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?

Comment live, Rip Curl WSL Finals, Lower Trestles, “There will be a lot of pressure on Filipe Toledo, people chatting about his performance at Pipeline and Teahupoo!”

Pip Toledo against the world!