What a year. We were honored to have you with us in 2019 as we closed out the decade with a vast collection of features and news coverage that impacted both surf and snow. We don’t take the responsibility of entertaining and informing you lightly and take special pride in getting a solid laugh out of you as often as we can. We all deserve to be reminded how precious this life is and how fleeting fun can be. Let’s not take it too seriously. Because inevitably, life gets serious, and we were on the ground for those stories, too.
Yes, it truly was a great year – and a great decade – here at The Inertia. So as we start the celebration of our tenth turn around the sun in 2020, these were our 10 most impactful stories of 2019. Adios teens! –Senior Managing Editor Joe Carberry
Not to be prisoners of the moment, but the Jaws Challenge (above) earlier this month pretty much blew minds – both in mainstream media and endemically as the best big wave surfers in the world charged perfect (yet terrifying) Jaws with Billy Kemper and Paige Alms winning the most important big wave contest on the planet. Kemper, who won for the fourth time, summed the contest’s impact up thus on our podcast a day before the contest: “I look at Jaws like the World Championship on the CT…I look at that event like everything in the world. I have to win this event — if I get second place, that means I get last. I don’t care about anything else besides winning this event.” And the people have spoken, with nearly a million readers viewing the photos in the days after the contest.
Johnny Utah Wins Reporter of the Year *
From the farcical to the flat-out fake, Johnny Utah reported earnestly on a number of subjects that some half-a-million people read over the course of the year. You laughed, you laughed some more (once you got it), or you yelled because you thought Johnny’s prose was real. Regardless, Utah killed it with stories on important things like Canada beating the U.S. by building a border wall from snow, on the importance of emotional support surfboards on airplanes and how, no matter what, when we say one more wave in our heads, the ocean knows. His sources were impeccable, too. “For years, Americans have crossed our borders to bypass repressive laws and governments in their own country, simply to have a better time, be it the drinking age limit, to avoid the draft, or, more recently, to smoke weed legally,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau absolutely did not say. “Well, those benefits are for our citizens.”
*No he didn’t.
Sunny Garcia Coverage
We definitely didn’t want to have to cover this story. But it impacted an entire generation who followed the great Hawaiian power surfer, Sunny Garcia, and his fight for life in an Oregon hospital after an attempted suicide. Arguably, nothing captured the attention of the surfing world more than the fate of the iconic Garcia in 2019. A GoFundMe page was set up to help the entire family as they traveled between Hawaii and Oregon hospitals and most of the professional surfing world seemingly donated to the cause. “From everything we’ve learned from past history (and trauma like this), it’s a long process,” family spokesperson Janae Twisselman told The Inertia in September. “But he’s been working out on a stationary bike, assisted, and he’s definitely able to hear voices and track people and read people’s hands. He’s saying words, he’s not totally audible, but he’s gaining his motor functions, working on physical movements and brain functionality and auditory processes. It’s just a really long recovery road.”
There is little doubt, The Inertia readers definitely give a shit whether Kelly Slater retires or not. In fact, thousands of you tuned in and shared our exclusive interview with Slater as The Inertia editor Joe Carberry tried to bait the GOAT into giving away his future plans at the Surf Ranch during the WSL’s event there in September. “You’re trying to get me to announce my retirement here,” he said when Carberry asked him if this is his last wave pool event. “I’m not telling you nothin’ (laughs).” Only Slater knows the answer to that question on every surf fans’ mind. Despite not making the Olympic team for the 2020 Games in Japan (surfing’s debut gold medal contest), Slater told the WSL in a post-Pipe interview that he plans to give the tour another go.
Nothing gets readers more fired up than the finer points of surfing, the intricacies of lives spent chasing waves, be it etiquette, fin configurations or the science behind peeing in one’s wetsuit. And there’s nothing that gets surfers more inflamed than someone getting burned (see Gabby, below) and especially, getting burned themselves. That’s why contributor Jason Nauman’s piece resonated so well with readers. Because, well, we’ve all been there. “I see you there, my guy,” he wrote. “Perhaps you are a youth who has yet to develop compassion for others. Perhaps you are an older gentleman who believes that existing longer than other human beings somehow entitles you to each and every wave. Perhaps you are the type to shoot first and ask questions later…But most likely you are just a dick.” Read on, and enjoy.
In the snowboarding world, there hasn’t been a single person with a greater impact on the pursuit than Jake Burton Carpenter. From the athletes he mentored – like Shaun White and Mark McMorris – to the board designs he put to market, Jake created the modern sport. In November, Burton announced to employees that the cancer he’d fought in 2011 had returned. A week later, he was gone. Snowboarders the world over mourned the loss. “When I heard the news I thought back to the beginning and finding that snowboard in the basement of a hardware store in Vermont,” Jeremy Jones told us, remembering Jake’s impact on his riding. “It was an important, full-life shift because Jake worked so hard to place that board in that shop. It was 1982, so they weren’t in ski shops.”
Thousands of readers were whipped into a frenzy this month when Gabriel Medina inexplicably burned Caio Ibelli for the second time in as many months during a WSL event. Of course, Medina outsmarted everyone in the surfing world, knowing in his head that Ibelli didn’t have enough to beat him during their heat at Pipeline even if he lost a score due to interference, taking off on his fellow Brazilian to block him – while seemingly taking a dump on the sensibilities of the greater surfing world. But The Inertia’s Juan Hernandez had the calm head, explaining to readers in the incident’s definitive piece that Medina’s move wasn’t unsportsmanlike, but a brilliant show of gamesmanship. “We have many more years of watching Gabriel Medina do things in a jersey that would turn the average lineup into a crime scene,” he wrote. “We might as well lean into it. After all, while a lot of surfers wouldn’t forfeit the good graces of others for a trophy, many of us made a choice to defend another multiple world titleholder (Slater) for similar acts long, long ago.”
Foiling has become the new ire of the lineup – mostly because there’s a giant machete attached to one’s board. Amongst those in the know, however, foiling can be a hoot, but it’s become a universal truth that it should never be done in crowded lineups (even by experts). That’s probably why Jeff Clark got so much blowback on his Santa Cruz foiling incident that in reality, wasn’t that big of a deal (thankfully). But the internet crowd roared to life on Clark. The Inertia’s Alex Haro worked with Clark to pen this op-ed explaining his position, which created an impactful stir on The ‘Nersh, to say the least. “I own it,” he wrote. “I don’t ever want to be foiling around people. If you know anything about me, you know I don’t like to surf around people — never have. Yet, with my escape route blocked, I next had to deal with a bunch of surf school students who may have never been in the ocean before. This is one wave in my lifetime of waves, and I ended up in a really bad place and did everything possible to keep the foil away from man and beast.”
Without question, snowboarding has been heavily influenced by snowboarding. But the competitive version has always had a heavy skate slant. That seems to be changing. Talented editor Dylan Heyden dove into that connection full force, exploring snowboarding’s recent reintroduction to the beauty of the turn. “Across ski resorts in North America, it’s not uncommon to spot snowboards in the lift line that are major departures from the twin tip template that’s dominated the sport over the past several decades,” he wrote. “Principals of surfboard design have a lot to offer snowboarding and have since the sport’s inception. But, modern efforts to re-engage with snowboarding’s roots are fundamentally reshaping design theories and culture as more and more riders reject the typical skate-inspired approach for a more surf-inspired one.” Read more, here.
As impact goes, The Inertia laid down the law late this year when it launched its podcast from the North Shore. And the reception has been everything we could have asked for and more. The Inertia’s Joe Carberry met with surfing’s biggest names on the most important stretch of beach in the world to talk about life and waves in The One Beer Podcast presented by 805. Ivan and Nathan Florence, Ben Gravy, Billy Kemper, Jamie O’Brien, Mark Cunningham, and Kohl Christensen (coming up next week) all joined Carberry to have a cold one and talk surfing. Listen wherever you download podcasts or on our YouTube channel. And look (or listen) for more fantastic conversations in the year ahead. Have a radical 2020 and thanks for reading!