When history recalls its great couples, Gabriel Medina and his step-dad/coach Charlie will certainly be counted amongst them. The two became a fixture on the scene when young Gabriel burst onto it a decade ago. Him thrusting and jiving, never falling. Charlie hooting and whistling, tiger-eye’d. Much success followed, two World Titles etc. but now the ride is officially over with Gabriel announcing the two have parted ways and that he is looking for a new coach.
But which of the two will go on to even greater success, alone? Which will stumble into oblivion?
Do you recall when Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez dated, both at the heights of their games? Justin went on to marry a Baldwin. Selena, I think, didn’t.
Or Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe. Reese many accolades and films. Ryan not.
The easy call is that Gabriel will soar and Charlie will disappear but not so fast for Gabriel also announced that Charlie will focus on coaching his younger sister.
Tyler Wright 2.0? More famous than Gabriel and more popular too?
The future is female.
Chilling letters written by stalker to three-time world champion surfer Mick Fanning revealed: “I occasionally want to kill you … I have so much love for you and I would like to see what’s in store for future for us two.”
“The places I liked always became marred by murder.”
In February last year, you’ll remember, a woman was charged with the unlawful stalking of three-time world champ Mick Fanning, breaking into his Hamptons-themed three-storey house with intent and two counts of stealing.
Sarah Foote, a thirty-nine-year-old from Ballina, “an obsessed mother” according to one newspaper, was accused of following Fanning between January 29 and February 4, the break-in of Mick’s pretty beachfront joint in Bilinga allegedly happening on Feb 2.
Fanning saw the mysterious strawberry blonde at the top of the stairs, asked her to beat it, which she did.
Foote was accused of sending four letters (“Rambling hand-written letters with accusations of pedophilia, declarations of love for Fanning and thoughts of wanting to kill him”), three by post, one personally delivered.
Each included hand-drawn love hearts, a self-portrait by Ms Foote, and one contained a beaded bracelet.
“For some reason (which I have (sic) a stab in the dark (pardon pun) at), we got on so much better when I thought you were someone else,” she wrote.
“Nasty voices … your voice gets nasty too sometimes …”
“I occasionally want to kill you … to end our occasional miserable bullshit … I wouldn’t want to end our best times though. Because I have so much love for you and I would like to see what’s in store for future for us two.”
“You really are a strange man.”
“What is wrong with you? Or for that matter, what is right with you?”
“I can be a real bitch.”
“The places I liked always became marred by murder.”
“I have smelt a murdered corpse in Rockhampton. She was very stinky, worse than any road kill I have ever smelt.”
“I met a kiddie killer, she smothered her baby. Only spent a year in a psychiatric hospital, then was released only to murder another child.”
“IDK when we will incarnate again together in this world.”
“I love you.”
“I also like looking at your photos. Especially in your book … I know that you know what I just did.”
The crown prosecutor said Foote now “acknowledges going to his house was going a bit far.”
The judge hit Foote with a fifteen-month prison sentence with immediate release on parole.
Friends of Foote, meanwhile, have rallied around their pal.
“Fucking asshole rich dude with his expensive lawyer and douche bag reporters shaming you like this,” wrote one. “So so sorry this is all happening sweet heart. Hope u ok. Stay strong, and big hugs and hankies from me…”
Watch: Portuguese man plays violin while surfing Nazare, brings tear to famously curmudgeonly surf journalist’s eye!
You, by now, know my position on the whimsical. I do not like it one bit. I want my quaint quaint, my humorous humorous and do not want the twain to meet… until this morning when the most whimsically wonderful surfer from Portugal put a tear in my eye and a smile on my face.
But would you like to Nuno Santos, whom Fodors calls the most interesting man in Portugal?
Nuno grew up loving music and also surfing Nazare, which I thought was only surfed by Garrett McNamara alone for many years but maybe I’m confusing it with Mavericks.
In any case, Nuno grew up loving music and also surfing and, one day, decided to combine the two “just for the sake of it.” So he bought a cheap violin and towed right in.
“I remember the first time I did it, I was going down the wave, and obviously we’re talking about very big waves, but, I was laughing so hard and I’ve never laughed when I’ve surfed a big wave because I’m scared,” he told the travel magazine. ““I was like, this is ridiculous, this is so fun!”
According to Julian Schnabel, when looking at a Fuller photo “you can barely see and at the same time it is all you can see. You might not know if your eyes are open or closed.”
You know Danny Fuller. Stylish big-wave goofy-footer born in Hanalei, bred on Pipe, and splashed in Chanel Allure Homme.
You know he’s a model, and he’s also a noted photographer.
He just released a new book titled Liquid Horizons: Meditations on the Surf and Sea (Rizzoli, $55).
At first glance, many of Fuller’s photos look like simple blue watercolor washes, tie-dyes for the simple. But then we realize that his tool is a Pentax not a paintbrush; he’s got technical skill as well as a rare eye.
Most of the 200 collected photographs in the glossy hardbound collection are blurred to the point where the viewer can recognize large fields of sea and sky but little else. Minimalist blocks of blues stack like a Rothko if Rothko took mushrooms.
When I mention the comparison to Danny, he says it “would be the greatest compliment. My greatest form of influence comes from painters, especially of the abstract expressionist or surrealist movements. Some of my early works were being mistaken for paintings.”
Let’s hope that’s the only similarity. Rothko crossed a razor blade through the artery of his right arm. In contrast, Fuller’s photos are light and cheerful all around.
Anti-depressive, for sure.
A coffee table photo book from some unknown isn’t too appealing.
But we respect Fuller.
To watch him carve up a full-faced Indonesian wave is special. The images give us some insight into his frame of mind.
Each photograph was shot under the moonlight. Knowing this, it’s hard to understand how the images shine with such bright blues and purples. But we don’t need to understand things to appreciate them.
Danny clarifies. “By not having a readily identifiable structure, and therefore open to one’s interpretation and imagination, it lets us embark on an unexpected journey―allowing for deeper modes of seeing, feeling and transportation to another state of consciousness. By bending borders of perception and redefining visual representation, we can see beyond the naked eye.”
And we appreciate such clarity.
Liquid Horizons is Danny’s second collection of photographs. He feels that he’s constantly learning, as revealed in the new collection. He describes himself as a “student who continuously takes notes of his surroundings.”
At $15,500 for one of his enlarged prints hanging in Fort Lauderdale’s New River Art Gallery, Danny apparently also studies economics.
For us, opting for the book might be more attractive as you can enjoy all of Danny’s pieces and still buy a solid work truck.
The only smudge on the otherwise wonderful book is the unneeded attempt to lend credibility to it. Artist Julian Schnabel and Pipe king Gerry Lopez bookend the collection, each providing a tangle of meta-gibberish in attempts to translate Danny’s work into words.
According to Schnabel, when looking at a Fuller photo “you can barely see and at the same time it is all you can see. You might not know if your eyes are open or closed.”
That’s fine for Mr. Schnabel, but we, the uninitiated, might prefer looking at art with our eyes open.
Danny’s commentary, though, doesn’t fly far from theirs. At least he’s the creator of the images.
“I’m interested in pushing beyond the status quo of documentation and static mode of representation,” he says. “Looking deeper than the surface layer of what one perceives and revealing the obscured interweaving and controlled chaos of the nature. Here, one finds the mysteries of form, color and texture that activate visual thinking to create new meanings.”
For fifty-five bucks plus shipping, let us at least enjoy making our own half-cooked parallels between Danny’s photos and the transcendence of the universal super-conscious.
JP Currie on Tyler Wright’s “bombshell” ESPN interview: “It’s deeply unfair to characterise her father Rob as not only the cruel and uncompromising patriarch, but almost as a symbol of the patriarchy itself. And to use THAT picture in the article, yet snuff out his voice?”
Does a man’s pursuit of passion, even if vicariously through his children, constitute success or failure?
A scene, a snapshot, a perspective…
Praia da Consolação, Portugal, October 2010. The southern end of the stretch of sand that hosts Supertubos.
A young man sits in a rental car, a silver Opel Corsa with passenger seat tilted all the way back and surfboard wedged into the footwell.
He’s been watching the marginal, scattered windswell, unconvinced it’s worth getting in, despite the approaching midday heat. The pleasant waft of lunchtime barbequed sardines drifts through cobblestone streets behind the breakwater and makes him think there might be more value in appeasing his girlfriend by going back to the apartment for some lunch.
His swithering is interrupted by the rear end of another rental car, a Renault Kangoo, swinging abruptly into the spot in front of him. The rear brake lights have barely stopped glowing when all doors erupt simultaneously in a flurry of neoprene and joy.
A tall, sinewy man with skin like fine leather strides round to the rear of the Kangoo to release the boot and the jumble of surfboards within.
It’s a family race to the water. Girls and boys, a cacophony of stoke exploding towards the beach.
Arms and shoulders swing in ad hoc stretches as they hurry to the water’s edge. There are some brief lunges, combined with strapping on leashes.
The younger boy, darker than his brother, sprints and throws his board down like a skimboard, gliding for a second before popping a 180 off the incoming wash.
It’s all whoops and smiles. The enthusiasm is palpable.
The young man in the rental car looks on in admiration. He is witnessing the Wright family. He recognises Owen, here to compete in the WCT event and on his way to a seventh overall finish and Rookie of The Year honours by season end.
He admires the sheer physicality of the family, with their deeply earned tans and their lithe power.
He admires their joy as they swarm over the windswell, hooting each other in and throwing flyaway airs into the whitewash.
Children and parents united by a clear passion for surfing.
He is thinking: there’s a thing to aspire to. A family working and playing together. A family of supreme health and fitness, revelling in nature, culture and international travel.
Together. Happy. Surfing.
Still nearly a decade away from children of his own, the young man knows that he has seen the ideal. Later he will tell his girlfriend about it and they will dream about the future.
Fast forward eleven years.
The Wright family has faced challenges. But weigh this against world titles, big contracts, experience, travel, objective successes…
Would it be unreasonable to perceive that the joy observed in this earlier snapshot had led to some happiness and accomplishment?
Every hero needs a villain. The villains of the piece are pro surfing and Tyler’s father, Rob Wright.
Tyler is presented as a lost soul, forced to surf, railroaded into a career as a professional surfer by a cruel father and lacking the voice, even the “language”, to speak out against it.
She’d rather be in school.
She’s angry, but not allowed to show it.
All the men on Tour demean and degrade women.
She’s “sexualised and scrutinised by fans, sponsors and the sport’s leaders”.
We are presented, once again, with the “women-forced-to-surf-like-men” trope. (No mention of Stephanie Gilmore’s seven world titles or universally celebrated style). This is backed up by Sal Masekela, so that makes it unequivocal.
One villain is vanquished when she tells her dad she doesn’t want his help anymore.
Her uncle dies, Owen has his accident at Pipe, her mum gets brain tumours, yet she wins back-to-back world titles in a toxic sport that she hates.
She did it, but she didn’t enjoy it.
She meets her girlfriend, finds her voice, wants to confront the “homophobic, racist and extremely sexist” culture of the surfing community.
Then she gets sick with a mystery illness for a year (identified in the piece ambiguously as “post viral syndrome” and sounding very much like a euphemism for “depression and anxiety”).
She gets better, reads some feminist literature and re-emerges with her old world champ form but an armoury of social justice missiles behind her.
“We can’t talk about sexism without talking about racism. They’re not separate issues.” It’s all the same to her.
And I might suggest that discovering language is one thing, knowing its power quite another.
Voices don’t appear overnight.
There are many, many books.
I might also speak up for what’s missing from the ESPN piece.
No other pro surfers (of any gender) are consulted. Key family members are absent. No WSL authorities are questioned, unless you count Jesse Miley-Dyer (close personal friend of Tyler Wright).
Let me imagine an alternative writerly perspective.
One might equally present this arc as belonging to someone with a quality desirable to all – the quality of resilience.
This resilience was cultivated as part of a family unit where gender was secondary to effort and performance.
(If, instead of what actually happened, young Tyler had been sent to school while the boys played in the waves, how would we view that?)
Learning came, as all good learning does, from discomfort.
A father dedicated his life to ensuring his children lived in pursuit of health and happiness, with minds broadened by travel and bank accounts furnished by companies willing to pay them for elite performance in a sport idealistic to millions but rewarding very few.
Three out of five children top-ranked professional athletes.
Does a man’s pursuit of passion, even if vicariously through his children, constitute success or failure?
One might suggest that the determination and focus fostered from a young age in a hard-knock, cut-throat sport and family dynamic was the defining factor that allowed both Tyler and Owen to emerge victorious from debilitating injuries that would have ended most athletes.
The Wright children are pro athletes forged in iron. They lead lives that need no filters to be the epitome of Insta envy.
You could say that the reason Tyler Wright is so damn good at surfing, the best in the world, no less, and the reason she has a platform and a voice, is precisely because of her upbringing.
And where is Rob Wright’s voice anyway?
The writer of the ESPN piece excuses the omission of Rob’s voice with an addendum to a sentence stating that he’s been diagnosed with early onset dementia.
No point in talking to him then, eh.
It’s deeply unfair to characterise him as not only the cruel and uncompromising patriarch, but almost as a symbol of the patriarchy itself.
And to use THAT picture in the article, yet snuff out his voice?
I’ve got no skin in this game, but I feel for the poor fucker.
And what about Owen’s voice?
One might presume that in a profile piece about a professional surfer citing a toxic family environment as reason for her struggle and unhappiness, it might be privy to obtain the views of two of her siblings who have followed the same career path.
As for Longtom, dear Steve with his Tolstoy and his Lennox lore and his goat’s balls. If you’re that close to the situation (given that they live(d) in Lennox and you clearly know them) then what about some insight beyond bunging Rob in a ute and dropping him off again? That ghost shell image is about as useless as Alyssa Roenigk’s half-sentence brush off.
Don’t just allude to things unseen. Don’t you leave meat on the bone, too.
With the ESPN piece the writer has leaned hard into the issues du jour, just as Tyler has, but it’s a well-worn narrative, and it misses enough to cast doubt on the perspective.
There’s a lot more to say about the Wright family, I’m sure.
This once-young man would like to hear the other voices.