"Filipe Toledo’s all-black Sharp Eye quad looked like a panther sprinting through a gallery of Diebenkorn landscapes while listening to Charli XCX’s Pink Diamond."
I cut way back on the screentime after posting that Make or Break rave last month, and not until yesterday did I get around to the season finale, which of course takes place at Lowers and ends with Carissa Moore and Gabriel Medina crowned as 2021 WCT world champs.
I remain a Make or Break fan.
But the show did not, for me anyway, build or improve on the first two episodes—in fact it seemed less sure of itself as it went.
The clichés started creeping in. The WSL’s Wall of Positive Noisewas, if not resurrected, no longer under siege. Filipe Toledo’s title-snatching aversion to heavy waves is mentioned but not examined.
The Surf Ranch Pro—despised by WCT fans and pros alike, but a golden invitation to a talk about the promise and existential dread of wavepools—is offered as just another tour stop.
None of the surfers in episodes two through seven, which the exception of Medina, are anywhere near as interesting as Tyler Wright was in episode one. Ditto for the contests themselves—as you’d expect, since the CT now begins at Pipeline, which is a dumb move by the WSL, but that’s a topic for another day.
I think the Make or Break creatives will fall back and make improvements, and I’m very much looking forward to Season Two. But I’ve adjusted my Season One score from a low 9 to a high 7.
All that said, two things in the Make or Break season finale stood out.
First, the waves at Lowers looked so much better than I recall from watching the live stream. Bigger and smoother and 100% fair, in that everybody got a fair shot, nobody was screwed by the conditions. I still believe Finals Day deserves a better venue than Trestles—but Trestles, last year, did its part.
Second, Filipe Toledo’s all-black Sharp Eye quad, even while just resting in the sand, looked like a panther sprinting through a gallery of Diebenkorn landscapes while listening to Charli XCX’s “Pink Diamond.”
Stylish, fast, and bold. Five pounds of bespoke flat-black confidence.
Black is, of course, an aggressively impractical color for a surfboard. Or it was, anyway. Two minutes in the summer sun and you’ve got melted wax all over the car upholstery, towel, boardbag. Another hour, if it’s hot enough, and the glass will bubble off the foam like cheese on a skillet, and if somebody out there tells me an overheated PU board will eventually spontaneously combust and leave nothing but a crater I will not be surprised.
Carbon-wrapped EPS-core surfboards not only solved the bubble problem, but the boards are light, strong, and whip-fast. Plus they look like a million bucks compressed into a flying dagger.
Board-fashion-wise, what Filipe is doing today with black—and not just Filipe, but John Florence, Tatiana Weston-Webb, and Kanoa Igarashi, among others—is what other great statement-making surfers have traditionally done with red.
(Editor’s caution, link contains nudity and bush.)
My new favorite red-board surfer is Joseph “Scooter Boy” Kaopuiki, who lit up Waikiki in the 1940s and ’50s on an 11-foot-long fire-engine red hollow board, which he rode like a Benzedrine-huffing finalist in the Savoy Ballroom lindy hop dance-off. Grady Timmons, in his essential book Waikiki Beachboy, said this about Kaopuiki:
Most beachboys were not big-wave riders. They were exhibitionists, their giant surfboards their stage. It was far more common to see a beachboy on a small wave, riding in while standing on his head, or carrying a woman in his arms, much as he might carry her across a threshold. The old-style surfboards were well suited for such antics. They were as big as beds—at least ten feet in length—[and] a surfer could improvise endlessly. Few were better than Scooter Boy Kaopuiki.
When beachboys talk about Scooter Boy, they have trouble finding words to describe him adequately. Coming up short in mid-sentence, they will suddenly jump on a picnic table or begin running up and down their living-room floor, demonstrating how Scooter Boy rode a hollow board. “Scooter Boy had that board flying all over the wave,” said Buffalo Keaulana. “He would run to the front, jump up in the air, and land on the nose, kicking the water from the nose so that the board would spin right around.”
Scooter Boy, a fireman by trade in addition to working as a beachboy, was small and ripped—he boxed as a welterweight and was said to be the best broken-field runner in Hawaii’s wildly popular Barefoot Football League.
He was also stubborn. In the mid-’50s, years after board styles had moved on, Kaopuiki was the only person in the Makaha International Surfing Championships riding a hollow board; the same one he’d had for years.
Incredibly, given his foot speed and gyroscopic balance, Kaopuiki—who just three months earlier had taken up hang gliding with his wife—died in 1985 after slipping from a bridge during a hike. He was 74.
A flotilla of canoes took Kaopuiki’s ashes through the Waikiki surf where he’d kicked up his heels years earlier, red trunks matching his red board, and put him to rest just beyond the lineup.
(You like this? Matt Warshaw delivers a surf essay every Sunday, PST. All of ’em a pleasure to read. Maybe time to subscribe to Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing, yeah? Three bucks a month.)
Power Rankings Power Ranking: Of all the illustrious surf journalists to partake in the cynical art form, from Lewis Samuels to Matt Warshaw to Sean Doherty, who is the GOAT?
There are times, in all our lives, when important questions must fall. Like what then should happen to professional longboarding? And wherefore art thou Jonah Hill? And Kelly Slater? We must take them and roll them around our mouths while sucking, seriously, in order to find true meaning, subtle nuance n shit.
With this in mind, and heart, which surf journalist has undertaken the tried and true format of “Power Rankings” and soared above contemporaries?
Oh we’ve, each of us, have feasted upon Power Rankings for a decade plus. We’ve laughed, winced, nodded while thinking “too true.”
Have you watched Ricky Gervais’ latest comedy special on Netflix?
A tour breakdown that employs both the BPEL and NBPEL measurements and many disdainful pinpricks.
With Margaret River gone, the Tour has been pruned to a manageable twenty-three surfers including Gabriel Medina.
Shall we shed tears for the hewn?
No, none of them.
23. Jake Marshall
Nice to see him back to doing what he’s best at out at Margs: making no impression whatsoever. Did he surf at Margs?
22. Jackson Baker
Hanging on by the skin of his bucked teeth after surfing his Pepto-Bismol board to a disappointing loss in the Round of 32, it was thrilling, well, not thrilling, but somewhat fun to learn that he qualified for the back half of this year.
While probably not going to be a standout anywhere, at least for his surfing, it will be fun to watch the ol’ potato try his hand at good waves.
His post-heat interviews should also be fun, not so much for what he says about his heats or surfing, but for how every answer he gives solidifies my belief in him that he was one of those kids in elementary school who licked up fire ants in front of girls partially to just be weird but mostly to flirt.
The only remaining question I have is whether after eating the fire ants he was the kind to burp, say “spicy,” and laugh or the kind to act normal and pretend like they don’t taste any different than regular ants, which they don’t.
21. Connor O’Leary
One of the previous complainers about the mid-year cut, Connor made it fine, even after losing to Sammy Pupo in the Round of 32 (after Bells, he was virtually safe anyway).
Not anywhere near the top, he has the potential to do well at G-Land because he’s reasonably well-rounded, able to put together combos on waves that are above average, it’s a left, he’s goofy, and surf contests can be random.
20. Caio Ibelli
Rated eleventh in the world, it’s hard to imagine he will be able to keep that spot, given the fact that most of the people above him are better, not to mention he’s stuck on Rustys. Still, he’s safe for next year, which should give him plenty of time to celebrate his World’s Tallest Midget plaque awarded to him by the Guinness Book of World Records upon the death of former Tour holder Deivid Silva.
19. Seth Moniz
A second straight last-place finish for Seth has precipitated him tumbling down the ratings down to sixteenth.The last two venues, Bells and Margaret River, suck and his place should improve with the better waves coming up, should he just quit dipping his feet in duck fat before every heat.
Wait, he’s sixteenth, but I rated him nineteenth?
Yeah, couldn’t help penalizing the poor performances.
18. Samuel Pupo
Another meh performance from Sammy, who lost in the Round of 16 to Magic Matthew McGillivray aka Mr. Post-It. I would try to say something about his Round of 32 win over Connor Buchan, but I haven’t been able to get the heat analyzer player to show me the fucking video. In fact, trying to view any of Round of 32 via Heat Analyzer results in the video error message “Video unavailable Playback on other websites has been disabled by the video owner Watch on YouTube.” This is on their own dumbass website.
17. Kelly Slater
A Round of 32 loss dropped Kelly nine spots down to thirteen. I’m not usually the type of person to say older athletes should retire. I Prefer to believe that someone competing until the wheels come off is more noble and relatable than someone so concerned about their legacy that their ego can only handle going out on top, but I kind of feel like Kelly should’ve retired after winn… no, that’s dumb.
He’s still one of the best at Pipe and he will be a thrill to watch at Chopes. Rated here because I don’t think G-Land will be his best and the other three comps before Tahiti don’t suit him, even if he’s been historically great at Jeffereys. Baldo needs barrels.
16. Matthew McGillivray
Rated only above Ryan Callinan among the full-timers before the comp, Matty needed a good result to avoid being cut. He was able to do it, bagging a semi result on the back of some solid surfing in the big slopey rights that he uses to butter his bread.
Should I have found his run inspiring? Not exactly.
The fact that he was already a replacement surfer, rather than a fully qualified surfer prior to the season start, I am less inclined to categorize it as so heartening. He wasn’t technically supposed to be on Tour anyway, so why should I care that he almost didn’t requalify?
Anyway, safe for next year, he’s now free to rack up the last places again with abandon.
15. K-Hole Andino
Missing his losing heat live and seeing that he got a ninth because he was injured, I was forced to spend time researching what happened to K-Hole. After summoning my full capabilities, I spent approximately 30 full seconds looking. My two takeaways from that exhaustive search: 1) he is still in the draw for G-Land; 2) based on my search of “kolohe andino injury” on Google brought up one burning question “Is Kolohe Andino related to Dino Andino?”
Boy, that would be something.
14. Jordan Michael Smith
A quarterfinal finish was a pretty good result for Ugly Duckling Parko, who should be able to make a run at the final five, with G-Land and El Salvador serving as strengths. Anything less than a win at J-Bay would be a disappointment, all the potential spray from non-alcoholic beer on the podium wasted.
13. Kanoa Igarashi
It was a very bad comp for young Kanoa, who lost both his Round of 32 heat and his public best friend on Tour, Leonardo Fioravanti. It will be sad to not see them together, so sad in fact, that the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto was moved to tears upon learning the news.
12. Miguel Pupo
The life of a ‘CT surf fan can seem demoralizingly lonely and dispiriting, filled with times stuck staring intently at your small phone screen to view an Elimination Round heat watching Deivid Silva and two unknown Australians battle it out to a sub-ten heat total victory while your significant other continues to go out of their way to ignore you and your interests.
As bad as that sounds, getting to see Miggy surf on Tour and in the Top 10, bashing the lip standing up perfectly straight, stylishly, and baring his glorious grill in post-heat interviews with the sick sticker from his mortgage title company sponsor shows prominently on his board, makes the effort worth it.
11. Nat Young
I have always believed Nat Young to be a Top-10 talent surfer on Tour.
Is that true?
Not at all, but with his results this year, I’m finding myself more and more being able to talk myself into the idea.
A boon for California. Definitely more well-rounded than Conner Coffin, Nat represents the Golden State’s best hope at Tour success outside of Toledo. Speaking of Fil, reviewing Nat’s win against him I can’t help but think that it was kind of a rip off for Fil, who ended up winning the heat on three of the judges’ scorecards:
How does the surfer who was deemed the winner by a majority of the judges lose the heat? Because, that’s why.
Additionally, if there were no throwaway scores, Fil would’ve won 15.58 to 15.56, a stupidly small margin.
10. Barron Mamiya
Barron is so good at surfing. Unfortunately, he is susceptible to being a victim of opponent overscoring, like he was in his Round of 16 heat, where he lost to local favorite, Jack Robinson. Doing the same thing I did for Nat’s and Fil’s heat, just looking at Jack’s and Barron’s two rides that counted in their clash, we get:
Taking into consideration of all judges scores, the score would’ve tightened to 16.06 for Jack and 15.96 for Barron. So, yeah, based on how I determined the previous heat analyzed, I guess Jack should’ve won anyway, considering how the waves were scored. But that doesn’t take into account Barron’s 6.77 at the end of the heat that didn’t end up counting in his heat score, which arguably have been scored at least a point higher, considering what Jack got an 8.93 for.
9. Griffin Colapinto
A nice quarterfinal result for Griff at Margaret River pushes him into the Top 10 where, based on his talent, he should be permanently, as he’s a level above most guys on Tour. One surfer he has nowhere near the talent is John John, who outsurfed him by a larger margin than the final scoreline would indicate.
It was funny, though, to listen to Griff post-heat talk to Whits and Snake and say of his opponent, “I forgot that I could surf at his level,” which made me wonder how exactly he was making the comparison.
Mixing a little bit of Mick Fanning (technically brilliant railwork and blond hair) with a little bit of Parko (an effortless, aesthetically pleasing style), Ethan surfed his way to another semi, which has him holding position on a spot for Trestles.
Like both in the early parts of their careers, he should hope to improve in heaving lefts.
For those in his already ridiculously stuffed fan club, let’s hope he develops more of Micktory’s ruthlessness and competitive savvy than more of Joel’s gold-chain-wearing, rules-for-thee-not me haughtiness.
7. Callum Robson
This year has proven to be an unmitigated success for the previously unknown Australian shredder. No one could argue that. However, to compare him to Damien Hardman, like old BeachGrit contest writer, Steve Shearer, did in his wrap for the Challenger Series event at Snapper, is blasphemy.
Iceman versus Frosty the Snowman? Not a fair comparison.
Dooma ripped and won two World Titles. Until Callum wins one, he does not measure up. He doesn’t even measure up to Bede, who not only finished runner-up to Kellz in 2008, but also has consistently beat any potential stains to be had with a nickname like The White Fijian, a feat immeasurably miraculous.
6. Jadson Andre
Jadson made the cut and beat Slater in the process at Margs this year, marking a wildly successful comp for the former flyboy. Secure in his spot for the entire year, we will have the pleasure of seeing him chuck himself over the ledge at Chopes and at being the only Brazilian friend on Tour to the next guy on the list…
5. Italo Ferreira
Fame is weird thing sometimes. One day you’re toast-of-the-town, seducing everyone in sight with your infectious exuberance and passionately fun nature, and the next you’re an egotistical turd, turning people off with your intensity, both in your love for yourself and in liking too many models’ Instagram photos. How people see Italo as having made such a heel turn, I’ll never fully understand, dude seems essentially the same as he always has: self-absorbed, driven, theatrical, weird, somethings he has in common with a certain pro everyone has worshipped over the last 30 years. What does this have to do with my assessment of his surfing? Nothing really. Anyway, if G-Land isn’t huge, look for Italo to blow up and help solidify his place for Trestles.
4. Jack Robinson
I’ve been hard on Robbo in the past, but in my defence, it did seem like he was heading for a career as Bruce 2.0, which no one would be happy about.
With his win, wherein he seemingly unlocked Pritamo’s favor and he was buoyed by the Certified Local scoring boost, Jack fundamentally shed that burden. With his newfound power, let’s hope we see him perform to his potential at G-Land and Teahupoo and follow his Bizarro Bruce destiny to its ultimate conclusion: a World Title runner-up.
3. Filipe Toledo
His close loss to Nat Young in the Round of 16 left me feeling disappointed. My hope was that by taking out Margs, Fil would be able to finish the year with at least four event wins (including El Salvador and J-Bay) and build up such a huge lead before Trestles (one that in pre-Finals Event years, would’ve been insurmountable prior to Pipe) that no one could use the excuse that he only won his World Title because he won one contest at Trestles. Oh well.
2. John John Florence
Another Margaret River contest, another display by John John that he is far and away the best surfer out there. Really, even considering his approach is a bit repetitive, he’s so much better than everyone else. I can see him winning any of the contests left on the schedule. Unfortunately for him, his worst chance would be at Trestles.
1. Gabriel Medina
The King has returned.
World’s most beloved surf influencer Ben Gravy leaps over two bodyboarders in stunt that leaves all but social media darling Anastasia Ashely utterly flabbergasted!
Worship him or adore him, YouTube sensation Ben Gravy is likely the most lovable surfer on the planet but certainly its most lovable influencer. The New Jersey icon’s channel receives multiple hundreds of thousands of clicks each and every month and each and every month his legend grows.
Gravy has pioneered many seemingly un-surfable waves but in his most recent clip outdoes even himself.
As observed below, the model-handsome man launches over not one, but two, bodyboarders on a seemingly un-surfable Flowrider.
Any surfer who has spent even three years out in the ocean blue has become frustrated by how to measure the waves just ridden. Should they be in Stathams, based upon the height of action film star Jason Statham? In Surflines, inflated twice over unless advertising an upcoming World Surf League event then expanded by thrice x twice? Hawaiian, where the back of the wave is measured down to one foot? Calling everything 2 – 3 unless death is imminent then calling it 4 – 6?
A troubling stew we all wade through.
For now we know there is a completely accurate way to measure waves, a formula that will never fail, and that is the German male’s lower leg.
Just this morning, it was revealed that Sebastian Steudtner had, officially, bagged the world’s largest wave.
The standard (Adam) Fincham and his colleagues from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and the Kelly Slater Wave Company settled on this year was Steudtner’s lower leg, from his heel to his kneecap.
“That distance does not change since you can’t bend your lower leg,” Fincham said.
All so clear, now.
Surfers are notorious for not being able to see the forest for the trees, as we are out in the ocean blue, but… son of a gun. How did we miss this?
How did we not know?
Please share the biggest wave you’ve ever surfed, on the German male lower leg scale of course.