Open Thread: Comment Live, Day One of the Billabong Pro Pipeline!

Professional surfing is back!

Well, the jig appears to be up. The World Surf League has officially restricted embedding of their many fine events but not to worry. We here, we Bitchy Crabs, are highly inventive and so, just like in years’ past, open a new tab (YouTube here) (World Surf League here) and comment with your true friends below on this first day of the Billabong Pro Pipeline (née Masters).

Bang (pictured) going for broke.
Bang (pictured) going for broke.

Yesterday I watched safety surfing die in front of my very eyes and I will never be the same again!

Rot in peace.

As you may, or may not, know, I am currently in Jackson Hole, Wyoming where the snowboard spectacular Natural Selection’s first stop just yesterday wrapped.

Oh it was all absolutely phenomenal but the thing that blew me away, that stopped me in my very tracks and forever rendered me a changed man, was watching, with my own two eyes, the death of safety surfing.

It all happened in quarterfinal heat number three between Norwegian dreamboat Mikkel Bang and Jackson Hole’s own Blake Paul and let me give you a quick recap borrowed from the fine Australian snowboard institution Transfer.

We, my daughter and I, fell into our Yeti chairs in the VIP tent as Mikkel dropped in, throwing hammers but also coming undone. Jackson Hole’s other own, Blake Paul, followed with an inspiring run. Paul had been hot all contest, flowing from feature to feature, dancing amongst the trees, and he bettered Bang by a score of 88.0 to 64.3. A lonely tear rolled down my daughter’s cheek and maybe my wife’s, who was in the competitor’s area.

My eyes were only hot, furiously blinking.

Mikkel took the second of two runs, barely, which meant a third and on their tie-breaking go Mikkel went equally big, magically big, though fell once more.

Paul went soft, back flipping off the first kicker, maybe throwing a grab somewhere down the mountain, maybe twisting a 360 somewhere else.

We call this “safety surfing” in my world and it is always rewarded. Not falling means winning.


And I assumed Paul would win here, too, but wait?


I rubbed my hot and blinking eyes as the scores flashed on the screen. Mikkel Bang 88.6. Blake Paul 65.6

Commentator Salema Masekela sounded confused, as he calls too much surfing and enjoys that sort of lame, but I was jumping up and down, heart out of chest, having witnessed the death of conservatism.

I woke up this morning still not believing and so want to grab this Natural Selection format and ram it into surfing. Or ram surfing into it.

David Lee and I spoke about this, anyhow, and about having a Da Hui like Shootout made up purely of BeachGrit commenters.

Who would you choose to be on your team?

Listen here.

Winner-take-all: Last chance to sign up to world’s richest pro surfing fantasy league!

Easy to play, limited numbers, three thousand bucks and three boards to the champ…

Let’s take a trip back to a different time. Let’s go back to early 2020. There was something in the air.

Kobe died. North Korea was launching rockets. Trump had just been impeached for the first time. There was a mysterious airborne virus making its way through the world, causing cruise ships to be held at bay and countries began to lock down. Chas was gallivanting around Italy.

Right in the thick of the chaos, on March 12, 2020, BeachGrit launched The Surfival League.

Like a North Korean rocket, it was airborne for a glorious minute and then promptly crashed down to earth when the WSL canceled all foreseeable events on March 15, 2020.

Need a quick Surfival League refresher?

It’s simplified fantasy. No tiers. No points. No teams.

Just pick one surfer to advance past the Round of 32.

If they advance. You advance.

You can’t pick the same surfer twice in the season.

Back to last season.

The Surfival League, through fits and starts was able to complete its inaugural season with a construction boss from Colorado narrowly beating out World Champ CJ Hobgood for the Surfival Crown. The Coloradan took home a thousand bucks and a custom PANDA surfboard.

This year we’re upping the ante.

The Surfival Winner will get three gees, American, and a custom three-board quiver from PANDA surfboards.

All you have to do is Surfive.


"Let’s face it, there’s no way Medina quiets his inner beast for more than a couple of comps. He’ll have whittled all the sticks in the forest before long. It’ll be super fun to see him swing in from behind and start decimating people’s dreams in a ruthless game of catch-up." Here, Medina squashes Slater's last-minute heat winner at the 2017 Pipe Masters. | Photo: WSL

Billabong Pro Pipeline Preview: “We can expect peak Kelly, in all his mad, mad glory. There’ll be no escaping him. Every narrative will lead to Kelly. He’ll make sure of it!”

"Join me for the joy and the pain of the tour's opening gambit. Isn’t this the whole point of it all? Because without one, how might you recognise the other?"

Shortly after Longtom flew the coop, Derek asked me if I’d consider taking on his contest writing gig.

I was hesitant.

Hesitant to the degree that my first reaction was Fuck No.

It’s a cold and poisoned chalice, of course. I know that Steve turned comp reporting into art, and I appreciated it as much as anyone. Some of his contest wraps were more entertaining than the heats themselves, and I’m not even sure that’s hyperbole.

Most events happen at entirely unsociable hours for me. It’d be whisky, caffeine and insomnia for the duration of the comps, I’d need to accept that.

This probably isn’t conducive to patience for two yowling, scrapping toddlers at home or 100-odd volatile teenagers on a conveyor belt each day at work. I’d need to brace for that.

Then there’s the challenge of shouldering the dull ache of so many hours of pro surfing, especially with the nasally cadences of Joe Turpel as a soundscape.

Is this something akin to military grade torture? Did I want to find out?

And of course this melting pot of boredom, sleep-deprivation, whisky and lust for risk would be a catalyst for once again descending into deep, black gambling doom.

As many of you know, I am a hopeless addict.

This gig was surely a spiral to full relapse?

But, in the same way when you’re a kid you might hold your hand over a candle then keep going back to do it longer, I was a bit curious to see what happens when I simply threw myself into the flame.

And so I thought I’d give it a punt, because I like writing, and I like Derek, and I like (most of) you, too.

I love a creative challenge. So dead man’s shoes it is.

I must not gamble. I must not gamble. I must not gamble.

I. Must. Not. Gamble.

This is my mantra for the season. If for nothing else, stick around and watch me fail in a blaze of glorious self-loathing.

Join me for the joy and the pain. Isn’t this the whole point of it all? Because without one, how might you recognise the other?

I’m considerably less excited without Medina in the mix, of course, but I’m looking forward to getting a handle on the new guys. It’s ripe for someone unexpected to shine this year I reckon.

Anyway, let’s face it, there’s no way Medina quiets his inner beast for more than a couple of comps. He’ll have whittled all the sticks in the forest before long. It’ll be super fun to see him swing in from behind and start decimating people’s dreams in a ruthless game of catch-up.

And of course, lady and gentlemen, let’s not forget about one Robert Kelly Slater.

In what might or might not be his final year on Tour we can expect peak Kelly, in all his mad, mad glory. There’ll be no escaping him. Every narrative will lead to Kelly. He’ll make sure of it.

There’ll be a Netflix series worth of material over the course of the next year, and I can’t wait.

Slater will hit the half century a few days after Pipe finishes. Fifty. Five-O. That’s remarkable. I love to hate Slater, but the fact he’s still in the mix at the highest level bears repeating time and again.

He has approximately zero chance of claiming a twelfth title, but if the waves are big and barrelling he could absolutely take out a comp. And if he makes a final in decent waves I’ll be cheering him as loud as anyone.

Kelly Slater is a magnificent juxtaposition of genius on water and madness on land, and I’m here to celebrate all of it.

Oh Kelly, we’re going to have some fun, aren’t we?

Are you looking forward to it?

I am. I’m here for you, Kelly.

Let’s dance.

(P.S. I’ve already stuck 20 quid on Ivan Florence to win at, get this,  125/1! Clearly a bookie error in the early odds since he’s now dropped to 20/1. Well I wasn’t going to pass that up, was I?)

Wright (pictured) hacking.
Wright (pictured) hacking.

Two-time World Champion Tyler Wright opens up about surfing Pipeline in candid new interview: “It’s a f*cking sausage fest!”

Jonah shouldn't go.

The dawn of the World Surf League’s 2022 Championship Tour is but hours away with its kickoff at the world famous Banzai Pipeline. The iconic wave is nothing new for the men, it having been a mainstay, the Proving Grounds, for decades but the women will also paddle out this year to the thrill of all.

Last year, you may recall, their Maui Pro was shifted to Pipeline after a shark attack. This year the full event will run in the shadow of Volcom’s famous stone but what is the temperature amongst competitors? How are they feeling?

Two-time World Champion Tyler Wright opened up about the opportunity to Pipe in a candid new interview with the august Sydney Morning Herald, telling the paper that she hasn’t surfed it since she was sixteen and let us peek our noses right in for more.

“It’s annoying, frankly, it’s dangerous (out there). I get over it, but when it comes to physically matching the men I don’t want to fight ten guys. It’s obviously a f—ing sausage fest. That’s fine, it is what it is, but at times it’s annoying. Honestly, we can catch the waves, it’s just that we don’t get the practice competing with 150 guys. It’s the most competitive lineup, it’s a gnarly slab, there are lots of different angles. It’s a unique wave. The more people out there, you’re not sitting in the spot you want to be in. You can’t sit in the right spot because it’s so competitive you’ll never get a wave. It is dangerous. I respect the people who put in the time here. I’m sure they see every kook in the world come here and try and surf it. There are always people out there who shouldn’t be out there. That’s dangerous, they’re jeopardising our lives. That’s why I understand that it’s important to have a heavy and respectful local presence. It’s not us that have to worry about it, it’s the local lifeguards that have to pull those guys out. Some people just shouldn’t go.”

And how refreshing is that hot take?

How wonderfully honest?

Jonah Shouldn’t Go.

A new bumper sticker?