“Thank You SURFER Magazine”

7 12 2011

Last night I was up a little late, because last night I was running on Hawaii time.  The SURFER Magazine poll Awards went down and for the second year in a row they took place in the home of surfing on the North Shore of Oahu.  The awards are an annual reminder of whose opinions matter most in the world of surf, the fans.  Not the writers, or the judges or the bloggers or the surfers, the fans matter because without that base of people who follow surfing, whatever reason their’s might be there would be no industry.

The awards covered all aspects of the sport recognizing everyone from the best in freesurfing to the contest superheros we watch on tour.  As well there was a few tiny surfboards handed out for the film side of things and major achievements like the new “Andy Irons Break Through Award” which went to John John Florence and the “Lifetime Achievement Award” that saw SURFER founder John Severson recognized for his contribution to the lifestyle.

The thing I love most about surfing is it’s diversity.  By it’s very nature it is more freeing than other sports and therefore more free to interpret for the audience who takes it in.  Whether you want to see Kelly Slater win another world title as determined by judges with a predetermined set of rules and a potentially alternate agenda, or if you just love seeing Dane Reynolds piss around in head-high surf the sport is yours to enjoy.  And on this night all aspects of the game were recognized.

There were a few highlights from the night, Rabbit Kekai partying like he was 19, not 91 or the multiple curse words used on live TV were just a few.  Add to that the fact that there was a large amount of female surfers dressed to the 9’s and a handful of different liquor sponsors and just like that, we had ourselves a party!

But there was a plan for the night, and the show had to go on despite the fact that everyone in attendance would have been happy to just get crushed and watch wipe-outs all night.  The crowd eventually filtered in and the night got started with what seemed like an impromptu intro from Hawaii native Freddy P, and action sports emcee extraordinaire Sal “Al Makelela” Masekela.  All jokes aside, the awards themselves were pretty awesome.

For starters the night kicked off with Alex Gray winning the award for best barrel and accepting with a heartfelt tribute to his brother.

After that we got into the actual SURFER poll which breaks down the top surfers in the world as voted by the fans online, with social media and in the magazine itself.  The bottom of the list for the men was one of the most touching things I have ever watched as the Irons’ brother Bruce and Andy finished 10 and 9 respectively, with Bruce accepting both awards.  Of course this included the classic Bruce “I don’t give a F+CK! attititude”.

Then, just as I thought I was in for a touching night of speeches, tears and thank-yous, we got into the fun stuff, like Dane Reynolds making multiple appearances on stage and hot surfer chicks accepting awards and complaining about not being able to surf a contest on the North Shore…AND SO THEY SHOULD DAMMIT!  The surfers finished being counted and the drinks continued to flow.

The dancing went on late into the night and surf celebrity Bethany Hamilton even dropped a hint that she was looking to Dance With The Stars.  I won’t say I told you so if it happens, but you did hear it here first.

Here are the list of top pros and a nice little video paying tribute to the father of SURFER John Severson.  God I love this sport!

Men’s Top 10

10. Bruce Irons
9. Andy Irons
8. Jordy Smith
7. Joel Parkinson
6. Mick Fanning
5. Taj Burrow
4. Julian Wilson
3. Owen Wright
2. Dane Reynolds
1. Kelly Slater


Women’s Top 5

5. Sally Fitzgibbons
4. Alana Blanchard
3. Stephanie Gilmore
2. Coco Ho
1. Carissa Moore


-t





Long Live The King

3 11 2011

Yesterday Kelly Slater clinched his record 11th world title on the ASP World Tour.  He did so in pure Kelly fashion; catching a wave in the dying minutes of his round 3 heat and doing what only Kelly can do.  He linked together a set of solid turns, displacing water and spraying it high into the California skyline.  Everyone knew what happened on the face of that wave was solid, but it was not a guarantee that it would be enough to overtake the lead built up by Dan Ross earlier in the heat.  As the scores dropped and the tension rose, enough numbers were finally displayed that sentimental anticipation became mathematical reality.

King Kelly had once again done the impossible.  Defeating someone who was only a grom when he spent his first season on tour, but then again that is something that has been happening for years at this point.  So with that in mind let’s reflect for a moment, not only on what Kelly has done by winning 11 titles but the dominating fashion in which he has done so.

For starters, 11 titles let’s break that down.  I think Kelly’s girlfriend Kalani Miller’s post heat t-shirt said it best, Jordan + Kobe = Slater.  Like it or not, Kelly Slater has accomplished on his own what 2 of the greatest basketball icons of our time accomplished together.  Not only did it take 2 greats, competing at different times they both had great teams behind them.  The only thing Kelly had behind him on his road to 11 was a hungry pack of the world’s best up and coming surfers looking to dethrone a god.

There is literally a generation of surfers who have grown up with Kelly on top and have dreamt of nothing more than knocking him down.  Unlike Roger Federer, possibly the greatest tennis player of all time, this has been impossible.  RF, like Sampras and Borg before him had his time in the sun and then succumb to not only the pressure of being on top, but the next wave of young talent.

Slater has withstood wave after wave of this talent, and in the process defying not only time and age but also the mountain of pressure and expectation that comes with being the youngest, oldest and winning-est wave rider of all time.  With the exception of Andy Irons who was taken from us much to quickly last year the collective professional surf world has been but a blip on Kelly’s competitive radar for the last 20 years.  Sure there were years in the last 20 when he didn’t win the title (’91, ’93, ’99, ’00, ’01, ’02, ’03, ’04, ’07, ’09) but you need to factor into that his hiatus, the death of his father, and the inevitable hangover that comes after just 1 championship.

Think how rare it is to see ANY repeat champion, let alone a 5-peat.  In the history of pro sports (in North America) there has been 1 in each of the major sports.  The Celtics (59-66) won 8 straight, the Montreal Canadiens (56-60), and the New York Yankees (49-53).  And now, as I always do I will present my argument.  None of these came in the “common era” where athleticism is at at a much higher level and competitive sports in general have become much more of a profession.  By this I mean, I don’t believe the 1957 Montreal Canadiens were training every day, year round trying to defend their title. Oh yeah, and they were also only playing against 5 other teams.  The Celtics and Yankees also had the advantage of being able to eliminate the weak links on their team and grow their squad to properly adapt and accomplish the feats they did.

When it comes to individual athletes, NO ONE has ever done what Kelly has.  Jack Nicklaus spent just over 20 years on the PGA tour, but was far from being the undisputed best for more than half of those years.  And as a final piece to this short discussion I dare you to compare the physical aspects of these two sports.  For example, Occy would get absolutely dominated on the current tour, while golfers of advanced age still shoot low scores that would be competitive on the PGA.

Kelly Slater is the greatest athlete of all time.  If you want to dispute this fact with me, I welcome you to it.  Show me a pro athlete in any discipline who has dominated the highest level of their sport for more than half of their career that also spanned 2 decades.  In addition to the physical ability needed to compete for the “Greatest Athlete Of All Time” award the candidate must also be the face of their sport, like Jordan, Tiger, or Wayne Gretzky but they must also have taken a sport that was not well known prior to them arriving on the scene and making it an internationally recognized and respected discipline a la Tony Hawk.

Ok, go… Told you he is the greatest ever.

Call him what you want.  Ke11y, KS11, Robert Kelly Slater…
I am calling him The Greatest Ever.

 

Slater photos : Surfer Magazine





King Kelly Can Clinch : ASP World Tour Heads To SF

26 10 2011

There are two stops left on the ASP world tour, San Francisco this coming week and the world’s most popular surf contest in December on the North Shore.  The winter in Hawaii is watched by a shit ton of people to begin with, but a surf contest in San Fran can definitely not say the same thing.  Well, except this year.

Kelly Slater, 10x world champion and ambassador to the entire non-surfing world is poised to hold off Aussie rock star Owen Wright and take home his record 11th ASP title.  Kelly needs only a 9th place finish, which is equal to making the 5th round of the event something Kelly does in his sleep.  But here is the real question; while Kelly winning this unprecedented championship is a great thing, are the likely sloppy waves that will seen in the Bay Area the place for it to happen?

If Kelly took an early exit from the event and Owen had a strong showing, it would move the title race to Oahu and put more eyes on the event than we have seen since the Slater/Irons battle in 2003.

If, sometime in the next 2 weeks Kelly becomes Ke11y I will party like I won the title.  BUT if come December Kelly rides perfect pipe on his way to a title, further cementing his immortality it’ll be a fairy-tale ending to what is likely the greatest career of all time.  Let’s watch some Kelly!





I’m With The ASP On This One

8 09 2011

Let me just start by saying sorry to the people who will hate this article, the dedicated “Free surfers” and corpo haters of the surf world. I’m sorry, for the fact that more often than not I whole-heartedly agree with everything you guys feel and say. Most times I agree with these things because of the fact that I believe surfing to be the truest form of expression through sport, and the purest form of sport period.

I do however; disagree with the people who are backing Bobby Martinez and his comments made live, on-line at the Quik Pro NYC. Here is why: The ASP does not represent all surfing, so I agree with Jamie O on that one. What they do represent is the Association Of Surfing Professionals and its events, sponsors, ambassadors and athletes. The reason why this means anything is simple, they have the right to institute rules and regulations for their athletes to abide by.

This tour is theirs, and like it or not that pretty much means that they can do whatever they want. Ron Artest (Meta World Peace) had every right to get mad at a fan and fight him if that’s how he felt like expressing his opinion. Jon Daly had every right to be a chain-smoking alcoholic if being drunk and stinky were high on his priority list. John McEnroe had every right to express his disagreement with a chair umpire if he felt he was wronged. But at the end of the day what people need to realize is that it is also the opinion and duty of the governing bodies of their sports to deal with it how they feel is appropriate.

Getting back to the surf world, take again for example Jamie O’Brien. The dude hates on whoever he wants, surfs wherever he wants, says what he wants and basically just does whatever he wants. And Jamie will be the first person to tell you that the coolest thing about companies like Body Glove and Red Bull is that they let him be himself and don’t try and shape him into what they would like him to be.

My point is this, go ahead and walk away from the ASP if you don’t agree with what they are doing. Jamie did, Bruce did…kind of, Dane did…kind of. But if you really have a problem with it, don’t sit there and whine about it, just change it. If you want a competitive pro tour where you can do and say what you want then start one. Find the sponsors to back it, the carriers to televise it and the CORPORATIONS to supply the prize money and have at it. I swear I would be the first person to follow @BobbysTour.

The thing about it is that can never, ever happen. Professional sports leagues at their very root are built on structure and rules. It has to be that way for them to function and at the end of the day for anyone major to put their name on it. We can’t all say, “Fuck this” all the time, sometimes you need to mind your tongue and watch your words if you want a massive audience to listen to what you are saying.

I would love for a rogue; structure-less tour to exist that was simply run by surf purists who were down with f-bombs on the air and only surfing in spots where it was ideal every heat. But again that will never happen. The thing about action sports is that non-endemic sponsors and spectators are what drive it and if we want big prize purses at contests and massive Internet streaming deals, that’s just the way it has to be. The money and resources have to come from somewhere, and I sure can’t afford to shell out money left and right to see someone claim a wave with his middle finger (figuratively). Along the line somewhere if we are going to make surfing as big as it can be, we have to concede to the fact that the people paying for it, might not think that profanities strung together, forming a sentence make up a proper interview.

I’m not even disagreeing with Bobby saying the structure of pro surfing needs to change; I hate the one world rankings. What I’m saying is if you want to change the ASP itself, your opinion has a better chance of being heard if you voice it in a way that people are willing to listen to.





Franch-Eye’s View Vol. 2

11 03 2011

Better Surfing Makes For Better Life.

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I spent last week on a rollercoaster. There was 5 straight lay days at the Quik/Roxy Pro at Snapper Rocks, and each one toyed with my emotions more than the one that came before. What happened in the last few days of the holding period however, totally made amends for all of the sitting around waiting for surf.

The last few days of the contest were nothing short of game changing. The men’s contest was run when the waves were really pumping and the women ran when it was a little smaller, but still clean, lippy and fun. These small, rampy waves allowed for some of the most forward-thinking, progressive surfing I have ever seen. A handful of the sports most respected even went was far as to call it “The best women’s contest ever”

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Tyler Wright Just Being 16

I can’t argue that at all, mostly because the people saying this have been watching surfing longer than I have been alive. But also because this contest blew the doors off all that have come before it. It had all the makings of an epic surf contest, guys or girls. Fast surfing (they were clocking surfers and the top speed was a betty), progressive maneuvers (I saw more 360’s than a truck full of Xboxs) and neck-and-neck heats galore.

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The ladies were putting on a show from start to finish in this contest and a lot of spectators claimed that they were watching the surfing and not the bikinis, which is a new concept for sure. In another epic story line the kids are alright. The average age of the final for woman was 18.25 (I did the math), and if it helps with perspective Kelly Slater has been a CT surfer for 20 years. Needless to say I am going to be glued to the Women’s World Tour this year right along with the men.

What I really want to talk about though, is the guy’s contest. The sick thing for me is that when the comps are in Oz, they run in the afternoon and evening here so catching heats is pretty doable. As a result of this, I got to see THE BEST competitive surfing I have seen. Ever.

Epic shit was happening left, right and centre…But mostly right, cause that’s how the waves break at Snapper.

My jaw dropped in round 3 when Hawaiian Dusty Payne knocked off White Lightning, Mick Fanning, it kind of sucked because I think the jaw was dislocated it never really came back up. Right after Dusty took down Mick world number 2 Jordy Smith lost his round 4 heat and didn’t get to sit out round 5, that luxury went to American Brett Simpson, who is a relative unknown in the world of elite tour surfing, but happens to be on my fantasy team (giggle).

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Taj With A "Hack" Off The Top

To the dismay of my jaw, and my heart rate, things were just getting going. It was the middle of the afternoon at Snapper, but the fireworks were clearly visible. Round 5 heat 3 featured Taj Burrow who was the most on point surfer of the contest and Adriano De Souza who is a young, fiery assassino hailing from Brazil. De Souza started the heat with a few bangers, but made one fatal error…He did the finger guns toward Taj, faux pas. After that TB hacked the shit out of every wave he stood up on. Seriously it was like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In total the heat had 4 nine-point scores more than most contests… I was frothing.

At this point it was close to midnight and I had no plans of going to bed. Jordy and Parko were up next. It was a super close heat the whole time, but Joel Parkinson looked to have it wrapped up. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, and when Jordy took the heat on the last wave I had to change my boardies.

Lost in the moment, but never far from my thoughts was the fact that KS10 was, almost quietly making a case for elite tour victory number 46 and getting to hear everyone start rumbling about KS11.

Slates snuck past Ace Buchan in Rd. 5 and had a pretty breezy quarters and semis. Everyone at the event was primed and ready for the final. Slater vs. Burrow a duke out of drunken Aussie proportions. I don’t mean to sound rude with that comment, but the finals were on a Wednesday afternoon in the land down under, and the beach was overrun with spectators. It was a party.

Moving into the final, it was a coin toss as to who would take it, the best surfer of the event or the best surfer of all time. Even I was unsure, and Kelly is my boy! By this time, the interweb had locked on to the fact that shit was getting heavy and my connection started to slow. It was shitty, and so were the waves. If it wasn’t the world’s best in the water it would have looked amateur and two of the sports finest didn’t disappoint.

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Kelly kicked things off immediately with a five-point ride and Taj fired back a few minutes later with a three of his own. Kelly added a 5.27 and looked in control, until TB took off on a gem and threw down a 7.17 fuck me right?!?

Being the champ that he is, Kelly answered back with a 5.93, which was barely enough to earn the victory. The battle was well fought on both sides but it takes some thing special to K.O. the heavyweight king.

As I’m sure you can assume, this whole thing had me fired up and I have the ASP and it’s surfers to thank. You are all truly world-class athletes with the strength, stamina and skill set to rival any of the best in mainstream sports.

To the World Tour’s finest Kelly, Taj, Tiago Pires, and Jordy Smith as well as the ladies Tyler Wright, Laura Enever, Sally Fitzgibbons and Roxy Pro Champ Carissa Moore and the rest of the field for the men’s and ladies draw thank you. Thank you for some amazing days of top level surfing as well as thank you for once again showing me why this truly is the sport of kings.

Photos and Video Courtesy of ASP WORLD TOUR





Kelly Slater Owns…Kind Of

3 01 2011

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According to sources at The Sydney Morning Herald and ESPN Kelly Slater has turned down a rumoured $10m bonus for his 10th World Title. Instead choosing to take a 3% stake in Quiksilver which is a $740m business.

Why does this matter? Well, due to the fact that he is already the face of the brand appearances at key events on the WCT in 2011 will no doubt help with his interests in the company.

After clinching the title and surfing his way into the later rounds at Pipe it looked a little iffy as to whether or not KS would return for another season on tour. But if the rumours are true, look out for Kelly on the tour in 2011!

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Quiksilver also announced a charitable donation in Slater’s name of $10,000 to 10 charities of his choosing. The money was in no way attached to the bonuses he received, but rather coming on behalf of the Quiksilver Foundation which raises money through product sales and fundraising events.





Franch-Eye’s View

8 12 2010

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I am in the midst of one of the happiest times of my life. Hands down, it would be a stretch for things to be going any better at this point. All I see when I hit Facebook is how Jeff is fisting mediocrity on a daily basis, all my boys are doing their thing, getting what’s theirs and action sports is as it should be.

Mark McMorris is clawing his way to the top of the snowboard world, TPR has a new pro model deck and surfing is coming to peace with the passing of one of its most beloved sons AI.

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Today marked the start of the first ever “Billabong Pipe Masters In Memory Of Andy Irons”. Although this is not the first running of this contest it is the first since the sudden passing of Andy just over a month ago.

I have struggled with things a little since the events of early November just as anyone does when they lose such a huge influence, but today was different. December 8, 2010 has been on my calendar for a year now and today reminded me why in more ways than one.

Dudes were roaming the beach in AI apparel and there were memorials as far as the eye could see. Needless to say Andy is still on everyone’s mind this winter season and will be for years to come. But their are definitely positives to be thought of as well. With Parko almost a shoo in to take home the Triple Crown today was a day of celebration for sure.

With waves breaking all over the North Shore, like it does this time of year there were no shortage of toys for the best surfers in the world to play with. Bombs were dropping and bangers were thrown to the left, but more often to the right. The best thing at Pipe today might have been Backdoor.

The often less hyped right-hander and it’s buddy Off The Wall played host to some super clean, well-lipped little nugs for the boys to crush from start to finish.

I have been paying lots of attention to the Vans team during the last month or so and they are FIRING! Pat Gudauskas from our favorite city on Earth, San Clamente threw down a ridiculous frontside air on a right and grabbed it with both hands until right before he landed in perfect transition and hung on for one of the best waves of the contest so far.

The holding period started today so we have lots of time to enjoy the famous break and decide some things. One being a Triple Crown champ, another being Kelly’s finish at would could be his last serious contest but potentially the biggest… Who will take home the title at the first ever “Pipe Masters In Memory Of Andy Irons”?








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