You become a great dancer not by standing at the front of the class looking at yourself in the mirror, but by standing at the back, giving yourself space to dance, and by watching those in front of you. At this point, Griffin Colapinto’s dancing has made me sit up and take notice. | Photo: Pat Nolan/WSL

Buddhism big winner at Surf City El Salvador Pro, “That’s four contests, including the last three in a row, that have been won by two young surfers leaning heavily into Eastern philosophies of meditation and mindfulness!”

The more they win, the less it seems like an act. The more buzzer beater victories they have, and the greater composure they show, the more we might begin to wonder if they have unearthed a secret.

Call me ignorant, but I don’t follow the news.

Most of the time I have no idea what’s going on in the world. I know nothing about politics. I’ve voted exactly once in my life.

I have no social media aside from a Twitter account I opened six months ago, a necessary evil to find and promote writing,  but I hate it. I enjoy neither self-promotion nor self-doubt.

I want to keep my world simple, do my own thing.

But I struggle.

I’ve never felt satisfied for any length of time. Forever I’ve felt like I’m falling short of some unidentified purpose.

Life is a speeding thought train I can’t get off. Things flash into focus and are gone again before I’ve really seen them. I never really know what to dedicate my time to. When I do try to stop, all I want to do is get moving again, to find the next thing.

I think often about how other people feel about their lot, how they approach things.

Generally I’m envious of those who seem able to focus on singular goals or passions. 

I think that’s why I was drawn to writing and reading. To immerse myself in different worlds, to know things intensely and love them fiercely, if only for a short time.

It’s like a series of joyrides. I’m having the most fun imaginable, but then I walk away and leave them, upside down with wheels still spinning.

I wonder sometimes if life is easier for people who don’t think too much.

And if you don’t have a wandering mind, and you can find something to love, do you have greater capacity to dedicate yourself to it?

Is it easier to empty your mind if it’s not very full in the first place?

That’s four WCT competitions, including the last three in a row, that have been won by two young surfers leaning heavily into Eastern philosophies of meditation and mindfulness.

Griffin Colapinto and Jack Robinson. 

The more they win, the less it seems like an act. The more buzzer beater victories they have, and the greater composure they show, the more we might begin to wonder if they have unearthed a secret.

Our only real cause to doubt them is the hamming of their methods by Joe Turpel and his ilk. But let’s face it, they have the capacity to make anything sound disingenuous.

Colapinto noted yesterday that he has been learning from watching Jack Robinson’s approach.

Good artists borrow, great artists steal.

You become a great dancer not by standing at the front of the class looking at yourself in the mirror, but by standing at the back, giving yourself space to dance, and by watching those in front of you.

At this point, Griffin Colapinto’s dancing has made me sit up and take notice.

Honestly, I wasn’t convinced we would see a repeat of his Portugal victory anytime soon. The waves were sub-par, his meditation seemed juvenile. It seemed like the kind of win a talented surfer might get when he catches a vibe, but not necessarily one he could repeat.

But repeat he did, today in El Salvador. And though we might question the quality of the waves throughout the event, and the consistency of the scoring in the final, we cannot question his overall performance, nor the quality of his opponents.

Jordy, Kanoa, Gabby, Filipe.

If you beat those men in the course of an event, in any conditions, you deserve the win.

Most impressive is his fearlessness, especially when faced with Toledo. 

Just imagining the sheer speed, power and amplitude Filipe conjures is enough to diminish most competitors before they’ve even reached the water.

Not so Griffin.

Yesterday he virtually called out Medina when he claimed he’d been a boy the last time he saw him, and he was looking forward to facing him as a man. Another statement that marked a changed in his psychological makeup and perception of the world.

Today, in the post heat interview after manhandling Medina, it was Filipe he called for. He’s been the best, he said. I want him.

In the aftermath of his victory over Toledo he gave a brief interview with Strider from the water.

“Comeback performances,  those are what I dream of,” he said. “If I’m in that position, I love it.”

We know from past commentary that he’s referencing literal dreams. The surfers Colapinto sees in his visualisations are those he defeated here.

Medina has made two semi-finals in his first two comps back, and in both he looked like a potential winner.

His recent happy-go-lucky persona was more muted today post-loss. It was good to see that tension. Make no mistake, he wants to be in the final five. He’ll need to win at least one of the last three comps, and he can, as we know.

He feels his scores have been a little lowballed recently, and I think he has a case. (Not that my objectivity is reliable when it comes to Medina and the amount of money I have riding on him.)

I didn’t bet on Filipe, but he, too, might have cause to grumble about his scores. Along with Gabby and Italo, his aerial maneuvering is still scored lower than that of other surfers.

It’s not surprising. Think how much of their surfing the judges have watched. If they were without bias and expectation they wouldn’t be human.

The fight for the top five is shaping up nicely. With Rio (I can’t believe it starts in a week!), J-Bay and Teahupo’o to go, there’s still a bit of meat on the bone.

Here’s a thought exercise I’ll leave you with, does the fact the finals are at Trestles give some surfers a psychological advantage from the off?

Griffin could relax from day one, as could Filipe, as could Kanoa. Not only are the finals taking place at a wave that’s pretty much their local spot, but it suits their surfing.

It’s a mind game.

What if the finals were scheduled for Teahupo’o?

Who would be off the leash then?

Brazilian surf fans apoplectic following Californian Griffin Colapinto’s “shock” win over world title favourite Filipe Toledo at Surf City El Salvador Pro, “World Shame League! This event was a joke!”

“The champion was already decided even before the heat begins. World Shame League.”

Brazil is famous for many wonderful things, the happy pre-op trannies with their cocoa butter skin and pecan shaped eyes (like Kai Lenny!), a dazzling soccer team, its brilliant adaptation of the Japanese martial art Jiujitsu and as the last country in the west to end the enslavement of human beings, its slave markets ten-fold that of North America.

It also has, let’s be said, the most devoted sporting fans in the world.

Therefore, when the Californian Griffith Colapinto defeated Filipe Toledo at the Surf City El Salvador Pro, and clearly so in my opinion, apoplectic Brazilian fans hit the WSL’s Instagram account en masse to voice their fury.


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A very small sample of the eight thousand comments.

“World Shame League”

“…and the World Shame League strikes again.”

“WHAT A SHAME! WORLD SHAME LEAGUE! This last wave never will be like 8. This event was a joke.”


“The champion was already decided even before the heat begins. World Shame League.”

“If the judges do that again in Saquarema, the jiuripoca is gonna pew.”

“What a joke… Not any credibility left.”

“World SHAME League, World SHAME League, World SHAME League.”

And on and on.

Thoughts on the matter?

Open Thread, Comment Live Final’s Day of the Surf City El Salvador Pro, “You want a lesson? I’ll give you a lesson. How about a geography lesson? My father’s from Puerto Rico. My mother’s from El Salvador. And neither one of those is Mexico!”

Let your fingers dance!

The jump-off looks sorta similar to J-Bay, water colour not so much. | Photo: WSL/Thiago Diz

World tour veteran Jordy Smith shatters WSL’s wall of positive noise at Surf City El Salvador Pro, “Someone has to be slapped every time they call this J-Bay!”

"The end of the elimination round was brutal. Nat Young sat forlornly in the murky water for a full half-hour in a loss to Jordy without a wave to ride."

Today I taught fourteen year olds a dramatic monologue about a disaffected teenager who takes a breadknife into the street and stabs someone.

It’s a poem that was erased from textbooks and banned from schools in England during a period when knife-crime was on the rise.

It seems unlikely that knife-wielding teens were plunging blades with couplets on their mind, but there you go.

The speaker feels alienated from society and ignored at school. The language of education is one he cannot understand. The language of violence he can.

The opening line is unequivocal.

“Today I am going to kill something. Anything.”

It’s sinister. The character is no-one exceptional, and that’s the point. He might be sitting next to you on the bus, momentarily eyeballing you as your shoulders collide in the street, or watching sullenly from a doorway.

The point is that life can be shit, for all of us. It’s how we respond that’s important.

We could choose darkness. Choose to blame everyone and everything. Condemn the world around us. It’s not my fault…

Or, we change our perspective.

We can be like Jack Robinson or Griffin Colapinto and master our minds, understand the kingdom’s all inside.

Or we might hand our fate to a higher power, like Filipe or Gabriel, have faith.

I don’t have faith in anything in particular, and I’m not in control of my mind, but I know I need to alter my perspective sometimes. After the first few heats today I’d jotted down a few negative quips and acerbic barbs. But that was too easy. It’s too easy to dismiss it all – waves, Kaipo, judging, commentary, Kaipo…etc, etc, the usual.

So I won’t.

But allow me one, before I renounce.

Fuck, if I hear Mitchell Salazar say Poooonnta Rrrrroooka one more time…

We get it, Mitch. You speak Spanish, along with about a billion other people.

He’s like a kid I once taught who wanted to show the class magic tricks he was learning. It was a low ability class (it’s not all poetry and Good Will Hunting, you know) and they were poor souls. And so I said yes to indulge him and kill some time. Bless him. It was awful, god awful. Neither magic nor tricks. But we made the mistake of ummmming and awwwwing regardless, pretending to be astonished, as if he were David Blaine. After that the poor fucker wanted to do magic every day, and I didn’t have the heart to say no. And so the end of every lesson consisted of pretending to be wowed by tricks that got ever more elaborate, increasingly ludicrous, and neverendingly shit.

That’s what I think of every time Salazar rrrrrrrrolls some rrrrrrrs and badgers his co-commentators into trying to speak Spanish.

This morning we marched through men’s elimination then round of 16 with overlapping heats. The waves were fairly grim – if you’ll allow me a little reality – and I wondered if it was contestable, nevermind suitable for overlapping heats. But Miley-Dyer’s hand had been forced. With little time and much to do, we had to march on.

The end of the elimination round was brutal. Nat Young sat forlornly in the murky water for a full half-hour in a loss to Jordy without a wave to ride.

Miguel Pupo, a surfer who has been superb all season, thumped his board in fury as the hooter signalled his loss to Jake Marshall. Until the final seconds all he had was a 2.97 and a 0.90.

Meanwhile, Shannon and Laura chirped merrily in the background like we were all having a wonderful time.

“So, so contestable,” said Laura.

Jordy was graceful and honest in his post heat interview. “Luck,” he said, when asked how he won. Salazar trotted out the J-Bay comparison, clearly expecting Jordy to stick to the script. “Someone has to be slapped every time they call this J-Bay,” he snapped, forehand smashing the inane comparison right back into Mitchell’s taco.

Jack Robinson looked roundly trounced by Jackson Baker for the majority of their round of 16 heat. Bizarrely, waves appeared, and Baker picked the best ones, building a solid and deserved lead.

But with four mins on the clock, Robinson found a wave and shook it like a terrier with a rat for an 8.93. The aggression was arresting. It’s the most impressed I’ve been with Robinson in three comps. The camera cut to Julia on the beach, gesticulating wildly. We couldn’t hear what she was saying, but I imagine it was something along the lines of “Any of you fucking pricks move, and I’ll execute every motherfuckin’ last one of you!”

Jack sat in the water, composed himself, then turned and paddled in. There’s something vaguely psychopathic in his demeanour, like he’s scared to lose control. He surfs like he’s possessed, yet talks like he’s half-asleep.

Robinson and the other key players (plus Callum Robson) advanced to quarters, and that was fortunate because Punta Roca finally showed some of the quality we’ve been hearing about.

Medina vs Robinson was the heat everyone wanted to see. Jack’s board snapped on his first top turn, sheared by the lip. He got back out quickly, but was out of rhythm. The waves were better but not spectacular at this stage. Really, Medina dominated even though he once again looked chronically underscored with mid-sixes.

In the post heat interview, Laura asked him whether he pushed Jack deep on purpose for the last set. “Just testing these guys,” Medina replied, like a grinning assassin.

Yes you are, Gabby, and they’re being blown away like dust in the wind.

Some of the quarters were still plagued by lulls, but it was eye-rubbing in disbelief stuff to watch Filipe standing tall and eyeing long, double-overhead walls before obliterating the lip on every turn, when just a couple of hours before Carissa Moore couldn’t find a wave in her quarter final loss to Caroline Marks. A couple before that it had looked unsurfable.

Filipe dominated against Robson, as you might expect on clean right point waves. He was never threatened, always in control. He seems more composed than ever.

Kanoa and Colapinto both registered excellent heat totals. Either would’ve been a worthy victor. Kanoa had the wave to steal it at the end, had he not fallen on his closer.

Griffin will face Medina in the semi. He’s looking forward to it. He feels he was just a kid the last time he surfed against Medina. “Now I’m becoming a man”, he said.

He’ll need to be more than a man to advance through that one.

Ethan and Italo battled an excellent heat to finish the day. The waves were nothing short of pumping and perfect, if a little lully towards the end.

Italo took the win, trading 8s with Ewing. Just as well, for the sake of justice. Ethan’s scores weren’t so much inflated as Italo’s were squashed. He continues to be undermined by the judges. His 8.80 was the highest score of the heat but still lowballed. What else could he have done with that wave on his backhand?

Today was far from perfect, but there were glimpses that made it all worthwhile. Really this is all we can hope for.

I found myself enjoying the imperfection, relishing it even. When the good waves came, I appreciated them all the more.

“Why is everything we study about death, pain and tragedy, Sir?” a pupil asked today, justly.

Good question.

It’s because happiness is the dullest state you can find yourself in.

Contentment? No thanks.

Negative emotions challenge us.

They help us create.

They help us to connect, to know that others suffer, too.

We learn to appreciate what we have. We see silk purses in sow’s ears.

Above all: without sorrow, how would you recognise joy?

And if all you know is happiness, what of ecstasy?

It seems unlikely there’ll be an ecstatic finish in El Salvador tomorrow, but that’s ok. There’ll be other days. It can always get better.

That’s what keeps us going.

Surf Journalist falls down deep rock n’ roll hole, discovers depth of depravity when served “Rolling Stone’s best surfboards to buy online this summer!”

Idle hands are the devil's playground.

This morning just so happens to find me in Copenhagen, the finest city on earth. I am here, ostensibly, for ballet. The Royal Danish is one of the world’s better and my young daughter is taking daily lessons in the shadow of the city’s magnificent opera house leaving me hours to wander, to think, to write except idle hands are well-known to be the devil’s playground and the devil has pitched me right down a rock n’ roll hole.

COPENHELL is in full swing, for example, and the quaint streets are clogged with hirsute men each wearing black denim vests festooned with Metallica, Opeth, Bersærk, Death to All patches. They drink Torborg out of tall cans and pitch each other devil horns when passing.


And I was inspired to meet with my wonderful friend, Sune Rose Wagner of The Ravonettes wherein we started drinking Negronis early and drank them often. The Ravonettes are not exactly “metal” and Negronis are not exactly “core” but we do what we do and I sat there enjoying the thumping bass lines of my own heart, talking melody lines with Wagner, thinking “I want to rock n’ roll all night, and party every day.”

Kiss is also playing COPENHELL.

In any case, right when I thought I had reached the gates of Valhalla, I was served an article from “counterculture bible” Rolling Stone magazine which shared “The Best Surfboards to Buy Online This Summer.

It began, “Like any sport, choosing the right gear can make or break your surfing experience. The best surfboards are not the fanciest or coolest-looking: they’re the ones best suited to your ability and the surf conditions. For beginners and beginner-intermediate surfers, that means a bigger board that’s easy to stand up on in smaller, less powerful waves.”

Overcome with curiosity, I scrolled straight down and discovered loving descriptions of the Softech Roller Longboard, the Wavestorm 8ft Classic, the Solid Surfboard Throwback Fish, which Rolling Stone declares, “The fish’s quad-fin setup is great too. This lets you surf a classic two-fin setup or a quad-fin setup for more maneuverability. It comes in three length options (5’10,” 6,’ or 6’2”), and we suggest choosing the size that’s closest to your own height.”

What sort of demonic sorcery is this?

Idle hands, man. Idle hands.