"The waves suit Carissa to perfection. On a purely technical level, no one matches Carissa — and she just keeps getting better." | Photo: WSL/Tony Heff

Post-Pipeline and pre-Sunset women’s power rankings: “Steph Gilmore’s heat surfing these days is either brilliant or disastrous; no one matches Carissa Moore!”

Sunset. Big, unruly. It’s the kind of place that’s pretty obviously trying to kill you, or at least, shove a hell of a lot of water up your nose. Looks super fun!

To begin with, I should tell you that I hate writing listicles with every ounce of my hate.

But, for you, the people, I will make an exception. Also, if the men have power rankings, surely the women must have them, too.

Equality, it’s what’s for dinner. Pass the salt.

Sunset. Big, unruly. It’s the kind of place that’s pretty obviously trying to kill you, or at least, shove a hell of a lot of water up your nose. Looks super fun!

I have stared long and hard at the heat draw. I don’t think it made me smarter. Really, next time, I should just pluck names out of a hat. Here it is, my super not-at-all scientific women’s power rankings ahead of Sunset.

To the rankings!

18. India Robinson
Someone has to be last, and this time around, that spot belongs to India. Lingering concussion symptoms put her out of Pipeline, but she’s back in the draw for Sunset. India made a run up the Challenger Series rankings at the Roxy Pro France where she finished second to Brisa, and surfed well in the Challenger Series event at Haleiwa. Nowhere to go but up!

17. Luana Silva
Luana grew up surfing the North Shore and is BFF with Bettylou Sakura Johnson. It’s extremely likely I’m ranking her far too low here, since she almost certainly has spent time in the lineup at Sunset. Luana’s one of the new girls, and I’ll just go ahead and say, straight up, I don’t know as much as about her as I should. Surprise me, Luana!

16. Molly Picklum
Another one of the new girls, Molly had a drama path to the CT. She tied Luana on the Challenger Series, and lost it on the count-back. Off Tour. Then, back on again after Caity Simmers declined her spot. Molly looked stylish at Haleiwa, and has some solid results in the junior rankings. She may well deserve a higher ranking than I’ve given her here, but she’s short on experience. Gotta start somewhere.

15. Brisa Hennessey
During the Covid competition break, Brisa made a gorgeous edit surfing the waves around Tavarua — including a nice barrel out at Cloudbreak. Her contest heats seem hit and miss to me. Sometimes, she’s brilliant, other times, it’s just not happening. She made it through to quarters at Pipeline. Can she push through the size at Sunset?

14. Moana Jones Wong
Surfing’s new It Girl, Moana won Pipeline in style. She’s spent the past five years surfing five and six hour days out there. There’s a trade-off, of course. Six-hour days at Pipe aren’t going to help at Sunset, where Moana will be on her backhand. Yes, she put up a couple nice waves for the Vans Triple Crown, but her turns aren’t on the same level as the CT women. Outside of Pipeline, Moana’s contest results are few and far between. Barrels? Sure. Backside turns, I’m not convinced.

13. Sally Fitzgibbons
It feels a bit strange to put a CT veteran and top-five finisher from last year this far down the rankings. Do I know what I’m doing over here? Probably not. I don’t think of Sal as a girl for the bigger stuff. Am I wrong? Entirely possible.

12. Isabella Nichols
If she hadn’t made it on Tour, Isabella would have headed to university to study engineering. But she qualified and here we are. One of Isabella’s first Backdoor barrels at Pipeline was so smooth and stylish. I had her firmly slotted as a beach-break surfer after the first few events of 2021, but I’m pretty convinced she has more to offer. Let’s see what happens at Sunset.

11. Bronte McCaulay
Fresh off the plane, Bronte is a last-minute substitute for Caroline Marks, who is taking time off from the CT for health reasons. Bronte is legit good in solid surf with a strong backhand. If she weren’t fresh off the plane, I’d slide her higher in the rankings.

10. Gabriela Bryan
One of the many Hawaiians in the draw for Sunset, Gabriela has spent plenty of time surfing the North Shore. She knows what she’s in for at Sunset and her powerful style is well-suited to the wave. She’s been steadily posting up clips this winter. Looks good, so far. I’d rank her higher if she had more CT experience. I may be making an embarrassing mistake here.

9. Johanne Defay
Johanne said over on the Instagram that she has a minor knee injury from getting lipped at Backdoor. It might have been worse, except she trains like a demon. Let that be a lesson to you, kids. Training is good. Johanne is not afraid of size, but always seems to go better in lefts. Sunset? Rights. I know that much, at least.

8. Courtney Conlogue
With her go-for-broke style, Courtney will either win or get nothing. She’s won Bells Beach in sizable conditions, and she can wrangle heavy sections. Of the top women on the CT, she’s the most willing to huck and pray. That may well serve her well if Sunset turns unruly. Inconsistency puts her out of the top of the rankings, but if she wins, I would not be entirely surprised.

7. Malia Manuel
Her smooth, graceful style may not be especially well-suited to Sunset, but she’s experienced and not afraid of size. Malia finished second to Courtney at Bells. If I’m honest, this ranking is as much from my heart as it is from my head. I just love her surfing.

6. Tati West
One of the strongest backside surfers on Tour, Tati came within a heat of snatching the world title straight out Carissa’s grasp last year. Sunset is no party for goofyfooters, so I’m probably ranking her too highly here. And actually, I’m starting to lose my mind. Listicles, not my thing.

5. Lakey Peterson
After a year off from the CT due to a back injury, Lakey returned to a semifinal finish at Pipeline. Her semi heat with Carissa was nothing special, but she nailed a couple Backdoor waves early on. Lakey has one turn, really. She’s fast and dynamic, but sometimes tries too hard to force it. Lakey might be the scrappiest heat surfer on Tour, always looking for that one last score. I appreciate her never say die approach.

4. Bettylou Sakura Johnson
A Hawaii girl, Bettylou learned to surf at Haleiwa. She’s got plenty of power and she’s comfortable in size. Her inexperience with heat surfing showed when Isabella beat her at Pipe, but I don’t think she’ll make that mistake again. At 16, she’s one of the sport’s future stars, and that future may come more quickly than we expect. She beat Carissa in the Challenger Series event at Haleiwa. The conditions were shit in the final, but Bettylou deserves to celebrate that one. Sunset? Sure, why the hell not.

3. Tyler Wright
The last time the women surfed a CT at Sunset Beach, it was 2010. I think I have that right. Tyler was a wildcard for that event. Also, she won it. I’ll be honest: I don’t love that layback Tyler does on just about every wave. But the judges do. Her Backdoor eight was legit. While Tyler says she’s scared of big Hawaii, she can surf it. I almost flipped her ranking with Lakey. Life is chaos.

2. Steph Gilmore
It might just be force of habit to put Steph this high in the rankings. But she’s a seven-time world champion, and she won Sunset Beach twice early in her career. Going right is Steph’s whole thing, and if the conditions clean up, she’ll bring her beautiful rail surfing to the party. Few do it better than Steph at her best. Steph’s heat surfing these days is either brilliant or disastrous. The brilliant days, there’s no one I’d rather watch. Here’s hoping it’s the good Steph, not her evil falling twin who paddles out at Sunset.

1. Carissa Moore
In 2009 surfing as a wildcard, Carissa won the CT at Sunset Beach. She’s also the only woman ever to compete in the men’s Triple Crown, and Carissa spends her winters surfing the North Shore. The waves suit her to perfection. On a purely technical level, no one matches Carissa — and she just keeps getting better. If Carissa has a weakness, it’s a tendency to overthink things. She defeated herself at Pipe and she almost certainly knows it. No shame there, even the very best stumble sometimes, and Carissa will be determined to put all that behind her.

Champion longboarder Joel Tudor hammers his 95-theses onto World Surf League wall: “Don’t be a bunch of f*cking phonies!”

Longboarding for the win!

The most exciting story in all of surfing, outside Kelly Slater’s vaccination status, is the World Surf League’s 2021 longboard champion Joel Tudor opening a guerrilla front against Santa Monica that has since blown into open warfare. The whole imbroglio swirled to life, days ago, as a rumor surfaced that the WSL was going to slash its Longboard World Tour from three events to one. Tudor took to Instagram to demand account, in light of the League leaning heavily on longboarding images, videos, on its social channels and especially during the just-wrapped, highly successful, Billabong Pro Pipeline.

The World Surf League, neither addressed the rumor of decimation nor underlying issues and instead released a letter from the desk of commissioner Jessi Miley-Dyer criticizing Tudor for being “inaccurate and misleading.”

Tudor published the ill-conceived missive, calling for “town hall meetings” amongst other things, and here we are.

Bombs bursting in air.

World Surf League taking heavy losses as its recent breast pounding regarding “equality” and “inclusivity” made to look purely performative.

But what does Joel Tudor actually wish for? I called to ask and he was kind enough to answer on his way through the smoke, ready to pound his 95-theses on the World Surf League’s Wall of Positive Noise.

You know, guys don’t have much leg to stand on but regards to the women it’s insulting that the WSL is trying to beat around the bush. They use women’s longboarding to promote everything. The surf brands too, every single major surf brand, has used women’s longboarding for years and years and years without paying them barely anything and now the ASP, sorry WSL, has an opportunity to do something but they’re going to cut the tour down to one event? You can’t make a champion out of one event. I might have stayed quiet but when I was watching Pipe, they kept running the same ad of women’s longboarding and it kicked back all these memories. You’ve got an ad calling for equality and togetherness? Nothing has changed. They use it but never support it and this is especially true with the women. 

It was at this point I expected Tudor to go in for the kill. He has won the moral high ground and also has the business high ground. Women’s longboarding is the biggest growth sector in surfing, has been for a long time, and longboards, not softops but glass and resin longboards, make up the vast majority of surfboards sold. Plus, the longboard side of the draw is the only to ever feature two black surfers in a final. The terms of surrender very much up to him and so I asked, “What’s the dream?”

Three events is a good start. As a kid, when I first became a professional, longboarding was cool sideshow on the down days. Just tack us on to your existing events and save money. The infrastructure, hold window, judges everything is already there but they’ve never given us a chance. Are they scared we’re going to steal the show? Lowers, Bells, Hossegor… we used to be part of the tour but for for thirty-two years, thirty-two fucking years, they won’t let us have us but want to run this fake shit about equality and inclusiveness. Don’t be a bunch of fucking phonies.

Three events?

It sounds beyond reasonable.

Maybe even too reasonable.

World Surf League?

An easy doggy door. Just claim “rumor” of longboard world tour decimation are completely unfounded and kick it back to three events. Hell, actually don’t be a bunch of fucking phonies and kick it to five.

Longboarding at Bells instead. Lowers too.


Open warfare breaks out as World Surf League commish Jessi Miley-Dyer blasts Joel Tudor for being “inaccurate and misleading” after longboard champ challenges League’s idea of equality; Tudor triples down, mobilizes fans to storm WSL gates!

"32 years of blatant segregation."

Open war broke out, this morning, between the World Surf League and its 2021 longboard champion Joel Tudor. Days ago, Tudor took to Instagram having become frustrated by the rumored decimation of the longboard tour as well as the paltry sums longboarders receive from the League even though they are heavily used by the selfsame League’s social media, marketing etc.

“Yo @wsl @jessmileydyer @elo_eriklogan can y’all explain this kind of equality?” Tudor wrote. “Not very woke of you to treat the log gals with so much disrespect in regards to pay? It’s kinda clear on your own Instagram which style is more favored by your audience! Urging all log gals , parents & friends to write the @wsl asking why this is still happening….also they are planning on canceling the longboard tour to a one event stop! Hit em up , post about it & make some noise to make things right!! Awoooooooooo!”

The aforementioned @jessimileydyer, World Surf League commissioner Jessi Miley Dyer, did not allow the missive to slide and, last night, issued a letter that began, “Hello everyone. I wanted to address a post that our 2021 Men’s Longboard champion made on his IG account yesterday that was both inaccurate and misleading related to the WSL’s approach to equality. Joel created confusion and called into question whether female athletes competing on the Longboard Tour receive equal prize money. It is important that you know, and that you hear directly from me, that we take great pride in the fact that our male and female longboard athletes all receive equal prize money.”


Miley-Dyer’s willful misreading of Tudor’s initial points and gaslighting of “longboard athletes” was not appreciated by Tudor who, in turn, tripled down taking to Instagram yet again and writing:

Well my morning went like this yesterday….woke to a text sent via @jessmileydyer asking me to take my post down saying that I was being unproductive…..I respectfully declined! While it’s quite hilarious that now all of the sudden y’all are open for discussions after the 22 when prior to the post you could of all cared less if we disappeared! Also way to not address the difference on pay between womens ct and womens longboard when gals longboard is fastest largest area of growth for female surfing & used by the entire surf industry as 70% of all female surf brand imaging …..yet paid peanuts by the governing body of surf @wsl for no other reason than they just don’t feel like paying them equally ……on paper and in actual numbers value the log gals are incomparable!!!Yo @wsl you can do better than this!!!!!!!!! Also if yall are short on event costs you can very easily piggyback us on to some of your pre existing comps with 14 day holding periods …run on the down days …once upon a time you use to include us …bells , margret river , narrabeen , Kirra , hossegor , Brazil all use to include us at asp stops but after 1991 you never invited us back ever again. The only time we’ve shared a stage since has been the @vans DTI at Us open / @wsl care to expand on 32 years of blatant segregation? Put us together on occasion and see how much your audience enjoys the style change! Keep those hands up y’all we ain’t done fighting yet!

Uh oh.

A very clear win for Tudor as a multitude is now marching on Santa Monica, ready to breech the Wall of Positive Noise. Will Miley-Dyer rethink her strategy and go dark, as is typical for the League, and hope that it all just goes away or gird her loins for war?

Will this 32 years of Jim Crow-esque “blatant segregation” finally but finally come to an end?

Exciting days.

David Lee Scales and I, anyhow, chatted about how the World Surf League has a magic ability to get everything, literally everything, wrong amongst other dribs and drabs. Listen here while petitioning the WSL to let longboarders paddle Bells instead of Filipe Toledo.

Kaipo and Kelly, post Pipe win. | Photo: WSL

World number one surfer Kelly Slater all but confirms hot rumour the quest for title number 12 has finally overwhelmed his very public vaccine hesitancy, “I’ll see you in Australia!”

"There’s a reason I’m not talking about it that is personal. I do believe that medical privacy is a real thing."

Earlier today, the triple-vetted rumour that Kelly Slater, noted for his public opposition to vax mandates, “has already been vaccinated and may be ready to push through Australia’s green and gold gates with no fuss at all.”

Per reporter Smith’s story, 

“He is number one in the rankings, heading into the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach, with the Australian leg to follow. Students of the game will certainly be aware that the land down under cares not for pedigree, for athletic excellence, in the face of a waning Coronavirus pandemic having recently shamed tennis star Novak Djokovic out of Melbourne for his refusal to “take the jab” but will Slater’s noted ultra-competitiveness, his quest for title number 12, overwhelm his own very public vaccine hesitancy?


Apparently, not.

“I’ll see you in Australia,” Slater has just told Reuters. “(My vaccination status) is an important question, and there’s a reason I’m not talking about it that is personal. I do believe that medical privacy is a real thing. But I think my answer that I’ll see you in Australia answers that.”

The comments mark a stunning backflip for the world’s greatest athlete whose world title dreams were in tatters only a few weeks ago after Australia’s federal sports minister Richard Colbeck said Slater “has no chance of getting into the country” unless he’s injected with an approved COVID-vaccine prior to arrival.

“I reckon he knows the rules. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a surfer, or a tennis player, a tourist or anyone else, those are the rules. They apply to everyone,” Colbeck said. “I don’t like the chances of him competing in Victoria, and I’d hate to think of what the chances were of him competing in Western Australia.”

The fourth and fifth events on this year’s ten-event tour are Bells and Margarets, April 10 through May 4.

Australia’s vax policies came into sharp relief over the past month following the deportation of world number one tennis player Novak Djokovic.

Novak, who ain’t into COVID vaccines, secured a vax exemption to compete at the Australian Open in Melbourne, which, amid a rising furore from Australians, was quickly cancelled by the country’s PM.

When The New York Times posted the story on Instagram, Slater teed off with the claim Melbourne’s citizens had been brainwashed by its state masters, developing a bond with their captors during six lockdowns totalling 262 days after COVID kicked off worldwide in March 2020.

“Maybe Stockholm Syndrome can now change its name to Melbourne/Australia Syndrome,” wrote Slater. “It’s sad to see the celebrated division by the “virtuous” vaccinated. If you’re vaccinated why are you concerned/worried about anyone else’s status… unless, of course, it doesn’t protect you? Or you’re scared you’ll catch it or upset you had to take the risk of vaccination yourself? So much brainwashed hatred in people’s hearts regardless of vax status.”

Last October, Slater was slammed by the Australian press after launching multiple fronts in the online vaccine war, saying friends have “literally” been killed by vaccines and that he knows more about being healthy than “99 percent of doctors.”

Still seventeen, he looked a lot older that afternoon. Haunted by the cascade of media and sponsor attention he was already getting. Having to change his family’s home phone number all the time because of the fan girls that were stalking him. Shit like that. A Universe of adult concerns and expectations orbiting around him like space trash.

Surf journalist revisits infamous Kelly Slater profile “He sleeps like an angel” from 1989, “He and his family were just getting by, sleeping on mattresses on the floor of a small rented house at the back of Cocoa Beach… Kelly and I shared one of those mattresses…”

"Still seventeen, he looked a lot older…A universe of adult concerns and expectations orbiting around him like space trash."

He could retire as world number one and our once and present King of Pipeline.

He could obtain any wildcard he wanted if he got the itch in the future.

Trestles is a Brazilian trampoline park at this point, so Kelly doesn’t have to prove anything there during kiddie hour at the end of the year.

But even if he presses on, and what a wonder that would still be, every time I watch him surf, and especially during his marvel at the Billabong Pro on I am reminded of this portrait I shot that was to accompany the first SURFER cover story I wrote about Kelly.

He was seventeen years old and just about to make the jump to professional hyperspace. But at the time he and his family were just getting by, sleeping on mattresses on the floor of a small rented house back by the canals of Cocoa Beach. Kelly and I shared one of those mattresses, which was cool with me because like him, I too grew up in a house full of brothers.

And so was created that most famous of opening lines in any feature written about Kelly, “He sleeps like an angel”.

Since then I have always felt like a distant Uncle of Kelly. And during my many years as a senior editor/writer/portrait photographer at SURFER, I always defended and protected Kelly in the media.

I still do.

The shit he caught for Baywatch always made me angry. Yeah, sure…you try it and then woo Pamela Anderson into being your girlfriend.

Anyway, I needed a portrait of Kelly to go with the feature and he wanted to go down to his local beach and climb all over a fishing trawler that had run aground. So we clambered up on top of the thing and talked for awhile about his upcoming eighteenth birthday and how serious adulthood was and of how much things were going to change for him. Still seventeen, he looked a lot older that afternoon. Haunted by the cascade of media and sponsor attention he was already getting. Having to change his family’s home phone number all the time because of the fan girls that were stalking him. Shit like that. A universe of adult concerns and expectations orbiting around him like space trash.

As the sun set over his home town he got real quiet and then said, “I guess I’m gonna have to figure out how to control some things”.

That is when I shot this photo and came up with the title I was going to use for the feature The Seduction of Kelly Slater.

Back at SURFER, there was a disconnect with the art director.

For the story, the art director ran some photo of a 16 year old Kelly smiling and joking around in the beach showers at Sebastian Inlet after a surf.

To me it was an accidental metaphor for how the surfing world misunderstood the pressure this kid was under. And in my opinion, the pressure he still is.

I believe that had they run my portrait, this portrait, everyone would have taken a deep breath, given the kid a break and from that point forward, raised Kelly in the media as less a messiah and more a human being.