Who can beat Gabriel Medina at an air-wind beachie? Italo, maybe. | Photo: All photos ISA/Ben Reed

Surfing goes to the Olympics, day two analysis: “The muddy mess and incomprehensible scoring will not provide succour to ELO’s fevered dream of an Olympic-led surfing boom”

Not what the Duke had in mind when he envisioned the Sport of Kings as an Olympic sport.

I could have sworn, after Day One, that today was going to be a no-name bloodbath, and it did in the end up being that way.

But not at first as Steph Gilmore, then Johanna Defay, were bundled out of the Olympics in very shitty three-to-four-foot-gurgled-out beachbreak by Bianca Buitendag and Yolanda Hopkins respectively. Potential super-star Ella Williams went early, Tati got knocked and from there it was close to a complete shut-out of the off-tour underdogs.

Gilmore, buried.

The two-point plus spread that we identified yesterday as the key metric held true for the most part. The Peruvian men provided the sternest resistance of the roughies, with Miguel Tudela just getting pipped by local Hiroto Ohhara (fellow Pipe stud, I think?) and Lucca Mesinas grafting a slim win against Leo Fioravanti.

It was a sloppy, muddy mess of a lineup, I feel quite sure not what the Duke had in mind when he envisioned the Sport of Kings as an Olympic sport.

Nonetheless, a bit of a revelation for the men’s commentary having the non-surfing Englishman in the booth with Barton. He quickly indentified the key ingredients of surfing as sport: character, match-ups, skill and reality.

Just such a refreshing relief after the drinking from a firehose rainbows and unicorns positivity of Turpel and crew. Seems when you take pro surfing out of the hands of the WSL and play it like a true sport with an independent commentary it comes out OK.

Maybe lessons learned for the next billionaire who hates space travel and wants an expensive toy to play with.

The muddy mess and incomprehensible scoring will not provide succour to ELO’s fevered dream of an Olympic led surfing boom.

It’s already happened, for one.

For two, VALS don’t give a fuck about competition.

Even the architect of Olympic surfing ISA Prez Fernando Aguerre is savvy enough to realise that, claiming in a media interview this week that, “We (surfers) exist outside of competitions. You can’t be a boxer or a fencer if you don’t box or do fencing against somebody. But everyone can be a surfer without competing. This is a sport you do on your own.”

And to drop a final unflushable turd into the Olympic Wavepool dream, he then took an aggressive, egalitarian, pro-ocean stance: “The ocean is free. It doesn’t belong to anyone. No one can buy it. Nobody can sell it. Nobody can charge you. You can be Bill Gates’ son or the janitor’s son, black or white, gay or straight, male or female, young or old, fat or skinny. Nobody cares. The ocean doesn’t care.”

It does care a little bit. But who’s counting.

The rest of the mainstream press coverage involved the typical pro surfer whining about how negative stereotypes were holding the sport back. Which is a complete load of cock and bull.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High was forty years ago. Everyone surfs.

Obama, Zuck, Thor and his bro that was married to Miley Cyrus, that cunt from Google who keeps a superyacht moored in the Mamanucas near Cloudbreak etc etc. The biggest outdated stereotype about surfing is that outdated stereotypes still exist. The mass market has had fifty years of exposure to pro surfing and knocked it back everytime.

It just don’t appeal.

Despite crap surf, the match-ups today did appeal to the hard-core. And no offence to the women, but there was no real heat in the exchanges until Andino and JJF hit the water for the second heat of round three men’s.

JJF on the maroon Dark Arts, which stands accused of having unreliable handling and a low make rate on airs and completions. Andino on a stock PU/PE Mayhem driver. Neither men making concessions to injury with visible strapping.

Brother opened the heat in emphatic fashion with a whipped and lofted slob reverse, full rotation. Seven and a half.

He waved his arms frantically to hear the score again. Not for information but as as psychological ploy to rattle JJF.

Brother opened the heat in emphatic fashion with a whipped and lofted slob reverse, full rotation. Seven and a half.

And, John did look rattled. The completions failed to materialise. The rail game looked solid but the final turns would not stick, adding fuel to the flame that carbon construction has too much of a rigid flex modulus, making it unforgiving for bumpy surf.

Brother was pumped by the judges on a very handy back-up ride that should have beem a mid-five. Judged not to have completed the final air and given a 2.7. He did not crack.

Twelve to go, JJF failed to stick an air. Nine to go, he failed again.
Four-and-a-half minutes to go, Brother nails a slick slash and air combo for a 6.33. 14.33 plays 8.93 with three on the clock.

The tension causes an intense physical reaction in me. My fingers are twitching and spiders are crawling all over the back of my neck. I want Brother to win so bad. John launches a tail-high air with a weird, fluffy landing.

It needs an 8.07. I think it’s a six. Will judges crack? They highball it a 6.77.

Ninety seconds takes an eternity. Brother catches a wave, gives JJF the dancefloor with twenty seconds remaining. He does not catch a wave. JJF exits without a medal. He will be thirty-two at the next Olympics, in his prime as a Teahupoo surfer, assuming no injury.

Medina starts his heat the exact same way. With a clean landed air for a mid seven. Jules responds with a two-turn combo. Slick, non-threatening, house building.

Medina falls and falls and falls, then falls again. He’s miles up the beach from Wilson, close to the next jetty.

Who has the highest completion rate in the air? Has to be Medina.

Failure seems not to bother a hair on his head.

Wilson stomps a single air. Takes a narrow lead with twenty to go.

It’s tight with a third of the heat down. Wilson 11.84, Medina 10.10.

Fifteen to go, tension once more rises.

Each man seems to revert back to previous, more primal stages of their surfing existence. Wilson as a kid surfing onshore slop at Coolum and Medina running thousands of hours in the closeouts of Maresias. Each in their own little world now, deciphering the confused patterns of mixed windswell in the Olympic Games.

Medina catches a wave. Snaps hard and runs a heavy roof-top float in the barrage of the shoredump. It’s a high six. Team Wilson will call it an egregious over-score.

The Private Idaho ends. With the lead Medina smothers Wilson, living all over him with ten to go. Too early to play total defence, I think. A risky, finely calibrated strategy that offers the maximum potential for a Medina interference call as he pushes the limit of heavy D.

Ninety seconds, “he’s living all over me” thought the Aussie crowd, inhabiting the psyche of Julian Wilson’s last moments as a professional competitive surfer.

Forty seconds. Wilson sells Medina on a block, the first wave he has caught in ten minutes.

Twenty seconds, Wilson gets his wave, hits it, launches a clean spin, greased landing.

God, he could have that, I thought. Ice veined judges lowballed a 6.83.

Wilson looked relieved. His team on the beach, ropeable.

Ripped off?

The spread flatters Medina, but the result: correct.

Who can beat him at an air-wind beachie?

Two guys. Italo, still going and the other: the best guy in the world in beachbreak surf, Filipe Toledo, did not make the cut.

For convicts, Our Sally and O-Dog remain in medal contention.

InStyle magazine boldly declares that the world is on the cusp of a “Billabong renaissance” after surfing’s grand Olympic debut!

We are back!

I woke up this morning in a happy haze. Last night, sitting on an outdoor patio whilst the rain gently fell, I watched Jagger Eaton take Olympic bronze in men’s street skateboarding. Eaton is family and watching him rise to his moment, on a world-sized stage, was electric and it was fun.

So fun, in fact, that I missed surfing’s grand Olympic debut. At some point, during the skate preliminaries, a cell phone was handed my way streaming the show. I watched for a moment, it looked like surfing, then went back to the big screen and the nollie half-cab backside smiths.

I maybe should have paid a little bit more attention, though, as the august InStyle magazine has declared that culture is ripe for a “Billabong renaissance.”

The piece describes how surf-saturated society was in the late 1990s with Blue Crush and The OC and Maui Fever etc. etc. but then how it all faded but now, thanks to the Olympics, its all coming back.

Boxy Vans tees and Roxy surf shorts and sun-streaks in hair and things.

Have you adequately prepared for that?

Are you sure?

Put the house on reigning world champ, Italo Ferriera. | Photo: ISA/Ben Reed

Surfing goes to the Tokyo Olympics, day one analysis: “Medina and Ferreira are both equally likely to transcend the sport. Medina’s Villain and Italo’s Joker are archetypes that can be understood by anyone”

"Could surfing in the Olympics produce a Shawn White or a Torah Bright, and who could that be?"

So here we are. Surfing made it’s debut in the Olympic games.

It probably meant a whole lot to a few people, no-one I know though, or know that I know.

Did you catch the Opening Ceremony?

No, me neither, although apparently Owen Wright looked suitably insouciant wandering out into the stadium. He would not have looked as dashing as Team USA, whose logoed up Polos took the cake for team attire.

Team USA, John John, coach Brett Simpson and Carissa Moore, looking real sharp in Ralphie Lauren.

For those who did not see, Kelly Slater did not find a way to finagle his way into the Olympic debut, which means that box will definitely not be ticked in his career.

It was left to the two injured stars Kolohe Andino and John John Florence to fly the Stars and Stripes for the men. Neither was eliminated on Day One despite JJF looking very shaky in his round one heat in one-to-three-feet “challenging” conditions.

He did not look back to full strength, but then he didn’t look the full quid in Aussie beachbreaks, either. Andino looked fresher, bringing the full complement of repertoire to junky gurglers, which looked very much like the day at D-bah when he lost the QuikPro final to Italo Ferriera in the dying seconds.

What did we expect for Japan? Junky little waves. That’s what we got for Day One, albeit with a slow improving trend late in the day.

Surprisingly, there was a lot to like.

Minus the crowds on the beach, and the relentless Tourism Propaganda on the broadcast there was a folksy, down-home feel that at times felt more like a local boardriders contest than the Olympic games. Few tents on the beach, few cats cheering on their buddies. No massive corporate super-structures.

I couldn’t find any surfing pals who had the Olympic froth on but finally got a text from a comrade in the production biz. He found the lack of “corporate fluffing” at the end of heats refreshing. No hats, no drinks, no sunglasses., just points, loose lycra shirts and a moribund sense of liberation.

I very much concur.

Of course, that may have been the vision from the Duke, although they almost smothered the broadcast by laying on the origin story in nauseating fashion, but it ain’t the way Elo and the Woz see the ‘Lympics. With the failure of the Wavepool to capture Middle America they’ve now bet the farm on the billions of Olympic viewers to blast surfing into the mainstream.

According to Elo, the exposure and attention from Tokyo is going to fund sponsorship for the QS warriors and bankroll the sport in a way never seen before. That’s paraphrasing but close enough to a word for word quote.

He’s a flim-flam man so of course so we file that under “well he would say that wouldn’t he”.

Perhaps the Medinas and Moores and Gilmores might pad out the endorsement book with some more non-endemic sponsorship but will that filter down to the Billy Stairmands or Connor O’Learys? Could surfing in the Olympics produce a Shawn White or a Torah Bright, and who could that be?

Gilmore and Fitzgibbon are near the end of their careers, as is Owen, and Julian has already announced retirement.

Carissa Moore could go nuclear.

Medina and Ferreira are both equally likely to transcend the sport. Medina’s Villain and Italo’s Joker are archetypes that can be understood by anyone. A young Slater obvs would have been the perfect candidate. Kanoa has a fairytale finish potentially in front of him and a potent mix of characteristics (First Japanese Champion etc etc) that mainstream media would gobble up.

Casting around for a potential superstar amongst the no names only New Zealand’s Ella Williams stood out.

She bubbled like a Rotorua geyser on the dark sands of Shidashita beach pre heat but unfortunately due to the lack of post-heat pressers we were denied her take on the day. The other gal with a story and a potential for the big time was Israeli chick Anat Lelior. Israeli gals who have done time in the IDF are known for being extremely bad-assed and the Tel Aviv native showed some very handy skills in the shitty beachbreak.

Sadly, knocked in the last heat of the day. At 21, probably a few more Olympics in Lelior’s future and I think she will have the lady stones for Teahupoo in ’24.

The spread between the Tour surfers and the no-names intrigued me sufficiently to last the day and as a preliminary answer to the question: Is there a roughy capable of taking an Olympic medal off a CT surfer? Italo blasted a two-point plus spread back to the field in heat one which included Tour surfer Leo Fioravanti. Typical, hyperactive, high-rep performance from Italo. Lots of waves on a semi-wedging warm water beachbreak with an air wind. Thats as close to a sure thing in professional surfing as there is.

Kanoa put a smaller sub-two point margin on Peruvian Miguel Tudela in heat two, a guy I only knew as a Pipe Stud and had no idea he could whip rotations in measly beachbreak.

Julian came last in his round three heat, looked like he has all year to my eye. Surfed incredible but couldn’t put a heat together. The other tour surfer, Kolohe Andino, was beaten by a point and change by Lucas Mesinas. Another Peruvian stud who grew up in the town that inspired Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea.

Owen laid on a paper-thin winning margin on Moroccan surfer Ramzi Boukhiam. It took Medina in the next heat to restore the natural order, if we are to believe that the tour surfers are the best of the best. It was a joy to watch him get passed by German Leo Glatzer and then launch a furious volley of single manouevre tail-high airs complete with death stares and claims to retake the lead.

That two-plus point spread, I think, will be the definitive metric for determining winners and medallists. Carissa Moore maintained it, as did Fitzgibbons and Gilmore who sizzled against a thirty-six-year-old Silvana Lima using a subtle but dominant front foot to back foot shimmy to accentuate turns in improving surf.

Caz Marks put a five-point spread on her opponents.

The potential for a Blue Crush-style explosion has more potential in the women’s draw, featuring a mix of established stars, hardy campaigners drawn out of retirement and genuine surprise packets like Williams and Lelior. Japanese surfers progressed.
Wilson snuck through in his repecharge heat, JJF found a spark missing from his round one heat to advance.

The commentary was fine, less annoying that it could have been trying to educate Joe Sixpack on the difference between goofy and natural.

Very “pro-ocean” which would seem to signal the death knell of any idea that Olympic surfing will ever happen in a wave basin.

More of the same coming, except better, for Mon/Tues.

Pretty tasty heat draw. Medina/Wilson, JJF/Andino. Kanoa/Rio Waida.

Put the house on Italo.

Tomson, left, (photo Bustin Down the Door), Deane, (D'Blanc sunglasses.)

Blood feud: Surfing great Shaun Tomson slams marquee Volcom surfer in wild harangue, “Noa Deane, he’s a big mouth, I want to see that dude get a wildcard at ten-foot Pipe against Gabriel Medina. He’ll be crying! His body will be flayed!”

"The guy’s got a big mouth and never stops whining about the WSL. Let’s see that dude step up!"

The great Shaun Tomson, a man who redefined backside tuberiding at Pipeline in 1975 and who won a world title at twenty-two, has hit out at the Australian surfer Noa Deane for his since redacted anti-WSL stance.

In a wild harangue on podcast The Boardroom, which is oiled by Surfer’s former online editor Scott Bass, Tomson, now sixty-six, is led into a discussion about the WSL, wildcards, and so on.

Tomson is a a clean-skin with a fiery anti-drugs stance and was once described by Kelly Slater as the “ultimate pro”.

Fifty-three minute in he fumes.

“I’d love to see these wildcards, you know, the big mouths like Noa Deane, big mouth, I want to see that dude, give him a wildcard at ten-foot Pipe. I want to see Noa Deane with his big mouth come up against Italo Ferreira and let’s see what happens.”

A theatrical pause.

“Let me tell you, the dude will be savaged! He will be cryyyyying… with his body… he will be flayed. The guy’s got a big mouth and never stops whining about the WSL. Let’s see that dude step up! People just let these dudes chirp. Step up and put up or shut up!”

It’s a pretty good effort to get a little emotion out of Shaun, he ain’t one for stepping out of his usual boundary lines of positivity, surfing-for-everyone etc.

Sadly for Shaun, ol Noa set his anti-WSL trip aside two days after the Surfer Poll awards in 2014 when he described his “fuck the WSL” moment as “incredibly stupid… I’m meant to be a role model in surfing and my actions on the night were not appropriate and that was not the time or place to voice that opinion.”

Wildcards at Pipe?

Three years ago, he took down world champ John John Florence at the Volcom Pipe Pro… at ten-foot Pipeline.

Mainstream Media credits forecasting website Surfline with “guaranteeing waves” for surfing’s Olympic debut!


In an exceptionally bullish claim, forecasting website Surfline has gone on record stating that there will be quality waves on tap for surfing’s grand Olympic debut. An exceptionally bullish claim that the mainstream media, not generally known for trading on nuance, has taken as a “guarantee.”

Surfline’s forecasting director, Kevin Wallis, told Yahoo! Sports, “Once surfing was officially in the Olympics, we started thinking about where the event might be held. We wanted consistent waves and decent-quality surf close to Tokyo.”

Shidashita Beach, in the Chiba prefecture, was chosen after combing “40 years’ worth of historical records” but also because, “There’s a huge parking area, which on a summer weekend with waves will see hundreds of surfers hanging out between surfs in specially equipped vans and cars complete with shower systems, barbecue grills, and small refrigerators stocked with cold beer.”

Wallis predicted 2-3+ weeks ago but is now confident that the surf will reach the 5-7 ft. range on Monday.

Yahoo! Sports, amazed, declared “mystery solved” as to how the “Olympics guarantees that surfing — which makes its Olympic debut at Tokyo — actually takes place during the Olympics” but also couched, slightly, by revealing the waves don’t have to be in the 10-15 ft. range for the event to be fun to watch as, “Surfers in the Olympics will be using five- to six-foot shortboards, as opposed to eight-to-10-foot longboards, meaning the waves don’t need to be as big for competition purposes.”

Devon Howard is, currently, very angry.

But back to the main thrust, here. If your loved ones’ lives were dependent upon a Surfline forecast would you sleep easy or go out back and start digging graves, tears streaming down cheeks?

It is rarely the wrong call to get a jump on things.