Two of the best, Herb Fletcher and Uncle Dezzie. | Photo: Photo Steve Sherman/@tsherms

Matt Warshaw’s unpublished interview with world champ Derek Ho (RIP) from 1994: “I did it for myself and my family, especially my Dad and my brother. I don’t take things that aren’t mine. But what is mine, I hold on to it.”

Uncle Dez, unfiltered…

(Later today, Matt Warshaw, keeper of surfing’s flame, will send this unpublished interview with Derek Ho to subscribers of his Encyclopedia of Surfing. It’s a beautiful little piece. “I forgot how forthcoming he was during this short conversation,” says Warshaw. “I’d interviewed him a couple of times before, once with Michael at Mike’s big beautiful house at Sunset, and I guess he felt comfortable enough with me to go unfiltered, at least for a few minutes.”)

This interview was recorded at the Lacanau Pro, France, in 1994. Ho was the defending world champion, but had just lost an early-round heat in terrible surf.

What goes through your mind in a heat where the waves are that shitty? Is is a different thing compared to when the surf is good?

Different, for sure. You lose motivation. In fact, you almost don’t care if you win or lose. In this situation [the heat he’d just finished], I figured I’d win either way, ’cause if I lost I’d be on a plane back to Hawaii tonight.

I talked to Gary [Elkerton] earlier today, and he thinks that with events like this we’re all missing the point. Not just the surfers, but the sponsors, the people on the beach, everybody.

Some of these events are held in the worst locations, at the worst times. If it’s all about promoting products, that’s okay. But we can do just as good of a job—or a lot better, actually—by going to good spots. Same countries, better spots.

How would that come about?

I think the surfers are too soft on the ASP officials. We do a lot of talking among ourselves, but then nobody stands up and says much. Right now, for instance, the surf is barely one foot. We should have the balls to say we’re not going out.

Will that ever happen?

[Pause] I don’t know. I doubt it. Maybe. Surfing is such an individual thing, which is good in a way, but it also means everyone is out for themselves. So in a lot of cases, if something ain’t benefitting a particular person at a particular moment, they’ll just let it go—even if standing up and fighting would be to their benefit in the long run.

What would you yourself like to see?

[Another pause]. Remember when those guys pulled out of the contest at Waimea [1986 Billabong Pro], ’cause they were scared shitless? I’d like to see more of that. And less of this [gestures to the beach]. We’re not reaching for that level of excitement anymore. We just do these boring little neutral events. It’s senseless for us to be out in these tiny waves hopping and jumping around. We should be carving, slamming, disappearing into huge barrels. It ought to be everyone looking forward to these things, surfers, sponsors, fans. Everybody should be jumping out of their skin, you know?

How are you feeling, personally, in terms of where your career is?

I’ve been doing the tour now for 12 years. A lot of times, in good surf, I feel like I haven’t yet hit my peak. I’m still in good shape. I don’t have any chronic injuries. And the will is there—that’s just as important. Yeah, when the waves are cranking, I’m so stoked I can’t believe it, it’s like I’m a kid. I could compete at a high level for another five years. But these kinds of events [another head gesture toward the beach], all of a sudden it’s like—I’m 30, I feel old.

It also seems to me like, even though you’re the champ, everybody lately is kinda rushing past you and paying attention to Kelly [Slater].

[Shrugs] Yeah, I don’t know. Part of that’s my fault, I guess. I never follow the photographers around to get shots. If anyone gets a shot, I’m stoked, I’ll take it. I don’t look for attention, though. I’m stoked for Kelly, you know? But yeah, this whole year so far, it’s like he’s world champion, as if he didn’t lose it last year—like he’s going straight from ’92 to ’94.

Are you bummed?

No. I’ve got too much pride, I think.

You sound a little bummed.

Yeah, I’m a little bummed. But I don’t dwell on it. I guess that’s what I mean. I laugh at a lot of this stuff, in fact. I know what I did last year. And I did it for myself and my family—especially my Dad and my brother. I don’t take things that aren’t mine. But what is mine, I hold on to it. Yeah, I know what I did.

 


The New York Times on WSL’s announced 2020 cancellation: “If surfing — a sport that takes place outside, with physically distant competitors — couldn’t pull off competition safely, was there hope for any other sport?”

But why?

The New York Times, an institution that has seen better days but still important, covered the World Surf League’s announced cancellation of this year’s tour and the changes planned for next’s.

A thorough, though not particularly enlightening piece of journalism (the non-surf varietal), with requisite interviews.

You can read here but there was one line, in particular, that got me. That continues to get me.

“If surfing — a sport that takes place outside, with physically distant competitors — couldn’t pull off competition safely, was there hope for any other sport?”

But I still don’t understand.

Why couldn’t surfing pull off competition safely?

I get that the World Tour, in its current format, would be impossible. Too much international travel, too many competitors etc. but for the amount of money it took to design the WSL Santa Monica headquarter’s lightly used new “studio” couldn’t the team figure out a way to charter a Mentawai boat and take the top five male, top five female surfers to there?

Or Tavarua with top ten male, top five female?

Or Kiribati?

Or the Marshalls?

Or… any island with waves?

It wouldn’t have been branded a “tour” obviously, but surfing could have pulled off a heavy card reprising Italo v. Gabe, Kolohe v. John, Filipe v. Michael Jordan, Steph v. Carissa. A captive audience could have been walked through the way “scoring” etc. works and thrilled at beautiful boys and girls threading gorgeous blue tacos whilst the world sheltered in place.

Inspirational and fun.

So what am I missing? Why doesn’t this work? Why didn’t it?

Help!


Breaking: Hawaii’s first surfing world champ and two-time Pipeline Master, Derek Ho, dead at fifty-five: “He was an artist loath to butcher his style for a few decimal points more on the judges’ cards.”

Uncle Dez, gone…

The great Derek Ho, brother to Michael, uncle to Mason and Coco, four-time Triple Crown winner, two-time Pipe Master and Hawaii’s first-ever men’s world champ (1993) has died, aged fifty-five. 

Earlier today, Ho was reported as being on a ventilator and in a coma with friends and family, including his older brother Michael and legendary lifeguard Darrick Doerner, at his bedside. 

The cause of his death is yet to be revealed.

North Shore pro surfer and friend, Jason Magallanes, wrote, “I will never forget the day you won the world title at pipe, I was walking by Tanyas moms by sunset and you were driving that lil blue hatch back thing. In your high voice he yelled “what boy where you going?” I replied “down to pipe to watch you win the title” you just have me that classic D HO smile and said “jump in I’ll take you down there. I jumped in with you and Tanya and literally watched you win the world title with all the odds against you!!! I’ll never forget when you walked into gerrys house and saw and and said “you gave me the mana saying you were gonna watch me win” and have me a big hug. Fuck man, I ant believe I was just with you and now you’re gone, legends truest never die.”

Pipe stand-out Landon McNamara posted,

https://www.instagram.com/p/CCxdxAchmK6/

 

As Derek Hynd wrote the year before Ho’s world title season in 1993, “He’s an artist who appears loath to butcher his style for a few decimal points more on the judges’ cards.” 

In a conversation with another two-time Pipe Master, Jeremy Flores, last week, he said Dez was still the number one surfer in the Pipe hierarchy.

Get a good taste of Dez as he hits a late-season swell in April, below.


Filipe Toledo (pictured) not dropping into a bomb.
Filipe Toledo (pictured) not dropping into a bomb.

Listen: “If the fresh World Surf League format encourages Filipe Toledo to bravely cower into the new ‘one-day World Title event’ I’ll demand a refund!”

"Watching Filipe chicken out is a sport unto its own."

Well look at us, chatting about professional surfing again. About events and venues, heats and strategy, Filipe Toledo and his tried and almost true personal strategy of not paddling into big waves.

You’ve now had plenty of time to digest the World Surf League’s new format that includes a “one-day World Title event” wherein the five top surfers travel to a yet-to-be-named location and surf for the win.

I don’t like it, no not at all.

Part of the true joy of professional surfing is the year closing at the Banzai Pipeline… a wave that rightly terrifies many including Filipe Toledo. But there he must paddle, every year, with World Titles on the line and there he must throw himself over the ledge.

Or, in his case, not throw himself over the ledge.

But the passion. The tension. Now it is gone and I feel that many pros will refuse to give it a true go at Pipeline, Teahupoo, The Box etc. because as long as they end up in top five they have a shot.

No?

Yes.

This is all an abject disaster.

Tell me I’m wrong except you can’t because watching Filipe chicken out is a sport unto its own.

Or watch!


First look: Kelly “Liberace” Slater rides Waco wavepool; “more heavy clips coming soon”!

"I kept asking myself, 'Is this real life?'"

Well, ain’t this just what you’ve all been waiting for, Kelly “Liberace” Slater thumping the keyboard of his battered piano at the BSR cable-park in Waco, Texas.

Kelly, of course, is the maestro behind Surf Ranch in Lemoore, Central California, now majority owned by the World Surf League whose CEO in 2016, Paul Speaker, predicted, “that all stakeholders – athletes, fans, broadcast and corporate partners – will be super energised by the advent of Championship Tour-level competition with man-made waves.”

Not as energised, I think, as from watching Kelly ride, for two days, with pal Shane Dorian and his kid Jackson, at the American Wave Machines-powered pool that has become ground zero for air practice.

Here’s a little taste, with “more heavy clips coming soon” according to a spectator.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CCwbq51jlYR/

https://www.instagram.com/p/CCvj7sUHIie/