When I first became aware of John John Florence’s participation in the Haleiwa Challenger, I must admit to being lightly disappointed. Oh, it’s not that I don’t want to see the North Shore prodigy done good back in his home waters, it’s just that… I don’t know… I guess the World Surf League singlet just felt beneath him.
Florence, you see, had just returned from an epic quest across the Pacific on his catamaran and, as a sailor myself, could really imagine the terrors he faced as well as the ecstasy. Sailing is a difficult game, things always going wrong, problems perpetually needing to be solved punctuated by moments of pure sublime. Running with the wind, for instance, everything still while the hull, or hulls in Florence’s case, knife through the water. Or staring up at the starry skies unpolluted by man’s light.
Glorious and to come back from that to the sound of Joe Turpel, to groveling for 1.2s and 2.3s, seemed… sad.
Well, not everything can be Jules Verne, I suppose, and Florence came back not only participated but slayed all-comers, including Kanoa Igarashi, Ryan Callinan and Açai Rodrigues to hoist the first jewel of the Triple Crown high above his blonde head.
The waves, I must say, looked proper fun and Florence’s knee looked right with wicked blow-tails not seen since Conan Hayes.
Does this mean that he is the favorite to depose Filipe Toledo as the favorite heading into the 2023 season?
Imagine Florence sitting at first after dominating Teahupo’o, heading into Lower Trestles.
Surf virtuoso who cried for three days following backlash to WSL joke silences former Pipe Master (again) with latest knuckle-duster-in-your-face performance at Pipeline, “The dude will be savaged! He will be crying! He’s got a big mouth!”
"Let’s see that dude step up! People just let these dudes chirp. Step up and put up or shut up!”
You’ll remember, last year, when the great Shaun Tomson, a man who redefined backside tuberiding at Pipeline in 1975, slammed the Australian surfer Noa Deane for his since redacted anti-WSL stance.
“I’d love to see these wildcards, you know, the big mouths like Noa Deane, big mouth, I want to see that dude, give him a wildcard at ten-foot Pipe,” Tomoson said on the podcast, The Boardroom. “I want to see Noa Deane with his big mouth come up against Italo Ferreira and let’s see what happens… the dude will be savaged! He will be cryyyyying… with his body… he will be flayed. The guy’s got a big mouth and never stops whining about the WSL. Let’s see that dude step up! People just let these dudes chirp. Step up and put up or shut up!”
It was a silly thing to say, even for mouthy ol Shaun, as it was only three years previous when Noa took down world champ John John Florence at the Volcom Pipe Pro… at ten-foot Pipeline.
Now, more sand in the face for the sixty-seven-year-old Tomson after a hall-of-fame day at Pipeline yesterday afternoon in which we saw Noa galloping madly for the finish line on one of the waves of the day.
Chris Martin has been a fixture on the popular culture scene for some time now. The lead singer of Coldplay burst into our consciousness in 2000 with the band’s smash hit Yellow then cemented his place there by marrying historically significant actress Gwyneth Paltrow, making Apples then consciously uncoupling.
Martin has also been notable in our much smaller surf scene for almost equally long, taking up longer boarding and going left, or right, in Hawaii, Costa Rica and, of course, Malibu (Point Dume specifically) where he just purchased an architecturally significant home built by one John Lautner.
The architect, known for his beautiful use of space and form, he was also influential in his use of materials, Jean-Louis Cohen noting:
There is absolutely no dogma in Lautner’s attitude to materials; as a result he never subordinates the design concept of his buildings to any rigid rule that would require the primacy of a single material in a project. Even where he demanded rigorous continuity and integrity, as with wood in the Walstrom House and concrete at Marbrisa … he never allowed that to undermine the sense of structure and always took into account the need for a certain structural logic … He was happy to bring together wood and concrete … as he did in the Desert Hot Springs Motel … to have cables meet concrete and plastic, as in the Tolstoy House, to carry a wooden roof on steel supports, as in the Garcia House, or, so evident in the Chemosphere, to allow three radically different materials to work with each other – a structure of laminated lumber to enclose the dwelling area, metal struts to carry it, those struts bolted onto the vertical concrete column that anchors the unit to the hill.
Well, Martin decided he did not like the space, form or materials and ripped the entire thing down, The Lautner Foundation taking to Instagram and decrying, “If you don’t like it, don’t buy it! Shame on Chris Martin for knocking down the Garwood Residence… another Lautner lost to the ages…”
It’s been three weeks since big, beautiful Art Brewer, the Laguna Beach photographer whose work defined surfing over five decades, and who created the legend of Bunker Spreckels via his ionic imagery, died following a liver transplant.
Referred to “as the sport’s most naturally gifted surf photographer”, Art owned the seventies, eighties and nineties in the American surf mags before splitting to do more lucrative commercial work, although his surf spirit still soared.
A dozen or so years ago, I got Arty to put the blossoming Jordy Smith in front of his muzzle for a cover for Stab, the kid wearing a Shaun Tomson-era yellow vest.
I pleaded poverty (partly true) and paid five hundred bucks for a studio shoot with full lighting rig and assistants. Rad thing is, even if I had a budget of fifty gees no one could’ve shot it with the same panache as Art.
“Brewer’s eye for color and framing is unmatched in the surf world, and much of his best work has been done as a portraitist when he has unfettered control over light, texture, and mood,” says Matt Warshaw.
A giant in the game.
And, so, rightly, Art’s just been lauded in the New York Times.
Mr. Brewer published his first photograph in Surfer magazine in the late 1960s and quickly became the surfing world’s dominant photographer for the next few years. For the next half-century, from a small boat or while treading water, wearing fins and dealing with rip currents, he showed a deft eye for lighting and framing in capturing the thrilling sights of great surfers.
Through Mr. Brewer’s lens, Bruce Irons surfed into what looked like the eye of a hurricane in Indonesia; Barry Kanaiaupuni darted through Honolulu Bay like a speedboat, leaving a wake behind him; Shane Dorian, also in Indonesia, appeared to split the ocean; and Strider Wasilewski seemingly rode his board underwater off Oahu.
“He was almost the Richard Avedon of surfing,” said Mr. Kempton, who edited the magazine in the late 1970s and early ’80s and is the author of “Women on Waves” (2021). “His portraits were character studies.”
A portrait of Mr. Spreckels shows him on a beach, his gleaming blond hair almost disappearing into the sand, sitting behind a red surfboard. Montgomery Kaluhiokalani, known as Buttons, poses in a green and yellow striped wet suit (“looking like the court jester,” Mr. Brewer wrote on Instagram) holding a board, with his thumb out as if he were hitchhiking.
Mark Occhilupo gazes skyward from inside a sugar cane field in Hawaii, looking deliriously happy. John Kelly, an early surf pioneer, stands alone on a beach, with his back to the camera, looking out at the ocean.
“Surfers would come to the magazine and he’d coax them into his studio,” Mr. Kempton said. “He did great portraits of Rabbit Bartholomew being David Bowie and Mick Jagger.”
One of Mr. Brewer’s most stunning photographs was taken in the water, but it is not of a surfer. He was sailing around the Andaman Islands, off the coast of India, and asked the captain if he had ever seen elephants swimming.
“I talked to the boat’s captain about it and he mentioned a logging camp on one of the islands where the handlers take their elephants to the beach to bathe in the afternoon after working all day,” he said.
A few days later, he saw a mother elephant and her baby leave the jungle for the beach and head into the water. The image he shot is almost phantasmagorical: the elephant underwater, her legs kicking, her gray body swaddled in blue water, a handler in a red shirt atop her.
Still hard to believe the big man has pivoted to the other side.