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J-Bay Analysis: “The end of the beginning!”

Longtom

by Longtom

Is pro surfing evolving? Progressing, remaining stagnant or regressing?

It’s fashionable to imagine the end of Pro Surfing is nigh, but I believe we are at the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the End and that Pro Surfing will stretch out into deep time, as one of the favoured tropes of human evolution.

Sorry I missed the start.

I was drinking with Sicilians at a family function but Chas did beautiful on the opening play by play. I actually had plans to develop a pod-cast for the event as coverage because there seems to be an opening in the market for another surf podcast.

Maybe there is room for another twenty?

This one, to be named, the Talking Parrot 2.0, and to be hosted by my parrot Dexter. He has a penchant for ultra-progressive surfboard design, spending large amounts of time at the Dan (Tomo) Thomson family home (true). It was all these surf journo turf wars that got me fired up for the Talking Parrot 2.0, that and the words of American genius Jay Reatard: 

It’s not complete.

I must compete. 

Stand on my feet.

Live with these creeps. 

Not saying surf podcasters are creepy cats, just that the average surf podcast is far too short. So I planned the opening Podcast: Historical evolution of pro surfing performance as seen through the prism of Jeffreys Bay, to run for 27 months and 16 days. Upcoming podcasts were planned to be 73 years long and were to be played in birthing units to unborn kiddies in case they accidentally expired before the peak moments were broadcast.

Anyhoo, I ran over Dexter in my Camry wagon (true) and he dead now, so the idea is scuttled. Very sad. But we continue the thread of evolution herewith.

Jay Reatard: I’m sitting here waiting for something to evolve.

Kelly Slater: “You ever stand up on a wave and feel yourself channeling someone else, almost like an entity takes over your body ….you can’t help but be mesmerized…Tom Curren flow, Terry Fitz speed lines..”

Which raises the question of the most important issue in Pro Surfing. Is it evolving? Progressing, remaining stagnant or regressing?

According to Kelly it is completely progressing. He said so himself during a presser in Fiji where he slammed the surfing of his peers when he came on tour as deplorable, in which case, why look back? Why nominate Tom Curren and the Sultan of Speed as the desirable templates and spiritual entities to be channeled if progression is the ultimate aim?

He has friends, including Professor Anders Ericsson, the world’s reigning expert on peak performance, who sees in most athletic endeavours a clear and consistent line of progress and improvement and claims the “horizons of human potential are expanding with each new generation”.

I argue the former and that there has been one true revolution in pro surfing history and that was Dane Reynolds. Dane brutalised the judging criteria, completely reshaping it to fit his own vision. Slater tried to run on with it. Then Dane quit and the judges returned to stagnation. So sad. So very sad. But not for us who can afford to take the long view.

On the other hand, German philosopher Fred Nietzsche observed that evolution did not proceed with straight line progress, that the mediocre could overwhelm the great, that evolution was rife with blind alleys, stagnant waterholes, regressions and wrong turns of every description.

Derek Hynd observed that surfing performance at J-Bay had declined with every inch the wide point migrated back towards the tail.

Which is the correct view? Who is right? Freddy and Hynd or Slater and the Swede?

I argue the former and that there has been one true revolution in pro surfing history and that was Dane Reynolds. Dane brutalised the judging criteria, completely reshaping it to fit his own vision. Slater tried to run on with it. Then Dane quit and the judges returned to stagnation. So sad. So very sad. But not for us who can afford to take the long view.

Now John Florence puts his wide point forwards on the ghost face wave killah and voila, the drive comes back. Evolution by going backwards.

And Slater who claims the inspiration of channeling past masters goes the other way and makes his equipment twitchier and less drivey. He moves away from what he himself considers the highwater mark and template!

Tres Ironic!

Is this the greatest evolutionary wrong turn and blind alley in pro surfing history, this late stage equipment and let us be honest and call it for what it is, an atrocity, by Kelly Slater? An atrocity so blatant even his childhood friends feel the need to bring it to his attention?

Just to make sure this wasn’t old man thinking I tapped one of my intelligence assets on the ground here. The best 15-year-old surfer in Australia, Lennox Heads’ Mikey McDonough who said in answer to who was the best surfer at J-Bay,

“Mick, yeah Mick.”

And historically, Mikey, who is the best of all time?

Tom Curren, I guess”.

There it’s settled. This sport has officially gone backwards.

Let us all examine it forensically over the coming days and compare it to the highwater mark of Tom Curren and adjudicate accordingly. Spaz pumps are clearly a sign of devolution. Kelly did three between every turn.

You go count them yourself.

And remember that name: Mikey McDonough.