St. Sally.
St. Sally.

World Surf League slaps grieving public in face, awards rest-of-season wildcard to almost-forgotten phenom Caroline Marks over iconic symbol of the oppressed “Saint” Sally Fitzgibbons!

Can't win for losing.

If one thing has been made abundantly clear over these past seven years, it is that the World Surf League can’t win for losing. Since taking over the Association of Surfing Professionals in 2015 and branding itself “since 1976,” billionaire Dirk Ziff has preceded over a running comedy that would make Jerry Lewis jealous. From hirings to firings, unboxing videos to Ultimate Surfers, there have been many, many laughs directed Santa Monica’s way.

Well, it appeared as if the breakout success of Apple Television’s new “Make or Break” was all set to change the narrative, with mainstream media paying very much attention all leading up to the “mid-year cut.”

Oh how august publications like The Guardian and Yahoo! Sports bit straight into that juicy narrative, wailing and gnashing teeth on behalf of a grieving public when surf darling Sally Fitzgibbons was brutally guillotined, dreams dashed etc.

Saint Sally became an icon for the oppressed everywhere and the World Surf League could have buoyed war widows in Ukraine to down-in-the-dumps Johnny Depp fans by showing mercy and allowing Fitzgibbons to come back to the warm embrace of the Championship Tour but no.

The “rest of the season” wildcard has just been handed to almost-forgotten phenomenon Caroline Marks, though Saint Sally gets it for the beginning of next year right in time for nobody to care.

Per the press release:

Caroline Marks (USA) has been awarded the women’s 2022 WSL season wildcard, which gives her entry into Championship Tour (CT) events following the Mid-season Cut and entry into the first half of the 2023 CT season. The men’s 2022 WSL season wildcard was awarded to Gabriel Medina (BRA). Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) and Yago Dora (BRA) have been awarded the 2023 WSL season wildcards, which give entry to all competitions in the first half of the 2023 CT season.

As the WSL season wildcard for the remaining CT competitions following the cut, Marks’ points will be eligible for the WSL Final 5 rankings, where the Top 5 surfers on the men’s and women’s CT will compete in the Rip Curl WSL Finals to compete for the 2022 World Title. The same rules will apply to Medina’s competition eligibility as the men’s 2022 WSL season wildcard.

It goes on to say that Marks “withdrew from competition following the Billabong Pro Pipeline for medical reasons” but nothing more, the League perpetually enjoying much mystery.

Very big congratulations to her, in any case, but also to the WSL for continuing to fumble, bumble, stumble.

Laughs for days!

In raw tell-all interview, Kelly Slater reveals the dark side of competing, “Sometimes I think, what the f*$k am I doing”, cradling a convulsing pedestrian following fatal hit-and-run accident and his pessimistic view of surfing, “I feel bad for the next generation!”

"I felt like my life was going to be special. I just knew it. I never questioned it. I just felt like I could create anything."

Seven years ago, the wife and baby of surfing photographer Chris White were swept across the North Shore’s Kam Highway by one of those great North Shore pulses.

The kid, who was strapped into his pram, was separated from mammy and deposited upside down, drinking water, gonna die etc.

Kelly Slater, who was nearby, ran over got to the pram, flipped it upright, pulled the kid’s head out of the water, scooped the sand out of his mouth so he could breathe, helped out mammy and give ‘em a lift home.

Ever since, Chris and Kelly have been buddies.

“He’s a surf Jesus,” says Chris, who is forty-two, a star of Ninja Warriors, and lives in North Beach in Western Australia.

Little surprise, then, that Kelly feels warm under Chris’ wing and was talkative, generous, close during an interview for Chris’ The Grim Reapers podcast.

Kelly talks about the dreariness of the tour, “Sometimes I’m in heats and, literally, what the fuck am I doing here?”

On being born great, “I felt like my life was going to be special. I just knew it. I never questioned it. I just felt like I could create anything.”

On surfing’s gloomy future, “I feel bad for the next generation. It’s so fucking crowded now… all the great waves are so crowded now, Pipeline, Bali, all through Indo.”

And wait for the time he saw two people get belted by a hit-and-run in Avalon when he was nineteen. Woman dead, man convulsing in his arms as the couples’ pals ran out of the nearby bar, looked at him and said, “Wait, aren’t you Kelly Slater?” to which the future world champion said, “Yeah, and your friends are dying here.”


Sultry Live Chat, Comment in Real Time as Boost Mobile Gold Coast Pro Stretches into Day Four with two-time world champ Tyler Wright and Ultimate Surfer Zeke Lau ready to shine!

Challenger thyself!

Interview with the showrunner of universally lauded television program “Make or Break” with questions including, but not limited to, surfing finally eclipsing the august National Football League or smoldering F1 racing in popularity!

Fun, or at least funny.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, F1 racing is now, officially, the hottest ticket in the United States of America. This fact may not surprise but it absolutely should. Only a handful of years ago, the ultra-sexy and extremely exclusive auto sport was seen as a lost cause in the land of the free, home of the brave, entirely eclipsed by NASCAR and its moonshine runnin’ roots.

No longer.

An event in Austin, Texas last year drew the biggest crowd of the entire international season with attendance north of 400,000 over three days. This weekend’s race in Miami is officially the hottest ticket in the nation with prices soaring into the four digits for modest seats.

What changed?

A plucky British production company, Box to Box Films, created a series for Apple Television called “Drive to Survive” featuring in depth interviews with the drivers, teams, owners, fans that was watched and loved by many.



Every major media outlet credits the program with the wild spike in interest which leads us directly to professional surfing.

The selfsame Box to Box is behind our Make or Break, which you have certainly read about here, here, here, here, etc. and I was afforded the opportunity to chat with its showrunner (head producer) for a limited 20 minute window in order to see if one-time World Surf League CEO Paul Speaker’s bold declaration that surfing would soon eclipse the National Football League might come true.

Warren Smith (not that Warren Smith), showrunner, agreed to chat and chat we did, though after a light pause in communication. I had wondered if BeachGrit‘s reputation had preceded itself, World Surf League Guardians of the Wall™ wagging fingers and shutting down lines, but no, though he, and others on the crew, had read BeachGrit prior to and during filming.

You are seen.

In any case, Smith is handsome, as Smiths are wont to be, direct and transparent. Thus we begin.

Did that dang World Surf League try to limit your control or did you really and truly have full access?

We had access to all areas. With this show, they didn’t approach us. There was a chance meeting and we realized there was a world that was interesting here. They were open. We want to tell the human stories and, as a world, there’s not a whole lot of surf content out there. We saw it as a great opportunity. They opened doors for us, introduced us to the players, gave us access to the judging tower, anywhere we wanted to be. But no, there was nothing off limits.


The way that we like to work, we go in with a (can’t read my own writing) approach. We’re not surfers, we have no preconceived notions. We were there to capture what we found compelling. The world’s number ones have great stories but also surfers further down the rankings. We were just looking for the interesting bits. We learned early on that sometimes things happen in the judging tower, for example, so placed a camera up there but also run very lean. There are not a ton of cameramen everywhere. So much of the footage ends up on the floor, that doesn’t go into the final edit, but (can’t read again and full transparency, I was taking notes with my daughter’s sparkly green pen while sitting in the parking lot of a suspect San Clemente neighborhood using her equally suspect book “Crow Boy” as my desk).


It has been flattering to hear the positive response from the surf community. We get so immersed in it during production that we begin to question ourselves. But if we focus on the human story, with sport being the payoff, then it will all hopefully work. At the end of the day, we’re also trying to bring in a new audience. We want to, and need to, please the core surf fan but also explain it all to the new audience. There were times when even we, on the crew, were asking “why is that the way it is?” related to the rules, etc. so it is important to clarify.


We found out, going in, that there is a huge appetite (for surfing and surf culture). You have these incredibly fit, incredibly talented individuals competing at these gorgeous locations. We are trying to widen that appetite. It’s a fucking hard sport to conquer. Seeing it up close, these guys and girls are unbelievable. It’s one of the hardest things. The talent. The highs and lows. And yet, all of them (the surfers) felt “nobody knows who we are.” Gabriel Medina, even, thought nobody knew who he really was. It was a little difficult to capture, correctly, in Hawaii as we had all those Covid restrictions, but once we got to Australia we had far greater access and that’s where you see it really pick up. The surfers, themselves, really don’t care about our cameras. They are there to win world titles, not be television stars.


The stakes? I think the stakes in surfing can be much higher for the individual than F1. The surfers are only one cut away from not being able to focus, solely, on professional sport. There are six tiers of pro soccer leagues in European soccer, for example, so a player has many opportunities available to support his or herself. But in surfing, if you don’t make the cut, you won’t be able to support yourself. All these surfers are self-employed. I think there are incredible stakes in that way. 

At the end, it feels like surfing is in good hands, or at least honest ones, with the Box to Box crew. There is a self-awareness about what surfing is, what it can be, how it can be, that feels realistic. It is not trying to craft a narrative out of the ether for some nefarious gain. Furthermore, there is a steady eye directed toward the core conversation. To BeachGrit and Ain’t That Swell etc. A much steadier eye than our very own World Surf League.

Surfing will never be more popular that the National Football League (suck it, Speaker) because of the aforementioned “why is that the way it is?” There is much “why is that the way it is?” but that makes it fun, I suppose, or at least funny.

Slater (pictured) on Day One of Boost Mobile Gold Coast Pro.
Slater (pictured) on Day One of Boost Mobile Gold Coast Pro.

Living legend Kelly Slater stuns fans, follows “best female surfer on earth” out the door at Boost Mobile Gold Coast Pro after eye-popping defeat by children half his age-less!

The bigger they are...

The great “Challenger Series” experiment is officially well underway and what are your thoughts thus far? Completely tuning it out, only enough care in heart for very top level Championship Tour surfing? Lightly “Challenger Series” bi-curious, dipping a toe into BeachGrit‘s Hot Live Chat? Thrilled to the moon like Dave Prodan, the World Surf League’s Chief Strategy and Brand Officer, who took to Instagram in celebration, posting various memes from the beloved film Despicable Me?

Well, I was bi-curious enough yesterday to tune in for an hourish while my young daughter suffered stomach flu upstairs. I caught Snapper looking totally uninspired, real doggy, and Jadson Andre etc. Still, it was enjoyable enough. The rifling four person heat format, with two of those persons going directly home, provides for more surfing as well as small drama.

Morgan Ciblic, for example, is staying.

Owen Wright going home.


And if Wright can’t crack the Challengers, is his career officially over? He fell below the recent “merciless” “depressing” cut line and will not be allowed to participate at the very top level until he fixes up, looks sharp.

Julian Wilson may be plotting his return, doing just enough to squeak into the round of 24 wherein he will face the Ultimate Surfer Zeke Lau.

Surf legend Kelly Slater did not fare as well, following contemporary and “best female surfer on earth” Keala Kennelly out the door by falling to Leonardo Fioravanti and Cam Richards in heat 11. Two young men less than half his age which creates extra drama.

Slater, of course, doesn’t need the Challenger Series result as he survived the guillotine but does it amaze that he is still surfing professionally? Over a decade ago, surfing’s preeminent, and only historian, Watt Warshaw, wrote an op-ed for The New York Times or maybe Washington Post about how the 11x World Champion should do the age appropriate thing and hang it up. Slater, of course, went on to win two more titles as well as becoming a Pipeline Pro late last year.

Much gas in the tank, apparently, but wow. Florida’s living fountain of youth.

Here’s to G-Land.

Thymus G-Land