Chas Smith defends online trolls whose cruel words toppled world surfing champ Filipe Toledo

"Never before in the history of professional surfing… not once… has power rested so squarely with the people."

Following surf guru Sam George’s savage attack on the online commentariat this morning, Chas Smith has mounted a robust defence of the below-the-line artist. 

Speaking from his Tuscan-inspired villa, a pink-washed home characterised by its romantic beauty and long-lasting craftsmanship in north San Diego county Chas announced,

“I will say this, frankly and forcefully, never before in the history of professional surfing, no not once, has power rested so squarely with the people. Popular uprisings have now deposed World Surf League champions and World Surf League heads alike.

“Uprisings, coming up from the commentariat, bubbling… broiling… exploding onto the surf scene and bringing real change.”

Chas Smith added,

“The people have arrived. The World Surf League’s gilded VIP zones are meaningless. Who would want to go shoulder rub the spoiled sons and daughters of shallow surf privilege… when he or she could be in a comment section, setting the very surf world on fire.”

Sam George had earlier written,

“Take a quick scroll though the typical comment section on popular surfing sites (with the exception of the one you’re currently visiting, occasionally shamed for its generally positive tone) and let’s review what the Poster Posse is currently bitching about. Professional competitive surfing really takes a beating, the WSL World Championship Tour, especially, held accountable for crimes ranging from holding contests at shitty surf spots like Pipeline, Sunset Beach, Supertubes, Bells Beach, Margaret River, Teahupo’o, Punta Roca, Saquarema, Cloudbreak and Lower Trestles (all premier breaks that the average poster would have no chance of ever riding even a medium set wave), to blatant criteria inconsistencies, Filipe Toledo’s distain for big, dangerous waves, the patently unfair mid-season cut, Joe Turpel (on a purely existential level) and calling off the Pipe Masters because the waves were deemed too big and dangerous for Toledo’s fellow competitors, most of whom indicated that given the choice they’d rather not paddle out.”


Jodie Cooper, Sunset Beach, Hawaii by Tom Servais
Icon portrait of Jodie Cooper at Sunset Beach, Hawaii, by Tom Servais

Dirty Water: Jodie Cooper and her dreams of Biblical revenge after being attacked by a mat-rider in surf

“I was going to suck it up. I was thinking, ‘Don’t worry, mate, I’ll wait and bide my time…an eye for an eye.”

This interview with Jodie Cooper was the last podcast the surf writer and commentator Ben Mondy recorded for us and took place around eighteen months ago.

BeachGrit employed the Mondy, who lives in England, to make a few Dirty Water podcasts while Charlie and I busied ourselves with leisure.

Mondy and I had worked together at a Sydney publishing house in the real early two thousands, he Tracks, me Waves. And while my surfer connections withered to nothing after Andy died and Bruce fled the scene, Mondy’s had flourished as he pivoted hard into surf commentary.

It never ran ‘cause I asked Mondy to call back Jodie Cooper and lean a little more into her famous, and successful, assault case against surf mat aficionado Mark Thomson.

In the interview, Joe Cooper touched on the assault and her reasons for pressing charges.

“I wasn’t his first victim. Hopefully, I was his last. He picked the wrong person as you know. He picks on women, he picks on young kids, that’s the type of species that guy is and there’s a lot of them out there still.”

Initially, Jodie was gonna avoid any police action and wait for her moment to strike back.

“I was going to suck it up. It was traumatic for sure. I didn’t need the attention. I didn’t want the attention and I knew it was going to draw a lot of attention. I was thinking, ‘Don’t worry, mate, I’ll wait and bide my time…an eye for an eye.”

But,

“I got so much feedback, people contacted me who he had attacked pleading with me to do something. That’s why I decided to press charges.”

It’s a good interview, but I wanted more! The revenge fantasy! What hell would’ve struck her assailant?

Anyway, the files just appeared on my desktop, had a re-listen, though it’s a story worth re-telling.

There isn’t much about Jodie Cooper that I don’t love,” Matt Warshaw told me back in 2020. “Jodie seems indomitable in a way, unbreakable, but there’s something kind of hard-luck about her too. I don’t quite know why. Maybe I’m just still pissed on her behalf because that geezer Thompson who assaulted her basically walked, which seemed like a pretty grievous miscarriage of justice.


The great surf master Sam George (pictured) at work.
The great surf master Sam George (pictured) at work.

Guru Sam George savages “petty, whiny, constantly complaining cry-baby” surf website commenters in full frontal assault

"Let’s review what the Poster Posse is currently bitching about."

When the great Sam George speaks, we listen. When he types, we read and marvel. The former Surfer Magazine senior editor and current The Inertia contributor, has seen more, done more, learned and forgotten more about this surf life than anyone and, thus, surf website commenters woke up this morning feeling sad.

In a scorching op-ed, Nia Peeples’ ex-husband absolutely savaged “petty, whiny, constantly complaining cry-baby” observers, declaring:

Take a quick scroll though the typical comment section on popular surfing sites (with the exception of the one you’re currently visiting, occasionally shamed for its generally positive tone) and let’s review what the Poster Posse is currently bitching about. Professional competitive surfing really takes a beating, the WSL World Championship Tour, especially, held accountable for crimes ranging from holding contests at shitty surf spots like Pipeline, Sunset Beach, Supertubes, Bells Beach, Margaret River, Teahupo’o, Punta Roca, Saquarema, Cloudbreak and Lower Trestles (all premier breaks that the average poster would have no chance of ever riding even a medium set wave), to blatant criteria inconsistencies, Filipe Toledo’s distain for big, dangerous waves, the patently unfair mid-season cut, Joe Turpel (on a purely existential level) and calling off the Pipe Masters because the waves were deemed too big and dangerous for Toledo’s fellow competitors, most of whom indicated that given the choice they’d rather not paddle out.

George includes two more long lists of surf website commenter depravity including “the great wave pool whinge,” the attack on adult learners and sponsors who drop surfers (“return on investment, uncool man,” the silver haired guru mocks) before defining the social sickness leading to such antagonisms before pointing out that things, in this surf life, are really good and generally above complaint before dropping the hammer:

A while back I wrote a feature strongly making the point that virtually every middle-aged surfer without a sponsor’s sticker on their board were riding their three-fin thrusters wrong. By the third response, however, the conversation had already degenerated beyond a discussion of surfboard design and took a sharp turn to the personal, with the angry, anonymous poster declaring that I was an eff-ing kook, pointing to my failed marriage to actress Nia Peeples, who played “Keani” in the cult favorite North Shore.

No comment.

Oh.

Ummmm, please disregard the Nia Peeples’ ex-husband line above.

As you were.


Johnny Cabianca Australia tour
Johnny Cabianca makes landfall in Australia. | Photo: @lucasbalbino_

Gabriel Medina’s lifelong surfboard designer Johnny Cabianca arrives in Australia on shaping tour

A real-life virtuoso artist. But blink and you’ll miss!

If there’s one thing you’ll know about Gabriel Medina, it’s his devotion to the shaper Johnny Cabianca, the virtuoso artist who’s been building Medina’s boards since 2009. 

Back then, it was Johnny Cabianca’s old pal Charlie Medina, Gabriel Medina’s now estranged step-daddy, who asked Johnny to shape his sixteen-year-old prodigy boards for the European leg of the WQS. 

Their relationship was cemented when Gabriel Medina ruled that year’s King of the Grommets contest in Hossegor. Five tens in the event, two in the final. Slater telling the world Medina was gonna win ten world titles. At least.

Johnny had thrown three rockers at Medina. He chose the flattest. 

And for a dozen years, the boards only changed in foil and outline as Medina grew, the essence of the board, the the full concave, the rocker, stayed the same. 

Johnny called it the DFK. Da Freak Kid. So named after commentator Martin Potter who kept referencing Medina as The Freak Kid on the webcast. 

But let’s bring it back to me, to you. 

I like a pro board that’s easy to ride. 

Always looking for hacks. Short-cuts. Hard-work, coaching, YouTube tutorials and hours in the water ain’t my MO. A couple of years back, I ordered two of Johnny Cabianca’s creations straight from his factory in Zarautz. I knew the freight was gonna exhaust my bank balance but believed Johnny Cabianca was selling magic carpets. 

The two boards, a 5’’10” Medina and a 5’11” DFK were blindingly easy to ride. No special skills needed. Anyone who could arrive at a standing position, and knew the nose from the tail, could pilot  ‘em. 

Our lovingly remembered tour and surfboard correspondent, Longtom, rode a six-o Johnny Cabianca-shaped DFK in the exact same measurements as the three-time world champ. 

“I never pretend to be anything more than high intermediate, competent is the vain term. The DFK is a board that is reassuringly easy to come to grips with,” wrote LT. “After riding various high-performance shortboards I’ve come to believe that control is the most important variable.

“Johnny Cabianca has put a high-performance sled square into the Goldilocks zone for the average recreational surfer. I cannot recommend highly enough.

“Gabe’s DFK is the easiest pro level board I’ve wrangled.”

Both my boards were eventually creased but never sent into the trash wilderness, the magic pair occupying a purgatory in the corner of a room, one day hoping to be reunited with Johnny Cabianca so he could replicate. 

The COVID thing made freight impossibly expensive and I’ve waited out these subsequent years for Johnny Cabianca to make landfall on Australian shores. 

Which he is. Tomoz. 

Johnny Cabianca shaping in Australia Gabriel Medina
Come and get a little gold from the magic hands of Johnny Cabianca.

For one week, Johnny Cabianca will be shaping a dozen boards a day, maybe more, at the Surfboard Empire factory up there on the Queensland border. 

And Johnny, who’s sixty but presents as a strong man who could do the laborious hewing and chinking on a log cabin, is hands on. 

“I have Friday, Saturday, Sunday Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, before I start to come back to Spain,” says Cabianca, adding he’ll carve Medina’s Bells and Margaret River quivers while he’s in town. 

If you’re wondering, Medina’s Bells and Margaret’s boards differ from the small-wavers he’ll ride in Portugal with half-a-litre, at least, extra volume on a rack of boards between six-o and six two. All of ’em are round-tails, all around thirty to thirty-two litres, with only the rails differing markedly tween Margs and Bells. 

“The rail for Bells is more round, more soft, the rail should be more free there, that’s what I feel,” says Cabianca. “When he moves to Margarets it’s different. I do the rail a little more sharp, same volume. Last year he won the contest with a six-one and the waves were…wow…the waves were scary, that final was heavy! And the board works really well, stability and how he was finishing the last manoeuvre was everything. I’ll try and keep that sharp rail, more drive in the rail, more penetration.”

For the mostly small waves of Portugal, Medina is all over swallow tails. 

“For good scores, the people, the judges, they want more open curves with more velocity not the slow movements,” says Cabianca. “With the swallow you can break the line faster, you can change the nose direction faster.”

What can average surfers expect from a Cabianca, a DFK or a Medina, the big-sellers?

“Well, how can I say, it’s like this: everybody looking at Gabriel’s surfing and a good surfer is always a mystery,” says Cabianca. “When a good surfer tries to surf with my boards, they feel something different, because they have something where they can read well the wave. They know how to move the board. The DFK has a lot of concave, more rocker… if it’s a good wave or there’s a good pocket in the wave and the guy knows how to use the board in those conditions, it’s easy to surf and comfortable. The good surfer can use a lot of pressure on the board and it works. 

“When it’s not a beginner but not a really good surfer, the first sensation is a stiff board. It’s what I hear, when the guy arrives to me, ‘The board feels a little bit stiff, the board is not working well, I need to pump a lot’ I like to see the guy surfing. Sometimes it’s not a good surfer and we have different models for this.”

Like the Medina. 

“The Medina is the opposite,” says Cabianca. “It’s for these kind of surfers, like me for example. I’m old but with a lot of pain in the back and the arms are not so strong anymore. But never stop to surf! And here, the Medina is more flat, more wide, the rail is more full. I try to bring all the volume to the rail, more stability, not a lot of concave.People can move better the rail to rail when you don’t have a lot of concave in the front foot. It’s a good board in really bad conditions.”

Cabianca says he gets told by his team riders that the Medina isn’t high performance, that it’s a good board, sure, but not for good waves or for wining heats. 

At which point, Cabianca points ‘em to Snapper, 2014, when Medina, riding a Medina, became the first Brazilian to win the contest, beating small-town boy Joel Parkinson for the trophy. 

One thing he hasn’t ever been super into, Cabianca or Medina, is epoxies. 

Medina used to hate ‘em, but now fools around with vacuum-wrapped carbon shooters in the off-season or for fun at the myriad wave pools in Brazil. 

Judges, says Cabianca, aren’t fooled by their liveliness. 

“Man, I don’t see many guys using super-light epoxies. I don’t know if epoxies can give you the same answers, the same ability to connect manoeuvres as PU boards,” says Cabianca. “PU works well for the connection. 

Johnny Cabianca says Medina will burn through a hundred boards a year, maybe a dozen more if he’s been doin’ a few side trips.

Do they come back or does Medina keep ’em? 

Johnny hoots and says he was at Medina’s house last Christmas and he was stunned by how many boards he had, some completely new, unwaxed, others still inside their plastic bags. When he started to examine the boards closely, Medina begged him not to touch.

Johnny Cabianca signature.
The mark of the master sorcerer, Johnny Cabianca. Photo: Lucas Balbino

“He likes to give to friends when he receives friends at home, likes to give the boards to people to use. He’s using the boards to make people happy,” says Cabianca.

Medina’s generosity was felt as far afield as Abu Dhabi when Medina joined Kelly Slater on the unveiling of Slater’s UAE pool.

“I prepared five boards and I think, man, I’ll do something new. New rockers. New foil. A board for doing more manoeuvres in the short space of this wave. I close this box and I send to Brazil.”

Medina, who flew to Abu Dhabi with Slater and pool wizard Filipe Toledo via the Ments where they enjoyed a surprisingly waveless seven days, ended up riding his old shooters and gifting the painstakingly created new boards to “the princes and the rich guys.”

Cabianca says Medina told him, “Every night, Johnny, every night was dinner, these guys were receiving us. For sure I’m going to give something to the guys!” 

Want one? 

I’ve cut a deal, as you might’ve guessed for my two boards, both Medinas, six-o and a six-one. Daytime diamonds I call ’em,.

A few ads, a story, which I would’ve written anyway, god bless Johnny Cabianca etc.

These things are gonna be by my side for the next three years, with a Biolos here and there for a little extra colour.

The deal is: $999-ish AUD, or six-fifty US, and it’ll come inside a Creatures or equivalent board bag. 

First twenty orders get a shot at winning Gabriel’s own board. 

All boards get Cabianca’s love, attention to detail and that swooping signature, proof your new surfboard has been made with individuality and enthusiasm. 


Caity Simmers (pictured) swinging a sledgehammer at the Wall of Positive Noise.
Caity Simmers (pictured) swinging a sledgehammer at the Wall of Positive Noise.

As Pipe Pro champ Caity Simmers’ “Pipeline for the f*cking girls” goes viral, World Surf League rethinks toddler-friendly brand identity

A crack in the Wall of Positive Noise.

The most notable moment of this young 2024 World Surf League Championship Season, even more than Filipe Toledo’s shock mental health break, is certainly Oceanside’s Caity Simmers putting on a dominant Lexus Pipe Pro performance and punctuating it with the now-iconic “Pipeline for the fucking girls.”

As Jen See penned, “It was a quote for the ages on a day that made legends. It was one of the best-ever days of women’s surfing, pure and simple. The women set a new mark at Pipeline one of the world’s most fearsome waves. We’ve never seen anything like it in women’s surfing.”

Caity Simmers became a star overnight, shining so brightly that even the authentic-adverse World Surf League is, currently, re-thinking its ultra G-rated brand identity.

Chief of Sport Jessie Miley-Dyer took to instagram in order to declare:

Finals day at the Lexus Pipe Pro felt like a dream, and I think because it was actually, just that : a day where the dreams of past generations of women in surfing were recognized while watching @caitysimmers @picklummolly and @bettylou.sakura.johnson dueling in solid Pipe and Backdoor … trading heats with our World Champions @john_john_florence and local heroes like @barronmamiya , raising the bar higher each time they paddled out. Watching our men and women get spat out of 8ft barrels one after the other, with the crowd going nuts for everyone, is for sure the privilege of a lifetime for me and @travislogie. A day I will never forget 💙 And with that, probably all that’s left to say is: Pipeline’s for the f*cken girls forever more 🤣🤷🏼‍♀️”

Surf fans don’t have to dig far into the archives in order to remember the many fines given to professional surfers for using no-no words during, or near, World Surf League events. Will Leo Fioravanti, Italo Ferreira et. al. feel discriminated against and demand refunds, with interest?

Will another professional surfer, like Caity Simmers at Pipe, dare utter swears at the upcoming Sunset Beach Pro?

Who and what will they say?