Welcome to Lemoore, the jewel of California!

Surf Ranch Pro Day one, “I send Chas Smith a picture of the Tachi Palace. He writes back: ‘Welcome to hell, now go to hell'”

"I make no promises that I will watch every wave. I might get distracted by the yoga class or the SUP races. The schedule is so packed."

I’m floating on my back in the pool, staring at the sky. I can’t remember where I am or how I got here. I’m not entirely sure where here is. There’s just the pool’s cool water and the sky’s endless blue. My bikini’s blue, too.

But there’s something about a pool. It’s tickling the edge of my brain. I’m here about a pool, I remember. Not this pool, not the pool where I float aimlessly, staring at the sky — this isn’t the pool I came here to find.

Somewhere near Pismo, I almost turned around. I could go home. It’s Memorial Day weekend. I could turn around and go back to my nice life with the comfortable couch and the cute cats. Right there at Spyglass, I could have gotten off the freeway and turned back.

But I promised. Also, there was the bribery. If you go to Surf Ranch, you can buy a new board. I bribed myself. That’s the real truth right there.

Later, I run into Britt Merrick. I tell him I’m only here so I can buy a new board. He laughs at me. At least, I can make someone happy.

Reaching Paso Robles, I made the fateful turn east. There was the sign to Cambria right there. The coast, it’s so close here. But I turned east, and well, then it was entirely too late. There was no turning back.

That’s where I saw my first Trump flag truck. They’re so familiar, and yet still so strange. It’s always a pickup truck. Sometimes, the truck is flashy and expensive, the performance of being working class more than the reality. But just as often, the truck has seen some days. It’s battered and old.

An American flag. Trump 2024. There was a third flag, too, but I couldn’t see it. Is it annoying to have flags flapping in the back of your pickup? Nothing is too much for the cause.

As I drove east, the rolling green hills turned gold. There’s a lot of places in between in California. It’s not much more than 40 miles from Paso Robles to Kettleman City, but it feels like forever. I pass through the terrain twisted and torqued by San Andreas fault. Jumbled hills surround wide flatlands. I feel like I’ve driven off the edge of the map.

As I approach Kettleman City, I see a sign pointing to Los Angeles. There’s one last chance. You can still go back. Go ahead, make the turn.

I imagine my new surfboard. I stop for ice cream. Then I follow the straight line of the road.

I catch my first glimpse of the California aqueduct with rows of almond trees planted next to it. It’s nearly full. As I drive, the bypasses and channels that parallel the road brim with water. On the long, straight roads, the horizon never seems to come any closer.

The Sierra Nevada’s record snow pack has begun to melt, sending water downhill. Just south of here, the ancient Tulare Lake returns to life. Signs along the road call for more dams. Fire Newsom, they say, in reference to the current governor.

Accounts of early California describe the Central Valley as a lush wetland. The demands of thirsty cities and industrial agriculture have changed all that, but at the time, Tulare was the largest of the Valley’s lakes. In fact, it likely submerged the area of the present-day Surf Ranch.

If this were 1880, I wouldn’t have to be here. There would be no Surf Ranch. I could float in the lake and stare at the sky. If it were 1880, I could go home. It is not 1880.

One day not too long ago, I stood in chill, dry air of Santa Barbara Mission’s archive. My friend, the former archivist pulled out a drawer, and inside lay an eighteenth-century map of California. The cartographer had carefully traced out the boundaries of his known world in precise black lines.

So far, the dykes have held at this end of Tulare’s ancestral lake bed. I drive past the Surf Ranch. It’s still there. It’s not underwater. At least, not yet. My last hope dissolves.

Somehow I find my way here without consulting a map or any directions at all. I am not proud of this feat at all. It’s a sign that I’ve been here too many times.

I send Chas a picture of the Tachi Palace. He writes back: Welcome to hell, now go to hell.

I pass wildcard Alyssa Spencer in the lobby. Carrying her fresh boards with her bright blonde hair, she looks like the perfect surfer, and perfectly out of place. I recognize Gabriela Bryant, but I can’t think of her name.

My brain melted somewhere out there. Hello lost and found? Yes, I think I lost my mind. It was out there between the Trump truck and the ice cream. Think you could find it? I think I might need it.

I’m sitting in the lobby again now. There’s plenty of people to watch. João walks past with his new Red Bull hat on backwards. He heads to the coffee shop, as though he needs more energy.

Caroline Marks comes in from training with Mike Parsons at her side. Caity Simmers rushes past, and looks even smaller in person. The sprays on Gabriel Medina’s boards pop even more in person.

The slot machines sing their siren songs. Someone wins. A man visits the ATM near my table. He yells at it. This thing shorted me $20! Pulling on my headphones, I decide not to learn what happens next.

Tomorrow, the Surf Ranch gates swing open at 6am, and the men’s heats start at 7am. I can’t promise to be there when the gates open. But I will drink so much coffee and try so hard to get there before it’s too late.

Should we talk about the format? Sure, why the hell not. The opening round features four-surfer heats. The winner advances directly to the quarterfinals for men, and to the semifinals for women. The loser goes home.

At night, there’s a winner-takes-all second round. Each surfer gets two waves. The top two scores for men advance. For women, only the winner of the evening session continues.

That’s it. No second chances. No do-overs. Will there be tears? There might be tears.

I make no promises that I will watch every wave. I might get distracted by the yoga class or the SUP races. I could even go shopping! The schedule is so packed.

I could also go to the pool, float on my back, and stare at the sky.

It’s too late to turn back now. Here I am.

Welcome to hell, now go to hell.

“Staying in an Indonesian cell for a month is hard for the body and for mental [state], but considering everything, I think my health is doing good," a shackled Rigby-Jones told ABC. | Photo: 9News

Aussie surfer avoids lash in Sharia-ruled Aceh after paying injured fisherman $25,000 following alleged “violent naked drunken rampage”

"The rampage prompted an angry mob of residents to threaten to burn down the hotel.”

Ain’t no fun to fall foul of the law in Aceh, Indonesia’s western-most province, ruled as it is under that unique legal system known as Sharia law. 

In northern Sumatra Islamic law, aka Sharia, rules in morality matters which means happy homosexuals, the polyamorous, indeed anyone from the 2SLGBTQ+ community, as well as boozers, may be publicly caned. 

The caning is administered by a specially designated group of religious police known as the Wilayatul Hisbah.

These designated enforcers, wearing drab brown robes from crown to toe with slits for their eyes cut out, administer the lashes using a rattan cane. The strokes are directed at the offender’s back and, according to witnesses, the enforcers strike with a terrific force, powered I suppose by the righteousness of the holy.

The number of lashes specified by the court is usually carried out in a series of sets or rounds.

Anyway, you’ll remember four weeks ago the story of an Australian surfer who was facing a helluva storm after being arrested following a wild melee outside the exclusive Moon Beach resort on the Sumatran island of Simeulue. 

Bodhi Mani Risby-Jones, who is twenty-three and from the Queensland holiday hamlet Noosa, was “accused of an alcohol-fuelled, naked rampage outside a beachside resort that left a passer-by in hospital and prompted an angry mob of residents to threaten to burn down the hotel.”

The island’s head cop Jatmiko said Risky-Jones had been drinking vodka before emerging from his room naked. 

“The security man attempted to stop him but got hit at the neck and fell down,” alleged Jatmiko. “He then went on to the street and disturbed passers-by. He hit almost everyone who was on the street.”

Risby-Jones is also accused of hitting a motorbike rider and throwing the moto onto him after he fell into a gutter. The resulting leg wound, says the cop, needed fifty stitches. 

In retaliation, furious onlookers then tried to burn down the resort. 

A very bad situation for the kid, although the matter has now been resolved after Rigby-Jones agreed to pay the injured moto-rider twenty-five thousand Australian dollars or the equivalent of two-years salary for the man. 

Along with the twenty-five gees Risby-Jones and the Moon Beach Resort have to pay for a special “cleansing ceremony” that will involve the spectacular public slaughter of a goat, thirty kilograms of rice and spices, all of which will come out of his pocket. 

According to village chief Suhardi Fleno, the hotel in which Risby-Jones stayed, the Moon Beach Resort, is equally to blame and must restore balance to the community.

“Besides restorative justice I’d like to explain that we have a tradition here which we will do,” he said. “It is called peusijuek, meaning we must have peace with the party that we have a problem with to prevent the same problem from recurring. It’s between the village and the resort. We don’t care if Bodhi gives the money to the resort [for the goat]. But we do care about the resort and our village. Bodhi is just a guest at the resort and the guests can come and go. We must slaughter a goat.”

“Staying in an Indonesian cell for a month is hard for the body and for mental [state], but considering everything, I think my health is doing good,” a shackled Rigby-Jones told ABC.

If all goes to plan, kid will be back in Noosa in two weeks. 

Buffalo Bill (right) and Buffalo Fil (insert). Photo: Silence of the Lambs
Buffalo Bill (right) and Buffalo Fil (insert). Photo: Silence of the Lambs

Charges of “accidental sexual harassment in the workplace” plague World Surf League after CEO orders famously sensitive employee “take your shirt off!”

It puts the lotion on the skin or else it gets the hose again...

This morning started off with a bang. The World Surf League Championship Tour, as you know, is in Lemoore, California, home to Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch and its eponymous Surf Ranch Pro and oooooee. The sun is shining, temperature a balmy 80 degrees Fahrenheit, cow stink juuuuuust right. Jen See is there, checked in to the Tachi Palace and ready to report. World Surf League CEO Erik Logan is there too, wearing the nude breast of sitting World Champion Filipe Toledo and grinning ear to ear.

Shades of that wonderful Buffalo Bill.

Or Buffalo Fil, as it were.

In any case, what was likely intended to be a bit of zany fun between two surf guys just doin’ the banter has since devolved into a case of accidental sexual harassment in the workplace. Logan, you see, is Toledo’s superior, his boss, and there he stands over him wearing his own lotion’d flesh ordering the slight Brazilian to “take your shirt off.” Repeating in case the order wasn’t clear.

“Take your shirt off.”

Toledo is not just any employee either. He is famously sensitive, very much not liking heavy drops etc. and here he is taking his shirt off after a powerful man has told him to do such.


But what are your thoughts, here? All innocent fun or waiting upon some legal this and that?

Also, if Toledo would have refused to take his shirt off, would he have gotten the hose again?

More questions than answers.

Photo: Instagram
Photo: Instagram

In moment described as “most visually disturbing in surfing history,” World Surf League CEO Erik Logan wears likeness of reigning champion Filipe Toledo’s naked breast!

A golden era of goof.

Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch swings wide its gates tomorrow morning at roughly this time and is your alarm set? Will you rise early, prepare the perfect americano, tune in and thrill or will you remember that it is running mid-day, reluctantly click over and feel a pit of depression mixed with loathing deep in your tum-tum?

Or maybe you purchased one of the deeply discounted tickets and will be there in person, attending the yoga class, concert, buying Surf Ranch Pro swag from the booth, living, laughing, loving?


Our own Jen See will be there, turtle sandals on the ground, reporting all the news that fits except she missed one moment, yesterday, that is already being called the most visually disturbing in surfing history.

World Surf League CEO Erik Logan, you see, decided to get a t-shirt printed with current world champion Filipe Toledo’s naked chest. The Brazilian father of two or three has a readily identifiable lion covering his heart and has apparently added some sort of robotic sunburst business to it. Logan, anyhow, stifling giggles, said, “Filipe Toledo has the most insane chest tattoo. So I just had this shirt made and I’m going to go surprise him with it.”

He then goes over and tells Toledo to take his shirt off, the two hug et voila.

The whole scene is wildly odd and you should watch and savor. I had just gotten finished telling David Lee Scales, during our weekly chat, that we are living in peak absurdity as it relates to the World Surf League, its day-to-day operations, staff, decisions etc. Number one funny time and not enjoying, not relishing every single moment is a sin against comedy. It would be like being on the set of Monty Python and the Holy Grail or The Big Lebowski or Idiocracy while it was being filmed and doom scrolling the news instead of soaking up the laughs.

This is not going to last forever.

Billionaire owner Dirk Ziff’s wife will eventually get bored, the clown show of Logan, Jessi Miley-Dyer et. al. will be dismissed and we will be poorer for it. Sure it may be replaced with world’s best surfers in the world’s best waves, “man against nature” as David Lee Scales is always harping about but, mark my words, you will miss this golden era of goof.

You will miss it deeply.

Listen, here, for more good advice.

Medina and his newest Cabianca quiver. | Photo: Lucas Balbino

Gabriel Medina’s shaper Johnny Cabianca reveals magic pool toys the three-time champ will debut at Surf Ranch Pro and Medina’s “sickness” for Olympic gold!

"He wants to arrive in the playoffs at Lowers, sure, but the Olympic Games is a sickness for him now."

The last time I lit up Johnny Cabianca’s telephone it was two years ago and his team rider Gabriel Medina had just finished hiking Filipe Toledo’s dress to his waist in a two-heat Lowers whitewash, although the third world title could barely salve the pain of missing a medal at the Tokyo Olympics. 

The Brazilian-born, Zarautz-based Cabianca has been building Medina’s boards for a decade and a half, ever since step-daddy Charlie, an old pal from Brazil, got him to make boards for the European leg of the 2009 WQS.

You’d be surprised how little the boards he made for the kid in 2009 have changed in the ensuing years, a little tweak here and there, but still the usual five tens and five elevens, the flatter rockered Medina model and the slightly wilder DFK (Da Freak Kid and not to be confused with the Channel Islands DFR, Dane Freaking Reynolds). 

Caba is a classic cat. He says he lives in a Tower of Babel, his kids speaking German to his Swiss wife, Basque at school, Portuguese with him and watching TV in Spanish. 

“I don’t understand nothing!” he hoots. 

And, he knows living the Basque Country keeps him hidden away from the major markets, but the reach of Medina is strong and there’s Cabanas being shipped to emerging markets in Taiwan, Korea, Switzerland, Germany, Holland and Israel, as well as a re-emerging Japan.

The great Johnny Caba outside his Zarautz story with Medina’s fleet of pool toys.

But, still, those boards, those boards with what he calls a magic invisibility, built because he doesn’t want Medina to think,  ‘Oh motherfucker-son-of-a-bitch board!’ are sublime underfoot. 

You want to turn, you wanna cruise? Cabianca’s boards got multiple settings. A rare thing. 

Anyway, I’ve called because I wanna hear what he’s cooked up for his boy to ride at the pool. Turns out Medina has hit 185 pounds, a legacy of all the metal plates he lifts everyday, up from 175 the previous year. 

The boards, therefore, are hitting the twenty-nine plus litre mark, the Medinas, 5’10” x 19 3/8 x 2 3/8 with a full rail for 29.5 litres, the DFKs, 5’11” x 19 x 2 1/2 but with a domed deck, meaning a more sensitive rail and hitting 29 litres. 

Some are swallows some are round tails. Medina likes the swallow for the left, the round-tail for the rights. 

Medina don’t like his boards light, either and he “hates epoxy boards,” says Cabianca. 

“I don’t feel the board if the board is super light,” he tells Cabianca. 

His favourite board, perversely then, is a wild five-nine twin built using carbon tech, vacuum sealed and called a Candy Twin. Cabianca made it for Medina after a Biolos RNF, a gift to Medina from Kolohe Andino, had given the champ enormous pleasure.

Medina loved it, said he’d ride it in the pool whereupon Cabianca recoiled and said ‘No! This is not a technical board! This is just for having fun!”

Medina replied, “Maybe I try!”

Cabianca laughs.  “For sure, Andy King (Medina’s coach) is not going to let him ride it.” 

Medina’s fav toy, the Candy Twin.

Andy King. You know the name, the Australian WQS pro from Cronulla who lost his hearing after a street fight in 2004, a hard-charging goofy footer who grew up with an alcoholic pops (Andy kept a knife under his pillow for protection) and who shifted to surf coaching after his tour comeback was stymied by his deafness.

Cabianca says King’s arrival has stilled Medina’s emotional state, elevated his performance, after his family got nuked by in-fighting. 

And not just his emotional state. His surfing has shifted more to the rail. 

“Before he’s very consistent, but a kid surfing. Many aerials. Always extreme risk. With Andy it’s more classic, more power surfing, more reading the waves, but keep doing the aerials and high-risk manoeuvres well.” 

If you think surfing is all about world titles for Medina, well, it ain’t. He wants Paris Olympic gold around his neck. 

“He’s super focussed, he’s training every day. He wants to arrive in the playoffs at Lowers, sure, but the Olympic Games is a sickness for him now. For him, it’ll be great. Teahupoo!” 

You want a Candy Twin? Or the DFK? Or the Medina? 

Give ‘em a hit here, Johnny’s wife Kelli will help steer you into the board of your life. 

Longtom calls the DFK the “easiest pro level board I’ve wrangled.”