On purpose, envy and the ongoing miracle of John John Florence

When I see John John Florence I see a man frighteningly in control. And it makes me wonder how he's managed it, especially so young.

Often I feel life is too complicated. In moments of essential simplicity: survival, hunger, ecstasy, endurance or lust, life seems brighter, somehow.

These are the moments that might bookmark a life, memories like rootless flowers.

Once, surfing gave me simplicity. A clear goal, even if it shifted with the weather. But it was the force that propelled all else.

I’ve lost that now, moved on. Found it in other things. I doubt it’s gone forever. I’ve been missing it lately.

And I don’t know if it’s the act itself, or just the dedication to it. Because for me, life is mostly one long series of obsessions followed by abandonment.

I never realised it before. Not until my son was diagnosed with autism, and it made me revisit my own past through a different lens.

But I don’t want to get into that here. Partly because I’ve been writing about it in private, and for now I want it to remain that way. And partly because I think denial, or at least obliviousness, in the face of challenges like this is often a solution.

Fucking suck it up. Everyone’s got problems. Mine are lesser than most. I don’t need any more scapegoats or excuses.

But I do know that I’ve always lacked purpose. I’ve lived a life feeling elevated, somehow, yet unable to focus the burning energy I keep in reserve to set fire to the one thing I love. That’s not to say an unhappy life, just one at the threshold of some unidentified goal, never quite fully committed.

So when I see men like John John Florence, Jack Robinson, Griffin Colapinto, I see men who seem curiously, and, honestly, quite frighteningly in control. And it makes me wonder how they’ve managed it, especially so young.

“Just having fun out there” has become a trite statement in pro surfing. It’s easy to pay lip service to this sort of attitude, and I understand it can be disingenuous at times. But when I watch the likes of Florence at his best, I can believe in it. In performances like we’ve seen at Teahupoo and Punta Roca, there is little sense of the stress of competition or challenge, there is only joy.

In post-heat interviews, albeit only in the aftermath of success, there is no hint of gloom. And it’s easy to envy their talent, and the charmed life of a professional surfer.

But I am not envious of this, I am simply envious of the control John John Florence and others like him seem to have exerted over their lives.

Clearly, I don’t really know them. We only see their public persona. But still I wonder if it’s real. And I think about how thinly stretched life can be, and I’m stuck with awe in the face of those who seem to carry clear purpose and intent.

Because you realise, at some point in life, or perhaps in many, that you are not satisfied. Not full of the life you promised yourself when you stared hard into the mirror at four am and saw someone you knew you must run from.

And even when you have crawled from the past, shedding your old self like a skin, it remains, discarded, but still in the shape of you. A wraithlike thing that lies in the corners of rooms, or draped on the bed, or cast in the grass when you are pushed up against a wall. Forever a reminder of the shape of what once was, begging you to crawl back inside.

Some days you yearn for that shimmering idol, in all his chaotic, unhinged ecstasy.

Because it might not have felt like a life, but at least it felt alive.

Days when your shoulders were loose with the swerves of doorways and tenement corners. You lay, late into the day, until the light had dissipated sufficiently to emerge again into the cigarette lit night.

You were like the foxes that momentarily partitioned the lit gaps of alleyways, then held your gaze, defiant, yet always on the cusp of fleeing. You saw kinship in them, these night-shifters, nonchalant raiders of dusk and dust.

And every day you would emerge from the night as a stranger, just as the fox sloughs his smell into the cold unworldliness of water.

But you couldn’t stay this way forever.

Your body couldn’t take it. Your mind less so.

One way or another, everything that flares dies.

Still. Today, in moments that might be soundless or still, you catch a glimpse of this charred effigy, and you realise how much you miss his smile, and the callous beauty of living heart to mouth, to heart to mouth.

Does John John Florence suffer this sort of angst? Or is uber talent and unwavering dedication to one thing enough? That’s my question, eternally. And I wonder if this will be the same for him in years to come. Perhaps it will be more intense, given the heights he’s reached.

Is it true that everyone feels they can only grasp at the edges of a life?

Or are some people simply content?

I still don’t know the answer to that.

All I know is that I return home each day more distant, more removed from the world I’ve built.

Because I know he’s in there still, hunkered in a tenement close, plunging down cobbled streets, or standing at the shore before the sun he will not see has risen, calling into the blistering dark.

Diplo (pictured) XGL-ing.
Diplo (pictured) XGL-ing.

World Surf League on ropes after X Games announces its own transition to league format

"By leveraging the incredibly valuable X Games brand, we will create a durable, global business that will be good for athletes, fans, investors and sponsors.”

The World Surf League has long been standalone-ish when it comes to alternative sports shoved into a traditional format. Arbitrary points, rankings, colorful singlets, trophies and what have you. Certainly skateboarding has its Street League but that is mostly it or, rather, was mostly it.

For, hours ago, X Games announced that it was transitioning itself from a twice a year showcase into the X Games League.

Per Variety:

The X Games League teams will be composed of athletes from multiple disciplines who will compete for individual and team points to earn both individual and team prize purses. MSP and X Games plan to “secure investors for these new teams,” according to their announcement. Team investors and XGL athletes will be able to generate additional revenue streams via sponsorships and team-specific merchandise. In addition, XGL athletes will be provided with guaranteed compensation and new commercial opportunities.

The X Games followed Formula One as a model for the XGL, according to Jeff Moorad, executive chairman of X Games and principal of MSP Sports Capital. “To that end, we are creating a year-round calendar and introducing new commercial opportunities to accelerate the overall growth of X Games,” he said. “These opportunities will provide a secure and sustainable future for our most important stakeholders — the athletes. By leveraging the incredibly valuable X Games brand, we will create a durable, global business that will be good for athletes, fans, investors and sponsors.”

The worry to the WSL, of course, is that potential Saudi/Emirati buyers will want “the incredibly valuable X Games brand” more than the “global home of surfing.” Also, Diplo is an investor in the XGL. But you’ll certainly recall when the popular DJ was savaged by Minnie Driver for being a “giant kook.”

“First of all, I need to tell you what dropping in on someone is,” Driver opened her salvo on the Table Manners podcast. “In the water, there is an etiquette when you surf that people follow, and it is largely for safety, and it’s also because of respect. It’s just how (expletive deleted) works.”

She then went for the throat.

“What happens when you paddle out, first of all, you don’t take the first wave that comes because you’ve just paddled out, you let it cycle through the people that are already there. So here’s the deal.” And if you don’t? Well, “it’s a really (expletive deleted) thing to do as bad things happen in the water when people do that.”

Hammer time.

Back to the XGL, though. You gonna follow?

Kanoa Igarashi (pictured) celebrating.

LGBTQ+ nude sunbathers win stunning victory in Seattle pitching surfer allies into Dionysian celebration

We are one ocean.

The unlikely pairing of nude sunbathers and surfers, days ago, proved a glorious spark of unity in an otherwise bleak and tribal world. Like lady and the tramp, the two found common cause over blow-ins descending upon Wrecks Beach, long considered the “Topless Teahupo’o” in order to leer and perv.

Nude sunbathing enthusiasts circulated a petition, surfers rallied to their cause and people across the globe smiled, feeling the warm glow of harmony not felt since 2017.

Light warming those dark recesses where the sun usually don’t shine.

It made perfect sense, then, when surfers broke out into wild Dionysian celebrations, yesterday, after it was announced that Seattle’s Denny Blaine Park, long cherished by LGBTQ+ nude sunbathers, would remain theirs.

The “Naked Nias,” as it is often called, was under threat after a local millionaire businessman had convinced the parks and rec. dept. to install a playground in new “zones.” Nudity is legal in Washington except where it is likely to cause “affront and alarm.”

Friends of Denny Blaine Park, compromising nude sunbathing enthusiasts, was formed and forced a veto of the plan.

Co-lead Sophie Amity Debs told the Seattle Times, “We’re glad they responded to the overwhelming negative feedback from people that the zones are terrible.” Milo Kusold, who enjoys sunning his buns, added, “The parks department has not addressed at all that they’re doing deals with rich people. [With] no statement on what the article exposed, I feel like it would be pretty hard to work and collaborate with them.”

Dang rich people.

The victory, cheered loudly by surfers, also galvanized Friends of Denny Blaine Park and now they are pushing for “adding handrails to stairs, replacing invasive and thorny blackberry plants, and alleviating parking and transportation issues.”

Ouchy invasive and thorny blackberry plants.

Surfers, of course, will be available to help if needed, possibly even as part of the World Surf League’s much-lived One Ocean initiate. Usually employing top level pros to plant a bush, there is not reason they cannot be used to prune one as well.

Happy days.

Crowded Malibu
Real busy at Malibu

Steve Jobs’ widow continues buy-up of Malibu oceanfront lots; shovels $94 million at four-acre Paradise Cove spread

"The region’s surfers are becoming increasingly worried that their beloved and historical surf break may finally become overcrowded."

In a series of Malibu transactions not seen since Superbad star Jonah Hill took a shine to the thirty-click beach strip a few years back, Steve Jobs’ widow has bought up almost $200 million in oceanfront real estate in the monied, and honied, city. 

Laurene Powell Jobs, who is worth fourteen billion dollars after inheriting Stevie’s stake in Apple and Disney, busted into the Malibu market in 2015 when she bought a double-parcel joint for $44 mill, swiftly bulldozing the existing house. Two years later, she bought the neighbours out for $16.5 mill and, in 2021, another neighbour for $17.5 mill.

Jobs’ latest buy is a four-acre oceanfront estate in Paradise Cove, bought off-market hence no photos, for $94 million.

Incredibly, the $94,000,000 buy ain’t the priciest sale in Malibu.

That honour goes to megastar power couple Jay-Z and Beyoncé who, last year, bought a $200 million cement bunker, designed by architect Tadao Ando, on an eight-acre parcel right there on a bluff overlooking the ocean.

At the time, concerns were raised that Malibu might become overexposed due to its colonisation by the rich and famous.

“Exciting but with this new spotlight, the region’s surfers are becoming increasingly worried that their beloved and historical surf break may finally become overcrowded,” reported Chas Smith. “Weekend mobs descended upon the wave as news of Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s new address, leaving locals kerflummoxed and befuddled. Longtime natives the Brothers Marshall posted a photo of the chaos, wondering if it was a sign of things to come.”

Want to get into Paradise Cove but don’t got the ten-mill minimum buy-in?

Nine-fifty k will buy you this pretty trailer in the Paradise Cove mobile home park.


Sierra Kerr, perfect ten, Nias
Sierra Kerr, taking bombs no one else wants, riding em to a perfect ten.

Nepo Baby Sierra Kerr backs up surf-star hype with near-perfect heat score!

As Daddy Josh Kerr keeps on winning heats on the men's side!

We live in the age of nepotism.

In the NBA, current superstars Steph Curry and Jalen Brunson stand on the shoulders of their daddys Eddy Curry and Rick Brunson; Lebron ‘Bronny’ James Jr. gets more coverage than all his fellow draft prospects combined, despite being a fringe round two pick at best.

In Hollywood, nepo babies Dakota Johnson and Nicola Peltz Beckham enjoy professional opportunities that correlate directly to their parents’ fame and fortune, regardless of any dramatic skill they may (in Johnson’s case) or may not (in Peltz-Beckham’s case) possess.

In music, Miley Cyrus traded for years on the genes, upbringing and public profile of her now less-famous father, Billy Ray.

Politics (Trudeau), business (Trump), modelling (Hadid) – you name an industry and there, near the top, will be a scion fed with a spoon of silver and aided by the velvet-gloved hand of nepotism.

So too, in surfing.

The name Sierra Kerr has been on surf fans’ lips for years now, despite her being just 17 years old and so far lacking the competitive success enjoyed by fellow prodigies Erin Brooks (16) and Caitlin Simmers (18).

The reason?

Well, her hard-won prowess in the air and in heavy tubes to be sure, but the pre-Kerrsor (to borrow phrase from the title of her latest edit) to that prowess was surely the support of her certified ripper of a father.

Josh Kerr needs little introduction to the ardent surf fan, but let’s introduce him anyway.

He came onto the scene in the mid 2000s as the World Air Champ pushing the boundaries of the sport with such innovations as the Club Sandwich and clinching the last ever Airshow Series title in 2005.

Two years later he made the ‘CT and demonstrated his skill in waves, little and monstrous.

After a decade competing at the highest level Kerr hung up his singlet and began a new chapter as a freesurfer extraordinaire, twin-fin advocate and shrewd entrepreneur. Shortly thereafter the first clips of daughter Sierra started to drop and Kerrzy’s other major role as daddy to two young groms took centre stage.

Let us set the scene for Sierra Kerr’s triumph: Day 5 of the Nias Pro, one of the major events on the Asian/Australasian regional Qualification Series. The preceding day was of historic proportions, and the swell had built slightly overnight – not as perfect or consistent perhaps, but a foot bigger on the largest sets of the morning.

The first heat of the day saw the men resume their heroic efforts – Cooper Davies dropped a 16.70 heat total, Made Joi Satriawan 17.50, Shohei Kato 18.03. All threaded thick righthand pits for well-deserved 8s and 9s.

Then the women’s round of 32 started, and the high scores stopped.

Most of the women relied on turns, leaning their step-up boards into the fat tapering walls that follow the barrel section. Forays into the tube were all too brief, often limited by an inability to knife the critical takeoff. Willow Hardy and Piper Harrison pulled in deep, made it out and were rewarded with a 10 and a 9.70 respectively. No one else posted anything better than a 7.83 all round.

It was clear – these were not the ferocious ladies of the CT who made history earlier this year at Pipeline and Teahupo’o, putting reigning Men’s World Champ Filipe Toledo to shame with their heady mix of tenacity and skill. I wondered what barrel maestro Caity Simmers would have authored, had she been in the water.

Then Sierra Kerr stepped up, swung hard and knocked two perfect pitches right out of the park.

Her 10 point ride was a classic. The first wave ridden in the heat, none of the other women wanted to go near it. As they paddled towards the wave and over it, Sierra turned, stroked deep and dropped hard into a thick barrel. A few mini pumps and she was out, looking back at the shoreline.

“I paddled deep because everyone was wide, no one wanted it,” said Kerr after.



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Asian Surf Co (@asiansurfco)

Showing perfect composure, Kerr waited 23 minutes for her next wave, a skillful pump-to-highline tubride followed by a solid grabrail cuttie, netting a 6.17.

All her competitors were firmly in comboland, and Kerr had no more work to do.

Except that she did.

With just 19 seconds left she pulled into another six-foot drainer, pumped hard three times and came out nodding like a bobble head on your dashboard as you go over a particularly sharp speed bump.

9.87+10 = one of the highest ever heat totals by a female competitive surfer, a landmark effort that backs up her fans who claim she is the future of women’s surfing.

Daddy Josh was, of course, sitting in the channel about to start his next heat.

Both Kerrs made it through the rest of their matches for the day and have the chance to make the first ever father-daughter event win pairing  in any sport when finals day unfolds.

The lesson?

Don’t hate on nepotism just because the silver spoon isn’t in your mouth. Enjoy it. Revel in it.

Parenthood is a beautiful thing, and so is prodigous excellence.

So much the better when one is entwined with the other.