New lineup terror emerges as flying fish impales surfer’s nose!

Wild times in the Mentawais.

How many ways can a surfer get hurt in the lineup? Let us count the ways. Shark, stingray, stray longboard, Erik Logan, aggressive local, adult learner paddling toward shoulder, adult learner going over the falls, Brazilians, angry seals, angry seagulls, surfboard fins, surfboard noses, jellyfish, aging, saltwater crocodiles, people from Florida, riptides, undertows, urchins, surf school students, sexism and now we can, officially, add flying fish.

But let us hustle to the beautiful Mentawi Islands where our hero, Australian Steve Kezic, was minding his own business, sitting on his board, when he felt a heavy slap.

Eddie Rothman?

But no.

“At first, I thought it was the boys throwing some seaweed around, as we tend to do that for a laugh,” the salt and pepper topped man told Perth Now. “But a moment later I realised there was a fish in my face.”

A flying fish who had wedged its beak in Zezic’s nose, busted it off and left it behind. A surf coach was the first to notice and sat looking dumbfounded as the ugly weapon had pierced all the way through. It took 15 minutes to get back to the resort and blood was pouring everywhere. No one knew where the nearest hospital was but, thankfully, one in the group was an emergency room doctor. He removed the weapon, stitched it up and told Zezic that 1/2 inch further north and he would have lost his eye.

“I was incredibly lucky. It felt like one of those up-to-the-gods chance events,” he said.

Now, the question for you. Would you rather get speared in the nose by a flying fish or sit around and wait for the World Surf League to get underway in Brazil for the Vivo Rio Pro in knee-high waves?

I’d take the former.

World Cursed League.

Deathbed-bound Kelly Slater miraculously recovers from fatal illness!

Fellow CT surfers who made the trip to Rio de Janeiro must certainly be buoyed seeing their GOAT the picture of health and wellness.

Days ago, surf fans had all but lost faith in a higher power after Kelly Slater had stunningly revealed that he had come down with a likely fatal illness right ahead of the Vivo Rio Pro surf contest in beautiful Brazil. 

“When my sickness started the other day,” the 11x champion wrote on his Instagram page, sharing a photo of oura ring data. “On day 5 of being sick now. Fevers, sinus, chills, headache, stomach flu, etc. Glad I made it home amidst the onslaught.”

Amateur virologists were certain Slater had been stricken with deadly spinal meningitis and encouraged surf fans to immediately light candles for his recovery. 

Alas, the Rio Pro kicked-off, World Surf League CEO Erik Logan there, inching closer to multiple restraining orders, but no world’s greatest competitive surfer. 

Was no one listening?

But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the west and Kelly Slater has been spotted on the beach in Hawaii looking typically robust and dressed in a tight white “Pipeline Bodysurfing Contest” t-shirt from 2017, long shorts and with feet wrapped in his new turtle and moon inspired Klly sandals. 

“For the design of the sandal, Kelly was particularly moved by the mysterious and special relationship between the moon and sea turtle. Turtles have 13 large scales that represent the 13 lunar cycles in each year and 28 smaller scales that represent the days in each cycle. As a tribute to these coexisting forces, Kelly designed the top of the sandal to mirror the moon’s surface while the bottom sole represents the turtle’s scales. Additional styles and sizing are set to release later this year.”

And I would have to think those fellow Championship Tour surfers who made the trip to Rio de Janeiro then Saquarema must certainly be buoyed seeing their GOAT the picture of health and wellness. They all had, of course, survived the dreaded mid-season cut and earned the requirement to appear. Slater had been gifted a never-before-encountered season-long wildcard and was even allowed to keep his points, unlike any before him. 

Spinal meningitis certainly a bitch. 

But all better now and just in time for J-Bay. 

Who could have scripted this?



In bombshell twist surrounding Kirra longboarding Klassic imbroglio, contest director and surf feminist appear to agree “The girls are not particularly good”

“It’s a bummer women’s surfing is so disappointing to people…”

Four days ago, battle lines were drawn when the surf feminist hero Lucy Small mounted a January 6-style insurrection against the organisers of a longboard competition after it was announced there would be one pro division, open to both men and women, instead of separate divs.

The organiser’s decision was, I think, reasonable enough given the recent evaporation of gender, men can have babies and periods, there being no appreciable differences between sexes anyway so let the transwomen twirl daddy. 

“The chances of a man winning the money is a lot higher so it’s not really fair,” argued Small who said she asked the organisers of the Kirra Longboard Klassic to split the five gees prizemoney into two divs.


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A post shared by Lucy Small (@saltwaterpilgrim)

After the organisers said no, Small marshalled other female surfers, organised a women’s surf label to cover the $250 entry fee and secured fifteen of the sixteen slots in the open division, one man grabbing the final spot.

(He later withdrew in solidarity with the gals.)

Now, in an interview with the government-owned broadcaster ABC, the contest’s director Sean McKeown has dared to mention the elephant stalking the room.

“The object of this particular division is high-performance surfing. The girls are not particularly good. There’s only a few of them in Australia that are really good at high performance.”

Which is Small’s argument, too, “the chances of a man winning the money is a lot higher” etc. 

McKeown added that he thought women’s surfing was “far more stylish… the girls tend to be more like ballet dancers on a surfboard and they look really good doing what they do” and “We had made this an open division so that men and women could compete equally on the same waves against each other… If I turned around and made it a man’s division, what would the reaction be?”

At the other end of the spectrum, @surfequity describes open divisions as a “form of discrimination against women”.

As the story gathered momentum, Australia’ national youth broadcaster Triple J ran a lengthy news piece on the story, director Sean McKeown saying the contest sponsor has been made uncomfortable by the contretemps and that there may not be a pro div next year. 

In the same piece, and comparing Gabriel Medina to Stephanie Gilmore Small described aerials as a “strength” manoeuvre, something which might be news to the ten-year-old kids hucking 540s everywhere. Are not women capable of astonishing feats of strength? Watch a little gymnastics.

As an aside, I watched my little girl shred alongside the boys until came the inevitable segregation, girl’s only surf club, girls divisions. And with the diminished competition her progression plateaued while the boys soared.

I believe Stephanie Gilmore’s great skills were honed alongside men at Snapper not from being told to surf only alongside gals.

But, maybe I’m wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time.

Medina and Jimmy Butler, main photo, and Medina and Neymar celebrating their platonic friendship a couple years back.

Gabriel Medina, already “wildly close” with Neymar Jr reveals NBA superstar Jimmy Butler to be latest BFF, “I’ve been talking to Jimmy a lot…he always sends me messages”

The most exciting three-way friendship in sport, Medina, Neymar, Butler!

It is impossible for the occupants of that cluster of black-hearted Anglo countries, Australia, the UK, Canada, New Zealand and the USA, to appreciate the phenomenal star power of Brazil’s Gabriel Medina. 

The almost-thirty year old triple world champ is adored, feted, courted and loved by its biggest names. 

Medina traded video messages with Brazil’s right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro until his glorious presidency came to a close last year, enjoys the company, or did, of the poon-shaking singer Anitta, famous for her tight miniskirts, sequinned silver halters and precarious heels, was briefly married to the much older Sports Illustrated model Yasmin Brunet and is “wildly close” to soccer superstar Neymar Jr. 

In one of the lovelier rumours to circle world sports a couple of years back, Brazilian news outlets speculated that the relationship between Medina and Neymar Jr had blossomed into something more substantial, although this was never proved.

Now, the boy with the haunted aristocratic face so often radiant with visceral passion as he wins heat after heat under the watchful eye of super coach Andy King, has revealed a budding friendship with the NBA superstar Jimmy Butler. 

The wildly handsome thirty-three-year-old Butler is celebrated for his relentless work ethic and perseverance with a throughly deserved reputation for tenacious defence and clutch performances. He faced numerous challenges growing up, including being homeless at a young age, but his dedication, determination, and commitment to improving his skills took him to the very top of the basketball tree. Very nice etc.

According to a Brazilian online sports outlet, Neymar Jr and Butler, who were vacationing together in Brazil, planned to swing by the Rio Pro to see their boy Medina in action.

“I’ve been talking to Jimmy a lot. I was supposed to watch the NBA Finals, but I was in El Salvador so it didn’t work out,” said Medina. “(Jimmy) said he would come to Brazil. We always talk. He has watched some of my heats and he always sends me a message. He’s in Rio, he loves Brazil.”


“Even with Gabriel Medina’s invitation, it looks like Jimmy Butler won’t be in Saquarema to watch his friend at the Rio Pro. Butler posted a farewell message to Brazil on his social networks and thanked all the affection and hospitality

‘I’m leaving. Brazil, thank you so much for your love and hospitality with me and my friends. Rio, São Paulo, back to Rio. Of course, with GOAT Neymar. I’ll be back! Will definitely be back. And never forget: I was born in Santos!’” 

Kong, sleeping upright, alongside his diminutive pal Chappy Jennings photographed in 1982, and from the Surfing World photo album Roadsong, the greatest thing ever published in surf media. | Photo: SW/Bruce Channon

Long Read: Gary “Kong” Elkerton on life-changing hip surgery, the disappearance of Sunny Garcia and hitting 321 pounds!

"I can’t even tie my shoelaces. Been in excruciating pain 24/7. Even the morphine doesn’t work."

In the hot Queensland summer of 2021, Gary Elkerton, a three-time runner-up to the world title, two of ’em amid controversial circumstances, hit 321 pounds. 

It’s a considerable sum by anyone’s standards, even for a man with the nickname “Kong.” Shortly afterward, the then-57-year-old appeared in a photo for his alma mater, the North Shore Boardriders. Kong saw it and feared the worst. “Are you kidding me?” he whispered to himself, examining the creases of fat around his knees. “I’m going to die!”

Radical weight fluctuations have been a part of Kong’s life ever since he started gaining mass for the Hawaiian season—he appreciated the extra 60 pounds of ballast on big waves—before shedding it all prior to the small-wave events. But this was more than a little different. Now he was gambling with his life, not the thrilled expectancy of the North Shore.

A driven man with a cat’s fury, Kong figured he could work it off. He took a job as a delivery driver, supplying restaurants with 5-gallon barrels of cooking oil and bags of rice. He also practiced intermittent fasting. By winter, manual labor and not eating for 20 hours each day had hacked away 90 pounds.

Then he blew his knee stepping out of his truck. It was the same knee he’d injured in 1985, when he was socked by a loose board at 12-foot Sunset and required 58 stitches. (The doctors back then told him he needed half a year out of the water, although he was surfing again in two weeks.)

As often happens with an aged machine, when one part goes, another follows. Kong’s right hip, the fulcrum that operated his powerful back-foot lever, started to hurt like hell. An MRI revealed advanced osteoarthritis, the doc telling him the cartilage between the femoral head and the hip socket had been gone for at least 15 years, the stress from the knee injury bringing it into relief. Kong had long figured something was wrong. His back leg was taking longer to get into position on takeoffs, but it wasn’t something he couldn’t work around.

It was the cap to some hard years: Kong had lost his beloved father, Keith, aka Bully; his old tour buddy Sunny Garcia was in a vegetative state at a Texas facility after an attempted suicide; another tour pal, John Shimooka, had taken his own life; and his one-time bête noire and friend Derek Ho had died of a heart attack at 55.

It’s around these circumstances that we interrogate our subject, a man on crutches and waiting for the $30,000 hip replacement operation paid for by kind friends, thereby circumventing the three-year public-hospital waiting period, occasionally driving to the nearby store in his $100 Ford station wagon. “I can’t even tie my shoelaces,” he says. “Been in excruciating pain 24/7. Even the morphine doesn’t work. It’s been an interesting couple of months, mate.”

DR Two weeks and you’re under the knife. Have you thought about how your life will change when you’re pain-free? 

GE That’s the biggest thing I’m looking forward to. I’m sitting here right now, [and] I’ve got this one position I can sit [in]. It’s like, “Don’t move, man, whatever you do. Just stay right there!” I’m quite lucky. I’ve got a good friend taking care of me. You need help with these things. You can’t do it on your own. 

DR Because you didn’t have private health insurance, you would’ve had to wait years to access the public system. Real lucky you got good pals. 

GE I can’t imagine sitting around for three years like this.

DR You’d go to some dark places. 

GE Listen, it’s been hard. But I’ve got a lot of good people around me. That’s important. 

DR Are you married? 

GE Nuh! Not married. No. Single. 

DR Single and looking? 

GE Ah, nuh! Very happy, mate. I got a lot of friends around. [Laughs.] But those days are over. 

DR Talk to me about your dramatic weight fluctuations when you were on tour—getting big for Hawaii, then shedding it all for the beachbreak events. 

GE The type of circuit we were on back then was brutal because we had Hawaii and then we had to surf in minute waves. I was quite lucky I could fluctuate my weight quickly like that. Which, in the end, is not a good thing. I wish I knew about intermittent fasting back then. It’s been a big savior with my life. If I didn’t do that a year and a half ago, I’d be dead. The doctor said, “You would’ve had a massive heart attack.”

DR How do you operate with fasting? 

GE It’s a time thing—when you eat, right? So, I started off on “Warrior,” which means you’re allowed to eat between 12 and six [p.m.]. And you have to stop eating at six. Most people’s body takes 12 hours to eat all the sugar out of it, so if you stop eating at six and you’re up at seven in the morning, your body switches to keto. When you stay in the keto[genic] state, your body is eating fat. And if you do any type of exercise within that, it’s really burning the fat. Why a lot of people give up on that is they don’t see any visual results because it starts eating all the fat around your organs first, so you see nothing on your face or around your gut until months later. The photo I’ve got from when I started to now is like two different people. 

DR Ninety pounds is a lot of cargo to throw overboard. 

GE It’s crazy. It’s ridiculous. And you know what? Anyone can do it. You just have to be mentally strong with where you want to go with it. I’ve got a daughter who’s 17 years old. I want to see her get to 21. My surfing deteriorated completely and I wasn’t enjoying surfing at all. This is a game changer for me and a second lease on life.

DR What was it like when you stepped away from pro surfing? You milked it a little by winning three consecutive World Masters titles from 2000 through 2003. But still, it ain’t easy.

GE When it all happened, my daughter was born and I had a different responsibility. I’d moved back to Australia after living in France, and my partner at the time had a business, so there was money there. I was doing surf-coaching things on the side and

I was…kinda lost. Then I took my daughter to a swimming lesson out the back of Mullumbimby [near Byron Bay] and I didn’t agree with the way they were teaching kids to swim. So I built a massive indoor kids’ swimming center called Kong for Kids. Ran that for 12 years. Did really well—200 kids a week. I was the main teacher there. It was really cool. 

DR What happened? 

GE I wasn’t married, but I separated from my Brazilian partner—the mother of Luna, my daughter. I went to the Gold Coast, did some work with [surfboard company] Mt. Woodgee for a little bit, and then I moved up to the Sunshine Coast and I slothed around and blew out to 146 kilos [321 pounds]. But it’s been an interesting run. Leaving the tour is a really hard thing—when you see the train leave the station and you’ve gotta go and find something else. I’ve been very fortunate. Some people haven’t in my generation, because we didn’t make much money. My properties I owned in France, I lost to my first wife, and I still don’t own a property. I just live my life the way I’m living it right now, day by day and enjoying it.

DR That move to France when you were 22, and taking a French wife, was a dramatic shift for you—from tough son of a fisherman to urbane sophisticate. 

GE I still speak fluent French. I moved there in the early ’80s. There was only Belly [Stephen Bell] and Maurice Cole there at the time. Yeah, you know what? That was a big change in my life as well, meeting [French model] Pascale [Roby]. I have to say, the pinnacle of my surfing, I really feel, was from ’85 to ’90. All those events I won—Pipe, the Triple Crowns—[were] when I was living in France. I was in France for 27 years. I was very lucky to see a lot of great things in my life, but that was one of ’em—seeing France in those early days. La Gravière, there was no one out. Just me, Maurice, Belly, and a handful of French guys who wanted to have a go at it. And obviously, living in the Médoc [on the left bank of the Gironde estuary near Bordeaux], you’ve got all the best wines in the world, which I acquired a great taste for. And their food and their culture. Everything about the French way of life, I loved. 

DR You say you lost two world titles to the “incompetence of the system,” which leads into that ’93 title showdown at Pipe when Derek Ho blocked Larry Rios so you couldn’t make the final, thereby getting him the win. 

GE Yeah. The one before that was even harder, with Damien [Hardman]. I love Damien, but that was the year [1987] they decided to finish the world title at Manly. I left Hawaii in the number-one position. I’d won events back to back. I should’ve been world champion. I shouldn’t have had to go to Manly to compete in minute waves. The funny thing about it, the priority rule at that stage was if the guy who had priority caught the wave, even if he couldn’t get around that section, you couldn’t catch that wave. So I was paddling back out and needed a three-point-something, and this right came and Damien was way deeper. And he took off and went straight in the whitewater. So I couldn’t catch it or I would’ve been called for an interference. If it wasn’t for that rule, I would’ve got the three-point-five. And I would’ve won the world title right there. They changed the rule two weeks later. I was like, “What the fuck?” That world title should’ve been won in Hawaii. The second one, with Curren in 1990, there were a couple of weird calls in that one. But that third one, with Derek, was the gut-wrencher. But listen, I know what should’ve happened in my heart. I had an amazing career. I wouldn’t change anything. Well, I’d change those rules. [Laughs.] 

DR How does someone like you, who has ridden those highs, navigate those later years in, as your old pal Rob Bain said to me, a “peaceful contentment”? 

GE It’s not easy to be traveling the world like a rock star and two years later you slip into the bushes. Life’s not easy and it’s not getting any easier. 

DR It’s been a radically tragic last few years: Sunny, Derek, Shmoo. How do you react to those events? 

GE [Long silence.] Fuck… It’s fuckin’ hard, dude. [Swallows tears.] Phew. Um. Phew. [Expels air.] Listen, I know Sunny was fighting depression for a long time. Sunny, Shmoo, you don’t really know what happened, but something clicked in their life, obviously, that left them feeling empty, that they had nothing. And they had a lot more to give in life. I was close to Shmoo and especially Sunny. And yeah, mate, some people, we don’t know why. I’ve never had those thoughts, thank God. I lost my dad at the same time. That was…uh…that was a whole…year…gnarly year, man. Derek, too, with him passing. You ask yourself questions, like, “What the fuck is going on here?” But the older we get, the more people start to pass away. It’s life. [Long pause.] I just wish I…I… I don’t know why Shmoo and Sunny—they had so many people around. I don’t know how that could’ve happened. That’s what I find hard to understand. They’re people who are surrounded by good people. I know that if I was in that position, I’d be putting my hand up straight away.

DR You’re an optimistic cat. 

GE If you live in the past, you live in depression. If you live in the future, you got anxiety of what’s coming up. If you live in the present, you can control it—you can visualize and plan good things day by day. I’ve always been someone who’s been lucky to survive drugs and stuff back in the day, pull myself up and get back on the straight and narrow. Some people don’t have that. I knew I was very fortunate on tour, even though I behaved like a dickhead most of the time. Something I used to do that I didn’t tell anyone was everywhere I’d go, I’d go to the local hospital and go to the children’s ward and give out stickers and posters. It brought me back. I’d realize how fortunate I was, and I still look at that sometimes. I say to friends, when they’re whining about the rain or if it’s too hot, I tell ’em, “Go for a walk down the children’s ward and see the parents whose kids are in hospital. Think of the kids who are handicapped. We have a great life. We’re blessed.”

Postscript: As of press time, Kong was convalescing following hip-replacement surgery, although he was walking the day after the procedure. “I’m pain-free,” he said. “It’s unbelievable.” He was also planning a return to surfing. “My boards have been waxed and polished about a hundred times. They’re in perfect condition, just sitting there, ready for when I’m ready.”

(Editor’s note: This story first appeared in The Surfer’s Journal accompanied by a wonderful hand-drawn portrait by Andrea Ventura. Click here to view.)