Shhhh. Photo: WSL
Shhhh. Photo: WSL

Reeling World Surf League goes to war against Brazilian fan base, disables “live chat” feature on Portuguese broadcast of El Salvador Pro!

"We hope the entire WSL community stands with us in rejecting all forms of harassment and intimidation."

The Surf City El Salvador Pro is one day away from concluding and this, I suppose, is how this iteration of professional surfing ends. A last gasp of crypto and ladder sponsorships. Tourism boards defining “the world’s best waves.” A 51-year-old former champion with stunningly little shame. A truly bizarre spectacle lorded over by a billionaire, run into the ground by an Oklahoman by way of Oprah.

Bye bye bye.

The World Surf League will soon be a historical footnote, the answer to a Jeopardy question about failed sporting enterprises in the 2000s, but not, I guess, before lashing out at its most “passionate” base.

Yes, it appears that Brazil’s surf fans have been deemed a public enemy, one that needs to be silenced, and, yesterday, the Portuguese language broadcast cut its “live chat” feature taking their voices like Ursula took that little mermaid’s.

But you have certainly noticed the scrolling conversation off to the side of the YouTube feed? Oh those who participate there are not nearly as charming as those on BeachGrit’s patented Open Thread but they do seem to enjoy challenging the judges, complimenting high performance maneuvers, making small talk.

Except they are no longer allowed to if their native tongue is Portuguese.


As you know, rage against the League exploded into open hostility at the Surf Ranch Pro wherein fans, mostly from Brazil, became incensed at what certainly seemed to be suspect judging in heats featuring Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira. The two, each former champions, took to Instagram in the aftermath seeking clarity and the furiosity amongst their many admirers grew.

After a few days of silence, the aforementioned Oklahoman, World Surf League CEO Erik Logan, released an open letter that had a tone “somewhere between a dictator and a domestic abuser” excoriating those who had raised their voices.

“I want to respond directly to those statements,” it began, “however, we first need to address a much more important issue. In recent days, a number of surfers, WSL judges, and employees have been subject to harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence, including death threats, as a direct result of those statements. Those things should never happen in our sport or any sport, and we’re devastated that members of our community have been subject to them. It is an important reminder to us all that words have consequences. We hope the entire WSL community stands with us in rejecting all forms of harassment and intimidation.”

Heavy and now, possibly as punishment for “harassment, intimidation and threats of violence,” Portuguese has been banned.

Though do you think the move will have its intended outcome? Unable to live comment to each other during the El Salvador Pro will Brazilian surf fans come to see the light that Australian or American surfers are more marketable in the United States and therefore receive more points per move or… not?

Did China’s lashing out at brave protestors in Tiananmen Square silence dissent in that country?


I guess it did.

The half-Japanese, half-Indonesian surf Olympian Rio Waida falls to Filipe Toledo in the round of 16.

Judges at Surf City El Salvador Pro “clearly hate” Bali’s Rio Waida, “I don’t imagine Indonesian Instagram has the clout for it to matter”

"And how appropriate for the WSL to get a crypto sponsor just as the US gov launches lawsuits against the big exchanges and prices go through the floor."

How can this possibly feel like the longest event of the year with a reduced field?

Is it the inconsistency of the waves, and the fact we don’t expect anything more than three feet? Fun for us, no doubt. Not such a perfect canvas for world-class surfing.

Or is it the ungodly trio of Mitch Salaazar, Kaipo Guererro and Chris Cote? Men fond of words. Many, many words with little meaning, and all afforded more time than they should ever be given to speak them.

Whatever, it’s been painful.

Especially because Scotland is glorious right now, and watching pro surfing in mediocre waves seems like a chronic waste of daylight. It hasn’t rained in nearly three weeks here, the sun splits the sky every day, and the light stretches til midnight and beyond. The rivers and lochs we swim in every day are as warm as blood. There’s endless opportunity for all manner of fun beyond surfing, nevermind watching surfing.

The coast is largely a fading memory, as it can be in summer. The mountains, on the other hand, are green and clear and filled with bliss. I see clips of people grovelling for summer windswell and it looks like fun, in a way, but also desperate. Nothing compels me to seek it.

Yet here I am, sitting through back-to-back heat restarts, and watching scores so seemingly arbitrary that nothing makes sense anymore. Fives and sixes and sevens fall like lines on a fruit machine. It’s a delirium that casts me back to younger days when I would stand in pubs for hours feeding the machines in a stupor, leaving only to shuttle back and forth to the bar for more cashback from my student overdraft. Dark days.

But I’ll try to make no further mention of the scoring because I’m finding it genuinely perplexing.

What I can say is that eight of the top ten ranked surfers were gone before the quarter-final stage. Only Colapinto and Toledo making it through. There will be some shuffling of the top five before Rio, and at least that gives the remaining events some competitive edge.

You might say it was a day of upsets, but the waves are so inconsequential that there’s no real drama. One guy wins, another loses. In these conditions it’s mostly down to luck and judging chaos…sorry, criteria…to decide a winner.

A fucking lottery, in other words.

I do hope my mood isn’t doing any stellar performances a disservice, and please join me in a golf clap for Ian Gentil, Liam O’Brien and Barron Mamiya for dispatching Chianca, Ewing and Medina, respectively.

And now a more vigorous round of applause for Ian Gentil for his defeat of Italo in the quarter which sees the lanky Hawaiian in the first semi-final of his career.

The Toledo vs Waida heat was the slowest of the day, requiring two restarts before they were informed there would not be a third. The waves were mostly of the kind that only Toledo can make look interesting. Rio Waida did, too, just as he did yesterday, but the judges clearly hate him. I don’t imagine Indonesian Instagram has the clout for it to matter.

Leo Fiorovanti and childhood rival Kanoa Igarashi surfed an entertaining heat which saw the latter make it through to his first quarter-final of the year. A surprising stat for sure, but one that marks just how off the boil Kanoa has been this season.

He went on to lose to a typically spicy Toledo, but god only knows why he wasn’t rewarded for a Kerrupt on his final wave, a move we almost never see in competition, performed with some style and landed cleanly.

Connor O’Leary had a great run before hitting his ceiling against Colapinto in the quarter. Our current yellow jersey wearer has seemed infallible throughout the event, and it will be a joust to the death with Toledo for the victory.

“O’Leary’s backhand is filthy,” I noted at one point. And it is. And that’s all I’ll say about that, beyond noting that he’s quietly built a solidly unspectacular season, but I still don’t want to see him in a final five at Trestles.

Unfortunately that’s the way we have to look at this, isn’t it? Who will entertain us at Trestles. This comp is a pretty good marker for that, I reckon. A crumbly, cobblestone point where surfers mostly have to manufacture speed and power. What promise.

Much was made throughout the day of the physical demands of surfing two whole heats in a single day! And slippery rocks! Don’t forget the slippery rocks!

Honestly, have you ever heard such a fuss over rocks in your whole life? “Doin the rock dance…watch those rocks now…those rocks are lethal…they need to be so careful on those rocks…those rocks are so slippery…” etc etc and so on and so fucking forth.

It’s partly symptomatic of the commentators having too much time to use all their words, but you’d never believe they’re talking about professional athletes. Imagine having to surf a three-foot pointbreak for an hour a day, and walking over some rocks to get there. Imagine!

Yesterday I took part in a mountain race that was eight miles long and climbed three and half thousand feet. It was twenty six degrees centigrade. We climbed for an hour to reach the first summit, sometimes following faint paths made by stalkers and animals, sometimes none. The route traversed a long ridge, tagging two more summits before descending back to the valley.

It took me an hour and fifty three minutes of solid effort, some others three hours and more. My heart rate topped out at 193 and averaged 172.

One runner was airlifted off by helicopter, another treated for a gruesome head injury. Two more crossed the line then fainted. Others nursed scrapes and cuts and blisters.

No-one bickered or squabbled or complained about their injuries. We quietly acknowledged the toughness of the route, drank some water, exchanged smiles and well dones, jumped in the river to cool off, then went home. It was absolutely nothing like surfing, in the best possible way.

And I would guess that almost every amateur runner put in more physical effort than it takes a full time professional surfer to compete on days like today at Punta Roca, even if they do need to cross some slippery rocks.

Leo Fiorovanti joined the booth late today to explain that “Tokash”, the mysterious logo adorning the scoreboard is a cryptocurrency token exchange, and also Leo’s personal sponsor. How gloriously appropriate for the WSL to get a crypto sponsor just as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission have launched several lawsuits against the biggest exchanges in the game and prices have gone through the floor.

Bravo, WSL, you sponsorship whores, bravo.

The day closed with Barron Mamiya and Liam O”Brien sitting largely immobile in a ruffled, lukewarm ocean. O’Brien caught his second wave of the heat with just four minutes left on the clock, and only then in desperation. Then he lucked into an inside one under Mamiya’s priority just two minutes later for a 4.87 and victory.

It was a random wave after few opportunities and a mid-range score where two judges disagreed by a whole point. A fitting closure to the day’s proceedings.

Onto the semis we trudge. Ian Gentil faces Filipe Toledo on one side, Griffin Colapinto vs Liam O’Brien on the other.

More choppy three foot windswell you say? Superb. Can’t wait.

Slater (left) and Murray celebrating life's twists and turns. Photo: Instagram
Slater (left) and Murray celebrating life's twists and turns. Photo: Instagram

Surf world rejoices as cherished comedian Bill Murray finds sunset love with “Milkshake” songstress Kelis!

Kelly Slater on call as wedding officiant?

Of all the things that could have happened this year, was an alien spaceship crashing in Las Vegas and getting captured on police footage days after whistleblowers let it be known that the United States government has been sitting on twelve-ish UFOs for a long time high on your list of probabilities? What about Griffin Colapinto rounding into form and dominating the World Surf League?

Weird times.

Weird but delightful, the weirdest and most delightful, maybe, is the coupling of Bill Murray and Kelis. The beloved comedian, a surf world fixture, and the iconic songstress have, allegedly, been dating for a few short weeks now but have “hit it off” and are “spending time together.”

Back in January, Vegas was placing odds at 1/100000000000 on that one.

According to the report in Glamour, “Murray was spotted at Kelis’ Mighty Hoopla festival performance in Brockwell Park, South London on June 3. The actor proved to be a big fan by meeting up with Kelis post-show and snagging a quick pic (also featuring rapper Children of Zeus). If it were just one show, I’d guess that Murray is just a really big fan of ‘Milkshake,’ but the actor has allegedly been spotted at other Kelis shows, though the timeline is unclear.”

Though Murray is 72 and Kelis is 43, the age difference does not appear to be an issue leading surf fans to wonder if wedding bells are over the horizon and also if Kelly Slater might be called to officiate.

The Caddyshack star and 11x World Champion are wonderful friends, golfing etc. together. After a recent outing, Slater wondered, “Has anyone ever spent the day with Bill Murray and not smiled all day? A memorable day in my life.”

Standing in front of a beaming audience, love in the air and pronouncing the two man and wife would certainly eclipse.


Back to aliens, though, and the one just spotted in Nevada by a teenager who described the creature as having a “weird-looking face” and said, “I looked at it in the eyes, and my body just froze like having sleep paralysis.”

It must be noted that World Surf League CEO Erik Logan has been missing since the insurrection at Surf Ranch some two weeks ago.

More as the story develops.

Comment live, Surf City El Salvador Pro, as Griffin Colapinto, Gabriel Medina, Italo Ferreira and Filipe Toledo surge towards world title dream!

Women's elimination round followed by men's round of sixteen then quarter finals! Oowee!

Florence, for his part, looks more and more like Dane Reynolds on Tour every day. He just won’t compromise his surfing to fit heats. He wants to annihilate every section, and there’s true beauty in this violence, but there’s also dejectedness when the waves and heats don’t present opportunity. It makes Florence seem out of his element. And if we wonder why he’s here, he must too. Judges threw him an 8.43 as a carrot in his elimination heat. The only score above eight for the entire round, in fact, but it wasn’t enough to swing the heat, and it would’ve been a travesty if it had.

A “dejected” John John Florence, last place at Surf City El Salvador Pro, looking “more and more like Dane Reynolds every day”!

"He won’t compromise his surfing to fit heats. He wants to annihilate every section, and there’s true beauty in this violence, but there’s also dejectedness when the waves and heats don’t present opportunity."

A mark of a man is how he performs under pressure. If you’re highly skilled in your field, an expert in your craft, or just damn good at your job, you should welcome scrutiny. It’s an opportunity to show you know your onions and silence your detractors.

This was the situation facing WSL judges today. They had the chance to prove Logan’s claim that they were “elite professionals” and hopefully dampen the controversies in the wake of Surf Ranch.

Instead, they shat the bed. Or at least soiled it heavily.

During heat one, Pete Mel read the judging criteria. It had been disseminated via text to all the surfers, they assured us. In typical WSL style, it was a clear response to recent controversy, but without actually acknowledging it.

The criteria, however, seemed once again like the judges were looking for…everything.

Despite this, Mel and co latched onto the bit that said “progressive and innovative manoeuvres and airs”. Was it mandated for the commentary team to emphasise this? We’ll never know.

Despite acknowledging this criteria in some of the early heats (Toledo was well rewarded for airs mediocre by his standards) some of the highest scores of the day went to Connor O’Leary and Leo Fiorovanti for bog standard top to bottom surfing.

It was a nervy day of scoring. Rather than solidify the application of their criteria, judges appeared more panicky than ever. Scores above eight were a rare bird. As such they became mashed into the five to seven range with little distinction between what our eyes told us were quite distinct approaches to waves.

The wave quality and consistency deteriorated through the day but looked deliciously fun as Kelly Slater, Ethan Ewing and Matt McGilivray took to the water for the first heat.

Slater’s presence remains confusing. What does he have to gain by surfing here in El Salvador? If it’s not mathematically impossible for him to reach the top five, it must be damn near. He can’t win here, neither Rio. J-Bay seems almost impossible, with Teahupo’o the sole glimpse of hope.

Does he feel awkward about the wildcard rules being altered to accommodate him? Does he feel so embarrassed being gifted a slot that he’ll make the trips to El Salvador and Rio, just so he can justify Tahiti?

Chris Cote reported from the Red Bull athlete zone early today. It was like a library, he told us in hushed tones. Surfers were studying the waves, trying to learn something from the early scoring. Then he drifted away like a fart in a library.

Kaipo’s phrase of the day was “exaggerated fundamentals”. He applied it to Robson and O’Leary, and anyone else he wasn’t entirely sure could do an air.

And while I’m on the commentary, Mitchell Salaazar has the demeanour of a man who’s been taken out for a picnic and couldn’t find his way back to the bus. I suppose we can’t blame him for cheery gormlessness, but we do have a right to question the things he says. Listen carefully, you’ll hear some quite stunning inanity.

“There’s nothing welcoming about this wave!” he exclaimed in a hideously incorrect segue to something Cote had said.

“If he gets into the top five we could have our first European world champion!” he said of Leo Fiorovanti.

“He’s a very methodical surfer on his backhand,” he informed us about Ryan Callinan as we watched a replay of him go upside down, back to front through the lip in a manner anything but methodical.

I stopped noting them down after a while, and just guffawed quietly to myself.

And I do object to a broadcast that feels like an advert for a board of tourism, but I suppose we should be used to it by now. WSL event locations are often predicated on who’s prepared to pay them the most.

Bryan Perez was the collateral damage of this full-pronged attack to convince us that El Salvador is the greatest surfing country on earth. One of the hapless commentators even suggested there could be an “El Salvador Storm” led by Bryan Perez. If there’s a hidden depth of talent in El Salvador I haven’t noticed (or if Bryan Perez is aging in reverse) I’ll make my apologies now, but I just can’t see it.

To be fair to Perez, despite not being quite the superstar the broadcast would have us believe, he gave a good account of himself. His fifteen point-something heat total for the opening round was solid but not enough to trouble the yellow jersey of Griffin Colapinto. I thought he should’ve won the elimination heat against Chianca with a potential buzzer beater that included two reverses. He needed a mid-seven, and if the judges understood their own criteria, they really should’ve given him it.

The scores awarded seemed to increase as the opening round progressed. This was not, as suggested, the judge’s response to the innovation and progression of manoeuvres, but rather a default to over-scoring fundamental surfing.

They lost their shit entirely when they gave Fiorovanti a nine.

Amongst all the progression, all the innovation, all the flow and power and risk surfers peacocked in front of the judges all day, it was simply Fiorovanti with some nice turns that elicited the highest score of the day.

I want to feel affinity towards Leo as the lone European on Tour, but I just can’t. He’s all frantic elbows and twitching to me. But these facts notwithstanding, I still can’t see the score, not in context of the day.

Medina couldn’t buy an eight. He was poor in his opening heat against Italo and Liam O’Brien, his paltry heat total of 7.17 highly uncharacteristic, but marking some inconsistency in the conditions.

By contrast, he looked great in eliminating Slater. His scoring waves of 7.5 and 5.7 by rights, should have been a mid-eight and a high seven. I’m sure this seems nitpicky, but in the context of the day it stood out.

God knows why poor Rio Waida was so low balled in his elimination heat against Florence. He won, so he won’t be worried, but his scoring waves looked a point higher each. He showed variety in every turn, has speed to burn, flow throughout, and the ability to throw risky, technical airs. Is that not the criteria? I can only presume his slightness works against him, but it would be an error to call him light-footed.

Florence, for his part, looks more and more like Dane Reynolds on Tour every day. He just won’t compromise his surfing to fit heats. He wants to annihilate every section, and there’s true beauty in this violence, but there’s also dejectedness when the waves and heats don’t present opportunity. It makes Florence seem out of his element. And if we wonder why he’s here, he must too.

Judges threw him an 8.43 as a carrot in his elimination heat. The only score above eight for the entire round, in fact, but it wasn’t enough to swing the heat, and it would’ve been a travesty if it had.

Jack Robinson was the other high profile name eliminated today, despite looking full of verve and promise, his status as a top five surfer suddenly looks precarious.

After missing Margaret River with a knee injury and an early exit from Surf Ranch, he opened today surfing like a man possessed. He was the better surfer in his opening heat, despite losing to O’Leary. And I happen to think he beat Ian Gentil in his elimination heat. On another day, these scores fall for him, but not today.

Instead of clarity in the judging, today I felt more confused than ever.

Hard to pick a winner of this one in the face of such erratic scoring. Colapinto and Toledo would seem like the safe bets, but “exaggerated fundamentals” might be the flavour of the moment.