The Matt Warshaw edition!
Yesterday, we presented part one of our fifty best quotes in surfing special, a search engine optimisation story designed to be evergreen and which was forcefully suggested by a man in Chicago who is an expert in these sorta things and who comes highly recommended.
A terrific gap, of course, with the exclusion of Seattle-based surf historian Matt Warshaw, a man whose striking and vivid stories grip the reader like no other writer.
Here, therefore, are twenty-five of Warshaw’s best although the list is in no way complete or exhaustive. Feel free to add yours below the line.
“He was the slouching near-mute apotheosis of surf-cool: draining an afternoon beer, flicking a cigarette butt to the side before riding the biggest, thickest, meanest wave of the day.” Matt Warshaw on Pat Curren.
“Surfing is no longer hip or cool; who cares? We’re still out there riding, surrounded by ocean…” Matt Warshaw.
“The target, or sweet spot, or pleasure zone, got smaller and smaller, and I got tired of firing and missing. It dipped way below that 9-to-1 ratio, and I buckled. From age 45 on, my rails were stickier, the takeoffs were harder, and next thing I’m kicking the trashcan like Coach on Letterkenny screaming ‘It’s fucking embarrassing.’” Matt Warshaw on quitting surfing in middle age.
“Waves are the whole show. Waves are the only interesting thing about surfing. You’re a poetry-hating anti-New Age atheist with a penchant for hardcore rationalism? Same here. But at some level we know, we feel, that we are riding ocean-transported sunbeams, and it is magical.” Matt Warshaw on the indefinable joy of surfing.
“We’ve traded magic for perfection.” Matt Warshaw on the unveiling of Kelly Slater’s Lemoore wavepool in 2016.
“Surfing in a wavepool is… take your pick. Parkour, half-pipe, gymnastics. Except worse, because those sports will never be any better or worse than what they are, while surfing in a wavepool you’re kind of sticking your finger in the eye of the whole deal.” Matt Warsaw on wavepools.
“John Florence, to me, is the blankest of all slates. I don’t say that to be cruel. But it’s like the way people talk about Ronald Reagan, where you try and look inside him and just get… nothing.” Matt Warshaw on two-time world champ John John Florence.
“One hundred percent bullshit, all of it. But that doesn’t take anything away from how full-on addicted we all were, maybe still are, to riding inside the tube. I can’t explain it.” Matt Warshaw on the mysticism of tuberiding.
“Surf media is always 95% crap and 5% great.” Matt Warshaw on the gatekeepers.
“The Endless Summer showed what it’s like to be a surfer on the hunt — or the family-friendly version, anyway; no drugs, no drinking, no pussy.” Matt Warshaw on the most popular surf movie of all time.
“At some level I’m super impressed that WSL put it out there. It feels incredibly fifth column. It’s like if Wild Wild Country was released as a promo for Rajneesh.” Matt Warshaw on the WSL’s Sound Waves episode featuring Kelly Slater and mystic Charlie Goldsmith.
“It’s an embarrassment. Not for Keala, but the WSL.” Matt Warshaw on Kauai’s Keala Kennelly winning a big-wave world title without successfully standing up on one wave.
“Suicidal jihadists gave us a world champ, and I think it’s surfy to laugh at that.” Matt Warshaw on CJ Hobgood’s 2001 world title.
“Ewing’s surfing is beautiful, you could admire it all day, but Toledo leaves you on the edge of your seat.” Matt Warshaw on Finals Day, 2023.
“Fail-wise, it was just beyond epic. And so very public… Filipe’s deal is un-spinnable. He isn’t ready for prime time at Teahupoo…” Matt Warshaw on Filipe Toledo’s zero heat total at Teahupoo in 2015.
“WSL decision-making is so bad it feels like performance art.” Matt Warshaw on the World Surf League’s direction, leadership etc.
“Martin Potter’s jaw-grinding voice sounds as if its been filtered through six espresso shots and a migraine headache. Ross Williams’ has me considering preemptive adenoidal surgery for my son. Rosy Hodge? Who can hear her above the angel choir and softly strumming lutes?” Matt Warshaw on WSL commentators.
“I’m going to hate-watch the Surf Ranch Pro, and hope it fails so badly that Sophie flies to Honolulu and throws signed checks at the feet of the powers that be to restore the Pipe Masters.” Matt Warshaw on the wildly unpopular Surf Ranch Pro.
“Pottz just seems irritated at all times. He’s kind of a bully. He likes to intimidate. He’s always been that way, even at 15. It made him great as a surfer, but it doesn’t work in the booth.” Matt Warshaw on now-disappeared commentator Martin Potter, also the 1989 world champ.
“Joe brings nothing to the table but mellow, mindless enthusiasm, and yeah it drives me nuts.” Matt Warshaw on milquetoast ball-by-ball commentator “Smoking” Joe Turpel.
“Filipe Toledo and Stephanie Gilmore are both righteous champions atop a glitzy, flimsy, hapless professional organization.” Matt Warshaw on the Finals Day concept.
“Surfing, like all forms of entertainment, need villains, and because Medina is as good a villain as he is a rider of waves the sport is infinitely better for his presence.” Matt Warshaw on triple world champ Gabriel Medina.
“I find it refreshing, purifying even, that Medina goes about his work with so few fucks given as to what we all think about him.” Warshaw on Medina.
“The mute button is Viagra for my WCT attention span —the quieter it is, the longer I last.” Matt Warshaw don’t like WSL commentary.
“Kelly Slater’s life as a surfer of incomprehensible talent, in and out of the contest arena, at this point seems completely divorced from his life as a surfing entrepreneur. I can’t square the two.” Matt Warshaw on the greatest athlete in history Kelly Slater.