TourNotes's Peter King on the supremacy of Filipe Toledo and crummy judging decisions…
Last year I interviewed the former pro surfer turned video-journalist Peter King on his use of tour surfers as his personal marionettes. There can be no shadow of a doubt that the old crone has the good humoured admiration of all the best surfers in the world, and this includes Kelly Slater and John John Florence.
Do you watch his creation Tour Notes? Of course you do!
Why does he succeed while others hack up work solemnly tiresome and dull?
“I don’t drink, never drank, I love sugar, but I’m not threatening anyone’s space. I’m not some 26 year old shucking and jiving my way up the marketing chain. I’m not trying to be anyone’s agent, I’m not trying to be a host of the webcast, I’m not trying to make 15 dollars on a Surfline photo. There’s no jealousy. It’s just me. “
Two weeks, ago, the noted writer Rory Parker theorised that 2015 was surfing’s dead-ball era of surfing, a boring game of numbers, surfers drilled into mindless conformity by repetitious scoring and events. And PK responded thus:
“I don’t think it was boring. I found a lot of great moments out there…not sure if the right stories though are always being told.Perhaps Rory you need to get on this tour with me! Between my #Tournotes style stories and you reporting your take on things, I think there would be an untold amount of interest generated from the Tour stops and characters …regardless of who wins what heats.”
I like PK’s candour so I interviewed him, again, for his opinion, which I believe entirely lacks prejudice, of the 2015 season.
If anyone messes up they have to leave. Except the judges. The judges don’t answer to anyone. It’s more like a supreme court than a surfing contest. I’ve sat around, watched jaws drop at scores, and a couple of days later they apologise. But there goes someone’s livelihood. Filipe great Adriano at Trestles, hands down, and yet we get to the end of the tour and Adriano’s the world champ.
BeachGrit: Rory wrote about the dead-ball era of surfing, that it was the most tedious in recent history. Do you agree or no?
PK: He was pretty spot on. The tour’s trying to play it safe the first couple of years out to satisfy everyone. My opinion is this: Everything is up for grabs on that tour. You can be fired like that, Brett Simpson didn’t qualify so he’s kicked off, goodbye thanks for coming. If Dave Prodan, the marketing manager says something wrong, he may have to leave. If anyone messes up they have to leave. Except the judges. The judges don’t answer to anyone. It’s more like a supreme court than a surfing contest. I’ve sat around, watched jaws drop at scores, and a couple of days later they apologise. But there goes someone’s livelihood. Filipe beat Adriano at Trestles, hands down, and yet we get to the end of the tour and Adriano’s the world champ. But there’s no way he beat Filipe at Trestles. And Filipe would’ve won that event, the way he was surfing.
And you can’t tell me Gabriel got a six-five for flopping down at Pipe. There’s a lot on the line, man. All the hype and the quality of surfing, they have to get the scores right. The big question is, how do we get the world champion we all agree on? We need to show Joe Shmoe, whom the WSL made a fan of surfing, that the fix isn’t in, and if boring is being celebrated as Rory articulated, how do we show excitement? Man, I don’t know. I’m not on the board of directors. I don’t even have a backstage pass.
BeachGrit: Who’s the best surfer in the world?
PK: Filipe is in the best surfer in the world, hands down. Everybody, everybody, admits that Filipe is the best, most exciting surfer in the world. He does a move and everyone’s jaw is down. Slater, John John, everyone knows it. He’s not the best in Tahiti, or big Fiji, or Pipe, yet, but he’s a kid and he’ll get better. He’s Brazilian so he’s crazy.
BeachGrit: You preach to the converted. I wrote a story a week or so back about Adriano, the pool, the shark, all conspiring to wipe Filipe’s three-event win season from our minds…
PK: He made everyone look ridiculous. No one had an answer. You know what I like? He claims tens. He doesn’t claim sixes. Everybody in the world can claim between nine-five and a ten. With all that stress, that’s cool. But begging for a six-five is a joke.
I think a combo of the smartest and best surfer pick would be Julian Wilson. He’s just that good in all-sized waves. I just don’t think he likes these world titles getting away from him. I feel like he let this year slip away. He probably should’ve been real close to wining that world title.
BeachGrit: What does it take to win a world title?
PK: You can’t win without being competitive. It doesn’t accidentally happen. Adriano, he’s not afraid to get into people’s faces. Mick, Julian, Kelly. These are guys who are not ashamed to win. John John seems like he doesn’t want to offend anyone. He cruises around and when he surfs a heat looks like a freesurfer paddled into the area. You can almost hear the commentators say, “Hey freesurfer, you’re great, but get out of the contest area.”
BeachGrit: John John and a world title? A dream?
PK: (Deep sigh) If I was reading one of those old Derek Hynd analysis in Surfer magazine, for world title, I’d say No Chance. Now, from my viewpoint, I give him a slight chance because he’s that good you can’t say no. John John should start travelling with Filipe.
BeachGrit: Are they good pals?
PK: Totally. Filipe is the only person he took to be in his movie. He love love loves Filipe. Everyone loves Filipe.
BeachGrit: Is he an easy-to-love kinda guy?
PK: Yeah, and the family’s amazing. So cool. The dad is completely wild and hilarious. They’re like a travelling circus. There’s twenty-seven of them! (Pause) No, but it feels like it.
Why do we have to listen to Ross Williams second-guess a score? Can we remove the middle man? How did they arrive at the decision? Do we have to hear Pottz or Ross say it was an eight five, they get a seven, and no one knows why? Can’t we just ask ‘em?
BeachGrit: How about the current state of the WSL?
PK: It’s the biggest it’s ever been globally. It’s an interesting time. These guys have a business to run with millions and millions of dollars. They’ve gotta get it right. They genuinely want to get it right. There’s nothing evil and they’re not trying to trick the public. The judges froth to surf, those guys are out there every morning, everyone’s a fan of surfing. There’s no malice. But we all pull our hair out when we see a bad decision. What can we do about it?
BeachGrit: An independent ombudsman, maybe?
PK: Maybe the tour guys could have an app and if a decision is heinous, they can text a red dot. A red flag. If there’s enough, let’s say 17 dots, the decision gets looked at. And why can’t we listen to the judges themselves? Why do we have to listen to Ross Williams second-guess a score? Can we remove the middle man? How did they arrive at the decision? Do we have to hear Pottz or Ross say it was an eight five, they get a seven, and no one knows why? Can’t we just ask ‘em?
BeachGrit: My experience with (head judge) Rich Porta has been delightful. He’d happily explain… anything.
Earlier in the year, earlier in the year, the judges told Kolohe airs wouldn’t be counted unless they were ridden out of perfectly. Everyone I was sitting with watching Gabriel shook their heads and could not believe he got the score. He fell down, he triple claimed. It was pathetic. It was… pathetic… that he got that score
PK: Richie is so gnarly, dude. If he wasn’t that confident, that mentally tough, he would’ve killed himself by now. He doesn’t care what you think. He loves it. Put a normal human being in that job and he’s dead…
BeachGrit: Let’s talk about Gabriel’s six-five at Pipe a little. I saw a rotation and then some, the score fitted, as it was more dazzling than another two-second, four-foot tube.
PK: Okay, earlier in the year, the judges told Kolohe airs wouldn’t be counted unless they were ridden out of perfectly. Everyone I was sitting with watching Gabriel shook their heads and could not believe he got the score. He fell down, he triple claimed. It was pathetic. It was… pathetic… that he got that score. Someone debating about the score on text, though, was Shane Dorian. He said it was a radical move and definitely the score. Now, get Rich Porta in the booth and explain why he got a six-five. At the end of the day, go through controversial heats with Ronnie Blakey saying to Richie, “Three heavy results today. Come down and talk about it. Prove your point to me on TV.” We need to have an honest and open understanding of what’s going on.
BeachGrit: What’s your take on Gabriel, forgettable first half, sizzling second?
PK: He’s the forgotten story. He’s been riding an SUP all year, pretty much. His surfboards are 23 inches wide and four inches thick. I could literally stand-up paddle those things. He’s unstoppable on ‘em. He’s probably got 36 litres under him. The biggest things I’ve ever seen. He’s got big thick legs. Legs like an elephant. Jordy’s legs and David Beckham’s torso. They’re contest machines. They come pre-stickered, all those stickers are laminates. He’s not wasting his time putting stickers on boards. His act is… tight.
BeachGrit: What do you think of Kelly’s pool?
PK: It’s incredible and I hope to get there soon. But it’s just a test facility, which is lost on a lot of people. It’s not what he’s building. It’s not for everyone to come and surf. It was just some cheap land to test everything out. From what I know, it’s not a secret. He’s been trying to build it for ten years. He wanted everyone in the industry to come in on it but no one wanted to. I bet they feel stupid now. That’s probably a ten billion dollar idea. I just want to get a job as a lifeguard at one. He told me we’re going to the pool in February. But you know Kelly. He’ll tell people he’ll bring them to Fiji, tell ‘em he’s not going, then call ‘em from Fiji to tell ‘em how good it is.
BeachGrit: What’s gonna happen on the tour this year?
PK: Kelly Slater’s going to win the world title, Julian Wilson too. Contradictory? Yeah, but I’m covering bases.