Britt Merrick (left) Chas Smith (right, obvs) and David Lee Scales in the center.
Britt Merrick (left) Chas Smith (right, obvs) and David Lee Scales in the center.

Surf world cascades into pitched chaos as Chas Smith and Channel Islands’ Britt Merrick debate cultural value of the Grateful Dead

Do you love the Dead? Prepare to meet your demise.

So a little background for you, here. As you know, David Lee Scales and I get together weekly to discuss surf and its adjacency. Three of them ago, I noticed he was wearing a shirt that had a Grateful Dead-esque lightning bolt on it. Internally loathing that cursed band, I asked, “Is that a Grateful Dead shirt?” He replied, “No, It’s for Channel Islands’ new Happy Everyday surfboard.” Staring harder, I said, “That is a Grateful Dead lightning bolt.” He answered, “Maybe. Britt Merrick’s a Dead Head.”

And that is when I lost it, tearing into my loathe, demanding Britt come and face me in person while I tore down his hippie house.

My hatred for Uncle John’s Band came early. There I was, a young boy on the isolated Oregon coast discovering music on my own for the first time. My elementary school friends would some times bring cassettes to school bearing names like Mötley Crüe and Quiet Riot, Def Leppard and Twisted Sister.

Now, I wasn’t allowed to listen to these forbidden fruits but I imagined the sonic boom they must sound like. And then I stumbled up the Grateful Dead with its lightning bolt and its skull and I was certain they rocked harder than hard.

And so you can imagine my anticipation when I stumbled upon a Grateful Dead mix tape, a Walkman and a set of earphones. I clicked the lid shut, pressed play and….

…. had never been more stunned in my life.

That’s how the Grateful Dead sounded? Like endless hippie folk?

The utter disappointment was baked in that day and I was ready to break Britt Merrick with it. Did I or was I a ringer yet again? You be the judge. If he did beat me like a damned tambourine, though, I’m a perfect 0 – 3 in these debates and consistency is worth something.

Isn’t it?

Debate happens in first 30 mins. Pick a side.

Jerry Seinfeld (pictured) and the best local to ever do it, Fast Eddie Rothman (insert).
Jerry Seinfeld (pictured) and the best local to ever do it, Fast Eddie Rothman (insert).

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld blames chaos in world on death of hardcore surf localism

"We have no sense of hierarchy and as humans we don't really feel comfortable like that.”

Jerry Seinfeld has been making the rounds, these days, sparking headlines at each stop. After letting it slip that Howard Stern is not funny and that pro-Palestinian protestors are “so dumb,” the notable comedian opined on hardcore localism. As the well-informed surfer knows, the era of lineup enforcers is mostly a thing of the past. Ubiquitous cellular telephone cameras, cop calling as preferred form of defense, sue-happiness and the criminalization of hate have put and end to waxed windshields and vals being ordered to kick rocks far away from the beach.

The aforementioned surfers were both surprised but understanding, then, when Seinfeld blamed chaos in the world on localism’s demise. Appearing on the Bari Weiss podcast, the Unfrosted director opened by talking about “real men,” saying, “The other thing is as a man, I’ve always wanted to be a real man. I never made it, but I really thought when I was in that era — again, it was JFK, it was Muhammad Ali, it was Sean Connery, Howard Cosell, you can go all the way down there — that’s a real man. I want to be like that someday,” adding, “I miss a dominant masculinity. Yeah, I get the toxic, I get it, I get it. But still, I like a real man.”

He then opened up about lineup enforcers, sharing, “There’s another element there that I think is the key element [of the ‘60s], and that is an agreed-upon hierarchy, which I think is absolutely vaporized in today’s moment. I think that is why people lean on the horn and drive in the crazy way that they drive — because we have no sense of hierarchy and as humans we don’t really feel comfortable like that.”


Feel free to share them with the real men, and woman, below.

Filipe Toledo and Tahiti Pro winner Italo Ferreira, a study in contrasts.
Filipe Toledo and Tahiti Pro winner Italo Ferreira, a study in contrasts.

Calls for Filipe Toledo to relinquish Paris 2024 spot become a roar after Olympic gold medallist Italo Ferreira wins Tahiti Pro

He ain't  gonna win, so why go?

The byzantine selection process for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, slammed as “colossal failure” after Filipe Toledo was selected for Team Brazil over Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira, has, again, come under scrutiny following Italo’s win at the Tahiti Pro earlier today. 

In perfect six-to-ten-foot surf, 2019 world champ Italo Ferreira mowed through an on-fire Ramzi Boukhiam, fellow Brazilian Yago Dora and contest favourite John John Florence to win the prestigious event. 

In the starkest of contrast, one week ago Filipe Toledo, whose zero point heat total at Teahupoo and failure to score a meaningful wave in a heat against Kelly Slater and Nathan Hedge in 2022, is the stuff of legend, posted footage of an incomplete tube ride on a four-foot wave.

“Quick trip to Teahupoo with Team Brazil,” wrote an upbeat Toledo, failing to mention his grave disappointment at split town before the arrival of a ten-foot swell, which was enjoyed by teenagers and girls alike, as well as yesterday and today’s pits. 

Toledo, you’ll remember, quit the tour earlier this year after the tour opener at Pipeline. After an embarrassing 1.77 heat total in perfect six-foot barrels, Toledo withdrew from the event citing an unspecified illness.

Soon after, he withdrew from the tour entirely. 

Despite a third place in small surf at Teahupoo, Filipe Toledo remains unsuited to a wave whose code has now been accessed by half a dozen of the women surfers on tour. 

“Everybody’s scared of this wave, they just don’t talk about it,” he told the Australian press in 2023. “We just man up and try not to show any weakness with it. Of course there’s people who deal with the fear a lot better. There’s guys who have been surfing these waves their whole life and they know that feeling and how to control it a lot better.

“You have to be smart about it too. There are risks when you surf this wave and when you’ve already qualified for the finals, you think about these things.”

On any sort of level, it makes considerable sense for Filipe Toledo to shuck his Olympic spot for Italo Ferreira, a switcharoo that benefits both men. Italo gets to defend his gold medal and Filipe is saved the mind-fuck of melting down in front of a worldwide audience. 

He ain’t  gonna win, so why go?

In an ironic twist, it was against Ferreira in 2015 where Toledo suffered the ignominy of becoming one of only two surfers in pro surfing history to paddle in from a heat without a wave being caught. 

“Fail-wise, it was just beyond epic,” the surfing historian Matt Warshaw told BeachGrit. “And so very public… Filipe’s deal is un-spinnable. He isn’t ready for prime time at Teahupoo… I’m his biggest north-of-50 fan, and I feel sort of crushed by what I saw.” 

I see three options for Filipe.

He hands his ticket to Italo and is lauded for his patriotism, kindness etc. He charges. Or he goes, prays for no swell, and somehow, hopefully, slinks away from the Olympics with whatever is left of his reputation. 

Tell me: you’re Filipe Toledo. What do you do? 

Italo Ferreira wins Tahiti Pro.
"Job done," says Italo Ferreira, Tahiti Pro winner.

Re-animated Italo Ferreira beats John John Florence to win Tahiti Pro

Brilliant, horrifying, absolutely impossible to turn away from unless one happens to be named brave coward Filipe Toldeo.

Teahupo’o, or Alter Head, now, according to famed linguist Kaipo Guerrero, was the star of the day that may well have been the day of the 2024 World Surf League Championship Tour men’s season. Brilliant, horrifying, absolutely impossible to turn away from unless one happens to be named brave coward Filipe Toledo.

The Surfline forecast came true, WSL jinxing didn’t take hold until the very end and, at that very end, Italo Ferreira got the trinkets.

Posterity will celebrate the winner but there were so many moments worth remembering through the run.

Kelly Slater got gorgeously cocky in his quarterfinal loss to the “Rockin’ Moroccan” Ramzi Boukhaim, styling on a bomb before getting eaten whole but was otherwise vintage, especially when conjuring a score out of thin air in the round of 16. Boukhaim was a revelation both in the water and in front of the mic only coming undone in the semis.

Gabriel Medina strained Yeti and the World Surf League’s collaboration, almost winning two of the coveted YETI Tundras. John John Florence claimed that he was spitting up blood after a heavy wipeout, though the revelation was not chased by the commentary team nor mentioned again.

Alter Head revisited.

The heat that everyone wanted, John Florence versus Gabe Medina fizzled at the start, needing a restart, with the winner waiting to take on a 75% stoke-ed Italo Ferreira. Viewers were treated to more linguistic stylings until Medina went down on a tank, bloodying himself, smiling. Florence followed with a gaping 9.77. Basically a 10.00 if they hadn’t been outlawed moments earlier. His second wave, nothing spectacular, put Medina into a hard combination as opposed to the soft varietal.

Medina was the surfer of the day and let posterity remember that.

But Ferreira and Florence met at the end of the end of the road.

Florence took off first and got busted, Ferreira followed on a “wave of the day” according to Jesse Mendes who, somehow, became the lesser of evils over the course of the aforementioned one. Unfortunately, the broadcast missed Ferreira’s next channel igniter which, essentially, ended it for Florence before it even began for him.

Mana gives and mana takes, apparently.

Medina, though.

My goodness.

Oh wait. Florence just shot out of a wild one and almost undid himself via claim.

Never mind.

Full wrap from JP Currie tomorrow.

Mihimana Braye (pictured) taking scalp of World no. 1 Griffin Colapinto.
Mihimana Braye (pictured) taking scalp of World no. 1 Griffin Colapinto.

World’s no. 1 and 2 Griffin Colapinto and Jack Robinson fall in Tahiti Pro as Teahupo’o delivers wild show

"Surf contests need waves, good ones. When this happens, everything falls away but the surfing itself."

I watched Teahupo’o from the back of my van last night, absent from my family home. An absence that was unforced but not unnecessary.

I parked in a clearing by a river in a treasured area of woodland. My own personal oasis where sunlit boughs of hazel shimmer and you are lulled to sleep by the final throes of water tumbling from the high glens, before merging into itself in the main river.

When I started this gig I would stay up all night to watch southern hemisphere comps then begin writing immediately. But that approach isn’t sustainable without whisky and cocaine, and those are not sustainable habits.

And so now I like to mull things over for an hour or four, to swish up the dirt, and when it settles to see it all the clearer.

This morning I ran into the woods. The air was thick with the leaden hum of insects among the stillness of the unbroken day. Chaffinches wittered to each other among Sitka Spruce and Douglas Fir.

I moved into the undulations of the trail, hips swerving, shoulders dipping, mind beginning to blaze.

Wild thoughts. Unhinged fantasies. Reveries dripping and begging among the sap oozing pines.

I thought about Teahupo’o. I thought about Chris Cote.

I thought about the juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness.

Rhododendrons thickened, clambering and choking everything around them. Their invasiveness offset by their prettiness, a cerise dreamscape masking the tangled, strangling roots.

Originally imported from Asia in days of Victorian decadence, today they’re everywhere in Scotland, spread through the countryside like a poisonous confetti.

And I thought about how often we fall for beautiful, dangerous things.

I ran through a stretch of trail that winds among an old stand of Scots Pine. Many of them were dying. Rhododendrons clawed at them. Ashen, bark-stripped trunks screamed into a listless sky.

I turned this last image over in my mind as I ran, shaping the words to describe it like clay. I was consumed by reverie, flitting through a fantasy of my own design, tumbling through the beauty of it all like an astronaut without a ship.

And then, reader, I fell.

My feet disappeared from under me, swiped by a wet root, and for a moment I was weightless, before hitting the ground with some force.

I felt it was significant, this return to ground. A sign. Momentarily stunned, I recognised the inevitably of falling when trapped in the pursuit of beautiful things.

Beauty is deadly. Yet we will always chase it. It’s nature’s kill switch.

And once you understand this, all that’s left to do is weigh up if it’s worth it.

Is momentary bliss, fraught with danger, an acceptable trade for safe but enduring mundanity?

Those surfers at The End Of The Road, flinging themselves into the maw surely believe the answer is yes. The reward for commitment to one of those waves can only be theorised by the likes of me.

Both Jake Marshall and Cole Houshmand claimed they had ridden the waves of their life today. Young men they may be, but this should not lessen their claim.

There could be few complaints from anyone at Teahupo’o, once again exemplifying the lesson that hardly bears repeating: surf contests need waves, good ones. When this happens, everything falls away but the surfing itself.

Half of the eight men’s elimination heats were decided by less than a point.

Approaches to the heaving Pacific tubes varied from finesse to flagrant recklessness. For examples of the latter see Ramzi Boukhiam’s 9.13 against Liam O’Brien, and Cole Houshmand’s 9.57, both of which saw the men escape foamballs like they were fleeing the darkest depths of their souls.

For the finesse, see Yago Dora’s victory over Jack Robinson, who will surely be stewing at not going further here. The heat might have gone either way, but Dora sealed it late by taking off deeper than anyone had attempted to this point and threading a noticeably longer tube.

Liam O’Brien was similarly stylish in losing to Boukhiam. The margin between the two just 0.12 points. It was hair splitting between two committed surfers, which never feels entirely just.

The most assured victory of the day went to Barron Mamiya in his win over Matt McGilivray. Mamiya looked as comfortable as you might expect a Hawaiian Pipe specialist to be, notching his 16.83 heat total with his first two waves in the opening minutes of the heat. His rhythm was palpable, despite citing nerves in his post-heat interview.

But the jist of the day was very much blissed out gratitude. There was a sense that everyone involved with this Tour was relieved to see good waves for once.

For some, they were beautiful waves.

And even if the pursuit of beauty is reckless, or consequential, or even if it’s only temporary, to hold it in your hand, just for a moment, is surely worth it.