Lenny (pictured) out of contest.
Lenny (pictured) out of contest.

Sunset Beach takes scalp of world’s greatest waterman Kai Lenny on wild day one of Hurley Pro

Gabriel Medina and Barron Mamiya escape by a hair.

Today I come to you from Amsterdam. My first report from Pipeline came from the French Alps, near the Italian border. There’s a comical juxtaposition of covering something as whimsical as professional surfing from these places, the realities of each so disparate in both physical miles and headstate.

It’s a few years since I was last here, and I swore it would be my last, owing to a particularly involved afternoon of mescaline. But it’s been very pleasant so far, this four-dimensional lattice world of canals and glass, a rippling synesthesia of cheese, sex toys and drug paraphernalia.

We walked for miles in the city yesterday in a kaleidoscopic bliss. Tall, helmetless people on bikes seemed to flow from every direction. Angular blond girls in camel coats shimmered over pavements. Shop windows popped with lurid colours. It doesn’t matter if you’re pedaling drugs, dildos or children’s toys, the marketing remains the same, eyes and minds are captured by colour and choice. Vices of every flavour are neon lit and unashamed.

And always, the heady tang of weed fills the air. Like starlings alighting then flitting from telephone wires, groups of young men and women spill in and out of coffeeshops, giggling into the brightness of the street with ash-faced glassy smiles and slanted laughter.

My favourite moments are the ordinary ones, the ones where you begin to see the fabric of the city. The thin man taking out his bins, shuffling in pink Crocs several sizes too small. The old Vinta windsurfing board lashed to someone’s private canal dock, floating daggerboard down on the browned green water, eye level with the small windows. The old woman feeding slices of bread to merganser ducks and shooing the gulls, which, as she told us in Dutch, peck holes in the duck’s heads. The kids’ nursery right next door to prostitutes’ windows. Hookers need childcare too.

Or the guy in the silver Corsa, pumping out quality techno on narrow streets at ten in the morning. Whether it was the acoustics of the alley or the bass of a sound system that seemed outrageous in the context of the car it was fitted in, I swear the whole street were primed and appreciative of that beat drop.

Amsterdam is a city distilled to the fundamental and authentic condensate of human existence. It’s a truth you’ll find equally in the ancient kinky artefacts of the sex museum; in the drawn or hungry faces of the red light district; or in the hazy contentment of the coffeeshops.

One way or another, we all want to get fucked.

We were directionless and delighted by this simple premise, by the simple joy of floating in a river of humanity. We lay on our backs and let the city carry us.

There’s an acclimatisation phase here, much like there is when you go somewhere of high altitude. Your body and mind will feel different, often not quite your own. Accepting this as normality is the key, and once you establish your new baseline, then you can begin to push a bit harder.

So it’s amidst this context that I returned to my hotel last night, diligently firing up YouTube to see Sunset Beach, labouring under the burden of a north swell. Takeoffs were uncertain, sometimes prone. Clean walls were hard to find, end sections ephemeral.

“A waterman’s wave” is the standard refrain of the Sunset Beach apologist, typically a white male aged 50+. And of course it’s a “huge playing field”, or something to that effect, even though the analogy of a playing field would suggest that all sections of the area are amenable to play.

A military analogy might be more fitting, something as simple as a battleground. It’s all technically in play, it’s just that survival is only assured by being in one indistinct and unpredictable place at just the right time. Everywhere else you’ll probably get blown to shit.

I don’t mind it. It doesn’t always make the most exciting heat viewing, but there’s an argument for the slightly chaotic nature of it. The vibe isn’t dissimilar to the straats of Amsterdam, as it happens. When you overlook the oddities, accepting that at any given moment you might feel simultaneously teetering on the edge of control or nirvana, or there could be unpredictable, searing turns at any time, then you can begin to enjoy it.

Anyone can win here, and anyone might lose. When single turns are acceptable currency for mid-high range scores, and single digit heat totals are often enough, sheer circumstance can be all you need.

Kaipo likes to call it a “time bandit”.

Or I should say that Kaipo still, relentlessly, likes to call it a time bandit, even if no-one else ever does and he still needs to explain the analogy every time he says it.

Waves that offered more than two solid opportunities for turns were rare today. Mostly, the day was marked by struggle. There’s little to be done in the way of establishing rhythm at Sunset on days like today. Staccato might be the best you can hope for.

Challenging that notion was Ethan Ewing, who performed the kind of cutback that should make any remaining sceptics nod in quiet acknowledgment, whilst his many acolytes spit in vindicated delight.

His backside rail line drew through the wave face like cheesewire. His body torque was statuesque, back arm high and lightly bent. His connection with the section like that of a watchmaker.

It was a turn that few might have even conceived, and it marks Ewing out not just for his lauded style and approach, but for his reading of water. The foundations beneath a dazzling architecture.

My other major note belonged to Matt McGillivray, another man with the capacity to make heavy water look smooth. An 8.33 was rightfully garnered for two achingly committed turns on his forehand that few could match today. He advanced to the round of 32 alongside heat winner Eli Hanneman, sending the unlikely spectre of Gabriel Medina to the elimination round.

Medina has seemed slightly out of kilter this season so far. The waves he’s had to work with so far in both comps have hardly been conducive to rhythm, but there’s an uncertain flutter in his backhand that caused me some consternation. If he really is carrying as much extra muscle as we’ve been led to believe, these kinks might take a while to iron out. He advanced from the elimination round nonetheless, taking the victory with Sammy Pupo in second place and wildcard Keanu Asing out of the competition and facing a short journey home.

Current yellow jersey Barron Mamiya also faced the elimination round, but also stayed alive by taking the heat win. Fred Morais progressed in second. Both advance at the expense of Kai Lenny, whom you’d think might have been a wildcard in the truest sense on a day like today.

Looking ahead to the forecast and likely cleaner conditions, you’d have to think it’s anyone’s game, providing they can lay a rail and match Sunset’s power with their own. Some barrels were had and scored today, notably Jordy’s 9.33, but this will be a competition decided by turns, ideally performed on closeout sections.

Look to Jordy, Ethan, John. Maybe Connor O’Leary and Ryan Callinan, too. And I’m interested to see what rookie Cole Houshmand might bring to a match-up with Jack Robinson in the final heat of the round of 32.

One man who will not be a threat is Filipe Toledo, shorebound and on sabbatical. He seemed sprightly and mildly regretful in the booth today, joining Turpel and Mendes, perhaps now that the looming shadow of Pipeline is gone.

But he assured us that he will still be surfing, still going on surf trips. And he reminded us he’d done a lot of crying about his decision. Three full days would you believe.

Credit to Turpel, who feinted with opening praise about all the locations Toledo has won, before jabbing with the combo of Pipeline and Teahupo’o as places that have “challenged” him.

“Is that still a fair statement?” Joe hoisted, suddenly shocked at the out of body experience that almost made him ask a real question. “Are you planning on working on your profile for these events?” Turpel followed, retreating into the clammy safety of euphemism once again.

Toledo was typically evasive. “I can’t tell you guys that” he initially responded, before pretending he was joking. As a teacher, I’ve overheard enough conversations between high school boys claiming to have girlfriends in other towns to know the truth behind his mock humour.

But that’s enough Toledo for me. He controls his own fate now. I wish him the best of health and luck, and however it plays out, it’ll be a hell of a story.

Onto the knockout rounds we go with the men who still matter.

Now if you’ll excuse me, now that I’m fully acclimated, I’m off to swirl and spin through the straats of Amsterdam like it’s a platform game.

Rip Curl shed for sale
Rip Curl, then, and now!

Historic Bells Beach shack that birthed Rip Curl lists for under one million dollars!

35 Great Ocean Road, Jan Juc, seeks surf and history lover!

Long before being bought by a camping retailer, dumping its CIS white male CEO and pivoting in and then out of the queer market,  Rip Curl was a backyard surfboard company called Rip Curl Hot Dog.

In an aluminium shed out the  back of 35 Great Ocean Road, Doug Warbrick and his pal Brian Singer started making surfboards to fund lives built around surfing nearby Bells Beach. 

Soon, they’d move into a new joint up the road, the old Torquay bakery, shorten the name to Rip Curl and, along with Alan Green, who’d later split to start Quiksilver, start making wetsuits.

A few decades later, all of ‘em rich as hell.

And four years ago, after taking a dozen years to find a buyer they could live with and that and with the necessary bankroll, Brian and Doug sold Rip Curl to camping retailer Kathmandu for $A350.

Brian and Doug’s 35.5 percent each of Rip Curl got ’em $58 million apiece.

Anyway, the beach shack at 35 Great Ocean Road, Jan Juc, sixty-five miles out of Melbourne, has just been listed with hopes of around a mill, mill-on, Australian dollars, 650 to 710k US. 

(US readers take note, no property taxes in Australia. You buy, it’s yours.)

And, in the back yard, still, is the historic shed where Rip Curl began. A holy shrine, you’d think. What’s very cool is over the course of almost six decades, no one has touched the shed. 

The shack, meanwhile, has been gussied up real fine while keeping its ancient roots alive.

“They have kept it like a nice authentic beach house feel but the vendor has certainly, because she lived in it for a long time, she has done some great work in renovating it over the years,” selling agent Kellie Papworth told the property press.

Examine, and if you can handle the long winters, buy here. 

Open Thread: Comment Live on Day One of the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach!

Poster Posse, let's ride.

Kanoa Igarashi (pictured) basking in the warm glow of transcendent knowledge.
Kanoa Igarashi (pictured) basking in the warm glow of transcendent knowledge.

Olympian Kanoa Igarashi delivers must-read message on unity in these increasingly surf rage-filled days

This one goes out to the internet technicians...

One of the greater transitions, in an era increasingly fuller of them, is that of Kanoa Igarashi. Born in Huntington Beach to Japanese parents, Igarashi burst on the scene as a sort of child surf prodigy alongside Quiksilver stablemates Jack Robinson and Leo Fioravanti. As he grew, the young man’s spontaneous “tourettes-like” celebrations and gold chains seemed to grate easily offended surf fans and he was written off as “cloying.”

Over the years, though, Igarashi has quietly endeared himself to those selfsame internet technicians by developing an enviable style, demonstrating a willingness to charge and, by all accounts, rising above the fray. Letting his “surfing do the talking” as the old chestnut goes.

Well, in a revealing new interview with the Olympics’ official website, Igarashi also lets his talking do the talking, sharing about how it felt to grow up Japanese in Huntington Beach (“When I was outside of my house, I had a very American culture because of my American friends. And then I would go back home and it would just be a complete Japanese culture. The balance for me was very unique.”) and how it allowed him to soar to a silver medal in surfing’s Olympic introduction at the Tokyo Games (“I guess that kind of controlled chaos, it’s made me into who I am today.”).

Most importantly, though, the model-handsome 26-year-old drops a pearl of wisdom that might just might heal this vitriolic and polarizing age. Speaking of his different worlds, Igarashi explained that none of it mattered when he went surfing with his father. “The ocean was what kind of blended me into society,” he said “and I’ll be forever thankful for that. What the ocean taught me was that it really is a place where everyone is a human being. Everyone’s training one passion. Everyone’s in the water, everyone’s surfing. No matter what race you are, no matter where you’re from, no matter what you do, when you’re in the water, you’re just one.”

And look at that.

Peace for our time.

Taylor Swift and Andrew Kidman
Taylor Smith with Andrew Kidman laminate from Swift surfboards as visage. Digital manipulation by Pauly_Matt_War_Shore

Aussie surf film icon reveals eerie connection to billionaire chanteuse Taylor Swift

Litmus creator Andrew Kidman and his supernatural brush with global phenomenon Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift would have been nine when I first began drawing this surfboard decal in 1998.

Swift was the name of a sailing boat that my father’s best friend Stewart Morris won an Olympic Gold Medal sailing in the Swallow Class in 1948. There was a black and white photo of Stewart sailing it hanging on the wall of my home growing up. It looked fast.

I don’t know why I drew the girl’s face as the graphic. I worked on it for a couple of years, different versions, trying get a late 60s – early 70s feel into the graphic. I was attempting to reflect the era of surfboard that I liked to ride in the artwork. I was going after that feeling of the rock poster art Bill Graham and Chet Helms commissioned to promote their music shows around San Francisco in the 70s.

I felt I’d got it close, so I showed it to my girlfriend, Mish, who looked at it and said, “The eyes and mouth need fixing.”

Trusting Mish, I let her fix the eyes and mouth. It was like watching her put on eyeliner and fix her lippy.

So, I had the laminates printed in Brookvale, and over the years I’ve used them on some of the surfboards I have shaped. The past couple of years, since the Taylor Swift phenom, and the global surfboard glut, custom surfboard orders have been pretty lean.

Taylor Swift surfboard stickers
Andrew Kidman’s eerie Taylor Swift-esque decals for his Swift board label.

Currently there’s no order cards to fill. The shaping bay is just a storage room of stale foam off cuts, yellowed foam dust and tools scattered around the floor. Occasionally I open the door and look in there and think about shaping, there’s a blank in the corner with an outline on it of something I was thinking about, but I don’t have the coin to glass it.

So that’s all it is, an outline and I think, “Maybe that would work?” and I close the door.

The other day I was moving shit around, looking for something in the shed when I saw the Swift laminate on the deck of one of my boards. Taylor Swift is omnipresent in all our lives now. I’d never thought about it before, the girl in the decal was looking back at me, I started laughing.

Mish walked in, and I said to her,

“Look at this, it kind of looks like Taylor Swift.”

Mish started laughing, “It kind of does.”

“That’s weird right?” I said.

“Yeah that is weird,” Mish replied, “You probably wouldn’t draw that today.”

“I dunno, I kind of like her, Taylor Swift might be able to save the world.”

Mish laughed. I went on, “She might even be able to save the Swift Parrot’s habitat in Tasmania.”

“Fat chance,” Mish said as she walked out the door, unconvinced.

Hey Taylor, could you bring the plight of the Swift Parrot to the attention of the nation? All you need to do is talk about it, your audience is attentive.

I’ll even build you a board. 

(Editor’s note: Andrew Kidman is the creator of game-changing surf film Litmus (1996), its 2019 sequel Beyond Litmus and the surfboard design documentary On the Edge of a Dream where an impossible to ride board was filmed ruining the live of myriad surfers. His newspaper magazine Acetone, made with PHD student Sam Rhodes, acted, briefly, as a cultural bulwark to the great WSL/VAL replacement.)