Meet: Moroccan Open National Women’s Champion and future grumpy local Ninon Mattei!


We here luxuriate, almost always, in a grumpy local rissole. The perfect pressing, breading, baking of grievances, frustrations, love and laughs. But as participation in surfing explodes around the world what are the youngers thinking?

How are they feeling?

I had the wonderful opportunity to find out at least one opinion via the Moroccan Open National Women’s Champion, 22-year-old Ninon Mattei, and believe I am going to turn this into a series. Not concentrating on up-and-coming pros but on the grinders who are sacrificing all for this idiotic surfing life we all love.

How does surfing in Morocco feel?

It feels pretty special actually. The Surfing community is quite small in Morocco , we all know each other especially in the north where I live, we all have respect for each other whatever the level you have and that’s pretty cool. I’ve travelled a lot last year and it always feels so good to be back home. South of Morocco is definitely my favorite place in the world during winter time, we always score crazy good waves.

What is your dream?

A Mentawai boat trip with the crew scoring epic waves. That’s it. That’s the Dream

What is the best part of professional surfing?

I would say doing the thing you love the most in the world everyday and have the opportunity to live off and for your passion.

What is the best part of surfing?

For me it’s the balance of the unpredictable and freedom, surfing is always exciting, you never know what you gonna get, it can be very frustrating sometimes for sure but it also makes things really interesting. You don’t have any control on the waves or conditions but once you’re on the wave you have the freedom to do whatever you want.

Who is your favorite surfer and why?

Hard question. There are so many guys and girls I admire so much. I’m gonna say Abdel El Harim. He is quite a legend in my hometown, best Moroccan surfer so far, I’ve always looked up to him growing up and I still do, he is still ripping hard. What I admire the most about him is how he always manages to have fun in every condition and takes out the best of everything. Beside him, my favorite surfer to watch is Ryan Callinan. I’ve watched his last edit like 400 times, so smooth.

What is your goal?

In general my goal is to improve in every way I can as a person. In Surfing i would say that my main goal is always going to be to get better and scoring good waves. But I have a few goals besides that like doing a good result in couples QS ,finding a sponsor and working on my contest mindset. I really have trouble with that but I’m on it!

Can you reach the top?

It depends what you mean by “Top?” The CT? I wish haha, but I’m realistic. The QS? Besides the fact that the level is more and more high I don’t have any sponsors, doing the full QS is expensive. I’m really aware of that. But my surfing is improving everyday, I really think that I can do some results but like I was saying earlier I really need to work on my mindset to make that happen.

Assuming surfing stays Olympic, will you smash the dang Australians and Americans?

Unfortunately i can’t represent Morocco in the Olympics! I don’t have a Moroccan passport but a French one. But if it was the case i would say that as funny as it could be to see an unknown girl from Morocco smash Steph Gilmore in a Heat i don’t think it’s gonna happen, but you never know! I mean, like we say here: Inchallah!

What is your future?

No idea, I’m not a planner. I really think that the best things in life are the unexpected ones. What has to happen gonna happen but i know one thing for sure: surfing is gonna be in it.

What is our future?

The pandemic made me think about that a lot. Things are gonna change for sure. I’m really aware of negative issues that we have and will have face like the social and economic crisis the Covid is making and the big environmental crisis but i truly want to believe that we also moving toward a better future because people seem to be more and more open minded, more aware of everything that is happening in the world and willing to fight for it. There is always hope after all!

Anti-depressive, no?

Italo Ferreira takes beautiful high road, responds to egregiously heinous, thoroughly embarrassing World Surf League judging call: “This offends everyone but me!”

We could all learn so much. Some of us more than others.

The professional surf watching community was left in various stages of stunned outrage, yesterday, when five judges sitting in a booth overlooking Narrabeen’s wobbly lefts and rights deemed World Champion Italo Ferreira’s fabulous full rotation air in the dying minutes of his heat against Connor Coffin to be incomplete.

Per the great Longtom’s assessment, “My main beef with the panel goes back earlier in the heat to a left that Italo surfed that should have been at least a point and half or two better than Connor’s scoring waves. That critical underscore fucked the correct unfolding of the back third of the heat. Italo was flayed and cooked either way. The best guy did not win. He knew it, we knew it, the whole beach knew it.”

Ferreira, in a display of passionate emotion, stomped his board in half.

Hours ago he responded in a statement, posted to Instagram.

“Isso desmotiva qualquer um, só que eu não! Eu ligo o foda-se e vou pra próxima. Obrigado pelo carinho” which translates (via the translation button) as “This offends anyone, except me! I’ll turn the fuck on and move on to the next one. Thank you for caring.”

I assume the correct translation would actually be “This offends everyone except me…” but you get the picture.

The high road.

That beautiful high road.

An object lesson for all of us, how wonderful it is to let go, move on, be gracious.

We could all learn much.

Mostly me.

Artist rendition of new campsites, Thunderdome.
Artist rendition of new campsites, Thunderdome.

Australia’s Surf Lakes submits plans to expand site with boutique accommodation, scuba pool, Thunderdome: “It’ll be the ultimate surf getaway!”

All connected by a beautiful Fury Road.

It has been some time, now, since Surf Lakes has been in our shared consciousness. The giant plunger, which can be found in beautiful Yeppoon in northern Queensland, was instantly the most striking of the wave pool technologies with its not subtle nod to Mad Max.

But aesthetics, alone, rarely win the day and other, more functional tanks from Palm Springs to New Jersey soon took our attention.

Fickle, fickle people we are but look! Surf Lakes is back with an exciting new plan, just submitted for approval, to expand into “the ultimate surfing getaway!”

According to the proposal, the development would be split into two stages with the first including a solar farm and campground to be connected by a Fury Road. Then a hotel, aqua park including scuba center, hotel and Thunderdome would be added.

The local Seq Q Boardriders president was very thrilled, telling ABC news, “We always like to surf in the ocean but as we know the ocean doesn’t always cooperate. Having a wave pool and being able to access that on a regular basis definitely is going to help young surfers improve and keep everyone else happy when there’s no waves in the ocean.”

Surf Lakes’ ownership group expects, once fully operational, that the “ultimate surfing getaway” would plunge $260m yearly into the local economy.

The chief executive of regional tourism and development organisation Capricorn Enterprise, Mary Carroll, said, “Wave pools all around the world have attracted a new clientele or visitor market. This is absolutely what would happen in this destination, whereby this wave pool would attract visitors not just domestically but internationally.”

Just imagine how many more will be attracted when Surf Lakes hosts one of the 18 World Surf League Championship Tour Australian stops in three years.

Very cool.

Italo, good height on locker room board snap.

Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic Day Three: Italo Ferreira loses in ‘heinous’ judges’ call; Filipe Toledo surfs ‘one of the worst strategic heats’ ever; John John helpless; Medina soars!

Crazy, crazy entertaining day… 

Crazy, crazy entertaining day at Narra.

We start the analysis round of 16 heat 1. Punchy peaks, lefts reeling off, rights into an air wind. Filipe Toledo needs not ride the best waves of the heat to beat Fred Morais.

Filipe sits out to sea for half over half the heat, letting Fred clock up fives below him. First of many confounding decisions from the world’s best. Toledo gets caught in a roll-in on a set wave, his feet are in the wrong spot, he throws what Brad Gerlach calls a “utility turn”, a dreamy carve then flubs the finish.

Following that wave he streaks across an Alley Right into the wind, hits the section and snaps the board in front of the fins, the offending particle recoiling from the collision and soaring into space like it had been shot from the Hadron collider.

OK, now go catch some waves.

He’s  waiting for sets though. One of the worst strategic heats ever surfed. Let a guy catch waves he can get fives which you can get sevens and end up holding the short straw after thirty minutes. It seems Filipe was not humble enough to learn any lessons from it, claiming after the heat there was “nothing I could do, that’s just surfing”.

Amazingly Ethan Ewing adopted the same strategy against Jaddy Andre. Paddle out and sit there for twenty minutes and not catch a wave. Jaddy went to work but could not make a wave. Surfed four waves, fell for four. Forcing Bugs to call the heat, accurately, a “whole bunch of nothing.”

You would have to call that a lucky draw for EE. Any respectable CT surfer would have made him pay.

As it stands, despite Ewing himself calling the heat “one of the worst… frustrating heats” he gets through to the quarters against Fred Morais. 

It was one of those days where the best surfers didn’t get through, either by bad strategy, like Filipe, or bad judging, in the case of Italo and Reef Heazlewood.

More on that in a moment. 

There’s a reason I don’t bet on surfing.

It’s because I’d lose all my money and end up pulling tricks for rent money. I felt sure Caio would be able to rattle Medina’s cage and force the upset, given what we’d just seen with Fred and Ewing. Medina surfed close to the perfect heat. Paddled away from Caio, started riding waves, put the crowd energy on his side, asked plenty of the judges, shredding backwashy lefts. There’s so much flow in his surfing at present. I want to call him the premier stylist on tour, if we consider style to be the efficient translation of movement into speed and torque.

Ibelli was stranded out to sea, waiting for, what, a miracle?

The Newcastle Air at Ladies Left was an Evel Knievel stunt leap over a school bus, the backside full rotor he landed at Alley Rights was travelled less distance but covered more vertical. His board hung so long in the air it was bone dry when it landed. Which he did with the composed grace of a Gallic waiter carrying a tray of hors d’oeuvres.

The claim was from the NBA genre, officially a “mid-court step back” to shoot.

Heat over for Caio. 

John John Florence saw the heat-winning air. Had a little chat to Medina about it in the water. Head-high rights into an air wind, with little elbows to land on. In the other bewildering decision of the day he tried to match power surfing turns with Morgan Ciblic, probably thinking he could break the kid with “classic” heat strategy. Build house blah blah.

Richie Lovett called Morgan’s backside lip blasts “power blows”; there was very much controlled violence about them. JJF surfed at eighty percent, beautifully, with deep, round bottom turns and flair in the tail on the top turn. Morgs surfed at ninety to ninety-five percent.

“You can’t surf soft anymore,” he declared in an interview snippet.

Which means turn for turn, wave for wave, he out-surfed the two-time Champ, widely hailed in the last six months as the best in the world. 

Momentarily, JJF overtook Ciblic after a score was dropped. The emotional effect was similar to Steven Spielberg’s 1971 road rage movie Duel. John looked like the hapless business commuter in the Plymouth Valiant being viciously pursued and terrorized by Ciblic in the Peterbilt 281 truck.

John was so phased he gave Ciblic the best wave of the heat, while he had priority. 

He gave him the best wave of the heat.

A short, bowling set wave that unleashed the killer inside Ciblic. Squaring up straight off the bottom he attacked the lip with the fins and back third of the board anchored on nothing but a sheet of spray across the coping. Progressive power surfing.

Is that even a thing? It is now.

And Morgan Ciblic has smashed John John Florence with it twice now. John had no arrow left to fly. No air attempt into the wind. He just sat there at the end of the heat like he’d been hit with an icepick behind the eyes.

All the heat for the day rests on the judges call that a very fast, very large full rotation backside air that Italo launched against Connor Coffin was incomplete. Thus, instead of a high seven or eight it was awarded a one and change. I think a heinous error. Bugs called it a “radical outcome, but not controversial” if you can get your head around that verbal gymastics.

All five judges scored it an incomplete.

My main beef with the panel goes back earlier in the heat to a left that Italo surfed that should have been at least a point and half or two better than Connor’s scoring waves. That critical underscore fucked the correct unfolding of the back third of the heat. Italo was flayed and cooked either way.

The best guy did not win. He knew it, we knew it, the whole beach knew it.

I feel like the judges were making a statement, I’m just not sure what it was. Air fatigue maybe? 

If there was some kind of reactionary movement against airs happening in the judging booth then Reef Heazlewood read the room perfectly. His first ride, with a full wrap roundhouse, the first one done all comp, maybe Newy as well?, was almost achingly beautiful. Shocking that this “air guy”, our answer to the Brazilian storm could flow through such a neo-classic turn. His surfing was sharp, he looked the far better surfer than Griffin Colapinto.

He should have kept surfing.

But with way too much time left on the clock he tried to perform priority jiu jitsu on Griff. By maintaining top position he allowed Griff to slip into a nothing wave and huck what looked to me like a low speed, flat air. Yes it had projection, yes it had inversion. But with little speed they highballed the shit out of it, gave it a seven,  and Griff took the heat.

We all love underdogs.

But underdogs who win on their merits, not because the other guy can’t make a wave or the judges are mentally fatigued and all lose their minds at the same time. If Morgan Ciblic can get past Medina, that makes him some kind of favourite, which sounds completely crazy.

But that is what reality obliges from us. 

But really who knows, it might be a Kanoa/Morais Final.


Surfing historian Matt Warshaw eviscerates Paul Theroux novel Under The Wave in hilariously barbed essay, “He has broken the first rule of his craft, which is to care enough about your subject to want to get inside it, wear it like a skin if possible, eat it and be eaten by it!”

"Hard pass on Theroux and his new book…"

Under the Wave at Waimea, Paul Theroux’s new novel, comes out this week. I’ve only read excerpts and some early reviews, so jumping in here with tiny fists balled and swinging feels premature or petty or unfair or all three.

On the other hand, I’m finding it harder and harder these days to make it through an entire book, any book (I loved the first half of French Exit, however, and parts of Deacon King Kong had me in raptures), so finishing Under the Wave as a precondition for critiquing it is probably a non-starter.

Our leathery but handsome protagonist is Joe Sharkey, aka “the Shark,” a fading 62-year-old haole surf legend living on the North Shore with his much-younger new girlfriend. While driving home from a bar one night, Sharkey hits and kills a homeless man on a bike. Joe evades criminal charges, then he and girlfriend set off to investigate the dead man’s past and to help Joe (in the words of the flap copy) “find vitality and refuge in the waves again.”

The book’s opening paragraph:

The one wild story that everyone believed about Joe Sharkey was not true, but this was often the case with big-wave riders. It was told he had eaten magic mushrooms on a day declared Condition Black and dropped left down a forty-five-foot wave one midnight under the white light of a full moon at Waimea Bay, the wave freaked with clawed rags of blue foam. He smashed his board on the inside break called Pinballs and, unable to make it to shore against the riptide, he swam five miles up the coast, where he was found in the morning, hallucinating on the sand. More proof that he was a hero; that he surfed like a rat on acid.

At which point I was already leaning negative on Under the Wave because we all know that is Jock Sutherland’s story, more or less—he and Theroux are longtime North Shore friends—and why not just do a slightly fictionalized take on Jock, who is infinitely compelling, and spare us the manslaughter and resultant tension-conflict-resolution drama?

Anyway, here are my two issues with Under the Wave.

First, as the title and cover art make clear, surfing in this book is often front and center—but it is surfing as conquest and big-wave trophy hunting, from Waimea to Cape Town to “the water monster” (more commonly known as Nazaré) in Portugal.

Conquest, for me, is always a dead-end choice for a surf book. Real-life big-wave conquest is a thing, yes, but it is almost always a surfing byproduct, not the main point. Even for big-wave incurables, surfing is a through-line, a horizontal rather than spiking presence, an often-beautiful drone connecting one year to the next, like Brian Eno’s Music for Airports on loop but with some livelier bits from Here Comes the Warm Jets dropped in now and then.

Dan Duane captures this idea perfectly in his book Caught Inside.

“Surfing falls outside the narratives of death and change,” Duane writes. “One goes out, comes in, surfs in circles. A surf session is [just] a small occurrence outside the linear march of time. You can talk about carving deep, then gouging the lip, but even if the listener can visualize [all of this], it still doesn’t make a story.”

Granted, Theroux’s book is not really about riding huge waves, but about a man who rides huge waves coming to terms with the fact that he’s been a selfish prick his whole adult life. I do not concede my above point, but still. Sharkey spends a fair bit of time in detailed reflection about waves he has ridden and their epicness. But Duane’s take is the right one: “While paddling back out [after] a glorious ride, I noticed that I couldn’t remember anything specific about the wave.”

The second thing about Under the Wave is the degree to which Theroux himself is not really interested in surfing or surfers. The language, the surf-action descriptions, the surfer’s interiority—every time he reaches for surf-world authenticity the results feel borrowed or dashed-off or best-guessed-at.

The fault here is not that Theroux is an outsider. That’s fine. Some of the best takes on the sport have been made by outsiders. But the writer has to care enough, be interested enough, to make something previously unknown to him or her come to life.

Non-surfing New York writer Cintra Wilson was taken to task for the level of snark she brought to what I still think of as one of the best and funniest surf-related essays ever written, “Jesus Christ, Personal Friend of Surfing,” and fair enough, she does at times come at her subject claws-first and grinning. At one point Wilson eviscerates poor Shea Lopez for not being able to think of anything he would change about the world tour. But immediately following, she offers this: “Anyone who has fallen in love with a group of uniformed firemen at the supermarket—noticing their polite, jokey teamwork and easy, 100-proof manliness while they shop together for the station—would probably like being around surfers. All the petty parts of [their] brains seem blasted away by the overpowering waves and they have the weird, gentle majesty of giraffes or monks. Something about living enslaved to an element like fire or water, I suppose, gives them that 1940s Royal Air Force, movie-hero kind of self-possession. Anyway, I felt dirty and mean after talking to Shea Lopez, and kind of sick with admiration for him.”

Surfers should be laughed at, eye-rolled, and praised in roughly equal measure. And always remember, that surfers meanwhile will be laughing at you, and justly so, even if they are whittling away their lives in pursuit of waves. This is a difficult set of things to keep in mind while writing. Wilson threw herself to the task, enjoyed herself tremendously, and thus her surfers can believably and effortlessly shape-shift from lunkheads to monks to giraffes to firemen.

In contrast, Theroux’s characters, while in surfer mode, are professionally-written cliches. I’m not saying Theroux has dishonored surfing. Or rather, I’m not saying that Theroux has only dishonored surfing. I’m saying he has broken the first rule of his craft, which is to care enough about your subject to want to get inside it, wear it like a skin if possible, eat it and be eaten by it—the way Theroux did with Mosquito Coast, the way he did during his incandescent pissing match with fellow writer VS Naipaul.

Otherwise you’re left with the main character going left at Waimea straight into Pinballs, like a rat on acid.

PS: I just opened the new Surfer’s Journal to find Jamie Brisick’s interview with Theroux. Brisick opens by asking about the inspiration for Under the Wave, and here is Theroux’s response:

You might laugh, but I remember the day and time when I made the decision. I was riding my bike from Haleiwa along Kam Highway one hot day and came to the small bridge near Laniakea. The road is narrow there, so I decided to walk it, staying close to the rail of the bridge. I looked down at the creek bed under the bridge and saw a woman lying naked on a surfboard in the sand, her legs parted, and a naked man frantically making love to her. The woman’s face was contorted in ecstasy. I wanted to linger, but I figured they needed their privacy. And I thought, Wonderful—they’ve spent the morning surfing together, and now, as a culmination, they’re rutting like mad. This sort of summed up the consuming passion of surfing.

Yuck and gross, and I’ve made a decision—hard pass on Theroux and his new book, even if they send me a free copy.

(Editor’s note: This essay first appeared as a missive to subscribers of Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing. Join for three bucks a month or thirty bucks a year.)