Even celeb-obsessed TMZ loves big-wave surfing if you can mix in a little death.

Albee Layer on Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge: “Our lives are click-bait!”

Big-wave highlight reels should be the spear tip of the engagement funnel for surfing’s mainstream foray. The formula, blood-soaked as it is, works.

Did you watch the Nazaré comp?

No, me neither.

(Too busy chasing a resurgent east coast low ‘round the local beachies… was almost as fun as a wave pool.

But I did see it making front page news on all of the major Australian mastheads this morning.

The freakish incident involving Alex Bothelo, which you’ve no doubt seen in your Insta feeds, has the world’s attention.

His jetski backflipping off 10-foot of whitewash like a kid flicking a bottletop.

The Portugeuse surfer was resuscitated on the beach before being rushed to the emergency ward.

Scary scenes on the live feed.


Latest is that he’s awake and in a stable condition. It’s a sobering injury.

In Australia, broadsheet The Sydney Morning Herald ran it above the digital fold on its home page: Big wave surfer rushed to hospital.

There it was on the populist tabloid news.com.au, sandwiched between ‘Children watch heroin addict overdose’ and ‘Mum, 43, mistaken for teenage daughter’:

Horror as big wave surfer pummeled.

This, in the middle of coronavirus, cyclones, bushfires, political intrigue.

It’s the true nature of surfing’s image in Ma, Pa and Cousin Irvine’s eye.

We don’t matter until we’re falling sideways outta skyscrapers.

Or, as Albee Layer commented on the WSL’s posts, “Our lives are clickbait.”

The news reels want wipeouts, kickouts, carnage. Not BL dissecting the degrees of difference in split-screen top turns at three-foot Keramas.

What percentage of the audience watch speed racers just to see the spills?

The Nazaré comp is manufactured drama. Boom crash opera for a Trumpian world.

Not to diminish for one second the athleticism, bravery, grit etc of the surfers and safety crews involved. They’re lions and lionesses among women and men. The progression envelope of tow has well and truly been pushed, if that’s your thing.

But for the general public, it’s the equivalent of jumping a row of flaming school buses on a PeeWee 50.

Impressive, enthralling spectacle.

Are we not entertained?

E-Lo and his team face an ethical quandary.

The formula, blood-soaked as it is, works.

Big-wave highlight reels should be the spear tip of the engagement funnel for surfing’s mainstream foray.

So do they turn up the pace?

Double down on the drama, and watch the media clippings and advertisers $$ flood in?


But, it’s worth asking the question.

Where’s the line drawn, if not today?

Longtom on Kelly Slater at 48: “Kelly, before I share my favourite story about you, could you please make sure your significant other or mother, or mother-in-law, is not reading over your shoulder?”

"Like a liquid fever dream. She's in denim cut-offs, of course. The left leg comes out first, emerges like a butterfly wing from a chrysalis. Then the left boob emerges, barely contained by a flimsy crop top."

Happy Birthday Kelly Slater.

Here he is, about to line up again for another go round, our GOAT, the GOAT of GOATS. Forty eight years old, Happy Birthday Robert Kelly Slater.

We know you are a bit tender around the tummy when it comes to criticism, and we know you’re reading so let me take the opportunity to speak on behalf of the room and say from the bottom of our dark hearts: don’t go.

Please don’t go.

A glance around the sporting firmament at ageing athletes gives grounds for cautious optimism.

Forty-eight-year-old Julius Boros won a PGA Championship in 1968. Seventy-three-year-old Israeli goalkeeper Isaak Hayik is still playing full games with Ironi Or Yehuda.

Hershel McGriff competed in the K and N West race at Tucson speedway in 2018 at the age of ninety. Ida Keeling completed the one-hundred-metre race at the age of one hundred in 2016.

Based on these facts, the best case scenario is Kelly Slater isn’t even halfway through his career.

In May last year at an open Q and A session during a showing of the Momentum Generation Kelly said, “Part of the challenge of getting better as you get older is believing your best days, including physically, are still ahead of you.”

Get Cloudbreak back on the schedule, and Trestles and solidify an Indo leg and a sixty-year-old Slater is still not a back marker in the thirty-four

There’s still unknowns unknowns for us to ponder.

Kelly’s next appearance is pegged for the first event of the QS Challenger series at Piha in March. How Kelly fares at a rambunctious black sand beachbreak in New Zealand is a total mystery bag.

The only certainty is I’ll be watching, and so will you.

It’s customary when pals gather around to celebrate a loved ones birthday to share stories about the birthday boy.

Kelly, before I share my favourite story about you, could you please make sure your significant other or mother, or mother-in-law is not reading over your shoulder.


It concerns one of your famous girlfriends.

Early nineties in the Pipe carpark opposite Sunset Elementary school. A rusted out two-door Honda Civic pulls in. Out pops a very follicularly fulsome Kelly.

In the front seat, a skinny, rockered Merrick, I think with the stork sharpied out on the bottom.

You know the one?

Kelly leans into the back seat and pulls forwards the drivers seat. Slowly and somehow communicating a very clear sense of disgruntlement Pam Anderson emerges from the back seat.

Kelly Slater has stuffed the most famous babe of the nineties into the backseat of a rusted-out Japanese shitbox.

Is Kalani out of the room?


How does Pam Anderson get out of the backseat of a Honda Civic?

Like a liquid fever dream. She’s in denim cut-offs, of course. The left leg comes out first, emerges like a butterfly wing from a chrysalis. Then the left boob emerges, barely contained by a flimsy crop top.

I recall an audible intake of air, I think my ears popped from the sudden pressure drop, but that could be imagination playing tricks on memory. Then the right leg, the right boob and she was clear of the rust bucket.

A little shake and shimmy and there she was.

What did Kelly do?

Took the Merrick out and surfed Pipe.

Was Pam impressed? Apparently not.

Within weeks she was back with Tommy.

How amazing that when we consider the life and times of RK Slater-Pam Anderson is a B-character.

Equally amazing to me is that with a once-in-a-lifetime superstar like Slater at their disposal pro surfing still couldn’t crack the market as a mainstream sport.

I think an appropriate remedy would be for Kelly Slater’s Birthday henceforwards to become an international public Holiday.

A day that could truly unite all of humanity would be an appropriate gesture of thanks to Kelly Slater for all he has given us, and continues to give us.

Happy Birthday Kelly.

Black Mamba (pictured) with Great White shark.
Black Mamba (pictured) with Great White shark.

Tribute: 12-foot Great White shark named “Kobe Bryant” honoring Laker legend who dove with them to learn “devastatingly vicious basketball skills!”

The patience. The timing. The angles.

Great White sharks are very skilled at many things including eating men, scaring people, getting their pâté eaten by Killer Whales and starring in movies but did you know they are also experts in basketball offensive and defensive schemes?

It is, apparently, true. Laker legend Kobe Bryant, whose life was tragically cut short in a recent helicopter crash, used to study the apex predators in order to learn how to stuff fifty points down Allen Iverson’s gullet with devastating, unstoppable, vicious skills while holding the Philly star to nothing.

Zero points.

Extremely heartless. Great White style.

Now, Kobe has a Great White named after him. A 12-foot young adult swimming off of Guadalupe Island and let us meet this famous jr.

The photographer who first captures full-body pictures of the left and right side of a shark can pick its name, but many are just known by a number.

This shark was #24 — which was also one of the numbers Bryant wore as a Los Angeles Laker.


That’s not the only connection between Bryant and the shark.

Martin Graf, the diver, who photographed #24, actually took Bryant in a shark cage back in 2013 and gave him an up-close look at two great whites.

“He got into our cages and he spent a good short chunk of the day, hanging out on the boat and in the cages,” she said. Bryant told Graf that he became interested in sharks when he was living in Italy as a kid, she said.

The designs of some of Bryant’s Nike shoes were inspired by sharks and he wrote in a 2017 article for The Players’ Tribune that he studied great whites to help him prepare to guard Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson.

In the piece, Kobe writes:

On March 19, 1999, Iverson put 41 points and 10 assists on me in Philadelphia.

Working harder wasn’t enough.

I had to study this man maniacally.

I obsessively read every article and book I could find about AI. I obsessively watched every game he had played, going back to the IUPU All-American Game. I obsessively studied his every success, and his every struggle. I obsessively searched for any weakness I could find.

I searched the world for musings to add to my AI Musecage.

This led me to study how great white sharks hunt seals off the coast of South Africa.

The patience. The timing. The angles.

Wonderful but as surfers, as ocean warriors, we better up our games as we play against actual sharks.

Time for all of us to head into the video room, notebooks open, Shark Week on.


Many skills to learn.

Miracle: Young Australian charger brought back from dead seconds before family pulls plug, credits surfing with saving brain from damage!

"Everything I did to train for the surf saved my life that day."

And of all the thing surfing has gifted your life, the cancerous skin, inability to enjoy family time when there are waves, pronounced grouchiness, heightened grouchiness, wasted time etc. would you ever guess that it might one day also save your brain from extensive damage if you fall into a coma and nearly die?

It’s true, unbelievably true, and we must fly digitally to meet our hero in Western Australia where they breed them tough, strong and true. A young man with a name so west Australian that it only needs be uttered to smell the vineyards and road killed kangaroos baking under a warm sun.

Targe Hough.

And, a bit of backstory, Targe was out exercising when he felt a migraine coming on and went down. Out. Coma. His family learned from the doctors that the 22-year-old had a rare condition that led to an aneurysm and “bleak” prognosis and they agreed to honor his wishes and yank the plug.


But fate intervened when a new doctor came in and advised the family to wait just a few more days.

Within that time span, Targe suddenly began to shows signs of life, slowly making movements, and finally woke up four weeks later.

Despite a grueling recovery process, he revealed he didn’t suffer brain damage thanks to his training as a surfer, which taught him how to hold his breath for extended periods of time.

‘I was without oxygen for a long time, doctors said afterwards that I should have brain damage, but I guess I was used to holding my breath,’ he said.

‘Everything I did to train for the surf saved my life that day.’

And have you ever read a happier story?

Everything I have done to train for the surf journalism has saved my life too.

Oh wait…

While we’re together though, what are your instructions, either stated or internal, on what happens if you fall into severe coma?

How long would you like to, would you like to let it linger?

Who has history treated more kindly, Tiger or Jordy? | Photo: Surf shot by WSL

Great moments in surf biz: Jordy Smith thumbs nose at Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and $5 million Nike contract!

In the light of Hurley's implosion and subsequent ripple effect to other surf co's, it's a decision that now seems positively divine.

Two thousand and eight seems a lifetime ago, don’t it.

I was busying myself on a niche magazine, had friends, a functioning hip, children, a wife that was in love with me more or less, cash in the bank and a  dark side which I was careful to only explore while abroad.

Like I said, a lifetime ago.

But it was in the otherwise unremarkable year of 2008 when twenty-year-old Jordy Smith, touted, then, as a world title certainty, made a decision that, in the light of Hurley’s recent implosion and subsequent ripple effect to other surf co’s, seems positively divine,

Do you remember?

Big bidding war.

Everyone wants the kid before his rookie year on tour.

Eventually the suitors slim down to O’Neill and Nike.

Nike offers five-mill, O’Neil two.

Nike pulls in the heavy-hitters.

Tiger Wood calls Jordy. They speak for forty-five minutes.

Michael Jordan sends Jordy an email reflecting on the similarities of their name. Jordan Michael Smith. 

An advertising campaign is planned with the slogan Air Jordy. 

Jordy receives, in the mail, the boot Ronaldo used to kick a goal in a World Cup final.

Another day, he gets a set of Tiger’ clubs.

Jordy is flown to Nike’s US headquarters to meet the company’s co-founder Phil Knight.

“He gave me advice on how he went about it when he was my age, and told me about the company he was with,” Smith will tell The Sydney Morning Herald. “It was kind of baffling in the beginning. You don’t know what to say because he’s such a high-profile guy, but you just cruise with it.”

So what’s Jordy do?

He signs with O’Neill, for three million bucks less, because they’re in the game for the long haul.

A dozen years later, he’s got a beach house at Log Cabins, is successfully enduring marriage, is rated third in the world and, still…


He draws honey from the O’Neill teat, long after Nike, and now Hurley, gave up on surf.

A prophet, one might say.