’m pumped. It’ll be a good show. Finals day is awesome for multiple reasons. The world title showdown happens and I’m excited for everyone to go home. It’s a win-win.”

The shark's manager already angling for rematch.
The shark's manager already angling for rematch.

“Thousands of Great White sharks” gather off the Carolinas and in a “shockingly rare” display begin “bullying and abusing” the universally adored dolphin!

"Sociopathic and wrong."

And this is a bridge to far even for me, even for a surf-cum-shark journalist all too familiar with the severe personality disorders on display amongst that apex predator population. It is one thing for these “man-eating” beasts to knock a seven-year-old boy off his surfboard, terrifying him in the process and likely sending him into therapy for many years and many more thousands of dollars.

Quite another to begin bullying and abusing everyone’s favorite marine creature besides whales.

The fun, lovable, likely better-than-human bottlenose dolphin.

And you would be forgiven for assuming that shark on dolphin violence is standard operating procedure in the deep blue, much like “athlete” on “brain” or “criminal” on “princess” violence is in today’s high school but you would also be wrong.

And we must turn to Myrtle Beach Online for the very latest in this ongoing saga, this current shark-pocalypse.

Proof of a rarely witnessed predator-on-predator sea battle emerged days ago off South Carolina’s Kiawah Island, when a bottlenose dolphin was seen with evidence of a large shark bite.

That’s unexpected because sharks reportedly “swim in fear of dolphins,” which are quicker and more agile than sharks in a fight to the death, according to experts at SeaWorld.

What became of the shark is a mystery. However, news of the attack comes as “thousands” of great white sharks are gathering off the Southeastern U.S. for winter, shark researchers say.

“We believe this dolphin got lucky and survived a shark bite,” Rust wrote on Facebook.

“Dolphins are considered a top predator and generally don’t interact with sharks. But sometimes sharks will target young or sick dolphins, possibly when food resources are low.”

Or perhaps when competition is tough.

If these Great Whites are sociopathic enough to chew the universally adored dolphin how do you think you’d fare all pug-nosed, human and gross?

I’ll tell you now. Not well.

Not well at all.

If you happen to be thinking about surfing in Carolina, either north or south, in the next few months I would very much reconsider.

I would very much reconsider altogether.

Watch: Famous podcaster Joe Rogan shocked and outraged upon learning the cost for one hour at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch!

"Kelly Slater getting p-p-p-paid!"

You’ve seen Kelly Slater on the world’s most famous podcast sitting there across from the equally bald Joe Rogan. You’ve also likely seen Shane Dorian, also bald, discussing big waves and hunting. Today you shall see Hawaiian mixed martial artist Max Holloway, friend of Makuakai Rothman etc.

The conversation veers to surfing as Max was recently featured in a program that showcased his ability. Joe talks about surfing being a difficult thing mostly because the ocean is a difficult place, albeit solved by Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch.

Max counters that he’s heard it feels different than surfing an actual wave. Joe adds, without seeming to have experience, that it is more predictable and a great “hack” as it were, like running on a treadmill.

“Imagine all the practice you could get.” He says.

The two continue to chat about Surf Ranch when an offscreen voice, the producer I believe, says he read on ESPN that it cost $10,000 per hour to surf the inland facility.

The ensuing banter is absolutely priceless.

"You MUST come to the country house this spring. We've just renovated the guest quarters..."
"You MUST come to the country house this spring. We've just renovated the guest quarters..."

Luxury lifestyle magazine declares: “Winter surfing is the new skiing!”


Would you consider your lifestyle luxurious? I mean, if you really took it apart, dissecting where you live, what you drive, what sort of coffee you drink, the BeachGrit shirt you are wearing right now (buy here) would it be considered opulent by the vast majority of the world’s population?

I think yes for all of us and especially because we are surfers, the new skiers shushing, driving Audis with fancy Swedish rack systems, vacationing in St. Moritz etc. and let us go straight to the luxury lifestyle magazine Condé Nast Traveller for a look at the hot new trend sweeping the upper-middle-to-upper classes.

Well this isn’t so bad, I think as I step into the dark, frigid water. New Hampshire in February is known for its heavy snowfall, “Nor’Easter” storms, and ski resorts of the ice-clad, teeth chattering variety. But somehow I’ve found myself surfboard in hand, marching straight into the North Atlantic. As I wade chest-deep into the water, I develop a mantra to reassure myself: I’m still warm. Snow flurries float just above the water. I’m still warm.

I pass a few waves with ease before I get caught off guard by a much larger wave crashing down around me. That’s when it hits me, literally and figuratively: This is New Hampshire in February. The sea slaps me square in the face, my only exposed skin, and at 39°F it might as well be solid ice. A few rogue streams of cold water sneak their way into my thick wetsuit through the hood, trickling slowly down my neck. It’s back-bending agony, but my body recovers and I’m able to keep paddling. I’m still warm, I tell myself.

Out on the water that day, the remarkable thing wasn’t that I found some of the most surfable, enjoyable waves I’ve found anywhere. It was that I wasn’t alone.

Can you believe?

Winter surfing as new skiing?

Where shall we head to toast Hot Toddys and laugh about our investment portfolios?

Lake Michigan?

Cornwall, England?

You choose.