Surf Ranch creator, Kelly Slater. | Photo: WSL/Dunbar

Why did Surf Ranch fail, as wave pool tech and as a contest, so spectacularly? “A dull ache of unrealised desire at the deathless sight of that impossibly perfect wave”

"When Kelly thinks about what is being done in his name and looks in the mirror, does he still see an environmentalist looking back at him?"

Ever since the looming Jeep Surf Ranch Pro stuck its head around the corner, sick notes and reasons of absence forms have been hitting WSL email addresses with the relentlessness of Qassam rockets bound for  Ashkelon.

Julian Wilson, wanted to think about the Olympics for six weeks and there ain’t no chance he’s decamping to Tachi Palace and surfing the tank. 

Jordy Smith, out, knee injury, although the six-three beast is no fan of the pool, says it’s “predictable” and “really not that exciting to the viewers after watching the tenth surfer go back into the barrel for another ten seconds.” 

John John Florence, Kolohe Andino, Michel Bourez and gals Tyler Wright, Lakey Peterson, Bronte Macaulay, Macy Callaghan.

All out. 

Brazil used to be the black sheep of the tour, injuries, apparently catastrophic before the contest repairing magically soon after. 

After last year’s event, BeachGrit’s tour reporter Steve “Longtom” Shearer, jerkerd awake long enough to pull his head out of his pretzel bowl and write,

We’re five years into this thing now.

Five long years.

The gap between the rhetoric, that tubs were going to loose a tsunami of radical innovative surfing, and the reality, conservative surfing, is becoming clearer every day. It’s become what Orwell termed the “inadmissible fact.” It’s put us in upside down world, where Chris Cote, when he hears the train says, “ This never gets old” means “there’s something deeply wrong here but I can’t dare acknowledge it”.

Five years.

Can someone on the pro wavepool side of the argument explain to me why, given the basic repeatability of the wave, some new trick is not conceived, mastered and then executed to a stunned judging panel ala vert skating or snowboard half-pipe?

Wasn’t that the whole point?

On a recent post featuring the seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore at the tank, WSL fans wrote, 

Snooze. Throw in the air section. 

Most uninteresting event on tour. Every time I see this wave I keep scrolling. 

Good for training, horrible for contest. RIP WSL.

Soooooooo booooring. 

Same commentary on every wave… stick to mother ocean. 

And so on. 


It’ll be six years, this December, when Kelly unveiled the tank, a miracle of technology and vision, a wave so perfect most thought it was a prank. Better than anything before it or, if flawless points are your thing, since.

It would be the lavishly tanned eleven-time world champ’s final legacy; his gift to surfing, a facsimile of Little Marley, the draining sandbottom right-hander that runs across Rainbow Bay. 

And here we are, 2021, years after Kelly sold the biz to the WSL and besides the Lemoore prototype not a single Slater pool has been built.

The Israeli-German-Basque Wavegarden tech has flourished, fully functioning commercial pools in Melbourne, Switzerland, England, Brazil.

American Wave Machines has Texas and Japan tanks, more to follow. 

Same with Tommy Lochtefeld’s Surf Loch, one under construction in Palm Springs, a few privates kicking around, more coming.

City Wave, the German bidder of stationary pools,  notably represented by Shane Beschen in the US, has ‘em indoors, outdoors, in the US, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, Russia and Israel. 

The closest a Slater pool has to its first commercial pool is a $1.2 billion development on on 510-hectares, or 1200 acres, of “highly constrained land” near the Queensland beach town of Coolum. The proposal includes a Surf Ranch wrapped in a 20,000-person stadium, a six-star eco-resort, restaurants, bars, a retail village and “an environmental education centre based on the site’s wetlands and nearby waterways.”

The WSL’s Andrew Stark said the local surfing community was “ecstatic and excited.”

It’s as far away from being built in 2021 as it was two years ago, 

I sent Longtom to investigate in 2019.

I put boots on the ground at the site. I know this country very well. It’s in my blood. My people come from the Queensland cane swamps. They are Danes, Swedes, Sicilians.

Practical people.

They would understand the necessity of bulldozing the bush to make way for jobs. But I do not. The developer’s eye eludes me. I see trees and bush. Birds, insects, frogs. I feel sad that surfers will be the ones behind the bull-dozers, erasing this wildlife, this bush from history.

From what I can see though, although there is ambivalence, distrust and even hostility to the Coolum wave pool development, that is unlikely to stop the bulldozers.

The greenwashing on the project will be immense. Next level.

But I wonder, when Kelly thinks about what is being done in his name and looks in the mirror, does he still see an environmentalist looking back at him?

From a miracle conjured out of nowhere and greeted with universal acclaim to the tour’s most hated event and a wavepool tech used nowhere.



The Jeep Surf Ranch Pro starts this Friday and runs through Sunday.

Photo: Back on Board films
Photo: Back on Board films

Listen: After decades of silence, controversial surf journalist opens up about true style inspiration!


I just so happen to be, currently, at the southernmost point of the charming Baja peninsula basking in perfect temperature air and water. The swell is, unfortunately, absent but the scent of plumeria floats on a warm breeze and it is impossible to be sad.

Much time to let the mind wander. To reflect and plumb the much ignored depths of motivations.

David Lee Scales called for our weekly chat in the midst of my plumbing and we had a fine discussion about many surf-adjacent topics until arriving at the end of the show where he brought up the issue of Speedos.

Barrel or nah?

Famed surf photographer Ryan Miller has made the look his own, in our surf world, so much so that I forgot my own attachment until David Lee Scales brought up and my earliest style inspiration flooded back in.

The year was 1984 and I was fresh back from Papua New Guinea where my father had taught for two years. The United States felt large, unfamiliar, but the Olympics were weeks away and I could not wait to watch. My grandmother and grandfather lived near Los Angeles and shared stories of the wonderful preparations etc. and then the world was there and then my eyes, up in cold Oregon, were glued.

There was one man that shined above all others.

Greg Louganis.

I loved everything about his grace, his physical poetry, his mastery and vowed to be just like him, practicing diving when we went to visit my grandmother and grandfather.

Buying a Speedo.

I wore it to the beach when I surfed with my cousins in Carlsbad, wore it at home, wore it going to Oregon’s lakes, wore it on Oregon’s cold shores.

I was Greg Louganis and was with him, even more, four years later when he bonked his head yet still stunned the world.

A master.

My Speedos eventually became lost, like my memory, but speaking about it yesterday made me want to revisit. Not as irony or funny but a legitimate, functional fashion move.

What do you think about that?


Scales and I also discussed cancelled Rio and the World Surf League’s asinine position on basically everything.


Spock (pictured) with whale.
Spock (pictured) with whale.

Man diving for lobster off Cape Cod experiences ultimate barrel, gets swallowed whole by whale: “I thought to myself, ‘there’s no way I’m getting out of here. I’m done, I’m dead!’”

Completely black.

We surf fans are treated, regularly, to such wonderful videos of impossibly deep barrel rides. Surfers becoming covered up, so profoundly, that it seems likely they will never see the light of day again. Surfers becoming one in the belly of a beast.

Oh, not a literal “beast” as the ocean is our friend etc., but a lobster diver out looking for nummies on warm a early summer day got swallowed whole by a whale and lived to tell the tale.

Michael Packard was just off his boat, Friday morning, heading down to Cape Code’s floor when a humpback whale gobbled him right up. “All of a sudden, I felt this huge shove and the next thing I knew it was completely black,” Packard told The Cape Cod Times Friday afternoon following his release from Cape Cod Hospital. “I could sense I was moving, and I could feel the whale squeezing with the muscles in his mouth.”

The 56-year-old father of two thought he may have been sucked down by a Great White, as he sees them regularly, but didn’t feel teeth or anything overtly nasty so surmised he must be inside a barrel.

“I was completely inside; it was completely black. I thought to myself, ‘there’s no way I’m getting out of here. I’m done, I’m dead.’ All I could think of was my boys — they’re 12 and 15 years old.”

Unlike Great Whites, though, whales have warm hearts, feelings, and Packard could tell his movement was making the mammal sad and so kept moving and moving until his new friend moved back to the surface and spit him out.

It is the first known incident of whale of whale swallowing man since the time of Jonah.

Packard suffered no broken bones and is excited to dive again soon.

A happy ending much like Nathan Florence in Nias.

Very cool.

Baby Cliff, just twenty-two, ASP world champ. | Photo: ASP

Revealed: World title trophy sold for $25,000 by US surf star to fund documentary spotted by fan in Huntington Beach! “I like that it’s floating in the free market!” says Champ

“Fernando Aguerre bought it. I went to  Fed Ex and shipped it to his address in Cali. Haven’t seen it since.” Until now.

The 2001 world surfing champion Clifton James Hobgood, who claimed his title after the tour was abbreviated to five events following the coordinated suicide attacks by Wahabi Islamist terror group Al-Qaeda on the Pentagon in Virginia, the Capital building in Washington DC, and the World Trade Center complex in Manhattan, has revealed the location of his long-lost world title trophy. 

Hobgood, who is forty-one, sold the precious cup for $US25,000, out of a goal of raising eighty k, to help fund the documentary And Two If By Sea, which tells the story of he and twin brother Damien’s ascent to sporting greatness. 

“This journey into character and emotional transparency does mark a shift in surf film-making,” wrote Longtom in a review of the film, here, adding, “I like this new wave of revealing, authentic type of film, much, much more.”

Of the “accidental world title” at just twenty-two, writes Longtom, “His humility in struggling to accept the legitimacy of the Title is refreshing. The regret overlaid onto the achievement by Damo makes it more poignant. Damo was surfing Pipe when the Title was awarded at Sunset.”

“One of the perks you could get when we were crowdfunding the movie was the world title trophy for 25k,” Cliff told BeachGrit. “(ISA chief) Fernando Aguerre bought it. I went to  Fed Ex and shipped it to his address in Cali. Haven’t seen it since.”

(Cliff elaborated a little more on Surfline a while back, “I told Dam, ‘Let’s sell my trophy! Let’s give away everything we have!’ Because [Indiegogo] is perk-based; that’s the way those things work. The idea is to give something away to let the people know that you’re invested on every level, like, ‘this is our baby and if you wanna help out and join our story, we will give you anything from our world.'”)

That was, until yesterday, when a sharp-eyed fan photographed the bauble in a repair shop and tagged Cliff.

“People kept commenting, ‘You gotta get it back’,” says Cliff, “But honestly I like that it’s floating in the free market!” 


Just in: Brisbane, Australia set to be announced as host of 2032 Olympics all but guaranteeing surfing’s inclusion for the next decade!

Australian tax payers rejoice!

Surfing, you are certainly aware, is set to make its grand Olympic debut in just weeks. Tokyo’s Chiba will see Jeremy Flores, Kolohe Andino, Sally Fitzgibbons, Italo Ferreira, maybe Kelly Slater battling it out for gold it what should be “small and funky” waves.

Extremely fun with the world’s eyes on us etc.

After Tokyo, the Games moves to Paris for 2024 and the host nation has already declared surfing will be included, taking place in “France across the Water” i.e. Teahupoo, Tahiti.

Incredible potential.

In 2028, the 5-ring circus travels to Los Angeles and it is impossible to think that surfing will not also be on the menu there too. Malibu? World Surf League CEO’s own Manhattan Beach? Lower Trestles?

Somewhere certainly.

And now, just moments ago, Brisbane, Australia was announced as a shoo-in for the 2032 Olympiad.

Per ESPN, “IOC president Thomas Bach said after an executive board meeting Thursday that Australia’s third-biggest city can be awarded hosting rights as the only candidate proposed at a July 21 meeting in Tokyo.
Bach praised Australia as a sport-loving country with strong support from layers of government in the city of Brisbane, the state of Queensland and federal level.’All this together, I think, made it somehow irresistible,’ the IOC leader said.”

Beautiful Brisbane in the shadow of Surfers Paradise, a stone’s throw from Coolie Kid, and of course we’ll be there, each and every one of us, cheering Joel Parkinson’s children to gold.

Does schoolies happen in July?

A decade-plus of Olympic surfing with no end in sight.

I really hope schoolies and the Olympics collide.