Fizz Toledo, dazzling.

Surf Ranch Pro, day one analysis: “Filipe Toledo carries show with four sizzling rides…puts scorecard pressure on Gabriel Medina… wildcards, rookies fail…”

Tough dead withered dreams. Brown as the drought stricken landscape.

First thoughts: Australia does pro surfing so, so much better than America, absent Huntington Beach and its memorable riots of course.

I still have no idea why but I suspect it’s some kind of deeply anarcho-libertarian streak embodied deep in the American surfer consciousness that rejects the roar of standardization which accompanies pro surfing. Most pertinently, the Californian taxpayer has never been tapped like the Australian, a contrast made by Connor Coffin who said after his runs he hoped “California would support the sport a bit more” so they could have more events there.

Dare I say it but there seems more intelligence and insight in the Australian commentary and coverage. Without Ronnie Blakey to counter-balance Cote, Mel and Kaipo we seemed to be in fairyland most of the day.

More on that later.

Second thoughts: Time flies don’t it.

It was just three years ago when the Tub made it’s debut and the WSL and it’s associated cheer squad was drunk with prospects of future growth and mainstream acceptance. Sophie Goldschmidt bet the farm (and her leadership) on the tub transforming Pro Surfing, calling it “game-changing”, envisaging a Shangri-La where tub contests would mirror snowboard half-pipe and skiing with highly progressive, choreographed moves pushing performance much more significantly.

The Kool-aid was intoxicating.

Matt Biolos said we were in for a great leap forwards in both performance and board design.

Nick Carroll openly scoffed at naysayers saying in a piece written after the 2018 Founders Cup that he almost “laughed out loud” at people who said the “jury was still out*” on the tub as the future of pro surfing.

(*Probably yours truly.)

I think the jury is in now and the judgement has been handed down.

I’ll let former CT stalwart Taylor Knox deliver the verdict. He claimed on the current ep of Getting Heated every single one of his buddies found it boring and that it shouldn’t be on Tour. Even the ever-anodyne Mick Fanning claimed it “needed a shake-up” and suggested forcing pros to ride alt-boards to bring some novelty factor back to the basin.

The dream of Shangri-La: the crowds, the broadcast friendly waves on demand, the stratospheric performance leaps, everything, all of it, seemed to finally disintegrate in a shimmering heat haze of disinterest, obliterated by the unrelenting heat of California’s central valley. An inverse of Steinbeck’s Oklahoma dust bowl, where dreams came to die in California, not be reborn.

Tough dead withered dreams. Brown as the drought stricken landscape.

Mikey Wright fell on all four rides for a total score of six. He was up and riding for less than a minute. Vaughan Blakey was asked in a previous episode of Getting Heated who had the best chance of making an impact in the tub, wildcards or rookies.

I can’t remember what he said because I was screaming at the screen the correct answer: Neither of them!

The rookies all failed and the wildcards weren’t far behind. No wave bar Pipeline is more hostile to rookies. The eight warm up rides bake-in failure. Imagine going to the Olympics to do a snowboard half-pipe and your preparation is eight runs. In total.

More Shangri-La myth: remember when Kelly Slater claimed the pool would “democratise” surfing? Now I’m almost laughing out loud.

The opposite is true: technology subordinated waves to its measure, objectifying experience and selling to the highest or best connected bidder.

Is the Surf Ranch the new Brazil?

I mean as an unfavoured location that pro surfers feel free to no-show. The list of truants, some not even bothering to offer an excuse, is long, causing Mick Fanning to claim “people (pros) aren’t respecting it”. A bitter harvest of Slater’s legacy of treating the Tour as his personal plaything? The question is merely being asked, not answered.

Eli Hanneman was the wildcard I was most excited to see surf live. He failed to fire a single shot on four rides with a total of 8.93 for two best rides. I think, bad for his brand and a lowering of his stock. It was close to five hours of non-stop surfing on a mechanical perfect wave before an excellent score was logged. Yago Dora greased a slick air rev as easy as squeezing a watermelon seed between your fingers before casually popping another clean straight air on the end corner for an 8.5.

Those who could, did. And largely they were the same who did it last time, and the time before that. Owen Wright was metronomic in his rhythm on both right and left. That constant pace looks contrived in the ocean against more explosive opponents, fits in perfectly at the basin.

Toledo carried the show with four sizzling rides. What was promised as far as high performance, he delivers. A left on a dark arts constructed Inferno 72 set-up as a quad was my favourite ride of the day. The drive and speed was a notch above.

The only other surfer to experiment with fin configs was Kelly Slater.

Riding a stubby 5’6” quad Kelly fell on the opening wave in the first tube section, safety surfed a left for a score then opened up on his next right. I thought the wave was weirdly under-scored until Dora showed up. Judges will not go excellent without a completed air in the ride. Fair enough.

While they held their nerve for the men, they dropped their bottle when the women surfed. With the completely standardized, albeit flattened technoscape and equal prizemoney it would seem logical to judge men and women not just to the same criteria but to the same scale. ie. a five for a man should be a five for a woman.

Somehow, either by conscious decree or maybe what Galbraith called an “innocent fraud” a five for a man is judged a high six for a woman. Steph Gilmore got a 7.67 after failing to complete the ride. A mid-six at best for the men’s runs that went before.

How will they massage this “innocent fraud” into the tubular reality of Teahupoo and Pipeline and produce a comprehensible sporting product?

That kind of fantasy/magical thinking did provide me with moments of genuine joy today. Chris Cote upon gushing over the tube at Surf Ranch was forced to exclaim, “Even at Pipeline getting barrelled is pretty rare”.

He thought getting your feet taken out by the cascading whitewater on the left was like getting bitten by a Great White.

Rosie was so enthused she went back in time and channeled the dearly departed Sophie G and outlined a future with many more tubs on Tour.

My favourite exchange was between Joe Turpel and guest Malia Ward. Joe tried mansplaining the nuances between the left and the right to which Malia deadpanned, “well the left and the right, they are two different directions Joe”.

Perfect.

I think Filipe, by pushing the bar so high today, has put scoreboard pressure on Medina. Maybe more importantly laid a stake in the ground for what might be expected come Finals Day in September.

That will be an affront to the pride of Medina.

And nothing fucks with you, as we all know, like pride.

See how Medina answers back tomorrow.

Italo, traditionally weak at the tub has the most ground to cover to catch up.

No one else seems relevant, bar Kanoa.


Hawaii’s Tanner Hendrickson fires broadside at Mikey Wright, WSL: “I can think of DOZENS of surfers who could do damage on tour and instead you keep throwing him wildcards without any stellar results!”

Blood Feud!

The Open Thread, Comment Live activity has proven so enjoyable, so robust, that it can even withstand the monotonous hum emanating from Lemoore, California.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t know if it was possible. I pictured that plow and those surfers sitting and bobbing for an eternal five minutes and these commentators hand jamming nonsense and thought, “Nope. Our BeachGrit mosh pit will not be able to find rhythm”

Boy, was I wrong.

Not only have I had many laughs, so far, but blood feuds have been uncovered.

For example I can’t tell who because Disqus handle became obscured, happened to be searching Hawaiian Tanner Henrickson’s Instagram stories, yeoman’s work in and of itself, and stumbled across a broadside delivered against Mikey Wright and the World Surf League.

Give someone else the opportunity of a lifetime @wsl,” Hendrickson began. “Tired of seeing Mikey Wright get a wild card into every event for the past 3 years? I can think of DOZENS of surfers who could do damage on tour and instead you keep throwing him wild cards without any stellar results.”

A fine point, no?

Hendrickson was last seen knocking an açaí bowl from Brazilian Michael Rodrigues’ hand on Oahu’s North Shore.

More entertaining than anything Wright has done this year, or last, no?


Listen: World Surf League announces new show “Surfing with Celebrities” borrowing wonderful idea from much-loved podcast!

You're welcome, world (surf league)!

In an announcement much more exciting that the current Jeep Surf Ranch Pro presented by Adobe, the World Surf League has revealed a new slate of programming.

Many-time-Olympic-medal-winning swimmer Michael Phelps will be hosting “Racing on Water: The Ultimate Waterman Competition” which will be based on Laird Hamilton’s “Ultimate Waterman” competition.

Do you think the name will be changed to Ultimate Waterperson before airing?

Maybe.

Next up, YouTube personality Casey Neistat will follow the World Surf League Championship Tour, exploring it as he goes. Like “No Contest?” Possibly as the series is yet to be titled.

Also, there will be a new show with the aforementioned Surf Ranch as its backdrop called “Surfing with Celebrities” and hosted by celebrity DJ Diplo. This one was baked up fresh from the WSL’s R&D laboratory also known as The Grit! podcast some ten months ago.

It was said, when rolling this beautiful concept out, that credit was not required. No, the simple joy of seeing celebrities in Kelly Slater’s tank would be enough and now we all get to.

On behalf of David Lee Scales and myself, you’re welcome.

In the most recent episode, we also discussed how dull the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro presented by Adobe would be today.

Prescient.

Join the World Surf League’s Santa Monica staff and harvest more gold here.


Open Thread: Comment Live, Day One of the Surf Ranch Pro presented by Adobe!

Let's get ready to rumble!


Tired and maybe injured two-time Pipe Master Jez Flores. | Photo: WSL/Dunbar

Two-time Pipeline Master, described as “all guns and all fun”, makes shock last-minute withdrawal from Surf Ranch event, cites “fatigue” and unspecified “health issues”!

The exodus from tomorrow's Surf Ranch Pro continues as another top-rated pro surfer withdraws from the WSL's only wavepool event.

Hottish on the heels of today’s report of a top-rated surfer describing the Surf Ranch Pro as “an abomination, anti-nature, soulless”  and following the withdrawals of Jordy Smith, John John Florence, Julian Wilson, Kolohe Andino, Michel Bourez and gals Tyler Wright, Lakey Peterson, Bronte Macaulay and Macy Callaghan, is the news that two-time Pipe Master Jeremy Flores has also withdrawn from the contest. 

Reunion Island-born Flores, who is thirty-three and the current world number eighteen, made the announcement in a tweet this afternoon. 

Unfortunately i had to pull out of the Surd ranch event due to some health issues & fatigue. The last few months have been non stop, between the OZ leg & the ISA in El Salvador. I’m going to recover & I’ll be back in the water soon ! Good luck to all 

The news is another blow to whatever prestige the WSL might attach to the event, many surfers of the belief, which is correct, that if y’ain’t Italo, Gabriel or Filipe, you’re gonna lose early and who wants to be sitting around in Lemoore when it’s 111 (44 degrees) and the stink of 100,000 doomed cows from nearby Harris Ranch fills the air? 

Am I right?

Even the New Yorker’s Bill Finnegan, who was fresh off wining the Pulitzer for Barbarian Days when he visited the event in 2018, pronounced it as “unexciting…..the pool made surfing feel tame, domesticated.” 

The highlight of that year, I think very safe to say, was a billboard on the road leading to the Ranch celebrating the diversity of talent at the WSL.

Despite vowing never to cover the event again, Steve “Longtom” Shearer has agreed to write an analysis of each of the three days.

“God yes, I have to,” he wrote to me via SMS. “Just to see what Kelly does.”