Senior Editor
The Inertia's 9 Most Important Stories of 2022

Sadness, conflict, triumph. 2022 had it all.

The Inertia

The year 2022 was a season of opening up. The world awoke from the throes of a pandemic, lineups were chock full of new surfers, event schedules were once-again packed and Earth and its inhabitants returned to a life close to normal. Surfing, snowboarding, and other outdoor pursuits mirrored society’s turn, which, as is often the case, meant good things and…some not so good. And we covered it all. Here we take a look back at the most important stories of 2022, and maybe what they meant in the big picture.

Sasha Jane Lowerson, First Trans Surfer to Win a Longboard Competition, Speaks Out on Her Journey

Sasha, making her magic happen. Photo: Surfing Justin Majeks//Western Australia

Sasha Jane Lowerson Interview
In May, Oz’s Sasha Jane Lowerson won two divisions of the Western Australia state titles at her home break of Avalon. Alone, that wouldn’t have registered on the radar. But The Inertia story became quoted world-wide by news outlets because, as far as our records show, Sasha was the first openly transgender female to win a surfing competition. And Ben Mondy was the first writer in the surfing world to track down Sasha to get her take on the wins – victories that inspired emotions on all sides of the spectrum. “It hasn’t been easy,” she told Ben. “Something I say to everyone is that I haven’t chosen this. This is me. And it’s easier than the alternative, because the alternative was not to continue with life, you know? It was just too hard to keep pretending to be the man I was pretending to be….Now I’m living my truth, and how people react to that is really up to them.”

20 Minutes of Raw Malibu That Demonstrates Why the Place Gets So Crowded

Eesh! Photo: Screenshot

Malibu Mayhem
This summer saw an influx on North American lineups that the old guard hadn’t seen…maybe ever. And Malibu, always a test piece of the recreational surfing world, was a brush fire of controversy. With its long walls and easy takeoff, it attracts surfers of all abilities. And that can be a problem. Malibu local Andy Lyon lost his job when he smashed another surfer’s board on the rocks after a conflict in the sea. Sam George eloquently reminded us that this chaos should surprise no one. “Early August’s swell-fest garnered viral internet reaction, with online commenters from around the world howling in outrage at video depictions of the crowded, chaotic lineup and the mayhem that ensues when literally hundreds of surfers of widely varying skill levels vie for self-expression all at the same time. As if the logjam were something new, or more to the average vitriolic commenter’s point, something aberrant. It’s not. Hasn’t been for a very long time…if ever.”

The WSL's Erik Logan Addresses Mid-Year Cut, the Longboard Tour and the League's Health

The WSL’s Erik Logan addresses the mid-year cut. 

The World Surf League’s Mid-Year Cut
The WSL created controversy, and excitement when it implemented its new mid-year cut after its event in Western Australia. On the one hand, the new cut ushered in a harsh reality for many tour vets who were unceremoniously sent packing (and re-qualifying is now tougher than ever). Our own Juan Hernandez looked at the cut from the pro side, offering that it increased eyes on the Western Oz event, and made the tour more competitive in general. “The harsh truth is that the CT has a rotation of athletes perpetually fighting for re-qualification by the end of each season. In fact, they’ve usually settled into those circumstances by the midway point anyway with the exception of a few people whose rankings are saved by those one-off wins and big results. Looking at the past four to five seasons of the men’s side of the equation shows that drawing a line at number 22 in the rankings just halfway through the season isn’t as hair-brained as angry surf fans are suggesting. And it’s certainly not unfair.”

Too Big to Vail: An Opinion on Why This Might be the Downfall of the North American Mega Resort

Just one reason locals at Stevens Pass, a Vail-run resort, have had it. Photo:

Too Big to Vail
Last winter, contributing writer Steve Andrews deftly looked at Vail Resorts and how it runs its ski areas across North America. A British Columbia local, Andrews witnessed the chaos up close at Whistler. He looked at things like wages, lift lines, season pass sales that created overcrowding, and the response from readers was overwhelming. Hundreds of thousands of people shared the story, other media outlets followed suit with their own stories, and maybe, just maybe, Vail Resorts made changes in response. “It has become a tale all too common these days,” Andrews wrote. “Lift lines that make you want to cry. Twenty-dollar burgers that remind you of an elementary school cafeteria. Instruction fees that cater to a certain economic class. The constant battle between the bourgeois, jet-setter tourists and the locals who pack in shared housing, occupying every possible square inch of real estate from closets to crawl spaces just so they can afford to live the dream.”

One-of-a-kind talent, one-of-kind personality. Jim Grossman was irreplaceable. Photo: Mark Boyd


Legendary Waterman Jim Grossman Passes Away
Underground waterman Jim Grossman impacted both ocean and mountain communities. The son of a San Onofre Surfing Club founding member, Grossman was a surfer, kayak surfer, and iconic whitewater paddler who made his legend on the difficult whitewater of Idaho. In June, Grossman passed away on Idaho’s South Fork Salmon, a Class V test piece. Our story on the late paddler informed a world-wide audience, as well as a media landscape looking for answers. “Jim made the North Fork of the Payette (kayaking’s Banzai Pipeline) his focus. While other kayakers were just working to get their bearings, in the 1990s, Grossman became the first, and perhaps only, kayaker to paddle the entire 15 miles of relentless Class V rapids using only his hands – that’s right, no paddle. He dedicated his life to that river and taught his son Buey its every nuance.”

Kalani David

Kalani David died at the age of 24 while surfing in Costa Rica. He will be missed. Photo: Instagram/Kalani David

Kalani David Passes Away
If we’re talking legends, none was bigger than that of 24-year-old Kalani David, an extremely gifted surfer and skater who tragically passed away in Costa Rica this September after suffering a seizure in the water. David had long dealt with a debilitating disorder known as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which can cause periods of rapid heart rate. “Kalani was one of the most talented surfer/skaters on Earth,” wrote Kelly Slater. “Constantly pushing the limits every time he was on his feet. Condolences to the huge community of friends Kalani had coast to coast and across the globe.”

Iconic Surf Photographer Art Brewer Has Passed Away

Art Brewer, before his passing. Photo: GoFundMe

The Death of Photographer Art Brewer
Art Brewer made the careers of many a surfer in the 1980s, ’90s and early 2000s. His images of  Kelly Slater, Tom Curren, and Gerry Lopez (among others) were iconic to say the least and the man could shoot from the water, land, or in the studio. And his portrait work was absolutely legendary. “The GOAT of surf photography passed away last night,” said Brian Bielmann. “Art Brewer was my hero. He will always be my favorite photographer. Art taught me what it was to see the beauty God created and then give it back to everyone through my camera lens.”

World-Class Ski Mountaineer and Mother Hilaree Nelson Wants Female Athletes to Stop Underselling Themselves

Hilaree Nelson’s biggest accomplishments? Raising Quinn, left, and Grayden.

Hilaree Nelson Disappears in the Himalayas
A women far ahead of her time, Hilaree Nelson unapologetically opened up the world’s eyes to the potential of the female athlete, busting down the door in the world of extreme ski mountaineering. Tragically, she died this year in the Himalayas while making a ski descent of Manaslu with her partner Jim Morrison. A small sluff apparently swept her off her feet, and into the abyss. She was missing for several days before Morrison was able to locate her body. The Inertia hosted Nelson at its 2019 EVOLVE Summit. “I got dropped by my ski sponsor,” Nelson told us about the early days of professional skiing and trying to make it as a woman. “I took pay cuts other places. I was not my best advocate. I was so unsure how I was going to move forward as a professional ski mountaineer, and be a mom and have kids and do all this juggling. I think that’s what I’ve learned moving forward is that we can do so much. And now that I’m in this position of being a pro skier and climber for 20 years, and I see young women coming up, I’m in this really unique and amazing position to be able to mentor and help these other younger women as they’re coming in…I think things have changed.”

Joel Tudor's suspension from Longboarding Tour

Joel Tudor’s suspension created even more interest in the Longboarding Tour. But perhaps the wrong kind? Photo: Thomas Bennett//WSL

The WSL Suspends Joel Tudor
After a series of social media dustups in which iconic longboarder Joel Tudor voiced his displeasure with the WSL’s running of its World Longboard Tour, the League subsequently suspended Tudor indefinitely. The man who’s essentially silk on a surfboard won a world title at 45, so surf fans in general were bummed to see him unable to defend that title. Tudor told Alex Haro his posts were meant to stand up for longboarders the world over. The WSL said those posts, “knowingly made baseless accusations of corruption and instigated social media based-attacks on the WSL.” Either way, it was a sad state of affairs and one all parties seem happy to move on from in 2023.


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