Happy John John Florence wins first event of 20-21 tour.

Timeline: the World Surf League’s Annus Horribilis, six cancellations, two Heads of Competition, mass COVID infection, one “shark incident.”

Many twists, many turns.

As the WSL (somehow) soldiers on, it’s easy to lose track of of the absurdity of the last eight months.

Let’s examine.

July 17, 2020:

The WSL cancels the 2020 Tour, citing the “health and safety of athletes” and “the challenges of international travel.” While many lament the news, it seems rather prudent given the state of things.

Maybe a reset is just what the WSL needs.

In the same breath, the WSL introduces a new and improved Championship Tour. It boasts a revamped finals event (with a mystery location), new event locations, and kick-off events at Pipe and Maui.

The optimists among us muse about a finals event held at a tropical reef, but the realists remind us of a little cobblestone A-frame in Southern California.

November 10, 2020:

The WSL announces that the WSL Finals will be held at. . . Trestles.

Kolohe and Filipe rejoice.

The WSL also announces a myriad of new event locations for the 2021 Tour, axing Portugal and G-Land for Sunset and Santa Cruz.

The WSL never releases a formal statement regarding Portugal and G-Land. The November 10th press release simply reads postponed and TBD, respectively.

December 2020:

The first leg of the Tour kicks off, with the women at Honolulu Bay and the men at Pipe.

The morning before the women’s finals, a man is attacked and killed by a shark, putting the event on hold. Elo introduces us all to some new corpospeak, calling it a “shark incident.”

The women’s event is subsequently moved to Pipe, where the competitors opt for turns in lieu of tubes. Tyler Wright is crowned the winner of the Maui Pro at Pipeline.

Meanwhile, the men start the 2021 Tour at Pipe in pumping surf. Surf fans rejoice.

Then, the Billabong Pipe Masters is suddenly suspended as a result of positive COVID-19 tests “within the WSL staff, including WSL CEO Erik Logan.”

WSL viewers are largely left in the dark. Pipe continues to pump, unsullied by professional competition. Rumors abound about patient zero.

On December 15 the event resumes, albeit in smaller surf. John Florence banishes Gabriel Medina for the win and old man Slater takes a third place finish alongside Italo.

January 5, 2021:

Hawaii suspends all surfing competitions, forcing the WSL to cancel the Sunset Open and Jaws.

The WSL additionally announces the suspension of the Santa Cruz Pro, scheduled for February, citing the surge of cases in California.

Surf fans are left in the lurch. The next event isn’t scheduled until April.

January 7, 2021:

A Pulitzer Prize worthy bit of investigative journalism (snub of the year!) reveals that the WSL has failed to acquire the necessary permitting for the Trestles Final Event.

A finals event in California’s Central Valley seems more and more likely.

Kelly celebrates.

January 31, 2021:

Rumors abound of a potential CT event at Lennox Head, adding an additional contest to the Australian leg.

February 2-3, 2021:

The Lennox community rebels against the WSL, threatening protest paddle outs, while the WSL claims community support.

It appears the WSL has largely acted in the dark, leaving many community members out of the loop.

Surf journalism takes yet another step towards the edge of the cliff, with the likes of Stab and The Inertia ignoring the fallout.

Said community quickly mobilizes, forcing the issue to a head. Ballina Councillors reject the event.

WSL General Manager for Australia Andrew Stark says, “If you don’t want us to come to your town, we’re not coming.”

I mull staging a protest in Lemoore.

February 6, 2021:

The WSL quickly pivots, securing an event at Merewether.

The intention is to charter a plane for both Tours from Los Angeles to Sydney for a two-week quarantine in mid-March.

February 7, 2021:

Bells is cancelled, resulting in a reported $8 million loss for Torquay.

The WSL cites the government’s failure to approve a plan for quarantining the athletes.

The Newcastle Cup is scheduled for April 1-11. Mayor claims $15 million boost for economy.

February 15, 2021:

The WSL releases yet another updated schedule.

The new Australian leg will include events at Newcastle, Narrabeen, Margaret River, and Rottnest.

Snapper is the latest casualty, along with Pat O’Connell, who after only a year will be replaced by Jessi Miley-Dyer, the new Head of Competition.

Eight months. Six cancellations. Two Heads of Competition. Mass COVID infections. One “shark incident.”

Too many press releases.

O’Shaughnessy (pictured) seconds before accident.
O’Shaughnessy (pictured) seconds before accident.

Pipeline standout smashes head on reef, saved by helmet, quick action of friends: “The helmet is blown open and cracked. If that happens to a helmet do the math and you can understand what would have happened to his head.”

"Thank you for saving my life!"

Yesterday morning found me in a local orthodontist’s office with my young daughter. She was being fitted for a spacer and it is truly a medical marvel how cosmetic dentists have gotten the hooks in earlier and earlier. I had braces for a year and a half at fifteen or some such. The modern child about town is nothing if they have not had various mouth appliances from 7 – 20.

She was, anyhow, excited and I was watching the Surfline feed of Backdoor being streamed on the overhead televisions. Her orthodontist, apparently, surfy. It seemed a very fine day, sun shining, many long barrels expertly threaded but I marveled at the insane crowd and wondered how so many more people don’t get radically injured while Pipelining.

Well, as it happens Pipeline standout Mikey “Redd” O’Shaughnessy had punched his head into the reef just hours earlier and was miraculously saved by the quick action of his friends and a helmet.

Billy Kemper, who was in the water, told Hawaii News Now, “When I seen him fall, I knew he was in a really critical position. I was talking to Koa Rothman and was like c’mon Mikey, pop up, pop up and after two waves of him not surfacing, I said Koa let’s go and I just started paddling as fast as I could towards him.”

Honolulu Ocean Safety lifeguard Kyle Foyle was out surfing as well and made it to O’Shaughnessy, hoisted him up and pumped his chest until he started breathing on his own. He told the outlet, “Luckily, he was wearing a helmet. If he hadn’t been wearing a helmet, I’m pretty sure it would have been another incident we’ve had in the past where we’re picking up pieces.”

Kemper concurred, “I have the helmet here and his board and by the looks of that helmet, both sides of his temple, the helmet is blown open and cracked. So if that happens to a helmet, do the math and you can understand what would have happened to his head on the reef.”

O’Shaughnessy was transported to a Honolulu hospital where he took to Instagram thanking those who saved his life.

All in all a wonderfully happy ending but does it give you pause about your own head? What if you were out surfing crowded Pipeline or some tricky slab? The vast majority of surfers obviously don’t, due pride I imagine, but maybe we should all listen to the great Marsellus Wallace who told Butch Coolidge, “That’s pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.”

Wise words.

The WSL's miracle worker Andrew Stark, far right, at the announcement of the Narrabeen contest. Former pie shop owner Dooma Hardman in spotty shirt, Tom Carroll, chic in floral shirt, Laura Enever, flared trousers, O Wright, real tall, Simon Anderson, tall too, not as big as O. | Photo: WSL/Tom Bennett

WSL’s Andrew Stark rescues 2021 world surf tour: “Last week, Stark was riding a donkey in the desert, today he’s in the penthouse toasting four CT’s in the house and a well of human hatred run shallow and dry!”

This cements Starkey's future as WSL CEO and the eventual rehoming of the WSL downunder.

High, high times for hacks in the surf-jern biz. Glorious Woz Piñatas swinging in front of us on the daily.

Temperance and accuracy can go to hell when hitting the keys is this much fun.

Today tops all.

Starkey and the Australian taxpayer have double-handedly rescued the 2021 World Tour, in a stunning power move that reflects the historical and current reality of Oz as the centre of gravity of professional surfing.

Last week, Stark was riding a donkey in the desert, today he’s in the penthouse toasting four CT’s in the house and a well of human hatred run shallow and dry.

It was the brute force display of power I’d expected all along from my man.

Let’s be clear: his methods may be Machiavellian but Stark has kept the lights on in the building in a way no-one else could.

Imagine Elo trying to seal these deals across state borders with multiple political realities and stakeholder pressures?

Poor flim-flam man folds like wet lettuce and can’t even get the paperwork tight and right. This cements Starkey’s future as WSL CEO and the eventual rehoming of the org. downunder.

His pasodoble with NSW Deputy Prem John Barilaro has been legendary. Think of a famous pairing: Beavis and Butthead, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Fish and Chips, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Ali and Frazier, Batman and Robin, Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth, Don Quixote and Pancho Sanza, Sonny and Cher, just off the top of my head.

Stark and Barilaro best all of them without a doubt.

The line-up, as we already know, is a mixed bag, but generally praiseworthy.

Newy will be the weakest link in the chain for quality surf. Narrabeen offers a rare, quality left beachbreak with punchy rights at the Alley and excellent pies at Ocean Blend, the cafe directly across the road from the Northy carpark, the former site of Damien “Dooma” Hardman’s pie shop.

Maggie River we are well acquainted with along with the outrageous advantage offered to JJF at Mainbreak Rights and Jack Robbo at North Point or the Box.

Rottnest or Rotto, as DR has pointed out, suffers under the weight of a very dark history as both a penal colony and site of unimaginable animal cruelty when the inevitable Quokka kicking episode occurs during the islands regular Bacchanalian convulsions.

There are numerous B+ reefs on the Island with competition likely to run morning times before the dreaded Fremantle Doctor “breeze” blows out the main spot of Strickland Bay. A kind of cool-temperate reverse poor man’s Keramas if you need a mental image to sustain you. Very fun wave.

Five events locked in. Teahupoo likely. Tub, Trestles final. Australia, Hawaii, Tahiti, California. A Pacific World Champ.

Leaving aside that WA faces the Indian, it’s a concept too beautiful not to pay lip service to.

In a final sign of the ascendancy of Australia Bureaucratic Dominance and the shifting of power from USA to Aus, poor Patty O has been permanently benched from his role as Senior Vice Prez of Tours and Head of Competition after deciding “to transition out of his role to pursue new opportunities”, which I believe is polite corpo-speak for being shown the door but having as much time as you need to collect your stuff from under the desk.

Patty is being replaced by former CT competitor Jessi Miley-Dyer.

Pat’s reign was memorable for, um…..um…. I haven’t got much except missing the day of the waiting period at D-bah on a bad judgement call trying to get Snapper in 2019 when he was newly minted in the role. He brought a cheery presence and an understated credibility to video presentations with Elo and will one day have an excellent memoir ghost-written about his time at Santa Monica.

Australian Company Rip Curl, which sold 70% of the biz to NZ outdoor apparel Company Kathmandu in late 2019 for 350 mill and which has been enjoying bumper Covid induced sales has stumped up an undisclosed figure for the naming rights to Newy, Narrabeen and Rotto, the latter under the dormant Search Banner.

To the best of my knowledge I can see no resistance to holding comps at any of the proscribed locations, which makes Covid19 and the Great White Shark the only remaining challenges to getting things run and done.

Third most popular Endless Summer II cast mate Pat O'Connell (left) pictured in better times.
World's third most popular Endless Summer II star Pat O'Connell (left) pictured in better times.

Breaking: In another stunning move, world’s third favorite Endless Summer star Pat O’Connell leaves World Surf League ahead of just-announced Australian Tour!


There is love, there is loss. Today, our World Surf League officially announced the officially locked n loaded 2020/21 Championship Tour which may or may not end at Lower Trestles.

WSL CEO Erik Logan, per his preferred communication platform Instagram, declared THE TOUR IS BACK and it is, or a “version” of a “tour” but bravo, nonetheless.

We professional surf fans are all convicts, after all, and deserving of whatever slop we get.


Not ladling that slop, allegedly, will be the world’s third favorite Endless Summer star Pat O’Connell who has officially left the building.



Tours, events and whatnot left in the very capable hands of Jessi-Miley-Cyrus.

A very fine wrecking ball but…

…Pat O?

Yeah gone.

History will write his World Surf League epitaph (read: BeachGrit) and much curiosity where he will land (read: BeachGrit) but…


A major move, in any case, right at the beginning of the TOUR BEING BACK.

Australia, the future of professional surfing, but let’s take a minute and mourn Pat O.

World Surf League officially cancels Snapper Rocks; confirms four-event Australian leg: Merewether, Narrabeen, Margaret River, Rottnest Island!

One contest to run on former penal colony famous for having "the largest mass burial site in Australia." Can you guess?

As reported yesterday, the WSL has iced its Snapper Rocks event after the Queensland state government refused to cover the cost of quarantining surfers and the WSL’s entourage and NSW and WA state gov’s turned the money spigot on, offering five million bucks or thereabouts per event.

The Australian leg of the CT is gonna be, Rip Curl Newcastle Cup pres. by Corona: April 1 – 11, Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic pres. by Corona: April 16 – 26, Boost Mobile Margaret River Pro pres. by Corona: May 2-12, Rip Curl Rottnest Search pres. by Corona: May 16 – 26

It’s got a whiff of the old Billabong Junior Series events, which ain’t a bad thing.

And Rotto, where your ol pal DR once lived and loved, is one of the dreamiest joints on earth, a government-run, mostly no-car limestone and coral outcrop paradise, famous for its giant rats (hence name, Rat’s Nest) and a bumper crop of Great Whites.

Read, Discover Rottnest’s Wildlife here, spearos getting charged by a White, here, a father-and-son being circled by a White in their lil boat, here, the swimmer doin’ the Perth-to-Rotto race and being followed by a White, here, diver killed by a Great White at Little Armstrong Bay, here.

“Cowardly” Italo and Gabriel are going to love it. 

Rottnest was also, at one point, a penal colony for indigenous Australians and features “the largest mass burial site in Australia.”

Reports ABC News, 

“More than 371 men sent to the Island died as a result of disease, torture, execution and murder and their remains lie in an unmarked grave.”

You’re not gonna be able to watch, howevs, broadcast only, no spectators. Contest held at Strickland Bay, a fun peak, short right, longer left over coral floor.

Rip Curl, meanwhile, has scooped up naming rights to three of the contests.

From the presser,

“When the WSL told us they had three alternative World Tour events to sponsor after the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach got cancelled due to Covid 19 we did what comes natural and got involved,” said Rip Curl Founder Doug ‘Claw’ Warbrick. The former WSL judge, competitor and Board Member sees it as a great opportunity to keep pro surfing rolling. “Newcastle, Narrabeen and Margaret River have long-term pro surfing histories; and Rottnest Island gave us the chance to bring back the Rip Curl Search, which hasn’t run since twice world champion Gabe Medina won in San Francisco a decade ago. The Cup, The Classic, The Masters and The Search. That’s a great Quaddie to go for! Congratulations to WSL. They are working very hard to keep the Tour alive and we are privileged to be onboard. We love watching the world’s best surfers ripping in great waves.”

More from tour correspondent Steve “Longtom” Shearer shortly.