Medina and a piece of Johnny's fine architecture. | Photo: @cabiancadesign

Gabriel Medina’s shaper Johnny Cabianca on the “magic invisibility” of the perfect surfboard, Medina’s “emotional family situation” and “killing the cockroach” at Huntington Beach!

"I don’t want Gabriel to think, ‘Oh motherfucker-son-of-a-bitch board!’ I want him to surf and have a good performance.” 

It might be hard to appreciate given Gabriel Medina’s easy world title win at Lowers last week, hiking Filipe’s dress to his waist in a two-heat whitewash, but two months back he was frustrated as hell after missing a medal at the Tokyo Games. 

So he calls his shaper Johnny Cabianca, the Brazilian-born, Zarautz-based craftsman who’s been building his boards for a dozen years, ever since step-daddy Charlie, an old pal from Brazil, got him to make boards for the European leg of the 2009 WQS.

Medina, a boy with slicked-back oiled hair and eyes so dark they look like they’ve been stolen off a gingerbread man’s face, ruled that year’s King of the Grommets contest in Hossegor. Five tens in the event, two in the final. 

Johnny had thrown three rockers at Medina. He chose the flattest. 

And for a dozen years, the boards only changed in foil and outline as Medina grew, the essence of the board, the the full concave, the rocker, stayed the same. 

Johnny called it the DFK. Da Freak Kid. So named after commentator Martin Potter who kept referencing Medina as The Freak Kid on the webcast. 

After the Olympics, Medina told Johnny he wanted something a little different for Lowers. Something that would make him reference his back foot more.

“I want something special!” he told Johnny. “I want to change my balance, put more weight on my back leg.” 

Johnny burned through various combinations of rocker, foil and concave, fin placement and their angles, and settled, eventually, on a flatter rockered version of Medina’s small-wave board, The Medina. 

Sent three boards to Medina in California. 

Medina replied with clips, photos and wrote, simply, “This board is amazing. I’m prepared for The Game.” 

And, yeah, they named this new model  The Game.

As it turned out, the expected two-foot Lowers morphed into three-to-five (or eight-to-ten Surfline/Sam George) and Medina won the final on his usual DFK.

(Dimensions, 5’11” x 19” x 2 7/16”, 28.65 litres.)

It’s nine in the morn when Johnny’s phone lights up. 

He’s in the factory, as he always is, calls it his third kid, and we’re talking about The Game and how it’s built to connect the dots without the indignity of “killing the cucaracha”, killing the cockroach, how Johnny describes the Huntington Hop, currently on display at the US Open. 

“One day, in the future, people gonna go back to twin fins for those conditions,” he says. 

I ask him about the elephant in the room, I suppose y’could call it, the split between Medina and his step-daddy/mum, a combo that had yielded him two world titles, and what effect it had on the champ. 

Johnny’s discreet enough not to talk specifics but he says, “We talk a lot  about this, man, it’s a very sad situation. I always say, if you have problems with family, do your own family better. And I love his mum, I love his stepfather Charlie, we grew up together. I love Gabriel also. But between them it’s not a nice situation.” 

Still, the scenario has made Medina’s killer instinct vibrate even more violently. 

“It makes him hungry. He wants to win, to show them that he’s doing the right thing. And, he has a wife, wants to prove, ‘I am a man!’.” 

Johnny says the arrival of Andy King, the Australian pro who lost his hearing in a street fight in 2004 and who shifted to surf coaching after his tour comeback was stymied by his deafness, stilled the emotional situation. 

“He needs someone to help him during the contests. And Mick Fanning introduced him to Andy. And, Andy says to him, ‘What can I do to help you? You do everything perfect?’ Gabriel says, ‘Just stay with me! Comment on my waves!’”. 

Johnny tells a funny story about Medina arriving in Australia with one board, a round-nose fish from Matt Biolos, a gift from Griffin Colapinto. The sort of board everyone gets addicted to, fast, easy to ride, but ain’t the best for your stance, technique. Makes a man lazy. 

“Gabriel loved that board!” says Johnny. “But Andy says, ‘Don’t put that shit in the water! This is a toy for kids! Man, you are surfing perfect with your boards, don’t do this.’” 

At Lowers, neither world champ referenced their shaper, Carissa, no mention of Biolos, Medina no mention of Cabianca. 

Johnny laughs, says the last time he heard a surfer thank his shaper was Kelly Slater when he won title number ten and said grazi to the Channel Islands crew. 

“No other surfer talk about the shaper!” he says, although notes that Medina is very polite and, via text, email,  whatever, is full of praise. 

Johnny says the secret to making a good board for a pro surfer is in its invisibility underfoot. 

“The thing for Gabriel, and not only for Gabriel, for all the athletes, they don’t want to have any problem with the board. They don’t want to think about what they are using. They just want to take the board in that moment and do the job, do the service. The board needs to answer their commands. I don’t want Gabriel to think, ‘Oh motherfucker-son-of-a-bitch board!’ I want him to surf and have a good performance.” 

You want The Game? Or the DFK? Or the Medina? 

Give ‘em a hit here, Johnny’s wife Kelli will help steer you into the board of your life. 

Longtom calls the DFK the “easiest pro level board I’ve wrangled.” 

I’m all over the Medina. 

A magic invisibility. 

As I wrote in an earlier piece, Johnny could lift my glistening sex works in his palm and I’d be thrilled, his skin so close to mine I can smell his bargain cologne and steamy armpits.


Australian surfer whose “pride and joy” van, replete with wedding rings, hopes, dreams stolen after stashing key in Police-endorsed Surf Lock device; Insurance companies mock: “When you make a claim you’re just treated like dirt!”

Don’t let shady people steal your sunshine.

To be honest, I don’t know who in this western world still has a positive or even neutral impression of insurance companies but Gold Coast local, Andrew Grantham is decidedly not one of them.

The Coolangatta draftsman went surfing with his wife, recently, one fine pre-lockdown morning and when he returned, his 2018 Toyota Hiace was gone even though he stashed his keys in a Surf Lock device. One promoted by the police in fact.

His insurance company blamed his negligence on the affair and refused to cover the loss.

“When you make a claim you’re just treated like dirt. I felt like I was treated like the criminal. Like it was my fault the car got stolen. And for that I hate the insurance company more than the actual scumbags who stole my car,” he told the Gold Coast Bulletin.

Vague wording in his policy states that car theft is deserved when the keys are left “within the vicinity of the vehicle.”

His van was, he claimed, “his pride and joy” with he and his wife’s wedding rings inside and hopes and dreams of a vanlife future shining bright on the horizon. Traveling about the Lucky Country etc.

Grantham has fought, and fought hard, sending his insurance company police missives praising the Surf Lock li’l dangler with inspiring phrases such as “Don’t let shady people steal your sunshine. Consider using a surf lock attached to your car.”

His insurance company responded that they would not be buying Grantham a new vanlife because their client breached his conditions of cover.

“We make sure our claims process aligns with regulatory guidelines. This is in addition to our decision criteria that we use to ensure consistency and alignment with what is fair and reasonable.”

But back to insurance companies.

Are you a remaining fan?

Happy for the service provided?

Or are you a sunshine stealing shady person?

Also, where do you hide your keys when you surf?

Car shocks?

Under towel on beach?

In ignition?

A surf art if there ever was one.

Hawaii’s Carissa Moore caps most successful season in surfing’s long history with induction into Huntington Beach “Walk of Fame!”

She's number 1!

The Ultimate Surfer will air its final episode tonight on ABC television and Zeke Lau will win and one of the remaining female contestants will also win but we all know, and they all know too, that “Ultimate” means “Lightly Above Average” in their case.

No, The Ultimate Surfer is Carissa Moore and not even 11x World Champ Kelly Slater has had a more successful season than her.

First, the Honolulu-born Moore won the first-ever Olympic gold medal in surfing.

Then, she won the first-ever World Surf League Finals Day, snagging her own fifth World Title along the way.

Now, she is becoming enshrined on Huntington Beach’s very august surfing “Walk of Fame.”

John Etheridge, Surfing Walk of Fame Chairman of the Board, said, “After 18 months of world-wide closures and uncertainty, this year’s class of Surfing Walk of Fame inductees is incredible. Our goal to celebrate surfing, surfers, surf culture and its history has never been more completely represented than it is in this class. In a year where we’ve lost so many inductees like Greg Noll, Ben Aipa and Rick ‘Rockin Fig’ Fignetti, we’re so proud to honor this year’s group of honorees.”

Moore is entering the Walk as “Woman of the Year” alongside Damien Hardman, enshrined as “surf champion,” Mike Tabeling, a “Surf Pioneer” Cecil Lear and Hoppy Starts, “Surf Culture” and others.

A major honor, in any case, and there is virtually nothing that great shade painter Kelly Slater could say or write to diminish at all.

No way he could pour her glass half empty.

Could he?

Moore as the story develops.

See the heart-warming moment a surfer slows down to let an out-of-shape cop catch him, and slug him $300, for flouting New Zealand’s tough no-surfing rules!

Iron fist comes down on Kiwi surfers!

Less than one month ago, New Zealand, a little island paradise to the east of Australia and uninhabited by humans for most of its history, used the COVID pandemic to shut down out-of-towners and kooks as part of its Level 4 lockdown restrictions. 

The much-touted VAL revolution, championed by the WSL and counting Jonah Hill as its patron saint, was suddenly benched by Jacinda Arden’s leftist regime. It was a surprising move for a government whose progressive bona fides are beyond any sorta reproach, Marxist at heart if not practice. 

Currently the little island nation is under tough “Alert 4 level” restrictions as it battles what is, viewed through a worldwide perspective, a minor hit of the bug. 

All surfing practised by inexperienced surfers, banned, and shredders required to stay at their local wave. As well, outer-reef sessions are forbidden as restrictions remind surfers to “stay within 200 metres of the shore.” 

But what is life if you can’t laugh at it, am I right? 

Yesterday, BeachGrit reader Andrew Mitchell sent a heart-warming short, filmed by his pal Mark Sharrock, of a surfer at Maori Bay near Auckland, allowing an out-of-shape cop to catch him for flouting the emergency law. 

The man was fined three-hundred dollars, and he ain’t alone, plenty of people have been getting stung for shredding, although, as Michell pointed out, “it’s still cheaper than a wave pool.” 

Devil horns?
Devil horns?

Latter-day Saint attacked by shark in Florida opens up about life after bite: “The wound is pretty much just a big, yucky scab now.”

Greatest Generation Ever strength.

To have been bitten by a shark, whilst surfing, is a great badge of courage and to remain calm, un-worried, paddle self to beach and remain tear-free even when mother approaches is near Greatest Generation Ever poise but that was Doyle Nielsen who was bitten while surfing at Ponce Inlet in Florida.

The Latter-day Saints organ, Deseret News, recently caught up with the sixteen-year-old Mormon, who hails from Georgia, to both hear is story and see what life is like after bite.

According to Nielsen, he felt the bite though didn’t have time to be scared and calmly paddled to shore where a lifeguard bandaged him up.

His mother happened to be down the beach taking photos of brother Logan but came back when she saw a crowd surrounding Doyle. He calmly informed her that he had been attacked by a shark though, at first, she could not believe him. True enough, though, as evidenced by a “big gash” that needed stitches.

The nasty encounter was captured on film.

Extremely chill.

But what is like after bite? According to Mrs. Nielsen, “He’s doing great. (The wound) is pretty much just a big, yucky scab now. The first couple of days he was in pain, and that wasn’t very much fun. But now he’s having fun. It’s like he’s getting his fun reward.”

Yes, a great badge of courage award.