Rip Curl Final’s Day wrap: “Do you accept the brittle Brazilian as your champion? His skills are not in doubt. His technical mastery of a surfboard is second to none. His commitment is not so certain!”

So long, 2022.

As above, so below.

Spin it how you will, Mr Logan, but that was not an end befitting all that has gone before.

Wave quality for Finals Day at Trestles was average.

Worse, it was soft.

The result? Two soft world champions.

Stephanie Gilmore just made the cut at Margaret River. She didn’t even surf Pipe. She barely surfed Teahupo’o.

Convince me she deserves this world title. Convince me this is progress.

Carissa Moore had a lead of more than 11,000 points. A full event win, plus extra.

Moore should have another title this morning, and she’s within her rights to feel damn sore that she doesn’t. All that work, all that effort over a season, wasted. The result is not representative of what we have witnessed, a fact pointed out by Johanne Defay in reference to her own flaccid ending.

Gilmore seemed confused in the aftermath. She didn’t like the format, she said. Now she thinks it’s the greatest thing ever. At least she had the good grace to recognise that Carissa was the superior surfer over the season. In my mind she’s far better over a lifetime.

Except that’s not what history will say.

As for the men, Toledo’s maiden title was a predictable outcome you’d have been foolish to bet against. Luckily I didn’t in the end.

Do you accept the brittle Brazilian as your champion? His skills are not in doubt, of course. In certain conditions he’s unparalleled. His technical mastery of a surfboard is second to none.

His commitment is not so certain.

Call me old-fashioned, but I feel that our world champion should be a surfer we believe has the capacity to win at any stop on Tour. Filipe Toledo is not that surfer, and yet here we are.

I’ve no wish to belabour this point. Toledo’s history and sub-par performances at some of the world’s most iconic waves are well documented by now, to the point that it’s become trite to point it out. If he hasn’t progressed, that’s on him.

Maybe there’s still time.

I don’t grudge him his title. I’ve no doubt he’s worked for it. But I just can’t bring myself to fully endorse it. At least, I suppose, he was the points leader, therefore if Trestles had been the final stop under the normal format he would still likely have won.

But consider this – if the waves had been good all year, where would he be? His best finishes were: Portugal (middling to poor), Bells (decent to good), G-Land (junk), El Salvador (junk), Rio (junk).

Moving on.

The WSL pulled out all the production stops for Finals Day. The whole team were there, each assigned roles that I’d assume were meant to play to their strengths. But the overall quality was reminiscent of a travelling fair.

Much ado was made of the colours of the jerseys. Granted, they were quite lovely (if entirely unnecessary), and I’m sure the result of many, many enthusiastic meetings. Unfortunately, it was all undermined by the stunningly amateur job of stitching athletes’ bio shots onto mock-up jerseys, giving the whole thing a sheen of amateurism.

Who on earth buys the merch they were spruiking anyway?

Luckily, Chris Cote was note-perfect in his WWE-style announcing the surfers as they came on stage, visibly cringing. I hope and presume he was deliberately hamming this up.

At any rate, zero cheers were elicited from a seemingly absent crowd.

It was a bit hard to get excited about, especially given recent memories of Teahupo’o and the clips of pumping Pipe in the ad breaks. Both provided comical juxtaposition to the annointed Day-of-Days we were witnessing. It seemed almost like deliberate mockery.

Kanoa limped out against an unsettlingly twitchy Italo, who continued to vibrate throughout the day. The most memorable moment of their heat came in the opening minutes as they both tried to paddle into the same wave. Allegedly, priority had not been established. No drama, no tension. The theme of the day.

Catching up with Connor Coffin in the booth (a surfer, if you remember, no longer on Tour after dropping off at mid-season cut) instead of excavating the tension between Kanoa and Italo was peak WSL.

Ethan was next to fall to Italo’s silent rage, then Jack.

Honestly, I don’t recall a single moment from these heats worth recounting here.

Two captivating surfers who emerged as contenders this year, Ethan in his beauty and Jack in his mysticism, vaporised by Italo’s relentless wave-catching and tail high reverses, as if they weren’t worthy of being there in the first place.

What a waste of everything they did to get there. What a waste of their artistry.

It wasn’t their fault, but the canvas they were given.

Trestles was always going to be a venue that punished Ethan and Jack, two men raised on a steady diet of real waves. Their surfing has been honed by power and consequence. To see them stunted by Californian dribble fizzling over cobblestones felt a bit like trapping their nature, squeezing it into some environment in which it didn’t belong.

Ewing was an albatross in an aviary, wings clipped and saddened. To see him force his back foot through turns on weak sections was not only demoralising but borderline offensive.

Robinson was a caged lion. His great power was in there somewhere, but he was doomed to pace back and forth, back and forth, whilst the steel bars abraded his flanks and blood ran freely onto the floor. We watched his season bleed out in that Trestles cage, and it felt tragic to me.

This is a man whose surfing can be transcendent in waves that most of us might only dream of. He has a capacity for power far beyond ordinary.

That’s what it means to be the best in the world.

Critics of the format can feel armed and vindicated in citing both Robinson’s and Ewing’s performances this year vs the way they exited the conversation.

Both were extinguished by Italo’s sheer energy. Fifteen turns and a few spins to the beach. Impressive in a way, but I couldn’t help feeling pro surfing had taken a backwards step.

Filipe took the final match-up with Italo 2-0. Hardly a surprise.

It struck me that Italo was at a significant disadvantage. He’d surfed and been scored on three heats already. By the time of his fourth and fifth, what else could he do to create a point of difference?

You might reasonably point to Gilmore’s victory as a counter-argument, but the repertoire of skills among women is less diverse.

And, well, that was that. Season end.

I don’t have the good fortune, like Charlie Smith, to take the temperature from Trestles’ famed cobblestones. Such is the pity, for I would surely do sterling work on the ground.

I was where I’ve been all season for Finals Day, behind a screen, with you. In many ways I suppose this is the real experience. We’re the real fans.

But I’d be lying if I said I haven’t entertained waking reveries over the course of this season, between classes, walking the dog, in the midst of domestic squabbles…dreams of following the Tour from stop to stop, Pipe to Portugal, Tahiti to Trestles, soaking it all in, understanding what really happens.

That would be real reporting. I feel sure that observing the machinations up close would result in wild and prolific stories. And I would not be caught up in the bliss like WSL employees and surf journos of old, wandering blinkered and salty from comp to comp, doing half a job.

I would hold Kelly Slater’s steely gaze whilst justifying my criticism.

I would count the beads of sweat on Filipe Toledo’s forehead as Surfline issued event forecasts.

I would rap on Dave Prodan’s door and ask directly, face-to-face, “Has Italo Ferreira been drug tested this season? When and how often?”.

Are you listening, Eric Logan? If the WSL is such a burgeoning success, with audiences swelling, revenues spiking, growth, growth, growth, then where’s the money?

Real sports leagues have full-time, independent media to satiate the desires of fans. The WSL has me, Shearer, a couple of podcasters, and whatever Stab monkey is tasked to fill in the pro-forma.

Pro surfing, ladies and gentlemen.

Irrelevant as it ever was.

But still, I can’t help feeling it could be better. Instead of rolling out a list of pro surfing-adjacent hangers on – Tom Carroll (god love him), Bethany Hamilton, Parker Coffin, Lisa Anderson, etc – Rip Curl and the WSL could make a much better investment by funding some independent voices rather than the same old WSL employees and half-baked pros simply mailing it in.

I can’t for the life of me understand why most of them are still in the fold.

They offer nothing.

Rosie’s flat. Joe is Joe. Even Ronnie’s lost his shine.

The new blood, Laura and Dimity, flashed then fizzled.

Did you listen to Laura yesterday? Absolutely nothing to say.

And Kaipo. Man, Kaipo…

Once again – what hold does he have over the WSL brass? I’ve rarely seen a more inept media personality.

The BBC were at my school yesterday to promote storytelling. They had a small production team and a couple of media personalities. When they invited audience questions, the majority of 13 year-olds in the room did a better job than Kaipo. His equivalency were the kids in the back row who kept sticking up their hands to ask “what football team do you support?”, even though their mates had already asked the same question, twice, and even though the answer had been “I’m sorry, but I don’t really follow football.”

The success of the new format can be debated, but the WSL product as a whole is still failing even its most ardent supporters.

Whilst the result was ultimately reasonable for the men, and the weather fine enough, to paraphrase Joseph Conrad in Heart of Darkness, for me there was a black bank of clouds and my feelings flowed sombre and unrequited under an overcast sky.

And whilst this might not exactly lead into the heart of an immense darkness, and no matter how Logan’s hype machine might spin it, professional surfing, as a product, remains in a gathering dusk.

Regardless, it’s been fun to share it with you, loyal Beachgritters. Real people with real opinions. I hope you value this place, as I do, as a place where individual voices can always be heard.

In a world of spin, that’s truly worth something.

Thanks for sharing a few with me.

Pip (pictured) on top of the world* (*world excludes waves of consequence).
Pip (pictured) on top of the world* (*world excludes waves of consequence).

Surf Journalist braves soaring temperatures, forlorn looks from legends to throw cobblestones at devil and experience state of modern competitive surfing!

It was all yellow.

I asked my young daughter, if she wanted to accompany me to Trestles, in the early morning, for the World Surf League’s Final’s Day. “It’s the five best male and five best female surfers on earth battling it out for a winner-take-title,” I emphasized with an important nod.

She looked at me all snotty-like and said, “Ugh. No. Unless I can surf.”

“Unlikely,” I shook my head sorrowfully. “We’ll be too busy getting yelled at by members of Filipe Toledo’s extended family.”

“Then no for sure,” she answered definitively.

Her loss, I suppose.

And so I woke up early, by myself, prepared a French press coffee and headed north just as the sun was poking over the horizon, painting the sky pastel.

“Pink in the morning, surfers take warning,” I thought, though which surfers? Steph Gilmore, certainly, for she had already been counted out by the “Kelly Slater of surf journalism” Nick Carroll. So her but who else?

Italo Ferreira?

Johanne Defay?

Kanoa Igarashi?

Time would tell.

I opted to park above that iconic (to me) Carl’s Jr. and its oft-eaten (by me) Western Bacon Cheeseburgers, walk slowly across the freeway, down the path and toward San Diego County. Signs hung on the fence read “We Back Jack.” Not one reading “Filipe Would Go.”

It was already hot and already shockingly crowded, e-bikes piloted by proto-wealthy pre-teens zipped by at 60 mph, families dragging wagons filled with towels and aerosol sunscreen almost becoming roadkill before their atmosphere killing spray could be released into the ethers.

Sweaty hot by the time I reached the sands fronting Uppers, reminding me of the moment during Hajj when the faithful walk through the swelter from Mecca to Mina, or the city of tents, to throw stones at the devil.

I could see the Rip Curl Final’s Day tents shimmering in the distance and followed a photographer lugging long lens camera and tripod toward our destination and soon we were there in the bustle, or at least I was. The photographer was forced to set up in a bush somewhere, suffering under the heavy yolk of the world’s worst job.

I couldn’t believe there was a throng, already, before the first heat (Gilmore v. Hennessy). Chris Cote, lounging on some odd stage, must have caught my shock and blew me a kiss. He did look good, handsome and confident. An almost perfect ambassador of life behind The Wall of Positive Noise. I air kissed him back and continued, slack-jawed, staring at the hot sun until I realized I was accidentally staring into Mike “Snips” Parsons’ face.

He was in the coaching area and maybe looking back at me, maybe just looking into the scrub but seemed sad at me.


It was hot and I wandered back and forth, back and forth, from one end of the venue to the other hot as Lowers pumped early punctuated by long lulls, chatting with various surf industry bros from time gone by, doing my job, keeping half an eye on that lineup as Stephanie Gilmore beat Hennessy, Italo Ferreira beat Kanoa Igarashi, Gilmore beat Tatiana Weston-Webb, Ferreira beat Ethan Ewing etc.

Half an eye out for yellow 77s which were not in abundance early. The crowd, thick, did not really seem to understand what was happening. Good waves were met with polite applause while Todd Kline, back from the grave, beach narrated while shutting down his bawdy partner but even though it was sudden death at the very highest level, professional surfing’s crown at stake, there seemed to be no real tension.

Brazilians holding açaí bowls lined up for Volcom Jack giveaways. A fat boy, shirtless, asked his father, “Who’s Jack?” while snatching a cap.

His father didn’t know.

“Why am I watching this instead of doing this?” kept pumping through my head. It was, truly, hot and Uppers and Middles were both relatively uncrowded.

I should have listened to my young daughter, brought our boards, surfed as those wearing Filipe Toledo gear seemed as disinterested as anyone in castigation. Not caring that he bravely coward-ed Teahupoo, not caring that he had been called out. Maybe not even aware.

The heats dragged on and I found myself chatting with a great new friend from Box-to-Box films, the production company responsible for Make or Break, telling him that I cannot wait for the Teahupoo episode, then shuffled off to take my young daughter to ballet and surf myself.

The World Surf League is doing something, up an astonishing 14.6 percent, packed beach in confus-ed swag but what?


The peanut gallery will continue to call Toledo out for his lack of spine, heart, in waves of consequence but today he is the champion of Lower Trestles and, therefore, the world. | Photo: WSL

Filipe Toledo cements reputation as world’s best small-wave surfer by crushing competition at Lower Trestles to hoist first, glorious, championship trophy*!


I was there, on those sacred cobbled stones, but left before Filipe Toledo stuffed a raging bull Italo Ferreira in order to win his first World Surf League Championship Tour. The crowd was certainly in favor of the King of Saquarema, who moved to San Clemente sometime in the past few years, in order to burnish his safe wave credentials.

And he looked flawless.

Sharp as an eye.

Or tack according to world’s greatest surfer Kelly Slater.

Ferreira had seemed to be on an unstoppable run, charging from first heat of the day, against Kanoa Igarashi, through Ethan Ewing and Jack Robinson. None stood a chance and it felt like Toledo, lightly fragile, would not stand a chance either but the crown “world’s best small wave surfer” don’t come easy and he truly is, without par.

The peanut gallery will continue to call Toledo out for his lack of spine, heart, in waves of consequence but today he is the champion of Lower Trestles and, therefore, the world.

Italo, on the other hand, so inspiring, looked cooked by the end. Not Gilmore-esque who won the women’s crown at number five.

Filipe, though, dominant.*

Gruelling! | Photo: Steve Sherman/@tsherms

Sports fans in shock as Australian Stephanie Gilmore wins eighth world title in gruelling all-day marathon, shattering Layne Beachley’s record, and despite being given “no chance” by Kelly Slater of surf journalism!

Ageing Australian bewilders younger opponents on epic Rip Curl Finals Day!

In one of sport’s great comeback stories, the Australian Stephanie Gilmore has sucked the juice out of the universe to win her eighth world title at Lower Trestles, California. 

Gilmore, who is thirty-four, came into Finals Day rated fifth in the world and, according to the format, had to win three consecutive heats to get a shot at the reigning champ Carissa Moore in a best-of-three showdown for the crown. 

In deteriorating two-to-three-foot surf, Gilmore rode the crumbling little waves in a hypnotically rhythmic manner, for no reason is she regarded as the most stylish surfer on earth, to beat the younger Hawaiian in two straight heats.

BeachGrit readers will recall how, four days ago, Nick Carroll drove his considerable sword into Stephanie Gilmore’s world title hopes in a sizzling interview on the Ain’t That Swell podcast. 

“I will say she’s got absolutely no chance of winning this world title,” said the sixty-three-year-old Carroll, described as “his Holy Frothness” for a storied forty-year-plus career in surf media.

Moore made the grand error of failing to catch the first wave of heat one, leaving Gilmore to surf with all the authority of a broken nerve in a tooth.

“It’s been a story of momentum today for Steph,” said Kelly Slater.

“Fuck yeah!” screamed Gilmore after the win. “It’s been a wild day!”

Still, said the champ, “This year belongs to Carissa Moore. She’s the real world champ!”

The win, Gilmore’s eighth, smashes Layne Beachley’s record for most world titles.


Go Jackie go!

Surfing’s richest fantasy league down to final eighteen contestants, with only one picking Jack Robinson to win!

Seventeen for Pip, one for Jackie in BeachGrit's Surfival League!

The Final Five at Trestles will determine the winner of the Surfival League, who’ll scoop up the three gees cash and three-board quiver from Panda.

There’s 2% of the original league left. That’s 18 people.

Full picks and prayers below.

We got 17 league members riding Filipe Toledo to supposed Surfival Glory and one brave soul picked Jack Robinson.

The Surfival Gods shine favorable light upon that pick.

If Filipe wins, the person closest to the final heat score total will win.

What if Italo wins? The winner will be the person with the highest cumulative points this season.

That would be the one and only Tom P out of New South Wales.

You watching?