Jack Robinson wins Hurley Pro Sunset Beach
Jackie Robinson, master of deadly Sunset! | Photo: WSL

Finals Day remains a creeping effigy of Erik Logan and it should be exorcised at once!

Epic Sunset Beach contest shows absurdity of a world title showdown in Trestles mush…

Pipe and Sunset Beach done and dusted. Gender equality amidst stellar waves for a Finals Day once again. Victory for Australia. New faces in the finals. Nary a Brazilian in sight, except Italo who exited at the quarters. Miley-Dyer conspicuous only by absence.

Are you not entertained?

Pacified, at least?

All day we were told it was as good as Sunset Beach gets. For once I believed it wasn’t just WSL bluster and hyperbole.

Opportunity abounded for all. The four men who made the semis, Jack Robinson, Kanoa Igarashi, Ryan Callinan and Jordy Smith, were a curious collection, diverse in styles and demeanour, but all were deserving of their place.

John Florence and Italo Ferreira would have deserved it, too, but there’s no shame in losing to Jordy Smith or Jack Robinson on days like that.

As mentioned in a recent report, Italo must have far and away the highest losing heat totals over the past twelve months or so. Continuing the theme, the 15.60 he logged in his quarter loss to Robinson would have won all but four heats in the entire competition. Surely, he’s due a run?

Despite John Florence’s loss in the quarter, he wears the yellow jersey going into Portugal. He seems to have found a new verve for competitive surfing that perhaps no-one outwith those who know him well could have predicted. The tragedy is that the excitement we might feel for John’s renewed vigour is completely nullified by the current Tour format.

More on that later.

Jordy Smith and Ryan Callinan were standouts throughout the competition. These waves at Sunset Beach were always going to suit Jordy, and seeing his power was a reminder of the gaping hole in the schedule left by J-Bay. Callinan, for his part, did some of the most vicious backhand hacks seen at Sunset. Both lost at semi-final stage, but neither in disgrace.

Which left childhood rivals and former Young Guns, Kanoa Igarashi and Jack Robinson, to duke it out in the final.

Robinson had made his way there in a blitzkrieg of warbly barrels, scything hooks under lips and nappy fumes.

His heat totals from the quarter onwards were 17.37, 16.10 and 18.04. It was a finals day run of the sort of veracity that I thought we may not see from Robinson this year, given his circumstances. Children are a blessing, no doubt, but they do not facilitate zen.

Kanoa posted his standard pocket sevens, and there was a little flash, but he never displayed the joie de vivre of Robinson, nor was he on the best waves in comparison.

The ocean was “part of his body or something,” gushed Joe Turpel of Jack Robinson. “He feeds off mana!”

“Another cool redirect,” he said of Kanoa.

But for me, Jack’s Sunset Beach barrels were a touch overscored.

He notched the highest single waves of the event with a 9.77 and a 9.87 for finding tubes where others could not. Perhaps that in itself is justification for the scores. Certainly you had to appreciate how deep he took off for his 9.87, a backdoor entry no-one else conceived, let alone attempted. But in a competition defined by critical turns, the scores for the barrels were a little jarring.

At the prizegiving (where drone shots made the average school sports day look like the Superbowl in comparison) Jack Robinson told the few gathered souls that he’d held a board that had belonged to Andy Irons on his lap that morning. He’d talked to the board.

“Just go frikkin surf,” it told him.

And that’s what he did.

But you’ll forgive me for ending on a despondent note. Come down or otherwise, it’s how I feel as we leave the North Shore.

You see, I like watching turns.

Turns to make us ooh and aah. Turns that make our balls wince. Turns that we can only do in our feathered dreamscapes.

I like watching barrels, too.

And it strikes me that there were so many turns carved at Sunset Beach and tubes threaded at Pipe, but that none of it matters when we know it’s all going to end with a damp flatulent echo at Lower Trestles, where turns and tubes like these can never exist.

Yes, the Final Five showdown can be great entertainment. The concept works. But it is not how world titles should be decided. How are we supposed to get behind a title race if it’s not really a title race?

More to the point, how are the athletes?

We might have John and Gabby (if the latter picks up, which he will) in the prime of their careers, the white knight/black knight rivalry we’ve longed for since the heady days of Kelly vs Andy.

Add to this genuine Australian talent (for the first time since the Coolie kids) in the shape of Robinson and Ewing; wildcards like Yago Dora and Italo (given it’s slightly disrespectful to call a past world champ a wildcard); mainland America’s best hope since Slater in the shape of Griffin; and even Barron Mamiya and the absent Chianca to stir the pot.

That’s a lot of talent, a lot of character too. But, it might all be wasted.

John could thread mind-bending barrels from here til Trestles, win every single comp, and still lose the world title to Kanoa Igarashi stitching sevens in Trestles’ mush.

Without treading too much old ground, the premise that underpins the Trestles contest is solid. Yes, competitive surfing can lack excitement. I’ll vouch for that. The average contest in just about any other sport is better entertainment than the average surf contest. So competitions do need to happen faster, and they do need a sense of drama and consequence.

But this premise is flawed, because surfing isn’t like any other sport, and trying to make it like other things is a fool’s errand.

(Let’s put the argument about whether it should be a competitive sport at all to one side for now.)

The WSL should be doing everything in its power to highlight the unique aspects of surfing, not stymie them. A world title fight deserves waves of both quality and diversity, and a single day showdown to decide a world title – particularly at Trestles – makes a mockery of the skills it requires to be in the top five at year end.

Trestles remains a creeping effigy of Erik Logan, and it should be exorcised at once.

Make the changes, WSL. The athletes and fans deserve better.

Brooks (pictured) lucky.
Brooks (pictured) lucky.

Fresh Canadian Erin Brooks rubs enviable new citizenship in face of “slack-jawed yokels” at USA Surfing

Dark days for the once-dominant USA.

One of the most exciting young up and coming surfers is, undoubtedly, Erin Brooks. Described as the “barrel and air future of surfing,” the Texas born, Hawaii raised phenom, 16, has been turning heads for the better part of three-ish year and is one of the crown jewels of our modern game. With the Olympics right around the corner, it might be imagined that USA Surfing is thrilled with this prodigious talent, pure Americana, in the stable.

Alas, Brooks has a father who possesses Canadian citizenship and, as of one month ago, she joined him carrying that maple leaf-adorned passport.

Brooks’ bid to surf for Team Canada was initially rejected by The North’s stingy courts.

Per the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:

In a letter explaining its decision not to grant a “discretionary grant of citizenship,” Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says Brooks did not meet the requirements.

“The application is refused on the basis that the applicant is not stateless, has not experienced special or unusual hardship or provided services of an exceptional value to Canada which warrants a discretionary grant of Canadian citizenship,” the letter stated.

Well, somehow, someway, and with a potential gold medal glittering, the Canucks found a way to adopt Brooks and now one of the favorites heading to Teahupo’o in under six months will be wrapped in red and white sans blue.

Brooks, equally thrilled, took a moment to run her new citizenship in the face of those slack-jawed yokels who live south of the border.

Again, per the CBC:

Erin Brooks picked up her passport in Vancouver on Jan. 18 to end a two-and-a-half-year fight to become a Canadian citizen and didn’t hesitate to mark the occasion in typical Canadian fashion.

“I went straight to Tim Hortons to get my fix and then grabbed some bags of ketchup-flavoured Lays chips for my flight [that aren’t available in the United States],” the professional surfer recalled in an interview with CBC Sports last week from her training base in Hawaii. “I definitely have some Canadian taste buds.”


Tim Hortons, for those who don’t know is a better version of Denny’s. Ketchup-flavououroured Lays a superior crisp.

And I must admit to being both hurt and envious for have you ever tasted poutine? The French-Canadian delicacy which consists of French fries smothered with brown gravy, sprinkled with cheese curds is maybe by favorite dish ever. Some chefs add spicy sausage. Others add Irish cheddar and bacon. No matter how it is constructed, it is delicious and the fact that Brooks gets to enjoy as a national right stings.

I wish Canada was, currently, bending immigration rules for surf journalists who hate surfing.

Sad face, eh.

More difficult than surfing (pictured).

Surfing between racquetball and fencing on definitive list of “sport ranked by degree of difficulty!”

We get no respect.

We lifelong lower-to-middle intermediates, we surfers know the immense joy but also frustration of our “sport of kings.” Nailing a pop up that don’t automatically guaranteed a poor line straight away, for example, or a bottom turn that doesn’t drain forward momentum. Getting the knees properly bent, shoulders open on a wrap-around carve already filled with hitches. Racing too far out front. Getting gobbled for being too slow.


Surfing doesn’t generally feel easy but, apparently, it is.

For ESPN, the “worldwide leader in sports,” has just released its definitive list of “sport ranked by degree of difficulty” and where do you think our watery dance lands?

Third after Brazilian jiu-jitsu?

Fifth after Australian Rules Football?


23rd between racquetball/squash (harder) and fencing (easier).


The number one game, in terms of challenge, is boxing followed by ice hockey and football (American).  The simplest, badminton.

How do you feel about that?

I, for one, am happy that it made the list to begin with and those thinking they might like to try the water dance should, instead, opt for bobsledding/luge which is easier and, I’d imagine, more fulfilling.

But, quickly, when was the last time you played racquetball? I haven’t thought about it for a while, but a few years ago my very best friends toyed with making it our thing. In retrospect, I wish we would have. It’s a good time.

Nikolas Plytas foilboarding and Kelly Slater.
Nikolas Plytas flies while Kelly Slater bangs keys.

Kelly Slater puts Greek foilboarder Nikolas Plytas to sword over incorrect caption in wild online debate!

“I’m sure I’ll get tarred and feathered for this comment…”

The world’s greatest surfer, although the crown has become tarnished in recent years with one pundit even predicting he’ll never win another pro surfing heat, has taken the foilboarder Nikolas Plytas to task for what he believes was a mistake in an Instagram caption. 

Nikolas Plytas is a “professional water sports athlete” although this refers to his penchant for water skiing, wing foiling, wakeboarding as well as the aforementioned foil boarding and not to the eye-raising sport of showering in gold.

Plytas, who is twenty eight or to give it some perspective Kelly Slater had already won three world titles when the little Greek baby was spat onto the linoleum of an Athens hospital, posted a short video on Instagram with the caption.

“Landed another new trick today. I would say it is a Frontside 360 backflip. How would you call it? It’s the second Worlds First trick I land within three days so I’m super exited.”


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A post shared by Nikolas Plytas (@nikolasplytas)

Kelly Slater was quickly into the comment pane writing,

“I’m sure I’ll get tarred and feathered for this comment but…I get that skaters call rotation based on direction of rotation but in surfing, everything done facing the wall is and always will be considered frontside.

“The first rodeo (clowns) were done going (and called) backside rotating opposite to this. If skating is a precursor for direction of spin then should this just be called a backside mctwist and not a rodeo?

“Seems the medium you’re riding matters when distinguishing and thus the confusion we surfers suffer. Super sick though not matter what.”

Debate ensued with much earnest back and forthing about whether or not Nikolas Plytas’ air is a rodeo 7, a backflip 360, an Air Reverse Spin (the old bodyboarding move) or a McTwist.

Reader, do you wonder about such things?

Or does a strapped-in foil board air give you shivers of disgust as if you were ordered to pluck a songbird or hull a large punnet of strawberries?





Jack Robinson wins Sunset Beach Pro
In reprise of Australia v Japan's Pacific War, Jack Robinson beats Japanese surfer Kev Igarashi in final at Sunset Beach Pro.

In savage reprise of Pacific War, ANZACs Jack Robinson and Molly Picklum storm to victory at Hurley Pro Sunset Beach!

Australia über alles.

The sun rose on Sunset and revealed almost perfect surf. Biggish and clean groomed by offshore winds. There were sixteen surfers left in the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach, eight men, eight women and they got right after it, women first as is polite.

Molly Picklum started things and chewed through Lakey Peterson and Brissa Hennessy on her way to the final.

Kanoa Igarashi, as it happens, kicked it off for the men and ate Seth Moniz and Jordan Michael Smith on his way to the final.

Molly Picklum met local girl done good BettyLou Sakura Johnson and took her down, without stress, in order to become a back-to-back Sunset winner alongside Layne Beachley and others. The highlight of the day, maybe the event, though happened the heat earlier when the New South Welshwoman smacked the lip so critically that the famed Hawaiian Water Patrol was forced to treat multiple aneurysms in the World Surf League booth.


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A post shared by World Surf League (@wsl)

Igarashi was not so lucky, coming up against a “cat-like” Jack Robinson, who had been surfing “loosey-goosey” all day.

Jesse Mendes said it best: “When you prove your ground here in Hawaii it is where people start most respect you.”

Jack Robinson had Igarashi in a soft combination at the halfway mark though the Japanese star broke it by surfing on point.

No overcooking.

A magic recipe.

It didn’t even begin to matter. Jack Robinson’s very next wave was a double barrel with monster hacks thrown in.

Joe Turpel said, “The ocean is part of Jack Robinson’s body. He feeds on mana,” while the Hawaiian Water Patrol cleaned its aneurysm equipment and rushed back to the booth.

As the World Surf League had run out of Yeti coolers, Jack Robinson was rewarded a 9.87 and not a 10.00. The two judges who awarded him a perfect score likely receiving harsh tongue lashing from the accounting dept.


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Igarashi entered a hard combination.

And stayed there.

Australia over Japan-adjacent in the Pacific Theater.

Complete, and proper, recap tomorrow.