Screw you, wood.
Screw you, wood.

Coral drilling underway at Teahupo’o as new aluminum Olympic surf judging tower wins day

Screw you, wood.

The wild saga surrounding the surfing portion of this summer’s Olympiad has finally, maybe, reached its conclusion. Per inside reports, the controversial plan to build a new aluminum judging tower to replace the old wooden one there planted in the lagoon has, officially, won the day and the coral, there, is currently being drilled.

Initially, the structure was going to be very big and have comfortable bathrooms. Locals became infuriated by the potential environmental impact and protested. Olympic organizers drove a barge over the coral to prove how safe everything was. Locals became more infuriated. Olympic organizers decided to make it smaller and an agreement seems to have been reached…

…until the International Surfing Association came swinging out of nowhere and opposed the idea, suggesting the competition be judged from the beach instead.“We respect the almost unanimous decision taken locally to continue with the launch of the construction work,” Tony Estangue, president of the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics Organizing Committee, sneered.

And true to his word, everything is moving forward. A clear win for Big Aluminum.

On a call with stakeholders, the Paris Organizing Committee stated the tower will, in fact, be smaller and lighter, drilling will be done in places with “lesser coral” and that judging the contest from the beach or with drones is not feasible. It shared that having the judging tower will also be “safer” for the surfers and that the plan has unanimous support from the local Tahitian government, the International Olympic Committee and the Paris Organizing Committee. The only outlier, the aforementioned ISA.

Back to the “impossibility” of judging from the beach whilst using drones. Why? All sorts of “extreme sport” events are judged this way. Is surfing special?

Or is Big Aluminum just that powerful?

Well, in any case, the tower is rising and that is that.


Kelly Slater wins 2022 Billabong Pro Pipeline
Ain't it crazy that Kelly Slater would go into the Paris Games as a gold medal favourite? | Photo: WSL

Fourteen world surfing champs push for a Kelly Slater wildcard at Paris 2024

The letter was the initiative of 1977 world champ Shaun Tomson and Kelly Slater is, or was, unaware of the push. 

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say the Olympic surf qualifiers for Paris 2024 at Teahupoo were a failure of a magnitude greater even than, say, Custer’s hubris at Little Big Horn. 

The byzantine selection process was slammed as “absurdist” and branded a “colossal failure” after Filipe Toledo, whose fraught relationship with Teahupoo ain’t no secret, was selected for Team Brazil over Teahupoo standouts Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira. 

In an ironic twist, it was against Ferreira in 2015 where Toledo suffered the ignominy of becoming one of only two surfers in pro surfing history to paddle in from a heat without a wave being caught. 

“Fail-wise, it was just beyond epic,” the surfing historian Matt Warshaw told BeachGrit. “And so very public… Filipe’s deal is un-spinnable. He isn’t ready for prime time at Teahupoo… I’m his biggest north-of-50 fan, and I feel sort of crushed by what I saw.”

Worse, was the exclusion of Kelly Slater, whose record at Teahupoo is unlikely to ever be touched: seven perfect rides, five contest wins, two perfect heats and all wrapped up with an average heat score of 16.29. 

The dreams of surf fans being able to watch Kelly Slater, who’ll be fifty two, stroll off into his harvest years with a golden Olympic trinket have been raised, however, after fourteen world champions co-signed a letter to ISA prez Fernando Aguerre requesting Slater be given a wildcard into the contest. 

The letter was hand-signed by Wayne Bartholomew, Tom Curren, Tom Carroll, Shaun Tomson, Peter Townend, Mick Fanning, Martin Potter, Mark Richards, Joel Parkinson, Damien Hartman, CJ Hobgood, Barton Lynch and even ol Adriano de Souza whose world title reign was compressed to less than one day after Slater released footage of his game-changing wavepool one day after de Souza was crowned. 

The letter was the initiative of 1977 world champ Shaun Tomson and Kelly Slater is, or was, unaware of the push.

Tom Carroll in a Gath helmet and inventor Ric Gath.
Tom Carroll gives hell to G-Land in a Gath and, right, Ric Gath in the wild bloom of youth. | Photo: Quiksilver/Ric Chan

Margaret River’s Ric Gath, inventor of the surf helmet, dead at 67

How many precious skulls, kids, big-wave thrillseekers, did the Gath save?

The pioneer of surf helmets, Ric Gath, a man more influential than pretty much anyone from Margaret River, has died after a long-illness aged sixty-seven.

In the late eighties, early nineties, y’couldn’t find a lineup in Western Australia that wasn’t filled with surfers wrapped in Ric Gath’s eponymous surf helmet.

Ric Gath launched it at the 1989 Margaret River Masters, a contest won by Dave Macaulay wearing the wild-looking plastic thing. A photo taken on the day appears to show Dave’s wife hugging the helmet.

That same season, Tom Carroll won the Pipe Masters with a Gath.

Kong won it the year after, wearing a Gath.

“It was a dream launch,” Ric told me a few years back when I called him about an American surfer claiming he’d invented surf helmets.

His story is a good one.

Ric Gath, a noted big-waver from Margaret River, Western Australia, had ears that gave him hell in a region famous for its cold wind. First he used divers balaclavas, then when Rip Curl brought out a peaked neoprene hood he wore that, although losing it in a wipeout was common.

So he switched to carpenters’ ear muffs with the padding taken off and with the balls resting over the ears. Ric dislocated his jaw on that idea.

Then his three-year-old kid, this is 1986, nearly copped his fins in the face after nose-driving in a little shorey.

Ric Gath was a can-do sorta guy. He made some drawings and three years later it was everywhere.

Ric Gath helmet drawings
Drawings of the first Gath surf helmets by Ric Gath.

In Bali, surfers used ‘em as motorbike helmets. Mums agreed to let their kids surf with the stipulation they wore a helmet.

Ric says they were moving around 12,000 units a year. It’s not massive in today’s sorta numbers but thirty-ish years ago, big enough to make a little cash and save a few skulls.

Almost as quickly as they’d arrived, howevs, the Gath disappeared.

Two reasons, according to Ric Gath.

First he heard that surf companies weren’t real thrilled that his “parasite” company was getting free press in their editorial photos and started telling photographers they weren’t going to run shots with helmets.

Second, biz probs.

In 1994, his three investors showed him the door and they all went to court to see who got to keep the intellectual property.

“Three chiefs and one Indian and I was the Indian,” Ric told me. “I went straight from a surfboard and into business to going into a liquidation meeting.”

Ric, who had to go back to carpentry to fund the case, won.

In 1999, he picked up the pieces and was back in biz by 2005.

Eventually, he got his son Jess and wife, Jennifer, running the show, the company chasing Europe’s lucrative kite and foil market, something he said was gonna spike after governments there are starting to legislate for compulsory helmets while foiling.

“The future is looking really good for us,” he said in 2020, adding that he might be sixty-four but surfing makes him feel eighteen, even if he’s given a reality check every time he walks past a mirrored door and he catches his reflection.

As cool as they come, he didn’t get bummed about much.

Ric Gath still talked to one of the investors who took him down and, with characteristic whimsy, saids the liquidation of his business with all its legal documents “improved my reading.”

Wavepool king Tom Lochtefeld on his Palm Springs Surf Club Miracle!

How to create the best wavepool on earth and why Surf Lakes gonna self-destruct!

All that heat about the new Palm Springs Surf Club wavepool, featuring the tech of wavepool king Tom Lochtefeld, has been entirely warranted despite earlier fears it was a modern incarnation of the old Disney Typhoon Lagoon.

Three years ago, the world’s best surfers lined up to ride the then proto-wavepool built on the site of the old Wet N Wild, the same pool used in the opening sequences of North Shore, a film from 1987 that tells the fictional tale of Arizona’s Rick Kane, a boy from a broken home who learns to surf in a wavepool and then attempts to transpose his skills to Pipeline with mostly pleasing results.

The Tom Lochtefeld tech, which is called Surf Loch, is diff to Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch, Wavegarden, American Wave Machines and Surf Lakes. It uses a combo of vacuum and pressure to make waves.

“An opening at the bottom of each chamber allows the wave energy pulse to be released into open water independently of each other. The controlled variations of the independent pulses can generate an infinite variety of wave swells.”

The Hawaiian-raised surfer Cheyne Magnusson, who turned the Waco tank into the hottest party in town, was handpicked to run the tank and help push it to its full potential.

“He is a phenomenal wave composer, a virtuoso on our equipment,” says Tom Lochtefeld.

“I come in and play the piano,” Cheyne told me of his role complementing the Surf Loch tech. “Give me a bunch of knobs to move water and I can make it sing.”

The pint-sized proto was built and surfers, including Mason Ho, Jackson Dorian etc, came from all over the world, flared and made clips. The pool was then demolished to make way for the full-sized tank, which opens to the public on January 1, 2024. 

Tom Lochtefeld is a long-time friend of BeachGrit and its co-master Charlie Smith.

In this long-form interview Lochtefeld reveals the secrets behind creating better-than-perfect waves, why Surf Lakes is gonna self-destruct and why the Slater plough is destined for the junkyard.

Jamie O'Brien (pictured) pondering lawsuit against scurrilous Surfer.
Jamie O'Brien (pictured) pondering lawsuit against scurrilous Surfer.

Surfer magazine bot throws sexually charged grenade at Jamie O’Brien!

Trigger warning.

The very sad degradation of Surfer Magazine has been one of the stories in 2023. Purchased by The Arena Group just one year ago, the “Bible of the Sport” has been plagued with embarrassing stories since, including “Emily Morgan,” “Jake Howard” et. al. eventually culminating in a damning expose that the aforementioned Arena Group was using AI bots as writers.

C-Suite executives were fired followed by their Chief, Ross Levinsohn while the stock price plummeted.

Dark days.

And yet the bot clicks away unconcerned with “human stuff.”

Most recently, a word salad was uploaded by “Dashel Pierson” about Jamie O’Brien and Pipeline, ostensibly, and shall we read together?

They’ll stand in the parking lot, insulated, $75 coffee cups in hand, gossiping, grab-assing, procrastinating, and contemplating a session for ridiculous periods of time – questioning the crowd, the tide, or any number of ludicrous, inhibiting factors.

Sometimes, it’s almost like…do we actually even wanna paddle out? Or are we just a bunch of posers who pretend we surf, but find any excuse possible not to?

Eventually, most of us finally do paddle out, but after much deliberation.

Like the Jamie O’Brien clip above.

What the heck?

Which amongst O’Brien’s crew is standing around with $75 coffee cups sexually harassing whom whilst pretending to surf?

The charge is extremely loaded in this day and age.

Asses no longer there for unsolicited grabbing.

Here’s the clip, anyhow.

Surfer, man.