He lays it on thick like Marmite. Some people love him, some people hate him, but who is Lewis Samuels?
Tell us how Surfline’s Power Rankings came about. I saw an opportunity to write about the tour guys in the way that Derek Hynd used to. Other sports have an idea of power rankings, something subjective based on more than just the ratings and results. First I pitched it to Surfl ine and they said no way. Then they said maybe, but you’re not the guy to do it. I explained that it’s changing, going away from old media. It’s not just insiders anymore, it’s outsiders, bloggers, people who are just your average person. Most people who’ve written this stuff in the last ten years are either friends of the pros, working for the brands or both, and that’s why it’s usually so sugarcoated and boring.
How come it got so popular? It stands out as something different compared to all the congratulatory media coverage, this concept that we still have to sell surfing. I mean, if you’re a hardcore surfer, you already know it’s fun; it’s a bit sickening being constantly told how wonderful it is. It actually puts you off.
Tell us a bit about some of the run-ins you’ve had here in Europe. One of the entourage of a top Australian surfer the other night said, “F-off, we don’t want you here.” We were celebrating CJ’s win in Mundaka, CJ had invited me along for a beer. Surprisingly, it’s some of the top Aussies who are pretty touchy. So this guy was like, “It’s not OK what you do. I’m gonna pound your face in unless you leave right now.”
You’ve been pretty gnarly with Luke Stedman. How has he reacted to you? At the end of last year I wrote, ‘If he spent half as much time training as he did in front of the mirror he’d be a Top 10 surfer… no wait, just kidding… he’ll never be a Top 10 surfer.’ I was hanging with him at an event and then I told him who I was and he just leapt up and started pacing up and down and didn’t know what to do. He said, “I’ve wanted to punch you out so bad, I don’t know what to do now…” Actually, Stedman is one of the most gracious, level-headed guys you’ll meet. He said, “I’m gonna make the Top 10 just to prove you wrong, you ****.” For sure eventually, I’m gonna get punched. So far I avoided a couple of lickings because guys have said, “You’re so small, it’d be like punching a girl.”
So if everyone hates you, how do you get away with it? I’ve also had great feedback from people I really respect, like Ian Cairns, Curren, CJ and Slater. They’re saying “It’s good for the sport what you do, you give coverage to everyone, not just the top guys.” For example there’s Heitor Alves. I called him out as a dark horse and he ripped to the quarters at Trestles. If I wasn’t writing about him, that’s a guy that would get zero, absolutely no media coverage in the US or internationally at all, and he rips. Bruno Santos too, I picked him out and he won Teahupoo, so maybe that made me look like I knew what I was talking about a little bit.
You put Tiago at No.2 behind Slater when he was rated 40th and then he got a 3rd in Indo. That was a pretty decent call. Tiago is a great guy and a great pro – smart, professional, articulate. I was critical of Tiago’s surfing, his style earlier in the year. I was getting the gnarliest hate mail from Portuguese fans, ‘We’re gonna kill you!’ ‘How dare you!’ Then he stepped up, surfed great but still lost heats in the South Pacific and I wrote about that. He did more for his reputation there but still losing, than the contenders did. If I wasn’t doing what I do he wouldn’t even get a mention, it’s just the guys who won or made finals. If you go down ripping with a 17th, you get no mention anywhere. Yet I’m doing 125 words on them every time, and when they do well I’ll be there to recognize it and people will hear about it. For me that was an example of how the thing should work.