Epiphany: The vomitous spasm of surf fiction and what it means for you, me, World Surf League CEO Erik Logan and our shared future!

Under the Wave at Waimea.

I had an epiphany this morning that I’d like to share, if you’d permit me. A few weeks, maybe a month, ago I received an advanced copy of Paul Theroux’s new novel Under the Wave at Waimea. Included was a nice note from the publicist to read and, if I saw fit, share with this audience.

Surf fiction.


I’ve never been a fan as, for me, what we do, who we are, is far too ridiculous to ever fictionalize though maybe Kafka or Camus could have done.

Theroux, in any case, is a world-renowned author of proper acclaim and has many awards, titles, to his fine name including The Mosquito Coast which, I’ll admit, I never read but loved the Harrison Ford cinematic version.

And so I cracked the cover and read the first paragraph.

The one wild story that everyone believed about Joe Sharkey was not true, but this is often the case with big-wave riders. It was told he had eaten magic mushrooms on a day declared Condition Black and dropped down a forty-five-foot wave one midnight under the white light of a full moon at Waimea Bay, the wave freaked and clawed rags of blue foam. He smashed his board on the inside break called Pinballs and, 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 an otter on acid.


I closed the cover and thought, “Ugh. Don’t want to tweak ol’ Paul Theroux. Best let it slide.”

Later, thinking, “Paul Theroux is a heavyweight. I wrote Cocaine + Surfing. I should give it another shot…” re-cracked the book that had somehow become black due a soaking then drying and read…

Sharkey could imagine him sliding across the Pipe, cutting back, whipping around, the hotshot moves that won points these days…

And closed again.

“Ugh. Don’t want to tweak ol’ Paul Theroux but the Pipe?”

Best to let it slide.

This morning, though, I woke early, per the norm, rubbed bag out of my eyes, drove to the local Seaside Market for butter and canned cinnamon rolls because the gluten-free pancake mix was out. My daughter loves a Saturday breakfast in bed with the works and, inexplicably, gluten-free pancakes.

Canned cinnamon rolls an acceptable substitute, somehow.

So there I was shuffling out with my haul when I saw a man in nice, perfectly fitting pants, running shoes and a good tee-shirt. He paused briefly then turned around and approached me.

“Man, I just gotta say. I love what you do. I never read anything but somehow your stuff popped into my feed once and now I sorta search it out. Just keep doing it. There was this once piece that… you wrote… I can’t even remember, but it was so funny.”

I thanked him profusely, honestly, truly. Whenever I get approached it is usually prefaced with “I don’t read…” and I love that. I write for illiterates. Not a great business model but I am neither a businessman nor a business, man.

I got in my truck and twisted it to life.

The radio came on, NPR Morning Edition, with host Scott Simon talking something about surf.


I turned it up, listening carefully, and realized he was chatting with Paul Theroux about the new gorgeous, perfectly descriptive, luscious book Under the Wave at Waimea.

The two went back and forth, Simon lavishing praise, Theroux accepting, offering insight how his time living in Hawaii and paddling a canoe has given him unique insight into the ephemeral surf world. Simon loving every second. Theroux explaining the unique surfer ethos.


Real surfers, those who have actually sacrificed their lives for surf, are, by and large, illiterate and by “illiterate” I don’t mean “can’t read.” I mean we live our lives in the millisecond, paddling, popping, pumping, maybe a bottom turn, maybe a top turn, maybe a sneaky barrel, maybe a kick-out air.

All forgotten, every bit of it forgotten, as we paddle back out.

And back out.

And back out.

And back out.

Impermanence is the very core of illiteracy.

This impermanence, illiteracy, is not a commodity, though, it is anti-commodity, and senseless to the broader public, those who don’t surf, who need paragraphs like…

Out of the surf zone, he fell to his knees. All his strength was gone in the effort and exhilaration of that one great ride. He carried his board up a dry sand mound on the beach and gasped with delight. He was exhausted and knew that a good part of that fatigue was the result of anxiety when, in the middle of his ride, he had felt the ache in his lacerated toe and feared that adjusting his feet for the pain would put him a fraction off-balance and send him off his board. He would be buried. High, dense, and unforgiving, it was the sort of wave that would push him down, and the waves behind it would keep him down. The thought of it, together with his unexpected fatigue, kneeling alone on the beach, his lungs burning, made him briefly tearful.

Real surfers don’t remember the middle of a ride, much less the beginning or end.


But surfing needs to be a commodity, not an anti-commodity, when co-Waterpersons of the Year purchase for free and install Oklahoman Oprah Winrey SUPpers and CEO and so Walls of Positive Noise are built and literacy programs created.

Paul Theroux writing the handbook.

I have a good mind to write the most ridiculously absurd surf fiction ever.

Cresting monsters, the biggest, awe-inspiring, hand jams, tubulars that last an eternity, world’s greatest surfer Kelly Slater etc.

Just to screw with the literates.

Radical Progression: 3x World Champion Mick Fanning shocks international sporting community by announcing his un-retirement, re-entry into professional surfing at highest possible level!

Lightning Strikes 4x.

I can’t remember if it was yesterday, during finals day of the Rip Curl Newcastle Cup presented by Corona, or the day before when 3x World Champion Mick Fanning shocked the international sporting community by announcing his un-retirement and re-entering professional surfing at the highest possible level.

I also can’t remember if we’ve all discussed already.

Have we?

Did you have any thoughts?

Excited to see White Lightning strike four times or depressed that a nearly 40-year-old man is the state-of-the-art (outside Brazil)?

The Australian press seems to be extremely excited with headlines screaming… ‘Now or never’: Surfing world erupts over Mick Fanning announcement.

chasing it with…

Mick Fanning has stunned fans after announcing he will come out of retirement to compete at the World Surf League Leg in Narrabeen as a wildcard.

After 20 years since he won his first event event as a wildcard, Fanning announced he would return after contemplating coming out of retirement last year.

Surfing world erupting, stunning fans, etc.


As it relates to the upcoming ABC reality show Kelly Slater’s Ultimate Surfer, is there any surfer on this earth left to discover (outside Brazil)?

Would you consider Morgan Cibilic a discovery?

Have we discussed already?

What Italo did do. And all contest, was put the pressure on opponent. None moreso than against Medina in the Final. A relentless weaponizing of pace. Never seen before, if my reading of Pro surfing is correct. Wave after wave, after wave. The conventional wisdom is build a house and then wait for the best waves in the heat. Not so for Italo. Tail high air revs on the forehand, big whipped backside rotors. You could feel the gears grinding in Medina's brain as Italo kept catching, roaming the line-up like a frothing dog. Catching anything that moved. | Photo: WSL/Matt Dunbar

Rip Curl Newcastle Pro Finals Day analysis: “Reality slaps judges in face; tailwind can’t push local heroes; Italo Ferreira weaponises pace!”

And, oh yeah, No J-Bay, back to Barra in Mexico. 

For fun, at various points during the event, and especially on Finals Day, I tried to put myself in the minds of the various Tourism suits watching the action from the VIP tent. V

Very much glad handing going on, butterfly prawns dipped in a handmade seafood sauce, mid-strength beers served by cute waitresses and buff waiters. Much joviality.

What price a local victory? For them, I mean.

Even with the most conservative estimate, a lot.

The claims made as return on the investment compound with local media going into overdrive on a homegrown champion.

The technical term is “media equivalency”.

It’s one of those things we call in the sportswriting biz an intangible. We can all feel them, but bringing them into the material realm is eternally problematic. That intangible tailwind was right behind hometown hero Morgs through the day.

Through the event.

The same tailwind behind Ryan Callinan produced a draw, determined by a countback.

It produced a two-point spread in his semi against Medina after the opening exchange.

A two-turn combo adjudged a clean seven against Medina’s five. That kind of push, especially at the start of the heat can distort the outcome but the only distortion we saw was to time and space when Medina unexpectedly angled left off the back bank, the Ladies Left as Luke Egan called it, pumped twice and sailed across a cricket pitch’s worth of oceanic real estate.

Medina called for a three-pointer, judges threw a 9.57 at it.

That was reality slapping the judges in the face, an involuntary exhalation, the gallic pppffftttt for the tourism suits, the end of the local dream as we prophesied y’day.

No disrespect to Morgs though, if he can back up that result anywhere on the Aussie leg, he’s secured his career for a few years.

The quarters were dull, hampered by lumpen surf with inconsistent curves and few opportunities. It was the closest heat for Italo, who had to swing many, many times on chubby lefts against Deivid Silva before he got the tail high air for the win.

The three-point claim wasn’t the biggest display of emotion.

Toledo claimed that, wandering around roaring like a lion kicking soft furnishings after his win over Connor Coffin. He made it look harder than it needed to be. After scoring some points in the shorey he moseyed out to Connor on the back bank who had a score from a single turn.

Priority followed him out there, which seems ludicrous.

An easy rule fix? Surely someone surfing an entirely different part of the area should have automatic priority if the decide to change locations?

Start afresh, surely.

The final exchange in that quarter looked to go Toledo’s way easily but judges waited and waited cooking up a false drama that eventually ended with Toledo’s excellent choice of furnishings to kick.

Maybe a broken foot was what he needed to stop Italo in their semi?

There was a moment in the semi, which Toledo had seemed to control with a slender lead, when Italo roared back into it with a multiple turn wave. Four big turns on the outside, something playful and jazzy in the shorebreak to bring the crowd into it. Maybe the crotch grab claim and straight stare at the judges which was the hallmark post-ride celebration for the champ.

The replay in slo-mo close-up showed Italo grinning inanely, during the ride!

This guy was having the time of his life. Not even a hint of pressure.

What he did do, and all contest, was put the pressure on opponent. None more so than against Medina in the final. A relentless weaponising of pace. Never seen before, if my reading of pro surfing is correct. Wave after wave, after wave. The conventional wisdom is build a house and then wait for the best waves in the heat.

Not so for Italo. Tail-high air revs on the forehand, big whipped backside rotors. You could feel the gears grinding in Medina’s brain as Italo kept catching, roaming the line-up like a frothing dog. Catching anything that moved.

Don’t look, don’t look.

But he kept looking.

It chopped the legs out from under him. He looked shakier and shakier as the final went on.

The opening exchanges were fierce. Medina went straight up on the best wave of the final, then swung his board into a vicious bottom turn that left a deep cut in the base of the wave, freeing the fins on the top turn. It was a clear and clean advancement on the basic building block of backside surfing.

For mine, the best meat and potatoes wave of the event. Lowballed with an 8.6? A high nine if done by a local? Intangibles we will never know.

Medina fell on an alley oop attempt that never looked right. In the same way he did in the final at Pipe his mojo and skill set seemed to dissipate as the clock wound down. Technically he only needed a mid-ranger six. In our guts, we willed him to do it, but it never seemed likely.

I’m not sure there has ever been a more one sided display of dominance, can we use the term alpha?, than Carissa Moore’s charge through the field. Derek Rielly called the surf a cute two-to-four-feet, the ocean seemed a more generous benefactor to Moore, sending her multiple well overhead waves that I’d have no probs calling four, five foot. Shades of John John at Margarets with the cut through on the carves, the total dominance over the field.

Completely one sided final against Isabella Nichols. Over after Carissa rode her first wave, though she would never admit it. I think the girly diffidence has to hide a deeper sense of steel. No one can be that good, develop the skill set at Pipe for example, without a hidden beast.

Some of you may be wondering about the comparison between Newcastle and Lennox or Newy and Bells. Newy smashed both of them. They would have been royally skunked at the Ox, not a single banner day, many heats run in terrible onshore surf, brown water and rain.

Clean babyfood today, not even breaking at the Point. Bells not much better.

If the suits do get their way and were to win a bidding war against Bells to upgrade the Newy comp to a permanent CT then I think we saw enough to justify the claim. Four CT’s in Oz, could there be five next year?

One axiom I live by: The Woz will never let Tourism money get between them and a CT, no matter how many rules they have to make up as they go along.

Oh yeah, No J-Bay, back to Barra in Mexico. 

Can we have Dane as the wildcard pls.

Italo Ferreira, reigning world champ and current world number one.

Carissa Moore and Italo Ferreira win Rip Curl Newcastle Pro, “Surfing is a beautiful thing, the sort of beauty we want to surround our lives with!”

“It was almost mystical, I had a feeling of nothing-can-happen-to-me, nothing-can-harm-me, nothing-can-touch-me.”

In pretty enough two-to-four-foot waves, event favourites Carissa Moore and Italo Ferreira, from Hawaii and Brazil respectively, executed perfect contest surfing to win the Rip Curl Newcastle Pro.

Moore, who is twenty-eighty and a four-time world champion, dominated the Australian Isabella Nichols, twenty-three, easily collecting her twenty-fourth WCT win and moving into the number one position on tour.

Yesterday, Moore stomped the best air ever made by a woman in a contest, displaying utter confidence and an utter faith in her ability.

In the men, and as predicted by BeachGrit’s tour correspondent Longtom, Brazilian surfers dominated even local favourites Ryan Callinan and Morgan Cilibic.

“Most likely the Newy blue-collar dreams, if that is even a thing anymore, will be smashed to smithereens by a Brazilian.
Anyone of them, Medina, Italo or Toledo would do it.”

As it was, Ferreira, twenty-six, won the “high-energy final” and described the feeling as “almost mystical, I had a feeling of nothing-can-happen-to-me, nothing-can-harm-me, nothing-can-touch-me.”

Longtom’s analysis of finals day to follow shortly.

Open thread: Comment Live Rip Curl Newcastle Pro, Finals Day!

Come into the clubroom, shuck your inhibitions.