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.


I love this man.

Unconditionally-lauded television series “Make or Break” shines missing beacon on lightly heralded rookies, Jay “Bottle” Thompson in episode three raising more questions than answers!

Fall in love for the first time.

Make or Break, the television series that has all of endemic surf media swooning in porticos, fanning blushing faces, reaches its apex in episode three and who would have ever seen that coming? Who could have? Tyler Wright holds down the season opener, of course, followed by Gabriel Medina and his Brazilian Storm which leads us to “The Rookies,” namely Morgan Ciblic and Matthew McGillivray.

Now, in my normal World Surf League watching life, I am actively indifferent to both Ciblic and McGillivray. They are cannon fodder wasting time, swell, attention and their impeding cut passively welcomed.

But I will tell you what, following both of their World Surf League journeys, via Make or Break is more compelling than Wright’s illness, Medina’s torpor. Both have personalities, hopes, dreams which spark under the star-turning eye of Jay “Bottle” Thompson.

I was also indifferent to Thompson during his run on tour, though not as actively, but my goodness gracious. He glows on camera, glows guiding his charges through silly beach drills, glows talking, to camera, about his nickname, about this surfing life.

Leaving the episode with a place carved out in my heart for Ciblic, McGillivray, Thompson made me wonder how many surfers professional surfing, especially in its latest iteration of World Surf League, has made me needlessly dislike? And is it on purpose? Has the slow arc toward the mid-season money saving cut demanded our indifference which has, therefore, been coddled and encouraged all along?

Secret smiles spreading in Santa Monica every time we denigrate Liam O’Brien?

Every Nat Young smear?

I’m telling you, if you watch one episode make it three and you will grow frustrated with what we’ve been missing all along.

Live like Bottle.


Shocking new documentary reveals Cuba’s Marxist-Leninist regime arresting surfers for anti-government crime of riding waves, “In Cuba, just being alive makes you brave. To practice a sport like surfing even more so!”

"I'm in this fight to legalize surfing in Cuba!"

Ever collide with the gorgeous and resilient spirit of the Cuban people?

Once they hit the streets of America they possess an unyielding appetite for success that neither the apartment prices of NYC or the 15 dollar Coronas in Miami can suppress or quell.

Fueled from a former life where toilet paper is rationed at two squares a day and the faintest whisper against El Jefe will land you 30 years in cell block C, the Cuban vigor could carry countries on it backbone.

A point proved on a Spanish Harlem street corner between 111th street and Lexington Ave recently.

A summer time dominos game quickly gets heated with shouts echoing to the West Side Highway. A very wide and broad Harlem local with a teardrop tat in the corner of his eye asks the Cubans to stop.

To which they reply “FUCK THAT!”

A wide-eyed, deep and motionless stare is exchanged between the two until the Tear Drop Tat moves on, shaking his head.

Two bystanders watch all this unfold. One whispers to the other “The little Cuban has cojones.” To which the other replies: “These guys had to paddle 90 miles across the ocean on a raft made of abandoned styrofoam held together with duct tape, fighting off sharks with sticks. You think they give a shit about Just paroled Tear Drop Charlie.”

Ask any old Cuban and they will tell you stories of how, without two pennies to rub together and children begging for milk, the block would still be able to forage sugar cane from the fields, mix it with water, rum, lime  and crushed mint leaves. Mix it in a forlorned  plastic barrel with everyone dipping their cups and drink OG mojitos till two am while dancing to rumba.

Now, Makewild films has produced a look into a surf life we rarely have a chance to see or experience.

Raul and Fidel Castro are (were) the type of shepherds that likes, liked, to keep their flock tight. Therefore, most water sports in Cuba are illegal for fear of defection to Key West 90 miles away.

This story is about Frank and Yaya, two young Cuban surfers who are trying to legalize and legitimize surfing in a country where taking flight to the water never had a more sinister, literal. and taboo connotation. Scenes from the trailer show the pair running from the water, surfboard under arm, with police cars chasing them down the street.

Per the synopsis,

In Cuba, where people fled en masse from Fidel Castro’s regime, surfing and other water activities have been banned for decades. Today, surfing exists in a murky legal gray area and is viewed with suspicion by the Cuban authorities. 

Despite these challenges, a group of passionate Cuban surfers is determined to carve out a place for surfing in the country’s culture of athletic excellence. Frank is one of the most established surfers and to many the best surfer on the island. Yaya is a community leader and surfer who has made it her mission to ensure that the next generation can surf freely. When surfing is announced as an official sport for the Tokyo Olympics, they see their chance to bring their sport out of the shadows and on to the world stage. What follows is a tale of underground surfers building their own boards from scratch, dodging the authorities as they travel the island looking for the perfect wave, and attempting to legitimize their passion by persuading the Cuban authorities to field an Olympic team. 

When Frank is invited to participate in a qualifier event out of the country, he must decide whether to compete, which would mean embarking on an illegal journey and risking permanent separation from his wife and newborn baby. Yaya is similarly torn when she is invited to participate in a surf symposium in Hawaii. Havana Libre is a story of people following their passion at great danger to themselves and ultimately begs the question: what would you risk to chase your dreams?

Frankie says, “In Cuba, just being alive makes you brave. To practice a sport like surfing, even more so.” 

His, Yaya, who is pregnant, adds: “For some people, they see surfing as something simple. For us surfers, it’s the best thing we have in our lives. The problem is sometimes surfing is considered illegal. Along with Frankie and the others, I’m in this fight to legalize surfing in Cuba.  I will never stop surfing.”