But even if Toledo deserves the title on the day (and because he’s earned the number one spot this season) it will leave a sour taste in the mouths of some. Don’t be surprised if this sentiment bubbling below the surface sways the judges into some controversial decisions. Don’t be surprised if we have a world title marred by judging controversy. Wouldn’t that be an appropriate reflection of the season and the organisation?

World surfing title to be decided between a “Homeschooled simpleton”, a “grubby little taxi driver” and a “winsome blond au pair”!

Even if Toledo deserves the title on the day it will leave a sour taste in the mouths of some. Don’t be surprised if this sways the judges.

The end of the year is upon us. A time to reflect, a time to heal. But not before we deal with the immediate future, the big hurrah: The Final Five at Trestles’ famed and overrated cobblestones!

Try as they might, the WSL just don’t seem able to conjure any anticipation for this, their grand showcase. Everything they do seems flimsy, somehow. More chintzy high school prom than world title showdown.

Has your phone been buzzing away with god-awful WSL notifications too?

How bad is that content? How can it be so bad?

So busy. Such blandness. Such sanitised, homogenous pish.

Whatever happens next within that organisation, they need to hire some professionals, ideally people who actually surf and care. The quality of their media output is so lacklustre, so amateur, that I almost never look at it. Which leaves me wondering: who is? I mean, it’s part of my job to take an interest in this stuff, but they offer nothing of substance, and nothing that doesn’t come with a sheen of try-hard flimsiness.

What about those jerseys? Are they the most embarrassing merchandise ever cooked up by an apparently professional sporting organisation? You’d be forgiven for assuming that all creative work had already been outsourced to a primitive chatbot. If not, it should be.

And the practice session stream…what the actual fuck was that? Aside from Erin Brooks, who seems quite lovely, it was an abomination.

Clearly, the WSL still has a serious identity crisis. It doesn’t know if it’s they, them or ze. It’s an ongoing problem for pro surfing, but not more so than in the last couple of years. It’s not serious or organised enough to be defined as a proper sport (and the cap don’t really fit) but embracing the stoner Cali vibe just makes it look like an idiot.

Regardless, we’ll watch the Finals in spite of them, and here’s what to make of the men:


When my partner was pregnant she lost an entire load of washing. She found it later. In the freezer, obviously.

Another morning she texted me in a panic from work. Had I seen her phone? Had she left it in the van when I’d dropped her off? She couldn’t find it anywhere!

Have you checked your hand? I asked.

Baby brain’s a real thing. For someone like Jack, who likes (needs) to keep a tight leash on the mush between his ears, it could be a killer.

As a man and a surfer, I’m a fan. This Tour is better for the presence of Jack Robinson, his tube wizardry, and his latent psychopathy.

Does any of that mean I think he can beat Ethan, Griff or Filipe at Trestles? Not likely.

And he does need to have a word with whoever is advising him on the non-endemic fashion alignments and his general social media output, because it is crrriiiiiinnngggeee. “Reminiscing on my first times in the ocean with the clean scent of #PoloBlue” he says in one post, whilst wearing an unbuttoned white shirt, holding a bottle of aftershave and looking constipated.

See you next year, Jack. Your washing’s in the freezer.


Joao announced himself on Tour this year with great vengeance and furious anger by hammering and slicing his way to world number one in the early part of the season. Three semi-finals and a victory in the first five events is no fluke.

There remains the sense that Chianca will be most at home in meaty waves rather than dribbly cobblestone points, and taking the title at Trestles from his position seems unlikely. But it won’t be his last shot. Though a little skittish and elbowy at times, Chianca attacks sections like they killed his pets.

I find Joao an intriguing character. The contrast between his softly spoken interviews, where he professes gratitude and humility, and his tear-your-face-off, paddle around, over, up and in you approach in the water is truly fascinating. He comes from the Brazilian school of surfing that enjoys blood in the water, it doesn’t matter who it belongs to. If we had a whole Tour of guys like this pro surfing would be a mainstream sport.

He said it best himself: cold blood, warm heart. (Though I’m not totally buying the latter.)

Don’t be surprised if he wins his first match-up against Robinson through sheer force of animal energy. If you believe in more, bet on it. You’ll get 25/1 and more from most bookmakers.


If you’d asked me about Ewing’s chances a week ago I’d have told you they were adjacent to zero. Not because he supposedly had a broken back (medical marvel or misreported?) but because I just don’t think he has the game to tackle Filipe in small to medium waves.

However, to Antipodean delight, I’ve got a little inkling that we might see Ewing make it all the way to a match-up with Filipe after all.

Beyond the capacity for superhuman healing, Ewing has otherworldly, picture-perfect style that make fifty-year-old men weak at the knees. And, as has been well established throughout the course of this season, the judges (and the surf industry, for that matter) are largely men in their fifties and sixties. Ethan might as well be a winsome blonde au pair.

He’d be a popular world champ, a victory for aesthetics and eugenics. He can lay a surfboard on a rail like almost no-one else in the world.

Unfortunately Filipe Toledo is almost no-one else.


Little Griff has won my heart this year. Underneath all the self-help psychobabble there’s just a homeschooled simpleton waiting to break free, eat crisp sandwiches and rub Nutella all over his face.

Only the sourest of pusses (or Brazilian fans) could dislike Griffin, smiling widely and nodding along to his little rap beats, imagining he’s straight gangster. To be fair, men like him have propped up the rap industry for years. Nothing quite says gangster like homeschooling, golf carts, and second and third homes at the beach.

Regardless, he’s here on merit. He has the game to beat Filipe, and homefield advantage. More importantly, Toledo knows it.

And if he doesn’t? Well we can read all about it in pidgin English on Instagram, via a photo of a crumpled diary piece covered in snot and tears.

Ah, 2023.


For most, Filipe has been a lock for this world title all year. Not just because he’s our reigning champ, but because no-one in the world generates speed and explosiveness in small to medium waves like he does.

I like the big hair he’s sporting this season. I like that he looks like a grubby little taxi driver, with eyes that will almost certainly rob you. But above all I like how fast he goes, how he generates speed like he has jets.

And I especially admire his sickle-like turns. And yes, they are as good as Ethan’s. Not quite as stylish, perhaps, but technically perfect.

He’ll need to sound out the judges. Do they want carves and flow? Or would they prefer some balls-out aerials? No matter for Filipe, he can do it all. If he puts his laces through one early it’s game over. If Griff or Ethan get a jump on him we’ll be in for a match.

But even if Toledo deserves the title on the day (and because he’s earned the number one spot this season) it will leave a sour taste in the mouths of some. Don’t be surprised if this sentiment bubbling below the surface sways the judges into some controversial decisions.

Don’t be surprised if we have a world title marred by judging controversy. Wouldn’t that be an appropriate reflection of the season and the organisation?

Ironically, as a distraction from the gaudy production, it might also be the best thing for them.

I’m off to place some bets.

Rumor: World Surf League to run Finals Day tomorrow to avoid peak of hurricane swell and NFL opening Sunday!

Not any given Sunday.

Do you recall, many years and multiple CEOs ago, when the World Surf League’s Paul Speaker stood before an audience and vowed that someday, and soon, professional surfing’s elite tour would eclipse the storied National Football League? The New York Times reported him as saying, “Our strategy has been, since the beginning, let’s remove all stop signs and turn them into welcome mats..”

The surfing audience, he declared, was massive and un-tapped and simply turning stop signs, all menacing and un-chill, into welcome mats, warm and fuzzy, would be enough to beat out viewership numbers for every major sporting league.

Halcyon days.

Surfing for the win.

Alas, his prognostication has no borne out. Speaker was replaced by Goldschmidt who was replaced by Erik Logan who made an oopsie and was replaced the the Chief of Human Resources and the Chief of Legal. The World Surf League took down the stop signs, fashioned them into a Wall of Positive Noise and here we are today.

Bailey Ladders.

So much failure that, according to a well-placed source, the World Surf League is afraid to put its Super Bowl up against the NFL’s measly opening day (Sun. Sept 9th) or a peak hurricane swell, avoiding waves that may be “too big.”

Yes, Finals Day is more likely than not to run tomorrow.

Per the just released presser:

YELLOW ALERT: Potential for Rip Curl WSL Finals To Run Tomorrow

Next Call: Saturday, September 9, at 7:30 AM PDT

-WSL Final 5 Prepare to Battle for the 2023 World Titles

-WSL Rising Tides Hosts Special Activation with World Champions Layne Beachley and Lisa Andersen

-WSL One Ocean and Partners Help Enhance Biodiversity at Trestles

Who do you think is most excited about this turn? Sitting champion Filipe Toledo avoiding bigger surf? The biodiverse bushes getting planted out amongst the cobbled stone?


Ready your fingers, in any case. It’s open thread time.

Watch on Caffeine for free!

McNamara (top) and Hamilton (bottom) consider glory.

Laird Hamilton, Garrett McNamara, other burly surf studs consider panicking to Florida as models show Hurricane Lee pushing mythical “100+ foot wave” to Sunshine State!

Destiny is calling. Who will answer?

If there is one thing that signifies to the outside world about our little surfing cloister, it is the conquering of a “100 foot wave.” Monsters, of course, in places like Nazare and Jaws have been ridden with much aplomb, though none have officially measured 100 feet. Garrett McNamara, savior of Portugal, made of the better surfing programs ever named “100 foot wave” but, he too, never found.

Which brings us to today and to Florida.

The Sunshine State, dangling off the southeast corner of these United States, is known for many things including Ron DeSanctimonuious, alligators, Jimmy “Cane” Wilson, Dion Sanders, the 2012 Republican National Convention, Palm Beach, The Flight of the Navigator, Ray Finkle, Hooters, Kelly Slater etc.

It is not known for overly large surf and yet here we are.

Climate change.

For a massive, major hurricane is twirling and swirling in the too-warm Carib pointing at Florida herself.

A category 5 named Lee.

CNN declares:

The hurricane was located about 630 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands, the hurricane center said Friday in the 5 a.m. update.

“Additional strengthening is forecast today. Fluctuations in intensity are likely over the next few days, but Lee is expected to remain a major hurricane through early next week,” forecasters wrote in the update.

Lee will likely reach its peak intensity by this weekend and is still expected to be a dangerous hurricane over the southwestern Atlantic early next week, though it’s too soon to know whether this system will directly impact the US mainland.

Dangerous surf and rip currents will spread across the northern Caribbean on Friday and begin affecting the US on Sunday, the center said.

Other models, however, state, “Even without a direct landfall eastern US will feel along the coast… starting with Florida early week. This map here for early Friday (next week). Later into the run showing 100+ feet.”

And there we have it.

100+ feet.

Laird Hamilton, the aforementioned Garrett McNamara, Sebastian Steudtner (who currently holds the Guinness World Record at 86 feet) and other big wave studs certainly must be considering dropping everything they are currently doing and heading directly south and east (if they happen to be on America’s west coast or Hawaii).

McNamara first and foremost, I’d imagine, as part of his popular “100 foot wave” could get a swift and catchy “100+ foot wave” rebrand.

Exciting times.

Son (left) and stepson.
Son (left) and stepson.

San Clemente transplant Filipe Toledo utterly rejected by hometown as “We Only Have Eyes for Griff!” banners fly over city’s freeways

The sad story of an unwanted stepchild.

Oh to be Felipe Toledo, the world at your feet, the world on a string. Coral, his main enemy, is rapidly dying everywhere due global warming, the World Surf League, where he competes, has pivoted almost entirely to small waves, the 2022 Championship Trophy already sits above hearth and space has been pre-cleared for the 2023 one which is almost assuredly his.

The cherry on top?

That hearth is in San Clemente, California, the selfsame hosting last “Finals Day” and this one too.


Filipe and his entire family moved from Ubatuba, in beautiful Brazil, to the Spanish Village by the Sea in 2014, nearly one whole decade ago. Basically a lifetime when it comes to rootless Southern Californians. By right, Toledo should be honored, celebrated, feted at Nick’s and South of Nick’s nightly but… no and emphatically no.

He is not and, moreover, his interloper status is rudely rubbed in his lightly puggish nose.

I had to drive north, very much too early this morning and very much too far. While passing through the Town That Andino Built I saw giant red banners stretching over the first 5 freeway pedestrian overpass, closest to Lowers. Being where I was, I assumed they read “Trump Won!” but as I got closer, Trump’s face somehow seemed more… squishy.

Closer still, I realized it was current world number two Griffin Colapinto’s face with the words “Griff for World Champ!” emblazoned.


I assumed the next overpass, though not closest to Lowers, would be a giant green banner, li’l lion front and center, reading, “Paddle Pip!”

But no.

And no on the next and next and none even when I entered San Juan Capistrano like a tired swallow.

But there has to be one brave San Clemente local who can break with the mob and cheer his or her neighbor.

Raise your hand, please.

Firebrand surf journalist turned conservative news anchor Fred Pawle slams “inconsistencies” in Owen Wright’s version of Pipe brain injury in new book

"There is something about the story of Owen's injury that doesn't add up."

If you were to examine the life of Owen Wright and his storied family from any sort of angle or distance it would hardly need embellishment to make interesting. 

The surfing heartthrob and one-time title contender turned real estate developer returns from a catastrophic brain injury, bleeding on the brain, paralysis and (temporary) inability to speakto win his first event back on tour one year later and return to his usual position as a world title contender.

 Two-time world champ Tyler wins a tour event at fourteen, qualifies at sixteen, but throws it in (briefly) before returning to the tour and carving and plating her two titles.

Mikey? Hot and salty and greasy (like a sunbathing German) and a wildcard world title contender.

And, all wrapped up with a family pal-turned-bookeeper who fleeced ‘em of their hard-earned millions so she could have a little play money for the horsies and poker machines. 

That theft of almost one million bucks led to his estrangement from Ma and Pa Wright, Dad would later be diagnosed with dementia and Owen would take up his care, friction with his siblings and his pop star wife Kita and a fear he didn’t have enough cash to get out of the pro surfing game despite his catastrophic 2015 brain injury.

“I wanted to retire but I couldn‘t financially (due to the impact of the offending) and fought back into my career risking my life in the process,” he told the court. “I was still being stolen from while I could barely walk and while the doctors were saying I would never work again in my career. The physical risk I‘ve taken on to keep surfing was a choice I made because I was not financially in the position to stop my career.” 

Well, in wild claims made by Fred Pawle, whom you know as the Walkley-nominated journalist responsible for putting Sarge to the sword (irony!) and telling Matt Branson’s gay-and-proud-ish story, he says Owen has thrown a little fairy dust on the retelling of his Pipe brain injury in his new book, Against the water: a surfing champion’s inspirational journey to Olympic glory. 

Leaving aside the clear embellishment of calling a bronze medal “Olympic glory” in the title, at the 2008 Games, for example, Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian hurled his third-place trinket onto the floor and walked out, punching the barricade as he exited, Pawle questions Owen’s “inconsistencies” in the telling of the events at Pipe. 

There’s inconsistencies in Pawle’s arguments, too, his claim there’s no ten-wave sets at Pipe for one.

“There is something about the story of Owen’s injury that doesn’t add up,” says Pawle. “Surfers are not always the most reliable storytellers… tall stories are part of surf culture, but, the inconsistencies of this story matter because it has become central to the Owen Wright myth.”