Caity Simmers brought the house down with a nine two three in her semi; and victor Caroline Marks, comfortable in waves that would make the men's world champ shriek.

Caity Simmers and Caroline Marks dominate Tahiti Pro as world champ Stephanie Gilmore shows “little interest in being there”

"The women belong at Teahupo’o. The progression was significant compared to a year ago and it’s a joy to see that unfold in real time."

Wind raged across the lineup as Caroline Marks won the Shiseido Tahiti Pro ahead of Caity Simmers on Wednesday. It was not the most exciting heat you’ll ever see, and it would be a mistake to judge the women’s contest by the final.

In fact, the women made a strong case that they belong at Teahupo’o. There’s still have work to do, sure. But the progression looked significant compared to a year ago and it’s a joy to see that unfold in real time.

Let’s dispense with the Steph Gilmore question straight away. Somehow Steph made it through to the quarterfinals at Teahupo’o, but it was clear she had little interest in being there. Steph brought the fire to win last year’s world title, but she’s seemed unmoored this year, and has rarely shown her best surfing. It’ll always be a mark against Steph that she hasn’t made the same push to decode barreling lefts that her competitors have.

Until now, she never needed to. Before its return to the women’s calendar in 2022, Teahupo’o last appeared in 2006. Steph’s first year on Tour came the following year in 2007. It’s worth lingering for a hot minute on Steph’s rookie year. Out of eight events, she won four — and she won the world title. Then Steph was world champion for the next three years in a row.

Each year’s world tour calendar featured enough rights — and Steph typically won them all — to secure her the title. Sometimes natural talent is both a blessing and a curse. When it all comes so easily, learning something new can feel like an insurmountable obstacle. Barreling lefts have turned out to be Steph’s curse. Caroline had no trouble sending her home in the quarters.

On paper, the quarterfinal between Vahine Fierro and Carissa looked like one of the best heats of the day. The ocean had other ideas. Carissa blew a take-off on a possible score early on, but in truth neither of them found much to ride. Vahine has a smooth grace in the barrel but could only muster a 6.83 and a 2.00. Vahine rightly won it, but it was a low-scoring heat all around from two surfers who had more to give.

Like several of the women in the draw, Tati has significantly improved her surfing in left barrels. Until now, she hasn’t shown much affinity for it, and I’ll confess to having images of her straightening out at Pipe etched in my mind. A first sign of the change came in the form of a pre-comp clip where she pulled into a solid one and rode it out.

Despite her progress, Tati narrowly lost to a hard-charging Tyler Wright. Their quarterfinal was one of the closest heats of the day, and the split between Tati’s 6.93 and Tyler’s 7.17 may well keep Tati up at night for a while. To my eye Tyler deserved the score and her seven was one of the better barrels of the day from a regular foot.

The heat between Molly Picklum and Caity was a straight-up huck fest. It was hilariously low scoring for the intensity they brought to it. Molly and Caity just fully went for it without any signs of fear. Reef? What reef? There they were, just pulling into close-outs like it was no big thing. Love that for them.

Molly had the highest scoring wave of this one, but Caity took the win by a narrow margin. It could easily have gone either way, and these two promise to make women’s surfing fun to watch for a lot of years to come.

Tyler has also done her homework, and she was a back-up score away from winning her semifinal against Caroline. With a heavy sideshore wind on it, the conditions favored the goofyfoots going front side. Still, Tyler managed to put up another high score with a 7.67. It wasn’t a long tube ride, by any means, but I don’t think she could have ridden it much better. After a smooth drop, she grabbed rail, set her line, and rode it out. I’ll forgive the claim, if you will.

By far the best wave the day belongs to Caity. It came just inside the 8 minute mark of her semifinal against Vahine. The first wave of the heat went to Caity, who dropped in for a quick tube and turn. 6.50. Vahine pulled into a sweet one, stalled, and came out for a high seven. She held a slim lead for much of the heat. For a while, the ocean seemed to go flat. As the clock ticked down, it looked like Vahine had it won. Caity needed a mid-4 to advance.

If you watch nothing else from this finals day, watch this wave from Caity. It shows plainly her unique intuition. It’s as though Caity feels a rhythm on that wave that few others can perceive. It reminded me of Steph’s front side barrel at Keramas a few years back, where she had that beautiful dancing two-step into the barrel. No one can teach that kind of feel for how the ocean moves.

Setting it up, Caity takes off from deep. The wave sections ahead of her, but she smoothly bottom turns around it. Remember now, she’s surfing backside. Caity throws a quick midface turn to line up the barrel. Then she grabs rail and pulls in.

Shooting through the crumbling lip, she makes a clean exit. She almost looks surprised that she made it. But she still remembers to throw in a quick down carve to finish it. The judges gave it a 9.23. I’m not sure what else they wanted there. Just give her the ten, you nerds!

After that drama, the final did not have much to offer. A gale blew through and turned the lineup into victory at sea. I’m not sure why they didn’t go on hold. I suppose they were afraid we’d all leave and do something else, as though people who watch surf contests have anything else to do. Spoiler! We don’t.

Buffeted by the wind-driven bumps swarming the lineup, Caroline won it with a five and a three. The conditions gave this heat a “what could have been” sort of vibe. In better conditions, it might have been a real one between Caroline and Caity.

There simply wasn’t much to do here — though Caity earned some serious core points for sending it hard and getting munched on one of the bigger sets of the heat.

Throughout finals day, Caroline skillfully threaded the wind-warped tubes on offer. She looks smooth and comfortable out there. Caroline’s a bit less deep in the tube than Vahine, who has the timing at Teahupo’o on lock. No doubt Caroline will be spending more time in Tahiti ahead of the Olympics.

With her second win of the season, Caroline finishes her comeback year third in the world ahead of the final at Trestles. She should be proud of that. It’s not easy to step away, reset, and return to the top level the way she has.

Unlike the men’s side, there were no changes to the top five. Carissa held her narrow lead over Tyler in second. Caroline sits third followed by Molly and Caity. The women’s finals will open with a heat between Caity and Molly. Really, I’m not sure we could ask for more out of this absurd format. That heat will be scrap. The winner meets Caroline. If anyone wants to make a run up the draw, they’ve got a very tough climb.

It’s perhaps fitting that Carissa and Caity sit at either end of the draw. In her first year on Tour in 2010, Carissa won two events and finished third overall. At the time, she was compared to Kelly and Dane for her progression, poise, and inventive surfing. Surfing her first year, Caity has also won two events, and currently sits fifth overall. She’s regularly compared to Dane and John John.

In the current moment, they sit at opposite ends of their careers. Caity combines flashes of sheer brilliance with youthful inconsistency. Carissa meanwhile steady refines her prodigious talent and has seemed to find inspiration rather than fear in the performances of younger surfers like Caity and Molly. Caity has everything ahead of her — both the good and the bad.

The meeting of these two generations promises to push them both. And along the way, they’ll surely raise the level of women’s surfing still further. Already, two years of women’s contests at Teahupo’o have shown us glimmerings of what’s to come. Ten years from now, it may all look entirely different. It’s sure to be one hell of a ride.

Stickers reading “Dave Prodan Killed Surfing” mysteriously appear at Lower Trestles ahead of Rip Curl WSL Finals!

World Surf League chief strategist outed!

Another World Surf League season is drawing to a close, this one mostly memorable for CEO Erik Logan getting ruthlessly fired and disappeared in the back half. Other than that, it was marked with generally poor surf, silly booth talk, Bailey Ladders, Kelly Slater’s make-believe wildcard, Make or Break getting canceled, Jessi Miley-Dyer promoting herself to Chief of Sport, greenwashing, sportwashing, Cup Noodles.

Who is to blame?

According no The Animal Chin, the buck stops with Dave Prodan.

In a scintillating expose from one month ago, Chin argued:

Recently, Surfer and Stab recommended that Dave Prodan, current Chief Marketing Officer, be groomed as successor to the ELo throne. While his pedigree and involvement may be what Dirk and others view as logical and prudent, he is absolutely the wrong man for the job.

To begin, Dave has sat idly by while the WSL turned into the “bullshit wannabe tennis tour” that Bobby foresaw. Along each step of the way, Dave was fully responsible for the hype and positioning of the company in this pivot.

Well, it appears as if others agree.

A few short weeks away from the Rip Curl WSL Finals at Lower Trestles, another bungled idea, stickers are turning up down that iconic trail reading “Dave Prodan killed surfing” next to a photograph of Prodan’s face once described by the great Derek Rielly as having enchanting “big eyes, delicate hands, never dirty, and silky hair that he smooths vigorously each morning in the hope of flattening a cow-lick which rears from the top of his skull.”

The stickers are on street signs, on guard rails, on light posts and trash cans.

Who placed them?

How did they arrive?

Is the statement true?

David Lee Scales and I discussed on our weekly chat. It is his inclination that the last man standing will have to take the blame and he is certainly right about Prodan’s tenure. He has weathered more regimes than I can even count, stretching back decades into the mists of Association of Surfing Professionals. He has slowly risen to a place of power, hosting the World Surf League’s popular podcast and exemplifying newspeak in its most pure form.

But killing surfing?

What are your thoughts.

David Lee and I also talked about Committees for Equity in Women’s Surfing and other such important things. I think you will enjoy.

Robinson (pictured) the winner. Photo: WSL
Robinson (pictured) the winner. Photo: WSL

Final day of World Surf League regular season at wind-eaten Teahupo’o reminiscent of a kids’ short story, where the writer bungs in a murder, drug deal, or explosion, hoping it will make the story exciting

When we’re left with a top five at year end that doesn’t include Medina or Florence, someone, somewhere, should be asking serious questions.

It was a still, humid day in August, and the clocks were striking three AM.

And with that, the regular season was done.

If you could script it (but of course you Can’t) you would certainly have pitted two of the world’s best tuberiders against each other in the final. A final that would decide which man had the chance to compete for a world title.

It was a seemingly perfect scenario from a WSL perspective. The kind of scenario Erik Logan surely pitched in clammy Santa Monica boardrooms.

Why, then, did it not feel perfect, or even exciting?

Did you feel anything? Were you rapt with the pleasure that great sporting moments bring?

Did you Australians cry tears of jingoistic joy when Robinson assured his place in the WSL Finals?

The waves were not perfect, this is true. They weren’t even particularly good, unless your baseline is the wave quality of the 2023 World Championship Tour as a whole. In which case they were well above average.

Maybe it’s the gloomy prospect of Trestles. Maybe the various final five scenarios were just too complex. Or maybe the WSL just did a poor job of communicating them. Likely all are true.

Certainly the little montages with Kaipo’s narration (after the final had started, no less!) were distinctly amateur. Partly it was Kaipo’s tone and the simple (and I do mean simple) content of his speech, and partly it was the dramatic strings, a scant attempt to make things seem momentous.

It was reminiscent of a kids’ short story, where the writer bungs in a murder, drug deal, or explosion, hoping it will make the story exciting.

It was a flaccid end to a day that could’ve been so much more.

We had salivated over the prospect of Medina vs Florence in the quarter final. “The guys are gonna try and eat each other”, promised Robinson. That’s what we all hoped, too. But in the end one devoured the other.

It was a match-up that might have been a classic. As it was, the confused, inconsistent swell which had declined from yesterday played into Gabriel Medina’s hands. It completely nullified Florence, who often seems lost in inconsistent seas.

Medina was vicious from the horn, locking in a low eight and a back up six with his first two waves. He was too strong, and Florence was comboed early and throughout.

It’s clear that Medina is the best barrel technician in the world. At Teahupo’o he sees things others cannot, and this is made clear on marginal days like today. Pete Mel noted the fact that he takes off already in the barrel, a technique which means he disappears for longer than anyone else. But this is far from his only technique, and it’s this adaptability that allows him to make the waves on any given day look far better than they are.

But it’s his relentless energy and sheer physicality that also separates him. Effete style be damned, speed and power equate to jaw-dropping surfing. In this regard, Medina is unmatched. Those who persist in criticism of his style should perhaps content themselves with Torren Marytn videos, not pro surfing.

Florence tried limply, first taking off on a dud that shut down ahead of him, then going over the falls on his next. It’s clear Medina makes him nervous. He makes everyone nervous.

In an ideal world, Medina and Florence could be the rivalry that makes pro surfing, in the same way the Andy vs Kelly battle lit the collective imaginations of the surf world: two men diametrically opposed, each with ardent supporters. But it seems unlikely this potential will ever be realised.
Medina went on to dispatch Barron Mamiya in the semi, catching seventeen waves to Mamiya’s three. Barring the opening exchange of furious paddling, at no point was it competitive.

The highlight was Medina’s nine point ride on his third wave. A deep barrel with a clean exit on a set wave. He was blown out with his arms clasped behind his back, part claim, part assertion of superiority. You can’t do this, he seemed to say to Mamiya. And he was right.

Quiksilver prodigies Robinson and Fioravanti met in the opposite semi. It was a match-up of simmering jealousies, the two having been pitted against each other and billed as the Next Big Thing since they were kids.

Hats off to Fioravanti, despite his loss to Robinson, he was clearly one of the most skilled surfers at Teahupo’o, testament to both his competitiveness and the gym work that so impresses Joe Turpel.

But Robinson is now 5-0 in these battles, and Fioravanti must find a depth other than that of his squats if he hopes to challenge this.

This result bumped Yago Dora from the fifth seed at Trestles, which should be a genuine disappointment for surf fans who want to see Toledo challenged in September.

The final was truly a game of two halves.

Medina started with the same frantic pace that had demoralised Florence and Mamiya, catching everything going and somehow making it work. Priority didn’t seem to matter.

Robinson, finding his present and centre that served him so well in the early part of the season, sat and waited.

As a result, he was comboed early, and it looked for all the world like we were heading for another Medina walkthrough.

It might be spun that Jack Robinson is one of the very few men impervious to Medina’s all-consuming aura. In light of the result, Robinson himself might even believe it. But it would not be true.

Halfway through the heat, when Medina already had fifteen points and Robinson only had one score, it was Medina who sat calmly in the line-up, knowing he could afford to be more selective.

Robinson was not composed. He kept standing up on his board, like a meerkat, scanning for signs of waves. Left and right he looked, all around, and very consciously over Medina’s head. It was an attempt to rattle Medina, to assert a physical presence over him, the way an adult might tower over a scolded child. And it was a sign of Robinson’s insecurity.

But perhaps it worked, because Medina eventually paddled away, sitting far deeper than Robinson, as if they were surfing separate peaks.

The heat lulled. The early flurry from Medina had fizzled. The tension that should have been apparent was not. The commentary team gushed over Medina, repeated the same superlatives, adding nothing.

Then, with seven minutes on the clock, Robinson’s patience paid off. Taking just his fourth wave of the heat, a mid-sized wave with an open face, he threaded a drama-free tube, kicking out with a little fist pump that wasn’t trying to sell the score, but simply acknowledging he had it.

It came in at 7.83, exactly the same as the score he already held, and it was enough to seal the final.

The commentary team, in an apparent case of schizophrenia, immediately swung their allegiance and superlatives towards Robinson, as if he’d seemed like the winner all along.

And that was it.

We’re left with a final five of four at Trestles which includes: Filipe Toledo, Griffin Colapinto, Joao Chianca and Jack Robinson.

Once again, the “rule” that states Ethan Ewing should not be replaced is baffling. It’s yet another short-sighted WSL decision that can only serve to further alienate sponsors, fans, and crucially: talent.

I can’t say I’m enthused by the slim chances of anyone dethroning Filipe Toledo in the limp-wristed mush of Trestles. Colapinto is the only one with a shout. Dora would’ve pushed him, as would Medina. Florence if the waves were good. Not including these men is a wild loss for everyone.

When we’re left with a top five at year end that doesn’t include Medina or Florence, someone, somewhere, should be asking serious questions.

But let’s not go out with such negativity. Let’s believe that Trestles will turn on and everyone will be primed for blood and battle. Let’s believe the whole thing will be a fantastic finale that leaves us thoroughly entertained, satiated and satisfied with whoever our world champion might be.

Too much?

Well how about some humour: in accordance with the WSL qualifying protocol, the representatives for Brazil, at the Paris 2024 Olympics, to be held at Teahupo’o, will be Joao Chianca and…

Filipe Toledo.

If we can’t bring the WSL down, perhaps Brazil can.

If there is hope, wrote Winston, it lies in the proles.

Former World Surf League CEO Erik Logan announces whimsical new job after shock firing!

Introducing President Silly Goose!

When not making people feel uncomfortable with unwanted amorous advances or telling beloved professional surfers that he would “ruin them” or berating Brazilian champions in scathing open letters, Erik Logan’s reign atop the World Surf League was marked by whimsical silly goose behavior.

From wearing a t-shirt of Filipe Toledo’s naked chest to his magical wetsuit of armor, ELo, as he self-identified, was full of goofy good-natured fun ‘n games.

After traveling to Brazil with the tour then getting fired in the most brutal of ways, one line dedicated to his “leaving the company immediately” and no lines given to accomplishments such as The Ultimate Surfer getting cancelled after one season or WSL Studios getting immediately shuttered.

Then he disappeared.

Previously robust Instagram account darkened.

Goodbye horses.

ELo fans, initially worried about his well-being, were buoyed when a report from Manhattan Beach declared he was back sweeping the ocean. Thoughts and prayers, though, soon turned to his financial health. What would the man with the poo poo touch do next after, essentially, destroying professional surfing?

What could he do?

You can image the geysers of relief, then, when his LinkedIn sparked to life, last evening, a gif featuring party poppers below a line reading, “I’m happy to share that I’m starting a new position as Living Life at Self-employed!”

While many rejoiced, those currently living life at self-employed became immediately concerned that Logan could well sink the entire industry. Applications for real jobs soaring.

Poo poo touch.

More as the story develops.

Jack Robinson wins Tahiti Pro, qualifies for Finals Day in September.

Jack Robinson issues grim warning to fragile world champ Filipe Toledo after ice-cold win over Gabriel Media at Tahiti Pro

The Tahiti Pro win bookends Robinson's season, the Western Australian having won the tour opener at Pipeline in February.

In rapidly deteriorating four-foot waves, surf fans fondled themselves into a state of near nervous collapse as Australian Jack Robinson muscled his way through Gabriel Medina to win the Tahiti Pro and a spot on Finals Day in September.

Robinson, twenty five, sat in the windy Teahupoo lineup, face congealed into a hard leering mask, watching as Medina collected six waves, accumulating fifteen points, even before the’d looked at one. 

As per form, the broadcast missed the first wave of the final, a crucial six point eight three, despite the final determining who would fill the final spot on Finals Day. 

Robinson, calm as ever and accustomed to last-minute wins, tunnelled through an insider which yielded a generous 7.83. Needing 7.18 to take the lead, a second wave with seven minutes left scored a 7.83.

“It was impressive, it was technical, it had that wow factor,” said commentator Peter Mel. 

After a forty-minute final it was the boy with hair so thick many believe he wears a yellow woollen wig who would take the final spot in the top five and an invite to Finals Day at Lower Trestles.

“It’s an interesting feeling…it was meant to be,” said Robinson.

The Tahiti Pro win bookends Robinson’s season, the Western Australian having won the tour opener at Pipeline in February.

A full contest analysis forthcoming from JP Currie, possibly tonight. Time diff between Scotland, where Currie lives and Tahiti, is a hell of a thing, the final running at three am,.