Bettylou Sakura Johnson, sixteen and a contest winner in Hawaii and, soon, world tour surfer. | Photo: Brent Bielmann/WSL

Teenage Hawaiian Bettylou Sakura Johnson stuns world champ to win Haleiwa contest and qualify for world tour, “I know you are all so terribly nostalgic already for the old men’s Triple Crown, but that’s so totally over. Suck it, bros!”

A hometown fairytale!

On paper, Carissa Moore came to Haleiwa as the favorite. At the outset, her local knowledge and powerful style looked unbeatable.

Well, paper is paper and water is wet, and that is not how things turned out.

Instead, Bettylou Sakura Johnson just scored the biggest result of her career so far. Currently 16, Johnson won Haleiwa after beating Moore, Gabriela Bryan, and India Johnson in the final. She also qualified for the 2022 CT, after starting the final Challenger Series event ranked thirteenth. That is quite a run.

I know you are all so terribly nostalgic already for the old men’s Triple Crown, but that’s so totally over. We have women’s Haleiwa now! Suck it, bros!

On the subject of the new-school Triple Crown, however, I do find it hilarious that no one in surfing seems to know what to call surfboards that aren’t thrusters.

Progressive? Alternative? Metal?

Really, someone with a brain, which won’t be me, should probably figure this whole thing out. We can also just keep making caveman-like grunting sounds and pointing to the fins like, look, surfboard, has some fins, goes fast. It’s fine. We’ll survive either way.

Back to Women’s Haleiwa.

There were plenty of surprises. I have enjoyed this women’s Challenger Series for the tight rankings, hard-fought heats, new-to-me surfers, and unexpected performances. It’s been a good time.

Opening round two, Alyssa Spencer narrowly beat Moore. Spencer’s backhand looks spicy, and it propelled her through to the semifinals. Once there in a rematch with Moore, Spencer couldn’t make lightning strike twice. She went out, after finishing third behind the five-time world champ and Bryan.

I can’t find exact stats for Caity Simmers, but she is a very small human. Reportedly, she was nervous about surfing Hawaii, and she looked uncharacteristically tentative out there in her round two heat. For such a tiny flea, Simmers sure as fuck can bury a rail. But she couldn’t quite put the pieces together out at Haleiwa and went out in round three. All the same, the creative Simmers should be fun to watch on the CT next year.

Need drama?

In heat four, Dimity Stoyle came down off the top to discover Leticia Canales Bilbao paddling directly through her line. It was a Wavestorm move from Canales, really, and she should have been paying more attention to the surfer coming down the line. An obviously angry Stoyle gave her a talking-to out the back. The judges didn’t rule it an interference, but it potentially cost Stoyle her chance to advance.

The final heat of round two packed a punch with Johnson, Caroline Marks, Coco Ho, and Amuro Tsuzuki. Johnson threw down hard and won it with a 16.23 heat score. Marks looked underpowered, much as she did during the 2021 CT events. She finished fourth. It’d be nice to see her find the same smash she brought to her rookie year on Tour.

Meanwhile, it was a heartbreaker for Ho. She narrowly missed advancing after leaving the door open with a 4.73 back-up score. A savvy heat surfer, Tsuzuki beat her and put an end to Ho’s hopes of requalifying.

I’ll be honest and admit I went to lunch during the quarterfinals. I never claimed that I would watch every heat!

Sometimes, a girl just needs a sandwich. You know how it is.

In the first semi, the two Hawaiians Bryan and Moore ruled it. Moore won it in commanding style with a pair of eight’s. Bryan left the door open slightly, with a 7 and a 4.5, but neither Spencer nor Tahitian Vahine Fierro could overtake her. In another heartbreaker, Fierro only needed to make one more heat to qualify.

The second semifinal? So close. Johnson took an early lead, only to have Robinson overtake her by less than a point. Both advanced. Robinson has power to burn and a weirdly hypnotic full body twerk in her turns.

In her comeback event, Peterson put up the highest single wave score of the heat, but couldn’t back it up. Her never-say-die heat strategy was on full display and Peterson kept scrapping until the buzzer.

Picklum, meanwhile, never found her rhythm in the increasingly storm-fucked conditions and didn’t put up a challenge to the leading duo. That came as a surprise to me, after seeing her previous heats. Love her style, actually.

By the time the final came around, the wind had turned exuberantly sideshore. The lineup looked messier than ever, with more close-outs than open faces on offer. I love junk surf, as you know. I’m pretty sure I’d have gone for coffee instead.

The final featured a lot of searching for waves and comparatively low scores. Robinson only had a 2.00 heat score. It was not easy to decode out there, is what I’m saying.

But Johnson managed to do it. I remember watching her heats back at Huntington and thinking she needed better waves. She looked overpowered for the Huntington hop. In fucked up Haleiwa, she shined.

The heat started out predictably enough with Moore in the lead. She efficiently put up a pair of five’s, no doubt hoping to better them. Before she could get much further, the hungry pair Johnson and Bryan began chipping away at her lead.

With more than 20 minutes left in the heat, Johnson put up an eight-point ride. And that was the heat. The conditions worsened — rain, wind, locusts, whathaveyou. Bryan found a six to move into second, but there wasn’t much to do out there.

Haleiwa marked Bryan’s third second place finish in the four Challenger Series events. She also won the overall. Winning at home would have been a fairy tale ending for her qualifying campaign.

But it was Johnson who got the fairly tale win at home.

After finishing third in the Challenger Series, Johnson will surf the CT next year.

Rookie nerves aside, she should do well.

New girls on the CT?

Bryan, Johnson, Simmers, Robinson, and Luana Silva all qualified for the first time. After her second place finish in the CS, Brisa Hennessey is back on Tour. In a painful twist of the knife, Picklum finished equal on points with Silva, but just missed the cut, thanks to Silva’s higher event results. That has to smart.

See y’all at Pipe Masters!

State of Emergency declared as Hawaii, spiritual home of surfing, battered with snow, potential catastrophic flooding days ahead of HIC Pipe Pro at the iconic Banzai Pipeline!

Abundances of caution on the horizon?

Climate change, or not, amirite? The Hawaiian Island chain, home to Maui, Kauai, Oahu amongst others and surfing’s “spiritual home” is being battered with nasty storms one day ahead of the HIC Pipe Pro, at the iconic Banzai Pipeline, and… you know I don’t actually know if Sunset is still an event or just a video thing, to be honest.

In any case, much chaos. According to USA Today:

A powerful storm system pounded Hawaii on Monday with heavy rain, and forecasters warned of a chance for “dangerous” and “catastrophic” flooding in some parts of the state throughout Monday night and well into Tuesday.

More than 2 feet of rain is possible in some areas; widespread amounts of 10 to 15 inches are likely.

“Expect widespread heavy rainfall with this system, especially under the large heavy rain band, capable of producing catastrophic flooding, and strong gusty southerly winds through Wednesday,” the National Weather Service in Honolulu said.

Flood watches have been issued for all of the islands and will remain in effect until Tuesday, AccuWeather said. Oahu and Kauai islands face the greatest threat of flash flooding, according to the National Weather Service.

Hawaii will certainly survive, a hearty stock, but will professional surfing at the very highest level? The World Surf League, based in sunny Santa Monica, has made it a point to flex “an abundance of caution” for the last few years. Will this abundance now stretch to bigger waves, as was hinted at the just-wrapped Haleiwa Challenger, or rain/snow slicked roads leading in/out of contest sites?

Much to ponder.

Peru, surfing’s other spiritual home, waiting patiently in line (buy here).

More as the story develops.

Malibu heavy Jonah Hill wows fans, last remaining critics, by twinning in powder blue “bare it all” suits with surf instructor girlfriend!

Has the surf life provided rocket fuel?

Malibu heavy, heir to Miki Dora’s throne, Jonah Hill has been on a rocket ship to superstardom in these the Covid days of our lives. Once a lovable boy famous for playing “non-threatening sidekicks,” Hill has transformed himself, or rather been transformed, into a beacon of body positivity, a leading man, a fashion icon, a voice to heard, a voice to be reckoned with.

Is it a coincidence that the meteoric rise in fame, fortune seems to be tied to his conquering of First Peak?

Well, esoteric questions, as such, are difficult to answer. What is undeniable is the heads Hill and his surf instructor girlfriend Sarah Brady turned, days ago, by showing up at the movie premier of Don’t Look Up twinning in powder blue Gucci suits.

Vogue described thusly:

Hill wore his suit without a shirt underneath, revealing his chest tattoo of a ship. The open jacket also revealed an aqua bead necklace reminiscent of an art teacher that offered an almost spiritual touch to the sleazy-chic ensemble. In Hill’s terminology, he looked, well, rad.

In lieu of a shirt, he finished off the suit with three floral pins on the lapel and metallic blue smoking slippers. His slicked-back bleached hair and full beard gave off a groovy rabbi vibe. To take the look to another level, Hill matched with his girlfriend Sarah Brady, who also wore a pale blue suit and the same slippers. The duo looked slick, low-key, and fun. On Instagram, Hill described the look, styled by Ezra Woods, as “glam space twins.”

@sarahhbrady (Instagram).
@sarahhbrady (Instagram).

Tatler called it “surfer dude fashion.”

Shaka emoji.

Shark attack on surf cam!

Just in: Video of surfer being attacked and dragged under water by shark at Banyans on Hawaii’s Big Island, “Wham! Nails him right there! He’s down, now he’s going to pop up and swim to that guy!”

"Grabbed him by the arm and pulled him under and when it pulled him under it whipped  around and hit him in the face with its tail. Broke his nose and his jaw and knocked his teeth out."

Yesterday, word came in that a surfer had been hit by a Great White while surfing Banyans, one of the most popular breaks in the Kailua-Kona area.

Whites in Hawaii are pretty rare, but only eight days earlier a free-diver had filmed a fifteen-foot Great White swimming towards him off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island so it wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility. 

Direct messages we saw from the surfer’s girlfriend indicate he identified the shark as a Great White and said it came at him with its mouth open and hit him so hard in the head it knocked out two of his teeth. The White dragged him under and, for whatever reason, let him go.

Other surfers in the area weren’t convinced it was a White,

“That Banyan’s shark incident is assumed to have been a black tip reef shark that had been seen acting aggressive over the last week,” one wrote to BeachGrit. “Grabbed him by the arm and pulled him under and when it pulled him under it whipped around and hit him in the face with its tail. Broke his nose and his jaw and knocked his teeth out. The fireman said he had a nasty cut on his arm and he’ll have a good scar but that’s about the extent of it… The kid said that it was a White shark but everyone who was around said no, and the firemen who responded said no. They also said that if you rewind the surf cam back you can see it happen.”

Ah, let’s rewind! Nice man, below, has provided commentary.


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A post shared by Robert Sean Voge (@grounduphawaii)

Brophy and classic spray.

Iconic surf artist Drew Brophy on ventilator in ICU after being hit by COVID; family turns to crowdfunding to pay expected “six-figure medical bills”, “Drew is facing the biggest challenge of his life!”

San Clemente surfboard artist to the stars is real sick and it'd be nice to see him back in the water… 

Drew Brophy is ill and needs your long green. 

Yes, that Drew Brophy, the artist who painted the look of modern American surfing with his Posca pens and sideburns.

He’s got the Covid with all the trimmings, including ventilator.

Was Drew vaxxed? He can’t say.

Regardless, the cat needs some help. Being an independent contractor doesn’t come with goldenrod health insurance.

Lost Surfboards’ Instagram threw up a link to a sad letter on from Drew’s brother.

You can read it here.

We know Drew’s art from the Lost boards of the nineties. His work is a straight-punch-to-the face.

Brophy started his career at ProGlass in Haleiwa after an overheard conversation between drunks at a hometown Myrtle Beach bar one night.

They needed a new airbrusher. Drew boarded a plane the next day and was gone.

Brophy found himself buried in board painting demand, doing jobs for multiple shapers. Plenty of pro boards fell under his brush too, painting pretty decks and rails for heavies Tom Curren, Tom Carroll, and others.

Between jobs, Brophy managed to spend ample time in the water, too — opportunities to zip into Pipeline barrels included. (Brophy is a serious big-wave bull fighter. Thumb through the April 1995 issue of SURFER, and you’ll see a beautiful photo of Drew wrapped tight in a perfect Puerto Escondido right.)

But he couldn’t pay the bills, existing on a slim diet of rice and his Hawaiian experience came to an end after a vicious hit to the face courtesy of Pipe reef.

Months of recovery followed, forcing Drew out of work and back to the mainland.

In 1996, he found a home sleeping in a friend’s garage and looking for work in the middle of San Clemente, basecamp for what was really goin’ on. Stewart picked up Brophy to paint longboards, paying about twenty dollars a board.

But the gentle airbrush fades required, leftover from the eighties, wasn’t quite his bag. Brophy had begun experimenting with paint pens from the Japanese company Uni-Posca and developed the raw, color-drenched, I-don’t-care-what-you-think style that would define his art.

Looking for a better gig, he walked into Matt Biolos’ shaping room to see that he was also a disciple of the pens.

Biolos says, “I was doing similar stuff as far back as ’87. Painting flaming waves, skulls, demons, monsters, mushrooms… rock and roll album covers etc., on Archy’s and Christian Fletcher’s boards. They were getting really big magazine exposure on my (rudimentary) paint jobs. It’s how I first built my name. We used this type of imagery on all our early tees, from ’93 on, as well. As my shaping took over, I no longer had the time to spend hand painting boards. Drew knew we had a history of it, but was not seeing it on my boards much anymore. He figured I would be open to him bringing it back. I was, he did, and he ran with it, far beyond anyone’s previous production surfboard numbers.

“His partnering up with us was really good timing. All the parts were moving well. It coincided with the popularity of our surf videos, like ‘What’s really Goin’ Wrong’ and ‘5’5″ x 19 1/4“‘. These videos brought our name into everyone’s living rooms. Surfers like Chris Ward and Cory Lopez were making a lot of impact on our boards. My shapes were now getting sought after. We had the Round Nose Fish and these two teen phenoms. Drew’s paintings gave the boards a point of difference, at retail, and everything sort of worked together.”


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A post shared by Drew Brophy Surf Artist (@drewbrophy)

After a quick test of his skill, he brought Drew on board to bring his color from tip to tail of Lost Surfboards. If Biolos’ genius with a planer wasn’t enough to hook a surfer on a Lost board, Drew’s art was the gravy.

“We were together a lot in the early days, for sure. People thought we were brothers,” Biolos says. “As the business grew, we moved the shaping rooms down the street and the painting moved to a warehouse, up El Camino Real, downtown San Clemente. We raised some hell at night as well. We traveled around the world, building the …Lost brand and our own brands. Peru, Brazil, Europe, Japan. We surfed and had a lot of fun.”

With Mayhem shapes filling racks in shops worldwide, Drew’s work became instantly recognizable, doubtlessly sending groms on every coast racing to the craft store in search of wide-tip Sharpies to ruin their boards with.

In each of his painted boards, heaving rows of monstrous waves march like soldiers taking a beach, screaming blood-orange suns stretch their angry rays across the sky, cartoonish skulls line the impact zones, laughing. Dripping and tripping down the rails, Drew’s images carried the surf-art genre in a direction that surely would have made Rick Griffin smile wide.

His current business, Son of the Sea, focuses on selling Brophy’s original art. But it also does something rare and gorgeous: Brophy gives away his painting secrets through video and demonstrations worldwide. While many artists might prefer to keep tricks close to the chest, he shares his techniques without a blink.

Brophy surfs mainly near his house at San Clemente Pier, Lowers or Salt Creek when it’s good, and even tries to get a couple days at up north at Mavericks and Ocean Beach each year.

But now he’s sick and it’d be nice to see him back in the water.

If you are so inclined, throw a buck his way.