Daddy Rick squeezes his boy Fizz.

Surf Ranch Pro, finals day analysis: “Only the very last rides from Toledo and Medina had any sense of drama…We don’t need to see days of mind-numbing safety surfing from the rest of the Top 34!”

Toledo now in the box seat at number three. 

Thank God they got the right two men and women for the Finals, eventually, and plenty of analysis to come I promise so stay tuned for that. 

Allow one quick (existential) digression, por favor re: the Surf Ranch Pro.

Can you legitimately create a sporting event where no drama happens, there is only light and no shade, nothing is allowed to penetrate the veil of sunshine and rainbows, where there is no controversy, no conflict?

Where big is little, soulful is aggressive, huge is subtle, guys about to be relegated to the QS are “legimitate World Title Contenders” or “the Future of the Top 5”? Where “blessed” psychobabble reigns supreme, losers are quietly disappeared without being interviewed and the creator of the venue creates his own rules at his discretion? 

The answer is yes, I suppose, because that’s the universe the WSL has created at Surf Ranch. 

By contrast I drove an hour north yesterday to watch an NRL game at a Gold Coast stadium, with two eleven-year-old boys. Frothing groms who elected not to watch a single wave of Surf Ranch. The crowd was full of Rugby League fans who got what they paid for, sans being preached to, assaulted with Greenwashing, and hammered with ads and uncounted and inexplicable breaks.

The second half was a blow-out. The losing coach faced the media, answered questions. Called the performance of his team “unacceptable” and “horrible”, said it was the “lowest he had ever felt as coach”. This presser was broadcast, without shame, without self-censorship. After being marooned on WSL island the honesty and embrace of reality was as intoxicating as the highest mountain air. 

We described Italo as a step behind the contenders yesterday. He failed to repair his weakness on the left in his bonus run. Falling early and missing the Finals cut line. Kelly, slightly overscored after spidery, thin surfing on a left for a 7.07 made the cut. Owen Wright, critically underscored on a right, was eliminated by one. Owen’s thoughts were not sought on the score. He simply disappeared as if he had never existed. 

Yago Dora made the left his own running a version of the Medina line, which entails fins free on every turn, with acceleration from the grind. A pair of airs thrown down, one just after the mid-way point wave deceleration and one at the end corner.

In one of his many pressers today, a defensive Kelly Slater responding to criticism of the pool as competition venue cited Dora’s performance as justification.

Is that legitimate rebuttal? I say no.

Only the very ending stanza of rides from Toledo and Medina had any sense of drama about them. That led some to suggest the Finals Day  venue should be shifted from Trestles to the Basin. I think there is more merit in that idea, but not a top five. A top three only. Three runs each. Run and done in a couple of hours like a Super Bowl.

We don’t need to see days and days of mind-numbing safety surfing from the rest of the Top 34.

Even in the Finals people safety surfed.

Ethan Ewing, with nothing to lose and everything to gain by finally showing the world how good he could surf came up with a seven on the right and a particularly weak brace of rides on the left scoring a 4 and a 5.67.


Who is coaching this guy?

You want him back on the QS without firing a shot at CT level? 

Carissa Moore hit her high point in the two bonus runs with a brace of eights. There was more flow and power in the women’s performances compared to 2018 and 19 but a conspicuous lack of progressive risk.

And when I say a lack, I mean zero.

No one took Lakey Peterson’s Finals winning air rev or Caz Marks’ tail-high reverse and attempted to duplicate it.

No one.

Judges showed they were perfectly happy to reward risk-free safety surfing when Sally Fitzgibbons did seventeen identical snaps, surfing purely off the fins and tail rail for a 7.5. Judges brains finally melted down in the heat, after an amazing display of rigour.

Performances were well down, with rare exceptions, but scoring failed to reflect that. 

There was a long period of pure aggravation for surf fans prior to the Finals that felt like deliberate provocation by the WSL.

The machine stopped, there was no indication of when the action would resume, we were verbally and visually assaulted by both talking heads and program filler. By the time they cut to a little “feel good” piece about the chef from Pasquales, Mexico, now head chef at Surf Ranch wobbling his way across a left on a foamy the mood was beginning to resemble the one inside the lift in Dirty Harry 4.

You know the one?

An aggravated Harry Callahan grabs his tormentor by the tie, yanks him close and says, “Listen punk, to me you’re nothing but dog shit and a lot of things can happen to dog shit. It can be scraped up with a shovel, it can dry up and blow away with the wind,  or it can be stepped on and squashed….”

But alas, in our fairy bubble universe Cote and Mel and Turpel and Rosie wouldn’t dry and blow away in the parched wind. No matter how much we wanted them too.

Aggravation continued with the broadcast. Starts of waves missed. Replays not shown. Judging scale was obviously reset for the Finals, especially for the women but why? And how?

And for what purpose?

Despite all the provocations, for a magical fifteen minutes everything clicked. I make that period during the latter part of the mens semis. Kanoa was in first place. Medina needed a combination of scores. His waves to respond were the highlight of the event. A late float to entry in the last tube section of the right was legit high risk, the precise edge work that only Medina can manage. The left was seamless. Super deep bottom turns, a slick air and transition free kerrupt flip at the end. Still down on his high points in 18/19 but enough to make the Finals. 

Defay was strong. She did what she did all event. Brought nothing new to the Finals, but she didn’t have to because Carissa Moore didn’t either. Both elected to keep fins engaged at all times, concentrate on flow and timing and in the end Defay was rewarded for safely surfing a right, nowhere near her best wave for a winning 7.93. 

But Toledo did.

He botched the ending on both opening rides for a pair of sevens. Which left the door open to Medina, who bizarrely fell, overcooking his opening left. Toledo’s second right was the wave of the event. Board slide, tube, alley oop to full rail turn to slide. That was the final sequence.

Perfect execution. His left was overscored.

The 9.28 requirement for Medina was easily obtainable. Another inexplicable choke. 

Toledo now in the box seat at number three. 

Assuming he holds position for Trestles. He surfs twice, at his favourite wave. Sleeping in his own bed, enjoying home cooking. Sticking everything. Comes in fully aroused and warmed up against Medina with his poor record there. Best of three heats. 

I want money on Filipe Toledo. 

Meanwhile, in another universe, a much grittier and gloomier one, the rest of the Australians are clustered down the arse end of the ratings like flies on sheep dags.

Apart from Morgs, of course. 

Breaking: Shockingly naughty, extremely explicit hot mic controversy overshadows epic final day at Surf Ranch Pro!

Locker room talk.

A shockingly naughty, extremely explicit hot microphone controversy is overshadowing Brazilian Pip Toledo inspiring victory over countryman Gabriel Medina at the Surf Ranch Pro presented by Adobe and threatening to undo years of work the World Surf League has put in to equality, respect, honoring women etc.

The incident occurred on day two of the just-wrapped championship tour contest, held in Lemoore, California, and in the control tower?



The location may never be revealed but, wherever they were, two, maybe more, men can be heard speaking about…

…well, the ears burn to listen and the fingers ache to write.

The sound is extremely muffled, at times, but clear enough, at others, to make out classic tropes plus more progressive, dangerous even, sexual explorations, denigrations.

Locker room talk.

Inappropriate talk.

The hot mic is not solely a potential undoer of co-Waterperson of the Year and owner of professional surfing Dirk Ziff’s empire, of course. Former President Donald J. Trump’s campaign was almost comminated by a now-famous vulgar conversation between George H.W. Bush’s nephew Billy and the then Republican candidate.

Much-used actor Ernest Borgnine caught saying something equally inflammatory though without the misogyny.

The World Surf League’s equally now-famous “stay tuned” screen became fertile ground for many beautiful memes but also fertile ground for…


Listen here.

(Headphones encouraged, probably required, volume pinned etc.)

Fizz Toledo, cool under pressure.

Filipe Toledo breaks wavepool hoodoo to win epic Surf Ranch final against “caged animal” Gabriel Medina! “A big storm just blew through Lemoore!”

Filipe combines "barbaric turns" and "adult style" to become first surfer to beat Gabriel Medina in three years at Surf Ranch.

For the first time ever, a surfer other than Gabriel Medina has won the Surf Ranch Pro.

In identical three-foot waves, file number “CT3”, world number four Filipe Toledo beat the current tour leader Gabriel Medina, who won the event in 2018 and 2019. Toledo was runner-up in both those events.

Today, hoodoo broken.

Ain’t much to fault about Fizz at the tank, his turns barbaric, his style adult.

Medina needed a 9.28, on a left to win the event, but fell early, giving Toledo his second win of the season (after Margaret River) and pushing him into third on the rankings. 

After two pretty tough days, once each wave had a little consequence behind it, ie make the semis, make the final, win the final, the event went from having the taint of insanity to a magnetism not seen all year.

Filipe thanked God and welcomed the return of his daddy, Ricardo, to his team.

“I’m so tired, I want to go home,” said Medina. “The judges made hard… especially with me… man, I just want to go home.”

Celebrations began as the temperature hovered at forty-one degrees celsius.

In the women, Reunion Island surfer Johanne Defay beat current world number one, the Hawaiian Carissa Moore, although fans were divided on the merit of the win.

Analysis, by Steve “Longtom” Shearer coming shortly.

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

This is the end!

Gaz and Waz, happy in the heat.

Surf Ranch Pro Day Two Analysis: “Like a dog coming back to lick its own vomit the mess of the Surf Ranch has an irresistibly vile attraction to me”

Why cover pro surfing at all is a question any surf journalist has to grapple seriously with during Surf Ranch.

Gots to admit: today’s coverage was much harder than yesterday.

Any lingering whiff of novelty had worn off; what was left was hard, repetitious, (mostly) incomprehensible slog. Why even come back after vowing to never cover it again. Like a dog coming back to lick its own vomit the mess of the Surf Ranch just seemed to have an irresistibly vile attraction to me.

Obviously others had made the same vows and kept them.

I trawled the mainstream press looking for coverage.

Nothing. LA times, San Francisco Examiner, all the Aussie papers. Not a dicky bird.

The surfing media was mostly flatlining. STAB came out with a desultory wrap after yesterday’s opening day which made me think, why even bother? This was a fart in an empty room. It both stunk and created zero reaction. Seven hundred people watching on Facebook Live as the women were about to hit the water, that bumped up to around 1500 as Carissa Moore surfed and stayed there for the rest of the day.

Medina shrugged off any scoreboard pressure and came in just a hair behind Toledo. Performances just under his previous high points, according to my notes from 2018 and 2019, backed up by the judges. There’s no surfer with higher surf IQ on Earth, the ability to read, adapt, master; replicate in a consistent fashion. Gabe mastered Surf Ranch from his opening runs. The software runs perfectly every single time.

Why cover pro surfing at all is a question any surf journalist has to grapple seriously with during Surf Ranch.

There’s no fun it.

It’s equivalent to the mechanical fucking of porn stars accompanied by industrial scale gaslighting from the corporate machine and commentary. There’s a perverse pleasure in being tuned up so high listening to so much anti-reality while trying to navigate back to some kind of, any kind of, objective truth.

Three hundred-thousand gallons of water a day lost from the tub in drought-stricken Central Valley and we get barraged with Greenwashing.

Pure Alice in Wonderland stuff.

Two things stood out. Firstly, the amazing stasis from year to year in terms of the contenders. Toledo, Medina, Owen Wright, Slater. Defay and Moore amongst the women.

Second, the total failure of the wildcards and rookies. Only Morgan Cibilic managed a semi-respectable 14th on the leaderboard (9th place) though that could go down.

Jack Robinson failed, as did Ribeiro, Eli Hanneman, Lucas Vicente, Michael Dunphy, Nat Young, Liam O’Brien, Jabe Swierkocki. Not one could produce a decent scoreline after four perfect waves.

That’s a savage indictment, although on what I’m not sure. The wave itself? The talent level on Tour?

Hard to imagine any elite sport with that much failure put out there. The women were no better. Caitlin Simmers was fun to watch but failed to produce a score. As did Kirra Pinkerton, Alyssa Spencer, Amuro Tsuzuki.

Only previous event winner Coco Ho made a dent in the draw with some stylish tube-riding and swoops.

And the format.

All that was simple, elegant and brutally easy to understand about Surf Ranch, a Leaderboard followed by a Finals Day was butchered by a new system of bonus runs that dragged things out interminably, left us wanting less, in a state of confusion. Give ’em four runs and a Finals Day.

This thing should be over in a day-and-a-half. Let the brutality work its magic. The machine is cruel. Let cruelty reign.

OK, granted Griff Colapinto made full use of the bonus runs on a middle-aged groveller board. Which fitted the Tub perfectly. The vast majority of bonus runs were pissing in the wind. Did we really need to see more Surf Ranch waves ridden by back markers?

I say no.The audience says no. Mainstream press says no.

The direction of the WSL has always seemed antithetical to both commonsense and any kind of grand narrative that can inflame surfer imagination, accelerated since the loss of Fiji and the advent of Surf Ranch.

Why became clearer to me after listening to a podcast with Dave Prodan and a bunch of WSL employees I think called Break Room. Did you listen?

The general level of cluelessness was off the chain. From the top to the bottom they are so clueless they have no idea they are clueless.

One of the employees told an anecdote about how his sister-in-law from Kansas tried to watch a comp and couldn’t even understand how many surfers were in a heat and why. He came to the (sensible) conclusion that the barrier to entry as far as becoming a fan of the sport was high.

True. Very true.

Prodan responded that he thought the problem was the “packaging” and that initiatives in 23/23 would make the sport more understandable to the mainstream.

Watching Surf Ranch makes one realise how laughably deluded that proposal is no matter how much you try and dumb it down for Middle America. The problem with Surf Ranch is both packaging: it’s boring and ugly and drab and repetitive and product: the scoring is incomprehensible to commentary and viewers.

Commentators had no idea how to parse rides and fell back to default gushing over everything. At one point counting turns became a way of grading rides. Ms Kansas has no chance of deciphering a 6.15 from a 6.67. We’ve gone back to the days of three to the beach, except now it’s 15 to the beach. Ironically the mechanical reproducibility of the Tub has made surfing less accessible and understandable than ever to the non-surfer.

It must be shortened.

Guys and gals must compete against each other.

Johanne Defay would beat the entire bottom half of the mens draw on current form. Steph Gilmore surfs deeper than anyone. Sally Fitzgibbons surfed the left better than all save Medina.

If the Tub is to be an innovation then let it be an innovation that erases the distinction between the sexes. If we are going to remove nature from the equation, then we might as well nix biology too.

PS: I think Italo is still a stutter step behind the true contenders but reserve right to withhold judgement until his final bonus runs.