In stunning move that throws professional surfing into disarray, defending World Title holder Gabriel Medina withdraws from Billabong Pro Pipeline Masters!

BeachGrit prescient.

In a move that will reverberate through the beginning of the World Surf League’s 2022 season, it has just been announced that 2021’s defending champion, Brazilian Gabriel Medina, has officially withdrawn from the Billabong Pro Pipeline Masters which opens in mere days.

Per the press release:

“The past few months have been a difficult time for me personally and it has taken a toll,” said Medina. “As such, I’ve decided to withdraw from the start of the 2022 WSL Championship Tour. I had every intention of competing for the full season, had made all the preparations medically (I took my COVID vaccination during my holidays) and mentally and physically, but I’m not in a place where I believe I can perform against the world’s best surfers right now and I need to focus on my well-being. I don’t know how long it will take, but I aim to return to the Championship Tour as soon as I am ready. I very much appreciate everyone’s ongoing love and support. I’ll be back when I am able. Love.”

“The health and safety of our athletes is of the utmost importance, and we fully support Gabriel’s decision to prioritize his well-being,” said Erik Logan, WSL CEO. “We want to put the world’s best surfers in front of our fans to start the season, but we certainly respect his decision. We’ll obviously miss having our reigning World Champion at the 2022 CT kick-off at the Billabong Pro Pipeline, and we will be here to welcome him back when he’s ready.”

“Gabriel is our number one surfer and we will do anything to help him return to his best personally and professionally,” said Rip Curl Chief Marketing Officer, Neil Ridgway. “For many world champion sportspeople the pressures of winning at the highest level are great and the Olympics and WSL Championship Tour are tough crucibles to thrive in. We have seen the ups and downs with many of our finest World Champion surfers and we support Gabriel 100% in his plan to recover in full and be ready to rumble later in the WSL season. We would also like to say to his many fans that it’s ok to reach out for help if you are struggling physically and mentally and seek help from the many organizations across the world, which have really come into focus during the pandemic. The other thing to do is surf more. The ocean is a great healer and we know Gabriel will be out in the lineup as part of his recovery. We wish him well.”

Medina will be replaced by Caio Ibelli (BRA) at the 2022 Billabong Pro Pipeline.

Logan and co. could have planned better for this outcome had they listened to the advice of BeachGrit’s Derek Rielly who, four months ago, declared that Medina was likely to sit out for the whole season.

How does this make you feel, the defending champ taking a potential year off at the height of his prowess?

Caio Ibelli back for more?

Interesting days.


Teva sandals dead giveaway that a lifesaving is nigh.

North Shore lifeguards superhumanly busy over weekend of pounding surf, save 53 lives and warn a further 7000 vulnerable adults to look but not touch!

When the wave breaks here... be back in Tulsa.

I am currently in Jackson Hole, Wyoming ahead of Natural Selection, the snowboard competition that the World Surf League should copy forthwith. More on that later, but regarding our WSL, extremely large surf has been pounding Oahu’s North Shore ahead of the Billabong Pro Pipeline Masters kickoff keeping the local lifeguards extremely busy.

Honolulu Ocean Safety Lt. Kerry Atwood told KHON News, “We’ve been busy. We’ve had multiple surfers at Waimea Bay needing assistance from our rescue unit and had to be brought back to the beach. And we did have a jet ski that got into some trouble earlier in the day in the Laniakea area.”

The outlet reported that as of 4:30 yesterday afternoon, lifeguards had saved 53 souls from drowning and made a further, whopping, 7000 “preventative actions” such as telling vulnerable adults to look but not touch etc.

“We’re not taking any chances today. We have caution tape up, signs posted, we have mobile patrols, lifeguards on ATVS, two rescue units actively patrolling the surf, one on land and lieutenants in trucks,” Lt. Atwood continued.

7000 warnings.

Could you imagine issuing 7000 warnings to befuddled Logans fresh off the plane from Oklahoma, eyes wide, bodies sheathed in neoprene suits of armor, ready to meet their destiny?

7000 warnings.

Wow.


No shakas for BL at Pipe this year.

Bombshell: WSL pulls hall-of-famer and former world champ Barton Lynch from Pipeline Masters commentary team!

The tour's opening gambit just dulled a little with the dumping of the sport's most popular broadcaster…

In a surprise turn, the 1988 world champion Barton Lynch, who cinched his title at perfect eight-to-twelve-foot Pipeline but is now more famous for his oratorical gymkhanas on WSL broadcasts, has been pulled from the commentary team for the 2022 Pipeline Masters. 

Lynch, who is fifty-eight and lives at Sunset Beach in Hawaii, was shifted sideways to the Hurley Sunset Beach event to make room for, we believe, Ross Williams and Makua Rothman. 

Matt Warshaw in his Encylopedia of Surfing (subscribe here) says Lynch developed a reputation as “one of the sport’s wittiest and most articulate figures, and for his willingness to express views outside what he correctly viewed as a narrow surf world orthodoxy. Surfing, he said in a 1989 interview, was nothing more than ‘another outlet for making yourself feel good,’ and shouldn’t serve as ‘the be-all and end-all of your life.’  Surfers, he continued, were on the whole the most ‘self-righteous, cocky and judgmental group of people you’ll find anywhere in the world.'”

One of the sport’s most popular broadcasters, there was conjecture the dumping was linked to Lynch’s role in the activist group Voices4Choices, which questions vaccine mandates and the role of government during the continuing COVID pandemic.

A recent Voices4Choices webinar was a who’s who of the sporting world, tennis stars, surfers (Taj Burrow), doctors etc,

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Voices4Choices (@voices4choices.life)

And here’s the Voices4Choices theme song,

 

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A post shared by Voices4Choices (@voices4choices.life)

 

 


Great White and surfers at Koel Bay, South Africa. | Photo: Greg Davies

Huge Great White shark filmed metres from surfers and swimmers in chillingly similar scenario to shallow water fatal attack on bodyboarder at same beach!

Ignorance is bliss, mostly.

Back in 2012, bodyboarder Davey Lilienfeld was killed by a Great White in front of his brother at Koel Bay, an idyllic and real consistent beachbreak in Cape Town, South Africa. 

Lilienfeld, who was twenty, was hit by a Great White estimated to be between fifteen and eighteen feet long.

Yeah, real big. 

Usual story, bitten on the leg, bled out. 

Plenty of people on the beach saw it unfold, some taking photos.

Said one, “We saw the shark come from under one of the guys and grab him. The shark shook him and then let him go. The surfer was screaming – it was terrible! Then it took him again. And that was it. It took him under. The first time it took him, there wasn’t any blood. But the second time there was.”

Another, 

“I saw the shark circle this guy. The brother was on his way out to catch a wave, and his brother called out to him. We just saw blood all over. The brother wanted to go in and help, but he couldn’t because the shark still had his brother. The second time the shark took him, it took the boy down with him. A few minutes later the bodyboard surfaced. And then the body was washed on to the rocks. It was terrible to witness. I’m still shaking (six hours later). I felt so helpless – I can still hear him shouting for help…”

Another, 

“I saw this big dorsal fin and after that I saw him getting attacked. He was off his board and in the water. Then the shark turned around and attacked him again. Just before it attacked him, he tried to put his board between him and the shark. He was pushing the shark’s head with his board. But within two seconds the water turned from turquoise to red.”

Dave’s dad, Dirk, and brother Gustav, who was in the water when Dave was killed, sit with Dave’s body, wrapped in a bodybag, at Koel Bay.

Now, in a chillingly similar scenario, footage shared to Twitter shows a twleve-ish footer patrolling the waters near surfers and swimmers. 

It’s the sorta vision you can take two ways.

One, Whites are always around, ain’t no reason to get freaked out or, two, every day could be your last and the odds getting shorter and shorter now that Whites are protected pretty much everywhere.

I tend to favour the former.


Iconic South Pacific surf resort destroyed by tsunami following Krakatoa-like undersea volcanic eruption!

Steve Burling’s Ha’atafu Beach Resort in Tonga no longer exists.

A long time ago, in a decade far far away, during a time called “The Nineties” SURFER Magazine did a boat trip to Tonga with Tom Carroll, Kelly Slater and your humble narrator. 

At the time, Kelly Slater and Tom Carroll were two of the best surfers in the world, if not the two best surfers in the world. Incredibly, phenomenally Tiger Woods-skilled and athletic.

The crew enjoyed the hospitality of a local surf resort owner, Australian Steve Burling and his family. If memory serves he had a Tongan wife and at least three tall, lean daughters who looked destined to grow up into super models.

So what? 

So it was a little shocking when that volcano went off somewhere in the Tongan archipelago and it was identified as the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano.

The Ha’apai part caught the eye and sure enough that volcano went off about 40 miles southwest of where TVC and Kelly went off, way back in the 1990s.

A massive volcano. Visible from space. The air disruption was measured in Miami Fricking Florida: More than 7000 miles away.

When Krakatoa went off way back in 1883 it released an estimated 200 megatonnes of energy – that’s 2000 pounds x 1,000,000 x 200 = 400,000,000,000 pounds of TNT.

The Hunga-Tonga Ha’apai volcano was possibly even bigger than Krakatoa.

And it shook up the world.

A displaced Californian named Tony Stincelli who lives on Vanua Levu island in Fiji “on the south side 10 kilometers west of Savusavu town, which is in the bay,” heard the rumbling from 500 miles away. 

On Facebook, Stincelli said:

I’ll tell you ….. we’re 500 miles away and you wouldn’t believe the hour long explosions and shaking from it here. It was roaring thunderous ground shaking explosions for over an hour …. lots of small tsunami waves breaking across the lagoon out in front.

Displaced California surfer/coastal engineering PhD Jose Borrero was in Gisborne with his family when he thought he heard a distant thunder: 

I didn’t hear the booms, but people around here did. I am in Gisborne on the east coast at the moment.

When the booms were happening I was trying to get my kids to stop talking and eat their dinner. Also, we were in a beach front house at the time and there was a lot of wind and a pretty big swell running, so there was a lot of white noise around. The people I know that heard it were a few km inland in a quiet forest area and they heard it over top of polite dinner conversation. They thought it was fireworks from a nearby speedway that does them on Saturday nights, but it was still daylight, so it didn’t make sense.

The next day we had a cyclone (Cody) spin by the coast about 200 km off shore and the swell got real big for a while (still too big now for the beaches out back). Maybe this afternoon or tomorrow morning the swell will clean up back to surfably fun levels.

But in all of that, the few people who have actually been to Tonga or know Tonga were concerned about the effect a 200 megatonne explosion 40 miles from the main island would have on the life and ecosystems of that distant archipelago.

A few days after the explosion, photos and news leaked out, showing the main island of Nuku’alofa covered in smoke and ash, and reports that the main communications cable linking Tonga to Fiji had been damaged or severed. 

Your Humble Narrator was under the impression that Steve Burling’s Ha’atafu Resort was on the  southwest end of the main island and so protected from the tsunami that washed ashore after the explosion. 

I was wrong. Ha’atafu is/was located on the northwest peninsula of the main island, absolutely exposed to anything and everything thrown up by air and sea from Hunga Tonga.

An email to the Burling camp went out soon after, not expecting an answer because of the wrecked communications cable, but on Tuesday, January 18, an email showed up late in the PM:

Ha’atafu Beach Resort

Tue, Jan 18, 9:21 PM (13 hours ago)

G’day Ben,

Yes, I remember the Ha’apai trip with the crew from Surfer Magazine. Seems like yesterday.

Unfortunately our resort no longer exists. Totally wiped out by the tsunami. My daughter Moana and her family have been managing the resort in recent years and only barely escaped with their lives …. only got out with the clothes on their backs after risking their lives ensuring all guests were alerted to the impending danger and ushering them out of the resort. They didn’t even have time to jump in one of the 3 resort vehicles to drive to safety as the first waves hit the resort only 5 minutes after they heard the first explosion. 

The volcano is located just 20 nautical miles (40km) off the Ha’atafu coast. All resorts and homes along the western coastline have been completely obliterated …. Only some foundations remain. The waves washed right across the peninsula and also wiped out two nearby villages. The western district of Tongatapu has been declared a disaster area. 

All international telephone and internet communications are down due to the submarine cable between Fiji and Tonga being severed in two places by the eruption. Repairs are expected to take another 2 weeks (at the earliest).

I’ll include you in all future email updates.

Best regards,

Steve

So another tragedy from the explosion. After close to three decades and a lot of hard work and sweat equity and memories and good times, the Ha’atafu Beach Resort is no more.

All reduced to smoke and ash. 

Steve Burling described the evolution and trials and tribulation and slings and arrows of Ha’atafu in an email:

Malo e lelei Ben,

The resort was established in 1979. We had a total of 12 accommodation fales. Category 5 tropical cyclones (hurricanes) seriously damaged our resort on 3 occasions … March 1982, January 1993 and the most recent was April 2020 …. but we always managed to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and rebuild. 

All our family and friends are supportive of any effort we make to rebuild (again). However there are many hurdles we currently face …. the biggest being Tonga’s border closure due to covid. No international travel in or out of Tonga has been permitted for almost 2 years. Only Tongan seasonal workers in Australia and New Zealand have been allowed to travel on chartered flights. This makes any short-medium term planning very difficult as Moana and Hola will be overwhelmed at facing the challenge of rebuilding the resort by themselves …. especially after the traumatic experience they’ve just been through. 

Another major issue is the state of Tonga’s tourism sector as there has been no international tourism for the past 2 years. Moana and Hola have done an amazing job of diversifying our resort operation to cater 100% to the Tongan domestic market. This has meant that we have been able to keep all 20 of our staff employed through this covid b/s …. we haven’t had to put any staff off which, for me, is the most important thing. 

Our staff are the backbone of our business. They’re all dedicated hard workers and I’m absolutely gutted that they’re now facing unemployment because of this disaster.

We managed to speak by phone to Moana for the first time last night and she said that she had spoken to most of the other resort owners and people who had homes along the western coast. Like us, they too lost absolutely everything. Moana said that none of them are planning to rebuild. Given that volcanic activity at Hunga has been increasing in the past 15 years, it’s little wonder that people are reluctant to reinvest.

Tonga’s recovery?  The seriousness of the disaster means Tonga will require a major foreign relief effort … this is already underway with both Australia and New Zealand sending military aircraft and naval vessels with emergency supplies of temporary shelter, fresh water, medical supplies and heavy equipment. This will be followed by aid programs to provide more permanent housing …. similar to aid that has been forthcoming in the past following damages from serious tropical cyclones.

All gone in 60 minutes. Mother Nature can’t be sued for damages. 

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