And Filipe soars like condor, day three, Quiksilver Pro…
I left the Farm in the dark, before the first cock crow. I wanted a park, a full day of coverage, an honest day’s work etc etc. Surf writers can work harder than pro surfers any day of the week, despite the fact our jobs are destined to disappear to programmed robots before theirs do. That’s a fact of creative destruction.
The morning was blessedly cool, the surf wearing prettier clothes but still mal-nourished and weak underneath.
The opening heats were bizarrely anodyne, like that person you know who’s just upped the dose of Prozac. They’re talking to you but there’s a blank deadness in their eyes. They’re there, but they’re not there, if you know what I mean.
Banting apparently had some strategic ace in his corner, telling him, what, go out and surf like a cross between Sally Fitzgibbon and an anorexic Jordy Smith? I’ve surfed with Banting, he’s thin and quick. He should be bringing spice to every turn and beating opponents with turn speed. Slow motion carves are not his strategic forte.
Freestone continued the theme. Was the Xanax being double dipped in the acai bowls? I was happy to see Brother progress because I picked him for a QF finish.
Without warning the conversation in the booth had taken a turn to the metaphysical. Energy is the new buzzword and judges are seen as emotional beings. Concepts I introduced into the mix months ago, if you want to give attribution Ross. It is an advancement on the fiction that there is some kind of objective reality behind throwing a number at a ridden wave based on some criteria. Now the vibe was judges as psychics: I’m sensing a weak aura behind that turn of Freestones. The whole morning had that fuzzy out of focus low vibe feeling.
Truth is, judges make a decision, not consciously, about what is “perfect” surfing. The same way predators pick out prey from the background, using a “search image”. They picked out Dane Reynolds as perfect surfing for a couple of glorious years before they went back to more conservative surfing. By the end of the day judges have banked this years search image. His name is Filipe Toledo and he makes my sadness at no more Dane Reynolds go away better than drink and drugs.
With the conny put on hold I fled south, away from the highrises and merchant capitalism of the surf industrial complex and turned left at the Tweed river. I grabbed a mask and hand spear and followed the tidal push of blue water up a mangrove lined creek. In the cool water, amidst the graceful tumult of underwater life the day snapped back into psychic focus, I bagged a couple small trevally and a flathead and chucked them in the esky. My hedge against artificial intelligence. The surf writer who can’t marry well or engage in opportunistic hunter-gathering has a name. An intern.
By the time I got back to the Bay we were on again. The judging had been comprehensible, the talent gap was obvious but a new gap seemed to be opening up.
A power gap.
While Slater is experimenting with equipment, the Brazilians are experimenting with the body. Making it stronger and faster, more powerful, more weapon-like. Italo looked easily better than Connor Coffin: faster, more assured. Like a cat playing with a live mouse. That was the only decision of the day that went against the strength of the aura.
I was thinking this might be one of those rare days when round three might be weaker than round two until the De Souza teed off on Mikey Wrights’ nuts.
Then Kolohe put it together. John John was set free by extra volume. Thank Allah he worked that out. It took Jordy Smith years.
Which bought us to the last heat of round three. Stuey Kennedy vs Medina.
I had my Team Stuey t-shirt on. It still had baby sick on it from Stu’s bub. True. No time to leave the pub and race over to James “Taipan” Woods place to watch it there. The pub was packed. The first ride from Stu stunned the crowd of hippies, Euro-trash backpackers, yoga mums in Audis and workadaddies on holiday. A Bondi crowd but better looking.
Holy fucking shiite militia. He’s gunna smash him.
Medina was pole-axed by the aggression, the first turn dominance. Stu was beating him with a baseball bat and there wasn’t a damm thing he could do about it. What to do? Should I try and play objective, like Nick Carroll, or run screaming down the street. I rang Taipan. There were shouts and screams. Unintelligible gibberish.
So I drove back to the Ox to get a read on the local vibe. Darkness was falling, there was a screeching of lorikeets in the Norfolk pines. People were naked in the streets, dancing, falling over drunk, fornicating with their neighbours’ wives behind bushes. A bull-chested man was riding a horse bareback up and down the main street blowing a whistle and chugging tequila from a bottle. It was a carnival atmosphere par excellence. I joined in the celebration for a couple hours and then headed for home.
“Honey, I’m home,” I said quietly to my beloved as I opened the door.
I put the fish in the fridge and turned the computer on while the sound of firecrackers exploded in the distance like civil war.
PS: The very first wave I saw ridden in a freesurf before the event started was Filipe T. He went bottom to top faster than I’ve ever seen any surfer go. Obvs no sexual drag on his performance. All event he’s cruised, no need for air, a vulgar display of power sufficient. That ten was one gear shift up, you get the feeling there are two or three more. Very bad juju for anyone he comes across. Only Stu Kennedy or Florence look like they could be in a heat with him and not be on the wrong side of a combo.