Unfancied Australian melts brains of surf fans with first perfect ten-point ride of the season at “crazy dangerous” Portugal Pro! “If I could have worn an inflation vest, I would have!”

"A war of attrition," said Kelly Slater.

The surfers who won today will skew their impression of the day in favour of the rare opportunities it presented.

Those that lost will hate Portugal right now. They’ll hate the pernicious winds and tides. Hate the closeouts and brutal rips. Hate the cold.

Hate that it’s yet another place where Brazil reigns supreme.

It was a workmanlike day. Not necessarily an ideal day for a surfing competition in the eyes of most, but a day with waves nonetheless.

“A war of attrition,” said Kelly Slater.

It opened to four stacked elimination heats in testing conditions.

Caio Ibelli called it “crazy, dangerous”. He’d had the worst wipeout of his life in competition. “If I could have an inflation vest, I would,” he said after winning his heat with a mere 7.57 points.

We lost Kolohe Andino, Federico Morais, Zeke Lau and Maxime Huscenot.

Andino cuts a sorry figure on Tour these days and never looks like winning anymore, regardless of conditions. Needing a 1.98 to advance through his heat, he caught a knee-high foamy insider and couldn’t even stay on his feet to finish it.

He scored a 1.73, and deserved nothing more.

Federico Morais threw a hissy fit of epic proportions, losing to Kanoa and Slater. I’m sure he felt it was a valuable opportunity lost, being his home event, but the ferocity with which he punched his board was striking to the point of embarrassing.

And there must be some sympathy for French rookie Huscenot. If not for Callum Robson’s late miracle wave, he would have gone through. He was on the QS forever trying to get here. Back he goes.


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But despite the opportunity for upsets, all the names advanced, and in the end the only surprise was Callum Robson’s stupendous ten as the heat ebbed away.

He spun on a wave that seemed to rise from nowhere. A tube as thick as it was tall spat like a Targaryen dragon trying to incinerate the Aussie chippy, yet he emerged from the fury for an undeniable perfect score.

It was the first ten of the year, and the best wave we would see all day by some margin. The Yeti cooler he gets as a reward won’t just be a fucker to lug back on the plane, and the apex of cheesy WSL gimmickry, but is actually quite demeaning in the context of that wave.

Going on hold immediately after this would seem like a bizarre decision on paper, but it was probably the right one. Renato Hickel delivered a “man vs nature” mantra and told us the tide was too low.

Water patrol skis were bottoming out and it was too dangerous.

When we returned at 1300 to commence the round of 32 the tide had filled in a bit and things had cleaned up, just a little.

The overlapping heat format was employed, less to take advantage of good conditions, and more because the waiting period is dwindling away.

The draw looked imbalanced from the outset and still does. At some point I need to unpick the methodology of this. I know it’s seeding dependent, but with Robinson, Florence, Ferreira, Medina and Colapinto on one side, it sure doesn’t look right.

To my eye, there were three main upsets in the fourteen heats completed, and little to write home about as a whole.

The first was our reigning world champ losing to Joan Duru. Though on European soil and heavy beachbreak, which Duru is sneaky good in, perhaps it’s not much of a surprise. Joan only caught three waves, but Toledo couldn’t find any of the clean water he prefers.

The second (minor) upset was Sammy Pupo producing late heroics to bump Kanoa Igarashi from the competition, despite having an eight point ride in his scoreline.

Kanoa has still not found his rhythm this year, and Portugal being more or less his home event, this was the place we might expect him to get into his groove.

By contrast, on evidence of his fledgling career to date, Sammy Pupo seems rarely out of rhythm.

In Pupo, Chianca and Dora we already have three more Brazilians with few weaknesses who might just be contenders at some point.

They just keep coming, like a zombie hoard.

There’s a real opportunity for points in the first half of the draw. Critical points, too, with the cut looming. One of the following four will make the semi-final in Portugal: Joan Duru, Ian Gentil, Callum Robson and Sammy Pupo.

Another sparky rookie in Rio Waida was responsible for the third upset in dispatching John Florence from the competition. It was a scrappy heat, with Waida’s paltry 9.30 good enough over Florence’s 9.17.

Both are much better than this, but every heat that Florence loses in this way feels precarious. We’re early in the season, of course, and I couldn’t claim to know anything of John Florence’s wants or desires, but I do know we want him to stick around at the business end of competitions.

On paper, and given consistent waves, the tastiest heat in this round was Joao Chianca’s match-up with Slater.

Strider noted that Kelly had been disgruntled with Chianca pre-heat, presumably for his over-exuberance in the competitor’s area. He needed to “calm down” apparently, evidence perhaps of both Kelly’s seniority and Chianca’s polarising personality.

In the water Chianca was composed enough to stitch together some mid-sixes, which more often than not are enough to beat Slater these days. Kelly did have the highest wave score of the heat with a 7.33, but with a couple of mins remaining, too late was the cry.

Notable was a small tube Chianca muscled into with a double arm drag, then out of with brute force. It came on a wave that Kelly wanted, which likely would have given him the score he needed.

Two heats remain before the round of 16. With no disrespect to Jackson Baker or Seth Moniz, all eyes will be on Medina and Colapinto.

And there were many, many eyes in attendance at Supertubos today, proving, as if it needed proven, that the European leg is critical for fan engagement.

The WSL is often guilty of hyping the crowds that aren’t there, but the drone angle revealed a beach thick with punters. I’d question the 40,000 number Kaipo threw out, and I’d question the fact that many were gathered on the fragile dunes rather than the beach, but it was certainly a substantial and welcome support, as noted by some of the athletes.

This crowd will thin out midweek, no doubt, but the forecast is not without promise that we might yet see some classic Supertubos before the work is done.

In Portugal, as in surfing, there is always the promise of something more.

The Last Conference. @Instagram
The Last Conference. @Instagram

World Surf League chiefs Erik Logan, Jessi Miley-Dyer suffer indignity at much ballyhooed SXSW; Forced to deliver inspiring talk on “massive success” in hideous hotel room reeking of stale coffee and shattered multilevel marketing dreams!

Clown car.

Well that did not turn out the way it was supposed to, now, did it. For but days ago, World Surf League chiefs (of executives Erik Logan, of sport Jessi Miley-Dyer) were busily patting themselves on the back, heavy, for being invited to speak at hipster conference SXSW as part of a thrilling panel discussion on “surfing’s swell of success and the business behind it.”

Jadson Andre, ever a masochist, was invited too.

Logan declared he left rehab and flew to Austin from Brazil in order to listen to chat about “vectors” etc.

Pure torture.

Now, there is no audio, yet, but the whole scenario appears to be very much a bummer for all involved. I don’t know what was expected, but what was delivered was a tiny hotel community room, a hastily assembled backdrop, light attendance, fluorescent lighting and depression hanging heavy.

Probably stale coffee somewhere in the hall.

A lost lanyard somewhere.

Examine this still life.

The Last Conference.

But you have, at some point in your life attended, or been adjacent to, an insurance gathering at some hotel or another, no? Surfing’s “swell of success” and that “business behind it” make those agents look positively giddy.

Study Miley-Dyer’s face.

Really study it.

To think they could have been in Portugal watching heavy favorites bleed.


Slater (pictured) mid shade. Photo: WSL broadcast.
Slater (pictured) mid shade. Photo: WSL broadcast.

Breitling ambassador Kelly Slater throws serious shade on Apple Watch after being eliminated from MEO Rip Curl Pro: “I didn’t know what I needed, my watch didn’t update the heat scores or whatever…”

"Death to the robot."

If there is one thing corporations should worry about it is neither insolvency nor having all assets planted in Silicon Valley Bank. No. It is hopping into bed with the World Surf League. The “global home of surfing” rolled out an exciting new partnership at the beginning of the 2023 Championship Tour season, announcing that it had partnered with Apple Watch as the “official wearable.” Like all things Santa Monica touches, though, turns to dust.

From being refused by Olympic gold medalist Carissa Moore to bad-mouthed live by Leonardo Fioravanti, the tech giant had no idea what hit it.

And now?

The world’s most popular surfer Kelly Slater just credited the world’s leading wrist computer for leading to his elimination from the MEO Rip Curl Pro and possible end of career.

Ever gracious, Slater gave an interview at the end of the day and did not seem glum even though his entire legacy is on the line. He recounted the waves ridden during his heat, all of them and even the overlapping one, with Rainman-like efficiency before coming to a moment when he either let Joan Duru take a wave or Joan Duru simply took a wave and then shaded the Apple Watch, very quickly, for not updating scores on time.

He would be one step closer to the Olympics if not for Cupertino.


You certainly know that Slater is an ambassador for luxury watch Breitling. Decidedly not a computer, his Superocean features centuries of tinkering and an eco-friendly band (buy here). It’s honestly a wonder that the surf legend even strapped on an Apple Watch to begin with but was it all for this moment?

To highlight the superiority of the Swiss?

A gorgeous mountainside chalet would so fit the 11x champion in retirement. Cowbells dinging while he goes out for strolls in the clover.

Have you ever been to Switzerland?

You’re missing out.

Chum. Photo: WSL
Chum. Photo: WSL

Sunday Bloody Sunday at Supertubos as icon Kelly Slater, brave coward Filipe Toledo, “best surfer in the world” John John Florence and other heavy favorites massacred!

The most brutal cull in professional surfing's long and important history?

Well who would have guessed, waking up on this first day of daylight savings in these United States, that an absolute massacre was happening across the Atlantic there at Supertubos. Sunday Bloody Sunday. The Portuguese waves, described as “massive” by Kaipo Guerrero, “powerful” by Jesse Mendes, utterly decimated the draw.

No quarter.

Death began in the morning with surf great Kelly Slater falling to Joao Chianca in heat 4 and nearing that dreaded cut line. Slater began the season with big dreams, imagining that he could just might sneak onto the United States Olympic Team and end his career in golden fashion at Teahupo’o. Alas, it looks instead as he will fade away after Margaret River only to reappear for the next ten years as an increasingly annoying wildcard. A few quick notes. I used to applaud Slater’s refusing to retire. His thumbing his nose at fate but now? It seems profoundly sad. A man who knows nothing but professional surf competition. A scary emptiness spreading out over the horizon. The 11x World Champion’s singular accomplishments are not diminished but witnessing an icon, a legend, caught at his desk job because he’s afraid of change is a human, all too human, moment that was frankly unneeded.

Current world number two, and sitting champion*, Filipe Toledo came undid by lightly-regarded Frenchman Joan Duru, next, netting a heat total of 6.17. The largess of the surf, I’d imagine, had something to do with it though I did not catch the heat. Toledo is well-known for his small wave magic. When it gets big, though, his nerve fails, knees quake, arms refuse to paddle. The San Clemente transplant will head to Australia without fear of the guillotine but Teahupo’o is still on the calendar. Lurking.

Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi, who began the season with title dreams, became unstuck by one of the Pupos, Jordy Smith fell to R. Cal and, maybe most shockingly, John John Florence bowed before Indonesian upstart Rio Waida. Paul Evans, Pete Mel and Strider Wasilewski, sitting in the booth and a commentary dream team, could not believe their eyes. Florence broke his board on a duck dive at the beginning of the heat and then looked confused, lost. Cursed by the World Surf League? A video spot advertising the glories of Portugal was aired before his heat featuring Blonde Ambition and it was… not good. Florence saying, “Uhhh the ocean is raw here. Pretty cool, I guess.”

Well, a full wrap will be yours, soon, from an in-prime JP Currie but until then let’s, again, count the scalps. Kolohe Andino (in the elimination round), Kelly Slater, Filipe Toledo, Kanoa Igarashi, Jordy Smith, John John Florence. Andino and Slater in real danger of falling off tour.


Live stream! Comment in real time as Kelly Slater fights for Olympic Dream in elimination round at Rip Curl Pro Portugal!

“I don't want to die without any scars.”