Jordy Smith, world title contender.
Fewer than a thousand points separate Ethan Ewing, Yago Dora and Jordy Smith in positions five, six and seven, respectively. (1330 points for making it past the opening round, remember.) | Photo: WSL

Middle-aged surf star Jordy Smith surges into unlikely world title contention!

"Jordy Smith hasn't paid heed to anything greater than Pokemon Go over the past two decades, but somehow at this unlikely point of his career, he’s right in the mix."

The only real surf fans in the world packed the beach at finals day in Saquarema, as they do every year.

Pundits, flustered with the prospect of presiding over an actual, real sporting event, found themselves grasping at words and air.

“Wow. Saquarema,” said Kaipo.

But to what, no-one was sure.

His tone was of a man landing from space and reading a road sign, but without wonder, excitement or question.

Strider, apropos of no segue that might indicate a question about oral sex or public masturbation, claimed, with his typical effervescence, that despite the crowds he “hadn’t seen one lewd act”.

(Somewhat ironically, it was he who would spunk furious superlatives all over the sand and crowd all day.)

The moral cleanliness of the beach at Saquarema was mirrored by some clean conditions in the water for finals day, and some entertaining enough surfing.

The four quarter-finals were mostly low-scoring, uneventful match-ups, aside from Yago Dora finding the best wave of the entire event to displace John Florence, and Medina not getting a score he probably should have at the buzzer, losing out to Griffin Colapinto.

Colapinto opened against Medina with six points for a single turn. Nice, unspectacular. But the heat was scrappy. Medina scratched throughout, finding nothing.

Almost at the buzzer, he took off looking for a mid-five.

A opening carve was followed by a consequential floater to flat landing. Surely it was the score? In front of a home crowd and at the death of a heat there seemed no greater certainty.

But Rio has never been kind to the son of Sao Sebastiao. The judges delivered Medina a foul-tasting 4.77 to chew on in the Saquarema sand.

“A lot of good things happening for Gabe,” said Joe Turpel. “His name’s Gabriel Medina, for one.”

On the opposite side, Dora’s defeat of Florence laid further waste to Medina’s immediate top five aspirations.

Yago was comfortable, but his 9.17 was given mostly by virtue of being in the right place at the right moment for a rare, long, clean left.

“That was like Mundaka,” said Turpel, with a level of embellishment that bordered on criminal negligence.

It was not Mundaka. But it was still the best wave that had rolled through in three days.

But that’s how it goes sometimes.

In his post-heat interview, Dora acknowledged that cosmic forces beyond our ken were at work, and he knew it.

“That was the one I was waiting for in El Salvador,” he said, “and it came here.”

It spoke to his rhythm and focus. He’d never left the zone he found at the last event, the state that elevated him skyward and to the final at Punta Roca. He was still on the type of run a man might find himself in once or twice in a lifetime if he pays heed to the cosmos.

I don’t imagine Jordy Smith has paid heed to anything greater than Pokemon Go over the past two decades, but somehow at this unlikely point of his career, he’s right in the mix.

Smith held the highest score of an 8.40 for much of his semi final match up with Yago Dora, but Dora had a high seven and a backup and looked comfortable.


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“Too young, too dynamic, too Brazilian,” read my notes.

Then just at the moment of notation Jordy exploded into a righthander, double grab, small rotation, then satisfactory finish. The 5.83 awarded was enough to take the lead, but looked like an oddly low score in context.

Potential controversy was quickly soused by Dora. Almost as soon as Jordy’s score landed he took off on a left, raced towards the closeout on his forehand, pump, pump, bang! He exploded out of the lip with a clean rotation. In the air he’d needed a mid-six. He greased the landing for a 7.97.

Jordy didn’t even get another attempt before Yago slammed the door. His 9.33 for one torqued opening carve, followed by a stylish but relatively forgettable layback on the end section was grossly overscored. But it didn’t really matter.

In the opposite semi, Italo despatched Griffin Colapinto. His clean backside rotation early in the heat spoke to his rhythm. Nine points and no arguments.

Colapinto gave a good account of himself, but his pocket sevens were not enough to turn over Ferreira’s early chip lead.

It was noted during this heat these men had only met previously on two occasions.

Is not there something vastly wrong with the structure of a sports league if two stars have only met twice in the seven years they’ve shared as full-time WCT competitors?

Apart from the very simple premise of pitting talent against talent, this sort of error robs us of potential rivalries and narrative arcs that other sports have.

But at least in Saquarema the Brazilian fans make it seem legitimate.

And so the final, between Italo Ferreira and Yago Dora, delighted an eager, partisan crowd in a high state of arousal.

Yet although the men in the water shared a flag, they had little in common in terms of demeanour or style.

Italo, a coiled explosion of foam and spray, set on a hair trigger. An intense, squat muscularity, like a bull terrier. His emotions swing wildly, like water sloshing in a bucket. You wouldn’t fight him. He spits tears both in fury and joy, and his rawness can’t help but be admired.

For Italo, only success and death are final.

Yago Dora, by contrast, is a languid eel of a surfer. He floats from arc to carve to air as if suspended by invisible thread. Feet narrowed, he glides through life with a calm mind and ungodly talent that forms a warm current only a few are carried by.

Yago’s surfing is agnostic to criticism.

These two men held the four highest scores of the event, a brace of nines apiece. But as is often the way when the two best surfers of a competition meet at a critical point, the realisation of the battle was underwhelming.

It was a mere and perhaps controversial seven-point ride for Ferreira that proved decisive in a one-sided affair, bereft of waves.

Ferreira’s seven, the fatal blow struck early, was mundane, especially by his standards. Back to back forced reverses on a small wave. A wave that will register in no-one’s memory.

We never got to see Italo at his raging best, cannonballing through air and spray.

Nor did we see Dora, raking the sky with wings in stoop.

With twenty minutes gone, Yago had attempted just one wave. 1.13 points.

In the end, the clear emotion of Italo’s victory was enough for a satisfactory conclusion. It’s always gratifying to see a man so close to the edge in service of our entertainment.

John Florence sits as number one and will likely remain there until Trestles.

Griffin sits solidly behind, and can hold his own at both comps remaining.

Italo vaults into the top five, level on points with Jack Robinson. Jack could win in Fiji, but Italo is a monumentally greater adversary at Trestles.

Fewer than a thousand points separate Ethan Ewing, Yago Dora and Jordy Smith in positions five, six and seven, respectively. (1330 points for making it past the opening round, remember.)

Gabriel Medina rounds out the top five threats in eighth, but will need the men above him to falter in Fiji, and/or make at least the semi final.

If this was proper sports reporting, I might be inclined to say there’s everything to play for.

But since this is surfing, suffice to say:

Wow. Surfing.

Italo Ferreira (pictured) feeling it.
Italo Ferreira (pictured) feeling it.

Ordained John John Florence title in sudden jeopardy as raging Italo Ferreira lurches into World Surf League top five

Bonsoir, John John?

Last week, a third John John Florence professional surfing title seemed all but ordained. After two years of Filipe Toledo dominance, surf fans thrilled at the thought of a champion who is not terrified by bigger lefts. Some had even begun making commemorative plates in order to celebrate the day.

Conventional wisdom, and loud rumor, has Florence, 31, retiring at year’s end. A hat trick of trophies the storybook ending that surf fans need what with Kelly Slater refusing decorum and forcing everyone to watch him grow ancient on the world stage a la Joe Biden.

Sitting high atop the leaderboard, with only two events to go, the North Shore local would have only had to beat either Ethan Ewing, Jordy Smith, Jack Robinson or Griffin Colapinto one time in two tries at Lower Trestles and that would be that.

But then came the Rio Pro.

Italo Ferreira had gotten off to a clunky start at the season’s opening Pro Pipeline, bowing out in the first round. Poor results in Portugal, Bells and Maggie River had him counted out. He seemed off. Wacky. Then came wins in Tahiti and Brazil and boom.


A good performance in Cloudbreak, the final regular event of the season, could push Ferreira into the third, 0r even second, slot and surf fans now must assume that the title is very much in his grasp. Of all the surfers on tour, the 31-year-olds Red Bull fueled kinetic energy could easily bulldoze Florence’s more laconic stylings in San Clemente.

Attention will momentarily turn to the Olympics, of course, and whether Filipe Toledo will refuse to paddle in front of Colin Jost, bringing shame to an entire nation. Not being on the Brazilian team must irk Ferreira greatly, which could be put into the rage shaker and poured out upon Florence’s blonde head.

Wild times.

Wild times indeed.

Celebrate surf god Tom Curren’s sixtieth birthday with his goofy all-time classic film Free Scrubber

In an era where everybody has a desire for the superficial, Tom Curren reminds us of individualism, variety and dissent. 

Three years ago, Tom Roland Curren, the three-time world surfing champion, who was unbeatable for most of his carer and who popularised the modern Fish, released an unlikely surf movie hit called Free Scrubber. 

The film, a one-of-a-kind ride filmed by Andy Potts and whipped into a masterpiece by comic creators Vaughan Blakey and Nick Pollet, was built around Tom Curren’s three-month Mexican vacay in 2020, the three-time world champ trapped across the border as COVID hit and the US shut its doors to the world.

Curren, then fifty-seven, came equipped with a portable electric piano that could be played on the beach, fishing equipment and a flotilla of surfboards.

Empty waves and the maestro of minimalism who influenced a generation of American surfers including the noted Kelly Slater, himself world champion surfer of renown. 

What could go right? Everything! 

The film is frank, revealing, intimate. Tom Curren’s speech is sometimes incomprehensible as his words are slurred by his extravagant diction, but his surfing is patient, aggressive and with enough magic to still amaze people.

“On a wave he’s ageless,” said Vaughan. “The fact that he’s not looking for big sections to hit is easy on the eye. It’s not all about the hammers. You’re not waiting for him to do something. He’s just riding waves.”

Well, this July 3, which is a couple of days away, Tom Curren turns sixty years old, proof that time waits for no man except maybe Tom Curren.

In an era where everybody has a desire for the superficial, Curren reminds us of of individualism, variety and dissent. 

Happy birthday old man!

Courtney Conlogue doing her thang.
Courtney Conlogue doing her thang.

Orange County surfers fume after famous first daughter Courtney Conlogue claims hated Los Angeles a “surfers’ paradise”

"El Porto is often crowded with local surfers due to its consistent waves with above-average quality and height."

I am currently in Paris, France where the country’s further right continues to stun pundits with victory after victory. Round one of Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron’s snap elections were carried out today with more bummer news for progressives and televisions everywhere are flashing much talking heads discussing Marine Le Pen, Greg LeMond and other Pepe Le Pews. None, though, are as furious as Orange County, California surfers who, also today, were forced to read first daughter Courtney Conlogue’s utter betrayal.

Those who live behind the curtain woke up to an extremely rude shock. Conlouge’s Santa Ana bonafides need no burnishing. The longtime professional surfer an orange flavored icon. But how did she repay her people?

This way, according to the august BBC:

“LA is a surfer’s paradise,” says Conlogue, who grew up in nearby Orange County and learned the fundamentals of surfing from her father when she was just four years old. “The county has every type of wave you might be looking for, whether it’s a soft beginner’s beach break, point breaks with their long peelers or powerful reef breaks that churn out circular barrel waves. With the Pacific Coast Highway running adjacent to the beaches, part of the fun of surfing here is hunting down the perfect place to spontaneously pull up and dive in.”

Later adding the best beginner spot around is Erik Logan’s Mannhattan Beach.


Part of northernmost Manhattan Beach, El Porto is one of LA’s most-surfed waves for good reason. “The ocean here forms a beach break so it’s better for beginners who can find their feet in smaller and less-intimidating waves,” says Conlogue.
A stone’s throw from Los Angeles International Airport, El Porto is often crowded with local surfers due to its consistent waves with above-average quality and height.

Above-average quality and height?


Giant sads spreading from Downey to San Clemente.

Jet lag just hit hard.

So more as this story develops.

Sublime redux. Ready to set it off.
Sublime redux. Ready to set it off.

World Surf League gagging for another riot as Sublime set to reggae rock US Open of Surfing

"What's that I see in Huntington Beach??!!"

Chain wallet wearers and those who iron the brims of their baseball caps rejoiced, yesterday, thrusting broken knuckled fists into the heated valley air as it was announced that Sublime will headline the US Open of Surfing’s musical offering on August 3rd.

The World Surf League, which sanctions the yearly bacchanal wherein professional surfers bounce up and down upon their boards, explained the formerly popular band features, “original members Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh, with Jakob Nowell, son of the late Bradley Nowell, as front man.” The Global Home of Surfing added, “special guest Makua Rothman is also set to perform. The intimate, one-night show will be hosted on the sand at the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier.”

Whilst Rothman’s musical stylings will certainly be enjoyed, the intimacy might be lightly overshadowed by the riot that will almost certainly be taking place.

Rioting and the US Open have become synonymous over the years, bashing windows, flipping portable potties, wearing bandanas and fighting all as much a part of the show as foam climbs. Usually, the riot needs some music in order to kick it off though. Modest Mouse got the last one going in 2014.

Ten years on, riot aficionados are hoping that Sublime’s ska punk slash reggae rock stylings will be more conducive to a longer and larger brawl.

A run on Dickies heavy weight shorts expected.

Tickets for the show will be available for pre-sale beginning Friday, June 28, at 8:00 a.m. PDT using the password: feellikethat.

The general on-sale will open on Sunday, June 30, at 8:00 a.m. PDT.

“What’s that I see in Huntington Beach??!! Sun, Surf, and Sublime at the US Open! Come claim your spot and be a part of history,” Sublime drummer Bud Gaugh declared, leaving out “shivaree” though heavily implying it.