John John Florence watchers, Kelly Slater, attempt to discern clues left in explosive new interview: “…and while his knee sounded like the Fourth of July, cracking and popping, he pushed through .”

Tea leaves.

Surfing’s grand debut in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, being held in 2021, is mere weeks away and professional surf fans are growing increasingly thrilled, three questions dominating conversations and minds: How will Japan-by-way-of-Huntington-Beach’s Kanoa Igarashi take being unseated as darling by Australia’s Sally Fitzgibbons? Will John John Florence’s knee heel from his unspecified surgery in time for competition or will he cede his spot to runner-up Kelly Slater? Will Stab magazine savage the Olympics like it does the World Surf League or elevate its tone to match the gravitas of history?

On the penultimate, a new, wide-ranging interview just released today provides clues about the state of Florence’s knee but does it provide clarity?

Let us read together.

“Body’s doing good,” Florence tells The Manual, his blonde hair a trademark mess but with clear eyes. “Once you get to this three-week mark, it just gets so much better every day.”

The swelling is down, the range of motion coming back. Just today he hopped back on his Peloton bike (Florence was announced as one of nine athletes sponsored by the company in April), and while his knee sounded like the Fourth of July, cracking and popping, he pushed through. “It felt good to get my legs moving like that,” he says.

Later…

But on the day we talk surfing, we don’t speak of Slater. Instead, we talk of Florence’s own generation, his roots as a Hawaiian, and the people and places that influenced him.

Ending with…

Time is not on his side — Florence admits that if everything with his rehab goes smoothly, the earliest he’ll be back in the water would be two weeks before he’d need to fly to Tokyo for the Games. When he’s able to surf again, it will be in California waters, not Hawaiian, so as to prepare for less-powerful waves that might mimic competition conditions.

Time to sort the tea leaves.

Is a knee that sounds like the Fourth of July good? I’m no doctor, I’ll admit, but it doesn’t sound good and rehab needing to go smoothly in order for Florence to have two weeks of training also doesn’t sound good but, again, no doctor.

Also, is not talking about Slater but rather the people and places who have influenced him Florence’s way of letting Kelly know that he will not give up his slot even if injured? I think it may be a reasonable assumption to draw.

If I was going to put money on it, after reading this interview in any case, I would push it all on Florence heading to Tokyo, Slater heading to Tokyo too, and maybe Shane Stant coming as Slater’s plus one.

My professional surf journalist opinion.


Push turns to shove etc.

The WSL’s Wall of Positive Noise shatters as renegade staff break rank to lambast heritage surfing magazine, “I have seldom seen a media outlet cover the sport that they love so negatively!”

"That's not normal for most sports."

Shock news out of the WSL’s Santa Monica office as breakaway staff members, including its Chief Strategy and Brand Officer and veteran of fifteen years and four months, Mr Dave Prodan, shatter the previously impregnable Wall of Positive Noise™ to single out a much-loved heritage surfing magazine for censure. 

During a recording of the WSL podcast, The Lineup, and in a sub-program called Break Room, where other WSL employees are brought into the game, in this case marketing coordinator, Lyndsey Volk, podcast producer Ryan Faucett, art director Kimberly Hogan and Henry Bear, role unknown, a listener’s question is read out. 

“Is there a rivalry with Stab or is it good for the brand to have an antagonist?”

An unnamed employee unloads,

“Hmmm. It’s an interesting question. So, I work in marketing, for me there’s no rivalry with Stab. They cover us. They’re a media outlet who cover surfing so they naturally cover the best in the world, but it’s not like I’m going on my day-to day, uh, job writing promos or emails saying (funny voice)… oooh… I wonder what Stab’s going to say about this or (funny voice)… ooooh… I’m going too throw this clip in there and see how Stab reacts. 

“But I read a lot of sports media and I have seldom seen a media outlet cover the sport that they love and specifically cover so… (voice raises an octave) negatively… I guess is the word. I feel like there’s a way to have fun with it, like you see Deadspin, stuff like that. 

“I’m not saying there’s no place for criticism in sports, I mean, it’s everywhere, I think the question comes for the fact that most coverage the WSL gets from Stab is negative and that’s why people on Instagram are like, ‘Oh there’s rivalry, how are you responding?’ and are asking us as employees if it plays into our day-to-day jobs. 

“That’s not normal for most sports…”

Following is an exchange is an anecdote about Mad Men with the WSL casting itself as devil-may-care Don Draper and Stab magazine, a much-loved title founded in 2003, as a meaningless underling. 

Two things. 

1. When did the Stab vs the WSL vendetta begin and how did I miss? 

2. Do you, or can you, speak fluent passive-aggressive, as per WSL employees?

(With thanks to BeachGrit reader, Mr Wilson, for listening to the podcast until the forty-minute mark were the exchange takes place.) 


Prediction: Australia’s Sally Fitzgibbons to become darling of the Olympic Games, unseating the beautiful Kanoa Igarashi as “must-have” story!

"People always find me interesting to listen to."

Australia’s Sally Fitzgibbons is in the midst of an unprecedented heater. She won the last World Surf League contest on Rottnest Island and she won the just-wrapped World Surfing Games in sparkling El Salvador. Kelly Slater’s Rumble at the Ranch comes next, of course, and she could well win that, though nobody would care, then it is off to surfing’s grand Olympic debut in Tokyo whew.

Now, I have lived through enough Olympics to know that the mainstream western media is always on the lookout for a darling. Some athlete with a megawatt smile, gold medal around neck, who will pass from talk show to talk show to talk show to talk show. Chatting humbly but engagingly about their sport, upbringing, etc.

Oddsmakers had, until days ago, assumed Japan-by-way-of-Huntington-Beach’s Kanoa Igarashi would be that darling but now Sally Fitzgibbons is firmly in control.

Surfing will be one of the storylines, even though the surf will be “small and funky” and Igarashi will certainly receive some air time but the women’s side will get more attention, Fitzgibbons will win that gold and she will go on to represent our grand pastime the way Duke Kahanamoku once did.

I would recommend re-familiarizing with her so as not to look foolish when your co-workers are talking about the world’s newest starlet.

I would recommend reading Derek Rielly’s interview with her.

Here is a teaser:

You’ve got the cutest damn accent. Tell me about it.

Ya know when people say you’ve got an accent but you can’t hear it? And you go to, say, America and you think you’re fitting in, but then you say something and they pick you up on it? There’s definitely an Australian English. Sometimes I tell a story and I know I’m losing people after a couple of sentences. I guess it’s unique. People always find me interesting to listen to.

Bon appétit but back to Kanoa. How will he handle this coup?

With grace?

Tears?

A herky-jerky dance?

Discuss.


Actor famous for playing “sexless butterballs” and VAL pioneer Jonah Hill buys $9 million dollar “windowless, monolith” at Malibu Colony; canny purchase cements position in iconic lineup once terrorised by Miki Dora!

World's happiest VAL secures prestigious position in Malibu hierarchy… 

Hollywood funnyman Jonah Hill, famous for playing sexless butterballs in a  series of box-office hits including Get Him to the Greek where he shelves alpha rock star Russell Brand’s heroin, has paid nine million dollars for a house in Malibu Colony, a guarded, gated beachfront setup footsteps from point made famous by anti-hero Miki Dora.

Eighteen months ago, Hill, noticeably slimmer since taking up the sport of kings, posted his new status as a vulnerable adult learner surfer on Instagram, 

“Been terrified to surf my whole life . Totally random fear and at the same time always been a secret dream of mine. Turned out to be one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had. Not only was it so fun and challenging but more so I’m like “damn, at 35 you can start doing shit you’ve always wanted to do.” 

And, now, with keys to his modernist mansion, four beds, four bathrooms, sauna, jacuzzi, steam room, rooftop deck, 3600 square feet of lebensraum, and a “windowless monolithically white face facade”, Hill can now count himself as a Malibu local, the house coming with deeded beach access rights and even a little golf cart for transport. 

Take off your shoes and dance, with me, on stockinged feet through the joint.

Pretty sweet etc.


Sensational: World’s greatest living surfer offers one-on-one surf coaching for $200 per hour! “In our minds (he) was Jesus,” says Kelly Slater

Given the surf groupies out there, I imagine many middle-aged men, hipbones lost long ago in a sea of fat, swooning in the arms of the little master.

The three-time world surfing champion Tom Roland Curren, unbeatable for most of his career and who popularised the modern fish surfboard, has unveiled his retirement masterplan, a multi-generational surf school based in France. 

Curren, who turns fifty-seven this year, and his kids Lee-Anne and Nathan (from a teenage marriage to French gal Marie) and Pat and Frank, (from a marriage to Maki, from Panama) have formed Curren Surf School, operating out of the little Basque resort town Hendaye, on the Spanish border. 

Echoes of the Paskowitz family, yes? 

Tom has form in the surf coaching game, as BeachGrit’s Jen See observed at her home beach in Santa Babs.

Then, I saw it. Then I saw the most marvelous thing. I had to blink my eyes to believe it was real. For there was Tom Curren leading an Adult Learner around the lineup. The Adult Learner was perched precariously on a longboard as Curren paddled along beside him like a mother duck minding her chick.

If you’ve never seen Curren in real life, or at least not lately, he looks exactly like you’d imagine. A shock of blonde hair, grey around the edges, perpetually disheveled sits above a face cut deep with lines from the countless hours of staring at the horizon and beyond. His stocky build looks purpose-built for turning surfboards. These days, he has the slightly vague air of an artist, of someone who finds his interior life distractingly interesting, maybe more so, than the world around him.

A small wave came through with no takers. Curren cajoled his adult learner into position and urged him to paddle. Then he gave him a push. The adult learner came to his feet and did a thing that looked something like surfing. Success!

Suddenly, I was extremely jealous. I want a push, too! Where’s my Tom Curren! Tom, Tom, can I get a push? Tom, I need some help over here!

Getting a piece of Tom is real cheap, two hundred bucks an hour, add thirty if you want it videoed, and given the Curren groupies out there, I imagine many middle-aged men, hipbones lost long ago in a sea of fat, swooning in the arms of the little master.

Click here to examine the website, which miraculously switched from English to French over the past twenty-four hours, although details are pretty easy to comprehend. 

Any questions, ask France-based James Bickerton in the comments. 

And, here’s a taste of the Tom you’ll be getting, filmed last year.