Security prepare to confiscate contraband sandwiches at the Surf Ranch Pro.

Surf fans rally around beloved journalist suffering PTSD after Surf Ranch Pro horror!

The whole absurd dance feels like a gift from a mischievous spirit. Oh yeah? You want to watch competitive surfing, well, have I got something for you!

When I think about Surf Ranch, which I try very hard not to do, I see the weirdest images. They could not possibly have been real. But still, somehow they’ve become lodged in my brain.

Was it all a dream? I look at my still-dusty shoes and realize regretfully that it was not.

Security seizing sandwiches. A writer from The Inertia hunched over his laptop in the near-empty media area. The overflowing Porta-Potties, that really, should never have come close to overflowing. The average construction site manages their poop better. The surreal version of judging now considered the norm in professional surfing. The inescapable heat.

What a wild, weird thing we’ve chosen to watch.

I’m not even sure why we’re still here, except it feels impossible to look away from pro surfing’s carnival. The whole absurd dance feels like a gift from a mischievous spirit. Oh yeah? You want to watch competitive surfing, well, have I got something for you!

Surely, something has cursed this year’s Championship Tour, at least when it comes to waves. If you’ve been here even a minute, you will know by now that I pretty much have no standards at all when it comes to surf. If I think a surfboard will float on it, I will try to surf it.

Let’s just say, I would not have been excited to rock up to the conditions at the recent El Salvador thing. Point breaks are pure magic until they’re not — and the not, was pretty dismal in this case, even by my very low standards. I do hope the tourism board is happy, at least.

After watching the women’s heats, I believe I have found the method to the judging madness. They’re counting turns. That’s it! They’re just sitting up there in the tower, counting turns. Oh hey, she did five! Good score. Only three? Meh.

It’s not that I necessarily hold it against them. Quantity over quality is how we like it here at the Trash Palace. Apparently, we’re not the only ones. But I’m not sure this is a standard to emulate willy-nilly, whenever you feel like it.

Take for example an opening exchange between Carissa and Lakey. Carissa found one of the better waves on offer, which isn’t saying much. It was over waist high, I think! She strung together a series of floaters and foam climbs — and managed to place a couple of turns. I felt generous giving it a 7. The judges? 8.0. Oh hey.

Lakey took off on a smaller insider. She reached back to her skateboarding roots and ripped it. Three fast, fins out turns. I figured 6.5ish. The judges counted turns, found it wanting, and gave it a 5.33. In a less absurd world, the quality of Lakey’s turns would have added up to a better score. Instead, the judges counted turns and blew open the heat on the opening exchange. Lakey never found her way back into it.

No shade on Carissa for figuring out what’s wanted and surfing straight to it, but I’d love to know what’s going on in the tower. Did the WSL cut their pay? Is the lunch service down to PB&J? Maybe one of those fancy credentialed media people with their laptops could ask this question.

I’m just a girl with four cartons of box water still sitting in my refrigerator. I do think from now on, I’m going to use this more is better approach with editors. See? It’s so many words! What do you mean you actually wanted good words? I feel certain this tactic will work out for me.

Like Carissa, Caroline knows what the judges want. Turns, so many. When I saw her at the fabulous Tachi Palace, Caroline looked strong and healthy. The time she took away from competing seems to have served her well. Her Instagram now runs more toward surfing clips than bikini babe poses. She seems to have found balance. For her sake, I hope that’s true.

Freesurfing, Caroline looks like she’s having fun. Her surfing has variety. She’s ripping. Sure, that trailing arm still has a mind of its own, but her style has smoothed out over the past few years.

Who among us doesn’t occasionally wave our arms around uncontrollably? Oh. Right. Well just me, I guess. I have really long arms. It’s not my fault!

Thanks to the vagaries of the judging panel, I feel like we don’t necessarily see Caroline’s best surfing during heats. She can do more than one turn! But if the number is all that matters, well, just keep doin’ the same one. Ten’s for you! And you! And you!

I’m not about to hate on anyone for doing the surfing that scores points. If you want to win, that’s what you do. But I am going to look a little sideways at the whole circus. Here I am standing here, looking sideways, wondering if the judges need a sandwich.

Caity Simmers. Underscore or nah? Caity looks relentlessly determined to avoid conforming to the judges demands. This is extremely punk rock. But it does not look to be the most obvious route to winning a world title. We all have different goals, and no doubt she knows what she’s doing out there.

In their opening round heat, Caroline left the door open with a 3.17 and a 5.17. Sitting with a 0.83, Caity took a smaller inside zipper. After a couple nothing turns, she tossed an air reverse with a two-handed, toe-side grab. She used the grab to give it a little whip.

Was it style or necessity? On second watch, the whole thing looked forced to me. Caity didn’t really get high enough to complete the reverse and had to work to make it. The grab looked more awkward than stylish. Credit to Caity for trying to make a small wave into a score, but the judges got this one right with the 5.50.

In her quarterfinal, Carissa put up a clean air reverse on the end section after chaining together a series of turns. She looked strong with sharp turns all the way through the wave. The air was higher than Caity’s and needed no forcing. The judges gave her a 9.37, and rightly.

At risk of starting a riot, Chris Coté is right that surfing needs to sort out the whole situation with naming airs. We’re more than 30 years into the aerial era in surfing (Davey Smith says hello from the 1980’s), and I feel like we can do this. Calling everything an air reverse ain’t helping.

Give me back-5 and front-5 for a full rotation. If there’s a cute grab, call it a back-5 stalefish or front-5 indy. I’ll go ahead and admit that I just like to say Stalefish. It sounds cool. I don’t want to painfully write out, backside tail high full rotation. Tail high back-5. We all know what it is. We’re all happy.

I’m not saying that the judges would suddenly come to their senses and score airs correctly. I feel like that is far too much to expect. I do not have this kind of hope in my heart. But it might help! Please let me have this one nice thing.

Caroline Marks won this thing and now sits third in the rankings behind Carissa and Tyler. Molly is still holding a spot in the top five, though she dropped to fourth. Caity fell to seventh, after going out in round 2 where she mostly sat and watched Bettylou surf. In a hilarious turn, Steph and Tati are tied for fifth. I can’t see that tie lasting too much longer, but it’s fun for now.

After spending a few hours dancing around in small waves, Caroline won $100,000. In all the absurdities of surfing that might top the list. No wonder every dad wants his kid to grow up to be a pro surfer. For a niche sport, that’s a pretty damn hefty pay-out.

Shall we compare? Sure, why not. After three weeks of racing around France in every kind of weather, the winner of the Tour de France wins €500,000 (roughly USD550,000). Then he splits that prize money with his eight teammates. Team staff typically also receive a cut. The Tour de France is broadcast on television in 190 countries. Winning a mountain bike world cup race, meanwhile, pays out €3750 (roughly USD4000).

If there’s a lesson here, it’s never become a writer. Honestly, it’s the fastest known route to insanity. You’ll get dust on your shoes and spend too much time contemplating porta-potties. You’ll actually care what airs are called in surfing. You’ll look around and wonder how in the world you ended up here.

Today the sun is out and I ordered a new surfboard. I think a lot about how I don’t have to go to Surf Ranch again. If I had a gratitude journal, I’d write that down on the very first page. I’ll take a carton of box water down to the beach and stare up at the boundless sky. I’ll look for waves, no matter how small and insignificent, and then, pretending no one is watching, I’ll dance in the wild blue with joyful abandon.

It’s enough.

Abandoned baby seal turns to San Diego’s middle-aged straight white male surfers for motherly love and affection!


After finishing my second cappuccino of the morning whilst sitting outside Manhattan’s iconic Lincoln Center, you can imagine my shock when learning that surfers are no longer young, nubile, teenaged boys and girls but rather grizzled straight, white men, by and large. Derek Rielly pulling the wool from our eyes, sharing the research from Australia’s Dr. Sims, writing:

Craig Sims, who is a former South African pro surfer turned magazine publisher and university academic (he has a PHD in Media Studies from Bond), says the peak participation age for men is 45-to-49 (I added the bit about CIS and white in the headline…clickbait etc… you understand) and 35-to-44 for gals.

“This clear and present aging trend forces us to accept an important and far-reaching statement: Surfing is no longer a youth sport inextricably tied to youth culture. Failing to accept this statement will result in surf brands missing out on forging a meaningful connection with a significant and growing segment of their market.”

Oh. I guess I added “straight white male” for the same reason, but that is mostly what I see around my home San Diego breaks. But have these elderly gents, public enemy number one, received a bum rap? For the New York Post is reporting that an abandoned baby seal is turning to them for motherly love.

Per the story:

A seal pup paid a surprise visit to a number of surfers at a California beach over the weekend as it jumped from board to board and floated on the waves with them.

The baby seal made its appearance in the waters off Tourmaline Beach just North of San Diego on Saturday to the delight of the surfers there.

Drone footage captured the pup clambering out of the water onto the ends of the surfers’ boards where it rested and sunned itself on its side.

The joy of the surfers was apparent on their shocked and smiling faces, but all appeared to keep their distance and give the seal its space.

Some of the bros called Sea World who came an investigated but concluded that the li’l fella was healthy and happy and doing ok on its own.

Calling Sea World on a baby seal seems extremely cruel, to be honest.


In any case, I think I’ve shared before, but was once working at a summer camp in Canada, manning the bottom of a zipline. It ran from a tree on a cliff into the sound and I stood at the bottom in a Zodiac, retrieving campers after splashdown. Once day, a baby seal all white fury and cute, hollered down to me from a rock wall. The tides were extreme and its mother had left it all alone and very high. I scaled up, grabbed it and jumped into the sea. The darling thing stuck around all day, swimming around my dinghy, hopping aboard, sleeping at my feet. I brought it back to the main camp at the end of the day and the director told me they couldn’t feed it and instructed to leave it in the water.

As I had nowhere to hide it, I took the baby to a nice send off spot and stayed until the sunset.

The next morning the sweet baby was dead.

I curse that camp director to this day.

Kelly Slater (pictured) mocking.
Kelly Slater (pictured) mocking.

Surf fans hold breath to see if enigmatic champion Kelly Slater will openly mock proud nation of Brazil once again!

Si o no?

I am currently in New York enjoying art, culture and steak frites. The weather is mild, coffee good and overall mood elevated. A very fine vibe. I went and saw the Lagerfeld retrospective at The Met, yesterday, and was generally impressed though not as moved as I was by the Degas, The Little Dancer Aged Fourteen etc. Today, I dropped my daughter off for her first day at the American School of Ballet at Lincoln Center. She was accepted into the summer intensive program, a real feat, and stood steely-eyed at the check-in table sussing the talent.

It seemed to be of an extremely high quality.

It made me think of the Brazil contest, now hours away, and what it prove on this year’s bizarre 2024 Championship Tour. The World Surf League seems have made an entire mess of things, first of all hosting competitions in lousy spots, getting lousy waves on top of that and effectively destroying the thin idea holding it all together that professional surfing can be judged.

In ballet, talent and athleticism, performance and artistry, the ethereal grace are all felt. There are no 6.7s or 8.3s. No 9s for three identical turns. What the body does to the music, how it holds the intricate positions and moves between them is appreciated in a way numbers can’t measure.

Especially stupid numbers that fly in the face of whatever arbitrary metric had been decided upon.

What will Brazil prove?

That Felipe Toledo is the best surfer in the world of World Surf League, certainly, and that the judges are afraid of getting burnt at the stake, likely, and that Kelly Slater, the best surfer in the Association of Surfing Professionals, is either feeling guilty for accepting a make-believe season-long wildcard and/or thinks there is somehow still an Olympic pathway, if he shows.

That he really truly all the way dislikes the land of order and progress, if he does not.

The 11x champion has made sport of not going to Brazil over the course of his extremely long career and using positively laughable excuses for his absences.

It is difficult to picture him in Saquarema. It is also difficult to picture him not in Saquarema.

Neither scenario matters much, in the end. The World Surf League is increasingly inhabiting a Kafka-esque reality where equality is anti-lesbian and environmentalism is gas powered desert surf ponds.

Time for one more cappuccino.

“This clear and present aging trend forces us to accept an important and far-reaching statement: Surfing is no longer a youth sport inextricably tied to youth culture."

Youth participation in surfing plummets as bombshell study reveals average surfer a 45-to-49 year old white CIS male!

“Surfing is no longer a youth sport inextricably tied to youth culture.”

A landmark study just released by Bond University, Australia’s first private college and named after a notorious swindler, has revealed surfing ain’t the plaything of kids anymore. 

Craig Sims, who is a former South African pro surfer turned magazine publisher and university academic (he has a PHD in Media Studies from Bond), says the peak participation age for men is 45-to-49 (I added the bit about CIS and white in the headline…clickbait etc… you understand) and 35-to-44 for gals. 

“This clear and present aging trend forces us to accept an important and far-reaching statement: Surfing is no longer a youth sport inextricably tied to youth culture. Failing to accept this statement will result in surf brands missing out on forging a meaningful connection with a significant and growing segment of their market.”

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. 

A few  weeks back I went to the premiere of The Greatest Surf Movie in the Universe, the most significant thing to happen culturally in Australian surfing since Kai Neville’s films, and the cinema was a sea of polished skulls and silver manes, paunches harnessed by Quiksilver tees. So many wizened winter apples. The median age, at a guess, would’ve been sixty.

In lineups, there’s a few kids here and there, mostly tweenies getting pushed into waves by their daddies, but the absence of teens marauding the surf is stark. 

The ageing of the sport next to the influx of late-starting kooks ’cause of COVID and the rise of the murfer has enormous implications for the surf industry, says Sims. 

“There’s…potential for surf tourism operators to tap into a whole new breed of customer by accommodating travel demand from unskilled surfers who don’t have the proficiency to handle the hollow and shallow reef breaks typically associated with remote or exotic surf locations.”

Even wave pool operators have to cool their jets ’cause their customers are either old, incapable or both.

 “Most wave parks have the capacity to create technically challenging waves, yet they tend to only offer these settings in the very early and late part of their operating hours and the bulk of their day is dedicated to novice and intermediate settings.”

You’ll remember a couple of years back when the organisers of a surfing contest in New Zealand were been forced to add a new age-group after an eighty-year-old kneeboarder signed up. To accommodate older surfers, those aged seventy-five to seventy-nine, there now exists the division, “Immortals”.

All very interesting, of course, although I doubt I would go near surfing if I was twelve again, such is its decline from wild, atavistic man-against-the-elements lifestyle to its current Surfline Man goes to Surf Ranch incarnation.

Where do you stand? Is surfing a declining sport for old men and relatively aged gals or does it stand on the precipice of a great renaissance, rebirth etc?

Big-wave legend Dylan Longbottom just released from ICU after being “impaled” at Australia’s heaviest wave reveals “I was drowning in my own blood!”

"I was sent straight to the trauma ward. My ribs were badly broken, one lung was partially collapsed, the other wasn't working."

Last Saturday, the shaper and former pro Dylan Longbottom was gifted a front-row seat to his mortality after being driven chest-first into a limestone pinnacle at a wave he, and others, describe as the heaviest in Australia. 

Longbottom, who is forty-nine, is, or at least was, on a slab-hunting tour of the world with his preternaturally talented twenty-year-old daughter Summa. A few weeks back they were at Shipsterns in Tasmania, which was followed by Victoria and, last week, a detour to South Australia.

It was Dylan’s hard-charging brother Daz, who busted his neck on an Indo trip fifteen years ago and wound up in a chair, who let me know his little bro was in hozzy.

So I call Dylan, who’s in fine spirits, despite being surrounded by people in ICU who’ll never make it out of hospital alive, to hear his wild story.

“Well, first,” he says, “it was a big day. Huge period. Eighteen seconds. The biggest slabs. The gnarliest slab in Australia. I was with Kip Caddy, Nathan Florence and (Moroccan big-waver) Jerome Sahyoun and they all agreed. It was six-to-ten feet, some twelve, maybe fifteen-footers. I towed Jerome into a bunch, then Noa Deane and Harry Bryant who were down there. Then it was my turn. I got one and it turned into a mutant. I was already committed, I had my line, going for it, and it gurgled out and I fell right at the bottom. Worst spot. On the biggest wave of the day. I got sucked over the falls and then first impact I didn’t hit but on the second impact I got impaled on a limestone pinnacle. It’s not flat there, it’s like Pipeline. I landed right on my chest and, through my impact suit, I blew out my ribcage and punctured my lung. I didn’t know, I was just out of breath. I was… struggling… for breath and in a world of pain. Kip and Jerome came and saved me. That was it, one and done.”

Even so, Dylan didn’t wanna end the sesh and it was only an intervention from Sahyoun that kept him out of the water. The sight of her old boy on the sidelines wheezing didn’t deter his little gal Summa who told him, “I’ll be sweet Dad”,  but Sayhoun told her, “You’re not surfing today.” 

Blown lung, ribs shattered. What’d Dylan do? Busted the necks of a few coldies and gulped a handful of the anti-inflammatory Nurofen he found in a kitchen draw at their rental. 

“You’d never know he was so injured,” says the filmmaker Tim Bonython, “After the wipeout the painkillers and beers were  making him feel okay.” 

That night, he “woke up in a world of pain. I struggled. I took my painkillers, had a few more beers” and sat in a lounge chair until dawn when they went back to the wave and Summer got her desired bombs. 

What followed was an overnight twelve-hour drive to the South Australian capital Adelaide, which included a brief chase by the cops with Moroccan Sahyoun unsure of what to do when police lights are flashed, and a two-hour flight to Sydney.

Dylan’s been belted around in big waves before so he knows injuries. And he figured, busted ribs, maybe a cracked sternum, nothing a doctor can do, just gotta ride it out.

Still, he went to his local GP who sent him for x-rays where the extent of his injuries were revealed.

“I was sent straight to the trauma ward, my ribs were badly broken like in a car crash, and tubes were put in my lungs to drain ’em. One lung was partially collapsed, the other wasn’t working. Doc said I was lucky to survive the flight ’cause of the pressure. I could’ve gone into cardiac arrest.”

After surgery on Friday, Dylan spent the weekend in ICU but today he’s been released to recuperate at home, two months or thereabouts out of the water, but he reckons he’ll be able to shape, slowly, maybe two sleds a day.

The obvious question to ask, I suppose, is if this can happen to him, does he worry about his kid pushing not only her own limits but the boundaries of the sport?

“It’s heavy, bro,” he says. “It’s worrying but then it’s rewarding at the same thing. It’s hard to explain. People ask me, how do you do it, but the week before this, we were at Shipsterns and she got the craziest one and she was actually smiling while she was on the wave. She loves it. She has no fear. I always try to drop her right on the edge, not too deep, not in a bad zone and I get her in early. But she’s been doing it for a long time now, she surfed Nazaré when she was thirteen. She knows how to take a beating. She’s the only girl chasing class. She towed Teahupoo three weeks ago on a big swell.”

Summa taking on evil-looking Shippies on her backhand. Photo: Bonython
“She loves it. She has no fear. She’s been doing it for a long time now, she surfed Nazaré when she was thirteen. She knows how to take a beating.” Photo: Bonython

Still, a daddy is a daddy.

“It’s your daughter and you don’t want anything to go wrong but at the same time when you see how much enjoyment and fulfilment she gets from her adventuring it’s so good. It’s living life to the max and you’re doing with your daughter. She loves it and I love it. We’re going on adventures around the world, and it’s not just about the waves, the ride’s the bonus, but having fun in between. It’s the best time.”