Kolohe Andino this year? Last? Ten ago? Very similar. Photo: WSL

Day One of the Rip Curl Pro, conducted in mediocre wind-affected conditions, sees “an assorted collection of has-beens, never-quite-weres and never-will-bes” advancing as the dreaded guillotine looms!

Settle in, folks. We may be here awhile.

A challenging day, personally. There’s always the chance that this sort of gig, moonlight flitting, of uncertain start and end times but certain unsociable hours, would butt up against other plans and life events. So it is today.

When competition was called on at 2330 GMT I’d just finished packing the van to drive to a ferry in just over five hours time.

A planned family holiday was now going to be a solo surf trip. The reasons why are not worth recounting here.

And I was getting sick. Sore throat, tiredness and aches. It’s been doing the rounds.

Fine, I thought. I’ll manage. I’ll watch the first couple of heats to take the temperature of the day, forgo sleep if I need to. Otherwise I’ll put the YouTube stream on for the drive to catch what I’ve missed (Highland roads are quiet at that time of the morning), catch up with the rest on the ferry, make a start on the writing, then crack out the rest in the back of the van when I get there.

My writing conditions today are best described in the same manner as the surf conditions at Winkipop, sufficient but inglorious.

Let me paint you a little picture of my current setting. I’m on the ferry. At my back the Atlantic shimmers and thrums with the promise of swell and favourable winds for the next few days. But I can’t see any of that, because I am sitting on a backless stool, facing a mini-cubicle lacquered in some pale appropriation of wood grain. And I am sitting here because I need to write about professional surfing, and because soon I will have no way of charging my laptop in the van, nor assurances that I will have enough phone signal to do anything with it.

The man next to me, not thirteen inches to my right and separated only by a ten-inch-high privacy screen on the desk, is not writing about professional surfing. Whatever he is doing, it involves lots of talking to himself, twitching wildly and swearing. “Come on to fuck, man”, he is saying. Then “Ya fuckin dancer”, in a seemingly dramatic change of tone and fortune. “Get tae fuck!”

But that’s fine. The twitching is disconcerting, but I’ll soldier on and hope he doesn’t glance over and see I’m writing about him. And the swearing is not the worst thing. The worst thing is that he’s ginger. Not red-haired, not auburn, not strawberry blonde, just plain, minging ginger. He’s likely in his twenties, has a skin fade haircut that shows off ginger freckles on his scalp, and has the kind of translucent skin that would turn pink as a pomegranate with just the glance of a UV ray. An unfortunate example of a human. He’s dressed in worky trousers, the ones with loops hanging off for tools with reinforced knees. “Fucking dickhead”, he’s saying now. “You fucking dickhead”, he says, then hums tuneless hums.

If you’re reading this he didn’t kill me.

On the other side of the world, competition commenced at Winki in mediocre, often wind affected conditions, which lent themselves to two or three turns in non-critical sections and the potential for mostly-forced airs on the end section for those with that in their locker.

Griffin Colapinto has that bag. Extending the form he showed in Portugal, Colapinto looked smooth and composed in his opener, but with enough technicality to wow the judges. He seems to get more relaxed by the day. He’s onto something this year, Colapinto, and I’m buying it.

By contrast, Zeke Lau will face yet another elimination round. Unless it runs in quality Bells Bowl, I’d guess, once again, he’s not long for this world of pro surfing. Neither the hapless Maxime Huscenot, Barron Mamiya, Jake Marshall, Kelly Slater or Carlos Munoz. For a variety of reasons, all of these surfers will take up their regular slots in the elimination round, and likely all will be cut after Margaret River.

Leaving of his own accord is Owen Wright, opting for retirement after falling off Tour last year and competing here as the sponsor’s wildcard. Wright’s career doesn’t feel like it panned out the way most of us might have imagined, given how memorable some of his performances were, but he made headway towards a fitting retirement party today by winning his opening heat over Ian Gentil and Filipe Toledo.

I can see Wright at the business end of this competition, carried by a tide of well-wishing and vigorous backhand turns that seem to spray carefree recklessness into the air. I’d love to see it, especially if we go to the Bowl.

Alongside Wright, an assorted collection of has-beens, never-quite-weres and never-will-bes advanced.

Michael Rodrigues and Jordy Smith sent Callum Robson to the elimination round, despite Robson leading for most of the heat. For my money, the wave that turned it for Smith was horrendously overscored.

Future journeymen Ryan Callinan and Jackson Baker made their way to the Round of 32. The former did it with some snappy backhand surfing, the latter like a raging flamingo.

I’m sure that seems like a slight, calling them future journeymen, and I suppose it is. I happen to enjoy the surfing of both men immensely, but as always with this game, and especially in the current format, there are two tiers, and neither are in the tier marked Potential World Champion.

Once, though it’s hard to believe now, Kolohe Andino was in this tier. He topped the list of renaissance men today by winning his heat against stiff opposition in O’Leary and Ferreira.

How long since Kolohe won a heat? In his post heat interview Andino indicated his desire to requalify through the CS, should he fall off Tour. “It feels like I’ve been on Tour forever”, he said. “But I’m not even thirty yet.” Staggering but true.

Two men on the cusp of the top tier are Yago Dora and Sammy Pupo, who surfed superbly, given the ordinary conditions. Both men are dynamic, solid on their feet, and retain the potential to thrill. But of course, they’re from the finest surfing nation on earth.

Robinson, Medina and Florence all looked good today, as they should. And Kanoa finally surfed the heat he’s been looking for.

Post heat interviews with our current top five surfers, all of whom advanced, were adorned with the worst WSL graphic in some time, informing us they’d Made The Cut.

I know some people still don’t want to hear it, but The Cut works. These opening round heats seem meaningful, and that has both improved the entertainment value of pro surfing, and gone some way to improving the major issues of comps and heats being slow or inconsequential.

What a point of difference, too, between the commentary teams today. It was particularly apparent since I was driving and more reliant on audio than usual. Bugs might be a lovable vet, but he offers little in the way of insight. Turpel’s major problem, as is well documented, is that his tone never changes. I’m sure in his head he’s the smoothest cat in the booth, skipping from segue to segue without pausing for breath. But the problem is it just becomes noise. Half-stories and poorly executed anecdotes, all in the same, flat tone.

Heartbreak, humour, joy, pity…it’s all the same to Joe.

Thankfully, Ronnie and Richie were refreshingly competent.

The ferry has docked, the disgusting ginger man has gone, and the sun shines. I’ll be camped out in my van, hoping for a few lay days, but dedicated to the cause all the same.


Surf buddha Sam George guides readers of adult safe space website The Inertia to precipice of ecstasy by officially cancelling secret spots!

"I think you’d better know that my current motto here at the mag is..."

The sun rose in Southern California, this morning, with the region’s Subaru-driving 7S Superfish enthusiasts near ecstasy. Certainly there was reason for sads. Kelly Slater, a great hero even though he has recently allied with toxic male Kid Rock, has been forced into the elimination round at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach with the end of an illustrious career one Connor O’Leary x Carlos Munoz loss away. And new favorite surf scribe Emily Morgan had been brutally disappeared by Surfer magazine’s new robot regime but a bright light still emanated in their very souls.

High vibrations.

For Buddha-like Sam George had, once more, dawned the door of surfing and outdoor enthusiasm’s safest space, The Inertia, in order to officially cancel secret spots.

Back in 2003 I got the call that just about every other surfer in the world dreamed of: an invitation to join the Quiksilver Crossing, and a berth on the Indies Trader as it made its way down the largely unknown coast of Nicaragua. Granted, I was editor of SURFER magazine at the time, yet it was still to be like no other surf trip I’d ever experienced. Not exploring a remote coast by boat — I’d been fortunate enough to do that a number of times before — but for being asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement before joining the ship.

“While the basic route is outlined,” read the project’s official website. “no specific references are given in regards to surf spots. Everyone connected with the project respects keeping known and unknown surf spots a mystery.”

Everyone but me. Seeing as how on my watch at the top of SURFER’s masthead, my editorial policy concerning exotic travel stories was to place the trip on a map without necessarily drawing a map, I took exception to this particular ethic.

“That sounds great,” I said, in discussion with Martin Daly, the eminently colorful and opinionated skipper of the Indies Trader. “You want us to reveal the place, promote the place to the benefit of Quiksilver’s brand, but not say where it is. I think you’d better know that my current motto here at the mag is, ‘Death To Secret Spots.’”

After the world’s most important explorer George owned Daly, the piece meanders sensually through a history of exclusion, un-chill behaviors, etc. and back to the preeminent guru’s original position that “secret spots” are bad but, and here’s the orgasm… he wants fellow safe spacers to weigh in. Wants to nestle their voice next to his.

Hit the comment section and let us know how you feel about constantly being shown sponsored surfers riding perfect, empty waves and not being told where they are. Are you inspired? Irritated? Indifferent? Here’s your chance to speak your mind, with your opinion perhaps being one of those featured in the upcoming ”Death To Secret Spots: Part 2”. So stay tuned.

Glory be.


"Get this guy sent home where he belongs," says Kelly Slater.

Surf world explodes and vengeance promised as Brazilian surfer beats hell out of talented female pro Sara Taylor in Bali and Kelly Slater doxxes alleged attacker, “Get this guy!”

“Why? That’s so ugly! People are crazy!” says Gabriel Medina.

The surfing world has exploded this morning after Sara Taylor, a stylish American goofyfooter currently on vacay in Bali, posted video of a Brazilian surfer attacking her ostensibly over a two-foot wave.

“After being dropped in on on my first wave, the guy’s friend punched me in the head and then after being confronted about hitting me, he attacked Charlie on the beach for filming him,” writes Taylor. “This is insane, does anyone know who they are?”

 

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A post shared by sara taylor (@salad_tray)

A who’s who from the surf and skate world, including world champion surfers Gabriel Medina and Mick Fanning, as well as skate icons Ed Templeton, Tony Alva, weighed in on the stoush. 

“What weak humans,” said Fanning. 

“Why? That’s so ugly! People are crazy!” wrote Medina. 

Following a post from the skater Nora Vasconcellos, Ed Templeton wrote, “Anyone know these dorks?”

And, Alva, “Lock ‘em up!” 

 

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A post shared by Nora Vasconcellos (@noravexplora)

Kelly Slater, meanwhile, doxxed the alleged attacker @jp_azevedosurf writing, “Get this guy sent home where he belongs.”

Thousands of other comments follow a similar theme with some, notably Brazilian surfers embarrassed by the incident, promising an imminent vengeance.


Open Thread: Comment Live, Day One of the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach where it’s finally time for surf fans to make animal noises!

Come watch Kelly Slater surf while you can!


"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore." Photo: World Surf League

Economic anthropologists marvel as ticket prices for upcoming Surf Ranch Pro slashed by over 80% from inaugural run five years ago!

THE MOMENTUM IS REAL.

We live in wild times, this much is absolutely certain, what with ex-Presidents becoming indicated and/or indicted, staunchly unaligned Scandinavian countries lining up to join NATO, banks collapsing and inflation eating savings’ accounts like a hungry hungry hippo.

Yes, money around the world is worth less and less, able to buy fewer and fewer items for more and more dollars, pesos, lbs, euros, etc.

Less and less, fewer and fewer for more and more outside of the magical wooden gates surrounding Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California, that is, for there an economic miracle has occurred.

The first Surf Ranch Pro, you will certainly recall, kicked off in 2018. It was summer, if I recall. Gas cost around $2.50 a gallon, a loaf of bread enjoyed for $1.29, a shave and a haircut for two bits and the aforementioned Surf Ranch Pro could be taken in all weekend for $199 per person.

A smashing deal considering the amount of live professional surfing, music, Michelob Ultra that was on hand.

Alas, simpler times. Some might argue better.

But we can’t live in the past, no, we must play the hand that Jerome Powell, and global financial crises, have dealt us. Gas soaring to nearly $5.00 a gallon, bread touching that mark too (organic), shaves and haircuts both sacrificed so the children can eat but the Surf Ranch Pro?

Well, the Surf Ranch Pro 2023 weekend pass runs a mind-meltingly low $39.00 for adults, $19.50 for Groms.

An over 80% discount from five years ago.

A financial miracle.

Economic anthropologists are certainly studying this unicorn especially in light of the wild, unprecedented growth of professional surfing. “Record breaking revenue” through the roof, vectors out of control. Is the World Surf League providing such low low prices as a salve for weary masses? Some other kindhearted reason?

THE MOMENTUM IS REAL.