Taj Leaves Billabong, Channel 7 To Broadcast the WSL, and Mason Ho x Tommy Peterson x Sweet Hawaiian Sandbank

14 Feb 2020 3 Share

Mike Jennings

Senior Writer

Coco Ho getting pitted at sweet Hawaiian sandbar.

Coco Ho getting pitted at sweet Hawaiian sandbar.


Ten Things from Surfing & the Internet on the Week That Was February 14, 2020

1. Nazaré Hosted a Ridiculous WSL Big Wave Comp

This week the WSL presented the Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge Presented by Jogos Santa Casa (which I think is some kind of gambling service? I'm not sure, but whatever, get that paper WSL!).

This was a completely new and unique event format, where big wave surfers were paired up in tow teams, competed in a six hour expression session under a rotating heat and priority format, then the winners would be judged by the surfers themselves. A pretty bizarre system, but it feels suited to big wave surfing, which is surely more about the camraderie and vibe and achievement of the day, moreso than a stringent heat format and judging criteria. This system feels good. It feels right.

The winners in the end were Kai Lenny, for Men's Wave of the Day,Justine Dupont for Women's Wave of the Day, Kai Lenny and Lucas Chianca were judged Team Champions, and the Commitment Award went to Alex Botelho who damn near almost died and is still in hospital after the below jet-ski wipeout. Terrifying stuff.

2. Billabong Drops Taj... or Taj drops Billabong

Who knows how these negotiations played out, but we do know how they have ended. Taj will no longer be riding for Billabong. It's kind of hard to imagine, isn't it? Burrow announced the news on Instagram this week with some old school photos and the covers of some classic Billabong movies. 

Here's what Taj wrote:

"After 25 of the greatest years with Billabong I’ve decided to move on.

As a grom Billabong had the sickest team and made the best movies.

When Jack Mccoy brought Occy and Luke Egan to my hometown to film Bunyip Dreaming i was obsessed.

At 16 they offered me a deal, i was the happiest kid on Earth!

Over the next few decades i was able to compete, make signature movies and fly the Billabong flag with the greatest surfers.

It was like every good surfer rode for Billabong!

Those years competing on tour along side Occy, Luke, Andy, Joel were insane.

Along with all the other animals like Kelly and Mick, the tour was crazy! I’m so happy and proud to have been a part of that era, these guys blew my mind and inspired me daily.

I’m so grateful for all the experiences i’ve had. Thank you Billabong and everyone within the company i’ve become friends with. Cheers :) TB"

This news drops in a summer loaded with sponsor surfer break ups, led by the exodus on Hurley's star studded team (and for more on that, read Nick Carroll's excellent piece, The Surfers Always Come Out On Top). There's been so many drops and changes that it's probably time we compiled a list. So here goes, in no particular order:

Taj Burrow (Billabong)
John John Florence (Hurley)
Rob Machado (Hurley)
Nikki Van Dijk (Rip Curl)
Lakey Peterson (Hurley)
Michel Bourez (Hurley)
Matt Wilkinson (Rip Curl)
Alana Blanchard (Rip Curl)
Jesse Mendes (Quiksilver)
Dusty Payne (Volcom)
Eli Hanneman (Hurley)

Who am I missing? 

Spose we can ponder that as we watch this IG edit Taj dropped of all the leftover footage he had lying around that's now dated due to the  Billabong stickers:

3. John John's WSL Highlight Reel

Speaking of superstar generational talents that are no longer sponsored by a big surf company... it's our guy John John Florence. The WSL picked the low hanging internet content fruit this week and compiled all the best comp waves of his WSL CT career. Punch me in the dick he's good.

4. Channel 7 Got the Broadcast Rights To Surfing

This week in press releases that hit my inbox: The WSL announced that in 2020 Aussie TV station Channel 7 will be broadcasting the WSL CT (and QS) season live on free to air TV (and thier streaming platforms), as well as highlight package shows. This is really good news for little ol' me, because my internet sucks, and watching sport through the old medium of a basic TV cable is a wildly better experience. I suspect, however, that it's not for my personal surf viewing pleasure that this deal was inked, and instead it was Channel 7 leveraging their own network to build up, promote and get some momentum behind one of the Olympic sports that Australia can medal in at the Tokyo Olymoic Games, which Channel 7 will also be broadcasting. Gonna go ahead and guess too that Channel 7's priorities in covering surfing will wane over the backhalf of the year, drop entirely in 2021 through 2023, and then maybe pick up again in 2024 for the Paris Games... if surfing still exists then. That is, unless, it's a ratings boon (insert laugh here).

But ignore all that, surfing's gonna be live on the telly! Yes! Surfing! Yes! Bruce McAvaney!

5. Julian In Portugal

The fun thing about Julian Wilson's YouTube channel is that it drops A-Grade clips that have zero info apart from the title. "Portugal session". When? Who? What? Where? I dunno, all I know is that at some point in the last few years Jules was absolutely ripping the bag in some fun cold waves in Portugal, and that Kelly Slater and Eric Geiselman were also there. Very good.

6. Mason Ho on a Tommy Peterson Fireball

Tommy Peterson shaped Mason Ho a surfboard and it's the iconic surfing buddy comedy of my surf content dreams. Mason took it out at Ehukai Beach Park which was privy to a rare and beautiful Snapper-like, but wedgey looking sandbank! Coco, Mike and Mason Ho get so many sweet barrels in this, it rules. Also, what a nice touch to run credits at the end featuring not just every surfer in the edit, but also what board they were riding.

7. Kelia Moniz Sound Waves

The two time World Champ and style icon, Kelia Moniz gets the WSL candid fly on the wall treatment for the latest episode of Sound Waves. It comes all the way back from September and the 2019 Longboard Classic New York, so they also go to Joe's Pizza, which is maybe the best pizza slice in the world? It's up there. That's my highlight.

8. Koa Smith Gets Panama Bombs

Hawaiian king of the viral surf clip Koa Smith goes to Panama with his brother and Luke Davis and scores this bomb of a wedge. For the time-poor amongst you, the wave gets explained around the 7 minute mark, and the surfing begins at the 12.50 mark.

9. Nate Nate and John John Surf Crowded Backdoor

I don't know who has the time to watch Nate Florence's more than weekly 17 minute YouTube videos, but I envy them, because they are pretty pretty pretty good. The music he's set for the opening four minutes of this one as he and his brothers, John John and Ivan Ivan, take to the Banzai Pipeline is all-time. 

10. How To Survive a Big Ol' Wipeout

For those wondering how on earth surfers get mentally prepped enough to go out and surf in things like that Nazare comp this week, Red Bull surfing here takes us into a "big wave training camp" with Kai Lenny, Justine Dupont, Ian Walsh and other Red Bull surfers in Hawaii. For a guy whose job it is to do insane things in the ocean, Kai Lenny is so good at talking to the camera and presenting himself... do you think he's bad at anything in life? Anything at all? Could I beat him at Mario Kart? I doubt it. Makes me sad.

And that was this week in surfing. Have a good weekend everyone.

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