Mama Nature has a sense of humour. This much we know. With much bagging of the WSL going on after not exactly pumping surf the first two events the Margaret River event has opened with a day of mental waves… Here’s the official version:
MARGARET RIVER, Western Australia (Wednesday, April 15, 2015) – The Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, the third stop on the Samsung Galaxy World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), got underway today and the opening 7 heats of Men’s Round 1 saw the world’s best surfers tackling one of the world’s most challenging and infamous waves, The Box. After a morning of incredible action and terrifying wipeouts competition continued at Margaret River’s Main Break with the remaining heats of Round 1.
John John Florence (HAW), who won the Margaret River Qualifying Series event in 2012, opened the day’s competition with a 7.83 for his first wave. Florence threw himself over the ledge and demonstrated his skill and commitment to take a convincing Round 1 heat win. Despite some big wipeouts Florence maintained his charging attitude to secure his place in Round 3, easily defeating Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) and Dusty Payne (HAW).
“When we got down here this morning we saw some really good waves,” said Florence. “There’s an end step, which makes it really challenging. It’s hard to pick the right waves and it’s really gnarly if you don’t. It’s definitely scary but I’m so stoked because it’s fun to surf some clean, bigger waves and amazing to get barrelled at The Box.”
Fellow Hawaiian Sebastian Zietz (HAW) found one of the morning’s best barrel rides, scoring an excellent 9.23 (out of a possible 10) and defeating Adriano de Souza (BRA) and C.J. Hobgood (USA) to earn a pass directly to Round 3.
“Adriano (de Souza) got off to a great start — I saw his first wave and it was mental,” Zietz said. “I just kept catching waves, you never know what’s going to come your way out there. Then that one came my way, I just stood tall in the first section and then I thought I was gone and I somehow made it.”
Kelly Slater (USA), the 11-time World Champion, won his heat comfortably by charging fearlessly on multiple waves. Despite relatively low scores, with just a 4.50 and a 3.70 (each out of a possible 10), Slater delivered some amazing surfing in waves of consequence, putting himself on the line. Slater defeated Kai Otton (AUS) and rookie Ricardo Christie (NZL) who will surf again in elimination Round 2.
“It’s fun and exciting out here today,” Slater said. “I didn’t come out for an early surf and when John John (Florence) came in after his heat he said it was gnarly so I was excited. I fell on those two waves and if I watch the highlights I’m going to watch the ones I fell on, those were insane.”
Three-time World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) took to the water wearing the Jeep leader jersey following his win last week at Bells Beach and survived a tough heat against dangerous local surfer and trials winner Jay Davies (AUS) and Matt Wilkinson (AUS). Fanning opened early with an excellent 8.63 to control the heat and Davies challenged with a 7.50. Left needing a 6.50 to take the lead Davies couldn’t find the score and will face Gabriel Medina (BRA) in a highly-anticipated Round 2 match-up while Fanning moves through to Round 3. Medina lost his Round 1 heat earlier in the day to Freddy Patacchia Jr. (HAW).
“If you think it’s good you just have to take off and hold on,” Fanning said. “It was pretty wild and it’s big and ugly out there, it’s radical but fun. I took a wave that I thought was going to be a good one but it just crumbled and I hit a boil and creased the board so I changed it out.”
Josh Kerr (AUS), 2014 Drug Aware Margaret River Pro runner-up, took one of the most impressive wipeouts of the day, demonstrating just how hard this wave is to ride. Over shallow reef Kerr was launched head first off his board inside the barrel and luckily wasn’t hurt. Shaken but uninjured Kerr wasn’t able to fully recover and placed second in the heat, which see’s him relegated to surf again in elimination Round 2. Fellow Australian Adrian Buchan (AUS) won the heat thanks to an outstanding 9.53 ride, the highest single-wave score of Round 1, and the performance of the day.
“It was dangerous out there!” Buchan said. “That one let me in behind the section, ironically the deeper you are, the safer you are a lot of the time. There was a lot of lumps and bumps and I slipped sideways but somehow managed to hang on. I had one really big set that I had to bail my board on and luckily there wasn’t a wave behind because I was in a really bad position. The fans want to see us in those gnarly waves and that’s what we do.”
“The worst wipeout for me was actually the first one, rather than the one I scorpioned on,” said Kerr. “I fell and I was held down for a while so I was pretty out of breath for the rest of the heat. I tried to get nice and deep but I didn’t handle the second section, went down and landed straight on the reef.”
After a short break action continued at Margaret River’s Main Break with the remaining five heats of Round 1 where Miguel Pupo (BRA), Jeremy Flores (FRA), Joel Parkinson (AUS), Michel Bourez (PYF) and Julian Wilson (AUS) won through their match-ups to earn a pass directly to Round 3.
Flores took out local favorite Taj Burrow (AUS) and Bede Durbidge (AUS) with a solid 15.00 heat total. With three Pipe Masters out in the lineup competition was fierce but an excellent 8.50 for Flores secured his victory and a place in Round 3.
“I’m just trying to have fun and enjoy everything,” said Flores. “Conditions this year have been tough but this is pretty crazy. I knew it was going to be a tough heat out here today but I’m happy with my performance. I haven’t surfed on big boards since Hawaii so it definitely felt weird but good. We don’t get to surf big waves too often so this is great. I feel comfortable even though it’s really tough.”
Parkinson looked in-form today in his heat against Adam Melling (AUS) and Kolohe Andino (USA). The 2012 World Champion locked in the day’s highest two-wave heat total, a 15.73 out of a possible 20, to secure the win and a place in Round 3.
“I got out there and I was excited to see some size and some swell,” said Parkinson. “I felt happy and relaxed and when I feel like that I seem to do my best surfing. I hope we get to surf at The Box again, it will be amazing.”
Defending event winner Bourez also won through his Round 1 bout, claiming his first heat win of the year, narrowly defeating Nat Young (USA), who will now have to surf again in Round 2 along with rookie Italo Ferriera (BRA).
“I had such a bad start to the year and that was the first heat I’ve made,” said Bourez. “The conditions here are better for me – big, wild and bumpy – so I’m in my element. I like to surf here a lot.”
The excellent conditions look set to continue and Surfline, official forecaster for the WSL, are calling for:
Very solid SW groundswell will continue on Thursday, easing through Friday. Another exceptionally strong SSW groundswell is on track for Saturday, and could be even larger than the surf for Wed/Thur. Sunday will see dropping surf, with a further drop in surf on Monday. Morning wind conditions look favorable for the next few days, with some periods of side or onshore flow in the afternoons. Going further out, another strong SW swell looks possible around Wednesday the 22nd.
The Drug Aware Margaret River Pro will be held from April 15 – 26, 2015. Watch the unparalleled adventure, competitive drama and athleticism of professional surfing live at WorldSurfLeague.com.
The world’s best surfing will also be broadcast LIVE on Fox Sports in Australia, MCS Extreme in France, EDGE Sports in China, South Korea Malaysia and other territories and the WSL’s new partner in Brazil, Globo TV.
Drug Aware Margaret River Pro Men’s Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: John John Florence (HAW) 13.00, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 4.46, Dusty Payne (HAW) 2.60
Heat 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 7.73, Jadson Andre (BRA) 3.40, Brett Simpson (USA) 0.50
Heat 3: Kelly Slater (USA) 8.20, Kai Otton (AUS) 3.33, Ricardo Christie (NZL) 3.27
Heat 4: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 15.23, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.50, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 4.40
Heat 5: Freddy Patacchia Jr. (HAW) 4.30, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 3.96, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 3.27
Heat 6: Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.00, Jay Davies (AUS) 10.27, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 3.34
Medina vented his frustration at the comp organiser, and after getting into a bit of a battle with Glenn Hall, recounted the ‘F-Bomb’ Glenn had allegedly thrown at him and was in the midst of telling Peter Mel that he would “Teach him …” a few words … when he was cut off. Then Freddy P rode his board up a rock into a rail grind and Josh Kerr not to be outdone thew a tantrum and punched his board like it was a Top Gear producer.
It has been quite funny reading the outrage, the indignant comment and some of the reporting that has gone on surrounding #Medinagate and #FreddiesRock.
Just to weigh in with our tuppence worth and put it on the record. We LOVED it all. The reason? It showed the surfers care. It showed their passion and it shows the comp and the tour means something. Something that money can’t buy and the threat of sanctions can’t quell. Desire, emotion and commitment are all on show. Dreams and hopes are on the line, online and there for all to see. It is great sport!
What we don’t love so much is that some areas of the surfing press seem to have turned into pink rinsed Daily Mail readers and are expressing moral outrage at most the above.
In criticising the commish, KP, Medina was a bit harsh, but let’s face it it’s nothing any comp organiser hasn’t heard when conditions don’t play ball. Slap on the wrist naughty world champion! But what has really seemingly shocked everyone though was Medina’s use of the F-Bomb. A word, hardly ever heard on Australian beaches … Errrrrrm … was uttered as Gabriel recounted what Glenn had said after the interference call. Unusually in this kind of situation the clip, now viral, and Medina’s intended statement was’t made better by Peter Mel pulling the mic away as the full sentence and context was lost. “If Glenn tells me to fuck off again I will teach him…”
In the background you can hear Gabe’s true intention if you listen closely which we interpreted as “…bad words in Portuguese.” A little juicy for minors but hardly #thuglife. You’d think. But no the Aussie press, never happy with Brazilian winners, have blown it up into a proper fracas, which it never was. Heated in battle, yes, but no punches over a star dinner. Annoyed apres heat interview, yes, call out: definitely not. And an F-Bomb live, yes, but not used in anger. In fact it could have been quite a funny retort if left to run, yet the headlines are now screaming Medina calls out Hall, and demanding action … Really? Teaching Micro to swear at him in his native language shows wit and a sense of fun.
Since then the WSL have tweeted pics of Glenn and Medina joking in the competitor area. KP has issued a statement saying Medina’s actions were unfitting and would be reviewed. Hopefully it will settled over a cup of tea and a nice cup cake. Glenn’s quoted as saying, “It was a good heat. The end result was a bit wild with the interference but he was way too close to me for me to be able to get a clean take off. I really like Gabriel and I was legitimately stoked for him last year. He’s passionate in the water and a legend out of the water. We did have words out in the water but it’s nothing personal.” See. No biggy.
The #FreddiesRock incident has had me laughing for about three hours now. Poor fella had an atrocious heat and thus decided to end it by bouncing his way through the whitewater and onto a rock on the inside. He then ended up running about twenty minutes up the beach to vent his anger away from cameras and thus avoid fines.
In my mind this guy is a bona fide legend! Not only does he care, he wears his heart on his sleeve, and when shit (apologies for the gratuitous swear!) goes down he is one of the most creative and entertaining surfers on tour. I mean who else would have had the insight to grind the rock on the inside? It is surf rage genius! Probably one of the funniest moments in world professional surfing. Not only that Sir P has also set up comp where best photo on “Freddie’s Rock” will win his board. I’m putting him back in my FS team and he will stay there until retirement.
A video posted by Freddy Patacchia (@freddyp808) on
The third incident involved normally happy-go-lucky Mr Josh Kerr punching his board as he came in. I’ve never been massive fan of board punching. There was an outbreak of it in the late eighties as it it became the thing to do. Just seems a bit crass. Punch yourself in the head by all means.
Anyway to the point in hand which is this. Most of the ‘names’ have gone apart from Mick, and the surf has been pretty terrible, but we are all talking about the WSL so the undeniable elephant the room is this: we don’t want grey media savvy surfers who constantly pander to the corporate line. We want passion, we want opinion, we want talking points, and we want surfers being surfers not machines. Be human. Be real. Show the fire.
How boring would it be if everyone came out of a heat as a loser eloquently and submissively accepting defeat. The answer is ‘very’. At its peak elite competition in any sport is one step down from war. It’s about the battle. And for every great sporting winner there has been an outstanding, and often outspoken adversary. There are heroes, there are villains, there are gifted mercurial talents, and there are entertainers. Sure there are spanners in the works for organisations, sponsors and live TV hosts, but life would be pretty dull without the occasional talking point or disagreement. Winners and sport need that spark. Don’t beat it out of them…
Words: Steve England. Photos: WSL
Official press release below:
COOLANGATTA, Queensland/Australia (Thursday, March 12, 2015) – Competition continued today at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast presented by BOQ with an action packed day at Snapper Rocks. The Quarterfinalists are set after the opening stop on this year’s Championship Tour (CT) ran through Rounds 3, 4 and 5. The day saw its share of upsets with Gabriel Medina (BRA), Kelly Slater (USA), John John Florence (HAW) and Joel Parkinson (AUS) all being eliminated from competition in Round 3 at the hands of their lower-seeded opponents.
Three-time World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS) looked strong throughout the day, first facing Dusty Payne (HAW) in Round 3 where he used his trademark carves to claim a nine-point ride and the top spot. Next he went on to win through Round 4 in a stacked heat against Adriano de Souza (BRA) and Bede Durbidge (AUS) for a place in the Quarterfinals. Beautiful rail work from De Souza almost sent the Australian to Round 5 after the pair tied the heat with 16.50 each, but victory went to Fanning for the highest single-wave score.
“Once you get to these final rounds everyone is ripping,“ said Fanning. “I had a look at the draw last night and thought there was a lot of heats that I didn’t know which way they would go. Everyone on this Tour has the ability to win this event, it’s whoever gets the waves.”
Fanning will face De Souza again in the Quarterfinals, after the Brazilian moved on to dispatch Matt Wilkinson (AUS) in a close Round 5 match-up with a passionate and energetic performance. Wilkinson previously delivered one of the day’s upsets in Round 3, and looked in blistering form as he defeated John John Florence (HAW), eliminating him from the competition.
Filipe Toledo (BRA) was another of the day’s standout performers. He started strong in his highly anticipated Round 3 bout against Kolohe Andino (USA), opening his account with a near-perfect 9.57 and holding the American off with an 8.93 and the day’s highest heat total, 18.50. The progressive Brazilian continued to shine in Round 4 where another nine-point ride helped him dispatch Jordy Smith (ZAF) and Wilkinson to move through to the Quarterfinals where he will face Durbidge.
“I love to surf rights and I’ve been really confident and comfortable,” Toledo said. “The long wait was good for my mind and to figure out my boards. I’ll just keep going and having fun, doing what I loved to do, I’m super stoked. I think this year is going to be a great year for Brazil and for the younger guys on tour.”
Reigning WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) is out of the competition after being defeated by Glenn Hall (IRL) in Round 3. Hall put the pressure on from the start, holding the lead with five minutes remaining to leave the champion searching for a 6.73 to turn the heat. Medina went for a wave under Hall’s priority causing an interference and losing his second score, ending his chances of making it through to the next round. Medina leaves in equal 13th place.
“It’s great to beat Gabriel,” said Hall. “It was a good heat. The end result was a bit wild with the interference but he was way too close to me for me to be able to get a clean take off. I really like Gabriel and I was legitimately stoked for him last year. He’s passionate in the water and a legend out of the water. We did have words out in the water but it’s nothing personal.”
Brazilian rookies Italo Ferreira (BRA) and Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) also dealt out big upsets in Round 3 today. Ferreira eliminated 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) while Dantas took down Joel Parkinson (AUS).
Ferreira built on his momentum from Round 2, where he defeated CT veteran Adrian Buchan (AUS), and held the edge over Slater through their heat, completing an explosive rotation for a 7.17. Despite a board change, Slater couldn’t find the waves or the excellent score required to avoid defeat and leaves the first event of the season in 13th place.
“I’m super stoked to make another heat,” Ferreira said. “Kelly is an inspiration for me and he’s a legend. I got a good couple of waves and some good maneuvers so I’m really pleased.”
“I saw fun waves from the beach before I went out there but I couldn’t find them,” said Slater. “I missed one that might have been okay but in hindsight there’s not a whole lot more I could have done. The first year I won the title I came in 31st place in the first event so I’m not too worried. This is just one event and we throw a couple of results away, but even so it’s not good to get off to a start like this.”
Ferreira made it through to Round 5 where he was eventually defeated by two-time Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast winner Taj Burrow (AUS), who takes his place in the Quarterfinals where he will face Julian Wilson (AUS).
“The rookies are all on fire, they came out so strong,” said Burrow. “I didn’t take Italo lightly at all and I knew he’d be tough. I tried to be really selective and it was a close heat. I’m hoping for a few more feet on the swell tomorrow.”
Dantas held the lead over Parkinson with a 7.67 and a 5.50 for his aggressive backhand attack, while the 2012 World Champion was left with just a 3.83 on the board. The local favorite looked out of rhythm while Dantas maintained his composure through the heat against his more experienced opponent, securing his win with an 8.10. This is Parkinson’s worst ever result the Quiksilver Pro, taking home an equal 13th place finish.
“I’m just wanted to surf good today,” said Dantas. “I surfed against Parko who knows this bank and has been surfing here his whole life so I was looking for the bigger waves. I have my confidence from yesterday and I’m feeling good.”
“I had no rhythm and no oppportunity, but that’s just the way it went,” said Parkinson. “I haven’t thought about the next event yet. I think it will be the luckiest surfer here that will win.”
Dantas went on to claim his place in the Quarterfinals after defeating Hall in Round 5 thanks to a 9.17 for a series of powerful maneuvers to leave his opponent in a combination situation. He will face compatriot Miguel Pupo (BRA) in the Quarterfinals tomorrow.
The world’s best surfing is also broadcast LIVE on Fox Sports in Australia, MCS Extreme in France, EDGE Sports in China, South Korea, Malaysia and other territories and the WSL’s new partner in Brazil, Globo TV.
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Round 3 Results (1st to R4, 2nd = 13th):
“Clearly I could see by Google Earth that there was a endless left pointbreak hidden, but I never imagined how difficult would be reach that spot. My plan was to climb a over 3,500 meter mountain and from there check the coveted left. I did not know what exactly I was going to find there, but the very essence of adventure is precisely in uncertainty.
I thought that five hard days of trekking through the Amazon jungle would be enough to reach the top of the mountain. It took 22 days of survival experience. I ran out of food so I had to feed myself with fungi and, thanks God that I hunted a moose, otherwise I just would not be here comfortably sipping a cup of coffee, writing down what happened there.
I also feel the obligation to appoint my two colleagues and friends in this odyssey. A book by Jack London “The wanderer of the stars” and the picture of my spiritual guide who I always carry in my wallet: Captain Sparrow. Without them I would never have found the strength to get there.
After more than three weeks hiking, I finally reached the top of the mountain and from there first sighted the sea. I could not believe my eyes. A mysterious city, apparently built by the Inca civilization, stood before the majestic pointbreak. The sight of the point, those eight lines perfectly formed waves, that was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in my life. For a moment I thought that this scenario could be the result of delusions caused by a potentially hallucinogenic mushroom that I had desperately ingested along the way. But no, That was really happening and I was privileged to be the only man on earth who had God in front of me.
The pre-Inca and Inca civilizations began to surf over 5,000 years ago. Probably explored the coastline searching for a legendary left, “Mamape, the wave that never ends”.
They must have felt the same as when I first saw it.
Probably built this city for the only reason of this unique wave, sacred temple of the Incas. A civilization of surfers that understood surfing as a way to connect with nature and with God. Self-sufficient, these surfers thrived for centuries with the bare minimum.
I curse the day that the evil Pizarro and his Spanish troops arrived here and razed the people. Far from seeking a religious experience or connection with the environment, Pizarro moved him “El Dorado”, looking for mountains of gold. Greed, again, ended the harmony of a utopian civilization and makes me think that a better world is possible.
To that served to Pizarro all that gold, killing all that people, now that he is dead and buried with nothing left, like the rest of us.
However, the magic of the wave of Mamape remains intact for ever and ever.
At the end of the day, we are all going to pass away , and all that remains is nature.”
We’ve known and been travelling and shooting with Oli Adams for years. He’s done it the hard way. Read on for an inspiring tale of not letting life grind you down. No matter what.
It’s funny the swings and roundabouts of life. Middle of February the first issue of Carve came out and in the awards section we had this:
Triumph Over Adversity: Oli Adams
What a lot of people don’t realise is that Oli is actually a pretty sick kid. He has Crohn’s disease and it nails him from time to time. Literally putting him flat on his back in hospital. Not to mention making his ample travelling tricky as he has to be real careful with what he eats.
When you take that into consideration you have to say he is a total inspiration and it’s no wonder he froths out so much when he’s healthy. This year Oli went careering all over the UK on missions, some fruitful, some leading to him being stuck on islands for a little longer than was good for his sanity. Watch his film ‘The Hunt For Hipsamama’ if you get chance a rare gem of a movie. Sharpy actually flew off the island and left him there on one trip so we had the full commentary on missed ferries, some of which even came into view before turning around and giving up and one slightly miffed, yet very understanding, wife! Emma you deserve an award as well really. Best Pro Surfer Wife Patience Award!
Then last week this post on Oli’s Facebook page which went crazily viral: Most people close to me know that I have been battling with Crohn’s disease since I was Thirteen which I have largely kept private but I feel the time has come to open up…12 weeks ago I became so ill that had to have life saving emergency surgery to remove my whole large intestine, leaving me with a colostomy bag. The plan was to have 2 further operations over the next few months to reverse the colostomy and get me free of the stoma bag. However, yesterday I was given life changing news, biopsy results have shown that because of the type of disease I have my stoma is irreversible and I will most likely have to live with a colostomy bag for the rest of my life. But its not all bad news as I am disease and medication free for the first time in my adult life and I intend to turn this into a positive… I am already surfing again with the stoma and I am excited to see what potential could be unlocked with my surfing and my new disease free body. I am determined to come back stronger than ever! I would like to thank my amazing wife Emma, family and friends for their love and support, my sponsors and the surf media for their continued support and belief in me and the brilliant staff at Exeter hospital who saved my life.
Steve England caught up with Oli now the dust is beginning to settle…
How long have you been suffering?
Since I was 13 but I didn’t get diagnosed until I was 23
What exactly does it mean as a kid? What did you have to give up? How did you get your head around it at such young age?
As a kid I just always felt tired and shaky which really affected my surfing but also my confidence because it really affects your concentration and brain function when you’re not taking in nutrients from your food. I lived away from my parents from the age of 14 too so even though I felt really tired and needed to go to the toilet all the time. I didn’t really have anyone to look out for me and advise me at the time because I was on my own really. Because I was so young and also a vegetarian I just always thought it was I didn’t eat meat or that it was normal to feel like that. During the last few weeks I’ve felt what it’s like to feel normal energy for the first time and I can’t believe how I used to feel.
How did it affect your life?
When you have a flare up you first you start feeling really tired but in a horrible way, then you know it’s coming! This will be followed by needing to go to the toilet urgently soon after where you will probably be gutted to notice a lot of blood. Now you know your life is on hold for anywhere between two days to months and months if it’s a bad one. It was really up and down and got worse as I got older. In the last ten years I’ve spent so much time on my back because I was having flare ups that I’ve missed out on loads. But any time that I’ve felt slightly better I’ve made sure that I pushed myself to surf and keep going to save my career and to do what I love to do most which is to surf.
How did you cope/manage it?
At first the doctors put me on steroids to calm the inflammation but they didn’t agree with me at all and I had full on ‘roid rage and had to come off them. Then they put me on immune suppressant (chemo) drugs which are pretty much evil and the side affects made me feel worse than the illness. It felt like I had a dark cloud over me and a heavy weight over my head giving me a full time headache and no strength. Eventually I got referred to a Exeter hospital where they have a really good specialist department and they put me on a different kind of drug that they dripped into my arm for an hour every eight weeks. That sorted me right out even though the risks of developing other problems from it was a real worry for me. I still wasn’t 100 percent but in the last few years I was able to keep the flare ups to once every couple of months and I had the best couple of years surfing of my life. Half way through last year my body built up antibodies to the drug and I lost response to it meaning my only option was surgery. They had me booked in for the end of Jan but by November I was getting so ill that I was told to come in to hospital if things got really bad. In December things were so bad that I was rushed in and after a few tests they operated on me straight away as my blood pressure was dropping fast and I had nothing left. They said that most of my large intestine was so thin that another day and it would likely burst which on that scale would have been it.
It’s one of those diseases no one really either wants to, or does talk about. So I guess there are a lot of people out there suffering?
Yeah the symptoms that you get are something that most people are scared or embarrassed to talk about. You need to go to the toilet up to 20 times a day so you either have to stay at home or shit in the craziest places and the problem is once you’ve gone you need to go again ten mins later which is so annoying and painful when you’re surfing. A few times I’ve to pull down my wetsuit on an icy reef up north in Feb and afterwards I’ve been too cold to go back in haha!
How did you manage to keep on top of your surfing so long? You must have to commit pretty hard to training?
To honest it’s the opposite, I’ve never been able to train consistently because I had to use all the energy I had for surfing. A few time I trained for a couple of weeks but then I’d get a flare up and I would lose all the work I’d done by the time I was feeling ok again. Also my body wasn’t getting enough out of my food so my muscle tone would get eaten away when I surfed because that was the only way me body could find energy. Most of my surfing was done through mental strength I guess, I wanted it so badly that when I was feeling ok I just pushed myself and even when I was having flare ups I still competed and went on trips, it was so gnarly when I think about it now but I didn’t want to lose my career so I just got on with it.
What was the op and and how did it come about?
I was so scared leading up to it as I’d never had an op before for anything, but by end I was so ill and I knew it was the only option and I welcomed it because I knew that I’d die without it.
It seems pretty heavy, but I guess in way you must have sense of relief that you are now effectively cured, although obviously having to manage the resulting mechanics?
It’s been really hard to adjust to life with a stoma and at first I would look down and nearly cry, just thinking how has it come to this. But as time has gone on and I’m feeling better and stronger than I ever have. I’m just so stoked to be free from that horrible illness and excited to see what I can achieve with training and energy.
Were you surprised by the support when you eventually ‘came out’ about the op and disease?
I couldn’t believe it! I looked on my Facebook athlete page and it said 400,000 people had seen my post and the messages were so amazing. The best thing about it was that my aim was to help raise awareness and give hope to people in my situation and that was exactly what is happening. There have been so many people who thought they couldn’t surf with a bag and now are excited to think that it’s possible which is so cool. When I put it up I thought shit maybe this is a bit too heavy because there’s a picture of me just after the op and I haven’t come round yet but the response has been overwhelming so I think it struck a chord with people. Thank you to everyone who sent me messages of support, I read every one and it was one of the nicest things that has ever happened to me, humans all have love in them and this kind of thing brings the best out in people. So I guess every negative has a positive.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
I’ve got a crazy schedule in mind as there is so much I want to do now that I’m better. First I’m going to make a film about what I’ve been through as I’ve filmed everything so far from getting ill to going into surgery and after, first surf back, first barrel and I’m going to interview the surgeons and hopefully a few high profile sports stars who have gone through a similar thing to help raise awareness for the disease. Also I’m going to hit a few different destinations around the world this year as I want to mix it up from the cold water stuff and I’ve got some other big projects in the pipeline which I can’t talk about just yet that are going be insane if I can pull them off. I’m undecided whether I’m going to go back to world tour again now that I’m better, I feel like I have unfinished business there but I’ll have to start from the bottom again and give up surfing sick waves so we’ll see. I’m going to continue with my Elite Academy once a month because I’m loving being able to help these wee geezers to achieve their dreams of becoming a pro surfer and they are all little legends! Right now I’m off the gym and I’m just going to keep training my arse off in the Sports Hub with my trainer Ed Corkhill to get into the best physical shape I can and then see where that takes me. Life is good!
Can I give a big shout of to my wife and kids, all my family, sponsors, trainer Ed, filmer Danya and everyone who has wished me well on this wild ride … Legends!
A voyage off the map into a feck off big storm and a week of remote adventure…
Seemed like a simple task— to rendezvous at a Glasgow retail park to receive instructions, Top Gear style, as to what our mission was. Except it’s not so simple when there are three surfers, two photographers, three vehicles and bodies strewn across the land from Kernow to the Vale of Glamorgan via the Big Smoke.
Somehow it came together (a good few hours behind schedule) and as we settled in to a few bevvies and slap up pub feed in the Premier Inn Rent-A-Tavern Sam Lam’ hit us with the plan.
Being modern times he simply fired up Google Maps on his battered iPhone and pointed to an island, zoomed in to the satellite image and took us on a birds eye tour, “See that, there, and there, hmm, interesting huh?” Four heads nodded in agreement at an array of river mouths, sandbars and likely looking reef set ups. He continued, “We’ve got four metres of swell, good winds and odds on not another surfer for a few hundred miles.”
We raised our glasses to that.
Booze, mates, food, open fire (the early spring surge hadn’t quite made it this far north yet) and a promising adventure brewing puts a grin on yer face.
The grin sagged a tad when Stu Campbell pointed at the muted TV set glowing in the corner of the bar, “That big green blob, the massive, ugly, violent rain storm that they are issuing ‘wave your hands in the air’ weather warnings for tomorrow is pretty much covering our whole six hour drive through the Highlands tomorrow then?”
Now I like a bit of extreme weather. Heavy rain and strong winds make you feel alive. When Mama Nature gets her knickers in a twist it’s fun to be twanging the elastic. Unless you’ve just driven the length of the country, shared a room with two Olympic standard snorers who made sleep impossible and are then expected to do another all day drive on progressively deteriorating mountain roads.
We breakfasted dejectedly staring out into the first salvos of the approaching maelstrom.
Down south the tweets and FB updates were flying thick and fast regarding the rather spiffing weather. Pretty much everyone we knew was busting out the flip-flops, bikinis, suncream and 3mm wetties as the burning ball of fire in the sky I like to call ‘The Sun’ had come back off it’s winter hol’s.
The irony was not lost on us.
The weather was being racist against Scottish people.
The next day was hell.
Rainy, stormy, flooded, scary wildness. All day.
Every dry stream bed was a raging torrent, every waterfall a thundering cataract. It was impressive but I yearned for a Land Cruiser as opposed to a cheap and cheerful Astra that was burying itself to the axles in each deepening flood. I was just waiting for it to flood the electrics and the call to the AA to not go well, as there’s no reception in the wilds. I was going to be left to the elements, like a Greek bastard of myth, to die at the hands of exposure.
As we neared the coast a cheerful sign blinked that the ferry we were aiming for was cancelled and wouldn’t be running until the day after at the earliest cos it had blown away— buggery arse. That added three hours on to the drive to make the next ferry up the coast.
Suffice to say it wasn’t a barrel of laughs. But we got to a ferry which got us where we wanted to go and as the weather-shocked crew regrouped on the ferry deck the sunset popped out from under the clouds and the storm faded to the east.
We’d survived the green blob of doom.
Our destination island was odd, Wicker Man odd, the only word to describe it is ‘sparse’. The main town wouldn’t even be considered a hamlet on the mainland and we were staying way out in the sticks. An hour on single track but stunningly empty roads lead us to our gaff, the landlady greeted us as we pulled in and her chirpy chat sounded like Norwegian. Come to think of it she looked like a Viking, her horned hat must have been down the dry cleaners. The Norse influence in these parts was obviously deep rooted.
So there we were. In a comfy little house with a rather overboard swag of mainland ASDA groceries to see us through the week (for our surfer based Come Dine With Me homage). All was good. Until we hit the hay. I was sharing with staff photog Will, turns out Stu and Sam are proper shit at snoring compared to Will … and he sleeps deep. A meteor could strike the earth just outside the front door unleashing firey armageddon and he would sleep through it.
I, as a light sleeper, was doomed, ear plugs were no use as they’d get shaken out by Bailey’s somnambulistic sonic assault. Luckily I left my car on the mainland so could sit, sleep-deprived-zombie-trance like, in the back of Stu’s van as we explored the island in the coming days.
And boy did we explore…
Every nook and cranny that looked likely got sniffed, scoped and perused. Which is all well and good but the surf was bum. The four metre swell was nowhere to be seen. Odd as we had the whole Atlantic on our doorstep. So we drove, we walked, we explored.
We said things like, “With swell that could be good.” Which is a dumb thing to say.
As it was the first day we weren’t too stressed about scoring, the weather was sunny but freezing, and the swell had to be turning up any minute. So we got our bearings and figured out the lay of the land.
We woke up the next morning, for another supposedly sunny day, to find someone had painted all the houses windows with grey paint. Or it might’ve just been insanely foggy. Which it was. So foggy we couldn’t see the waves from the waters edge. Which is spooky when you’re on the edge of Europe and the currents are fierce. Didn’t stop us looking though.
We popped back down one of the few lanes that went to the coast passed an abandoned farm house we scoped the day before, there was a potential slab that had got Micah and Sam quite jazzed. Or we tried too. As we pulled off the single track main road onto the dirt track a 4×4’s lights came out of the gloom, drove to the bridge between us and parked squarely on it blocking our path. Sam and Micah wandered over to chat. The simple message was, “Farmhouse not abandoned, get the firk off my land, now do one.” All delivered from a scarred face farmer straight out of a low-budget horror film. If we’d been up on Scottish access laws we could have parked on the road and walked in exercising our ‘right to roam’ but we didn’t know that, so we created wildly slanderous scenarios as to what happened in the spooky farmhouse that even DIY SOS couldn’t fix and fantasised about the slab we’d been denied.
Heavy fog in unknown waters is a bit of a sod. We lost days to it’s damp, soggy blanket. We got the odd surf in here and there but nothing to write home about. Not that we could as we had no phone reception and the interweb hadn’t reached these parts as yet. Which to be honest, was quite refreshing, not being at the constant beck and call of emails, texts and the deep claws of social media was as fresh a breath of air as the clean goodness blowing in from the North Atlantic.
Our time on Wicker Island was coming to an end. We’d not scored. Will was tamping as his track record with these kind of trips is pretty stellar. A couple of two foot beachy sessions were not what he’d signed up for. We’d explored as much as we could but it just wasn’t happening.
So we gambled. Another little island, another ferry, a quick hit on our last day to try and save the trip. Which kinda worked. The fog remained clung like an overly clingy girlfriend to Wicker Island and as we cleared the sound to the next island the sun returned to our vitamin D deprived lives (little did we know it was ACTUALLY summer now down south). We rounded the bend to the first exposed beach, it was clean, there was swell, we could be on. We found a beach that had an epic little bar at one end and got stuck in, on cue the wind kicked up from zephyrs of offshore to gale force offshore but it was still barrelling.
Fun was had. Blood contracts made to visit again such was the potential. Chatting to local old fellas revealed they’d hardly ever seen surfers there. In fact in the whole week we’d met one other surfer. A local on Wicker Island who’d been out the water for a few years with a bad back. Think about that. Being the only surfer on your island, an island with more waves than you could surf in a lifetime. A bit spooky really. No wonder he was keen to surf with us.
Oh and for those of a culinary bent I reckon Sam won the cooking contest…
1. It used to be called Ceylon.
So you knew that already? Well, aren’t you clever? Did you know it should have been called Sinhela? But the colonial Brits couldn’t pronounce it easily so it became Ceylon and way back when the island was called Serendip from whence we get the word serendipity. As for the reason that the name changed from Ceylon to Sri Lanka? Well, with all the thorough and exhaustive research I’ve done it seems to have been changed because they could. Much like the Marathon to Snickers debacle it seems the idea was to take a world renowned and recognised brand name like Ceylon (read it and you immediately think: tea) and change it to something which means nothing to anyone. Good marketing skills!
2. A Scotsman started the tea trade.
Yup. Read it and weep. Coffee was the main product of Ceylon until a disease wiped out the plants in 1860s. Sensing diversification was needed an estate owner called in a Scot, James Taylor, to start a tea crop in 1867. His first tea made it to London in 1873 and production rose from 23lbs that year to 22,000 tons in 1890.
The best Ceylon teas (which retain the Ceylon name) come from bushes grown above 4,000 feet and are considered to be some of the finest in the world. Bizarrely tea snobs reckon Ceylon teas should be served with a dash of milk.
3. Cinnamon on your coffee sir?
Sri Lanka is the world’s leading exporter of Cinnamon spice, producing 80 percent of the world’s output as well as knocking out the choicest grade uberfine gear. It actually comes from the inner bark of a tree.
4. Elephant milk? No thanks.
Sri Lanka is big on elephants. Weird as it sounds you can, if you are very, very hard, milk elephants. Not that you’d want to, as their titty-dribble is so rich that it’s unpalatable. To recreate elephant milk at home here’s the recipe: 6 bottles of fresh cow milk, half a bottle of ghee, 27 eggs minus the yolk and 2 measures of boiled rice. Yumm!
5. The civil war is over.
Yup. Supposedly. In a deal brokered by the Norwegians (How the Scandies, with all their experience of civil strife got involved is another mystery) the dominant Sinhalese and minority Tamils downed arms and hugged each other a few years ago.
6. U.F.Os, astral portals and other crazy shit abounds.
If you do your research it becomes apparent that Sri Lanka is one crazy place. Some ‘scientists’ believe there are portals to parallel universes, Einstein-Rosen Bridges and lord knows what else there. U.F.Os are common. This is all either a) true or b) the jazz cigarettes are bloody strong.
7. Carom or Carrom is dangerously addictive.
Whatever the spelling this infernal game, a weird mix of pool, draughts and Subbuteo is annoyingly addictive and may ruin any trip to Sri Lanka. Word on the street is the Indian players have the edge over Sri Lankans and the bi-annual test series is a nail biter. Just don’t bring a board home, eh?
8. There was a man made bridge between Sri Lanka and India.
No word of a lie. Adams Bridge is visible on NASA satellite images and according to boffins was built over a million years ago. If you believe the crap some people write. The sandy shoal is actually a natural feature that may have been dry enough to cross when sea levels were much lower thousands of years ago.
9. The legend of Cyril.
Sometime ago, in the not so recent past, when there weren’t too many local surfers, some travellers would take the piss a bit and drop in a lot. Story goes that an English surfer dropped in on the wrong guy too many times. The offended local, known to everyone as Cyril, calmly paddled back to the beach, trotted back to his pad, grabbed a knife and paddled back out with the blade between his teeth ‘pirate’ style.
He calmly paddled up to the drop-in-king and stabbed him square in the shoulder. Teaching him a lesson in manners he’ll never forget. No one ever dropped in on Cyril again.
10. Thanks, I think?
Hard to explain or believe but the tsunami that caused such horror, carnage and made such a royal mess of Sri Lanka and caused so much strife across the Indian Ocean actually improved the quality of the wave in Arugam Bay?!
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