WSL ignores looming swell as world’s best surfers “castrated by the conditions like orcas at Seaworld” during finals day at MEO Pro Portugal

Once again it seems God is the only man with a more inexplicable interest in pro surfing than Dirk Ziff.

Let’s see the wood rather than the trees and not look for poetry where there’s clearly none.

Let’s just be frank.

Those finals were fucking boring.

The world’s best were castrated by the conditions like orcas at Seaworld. They forced themselves to perform a few pumps then a flaccid air. Sometimes they were made, often they were not. Never did they have much verve or drama.

Is it just me or do surfers in general lack a little imagination when it comes to airs?

I’m no expert, and while I like watching the likes of Italo and Filipe’s ariel surfing, I don’t love it. It’s a bit too predictable and repetitive, 360-ish rotations frontside or backside, distinguished only by moderate degrees of height and how clean the landing is.

Not that interesting.

What about some variations in grabs? Some tweaking here or there?

It would’ve been fun to surf today.

Peniche sparkled in the morning sun and little glassy runners at Supertubos looked nothing like the reason we hold World Championship Tour events there, but everything like the days most of us surf for.

I think this is the mealy-mouthed point Kaipo was trying to make when Pete shut him down and we were treated to a brilliant few seconds of awkwardness.

If you’ll allow me to paraphrase for clarity, Kaipo thought the performances we were seeing were relatable to all surfers.

“Well, if they can get above the lip,” Pete noted bluntly.

Kaipo drew breath as if about to speak, twice.

But he was flummoxed. Entirely lost for words.

He just stared in silence, his face painted with the mild strain of a man pushing out a big shite.

If tiny, inconsequential waves to tickle the fancy of amateur surfers wasn’t befitting of finals day, then at least we had four of the men best equipped to do special things in marginal conditions, right?

You might reasonably have thought so.

But the best wave of the day was to be Italo’s backside rotation at the opening of the first semi-final. It was clean and ominous. A typical power move that Italo often pulls first thing in a heat then repeats and repeats until his opponent crumbles in the face of sheer energy.

The 8.83 awarded seemed reasonable, but his board died on the landing. The board he swapped out for was a dog. He was out of sorts, out of rhythm, couldn’t make a thing.

Strider pointed out that not all boards feel the same, and while we can surely agree with this, I think too much is made of it in the modern day.

Far more foibles exist in the mind rather than the fabric of the board.

Nothing interesting happened beyond Italo’s board break which snapped the energy of the heat. Both surfers sat apart, either content to let the other do his thing, or in such a deep state of loathing that they couldn’t tolerate the same airspace.

I have no evidence, but I strongly suspect it’s the latter.

Filipe and Italo may be countrymen but they don’t appear to be friends. There was no handshake at the end. There wasn’t even eye-contact.

Italo sat in his jersey long after the heat was done, silent and seething.

Can we make something of this please, WSL?

It’s a rivalry that could make for some interesting competition. God knows we need it.

What’s wrong with Italo anyway? Maybe he needs to re-find the joy and stop taking himself so seriously.

Who are his friends on Tour? He often seems to cut a solo figure, not part of any crew, surfing alone in the dark, only ever seen with his girlfriend or coach.

He looks very much like a man who’s drawn a circle around himself many miles away from the person he once was.

Griffin beat John in the second semi-final in entirely unremarkable fashion. Florence seemed as deflated by the conditions as we were. There was a lackadaisical tone to his efforts, as if he’d thrown in the towel before he’d paddled out.

Meanwhile, Griffin was applauding himself for smashing out a few backhand turns on a one-foot wave. It wasn’t very zen and more than a little embarrassing. John felt it, too.

I’ll refer you to my predictions of yesterday about John sticking with it. A few more heats like these will surely kill his motivation once and for all.

And would you blame him?

I enjoyed hearing the Brazilian surfers speak their native language during this comp. I think it tells you something about a person to hear them speak in their own tongue. How long have we known Filipe now, and we’ve never heard him speak anything other than slightly Americanised English? You lose something of a person like this.

The final between Griffin and Filipe was so uneventful I can’t think of a single thing to note other than what the two men did to prepare.

Filipe hosted a prayer meeting, apparently.

Once again it seems God is the only man with a more inexplicable interest in pro surfing than Dirk Ziff.

Griffin did calisthenics and ate strawberry laces, presumably.

The WSL curtain of silence was pulled regarding wave quality.

Make no mistake, friends, with six full days remaining in the waiting period and the forecast significantly improved over the past 24 hours, the WSL have seriously fucked this up. Solid swell is on the way with variable but light winds and the potential for offshores and some very clean conditions. Go have a look.

Besides, when did this stop being a mobile event?

There are a ton of quality beachbreaks to the north of the peninsula that are offshore when the wind isn’t ideal at Supertubos.

Why not move there? It’s been done in the past.

Griffin being chaired up the beach amid a thin, apathetic crowd (barring one close friend who screamed repeatedly) was an enduring image of how desolate pro surfing can be when the WSL make basic errors.

Priority number one is facilitating the right conditions for performance by making good calls, and in Portugal this was not done.

And what of my favourite elephant in the room? What of Gabriel Medina?

I miss him more than ever.

Looking at his recent Instagram feed vs what we’ve just seen in Portugal it would seem like he has no regrets tonight. How ironic would it be if he has packed it in for good? It would be in stark defiance of everyone’s expectations and judgements of his character. But if you don’t create the conditions for the likes of Gabby and John to show what they can do then you risk losing them.

Does Medina go to Australia, do you think? The current ratings still seem primed for him to join late and slot in as if he’s never been away. I hope so.

Come home soon, Gabby.

The current top five surfers in the world are Kanoa Igarashi, Kelly Slater, Barron Mamiya, Filipe Toledo and Seth Moniz.

How do you feel about that?

MEO Pro Portugal Presented by Rip Curl Men’s Semifinals Results:
SF 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 13.67 def. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 12.66
SF 2: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 12.40 def. John John Florence (HAW) 10.50

MEO Pro Portugal Presented by Rip Curl Women’s Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Lakey Peterson (USA) 12.34 def. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 12.00
SF 2: Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 10.76 def. Carissa Moore (HAW) 10.17

MEO Pro Portugal Presented by Rip Curl Men’s Final Results:
1 – Griffin Colapinto (USA) 14.34
2 – Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.20

MEO Pro Portugal Presented by Rip Curl Women’s Final Results:
1 – Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 15.33
2 – Lakey Peterson (USA) 14.27

Men’s Top 5:
1) Kanoa Igarashi
2) Kelly Slater
3) Barron Mamiya
4) Filipe Toledo
5) Seth Moniz

Women’s Top 5:
1) Brisa Hennessy
2) Carissa Moore
3) Lakey Peterson
4) Tatiana Weston-Webb
5) Malia Manuel

Dewy-eyed legions descend upon iconic Newport, Rhode Island surf shop to pay tribute to “voice of the people” and most core surfer there ever was Sid Abruzzi!

The Package.

I was fortunate enough to have met Sid Abruzzi in person, once, though in Florida not his home state of Rhode Island. He was there, at Surf Expo, milling about with a small crew, and we immediately hit it off, laughing about this and that, yellow beanies etc., wandering to his hotel for warm beers in a warm night to keep the laughs going.

There was something about him so unique, so utterly self-possessed, as to cast a dull light on me and everyone else who had attempted to make “surf” “life” but pulled the punch somewhere along the way.

Abruzzi has never pulled a punch. You can, and should, read Steve Rees’ profile (here) or listen to his gravely sneer (here) but in the meantime, it must be noted that his iconic surf shop, Water Bros., is set to close at the end of the month, being pushed out to make way for new rental properties.

Progress etc.

The Newport Daily News covered Water Bros. last full weekend in the space it has occupied for more than 30 years, writing:

There already was a steady stream of patrons, friends and fans flowing into Water Brothers surf and skate shop during the first hour it was open on Saturday.

By noon, the crowd blossomed into the dozens, filling the small retail space with a seemingly endless supply of memories and stories to share about the owner, Sid Abbruzzi, and his 50-year-old business.

“Sid’s always landed on his feet,” said Newport resident and skatepark advocate Michael Richards. “Water Brothers is so much more than a shop on Memorial Boulevard. One way or another, he’ll find another spot. Sid will always have a spot in Newport.”

The whole piece is moving, a nice tribute to who Abruzzi is and what he means, and I very much look forward to the opening of his new location, wherever it might be.

Heck, I’ll even come out for the grand kick-off.

Here’s to Sid, the most core surfer who ever was.

Griff hugs Kolohe Andino, post-win.

Acrobatic Californian Griffin Colapinto uses power of meditation to force shock win over world’s best two-foot-and-under surfer Filipe Toledo at MEO Pro Portugal!

Credits new-found interest in transcendental meditation for victory!

Californian Griffin Colapinto has shocked surf fans by beating the world’s sharpest surfer in waves waist-high and under at the MEO Pro Portugal in clean, cold, pretty lil waves at Supertubos, a beach break in Peniche. 

Colapinto, who is twenty-three, beat two-time world champ John John Florence in his semi-final before dominating Filipe Toledo in the final to win one hundred thousand dollars and 10,000 tour points, crediting his new-found interest in transcendental meditation for his victory.

“I’m still in this calm state,” said Griffin apres.

In the women’s event, Brazilian/American Tatiana Weston-Webb employed her trademark choppy Bruce Lee style beat Lakey Peterson, from Santa Babs in California.

“God always has a plan and I trusted in him,” said Weston-Webb after, long flaxen hair covered by unwieldy bucket hat, with chin strap, which was placed on her head mid-interview by unseen hands.  

Full report coming soonish. 

The divine Griffin Colapinto.

Open thread: Comment live, Finals Day, MEO Pro Portugal, “When John John Florence is in a rhythm like this he’s unstoppable (but) Griffin Colapinto is simply divine!”

Beat fist against chest, moan wildly.

Yesterday was a terrific reminder of how good pro surfing could be if only the current owners of pro surfing, billionaire Dirk Ziff’s WSL, reached into their bag, pulled out a clawhammer and did away with twenty-four of the current thirty-six surfers.

No fear or regret, but no elation of sense of triumph either. Just a job that has to be done.

Today, even better, four surfers left in the men and women, a handful of heats, no need to run through the void of low-tide etc.

Watch here and comment below the line.

Brazil vs USA final looms at MEO Pro Portugal after wild day of surfing that saw the season’s first ten-point ride, “A lot of juice was squeezed from a fruit that began plump and ripe and ended virtually dehydrated!”

Meanwhile, "Strider and Joe sounded like a pair of faith healers, vomiting platitudes and gushing superlatives."

More trees you say?

Ok, just one.

Today I visited the Fortingall Yew. It’s the oldest living organism in Europe, and if more extreme estimates of its age are correct it’s the oldest living thing in the world.

Estimates vary significantly from 3000-9000 years old, but because the inner part of the trunk rots and disappears as it ages it’s impossible to say with more accuracy. Many experts agree 5000 years seems reasonable.

It’s hard to contextualise the deep past, but that’s before we had invented the wheel or writing.

If you were a Brazilian pro surfer I would tell you the tree was already 3000 years old when Christ was born.

I was staggered by it. I was diminished by it. What if trees are sentient? Think of what it knows…

Stranger still, the graveyard where it lives has a walled section beneath the tree. Unknown to me until today, it is the final resting place of Sir Donald Currie who bequeathed it to his relatives for their own earthly remains. Did I qualify, I wondered?

Sir Donald Currie was a ship owner, politician and philanthropist. He was recognised not only for his achievements but generosity as a landowner and kindness towards his tenant crofters.

I thought about purpose, and achievement, and ancient connections. I thought about making your mark and being remembered.

Then I went back to the van to stream more professional surfing on my phone, try to ignore the money I had thrown indiscriminately into a dark pit, and to wonder what I might say about it all.

The day started well.

Supertubos was divine in the morning sun – cold, green and hollow. Paul Evans called it “semi-furious”. It was a morning to wash clean the memories of the previous days of competition.

We were reminded why we do this, and why we do at Supertubos. It was a morning we needed to remind us why we’re here spelunking through the dark days, losing money and hope.

It’s not just because the local mayor and Portuguese board of tourism are prepared to fluff the WSL’s pillows and leave them miniature chocolates, it’s because the waves can get good.

I’ve heard all of you Portugal berators and naysayers in recent days, but I’ll defend it to the death. Not least because it’s the only European spot remaining on Tour, which really is a travesty.

But also because when it’s on Supertubos serves up a perfect A-frame with options in both directions. It favours neither goofy nor regular and is perhaps the most democratic wave on Tour.

The remaining heats of the round of 32 and the entirety of the round of 16 was completed using the overlapping heat format, before switching to single heats for the quarters.

Please, anyone reading with the power to wield influence, let’s just make overlapping heats the norm, yeah? It’s infinitely better for many, many reasons. We churn through the draw with a faster pace and more action, we make the most of good conditions, slow heats can be disguised, and it forces late drama when the priority switches and there’s limited time left.

I’m not sure all the surfers would support it, but I’m absolutely sure fans would.

The production as a whole needs to get a lot better at managing the dual heats – I don’t think the pace is so frantic that we need to miss waves, for example – but it’s definitely a format change that should be permanent.

If the whole day had played out like the morning heats it would’ve been a resounding success. As it was it went to shit for the quarter finals and we were back to turns on windy faces. Colapinto’s ten point rotation to end the day was a light in the dark, but more on that in a minute.

Standout moments from the morning were Nat Young channeling Rose Namajunas (whose name he wore on his back) to manhandle a critical drop and a deep tube for a deserved nine-points, and John Florence, clearly feeling himself in the European Pipeline by casually threading barrels and detonating end sections like it was a freesurf.

Everyone knows when John is in a rhythm like this he’s unstoppable. It’s an altered state he struggles to find consistently in competition. His post heat interview suggested he recognises this, too. I know John could have many years ahead, but I just can’t see him having the fire to keep at it. At some point the humble surf fan will need to accept that Florence’s competitive career might never match his talent. There are two world titles in the bag, and although we might believe he should have more, I’m not sure he needs them.

Heat of the morning surely went to Kelly vs Caio to close out the round of 32. With archangel Ibelli dressed once again in white there are some heavy handed religious metaphors I’ll try to avoid.

It went back and forth but Caio led until Kelly got a tube to doggy-door exit then a lip to the head that was awarded an 8.17.

It seemed highly questionable in the scheme of things, but this swung the pendulum back in Lucifer’s favour.

Just as perplexing was Caio’s almost buzzer beater. Needing a mid-seven, he threaded a long barrel on a small but not inconsequential inside wave and exited fast and clean. It looked like the score he needed every day of the week. Instead, he was given a 6.37.

If I’d had money on it I might have written an entire article about how shocking it was, how utterly farcical that he didn’t get the score. It was a smaller wave, but it was deep, technical and loaded with drama, and we’ve seen in the past how much the latter can juice scores.

But it was not to be. The crusade was over, Ibelli had been smote. I believe I predicted god’s patience wearing thin for the claiming of mid-twos earlier in the competition.

In Kelly’s post heat breakdown he made sure to point out that Caio had a lead on him overall, and therefore a target on his back. Then he pointed out that Caio had the wave to win the heat but messed it up, eliciting joyous hollering from him in the water. Then he started talking about old heats at Sunset which seemed little to do with anything but him working through his mistakes as if he was talking to a therapist.

A blight on the morning was the commentary team, as usual. The problem became wildly apparent today. Because they’d spent the last few days of objectively shite waves telling us how pumping it was, how these were the world’s best surfers, how frothing everyone was, not least them etc etc, when it came to today, when some of this commentary would actually have been warranted, it had been rendered meaningless and they had run out of things to say.

We were the bored partners of a gushing, clingy lover who says “I love you” multiple times a day. The words no longer carried any meaning.

Strider and Joe were just one long stream of incessant drivel. They sounded like a pair of faith healers, vomiting platitudes and gushing superlatives that meant nothing.

Sometimes I think I’ve watched too much pro surfing and the things that grate on me must go unnoticed by a general audience, but today I was vindicated. My partner and I were driving back from a glorious weekend without children.

Like a dedicated professional I streamed the comp as I was driving.

Entirely unprompted she would laugh at the two men who seemed terrified of silence and so filled it with words instead. Any words, in any order.

What the fuck are they talking about? She asked. I had no answer.

“We’re so used to him exiting, or brexiting these tubes,” said Strider this morning apropos of nothing.

“They’re getting paid to have fun, getting paid to work, getting paid to live,” he said dramatically like it was the climax of a shit movie.

Strider in the booth is horrendous. He just makes noise, endless noise. There’s surfing cliche, there’s wandering verbiage, there’s utter mince. “It’s a great user experience, being at the beach…” he mangled at one point.

I’ll let him off with “Jackson Baker the candlestick maker” just because that’s the only way I’ll be able to think of him now.

A slightly embarrassing realisation I had today was that I’m beginning to enjoy how clinical and composed some of Kanoa’s surfing is… I was so excited about how much he blew the tail out on a closer today I swerved wildly, nearly putting the van off the road.

The quarter finals felt a little flat to me. The wind had kicked up and we were back to eeking out turns and looking for hail mary airs.

A lot of juice was squeezed from a fruit that began plump and ripe and ended virtually dehydrated.

But there was to be closure worthy of any ending. Colapinto’s rotation as the day died was as pretty as I’ve ever seen. It was awarded the first ten of the year unanimously from the judges, and you won’t find any argument from me.

It was captured live from the drone angle. The setting sun cast a thick band of shimmering gold across the Atlantic, and at the end Colapinto’s gangly silhouette spun high and clean. It was simply divine.

You might imagine Caio Ibelli watching from the shore, noting the ethereal golden light, Griffin’s rotation as if lifted by an invisible hand, and his own sodden white wetsuit on the ground, and wondering…

(Upcoming semis, Filipe v Italo, John John v Griff.)