Italo Ferreira wins Vivo Rio Pro
Italo Ferreira, happy as a trout after winning first ever contest in Brazil.

Raging Italo Ferreira curb stomps countryman Yago Dora in front of frenzied fans to take the Rio Pro!

Passion, personified.

There are two ways to look at the Rio Pro from Saquarema.

You could look at it as a mostly average beachbreak that most average surfers would turn their noses at, nevermind the pros, who hope only to find one clean bit of face or closeout section where they might luck into a mid-six for a single turn.

Or, you could look at it as a welcome juxtaposition from the barrelling tropical reefs of Tahiti and Fiji, as an opportunity to see what elite surfers can do on objectively poor waves, and you might appreciate how this stretches them.

And of course, you should surely see that the Brazilian fans are the only proper surf fans anywhere in the world.

Being the kind of uplifted and positive guy I am, I’m very much pro Brazil.

In saying that, there are few highlights that all those of you who sleep during competition hours should seek out. This is not the kind of comp where you might appreciate condensed heats or replays. Even the highest scoring waves will look bizarre without the context of the whole day.

No need to worry about missing any insightful commentary either.

“He’s my pick to be world champion”, proclaimed Mitch Salazar in reference to yellow jersey wearer and leader by more than eleven thousand points, John Florence.

“I love that insight”, Kaipo replied with clear sincerity.

Scoring at Saquarema was a mush of fives, sixes and sevens. All were much the same. Clear water was rare and happened upon by luck. Any man might feel lucky or aggrieved by the outcome of any heat.

Yet, somehow, amidst such uncertainty, everyone who matters to the top five race (barring Jack Robinson) has made it to the quarter final stage, and that makes for an intriguing finish.

Connor O’Leary and Italo Ferreira will match up in quarter final one, owing to victories over Jack Robinson and Rio Waida.

Both have made the most of lumpy Sacquerma, O’Leary with powerful forehand surfing we rarely get to see, and Italo with explosiveness and unpredictability that only he brings in conditions like this.

Ferreira notched by far and away the best performance of the day in his defeat of Waida. The most striking aspect of his 17.50 heat total being not the numbers, but the joy he exudes in joyless waves. Italo is the man to beat here, and he’s sniffing at the edge of the top five.

As is Gabriel Medina, who will match up with Griffin Colapinto in quarter two. Both made their way to this stage with narrow victories in heats bereft of quality opportunities.

Colapinto sent Liam O’Brien home, but in a heat where only seven waves were attempted between them and really could’ve gone either way.

It was noted in commentary that Griffin Colapinto is known to meditate for up to eight hours a day. My notes suggest this is the meditative privilege of a deeply privileged man.

Medina’s defeat of Cole Houshmand was tight. A rare single figure heat total of 9.60 for Medina just pipped Houshmand’s 9.27. Medina attempted nine waves, Houshmand only two, but the fact that five of Medina’s waves were scored at less than a point tells you everything you need to know about the conditions.

Still, Medina is coming back to himself towards the end of the season, as he so often does. His post heat interviews exude composure and the eloquence of man in control of his destiny. Every day I rue the decision not to pull the trigger on a stupidly large bet on him to win the world title this year at the 22/1 odds that were offered pre Teahupo’o.

Two other men who seem in control amidst the chaos will meet in quarter three, John Florence and Yago Dora.

Dora is the reigning champion here, and seems to have retained the rhythm he found in El Salvador. Even if he’s not quite locked in to his dynamic best yet, he remains impossibly smooth. A counter, perhaps, to Italo’s twitchy explosiveness.

Florence, for his part, looks chillingly composed at the top of the rankings.

But quarter final four is perhaps the most intriguing, given the conditions and the rankings. Jordy Smith and Ethan Ewing wouldn’t be your first picks in wonky beachbreak.

Much less so, Smith to be in the top five at this stage of the season, at this point in his career. Honestly, despite watching all of these comps, I’m struggling to remember any Jordy highlights from this year. Have I just stopped paying attention to him? Please tell me if this is an anomaly, or I’ve simply failed to notice excellent surfing from him this year.

However, something I did notice (and a nod to Kaipo, who may have mentioned it at some point yesterday) was the sheer physicality of the men at the business end of both this competition and the season as a whole.

I once wrote an article about the fact that 5’9” was the optimum height for a pro surfer, given the number of athletes who were exactly this height or near enough. But the notion that tall, powerfully built surfers were generally disadvantaged has been blown out the water in recent years.

Anyway, regardless of how you feel about Brazil, it’s undeniable that we’ve got some of the best finals day match-ups in recent memory. Let’s hope for some decent waves to do it justice.

And if you’ll excuse me I need to go and dwell on my first day of official unemployment, whilst nursing a deep, clammy hangover.

It was my last day as a teacher yesterday. Maybe just for twelve months, maybe forever. I’m still mildly conflicted about it, but it’s happening and I can’t go back.

This week, kids stopped me in the corridor to tell me I’d better come back. There was a note on my desk from some pupils. They hope the book I plan to write goes well, they said. Maybe they’d even read it. But did I really have to leave to do it? Couldn’t I stay and write a book about them, maybe?

I could, maybe. But I need to commit entirely to something else for a while. And that thing is indeed writing a book. It’s biography, of sorts. About an exceptional figure, a hill runner. Perhaps the fastest man to run in our hills in hundreds of years of recorded history, but a man whose humility outweighs his talent. A man only very few people would know about if it wasn’t for writers who recognise how important stories like his are. Stories of true greatness without fanfare or ego.

It won’t make me rich, this book. In all likelihood it won’t even pay the bills. But it feels important. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to tell this story, if I can pull it off.

Wish me luck. Or not. Either works.

(Editor’s note: As mentioned in the headline, Italo Ferreira won. Details on that bit tomorrow.)

Open thread: Comment live, Finals Day, Vivo Rio Pro!

"A show that ends in a hecatomb of blood!"

Tyler Wright (pictured) 100%?
Tyler Wright (pictured) 100%?

Surfing Australia in “Democrat-like panic” as Tyler Wright’s medical condition remains a mystery

"The situation is extremely Biden-esque."

Last night, American Democrats had their worst nightmare come true. President Joe Biden wandered out onto an Atlanta, Georgia stage and appeared “uneven” during his first, and maybe last, debate with challenger Donald J. Trump. The major national news medias, generally kind to the octogenarian, attempted no sugar coating and are now openly auditioning someone/anyone to take his teetering place.

Australia’s Irukandjis find themselves in a very similar situation.

Tyler Wright, as you know, is a two-time world champion and also on the Olympic team that will soon fly to Head Place. Exciting days etc. except Wright has withdrawn from the currently running, though entirely forgettable, Oi Rio Pro. As reported on these very pages “Tyler has been advised by her doctors and specialists that she needs some treatment and would prefer her sitting out Brazil. Tyler will be 100% ready for the Olympics.”

The “100% ready for the Olympics” ringing hollow.

As, and also reported here, “Surfing Australia has readied evergreen Sally Fitzgibbons to be on standby should Wright’s medical woes continue.” The team has even purchased flights for the longtime professional surf competitor all the way to The End of the Road.

Eric Haakonssen, Surfing Australia’s performance support and podium manager, went as far as to say, “If the event looks likely to start later in the window, we will adjust those flights to depart later just in case.”

The question, I suppose, for proud Australians is who they would rather see not paddling into lurching Teahupo’o beasts: Wright or Fitzgibbons? A question that must be answered soon seeing as the month of July is but days away.

Emotionally strenuous times.

What’s a podium manager?

Also, and while you’re here, do you have any suggestions for who the Dems should enlist as their own Sally Fitzgibbons?

All input welcome.

More as the story develops.

Gabriel Medina and MIck Fanning, nice in the water.
Gabriel Medina and Mick Fanning, fan favourites. | Photo: @tsherms/Steve Sherman

Secret lives of pro surfers revealed in candid Reddit thread

"Machado is chill, no surprise, fun to see him draw lines. Tudor is a bully…"

How many times have you surfed around the best shredders in the world? Maybe you were at Snapper or Pipe or Lowersmaybe at some distant Indonesian reef.

To experience that thrill when a top-tier pro, a Slater or a Fanning, makes eye contact with the peasants, when he shows he doesn’t have a distant relationship with them, smiling jovially and showing all his white and strong teeth, is the sorta thing that’ll stay with a man for life.

Recently, a Reddit thread was devoted to readers sharing their experiences with the best surfers in the world. 

Here are my favourites.

Saw Kolohe out at T-Street when we were both groms. Heard him scream “I RIP!” as he demolished a shoulder-high wave. It doesn’t surprise me he’s grown up to be kind of strange. I was coincidentally seated at a table with his sister at the Coach House for a Donovan Frankenreiter concert. She was really nice.

Donovan used to also put on the Cosmic Creek and bring a bunch of retro boards for people to surf. He would surf with all of us kids which was pretty cool.

I knew Pat O’Connell growing up and watched him rip my local from the shoulder when I was young. He’s as lovely as everyone says he is.

Saw CJ Hobgood out at Lowers, but everyone was hassling each other so much there I just thought oh, cool then went back to battling in the gladiator pit.

Out of the Water:

I saw A.I. in talks to renew his deal with the then-president of Billabong at my local. Some kid screamed “OH MY GOD IT’S ANDY IRONS! GUYS IT’S ANDY IRONS!” and someone else screamed “NO WAY! DID YOU SUCK HIS DICK??” Pretty gratifying to see Andy laugh at that.

Ran into Mick at Oktober Fest in Munich which was wild. He was shitfaced, but pretty mellow when I dapped him up.

Rob Machado came to our high school and hosted an assembly when he came to install his eco-friendly water fountains. That was ruined because a jackass decided it would be funny to sneak a Klan hood into the auditorium and put it on while Rob was speaking. Horrible look for our school. I’m still ashamed and will not be mentioning that story or where I’m from if our paths ever cross again.

Surfed with Jordy, josh Kerr, Rob machado, Occy and Slater who were all really nice in the water, would let us kooks get waves even calling us into them. Did 2 hours alone with Jordy at canguu and he was such a good cat, he was no2 in wsl at the time but he just seemed like a guy who liked to surf but did it super well.

Surfed with a young Medina the year of his pro junior win in NZ he was a bit of an arrogant dickhead as you’d expect from a young fulla on top of the world! He calmed down once he was reminded in a calm but firm state there’s only one road in and out of here and you have to drive past these 10guys houses.

In my experience the qs level pros are the worst regardless of where they are from just want every scrap of everything for video or just entitlement. The upper level pros usually a lot more chill tho a mate who lived in Fiji isn’t a fan of several of the Brazilians even a couple I thought seemed mellow after a few sessions with them at cloud break

Machado is chill, no surprise, fun to see him draw lines

Tudor is a bully

Growing up on Oahu, I ran into many pros on the North Shore. One of the most memorable was when I surfed a small (6’) day at Pipe with Kelly Slater. This was circa 1989-90 when he was the young phenom before his world titles.

He was out with his local tour guide and fellow QS teammate Perry Dane. PD was one of the OG enforcers back in the day, pre Wolf pack.

Halfway through the session, some unfortunate person dropped in on Kelly. Kelly paddles back out with the roaster about 20 yards behind him. PD starts paddling towards the roaster with this ‘I going kill this faka’ look on his face and as he paddles past Kelly, he asks Kelly “Dat faka dropped in on you?” without taking his eyes off his prey. Everybody knew what was coming. But Kelly quickly replied to PD, “no no, I told him to go.” He was a class act.

Jamie O’Brien burned me at spot on Oahus South shore that breaks along a very sketchy lava rock wall. I was already up and riding deeper, pretty much within arms length from the wall on the takeoff. He was further inside and sitting on the shoulder but he chipped into it on his big ass soft top and faded straight into my line. It forced me to go straight pretty much directly into the sketchist part of the spot. I got fully washed, came real fuckin close to getting dragged along the rocks underwater and dinged the fuck out of my board. Dude straight up just said “I didn’t see you brah” when I was like “dude WTF was that about?” and that was it. Dudes a prick.

To add to this story, him and his crew hung out of the cliffs filming their SuPeR eXtReME lifestyle content making it seem like jumping off these cliffs into the water was a totally normal and safe thing to do. A 15 year old girl drowned and was resuscitated on top of a surfboard in the lineup less than 30 minutes after him and his crew left. Seriously fuck that guy.

Bought a used efoil. Turned out to be Stacy Peralta selling it. Met up with him to complete the purchase and he was the absolute most genuine, humble, kind and warm human. When I let on that I knew that he was a legend, he offered to sign my board and graciously smiled as the kook in me asked to take a picture with him. Stacy even cut me off some pieces of jade and aeonium plants from his garden–he’s got quite the green thumb and has some wonderful specimens.

He still texts to check in from time to time just to make sure I’m out there still ripping. Like just randomly texts to say hi. Just such a genuine dude. Stacy, if you’re out there, you freaking ROCK and I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and for sport in general.

Alex Knost yields priority like a person should. Most surfers used to hate on this guy for riding a long board and being an indie kid, but when I was surfing almost every day in my 20s he was the only pro I surfed around who didn’t try to pull rank or be a dick even when he was filming. I never exchanged words beyond hello but he’s infinitely cool bc he wasn’t an asshole in the water. Never liked his music though.

Back in the fall of 2020 I was staying in Uluwatu for several weeks, two of them at Ulu Surf Villas. In the span I was staying at Ulu Villas, Slater & Lewis Hamilton were there, Machodo later in the trip as well.

Dawn patrol was my favourite when surfing Bombies. It seemed most locals didn’t like going out early and you can see the afternoon crew paddling in from the cave. Was always a sign to grab a good one in and hit a late breakfast. I would often see Lewis & Slater out as well I think Lewis like the small crowd. Anyways, I didn’t fan out, simply told them it was awesome seeing the two out here and left it at that. Shared some waves, I’d eavesdrop on Kelly shooting Lewis advice. Got a few sick ones over that whole stay which got a few yeww’s from the boys.

I don’t know if it was the lack of verbal fandom or what, but I couldn’t say anything better about sharing the water with those guys. No elitism, profession levels on snaking or anything negative about the session. If anything it made the sessions some of the most relaxing times in the water given it was still a sizeable swell. There was something so cool about being in the water with people that could be anywhere else on the world. But they chose this surf spot, and so did you. So really, it just made me appreciate that trip even more. Because I doubt the majority of surfers will ever experience waves outside their local.

Mid tier pros on the other hand, regardless of where you are or they are from. Absolutely miserable, you get the feeling they surf everywhere as if they’re being watched by talent scouts on the beach.

And, you, reader? What have been your experiences, good, bad and beautiful?

Artist renditions of Sam George and custom 9’0” Styrofoam/epoxy asymmetrical-quad SUP. Photo: Tom of Finland
Artist renditions of Sam George and custom 9’0” Styrofoam/epoxy asymmetrical-quad SUP. Photo: Tom of Finland

Preeminent surf voice Sam George shares peek into bold alternative lifestyle

"This man felt the most supreme pleasure..."

There is only one preeminent surf voice and it, of course, belongs to Sam George. The Inertia writer, thinker, former husband of Nia Peeples is our equivalent to Henry David Thoreau and, so, when he writes, we read and ponder. Now, generally George deals in highly philosophical bits like “getting to know the poster posse” or “death to secret spots.” His latest, “what is surfing?” no different, though provides a wild peek into an alternative lifestyle.

Let us put aside distractions, quiet our minds and meditate together:

I might add that at the time he was riding a heavy 9’6”, t-band stringer, log-style single-fin longboard, while I was on my thin, light, custom 9’0” Styrofoam/epoxy asymmetrical-quad SUP – equipment of choice, in both cases. In terms of accessories, he wore a urethane surf leash (no comment here) and I held a carbon fiber paddle. In terms of application, he took off at the top of the point and rode to the inside, turning and trimming through various sections, eventually kicking out at the end of the ride. I did the same. And yet, apparently because I paddled into my wave standing up, with the use of a paddle — because I rode the wave differently than he did — I was no longer surfing.

A custom 9’0” Styrofoam/epoxy asymmetrical-quad SUP?

Did we read that right?

Custom 9’0” Styrofoam/epoxy asymmetrical-quad SUP?

Few men are brave enough to thrust that far into the unexplored places. Fewer still willing to share. It’s what makes Sam George Sam George, though, and allows for life events like once marrying Nia Peeples. I’d image she is sad knowing that her ex is out there, stroking the seas on his 9’0” Styrofoam/epoxy asymmetrical-quad SUP. I’d also image she knows there was never a way to hold the Big Kahuna down.

Sam George was always destined to go where others dared not and, at the end, provides a quote about a man sharing the most supreme pleasure.