Carissa Moore finishes career at Pipeline
It made me sad to see Carissa, surfing her final competition on Tour, desperately trying to get barreled in shit small Backdoor. She refused to go to turns and lost her heat. Carissa deserved better.

Women forced to surf “aggressively mediocre” waves at Lexus Pipe Pro

"I’d be laughing if it weren’t so f*cking frustrating. I want to love you, pro surfing, but you definitely don’t seem to love me back."

I wanted to watch surfing at the Lexus Pipe Pro today. I did. The weather is shit here, and I had nothing but time.

Surfing! I like to watch surfing. What could be more fun than to watch the pro women’s progression at Pipe? All winter I’ve seen clips from Moana and Carissa, among others getting barreled in bigger and better Pipe.

How could the Lexus Pipe Pro not be fun to watch?

Joke’s on me.

The joke’s on me for imagining that pro surfing would get out of its own way, get it together, and run an interesting competition. The joke’s on me for hoping that the women would have the opportunity to surf in decent waves at the Lexus Pipe Pro and show their best surfing.

I’d be laughing if it weren’t so fucking frustrating. I want to love you, pro surfing, but you definitely don’t seem to love me back.

Each time I turned on the women’s round one, after sitting through the requisite ads, I saw a flat ocean with three girls staring at the horizon. I have spent enough time in this pose in my own life, that I hardly need to watch someone else do it. Whoa, look at the pro’s! They can sit on their boards and gaze out to sea just like I can! I am learning so much and feeling so excited here.

It made me sad to see Carissa, surfing her final competition on Tour, desperately trying to get barreled in shit small Backdoor. She refused to go to turns and lost her heat. Carissa deserved better. Moana squeaked through with a .77 and a 2.20 behind Caroline Marks, who had a heat total under six. They deserved better, too.

The one highlight came from Molly Picklum, which will surprise no one at all. That’s her super power, and she found a short barrel at Backdoor that she finished with a solid turn for an 8.50. Out of six heats, we saw not much more than one good wave.

I’ve had days like that, sure. Every surfer has. There’s always those days when we paddle out and the conditions are aggressively mediocre or the crowd is apocalyptic. We lower our expectations until there’s next to nothing left. If I get one wave, just one, I’ll call it a win, I say.

Surfing has never made any of us any smarter, so of course we will totally believe a wave will come out of nowhere. It’s so definitely going to happen.

I’m not sure there’s anything especially inspiring in that dumb stubbornness that leads us to stay out there against all reason in the hope that the wind will turn, the crowd will thin, and the waves will finally come to us. Sometimes, it actually works out, but more often than not, we might as well have stayed in bed. Certainly, I don’t want to watch the whole ordeal happen to someone else.

I guess what I’m saying is, I think professional surfing should look better than our worst nightmare sessions. It should make surfing look fun, and like something I might like to do sometimes. I don’t think I’m asking for all that much here.

Apparently, I am.

When the WSL contest team chose to call the Lexus Pipe Pro off on Monday, they doomed the women to a small-wave comp. There’s no sugarcoating it. If the men ran in big surf on Monday, the women had a shot at playful, but still legitimate Pipe on Tuesday. That setup would have made sense. It would have been fun to watch. Too bad that’s not how it went.

It’s still hard to fathom Monday’s decision to call it off.

Sure, we’ve received the official explanation: There weren’t enough scoring waves. Additionally, it was too unruly and too dangerous. But those explanations sound so empty in a sport where professional surfers routinely paddle out in big and dangerous surf, and contest heats often have few, truly good waves on offer.

In theory, the surfers on the CT have a say in the call. I would love to hear exactly what went on behind the scenes. Who had the clout to call it off? Were the surfers divided over competing? Was the decision made by the surfers or by the WSL’s team? It would nice to have some transparency on these questions. Also, I want a pony.

So, there we all were.

There were surfers in the lineup ahead of the call, getting shacked. Yes, it was a hunt to find the good ones. But, that’s surfing. Strider posted on Instagram that he was ready to go. Clips of sick pits from the likes of Italo and Ethan started showing up on Instagram, too.

Still, the Lexus Pipe Pro remained on hold.

One hour, then two.

When they finally called it off, there were four guys in the lineup, wearing jerseys, ready to surf. What happened between the time they paddled out and the time the WSL called the contest off? None of this confusion and misdirection looks like a professional sport.

Worse, the men who have put in the time to charge big, heaving Pipe paid for the decision to play it safe.

And the women paid, too.

During her years on Tour, Steph Gilmore made it a priority to push behind the scenes for the women’s contests to run in better surf. She wanted women to have the chance to showcase their best surfing. For a time, she made a difference and we’ve seen some women’s events held in solid waves. In her absence, the younger women will need to step up, if they want to secure the opportunities they deserve. It’s clear that no one is going to do it for them.

Today was a disappointing day of competition if you love surfing and you love watching contests. There’s no way around it.

It’s become fashionable to criticize media for not telling pretty stories, not making it all rainbows and unicorns. It was wonderful, these critics would like us to say.

But to tell a story like that is to ignore what’s happening right in front of our eyes. We’ve got nothing left to sell out for.

Why wouldn’t we tell the truth?

Tomorrow’s another day at the Lexus Pipe Prop, and maybe it’ll get better.

That’s the mantra of every surfer anywhere, and it applies no less to every day surfers than it does to the pro’s. I would like to see the women get just one good day to show us what they can do in proper barreling Pipe. They can do it. And when they do, it’ll be beautiful. I’m sure of it.

Maybe tomorrow, then.

Tortured defense of Filipe Toledo takes hurtful absurdist turn!

Critical thinking goes over the falls.

As you certainly know, by now, the two-time, and current, World Surf League champion Filipe Toledo failed to make an effort out at Pipeline one week ago, adding yet another chapter to the developing story that has him scared of bigger waves over shallower reef. Matters were made worse, for the talented Brazilian, after he pulled out from the event entirely, citing food poisoning.

He copped a deserved beating for the display, lashed out at his critics and has been defended by certain corners in increasingly tortured absurdism.

The latest comes to us from Surfer Today wherein founder Luís MP castigated “surf culture’s bible and clowns of the sport” for daring poke Toledo.

Sticks and Stones: The Filipe Toledo Metaphor for Modern Surf Culture begins thusly:

A father, husband, and family man with a past of mental health issues enters a bar. Everyone is drinking alcoholic beverages. He asks for a bottle of still mineral water.

Immediately after, the man hears insults; some question his masculinity, others his bravado. “If you don’t drink a beer, you don’t belong here.”

Sigmund Freud’s mob psychology is in full effect, and everything the man says is irrelevant and only fuels the crowd’s anger and rage even more.

They don’t want to know the reasons behind his abstinence. They just feel the need to judge him – for whatever he is, and he is not.

This could be the parallel story of Filipe Toledo.

Charges of bullying, of ignorance, of stupidity and malice are leveled at the “inflated surf comedians fueling the social media fire.” Classic lines about critics “never having paddled four-foot Pipe and ending with:

At the end of the journey, if we’re lucky enough to look at ourselves in the mirror and reflect, it’ll be all about what type of person we were and how good or bad we were to our peers.

However, something tells me the Brazilian will have a word at the Olympic reef break.

A word for the 21st-century keyboard surfers-opinion-makers and a medal for his children and family.

And I must say, I’m utterly confused. Is there truly a segment of the surf fan population that has never watched a real sport? Athletes at the highest echelon of their respective competitive games regularly fail in public and are fun made. Jeered, booed, thumbs downed. What’s more, only a tiny percentage of the aforementioned fun making public has ever participated at a high level in whichever sporting failure they are piling upon.

The surf fan was right to point and laugh at Filipe Toledo. He made it worse for himself by lying about food poisoning and claiming he had “nothing to prove.” His father made it worse still by excoriating “haters.”

Toledo is not a sober bro in a bar full of mean drunks. He’s a professional surfer blowing it and refusing to own up then getting coddled by folk who have somehow lost the ability to think critically.

You do not deserve all this abuse, dear surf fan. Being called rude names like “keyboard warrior” and “internet technician” etc. I apologize on behalf of my fellow surf journalist Luís MP.

Open Thread: Comment Live on Day Three of the Lexus Pipe Pro!

Welcome all internet technicians.

Italo Ferriera Lexus Pipe Pro
Italo Ferreira was perhaps the unluckiest surfer today in losing to Smith. Not only did Jordy notch his winning wave in the dying seconds at Backdoor, but the 8.87 Italo held in his losing total was one of the most exciting waves of the day. | Photo: WSL/Tony Heff

The reaper comes for Italo Ferreira and Gabriel Medina on day two of the occasionally pretty Lexus Pipe Pro

"It was, at times, enough to dull yesterday’s failure to run, but never extinguish it."

Under a cloud hung sky, day two of the Lexus Pipe Pro, eventually, began.

Is there a worse sporting predicament than a surf contest under the gloom of a poor forecast? The vets must question their life choices. Opportunities missed. Educations a ghost appeal. Relationships blown to shreds in the wake of swells. Whole lives glossed over with a thin sheen of expertise in one, insignificant skill.

The rookies, too. What’s the use in all those reps if you can’t get off the bench? It’s enough to break even the emptiest of San Clemente’s home-schooled minds.

But chase it they do. That’s their choice. They choose to bump shoulders with the bumping gums of Joe Turpel and Kaipo Guerrero. They choose to be presided over by Jesse Miley-Dyer, Chief of Sport, a woman who increasingly reminds me of the way that porcelain cracks.

Yet still, she holds their bloody sacrifices in the palm of her hand.

Making the correct call and therefore serving your athletes and your audience is priority number one. That has not happened at Pipeline, as has been widely and correctly espoused by notable personalities and all surf adjacent media with a backbone.

Failure to run the Lexus Pipe Pro yesterday on the grounds of being “too big” is an egregious failure of duty by Miley-Dyer and the WSL, and we should make no apologies for continuing to state that plainly.

And so today, in the wake of this, competition resumed in waves that were just fine, perhaps occasionally pretty in the early heats, but deteriorated as the day ebbed. It was, at times, enough to dull yesterday’s failure, but never extinguish it.

We were served mounds of amphetamine sulphate when we should have had high-grade cocaine.

Perhaps no-one felt this more than Kelly Slater who lost to Ethan Ewing in the first heat of the day. He knew, as we did, that he’d been afforded a graceful path of lesser opponents in his side of the draw. He must’ve been gnawing the bedposts in anticipation of running yesterday. Big, raggedy Pipe would’ve been a gift to him.

But it was not to be, and he exited without making a wave.

The insert clip of a Slater interview took on greater poignancy. In it, he bemoaned the lack of competitive fire on Tour. Everyone was friendly, he said. There were no personal wars left, no bitter rivalries that marked his best years.

It was the melancholic reminiscence of an old man, but it was no less true. Slater’s only remaining battle is grimly within. In that we can find interest.

The greater the beauty, the more terrible the death.

It was a day of small deaths for some of the most beautiful Pipeline artists, robbed as they were of the basic constituents of their art. As with Slater, other past champions to fall in the round of 32 included Ferreira, Robinson and Medina.

Robinson and Medina were vanquished by rookies Ramzi Boukhiam and Crosby Colapinto, respectively. For Boukhiam, a verified sexual weapon, it was a narrow but deserved victory. It was also one of some significance for a man who suffered a season ending injury this time last year after trying to qualify for the WCT for a decade or more.

You would need to ask him personally, but I did wonder if it was more or less satisfactory than his conquest of Rhianna some years ago.

He was to lose in the round of 16 to the in-form Jordy Smith, but will be satiated nonetheless.

Unsatisfied and hopefully spun into bulging rage is Gabriel Medina. A 2.73 heat total in eight attempts was all he could muster against Crosby Colapinto, who took the heat victory with an underwhelming 8.86 total, despite a single wave score of 8.33.

The sub-optimal conditions at the Lexus Pipe Pro played into Jordy Smith’s hands today. A lacklustre Pipe surfer over the years, he was no doubt delighted with the energy focused on Backdoor. Two good victories see him move into a quarter final match up with Barron Mamiya, which will test him regardless of conditions.

Italo Ferreira was perhaps the unluckiest surfer today in losing to Smith. Not only did Jordy notch his winning wave in the dying seconds at Backdoor, but the 8.87 Italo held in his losing total was one of the most exciting waves of the day.

Glorious in slow-motion, he made a critical handsfree drop on a solid Backdoor wave where only the rippling power of his quads kept him engaged. Grabbing the rail at the bottom, he seemed to throw his whole body back into the wave face before disappearing from view. He was certainly too low, detonated under the lip, but somehow he exited cleanly, before standing tall and liplining the closeout section.

Judges took an age to drop the score, the longest by far all day. There was a lot to unpack. In the end the 8.87 seemed ok, but on review a point higher might not be disputed.

Of every man on Tour, none has suffered more than Italo over the past couple of seasons from spectacular moments that result in nothing. Let’s hope this isn’t a precursor for more of the same. If what we look for in pro surfing are explosive moments, then what we look for is Italo Ferreira.

Entertaining and successful today were the best tube technicians on show: Leo Fioravanti (my Surfvival pick!); John Florence and Callum Robson. All notched excellent waves and seemed at ease in the tricky conditions. For once, the eye test and the scoring were in accord.

Callum Robson, for my money, owes Kaipo a slap in the face. Every time Robson surfs Kaipo trots out the same old shite about “solid fundamentals…workmanlike performances…nothing flashy…” etc etc so on and so pish.

The man is patently one of the best technical tube riders in the entire world, especially in heavy rights. I truly hope you read this, Kaipo: put some fuckin respect on his name.

Unfortunately Robson was to come up against the untameable Florence in the round of 16, on imperious form at his home break.

Florence and Fioravanti will meet in the quarters. One to look forward to.

Jordy Smith and Barron Mamiya has the capacity to entertain, but my (literal) money favours Mamiya.

Hawaiians Ian Gentil and Imaikalani deVault match-up in quarter three, and if you’d picked that one pre-comp you’d have been a rich man. Neither surfer elicited a note from me today aside from a raised eyebrow of half-remembrance when AJ mentioned Gentil had been Rookie Of The Year last season.

In the remaining match up, Ethan Ewing meets Connor O’Leary. Ewing is there on merit, O’Leary as a conditions related anomaly with heat totals of 8.00 and 7.93, including a “buzzer beater” score of 2.60 in the round of 16 for one backhand turn.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Lexus Pipe Pro, presented by Jesse Miley-Dyer.

A break for the women next, I’d imagine.

Cloud hung skies or crystal dawns, I’ll be watching every minute.

Sad Orca from movie Blackfish.

Orcas “bigger than SeaWorld” share waves with surfers in La Jolla

"Dude they’re called killer whales for a reason. They’re hunting him."

The son of the legendary surf photographer Aaron Chang, “surfing’s premier all-around lensman in the 1980s and early ’90s”, has posted a wild video of him and his pals foiling alongside Orcas “bigger than SeaWorld.” 

Saxon Chang, who’s a fine art photographer just like daddy, was foiling downwind from Mission Bay to Oceanside, a thirty-five mile run that takes the pilot directly past Chas Smith’s Tuscan-inspired villa, famous for its ornate wrought-iron railings and wall accents, in Cardiff when the Orcas were spotted.

“When we were passing through La Jolla canyon @kyleknoxis and @jonlaunais started shouting ORCAS!” writes Saxon. “They popped up close by and started to check out @avinamark on the sup, circled us from beneath the ski and played in the wake for a few exhilarating minutes before disappearing. Unforgettable experience!”

The post has been a viral hit of sorts, with over one thousand people moved enough to comment. 

A common theme was the Orcas weren’t playing but merely sizing the surfers up as potential meats.

The fact that no one os scared of these things is the definition of insanity. I really need to know why more orcas don’t absolutely murk people. We HAVE to fucking reek or something, like they just KNOW we taste like shit. Otherwise I cannot understand why they don’t give us the fucking K.O

Wow. Really looked like they were trying to decide if you guys were edible.

One of these days, a pack of orcas is going to decide that human is on the menu!

Dude they’re called killer whales for a reason. They’re hunting him.

I have some doubts about the fact that they have never attacked a human, people disappear at sea and we will never know who chewed them

I think it’s good you were wearing orange and not all black 😬granted they’re smart, perhaps only 1 attack ever recorded they’re still an apex predator.

No killer whale attacks on humans ever, worldwide. Except for killer whales in captivity. They’ll kill you then, as they should.

Four attacks on record, all by Orcas held in tanks, three of ’em by the same whale, a pissed-off male called Tillikum who was the subject of the weepy movie Blackfish.