Portugal, forever Slater's bête noire. | Photo: WSL

Kelly Slater’s Olympic Dream dims following shock performance in Portugal, “Scratching around in sub-par waves is no place for a man of fifty-one, and he should know that”

Slater says he “feels the fire going out”. If this is the way he needs to go, by convincing himself he’s leaving on his own terms, that’s his right.

Tough shift today, for fans and pros alike. But sometimes you just need to body it, so goes the London street parlance.

Surely only the most ardent fans, grim-knuckled gamblers and immediate family were logged on to witness Supertubos looking neither super nor tubular.

The BG live comment section tallied fewer than three hundred half-baked comments.

On paper, the Portugal leg should be a gift for me. It’s a place I know well, with a negligible time difference. But in this reporting gig I’ve found it’s a lot easier to moonlight by literal moonlight.

The Scottish Highlands were glorious at the break of day. Cold, clear and windless. Snow dusted mountains gleamed in the sunshine. A Whatsapp from a friend informed me that there were unexpectedly fun waves at the beach. It was a land of opportunity, ripe for the plucking.

Dutifully, I Iogged on to watch jumbled, desperate beachbreak whilst life unfurled around me.

I was in good company. On screen, a familiar bald head floated in the gloom.

Firmly established as a hater of mornings over the years, these are the kinds of days where Slater must truly be questioning his present and future.

Kaipo was saying stuff.

It was cold, desolate, grey.

Jesse Mendes.

No waves were ridden for fifteen minutes or more.

When they were, Ethan Ewing displayed the sort of rubberised spine Slater once had, rebounding from impossible positions and manufacturing torque in a way that’s matched only by Toledo in weak waves.

Slater, predictably, was sent to the elimination round.

He’s mentioned in more than one interview recently that he “feels the fire going out”. I don’t buy it, but I don’t mind either. If this is the way he needs to go, by convincing himself he’s leaving on his own terms, that’s his right.

The fact is, on days like today, scratching around in sub-par waves is no place for a man of fifty-one, and he should know that.

Of course, in barrelling waves he’s still there or thereabouts, and though it might be a pipe dream, retirement at the Teahupo’o Olympics would be satisfying for everyone who cares.

Of those in the prime of their careers, the man whose competitive fire seems to be burning brightly right now is Griffin Colapinto.

“I just love surfing heats,” he said after a sparky opening round victory.

The next few heats were fairly grim.

Jack Robinson ground one out in the yellow jersey, as he does, advancing without breaking into double figures. He was unperplexed on the glass. AJ asked him what he saw out there that others might not. “I always see other things,” he replied, sage-like. “But I don’t want to share them.”

Miguel Pupo, Yago Dora and John Florence all made the best of what was on offer to take wins in their heats. Florence dodged a bullet, given these are exactly the sorts of conditions that normally elicit lacklustre performances from him.

But the mantra of success in Portugal is barrels and airs, barrels and airs, so said Pete Mel repeatedly, and Florence certainly has those in his locker.

Evans, Mel and Wasilewski – the name of a firm specialising in financial improprieties, according to Paul Evans – did their best to keep the energy up, but the story of today was more about who didn’t perform.

Perhaps it was the cold, but there were several misfires. I questioned the sense of surfing in bare feet. I know the feel’s different, but when you can’t feel your feet at all it might be sensible to try boots.

Italo couldn’t concoct a double figure score, but at least went through in second place to Connor O’Leary.

Filipe Toledo couldn’t break four points for a single wave despite seven attempts.

Kanoa, the local boy, limped home in last place with a 7.70 total.

And Gabriel Medina…

Who knows what was going on with Medina today. All I can say is that he looked entirely un-Medina-like. His heat total of 7.10 must be the lowest in years. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was his lowest ever.

Though even in better form he might have been hard-pushed to challenge Rio Waida today.

The Indonesian rookie posted the highest heat total of the day with a 15.16 and deserved every bit of it. Worth watching on replay (for all you legions of fans who slept through today’s action) is his stylish and cleanly tweaked straight air. I’d call it a shifty. You can call it what you like.

Get the coffees on, chop up some donkey dust, do whatever you do to stay up for a few hours tonight.

The forecast’s good, some big names are on the block.

Tomorrow, for once, we’ll open with an elimination round worth watching.

Peruvian media accuses World Surf League of brazen imperialism as South America region loses yet another qualifying spot!

Time for a revolution?

World Surf League Chiefs Erik Logan and Jessi Miley-Dyer are but minutes away from taking the stage at SXSW in Austin, Texas in order to praise themselves for “Surfing’s Swell of Success and the Business Behind it.” It will, no doubt, be a fascinating panel discussion, also featuring Jadson Andre (who might need a wellness check), with much talk of vectors, synergies and ladders.

Absolutely wonderful and very deserved but while the two poobahs, and Andre, are toasting Barefoot Chardonnays over Beyond Meat ribblets, rage is boiling south of the border, down in surfing’s birthplace Peru. For it is there that the announcement has just come across the wire that the South America region is losing yet another qualification spot, one that will return to Santa Monica, after losing a qualification spot just last year.

Per Surf Place Peru (translated):

Imagine struggling for 1 year to qualify, taking into account that there are only 8 spots. Imagine training, making sacrifices and spending money to do the tour and just one day before the start of the last event of the season, knowing that you need X result to get into the top 8, they tell you that now there are only 7 spots. Imagine being that surfer who finishes eighth and loses the Challengers Series. That is happening with surfing in the South American region.

Word of the sudden change, the day before the qualifying series event, came via a WhatsApp message to the surfers as WSL LatAm “confirms the wild card invitation due to injury to Brazilian Mateus Herdy, who finished the CS 2022 season in position 22. Therefore, the 2022-23 regional ranking will classify 7 surfers for CS 2023 after Layback Pro Floripa.”

Herdy, in must be noted, participated in the entire Championship Tour from May to November while not appearing hurt in any way.

The South American region had 10 qualifying spots back in 2022, a number now maliciously eroded by imperialists.

Request for comment from the World Surf League went unanswered, as Logan and Miley-Dyer are extremely busy trying on ironic cowboy hats and pointing finger guns at each other, but Surf Place Peru asked:

– Why was it decided to take a spot from the South American region when the official WSL regulations state that there are 8 spots for the region?

– Do you think it is fair that the South American surfers have to find out this decision one day before the last event of the season?

– Why is an injury wildcard given to a surfer who hasn’t been injured?

– Why has the first QS 5000 (the most important of the regional tour) been scheduled on the same date as the Pan American Games?

Time for a revolution?

Live stream! Comment in real time, Rip Curl Pro Portugal, “Bloody and riveting!”

Slick and tricky!

"The bald look intimidates people. Short and nasty."

“King of the Waves” Julian Wilson debuts jaw-dropping “Mr Clean” look on Instagram, “Anyone can be confident with a full head of hair. But a confident bald man – there’s your diamond in the rough!”

“I had a Gollywog mop of beautiful right brown curls with sun-bleached tips. It’s hard to believe now, but I once had trouble running fingers or a brush through it.” 

The Australian Olympian Julian Wilson whose new multi-functional clothing brand Rivvia Projects has raised eyebrows with its tight poom-poom shorts and radically aggressive off-the-shoulder tees, has debuted his dramatic transformation from hirsute Prince Valiant to a wild looking Mr Clean on Instagram. 

“What’s interesting is a man with no facial hair is less intimidating than a man with facial hair, and a man who is bald is more intimidating than a man with hair.”

After a brave decade-long fight, Wilson, who is thirty-four and a former world number two, threw in the towel on Friday, joining the ranks of bald surfers which include the greatest of all time, Kelly Slater, the Brazilian Jadson Andre, 2001 world champ CJ Hobgood, Nathan Hedge and Pipe Master Jake Paterson.

“I had a Gollywog mop of beautiful right brown curls with sun-bleached tips,” recalled Paterson some years back. “It’s hard to believe now, but I once had trouble running fingers or a brush through it.” 

With baldness comes a caveat, however. 

“Bald isn’t like being ethnic or disabled,” warned the critic AA Gill. “Everyone can and will make jokes about it and expect you to laugh good-naturedly, which you will.


“Anyone can be confident with a full head of hair,” says Larry David. “But a confident bald man – there’s your diamond in the rough.”

Sexy Jackie, left, and sweet, vulnerable Pip.

Post-Pipeline and Pre-Portugal Power Rankings, “Filipe Toledo’s transient helplessness reminds us of his little boy charm and sweet vulnerability!”

A freaky rogue's gallery of sex-pots with rattlesnake instincts!

Stuff happened in Hawaii that surprised… no one.

Jack won Pipe, leaving his usual rope of dried semen on the world’s chin, and brave little Pip, the reigning world champ although with an asterisk, won Sunset thus completing his transmogrification from wide-eyed lamb to beefy shouldered big-wave stud.

A lot of dross surfed both contests.

35. Ramzi Boukhiam
: Missing both Hawaii events, Ramzi has accrued 530 points, approximately the same amount one might have expected him to earn had he competed anyway… that’s not true, even the next guy on the list made it through a heat. Whatever, still out injured for Portugal, Ramzi is looking down a potential 2022 Liam O’Brien season, where he is cut before healthy enough to compete.

34. Maxime Huscenot:
 Since it was established in 1635,  l’Académie Française has existed as the elitist, state-sponsored outfit responsible for the regulation of all matters of the French language to make sure it does not become corrupted. While it seems stupid to have an official body whose main function is to be responsible for maintaining the purity of a language, I think it would be good if someone created an organisation that could regulate which people we get to watch on Tour. Such an organization would have snuffed Maxime a long time ago.

33. Jadson Andre: 
Injured for Sunset and not going to make Portugal, it is a little sad to see Jaddy in dead last with Ramzi. Only yesterday he was taking to the air and collecting Aussie and American scalps, serving as an omen, along with ADS, of a Brazilian Anti-Style takeover of surfing. While that didn’t happen (Pip and Gabe and Italo swooped into the light), it is fun to reminisce about and laugh at how stupid our past selves were.

32. K-Hole Andino: 
Speaking of the stupidity of our past selves, surfing’s collective past self was apparently super retarded thinking K-Hole was ever a World Title threat. Two straight losses in the Round of 32 to start the year, K-Hole will be looking to simply stay on Tour by Margs time.

31. Michael Rodrigues: 
My name is what?

30. Zeke Lau: With a game tighter than mosquito pussy, ain’t no reason Zeke gonna languish here in gurgling silence.

29. Jake Marshall: 
Two straight 17ths sees Jakey on the wrong side of the knife heading into Portugal. Nerve racking for him considering Sunset represents his best chance of success, but not something he can’t come back from. He surfed decently in Hawaii, made a couple waves at Pipe (an improvement on last year) and got hosed by the judges in favor of Ol’ King Jimmy at Sunset. Long shot, but maybe.

28. Kelly Slater
: As Hawaii proved this year, Kelly needs good waves to perform. Will be tough to watch should he be cut after Margs, all commentary duties should be gifted to Kelly. It will be fun to listen to him constantly relating everything going on in the water to a random heat he had during some contest no one remembers all while trying to one up himself.

27. Jackson Baker: 
Four sub-10 total heats in Hawaii, one could argue that Jackson had a bad showing… well, he did, he got two 17ths, but he did happen to put together a very overinflated 15.00 total against Kanoa in the Round of 32 at Sunset and lost. That, coupled with his look suggesting he’s going to offer me a sarsaparilla at some Old West saloon, I was really tempted to lift him a little higher, but his claims knock him down a couple pegs. Why is everyone claiming every wave? Even wobble fuck turns like Jackson’s were claimed. Gross.

26. Rio Waida: 
After an impressive ninth at Pipe (even after discounting his juiced 7.0 in Round of 32), I was excited to see how he would do at Sunset. Even making one heat, his Elimination Round one against Zeke, I was thoroughly unimpressed, mostly due his overselling the interference.

25. Connor O’Leary
: Shit the bed in Hawaii, leading to the concern that he could possibly not requalify for the Tour via the Tour. If the judging criteria was head size, Connor would be guaranteed perpetual participation.

24. Barron Mamiya
: Did you know that Barron likes to ride smaller boards like 6’2”s out at Sunset? Oh, you did! Well, of course you did, because the commentators wouldn’t button up about the dudes riding smaller boards at those vague specifications (6’2”s) during the comp. Speaking of, it’s always funny to hear old has beens talk about modern competitors riding the wrong equipment, like them using the old farts’ boards of yesteryear would allow them to hack the waves to pieces like they never did.

23. Ryan Callinan: 
Seems to exist only for the elite guys to devour and/or trip up against.

22. Kanoa Igarashi
: Sometimes I feel bad for disliking particular people. And, in some instances, I feel so bad that I end up somewhat liking them just to troll myself. When it comes to the case of disliking Kanoa, I haven’t decided whether that should apply. Perhaps it his complete lack of charm or his self-aware insistence on making being annoying his whole personality as a mechanism to mute any real criticism of his persona/antics by saying claiming it’s just who he is that rubs me the wrong way. Expect him to be a standout in Portugal, but Hawaii kind of sucked for him.

21. Liam O’Brien
: To steal a Derek Riellyism, ooooooweeee, Liam blew up in Hawaii! He didn’t really, but he did make the QF at Pipe, which should bolster his requalification chances enough to where he won’t have to surf the Challenger Series. Would be a cool turnaround for Mr. Physics to stick after having his leg amputated last year.

20. Callum Robson
: Last year’s winner of the Morgan Cibilic Award for Inexplicable Aussie Tour success, Callum did not surf well in Hawaii, never cracking 10-point combined heat total (peaking at 8.33 in the Round of 32 at Sunset). Not entirely his fault that his scores sucked, as the waves were garbage when he surfed.

19. Samuel Pupo: 
I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to Sammy boy, not for anything I have written about him directly, but in that in my last installment, I referred to Callum as having won Rookie-of-the-Year last year, when it was in fact Samuelsan.

18. Ian Gentil
: Watching midgets all day, it can be a little disorienting seeing a comparatively taller, lanky dude ride the same waves, especially someone like Ian, whose arms sometimes look like he’s practicing taekwondo blocks, specifically the olgul makki technique. I’m looking forward to seeing Gentil take on the fat, slopey rights of Bells, which should provide enough of an open canvas to see him in all his potentially gawky glory.

17. Matthew McGillivray: 
A last-place finish at Pipe and a quarterfinal finish at Sunset has Matty all by his lonesome in the number 15 spot on Tour. Spicy stuff.

16. Miguel Pupo
: Miggy’s rated eighth on the WSL rankings, but only 16th here? Yeah, but only because like having a crush on someone you see often but who you’re unsure about whether they’d share in those same feelings, I must protect myself and keep my distance/keep playing things too subtly, so as to avoid looking like a fool should everything go sideways.

15. Jordan Michael Smith
: Almost no matter what the result is that comes from his performances, Jordan manages to simultaneously surprise and be predictable. He makes a quarterfinals at Pipe? Well, he certainly has the talent, but he also generally underperforms. He gets a 17th at Sunset, a place where he should dominate? Well, he’s a bit of bonehead when it comes to competing, but surfs too well for that to happen.

14. Nat Young: 
Hate to do this, but I am just going to say that I like Natty’s surfing on his backhand. Powerful, horizontal, and repetitive in the vein of Occy, it is strangely compelling. Did I just compare another goofyfooter’s backside to Occy? Put me in the booth.

13. Seth Moniz
: Another great start in Hawaii for Set…. Wait, he got two ninths but is rated eighth? Motherfucker.

12. Caio Ibelli: As well as being sneaky good at surfing, much better than you ever remember him being, he must have a top-notch personality or undisclosed personal wealth.

11. Leonardo Fioravanti: After failing to make the cut last year, he’s already requalified for next year this year. Motherfucker in the Seth Moniz sense.

10. Carlos Muñoz: 
Placed here only to keep Leonardo from making it into the Top 10. Had to do it… on second thought…

9. Italo Ferreira: 
Shitty start for everyone’s favorite TV DEA agent, Ike will pick up steam in Portugal where anything less than a semi would be truly shocking.

8. Yago Dora: 
Unlucky to meet a rampaging Baby Chumbo at Sunset, Yago didn’t start the year as anyone expected. Do I care? Fuck no, Reincarnated-But-More-Electric-Gerry-Lopez is awesome.

7. Ethan Ewing
: A disappointing result at Pipe, followed by a to-be expected performance at Sunset (a quarterfinal finish), I have nothing to other to offer about Ethan’s surfing outside saying he’s well rounded enough to get results anywhere except T’poo, held among the favorites at Bells, Margs, El Salvador, and J-Bey.

6. John John Florence
: When John John is on, like during his Round of 16 heat against Miguel Pupo at Pipe, it seems hardly fathomable that anyone else could win a World Title. The problem is that sometimes his talent can be so overwhelming (just bask in it) and his ability to make the impossible look so thoroughly easy that when he’s surfing more pedestrianly, he’ll be underscored. In his OF with Jack, he was underscored, while Jack, due to his innate ability to make both hard and easy things look hard and radical (ala early-aughts Andy Irons), surfed no better but won with almost a point to spare.

5. Gabriel Medina: 
Two ninths ain’t so great, but he’ll make the cut, win at the Kook Pond or at Chopes, and snatch the number one seed for Lowers.

4. Joao Chianca: 
Picking up where he left off at Pipe last year, Joao surfed as if fizzing with electricity, this time making it to the semis before losing to Golden Boy. He followed that up with a semi at Sunset, a mixture of Filipe Toledo and Tyler Wright (too many laybacks). With these performances, especially at Sunset, he’s already requalified for next year. Without the stress of possibly being cut, it’ll be fun to see him pack barrels at Teahupoo and put it on rail everywhere else to try to push into Finals Day.

3. Griffin Colapinto
: I admire Griffin. Watching him interact in post-heat interviews and video clips, I always had the sense that Griffin felt uncomfortable in his own skin, which he admitted to in Episode 6 of the latest season of Make or Break. What’s interestingt and what I kind of admire, is how he decided to deal with those feelings, by acting sincerely, which is almost completely opposite to how I’ve dealt with my own issues of inadequacy and self-doubt. Sure, I probably am reading way too much even into that supposed revelation via Griff… anyway, after a poor result at Pipe, he got back on track at Sunset, surfing like the mega talent he is.

2. Jack Robinson: 
Fantastic performances from Robbo in Hawaii, with a win at Pipe and semi at Sunset, has him sitting in the top slot with the yellow jersey heading to Europe and looking “ominous,” as Aussie commentators would say (to quote Inigo Montoya, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means”). The most amazing part of his Hawaiian contest adventure was his record-breaking feat of riding-the-most-waves-on-Tour-without-being-underscored-on-a-single-one-to-start-a-career at Sunset. Through Sunset, across all competitions since 2013, Jack has now ridden 461 consecutive waves without once being underscored. Miraculous, especially since it is the longest to start a career and has only been eclipsed by one Mick Fanning, who owns the overall consecutive record at 601, put together in the late-aughts/2010s using just three turns. Will he ever catch Mick? If Pritamo has anything to say about it, he will.

1. Filipe Toledo
: Pippy’s transient helplessness reminds us of his little boy charm and sweet vulnerability. Winning at Sunset, Pippy proved once again that he is the best surfer on-rail on Tour. In second position with Pipe gone, look for him to seal up a spot for Trestles by El Salvador on his way to becoming a two-time defending champ.