Greatness In Two Leagues: WSL X NBA

Many years ago, there was a Surfline article comparing Kelly and Kobe. Not the comparison I made, but still cool to see surf media try to branch out.

There are really only 2 sports I follow closely. First, and probably the easier one to guess, is surfing. It’s been the sport and lifestyle my existence has revolved around and something I have known since the beginning of my life. I follow the sport in all realms-competition, trending surfers, the next big things, and anything else you can think of. I work in the industry, which also helps keep me pretty tapped into the latest and greatest. But the other sport I tend to enjoy watching and try to follow a bit is basketball. Now, it’s definitely not at the level of surfing. In surfing, I watch events from the QS and tune in when I can. This would almost be the equivalent of watching a G league event (at least at the QS1000s). But I do watch a decent chunk of hoops and do like to follow the NBA. There are so many great players (much like surfing) that it’s just enjoyable to watch no matter who’s on the court (with slight exceptions). 

I feel like I recall seeing this exact article, but last Saturday as I was milling around my house I got the idea stuck in my head. Let’s compare some of my favorite or most iconic surfers to those in the NBA. It’s pretty easy to draw comparisons in the sphere of elite athletes, as no matter how different the activity could be, the mindset and work ethic stays the same. Read below if you enjoy surfing, basketball, the NBA, the WSL, or none of it and just want to read some recent words from me.


I could go into detail about the accolades of both of these athletes-but I don’t think I really need to. If you’ve had an ounce of interest in either sport of basketball or surfing-these are the two household names. Although their accolades are slightly different (Kelly being the leader by a mile of most world titles-Jordan not having the most titles but putting on crazy performances), the way they transcended the sport and have become larger than life is what puts them at GOAT status. Jordan blitzed the field on the court and then built one of the largest shoe empires in the world. Kelly was the first surfer to mingle with superstar status, collect the most world titles and wins ever, and still competes to this day at a high level. To me, their greatest of all time status is undeniable. 


On first glance, you may think this comparison might be linked to the fact that we lost both of these legends of the sport at an earlier age than we might have liked (both due to very different circumstances). As tragic of an ending both of these suffered, I think the thing that really puts these two icons in the world of comparison is how they performed in their respective jerseys. Andy and Kobe were both killers. No matter how nice they might have been outside competition or how close of friends they were with their opponent-when it was game time all bets were off. Raw talent mixed with this undeniable will to win made these two legends challenge some of the best athletes in their sport and come out on top. Both had an insane reign of dominance during some of the golden eras of their respective sports, and won’t be forgotten as they etched their names into the history books of surfing and basketball. 


If you took a poll of 100 surfers and 100 basketball players and asked them who has been the most dominant player and surfer in the last couple years-you’d probably get ¾’s of the answer to sound like this: Lebron James and John John Florence. While it’s hard to compare the household nameness since basketball has a much broader audience-you’d be hard pressed to meet a surfer who doesn’t have JJF in their top 5. Both are super likeable and have put on jaw dropping performances over the last couple of seasons. While Lebron has more competition success, John John is no slouch and has dropped some of the gnarliest freesurf clips and insane, full production movies of recent memory. As well as becoming a back to back world champion-which is no easy feat in the world of surfing. . At the start of the WSL and NBA season, no matter what’s going on in either league, one question is always posed: Can they win another?


In every sport, some off the field (or court [or surf]) antics can really make fans have a bitter taste in their mouth. I can’t think of two more perfect people in their respective sports for this than Kevin Durant and Gabriel Medina. Medina has been heralded as one of the greatest competitors since Kelly Slater. Some seasons, NBA analysts will claim Durant is the best player in the NBA. Both have less than ideal ways they have gotten to their championships-but you would have to be a casual fan or in denial to not believe these two are not some of the best in the sport. Whether you like it or not KD and Medina are here to stay and push the sport like the people before them did. 


Always the bridesmaid, but never the bride. These two are heralded as absolute legends of the sport, but will always have a chink in their armor of never winning a championship. Most fans can overlook it for the sheer impact both these athletes have had on their sport, but you have to think that it’s gotta hurt that both have gotten so close but never tasted the number one spot. 


Much like the two above, Julian Wilson and Russell Westbrook have explosive styles during their time of play. Heralded to both be future champions, things just haven’t worked out. Julian has gotten so close he could taste it, Russell has almost made it many times. Both have put out crazy highlight reels and stats in their careers, but these accolades and numbers have not equaled a championship-yet. Julian has tapped out, but with Russell’s new teammates, I think his time is now. 


The players favorite players. It seems like a lot of the current crop of top 10 surfers would cite Mick as one of their favorite surfers-thanks to a combo of solid foundational technique and competitive prowess. To be honest, I’m not sure how Tim Duncan’s peers viewed him, but the bond he had with his team and coach led him to 5 championships, all from pure fundamentals and a keen understanding of the game of basketball. Like the title says-these two just produced consistent excellence throughout the length of their careers. 


One is better than none. Two top level performers of the 2010s and both retiring around the same time, Parko and Dirk both were considered masters at their strong suits in the sport-but the elusive world championship win had eluded both for a large chunk of their career. There are plenty of players that never win a championship, but the willpower of both Dirk and Parko is what drove them both to their maiden victory. Funnily enough-Parko would end up defeating Kelly Slater to earn his world title, while Dirk and his team defeated the red hot Miami Heat-led by Lebron James.

More Kobe. The time he spoke with the USA Surfing Association in leading up to the Olympics.

Jbay Preview

We have reached just about the halfway point of the 2019 WSL Championship tour, and we find our selves in South Africa. A place that reminds us of Kelly’s broken foot, devil-wind-groomed rights, and that time Mick beat down on a great white. All jokes aside, Jbay holds a spot as one of my favorite stops on the tour, one because it is just such a classic wave plus we also get to see the top 34 spread their arms out and really form out while also still being able to get shacked. While I would say it favors regular footers, It’s safe to say some of the goofies can get after it on the backhand. Let’s take a dive into some things to keep your eyes on during the waiting period.

The Ideal Conditions: 2 Very Different Possibilities

The best and most entertaining conditions would be 6-8 occ. 10ft with light offshories. This would ensure we see every bit of action we could get, from tubes to turns to punts. It also would be the most level playing field, since goofies could play to the advantage of the tighter arc on smaller waves while regulars would go forehand and read the tricky tubes a wee bit better. The converse, which is also awesome to watch, is close to maxed out devil wind jbay. With giant tubes and waves that test the top 34s abilities, this would also be a hoot to watch.

The favorites: The Top 5

While it might seem fairly obvious since they are “technically” the 5 best surfers in the world currently, these guys have been looking tack sharp and definitely can surf to the beat of Jbay. With Filipe being the winner the past two years, he obviously would be a safe bet. Kanoa showed us his rail prowess at Keramas, and has been riding that high since. He has a powerful rail game and if it is smaller can flair out in the air as well. Kolohe’s Mick-esque form and powerful build also lend to him being able to find success at this event. Jordy has put up huge numbers, and also is looking poised in the 4th place spot on the rankings. The one most likely to maybe lose early on would be Italo, strictly because he is a goofy foot and has been looking patchier this year (I am unsure if he is still repping the ankle brace as well).

The Dark Horses: Rcal, The GOAT, Avoca Jesus, Seabass

While goofy footers have not faired well as far as a victory at Jbay in quite some time, Ryan Callinan proved to us at bells that the backhand can do some damage in bigger more open canvas waves. After that performance and the amount of push he can get off his heelside, he is my goofy pick to gar far (sans Medina and Italo). You can never count out the GOAT, since he has done this here and has always had a liking to the large groomed walls. Expect him to be fired up, since his last time there was when he injured his foot. Wade Carmichael is a solid pick and more of a no brainer rather than a dark horse since he is a larger surfer and has a lethal rail game. His presence overall tends to slip under the radar and hence is why he might be considered not to be a threat. I expect him to go far, especially if it is big and burly. Finally, Seabass has yet to find his feet this year and I feel like maybe has something to prove. Bass has one of the most polished rail games, and is a frother so if it is on he will be chomping at the bit to blitz some lips. He could easily be a winner here, and would be awesome to see since he is sans sponsor.

Maybe Avoid: Most goofies, less fluid surfers

Most goofies will be at slight disadvantage especially if it is big devil wind jbay. While it is not impossible, we have not seen a goofy hoist the trophy in a while. There are some who can pull it off and like stated earlier, if it is smaller it will open up the door for some to use the tighter pocket to their advantage or launch some airs. Aside from the goofies, some regular foots that lack a fluid approach (it is hard to name some, but for instance maybe a Peterson Crisanto) to look a little shaky against some of the more rail oriented surfers that flock the tour. No knock to Peterson or any of the other people who could come to mind, but there are just some guys that link turns together in such a polished manner that even if the surfing is less powerful or technical, it will look better on the walled rights.

And that’s all he wrote. It will be interesting to see what mother nature has in store, in terms of waves but and also if the locals in the grey suits will be attempting to regulate. The waiting period is only a couple days away; so all we have to do is wait. It looks like it has been cooking for the warm ups.

Random Thoughts Roundup: The Beginning of May Gray

California has an interesting take on the beginning of summer. Back east, May signifies lots of neoprene shed, the slowing down of surf, and the warming up of the land. This was one of my favorite times to be home, since it was beautiful and far less crowded than summer (I sound like a grumpy loc). While it isn’t on the cook like winter can be, we still get plenty of surf. In contrast to this, May and June in California signify May Gray and June Gloom. Weirdly cloudy and colorless days fill up more than half the seven days of the week. While we do get closer to my favorite surf season out here (south swell season = lined up barreling lefts), there is still even a funk in the ocean. Often there is morning sickness that takes forever to go away, and most of the first south swells tend to be more walled than lined up. May 1st is this Wednesday, so it is right around the corner and we are slowly inching closer to summer. Closing out the month, I thought it appropriate to touch upon the last 2 weekends to regurgitate some random happenings and thoughts around my brain. I swear after this post, there will be more structure and thought put into them (still fuzzy from Coachella). Speaking of that lets enter rambling number 1:

Coachella reminds me how fun festivals are.


My pal Noah feeding into the festival vibes.

Whether it is the actual festival itself or the company you surround yourself with during the weekend, it really is hard to match the kind of carefree attitude and sounds of a good festival. The sheer amount of good music and people all in one place makes it almost a dream. If my amount of Instagram posts doesn’t tell you enough, let me literally say it: I had a great time. With artists across all genres, awesome guest appearances, and the morning recaps (and rallies) before entering day 2 and 3, it truly is an experience I long to replicate literally one day after it is over. I sound pretty basic, but why isn’t there a weekend 3?

Bells ran in massive surf; goofy footers showed up.

I am really bad at fantasy surf. I currently am in 2 leagues, but refuse to pay for both purely because my passion picks always end up not working out. I had surfers I like on for Snapper, then took them off and put a more realistic bunch in for Snapper. All of my passion picks from snapper did well at Bells. After I took them off. While I ended up doing ok this contest, I was stoked with the sheer surfing done, specifically by my screw footed brethren. By the quarters, it was equally 4:4 regular to goofy foots. Ryan Callinan smashed lips smoothly while Medina and Italo surfed with speed and poise. I am going to save my finger dexterity by not going into detail on my opinion on the interference call. That rule needs to change. Anywho, the vertical angle Ryan was achieving and the backhand floaters that Medina was tagging sections with made me a proud goofy footer. While we didn’t see back-to-back goofy wins (Italo won last year), John and Filipe were looking in form the whole event. And plus, an all Hurley final should make the office on Monday buzzing with stoke.

Tons of new music.


Current lineup: I have already played through CrasH Talk a bunch, hence the song playing.

On top of gaining new music to listen to from visiting Coachella, there have been quite a few notable album drops in the past 2 weeks. One major one that might not be my cup of tea is the Beyoncé live album and Lemonade making Spotify one of its new homes. The beehive is definitely buzzing after this one, and you’d have to think there could potentially be a new album coming with this type of rollout. On my side of things, we have new projects from two vets in the game. ScHoolboy Q has returned from a 3 year hiatus with CrasH Talk, and it is sounding like a good rap album. Just lots of rapping. And I love that. Other notable favorites from me include a new Wiz Khalifa album and Blackbear album. The couple I have not got around to listening to yet are Pivot Gang’s You Can’t Sit With Us and Hit-Boy/SOBXRBE Family Not A Group.

Boardie season is upon us.

As the season begins to change, so does the water. The times of no wetsuit tans and nipple rash (sorry for that image) are upon us. This one I will keep short sweet and to the point: nothing feels better than scoring (or just surfing in general) in boardies.

That about wraps up all the ramblings I have in stored in the membrane. I noticed some people checking out the site today, in hopes of a new post, yet I am lagging on this one thanks to last night. In the future, let’s shoot for 1PM PST for a new post to be live. I know the anticipation just kills.