Surfing world champions and legends slam modern pro’s following “weak” performances at iconic Sunset Beach yesterday, “It blows my mind the way 90% of these guys are trying to surf Sunset. Taking off in the whitewater and not even trying to get out to the peak!”

“You don’t take a blade to a gunfight. You take a gun!”

A cavalcade of world champions including the former WSL colour commentator Martin Potter, as well as Tom Carroll, Shaun Tomson, Joel Tudor, Damien Hardman and Gary Elkerton have slammed modern professional surfers for their “weak” performances at Sunset Beach yesterday. 

Despite the perfect waves and the hitherto unseen extravagance shown by starlets Toledo, Colapinto, Chianca and Robinson, the champs were seething, shivering with degrading dialogue.

In a post to his thousands of fans, Gary “Kong” Elkerton, famous in the nineteen-eighties for plummeting down the cobra-like west peaks that periodically close out the channel, wrote:

“I was hoping at the event this year someone might have the balls to gear up on the right equipment and go out and get (a West peak), very boring watching whitewater take-offs on 6,2s and 6.4s, sorry for the rant but that’s not the way to surf Sunset Beach.”


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A post shared by Gary Elkerton (@garykongelkerton)

Shaun Tomson, the world champion in 1977 and a pioneer of backside tuberiding at Pipeline replied, 

“Keep choosing a 6 2 and you will keep getting clipped while you run out of rail and drive – no matter how good you are.”

Robbie Page, a tour standout in the eighties, spat “If anyone caught a real wave from outside I’d say it would get half the score for only surfing the inside point for those crew that surf in there. Fucken waste of Sunset. Get out the back.” 

Over on 1989 world champ Martin Potter’s Instagram page an identical sentiment was expressed, 

“Sunset is on at the moment, how times have changed, guys are riding 6”2 s this is a 7”6 it was my go to at Sunset and wouldn’t dream of riding a shorter board.”


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“Yeah Pottz…I don’t get it,” the world champion in 1983 and ’84,  Tom Carroll, replied. 

Kong swooped in here, too, telling his old arch-rival,

“Mate, it’s just blowing my mind the way 90% of these guys are trying to surf Sunset…. Taking off on the inside in the whitewater not even trying to get out to the peak hard to watch.”

As did Shaun Tomson,

“Some abominably bad board choices yesterday at Sunset. Even the hottest of the hot was taken out by riding a 6 2. You don’t take a blade to a gunfight. You take a gun.”

A lot of verbal histrionics, yes?

Where does this put you?

Did yesterday’s performances put a tongue between your legs or did you find it a mass of buffoonery, the old gag and sputter?


In utterly macabre twist, Byron Bay’s vapid narcissistic surfers “selfishly hell-bent on looking good” deemed responsible for “penetrating head injuries on small children!”

Unchecked hedonism leading to child abuse.

Ask any upwardly mobile mid-30 year old urban alternative craft/longboard surfer where the dream resides and she is likely to answer, “In Byron Bay, of course.” The small village of approximately 6000 souls has burst into imaginations around the world what with its picture-perfect setting, gentle waves, undulating curves and hemp-infused sexy.

What is not to love?

Well, maybe a lot these days. The bucolic dreamscape has devolved into a Dantesque inferno over the past few years. Or as the late, great Longtom put it, “A MONUMENT TO GREED WEARING A SPIRITUAL CLOAK. A GLITTERING DREAM METASTASIZED INTO A MALIGNANT NIGHTMARE. THE SPAWN OF UNHINGED NEOLIBERALISM AND GRINNING HIPPY CAPITALISTS!

Much of the trouble has to do with leg-rope-less longboards careening through ocean splash-splashers and causing all manner of trouble.

Oh, you’ve read the macabre stories, grown men getting biceps ripped clean off etc. but the whole business might be reaching a Satanic crescendo.

Ian Cohen, former Greens MP and surf enthusiast, told The Guardian, “Waves throw surfboards around like matchsticks. A 10-foot board with fins on it coming a long way has got a lot of momentum and weight behind it. They effectively become a deadly weapon.”

Cate Coorey, a Byron Shire councillor, went further in implicating shortboards too, adding, “We really do need something that will actually give people pause for thought before they venture into a crowded surf. Those boards travel at great speed, and a lot of them are really pointy.”

She said there have been “countless” collisions that had directly led to “penetrating head injuries on small children.”

Very “cabal” sounding and would make sense, considering Byron Bay’s political bent.

In any case, can’t leg ropes simply be mandated?

Not so fast, says Cohen.

“Surfing is a very hedonistic sport that is regulated by image, or people who are selfishly hell-bent on looking good.”

Something for you to think about, I suppose.

In the meantime, though, local surfboard repairman Simon Maltby thinks leashes are not the issue.

“A lot of incidents in the surf are caused by people who do wear leg ropes,” he declared. “They go out with a sense of false security because they have it on. You take off on waves that are far out of their capabilities, because they know they won’t lose their board.”

So what to do?

Solutions please.

Filipe all smiles. Photo: Heff/WSL
Filipe all smiles. Photo: Heff/WSL

Sunset Beach final’s day so grand, so glorious as to kill the robot dead: “No algorithm can understand why this dumb, debatable sport we’re all obsessed with is worth poking, prodding and soliloquising!”

Long live Filipe Toledo!

As readers and fans of surfing, I want to thank you.

For the past few weeks I’ve suffered a bit of existential gloom.

Like I’m on a precipice. Pitching over the ledge with the realisation that I’m half a second too late, and what lies beneath is more air and rock than water.

It’s work, it’s addiction, it’s communication, it’s purpose, it’s ChatGPT.

All of which could shove me over at any second.

But Beachgrit, surfing, you…all of this has saved me.

I’ll spare you my extended thoughts about ChatGPT. I plan to write an essay about it elsewhere.

In summary, the arc of my thinking has now arrived at one, simple premise: human readers will always need human writers.

What would ChatGPT make of pro surfing?

It would take a very advanced (or malfunctioning) AI to describe a character like Derek can.

An algorithm would never describe Griffin Colapinto as having a heart-shaped face with dimples in his cheeks where viscous liquids might pool under virginal, thirsty eyes.

Nor could it mimic the style of Chas, wantonly turning noun into verb and back again.


So when I go off on tangents like this, that are little to do with surfing, it’s not contrived, nor self indulgent (it’s a bit self indulgent – all writing is), but rather it’s my attempt to communicate on a simple, human level.
We belong in small groups, reading each other’s body language, looking into eyes, seeing the humanity laid before us. Yet so much of our communication is behind a screen.

So we find little niches where we search for our kin. Places where we can communicate with people we understand, people we could read face-to-face.

That’s what Beachgrit is.

We’re all here. Not because of me or because of you, but because of what we’re doing together. This frivolous, pointless joy of watching men pit themselves against the ocean and wiggle watery, pretty patterns for us to ooh and ahh and spit and howl at.

The words we exchange become bridges to this experience.

And today, at Sunset Beach, was as good a finals’ day experience as we might hope for. A day unimpeded by wave quality, questionable judging, or bland commentary.

Just pure surfing.

Ok, ok. There were some lully heats early on. Dave Prodan appeared via video link at some point and delivered some grey word sludge. Kaipo referred to the shaper rankings as “a really powerful storyline”.

And the “Stay Tuned” screens and ad breaks IN THE MIDDLE OF TIGHT HEATS were infuriating.

But apart from all that.

Jack Robinson trounced Nat Young in the first quarter final of the day, before eventually falling to a sparkling Colapinto.

Ethan Ewing went with a whimper, caught in the eye of a lull. It would have been good to see him in the later heats.

He sat for twenty-two minutes before attempting a wave. For once, his timing was off, and in comparison to Colapinto it looked like he had seaweed on his fins. Griffin surfed like he’d had a whole bag of Skittles.

I noted Colapinto exchanging some dialogue with coach Tom Whittaker as he paddled back to the peak. I’ll need to scan the rulebook, but I didn’t think that was allowed mid-heat.

On the other side of the draw, God downed tools and went out for a fag to leave Caio Ibelli and Filipe Toledo to sort things out themselves.

Toledo was ruthless and incisive.

Laying down a glorious top to bottom arc which was the turn of the day to this stage, he paddled in with over a minute to go. Contrary to how it might appear, there was no arrogance in this, only a justified certainty that Caio didn’t have anything like that in his locker.

This set-up a tantalising match-up with Joao Chianca, who had carried his brutal form of the previous day of competition to dispatch Matt McGillivray.

Both semi-finals were high quality affairs, in terms of the match-ups and the resulting performances.

This might seem like the kind of trite observation you get from the booth, but today each man truly seemed at the peak of his powers.

Griffin Colapinto had risen fierce this morning, writing in his journal, “I am calm. I am confident. I am powerful. I am fearless. I am present.”

Regardless of how you feel about this, or the fact he chooses to share it, you can’t deny he was all of these things.

Rhythm is vital in surfing, and Griffin was feeling it today. Against Robinson, he had one of those performances where his competitor seemed to fade into the background, leaving just him and a perfect canvas for a silky forehand blitz.

Kelly Slater revealed recently that one of his tactics was always to surf against the man, not the waves. I can see how this works, but today Colapinto was in a headspace where the man hardly mattered.

And when the man is Jack Robinson, that’s worth extra kudos.

Robinson, for his part, did very little wrong. There’s no shame in losing with a 16.33 heat total, nor in having a nose for barrels like a pig hunting truffles. I eagerly await the day Robinson, Medina and Florence can go toe-to-toe in a pure tube slug fest.

Given the 6/1 odds the bookies were offering on Griffin prior to this semi, they clearly hadn’t read his journal.

Their favourite was now Filipe Toledo, but a match-up against Joao Chianca, arguably the most on-form surfer of the event by the numbers and the eye-test, was far from given.

Just a note on these numbers: 13.64 for his opening (the second highest score of the entire round); then 16.67, 16.83, 15.23, 15.54.

And you wouldn’t debate any of it.

Strider mentioned the “intensity” of Chianca’s surfing, and for once he was spot on.

It’s not hard to see how it fits the criteria. Every turn he does looks critical, like he’s trying to force the very core of his being through the soles of his feet.

Pre-heat, Toledo prayed on the beach. You’d be forgiven for wondering if he was simply pleading that Chianca didn’t strangle him to death.

After the first exchange, it looked like a real possibility, even if just in the figurative sense.

Both men paddled furiously towards an approaching peak, but it was Chianca that managed to turn and go, a transition that would’ve sent mortal men tumbling over the falls.

He had bullied Toledo to the wave, and his opening score of a 6.50 was followed swiftly by an 8.17 for a ferocity that is becoming his trademark. His turns cause me to utter involuntary ppffoooooooo noises.

But where Chianca was barbaric, Toledo was rapier-like.

The 9.10 awarded to his fourth wave seemed high on first impression, but like the finest rail technicians in the game, it was fully justified in slo-mo.

The aesthetic beauty of these carves was seared into the judges eyes, and there followed an overwhelming sense that Filipe Toledo had a capacity for turns that Joao Chianca does not (yet) possess.

Toledo’s match-up in the final with Griffin Colapinto was mouth watering. From the opening seconds it looked set-up for a banger.

Toledo opened with a 7.83, but right behind him Colapinto dropped a 9.17 after a miraculous end section that he had no right to make.

It was a spectacular finish, but I did question the score, given the only reason he finished in such fashion was because he was late to the section. Surely, when fine waves are on offer, near perfect scores should follow near perfect timing?

The joy in this final were the two wave sets that allowed us direct comparison between rides. The second wave in each set was always a little better, and those went to Filipe.

Griffin was excellent, but Toledo was magnificent. He locked in victory with an 8.27, then added a 9.47 for the highest single wave score of the event. A fitting end to a quality day of professional surf competition.

It was a final between two men unafraid to show some vulnerability, and as fans we should respect that. This sense of shared humanity is really what we’re searching for in live sport.

Toledo was surprisingly emotional in a lengthy post victory interview. Surprising in the sense that he’s already a world champion with many event wins under his belt.

Whatever your qualms about him, on days like today he deserves nothing but respect. Not just for his skill, but for his humanity.

And this is why I thank you.

Because I realise an algorithm could never communicate that.

I realise it could never consider you, a faceless reader, somehow also a friend.

Nor could it understand why this dumb, debatable sport we’re all obsessed with is worth poking, prodding and soliloquising.

And that, to me, makes it more important than ever.

Despite what Apple watch wearing, pool devotees might have you believe, surfing is still a place where both perfection and imperfection can co-exist with glorious unpredictability. A real thing, with real fear and real joy.

I don’t mean to go all Sarah Connor on you, but cling to this, friends. Cling to these dying embers of a life shaped by people.

Algorithms don’t surf.

Pip Toledo, Sunset champ!

Small-wave king and reigning world champ Filipe Toledo storms to victory at the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach in perfect tropical conditions, “He just keeps turning up the volume!”

Brave Filipe Toledo grows riper each year!

And just as the chronic craving for the sundown drink begins, Filipe Toledo, one of the sport’s most delicate organisms, has been hoisted up the soft sand of Sunset Beach, Oahu, following a conclusive win at the Hurley Pro.

The almost twenty-eight-year-old father of two who seems to be growing riper with each year was untroubled throughout the event torpedoing Liam O’Brien, Kai Lenny, Eli Hanneman, Seth Moniz, Caio Ibelli, the fancied Joao Chianca and Griffin Colapinto to take the 10k championship points and the one hundred thousand dollars.

The win, his twelfth since he joined the tour ten years ago, ain’t enough to steal him the yellow jersey from Jackie Robinson, but it does propel the pint-sized Brazilian into second place on the tour rankings.

Although lightly ravished in the high-scoring final, Colapinto, who was in seventeenth place after a catastrophic Pipe contest, now moves into sixth position and world title contention game with 7800 tour points.

JP Currie’s analysis of Finals Day to follow.

Open Thread: Comment Live on Final’s Day of the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach where self-interest is immutable, but its dictates vary daily!

Aloha also means goodbye!