Celebrate: Not a dry eye expected in Australia tonight as favorite son, three-time World Champ, Mick Fanning inducted into proud nation’s Surfing Hall of Fame!

Hall of Famer today, Prime Minister tomorrow.

The proud surfing nation, Australia, will click on its televisions tonight, find the Australian Surfing Awards program and ready the box of tissues as favorite son Mick Fanning is inducted into the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame.

Fanning will join the likes of Jodie Cooper (Class of ’20), Mark Richards (Class of ’85) and Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew (Class of ’87) and beat stablemate Joel Parkinson to the high honor.

He won three Association of Surfing Professionals World Championships (2007, 2009, 2013). Unfortunately, I can only recall two taglines: “Micktory” and “lighting strikes twice” but I think “Micktory” was actually his second 2009 tagline so was it “lightning strikes thrice?”

What was the first one called?

“Lightning strikes?”

While you’re thinking, the great Nick Carroll, Australian Surfing Awards’ curator, said, “Public or private, there’s the sense that Mick Fanning, despite his renowned game face and rock-hard attitude in competition, is an open book. What you see is what you get, and that might be a quality Australians love in a person more than anything.”

Did you know that you can buy a “Micktory” hat for $79.99 on Ebay right now?

The product description reads, “MICKTORY Mick Fanning ASP WORLD CHAMPION 2009 Rip Curl Trucker Hat COLLECTIBLE ITEM. Condition is Pre-owned and good.”

You can see here (as modeled by surf journalist Tim Baker).

A fine look for any occasion.

All day the marker for the best surfing was how high in the lip line surfers put the initial and the finish turn. Lots pulled it down way short of the lip line. Flores on his heat winning wave, went way, way up into the lip, into a layback power carve, then smashed a giant close-out. Very David with the sling shot aiming up against Goliath. Very nuts. Clutch as they say, though remarkably they didn't.

Margaret River Pro, day two analysis: Performance gap between John John Florence and field narrows; Jeremy Flores like “David with the sling shot against Goliath. Very nuts!”

Come on, admit it, we are all Margaret River lovers now.

Our point of departure is Margaret River, four years ago.

The gap between John John Florence and the rest of the field was colossal. You can’t even remember who was in the final with him, right.

Same guy he flogged in 2019, Kolohe Andino.

I think we need to say the gap has narrowed. John is surfing amazing, but not appreciably better, compared to the rest of the field, than he did two and four years ago.

A full days competition in six foot-plus surf with overlapping heats gave us all fair assessment of the narrowed gap. Filipe looks faster, sparkier, more repertoire. Caio could beat him again, as he did during their deadly, timeless battles during 2016. Colapinto has evolved, Gabe is fully present, in a way he’s never been in Maggie River.

Ryan Callinan has finish turns only rivalled by Medina. What I’m saying is a mild challenge to the orthodoxy that John is unbeatable here is warranted after today’s performances.

A quick word on some losers. Mikey Wright has an image problem. We first knew him as the Weetbix kid, then he re-emerged like a butterfly from the Quiksilver marketing chrysalis as a full-fledged native born bogan wild man.

OK, we could swallow that.

But the wild colonial boy surfed strangely conservative heats in his wildcard run in 2018. The soul of an accountant seemed to lurk beneath the mullet. Now he’s back and charging like a mallee bull, but it seems every turn is over-compensating for the initial timidity, as if he needs to justify in the minds of the judges and fans that the wild bogan image is real. Quik probably won’t drop him, burnouts sell boardshorts.

But he needs to cool it and make a heat.

That’s another last place. Third in a row.

Ace might need to consider his future. He was woefully out-classed by Italo in the afternoon. Italo surfed OK, pulled his backhand hooks a bit short, finished very strong. But he looked vulnerable. Ace should review closely. Surf coaching beckons and he would make a very fine one.

What to do with Ethan Ewing?

A decade since John John and Medina came on tour in 2011. The last great rookies who justified the hype as title contenders. Italo doesn’t count, because he came on tour with zero hype. Ewing is getting the same hype a second time around, and getting comboed in six-foot rights by a goofyfoot. Too many weak heats. Continually damned with faint praise by competitors who beat him easily. Looks like a perennial backmarker apart from a few flashes in Narrabeen.

Overlapping heats started with Leo and John John. Leo hassles the shit out of the champ for the opening wave and gets an 8.67 less than five minutes in to a forty-minute heat. John answers with a 7.67. You out-surf the champ by a point in the opening exchange so what do you do?

Leo went and sat.

Stubbornly refused to surf a wave. John caught a wave, then another, then another and another. Got some scores, lowballed by the judges, who judge him against what he can do out there, not by what he does do. Carries a handy lead. Leo needs a mid-seen. Two turns and a close-out reo.

Peterson Crisanto in the next heat rides a solid mid-ranger. Two turns and a close-out reo for a 7.87.

Somehow this sitting like a Buddha under the Bodhi Tree awaiting enlightenment strategy, perversely called by Joe and Bugs in the Booth “keeping the champ off waves” (how?) is considered the height of wisdom.

Of course,  time ran out and Leo was short a wave, forced to scrap on a piece of shite. Only in pro surfing would this losing strategy, of aggressively doing nothing, be considered what Bugs called “spot-on”.

Didn’t Morgan Ciblic just conclusively demonstrate not once, but twice, how to beat him? Attack hard, keep swinging, put him under scoreboard pressure and make him ruminate. John even admitted after the heat that he was bothered by the opening hassle.

Peculiar, as the gang of lunatics said to Nurse Ratched. Very peculiar.

Jack Robbo and Jeremy Flores surfed the heat of the day. It was hours later when they interviewed Jack and he was still twitching about nervously. If you’ve got a spare forty it’s worth watching in its entirety. Very good exchanges. Robbo pulling away and holding a solid lead with ten to go. It’s very rare, and it speaks to how hard it is to ride a surfboard, let alone to do something amazing, something better than you have been doing under extreme pressure, to see someone behind in a heat come back and win.

Most surfers crumble.

All day the marker for the best surfing was how high in the lip line surfers put the initial and the finish turn. Lots pulled it down way short of the lip line. Flores on his heat winning wave, went way, way up into the lip, into a layback power carve, then smashed a giant close-out. Very David with the sling shot aiming up against Goliath. Very nuts. Clutch as they say, though remarkably they didn’t.

One person who will not be bothered by a hassle is Gabe Medina. If he was anymore relaxed he’d be comatose. He just relentlessly outsurfed Connor O’Leary, who might end up down the Lennox servo pouring coffees next year if he can’t find a way to win.

The draw is unequal, despite what they day and Medina has his measure, easily.

Fatigue set in in the booth and the coverage got scrappy. Bugs was still halfway across the Nullabor in 1973, on the end of one, when Jacob Wilcox rode a potential heat winner against Kanoa. It was not called by the booth, we saw no replay.

The score seemed suspiciously low. Did you see?

Was Jacob cooked in his own backyard by the ultimate cosmopolitan?

I think yes.

Yago also seemed cooked. Heat reviews of both heats are warranted.

People’s champ Caio looked amazing, “Feels so good to surf real waves” he said as a golden glow set upon a lineup that people love or hate.

It has been looking fine, when framed by the east coast beachbreaks that preceded it though, no?

Come on, admit it, we are all Margaret River lovers now.

John and the wavepool has made it thus.

Open thread: Comment live, Margaret River Pro elimination round!

Dance on the graves of losers; celebrate the reprieved!

Coup d’état: Australia rocked as The Irukandji Olympic surf team underwhelms on World Surf League; calls to replace Owen Wright, Julian Wilson grow louder!

Heads will roll.

Surfing’s Olympic debut, Tokyo 2020, was set to be our Pastime of Kings’ grand coming out. The world stage, all eyez on us, respectability, riches, honor, gold gushing in from all corners.

Well, Covid-19 sure through* a wrench in those works but we march on, unbent.

The Irukanjis march on, unbent but maybe breaking.

You certainly recall how Australia’s team, made up of Julian Wilson, Owen Wright, Sally Fitzgibbons, Stephanie Gilmore excitedly took on the name of a tiny, nasty jellyfish then later adopted the tagline “Deadly in the Water.”

Each qualified well over a year ago but their very poor performances at Newcastle and Narrabeen have rocked the proud surfing nation.

Per a jus-released story in The Guardian.

Australia’s surfers were selected prior to the Covid-19-induced postponement of the Olympics last year, meaning their inclusion is based on form from 2019. Poor performances at the first two events of the WSL season, in Newcastle and Narrabeen, puts added pressure on the quartet. Fitzgibbons and Gilmore were both knocked out in the quarter-finals in Narrabeen, while neither Wilson or Wright made the quarters in either event. In contrast, reserve surfer Ryan Callinan made the quarter-final in Newcastle and youngster Morgan Cibilic did not bow out until the semis.

“We’re not concerned,” says Surfing Australia’s Wilcomes. “We have four of the world’s best surfers. They have so much talent and expertise that they bring. It is not ideal with those results, but there has been a break from competition and this is a great time to reflect, take away those learnings and put them into action in the competitions ahead.”

“We’re not concerned.”


Nothing says “not concerned” like saying “not concerned.”

The quartet will, in any case, have to go to El Salvador then Mexico to surf in ISA stuff, which will be a total hassle and apparently demanded by chief Fernando Aguerre, then off to Tokyo.

Will Australians take to the street, demanding Wilson and Wright’s replacement by Callinan and Cibilic before then?

Should they?

More as the story develops.

*Sorry. Hungover.

“You never see guys backdoor the bubble,” said Jack Robinson with respect to John's ten-point ride. Was it the best tube-ride ever at Margarets? Jack Robinson: “It's the best one I've ever seen”.

Margaret River Pro, day one analysis: “John John Florence Like Cleopatra in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, he makes hungry where most he satisfies!”

Great day in waves Hawaiian Seth Moniz described as "five feet".

Great opening day in what Seth Moniz called Hawaiian five feet at Main Break, Margaret River.

We know the biggest waves went unridden, Moniz said the “bomb sets are not rideable” but nonetheless it did confirm the full extinction of the mid-length step-up in the pro surfing caper. The days of pro’s riding anything bigger than 6’6” are over.

The black hole in the quiver is between 6’6” and 9’0”. Pros now ride 6’2″s, what my pal Derek Hynd calls “Christmas boards for kids”, as a matter of course in ten-foot surf. No current, no crowd, and a jet ski to ferry you back after every wave; there’s no need for a board that can deal with a big paddle anymore.

You can’t argue, of course, with what John Florence can do on a 6’2” in big surf. It’s been so era defining that Griffin Colapinto admitted he was riding a 6’1” copy of John’s board and the rest of the field was doing likewise.

Medina was on a 6’2”, looking imperious, Ryan Callinan on a 6’4” laid down the best backside two-turn combo ever seen at Main Break rights for a 9.80.

We barely need to say Main Break rights, it is righthander now as defined by the world’s best. By my count, three lefts were ridden today. One by Japanese rookie Amuro Tsuzuki for the heat winning high score of a 7.33, a wobbly fat-faced thing. Other lefts ridden by Jordy Smith and Ace Buchan were inconsequential to heat totals.

Thus, despite some spitting bombs in the afternoon and an over fifty-year history in surfing competition the lefthanders at Main Break were left to go unridden.

The one impression left by John Florence, both after his heat, and the extended edit he dropped the day before the comp began was that we wanted more. Like Cleopatra in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra he makes hungry where most he satisfies.

Unlike Sally Fitzgibbons, who nonetheless did us a great service in the booth when she broke down the mechanics of the Main Break right, describing the difficulty of getting the first turn high on the face, the extensive area of dead, flat water to be traversed and the insanity of the end closeouts, whereby two great confluences of whitewater triangles converge, making surfers into versions of aquatic crash-test dummies.

I paraphrase her, but that was the gist of it.

It highlighted, seconds later, the rarity, the perfection of the read and the gap between John and the rest of the field, when he backdoored the right, spent the whole wave ducking and weaving deep behind an imperfect curtain and emerged with just enough time to throw a claim and smash the end section.

“You never see guys backdoor the bubble,” said Jack Robinson with respect to John’s ten-point ride.

Was it the best tube-ride ever at Margarets?

Jack Robinson: “It’s the best one I’ve ever seen”.

John sees something other’s don’t out there. Primarily the line drive off the bottom. He was the first guy to identify that very thin band of energy at the base of the wave, a fraction higher up than had traditionally been ridden as the correct place for a bottom turn. That would slingshot him high into the face without losing the speed and centrifugal force necessary for the high-speed arc he pioneered in 2015 and perfected in 2017.

Others are now starting to take the same line. Griffin Colapinto found it, as did Ryan Callinan.

Heat five, with Italo, Jack Robbo and Jacob Wilcox saw all three surfers utilising the Florence line. It was the best heat of the day. I favoured Italo’s forever bottom turns, probably only shaded by Medina’s for length. Judges were more impressed with Wilcox’s efforts to attack the lip. I’m not totally convinced by Robinson’s top turns; they sometimes look two-staged. There is the opening drive, then a second effort, which lacks the fluidity and the drama of that Florence whip in the late stages of his top turn. No doubt that is where he is aiming though.

Today would have been a great day for long heats with a leaderboard. Everyone surf once, in an hour or ninetyminute heat; we would have got a lot more John John, a lot more radical surfing as everyone warmed up. John had plenty more to give, as did Gabe.

Matty MacGilvray probably didn’t. He surfed about as good as he ever has in a heat to lay down an excellent score. If there is a rookie to explode out of this event, it will be him. Morgan Ciblic was not able to recover after wearing monster set on the head. In an extended heat with a leaderboard he could have easily had the time.

We could have then cut the field based on those who couldn’t cut it at ten-foot Margarets, instead of having an entertaining day with zero consequences for the draw.

No one got sent home.

Everyone gets a gold star and a second chance.

Which makes tomorrow a difficult decision for the comp director.

Two more heats of round one, then the elimination round.

Do you throw them out at the Box? And “waste” what could be peak conditions out there?

Or run them at Main Break and then go to the Box?

Now that the gals are also being fitted into the same waiting period time is a precious commodity. They won’t get it done in this swell cycle, which means gambling on fair winds at the end of the waiting period, by which time, this semi-epic day will be ancient history.

It’s the same old problem.

And we are no closer to a solution.