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Comebacks: Ben Hogan v Owen Wright!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Two great athletes hit by buses. But whose comeback was better?

An hour or so ago, Kelly Slater raised a historical challenge on our Instagram account in regards to O Wright’s rise from brain dead-ish to number one in the world.

“Maybe a comparison to Ben Hogan winning the 1950 US Open within a year of having a near-death car accident would be timely,” he wrote.

It’s a good idea. So how about it?

Ben Hogan, who is American, was one of the best golfers who ever lived. Had a golf swing that is still studied, still copied. His book Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf is the seminal golf how-to book. Had a hell of a childhood. His dad, who was a blacksmith, sat in front of Hogan when he was nine, pointed a shotgun at his chest and killed himself.

And in 1949, when he was thirty-six, Hogan had a head-on with a Greyhound bus that veered across the road. Threw himself across his wife in the passenger seat to save her. Ended up saving his own life when the steering column punctured the driver’s seat. Still. A double-fracture of the pelvis, busted ankle, busted collar bone and near-fatal blood-clots. Doctors told him he wouldn’t walk again. He did but his legs would swell and tire whenever he walked.

The following year, Hogan won the US Open in an eighteen-hole playoff. And he won five of the next seven majors he played.

And Owen?

Oh, we all thought he was cooked after his Pipeline brain injury. His condition was a mystery. His recovery was kept secret. Last May he wrote on Instagram that he couldn’t even get to his feet when he attempted surfing.

One month after the injury in December, 2015, the Gold Coast Bulletin reported, “Serious concerns surround the health of 2015 surfing world title contender, Owen Wright… Fears that Wright is still having trouble speaking and even standing have spread throughout tight-lipped surfing community…revealed he was still struggling with amnesia just last week.”

Rumours circulated. He found a girl. Had a baby.

Would he ever surf again? The idea of Owen competing on the WCT and…winning? No one was even going down that path.

At the Quiksilver Pro, Owen beat Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Conner O’Leary, Gabriel Medina and Matt Wilkinson to become the first injury wildcard in history to roll up at the season opener and win.

“At the start of February, I was sitting in the doctor’s office and there were question marks on the year,” Owen said after. “So to be sitting here right now, we just pushed hard and went hard. I confronted every fear of getting back into it. There were a lot of fears I needed to push through in order to get back into the sport and back into what pretty much took me out and could have taken me out forever. I kept going and kept doing it.”

You tell me. Hogan or Wright? Who’s got the better comeback story?

Owen Wright Wins Quik Pro Snapper!

Michael Ciaramella

by Michael Ciaramella

Do you believe in fairytales? We do!

It’s the morning of the finals! Good thing too, I’m getting tired of writing about this Snapper joint. Surf comps now come with homework, which is a recipe for making me hate them. I’m not jaded just yet, but the slopey walls of Bells Beach will surely put me over the edge.

Quarters

Joel vs. Wilko

Joel looked slooooow today. Not sure what the deal was, as he’s looked lively throughout the rest of the event, but maybe someone in the Wilko camp slipped a couple Valiums this morning. He still would have made it if Matty didn’t burn him on that one bomb. Reminiscent of Joel vs. Kelly at Kirra in 2013.

Wilko on the other hand was straight into it, full rail and full speed ahead. Matt’s vert to slide is damn endearing, I must admit. He looks glued to his board and will be difficult to beat in conditions like these.

John vs. Italo

John’s one of two guys I have remaining on my Fantasy team, so I was relieved when he strolled into that first tube-to-double-arm-layback combo. The rest of the heat was lackluster for the Hawaiian, but that high eight proved to be enough. He’ll need more to beat Wilko.

The little pipe bomb lost his explosive spark. I’ve gotta tip my cap to him though, as there’s nothing like spontaneity to keep the viewer on the edge of his seat. He may not be the best surfer or competitor, but Italo’d never have to eat Porta’s ass.

Owen vs. Connor

The Battle of the lanky screwfoots was a big disappointment. Its climax came in the dying seconds when Owen, who needed a two-something to advance, got a long, warbly right down the point. He joined all the dots but the wave was more survival than spice.

Connor followed Owen with a smaller but more aggressively surfed wave, but since Owen’s backup was higher he got the nod. Still a great result for the Cronulla rook.

Kelly vs. Gabby

An injured supergrom takes on the aged GOAT and youth reigns supreme. It was a grueling battle between an obviously-hurting Medina and a still-competitive Slater.

Gab needed a middling score in the dying minutes and surfed his last effort to a nine. Lucky he went so far above the requirement because, right behind him, Slater was busy dismantling the best wave of his heat.
Huddling in the competitors’ area after the heat, waiting for the scores to filter through, Gab and Kelly shared a moment. When Slater’s face went from anxious to disillusioned, and Gab’s from blank to elated, the viewer knew what had been decided. Out with the old, in with the new.

Semis

John vs. Wilko

With a nine-five in the opening minutes, this heat what’s John to lose. Thanks to conservative surfing, he did just that.

Wanting to back-up his opening banger, John opted to safety-surf an inside runner; banking where he should have banged, floating where he should have lofted. He got a flat six on a wave that could have delivered an eight, if only he’d surfed it with confidence.

This left the door open for a frothing Wilko who, with a high-seven on his opener, needed only a replica of his first to steal the heat. With a few minutes remaining, Wilko faked John into a dud and picked up the second wave of the set. It provided a steady wall upon which Wilko repeatedly swung his hammer for the heat win.

Gab vs. Owen

Medina looks really, really wounded. Like, he probably shouldn’t be surfing. On his highest-scoring wave, a six-something, Gab found himself stuck in the whitewater and unable to escape, likely due to his tender knee-cap. He later fell on two major opportunities to turn the heat. He needs some solid rehab before Margies.

And if Wilko isn’t enough of a Cinderella story, how bout this chap Owen Wright! The Avatar has defied the odds after a year-plus of brain damage control. His surfing hasn’t been exceptional but he’s played the competitive game to perfection, and is that not more impressive than any rodeo flip or full rote?

Final

Wilko vs. Owen

The only pair happier than Owen and Wilko are super-caddies/coaches/buffet mates Micro and Fletch. Together they’ve led their pupils to the final of the year’s first event, and both of them against the odds. Who’re they rooting for? Hard to say. It seems Wilko may have a heartier bond with both parties, but it’s hard to root against Owen, given the circumstances.

The final was slow and mostly unenthused. Even the crowd seemed disinterested, at least from this side of the monitor. Owen’s eight was the only wave that caused much of a stir, but even that ride was pretty average for professional standards. More of a comment on the waves presented than the athletes who rode them.

After not knowing whether he’d ever surf again in 2016, Owen Wright is now the world’s top rater surfer in 2017. The big guy was chaired up the beach by his loving siblings, Mikey and Tyler, and shared tearful words on the podium about his passion for surfing and love for his newfound family.

So, how did Owen manage this monumental win?

“Dad strength,” apparently!

Opinion: A modest proposal!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

For banishing conservatism and bringing joy back to surfing.

How much have you been enjoying watching professional surfing? Our boys put on such a show! I’ve been liking Mike’s daily wraps and am particularly fond of the way he is hammering the judges on their wanton conservatism. He is exactly right and the judges are exactly wrong.

But how do we fix this disease? And mark my words, it is a disease. Conservatism infects. It gets into the blood and turns everything a dull shade of grey.

Well, I would like to suggest a modest proposal. What if we, the viewers, acted more like an angry Medieval mob and meted out justice for a bad show? Every wave is a canvas, right. And we know what our boys are capable of. And so if a surfer safety turns for a safe score and the judges give him his score then we should demand another, different show.

I feel appropriate theater would be that the judges and the offending surfer kneel on a stage that is specially erected at each event site, in a similar theme to the commentators’ coffee table area, and form a human centipede.

Don’t you think conservatism would soon vanish and our skies would be filled with rainbows and progressive aerials once again?

WSL: Quik Pro Day Three!

Michael Ciaramella

by Michael Ciaramella

Drunk scrawlings from another day in Coolie

It’s St. Patrick’s Day and my Fantasy team has gone to shit so you can bet your bottom Benjamin that I’m drunk as a skunk. Let’s dick in.

Kolohe vs. Jadson

Despite his improved surfing, Kolohe has made the obscure choice to wear long, wide boardshorts. It’s safe to say we’ve passed the breaking point of Kolohe’s degeneration into adult conservatism. I weep.

Jadson surfed about as well as he could in these conditions, which is to say, not very good.

ADS vs. Stu

It was hard to find one interesting thing about this heat. So hard, that I failed.

The vet wins.

Wilko vs. Jeremy

Tubes vs. turns… who wins? Definitely turns, when it’s two foot. This is a disappointing end for the always-entertaining Flores, but Wilko deserved to advance based on his vertical approach.

Joel vs. Miggy

What an interesting heat! Started out fun and onshore, middled with a wild squall, and ended with clean, tubular conditions. Miggy ripped but Joel a little harder.

Italo vs. Caio

Clash of the Thai tans! Italo’s first wave was a thing of magic. From memory, it was something like 43 turns preceding a five-second, one-foot tub. He failed to back it up with more than a four.

Meanwhile, Caio scooped an insider that tubed, considerably, and handed him something in the seven-point range. He needed another seven in the dying seconds and delivered a superman-to-rev combo that garnered a cruel, if righteous, 4.97.

John vs. Mikey

John have mercy! You can’t scare us like that!

With only three minutes remaining, John needed a 6.6. Under Mikey’s priority, John took off on an insider and proceeded to unload into a 7.9 and a sketchy victory. I’m glad John won but also want Mikey on tour full time.

Jordy vs. Zeke

The last heat of Friday (Aus time) was the best. Jordy started with an eight, followed by a Zeke seven, followed by a Zeke ten, followed by a Jordy eight. The Saffa won on decimals. The judges got it right. Snapper has rarely looked this fun.

The next day…

Mick vs. Owen

Me thinky Mick won this heat. Call it Fantasy-favoritism of regular-footed-empathy, but I’d have put Mick though. Owen’s turns were nice, but they shouldn’t have trumped Mick’s overall assault on Snapper.

Julian vs. Connor

If this wasn’t a distinct example of the backhand advantage on Tour, I don’t know what is. Connor’s two scoring waves were a masterclass on the windshield-wiper method, while Julian produced a medley of different, albeit less spray-inducing maneuvers. Connor got the nod because his turns had more in-your-face spunk, but is there nothing to be said of variety and flow?

At least my premonition of Julian came true.

Slater vs. FREDerico

Still no major turns from the old man, but nothing a good barrel can’t fix! Slater continued his flow through this heat, and Fred unfortunately lost his spark. He’s the type of surfer that relies on big sections for big scores, and none presented themselves today.

Conner vs. Seabass

I don’t know why, but I’m incredibly bored by Conner’s surfing lately. He just looks so damn intent on not falling. Seabass surfed a more interesting heat but the judges obliged blatant conservatism. Maybe they’re not wrong, but it’s still not right.

Gabby vs. Ian

Medina’s technically hurt, but you wouldn’t know it from his heat total (19.00). Turns out conservative surfing bodes well for the Brazzo, though I am surprised his scores went as high as they did. It was pretty standard backside surfing as far as I’m concerned.

Gouveia finally showed why he’s on Tour, but it was too little too late against The Freak.

Round four begins! Three-man heats and drama aplenty! But first, a nap….

And I’m up! The alcohol-induced slumber has left me with a pounding head and general disorientation but words must flow! The following reviews are the result of half-assed Heat Analyzer screenings.

Kolohe/Wilko/ADS

Kolohe got fucked in this heat, both in wave scores and his “interference”. You can read more about that here.

ADS and Wilko stuck to their respective shticks, leaving me uninspired and with a funky taste in my mouth. The judges might just hand Wilko another win in 2017…

Parko/Italo/John

Did John get taller, or did his trunks just get shorter? Either way he’s looked especially lanky this event, and that’s not a good thing. Still won though.

Italo and Joel never clicked in this heat, and the waves are starting to look especially tough.

Connor/Jordy/Owen

North winds have officially ruined the surf. Everyone got under eleven points. The rookie won.

Kelly/Conner/Gab

Kelly continues to deliver the mid-face snap, Conner the half-layback, Medina the backside vert. Backside vert wins 9/10 times.

Joel vs. ADS

It’s incredible how much better Joel surfs, yet both he and Adriano have equivalent titles and it could be argued ADS maintains better odds of winning another. I guess it comes back to work ethic.

Joel won this one though. He might take the event.

Kolohe vs. Italo

Two men bounce around in the sea, one slightly better than the other. You could describe any heat in such a fashion, but this one especially.

Italo advances to Finals day.

Conner vs. Owen

Thank Darwin that Conner’s half-layback extravaganza is finally over. He actually surfed his last wave really well, but enough is enough. Figure out a new way to generate scores, because that turn is whack.

And how’s Owen making (at least) the quarters! Dude is next level, and that grandfather-clock rhythm hasn’t changed a beat since his Hawaiian head-shake.

Kelly vs. Jordy

Kelly wins. Finals day will be interesting. Goodnight.

Opinion: “Save us Pete Mel!”

Samuel Einstein

by Samuel Einstein

Can the Santa Cruz stud save professional surfing from mediocrity?

Am I the only one who has been sitting here the last few years scratching my head and wondering why Pete Mel had been relegated to gimmicky in-water updates?

Alas, it took Ross Williams hopping on the John John/Hurley gravy train to open up a steady slot for Pete in the booth. And In his A-team debut, the gauntlet has been thrown down.

Pete wants progression. 

Kolohe has just been handed the shocker snubbing of the year. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s the first contest of the year and only the non-elimination round for, I know. But this is how it starts. Like the first wave of the heat sets the tone for the heat, the first contest does so for the year.

While Wilko did the same predictable/repetitive backside hacks down the line, Kolohe chucked a few hefty reverses after laying down a hammer out the back. Wilko 8.6, Kolohe 8.3. Even as a goofyfooter myself, I’m having trouble justifying this one.

Kolohe has just been handed the shocker snubbing of the year. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s the first contest of the year and only the non-elimination round for, I know. But this is how it starts. Like the first wave of the heat sets the tone for the heat, the first contest does so for the year.

Mr. Mel made the very good, and dangerously foreshadowing point that a competitor like Kolohe (and other caution-to-the-wind throwers) will have no motivation to huck it if they aren’t going to get rewarded for it. Mel was genuinely perplexed. He is the opposite of  Martin “I am one of the pioneers of aerial surfing but practically jizz myself whenever someone holds back and safely finishes a wave” Potter.

Could it be because Pete is the father of a tail-chucking grom himself and fears for his future?

Does he watch so much competitive surfing that his head is about to explode from seeing the best in the world do castrated carves on sections begging for more?

Whatever the case, this is a scary precedent to set in a year that sees surfing’s most human-like robot Mick Fanning come back to full-time competition.

Keep em’ honest Pete! The world turns its eyes to you!