Tyler Wright comforts big bro O after the former title contender and Olympic medallist lost his round of 32 heat. | Photo: WSL

Margaret River Pro penultimate day provides brutal reality check for field of surf-soaked dreamers: “We can’t give points for tears. It’s not the world sympathy league. It’ll no doubt make great TV, though!”

"This is sport at the highest level. Losing is part and parcel."

There was a low mist over the hills this morning as I made my way to work. I’d slept between the hours of 0600-0730, a brief sleep full of dreams, but more an attempt to quiet my restless mind.

The air was thick with a pre-summer sultriness, the greens vivid and alive. Did you know that the human eye can distinguish more shades of green than any other colour?

It’s a primordial lingering that allows us to identify growth, lushness and re-birth.

I saw them all today, in a way I haven’t for some days now. The reasons are a story for another time, perhaps.

But just as I am coming into the light again, with the lucidity that sleep deprivation sometimes brings, so some things must descend into the shadows. This is the way.

Many have gone to the shadow realm of the Challenger Series today. Some we will miss. Some we might see again. Some for whom neither statement is accurate.

I’ll return to them.

I was excited today, once again highlighting the value of sport with a guaranteed kick-off time. It was great to be certain of some action, and lots of it. With so little time left in the waiting period the WSL’s hand was forced.

It was surprising that they didn’t try to squeeze in anything after the round of 32. Finals day tomorrow will be a marathon. The victor will be the man with the stamina to surf four heats in a day. Is there a precedent for this?

As ever with WSL commentary there’s a breathless, chaotic and over-caffeinated excitement to begin each day, and many blunders. The drama was well-hyped, along with various things that were “best in the west”.

John Florence had a slow start to his match-up with deVault. He blew an end section on one of his early waves, disappearing in the whitewash.

“That’s a statement,” said Ronnie.

Richie Lovett could barely contain his laughter at the Surfline forecast, which seems to get more cartoonish every time we see it.

25ft faces…30ft…One million feet!

“It was a bit of a disjointed wave but he did join it together pretty nicely,” Ronnie said of another wave.

Interesting during this heat was Ronnie saying that Florence only had eight WCT victories to his name. I was surprised it was so few.

I make it seventeen victories for Medina, for those keeping score.

Imai’s post heat loser interview was sightly teary. As a human being you felt for him, but only briefly. This is sport at the highest level. Losing is part and parcel.

Those in the booth hyped up his surfing, obviously, as they continued to do throughout the day whenever someone was cut.

“One of the best on Tour…belongs here…will certainly be back…great style…” etc etc.

The fact remains deVault and others were no-where close to making it. Fuck it. Move on.

Ciblic lost too, as did Coffin. Neither really threatened to do much else.

Two of last year’s top five surfers cut in back to back heats.

Morgan had one good score but couldn’t find another. To be honest he seemed pretty chuffed to be going on the piss with his mates on the Challenger Series.

Conner went out with a fizzle. It was a slow heat, there was one beautiful turn (not The Turn) but it showed his potential if the wave had offered more. It was the story of his season.

You had to feel sympathy for the pathetic image of his final wave. He threw up an embarrassing half-claim in sheer desperation, but it lacked all conviction and seemed inappropriate, like the gently popping surface bubbles of a drowning man.

Oh well, plenty time for gardening, taking care of pets and strumming sad melodies. However, if I was a Rip Curl athlete at this juncture I might be casting an eye around the stable and re-negotiating my contract.

Kolohe negotiated his heat stress free as he claimed in his monotone post-heat presser. I did appreciate his Macgyver approach to equipment. In order to add weight to his board he’d glued a literal weight to it. 240g, he told us. If nothing else it’s an amusing contrast to those who finished the board spending hours squinting down rails in pursuit of perfect symmetry.

Matt McGillivray bucked today’s trend in his defeat of Kanoa, becoming the only surfer to save himself. (Aside from Sammy Pupo who might have been safe anyway). His final wave was a meaty choice with a dramatic late drop into a miraculous closing turn. He had no right to ride out. It was the first hint of real drama and the judges treated it as such.

Watching at home it seems obvious what’s rewarded here. You might get a seven or eight for a single turn if it’s critical enough. Easier said than done, of course, but I wonder what the surfer’s perception of this is.

This was exemplified in the Italo vs Joao Chianca heat. Ferreira got going early, as he does at his best, and seemed in control, before Chianca was given what seemed to me to be an outrageous overscore for one turn. It was a committed hack to tail slide off the top for a 7.77, a turn that may not have been possible had he not exchanged his board for a shorter one early in the heat.

For a minute it looked like a masterstroke, or that the narrative of Chianca being hard done by had seeped into the judge’s tower.

Rabbit was so animated it seemed he might need oxygen.

But the momentary drama and burgeoning hero story was soon soused when the judges corrected with a high-looking 6.93 for an Italo wave with one critical opening turn but a shaky completion.

Both men wore sets on the head at the end. Italo’s leash snapped. The camera cut away just as he was waving frantically as if drowning.

There was emotion for Chianca in the aftermath and an overlong interview where initial sympathies began to ebb. We can’t give points for tears. It’s not the world sympathy league. It’ll no doubt make great TV, though.

What are they all whinging for anyway? I started to think. They’re probably headed to Snapper to surf in the Challenger series. I’ve not been to sleep and I’ll have a classroom of kids in front of me in a couple of hours.

I squeezed in an hour and a half, then woke to find Jadson (predictably) beating Kelly in a swell that had jumped up a few feet.

Slater can have no real complaints this year. The waves so far have played to his strengths, or at least have been of the type where he can remain competitive. No comp has yet been defined by the sort of aerial surfing or athleticism that’s beyond him now.

Just as I wrote that he threw a clean rotation on the inside on his way to the sled.

If Kelly did a post-heat interview I missed it and I’m sorry I did.

I’ve wanted more from Kelly recently. I want to bask in both his genius and madness and absorb it like delicious summer rain. But beyond Hawaii he’s been quiet in what seems a very deliberate way, as of course it will be.

Nat Young continued his stellar run of form. Leo and Federico were sent packing by Ethan and Caio respectively, and in doing so they’d missed the cut. No drama, we’ll barely notice.

More upsetting for me personally was that Caio’s defeat of Federico had bust the last leg of a 3k multi. I really thought that Morais might pull out a victory in waves requiring big turns, especially when his back was against the wall. Plus I hate Caio.

But it was not to be, it never is.

Ethan’s scores looked impressive, but I didn’t see the heat, nor Jordy’s defeat of Zeke. Please let me know if I missed anything of note.

In the end it was disappointing how many cut line surfers never pulled through. There were disappointingly few redemption narratives, Matt McGilivray excepted. Those who’ve faltered all year faltered again.

Leaving the Tour now carries the sense of being forcibly ejected from a party just as the girl/boy you’ve been waiting for walks in. Or perhaps being kicked out of the Big Brother house. Gone is the chance to be a reality star.

Worse: everyone’s off to Indo without you.

So who has been confirmed as lost to the shadow realm and what did they leave us?

Imaikalani deVault. Gained a modicum of sympathy in the end but was forgotten midway through the next heat. Could double for Connor O’Leary if there were a multiverse where two Connor O’Learys were necessary. The least likely part of that is the necessity of two Connor O’Learys.

Morgan Ciblic. A face that would either stump a street caricature artist or make his day. Forgettable if it wasn’t for “Make or Break”. He’s looking forward to a piss up with his mates but I’d guess he’ll be back.

Conner Coffin. No Secret Turn, not even any semi-secret ones.

Joao Chianca. Damn shame. Highly likeable personality and skill set. Come back anytime, son.

Owen Wright. Still a chance he makes it based on what happens today. Chronically underscored for his season opener at Pipe and has never recovered. Early retirement to family life and Search trips?

Ryan Callinan. From being a past favourite to having a season where I can’t remember a single one of his waves nevermind a heat. Didn’t make it past the round of 32 in any event.

Frederico Morais. Tall, Portuguese. So poor this season that’s all I can think of.

Leo Fioravanti. Middling height, Italian. Ciao!

Zeke Lau. Ultimate Surfer.

Lucca Messinas. Thankfully should go and we’ll never see him again. The most forgettable surfer (previously) on Tour.

Deivid Silva. Oh Deivid, I thought we had something. Then you went and got a 0.13 heat total and shamed me and anyone who’s ever said a kind word about you. His natural environment is scrappy QS style surfing, so he’ll no doubt thrive and return.

So the cut drama’s mostly over, in mostly limp fashion. If you’re looking for a symbol or a poster boy it’s Conner Coffin on his final wave.

But there’s a big, Big day ahead.

Once again: today’s champion of the Margaret River Pro will surf four heats to claim victory and will certainly deserve it.

Fitzgibbons (pictured) as Marie Antoinette.
Fitzgibbons (pictured) as Marie Antoinette.

World media, Kelly Slater react after surf darling gets publicly executed: “It’s all fun and games until Sally Fitzgibbons is marched to the guillotine!”

A reign of terror.

This mid-year cut has injected so much… life into the otherwise bloated World Surf League. Here we are on the final day of the Margaret River Pro, ecstatic. Drenched in the not-yet-dried blood of Zeke Lau, Lucas Messinas, Morgan Ciblic. But here we wait for more. Will Matthew McGillivray beat Sammy Pupo in the Round of Sixteen thereby sending Owen Wright to the executioners or will he, himself, be pulled from the water’s edge and necked?



Except, look quickly in the mirror, all that not-yet-dried blood. Do you recognize yourself? Is that the boy who once snuggled mama? The girl who made Valentine’s Day cards for daddy?

And what if I tell you that Sally Fitzgibbons’s blood mixed right in there with Deivid Silva’s?

Oh but it’s true. The surf darling with that radiant smile was marched up the steps of that guillotine yesterday, publicly, causing world media to shake its head in our direction.

Fox Sports called it “a brutal cull.”

Yahoo! Sports declared, “No one likes it.”

News.com.au lamented, “Harsh new rule claims Olympic medalist.”

Fitzgibbons, herself, was as gracious as ever, penning, “The unconditional love that comes with putting on my jersey #89. Everything about this sport, the surf community and my dream keeps me coming back for more. I felt every one of those cheers and hugs from you yesterday and hope I can reciprocate when we cross paths in your big moment.”

The missive prompted 11x surfing champion Kelly Slater to respond, “Legend Sally. I’m sure yesterday was a hard one but I have no doubt you’ll be back in a few months threatening tour wins and after that title.”

7x surfing champion Stephanie Gilmore, deadnaming the new Challenger Series, added, “You’ll crush the quey and be back for pipe no problemo!”

And so now it is time to gaze into the mirror once again. Are we surf fans like French radicals of old, purging an intumescent structure but getting caught up in it all a little too much, our good intentions spinning lustily out of control?

More as the story develops.

Brooke and Laird in 1983; Julia and Jackie, 2022. | Photo: Man About Town

Surf prodigy Jack Robinson channels Bruce Weber’s legendary shoot with Brooke Shields and teen Laird Hamilton in modelling debut for British fashion magazine Man About Town! “Awesome abs and belly button!”

"The musculature of his surf-honed deltoids deliver a raw sexuality rarely seen in white males."

The Australian surf prodigy Jack Robinson has appeared in a cover story for London-based fashion magazine Man About Town, channelling the iconic 1983 Bruce Weber shoot of a then teenage Laird Hamilton and movie star Brooke Shields. 

Hamilton, who was nineteen, and Shields, eighteen and three years off her breakthrough hit Blue Lagoon, were photographed by the iconic American photographer at Cabo San Lucas for Life magazine, and which you can examine here. 

Robinson, twenty-three, and his Brazilian wife of two years Julia Muniz, recreated the scene for a photo spread in the British magazine, Jackie in white Levis and Converse kicks, the pair straddling a vintage motorcycle. 

The breathtaking spread continues in an eighties vein, Jackie’s hair cut into a flattop reminiscent of Val Kilmer in Top Gun, Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV, the musculature of his surf-honed deltoids delivering a raw sexuality generally only noted in big-dicked black guys and rarely seen in white males. 

Man About Town’s readership was thrilled with the images. 

Awesome abs and belly button and thanks for being a fitness inspiration and motivation to me your awesome.

Strong @alexisrael vibes for this shoot! 

Proper lad

And so on. 

Pre-order the magazine here. 

(You might wanna get the Corrado Martini issue, too, while y’there.)

The beautiful hunk of dirt O bought for $5.1 mill.

Surfing heartthrob turned real estate developer Owen Wright seeking “expressions of interest from $6 million each” for his two luxury Byron Bay villas!

“The vision I saw was keen longboarders surfing The Pass every morning and dads teaching their groms to surf in kid-friendly waves…"

Three years ago, the one-time title contender turned real estate developer Owen Wright paid $5.1 million for an unremarkable beach shack a few hundred metres from The Pass in Australia’s Byron Bay. 

Of course, Owen, who is thirty-three and whose plume of golden hair, swooning eyes and bullfighter’s body suggest teen idol more than real estate developer, saw more than an idyllic little timber house surrounded by almost half-an-acre of grass and trees.

The then thirty year old saw potential.

“The vision I saw was keen longboarders surfing The Pass every morning or doing the lighthouse walk, dads teaching their groms to surf in kid-friendly waves and then getting their own barrels around the corner at Tallows,” he said.  

The development at 2 Daniels St, Byron Bay, Owen’s first, comprises four villas, each joint with four bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms, solar system, Tesla battery, pool and so on. 

Owen’s keeping one of the villas for himself and his fam and so is the developer Burke Urban – a good sign, for if the two principals behind the build are hanging around y’know your six-mill plus ain’t gonna fall down around your ears, or if it does you don’t have far to to go to vent spleen or chuck a poorly installed faucet at ’em.

Owen ain’t afraid of playing the real estate game.

You’ll remember the $1.6 million house at Lennox Head with its indoor swimming pool that meandered through the living room,  the Federation-style house in Byron Bay (a little under a million), the beachfront townhouse at Thirroul (675,000) and the gorgeous mountain-top hideaway (bought for 750k, sold for a million).

Express your interest for one of the Daniels Street joints here. although caveat emptor, as they say.

One real estate maven I spoke to said, “Six-mill is a hard ask after all the floods in the past few months. Sits at the bottom of a hill, smack bang beside the water run-off drains… it does require some bravo if you’re handing over six big ones.”

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.


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…”


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…