Slater (right) shows John John how his legs will move when he's walking out the door. Photo: Steve Sherman @tsherms.
Slater (right) shows John John how his legs will move when he's walking out the door. Photo: Steve Sherman @tsherms.

Question: Will the world’s greatest surfer Kelly Slater retire in jaw-dropping fashion if he beats John John Florence to become Billabong’s Pipeline Pro 2022?

One more for the road!

I full well thought that the World Surf League was going to run some Billabong Pipeline Pro today and was happy that they did not for I was indisposed but did anyone steal down to Ehukai’s sand and peek at the lineup? Was it any worse than, say, historic day two when the women were trotted out to equality?

Well, happy, nonetheless and happy, also, that yesterday was a lay because it found me first in San Clemente, chatting with David Lee Scales, and second in Studio City at a famed old western recording facility speaking my next book onto tape (buy here).

But back to Lee Scales. He is convinced that if Kelly Slater becomes 2022’s Billabong Pipeline Pro in pumping surf, beating John John Florence in the final, as they are on opposite sides of the draw, he will retire.

Slater (left) waving goodbye to Florence.
Slater (left) waving goodbye to Florence.

As his reasoning goes, Slater has been vocal about Sunset, the next wave up, not being his favorite. Then, if things hold, he won’t be able to travel to Australia. With the mid-year cut looming and no throw-aways allowed, will the world’s greatest surfer let himself fade into oblivion or will he take this glorious moment to see himself out?

The tour seems as much a part of Slater’s DNA as chia pudding so I think he’ll slink around for another decade plus but what do you think?

Is this it for the BOAT?

We discuss this and whether or not a man should shake hands before entering a room. I think yes, always. David Lee is all about shedding antiquated custom.

Listen here.

Surfing officially included in the Los Angeles 2028 Summer Olympic Games; San Clemente, Huntington Beach, Malibu ready for war!

Youthful energy.

It is official. After making its 2020 Olympic debut at Tokyo, surfing (along with skateboarding and rock climbing), will be part of the 2028 Los Angeles Games and has been approved on Paris 2024’s “additional” list.

With Brisbane set to host the 2032 sporting festival, it is likely that professional surfers will be winning gold, silver and bronze for the decade to come.


Regarding Los Angeles, Casey Wasserman, chairman of the L.A. organizing committee, said, “The LA28 Games have always been about bringing more freshness, youthful energy and creativity into the Olympic and Paralympic movement.”

Fernando Aguerre, president of the surfing’s international federation, added, “We have always known that surfing was a natural fit for LA28. As the official sport of California, surfing is action, youth and energy combined.”


Now, where do you think the surfing will be staged?

Lower Trestles in beautiful San Clemente?

Iconic Malibu a pleasant drive north?

Surf City, USA Huntington Beach?

I’d imagine knives are being sharpened in the various city halls.

I’d imagine civil war is nigh.

I’m about to go walkabout for a couple of days and so won’t be here to share in the deep reverie of the live comment section, nor watch the action conclude. I’ll be hiking into a remote Scottish glen in a storm, with friends, some firewood and a bottle of  whisky each to keep us warm. A fifteen-year-old Dalmore for me. 

Prize surf journalist sensationally heads off for two-day spirit walk on eve of “the greatest surf competition ever!”

"I’ll be hiking into a remote Scottish glen in a storm, with friends, some firewood and a bottle of  whisky each to keep us warm."

On the eve of the conclusion to the Greatest Surf Competition Ever, or whatever name the WSL hype train will surely throw at it, I must apologise.

I’m about to go walkabout for a couple of days and so won’t be here to share in the deep reverie of the live comment section, nor watch the action conclude.

I’ll be hiking into a remote Scottish glen in a storm, with friends, some firewood and a bottle of whisky each to keep us warm. A fifteen-year-old Dalmore for me.

So, apologies.

This has been planned for a while and in recent days I did consider the possibility of abandoning the certain cold of two days in the wilderness in favour of the warmth of your wit and joie de vivre. I am enjoying finding my way in this, and I appreciate you as an audience.

I even made a spreadsheet to work out the time differences, should I continue.

And on a spreadsheet tip, friends and gamblers, here’s a handy bracket you can use now and going forward to work out how to lose your money best. If you go to “File” then “Make a copy” you’ll have one of your own.

Thoughts at this juncture…has Pipe been an unequivocal success?

How much of that is thanks to the WSL, and how much is simply chance and nature? Is every surf contest guaranteed to be superb when the waves march in?

The WSL spin and general self-congratulatory back-slapping is surely going to be unbearable in the wake of this competition. They might appear vindicated in shifting the comp forward and holding it first instead of last. We’re certainly off to a roaring start.

But what we’ve enjoyed has been the sheer, raw bravery of man (and woman) vs nature.

Most of us, if we’re honest, can picture those brutally perfect sets approaching the Pipe line up like a charge of valkyries and thank fuck we’re not sitting in their path.

How many of us wouldn’t like to tippity toe over Trestles’ cobblestones and waft some warm, crumbly liplines?

It’s a different ball game entirely.

And imagine: 2022 World Champion, Filipe Toledo.

How does that sit with you?

Anyway, once my spirit walk is over this weekend I’ll be catching up in full and parsing the salient points of what will surely be an epic conclusion. I’m looking forward to it.

Wish me luck.

The forecast is for snow, 50-60 mph north-westerlies and -16C.

Perhaps I’ll meet Macbeth’s witches, and perhaps they’ll tell me that one day my words will be king, and that I might write like I’m on Swellnet.

A man might dream.

“Art not without ambition”, and perhaps I’ll return with the illness to attend it.

“Handsome ginger-haired” world number ten surfer in wild deja vu moment as he rescues two drowning girls from same beach he saved six nurses four years earlier!

Eight lives saved in two separate rescues at same beach!

The former world number ten surfer, Bryce Ellis, has experienced a wild case of deja vu, literally “already seen”, on Monday when he saved two drowning teenage girls from a rip at Yamba, a pretty fishing town a little south of Byron Bay.

Ellis, who is fifty-eight and who was described, a little unfairly I think, as “ginger-haired” in Matt Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing, was fishing at Yamba’s Main Beach when he saw the girls jump into a rip at the northern end of the beach.

Ellis handed his fishing pole to a bystander and jumped, fully clothed, into the drink.

With the help of a nearby surfer, the pair saved the two kids.

“They were a little bit anxious I think,” Ellis told ABC News. “Whenever you go into an oxygen debt, I think, it does get a bit frightening… You’ve either got to get to the sandbank or let it take its course or wash over to the rocks… It really rockets out … it looks like beautiful water but there’s a certain spot where it does get very strong and it drops off.”

Four years earlier in 2018, same scenario, Ellis was fishing when he heard screams and saw a group of six nurses caught in the same rip.

“I don’t think they had very good swimming skills,” he said. “One of the five women had gone under a few times and had swallowed water.”

Ellis swam out, worked out who was in most danger, and, collecting ’em in pairs, eventually got all six women safely to shore, a feat that earned him a bravery award.

Bryce, looking sorta ginger now, gets his award in 2018 from a fellow ranger.

In the citation it was said the event could have “easily turned into a major search operation.”

Ellis says respecting the ocean and knowing your limits is real important, something 1984’s rookie of the year has always lived by.

In 1986, Ellis and fellow Australian Gary Green withdrew from the opening round of the Billabong Pro at Waimea Bay because the surf was too big.

The wonderful Mara Wolford, RIP, was Bryce’s girl in 1986 and wrote poetically about the moment.

Bryce would never live that morning down. There was a North Shore winter, a couple of years later, when Bryce and I stayed in a house right on the Bay. One morning, the friend we were rooming with woke me at dawn to go surf Pinballs, when it was just starting to cap on the Bay reef proper, so that when Bryce woke up the first thing he saw see was me out in the lineup. I had fun out there. Not until later did I discover that our friend’s motivation was to poke fun at Bryce.

It went on for years. There were articles, lots of heckling and jokes, and a perceptible freeze-out from the world tour’s League of Titans. It is crystal-clear to me now, however, and has been for decades, that Bryce did exactly as he should have that morning at the Billabong contest. He followed his own judgement, listened to his better, and acted on logic and experience—or lack thereof.

There is nothing stronger or more elegant than a man who doesn’t bow to the crowd.

World Surf League wages all-out absurdist campaign of unrelenting positivism in wake of “blood feud heat of the century” pitting mortal enemies Moana Jones Wong against Tatiana Weston-Webb!

Another brick in the wall.

Mere days ago, at the dawn of the Billabong Pipeline Pro, I wondered if maybe, maybe, the World Surf League’s patented Wall of Positive Noise was beginning to crack. Students of professional surfing are well aware of the Wall, which the League began erecting soon after acquiring the Association of Surfing Professionals in 2012 for free. The only sentiments allowed, inside, are those unrelentingly cheerful, unfailingly cheery, even in the face of irrefutable truths otherwise.

Well, mere days ago, the League published, on its very own organ, a story lightly critical of Brazilian Filipe Toledo’s ability at Pipeline, writing, “It’s no secret that Pipeline is not Filipe Toledo’s strongest venue on Tour. While he’s arguably the fastest, most exciting surfer in the world in high-performance waves, there has been room for improvement when it comes to surfing heavy barrels like Pipe.”

A small break?

Small truths peeking through?

Toledo, for his part, proved the League very much correct by failing to paddle for decent waves on The Day of Days, earning a whopping 3.50 heat total and further cementing his reputation as the bravest coward.

But did sadness reign thereafter at the thought of hurt feelings?

Did one WSL staffer simply go off reservation?

Panic in the halls of Santa Monica that a situation had arisen needing to be immediately countered with an all-out absurdist campaign of unrelenting positivism?

Possibly and to whit: Yesterday’s historic women’s day two featured the “blood feud heat of the century” pitting mortal enemies Moana Jones Wong against Tatiana Weston-Webb. You certainly recall last year when Weston-Webb dropped in on Wong then proceeded to get “belted” both on land and Instagram as Wong unleashed a stream of insults including “if you have bad eyesight then don’t surf Pipe” amongst many others.

Well, in its wrap the World Surf League described the affair thusly:

On the other side of the draw, wildcard Moana Jones Wong continued to show the world why she’s considered one of the best women out at Pipeline. Dispatching longtime friend and one of last year’s Rip Curl WSL Finalists Tatiana Weston-Webb in the Round of 16 with her graceful tuberiding, she relished the underdog opportunity.

Longtime friend?

The Wall is back.