“If you were drowning, and co-waterperson of the year Dirk Ziff was in the water, would you feel confident?”

US media titan Forbes casts BeachGrit as joker-like “nemesis” to billionaire owner of World Surf League, Dirk Ziff, “It’s unclear how long Ziff will continue backing the WSL!”

"Rumors swirled before the pandemic that he was shopping the league around for a sale at a price of $150 million."

Forbes magazine wealth intern Isabelle “I write about billionaires” Bousquette has lifted the veil on surfing’s great cultural battlefield for American mainstream readers, casting Dirk Ziff’s WSL-led VALS in one corner and BeachGrit’s so–called grumpy locals in the other. 

In a very long piece, thousand-plus words, too long probs won’t read etc, Bousquette examines the money Ziff has poured into the WSL hole, “He invested $25 million into the league in 2012 and subsequently became the majority owner, pouring in at least $25 million more, according to a 2017 lawsuit filed by a former investor” and the role the Olympics might play in giving the League an opening into the fabled millions of middle-America fans sought but never caught. 

Ziff’s World Surf League has already seen a 25% increase in hours of online content watched by viewers of its first six events of 2021, compared with the first six events two years ago, according to Erik Logan, the league’s CEO. “People are excited about surfing because it’s in the Olympics,” Logan says.

There’s a bit of history about the takeover of the ASP, the aforementioned lawsuit which says former CEO Paul Speaker was sacked and bought out for twelve-million dollars and examines the failure of its plan to leverage the KS pool and “build-out of a global network of WSL-branded high-performance training centers utilizing this wave technology.”

BeachGrit swings in midway through. 

The reclusive billionaire has been a polarizing figure for many in the surfing community. Some have seen his quest for a mainstream audience as alienating to the core surf community. Specifically, one irreverent online publication known as BeachGrit has positioned itself as a nemesis to Ziff, writing headlines like: “If you were drowning, and co-waterperson of the year Dirk Ziff was in the water, would you feel confident?”

Also cameo-ing is Sean Doherty, the owner of Surfing World magazine who says the WSL is running a fool’s errand.

Yet it remains to be seen whether surfing can ever enter the mainstream. Sean Doherty, who’s covered the industry since 1997 for various publications and now owns Surfing World Magazine, isn’t optimistic. “[Surf brands] have always believed that there’s a huge mainstream audience, particularly in America, who don’t surf but, if surfing was presented the right way, would engage with it,” he says. “The previous incarnation of the sport learned that this was always fool’s gold and it’s never really existed.”

And will Ziff keep pouring his cash into the WSL hole?

It took 12 years after its Olympic debut for snowboarding to find a Shaun White, and it’s unclear how long Ziff will continue backing the WSL. Rumors swirled before the pandemic that he was shopping the league around for a sale at a price of $150 million. The WSL declined to comment on these rumors.

Carissa Moore is made to be a darling of Middle America. Almost a perfect creation for these dark times. The all-sweetness, all-light, girly girl, “aw shucks” persona used to grate on me. I like my champions dark with an edge you can't ignore. After the Podium shots in the all-white moon suit I let the Moore charisma melt my heart of stone. | Photo: ISA/Ben Reed

No one cares about Olympic gold in golf, soccer or tennis; so what the hell does a surfing gold medal mean?

One vital question that hasn’t been dealt which needs to be sorted out pronto by us, is: what the fook does an Olympic Gold Medal in surfing mean?

As a deeply sceptical Anti-Olympian, I have to say: I was wrong.

Surfing in the Olympics was as fun as hell.

The short course format of 20 of each sex played brilliantly. For the first time since I saw Dane Reynolds destroy Joel Parkinson at Snapper in front of a crowd driven half insane by the local hero getting his arse kicked by the best surfer on the planet, it looked like a real sport.

Have to admit, to test this thesis I undertook a personal experiment during the course of the conny. By my reckoning any real sport should be understandable on the radio, old school style. And my local was dishing up some perfect rock runners with no one out, so I set up the speaker on the rocks, surfed and listened to surfing in the Olympics. Jonny Bryan, the Welsh VAL gave the details, Barton gave the color. I had perfect understanding of what was going on. It was so good.

One vital question that hasn’t been dealt which needs to be sorted out pronto by us, is: what the fook does an Olympic Gold Medal in surfing mean?

It’s easy in athletics, swimming, shot put, pole vaulting, weightlifting etc etc. The Olympic Gold is the pinnacle of the sport. The winner of the 100m is the fastest man or woman on the planet. Michael Phelps is the fastest swimmer in the World etc etc. Easy to understand. Incontrovertible.

Other Olympic Golds are in much murkier territory.

No one gives a fuck about the tennis gold or soccer or golf. Half the competitors, the best of the best, don’t bother to compete. It’s just a shiny medallion to hang in the pool room. No fan gives credence to a soccer gold medal. Not when you’ve got the World Cup and the EPL etc etc.

What about surfing?

No offence to Miggy Tudela but we’d be screwed if he won the gold. Imagine that stout journeyman Billy Stairmand who we all know and love. Very, very much. The credibility of Olympic Gold would be shredded if Billy took it out while the best beachbreak surfer on Earth, Filipe Toledo, cooled his heals in the San Clemente compound. No doubt plotting revenge at Trestle with a Pablo Escoabarian fury.

Luckily, no one can argue with an Italo Gold. Same with Carissa except more so. The good feelings of an Italo win might not translate into mainstream super stardom. The diminuitive Brazilians grasp on English may not be sufficiently fluid to bum rush the Middle America talk show circuit.

The Italo origin story is compelling.

It’s the one thing I share with the Current World Champ/Gold Medallist. I too, stole my Dad’s esky lid (from his beer esky) and wandered across the road to take my first step into the briny waves. And whilst that gets me gooey in the fork it may not have cut through in Cincinnati or St Paul or Seven Oak.

Carissa is a different story.

She is made to be a darling of Middle America. Almost a perfect creation for these dark times. The all-sweetness, all-light girly girl, “aw shucks” persona used to grate on me. I like my champions dark with an edge you can’t ignore. After the podium shots in the all-white moon suit I let the Moore charisma melt my heart of stone.

I rang around my Gal VAL pals to get a gauge on the “influencer” take on it.

The infamous and despised Murfers of Byron Bay, to a woman, had not watched a single heat from Shidashita. These gals ain’t jocks. They subscribe to what I call the romantic/democratic view of surfing. Nature is grand, surfing is my cosmic dance, the ocean is free and for everybody (with cash, beauty and a Tesla in the driveway) is the gist of it.

Pro surfing does not register on the radar for these gals unless it’s to get a little reflected shine from a great real estate purchase from a local pro or their spouse.

The point is: they were all frothed on Carissa.

Why? They could not say.

Real step forwards for the sisterhood, said one.

The ramifications of the gold medals?

Continuation of the status quo, is my prediction. No change to Brazilian dominance in the men’s. Surfing as Sport has long been codified in Australia. Taxpayer money will continue to be pumped into peak bodies like Surfing Australia and the High Performance Center despite terrible bang for buck.

Owen’s medal, by that measure, is by far the most significant one for the Olympics. An Aussie team sans medals would be a very tough sell to a public milked for an activity that makes up a tiny fraction of the whole and for which few give a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut about.

Owen’s story: the great comeback from the Pipe injury to an Olympic Medal has ignited in the mainstream press. That will be enough to keep the tap turned on for the forseeable future.

As for the great unjazzed coming like supplicants to the sport of surfing in their millions.

Let’s see the numbers for Mexico, Tahiti and Trestles.

A Tokyo Bump will keep ELO in the job for another twelve months.

Photo: Steve Sherman/@tsherms
Photo: Steve Sherman/@tsherms

World’s greatest surfer Kelly Slater breaks silence, floods social media with congratulations, heartfelt praise, for Olympic medalists: “I’m very happy for and proud of you!”

Not a dry eye in the house!

Surfing’s grand Olympic debut is now very much in the rearview, the thrill being replaced by various mundanities of regular life. New masking guidelines, bipartisan infrastructure deals, Bennifer, etc.

For a handful of days, though, everyone was captivated, interested, needing to know various and sundry details about Igarashi Kanoa, Carissa Marks and the rest of our bold history makers.

Everyone but the world’s greatest surfer Kelly Slater.

The 11x champion had kept up a distinct and notable silence about the Olympics, and her surfers, until just moments ago when the floodgates of his heart appeared to open and there gushed forth a series of personal and warm congratulations to each of the six medal winners.

Carissa Moore, he wrote, was “destined for greatness.” Italo Ferreira’s performance “no surprise” as the Brazilian “has got the mojo.” Kanoa Igarashi was Slater’s “dark horse pick to win” and he doubts the Japanese-by-way-of-Huntington-Beach boy will ever have to pay for steak or sushi again. He was “so happy” for Bianca Buitendag, could “feel” Owen Wright’s bronze and  called Amuro Tsuzuki the “under the radar surf story of the year.”

Beautiful and poetic, only pausing to share a picture of “the world’s darkest and lightest men.”

Do you think true?

Like, officially the darkest and lightest as designated by an independent review board using the very latest in dark/light observing technologies?

Poignant, in any case.

World Surf League cements position as “silly goose” of sport governing bodies, congratulates “Carissa Marks” for winning Olympic gold!

Oh, ELo!

In further proof that CEO Erik Logan may be the only employee remaining, the World Surf League posted a congratulations to Olympic debut gold medalists Italo Ferriera from Brazil and Carissa Marks from country unknown yesterday afternoon.

The portmanteau, built from Carissa Moore and Caroline Marks, was yet another goofy-grinned head slapper and cemented the WSL’s position as “silly goose” of sport governing bodies.

And that is all I have to say about that.

While world celebrates surfing’s grand Olympic debut, Kelly Slater maintains strict silence; Focuses on younger self holding trophies, name-dropping famous friends!

A masterclass in shade.

The world reacted as one, yesterday, following surfing’s grand Olympic debut. Much social media praise for historic first golds for well-deserving Italo Ferriera and Carissa Moore. Many “congratulations” and “bravos” and “very cools” from surfboard shapers, surf-adjacent celebrities, surf-enthusiastic politicians.

Zero mention, however, from the world’s greatest surfer, and first Team USA Olympic alternate, Kelly Slater.

The 11x World Champion instead decided to focus his Instagram stories, in order, on:

-A picture of himself riding a twin fin

-A picture of Surf Ranch with the comment “I get happy when… my friends kids get pitted at Surf Ranch.”

-A picture of a shooting range target man.

-A thank you from Thomas Victor Carroll (from Surf Ranch).

-Name dropping Oscar De La Hoya and Vitor Belfort.

-A picture of himself as a younger boy holding surf trophies.

-A picture from a golf course.

-A video of what appears to be a submarine chasing dolphins.

-A video of himself riding a twin fin appropriately titled “twin fin action.”

Slater, who months ago said he was born in Florida but considers himself to come from earth, is known for complicated mind games and it must be assumed that he is gearing up for the back half of the World Surf League’s Championship Tour.

Currently 22nd on the leaderboard, favorite events Teahupo’o and Barra de la Cruz are just over the horizon. Quarterfinal finishes in both could very easily vault Slater into the final 5, especially with John John Florence considering withdrawing, thereby punching a ticket to Lower Trestles.

Imagine the shade a 12th World Title would throw on Tokyo.

On Italo and ‘Riss.


More, certainly, as the story develops.