Mitch S. (pictured) dead last.
Mitch S. (pictured) dead last.

Penultimate ’24 World Surf League Broadcaster Power Rankings

Drumroll, please.

The 2024 World Surf League Championship Tour only has two events remaining, three if one counts the ill-conceived Lower Trestles Finals Day, and it has certainly been almost exciting at times. The Tahiti Pro and the El Salvador Pro especially. The women, of course, have thus far stolen the year but the men ain’t doing too shabbily either. On that side of the draw, eight, maybe nine, surfers are battling for a spot to take on John John Florence in soft Southern California right handers for the crown.

Again, almost exciting.

But it is time to power rank our guides for the year, the broadcast team who has coalesced into the best in World Surf League history since 1976 circa 2015?

I’d argue yes and without further ado:

1. Strider Wasilewski: Raspberry, and his role floating in various channels and lineups, has officially transcended surfing and should now be considered alongside broadcasting greats the likes of Greg Olsen and Vincent Edward Scully. Wasilewski is perpetually thrilled and can get barreled with the best of them making his annoyance at unridden gems priceless.

2. Kaipo Guerrero: While certainly polarizing, Guerrero’s highwire linguistic act is quickly becoming “must-see-tv.” The former model spools out metaphor after metaphor, folk etymology after folk etymology, spinning them into such a heady web that surf fans, at home, have zero idea how he will be able to find his way out. He does, though, inevitably leaving the aforementioned surf fans breathless and happy.

3. Chris Cote: Equal parts play-by-play and color, Cote has rounded into a treat. While calling professional surfing might look easy, trust me. It is. I’m sure I’ve told you about the time that I called a one-star women’s event in France alongside Paul Evans? In any case, Cote makes the easy look easy, which is difficult. He makes no apology for being toxically positive nor for being a fan and as his opinion presents more and more, the hater watching at home actually gets to chew some meat on a bone.

4. Felicity Palmateer: As the lone woman in various reclaimed pallet studios, Flick has a load to carry and, in her first full season, is doing admirably. Oh sure, she becomes too emotional from time to time but what woman doesn’t? Just kidding. A little throwback humor for you now that cancel culture has, itself, been cancelled. She almost gets critical, from time to time, and if she let her jerk flag fly more often might reach Raspberry levels of excellence.

6. Ronald Blakey: As the handsomest on the team, and brother of Vaughn, he should be by far the best and yet he rolls into “narrating history” voice too often. There is no reason that Blakey should not be in the booth at every event except laziness and so we must blame him for more than we should.

5. Jesse Mendes: Well who saw this coming? Mendes’ cardboard persona, generally pointless, was the exact balm epic Teahupo’o needed. The Brazilian’s insights into barrel wrangling proved interesting and valuable. While one event does not a broadcaster make, Mendes showed potential in Tahiti and that, in and of itself, is shocking.

6. AJ McCord: Completely serviceable, McCord brings a sense of professionalism to an otherwise largely…. non-professional group. She asks the questions in her post heat interviews quick and isn’t cloying. The only real downside is her lack of usage during long lully events. Not her fault, but suggests she doesn’t know all that much about surfing and will soon climb to bigger sports.

7. The Bonsoy Brew Break.

8. Bailey Ladders Leaderboard.

9. The “Stay Tuned” screen.

10. Greenwashing.

11. Madonna since she once dated Kaipo.

12. Joe Turpel: The “voice of professional surfing,” Turpel’s buttery drone has become synonymous with the World Surf League. While his encyclopedic heat knowledge flashes every so often, he seems overly-content to blather on and on and on and on filling the air with empty. If Hollywood ever remakes The NeverEnding Story, Turpel will certainly be considered as The Nothing. There is, likely, no redemption for the man and he can thank his stars for Mitch Salazar.

13. Unisex Shiseido models.

14. Mitchell Salazar: I have to assume he isn’t getting paid but still.

Ivanka Trump (pictured) surfing(?) while Ben Gravy (insert) has a think.
Ivanka Trump (pictured) surfing(?) while Ben Gravy (insert) has a think.

Ivanka Trump polarizes nation by fake surfing on World Oceans Day

"Truly, all I want to do is provide stoke to the world."

The United States of America was pitched into heated polarized fighting, yesterday, after former first daughter Ivanka Trump posted an ode to the world’s oceans featuring herself sliding on a wake behind a boat. The leggy 42-year-old blonde captioned the tribute, “Individually we are one drop, together we are an ocean – Ryunosuke Satoro” and hashtagged it #happyoceanday.

The “Wake Sliding is Not Surfing” and “Wake Surfing is Surfing” camps immediately rallied and began taunting each other online.

Leelee5__ smashed in for Not Surfing and sneered, “Neither her or her step mom are real women. They are not role models and does any one care to see this one water skiing?”

Djmano_com, bashed in for Is Surfing, hitting with, “This is the epitome of WOKE! (If you know the real meaning) You Go Surf Gurl!”

Back and forth the two sides went even declaring the other should be locked up in federal prison.

Trump, for her part, attempted to stay above the fray, abiding by an earlier statement in which she declared, “I love my father very much. This time around, I’m choosing to prioritize my young children and the private life we are creating as a family. While I will always love and support my father, going forward I will do so outside the political arena.”

Culture watchers attempted to contact Ben Gravy, hoping the New Jersey novelty wave maestro could definitively declare if wake sliding is or is not surfing but he only responded cryptically, via Instagram, “After being out of the water with a torn bicep for almost 5 months I’ve had a lot of time to reevaluate & think about what I truly want to give to this world. There’s ups & downs in life, but if you pay attention to what the universe is trying to tell you all the answers will make themselves abundantly clear. This past week is one of those obvious reminders of how I ended up doing what I do for a living. Truly, all I want to do is provide stoke to the world.”

Troubled times.

Anthony Kiedis (pictured) single?
Anthony Kiedis (pictured) single?

Surf fans crushed after revelation Anthony Kiedis’ much younger Brazilian model-girlfriend not real

Sad day.

Almost one month ago, surf fans were delighted to learn that Anthony Kiedis was out and about, surfing, with a much younger Brazilian model-girlfriend. In photographs obtained by the Daily Mail, the Red Hot Chili Pepper was lauded for his “taut torso and tattooed torso” while carrying enough foam for him, his much younger Brazilian model-girlfriend and a 350 lbs adult male.

Alas, the whole business was, apparently, a ruse. The pictorials were actually from over a decade ago and featured much younger Australian model-girlfriend Helena Vestergaard who, to be honest, doesn’t sound Australian at all. In any case, the mess up has spiked interest in the Californicator’s surfing and love lives, though the two seem to mix from time to time.

Y! Entertainment is openly declaring that the last much younger model-girlfriend Anthony Kiedis was with came from Ukraine and named Marina Mazepa. The two were spotted surfing, canoodling and otherwise carrying on but that was all the way back in 2022. Vesergaard preceded Mazepa who was, in turn preceded by Heidi Klum, who needs no introduction.

The reason for all the confusion is the specific lack of public love-surf interest in the even as his biopic theoretically shoots. Based on the memoir Scar Tissue, and being produced by Brian Grazer, the film will certainly bring a bevy of surf hungry much younger model-girlfriends to Kiedis’ door but did I ever tell you about the time I had lunch with Brian Grazer?

The Hollywood heavy had read some action-adventure Middle East articles by me and my best friend, a few decades ago, and invited us to his office where his assistant proceeded to order fancy salads while Grazer asked us questions. He was nice enough, curious, energetic. After lunch ended, my best friend and I were leaving when he stopped us. Holding up a pair of brand new G-Unit jeans he had just received, Grazer asked, “Are these cool?”

My best friend and I both answered, “Not for you.”

And that was the end of that.

John John (pictured) on top. Photo: WSL
John John (pictured) on top. Photo: WSL

John John Florence, Yago Dora and the “throbbing vigour of engorged bullocks” mark spectacular El Salvador Pro final

"And suddenly, it looks like we could be heading to one of the most compelling finishes to a season in recent memory. Everyone who matters is in the mix (and Jordy Smith)."

Straight reporting I hear you cry?

Well ok then. I’ll save my digression for a separate essay.

For once, the day might warrant talk just of surfing.

An almost hitchless day of inviting, glassy waves peeled down the Punta Roca point, and when the two men who attacked them with the throbbing vigour of engorged bullocks met in the final, all seemed right.

There was progression of the highest order, committed turns, and ranking shake-ups that titillate even the prospect of Trestles.

However, before we get into the weeds here, let me ask this: if all you want to hear is a simple post-match analysis of pro surfing, then what are you?

Do you not see with your eyes?

Are you such a simple organism, an amoeba, say, that you cannot formulate thoughts?

Worse: are you Joe Turpel or Mitch Salazar, primitive AI programmed solely for surf commentary (one a rudimentary Spanglish version)?

Go on, live a little.

But I suppose it’s true that on days like today, not even mealy-mouthed Mitch could mis-pronounce or matttarrrrrr the vibe.

And it’s true, as Chris Cote proclaimed, there is little us comment board heroes can cast across the interweb to darken his cloud of joy or lay waste to the WSL after days like this.

Gabriel Medina began the day hacking and slashing at the bared throat of Joao Chianca. A pair of high sevens were enough to dispatch Chianca, who exhibited enough in this competition to remind us what we’ve missed. The tenacious violence he applies to heat strategy is much needed on this Tour.

But Medina is Specimen X in this regard, and although Joao tried to paddle him up the point and sit on his nose without priority, it was too little, too late.

Despite the obvious competitive tension, the two men embraced at the end, and not for the first time I admired the ability Brazilian surfers have to treat heats with life and death importance, yet show genuine warmth towards their countrymen before and after the horn.

Quarter final two saw friends and travel partners Yago Dora and Jack Robinson face off. From the beginning it was clear that Dora was in a rare rhythm.

Yet he was disconcertingly lowballed for a clean and explosive rotation that Chris Cote labelled as a backside 540.

The wave had surely elicited guttural utterances from all who witnessed it. 7.67 felt inappropriate for such a visceral reaction.

And what do you make of the deep dive into the history of skateboard culture, as led by Chris Cote and Kaipo Guerrero?

It seemed a calculated (and slightly desperate) attempt to assimilate surf and skate “tricks”, which Cote has long been a proponent of. We learned (from Kaipo) the origin story of both indy grabs and varials, among other things I probably missed.

I can only presume that Kaipo bears the mark of the last person who spoke to him, and as such Chris Cote has been the most prominent yap in his ear in El Salvador.

I can take it or leave it, but I broadly agree about spin conventions.

Yago Dora was the catalyst for nearly every discussion. Even under the priority of Robinson he was busy, a tactic he employed to great effect all the way to the final. He struck first and conclusively in both his quarter and semi-final, leaving his opponents searching for a great wave rather than just a good one, and therefore neutralised by his aerial vivacity.

John Florence employed the same tactic in his quarter final match with Crosby Colapinto, perhaps owing to rhythm rather than design. His first two scores were his keepers, an 8.00 and a 7.17, both of which spoke to the sharpness of rail and focus he would carry til the end.

The heat wasn’t much of a contest, but Kaipo’s segue to begin is worthy of note.

“Yesterday was the anniversary of Michelangelo’s Statue of David being erected in Florence, Italy”, he began. “This is John John Florence, and this is David & Goliath.”

Truly, Kaipo’s brain should be studied.

Both semi finals took place in comboland. (If comboland was a world where your most vile nightmares as a pro surfer (not involving Sarge) come true.)

Rarely have both match-ups at this stage been so one-sided.

On one side, Yago Dora hung, drew and quartered Gabriel Medina, sending pieces of him to Cuba, Mexico and Ecuador, and leaving his head on a spike, embedded in Mama Roca.

On the other, John Florence disembowelled Matt McGilivray, leaving his entrails floating uselessly in the silt.

Dora’s flow was undeniable. Notching an 8.33 early, he followed quickly with a 9.33 for a tweaked rotation with an indy grab. It could’ve been a ten, perhaps it should have been. Regardless, every time Dora took off on a wave it was edge-of-your-seat stuff.

Gabriel Medina’s surfing (and I can’t believe I’m writing this) looked flat by comparison. Pedestrian, even. He stuck to the face of the wave, notching typically solid backhand hits. But they were beige in comparison to Yago, who was just too smooth, too incendiary.

Medina tried some airs late, realising his predicament, but it was too late. Everyone knew it, most of all him. I can’t recall ever seeing him beaten so comprehensively.

Has Medina deadlifted himself into a corner where he’s lost an edge in waves like this, I wondered? He’s certainly heavier than at any point in the past, and perhaps his surfing lacks lightness as a result.

Or perhaps he simply met a man in such a high state of arousal that there was nothing to be done.

Similarly aroused was John Florence. And even if his victory in the opposing semi final against Matt McGilivray was predictable, the style with which he did it was absolute.

Florence gralloched McGilivray with a perfect ten point ride for a high, clean spin followed by some typically incisive carves. At first I was affronted that this wave could elicit perfection from the judges but Dora’s could not, but the replay showed that Florence had not only performed his spin on the first section, but lost no speed on the landing, then followed up with some razor rail work, the likes of which perhaps only he can do.

And so it was a Florence vs Dora final. The two form surfers of the event, both locked into an elevated state of consciousness that seemed to carry from heat to heat.

How often do the two best surfers of any given event actually meet in the final? Was this testament to running the whole thing in three days, more or less back to back?

But the final was to be a comedown of sorts. John Florence had retained his rhythm, opening with an 8.50, followed quickly with a 7.83.

Dora’s flow was disrupted, then more so when he landed awkwardly on his board, breaking a fin and needing a replacement. His 9.77 came almost from nothing and gave him a chance. Then the ocean went flat for the longest period of the day. All Yago needed was a mid-six, but he couldn’t even find a wave. It was a limp ending to a day that deserved a better climax.

Undeterred, Mitch Salazar proclaimed “he (Florence) must be on top of the moon right now”.

Right enough, it was Florence’s first win since 2021, a stat that might seem shocking. But with it, his top five berth has been assured.

And suddenly, it looks like we could be heading to one of the most compelling finishes to a season in recent memory. Everyone who matters is in the mix (and Jordy Smith).

The Brazilian triumvirate of Medina, Ferreira and Dora are howling at the gate of the top five in positions six to eight. With Rio and Fiji to go, you’d have to fancy their chances of displacing Smith and Ewing at least.

So, that’s the surfing. All filler, no killer. What larks etc.

I’ll be packing my bicycle and moseying down to Germany this week. But I’d like to give you a little something before I go. Something a little sexier. A little dalliance with darkness. A musing on purpose, envy, lust, and John Florence.

Look out for it.

Troublesome behavior (pictured).
Troublesome behavior (pictured).

Surfers ally with nude sunbathers after “herds of perverted men in street clothing” descend on beach

"We are seeing a large influx of folks coming in that have no interest in getting naked or enjoying the beach."

Now, the sister sports of nude sunbathing and surfing rarely, if ever, come into conflict. Surfers generally ply our trade in the waters, often colder or dangerous and have no care for what happens on the sand. Nude sunbathers ply theirs on the beach, exposing gentle bits to the warm rays of the sun. The two groups form a sort of yin-yang representing a wonderful balance of opposites. Nude sunbathers and surfers can be witnessed peacefully sharing the same environment at Blacks, in San Diego, or the coastline of France. A balm for this polarized age.

Surfers, then, are providing allyship for a group of nude sunbathers in Canada’s Vancouver who are complaining about “hordes of perverted men in street clothing” descending upon their once bucolic sands.

Wreck Beach has long been a favorite. Sometimes called “The Topless Teahupo’o,” nude sunbathers have been “pulling it” since 1989. Large logs provide both backrests and wind stops for the naked except, now, the city is removing them opening up sight lines and generally causing mayhem.

While the city is citing safety, its lifeguards being unable to spot those in need of assistance, others are saying bigger issues than mass drownings must be considered.

“We are seeing a large influx of folks coming in that have no interest in getting naked or enjoying the beach,” the chair of the Wreck Beach Preservation Society Stephen Biduk told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, adding, “They’re just coming down to look at people, to look at naked bodies, and that’s becoming a bigger concern.”

Mary Jean Dunsdon, who enjoys participating in nude sunbathing, is furious about the whole situation, boldly declaring, “I know that Wreck Beach is a tourist destination, but I am not a tourist attraction. I am not the Eiffel Tower.”

A petition has been circulated in order to stop log removal. It lists the key concerns including:

Increased Intimidation: Herds of men in city clothing are coming to the beach, intimidating visitors, and filming women and children. This is directly correlated to the open sight lines and the monitoring metro claims it needs. Metro Vancouver’s response of “trying to educate them” is insufficient. We need more safe spaces and a reduction in voyeuristic behavior. Correcting the mistake of removing the larger logs and safe spaces is a simple and effective answer.

All surfers encouraged to sign here.