Gather around, friends, and listen to the cautionary tale of how a careless surf journalist almost burned San Clemente to the ground!

Or how the World Surf League final's day at Lower Trestles was almost undone.

Yesterday afternoon David Lee Scales and I met together, virtually, to record our 131 episode of The Grit! The podcast has added many features over these years including a subscription option and a call-in line and an email inbox, which happens to be my personal favorite. And that same yesterday, an email came in reminding me of the time I almost burned San Clemente, home of the World Surf League final’s day, to the ground.

It was from the old facilities manager of Surfer and Surfing magazine, which once shared an insurance-esque office high in San Clemente’s dry hills. He spoke of cutting out, some eight-odd years ago, for a surf. When he returned he saw a large oil slick leading up to the parking lot and ending underneath a 1994 Ford Bronco that had once been white, exactly like the one OJ Simpson took for a famous low speed cruise, but had somehow turned charred and black.

It was mine.

I had left my Cardiff-by-the-Sea home, that morning, to attend the weekly editorial meeting in Surfing‘s windowless cubicle. It was a hot one with dry Santa Ana winds buffeting the already dry land and my windows were down and I hummed along to Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop.”

Things were normal as I exited the 5 freeway, normal as I headed northeast on Avenida Pico, normal as I swung right on Calle del Cerro, then became very abnormal as I climbed the final incline to the soulless white cube.

A loud thump canceled Cyrus’s croon, white smoke filled the Bronco’s interior and almost all power was lost.

“Hmmm,” I thought, limping into the parking lot and settling in a far corner overlooking parched grass and hill.

I got out and headed for the door when a woman shouted, “Your car is on fire!”

I looked back and it certainly was, the entire hood engulfed in angry flame.

“Uh oh,” I thought as I studied the parched grass and hill and felt those bone dry Santa Ana’s blowing right out over San Clemente.

Pep in step, I rushed to the door then to the Surfing offices asking if anyone had a fire extinguisher.

Surfing‘s photo editor and all-around icon Jimmy Wilson asked why and I told him my Bronco had combusted.

He found a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, returned to the parking lot with me and sprayed the angry flame but it didn’t mind and kept raging.

“This is how San Clemente comes to an end,” I thought as I studied the parched grass and hill, again, felt those hellish Santa Ana’s unabated.

But, miraculously, San Clemente did not come to an end. Eventually the last drop of oil dripped from the engine block and the fire went out leaving only the husk of my OJ Simpson Bronco. I tried to start the engine to see if, miraculously, it would run but alas.

Not ending up in jail, responsible for multiple deaths and billions of dollars worth of damage good enough, I supposed.

Days later, the facility manager called and asked me to remove my vehicle. I ignored him as I considered it public art. He implored Surfing‘s then-editor-in-chief Taylor Paul to convince me but I ignored him too as I considered myself Banksy-adjacent.

It was eventually towed, which I considered an insult, but I didn’t pay for it so, again, good enough.

The lesson?

Public art is in the eye of the beholder.

Listen here as David Lee reprimands me for being thoughtless and then we discuss The Ultimate Surfer and sexless butterballs (a new cocktail).

A fine show, all things considered.

Top ten surfers “summoned” by World Surf League to speak with New York Times about new season-ending format; Medina bites hand: “I don’t like it because I don’t think it’s fair.”

"Suck it, Logan."

Yesterday, or possibly the day before, the World Surf League “summoned” its top five male surfers and its top five female surfers to the San Clemente pier in order to sell the new season-ending one-day surf-off to The New York Times.

The journalist, John Branch, wrote of the forced junket, “Surfing works hard to project a carefree attitude. But there is a persistent churn around the business of professional surfing, a decades-long undercurrent to the culture. It is the indefatigable belief that there are more fans to hook and more money to be made. That is why the World Surf League is operating this year with a jolt of urgency. Under new leadership, it hopes to ride a swell from surfing’s Olympic debut in Tokyo while overhauling its schedule and, most notably, the way it crowns champions.”

He described the overall scene on the pier as “predictably mellow” even with the ten best surfers in the world “milling about in flip-flops and caps bearing sponsor’s logos” then approached Gabriel Medina, current number one on the men’s side, who certainly would have been wearing Reef flip-flops and a Rip Curl hat, for a positive take on the new model.

Medina told him, “I don’t like it because I don’t think it’s fair. You spend your life, a year long, and now the last event in September, you’re gonna decide all your year?” He then shrugged and added, “I don’t know about business, I don’t know how it works. They tried to do something different.”

World Surf League CEO Erik Logan, who was described as wearing “sunglasses, a trim beard, faded jeans and clean Vans” certainly would have overheard Medina’s take but tried to wash it away with positivity saying, “The opportunity to win it in the water, in the arena, is a really unique opportunity in surfing that really hasn’t happened. We were very blessed in 2019 to see that with Italo and Gabe at Pipeline, and just the intensity of that was really codifying for a conversation that already had been going on.”

Then added, “That amplification will trickle down into the growth of the sport, the growth of the W.S.L., the growth of the industry. That’s why it’s a good thing.”

Branch ended the piece with a dagger, suggesting that Logan “might want to explain that all to Medina.”


World’s most graceful surfer Stephanie Gilmore poised to become “greatest of all time” surpassing Layne Beachley, Kelly Slater, with Lower Trestles win!

History in the making.

I mocked, and mocked hard, when the World Surf League rolled out the concept of a super-charged final day, some who-knows-how-many months ago, pitting the top five surfers (both men’s and women’s) against each other for all the glory. Previously, organized professional surfing had hung itself on the tagline “It Takes a Tour to Make a Title.”

Now it takes a day.

Blah blah blah lame blah Gabriel Medina dominant blah blah Stephanie Gilmore.

Speaking of, the current world number four on the women’s side, and roughly 5000 points behind leader Carissa Moore, is in position to make history at Lower, Trestles (likely Sunday) with a win and another crown.

In so doing, Gilmore would vault from seven World Titles to eight thereby passing the great Layne Beachley.

Is Beachley made furious by this potential injustice? This quick changing of the rules?

Unfortunately no, for in a recent Guardian interview she proclaimed, “She’s already referred to as the GOAT. I don’t know how many more times she’s going to have to win before she truly lays claims to that. She’s already the GOAT and I’m not sure another world title will change that at all.”


Is Beachley actually the most graceful surfer in the world?


But back to this one day final nonsense, Pip Toledo scared out of the water, ‘Rissa Moore maybe coming undone by fate and history and Gilmore etc.

Pat O’Connell, architect of this great mess, was right.

We needed this.

It Takes a Day to Win Over Mentally Lazy and Challenged Surf Journalists.

Greek God, part-time Hawaiian, Laird Hamilton blows doors of perception off rusty hinges by officially surfing the world’s longest wave!


Days ago it was revealed, here, that Greek god and part-time Hawaiian Laird Hamilton had utterly stupefied the general public by swimming underwater whilst holding a dumbbell.  An amazing feat of strength, will, endurance and witnessed by big wave surfers Billy Kemper and Luca Padua.

What was unknown, at the time, was that two short months before, Hamilton had been foil surfing Chicama in Peru and may have just caught “the world’s longest wave.”

Footage captures Hamilton dressed in a black spring suit, holding a GoPro stick and effortlessly gliding a very wide red and yellow foil all over the steady, but not very shapely, left-hander.

I counted each and every second until I realized that this particular ride may not be “the longest in the world” as billed by much media but rather Chicama is “the longest wave in the world.”

“Laird Hamilton surfs world’s longest wave.”

Very opaque.

In any case, I was glad I watched and you are glad you watched too. Tom Brady begins his quest for another Super Bowl ring tonight with his Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His 22nd season under center.

Ageless like Kelly Slater, like Laird Hamilton.

The same as they ever were, the same as they ever will be.

How much would you imagine a broth made from the bones of Tom Brady, Kelly Slater or Laird Hamilton would go for on the open market?


Medina and Toledo, one like a sturdy Spanish tortilla, the other a little gem, with wisps of dill and a lemon vinaigrette. | Photo: Steve Sherman/@thserms

World title contender Filipe Toledo “goes missing” from Lower Trestles after “huge scuffle with local junior surfer” despite best swell of season and day before Finals Day waiting period begins!

Gabriel Medina’s coach Andy King says Filipe has been missing during the past two days of epic four-to-six-foot waves. 

Six days ago, the surf world was rocked by an eyewitness report alleging the San Clemente-based world title contender Filipe Toledo had been ordered to the beach by a hot young sponsored surfer. 

Allegedly etc, 

Scuffle at lowers point yesterday… Philip Toledo “sent in” by San Clemente locals. Lots of witnesses! Toledo dropping in on everybody… Pissing off the locals…. Young junior surfer, sponsored, that would like to remain anonymous got the wave of the day out the back a big set wave. Drops in and Toledo suddenly appears, tries to skirt around him with a high line. Young surfer knows he’s going to do this because he grew up at Lowers so he takes a high line too. As Toledo tries to pass him, young surfer grabs and holds on to Filipe’s wetsuit… and holds on the entire ride. At the end, there was a huge scuffle. Mostly verbal. Young kid is a hothead, demands that Toledo paddle in after asking, “Who do you think you are? … the new local?” Tensions were so bad at the peak that Toledo did decided to paddle in and go home.

That story burned brightly, as these sorts of things do, after injections of oxygen from Filipe’s furious daddy Ricardo, unhappy Brazilians online and, finally, after a reality check from a surf industry vet that these events happen every day at Lowers.

Now, Gabriel Medina’s coach Andy King, the Australian WQS pro from Cronulla who lost his hearing after a street fight in 2004 and who shifted to surf coaching after his tour comeback was stymied by his deafness, has claimed Filipe has been missing during the past two days of epic four-to-six-foot waves. 

Talking to our ol pals VD and Jed Smith on Ain’t That Swell, Andy said the “entire world” was down at Lowers, Conner Coffin, especially, a stand-out but… Filipe? 

King, who was on the beach for six hours each day during the swell, said he hadn’t seen him”since that run-in” and that “he hasn’t been in the water this entire swell. I don’t know what happened but I haven’t seen Filipe in the last two days of decent swell.” 

“Gone missing! Holy moly!” says Vaughan. 

King also predicted a Coffin victory over Filipe.

Listen here! Twenty-four and a bit minutes in.