Kelly Slater, left, knows his roots. Here, with Fred, both in wonderful formal slacks. | Photo: Steve Sherman

Revealed: Pipeline Masters created for “average schmuck watching TV in Middle America!”

As for spectators at the early events, "you had the guys hanging off in the bushes, smoking dope and calling bullshit on the whole thing."

Every Sunday afternoon, east of the international date line that is, Seattle-based former surfer Matt Warshaw emails subscribers to his online encyclopedia a thoughtful summation of a certain event or epoch in surfing.

Today is Pipeline Masters themed, and the email links at the end to an interview Warshaw made with the father of the Pipe Masters, and pro surfing, the former Republican senator, Fred Hemmings.

Oh, reader, it’s thunderbolt after thunderbolt.

“I wanted to develop a format that would look good on television so I could market surfing to a larger audience—to the average schmuck watching TV in Middle America,” says Fred.

“I didn’t kiss the surfing establishment’s ass. I was an outspoken critic of drugs, back when that wasn’t cool. ‘Do your own thing, man’ —all that stuff. Well, a lot of my friends died as a result of doing their own thing.” FRED HEMMINGS

On why he chose Pipe over Sunset or Makaha.

“I went back and talked to people in New York, TV people, business people, and surfing was a really hazy thing to them. I’m sure they wouldn’t have really understood what was going on with a guy riding a 10′ wave at Sunset or Makaha. Seen one wave, seen ’em all; this guy looks just like that guy. That kind of thing. So I wanted to sell them on something a little more challenging—and dangerous, to be frank. The Pipeline is so different from other spots. And back then, as a contest site, it was virgin ground. The reason I just had six guys in the first contest was because I didn’t want to create a situation where someone was going to get in over their head.

Why the surf media ignored his event, at least initially.

“I didn’t kiss the surfing establishment’s ass. l didn’t play ball with Drew Kampion and the rest of them. I was an outspoken critic of drugs, back when that wasn’t cool. ‘Do your own thing, man’ —all that stuff. Well, a lot of my friends died as a result of doing their own thing. Anyway, I didn’t see things the way the magazine folks saw ’em, and my contest was a victim of that.”

And the spectators?

“I did the best I could to hype the thing, but I doubt if there were any more than a hundred people on the beach—probably not even that. And then you had the guys hanging off in the bushes, smoking dope and calling bullshit on the whole thing. But we just went ahead and ran it, and all in all, I think it was pretty exciting.”

(Subscribe to the Encyclopedia of Surfing, here. It’s a few bucks a month and will give the interested surfer rabbit hole after rabbit hole to fall down.)

The WSL's number one announcer Strider Wasilewski, like a spider in the thicket with jacuzzi toy boy.

Hot rumour: Tour cancelled for 2020; WSL to launch series of exhibition events; America-based surfers mobilised for Lemoore contest “within a month”!

Given the paucity of high-level surfing in front of us, will you be thrilled to watch Filipe, Brother, Griff and co oxidise Lemoore's water spouts?

Any port in a storm or so the rationale goes at three am in an emptying bar or, in our case, a year with no surfing contests. 

So it was with much excitement that we fielded a rumour, straight from WSL HQ where twenty-five percent of its staff have been “furloughed”, that America-based WCT surfers were being mobilised for a Lemoore contest “within a month.” 

The field will include Filipe Toledo, Kolohe Andino, Conner Coffin, John John Florence, Seth Moniz, Griffin Colapinto and the tank’s creator Kelly Slater; Carissa, if she decides to end quasi-retirement, Caz Marks, Lakey Peterson, maybe Stephanie Gilmore (Malibu crib), Courtney Conlogue, Sage Erickson, Malia Manuel and Brisa Hennessy if she can sneak in under the tortilla curtain. 

The Freshwater Pro, of course, has never been a favourite of surfers or fans. 

As Longtom opined last year, it was “damned with faint praise by Kolohe Andino, openly mocked by Jeremy Flores, universally panned as a doomed experiment by surf fans the Tub should have retreated back to its by now natural niche: as a novelty venue for things like Founders Cup and a high-priced corpo retreat. It ain’t a championship Tour stop. Especially one now stretched out over six days. That’s cruel and unusual punishment and I refuse to cover it.”

But, now?

Given the paucity of high-level surfing in front of us, Pentacoastal and Reynolds and Mini Blanchard’s new blog aside, I’ll be thrilled to turn on the WSL channel and watch Filipe, Brother, Griff and so on oxidise Lemoore’s water spouts.

Are you of similar mind?

A season in hell: Tyler Wright on being catatonic for fourteen months; meet pop star girlfriend Alex the Astronaut; Doctor says, “How do we make her human again?”

Gone for two years.

If you were curious why Tyler Wright disappeared from the tour for two years, and were disappointed by the WSL’s belated and half-assed explanation, this television feature might fill in a few gaps.

While it ain’t the tell-all you mighta wanted, for mystery still surrounds the Wright family, you’ll get partly inside the head of a preternatural talent who won her first big event at fourteen and two consecutive world titles at twenty-two and twenty-three.

Meet the pop-star girlfriend “Alex the Astronaut” who nursed Tyler through her long illness, the physical therapist who asked, “How do we make her human again?” and how, at the depth of it all, and after being bedridden for months, the champ couldn’t stand up without feeling like her heart was going to explode.

A season in hell.

Revealed: “I’m in love with a mid-length surfboard and I don’t care if the whole world knows it!”

Birds are singing!

A grey pall hangs in the air this morning. The sort of grey that rudely threatens to malinger all day. Thick. Monochromatic. Lazy. One lonely crow squawks a miserable song in the backyard. A vehicle is backing up somewhere on the street making that horrendous beeping sound.




Maybe its a hearse.

Or a refrigerator truck.


Everything is the color of death, the sound of death maybe reflecting the hundreds of thousands of otherwise healthy overweight diabetics with underlying heart conditions north of 80 years-old who are mysteriously dying but I’m entirely unaware of the grey, the crow, the refrigerator truck and/or hearse, the fragility of life because I’m in love.

In love and there’s music playing. In love and it’s almost like praying.

In love with a beautiful mid-length surfboard and I don’t care if the whole world knows it.

Before I received my custom 6’10 21 2/34 seamfoam green Channel Islands MID from the very hand of Devon Howard, I’ll admit to being extremely conflicted.

Would touching the thing taint me forever? Turn me into a lily-livered, big tent-preaching, cop-calling Vichy capitulator?

Maybe but Devon Howard, Devon fucking Howard, surfs the way I want to surf clean lines, no wasted movement, in control and pretty, so I touched it, posed for a picture, drove home with a mind full of sin.

The afternoon surf was garbage but… I couldn’t help it, waxed up fresh and paddled into the wind beaten chunk. I was surprised at how it moved. I thought it would be like a cork, bobbing above the water, impossible to duck dive with my spindly arms but it was no problem at all. When I saddled up it sunk to normal sitting-on-shortboard depth.


I caught a couple waves, had a bit of fun but it wasn’t good enough to fully assess.

The next morning, I woke, waxed, paddled before the wind had a chance to yuck my yum.

It was a classic Cardiff day. Peaky, shoulder high nuggets spread in front of the crumbling bluffs watched over by the ghosts of campers past.

The first wave I swung, dropped and… felt it. The board wanted to surf. It wanted to surf well. I stayed low, lower than I normally do, and thought about my body, my legs, my trunk. Made sure my hands weren’t jazz dancing. Focused on that first bottom turn. It bit with rail and fin hard and pushed back against me. I could feel the energy, feel that it wanted to harness that energy, so pointed it toward 9 o’clock (where Devon Howard told me to point it) and suddenly I was there.

On the roof of the world.

I rolled back on my heels, moving my back foot over the fin box, and took the rollercoaster drop before repeating then gliding over the diminished shoulder into the flats. It felt good, almost too good, and I quickly paddled back out, swung, dropped on a late one and it felt glued to the face, rail drawing its own line with me simply along for the ride.


It is a fast board but, riding it, my body felt slow. Like I had time to pay attention to the little things. Do those little things right. Little things that I’ve been neglecting for years. Decades. Little things blown right through on my way to trying to surf like Ritchie Collins at Newport.

I know it ain’t for every wave but it feels made for the wave a bike ride away. The one I’ll be stuck surfing most of the summer what with Coronavirus restrictions malingering with no end in sight and now, this grey morning, death all around, I’m skipping to the beach and will, in three months time, surf like Tom Curren at J-Bay.

True love.

Pentacoastal review #2: “This is how you create a narrative! This is exactly where the sport should be!”

Make art, and see what happens. If you don’t have a plan you can never fail.

Vans’ latest film Pentacoastal is a war cry for the contemporary surf fan.

It shows us surfing at the vanguard of the modern performance spectrum, pushed even further forward by the sure-handed direction of an in-form auteur. Pentacoastal is blistering, exhilarating.

It captures attention like a well placed punch on the nose – blam! – and forces our gaze back to what’s most important.


This is how you create a narrative. This is exactly where the sport should be.

A rare delight. And all for free.

Have you seen it yet?

There’s a whole lot to like.

The reinvention of Wade Goodall, who’s as close to a central figure in the film as we see. Wade’s had a narrative arc that would match any character from The Wire. The pop-shuvit funboy of the early naughts is still there, but with a style and presence that’s rounded out into something much more substantial.

His surfing is next level. That foamball wrestle and bounce at P-Pass needs to be watched again, and again.

Harry Bryant, the fizzling quokka with a Marzo-esque level of command in some damn heavy situations. I was lucky enough to be out during a few of the Indo sessions featured in Pentacoastal and he was by far the standout in real time. It shows through in the film.

A supporting cast that expose no weak links.


Even though the locales are mostly well known, the waves are shot in a new light. Literally. Muted hues and tonal fades are in the edit throughout. The aesthetic is distinct, but never overpowers. The washed-out drone soundtrack evokes that unsettling power of desert Australia and the Indian/Southern oceans chillingly. It had me putting on some Earth and settling into a doom haze as soon as I finished watching.

Pentacoastal captures the dystopian mood of 2020, but in a way that will remain relevant long after the last Chinese cough subsides.

At thirty mins it’s the perfect release time.

You gotta love the Vans model, too. Keep loose rein over a large team of talent. Allow them the creative freedom to do their own thing. Pull them together every now and then for a major project, and place it under the guidance of the likes of Goodall and Shane Fletcher with full creative control.

Make art, and see what happens. If you don’t have a plan you can never fail.

For that reason, nothing in Pentacoastal feels contrived, or marketed. It’s a statement in and of itself that surfing is at its best when it’s organic, powerful, and unencumbered.

This is how you create a narrative. This is exactly where the sport should be.

Perhaps the ultimate compliment I can give?

I’ve already watched it twice.