Photo: Jimmy Wilson
Answering The Question: Where's Joe Turpel?
His presence in the commentary booth is truly missed.
For the past two events, a face and voice that’s become synonymous with the World Surf League has been absent. It’s palpable. Without Joe Turpel, the webcast loses its likability.
Sadly, it’s been brought to Stab’s attention that Joe’s vacancy is partially due to the recent death of his father. On a lighter note, the other partial to his sabbatical is due to his first child being due in June. Joe comes from a sound home, growing up in Mãnoa, a neighbourhood in Honolulu. He attributes his draw to the ocean to his father, also named Joe, a lifeguard, surfer, teacher and stuntman. In Joe’s second last post on Instagram (eight weeks back), his father co-stars in a happy birthday wish. A 2015 interview by the WSL for a series titled: Living the Dream, Joe speaks on his proudest moment as a commentator, citing his CT debut in Brazil, 2010. “It was my first men’s CT I ever called,” he said. “My dad was having heart surgery at the time and it was one of those moments where I didn't know if I even wanted to go to the event. I remember I was so worried about him and talking to my sister and my mom. But my dad was like, "You have to go to this thing." I remember going home (to my hotel) after the event and trying to get an update from someone and the feeling when he finally made it through surgery and he was going to be okay. I was sitting in the water just going, "Oh my god." It was such a big lifetime moment for me. My dad wanted me to fulfill my lifetime goals and at the same time I was growing on the spot.”
Joe’s a treasure. Anyone who’s met the man can attest to that. On my inaugural North Shore voyage with Stab, I met him for the first time at Rocky Point. We shook hands, chatted and exchanged niceties. The Pipe Masters hadn’t started yet. Evan Gieselman just had a near death experience and Rocky Point was inundated with the world’s best from first to last light. A few days later, at Rockies, the WSL commentary team were on the beach. Our print editor at the time, Ali, and I went down to check the surf while the sun was setting. We passed the WSL team. Joe greeted us and offered the last two beers of their 12 pack. We accepted, sat onshore and discussed everything from Evan's well-being, their pending work days, where we grew up, and how we came to be working on the North Shore that winter. Mr Turpel was a pleasure. He's one of those people who genuinely cares about what you have to say. Strider walked over from the house they were staying at, and over to the empty 12 pack. He brushed past Ali and I, and reached in, to learn the last beers were in our hands. Joe just smiled and continued the conversation without a seam.
Yeah, a minor anecdote, but in that moment we went from fans of the webcast to Joey Turpel groupies for life. Joe's time in surfing lives in the spotlight, and when you're illuminated you're ridiculed. But any criticism he receives underestimates the value he provides to the WSL. His delivery is smooth. His love for surfing is tangible. He studies before heats and provides stats and facts. Joe's helped mould the previous shrill and nonsense of surfing commentary into a new brave new world of professionalism. Think about it, can you name a guy that could commentate a shark attack more calmly?
Surfing needs its most famous voice back at the desk. However, due to the birth of his child, Joe told Stab that he'll be back for J-Bay.