"Aside from a shocker in Portugal, Tyler hasn’t placed below the semifinals all year. Yes, she drives you all up the wall with her interviews and advocacy, and I’ll confess I enjoy watching you get riled up by her. Her surfing at Margaret River was a cut above and showed more variety than the usual layback that we’ve all seen too many times." | Photo: WSL

World Surf League accused of “shrinking and pinking” women’s tour, “It’s not a great look for an organization that likes to talk about its commitment to equity”

"In the outdoor industry, brands used to take a mediocre men’s product, make it smaller and paint it pink. Shrink it, and pink it."

Welcome back to the extremely occasional Beachgrit coverage of the women’s Championship Tour. We have made it, at last, to the mid-season cut.

Did you cry?

Were you so very sad for the women we left behind? Honestly, I’m having a hard time remembering them at all. Now there are 10. Plus, two wildcards.

In the outdoor industry, brands used to take a mediocre men’s product — never anything high end — make it smaller, because women are so very small, and paint it pink. Shrink it, and pink it. Much the same could be said to the current approach of the World Surf League toward the women’s CT.

It is certainly much smaller than the men’s version. Post-cut, the men’s draw includes 24 surfers. Women, well, they get 12. It’s not a great look for an organization that likes to talk about its commitment to equity. Next time, maybe they’ll paint it teal instead.

Let’s take a look at who’s left, where they’ve been, and where they’re headed. Well, we do know where they’re headed. That’s right, they’re all headed straight for Lemoore. I guess I’m going there, too, unless I can think of a super good excuse.

In fact, if you have a good excuse you can lend me, feel free to share it! I need all the help I can get over here.

Wildcards!

Let’s start with the wildcards. On the women’s side, there are two new wildcards — one for the remainder of this season and 2024 and one for 2024. There were minimal shenanigans here.

Johanne Defay spent much of the season out with a foot injury, and has the surgery scar to prove it. Johanne is super, super stoked that Steph made the cut or she might have been left out in the cold. Johanne finished last year third in the world, which gave her the edge over injured rookie Sophie McCulloch. Johanne’s currently last in the rankings, so she’s unlikely to challenge for the top five again this time around.

Arguably Brisa is a less obvious choice for the 2024 season wildcard. After all, Soph is right there and had a giant brace on her ankle. Soph missed two events, making the cutline a steep climb. That should be why the wildcards exist. But Brisa was the top-ranked woman to miss the cut, has been on Tour since 2016, and won Sunset in 2022. She’s also qualified for the Olympics. I suspect it’s that last detail that gave her a second chance.

To the rankings!

10. Steph Gilmore. She made the cut. For a six-time world champion, there should not have been any question on this front. Steph currently sits sixth just 1800 points behind Caity Simmers. Steph’s typically done well at Surf Ranch, and the right point at J-Bay awaits her. Steph can readily make a run up the rankings, if she brings her best surfing and the conditions aren’t total dogshit. Expect her in the top five before long, but she gets last here due to there even being any suspense at all over her ability to make the cut.

9. Tati West. She’s always just right there. Currently tied on points with Steph, Tati also sits just outside the top five. She hasn’t done anything exciting this year, but sometimes, exciting isn’t necessary. Tati’s consistent with two quarters, a semi, and a ninth. Add another semi — or even an event win, and she’ll be right back in the top five again. Tati already has her Olympic qualification sealed, so she could be forgiven for relaxing into the second half of the season. She’s ranked low on my list due to my inability to get excited about her surfing. Maybe that’s my fault. I’ll try harder for next time.

8. Lakey Peterson. Thanks to her quarterfinal finish at Margaret River, Lakey squeaked over the cut line. Mostly though, it’s been a forgettable season for her with a string of early round exits. When Lakey can do her signature wrap, she gets the scores. When she can’t, it often comes apart for her. Lakey’s freesurfing is dynamic and creative, and it would be cool to see her bring more that vibe to her heats. What’s not always evident on video is just how fast she surfs. At Margaret River, Lakey made Steph look like the she was surfing in slow motion. Lakey has won Surf Ranch in the past and she’s fiercely competitive. A run up the rankings is not at all out of the question. She’s sitting down here based on her performances so far this year. The future is wide open.

7. Gabriela Bryan. Gabriela was the only rookie to make the cut last year, and here she is, making it again. She got off to a solid start in Hawaii where she made the quarters at Pipe and the semi at Sunset. Then she made a speedy slide down the rankings. Small waves don’t suit her powerful style and Hawaiian upbringing. It’s a skill she’ll need to cultivate. The back half of the year should suit her better, though first timers often struggle with sheer strangeness of the Surf Ranch. Gabriela is currently tied on points with Bettylou and Lakey, and they all sit eighth. The top five looks close, but looks deceive.

6. Bettylou Sakura Johnson. Earlier this week, Bettylou posted a few solid clips from Snapper where she is preparing to do the Challenger Series event. After missing the cut last year, Bettylou is set for her first attempt at the second half of the year. At times, there’s still some grom arms in her surfing, and she looked underpowered next to Molly in their quarterfinal at Bells. But freesurfing in good waves, Bettylou shines. She’s well-rounded — she got shacked at the Box — and at her best, stylish. Like Gabriela, she’s got game, and hassled hard in her heat against Carissa at Pipe. Bettylou’s next challenge is to bring it all together consistently in her heat surfing. She’s still only 18, and a full year on Tour should help.

5. Caroline Marks. Now 21, Caroline Marks came on Tour in 2018 as the next big thing. That is a hell of a burden to carry. In 2019, she beat Steph Gilmore at Duranbah to win the first of two events, and she finished the year second overall. But after her fourth place at Tokyo in 2021, things seemed to unravel. Caroline missed most of 2022 for mental health reasons, and she hasn’t had a win since her return. But it’s only when set against the absurd expectations of her first years on Tour that her current fourth place in the rankings looks like an underperformance. Over the past year, Caroline has smoothed out her style — the windmill arms are mostly gone — and she’s posted some legit clips from Teahupo’o. The U.S. women will bring three surfers to the 2024 Olympics, and it would be a crime if Caroline were not one of them.

4. Caity Simmers. Like Caroline before her, Caity is the next big thing. From the outside, she looks to be carrying those expectations lightly. She’s a quirky human, and I’m hoping that doesn’t get lost in the pro athlete machine. Caity beat Courtney to win her first event in Portugal. She’s also lost two close heats to Caroline. The judges have preferred Caroline’s more polished if repetitive surfing to Caity’s jazzy creativity. How does Caity keep the creative, unpredictable style that makes her surfing so compelling, while giving the judges what they want? That’s the challenge for her now. A few trips to the gym in the next off-season might also help put more power behind her turns. Caity’s currently fifth in the rankings, and it’ll be a battle to stay there.

3. Carissa Moore. It’s a sign of just how much Carissa has accomplished in her career that a pair of event wins and a pair of quarterfinal finishes don’t sound like a huge season for her. And yet, Carissa’s second in the rankings behind Tyler, and it would not take much for her to take the top spot. She’s made backside barrel surfing her project for the past few seasons, and I’d love to see her have the chance to test those lessons in solid Teahupo’o later this year. Her ability to evolve is Carissa’s greatest strength as a surfer. She falters when she overthinks it and gets too much in her head. If she reaches Trestles at the top of the rankings, it would not at all surprise me. How well she can put last year’s disappointment behind her will test her more than the waves at Trestles.

2. Molly Picklum. Molly knows all about letting go and moving on. She missed the cut last year, and came back to lead the rankings all the way through to Margaret River. That’s an impressive run. I’ll admit that it’s a quirky choice to put Molly ahead of Carissa, but she deserves her moment in the sun. The second half of the season is unknown terrain for her. At times, Molly’s style gets ragged around the edges, as though she wants it a little too badly. I can’t hate her for wanting it, by any means, but the judges might — especially if she encounters Steph at a right point. Never let them see you try. Make it look inevitable and effortless. That’s Steph’s gift, and one Molly could add to her already deep arsenal.

1. Tyler Wright. Aside from a shocker in Portugal, Tyler hasn’t placed below the semifinals all year. Yes, she drives you all up the wall with her interviews and advocacy, and I’ll confess I enjoy watching you get riled up by her. Her surfing at Margaret River was a cut above and showed more variety than the usual layback that we’ve all seen too many times. I’d like to ban that turn forever, but the judges keep rewarding it, so it lives on. The rights in the back half of the season should suit her fine, but solid Teahupo’o could slam on the brakes. Still, I’d expect Tyler to reach Trestles in the top five without too much difficulty. Then it’s anyone’s game.


Thiel, Slater and Cloudbreak.
Thiel, Slater and Cloudbreak.

Vanity Fair epic on bold surfers versus evil developers in Fiji replete with Kelly Slater and Peter Thiel cameos set to become must-see documentary!

A multi-layered eco-thriller!

Hours ago, the notable American magazine Vanity Fair published an epic tale sure to excite surfers the world over. Oh you must read but, in a word or two, it features two Australian surfers who fell in love with Fiji’s Cloudbreak, bought some property on a nearby island in order to build small eco huts only to run smack dab into the middle of a nasty development that did not heed sound environmental practices, a scientist with dreams of shaving reefs in order to create Surf Ranches in the ocean, a frustratingly unconcerned Fijian government, China’s Belt and Road initiative with cameo appearances by the world’s greatest surfer Kelly Slater and Gawker destroyer Peter Thiel.

Wow.

Making things even better, the business is set to become a must-see documentary.

Per Deadline:

Helen Estabrook, Global Head of Film & Television, Condé Nast Entertainment, said, “On its surface, this is a thrilling David vs. Goliath tale centered on a five-acre patch of coastline in Fiji. Thanks to (writer) David Kushner’s cinematic storytelling, we’re introduced to those whose livelihoods depend on that slice of shoreline and suddenly the stakes become much higher. It’s a classic Vanity Fair examination of power, and what’s possible when people have the courage to challenge it.”

Ethan Goldman, Founder and CEO, Anchor Entertainment, added, “Kushner’s investigative reporting presents a pressing urgency as it pertains to the complicated nature of global tourism. With this complex story we aim to present a multi-layered eco-thriller, all set within the visually stunning backdrop of Fiji’s pristine yet fragile natural beauty.”

Multi-layered eco-thrillers seem like a new genre ripe for further development and I am excited for my phone to ring, Hollywood studio on other end, about a story I wrote last year following professional surfer Kanoa Igarashi as he plants a bush in Western Australia in order to help the World Surf League save the earth from collapse.

Cannes here I come.


Unlike most beachfront places in the world, if you go to Teahupoo you'll be treated like a king, or queen, and y'won't be screwed for every last damn dollar. Good people.

Chaos in Tahiti as flash floods destroy houses and wash cars into the wild Teahupoo surf and John John Florence pleads for help, “It’s one of my favorite places in the world and very special to the surfing community”

"The local community in Teahupo’o lost their houses, their cars, some lost everything."

Yeah, you saw those Code Red big-wave histrionics at Teahupoo yesterday, hot sun pouring onto the broad brown backs of myriad maniacs being towed into giant holes? 

Today was a little different, a low pressure system off the south-west of Tahiti bringing the worst rains in almost twenty years, although not global warming related according to a Meteo-France scientist (“It is not climate change related, we have entered the winter season.”)

With those wild rains came flash flooding down there at Teahupoo where houses are built atop rock walls along the ocean. If you’ve been to the end of the road you’ll know it ain’t Malibu, just family owned homesteads, brick, sometimes clapboard houses divvied up into little rooms for paying guests.

And the results have been catastrophic.

“Sending my love and hoping the best for everyone at Teahupoo,” wrote two-time world champ John John Florence. “It’s one my favorite places in the world and very special to the surfing community. They had some serious flash flooding and there is a lot of damage. There is a link to donate in my story.”

Unlike most beachfront places in the world, if you go to Teahupoo you’ll be treated like a king, or queen, and y’won’t be screwed for every last damn dollar. Good people.

(Hello to Mammy and Pappy Tevas!)

“The local community in Teahupo’o lost their houses, their cars, some lost everything,” writes local Hina Moon. “We need your help to buy water, food or anything to help our village.”

 

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A post shared by HinaMoon 🌙 (@hinateaboosie)

 

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A post shared by John john Florence (@john_john_florence)

 

 

You wanna help?

Click here, toss a little cash. 


Lowe, pictured, with the pivotal Vans scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High starring Sean Penn, inset.

Pressure builds on multi-billion dollar shoe empire Vans to cover medical bills of British big-wave surfer Tom Lowe almost killed in catastrophic Tahitian wipeout!

"He put his life on the line promoting the brand”

The British big-wave surfer Tom Lowe remains in a Papeete hospital following a catastrophic wipeout at Teahupoo, that dirty big hole at the literal end of the road on the island of Tahiti.

Lowe, who is twenty-nine, was pitched on the takeoff, busting six ribs and puncturing a lung in the subsequent collision with the famous reef.

The wildly talented Lowe, from the Cornish beachside hamlet of St Ives, has long been a stand-out at Irish big waves Aileens and Mullaghmore, as well as at Jaws on Maui, Mavs in California and at Mexico’s Puerto Escondido.

Our source tells us Tahitian authorities won’t let him leave French Polynesia until all his bills, totalling thirty gees, are paid. Now Lowe, who is on a retainer of a rumoured one thousand dollars a month at Vans and hence broke as hell after slinging ten gees at chasing this swell, is a little stuck after his medical insurance said they won’t pay up.

And, so, fellow big-wave legend Greg Long has put out a call for cash to get his pal fixed up and off the island.

During the recent monumental swell at Teahupoo, Tahiti, Tom endured a bad wipeout. His resulting injuries from hitting the reef required he be airlifted to the hospital where he underwent multiple emergency surgeries. He is currently in stable condition but will need to remain under close watch in the hospital for the coming days.

Unfortunately, Tom’s travel insurance will not cover his medical treatment, so we are seeking the kindness and generosity of Tom’s global surf family, friends and compassion of the community, to help assist with his ongoing medical expenses.

Anyone who has ever met Tom knows him as a humble, kind and talented surfer who is a dedicated family man to his wife Tess, daughter Tigerlilly and soon-to-be baby-on-the-way.

Tom has a long road ahead, but true to his nature, he is positive, in a fighting spirit.

Tom and his family extend their heartfelt gratitude for all the love and support during their time of need.

 

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A post shared by Greg Long (@gerglong)

Fans were quick to light up on Vans, the multi-billion dollar shoe empire owned by VF Corp, a behemoth in rude fiscal health that owns fifty percent of the US backpack market via its brands North Face, Timberland, Eastpak and JanSport.

How are the brand sponsors of the biggest names in big wave surfing not providing comprehensive medical insurance for this incredibly dangerous game they’re playing? Serious question.

The UFC provides health insurance that is better than all of the major four pro sports, which also does. I’m pretty sure Vans can afford a hospital stay.

reflects pretty poorly on endemic brands that they won’t cover medical expenses for chargers who are responsible for brand identity and ultimately dollars…

@vans @vanssurf should pay the bill.

Why does @vans not give this man proper health insurance or foot the bill? He put his life on the line and does a damn good job of promoting the brand.

And, pointedly,

So Corporate puppets who only care about revenue, profit, and increasing the stock price, encourage their contract surfers to engage in extremely life risking activities in order to acquire attention to sell product, yet when that surfer gets extremely hurt from doing those life risking activities, from their seat on their private plane, “Fuck you! You’re on your own.” is their response. Got it.

So far eight-and-a-half gees from the thirty needed has been raised.

Click here if you wanna tip in. 


Bündchen (left) and a sign.
Bündchen (left) and a sign.

Long-suffering surf fans spasm in ecstasy as Gisele Bündchen attends Met Gala in feathered wedding-style dress from the Kelly Slater years!

Smoke = fire.

Professional surfing, at the very highest level, has decided that it is best, most prudent, to take an entire month off between events in the middle of the season. The Margaret River Pro, as you may recall, wrapped its business on April 28. The Surf Ranch Pro will not kick off until May 29. A bizarre and needless long break which leaves fans of professional surfing adrift and otherwise troubled.

To what should attention be paid?

Oh certainly we have the NBA playoffs, dog day baseball, Miami’s F1 and the absolute best of all AFL (Go Pies) but, at the unfortunate end, we are fans of professional surfing and need storylines that World Surf League Chief of Executives Erik Logan can’t/won’t provide.

He’s a real bummer.

Well, Gisele Bündchen gracing the Met Gala solo can be applauded. The Brazilian supermodel, of course, attended the world’s most important fashion event, this year honoring Karl Lagerfeld whom The New York Times describes as “a firehose of offense.”

Gorgeously borrowing BeachGrit’s other tagline.

Hours ago, anyhow, Bündchen strutted in front of the camera wearing vintage Chanel. A feathered piece from 2007, wedding-style, right when she was dating Kelly Slater.

Without ex-husband Tom Brady nor the dashing jiu-jitsu instructor she has been allegedly seeing.

A certain sign.

The two reigniting their flame and, thus, ushering in a new surf shangri-la.

Slater, you may know, attended the Met Gala in 2015 and looked quite sharp in a classic tuxedo.

You must see the significance.

Must recognize this all as a sign.

27 days and counting to the Surf Ranch Pro.

26 days and counting tomorrow.

Light a candle in the meantime.