Box to Box Films understand that where there are people under pressure there’s drama. You don’t need to manufacture it, you just need to ask the right questions and be there in the right moments. The WSL have never grasped this.

“World’s most Orwellian sports league” in shock pivot to Netflix-style tell-all documentary series, “My faith in the WSL, like yours, is damaged…Trust from the core fanbase has been eroded and the casual fan finds it unwatchable”

"This new series is a chance to turn things round. But this can only happen if the filmmakers have been given enough freedom."

Would you believe me, friends, if I told you that Kelly Slater’s wildest, most unlikely dream might come true?

A grapple with Joe Rogan followed by a buffet of veterinary medicine and cutting edge performance enhancers?

A 12th world title?

Commissioning me to write his biography? (Working title: “Peaks and Trolls: How Kelly Slater Surfed Decades of Waves on Water and Online”)

None of the above.

Kelly’s dream, as we surely know, is worldwide recognition and fame. Being mobbed in supermarkets, appearing on mainstream chatshows, hobnobbing with the world of true celebrity.

He’s not content to watch from the sidelines, he wants to be slapped in the face.

And maybe, just maybe, this is about to become reality.

Apple TV have just announced that their (terribly titled) docuseries following the WCT, “Make or Break”, will drop on April 29th with a full seven episodes for your delectation and pleasure.

Not only that, but they’ve already commissioned the second season which is currently following the 2022 tour.

(Pardon me a moment whilst I channel Charlie Smith…)

But let us go to the press release:

“Make or Break” offers an intimate deep dive into the aspirations, challenges, accomplishments, and personal lives of the surfers who compete to remain on the elite 2021 Men’s and Women’s WSL Championship Tour (CT), and takes viewers on a journey to stunning surfing locations across the globe. The series follows the 2021 competition, navigating as the league responds to the global pandemic, while exploring the dynamic surfing culture along with timely issues, including diversity, mental health, and the physical impact of the sport.

Each episode in the seven-part first season of the series spotlights internationally recognized surfers and features never-before-seen interviews with:

11-Time World Champion and 56-Time Career Victory Winner Kelly Slater
Seven-Time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore
Three-Time World Champion Gabriel Medina
Two-Time World Champion Tyler Wright
2019 World Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Italo Ferreira
2021 Olympian Tatiana Weston-Webb

Additional notable surfers featured in “Make or Break” include Morgan Cibilic, Johanne Defay, Leonardo Fioravanti, Jeremy Flores, John John Florence, Filipe Toledo, Kanoa Igarashi, Matt McGillivray, Isabella Nichols, and Jack Robinson.

Big deal, you say?

Well IMO it is a pretty fucking big deal, as it happens.

If you’ve watched the Netflix series “Drive to Survive” about Formula One you might understand a little of why.

“Make or Break” is produced by the same people, a UK based film production company called “Box to Box Films” helmed by James Gay-Rees and Paul Martin.

I was a latecomer to “Drive to Survive”. People kept recommending it and I kept brushing it off.

Formula 1, the most boring, unrelatable “sport” on earth?

Why on earth would I watch that?

But then I did, and from a cold and standing start I was immediately captivated.

And I do mean cold. I hadn’t watched F1 since I was a kid, and only then because my old man’s a fan. It would be accurate to say that not only did I have zero interest in it, I actively disliked it. Couldn’t see the entertainment or value at all.

Consider now, then, after I’ve binged all four seasons of “Drive to Survive” on Netflix and I find myself checking in on qualifying times for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Being utterly hooked on the docuseries has transitioned into an interest in the sport itself.

I’m not alone.

“Drive to Survive” has lit a flare in the global popularity of F1 racing. Interest and audiences exploded along with revenue.

It doesn’t matter if you have any prior knowledge or interest, within a couple of episodes you’ll be drawn in. Try it and see.

What the series does so expertly is craft narrative and create human interest in a world for which we have no context. The races are part of it, but they’re secondary to the people. And it’s not just the drivers, but agents and managers and wives and bosses and coaches and journalists*, and all the people that contribute to the billion dollar circus that is F1 racing.

Beyond the sums of money involved, Formula One and professional surfing aren’t so different.

Both involve a small and select group of elite performers and their entourages travelling the globe to compete in something that most people can’t possibly understand. Both involve long periods of monotony punctuated by random periods of intense action.

To be successful, the primary goal of both must be captivating audiences who can’t understand anything about the environment or performing at that level.

The key to this is skilful storytelling. You find characters we can root for and identify broad themes we can recognise – vulnerability, pressure, uncertainty, balancing lifestyles, trauma, relationships…

The “Drive to Survive” series found these characters and excavated the themes. In doing so it compelled us to watch a sport that most people thought was dead, dull or alien.

If Box to Box Films have been allowed to take the same formula to the “Make or Break” series, professional surfing might finally be catapulted into mainstream consciousness that has been desired and promised since the Tour began.

For this to happen, the filmmakers must have been given free reign and access to anyone they like, and I would hope they’ve been met with candidness from their subjects. I’d like to hear from everyone involved, the surfers, coaches, sponsors, caddies, significant others, journalists*, even judges… (Imagine that!)

I hope there’s no greenwashing.

The lack of this in “Drive to Survive” was refreshing. They didn’t acknowledge the thousands of kilos of rubber and fuel that was incinerated by each team every couple of hours (as if it weren’t obvious) but at least they didn’t try to dress it up or pay lip service to green initiatives. There was no pretence.

I very much hope the WSL can buck their own trend and do the same. You can’t compare the impact of pro surfing to F1, of course, but they’re still flying around the globe en-masse, often to places with fragile eco-systems, and they’re still churning through foam and fibreglass.

Let’s not pretend we’re saving the world. It’s entertainment, and we’re all trying to make money from it.

The WSL’s objectivity problem is well established. The Wall of Positive Noise is tall and unscalable, and this has created situations both comical and farcical. Trust from the core fanbase has been eroded and the casual fan finds it unwatchable. They are undoubtedly the most Orwellian sporting organisation in the world.

My faith in the WSL, like yours, is damaged, but I do want them to succeed. This new series is a chance to turn things round. There’s a new audience waiting to be found, and an old one waiting to be fulfilled, but this can only happen if the filmmakers have been given enough freedom.

Box to Box Films understand that where there are people under pressure there’s drama. You don’t need to manufacture it, you just need to ask the right questions and be there in the right moments. The WSL have never grasped this.

It’s a little worrying to me that every press release that has accompanied news of this series has included “in partnership with the WSL” and listed Erik Logan as an executive producer.

Professional surfing has long needed an outside perspective to drive mainstream interest, but Logan has proven by now that his perspective is flawed. But as much as we’ve critiqued his understanding of surf culture, we have at least acknowledged his political and media savvy.

There’s no doubt that Erik Logan wants to be the saviour of professional surfing. We can only hope that in this instance he has understood that sometimes in order to save something you have to let it go.

*As the premier reporter of professional surfing working in 2022, and surely the most personable, handsome and objective, I’ll be deeply disappointed if I’m not offered a similar role to F1 journalist Will Buxton in “Make or Break” at some point.

After ultra-green World Surf League inks deal with Chinese manufacturer of cheap SUVs, other unfairly tarnished industries consider partnership: “Big Tobacco would love to share its message of health and wellness through the surfing experience!”

A tsunami of change.

It ain’t all just a bed of roses for industry out there in the 21st century western world. Sure, profits are soaring while wages remain relatively stagnant but messaging is becoming more and more difficult what with a “woke” mob gathered at every corner, pitchforks raised. Most behemoths, like Disney or Walmart, are able to pivot relatively easy by “stopping” and “listening” then releasing statements detailing that stopping and listening followed by a emotionally impactful commercials.

Others, like Big Tobacco or the Association of Whites-Only Country Clubs, have a rougher go.

Who will partner with them to get their message of health and wellness or inclusivity in front of a misinformed public?

Well, hope grew unexpectedly in micro-plastics factories to coal mines when the ultra-green World Surf League recently announced its pairing with Great Wall Motors, a Chinese manufacturer of inexpensive internal-combustion SUVs and trucks.

As previously reported, WSL APAC General Manager Andrew Stark announced, “World Surf League sees a great synergy in this new partnership with GWM. GWM produces vehicles that are robust and suitable for the outdoors and the surfing lifestyle so WSL sees it as a partnership that makes sense.”

Fantastic and imagine what organized professional surfing at the highest level could do for the tarnished image of child powered sweatshops, high-school-adjacent vape pen distributors or even community organizations like the Ku Klux Klan.

Riding a wave of change, indeed.

Olympic bronze medallist Owen Wright and seven-time world champ Stephanie Gilmore. | Photo: Steve Sherman/@tsherms

Olympic bronze medallist slams World Surf League over reintroduction of mid-tour cull in wild tirade, “It failed the first time and it’s failing again! I’d love for it never to happen again!”

"It's stupid and it shouldn't happen again!"

The surfing heartthrob and one-time title contender turned real estate developer, Owen Wright, has slammed the governing body of professional surfing, the billionaire-owned World Surf League, in an extraordinary spray. 

Speaking on the Lipped podcast, and alongside last year’s only Australian finalist Morgan Cibilic, Connor O’Leary and tour rookie Callum Robson, Wright who is thirty-two, spoke passionately about the mid-tour cut-off. 

“It failed the first time and it’s failing again,” said Wright, who is understandably touchy about the tour being cut in half given he’s currently in thirty-first position, equal, with last year’s world number five Cibilic. 

Continuing the tirade Wright said, “I’d love for it to never happen again in the future… I don’t know how it’s gone ahead. Every time it gets brought up it gets brushed under the carpet.”

Current world number fifteen Connor O’Leary ain’t impressed, either.

“Everyone’s against it. It’s a pretty stupid decision. No one really gets to really prove themselves. Five events happen so fast. It’s especially hard for  the rookies to get into any sort of rhythm. It’s stupid and it shouldn’t happen again.” 

Lovers of the mid-tour cull will point to 2011’s triumph when John John Florence, nineteen, and brave little Gabriel Medina, then seventeen, joined the tour mid-year as the jetsam was tossed overboard. 

Personally, I won’t rest until the tour is cut to eight surfers and events are run over the course of one day.

Many bridges to cross, then burn.

On this occasion, I stand with the WSL, prayers etc.

Lover of mysteries, Kelly Slater. | Photo: WSL

Tea leaf readers, alternative health practitioners and new wave shamans subtly pushing theory that surf hero Kelly Slater was not, in fact, vaccinated prior to his impeding return to Australia but rather planned to get Covid-19 all along!

More questions than answers.

Days ago, on April 1st as it were, the most decorated professional surfer of all-time, Kelly Slater, shocked the world with his announcement that he had received a gift at the just-wrapped Academy Awards wherein he presented a tribute to the James Bond franchise. That gift? Covid-19 or some variation thereof. Well, the public admission was lightly interesting for two reasons. One, that Slater had heavily hinted he had been vaccinated against the disease and therefore extremely unlikely to contract. Two, the Australian leg of the World Surf League Championship Tour kicks off in just days.

Now, average folk took it all at face value, mostly, but Slater has a hardcore base of alternative health devotees who could not believe that he actually “got the jab.”

Well, tea leaf readers and new wave shamans are now weighing in on various chatrooms, floating the theory that the surfing great never was pre-infected but rather waited until just the right moment to “ride the real wave.”

The “real wave” not referring to his inland surf ranch, ostensibly, but rather viral loads.

Slater, himself, has publicly declared that he would rather “get antibodies naturally” and, as was revealed in the Novak Djokovic Australian Open imbroglio, a documented Covid infection and recovery gifts one entry into the southern hemisphere’s third greatest country.

So, what is the truth here? Was Slater truly vaccinated or did he perfectly game the system, master tactician that he is?


In public rebuke of strong-arm World Surf League tactics, popular shoe brand Vans announces professional longboard event headlined by suspended current champion Joel Tudor!

"It's gotta sting."

Real wins, lately, for Santa Monica’s ultra-green World Surf League. A Chinese internal combustion engine truck and sport utility vehicle manufacturer was just announced as tour partner, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach is ready to kick off in small but fun surf and Kelly Slater was recently celebrated by James Bond but might a rare jab from popular shoe brand Vans take some of the glow out of those cheeks?

It was just announced that the Duct Tape Invitational and Festival will be kicking off in Sayulita, Mexico April 20 – 23. It will not be one of the just-announced three stops one the reinvigorated World Surf League Longboard Tour but it will be very publicly headlined by Joel Tudor.

Tudor, you must recall, is the reason for that re-invigorated World Surf League Longboard Tour. As rumors floated, that were never denied, of a slash and burn, WSL executives cutting professional longboarding from three promised stops to one, the current world champion took to the airwaves and rallied much support, calling those WSL executives hypocrites etc. along the way.

Well, feelings were hurt as hot war broke wide open and Tudor became very suspended for “knowingly making baseless accusations of corruption and instigating social media based-attacks on the WSL and tour leadership.”

But now look. There our hero is with his name in lights once again, or at least acrylic paint.

Will this thumbed nose cause that hot war to reignite, World Surf League executives hurt feelings still smoldering and ready to scorch the earth?

Or is this a signal that the suspension is maybe coming to an end?

Much to ponder.