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.”

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.