John John Florence are you there? It's me, Nathan.
I’ve been calling it for months now. This is the last season of this current iteration of professional surfing known as the World Surf League which was founded in 1976 circa 2015. Publishing nepo babillonaire Dirk Ziff purchased the Association of Surfing Professionals for free during President Barack Obama’s last year in office, rebranded the show World Surf League under former NFL exec Paul Speaker and promised it would soon be the biggest sport on earth.
Ziff, who co-won Waterperson of the Year in 2018 and was still high on his tax write-off supply, then excoriated “haters” by declaring, “But don’t pretend you don’t know that when you go beyond constructive criticism and cynically try to rally negative sentiment towards the WSL, when you try to take us down, you are not just going after us. You are going after Kelly Slater. You are trying to take down Lakey Peterson. You are going after the dreams of Caroline Marks and Griffin Colapinto. You are undermining the hopes of every kid who lives with salt in their hair, dreaming of being a world champion one day.”
Buying secondhand surfboards also forces you to ride boards you might not otherwise try. To broaden your horizons. I call it the three-out-of-five rule.
No, you’re not browsing the rack or sitting down with a shaper to dial in the exact board you’re after. On the used and abused circuit, the chances are you won’t find it. But if you can go into the hunt with a general outline of what you want, combined with an open mind, new adventures await.
It’s the same rule I use for choosing a political party, or a new job. You’re never going to find something that aligns perfectly with your values/desires. If you can tick three out of five boxes you’re generally doing ok.
No need to let perfect get in the way of good, we live in a world of compromises, don’t vote Green etc. Plus, you never know what previously unknown kinks you may discover. You might end up finding the board of your dreams – at which point you can go and find a good shaper to make you another one.
Anyway, here’s a couple I’ve picked up recently. Test pilot is still me. A soon-to-be-40, balding, fat idiot who surfs terribly and despite everything I’ve just said should really just fucking stump up and buy a new board.
Whether the resultant offering of half-price wetties was a panicked response to their rapidly plummeting share price or they were just clearing space for next season’s stock, I don’t know.
Regardless, I quickly dropped some coin from an already dwindled board/wetty budget on a new autumn suit. I needed it but also probably didn’t really need it. You know how it goes. The offer was too good to refuse. I was basically making money etc.
But I needed a new twinny, too.
I’ve written previously about the 6’2″ performance twin I’ve been riding. Darren Symes shaped. A beautiful board picked up for only $50. I got a whole lot of love out of it. But an old patched-up repair job on the deck had started cracking. It was in need of substantial repairs, which would a) cost three times more than what I paid for it and b) weigh it down further in the tail.
I decided it was terminal. I plugged it with a mix of blu tac and FU wax, and waited for the thing to crumble. Which it eventually did, but after much longer than I expected. Shout out to blu tac for the ultimate dodgy repair solutions.
By the end of it though, shards of fibreglass were beginning to crack and expose, ripping holes in my knee every time I duck dived or slid the board underfoot to stand up. Flagellating myself like John the Savage, punishment for my second hand sins.
There were no two ways about it. It needed to be replaced.
Enter the McCabe.
Of all the Facebook marketplaces set to 150km radiuses in the world this board could walk into, it chose mine
A beautiful stinger outline with flyers. Bright red spray. Futures twin set up (another $100, farkenell). Longer and wider than I was looking for. But it’s a twin, so you can still throw the thing around. Thicc as fuck but in all the right places.
Fun fact: The last custom I ordered was off McCabe. A 7’6″ single fin, with a similar outline to this one. Modelled off his late ‘70s Padang shooter. Now almost two years old, it’s been ridden three times and sits in the garage waiting for something worthy of it. I’ll let you know when that happens.
Anyway, back to the twinny.
It goes like this: I’m a fucken poor cunt. I looked at my bank account. I definitely couldn’t afford it. But the thing was basically brand new. I know the guy who was selling it. A regular customer of McCabe. He’d ridden it a handful of times. Was offering it at half the price or even less. It wasn’t cheap, from a secondhand surfboard perspective. $600. But an absolute steal in regards to the shaper and the board. Just like the heavily discounted wetsuit, it was an offer too good to refuse. I was basically making money etc.
I ran some crude financial equations in my head, which all resulted in me borrowing money from myself to be paid back at a later date when overheads are less / I’m earning more / a relative dies / I win the lotto.
I also decided to sell the wetsuit to help pay for it. I chucked it up on marketplace, at what I paid + 20% for haggling room. To paraphrase Hemingway: For sale. Idiot’s wetsuit. Never worn.
Still no bites on it as of yet, and there’s a big chunk out of our family holiday saving fund that I still somehow need to replace. If the water wasn’t so warm currently I would have caved and worn it already.
So how’s the board go? Well, what do you fucken think?
Was as-new, and purchased off my brother. He had it for over a year and he had barely ridden it. He has the same board hunger as me but the bank account to buy them new. I am often the recipient of such hand-me-downs.
It’s a delight on my backhand. Whips up into the pocket with ease. On my forehand it can sometimes pull a little through turns. Doesn’t like an elongated rail line carve. But it’s super responsive. Can be ridden in anything from 2’ slop to proper four-to-six foot. A good enough daily driver.
Ultimately though, it’s trying to be too many things at once. Is it a performance shorty or a more forgiving funboard?
Is it a retro nod or a modern day spin?
I feel like it falls somewhere in between all of them, yet manages to be none. Jack of all trades ‘n that. There’s a philosophical / existential argument about the modern day all rounder. Sure they might be good for the gal surfing once a month.
But if you’re at least semi serious about your surfing, have a quiver of boards fit for purpose.
It’s not that hard. I’ll keep an eye on secondhand surfboards on Marketplace for you.
All eyes on Paris Olympics after surf champion Filipe Toledo announces shock year off tour
Yesterday, surf fans near and far were stunned when two-time, and sitting, World Surf League champion Filipe Toledo announced that he would be taking the rest of the season offafter a poor showing at the just-wrapped Lexus Pipe Pro. Taking to Instagram, the completely dominant small wave surfer declared, “It is with a heavy heart that I announce today that I am withdrawing for the remainder of the 2024 Championship Tour season. This decision has been so hard for me to make, and it comes after days of discussion with those closest to me. The WSL has been very supportive, and I am very grateful that they have granted me the wildcard for the start of the 2025 season. I am committed to coming back better than ever.”
The 2024 season, which Toledo was all but certain to win with the ender at Lower Trestles, now up in the air but also, and much more importantly, the upcoming Paris Olympics. The surfing portion of the Games will be conducted, as you know, at Teahupo’o across the world in French Polynesia and certain to delight. Toledo has already earned his spot to compete for the proud nation of Brazil alongside Joao Chianca.
His bonafides in heavier surf over shallower reef have been somewhat questioned over the years after historic 0.00 heat totals at the aforementioned Place of Broken Skulls as well as Pipeline. Certain internet technicians are even wondering if the fear factor might have played a role in the upcoming mental health break.
Thus far, the Toledo camp has remained mum on whether their man will wave the flag of order and progress or decline his place, which would allow Gabriel Medina to go for gold.
The upcoming decision will be certain to stun surf fans, far and near, once again.
Toledo could keep his place and spend the year training for Teahupo’o, swinging in and winning gold thereby cementing his status as one of the greatest sporting stories ever told.
Nobody doesn’t love a daring comeback tale.
The Miracle over Malaise.
Toledo could, also, selflessly give his perch over to Medina, a stronger competitor at Teahupo’o, putting country above self thus paving a way to a future in politics after his surf career ends.
Do you have an opinion as to which would be better?
Win-win, as far as I’m concerned.
Surf icon Shaun Tomson headlines Tel Aviv paddle-out for 26 surfers murdered by Palestinian terrorists
"Pray for this little country and its remarkable people who are in an existential battle for survival against the forces of untruth, propaganda and darkness."
The wildly beautiful and slickly articulate world surfing champion Shaun Tomson, aristocratic maybe a better way to put it, has headlined a paddle-out in Tel Aviv for the twenty-six surfers murdered in the bloodletting of October 7.
You’ll remember 128 days ago, Hamas commandos and a little later hopped-up civilians went on a wild Jew-killin’ spree in the kibbutzim bordering Gaza, ostensibly as as strike on their Zionist enemy, but also ‘cause Palestinians sure do like killing Hebes.
Little boys and girls shot dead while cowering under tables, families burned in piles, dancers at a music festival gunned down like hogs as they fled the killers, a terrorist rage described as “like ISIS on steroids.”
And, closer to home I suppose, twenty-six surfers dead.
“We remember them and celebrate them with the light they shined on this world and will continue to for generations to come. We are a tribe since our ancestral beginnings, and we will continue to watch over our tribe and find the light that shines ahead.
“Thank you to all of you that came out and showed your solidarity and support for our tribe, and to the families, friends, and everyone in between who helped make this day so special, and a huge thank to the true legend @shauntomson who traveled all the way to Israel and showed pure love and support to all the people of Israel.”
“Emotional… we all counted tighter to 127 for the days the kidnapped hostages have been held by terrorists…pray for this little country and its remarkable people who are in an existential battle for survival against the forces of untruth, propaganda and darkness.”
Shaun added, “Never forget.”
Legend of Californian teenager Caity Simmers proven as women set new mark at “world’s most fearsome wave!”
"Whatever professional surfing looks like now or in the future, surfers will always know the names of the best men and women at Pipeline."
“Pipeline for the fucking girls,” said Caity Simmers, eighteen years old, after she won the biggest victory of her career at the Lexus Pipe Pro on Saturday
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.
On the way to victory, Caity displayed her preternatural gift for tube-riding and threaded some deep pits at Backdoor. In the final, she narrowly beat hard-charging Australian Molly Picklum, who posted some of the highest single wave totals of the day. Caity Simmers is now world number one. It’s Caity Simmers’ world and we just live in it.
If you watch one heat from finals day, though, make it the semifinal between 2022 Vans Pipe Pro winner Molly and Hawaiian Bettylou Sakura Johnson. It has all the ingredients: two feisty competitors who are almost evenly matched in skill and firing surf. If you can’t find anything to like here, professional surfing may not be for you.
Going left, Molly opened with a 5.33. Bettylou answered back with a 7.00 at Backdoor. And it was on. The heat was straight fire all the way through to the end. In a notable departure from the past, both women went left and right with equal commitment.
It was a sign of what women’s surfing will look like from now on. It’s no longer enough to get pitted at Backdoor as a regular foot. If you want to win, you’d better go left, too.
And that’s exactly what Molly did on the best wave of the day and arguably the best Pipe wave yet surfed by a woman in competition. On a steep left, Molly dropped from the heavens, suspended in time. Her rail dug into the steep blue face and held. With near-perfect form, she slid behind the lip and disappeared.
As the wave compressed and spit, Molly came flying out. She half-raised her arms in what’s quickly becoming a signature non-claim, as if she didn’t quite believe she’d made it.
Believe it, Molly.
I’m not sure anyone watching the heat needed the replay or the judges’ call to know that was a ten. What else could she have done? It was a stellar ride. And to think at 21, Molly’s still at the beginning of her career.
As the clock ticked down, Bettylou needed an 8.6. It felt like a tall order, but somehow during this heat, everything felt possible. The two women paddled each other back and forth on the peak with neither one willing to back down. Inside the final two minutes, Molly used her priority on a steep, but short Backdoor pit. It didn’t extend her lead. Alone in the lineup, Bettylou had just over 30 seconds remaining.
At 39 seconds, Bettylou found a left and paddled with everything she had. Less strong on her backhand than Molly, the Hawaiian didn’t fully disappear into the barrel. All of the same, it was a hell of a ride under pressure. At 18, Bettylou has barely surfed one full year on the Championship Tour in her career — she missed the cut in 2022 — but it’s already clear she has the head for competition.
Did you think she got the score? The judges, rightly I feel, said no.
What’s wild to imagine is that any one of the scoring waves from Molly and Bettylou’s heat would have won just about any previous women’s heat at Pipe. That’s how far women’s surfing traveled in the space of single day on Saturday. It’s all the more dizzying when we remember that there’s still only been three editions of women’s competition at Pipeline. If this is what it looks like after just three years, well, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.
The final between Caity and Molly promised fireworks.
The Australian has established herself as one of the best Pipe surfers in women’s surfing and posted three of the top five wave scores on Saturday. But Caity Simmers has an extra magic and a rare talent for riding waves that defies easy definition. She seems to see and feel things on a wave that the rest of us will never see or feel. Her surfing is intuitive, unpredictable, and quite simply, insane.
It was the match-up we all anticipated. If the conditions had held up, we’d likely have seen a heat for the ages, but the wind shifted and the swell backed off at the worst possible moment. Instead, the heat came down to back-up scores, which felt anticlimactic. All the same, the two women kept the pressure on all the way to the end. That included a heavy wipe-out from Molly on a solid one at Backdoor.
The best wave of the heat, Molly’s 9.27 at Backdoor was a scorcher with a near-vertical drop into a thick, deep tube. Watching it, I couldn’t see how she — or anyone — could have surfed that wave better. Holy shit, I kept thinking. I’m supposed to be good at words over here, but that’s all I could think. Holy shit, look that drop, look at her fucking go.
After watching John John Florence in the previous heat, Caity Simmers looked impossibly small out in the lineup. According to her WSL bio, she’s 5’3”, and that might be overcalling it, honestly.
Her best wave of the final came at Backdoor. It wasn’t the biggest wave of the heat or even the biggest wave Caity rode that day. Wind texture scarred the face and crumbled the lip. Surfing instinctively, Caity threaded a tricky, technical barrel for 8.83.
As the clocked ticked down, Molly needed a three. After a day where she’d ridden a perfect ten at Pipe, that number felt absurdly small and easily within reach. But it was not to be. Too many close-outs later and the heat was done.
All I could think was how much more those two women had to give in that heat. And it served to confirm what the rest of the day was trying to tell us. At Pipeline, the women are here to stay.
Or, to borrow Caity Simmers’ banger quote, Pipeline for the fucking girls.
Sure, there are still women on the Championship Tour who want nothing to do with big Pipeline. There’s men on the Championship Tour who want nothing to with big Pipe.
And, I think that’s actually fine. “I respect everyone who wants a part of it and I respect anyone who doesn’t want a part of it,” said Caity after the final. Who am I to argue?
But Pipeline will always stand as the storied, pinnacle of surfing. To argue that the wave that’s held surfers in thrall for decades is somehow not relevant or doesn’t matter is absurd. It will always matter. And whatever professional surfing looks like now or in the future, surfers will always know the names of the best men and women out there.
In surfing, it’s the place where legends are made.
It’s taken far too long to get here, but at long last some of those legends will be women. In their post-heat comments, both Molly Pickles and Caity Simmers have paid tribute to the women who came before them, and rightly. It’s taken the concerted efforts of multiple generations of women surfers to take a sledgehammer to the walls that have stood in their way.
Because when all you hear is that girls don’t do it, girls can’t do it, it’s damn hard to go out and do it.
When sponsors pay a premium to the cute bikini models, the girls who want to charge big waves are forced to look elsewhere. When contests take place in knee-high Huntington Beach, the sport is going to select for girls who can surf knee-high Huntington. That’s meant that the girl who could surf the big days may never have even made it to contest surfing. She didn’t see anything there for her.
You have to see it to be it.
We say it all the time in women’s sports, but it’s nothing short of the truth. There are teen girls right now, who watched Caity Simmers and Molly Picklum in that final. What would be like, if I could do that, too? They felt that magical moment of possibility. They could picture themselves out there. They could imagine that it could happen to them. Go get it, girls. Get out there and be it.
And it’s worth remembering that we wouldn’t even be having this conversation without the efforts of women in Hawai’i including Keala Kennelly who pushed for a change in the permitting rules.
When women could no longer be excluded from contests on the North Shore, the door swung open for them. Pipeline could no longer be just for the boys.
Now with three years of heats behind them, the women are coming into their own at Pipe and it’s a joy to watch.
Even better, they’re still just getting started. What we saw on Saturday is the beginning of what promises to be a long and beautiful story of women’s surfing at Pipeline.