12. Filipe Toledo
The most to lose by winning? A queer concept that seems to have acquired a certain orthodox authority amongst a large portion of the fan base. The thinking is that due to the scoreless heat at small Chopes in round five, Filipe has abandoned any claim to a credible Title.
What to with that fact. Riot in the streets if he wins? Appreciate the greatest small-wave surfer alive or dead if he does manage to huck the ledge at Pipe? It’s galling for grizzled Gen X’ers and decaying baby boomers (Hi Carroll, Warshaw!) to have Dad (a far more virile one at that) on the beach whistling at Filipe like he was starring in the U12’s soccer match. It’s a reminder of their own bitter disappointments and failures, an imposition of their own toxic aura. Such is life.
13. Miggy Pupo
When the critic stabs his subject he stabs himself. But behind the blackest heart of the eternal cynic lurks a latent desire to affirm, to praise, to offer the eternal Yes.
I come to praise Miggy Pupo. Best goofyfoot stylist on tour. Smoother than silk. Could body double for Lopez or some other slim hipped matador, such as Antonio Ordonez, described so memorably by Hemingway in The Dangerous Summer.
What would Hemingway say about Poops? That he surfs purely, with respect and grace, that his surfing tightens the throat and makes the eyes dim? Why is Miggy Poops stranded in the back half of the ratings like a refugee? Someone maybe able to enlighten us all in the comments.
Fixed his grill, can surf Pipe.
Despite the laggardly ratings performance this year Wilko would/should be one of the first picked for a Top 16 Tour. When he’s on, his backhand is best on Tour, relying on an ascending series of rhythmical high hooks that produce an emotional response like listening to the best music.
With Tom Curren, he was the best in the lineup at J-Bay last year. Hamstrung by format, when his rhythm breaks down he falls. A lot. Evolution is not a straight line of progression. It has its backwaters, cul de sacs and reversals.
Wilko has been stranded in one of those murky swamps. Like the test pilot Chuck Yeager in Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff he needs to find a Plan B, C, D, whatever it takes to find something that works when the plane is in a flat spin, when the rhythm breaks down. Something that puts him back into pushing the envelope of performance surfing.
He’s too good to be a backmarker. A final placing at Sunset is a step in the right direction.
15. Nat Young
Where to place this man in historical context? It’s a challenge. I think of California I think of stylists, products of an extended continental shelf; slow predictable waves, products of far off storms, counter-culture, Nixon, American post-war affluence,Vietnam, Steinbeck.
I think of Ryan Burch, Tom Curren, Joni Mitchell, whom Nat Young’s Mum is a doppelganger for.
Maybe we need to go as far back as Jim Hogan to parse a similar anti-stylist from the California milieu. What he lacks in style he makes up for in tow-headed apple pie grit. When the Box gave him a bloody nose he could’ve indulged in a Gabby Medina sulk but he paddled out and went deeper and harder.
Christ-almighty, though, couldn’t a coach, Gerlach maybe?, do something about the stink from that style? It crosses Oceans, transcends webcasts.
Joseph Conrad from Lord Jim, where the narrator meets a French Naval Lieutenant:
“The honour, the honour, monsieur! The honour.… that is real, that is! And what life may be worth when the honour is gone. I can offer no opinion. I can offer no opinion because, monsieur, I know nothing of it.”
Isn’t that French Lieutenant just Jez to a tee? It’s totally, completely him, a hundred years ago! The little Frenchman surfing for honour. The crazy attempt at a Teahupoo bomb on the Code Red year, the victory in the helmet this year. The sense of honour is real.
Jeremy looks horrifically dated with his club sandwich trick but when it’s heaving he’s the man. And Pipe will be heaving.
17. Wiggoly Dantas
Came on Tour like a fully formed Minotaur emerging from the labyrinth of the QS and has savaged a few reputations and hastened retirement plans, hopefully. Gnarly backhand, forehand charger. Five-nin, 165lbs is the ultimate height and weight for a pro surfer.
18. Kolohe Andino
Do androids dream of electric sheep? Does Kolohe Andino dream in beige? Does he dream at all? Or is his inner world so suffocated by the psychic refuse of Snips and Big Daddy Andino that there ain’t no room to dream.
Would his life, his ranking be improved by an inner life, by reading a book? Probably, possibly, maybe. We recommend the Art of War by Sun Tzu, or Target Practise: Why success on the QS doesn’t predict results on CT , by Rory Parker (as yet unwritten).
Is Kolohe the ultimate product of technological capital, a “dispersed, decentred network of libinidal attachments”, with every move predictable, over choreographed, lacking in emotional and aesthetic impact.
What’s that? An objection from the back of the room? Say it then: “Kolohe is flesh and blood, just like you and me.”
To which I say, prove it.
Kolohe won’t disgrace himself at Pipe, defeat will be honourable, as befitting the stature of his entourage. But it will be early.
19. Josh Kerr
Everyone has their kink. Mine is philosophy, particularly the dark vision of John Gray, although I’m partial to the German perspectivists. I’m a bum, and it does no harm, so I indulge whenever I get the chance. Which isn’t that often seeing as I’m already holding down a surfing and fishing habit and trying to raise a family. Make an honest living. Just like Josh Kerr.
For some reason, I find Josh’s heats as boring as batshit and a great time to read up on some John Gray doom and gloom. Last time Josh surfed I indulged in this pithy Gray-ism: “What we are witnessing is the rediscovery of an essential truth: our freedoms are not free-standing absolutes but fragile constructions that remain intact only under state power.”
Just like our freedom to enjoy public spaces and the ocean can be taken away under the aegis of WSL edict and hired muscle. And we love it! All your waves now belong to us!
How can it be that such a harmless and nice man, a man whose air game is now a bit decrepit, whose rail game has always been a sandwich short of a picnic, whose tube-riding remains state of the art, can inspire such passion-less realism?
Reading my notes for Josh I found scribbled on the back of a parking ticket: Stephen Hawking…rise of the robots…..AI, state support , future shock. Alvin Toffler. Leisure.
Nup, makes no sense to me either.
20. Ricardo Christie
I’m a dreadful aesthetic and linguistic snob for a bum who struggles to keep the bills paid. S’why New Zealand offends me on two levels: that milky green water ( I prefer Pacific Blue) and the ridiculous accent that makes people sound dumber than pig farmers from Dorset.
Still, I have to admit NZ is a bastion of some kinds of progressive thought and it makes a nice backdrop for Hollywood film with a favourable exchange rate against the greenback.
As far as being a breeding ground for pro surfers, yeah, but nah. You’ve got to feel sorry for Christie though. One long, lonely unlamented year. He barely got to the dance floor let alone got the boogie on.
Pro surfing hates an unsponsored journeyman, it offends their sense of righteousness at a cellular level. There’s the backdoor cuzzy bro, don’t let it hit you on the way out.
For the sake of justice, I hope Christie picks it up and belts them over the head with it at Pipeline. For the sake of future Kiwi hopefuls, get thee to Australia early and make whoopee with Australian money.
Or colonise Hollywood. They love the accent there.
Farewell Ricardo, we barely knew ye.