Ladies and gentlemen... Kelly Slater.
Ladies and gentlemen... Kelly Slater.

History made on opening day at Bells Beach as surfing’s undisputed GOAT Kelly Slater wins heat!

"And against the finest opposition imaginable in John Florence, no less."

Nothing existential from me today. Sometimes life just calls for a practical approach. Go through the motions, stick to what you know, get to the moment when your eyes and brain release you from the taloned grip of consciousness.

Bells Beach served up clean head-and-a-half walls to begin the day. The wind was light and variable, but did not blight the swell until late in the evening.

This facilitated a full day of professional surfing. It’s just a shame they didn’t grasp the chance to run overlapping heats. I see no disadvantage in getting through these early rounds a little faster when the waves are good.

0700 in the state of Victoria is 2000 in the Highlands of Scotland. I’m not sure what time Turpel lulled me to sleep. But when I woke at 0620, competition churned on still with men’s elimination heats.

Seth Moniz, Eli Hanneman and Devide Silva are all gone and make no impact in the grand scheme of things. After thirteen hours of competition, this is insufficient.

But let’s not dwell on the minor negatives, lest someone accuse me of being depressed again. Today was fundamentally a success in the annals of pro surfing history, and it was fundamentals that won the day.

When it’s good, Bells simplifies things. It’s comforting. It requires patience, flow and impeccable timing. Most of all it requires strong turns. The bottom turn is arguably the crux of all good performances here.

Heat winners were broadly categorised into two main categories: Good Guys and Villains.

The Good Guys first: Ramzi Boukhiam, Miggy Pupo, Ethan Ewing, Griffin Colapinto, Ryan Callinan and Yago Dora.

Boukhiam was competing at Bells for the first time, yet there was no sense of that in his surfing. He attacked on his backhand early, setting the tone for some superb goofy foot performances throughout the day.

I’ve warmed to him quickly this year, in and out of the water. Pre-season he seemed atypical of the kind of rookie who’d be cut after Margaret River, but that judgement would’ve been far from the mark. Boukhiam looks like he belongs at this level, and it’s curious it’s taken him so long to get here.

Miggy Pupo continued the theme of likeable goofy foots. He’d surfed for seven hours the previous day, he said. His recipe for success was following this with a nice warm bath.

The day seemed built for an exceptional Ethan Ewing performance, but it did not transpire. Somehow, he won his heat with fewer than ten points. He has plenty more in his locker, but the draw dictates a confrontation with Gabriel Medina if he hopes to repeat his victory of last year.

Colapinto and Dora took similar unspectacular victories, and Ryan Callinan flirted with the spectacular in his win.

But dark forces were afoot at Bells today, and it was the Villains who edged the narrative.

Jordy Smith erupted from hasbeen land with the sort of arcing power and flow that once gave rise to the false prophecy that he would win a world title.

That will never happen now, but that doesn’t lessen the pleasure of watching him make deals with the devil on running right handers.

But far be it from me to make unequivocal statements about Things That Will Never Happen.

Because, ladies and gentlemen, Kelly Robert Jimmy Slade Slater; surfing’s undisputed GOAT and internet technician; expectant father; a man who has defied both sinew and science for more than half a century, won his heat in a professional surfing competition.

And against the finest opposition imaginable in John Florence, no less.

Who knew that Chas Smith’s barbs were the motivation Slater has been seeking for these past few years?

Perhaps that should’ve been the moment he quit, bundled Kalani into his arms and drove off into the sunset to enter his next chapter.

But he won’t. We know that by now. In his head, Slater imagines winning here, just as he has multiple times in the past.

We know that won’t happen. And we know that poor, wonderful, resilient, glowing Kalani will need to endure the darkness once again. The low hung cloud of a man with all his chips pushed in and nowhere to go.

I feel you Kelly, I really do.

But the performance of the day belonged to Gabriel Medina, returning once again to his villainous roots with Charlie at his side, all low brows and hands thrust in pockets.

“Cool family vibe”, said Joe Turpel during the first shot of Charlie on the stairs, the moment the audience knew he was back in the fold.

It was nothing if not reminiscent of Joe’s iconic “Just a little splash” call, as the world watched Mick Fanning almost devoured on a live broadcast by a twelve foot Great White shark.

How might Joe Turpel have called the Twin Towers attack? “A little bump. Puff of smoke.”

Joe on the Holocaust: “Just a little trip to the showers…”

It’s a game you can play yourself in the pub: What Would Joe Say?

Whether it was the return of Charlie or otherwise, Medina had one of those days where it looks like an impossibility that he’ll ever fall.

He notched by far the highest single wave score of the day with a 9.33 on his way to a 17.33 total. The transitions between sections that leave people exposed at Bells were smoothed by Medina’s hitchless bottom turns.

In the booth, Occy made the case for the defence of Medina’s often criticised wide stance. Drawing parallels with his own approach, Occy pointed out the practicality of the more neutral stance at Bells, giving Medina the ability to make subtle weight shifts between front and back foot. It was the key to flow between sections that is made difficult by a more traditional stance at Bells, he said.

Whether it was a conscious retort to style puritans or not, it’s hard to disagree with tips from Mark Occhilupo about the most effective way to approach Bells Beach.

Medina’s 9.33 was best appreciated on replay. Partly to savour the finer details of his approach, and because live it was somewhat blighted by conjecture in the booth about the merits of different brands of yeast extract.

Aside from this, there were lots of positives to take away from the production on day one of Bells. Occy was actually very good. He seems a genuine fan of pro surfing rather than just an old head parachuted in because they once played the game.

And of course there was the introduction and re-introduction of two Blakeys to the punditry. Ronnie returned from the wilderness to assume his rightful position as the best commentator the WSL have. Elder brother Vaughn was introduced as a roving reporter.

Both are universally popular voices in surfing. Their credibility and intelligence is an asset to the WSL, though it’s likely they’ll only be utilised at Australian events and we’ll still be subjected to the travelling circus of Turpel, Kaipo et al.

Thankfully, today Kaipo was neutralised by a beanie and a thick wetsuit.

Onwards we go, in darkness or in light.

Mick Fanning, Liz Fanning and Ed Fanning, RIP.
Mick Fanning and brother Ed with mum Liz. | Photo: ASP

Unimaginable tragedy as Mick Fanning loses third brother

RIP Ed Fanning, Peter Fanning, Sean Fanning.

Family and friends are rallying around the three-time world surfing champ Mick Fanning tonight after the death of his last surviving brother Ed who was reportedly working at a surf camp in Madagascar.

Ed’s best mate, Coolangatta bodyboarder Stevie Maher, was the first to publicly announce his passing, writing on Facebook.

“Firstly I want to send my condolences to the Fanning family … mum Liz, dad John, sister Rachel and brother Mick.

“My heart is broken to hear the passing of my best mate. I enjoyed and had so many amazing times with you Eddie.You were in my wedding party, had so many epic times together in Indo and we were just best mates.”

Mick Fanning and brother Ed Fanning.
Mick Fanning, right, and brother Ed Fanning, RIP.

No details on the cause of the tragedy have been released. 

Nine years ago, and on the eve of a dramatic world title showdown at Pipeline, Mick Fanning received news that his older brother Peter, a daddy to three who had been suffering from a “serious hyperthyroid disease” had died in his sleep.

Peter Mel comforts Mick Fanning in 2015.
Peter Mel comforts Mick Fanning in 2015.

In 1998, Mick’s twenty-year-old brother Sean, along with another talented local surfer Joel Green, was killed in a car accident. Mick Fanning was seventeen.

From the SMH’s Will Swanton in 2008,

Four youths were in a car on the Gold Coast on August 14, 1998. Control of the vehicle was lost. There was the panic-stricken acceleration and braking of the driver, gasps of disbelief from all four passengers, the turning of the night from fun to something more sinister. There was the screeching of tyres and a collision – an almighty collision. Two passengers were in the back of the car and they both died. One of them was Joel Green. The other was Sean Fanning.

Nobody on the Gold Coast saw Mick Fanning for a while after that. Not the real Mick Fanning. Mick was offered a ride in the car that killed Sean. He declined in favour of walking. He had imagined the future. He had not imagined this.

They were so close,” their mother Liz Osborne says. Her eyes drift. “We called them ‘the little ones’. They did everything together.” Liz is a warm and lovely woman. She has an open face and curly hair. She is the type of person who will treat a stranger as though she’s known them all her life. “I hope the universe shines on him,” she says of Mick. “He’s a decent young man. He deserves it so much.”

Open Thread: Comment Live on Day One of the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach!

All eyez on Kelly Slater's future baby (and the ghost of Chicken Pip).

Vulnerable adult learner issues grave warning to those considering the surfing life!

A wild tale of murder and woe.

The swell of Covid, and post Covid (if we can dare imagine we are through the worst pandemic the world has ever seen including, but not limited to, The Black Death) surf adopters continues to stagger lineups around the world. Outdoors, naturally socially distanced, healthy and also exuding a vibe to others.

The perfect activity.

Though, as Poison fans knows, every rose has its thorn and might the surfing life actually be an ouchiest of all options?

A 42-year-old vulnerable adult learner is very much sounding the alarm bells in a new essay The Old Man and the Sea which declares, “Solidly middle-aged, author Santi Elijah Holley decided to learn how to surf. What could go wrong?”

Our guide begins thusly:

When I finally come up for air—after spinning, flipping, somersaulting, and twisting under the waves for what seems like an eternity—I spit out a mouthful of ocean water and wonder what compelled me, at age 42, to take up surfing. I’m not an especially athletic person; these days, even a leisurely walk around my neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles causes my knees to ache. I used to be more active. As a teenager, I skied and skateboarded and clambered over large rocks and rode a bicycle for pleasure. But in adulthood, I spend most of my time sitting at my desk, staring at a screen, and feeling my body atrophy bit by bit. Deciding to start surfing was an impulsive decision, a desperate resolve to feel alive, a raging against the dying of the light. I wanted to know I was still capable of trying new activities, enjoying new hobbies, and learning new skills that served no practical or professional purpose, that were purely for personal amusement. A surfboard, at any rate, isn’t the worst purchase one can make during a midlife crisis. It could’ve been a Harley-Davidson. Or hair plugs.

He then realizes he needs a surfing lesson and takes one in Santa Monica with three Korean girls as classmates. The piece goes behind the paywall, at this point, but I have to imagine the “What could go wrong?” bit was directly answered. He was ripped off by the surf instructor, made fun of by an onlooker who had begun surfing last year and thus considered himself a local, sent home in such a cloud of self-doubt and timidity that his partner immediately recognized and publicly shamed him later that night when the couple dined with friends at Bub & Grandmas.

When they got home, she twisted the knife, further, telling him he wasn’t a man while he was down trying to fix the dryer by himself instead of calling for help. He became so unsettled that he hit her in the head with a hammer, killing her. The local police got involved while trying to solve another crime leaving our adult learner in a high state of agitation while trying to cover his tracks.

Eventually, guilt and justice, plus his bumbling inactivity, catch up and all is admitted with surfing fingered as cause.

The moral?

If you don’t surf, don’t start.

And, now, without further ado…

Erik Logan writes Substack confessional.
"When I made the pivot, I remember people saying, “You’ve done it! You’ve married your passion with your profession!” The accolades were correct - I had done it. It was a euphoric feeling, frankly not planned nor expected, but all felt divine and karmic simultaneously." – Erik Logan.

Sacked WSL chief Erik Logan reveals (almost) all in Substack confessional!

Stroke, heart surgery, divorce, losing his WSL job and surprise pivot from surfing and into tennis!

To know the former WSL boss Erik Logan, as they say, was to love him. Sparkling eyes that milked your essence, a body that made any man or woman’s cheeks flame and all wrapped in the calming assurance of a man who knew how to set limits. 

Thoroughly intoxicating.

It came as a terrific surprise, nine months ago, therefore, when Erik Logan was disappeared by the WSL mid-event at the Vivo Rio Pro, no reason given, only a curtly worded press release that neither thanked nor exalted their high-profile CEO.

“Today, the World Surf League (WSL) announced that CEO Erik Logan has departed the company, effective immediately.”

Silence ensued as per the WSL’s policy regarding transparency, ie none, despite Logan’s almost five-year reign as head of pro surfing, which took in the pivot to a one-day world champ playoff, a mid-year tour cut, as well as failed ventures including The Ultimate Surfer and WSL Studios.

As Chas Smith reported following the disappearance,

The lack of any information, whatsoever, from the World Surf League in the aftermath, alongside the “flabbergasting” lack of knowledge by those close to the levers of power, suggested an absolutely ruthless NDA.

A championship tour surfer had told me, directly, that Logan had made certain surfers “feel uncomfortable” with his behavior and by asking them to one-on-one dinners or drinks. He also, it was said, became “erratic” when he drank. The assertion of both troublesome requests and over-indulgent drinking was corroborated by at least two others, both with direct experience.

“He was getting away with it for a while,” another with first hand experience told me. “Lots of reports the last few events that he’s been drunk and making inappropriate comments to the women.”

Putting pieces together, it suggests the sort of firing that would deliver no praise and require an ironclad NDA. One almost certainly concerning personal conduct and needing the head of human resources and the head of legal to take over at a moment’s notice.

One that forced him to “fly home immediately,” according to one source, directly following his ouster.

There was excitement today when Erik Logan posted a lengthy screed on his Substack detailing his cataclysmic descent from 42-year-old beginner surfer, loving everything surf, to architect of the entire sport with all its ensuring baggage. 

Erik Logan writes, 

We’ve all been told, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Or maybe, “Follow your passion; the money will follow you.” There are countless variations on this theme.  Throughout my career, I let this idea guide my professional choices, and tried to make  my job my passion.  The reality was that I was passionate about my work, but it was never my burning passion.    Four years ago, I took a passion that I had discovered and made it my job and I can now say I’m not 100% sure this cliche is the best advice, at least for me.

There was an eroding and flattening of my love for surfing. It wasn’t sudden; bits and pieces of joy chipped away here and there until the love was broken and the passion was gone.  I would think back to those early moments of feeling that this job would be so great for me; and that being on the ‘inside of surfing’ and getting deeper into this world I loved would unlock more ways to deepen my passion and engage my business brain.  I was wrong again. 

The reality is that when my passion became my job, those lines became blurred.  What once was a sanctuary, where anonymity was nearly assured with many of us wearing identical black wetsuits on our boards,  not caring at all what anyone did outside of the ocean, suddenly became a place I didn’t want to be. People constantly approached me, wanting to talk about surfing and the WSL and give their unsolicited opinions of the sport or the company (good and bad).   I would always take the time to talk with them and listen, thank them for the conversation, and try to be as present and thoughtful as possible.  To be honest, there were many times that it felt good; my ego loved it, and even when the conversations got heated, I still loved the debate.  So, on the one hand, I was feeling good on the ego level; on the other, my love for surfing and passion were eroding – catching fewer and fewer waves.  

The erosion continued. 

I used to have fun and get up at 4:30 and get to the water at first light, but no longer. What was clear to me was that I was not having fun surfing anymore.  The passion was gone.  I couldn’t find it anywhere. It was gone as fast as it overcame me.  And then, in late June of 2023, I was no longer working – passion and profession both gone.  

Does confession of events that created his downfall follow? (No!) But read here!