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.

Filipe Toledo Olympics
Recently un-retired world champ Filipe Toledo narrowly avoids defeat by Canadian Cody Young at Olympic qualifier.

Boilover at Olympic surf qualifier after Canadian surfer gives world champ Filipe Toledo the fright of his life!

Freshly un-retired world champ Filipe Toledo now meets John John Florence in do-or-die round three match up!

The ISA Games continues to deliver surprise after surprise as a melting pot of surfers from all over the globe clash swords with the sport’s greats, including Gabriel Medina, John John Florence and reigning world champ Filipe Toledo. 

Filipe Toledo, that small-wave wizard with the neat little belly, made a triumphant return to competition in the small Caribbean waves, two weeks after calling it quits on the pro tour after the terror of surfing Pipe gave him food poisoning. 

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the almost thirty-year-old father of two who relocated from the small waves of Ubatuba, Brazil, to the even smaller waves of San Clemente, California, in 2014. 

After nearly falling to Chilean Manuel Salman and Venezuelan Keoni Lasa in round one, Filipe Toledo barely scraped past Canadian Cody Young and Argentinian Jose Gundesen in round two, winning by less than one point. 

Filipe Toledo now faces another two-time world champ John John Florence in round three, along with the aforementioned Chilean Manuel Salman and underground Puerto Rican shredder Brian Toth. 

John John Florence, whose semi-final heat against Kelly Slater at Teahupoo in 2014, is regarded as the best pro surfing heat ever, is the favourite to win Olympic gold, although Filipe Toledo’s million-to-one odds are lightly attractive to high-risk gamblers.

The contest runs through seven rounds and twelve repechage heats although it usually loses its big names, Medina and co, long before the final as mysterious sickness strikes the superstars, who are obligated to compete in the ISA Games.

In 2023, Medina, Carissa Moore, Griff Colapinto, Jordy Smith and Caroline Marks all withdrew after surfing several heats, poor food preparation and mysteries viruses the cause.

A little more on the line this year, howevs. Whatever team wins the overall crown gets an extra ticket to the Olympics, which is being held at Teahupoo or The Skull Cave. 

For Brazil, this means former Teahupoo winner Gabriel Medina will complete a powerful lineup which includes Filipe Toledo, who once got third at the Teahupoo contest, and Joao Chianca whose big-wave bona fides need no further confirmation. 

Barton Lynch (left) and Mark Richards (right) happy. Nick Carroll (insert) sad.
Barton Lynch (left) and Mark Richards (right) happy. Nick Carroll (insert) sad.

Surf legends Barton Lynch, Mark Richards overcome by gleeful spasms as hometown Manly named 7th best beach in world!

Tom and Nick Carroll, on the other hand, made furious.

And imagine being in the homes of surf legends Barton Lynch, Mark Richards or Layne Beachley, this morning, if you can. Confetti everywhere. Empty champagne bottles strewn about. Paper noisemakers and celebratory hats littering the ground. Crepe streamers dangling off light fixtures. Tom and Nick Carroll standing outside peering through the window, miniature arms folded tightly over miniature chests, hopping mad.

Yes, for yesterday, leading vacation authority Tripadvisor released its highly anticipated “Top 10 Beaches in the World” list. Watch parties had been organized in Carmel by the Sea, New Smyrna, Turtle Bay, Bayeux and Bondi. Revelers ready to toast their sun-speckled superiority.

Fireworks were sent skyward, first, in Praia da Falésia, named number one, and anyone who has spent any time around Portugal’s Algarve region couldn’t help but lightly nod approval. Spiaggia dei Conigli, floating closer to Tunisia than its Italy, came next with residents digging into traditional spumoni ice creams decorated with sparklers, La Concha, in Spain, where Basque separatists demanded decorations must be red and green as opposed to red and yellow.

Ka’anapali, near Lahaina, slotted in at number four, Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos at five, The Seychelles’ Anse Lazio at six and then…

…Manly, Australia at coveted number seven. Tripadvisor swooned, “Manly Beach is at the center of everything—literally. Just a quick ride from the Sydney CBD, it’s surrounded by shops, cafes, and more. Go swimming or surfing in the warm waters (there’s a netted area for swimming plus lifeguards on duty), or take a dip in the saltwater pool. Then, go for a stroll along the long beach walkway and take in the panoramic views.”

Unmentioned were hometown heroes Barton Lynch, Mark Richards and Layne Beachley who had long been awaiting the honor and were overcome by spasms of glee before hosting proper bacchanals.

The aforementioned Tom and Nick, hailing thirty minutes up the coast in Newport, made entirely furious. Wondering if the results had been tampered with, demanding a recount, questioning election integrity.

Every rose has its thorn, I suppose.

Puerto Rico did not make the list but Olympic hopefuls are currently vying for a Tahitian ticket at Arecibo. You can watch their progress now, if you so choose.

Bon apetit.

Filipe Toledo Olympics
Filipe Toledo, king of the little wave!

Filipe Toledo returns to competition days after quitting pro tour mid-event following embarrassing Pipeline fail

Toledo's one-year hiatus from competitive surfing temporarily on hold as world champ and small-wave wizard hunts ISA gold!

Surf fans have been gifted the second coming of world champion Filipe Toledo at the ISA Games, a feeder contest for the Olympics and which is being held in the US protectorate of Puerto Rico.

Two weeks ago, the same surf fans were in meltdown over Filipe Toledo’s embarrassing fail at the tour opener the Lexus Pipe Pro, the champ managing only a 1.77 heat total in the clean four-to-six-foot waves.

His lesser regarded opponents, meanwhile, jackknifed waves hither and yon. Shion Crawford rode one wave for eight points, Samuel Pupo found an almost-eight and an almost-six.

Filipe Toledo, a small man with a neat little belly, is considered unbeatable in waves three feet and under, the Finals Day location of Lower Trestles a gift for the small-wave wizard, and a unconquerable mountain for John John Florence and Jack Robinson, although Toledo’s big-wave bona fides have long been questioned.

Following his humiliating loss and relegation to the elimination round, Filipe Toledo subsequently withdrew from the event citing food poisoning and, a little later from the tour itself.

A press release from the WSL said Toledo would be taking “a one-year mental health break from competition.”

Well, dang, don’t time fly.

Filipe Toledo, who is the first Brazilian in history to win back-to-back world titles and who has won an astonishing seventeen tour in events, has fought off his demons to win his first heat the ISA Games, held in clean three-foot waves.

It wasn’t an easy win by any measure.

Chilean Manuel Salman, Venezuelan Keoni Lasa and Swede Greyson Grant all came within striking distance of Toledo.

The contest runs through seven rounds and twelve repechage heats although it usually loses its big names, Medina and co, long before the final as mysterious sickness strikes the superstars, who are obligated to compete in the ISA Games.

In 2023, Medina, Carissa Moore, Griff Colapinto, Jordy Smith and Caroline Marks all withdrew after surfing several heats.

However, this year, a rule change means the superstars have to “actually take part in good faith.” And, if you wanna tap out, you gotta submit an ISA medial review or your Paris 2024 slot could be revoked.

Filipe Toledo now moves into the second against an Argentinian, a Canadian and an Ecuadorian.