“I don’t like the wave. I don’t like the crowd”, Kelly said in a rare and glorious WSL post heat loser interview. “I don’t respect Sunset and it doesn’t respect me back.” The fury subsided, he was calmed now, clear-eyed and reasonable, accepting of his fate. One can but imagine the tortured dreams he’s having right now. | Photo: WSL

World number one surfer Kelly Slater in shock loss at Sunset Beach after dramatic interference on John John Florence, “I don’t like the wave. I don’t like the crowd. I don’t respect Sunset and it doesn’t respect me back!”

"Another reason why I hate Sunset," says the Champ.

It went bad. Real bad. The kind of bad that’s disturbingly close to being great. I could be telling a whole different story, but instead it’s the same as it ever was.

Drawing out my bracket yesterday I felt prescient, confident. The gamblers trap. Feeling like you’re one step ahead.

I got lots right. I knew Barron was beating Italo. I had Slater to lose to McGillivray regardless. Filipe to beat Billy, Jadson over Fred, Seth all the way to quarters, Robbo too…

But the others. God, the others.

On that: if god is willing to show up for a Rd of 32 heat for Caio Ibelli, where the fuck is he for me in the throes of desperation bets?

I signed off three heats before the end last night. Negligent? Fuck you.

Stress often manifests as sudden exhaustion for me. I place a big multi before I go to sleep. It’s the only way. Turn it off and squeeze my eyes shut. I threw one on the heats remaining (as well as a couple on NBA games) then closed my eyes and hoped.

I imagine I’ll wake up and all my problems will have been erased. It’s pure gambling. Chucking money into the void in the hope it somehow comes back. I might as well be playing slots, or endlessly piling on my favourite number on the roulette wheel and trying to burn through it with my eyes in the illogical belief I can make it stop.

Round and round and round we go.

I didn’t sleep well, drenched in sweat despite the cold. Storms are lashing most of the country just now. Biblical downpours and winds tearing trees from the ground. I dashed round the garden before dark rescuing the boys’ bike ramps that were pinned against the fence. A neighbour’s polytunnel was shredded. A loose sheet on the metal roof of the house warped and rattled all night.

Anyway, it’s 5am now and I’m awake to face it.

No euphoric redemption.

I’ve just rewatched the Filipe vs Ewing heat. (I had Filipe, obviously). Looked good. Can’t argue with that last score for Ewing. Is this a surfer finally stepping into his destiny? In appropriate synthesis, this is the guy I’d questioned as the most overrated surfer in memory just yesterday.


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The day got off to a terrible start with Conner’s loss. That single result was a death knell. He was in most of my multis. (You know that of course). But beyond that he was also my Surfvival pick. He’s a surfer whose style I’ve always admired, compounded by some very pleasant interactions we’ve had in the past. And beyond that, still, was he not the event sponsor or something? Very confusing hearing his name in the ads.

But what can you do when the other surfer is doing the lord’s work? Thanks god, said Caio in his post heat interview with Rosie. Or words to that effect.

I thought He only showed out for finals day. So aye, cheers, big man.

It was a bit of a day for Brazilian good-guy journeymen. Ibelli is through to the quarters on merit and not simply divine intervention.

Jadson bested Frederico “Timelord” Morais before meeting his natural end in the round of 16 against Kanoa.

Is it just me, or is Kanoa looking more and more like the clinical competition machine he was conceived as?

Deivid Silva was a bundle of backhand joy all day. How have I overlooked him to this point? His post heat interview after demolishing Callinan in the round of 32 was innocent and pure and just lovely. I noted the fact it was the first time I’d seen him interviewed and that he reminded me of a young Italo. An Italo before his soul was stolen by Instagram.

Silva lost to Barron in the next round but seemed like he shouldn’t have. Regardless, he’ll be a personal favourite going forward.

Oh to have faith…

Sunset made Negatron’s negativity look a little negative today.

The shift in swell direction to a more northerly angle served up long and hackable walls which seemed to get cleaner all day.

At the start there was still some conjecture from the booth about old vs new at Sunset. Outside or inside, long or short.

Most of this came from Makua, who had some solid moments today in which I didn’t completely hate him. Notable were his blunt corrections of Kaipo’s wittering. “He’s slowly working his way back into the heat,” said Kaipo of Morgan Ciblic as he registered his first decent wave and still needed a high nine in the dying minutes.

“He can’t slowly do anything!” scoffed Makua.

Later, I noted another dismissal of Kaipo’s irreverent and airy praise, for what or whom I can’t remember, not that it matters.

“This is a four-foot wave,” Makua interrupted. “There’s ten-foot waves out the back.”

This is all we want. A bit of truth. A bit of reality amidst the toxic positivity.

Nat Young looked in glimpses like he belonged on tour. He had clearly gone heavy on the elf elder water at breakfast and was rewarded with a magical backhand attack, but the elixir wore off later against Seth. Microdose, Nat, microdose.

I saw glimpses of the fuss about Ethan Ewing today. Something in his rail line, something in the way he holds his arms, the height of his elbows as he comes off the top…reminds me of something…

He’s into the quarters, but really he should’ve been out against Sammy Pupo who was underscored, at least in the context of that heat.

The judges collectively lost their shit after this.

There was a three heat period that might warrant a few thousand words alone.

They threw a 9.43 for a single Connor O’Leary backhand re-entry. Dramatic yes, but it didn’t fit the scale.


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Matthew McGillivray’s wave to open against Kelly will be forgotten in the melee that followed, but the nine awarded was bizarre.

John went down to Jake Marshall in a heat that tells us everything we need to know about betting on surfing. Or not, as the case may be.

After snapping the tail off his board on a top turn, John was left scrambling. It looked painful and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a board break like that. Jon Pyzel winced on the beach as JJF’s crew tried not to side-eye him.

But the story, as always, was Kelly.

Winning or losing, in madness or in rapture, he’s still the most interesting man on Tour.

In the non-priority heat, Kelly took off on the same wave as John, bottom turning round the whitewash as Florence got to his feet. It didn’t interfere with the wave, but it was still an interference by rule. Kelly knew it immediately, but it would be some time before he accepted it.

The script had been torn up. There was panic in the booth.

Laura immediately called it as an interference.

“We…we cannot confirm that…”stuttered Kaipo, his voice shaky and uncertain.

“I retract that,” said Laura.

All of a sudden it had turned into the set of A Few Good Men.

Then it was confirmed. Kelly was out.

Laura was flummoxed. “He needs a combination right now,” she said, when McGillivray had already logged a 12.83 and Slater was only allowed one scoring wave.

McGillivray scuttled to the inside in fear of his life or being suckered into an interference call by Slater’s low blood sugar voodoo madness.

Kelly stayed out. He inexplicably went to caddy Jackson Dorian to swap boards.

“A lot of tension,” was just about all Strider could manage.

It seemed like Kelly might not accept the decision. Did he think might later bend things to his will with a protest?

The situation turned comical as he refused to leave the water, refused to leave our consciousness.

Kaipo found the old script. As Kelly wiggled his way down the line before furiously fluffing the end section, Kaipo was still calling him the GOAT, the 11 time champ, etc etc, as if nothing had happened. As if the heat he was surfing to nothing, against nobody, was in some way meaningful.

Slater continued to float in the line-up after his heat had finished, stubbornly refusing to leave the peak.

Any other surfer would have been forced to leave, but no-one knew what to say to the furious man in yellow. So in WSL tradition, they simply pretended he wasn’t there.

“I don’t like the wave. I don’t like the crowd,” Kelly said in a rare and glorious WSL post-heat loser interview. “I don’t respect Sunset and it doesn’t respect me back.”

The fury subsided, he was calmed now, clear-eyed and reasonable, accepting of his fate. One can but imagine the tortured dreams he’s having right now.

I feel you, Kelly.

Never stake your life on pro surfing, friends.

On to quarters then.

How are the odds looking? We’ll spin away regardless, because there’s always a chance.

Mercifully, it’ll be over soon.

Dirty Water: Surf photography’s greatest virtuoso Steve Sherman on the “scum of hypocrisy”, the challenge of the “single permissive sexual standard” and the mystical worship and absolute domination of Kelly Slater!

Surfing's most loved and most exploited worker!

Today’s guest on Dirty Water is surf photography and surf journalism’s greatest virtuoso, the American Steve Sherman.

Over the course of thirty years, maybe even a little more, our guest has captured, in a manner one can only describe as iconic, pivotal events in the sport, from Kelly Slater’s multiple world titles to Andy Irons at his great peak in the early 2000s, to a naked four-time world champ to a chance encounter at a bar with surfing’s first, and still, openly gay male surfer smooching Kelly.

Kelly haunts Andy prior to their world title showdown at Pipe.
Matt Branson smooches Kelly.

Our guest is a raw and emotional man who will gobble up everything on the breakfast tray and whom I once accidentally killed due to a very poor sense of humour and a lack of understanding of the severity of diabetes.

Australian surfer complains of feeling lackadaisical in months following horror wipeout; x-ray shows nose of surfboard embedded perilously close to brain!

"If I wasn’t surfing every day and keeping it clean then the infection would've gone to my brain or spine and I would have been a vegetable.”

A pivotal member of the Kirra Boardriders’ club, one of the best collection of shredders in Australia, has narrowly avoided becoming what used to be called “a vegetable” but is now correctly noted as “being in a vegetative state” after x-rays showed the nose of his surfboard near his brain, seven months after a wipeout. 

Damien Rogers, who is nineteen, blew out his hamstring at D-Bah in July, 2020, making him fall and hit his head on his board. 

“I was barely conscious,” Rogers told the Gold Coast Bulletin. “I looked down and there was blood all over my wetsuit and all around me. I started freaking out so I touched my head and straight away there was blood running down my arms. Luckily, I was pretty close to shore and a wave pushed me in where I just lay on the sand. My partner Brianna (Pinard) was watching and a guy dragged me up the beach, put me in his car and took me to Tweed Hospital.”

Docs cleaned the hole in his head and stitched it closed leaving a four cm x two cm piece of surfboard in his head. 

“I haven’t felt myself for the last seven month. I have had a lack of energy and I’d get headaches.”

A pal’s mum, a nurse, saw a photo of his still-unhealed wound and said he might wanna get to hozzy and have it checked out. 

“I went in on Tuesday last week and they found the piece of board after doing some scans.”

Surgeons at Gold Coast University Hospital opened the teen up and scooped out the hunk of fibreglass. 

“The doctors were surprised I was still walking around. They said if I wasn’t surfing every day and keeping it clean from the salt water then the infection would have gone to my brain or spine and I would have been a vegetable.”

New side opening in head.
New side opening in head.
Rogers in a radically aggressive Rivvia Projects off-the-shoulder tee dress, in violet.

Just prior to the op, Rogers ate up the Gold Coast’s Cyclone Dovi swell. 

“I’m so lucky I didn’t fall on any of those waves and hit my head again.”

Watch him pull into a closeout at 2:43 of the vid. 

Out of the water, now, for six months or so.

Open Thread: Comment Live on Day Two of the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach presented by Shiseido!

You actually CAN script this!

Professional surf fans were shocked and delighted, yesterday, during the opening and elimination rounds of the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach presented by Shiseido, when after years of being thought impossible, it was proved that you can, in fact, script this.

11x world champion and recently crowned Pro Pipeline Kelly Slater looked very much defeated after a shaky heat against Ultimate Surfer runner-up Koa Smith but was miraculously given reprieve by the judges.

Pure joy. You can, and should, read about yesterday’s proceedings here and watch today here or here with the best peanut gallery of them all.

Disclaimer: I am out early again and don’t officially know if the contest will be running or not but it’s a safe bet, no?

Going from first to last for Kelly would have been some kind of dark poetry. After the Pipe victory he was unwilling to leave the table, high on the possibilities despite the slim odds. It was like hitting an early few numbers at the roulette wheel. All of a sudden you’re glued to the table, even when the initial win is gone, and especially when more has. | Photo: WSL

World #1 Kelly Slater survives last-second judge’s decision to continue run for twelfth title, “The WSL still depends on Kelly Slater. Given the mainstream attention he garnered in the wake of Pipe, perhaps now more than ever!”

Talk of a 12th world title at fifty is clearly sentimental bullshit. But if there’s one person that believes it’s possible it’s Kelly Slater.

Well, did it meet expectations? After stupendous Pipeline there was always the threat of a damp Sunset squib.

But intensity and swell built as the day progressed and transpired as fine entertainment, thanks mainly to the one component the WSL can’t control or sodomise.

Mother Nature came to play, as Strider might say.


I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to actively dislike “Mother Nature”. Strider’s the worst offender, but they’re all at it… Mother Nature this and that…slinging thin metaphor like prisoners seagulling from their cells.

Some other phrases fed to the WSL hive mind today were as follows:

So much water moving. Doesn’t do it justice. Huge playing field. Harder than it looks. Belongs on tour. Challenging wave. Chip ins. Building swell. Longer rail line.

It might seem pedantic to constantly nitpick at the broadcast team, but try watching all of it and not finding the repetition jarring.

Anyway, the waves were big.

Mother Nature was squirting with trembling knees.

How big? I have no idea. Barton called a set fifteen feet, which seemed reasonable to me. Surfline were probably calling it forty feet.

Typically, there was a lot of hyping how great Sunset is.

A vocal counterargument to whispered criticisms, perhaps mainly historic ones from the man in yellow, who seems more than ever to be in charge of the mixing desk.

I suppose any wave where a surfer can spend the first few seconds prone, the next few desperately hunting for a section, then score 7s or 8s for one big turn is to be justly questioned.

But I was looking forward to seeing some turns after Pipe. I’ve always gravitated towards surfers with an aesthetically pleasing bottom turn, the kind who will surely do well here.

One such surfer is Jordy Smith, who opened the day with a victory, on a 6’11″, no less.

A pro surfing supergeek might correct me (paging Longtom/Nick Carroll), but I would be surprised if this isn’t the biggest blade wielded in a WCT heat in many, many moons. Perhaps sometime in the early 00s?

But despite Jordy’s comfortable victory and my full and complete endorsement of longer boards, it did look a couple of inches over and he seemed to be wrestling with it a little. This was possibly just a marker of the first heat of the day and essentially a warm up for Smith.

A tangent I’ll save for another day is Jordy’s career arc. You either die a hero or live long enough for everyone to feel sorry for you. As the second oldest surfer in the draw (can you believe it?) I see him having a solid year.

Our current number one surfer in the world was absolutely rank in his first heat, finishing dead last behind wildcard Barron Mamiya (who was one of the smoothest performers all day) and rookie Callum Robson.

To be fair to him, he did look lovely in yellow. As Strider noted, it just seemed right, “like mustard on a hot dog”. And the WSL sure like a lot of mustard.

Is there a figure in professional sports more ritually and repetitively praised by people who are supposed to be objective broadcasters? I doubt it.

Going from first to last for Kelly would have been some kind of dark poetry. After the Pipe victory he was unwilling to leave the table, high on the possibilities despite the slim odds. It was like hitting an early few numbers at the roulette wheel. All of a sudden you’re glued to the table, even when the initial win is gone, and especially when more has.

Talk of a twelfth world title at fifty is clearly sentimental fairytale bullshit.

But mark my words: if there’s one person that believes it’s a possibility, it’s Kelly Slater.

I know we’re just a few heats into a long year, but on evidence so far there’s a fair chance Slater will be grandfathered into the final five.

The greatest athlete in pro surfing history, on home soil, aged fifty.

I can almost hear some shiny-faced child caterwauling Star Spangled Banner.

But he should’ve been out today.

Koa Smith, surfing his first heat of the day as replacement for Kai Lenny, clearly got the six he needed on a chunky wave right at the buzzer.

Re-watching it now it’s not the high seven or eight I was convinced it was in the moment, but that, perhaps, makes it more outrageous. We’ve seen how judges are swayed by emotion and last minute heroics, so why no gravy for Koa?

He made a tough looking take-off on a set wave (with largely set-up work in between, granted. But it’s Sunset, right?) then performed one of the better backhand turns we’d seen all day to air drop on the end section.

It had everything required to get the score, and more.

Slater had ditched his board and was cleaned up by the very set that Koa caught for a full minute as the heat closed, and was eventually picked up by the ski. That should’ve been his inglorious end.

At risk of beating a Longtom drum, the WSL still depends on Kelly Slater. Given the mainstream attention he garnered in the wake of Pipe, perhaps now more than ever.

John Florence produced probably the best turns of the day, holding his rail and body in a way that evoked the Ghost of Margaret River. His round one win was assured yet somehow not convincing.

Without sounding like a JJF skeptic, it’ll be interesting to see what he can string together. His turns (or more accurately, Turns) were outstanding, but I often feel they flatter to deceive. How many times have we seen him produce these moments and not win?

John was on a typical 6’2″ today in comparison to many others who opted for extra length. 6’6″ seemed to be a popular choice, but with some extending beyond this, perhaps unwisely? It must be hard to make board selections around fellow pros and local experts muddying the waters of decision.

A longer rail to hold and caress whilst hunting for a section at Sunset does seem like the wise choice, but this doesn’t suit everyone. There was a lot of epoxy-like chatter, a lot of high and unpleasant looking noses. Scores were awarded based on those that bounced vs those that didn’t.

Is this the greatest disparity of equipment choice we’ve seen in a competition for a long time? That in itself sparks interest for me.

Kaipo and Makua seemed to be stuck on a loop of long boards short boards long rail lines long boards long long boards short boards rail lines long rails short rails long boards boards long long short long boards.

It was exhausting.

The BG commentariat seemed generally in favour of Makua and felt he was improving. I felt he had a voice like Temazepam. While mildly preferable to the amphetamine-like side effects of Kaipo, I still can’t endorse it.

Kaipo called Sunset a “time bandit” on several occasions today. I have no idea what he meant. Neither did he, but he knew he bloody liked it.

To be absolutely fair, the broadcast was pared back and improved for it. Live action was still missed in favour of ads, of course, but there were fewer cuts to different places and people that detracted from what was going on in the water. It seemed the producers were more focused on delivering an unfettered stream of live surfing. Imagine.

A whole heat passed, or perhaps even two, where we didn’t hear from Strider. Perhaps calling Kaipo “babe” a couple of times was just too strange, even as a Striderism.

Italo looked to have a little pep in his step despite coming second to Ultimate Surfer Zeke Lau in his opener. New woman, no cry, perhaps.

His backhand might have the required flashiness for a goofy to win here. And have you seen his Insta lately? Blimey. Roids or just testosterone? Worth some money, in any case.

Some closing notes on others…

Has there ever been a surfer as inexplicably overrated as Ethan Ewing? I noted how fast he went once today, but most of the time he’s doing absolutely nothing yet the pundits are talking him up as if he’s the Second Coming.

And what about Morgs? Second album syndrome if ever I’ve seen it. Still in the comp by virtue of an interference call he had nothing to do with.

This is a bold and unruly prediction for a bold and unruly wave, but I’m calling this comp as Jordy’s to lose, even at this early stage. He wasn’t the best performer today, but Sunset is surely built for his game.

There was a lot of booth hype for Ultimate Surfer Zeke Lau, notably from close friend Makua Rothman, but for my money (and I do mean that very literally) he’s a poor man’s Jordy Smith.

(Sidenote: wouldn’t it be great if you could lay bets in surfing? If anyone knows of an outlet with this functionality I’d be delighted for an introduction…)

Meat and potatoes elimination time now. FFS why don’t they just start with the round of 32?

Hurley Pro Sunset Beach Round 1 Results:

HEAT 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 12.50 DEF. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 8.33, Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) 6.84

HEAT 2: Kanoa Igarashi (JAP) 15.33 DEF. Lucca Mesinas (PER) 10.17, Caio Ibelli (7.64)

HEAT 3: Barron Mamiya (HAW) 11.40 DEF. Callum Robson (AUS) 9.83, Kelly Slater (USA) 8.94

HEAT 4: Jadson Andre (BRA) 11.50 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 9.10, Jordan Lawler (AUS) 7.90

HEAT 5: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 12.43, DEF. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 11.67, Billy Kemper (HAW) 9.86

HEAT 6: Filipe Toledo (BRA) Joao Chianca (BRA) DEF. Kai Lenny (HAW)

HEAT 7: Imaikalani deVault (HAW) 14.76 DEF. Samuel Pupo (BRA) 9.00, Morgan Cibilic (AUS) 8.43

HEAT 8: John John Florence (HAW) 12.83 DEF. Ethan Ewing (AUS) 11.20, Owen Wright (AUS) 9.84)

HEAT 9: Jackson Baker (AUS) 10.77 DEF. Deivid Silva (BRA) 9.63, Griffin Colapinto (USA) 8.73

HEAT 10: Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.20 DEF. Nat Young (USA) 10.93, Seth Moniz (HAW) 7.97

HEAT 11: Jake Marshall (USA) 13.27 DEF. Jack Robinson (AUS) 12.40, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 5.87

HEAT 12: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 9.33 DEF. Frederico Morais (POR) 8.43, Connor O’Leary (AUS) 1.33

Hurley Pro Sunset Beach Elimination Round Results:

HEAT 1: Matthew McGillivray (ZAF)13.57 DEF. Kelly Slater (USA) 13.00, Koa Smith (HAW) 12.77

HEAT 2: Billy Kemper (HAW) 11.66 DEF. Morgan Cibilic (AUS) 6.43, Owen Wright (AUS) 5.67

HEAT 3: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 13.54 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 12.17, Jordan Lawler (AUS) 6.60

HEAT 4: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 10.77 DEF. Seth Moniz (HAW) 9.26, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 6.83