“German who doesn’t paddle” Sebastian Steudtner surfs biggest wave ever!

Major XXL.

History was maybe made, hours ago, when Germany’s Sebastian Steudtner rode a Nazare beast being touted as “the biggest wave ever ridden.” Porsche, who sponsors the fine looking Hessian, claims it used drones to measure the water tower at 93.73 feet.

The number, of course, must be verified by the World Surf League which certainly has superior computers etc.

“I am very grateful to Porsche for the cooperative partnership over the past three years,” Steudtner said after the ride. “True to ‘Driven by Dreams’ and with Porsche as a partner I have been able to fulfill my dream of contributing to the further development of my sport.”

The lantern-jaw’d blonde utilized a special board made by Porsche that was capable of going 100 kph.

Very cool.

Now, those who have toiled under the heavy yolk of the surf industry for decades might recall when Steudtner won Biggest Wave, or something, at the XXL Big Wave Awards back in 2010. The still-fresh faced Taylor Paul covered for Surfing Magazine and shared:

The presentation of the awards is a mess, though. When Rory Russell announces the Monster Tube Award, the nominees for Best Performance by a Female come onscreen. Christian Fletcher introduces Sebastian Steudtner in the Biggest Wave category by saying, “And the winner is…the German who doesn’t paddle.” And when the German reaches the stage to accept the award, Fletcher mutters something about Hitler. They spend way too much time going through interviews about the biggest wave, when it’s clear that it is the dullest category (that a windsurfer won the award will reinforce to the surfing world that towing is not a game of skill). It takes a while for Occy to present his award because he is crooning, “We don’t neeeeeeeeeeeeeed…no more trouble.”

I was there too, I think, at the Anaheim Grove though it’s all very blurry except for that Fletcher bit and also Bill Sharp’s hair.

Who, in any case, do you think history will recall most favorably, Fletcher or Steudtner? Something to ponder until Margaret River opens its dumb in five-ish hours.

Medina and Florence. Titans of Surfing brought low.
Medina and Florence. Titans of Surfing brought low.

Monster John Florence versus Gabriel Medina clash marred by gross World Surf League incompetence

"Can we blame the WSL for this? Should we? On one hand, of course it’s impossible to blame anyone for weather..."

Your years at school are not equivalent to the years that will follow. School years are like dog years, they stretch out, neverending.

Then all of a sudden you leave, and they tick away like the timer on a bomb.

Think of the clarity of your school memories. Everyone remembers school, often in far greater detail than seems logical.

This is something I’m always conscious of at this time of year. Pupils are leaving, and although from my perspective their final days will merge into the final days I’ve seen of others like them for seventeen years now, it’s important to remember this isn’t their viewpoint. I’m part of their present, and my manner, mood or words might form future memories, for better or worse. It’s my responsibility to be present for young people who cannot yet understand how formative their experiences are, but no-one tells you this.

I think of this when senior girls appear smiling at my door in a swirl of glitter and fancy dress, all done up for their final days. And yet I’m still teaching, still in the middle of a class that have dog years of school still to go. But it’s important to stop and acknowledge these moments, even though your first instinct can often be to shoo them away because you’re still in the thick of your own present, the mundane stresses of day-to-day teaching.

And when you do stop, you know it’s right. These moments are what matter. They cut through the daily mundanity. Besides, no-one has timetabled them to turn up at your class. They’re here of their own volition to say goodbye. Of course that’s worth stopping for.

You have no idea what will happen to most of these pupils, not really, but you recognise the hope in the wide fires of their eyes, and you know it’s important to stoke this, to give them some kind of truth. Each needs something different, and these are not the moments for platitudes. But sometimes it’s as simple as saying thank you.

That’s what I wanted to say to the Latvian boy I pass every morning, but will no longer. He would be standing outside his art class, long before any other pupils had arrived at school, much less thought about their period one class. But he would be there, poor Marlens, on an island. Marooned by language and autism, clinging to the raft of the one subject he could understand. I only taught him for one year, a few years ago now, and he would mostly draw in English. No-one spoke to him then or since, and he did not have the faculties to overcome this.

And yet, every morning without fail he would say Good Morning to me, followed quickly by How Are You? And there was always warmth in this simple greeting, and something about his quiet presence each morning at the end of that art corridor always snapped me out of whatever greyness I might happen to be in.

And so the greeting was always reciprocated, as genuine warmth always is. Returned and redelivered, it rolled on through us like a river. And I’ll miss that. And I wanted to say thankyou to him, though never did. Because on the final morning he was already gone. He wasn’t dressed up and partying with the others. To him, school was about turning up early for that art class, and saying hello to teachers. So he had simply disappeared.

But I should have known this. Marlens would never come to my classroom. It was up to me to facilitate this moment, to give both of us a chance to communicate some kind of shared humanity that was worth acknowledging. But the moment was lost, or never seized. And although nothing terrible or tragic has happened, there’s a sense that we are both poorer for it.

This is what I was thinking of as I watched Gabriel Medina lose to John Florence, then Sammy Pupo beat older brother Miguel in the round of 16 at The Margaret River Pro.

No two heats in recent memory had more potential across the whole spectrum of what pro surfing can give us – drama, explosiveness, the evolution of precocious talent, simmering emotional fragility, sheer will to win.

But all of that was just on paper.

What we got for both heats were sub-standard conditions. Some opportunities, yes. But long lulls, and waves dressed up a little by the strong offshore wind, but lacking in any real size or wall.

In both heats, nothing happened relentlessly.

The moments were dulled by the occasion they were given, and this was unbecoming of both the men and their fates.

Can we blame the WSL for this? Should we?

On one hand, of course it’s impossible to blame anyone for weather.

But on the other, if you don’t work to facilitate the very best environment so that these moments might occur in better circumstances, then that’s dereliction of duty.

What might that involve for the WSL? Longer event windows and greater flexibility; a scaled down field; no non-elimination heats; tailoring events round peak swell times, not tourist boards or weekends.

You know, any number of things ardent fans of this shambolic sport have suggested for years now.

We deserve better. They deserve better. John Florence, Gabriel Medina, Miguel and Sammy Pupo. All deserve better.

How many more heats of Medina vs Florence, the two best talents of their generation, might we see?

How many heats of brother vs brother, man on man, with an entire career on the line, has there ever been or will there ever be again?

The poignancy of these moments was completely soused.

For the majority of their heat, both Pupo brothers sat, desolate in the emptiness of the Main Break line-up, left at sea by the WSL.

Just five waves were ridden between them, an insult to the occasion that was no fault of their own.

Medina vs Florence was scrappy. They rode more waves, but neither man was able to unleash the rare power we know they have. Neither was able to just surf, as both had wished for earlier in the event.

Gabriel Medina led for the majority of the heat, then pulled out of a good looking wave near the end to retain priority. He used that priority on the first wave of a set with less than two minutes left. It was the wrong wave. John took the next one, hacked the first section, then pumped round the next for a weak finish and a rare claim.

The claim sold it. The score came in at 6.90, which took the heat by 0.24 points. Medina’s earlier 5.83 was a significantly better wave, but such was the jarring nature of John Florence claiming mediocrity, he was always getting the score.

Consider the conditions Florence has been subjected to that have elicited this claim. He was a circus bear, balancing a ball on his snout whilst the audience laughed, when really he should be tearing their throats out.

The final moments of Sammy Pupo’s defeat of elder brother Miguel were touching, even given the flatness of their heat. Miguel consoled Sammy, the loser grinning ear to ear; the victor unable to choke back tears as they paddled shoreward.

The resulting interview might have been one of the most poignant post-heat interviews ever conducted in professional surfing. Nothing I write here could adequately communicate how many of us felt watching it. Pupo spoke mostly in his native language, addressing his family, but we didn’t need to share his language to empathise with his humanity.

It was a moment untarnishable even by the WSL.

Moments like this will echo long after they’ve passed. And if you have created them, as I do in my job, even inadvertently, or the WSL do by presiding over this sport, then you must do everything in your power to respect them.

For me, that might be as simple as taking a moment to speak to someone, even if I have my own issues at hand.

For the WSL, it’s a little more complex, but the premise and the responsibility to others remains the same.

Kolohe Andino says surf industry is fucking dead.
"Surf industry is FUCKING dead," writes Kolohe Andino.

Kolohe Andino breaks rank, protocol, declares “surf industry f*#king dead!”

“Surfing culture, big time surf brands and the ‘surf lifestyle’ are F*$KING dead."

The Californian surf star Kolohe Andino whose natural skill wasn’t allowed room to breathe on the world tour which led to his premature departure, has stunned surf fans with a profanity laden screed posted on Instagram. 

Like Luther nailing his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg thereby creating the still-reverberating split in Christianity, Kolohe Andino has broken rank, and accepted protocol, to take aim at the once-mighty surf industry.

“Surfing culture, big time surf brands and the ‘surf lifestyle’ are FUCKING dead,” writes the just-turned thirty year old. “You got every FUCKING up and coming kid thinking they are one of the Paul brothers. Trying to gain cloud in any way, shape or form, with no gumption, no backbone, or no idea. These kids are not leaders, they are followers.” 

Kolohe Andino channels Martin Luther
Kolohe Andino and his 21st century equivalent of Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses .

It’s a pointer to his and his San Clemente pals’ clothing venture 2 Percent, which offers hats, hoodies, jackets etc in a sorta nineties homegrown style. 

Jackets are 175, hats and tees are forty and a pair of brown pants is seventy US.

Surf fans were divided on the post, all veering one of three directions.

One, “Kolohe Andino is “spitting facts”, two, “Who are the Paul brothers?” and, three, “Just comes with your age bud. Remember when the old timers said the same thing about you?  Haha Sponsored by Red Bull, Nike, and Target. Hardcore surf brands and culture!”

Apart from not reaching the stellar heights that were predicted for him as a teenager, Kolohe Andino, who is six years into marriage with the stunning Madison Brooke-Aldrich (Maddie’s account of Kolohe’s Christmas Day proposal, is proof that virility isn’t just measured at the root of the belly where the phallus rises) will be remembered for helping get the Surf Ranch Pro onto the tour. 

“After watching footage, Kolohe goes, ‘Why isn’t this on tour…well think about it!’” remembered Slater in his excellent documentary series Lost Tapes. “That’s when the conversation became real.”

Sam Pupo feeling very bad and making me, in turn, feel very bad too.
Sam Pupo feeling very bad and making me, in turn, feel very bad too.

Hearts shatter worldwide as two beautiful brothers forced into mortal combat for pleasure of junkies!

Death in the mid morning.

It is unknown if the World Surf League will complete the Margaret River Pro, this last stop where long knives are drawn and underperforming surfers are stabbed. The mid-season cut, brainchild of sadistic weirdo, and former World Surf League CEO, Erik Logan is actually enjoyed by the most derelict of surf fans. The season, stretching on interminably, with each event microcosms of interminable, needs stakes and watching career death certainly provides that but have we junkies pushed it too far?

I submit Miguel Pupo versus his brother Samuel Pupo as evidence.

They were forced to enter the playing field yesterday morning as howling offshore winds whipped kangaroo scent into the sea. Only one informed he could leave. They engaged in mortal combat, for our pleasure, like they were told. At the end, Samuel survived and Miggy was metaphorically murdered.

Samuel wiping tears from his eyes afterward, saying, “To get him off tour, I just feel like a loss really for me. Without him, I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am now. Maybe I wouldn’t be surfing. For me to be in this position is all because of him. But he’s really strong, I’m sure he’s going to come back. He just got out of the water smiling, and he looked like he was the one that won the heat. That just shows how strong he is, but it still hurts so much.”

Erik Logan, somewhere, is writing a motivational Substack to help the Pupos’ turn their pain into gain but don’t you feel the cruelty of the moment matches anything the decadent Romans did in their entertainment ovals?


David Lee Scales and I didn’t really discuss during today’s chat but did make time for A.P.E. webbed paddle gloves. I think you’ll find it essential.

Shayne McIntyre (pictured) in Liberia
Shayne McIntyre (pictured) in Liberia

Alternative to much-hated World Surf League presents as Liberia to host first ever African surf tour!

Rebel yell.

The Margaret River Pro is currently bumbling along in glorious Western Australia, bumbling being the optimum word. The World Surf League, caught yet again in a ten day run of bad swell, has been forced to start, stop, start and stop its competition with even its most ardent fans growing frustrated and surly. Waves, when they do come, are somehow miraculously missed by the team, Joe Turpel’s mouth has entered a twilight zone and silly branding rules the day.

But what, then, is the most ardent fan supposed to do? There has long been hope in a “rebel tour.” One that boils off the World Surf League’s nonsense and simply puts the world’s ten or twelve best surfers in the world’s five or six best waves. But, let’s be honest here. Red Bull is not going to come to our rescue nor is Kelly Slater.

Enter Liberia.

The west African country hovering just north of Côte d’Ivoire, just south Sierra Leone, has just announced it is hosting Africa’s very first surf tour entirely independent from the World Surf League.

Per the Liberian Observer:

President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, Sr., has expressed excitement over Liberia’s rise to a place among the top 10 surfing destinations in the world and the choice to host the Africa Tour: Surf to Rise competition.

The event, scheduled to take place in West Africa for the first time, will be held in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County. It will be a five-day event, bringing in more than a hundred (100) persons including sixty (60) athletes, all of whom will be staying in Robertsport for the duration of the event to be held from May 23-28, 2024.

According to a press release from the Executive Mansion, this initiative is a significant moment for Liberia’s tourism sector, which aims to rebrand the country and attract visitors from around the world. It also comes as the President prepares to submit the Tourism Bill to the Legislature as part of his legislative agenda.

As part of the transformative agenda outlined in the Agriculture Roads, Rule of Law, Education Sanitation, and Tourism (ARREST) Agenda, the President reaffirmed Liberia’s commitment to harnessing its natural assets for sustainable development.

Arrest? Tell me this isn’t the future.

You can watch a film about professional surfing’s savior here.