The Ten Biggest Things from Surfing and the Internet in 2019
COASTALWATCH | THIS WEEK IN SURFING
This Year In Surfing, 2019
Hey everybody, how are you? Are you well? Have you done all your Christmas shopping yet? No? Sheeesh, me neither. Stressful, isn't it? Hey so this column was meant to go up on Friday just like This Week In Surfing always does, but, as it does sometimes, life got in the way. I'm sorry about that. Anyway, this here is the 51st This Week In Surfing column/blog/listicle/redundant piece of surf madness for the year. Can you believe that there's been that much surfing on the internet? Ten things, every week, all year? It's too much in my opinion, there's too much of everything on the Internet, most of all, there's too much internet on the internet. In any case... this week we're going to take a moment to countdown the biggest surf things on the internet that happened in 2019 on the internet.
Like I said when we did this last year, it should be noted that this list is the work of one person, who consulted no-one before hitting publish, so it's probably missing something giganticly major (like the Red Bull Shippies event, or surfers making Olympic teams, or Kelly Slater continuing to just go on being Kelly Slater, which is crazy), so don't hesitate to hurl hate and vitriol in the comments! Thanks!
Before We Get Started: Sunny Garcia's Ongoing Recovery and the Loss of Baddy Treloar
Given Sunny Garcia's ongoing condition, and given this column is most of the time terribly silly, I didn't want to put these two stories in a trivial ranked and numbered list, but to omit it completely in a piece about the biggest stories of the year would be wrong also.
In late April this year the surfing world was rocked with the news that 2000 World Champion Sunny Garcia was in an intensive care unit and fighting for his life. Sunny had battled publicly with depression over the last decade.
The last update we heard on Sunny's condition was in September when Janae Twisselman, a friend of the family who helped with the GoFundme campaign set up to support Sunny's recovery, gave further details in an interview with the Inertia, stating that he has said a few words and is in daily physical, speech, and ocupational therapy.
You can support Sunny's recovery by donating to the GoFundMe here.
(If you or anyone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit the Lifeline website: https://www.lifeline.org.au)
And Baddy Treloar, a star and legend of Australia's greatest ever surf film Morning of the Earth sadly passed away in 2019 after reportedly suffering a heart attack on the beach at Angourie in March.
Celebrated surf writer and author Tim Baker wrote a beautiful piece remembering Baddy, and I can't recommend enough that you give it a read.
10. Jack Robinson's Clutch Sunset Performance
Every now and then a performance comes along that is so clearly head and shoulders above that of the immediate competition that it needs to be singled out and remembered. This year, one of those performances was Jack Robinson's domination of the QS 10,000 at Sunset for the Vans World Cup of Surfing – winning the event, easily, and qualifying for the CT in one swoop. Don't be fooled by the fact that the Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset is a QS and not a CT – a Sunset win is about as prestigious and legendary as surfing comps can get. To get your name on the trophy is a special thing. To win it the way that Jack did, was quite simply iconic.
Throw on top of that the lifetime of expectations not yet reached that sat upon his shoulders – the once teen prodigy, the once-considered second comong of John... Jack faced the biggest moment of his career that day and he seemed to relish every damn second of it. It was legendary.
Also, I need to throw a shout out to Isabella Nichols for claiming the women's QS in a canter, Champion! Let's go 2020!
9. Kelly Slater and the Ain't That Swell Podcast
This one coming in at number nine is a little biased (moreso than normal) because I was in the room... but I daresay every single person that was there will attest to just how signifcant an event this was. Surf culture's leading podcast, Ain't That Swell brought their Internet show to the real world in 2019, selling out shows up and down Australia's east coast. Its peak moment was the episode they recorded at Torquay Bowls Club with Kelly Slater and Mark Occhilupo over Easter.
Kelly Slater sat in that room amongst drunk, stoked out surf fans of Surf Coast Vicco for three hours and gave the most personal and relaxed talk-story experience of all time – a candid Kelly Slater like we've never seen over his 30-plus year career as the World's best and most famous surfer. Jokes and impressions and insights and heartfelt moments, everyone in the room felt like they'd been a part of something incredibly special. It was the talk of Torquay the following day, and its the high water mark for surfing podcasts in the medium's history (apart from that time that a guy wrote to me that he wanted to fight me, more than once, because I said on my defunct poddy that women should get equal prizemoney, that's my personal winner).
8. John John Florence's Injury Changed The Year Dramatically
John John Florence was on an all-time tear in the first part of the 2019 WSL Championship Tour season. Out of four events, he had two wins, a semi-final finish and a throwaway 17th. In Brazil, the fifth event of the year, he was headed into the quarters and pretty well had an unasaillable World Title lead in front of him – especially considering the blue ribbon events of Tehaupo'o, Pipe and J-Bay were still ahead of him – when he buckled his knee.
At the time of the injury, Florence told the WSL:
“I had a ton of speed on my last wave and I was going to do a turn and it was kind of breaking already and so I just tried to do a fly away, but the wave broke on my back leg and buckled the same knee I injured last year...It just got tweaked and I was in a little bit of pain. It’s super powerful out there right now and I get really excited to do airs, so in my head I just felt like I should leave the water and go rest it and try to make sure it’s all good. I’m going to get it looked at and see how it feels tomorrow.”
When it happened, eventual World Champ Italo Ferreira had one win, two quarter final finishes, and two 17ths. World Title contender Gabriel Medina was faring even worse with three quarter-final finishes and two 17ths. John John, to be clear, was smoking them.
The season-ending injury was a re-occurence of Florence's 2018 ACL injury he picked up while freesurfing Keramas after the Oakley Bali Pro. For the second year in a row, it was an injury that ended his campaign for a third World Title.
I'd never be the kind of dude who states that whoever won this year's title gets an asterisk next to their name – injury management is just as important as heat strategy, (I mean, that's half the reason Kelly is an 11 time World Champ, right? It's part of the game) – but it can not be denied just how impactful this moment was in the way 2019 played out.
7. Web Clips Weren't Great This Year, But One of These Was the Year's Best – I Vote Noa
The best clip of 2019 game is really between Craig Anderson, Creed McTaggart and Noa Deane... the interesting thing to note is that none of these clips (except for Creed's maybe, that goes close) marks a performance high water mark in the careers of any of these surfers – meaning, that if the best clip of the year isn't even the best clip that that surfer has, that it hasnt been a great year for clips. Is the freesurf clip dying? And in its place the YouTube vlog reigning supreme? Call me old and square, but I'm not into that. For my two cents, Noa Deane's (by Mikey Mallalieu) is the clip of the year. Surfer Magazine reckons it was Craig Anderson's (by Kai Neville). Cool!
Here's what I wrote on Noa's clip at the time:
The professional freesurf superstar is a dying breed, dying artform. In the post Modern Collective era, they hardly even exist and are instead evolving slowly into a weird form of surfer/YouTube Star/Content Creator. Necessity is the mother of invention, I suppose. Necessity in this case being paid to surf for a living, and invention being creating weekly YouTube videos where the surfer describes every single thing they do in their never-ending day to day existence. Noa Deane, however, is very much a remaining master of the millenial form – a 2019 version of a Dane Reynolds-like performance, he's going harder, faster, higher and surfing with more fury in this edit than anyone else we've seen in 2019 (I think, hit me with an alternative?), and his longtime edit partner Mikey Mallalieu is serving it with the perfect digital palate in this exceptional clip. RU.BU 994 is what a perfect surfing edit looks like in 2019. Bravo, bravo, bravo.
Here's what I wrote on Ando's clip at the time:
This could be the best surf movie of 2019 so far. Since Craig Anderson dropped off Quiksilver in 2015 – to eventually work with his and Dane Reynolds' surf/skate brand Former – we haven't seen nearly as much from the stylish goofy-foot out of Newcastle. That sort of thing seems to happen when you're no longer being pushed by a giant brand with a traditional marketing budget that want to get their return on investment (Kai Neville not having released a major surf movie in a while has played a factor also). But just 'cause we haven't seen Craig as much doesn't mean he still isn't one of the most stylish freesurfers of this or any other generation. The Quieter You Are The More You Can Hear is certainly proof of that. Is it the best surf movie of 2019? That probably depends on your palate for Kai Neville's penchant for never settling for the norm. Either way, it's certainly beautiful. Craig Anderson forever!
Here's what I wrote about Creed's clip at the time:
The fourth installment of Globe's excellent Cult of Freedom series has kept us waiting. I'm not counting, but I think it's been a year?! That's far too long. However, Globe's auteur filmmaker Joe G focussing on the enigmatic West Aussie freesurf star and all around sweetheart Creed McTaggart has been worth the wait. This is nine and a half minutes of modern surf-internet A-grade excellence right here. Enjoy:
6. Bells Was Massive, All Time, and John John Was Out of this World
This Easter saw an all time Bells year for the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach that ended up with eventual World Champ Italo Ferreira and eventual Bells Champ John John Florence both getting washed all the way through the Bells line-up and over, OVER, the Winkipop Button on the second last day of the event. That is proper heavy shit... I got up at 4am and drove to the event in the dark for this day. I haven't got up at 4am for anything in my life, ever. And it was worth it. Seeing John John Florence take to giant Bells walls, live, was like being an extra at the battle of Helms Deep. Fantastical history, and awesome. Sean Doherty's story from the day – The Seventh Circle of Bells – is well worth revisiting.
5. Tropical Cyclone Oma
When the stars align, the maps confirm, and the banks stay put – there's no other show like a tropical cyclone spinning off Australia's Gold Coast – home to thousands of talented surfers and kilometres of epic righthand points. This year, in February, those stars did align and Tropical Cyclone Oma delivered. It's amazing how these things never seem to happen within WSL event windows, right?
4. Steph's Perfect Wave
One of the best things in sport is when a single moment encapsulates a much larger story of greatness. That happened this year with Steph Gilmore's ten point ride at Keramas on her way to victory at the Corona Bali Protected.
There's so much packed into this single wave of Steph's – about her approach to surfing, about her style and grace and poise and positioning, about her ability to lift above when waves are perfect, about her standing as one of world surfing's most stylish surfers in history while simultaneously expressing that in the strict and conservative confines of a judged surfing competition. It was perfect.
The wave, a smidge over 15 seconds long, compelled Nick Carroll to write 700 words in his piece – Just Hang On A Minute – and it was wonderful.
3. The Men's World Title Came Down To the Final Heat
You. Love. To. See. It.
In 2019 we were treated to a shooting star, lightning caught in a bottle moment of elite competitive surfing – the World Title came down to the final heat of the year, between those very two surfers. The winner of the heat would win the World Title. Dream shit.
On top of that, it was, of course, at the freaking Pipe Masters. Aaaaaaaaahhhhh!
Not since Andy Irons versus Kelly Slater way back in 2003 has a World Title come down to the last single heat of the year. In 2019 it was Italo Ferreire and Gabriel Medina surfing their way to a World Title final.
If value is determined by supply and demand – where demand in this case is: ah yeah we want a World Champ determined at the final at Pipe in the last heat of the year more than ANYTHING – and supply is: yeah this pretty well never ever ever happens – then this is the most valuable thing that can happen in the sport of surfing. Period.
The only downside is that Mick Fanning wasn't in it. If that had happened, I'm not sure I'd ever recover.
2. Australia Got Wave Pools
Perhaps a little high on the list for some, but I'm not sure it can be overstated just how significant a shift in surfing history the arrival of wave pools in Australia may be. Remember those t-shirts, the "this is the future, where's my jetpack?" t-shirts? This is that, but for surfing. For the first time ever, the Australian surfing public can purchase man made proper-surfable waves, specifically at Melbourne's URBNSurf pool out near the airport. While it hasn't opened to the public just yet, ticket sales for the opening have, and those surfs are iminnent. The build itself brings surfing wave pools out of the fantasy world of professional surfers, millionaires and industry insiders surfing perfection somewhere on the other side of the panet, and places it in the reality of the everyday Australian. That's crazy.
URBNSurf wasn't the only pool to make waves (intended, sorry) in Aus this year either with Surf Lakes' steam punk, Wild Wild West looking machine pumping out barrels for their test facility out near Rockhampton in Queensland this year too.
There's no Kelly pool here yet, no Greg Webber pool either – but even still, it's been a landmark year in surfing's space race era.
1. The Surfing Community Came Together In Historic Number For Protest
Hands down, the Fight For The Bight has been the most significant story in Austalian surfing in 2019. With the threat of a Norwegian oil giant drilling in the Great Australian Bight, the Australian surf community came together for a series of paddle out protests to express our fears, anxieties and concerns about the proposal. On Saturday November 23, a second day of paddle outs went ahead, called the national day of action in the Fight for The Bight. It resulted in over 60 separate paddle outs participated in by an estimate of over 20,000 surfers. It's the single greatest coming together of surfers over an issue we've ever seen. Sean Doherty, who has been instrumental in getting traction for this issue wrote a great piece about that day, a tremendously proud one to be an Australian surfer.
Unfortunately, he also had to write another great piece just last week about Equinor getting the go-ahead to begin their exploratory drilling.
I'll leave you with two seperate lines from those stories, the first from the national day of action:
At a time when great parts of the world are being divided for political gain and profit, of all people surfers have actually found a way to come together and take a lead.
And the final, a quote from Heath Joske in Sean's piece last week:
"This is a long way from being done. A long way. There’s way too much at stake here to roll over and let this bullshit just happen.”
I just wanted to once again shout out Pat Grant's story – The Vanishing Coast – that I think is the best piece of Australian surf culture put out in 2019. It's beautiful.
And that was this year in surfing. Have a safe and happy Christmas everybody. See you next week for the This Decade In Surfing, oooof.
The Fight For the Bight Has Been Won!
The first surf comp in an Aussie pool, like, ever?
The Fight For the Bight Has Been Won!
The Fight For the Bight Has Been Won!
The first surf comp in an Aussie pool, like, ever?
Standout Sessions: Crewsy, Macy Callaghan, Malia Manuel on the tear!
This Week In Surfing: Ten Things from Surfing & the Internet on the Week That Was February 21, 2020
You gotta see this!
There's more late summer goodness in the forecast this weekend.