Toledo (pictured) number 1. Photo: WSL

The five most explosive surf controversies of 2022!

Jaw dropping!

And here we are at the tail end of 2022. But how did the year treat you? Full of surprises? Wonderful little gifts? Or was it one nasty blow after another? I certainly hope for the former but if the latter was your bag then don’t fret. 2023 will certainly be better but also you can etch your name alongside those who suffered through the most explosive controversies in surf.

Oh but what were they? In order from least to most incendiary.

5) In early October, or thereabouts, the World Surf League released its next year Championship Tour schedule. Gone were Padang Padang and quality. Re-introduced, Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch. The most unpopular surf contest on earth. Surf fans, and professionals surfers, growing furious with its continued malingering. Wondering what sort of nefariousness is being made in the World Surf League’s Santa Monica offices.

4) One month earlier, sitting longboard champion became spanked on the buttocks at his home break of Cardiff Reef, California by a SUP pilot. A very public spanking.

3) Respected surf voice JP Currie declared that Kelly Slater is not, in fact, the greatest athlete of all-time, writing,”At the highest level of sport, the kind of level reserved for people dubbed GOATs, sport influences culture, brings people hope, and instigates change. Kelly Slater isn’t even close to being the GOAT, and I’d bet, in the cold light of day or the throes of an ayahuasca-led vision quest in Costa Rica, he might just admit that, too.”

2) Rip Curl, home to brave Tyler Wright, sponsored a butt n boobs sexy contest in Jacksonville, Florida. Girls only but no surfing. Just butts n boobs.

1) Eventual World Champion Filipe Toledo reprised his brave act of cowardice and refused to paddle for a wave during a heat with Kelly Slater and Nathan Hedge, preferring to bob out the back and let two elderly gentlemen swap perfection.

And there we have it. All in all a fairly tame 350-something days.

Unless I totally forgot something.

Enslaved dolphins (pictured). Photo: YouTube.

Director James Cameron excoriated over having enslaved dolphins perform stunts at premier of surf blockbuster “Avatar: The Way of Water!”

No no.

Now that the Pipe Masters is, officially, over and the Pipeline Pro still over a month away, we surf fans, we liquid prancers, can turn our attention to matters of great import. Will American Meghan Markle topple the British crown? Does the tripledemic matter? Should we go watch James Cameron’s surf-inspired follow up to Avatar, titled Avatar: The Way or Water, or should we boycott after he used enslaved dolphins to entertain ahead of the film’s Japan opening?

Oh, many people, of all stripes, are furious at the stunt. As you know, Kelly Slater and a host of other surfers have campaigned for our captive sea friends for years upon years. Those, for example, locked into amusement park tubs etc. and also those dolphins slaughtered in Taiji, Japan each and every year.

Cameron seemed unfazed by the outrage even though he is a vegan, joking, “I’m sure everybody asked their permission to be in the show. I love these animals, I love their intelligence.”

PETA let him, and the film’s stars, have it in a scathing rebuke.

“To see James Cameron, Sigourney Weaver and Sam Worthington sitting there applauding was shocking. The trainers were treating those dolphins like circus clowns. They were riding on the noses of the dolphins, I mean, that’s as bad as it gets.”

Is that as bad as it gets, though?

Like, what if the trainers made Tiny Taiji in the tank, whipped out samurai swords and chopped the creatures into sashimi?

Worse, I’d argue.

Even with the controversy, Avatar: The Way of Water has had one of the largest opening in cinema history. At time of writing, Kelly Slater has not signaled if he will take it in or boycott.


Oh, I’m looking forward to hate watching. Avatar was one of my least favorite movies of all time.

Even less favorite than Sex and the City II.


Stack (pictured) on shoulders. Photo: Pipe Masters

New York’s Balaram Stack wins “world’s most prestigious surf contest,” etches name alongside Kelly Slater, Andy Irons, Gerry Lopez as Pipe Master!

Molly Pinklum too!

The 2022 Pipe Masters is, officially, in the books as two new names are etched into the histories of “the world’s most prestigious surf contest” alongside Gerry Lopez, Derek Ho, Kelly Slater, Rob Machado etc. New York’s Balaram Stack and Australia’s Molly Pinklum. Insta-legends. Forever Pipe Masters.

Stack dispatched Griffin Colapinto, Kaulana Apo and Joao Chianca in stormy, rain-whipped Backdoor to hoist the title high above his handsome head. “I’m shocked,” he said afterward. “I don’t really know what to think. I need a minute to settle in. I’m stoked my mother is here. I’ll be thankful and shocked for a while.”

Pinklum took out Bellylou Johnson, Caitlin Simmers and darling Carissa Moore and declared, “Although I was holding the trophy, I feel like we won by pushing women’s surfing. I’m honored to have done this alongside such a strong, inspirational, cool class of women!”

You can, and should, catch all the highlights above but there are a few questions we must ponder, together, before you go. The Pipe Masters was radically reimagined this year, scoring barrels, airs and turns with the same weight, removing priority, multiple no-loser rounds etc. While the swell forecast made for some trouble, delaying the proceedings for a week, how did you feel about the overall business?

Like it was all more reflective of “the world’s most prestigious surf contest” or that the Pipe Masters has been degraded to a fun, but pointless, novelty show?

Nothing at stake, save many thousands of thousands of dollars and the title itself, did seem to take some of the oomph out of it. The World Surf League, for all its problems, does create a narrative that becomes compelling and truly does claim the world’s best surfers. Medina, Florence, Slater each sitting out the Pipe Masters throwing that truth into starker relief.

The real proof of the Pipe Master’s health will be, I suppose, if late January’s Pipeline Pro becomes surfing’s crown jewel instead.

What are your thoughts there?

Also, imagine if Sal Masekela’s self-satisfaction could be turned into an energy source. Enough gigawatts to light Stack’s New York City.


Lifelong surfer kook gets jacked at Ulus. Insets include ritual humiliation, colonisers and moto crooks!

Lifelong “kook” surfer discovers ritual humiliation, “entitled rich colonisers” and “rabid little boys” during first-ever trip to Indonesia!

Riding underwater ponies and examining spectacular latissimus dorsi on other surfers!

Ok, haoles. Well, I think the thing I’ve learned, is I’m the haole.  

Mid-40s, surfing for 30+ years off and on and none of it translates to Indonesia. A steady diet of east coast USA beachbreaks that gets above thigh high maybe 25 days a year do not in any way prepare one for surfing Indian Ocean ground swell breaking over shallow and sharp rock reef.  

But I digress.

If any of the 20 of you who actually read BG and engage in the comments have been seeing my Hurluley sticker placement pics, then you’ll know I’ve relocated away from the east coast to the other side of the world.  

And it’s a one-and-a-half-hour flight to Indo, of which I’ve gladly taken advantage of.  The mythical, fabled Indo of my 30+ years of obsessively imbibing surf films, mags, websites, contests, and more recently, YouTube and Instagram fodder.  

Yeah, that Indo, of always double overhead, crystal barrels populated by pros and bros featured in omnipresent surf porn propaganda: a playground for shredding.  

Luckily, my gig pays enough and has enough structured downtime to allow for some quick post-COVID entries. 

In the few months I’ve been living in a radically different time zone, I’ve been on a  three-day run to Bali’s Bukit and an eight-day hit to Krui on Sumatra.  

Here is what I’ve learned over those two brave missions.

1. Indonesia’s government is going to get their money from you one way or the other. Have that cash ready for the Visa upklon entry.

2. Find a driver you can trust to get you around, and tip them well.

3. Directly related: Don’t learn to ride a scooter in Indo.

a. Wear that helmet.

b. Don’t wear slaps.

c. That accelerator and brake being on the same handle?  Yeah, that will fuck with your brain.

d. When you inevitably wreck (see 3c), hope that it is on a rural road without cars, trucks, cows, other scooters, and dogs coming at you, and that there is a ditch to land in.

e. When you land in ditch, hope there’s a local willing to help get your scooter out of the ditch, while they and all the 50 people along the street are laughing. 

f. See 3b.  And probably 3a.

4. Don’t assume the locks on the seats on scooters are safe from rabid 12-year-old boys traveling in packs. In fact, that’s a very bad assumption.

a. See 2, above, as they’ll watch your shit in the car and keep it safe.

b. Bring back up glasses,as rabid 12-year-old boys will grab those out of your scooter and now you’re too blind to drive back to the surf camp (see 3 a, b, c, d, e, and f, above).

5. Quiver. If you’ve got boards you trust, pay the excess and bring ‘em. Nothing like wasting your first five waves trying to figure out a beat up rental board.

6. Reef shoes are your friends. Bring an extra pair to gift.  

7. Waist-high Padang Padang will be full of 100 people learning to surf from all over the world. At least one of those people will be an entitled, rich as shit colonizer, probably a woman from Britain, who will yell at everyone in the lineup to get out of their way, especially since they’re paying top bill for a private instructor to help them navigate the 100 other people also learning to surf in inconsistent waist-high Padang Padang.  

8. Inconsistent waist-high Padang Padang at  one pm with the sun out will dry you the fuck out so not only will you be annoyed as shit at the woman yelling at everyone (see 8, above), you’ll also be lightheaded and somehow, sweating while in the water. In short, electrolytes are your friend, and therefore:

a. Fresh coconuts after a session – heaven.

b. Fresh Bintangs after a session – heaven squared.

9. Jenny’s Right at three-to-five feet is heaven cubed. With a six-foot sleeper set, be ready to duck dive deeper than you’ve ever duck dived and it’s still not going to be deep enough.

a. Hope the velcro on your leash is strong.

b. After you realize the velcro on the leash on the rental board is shit, especially compared to the power of six feet of Indian Ocean breaking right in front of you, be ready to walk over sharp ass rocks to get your board after it washes away (see 6, above).

c. Be ready to get dehydrated walking over the reef as you get your board (see 9a, above).

10. Be prepared to see skill levels that have you dumbfounded – how did so many people, and almost all from Australia, get so used to surfing solid waves over sharp reefs like it’s nothing?  You’ve been to Bali 20 times?!? And G-Land, 10?!?  Well, I’ve been to Spanish House, once, so fuck you. 

a. If you see a sticker for a surf company on a board, that person will shred.

b. If you don’t see a sticker for a surf company on a board, that person will still probably shred, especially if they’re in their 20s and speak with an Australian accent.  Or are in their teens and speak with an Australian accent. Or are in their 30s, or 40s, or 50s, and speak with an Australian accent. Israeli, Brazilian, New Zealand, Japanese, French, Portuguese, and US accents (except mine) also correlate strongly to shredding.

c. If you see a sticker for a surf company on a board of a female-presenting surfer and she sits six foot deeper than everyone else at Uluwatu and falls out of the sky on a four-foot wave (see 12, below), that person will have made the craziest and latest drop you’ve ever seen anyone make in your life.  

Seeing that drop will also make you wonder what videos she’s been in and how many top-class waves she’s surfed over her short (compared to you) life already, to be at that skill level, with all that travel to tropical reefs footed by her sponsors, with each dollar deserved (how the fuck did you make that drop?!?!).  

You’ll be blown away by that drop and want to tell her that but the in-shape guy she’s paddling with, the guy with biceps in his triceps and lats like slabs of beef, looks like he’d take it the wrong way, and, well, it’s a long paddle/walk across sharp reef (see 6, above) over a misunderstanding. Best to just realize you’re not in Kansas anymore and keep your mouth shut (or maybe not – see 15 and 16, below).

11. Everyone else in the world uses the backs of waves instead of faces of waves to discuss wave/swell size and no one uses body size.  A two-foot day for the USA’s east coast is also waist high, called by looking at the wave. That’s considered flat in Indo, and would be maybe called one foot, even though at my home break there’d be 500+ people on it.  

For Indo, two foot is actually chest high. Most people in Indo it seems don’t give a shit about the waves until they hit six foot or bigger, because most people in Indo are from Australia, and according to the Aussie blokes I met Australia also has more surf than it knows what to do with (lucky fucks).

a. As a lifelong east coaster used to one-foot/thigh-high dribbles breaking on sand, seeing a a set of eight waves clocking in at a solid six feet clear out an entire lineup, puts you right at the edge of some surfing soul searching: do I paddle out, knowing I’ll be undergunned on a rental (see 5 above), will probably have to swim for my board (see 10a and b above), and will just get in other people’s way as the sharp ass rocks visible right there, directly below where the 12 foot (East Coast USA wave height from the front) wave is breaking, where those sharp ass rocks will keep me paralyzed in fear to even want to turn and paddle, since I’ve only surfed weak as shit dribbles over sand my whole life and with being in my mid-40s and past peak testosterone and past peak-paddle fitness then all the sudden it seems that taking pics from land is a good idea as I watch people get washed through the lineup as I’m checking the waves that jumped two foot (rest of world measurement) overnight, brainsurfing myself wrecking on all eight waves…and how the fuck do these people surf six-foot waves (rest of world measurement) like it’s a two-foot day at my beachie?!?!  

And how is it still small for them, when this is the biggest surf I’ve seen in 30+ years of surfing, and it’s not even peak season when the 12-footers (rest of world measurement) come rolling in out of the Indian Ocean!?!? Yeah, definitely not in Kansas anymore.

12. Australian surf blokes are fucking classic. Until they’re drunk and loud and blasting AC/DC and booting up the karaoke machine at 3am.   

13. Humble yourself before the ocean.

14. Get used to telling everyone else in the water after you hoot your head off over a three-foot wave (rest of world measurement), and they’re staring at you like you’re a haole, that that wave was bigger and better than anything you’ve seen in 30+ years and multiple thousands of hours spent in the water at your home break.

a. Get used to hooting more and more, because fuck it, you’re in paradise, even if the roads are crazy and the reef sharp as shit.

b. Unfortunately, no one else is hooting, or seems to be stoked, despite being in paradise, sitting in waves that are better than anything I’ve seen in 30+ years of surfing and multiple thousands of hours in the water.  

c. Which makes me wonder, when did surfing become so dour, insular, and entitled?  At what point for surfers, does the ocean become boring?

15. Given 14c, hoot anyway, from 2 foot (any measurement) on up. Why?  Because we’re only alive now (RIP, Offrocker). I may be the biggest haole in all of Indo, but damn if I can’t hoot better than anyone with a sticker on their board.  

Tell that person as they paddle by you because they’re going to sit deeper than you (see whole list, above) that their wave was fucking great and the session is fucking great and there are volcanoes in the distance, a few tigers roaming around those hills and palm trees on the beach and probably kids stealing shit out of the scooters, those same scooters that want to kill me, but that this is 1,000,000,000,000x better than watching TV or sitting in an office and no one I know has any fucking idea where I am right now, and no one from my beach has ever probably surfed these waves, and yeah, I can’t wait to see you catch the next one and I’ll be hooting at you then, too, and maybe you want to grab a fresh coconut after the session and share story?  

17. Spread stoke like it’s an unlimited gift, because it is. The only corporate propaganda I’ve ever seen to be true is this one, and it applies to any body of water in the world: “Only a surfer knows the feeling.”

So yeah, I’m hoping to get back a few more times while I can, with more lessons to learn.  

I know quite a few of you here on BG get to Indo, so If you see some middle-aged guy with a US accent on a yellowed rental who is wearing reef boots, looking too scared to drop in over the ledge, but smiling his face off, that’s probably me.  

Feel free to paddle over and call me a kook.  

GWM is good for the environment, yeah? Photo: The Office

World Surf League continues to mock the very idea of “environmentalism,” broadens relationship with landfill-ready carbon spewing truck company!

Paint it green!

Exactly one week ago, surf fans became absolutely delighted to learn exactly how great a positive impact our World Surf League had on the planet during the 2022 year. Tens of little bushes planted, 35,000 educated youth and maybe most importantly, emissions cut by 50%.

Well, in a possible bid to re-cut emissions by 100% in 2024, by juicing them by 150% this year, the WSL has just announced an expansion of its wonderfully green relationship with Chinese manufacturer of carbon spewing landfill-ready trucks and SUVS.

Great Wall Motors!

Per a hot-off-the-presses release:

GWM and the World Surf League are excited to announce their partnership has grown ahead of the 2023 Australian leg of events across the Championship Tour, Challenger Series and World Longboard Tour. GWM’s SUV and Utility vehicles are the perfect match for the outdoors and surfing lifestyle making the continuation and growth of this partnership with the WSL an obvious one.

A new deal between the two organisations will not only see GWM continue as the title partner of the Sydney Surf Pro and category partner across the four major Challenger Series (CS) and Championship Tour (CT) events in Australia, but also as the new presenting partner of the Gold Coast Pro and the category partner of the Bells Beach Longboard Classic World Longboard Tour (WLT) event.

“World Surf League and GWM had a fantastic start to our partnership in 2022 and we are thrilled to grow this partnership into its second year,” said WSL APAC President Andrew Stark. “The vehicles GWM produce are aligned with an outdoors lifestyle and are suitable for all types of surfers so it’s great to see them expand their investment to include all types of surfing events. We’d like to thank GWM for continuing their support and we look forward to watching this partnership grow into the future.”

In addition to elevating GWM’s onsite activation experience for fans across the Australian events, the partnership will include a broadcast integration in the form of the GWM Catch Up, a daily highlight clip that will be distributed at the end of each day across WSL’s owned and operated platform. GWM will also be provided with a custom broadcast feature at the Gold Coast and Sydney CS events.

“Our 2022 sponsorship with the World Surf League provided a valuable opportunity to align GWM with a like-minded partner and to showcase the GWM brand and our range of SUVs and utes to an engaged audience that enjoys the great outdoors,” said GWM Head of Marketing & Communications, Steve Maciver. “More and more customers are selecting GWM as their automotive brand of choice and we look forward to the second year of our WSL partnership and building our connection with the surfing community and beyond.”

Paint it green!