Houshmand of the moment.
Houshmand of the moment.

“Queer collection of quarter finalists” remain as suddenly controversial Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach nears end!

What do Kade Manson, Rio Waida, Cole Houshmand and Jake Marshall have in common?

At dawn I sat to re-watch some of what I’d missed. Heats were still running, but I felt I needed to see what had come before.

Chest high Winkipop. At first smooth and clean, later fat and ruffled as tide and wind pushed in.

Surfers traded in sixes, sevens, six-point-fives, seven-point-ones. All looked the same. There were no tens, nor nines. The eights awarded were figments, in my eyes.

Joe Turpel was talking, talking, talking.

By way of contrast, the Victorian sandstone cliffs glowed deep oranges and reds in the morning sun. Beautiful, I thought. A fine morning for a quiet surf.

Somehow the bash bash bash of pro surfers in this setting was an affront.

On my side of the world the sun also shone. Outside my window a blackbird eyed me from the top of the fence, orange-gold beak tilted curiously. There were questions in its beady eyes. Valid ones.

I looked back with spite and envy. What a life, I mused. What a simple life, free of vice and folly.

Then I went back to watching pro surfers on the opposite side of the planet in a place I’ve never been bash bash frantically bash soft lips, trying to eke points from pointlessness.

What a queer collection of quarter finalists we’ve ended up with as a result.

We’ve arrived here in unspectacular fashion and by way of some odd scoring. Perhaps not “the worst judging I’ve ever seen”, as Gabriel Medina asserted, but poor nonetheless.

Ramzi Boukhiam has cause for complaint. On evidence of the day, the 6.80 he received for his final wave could easily have been a point higher and should have turned the heat.

The benefactor was Liam O’Brien, who ironically should have his own judging consternations this evening.

His round of 16 bout with Ewing was one of the most entertaining of the day, but was cooked from the off by an 8.50 thrown at Ethan Ewing for a three turn opening wave that was certainly good, but absolutely not a point better than everything else.

As is so often the case with Ewing, judges go giddy the moment he hits the water. And although the scoring thereafter was reasonable, the match had been spoiled.

O’Brien, for his part, showed impressive variety in his turns. He’s a surfer for whom I have a growing admiration in terms of style and approach. He’d have won many other match-ups today, and should win many in the future.

The most controversial judging decision saw rookie Cole Houshmand take a last second victory over Gabriel Medina, and the controversy is mostly because Medina was so vocal in addressing it. So rare is the post heat losers interview, I felt sure it was Medina who instigated it.

Post heat, Laura Enever begin by suggesting it was a mistake to give Houshmand the wave without priority. “I did the mistake?”, Medina bristled. “This is funny.”

He did not hold back.

“It’s the worst judging I’ve ever seen. It’s bad for the sport. We pretend that it’s not happening. It’s happening. It’s sad. We need to talk about it. Hopefully they listen to us.”

It was unclear if he had seen Houshmand’s wave at this point, or if his criticism was purely based on the fact he felt the wave was too small to offer that sort of scoring potential. Either way, for once I’m not sure I agree with him.

Scores flatten in poor waves, scales become opaque. You’ll have noticed that there are few controversies over scoring when the waves are good, no complaints from surfers or fans. Partly this is due to the gulf that becomes apparent between guys like Medina and Florence and all the rest, and partly it’s because we’re all just enjoying ourselves a lot more. Simple, really.

John Florence lost to Kade Matson today. It was the way John normally loses, more or less the only way he can lose: when the waves are sub-standard.

He held the highest number of the heat with a 7.67 and needed only a four-something to take the heat from Matson, who caught only two waves in total. But his final effort was tragic, a fat wave he barely scraped into. The tragedy belonged to the moment, not the man.

I love the history of Bells, I do. I love the prestige, how much it means to Australian surfers. But I did find myself asking today if this really was the best we can do for the best surfers in the world? For them and for us.

The WSL remains structured around profit margins (or at least minimising losses). Behind the edifice that purports to be about entertaining fans and serving athletes, they see and serve only themselves. They treat surf competitions as business, not entertainment.

Until they recognise the dire need to serve surfers above spreadsheets, interest in their product will continue to be frittered away on days where many of us wouldn’t bother to surf ourselves, let alone watch someone else do it.

Maybe improving the Tour means strike missions with a scaled down production, including the field itself. But we’ve had a season and a half now where among the thousands of hours we’ve watched this (or turned it off in disgust) you can count the hours of good waves on one hand.

The Colapinto brothers know this. The heat of their childhood dreams and squabbles played out today with few opportunities. Crosby sat sullen in the unbreaking lumps of the high tide, managing only a 4.67 total in three attempts.

Elder brother Griffin was busier but mostly manufactured the scores he got to take the victory. There was one bendy layback, Marzo-esque, that gave him a 7.17, but the heat was slow and ruffled with the onshore breeze.

It was so lacking in opportunity that Crosby said it had left a bad taste in his mouth.

“We’d hyped it up too much”, said Griffin, wisely. “Keep on an even keel always.”

Perhaps this approach is the only way you can survive as a pro surfer. Just accept what’s in front of you. It’s neither good nor bad. It just is.

And it was with this mindset that I looked on at Kaipo Guererro, in hard hat and high-vis vest, up his Bailey ladder.

Grinning from ear to ear, he was a vision of the purest happiness.

I could only smile in response.

Fair play, I thought. Fair play.

Gabriel Medina bombshell accusation
It’s bad for the sport, I’ve been through a lot of judging things but I feel like this is the worst one.… we pretend it’s not happening. It’s happening. It’s bad for the sport.

Gabriel Medina makes bombshell accusation after shock loss at Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, “This is the worst judging I’ve ever seen!”

Return of the Black Knight!

For a very long time, Gabriel Medina was the black night of surfing, a boy with a mouth ready for squalls and tantrums and eyes quick to moisten.

Then, following a lightning marriage and subsequent divorce, the estrangement of his coach step-dad Charlie Serrano in 2021 and under the tutelage of Australian Andy King, Gabriel Medina became wildly…likeable.

Medina’s shaper Johnny Cabianca said Andy King’s arrival stilled Medina’s emotional state, elevated his performance.

Cue: a world title at a canter.

All that evaporated, at least for a few moments earlier today, when he was beaten by American rookie Cole Houshmand in a close heat at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach.

Houshman needed, dunno can’t remember, maybe a high six, and gave hell to the running little Winkipop rights and got the score and then some.

In his post-heat interview Gabriel Medina got a little rant.

“Ah, this is funny…this is the worst judging I’ve ever seen,” he told big-wave maven Laura Enever. “It’s bad for the sport, I’ve been through a lot of judging things but I feel like this is the worst one.… we pretend it’s not happening. It’s happening. It’s bad for the sport.

“The last wave was pretty small, I didn’t even paddle… this is sad. yeah, so much… (long sigh) I just feel bad. It sucks.”

Gabriel Medina’s outburst follows a long proud line of Brazilians complaining about losing, notably in El Salvador and at Surf Ranch.

Still, despite the apparent bas,  Filipe Toledo’s two world titles were gifted in two-foot waves and Brazilians have won every world title since 2018.

Australian woman Laura Enever stuns world in giant Fiji surf!

“I’m the only woman out here, gotta give it a go…”

One year ago, the former women’s world junior champ Laura Enever laid claim to riding the biggest wave ever paddled into by a woman. 

Laura Enever, who is thirty-two and who learned and polished her formidable skills at Sydney’s North Narrabeen, was the second alternate to compete in last year’s The Eddie Invitational, which was won by the on-duty North Shore lifeguard Luke Shepardson.

She didn’t get to write a little history at that event but just south of the action at Waimea Bay, Luke Enever paddled out to the same lefthander where the late Sion Milosky rode the biggest men’s paddle wave back in 2010. 

Now, Laura Enever has stunned the surf world by riding, alongside a cavalcade of the world’s best big-wave surfers, a hall-of-fame swell at Cloudbreak, an outer-reef that was once an imperialist American outpost in Fiji’s Mamanuca Islands.

In a twelve-foot swell that would’ve given even the men’s Gen Z world champion Filipe Toledo pause, Laura Enever dressed herself in a padded suit and dived headlong into the Pacific, her POV camera giving the viewer at home an unparalleled glimpse into the madness.

She don’t hesitate. Nothing worries or dulls Laura Enever’s vital edge. Bullshit-proof.

Straight into a set. Slapped at the end of a barrel.

Later, kneecapped on a set and wears a monster four-wave pack on her head. 





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Samsung announces World Surf League partnership citing surfing’s “open mindset to try new things”

"A culture of inclusivity that embraces everyone lie at the heart of each sport!"

Happy joy news spread through surfing faces, most recently, with the unexpected announce that exploding telephone conglomerate Samsung would be sponsoring the World Surf League, once again, ahead of big Olympic summer. Surf fans will no doubt remember the Korean megabrand’s first toe water into King Sport almost ten years ago when a pre-troubled Gabriel Medina was given talking surfboard friend.

The World Surf League had only just been rebranded then and hope plus optimistic were in plenty supply.

“Unlike other sports, in professional surfing, the athletes are away from the fans from their country almost the entire year. Even during practice, surfers spend hours out at sea, while their coaches are on the shore. These distances are obstacles to the athletes’ evolution and motivation. With the help of Samsung’s technology, we created the Galaxy Surfboard, a board that will connect Medina with his coach and fans while he’s out in the water, in real time,” said Marcelo Reis, co-president of Leo Burnett Tailor Made statement.

While the talking surfboard friend did not make a major impact, new exciting plans are in the play with Stephanie Choi, EVP & Head of Marketing of Mobile eXperience Business at Samsung Electronics, declares, “Surfing, skateboarding and breaking, though proudly unique, share a foundation. Open mindset to try new things, the determination to push the limits of what’s possible and a culture of inclusivity that embraces everyone lie at the heart of each sport. These attributes are something we at Samsung are also passionate about, and we are honored to support these three organizations and their athletes and recognize their communities — not only as the countdown to Paris 2024 continues, but as they work to open their sports to the world every day.”

Open mindset to try new things to the moon.

No word how quietly disappeared World Surf League partner Apple feels about dynamic relationship poking.

More later.