Photo: Chas Smith!
Photo: Chas Smith!

Breaking: In move certain to exacerbate already tense geopolitical situation, Ukraine becomes 109th nation to join International Surfing Association!

The world is watching.

In a move that stunned politicians and journalists around the world, the International Surfing Association waded into the hottest geopolitical stew, yesterday, by announcing that Ukraine would be the 109th nation to join.

As Russia amasses its forces at the country’s eastern border, preparing for invasion, the ISA praised Ukraine’s many rivers and lakes which “provide ample opportunity to practice surfing and its various disciplines.”

The President of Ukraine Surfing Federation responded, “We are so happy to become a part of the ISA family. This is another important step on our way to developing surfing in Ukraine, not only as a cultural movement of like-minded people who found themselves in unity with the ocean, but also as an Olympic sport with a deep-rooted history. I am glad that now Ukrainian athletes who train both on our native waves of the Black Sea coast and outside Ukraine have the opportunity to participate in international competitions and proudly represent their country. I am sure, this step will give our athletes motivation to improve their skills and attract more young audiences to our sport and culture.”

While the ISA’s new tagline is “A Better World Through Surfing,” it is unlikely that Russia will be pleased. The current mess began when Ukraine tried to deepen ties with the European Union in 2013. I was in Kyiv weeks after the protests and wandered around the charred Maidan Square. Anti-Russian sentiment extremely high. Many checkpoints. Much mistrust.

The ISA will certainly be viewed as another “tangling alliance” pulling Ukraine past Europe all the way to La Jolla.

The situation will continue to be monitored and news reported as it develops.

Two-time world surfing champion John John Florence sings praises of Peloton bikes as company reels from revelation a kid was killed and forty injured by its treadmill as US regulators warn people to stop using the $4000 device!

John John Florence puts muscle behind Peloton as company hit by very bad press.

Endorsements. One minute you’re in a mutually beneficial commercial relationship with a seemingly innocuous but respected lifestyle brand, the next you’re throwing together a desperate press release distancing yourself from god knows what scandal.

Two days ago, the two-time world champion John (John) Florence made an Instagram post singing the praises of his Peloton Interactive Inc. fitness bike, along with a promotional video in which he appears alongside various other athletes, most notable of all fastest man on earth Usain Bolt.

“When I had an ACL surgery in 2019, I got a Peloton bike to help with the rehab process, “ posts John (John). “Throughout my recovery I found myself using the bike all the time, and I’ve continued using it ever since for workouts and warmups. It feels like an honor to be mentioned alongside these athletes… I’m excited about this partnership!”

Peloton get the rights. John (John) gets the bikes. Surfline Man gets a nice big hit of dopamine unpacking another shiny new bit of kit.

A match made in consumer lifestyle capitalist heaven.

Everybody wins.

The system works.

But wait.

A few hours before J(J)F’s post a story appeared on various news outlets. A headline on The Guardian read,“US regulators warn Peloton users to stop using treadmills after child death.”

“The US Consumer Product Safety Commission said it received reports of children and a pet being pulled, pinned and entrapped under the rear roller of the Tread+ treadmill, leading to fractures, scrapes and the death of one child.”

A decidedly un-feel-good, largely contra-wellness combination of words.

Peloton Interactive Inc. responded saying the warning was “inaccurate and misleading”.

“There’s no reason to stop using the treadmill as long as children and pets are kept away from it at all times, it is turned off when not in use, and a safety key is removed.”

It should be emphasised that J(J)F only mentioned the Peloton exercise bike and not the child-mangling treadmills mentioned in the report, so there’ll probably be no back-peddling(!) from the two-time world champion anytime soon.

Still, the timing between the story breaking and J(J)F’s post – mere coincidence, or has surfing reached such a lofty status in the minds of Joe public it’s now deployable as corporate damage-limitation fodder?

Heady days.

Sam George (pictured). Surfer/Thinker
Sam George (pictured). Surfer/Thinker

Important surf voice Sam George makes blistering case for more surfers in the lineup on VAL-centric website: “Everything bad about surfing is due systemic as$holiness associated with localism!”

"Pervasive perception of lack..."

The courting of the VAL is in full swing, from the aisles at Costco to our World Surf League. As recent data has shown, surfing is experiencing a participation boom. Lineups choked with happy beginners straddling soft tops. Sun hats. Good vibes and laughter. Turtle rolling in the impact zone. Going left on rights, right on lefts, etc.

For the grumpy local, it feels positively apocalyptic but in a just-released piece on VAL-centric website The Inertia, important surf voice Sam George makes a blistering case that there needs to be even more surfers in those choked lineups.

“Most surfers, when asked, will say that everything bad about surfing is due to crowds,” he writes. “This is an over-simplification perpetuated by a pervasive perception of lack. The case can be made that, in fact, everything bad about surfing is due to the systemic assholiness associated with localism that has spread worldwide over the past six decades.”

Is he correct?

Systemic assholiness as root of all apocalyptic evil?

Co-Waterperson of the Year and owner of professional surfing Dirk Ziff right to castigate all those years ago?

George continues, at length, but I didn’t read anymore.

You can here, if you want, though.

Just in: Surf icon Matthew McConaughey teases run at Texas governorship, instantly jumps to lead in polls!

Heaven on earth?

With two existing wave tanks, and more on the way, the State of Texas has, for some years now, been part of our surf conversation. Big skies, open spaces, plenty of power to generate milky green barrels, a libertarian vein running deep.

It was maybe always a match made in the stars and that match may well get consummated as surf icon Matthew McConaughey has recently teased a run at the governorship, saying it is a “true consideration.”

New polls, just out in The Dallas Morning News, show that he leads current governor Greg Abbott by a margin of 45% to 33%.

If he were to take the plunge and run for governor, the poll found, 45% of Texas registered voters would vote for McConaughey, 33% would vote for Abbott and 22% would vote for someone else.

McConaughey’s double-digit lead over the two-term Republican incumbent is significant. The poll, conducted April 6-13, surveyed 1,126 registered voters and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.92 percentage points.

McConaughey, who’s politics straddle multiple lines, appeals to centrist voters with an outsider message and while pundits scoff at the possibility of a win, imagine if he did.

Just imagine.

The Uvalde, Texas born actor has done more to further the wonderful surfer-slacker stereotype than anyone on earth including Spicoli’s Sean Penn. Even though he picked surfing up later in life, he has carved room for us all to be dumb, to dress like eight-year-olds.

To shine like stars.

But have you not watched Fools Gold,The Beach Bum, Surfer, Dude? He even channeled surf-slack in Dazed and Confused.

And imagine all those wave pools, all that space, Governor McConaughey…

Would you consider moving to Texas?

Be honest.

Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic Finals Day analysis: “Medina wins most one-sided final ever over a guy who never should have been there!”

Connor Coffin's winning waves, minus the artificially inflated 8.77, averaged out at 5.14 over the tournament. Tell me how a guy who struggles to get over a five, who managed one excellent ride in the whole event, can get anywhere near the final?

TL:DR: Medina wins most one-sided final ever over a guy who never should have been there.

Judges cooked the spread to avoid a combination score over Connor Coffin but it didn’t matter.

In fact, Medina must realise in his heart of hearts, none of these wins matter now. In fact, they just increase the chances of the nightmare scenario we outlined when the Trestles Finals Day was announced. Medina miles ahead, run down by Italo or Felipe at head-high Trestles. Medina will still have to solve the Italo problem, absent faulty judging which artificially cruelled his only real opponent outside JJF at Pipe.

Connor Coffin’s winning waves, minus the artificially inflated 8.77, averaged out at 5.14 over the tournament. Tell me how a guy who struggles to get over a five, who managed one excellent ride in the whole event, can get anywhere near the final? This guy, as nice as he is, should have been in the stands with a Corona watching Gabe Medina in head-high beachbreak, not surfing against him.

Apart from that though: huge, huge success. Glistening beachbreak peaks, enough challenge, enough variety, good enough waves. Peacocks and peahens in full plumage. Crowds every day and unless everyone they spoke to was lying, an insatiable hunger for pro surfing and a real joy to see it back at Narra.

I ask the same question we’ve asked all week.

What now? They can’t dump Narrabeen. I see no substitution, no subtraction, only addition. Gold Coast, Narra, Newy, Bells, Margarets. WSL have already broken their own rules about the number of CT’s allowed per country, so what’s the problem?

They make the rules. They break ’em.

The booth was frothing over the possibility of a new CT winner but the newbies weren’t up to the task, in the end. Ewing was well beaten in the first ten minutes by a trio of six point rides from Fred Morais. Griff had moments of brilliance, mostly an 8.5 air against Yago in their quarter. Connor did slightly better versions of the same turn he did all event; a mostly lateral power hook with a close-out reo for incremental gains.

One of the reasons I’ve fallen in love with Narra as a contest venue, apart from the fact it’s not in my backyard, was the extreme discombobulation it was able to generate in the minds of the world’s best surfers. These aren’t people being called on to solve differential calculus or perform brain surgery on kiddies but their livelihood does require being able to place themselves in a position to catch a wave.

In three-foot surf with a reliable sandbar it flummoxed the best. Including Filipe Toledo. None moreso than former CT event winner Kanoa Igarashi. Kanoa tried to get cute on a paddling interference on Connor Coffin, got denied, gained a restart because that move denied anyone catching a wave and then dropped anchor. For thirty minutes. That was the heat, one more above his rightful station, that should have exposed Connor Coffin and sent him packing.

Instead Igarashi, one of the highest paid surfers on tour, sat there with a 0.8 heat total as the siren sounded. Igarashi’s summation of the debacle seemed to lack insight. He said he only “made one mistake”. True I suppose, if you count not catching waves in rippable three-foot beachbreak with only other guy out as a single mistake.

It’s a single mistake in the same way that taking your hands off the wheel and closing your eyes while driving on the freeway is a single mistake.

Coaching has become integral in the post-covid, post-Slater era. You wonder what is being coached.

Morgan Cibilic had Medina on the rack after the best wave of the event. The only proper left hand tube-ride ridden expertly for an high eight. Then he sat, for most of the heat with priority, letting Medina run riot all over the bank. Up and down he roamed, hustling every corner. We got the insight from coach Andy King. Hunt the bank, don’t go outside, “if it’s clean and green go for it”. King called it simply a numbers game, with X amount of waves Gabe would swing for excellent and sooner or later complete.

When you give the best guy in the world unlimited opportunity then it’s likely to work in his favour. As it did in Newy, as it did at Pipe, as it did at Narrabeen.

Defence as a strategy generally, was a losing game at Narrabeen.

JJF, by contrast, fell to pieces against Cibilic. Over-surfing at Newy, under-surfing at Narra.

And Medina was kind.

He paddled up and down, past the kid, never bothering him, never getting up in his grill like he did to Fred Morais in the dying moments of their semi. It seemed to hypnotise Morgan. He stopped surfing and sat there, immobile.

Medina pegged Morgs back and then on the buzzer, with the score perhaps being needed (it wasn’t), threw a lofted air rotation into the teeth of the comps most vicious close-out section. A career ender for lesser surfers. Gabe greased it, looked to the judges, made elaborate hand signals to let them know the landing was complete and then stepped onto the sand. It was an undeniable gesture of solidarity with Italo.

Coach King made an astute observation: “You’re creating a new space for yourself there, brother”.

Space: in the air, on the face, from the tyranny of family dynamics. A mother who can’t let go. The sensation of cutting loose, of being free, of being in charge of his own destiny seemed to create in Medina great, even tremendous quantities of energy. He made time slow down in his heats somehow. For others the thirty minutes raced by with barely an opportunity. For Medina it seemed to be filled with the luxury of time and ample waves.

The problem with a hot take is the emotion drives the pen.

It’s later, when cooler heads can rationalise what seems incomprehensible. On reflection, I think I understand now the message judges were sending to the Tour by deeming Italo’s air an incomplete. Even if that pushed a wholly inappropriate candidate forwards into the finals. It was a mistake for the greater good, a recession we had to have, if I’m reading it correctly.

Something like: no manufactured scores, no tricky recoveries, no reversion to the Slater era when sleight of hand in the whitewater won out.

Everything has to be brutally clean and separate, like a lone tree silhouetted on a hill at sunset.

If that is the case, then I propose we make peace with the judges, as long as they apply the standard equally. The harsh scale all event was appropriate. It left clear mountain air for those willing to go huge.

Big questions for Australian surfing after the first three events.

Lots of backmarkers languishing on the cut-off.

No combatants in either final, no ladies or men in the semis.

Our best guy is a kid no one heard of a year ago.

Can he hold the line in WA? His style would seem perfect for it.

One more early loss for John and his whole year looks as brittle as chalk.

The Dream Tour is over as we knew it, but we’re doing fine.