Photo: Brian Bielmann

JP Currie on The Passing of Andy Irons and the Day That Followed: “For all those who believe surf journalism isn’t a real job, that surfing isn’t a subject that warrants or blooms quality work beyond skimming a few waves, read some Sean Doherty.”

"This one, in my eyes, might be the pinnacle of surf podcasting."

If, like me, you’re regularly disillusioned with surf “content” which often seems to fall short in terms of accuracy, quality or simply interest, I would strongly advise you listen to the recent “Ain’t That Swell” episode titled “The Passing of Andy Irons and The Days That Followed”.

It’s part of the A.T.S. “Greatest Stories Never Told” strand, which I’d have to say is my favourite.

This one, in my eyes, might be the pinnacle of surf podcasting.

Podcasting at its best (in my opinion) is a way to reinvigorate longform storytelling, to make great stories accessible and convenient to an audience of untrained readers.

In fact, the podcast I’d love to listen to (but never got around to making), would involve seminal and forgotten pieces from the history of surf writing, ideally read in full by the authors, followed by some questions about the process, reporting or situation in which the story occurred. This is a great example of why that format works.

It marks twelve years since Andy Irons was found dead in a Dallas hotel room, halfway home to his wife and unborn child; halfway away from life as a professional surfer.

One life burgeoning and full of promise; the other fading to a natural end.

The episode revisits Sean Doherty’s piece “Rainbow’s End”, written in the immediate aftermath of Irons’ death whilst Doherty was still in Puerto Rico, and he and countless others who knew and loved Andy tried to come to terms with what had happened.

As surfers, the tragedy of A.I. is burned in our collective consciousness. It’s a story with questions that remain unanswered, true of many stories that linger with us through our daily lives.

But what struck me about this episode was not questions about Andy’s death, but rather the phenomenal job by Doherty in capturing this moment in time.

What Sean Doherty did with “Rainbow’s End”, on a pure journalism level, is one of the finest pieces of surf writing ever produced.

The complexity of the situation and subject is unfathomable to me. To produce something coherent from it, something for people to cling to, beggars belief.

Doherty had been in Puerto Rico to report on Slater’s tenth world title, a seeming inevitability at that stage. In itself, this was a monumental story, perhaps the greatest ever in competition surfing history, and it was something he’d been working on for months.

Then Andy was dead.

And in the chaos no-one knew what to think, except they knew that everything was different.

What would you do in that situation?

Drink?

Fly immediately home to your family?

Shed tears with your friends and say fuck the world?

Or would you, as Doherty did, recognise the significance of the moment, the necessity of story, and your responsibility to your vocation?

There’s a Carol-Anne Duffy poem called “War Photographer”, about a man who wrestles with his purpose. The poem presents us with difficult questions.

Is it ok to simply record the suffering of others, neglecting your individual humanity in service of the greater good?

Is the sharing of tragedy necessary, in the hope it might save future lives?

He remembers the cries
of this man’s wife, how he sought approval
without words to do what someone must

The “must” suggests the answer to these questions must be Yes.

Real journalists believe in this “must”. They understand that stories give shape and form to our existence.

In the life and death of Andy Irons, there are lessons for all of us.

Doherty’s piece doesn’t necessarily dig all of this out, but it doesn’t need to. What it does is capture the raw, human grief of the moment, and touch on the ways in which Irons inspired those who knew him, particularly in professional surfing.

In the wake of abject tragedy, the only meaningful response is to recognise and celebrate those who share the impact. Easier said than done.

Somehow, when confronted with tragedy and outpourings of sorrow from the friends he was surrounded by, Sean Doherty had the fortitude to write the story of what it was like to exist in these moments, creating a historical timecapsule in a way that only the written word can.

Even more impressively, Doherty managed to wrangle what seems an impossible juxtaposition of two disparate stories into one, coherent narrative, and somehow do justice to both, remaining true to his original brief and telling the story of Kelly’s tenth title in tandem with the fallout from Andy’s death.

Staggeringly, he did it in just a few days to deadline.

I can scarcely imagine telling a story in the face of such shared and personal tragedy. I can’t imagine grieving alongside friends, yet still trying to elicit and record quotations.

I’m certainly more of a Fuck The World first responder.

The WCT is often mocked for the “one big family” vibe. It’s why the athletes and pundits are so frustratingly milquetoast. I get it. If you’re part of a crew that gets to travel the world and surf, why would you do anything that might burst that bubble?

Sean Doherty is very much part of the machine, close personal friend as he is with many of the people on and around the Tour. Is he always clear-eyed and impartial? Probably not. But he recognised the importance of history in this moment, of remaining professional and impersonal to tell this story in the face of such deep hurt.

Perhaps, given his relationships, he was one of the only people in the world who could’ve done it. By conscious decision or instinct, he did the job, and for that he should be lauded.

For all those who believe surf journalism isn’t a real job, that surfing isn’t a subject that warrants or blooms quality work beyond skimming a few waves, read some Sean Doherty.

I missed this piece at the time, as I’ve surely missed many great pieces in Australian surf media over the years, so I’m grateful for this airing on Ain’t That Swell.

I would advise you to consume this episode on a long drive home from surfing, a little bit tired, a little bit stoned, and more than a little raw and emotional. Pull over and have a little cry if you want.

Then go home and kiss your children.


In wild last-minute boilover, Brazilian superstar Gabriel Medina wins in first contest back since world title ending knee injury; scuttles Moroccan’s world tour dream!

The King is back!

For all the asterisks surrounding Filipe Toledo’s world title, no John John, another failure at Teahupoo, Finals Day in two-foot waves thereby hobbling any chance Jackie Robinson would win, the most glaring might be the absence of three-time world champ Gabriel Medina.

Medina made a sensational return to the pro tour in 2022 following a six-month break for “emotional issues’ after splitting from wife Yasmin Brunet. He banked semi-final finishes at El Salvador and G-Land, but was forced to pull out of J-Bay with a tweaked knee. 

Down but not out, as you’ll see.

Medina, who will be twenty-nine next month, proved his ability to turn a contest at a whim earlier today when he won the Corona Saquarema Pro, stealing a last-minute victory from the Moroccan surfer Ramzi Boukhiam.

The victory scuttled, at least for the time being, the Moroccan’s dream of qualifying for the Championship Tour.

Boukhiam, a tall splendid creature with dark and enormous eyes and flesh that ripples into bronze ridges, now has to turn up the volume at the Haleiwa event in a few weeks to make the cut.

“He’s (Boukhiam) such a great surfer,” Medina said after the final, sinking breathless into a divan, his body continuing to move in rhythm with his heart. “I hope he can make it to the tour, he deserves this. He’s one of the best to surf in a QS event and I can’t wait to see him on CT waves.”


“Best heavy wave surfer in the world," says Strider Wasilewski. | Photo: @nathanflorence

Surf world dumbfounded as handsome brother of US Olympian who shucked surf fame for Only Fans riches rides what many are calling “the best barrel ever” at remote Irish reef!

"Foam Ball Ride of the Decade!"

Nathan Florence, brother of US Olympian John John, has knocked the surfing world for six after shucking what some big-wave surfers are calling the “best barrel ever.” 

Florence, who is twenty-eight and whose couronne of red hair is masked by the bleaching effects of sun and salt, rode the wave at a remote Irish reef on November 6, the swell generated by the remnants of Hurricane Martin. 

“When riding the lightning all comes together!” says Nathan. “One of the rides of me life, thanks all local boys for having me in their beautiful land and inspiring always to send!”

 

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A post shared by Nathan Florence (@nathan_florence)

 

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A post shared by Nathan Florence (@nathan_florence)

Compliments were quick to follow. 

Mark Healey, no stranger to oversized waves, wrote, “You may have my two favourite backhand tube ride ever.”

From WSL commentator Strider Wasilewski, “Best heavy wave surfer in the world.” 

Tube hunter Brett Barley, “Foamball Ride of the Decade.”

Dorian, “Sheesh epic!!”

Pipe Pro runner-up Seth Moniz, “Best Barrel ever.” 

Florence’s brother, John John, older by two years was quick to collar tie the middle bro of the Florence triumvirate, writing with a masterfully droll wit, “Could’ve been deeper.” 

If you’re wondering, Nathan’s on an eight-five Pyzel Padillac, set up as a thruster not a quad and the protuberance from his mouth is a miniature POV camera, although that footage has yet to be loosed.


Wild ruckus at Makua Beach as white gal, pictured left, told to beat it.

Police called as race war erupts on secluded sands of Oahu’s prettiest beach, “Threatening people is not a movement…my daughter is Hawaiian and she’s never been treated with such disrespect!”

Apartheid comes to Makua Beach!

You’d be hard pressed to find a more inviting stretch of sand as Makua Beach over there on Oahu’s westside, the rainless leeward coast where Sunny Garcia was born and where Greg Noll famously rode his last-ever wave.

It ain’t an easy or an obvious find.

You gotta drive past Makaha, the road narrows, ain’t no shacks or development, and head towards Yokohama Bay. The sunsets are divine, you can camp there, and if you want to swim with happy marine creatures, turtles and dolphins abound. Tiger sharks, too, but use prudence when approaching.

The Makua Valley, beach to the mountains, holds a special place in the hearts of Hawaiians as the birthplace of man, Makua meaning parent. Also believed to be the kick-off point for souls travelling to the afterlife.

A recent race-based imbroglio has cast a long shadow over the peaceful Makua Beach sands, however, after police were called following what one woman, @_ladyshark, is calling a race-based attack, the woman recording the aftermath for her 10k followers’ enjoyment.

It’s all very entertaining, as these things usually are, and no one escapes the event with clean hands or with dignity intact.

Question: where do you stand on these matters, indigenous owners of land given a slice here and there where they can frolic without the stench of whiteness or is public land for all, including the distant descendants of the hated colonialists?

 

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Last remaining vestige of once-great Surfer Magazine bucks “woke” culture, returns to butts n boobs heyday by launching “Surfer (The Girl)” contest featuring scantily clad women who don’t actually surf!

What would Tyler Wright say?

The World Surf League (founded 2015 circa 1976) has gone all in on one thing, this past year, and it is not quality waves on tour. No, we are back to Surf Ranch, Lower Trestles, etc. for the upcoming 2023 season but it will be equal junk (save number of surfers) between men and women at each of the stops.

Equal prize money, equal opportunity, equal equal.

So equal, in fact, that tennis great Billie Jean King is said to, now, be aware of surfing in all of its equal glory.

Equality for the win.

For those new to the sport, this equal may seem natural but there was once a dark time (1980 – 2005) when the women were mostly expected to trot the stage in skimpy bikinis and “win” leering looks from men in the audience.

Decidedly un-chill but the last remaining vestige of once-great Surfer Magazine, Surfer (The Bar), has decided to revisit these troubled times by launching the Surfer (The Girl) contest.

The publication, which folded in 2020 after purchase by the aptly named David Pecker, had ambitiously launched a few watering holes one of which still exists in Jacksonville, Florida. And now we have that establishment launching a butts n boobs contest. None of the participants appear to actually surf, the hope for winning relying solely on physical assets.

A few are holding skateboards.

One a Golden Retriever.

But will hurry and place your vote? Click your tongue in disgust? Other?

It must be noted that Rip Curl is a major sponsor of the event.

What would Tyler Wright say?