Toledo (pictured) trailblazing.
Toledo (pictured) trailblazing.

Surf champion Filipe Toledo part of troubling Gen Z “calling in sick for work” crisis

But is our hero the solution?

Two-time, and current, World Surf League champion Filipe Toledo’s shock announcement that he would take the year off after an embarrassing show at the 2024 season opener Lexus Pipe Pro is still reverberating through the surfing world. The 28-year-old had just come off a phenomenal season marred only by a refusal to paddle into larger surf. The San Clemente resident, by way of Brazil, demolished his competition during Final’s Day at his home break of Lower Trestles and would have done the same this year, all but assuring himself a third consecutive title.

Alas, after his Pipe performance, Toledo called in sick with food poisoning before throwing in the towel entirely citing mental health. A trend, unfortunately, all too common amongst his generation according to a new study published in Fortune.

Per the piece, Gen Zers, those born between 1997 and 2012, are much more likely to call in sick for work than those twice their age.

Research from the RF (in England) finds that more than a third of young people aged 18 to 24 suffer from what is described as a “common mental disorder,” (CMD) like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. The figure is well above the 24% of young people in 2000 who lived with a CMD.

That jump has been “turbocharged” by a mental health crisis among women. Two out of five women in the U.K. are likely to report a CMD, compared with a quarter of men.

While there are theories about the causes of this surge, from the loss of vital public services to the falling stigma around talking about mental health, what can’t be debated is the real-world impacts of increasing instances of poor mental well-being.

Opinion on how to fix the crisis is very mixed. Grumpy locals insist that drinking a cup of concrete, alongside the morning coffee, is the way to go. The emotionally intelligent counter with statistics that these are, in fact, unprecedented times with stress levels through the very roof.

Toledo, for his part, is back to work, participating in the World Surfing Games with an eye on crafting the greatest sport story ever, slaying his demons and winning Olympic gold at the fearsome “Cave of Skulls.”

Maybe his journey will create the blueprint for others to follow?

Toledo a bold trailblazer hacking a way back into the light for his entire generation?

The greatest sport story ever just, maybe, got greater.

KaI Lenny, brain injury
Kai Lenny, busted helmet and brain examination.

Shock as Kai Lenny reveals extent of brain injury following helmet-smashing Pipeline wipeout

“Without a doubt this head injury was the worst injury I’ve ever had.”

Two months ago, the big-wave surfer Kai Lenny was hospitalised after a wipeout that destroyed his helmet during the Backdoor Shootout, Pipeline’s sixth scalp for the winter. 

Addressing his myriad fans, which include legendary MMA cornerman Mark Zuckerberg, from his hospital bed at the Pali Momi medical centre near Pearl Harbour, Kai Lenny wrote:

First time wearing a helmet at Pipeline and it may have saved my life. I  don’t remember much except that it was during my heat in the #DaHuiBackdoorShootout and the lifeguards sat me down in a chair at the Beach Park. I have a solid concussion and some bleeding out of my left ear.”

The world’s best surfers were quick to acknowledge how his life might’ve drastically zigged if Kai Lenny didn’t have the polycarbonate shell on his head.

“The helmet,” wrote Jack Robinson, punctuating the profundity with two sets of prayer hands.

“Glad you are okay Kai Lenny. TEAM HELMET,” wrote Jamie O’Brien.

Now, an injured brain ain’t something to take lightly.

Who can forget when Owen Wright, a one-time world title contender suffered a delayed brain injury after a wipeout at Pipeline in 2015 that was so bad docs told him he’d never surf, maybe never even walk again? Or current world champ Filipe Toledo, a man for whom even the spectre of brain injury gave his neat little belly cartwheels and forced him off tour?

Earlier this morning, Kai Lenny posted a photograph of his brain being examined by the noted medico Dr Jason Keifer at Brain Health Hawaii.

“Since my head injury at PIPELINE on January 4th, I’ve been doing everything I can to get back on the horse and become better than I was.

“Without a doubt this head injury was the worst injury I’ve ever had. However, it has been a blessing in disguise because it led me to working with Dr. Keifer at @brainhealthhawaii. I’ve had concussions throughout my life and I was able to get answers to questions I didn’t know I had. Truly life changing.

“If you’ve had a concussion / head injury or even if you haven’t I highly recommend getting an EEG Brain Scan. The tools that are available nowadays are absolutely incredible.”

I’ve had a few brushes with brain trauma, hell beaten out of me outside a Surfers Paradise nightclub after my drunk chick picked a fight, concussed, scrambled thoughts, slurred speech, had same girl suggested I be admitted to a psych ward. And, at ten, wrongly fed psychedelics by doctor that led to a wild few weeks tripping in and out of a Hunger Games scenario where participants competed to see who could behead themselves with the best style.

Real vivid memory, sitting up in my bed, weeping, thinking I’m cradling my own head.


How about you?


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Kelly Slater (pictured) in the spotlight where he is most comfortable.
Kelly Slater (pictured) in the spotlight where he is most comfortable.

Sizzling rumor: Living legend Kelly Slater vying to become U.S. Olympic surf coach despite team concerns over his famed spotlight hogging!

Would you rather have Slater in your corner and a medal around your neck or a few thousand extra dollars in your pocket?

Surfing’s official inclusion into the Olympic Games has been, frankly, glorious for so many reasons. Not only does the entire globe get to appreciate our favorite pastime once every four years, not only does the World Surfing Games and its endless repechage take on actual value but the myriad storylines leading up to the international spectacle are… pure titillation.

Will, for example, the brave coward Filipe Toledo face his demons and waltz into the Cave of Skulls or hand his already-secured slot to Gabriel Medina?

Can Sky Brown become the first in history to compete in both the skateboarding and surfing portions, flying halfway around the planet in order to do?

Is Kelly Slater going to be the U.S. team coach despite in house concerns that the spotlight-loving champion might suck all air out of the room?

The sizzling rumor, coming from a well-placed source is “99% sure” the 11x World Champion is actively petitioning for the role after having failed to make the squad as a competitor. Now, you would think John John Florence, Griffin Colapinto, Caroline Marks and Carissa Moore would be thrilled having Slater providing helpful hints from the channel, but, as this rumor goes, there is a real worry the greatest surfer ever will take up the entire stage, international media flocking to his tanned turtle’d 56-year-old feet and failing to recognize anyone else.

A genuine misgiving.

The Olympics, as you know, provides financial opportunities for professional surfers not available during the other three years. Brands loving the fact that millions upon millions of the elusive “non-endemic fan” will, for two weeks, become enamored enough to buy toothpaste, cereal, even pharmaceuticals adorned with shiny professional surf faces.

Slater, as you also know, has a penchant for grabbing the spotlight any time it dares stray. Who could forget when Joel Parkinson dared announce his retirement? Or Adriano de Souza won an inspirational championship? The list of the oldest ever professional surfer “entering the chat,” as it were, well-documented.

The question, I suppose. Is it worth the dimmed attention to have a five-time Teahupo’o winner sharing tube secrets?

Would you rather have Slater in your corner and a medal around your neck or a few thousand extra dollars in your pocket?

Something to think about.

Julian Wilson (left) and Gabriel Medina (right) representing the yin and yang of professional surfing.
Julian Wilson (left) and Gabriel Medina (right) representing the yin and yang of professional surfing.

Puerto Rico readies for massacre as World Surfing Games enters blood-splattered repechage day

Olympic dreams stretch out their necks.

Warning bells are sounding, this morning, on the island protectorate of Puerto Rico. They are not signaling an incoming hurricane nor yet another referendum on joining the United States but rather alerting the three million souls who call the isle of enchantment home that the blood of professional-adjacent surfers will be gushing through rain gutters.

For today, the World Surfing Games, which got underway only 48 hours ago, is serving an entire repechage offering. Surfers who lose not afforded a repechage repechage round. They will have to pack their bags, and Olympic dreams, and offer their necks to International Surfing Association strongman Fernando Agguere for a swift and certain end.

Or, not swift, I suppose. The World Surfing Games has more heats than an animal shelter full of unspayed cats but there is no denying that today a loss really means a loss.

I think.

Big names will be fighting for continued existence including Olympic silver medalist Kanoa Igarashi, Japan’s other face Connor O’Leary and former Championship Tour Peruvian Miguel Tudela.

Spared until later is South Africa’s Jordy Smith who has gotten off to ripping start on the World Surf League’s Championship Tour, currently ranked fourth, and now eating children who once venerated him.

Germany’s Leon Glatzer survived Smith’s wrath in the second round, declaring, “It was a pretty stacked heat for a second round only. Just competing with Jordy, he’s been one of my idols since I was a little kid. I watched him basically before every free surf. It was a really good heat.”

The aforementioned Igarashi becoming victim.

If you are a sadistic person, the sort that relishes in the misery of others, you will find today extremely enjoyable.

Watch, and further sicken your soul, now.

Taylor Swift (insert) doing the kind of Swag Surfin' people actually like.
Taylor Swift (insert) doing the kind of Swag Surfin' people actually like.

Hip hop anthem Swag Surfin’ goes viral, again, thanks to Taylor Swift reducing World Surf League chiefs to tears!

Swag Surfin' infinitely more popular than Competitive Professional Surfin'.

When billionaire Dirk Ziff purchased professional surfing for free almost one decade ago, rebranding it the World Surf League, the sky seemed to be a conservative limit. Paul Speaker was announced as the first CEO, giving interviews and press conferences about how massive the sport would soon be. Hundreds of millions would certainly tune in, sharing the joy of competitive water sliding with each other.

Surfing, as was promised, to the moon.

Alas, that almost one decade on and viewership seems to be capped at 3 million, maximum, per event and not growing even though 10x that would be required to recoup costs and break even. Regional ladder companies have replaced beer juggernauts as advertisers. World champions are fleeing faster than Joe Turpel can say, “Gotta love that.”

The only real viral hit, when Mick Fanning was brushed by a shark at J-Bay during the first year of Ziff ownership.

Thus, you can understand the bitter tears streaming down World Surf League chief cheeks as the fifteen-year-old hip hop song Swag Surfin’ has gone viral, again, this time due the unsinkable Taylor Swift.

Now considered a “sports anthem,” the tune began humbly enough in Stone Mountain, Georgia where Myko, McFly, Vee and Mook, operating as F.L.Y. or Fast Life Yungstaz, recorded the track in a two-bedroom apartment. The Guardian has just published a historical account of how the song became popular in Atlanta clubs before making its way to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) then state institutions before being blasted at the White House, Beyonce concerts… everywhere.

Most recently, it was played during the Kansas City Chief playoff win over the Miami Dolphins. Taylor Swift, in a suite, danced along and the song received its 20th spike.

“I wanna say since I’ve been here it’s been a huge fourth-quarter, big-time moment, big-time drive in the game for our defense,” Swift’s boyfriend Travis Kelce explained on his podcast. “They play a highlight video that has Swag Surfin’ on it, and it just gets everybody hyped.”

“It just reminds us of the trendsetters we’ve been for the last 15 years,” Mook declared.

While the World Surf League self-identifies as “the global home of surfing,” it appears that Fast Life Yungstaz actually have claim to the title.

The L in WSL quickly transitioning from “League” to “Losers.”

Dark days.