Yesterday, I watched more professional surfing than I have in years. North County, San Diego was locked under a grey canopy, cold winds buffeting a flat ocean, and I thought to myself, “Why not fully indulge the Rip Curl Rottnest Search presented by Corona?”
And so I did, taking in most of heats one through eleven. And I have come away from the binge thinking “The World Surf League has just conducted one of the greatest pieces of dadaist theater in professional sporting history” out loud to you.
The great Longtom already wrapped beautifully, highlighting the nonsense, the irrationality of Taj Burrow sitting for an entire heat before putting up a score Mark Zuckerberg could best. The anti-bourgeois protest of Professor Lenny Collard talking about the brave Aboriginals who fought, died, were imprisoned in mass graves facing the “invasion of ocean-borne forces.”
Joe Turpel responding, “Very cool stories, Uncle.”
“Uncle” telling the World Surf League that it would not be invited back.
My favorite moment, though, came nearly two hours in when the World Surf League’s production team made a conscious decision to film what can only be described as Jordy Smith giving water birth to Wade Carmichael in the midst of their heat with Stu Kennedy.
Tell me this was not done on purpose, an avant-garde moment, a riff on our current state of affairs.
Something about gender, maybe.
Very cool indeed.
Rip Curl Rottnest Search, day one analysis: “Strickland Bay challenges the world’s best, brings forth alarming levels of Kookiness; Day saved, as per norm, by Brazilian goofyfooters!”
WSL played a strong indigenous hand on opening day at Rotto, or Wadjemup as it is known to the Nyungar/Whadjuk/Bibbulmun crew who had a thirty-thousand year reign over the Island before, what Professor Lenny Collard termed “invasion from ocean-borne forces”.
Which I guess would be the white man from post-Enlightenment Europe.
Lenny was in the booth with Bugs and Joe for heat two of the day. It was one of the most deeply weird scenes I’ve ever seen in pro surfing. I want to take the charitable view that this marks a new chapter of support of the WSL for indigenous surfing and a movement towards reconciliation in the most ancient country on earth. It seems so hard to avoid the cynical view that the WSL wants to be at the vanguard of companies practising what journalist Matt Taibbi calls “performative activism”.
Lenny got himself on a king hell roll in the booth.
Wadjemup served as an Aboriginal prison between 1834 and 1904 becoming in the process the “biggest deaths in custody site in Australia”. Lenny made the argument that these people were “patriots” who were “defending the homeland” against the aforementioned ocean-borne invaders.
He asked why we remembered Gallipoli*, why we refused to remember mass sites of Aboriginal death like Wadjemup and advocated for the site to be granted the status of “war graves” so it could be appropriately commemorated as part of the Australian history of “dark deeds in a sunny land”.
It was one of the most stunning and powerful pieces of oratory I’ve ever heard.
Joe seemed to sense the same sort of existential danger that the Fanning shark attack posed.
His response to Prof Collard’s soliloquy?
“Sixteen thirty on the clock, we’ve got some numbers to talk about”.
The segueway from Prof Collard to the “numbers” to Mikey Wright’s presser, where he said he was “ready to kick it in the guts and eff it off” in relation to the last place finishes, was sublime.
The peak at Strickland Bay was challenging the world’s best, bringing forth an at times alarming level of Kookiness. The left lurches along at an uneven pace causing many mis-reads and flubbed turns, ending with a gurgled out closeout section.
Two turns and a closeout; it feels like the entire Aussie leg has been two turns and a closeout reo.
Peak kookiness was supplied by wildcard Taj Burrow.
Following on from the hype of Fanning’s wildcard at Narrabeen, where Getting Heated unironically posed the question, Who will stop Mick Fanning? , expectations for Burrow’s return to the jersey were very much hosed down.
He expressed a clear message that winning was off the table as a motivation, it was all about connecting with old pals and showing his family what he used to do. Which I found oddly self-indulgent as a reason to slot him in the draw.
Either he is in with a shot of winning, or at least pushing the envelope, or he gets his back slapped in the competitors’ area and entertains us in the booth.
Tuning in to watch Teeb’s heat offered up as reward a curious blend of schadenfreude and awkwardness. For twenty minutes Taj sat there grinning inanely.
Happy to be there. Great.
Taj paddles for a closeout and aborts the take-off, a ride so abysmal judges deign not to have even considered it a score.
Five minutes to go, Taj is on zero.
Three minutes. Taj on zero.
Ninety seconds to go, Taj paddles into a close-out, falls on a reo for a 0.7.
The hooter sounds. A sub-one point heat for the wildcard.
I know this sounds crazy, but I feel confident I could have beaten Taj in that heat.
Two waves, with cutting across the green face and a cut down on each, surely would have been a point each?
Apart from Jordy Smith’s one delectable power hack on a right, scored as part of a trio of turns for a 7.33 it was the lefts that proved the more high perf. Brazilian goofy foots, it will surprise nobody, were the standouts. Aussie goofies, led by Ryan Callinan and Connor O’Leary were a half step behind. A faux-hawked and Sam George-earringed Medina was the pace-setter. It took him a wave to get his specs in, once he figured out the rhythm he went nuts.
If you’re of limited time, watch his waves.
His heat marked a turning point and a slow, inexorable rise in global performance levels, with the kookiness of earlier heats dissipating. O’Leary and Callinan both swung hard at the lefts. Flores, Pupo and Moniz in heat 10 fought a pitched battle that ended in the final exchange with Pupo in front by a bee’s dick.
The next heat with Bourez, Dora and Peoples Champ Ibelli was also a cracker. As the Main Break right can dish up a rare tube, the Stricko’s left delivered a length of ride barrel for Bourez. Ibelli was strong but Dora seemed more in tune with the lefts than anyone bar Medina.
I like the way reality is now, so, so slowly and incrementally, working its way into the booth. I believe as a result of our efforts here on BG.
Ronnie Blakey finally broke the “everyone can beat everyone” myth of equality at Margs by drily noting that backmarkers were going to have to lift substantially to upset Medina/Toledo/Italo et al. Reality dawned on Bugs today when, despite a massive four-leg Aussie Tour with a massive home advantage in the offing for Aussies, it was now looking likely we would not have a surfer in the Top Five Title showdown Day.
Deivid Silva drove the nail into the coffin by manufacturing an interference call against Morgan Cibilic. Paddled right, straight into him, on a left. It caused the normally conservative Richie Lovett to proclaim, “I’m not sure they’ve called that correctly”.
But, who judges the judges?
Thirty years ago, as noted by guest commentator Scott (sorry name illegible in notes), there were indigenous surfing events in Australia, possibly a far more robust application of the “inclusive” surfing concepts the Woz loves to trumpet.
With the fracturing of the QS, now might be the opportune time for the Woz to put it’s money where its mouth is if they want to build on the good will of the Nyungar elders who have put the welcome mat out at Wadjemup.
*Disastrous World War One battleground for ANZAC forces in Turkey that has become a defining event in national self-identity.
Controversial best-selling author of Cocaine + Surfing, A Sordid History of Surfing’s Greatest Love Affair pledges support of terror group Hamas, responsible for routine mass executions and capital punishment of homosexuals, in Israel v Gaza conflict
There is no moral equivalence between Hamas-ruled Gaza, that fraught, but gorgeous, little strip of Mediterranean beachfront and Israel, a model society amid dictatorships, military juntas and artificially created kingdoms.
“Oh, you who murdered Allah’s pious prophets
Oh, you who were brought up on spilling blood
You have been condemned to humiliation and hardship. Oh Sons of Zion, oh most evil among creations Oh barbaric monkeys, wretched pigs…”
Six-year-old Palestinian girl recites poem on Palestinian television, 2013.
“Israel was not created in order to disappear—Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom.”
Let’s be frank.
However you slice it, there is no moral equivalence between Hamas-ruled Gaza, that fraught, but gorgeous, little strip of Mediterranean beachfront and Israel, a model society amid dictatorships, military juntas and artificially created kingdoms.
Earlier today, BeachGrit principal and best-selling author Chas Smith, (buy Reports from Hell, here, Welcome to Paradise, here, Cocaine + Surfing, A Sordid History of Surfing’s Greatest Love Affair, here) wrote that Israel’s “greatest shame” had begun in the creation of its state in 1948 and that it continues to “cast blame on its subjugated, impoverished, alienated, trapped population for bad behavior worthy of decimation. Squeezing the vice tighter, dreaming fever dreams that it can break the will of a battered people with next to nothing to lose.”
Smith claimed there was no blood spilt between Arabs and Jews in the years prior to 1948.
“The argument that the struggle between Jew and Arab is somehow and ancient grudge match, more deeply rooted than any struggle on earth, is patently false. The troubles began in 1948 with the establishment of the State of Israel and the subjugation of the native Palestinian population.”
Beyond the Jew-killings throughout the Middle East in the nineteenth century and earlier, there were the programs in Algeria, Iraq and Libya in the thirties and early forties. In 1941, hundreds of Jews were murdered in Baghdad, spurring a mass migration out of the country.
Ever since Israel split from Gaza in 2005 as a concession in the never-ending peace process, and after using the army to evict 21 Jewish settler communities, bombs have rained from mosques, hospitals and schools, every Palestinian child, woman, man killed another martyr to the cause; a network of tunnels built in part by child labor ’cause kids are “nimble” are used to smuggle weapons, to kidnap Israelis.
During the last stoush with Israel in 2014, Hamas turned on its own people.
“Hamas forces carried out a brutal campaign of abductions, torture and unlawful killings against Palestinians… In the chaos of the conflict, the de facto Hamas administration granted its security forces free rein to carry out horrific abuses including against people in its custody. These spine-chilling actions, some of which amount to war crimes, were designed to exact revenge and spread fear across the Gaza Strip.”
“I had a date recently. I was in his bedroom and … uh … can I speak crudely? Well, he was going down on me. Suddenly, someone opened the door, then immediately closed it. I was paralyzed! I thought we were going to be murdered. We got up to check: It was actually his blind grandmother who had opened the wrong door!”
The Middle East, y’see, is not known for its fabulousness. Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria ain’t what you’d call progressive. If you’re a gal or you’re a guy kinky for dick in Gaza City, it’s hell on earth.
But in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, girls and boys can flash eyes at each other in public and swim together in revealing swimsuits and not fear a vengeful brother or father. It’s a city where gay men can openly lasso tongues and not cower under the threat of jail or violence.
You’ve gotta admire somewhere that’s surrounded by countries whose sole reason for getting up in the morning is the desire to see it destroyed with as much fire and histrionics as possible.
A few winters ago, on my second trip to Israel, I asked the wife of a guy I met if she was going to have kids. Standard small talk. “With this tension? Last year we were running into bomb shelters. Do I want to bring a child into this?”
When I asked a young surfer if he felt tension between Jews and Arabs he said of course he did, but “it’s our destiny to be chased. It’s our destiny to be hunted.”
The checkpoints, the walls exist because if they didn’t, again, the buses would burn, the nightclubs and cafes would explode, cars would plough into crowds and Jews would be knifed in the streets.
As I write, bombs fall on Israel from Syria.
Two points: Palestinians gotta lose the all-Jews-gotta-die mentality; Israel has to reign in its far-right “settlers”, a destabilising, ruinous force and a disgrace to the Israeli ideal.
Geopolitic: On the International Surfing Association’s State of Israel and its vast failure of imagination and responsibility!
It is impossible to be even vaguely aware of the news and not know that the State of Israel, important member of the International Surfing Association, is currently undertaking a massive military operation against the self-governing Palestinian territory, known as Gaza, to its south.
In response to an uptick in Hamas rockets sailing across its borders, the Israeli Defense Forces have pounded the the densely populated Mediterranean strip from the air, with artillery and a further potential ground invasion in the works.
Many women and children dead. Much destruction of property.
Whole apartment towers flattened etc.
Israel, defending its actions, vows to put a stop to the “terrorist actions,” with Defense Minister Benny Gatz saying, “If the citizens of Israel have to sleep in bomb shelters then Gaza will burn.”
On its face, maybe, a brutally asymmetrical but somewhat sensible argument.
In reality, though, absolutely absurd.
Now, BeachGrit regulars will certainly be aware of my bias. I’ve been to Israel and loved but have spent much more time in Yemen, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and love more. All to say, the argument that the struggle between Jew and Arab is somehow and ancient grudge match, more deeply rooted than any struggle on earth, is patently false.
The troubles began in 1948 with the establishment of the State of Israel and the subjugation of the native Palestinian population.
And imagine, with me, that for the past 72 years the International Surfing Association’s United States and Australia’s subjugated native populations regularly threw dynamite sticks, rocks, etc. at us settlers. Would they be considered terrorists? Likely not, but, most importantly, these subjugated populations don’t regularly throw dynamite sticks, rocks, etc. and why?
Because the United States and Australia have handled their shit. Not always beautifully but handled nonetheless.
Even once-apartheid International Surfing Association’s South Africa, bravely boycotted by Tom Carrol in the 1980s, has handled its shit.
While pretending to be a western democracy and plied with billions of yearly U.S. dollars, the proud little country has not even come close to handling its shit, not only failing in its responsibility, but continuing to cast blame on its subjugated, impoverished, alienated, trapped population for bad behavior worthy of decimation.
Squeezing the vice tighter, dreaming fever dreams that it can break the will of a battered people with next to nothing to lose.
It hasn’t worked for 72 years, it won’t work in 72 more, and this vast failure of both responsibility and imagination should be carried with great shame.
The greatest shame.
Man, if there are two things I can’t stand it’s a lack of responsibility and imagination.
Like listening to Joe Turpel describing Mick Fanning getting attacked by a shark in the middle of a heat.