Our attention has been so gloriously pulled back to professional surfing, following a fatal shark attack cancelation of the Roxy Pro, in Honolua, and World Surf League CEO Erik Logan’s positive Covid-19 result cancelling the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons presented by Hydro Flask.
The whole works.
Surfvival, open threads, artisanal Longtom wraps but there are other heroes in our world like the yet-to-be-named Gold Coast woman who risked life and limb as two beer kegs threatened to make an oceanic getaway from a surf club in Currumbin, Australia.
If there is not a Sound Waves detailing every harrowing second of this incident then what is World Surf League CEO Erik Logan even doing (besides self-isolating and monitoring his light symptoms)?
Heroes are made, not born, or so they say and Plump Pip should well understand but in case he doesn’t (see above video).
What are your feelings, speaking of, on the women hitting Pipe not tomorrow but the next day when a fine swell hits those famed reefs?
I’m entirely optimistic that we are going to be served the best show yet. Steph Gilmore stalling through Backdoor bombs. ‘Ris Moore seeing and raising. The Mother of Dragons doubling down.
But let’s not forget the beer kegs.
John John eats up a Back Door.
Billabong Pipeline Masters, penultimate day: “Where to for Pip Toledo? There was talk all day about spiritual connections and the mental health benefits of the ocean and here was a guy, clearly unprepared on every level, melting down in front of our eyes!”
Kelly, John John, Italo, Gabriel, Jack, meanwhile, breeze into the quarters…
Pro surfing roared back to post-suspension life in a huge day at Pipe where over-lapping heats were churned through with industrial efficiency.
Maybe the most heats run ever?*
Twenty-two by my count which spanned the three vestigial elimination heats, sixteen round three heats and three round of sixteen heats. No great shocks at pulsey four-to-eight-foot Pipeline, weirded out by wind and multiple swell angles which mostly served to outline the stark skill set difference between peers on the CT.
It was hard to watch Filipe Toledo in the first heat of the round of 32, for example, without feeling a real sense of pity.
Seven waves ridden in 40 minutes, nothing close to clean make. Pip got boofed in the head by the lip, Pip out ran the toob- once, twice, three times, Pip went straight to the beach.
There was talk in the booth all day about spiritual connections and the mental health benefits of the ocean and here was a guy, clearly unprepared on every level, melting down in front of our eyes. It was actually a relief when it was done.
Where too for Pip? He has to get through Sunset and Steamer Lane before Snapper offers any blessed relief.
Isn’t there some sort of God who can help him?
I thought that was the great trump card of the Brazilian Storm?
He wasn’t the only tube-dodger. Wade Carmichael couldn’t get behind one. Others looked out of sorts but managed to find form during the time from buzzer to buzzer.
None more-so than Gabe Medina who described himself in the presser as “still waking up”. He sat for over twenty minutes without moving a muscle in heat 13 against Yamban Rookie Morgan Ciblic. In the opening ten minutes I counted three unridden Pipe bombs, eight-foot plus, as heavy as it gets according to Jacky Robinson. Ten-point rides for Medina.
He sat as still as a statue. Inscrutable as buddha. As theatre it was compelling, if not baffling. A weird little non-make warm up wave was finally backed up by a deep cave exploration, a proper Pipe bomb and that was the heat. Medina only comes to life when his ego, his sense of honour, or even some mutated vision of justice is threatened.
Absent those factors, his lack of energy is palpable.
The only contender who hasn’t changed is Italo. He brought the customary froth and fizzle against Seabass. Fossicked around in dung heaps copping wearing closeouts before a minute to go under the lip take-off, the kind where he’s completely encased before getting to the bottom, pulled him well clear of another typically hapless Seabass performance.
The Kelly/Ethan Ewing heat occurred during the peak part of the day, roughly coterminous with the highlight performance by Jack Robinson in the next heat. It was confusing to follow, due to the celebrity call-ins. I think Gerry Lopez was on the line. It was an atrocious connection. Spirituality was the theme of the conversation, which meandered along awkwardly sentimental paths.
I thought, whilst the audience was distracted, we may have been witnessing one of the great sporting declines in history. Kelly got destroyed in a huge Backdoor bomb, went over the handlebars coming out of the toob, looked for all money like a VAL on his first Pipeline go out when he went over the falls without even attempting to put hooves on the board. At some point during those proceedings, according to his testimony, he was briefly knocked unconscious.
This decline was unremarked by the commentary team, it was like a parallel production unit reporting from a parallel Universe. No replays, no talk of Kelly’s over the falls.
Is this how it ends? The Kelly era, the Kelly Epoch, that we all live in, like it or not? The King getting punched out by Pipeline while the booth pretends to look away. “I’ve got no problem being put out to pasture,” claims Kelly in the teaser. “If someone gunna make me look silly they’ve got to be surfing pretty good”.
It wasn’t quite like that.
Seconds later, Kelly’s dropping like a dead weight thrown off a cliff down a blue wall and getting spat out of a classic Pipe chamber, with a full wrap exclamation mark. Kelly throws down a heavy Backdoor make. Within three minutes the decline was reversed. Ewing, who has to cringe at the AI comparisons, had no answer back.
Comparing like for like, in terms of two perennial Title contenders who have never quite got over the line and who were facing fired up Rookies the heats featuring Jordan Michael Smith and Julian Wilson were instructive.
It would not be unfair to see Jordy in Biblical terms, maybe featured in an epic watery, post-modern reinterpretation of the Sistine Chapel titled The Passion of Jordy, being spat out of the toob at Pipe in a shower of holy spray. That would suit the spiritual tone of the day. He obviously had more feeling than Jules, who was so thoroughly put to sleep by the incredibly precise positioning and execution of Jack Robinson that you wonder how he could wake up again.
It was one of those demoralizing losses like the one he laid on Toledo at the Box. It does seems unfair to call Jack Robinson a Rookie at Pipe. Kelly will need a lot of mana to have any chance against him when the comp resumes.
I predicted a rookie bloodbath but there were some pockets of resistance. Matt McGilvray was unflappable in disposing of Seth Moniz, who had the waves to win but was destroyed by a huge Pipe wave when his positioning was off by inches.
Peterson Crisanto charged many predatory pipe waves before losing to red hot Leo Fioravanti.
John Florence started very sharply with a tight technical make at Pipe, waited an eternity for the first Backdoor wave of the day against Connor, which was enough. He had to grind out a win against McGilvray in the round of 16 to make the quarters.
Which should see him make the top five for Trestles, operating under the theory that you can’t win a title now, but you can lose it.
Save Griffin Colapinto getting bounced by Crisanto after spending too long looking for a miracle Backdoor wave that wasn’t there. You don’t need to be that smart to be a pro surfer but you do need to catch two waves in a heat.
Huge, huge day.
Form won through, experience at Pipe paid off. Balls mattered, skill was at a premium. Same as it ever was.
Now the girls are going to have make sense of it.
Will the Booth look away, cut to the celebrity call-ins?
The whole world, millions according to Randy Rarick, will be watching.
*Maybe Carroll or Warshaw can phone in.
Listen: “The World Surf League ‘Cone of Silence’ immortalized by Australia mainstream media as BeachGrit takes reins of public relations!”
The World Surf League has needed, desperately needed, someone running the public relations for many years but especially since current CEO Erik Logan ascended to the top spot. Chief Marketing Officer Backward Fin Beth did hard work, putting surfing on the map, but after she left there has mostly just been crickets singing their violin-adjacent song in Santa Monica.
And when Logan went down, last week, with the dreaded Covid-19 I knew I would have to take an unpaid position doing forward facing branding.
The ill-fated return of professional surfing amid the COVID pandemic is turning the World Surf League into a laughing stock.
Sidelined since cancelling its season-opening event on the Gold Coast in March, the tour finally returned last week – and expectation couldn’t have been higher for fans as the traditional season-ending Pipe Masters became the launch event.
But after the opening day of competition was followed by weather conditions that kept the waves away, the WSL unexpectedly announced the event was being suspended because of a coronavirus outbreak at the site in Oahu, Hawaii.
Embarrassingly, league CEO Erik Logan and four staff members tested positive for COVID in a disastrous development given the tentative fashion in which Hawaii had welcomed dozens of professionals from all corners of the world to its shores.
That was five days ago. Since then the only communication from the WSL came from Logan on his Instagram page, where he promised to be transparent “through this incredibly challenging time”.
David Lee Scales and I chatted about the Cone of Silence today, whilst podcasting, and also about Stab magazine going behind the paywall. Have you purchased your year’s worth of Ashton Goggans yet? Very exciting. Also, is Ashton Goggans an onomatopoeia?
Open Thread: Comment Live as the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons presented by Hydro Flask exits quarantine, enters Day 3!
Breaking: Inside impeccable World Surf League source suggests ruthlessly enforced “cone of silence” in place to calm local Hawaiian officials, Pipe Masters set to resume tomorrow in time for epic swell!
Hope, as they say, springs eternal and that is all well and good except “eternity” only has four more calendar days left in it for the World Surf League to finish off the Covid-19 shuttered Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons presented by Hydro Flask.
A “cone of silence” but why? The most progressive public relations moved ever crafted in order to protect World Surf League CEO Erik Logan’s ill-advised travel to Hawaii to be seen and see?
A never-before-tried keep-them-starving-until-they-are-dead approach to hype in a small core market?
According to an impeccable inside source, the cone of silence is in place because formal approval from local government who is expected to go public tomorrow with an announcement that gives the green light.
Do you believe?
Can we believe?
The answer is, obviously, yes.
Common sense dictates that it serves all sides to complete the already launched event but common sense has rarely dictated the WSL moves.
But who cares about common sense or history. Can we believe that the State of Hawaii x CEO Erik Logan’s World Surf League will sort this last four days and give The People™ a contest?