Stephanie Gilmore, seven times a winner, holds court with boy Haz Hendo. | Photo: Apple TV

Apple TV series Make or Break “will show you the WSL’s sheer ineptitude that has prevented mainstream audiences from appreciating the rich tapestry of characters on the pro tour!”

It’s akin to having a cellar full of chrysalises but locking the door and losing the key.

I was not wrong in my early assertion that “Make or Break” would be superb, nor that it will bring a new audience to pro surfing.

The latter will not happen overnight, but as the show gains traction, so will competitions. I’m certain of that.

Why?

Because what I underestimated was how this show might reinvigorate our enthusiasm for the game.

You, Us.

This jaded core of WSL critics who tune in regardless, as if it’s some form of penance.

Of course there is something for you, Mr Fuck The WSL, even if you just wish to extend your vitriol.

“Make or Break” will show you, as suspected, that sheer ineptitude has prevented the general audience from appreciating the rich tapestry of characters we have on the pro tour. The World Surf League have failed spectacularly in this regard.

It’s akin to having a cellar full of chrysalises but locking the door and losing the key.

“Make or Break” may not be to your personal tastes, but it is absolutely the best depiction of pro surfing to date. You surely recognise by now that the remaining naysayers are below the line, or those who haven’t watched it.

I did a test. Instead of just watching it by myself, feeling I might not be objective enough, beleaguered by pro surfing as I sometimes am, I asked my other half to watch it with me. She accepted, grudging and grumbling.

“How long is it?”

“Put it on now or I’m not watching. Like right now, Jamie, not in five minutes.”

“I’ll watch one episode.”

Her patience was thin, enthusiasm thinner.

But three episodes later she’d changed her mind entirely.

It was a melding of her comfort zone and mine, sport and reality TV. Not unlike when she made me sit down and watch an episode of “Ru Paul’s Drag Race”.

“Oh my god, HOW do they make those outfits?!”

“She’s got to go, she’s such a bitch…”

Etc.

Well produced reality TV is captivating, even against your will and common sense.

So, here’s what to expect from “Make or Break”.

Episode One

This is the least engaging episode, from our perspective at least. The focus is Tyler Wright, but it doesn’t reveal much that we didn’t know already.

Tyler is fine but not especially engaging to me. Her time on camera seems self-conscious, too aware of what she’s saying. She’s not been shy of having her voice heard in the past, of course, so maybe there’s just an element of repetition.

She’s the kind of person who says “fuck” on record and it sounds deliberate, or like they’re saying for the first time.

Her close friendship with Jessi Miley-Dyer was evident. Given how often decisions about where and when the women will surf are in a state of flux, I would think this should be questioned.

My other half (let’s call her Melanie since she has a name and we’re looking at an episode dealing with the empowerment of women) thought it was refreshing that the series not only began focusing on the women, but it wasn’t in the vein of being sexually objectiifed. Instead the focus was on the equality of waves.

Tyler’s period of absence is mentioned, but not with a depth that reveals anything new. Post-viral fatigue leading to some mental struggles, though this isn’t clearly stated beyond the pictures of her kneeling in the shower that are familiar to us by now.

She certainly looked very thin when she came back on Tour. I hadn’t really appreciated the stark physical difference at the time.

“Why is she always wearing the same pants?” Melanie asked.

“Would you not wear the same bikini two days in a row?”

“Not if it was stuck up my arse.”

Of course, now men and women surf the same waves at the same times (sort of) but we see the shift that preceded this, the move from Honolua Bay to Pipe for the conclusion of the women’s event following the fatal shark attack.

On reflection, and in this context of this show it’s clear why so many gaffes were made surrounding the women’s competition at Pipe this year , amping up the history, saying they would surf when they didn’t, then pretending they weren’t there.

Clearly the whole broadcast team, and especially JMD, were conscious of the filming of “Make or Break” and the clear and desired narrative at play. It seems obvious now that the decisions and claims were driven by the ideals of this show, not the competition at hand.

It’s clear from this first episode that the actual surfing will have a bit part to play in the show as a whole. Footage of comps is limited to a couple of waves from a couple of heats. I don’t think this is a bad thing.

The surfing is shot like it’s a movie. We have stylised slo-mo. Non-diegetic sounds of surfboards moving through water are added. I don’t mind this. I’d be interested to know if they’ve shot any surfing themselves or just relied on the WSL footage. I would presume it’s an edited version of the latter.

We do have a slight revelation in episode one in that we see into the ivory towers of the judges! This, for me, is truly revelatory. When I think of the emotions (and indeed the money) hung on decisions made inside this bubble, it seems borderline scandalous that we’ve never actually been privy to the machinations of what goes on here.

Seeing WSL Head Judge Pritamo Ahrendt’s face on the screen, as an interview subject no less, was like coming across Santa Claus at the foot of your stairs. (Though possibly on his way out of your house with a sack full of valuables).

“I’ve watched pro surfing for years”, I said to Melanie, aghast, “and I have never seen that man’s face until now.”

Decent, all in all, but not a patch on episode two…


Open Thread, Comment live on penultimate day of brutally definitive Margaret River Pro, “Today there will be freshly lopped heads rolling in gutters. Today there will blood!”

Daniel Lewis Day.


Gilmore (pictured) looking sharp at Bells earlier last month.

Beloved champion Stephanie Gilmore survives “the cut” leaving Owen Wright as last remaining surfer of note with sharpened guillotine poised above swan-like neck!

There will be blood.

Margaret River is drawing near the end of its waiting period. With two days remaining, near seventeen hours of professional surfing must be conducted, unless Senior Vice Presidents of Competition, Heads of Tours think wisest to run overlapping heats. The entire men’s round of 32, sixteen, quarters, semis and finals must be played out but only the women’s semis and finals as the bulk of those matchups were conducted yesterday.

Tyler Wright and Carissa Moore, currently numbers two and one respectively, became shock losses in the round of sixteen in Surfline-rated 6 to 8 feet Main Break likely reshuffling the standings. Most importantly, though, the beloved champion Stephanie Gilmore survived the dreaded “cut” by taking down India Robinson in the round of sixteen.

Whew.

The tour would not have been the same without Gilmore’s grace and effervescent smile and if she had been guillotined, the very notion of “the cut” might have fallen out of favor with ardent old surf fans.

The men, who will resume in mere hours, have Owen Wright, Morgan Cibilic and Matthew McGillivray below the line, ready for a Soviet-style disappearing with Wright being the only name or at least the only before the wildly-successful airing of Make or Break.

Ciblic, who surfs against Callum Robson in heat three and McGillivray, who surfs against Igarashi in heat five, will have breathless new surf fans on the edge of their settees. Wright takes on Pupo in heat eight and if he stumbles will you miss? Will you fondly recall his bevy of 10s at Cloudbreak?

An exciting day awaits us all, in any case, as there will be blood to fertilize the tree of the live sports business.

See you soon.


Andy King, surprise star of Make or Break.

Deaf former pro surfer turned super coach to Gabriel Medina unlikely star of Apple TV series, Make or Break, “I’m part robotic, I’m half-machine. I’ve got two cochlears!”

"I didn’t achieve what I wanted to achieve. And I don’t want that to happen to anyone else."

If you’ve been around these pages long enough you’ll know the story of Andy King, a hard-charging goofyfooter from Cronulla, Australia, who hit his head in a fight outside a nightclub in 2004 and lost his hearing, his balance, his pro surfing career.

The fight was usual theatre for Cronulla late on a Saturday night. A gang of footy players mouthed off to Andy’s chick from across the road; he “glazed over”, ran across the bitumen and confronted all eight of ’em.

“Ended up getting the shit kicked out of me,” he says in Make or Break.

Next thing, his head is smashed on the concrete gutter.

I went to see Andy at the hospital shortly after the fight and he was surprisingly bright given the catastrophic change to his life. Andy’s resilience was legend. He’d never had it easy. When he was a kid Andy slept with a knife under his pillow to protect himself from a violent alcoholic Dad.

Fast forward fifteen years and Andy is intro’d to Medina by Mick Fanning at a time when Medina’s life is going through rapid change, the estrangement of his family, a new wife and so on. 

Medina’s shaper Johnny Cabianca said King’s arrival stilled Medina’s emotional state, elevated his performance.

And, now, Andy, now forty-five, is the unlikely star of Apple TV’s Make or Break series, stealing the show in episode two, Brazilian Storm.

“Kingy is extremely loyal, extremely passionate, he’s not going to back down,” Mick Fanning says.

We see Gabriel and Andy, in Cronulla, preparing for their first surf together.

In a moving scene, Andy tells Gabriel, “I’m going to take my cochlear off. I’m deaf.”

Andy smiles, “Just use sign language”, mimicking the universal sign for barrels.

In his to-camera interviews on Brazilian Storm, Andy forces back tears, then weeps openly, turns away from the screen.

“As you can see, I’m part robotic,” he says. “I’m half-machine. I’ve got two cochlears.”

The season ends with Andy and Gabriel, along with Gabriel’s now ex-wife Yasmin who says prophetically “Some people think that I’m just going to end his career and that he’s going to be unfocused”, celebrating Gabriel’s third world title.

“I didn’t achieve what I wanted to achieve,” Andy says, “And I don’t want that to happen to anyone. I want to make sure they’re completely content and that they can take what they’ve got out of their surfing and bring it to their own life.”

Watch here (Apple TV subscribers only. If y’tight with cash, and who can blame ya, grab a one-week free trial.) 


Slater is rich.

In astounding twist, world’s greatest surfer Kelly Slater revealed to have net worth north of $35 million, plans to someday marry longtime girlfriend “in the future!”

Kingly.

We all know that the world’s greatest surfer Kelly Slater is not a poor man. With a beachfront Hawaiian home, vigorously protected with illegal burritos, and a jet-fuel spewing on-the-go lifestyle, it is assumed that the 11x champion is “well-off.”

How well-off?

In an astounding piece detailing Slater’s long career, various business ventures, music and television career, turn as an author, Money Inc. reports:

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Kelly Slater’s net worth is $35 million. He has made his money from surfing competitions, and he has also made money from sponsorship deals and various other ventures. His business interests include apparel, surfwear, surfboards, beverages, and indoor wave pools.

$35 million, oooooeee! That’s enough to save a nice chunk of the rainforest, if one cares about that sort of thing. But where will this vast fortune go when the curtains finally close? Well, Money Inc. also reports:

Kelly Slater has been in a relationship with Kalani Miller for more than 15 years. They are not yet married, but plan to wed in the future, says The Net Line. Kelly and Miller have no children together, but Kelly has a daughter, Taylor, from a previous relationship who was born in 1996. Although he maintains a home in his birthplace, Cocoa Beach in Florida, Kelly Slater now has homes in Hawaii and Los Angeles.

$35 million, whoa!

If you had that sort of filthy lucre, what would you do?

Help Kelly live his best life as he is wont to make poor aesthetic choices.

Illegal burrito.