Shock at MEO Pro Portugal as local wildcard fails to paddle for one wave in 40 minutes, “What sort of comparison could there be in other sports? A sprinter motionless on the blocks as everyone else crosses the finish line?”

And Kelly Slater survives sudden-death elimination heat!

On a scale of one to how-shit-is-windy-beachbreak, what was your enjoyment factor today?

It was a patchy kind of day. Scores and waves were hard to come by.

There was certainly swell in the water, but maybe a bit too much north in it and hence too much refraction.

Low tides to start the day didn’t help.

Statistical evidence of the wonky, slow start is bleakly provided by the fact that no surfer managed a double figure heat total for the first three heats of the day.

Let me clarify that: nine professional surfers competed across three heats and not one of them could manage a cumulative heat total of ten.

In fact, reader, allow me to espouse that further…

Today in its entirety there were 36 heat scores recorded, yet only 12 of those were in double figures.

Poorest heat totals of any event ever? That’s a deep stat I’d like to know.

In this context the performance of wildcard Afonso Antunes seems a little less…something. Just a little. I’m not even sure what to think of a professional surfer who doesn’t even paddle for a wave in a heat that lasted forty minutes due to a restart.

Think about that.

What sort of comparison could there be in other sports? A sprinter motionless on the blocks as everyone else crosses the finish line? A golfer, poised at the tee with driver in hand but never beginning the backswing?

“He really just needs to take off on something,” Shannon kept insisting from the booth, willing him on out of sheer embarrassment.

But he didn’t.

It was less rabbit in the headlights, and more corpse with rigor mortis.

The waves weren’t great, but the scoring did seem suppressed. Castrated, even.

I wondered if the judges were keeping their powder dry, expecting it to pump later in the day.

I remain confused about whether scores are scaled on a heat by heat basis or over the whole day? Early scoring would suggest the latter, but this seems far from consistent and even fluctuates within events.

Wakey, wakey, Richie…

We need an explanation.

As the competition went on hold I went back to the day job and lectured on the value of art. It was an introduction to a poem in which the speaker wrestles with his vocation and purpose.

What’s the point of art or creativity? I asked the assembled 16/17 year olds. Why might someone feel compelled to make art? Does it have any value?

And what is art…writing, film-making, graffiti, music, dance, sculpting..?

Is surfing art? I asked them, in a collision of ideas and vocations.

Some faces in the classroom showed glimpses of realisation and spark, and yet more were simply befuddled, wondering why the man in front of them was so animated about a fucking poem, and what on earth it had to do with surfing.

There wasn’t much art on show today in Peniche and few realisations, but perhaps one or two surfers questioning their vocation.

Lots of them were repping female tennis players. Of all the inspirational women in the world I was generally uninspired by these choices. John Florence and Ethan Ewing get a tick in my book for repping their mums. What more inspiring woman than your very own mother, or that of your children?

The ghost of Bobby Martinez was present and prescient today as the pundits discussed surfing’s tennis connections.

Parallels were mentioned, an individual sport, the bracket system, equal pay…

I noted another connection – the equality of inequality. So far this year the women do not get treated equally when it comes to wave quality, just as in tennis they play fewer sets than the men.

Why do the WSL hide from the fact that women don’t or can’t surf the same waves as men?

Should we acknowledge it?

Would it be regressive to point out the deficiencies rather than pretend they don’t exist?

I’m not looking to shame anyone here, but hiding from the truth seems like going backwards to go forwards.

Or is it? I’m honestly not sure.

I enjoyed Griffin Colapinto’s esoteric and labyrinthine explanation in justifying why he had Bethany Hamilton’s name on the back of his shirt.

“She, like, got her arm bit off by a shark…”

Caio Ibelli is on such a heater this year he thinks he’s an angel. Dressed in a white wetsuit like a messenger of god, he did a praying claim on a kick out after a head dip. I could be mistaken, but if the lord has bestowed power on a journeyman pro surfer, I can’t imagine his tolerance will stretch to claiming mid-twos.

I hope Slater looked at him with some derision today for stealing his circa 2003 style. Slater wore that suit mainly to fuck with Andy, of course, who hated it. Which is surely a better excuse than Caio has.

Kelly did some Kelly things as the day wound down, winning his elimination round heat with aplomb. As much as I rag on Slater, he’s as necessary to this competition as he is to this tour as he is to me.

The game is objectively poorer without him. I’m glad he’s still in the mix and I hope the weather for the next few rounds does everyone justice.

Does anyone understand the re-seeding for the round of 32, by the way?

How does Barron draw Jordy but Morgan Ciblic surfs against Connor O’Leary?

Kelly gets Caio, yet we’ve got Leo Fioravanti vs Jake Marshall?

It makes no sense.

All in all, not the most glorious day of pro surfing ever. I’d have to say teaching poetry this morning was far more stimulating.

The conclusions of the poem in question are ambiguous, as they so often are.

Yet it suggests that art is valuable even if it is appreciated by just one person.

Was it you who appreciated the art of pro surfing today?

MEO Pro Portugal Presented by Rip Curl Men’s Opening Round Results:
Heat 1: Jackson Baker (AUS) 11.70 DEF. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.10, Jake Marshall (USA) 6.00
Heat 2: Samuel Pupo (BRA) 14.60 DEF. Imaikalani Devault (HAW) 13.73, Kelly Slater (USA) 9.90
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) 12.36 DEF. Seth Moniz (HAW) 9.66, Lucca Mesinas (PER) 9.43
Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 16.17 DEF. Jadson Andre (BRA) 9.47, Vasco Ribeiro (PRT) 9.17
HEAT 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 8.20 DEF. Justin Becret (FRA) 6.23, Connor O’Leary (AUS) 5.93
HEAT 6: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 9.33 DEF. Callum Robson (AUS) 8.84, Afonso Antunes (PRT)
HEAT 7: Caio Ibelli (BRA) 8.20 DEF. Frederico Morais (PRT) 7.73, Conner Coffin (USA) 7.67
HEAT 8: John John Florence (HAW) 17.57 DEF. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 13.50, Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) 6.14
HEAT 9: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 12.27 DEF. Barron Mamiya (HAW) 12.17, Deivid Silva (BRA) 0.67
HEAT 10: Joao Chianca (BRA) 14.17 DEF. Jack Robinson (AUS) 11.60, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 9.06
HEAT 11: Miguel Pupo (BRA) 7.67 DEF. Morgan Cibilic (AUS) 7.17, Ryan Callinan (AUS) 5.40
HEAT 12: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 11.67 DEF. Nat Young (USA) 11.20, Kolohe Andino (USA) 9.67

MEO Pro Portugal Presented by Rip Curl Men’s Elimination Round Results:
HEAT 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 13.10 DEF. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 9.17, Afonso Antunes (PRT) 2.00
HEAT 2: Lucca Mesinas (PER) 6.77 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 6.70, Vasco Ribeiro (PRT) 4.20
HEAT 3: Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.60 DEF. Jake Marshall (USA) 7.57, Matthew McGillivray (ZAF) 5.90
HEAT 4: Ryan Callinan (AUS) 12.87 DEF. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 12.73, Deivid Silva (BRA) 7.43

Upcoming MEO Pro Portugal Presented by Rip Curl Men’s Round of 32 Matchups:
HEAT 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Imaikalani deVault (HAW)
HEAT 2: Miguel Pupo (BRA) vs. Samuel Pupo (BRA)
HEAT 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Barron Mamiya (HAW)
HEAT 4: Morgan Cibilic (AUS) vs. Connor O’Leary (AUS)
HEAT 5: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Owen Wright (AUS)
HEAT 6: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) vs. Jake Marshall (USA)
HEAT 7: Conner Coffin (USA) vs. Joao Chianca (BRA)
HEAT 8: Jack Robinson (AUS) vs. Callum Robson (AUS)
HEAT 9: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Justin Becret (FRA)
HEAT 10: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) vs. Frederico Morais (PRT)
HEAT 11: Ethan Ewing (AUS) vs. Nat Young (USA)
HEAT 12: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Ryan Callinan (AUS)
HEAT 13: Seth Moniz (HAW) vs. Jackson Baker (AUS)
HEAT 14: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Lucca Mesinas (PER)
HEAT 15: Griffin Colapinto (USA) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
HEAT 16: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Caio Ibelli (BRA)

Upcoming MEO Pro Portugal Presented by Rip Curl Women’s Round of 16 Matchups:
Heat 1: Johanne Defay (FRA) vs. Molly Picklum (AUS)
Heat 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
Heat 3: Brisa Hennessy (CRI) vs. Courtney Conlogue (USA)
Heat 4: Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Isabella Nichols (AUS)
Heat 5: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
Heat 6: Tyler Wright (AUS) vs. Gabriela Bryan (HAW)
Heat 7: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) vs. Luana Silva (HAW)
Heat 8: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. India Robinson (AUS)

Screengrab: @cliphoarder
Screengrab: @cliphoarder

In feel-good story of the year, big wave legend Bianca Valenti teaches 59-year-old ultra-VAL to surf Mavericks in a mere handful of months!


There are not so many surf stories left that bring a tear to the eye of this crusty old surf journalist. Kelly Slater being chaired up the beach after becoming Pro Pipeline at 49-years-old? Seen better. Zeke Lau hoisting ABC’s The Ultimate Surfer trophy above his head after vanquishing foes in a swimming pool? Lightly choked up. World Surf League shuttering its WSL Studios overnight, firing tens of employees? Blinking rapidly.

But the story of big wave surfer Bianca Valenti teaching an ultra-VAL to surf Mavericks in mere months thereby fulfilling his dream?

I cannot even pretend to hide the flood gushing down my cheeks, splashing onto trusty keyboard. You feel unmoved? Oh, I am a calloused storyteller and rude. You must read her account though I would encourage tissues close at hand.

Beyond proud of this guy / my student / dear friend Nellie aka @lionelconacher who basically chased me down the beach about a year ago to introduce himself and tell me he had a crazy idea: that he wanted to surf Mavericks before he turned 60. He asked, Was it possible? Could I help him? He was 59, and started surfing at 53. Without hesitation, my confident optimistic self said: YES, anything’s possible, AND there’s a ton of work that goes into it. He assured me that when he commits to a goal he commits fully and I wouldn’t have to worry about him not doing the work.

From the first time we went surfing together I saw the absolute stoke and mental fortitude he exudes (in all aspects of life) and I agreed to help him achieve his goal. This past month, after 11 months of training, he caught and successfully rode his first Mavericks wave! And two days ago, he caught a couple more, with many more to come. Safe to say he’s hooked!

Surfing with Nellie is so fun — he’s got the best attitude and just so happens to catch the best wave of his life every time we surf. Coaching him is so fun, and even more special becoming BFFs! Easily one of the highlights of my year! Congratulations, Nellie!!! You are amazing and an inspiration to everyone! And you are living proof that it’s never too late to start surfing, it’s never too late to commit to and accomplish a major goal, and it’s possible to ride a better wave every day. Thank you for being you!!!

Beautiful. Not even the grumpiest of locals can besmirch.

Italo Ferreira, two-time winner of the Portugal event, untroubled in round one heat. | Photo: WSL

Open thread: Comment live, day two, as Kelly Slater tries to avoid elimination from MEO Portugal in sudden-death round two heat!

Is watching pro surfing like being hit with an outsize sledgehammer or more a succession of sharp stabbing pains?

So many things to watch for today, and comment upon, including Kelly Slater on the ropes and facing a further fall down the ratings, his elimination heat likely late in the day, Filipe Toledo in his element, will John John demonstrate any interest in the wind-blown runners and will BIPOC Zeke Lau monster his North Shore neighbour like he did at Bells in 2018.

For a reminder of that wonderful episode, read, “Florence’s insides ripped out by a hyena!” here. 

Click here to watch the live broadcast and don’t hesitate to comment below the line.

“Things seem to be changing for the worse. Putin put in ‘Big Jake’ [his nickname for Putin’s new general], a yes-man psycho as his new military commander who prefers bombs and big guns to infantry assaults. Molotov cocktails, Ak-47s, Stingers and Javelins are no match for tanks, artillery, and Russian bombers. Putin is now targeting civilians.”

Surfer-turned-war-crimes investigator Peter Maguire skewers West over Russian invasion of Ukraine, “Putin’s ‘failed blitzkrieg’ is a figment of the western imagination as fast, easy victories are not part of Russian history or the Russian psyche…Putin is now targeting civilians!”

“This is not Afghanistan or Iraq. This is the Eastern Front during World War II. Putin has called the West’s bluff.”

While I am impressed by the courage and resiliency of the Ukrainian people during the first phase of Putin’s Gambit, this war has only just begun.

In the months leading up to the invasion, multiple military and intelligence sources told me, with absolute certainty, that Russia would invade Ukraine.

I underestimated the scope of Putin’s territorial ambitions, and thought that Russia would only take eastern Ukraine, but was wrong.  

My sympathies lie with the Ukrainians, but as I pointed out in Ukraine Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, this is not a simple conflict, and we ignore the deep, tangled, historic and economic roots at our own peril.

Over the weekend of February 26–27, western politicians and the vast majority of the media reverted back to the same, stale 9/11 formula that failed in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan.  

They painted a monochromatic, monocausal portrait of the plucky forces of good, epitomized by the fictional “Ghost of Kiev” and the heroic soldiers on Snake Island, standing up to the forces of evil, personified by Vladimir Putin.

Many gushed optimistically about “regime change,” the possibility of a Russian palace coup, or even “a Caesar solution.”

This magical thinking, however, raises as many questions as it answers. If Putin is assassinated, who will replace him? If there is a civil war in Russia, what will happen to one of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals?  

Did “regime change” and the deaths of “evil” tyrants like Saddam Hussein, Muammar al-Qaddafi, the heads of Al Qaeda and ISIS bring peace or stability to Iraq, Libya, or Syria?

The sad truth is that the failed Global War on Terror has left America with no coherent foreign policy, an embedded foreign policy establishment and a mainstream press that no longer tolerates dissent.

Both should have been discredited long ago, but they remain and serve as the living embodiments of the Peter Principle.  

“Putin’s failed blitzkrieg” is a figment of the western imagination as fast, easy victories are not part of Russian history or the Russian psyche.

The outcome of this war will be decided on the battlefield, not the bargaining table, because economic sanctions will not stop Vladimir Putin.

The West’s leverage over Putin is limited because Europe depends on Russia for natural gas, oil, wheat, corn, aluminum, and many other necessities.

Moreover, Russia has large foreign exchange reserves and low national debt. Whatever technology they cannot get from Taiwan or Korea, they can make themselves, buy from China, or find on the black market.

Even the much-vaunted expulsion from Swift will only hurt, but not cripple, Putin.  Like the Iranian banks, Russia can make and receive payments, use banks in third countries, or even shift to the People’s Bank of China’s CIPS network.

My associate, “Nug,” has spent the past month in Ukraine.

Yesterday, after visiting a military hospital filled with civilian casualties, he wrote, “Things seem to be changing for the worse. Putin put in ‘Big Jake’ [his nickname for Putin’s new general], a yes-man psycho as his new military commander who prefers bombs and big guns to infantry assaults. Molotov cocktails, Ak-47s, Stingers and Javelins are no match for tanks, artillery, and Russian bombers. Putin is now targeting civilians.”

Nug pointed to the Russian artillery, rocket, and cluster bomb attacks on Kharkiv to support his claim that Putin has taken off the gloves.

“This is not Afghanistan or Iraq.  This is the Eastern Front during World War II,” he wrote, “Russia will now use the big guns and the big bombs. Putin has called the west’s bluff.”

If nothing else, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has forced China, America’s greatest strategic threat, out of the closet.

Beijing has not condemned Russia and will aid and abet their ally because they have similar territorial ambitions.  

Unlike western political leaders, tech plutocrats, and multinational corporations who turn a blind eye to China’s concentration camps, genocide, imperialism, and blatant racism in order to increase their profits, China is not burdened by such hypocrisy.  

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s ongoing predations in the Pacific Rim and Africa have exposed neoliberalism/globalism’s Achilles heel— unprecedented and amoral greed that created a strategically dangerous dependence on Russia and China.

After the Cold War, in the West, the multinational corporate state overthrew the sovereign nation state in a bloodless coup and the leaders of the new corporate state declared the playing field level. Anti-trust laws, unions, banking rules, workers’ safety regulations, and environmental protection, were deemed outdated and unnecessary hindrances to “the free market.” 

The politicians they owned and their mandarins in the press agreed. Increasingly overweight westerners flocked to warehouses full of cheap food, generic clothes, disposable furniture, and electronic distractions, most of it made in foreign sweatshops. Soon everyone had 500 channels, giant flat screens, and streaming porn.  

As long as the rich had cocaine, Cialis, Concerta, and Oxy, and the poor had crack, smack, and crystal, nobody seemed to notice the greatest consolidation of wealth in human history.  

Had Marx lived long enough to witness this strip mining phase of capitalism, he would have called it laissez-faire anarchy. In the end, these vast accumulations of wealth enervated the west’s transnational ruling class.

Not only did they grow complacent and self-congratulatory, but their belief that the rules of geopolitics no longer applied led to strategic shortsightedness and imperial overstretch.

Today, the policy and press minstrels who helped to create this mess clutch their pearls and gasp in disbelief.  

However, not all of us turned a blind eye to larger strategic plans of Russia and China and the inherent weaknesses and dangerous conceits of globalism/neoliberalism.  

It was clear to see if you cared to look.

Once again, Sven Lindquist said it best, “You already know enough.  So do I.  It is not knowledge that we lack.  What is missing is the courage to understand what we know and draw conclusions.

“We have to take a hard look at ourselves as a nation and not in five-year election cycle time frames. China is becoming incredibly powerful.  China doesn’t think in five-year time frames, they think in fifty and hundred-year time frames.  They’re lovin it!  They’re buying our debt, buying our steel, and they’re laughing at us.  They’re a real power.  Russia’s a real power.  Vladimir Putin is a tough guy, he plays hard ball, and for Bush to say, ‘I looked him in his eye and saw his soul,’ Putin’s just laughing! Bush said, ‘See Vladimir!  We’re proud of our houses here, we own them unlike you!’ and Putin’s just going, ‘OK pal, sure.’  So I think this game we’re playing is a dangerous one.  We’re over extended.”

(Editor’s note: Peter Maguire is a surfer, war crimes investigator and author ofThai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade (movie rights optioned by Kelly Slater), Law and War, Facing Death in Cambodia and Breathe, the new bio on jiujitsu icon Rickson Gracie. Ain’t much ol Petey can’t do. The following story, appears on Pete’s substack Sour Milk, subscribe, it’s free etc.)

The surfers wore jerseys with the name of a women who had inspired them today. My personal favourite was Jadson Andre’s quite hilarious choice of Jess Miley-Dyer. In a weird way it was very on-brand. The surfers wore jerseys with the name of a women who had inspired them today. My personal favourite was Jadson Andre’s quite hilarious choice of Jess Miley-Dyer. In a weird way it was very on-brand. Genius gamesmanship or the greatest burn ever? You be the judge. (Kelly, meanwhile, chose fellow Floridian and four-time Champ Lisa Andersen.) | Photo: WSL

Kelly Slater shocks world with first round loss at Supertubos, Portugal, in surf deemed so terrible WSL “sends women out first to enjoy it!”

"Kelly's Pipe win could well be a heavy curse he carries all year. The curse of unrealistic expectations."

Four men’s heats completed.

Worth a report?

I think so.

Supertubos looked nothing like it should today. The wind was howling cross-off and it was frankly junk.

In honour of International Women’s Day, presumably, they sent the women out first to enjoy it.

There was a new addition to the booth in the form of Paul Evans. No stranger to commentary, of course, though normally relegated to the lower leagues or Nazare comps no-one gives a whistling shit about.

Being a Portugal veteran, he’s no stranger either, I would presume, to the occasional bifter at Consolacao pier along the beach and some crumbly peaks that don’t involve your face being chewed off by rabid bodyboarders at Supertubos. And I guess that only through personal experience of fleeing there or Molhe Leste just to the north in search of a more relaxing atmosphere. Supertubos is tough when it’s on and often only borderline makeable for non-freaks who prefer waves on their feet.

For my money Evans is one of the sharpest wits in surfing. Good on him getting one up on his pal Ben Mondy, who’s left writing articles on the WSL site with titles like “Five Moments That Lifted The Mood And Made Us Smile In 2021”.

Cutting edge.

I hope we hear more from Evans at this level. Shame about the accent, really.

The surfers wore jerseys with the name of a women who had inspired them today. My personal favourite was Jadson Andre’s quite hilarious choice of Jess Miley-Dyer. In a weird way it was very on-brand.

Genius gamesmanship or the greatest burn ever? You be the judge.

And anyway, WSL, International Women’s Day isn’t til March 8th, but today is World Book Day!

Why not have the surfers put the names of their favourite literary characters on their backs? Is it because it would be all Gruffalos and Harry Potters?

Except for Nat Young (Legolas), Leo Fioravanti (Christian Grey) and Kanoa Igarashi (Draco Malfoy).

Slater faced off against two sparky rookies in Sammy Pupo and Imaikalani deVault. Both appear to be made from elastic and semtex and spun wildly and cleanly, leaving Slater looking dated and forced to surf in the losers round. This was always the danger in anything but huge reef barrels.

The Pipe win could well be a heavy curse he carries all year. The curse of unrealistic expectations.

Pete Mel rolled out a classic euphemism in saying that Slater “wasn’t super excited about these waves”. Strider was more blunt in saying he was “pretty vocal about not wanting to surf today”.

Kelly doesn’t like the cold, apparently. Makes sense. It’s warm in hell.

Just on that “cold” thing.

Portugal is not cold.

There’s never been a proper cold water wave on the WCT and that’s a major oversight.

Aside from the fact that everyone involved in making these decisions is soft, why not add a cold water spot? There are plenty of world class options and it would add a fascinating new dynamic to the tour and a challenge for the surfers.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: the tour needs a real cold water stop.

Paul Evans played a welcome aggravator in Kelly’s heat by prodding Pete to see what he thought of Kelly’s scores. He was awarded a 4.67 for three unremarkable backside turns, which did perhaps look a little odd in the context of deVault score a minute later of 6.40 for three slightly better backside turns.

Pete thinks Kelly’s been underscored this year. Kaipo thinks he’s being unfairly judged against old Kelly. “The numbers seem a bit suppressed in the context of his actual performance,” Kaipo claimed.

I say nonsense.

Do the claims (from two men of Kelly’s age) have any validity? You tell me.

The debate and push-back against the judges and scoring was welcome contrarianism instigated by Evans. Was he freestyling? Or are the powers-that-be in their ivory tower listening? Regardless, I hope there’s more.

Italo was utterly dominant to close out the day. Ferreira and Portugal go together like MDMA and house music.

Put some euphoric bets on that.