Confirmed: The Ocean Hates The WSL - Stab Mag

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Gabby Bryan, skipping and lipsliding into the Quarters. Photo: Beatriz Ryder/World Surf League

Confirmed: The Ocean Hates The WSL

Longest wave on tour sees season’s shortest day of competition.

news // Jul 17, 2023
Words by Pedro Ramos
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Following a string of “glorious lay days”, Travis Logie ushered the women into the inconsistent lineup to complete their opening and elimination rounds, respectively. 

With no Supertubes in sight, Joe Turpel assured us that Joel Parkinson likes this swell direction. That must mean something. May the best women win.


  • Only women allowed at J-Bay. 
  • Just 2 heats run
  • Underdogs rise in subpar conditions
Good from far, far from good. (Photo: Alan Van Gysen/World Surf League)

Women’s Opening Round

Molly Picklum, Caity Simmers, and Gabriella Bryan’s names made up a stacked and promising first heat, on paper. Gabriella, the busiest of the three, pumped down the line on a wave that didn’t seem to offer much, but in hindsight was one of the best ridden all morning. The Kauai native managed to populate it with mostly horizontal turns, inches from the rocks. “Maneuver count” is heard from the booth, giving us an idea of what might bring in scoring rides for the rest of the day.

With 40-minute heats and unusually long lulls, it was inevitable for the commentary to descend into real-time comedy. During a very long pause between rides, out comes, “very contestable waves”. Moments later, Caity Simmers pulls her 5’4 into a tiny closeout tube.

Gabby shows form and keeps busy, fitting as much as she can into the small peelers licking the rocks. Earning 7 points on her second ride, it was her heat to lose.

Parko would approve. Photo: Beatriz Ryder/World Surf League

Scrambling to find morsels, Molly identified a half-decent wave that allowed a half-decent score: 5.07. Caity’s answer came in the form of a stylish yet faint snap, and a clean reentry for her highest scoring ride, a 5.33.

Most of the second half of the heat was spent sitting or paddling, with the pair unable to find a single decent wave to turn the heat. Gabby advances.

Wildcard wins are a bettor’s dream (or nightmare). Photo: Beatriz Ryder/World Surf League

Although it seemed like a goofyfoot would be at a clear disadvantage, event wildcard Sarah Baum made a smart tactical decision against Carissa Moore and Lakey Peterson, taking off on a small wave and thus eliminating the possibility of a heat restart. 

Halfway through the heat, the booth directs our attention to the biggest set of the day. A pregnant pause follows — it doesn’t break.

Out in the lineup, a perturbed-looking Carissa had been sitting for 33 minutes when Joe Turpel offered, “This is what champions do!” He was not wrong as she attempted to save herself from the Elimination Round with two waves ridden in the dying stages of the heat. However, her scores were insufficient to overtake Baum.

Relying on getting busy from the get-go, the Durban local took down two heavyweights in her Championship Tour debut. Into the quarters.

No amount of ad breaks, board breakdowns, or past contest highlights could conceal the immensity of a flat ocean on a live broadcast. Logie put the contest on hold for a possible post-lunch restart, relieving Joe and Richie of coming up with more words to fill the empty air. 

Competition is likely to resume tomorrow morning with the remaining Women’s Opening Round heats followed by Men’s Elimination Round. All subsequent rounds, including Quarterfinals, will be on stand-by.


Peak performance: Gabriella Bryan (12.67), Women’s Opening Round, Heat 1
Hit replay: Step outside, close the door behind you, hug a tree instead.
One-liners: “I love skipping that round, it’s the best feeling ever!” — Gabriella Bryan on avoiding the Elimination Round.

With very little on offer for surfers, spectators, judges, and commentators alike, the two low seeds proved unfazed by what was lacking and found opportunities in what was available. It may not have been the prettiest of approaches, but it proved to be effective.

“Do we really have to?” Photo: Alan Van Gysen/World Surf League


Caught behind: The commentary feigning excitement for something that was clearly not there.
Blind mice: The day’s call.
Say what?: “We’ll be back for more great live action after the break!” — Joe Turpel

Trolls will be trolls, and once again, the WSL is being bombarded by their relentless comments across its social media. An unfortunate reality that comes with the territory.

Their failure to luck into quality waves this season is starting to feel like a tragedy, reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote’s futile attempts to catch the elusive Road Runner.

But, in the interest of preserving our sanity as loyal viewers, what if there was a way to transform this ongoing tragedy into an entertaining comedy?

Knowledge is power.

When Chuck Jones created the iconic cartoon series, he established a set of rules within an endless and chaotic creative process. Drawing inspiration from those, I would like to propose a fresh perspective on the recent offerings of the World Surf League:

1. No outside force can harm the WSL, except for flat spells, tide, wind, global warming and sharks.

2. All action must be confined to the ocean, unless Kaipo has a ladder mishap.

3. Whenever possible, charge Brazilian fans for cry.

4. The WSL should only be humiliated, not harmed, by its shortcomings.

5. The audience’s sympathy must remain with the WSL.

“Meep, meep.”

Mikey paid $50 to see Caity riding this wave. Photo: Beatriz Ryder/World Surf League

Gamble Ramble Presented by

A short day and a horrible day for Mikey C. Nothing hurts like losing to underdogs.

Women’s R1

$50 on Caity Simmers at +125 to win $63 LOST
$100 on Carissa Moore at -215 to win $47 LOST

Day 2 earnings: -$150
Event earnings:

For tomorrow…

Women’s R1 (Remaining Matchups)

$30 on Johanne Defay at +360 to win $108
$100 on Stephanie Gilmore at +125 to win $125

Men’s R2

$500 on Ethan Ewing at -500 to win $100
$50 on Connor O’Leary at -130 to win $38
$100 on Jack Robinson at -200 to win $50
$50 on Matthew McGillivray at -175 to win $29
$50 on Ryan Callinan at -165 to win $30
$30 on Caio Ibelli at +200 to win $60
$30 on Ian Gentil at +215 to win $65
$30 on Liam O’Brien at +200 to win $60

Place your bets on

All that is gold does not glitter. Photo by Beatriz Ryder/World Surf League


Corona Open J-Bay Women’s Opening Round Results
Heat 1: Gabriela Bryan (HAW) 12.67 DEF. Molly Picklum (AUS) 6.90, Caitlin Simmers (USA) 6.03
Heat 2: Sarah Baum (RSA) 9.50 DEF. Carissa Moore (HAW) 6.20, Lakey Peterson (USA) 5.93

Corona Open J-Bay Women’s Opening Round Remaining Matchups: 
Heat 3: Tyler Wright (AUS) vs. Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) vs. Johanne Defay (FRA)
Heat 4: Caroline Marks (USA) vs. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Bettylou Sakura Johnson (HAW)


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