Fifty-year-old Kelly Slater makes triumphant return to Bells Beach despite Oscars COVID; shoots for record fifth Bell an astonishing 31 years since his first win there!

Miracles do happen!

Are we betting on Bells? Is there redemption to be found in a dribbly Southern Ocean?

Addiction is a funny thing.

You carry it with you always, even when you’re “better”. In the best of times and the worst it’s still there, draped over your shoulders like an invisible weighted blanket.

The worst of addiction is unseen. No-one knows it’s there, least and most of all the afflicted. You live with a malignant ghoul that lurks in the dark corners of your house. You don’t notice it feeding on your mind, but you wake feeling drained, hollowed out day by day.

There will be no escape, no redemption. What’s in you is in you. What’s done is done.

The flames may not be visible but a creeping burn blackens and chars from the inside out.

They say you need to replace the thing you’re addicted to with something else, something healthy, fulfilling, wholesome. But what if it becomes another addiction? Or just masks the initial problem?

Maybe some people are just doomed.

Genetics, personality, who knows why.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch yesterday’s heats live. I, like you, have been underwhelmed by the forecast for Bells this year.

At 2200 GMT the comp was put on hold until the next call at 0145. I honestly didn’t expect them to run. Instead I watched the early tip-offs for the final day of the NBA’s regular season. A frantic chase before chances were gone.

I was tired. I ran just short of 34 miles yesterday in one six-hour stint. Too tired to stay up all night in the hope of three-to-four-foot-and-onshore Bells Beach.

My brother posed a question to me this week: “Why are you going on so many long runs? Is it to forget your gambling losses?”

Interesting, I thought.

I pondered this yesterday, alone in the hills.

Speaking of losses, are you excited about the upcoming mid-season cut? I think it adds a bit of spice to a turgid format.

I listened to a bit of the Lipped podcast the other day for the first time in a while. There was a fair degree of whinging and reported whinging about the mid-season cut. Surfers don’t like it, makes them feel insecure, scared for their futures, not fair etc etc.

Good, I say.

Call me unkind but I will shed no tears for professional surfers.

As a reminder, after Margaret River the men’s field will be cut to 22 and the women’s to just 10. It is worth providing a reminder because the availability of information about this critical format change is shockingly poor, not least on the WSL’s own channels.

I was about to direct you to a video called “Rankings Update: Which Surfers Need To Put In Work To Make The Cut”. (Subheading: “Watch as Kaipo, Peter and Shannon break down the latest drama of the Championship Tour Rankings.”)

I watched this a few days ago and it was embarrassingly bad, not to mention completely useless.

Kaipo was typically incoherent, mumbling something about “wardrobe” in reference to the yellow jersey and what I’d guess was supposed to be a segue into discussion of the cut, but there followed no mention of the surfers at risk of what implications were. There was certainly no “breaking down” of anything other than basic broadcasting competence.

I was going to suggest you watch this clip for giggles, but in typically Orwellian fashion it has since been replaced in the app by one of Joe, Shannon and Richie Lovett. As further evidence of ineptitude they haven’t bothered to change the title or subheading so it still says it’s Kaipo and Pete.

Do they not have a decent video editor in the whole organisation? I suppose not since they apparently sacked the content team recently, but the heat replays are truly painful to watch.

The WSL website and apps are utterly atrocious. I wrote a whole piece about this I never posted because examining it was too irritating. If you’re going to parade like a media company you’d better sort out your front end.

I doubtless missed some fun broadcast wrinkles yesterday. You don’t get the full experience on the replay. It was nice to hear Ronnie again, though, who for my money is by far the most competent broadcaster, maybe the only one.

I remain confounded by the fact that Kaipo has a job, much less one that flies him around the world and gives him a microphone. It’s beginning to seem a bit like he might have incriminating information about someone at the WSL that he uses as leverage, similar to the Putin/Trump thing.

You know, evidence of illicit and seedy dalliances with sex workers, that sort of thing. There’s no other explanation I can think of.

Shannon and Bugs were introduced as a punditry duo in an apparent attack on anyone with ears. It was a soundclash for the ages. In one corner we have Bugs, with the slurred vowels of red wine and Oxycontin; and in the other we have Shannon, whose pitch must wreak havoc with sound engineers and the folk at parties doing lines off the kitchen counter.

“If anyone can get a near perfect score, it’s Mick Fanning,” mewled Shannon as Mick took off on two foot of mush.

I only watched the heat replay, of course, and the waves were junk, but how can Mick’s surfing look so dated already? Even if opportunities had existed for perfect scores, he looked some way from it.

It occurred to me that you could easily automate WSL commentary and we wouldn’t know the difference. You know, like those automated phone services for utility providers. There’s a very narrow range of phrases and tone in the WSL commentator canon. I’d imagine it could be learned by an algorithm in a couple of hours.

Just as long as you didn’t input any of Strider’s data, because that would fuck up even the most sophisticated machine intelligence.

I was too consumed in other things to get any pre-match bets on, but Kanoa was paying 4/1 to make the semi. That seemed like value given his recent form and the fact he can look sparky in junk waves.

I was kicking myself when I saw his surfing in comparison to everyone else’s in the opening round. Bugs called him “Tom Curren-esque”, which might be a stretch, but his waves stood out today nonetheless.

You don’t quite catch some of the radical angles he gets his board and body into in real time. It’s only when you see the slowed down replays you notice some of the detail.

I think I’m becoming a Kanoa believer.

For the remaining first round heats I’m going:

Conner Coffin – 15/8
Kolohe Andino – 7/5
Miguel Pupo – 2/1
Barron Mamiya – 3/1

That’s an 82/1 accumulator (or parlay to the Americans in the room).

And it won’t be enough, but it would be something.

Oh, and I ran a hundred miles this week.

Take from that what you will.

Middle-aged man with dreams of witnessing the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach live saves money, makes pilgrimage to Torquay, turns away devastated after realizing there is a hefty entrance fee!


The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach is currently underway and now that the Billabong Pipeline Masters has been reduced to the Billabong Pro Pipeline I do believe the argument could be made that it is the most historically significant surf contest on the planet.

It has been run, continuously save Covid ravaged 2020, off Torquay’s rugged shore since 1961, always over Easter week. Australian rock n’ roll anthem Hell’s Bells is played every morning before the first day of competition. The trophy, designed by local Joe Sweeney, is iconic.

Morris Cole.

It is also the only event on the World Surf League Championship Tour schedule that demands an entrance fee.

A middle-aged man who longed dreamed of witnessing the spectacle saved all his money for years and years, cutting his children’s bread rations by 1/3 and taking extra night shifts. He toiled and sweated and eventually had just enough to travel to Melbourne, bus to Torquay and make pilgrimage except when he arrived at the top of those iconic steps was met with a ticket booth charging exorbitant fees for the pleasure.

Money changers in the temple.

Dejected he turned away after direct messaging me, “A bit of Bells fodder. $10 entry fee to watch. Obviously I said fuck that and went home.”

I, too, was once slapped by that bit of dirty pool. The world’s favorite surfer Mick Fanning and I had recently become entangled in an imbroglio and, thus, my invite to Bells was discontinued. I thought, “I’ll show you and come anyway…” so there I went, to Torquay, and there I saw the fee and there I obviously said “fuck that” and went back to the public house.


But, more to the point, how much would you pay to witness professional surfing live and in person?



(Australian of course).

More as the story develops.

San Diego surfer leaves water after shark scare only to get ambushed on land by evil rattlesnake: “It felt like someone dropped a knife on my foot…”

"Is this going to be how it's going to end? After surfing and getting bitten by a rattlesnake?"

As fate would have it, I was in California’s desert interior over the weekend, far away from civilization and cell phone coverage, surrounded by various cacti, reddish boulders, cowboy death. My very best friends, the same with whom I traveled to Yemen post 9/11, Syria, played war correspondent in Lebanon etc., decided at the dawn of Covid that it would be better if we just educated our collected children together. It’s a wild experiment, now rounding year two’s bend, and part of the curriculum includes adventure like sailing to Mexico in the middle of a storm, riding the rails from Paris to Moscow, pitching trucks off cliffs, letting them free to explore this world on their own.

The only worry I usually have, at least in California, is that mean ol’ rattlesnake.

It turns out my fears are justified for a San Diego surfer, Matt Gmyr, just became bitten by one after cutting a surf session short at South Torrey Pines, because a shark was circling.

“I like to just step up onto this little section of dirt next to the curb and just check out the surf one last time and watch my buddies catch some waves,” he told San Diego’s CBS affiliate. “I felt like someone dropped a knife on my foot, like it was sharp pain and I look down and there’s a snake attached to my foot.”

The snake happened to be a diamond back and he knew he needed care, quickly, so called the paramedics. By the time they arrived, though, he was already feeling the poison.

“I was feeling the full body tingling, the lips, the face, the numbness, swelling, and it was crazy,” he said. “There’s a point when I was calling out to God saying, ‘Oh, I don’t want to die like this. Is this going to be how it’s going to end? After surfing and getting bitten by a rattlesnake?’”

He was rushed to Scripps in La Jolla where doctors discovered five bite marks on his foot and consider him lucky to be alive. He’s still in the hospital though hopes to be released Friday.

Rattlesnakes. Ugh. But what would Mick Fanning have done? Something to ponder.

Comment live, Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach! “We’re going to see some long rides! The wave height is really, really nice!”

Drop everything! Pro surfing is back!

Keramas during a WSL event there a few years back. | Photo: WSL

Fears of “worst crowds ever” at once secret surf spot following listing in “world’s best black sand beaches”!

"Especially popular among surfers…"

With locals already pining away for the pandemic days of yore when Keramas was empty and local kids could become really good surfers in under two years, the prestigious Travel + Leisure Magazine just had to go and list it as one of the world’s finest black sand beaches for tourism.

Now that the borders are open the last line-up count on a good day at Keramas came in at fifty-five. And, this is a one-man, or one-gal, wave.

Still, you can fantasize that you are Rizal Tandjung, who is still out-surfing the 18 year olds at age 47. He is our Indonesian Kelly Slater. Such is his level of local respect that he gets the pick of the litter on any set that he damn well pleases.

Dream on.

Due to the combo of local crowds and new visitors these days, the common salute to any overseas visitor headed over to surf Keramas is “Good luck, mate”.

Along with such secret spots such as as Iceland’s Jökulsárlón Beach, Italy’s Spiaggia di Ficogrande beneath Stromboli and Japan’s Miho no Matsubara in Shizuoka, Travel + Leisure has described Keramas Beach as “stunning” and “especially popular among surfers, so it’s a great place to hit the waves or at least watch as the surfers ride in over the black sand.”

Oh Christ.

Anyone who has bounced off the reef at Keramas can sneer at the wisdom of that.

But isn’t it comforting that squares will never understand the sport of kings?

The magazine feature also fails to mention that the word Keramas translates to “Washing Hair”. The rivermouth that has honed the reef to perfection having once been the perfect place for Balinese women to bathe.

The Travel + Leisure feature also notes that Keramas Beach is “perhaps the only surfing beach in Bali offering nighttime illuminated surfing”.


It’s the only one. Thank the Gods.

And other than the deadly virus of wavepools sweeping the globe, any surfer in the world would be hard pressed to name any others.

Yet, it is true.

You can actually pay the Komune resort to flip the switch on their stadium lights and surf by an “illumination” that expat John Anderson describes as “about as good as surfing by the lights of a Ute parked on Seven Mile Beach”.

Also, surfing at night is strictly forbidden by the deeper Balinese culture.

The ocean at night here is the realm of child stealing spirits and must be respected.

No joke.

And so it goes. Open borders and prestigious awards.

After all, Bali loves the smell of tourists in the morning…it smells like…victory.