Is Keanu Asing the most obscure contest winner ever? Matt Warshaw says, "No!"
Has the thrill worn off today’s Keanu Asing’s World Championship Tour victory yet? It hasn’t for me. The just under three-footer popped off John John Florence and Gabriel Medina in back to back heats to take Quiksilver Pro trophy and hold it high high above his head.
But it made me wonder. Is the Li’l Frangipani the most obscure contest winner of all time? And you know what that means…
Surfing’s living treasure and I happened to be talking on the phone when the question arose and right away he said:
“No. Ricardo Tatui won… I think it was the same contest in 1994. I was not known as a real contest coverage guy but for some reason I was at that one. There were these tiny little sand bar lefts. It was a dumb little contest and won by a complete nobody.”
Jamie Brisick, maybe the best surf author ever, fills in the detail:
There’s not a hell of a lot to tell. The waves were small and meek. The tide was high so it was inconsistent. Booth surfed with power and style. Tati surfed at the edge of himself — more flick and less composed. Nothing to really sink your teeth into. Tati was supercharged, Booth too mature for the conditions, and the trinity of Australia, America, and Hawaii that’s been making all the noise for all these years has to move it on over. The winner was announced and the samba music played.
I ask Matt, “Was he Brazilian?”
And he responds, “Brazilian but with blonde hair.”
Later, after we hung up, he emailed the following bit:
Tatui beat Slater in Round Two, in decent head-high Grande Plage surf. In finals against, Jeff Booth, surf was tiny left-handers. Also worth noting: One week earlier, at Rip Curl Pro Hossegor, event won by Flavio Padaratz. So when Tatui won, it was the first time EVER that Brazil won two events in a row. Also looks like poor Ricardo totally haired out at Pipe.
Matt wrote in a 1995 Surfer magazine top 44 review:
The Quiksilver result probably saved Tatui’s professional career. Had a shot at the Top 44 at the end of 1993, but haired out of the Pipe Masters and fell to 45th. Ridiculed in Brazil. Channel-sat in this year’s Masters as well, but already had the magic win in France and a fresh start.
Does a Brazilian hairing out at Pipeline surprise you?
Do you think the Li’l Frangipani will enter our gilded history as a strange footnote or do you think this is the start of a new dynasty?
Also, did you like the lesbian kitsch Russian band Tatu?
The meditative nature of yachting! It's beautiful!
Briefly, brave little Hawaiian Keanu Asing is the toast of Hossegor and of world surfing. And let’s sing and do little dances on the spot and praise Jesus and so forth because there is nothing more edifying than watching a man defy the longest odds in sporting history.
But, if we zoom out, we must concede that there is one surfer, above all, who matters. And that is, of course, and obviously, John John Florence. His seven-part web series Twelve, made by Bill Ballard, and peerless I believe in its ability to strike a narrative, continues its excellent form in episode four.
We sail with John John along the Hawaiian coast, cut to a narration by John on the meditative nature of yachting, and of surfing, of their essential, and complimentary, simplicity.
“Surfing and sailing, it’s doesn’t seem like there’s any limits. You’re trying to learn about a natural force that’s never the same. It’s going to scare you at times and it’s going to be the most beautiful things at times. But. The most exciting thing about the ocean is you don’t know what’s coming. It’s all being an artist in your own way and being creative in your own lines.”
Finals day of the Quik Pro! Carissa Moore won the battle, but Tyler Wright won the war! Champion of the world! Campeon del mundo! I don’t speak any other languages.
Good for her. I can’t properly express how much I love the lady and the power she’s brought to the women’s tour. It’s always kind of a bummer when the title doesn’t come down to Pipe, but the ladies don’t compete at Pipe, so that was a stupid thing to write.
Plenty of excitement on the men’s side too. Finals day saw fun looking surf. A little disappointing, we’re all hoping for sandy brown dredgers. But it was competition worthy. Shoulder-high to a grown man, glassy, the type of surf that’d have you salivating at your local. It’d be jammed packed to the gills crowded, and you’d probably leave the water angry, but in those few blissful moments before you paddled out you’d be on top of the world.
Keanu Asing has been on fire the entire event. Surfing smart, surfing well. Doing what it takes to win these days. Doing it flawlessly.
His semi-final heat against the tour leader was busy busy busy. Twenty waves between the two surfers, split down the middle.
The conditions handed Asing a pretty hefty advantage. His diminutive size meant that, while Florence was surfing slightly weak shoulder high lefts, Keanu was going top to bottom on overhead walls.
Asing grabbed the lead early, Double-J snatched it back with a double tap to kick slide reverse. A paddle battle for priority ensued. Florence won it, grabbed the first wave of the set, left Asing out the back to pick up the better one.
Florence grabbed the lead, but he wasn’t surfing as well as he could. Asing was surfing the best he ever has, within the confines of a heat. I’ve never seen him freesurf.
I’m writing it off to the the size advantage Asing enjoyed, but they looked like they were surfing on different days.
Keanu drove the first nail in JJF’s coffin at the midway point. Grabbed one outside, put everything he could into each turn, hopped across the flat section and smacked the oncoming lip pretty hard. 8.67. Backed it up immediately with an 8.1 on his next. Put John John in a hole he couldn’t dig himself out of.
Florence didn’t lay down, gave it his best. Found an 8.4 with roughly three and a half minutes left. Solid backhand smacks, a cool little lip clicker backside ollie 180 halfway through. But the judges aren’t really rewarding that level of kinda-aerial surfing these days. Nor should they.
Florence needed an 8.38 as the heat wound down. Twenty seconds left and a likely number rolled through, but Asing played smart, used his priority, and surfed it to the beach. Extended his lead, and grabbed the second best result of his career so far.
Sucks for John John, but still… third place is pretty solid. He retained the tour lead going into Portugal. With only two events left, and one of them being Pipe, you know Florence can taste the trophy.
Up next was Kolohe/Medina. Another busy heat, another twenty waves ridden.
Asing dropped a classic quote during his interview with Mel.
My body’s little. Running up the sand and stuff, it’s hard.
The swell delivered a nice pulse early on, both surfers put it to use. Kolohe with two solid turns and a fall on the end lip climb/floater thing. Medina tore the bag out of the following for an 6.33. Andino got the better score, a 7.33, which was confusing. But totally inconsequential as Medina’s next wave put them both to shame.
It was an impressive display of tactical confidence. Medina dropped out mid paddle battle, spun around on a crumbly left, left Kolohe to grab priority.
Two okay speed taps, the second off balance. It lined up, he pumped hard and boosted a big lofty alley oop. Stomped it perfectly. Then he did something I loved. He didn’t claim shit. He kept surfing! Tossed three nice little maneuvers onto the end. Put a stamp on it. Took the lead. 8.83.
The pulse disappeared and the next twenty-odd minutes saw the pair do their best with what the ocean offered. Which wasn’t a hell of a lot. Kolohe put in work, caught another seven waves, but couldn’t find anything the judges loved.
Holding priority with two minutes left, Andino took off on a bigger wave that looked to hold the potential for the score he needed. But he chose poorly, it fattened up like a freshman college girl, ending with Medina out the back holding priority as the clock wound down.
Twenty seconds left, Medina grabbed an inside puppy that stood up for him, top to bottom combo’ed it all the way. Finished with a go straight, “I’ve won” chop hop. Nine point zero. I wonder, if he’d fallen on that, would the judges have deducted points? Mysteries abound.
Kolohe caught one more wave, but Medina’d put him in a combo with his last, and that was all she wrote.
I’m not good with numbers, but this puts Kolohe, theoretically, in the title race, yeah? I mean, he’d pretty much have to win the next two events, but…
The men went on pause while Carissa and Wright paddled out for the final. As I’ve mentioned, Moore won it. By a wide margin. But that didn’t really matter because second place put Tyler Wright far enough in front of the pack to clinch her first title.
Asing and Medina. Tough draw for the Hawaiian, no way I’d bet on him. But you can’t script this shit! Right? Right!?!?
The surf dropped, neither surfer delivered anything magic. Asing continued to stay low and make it look like it was six feet rather than two.
Medina seemed rattled. Wasn’t surfing his best. Delivered a career highlight fuck-up with 1:38 left.
It was a small, closeout right. Not a good wave, but you never know with Medina. Two pumps and a backflip could be dropped, if he gets lucky.
So Asing played tactics, paddled in from the shoulder with priority to hold Medina off. Gabriel kicked out, clipping Asing with the nose of his board as he went.
Honestly, it looked like he barely touched Keanu. The Hawaiian could’ve probably made the drop no problem.
But this is sport. I’m not calling it a dive. Asing drew a foul. Masterful. Always delicious to see Gabby on the wrong side of a tactical blunder.
Interference! Though, unless I’m mistaken, it didn’t really matter. Asing had the scores he needed to win regardless. No asterisk needed. He used his talent, not tactics.
And that’s how Keanu Asing won a fucking world tour event. I didn’t see it coming. Did you? Yes? You’re lying.
Asing moves up to 21st, above the cutoff. I sincerely hope he maintains his momentum. I love the little guy.
Watch highlights here!
QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE FINAL RESULTS:
1- Keanu Asing (HAW) 13.94
2- Gabriel Medina (BRA) 7.00
QUIKSILVER PRO FRANCE SEMIFINAL RESULTS:
SF 1: Keanu Asing (HAW) 16.94 def. John John Florence (HAW) 16.07
SF 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.83 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 15.03
WSL Women’s Top 5 (after Roxy Pro France):
1. Tyler Wright (AUS) 67,700
2. Courtney Conlogue (USA) 59,400
3. Carissa Moore (HAW) 54,400
4. Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 48,400
5. Johanne Defay (FRA) 43,650
WSL Men’s Top 5 (after Quiksilver Pro France):
1. John John Florence (HAW) 48,150
2. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 45,450
3. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 38,250
4. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 35,700
5. Kolohe Andino (USA) 32,150
For one day! After winning Quiksilver Pro France! And smashing both John John and Gabi!
Did you have your money on the Little Frangipani to win the Quiksilver Pro France? Did you have him on your Fantasy Team chewing through Kelly Slater here, John John Florence there? Did you think he would decapitate ex-World Champ Gabriel “Gabi” Medina in the final? That he would stamp Gabi’s passport and send him to Comboland?
Is your spirit soaring right now? Do you feel that what you learned in preschool just might be true? That you can accomplish any goal you set your mind to? That even if you want to be President of the United States of America you could?
Do you feel the Oval Office is, as of a few minutes ago, nearer to your grasp than ever before? Will you come up with a catchy slogan? Like Make Anderson Straight Again?
Will you do something at work today that you might have been afraid to try yesterday? Like make up a nonsensical phrase to call one of your co-workers?
Did you hear Ross Williams call John John Florence the “Blonde Popcorn Head?”
The SUP hydrofoil is here! Are you...... thrilled?
Hydrofoil surfing is much the rage what with Kai Lenny lapping waves etc. And what a ambassador he is no? Very handsome, very skilled, very brave, very magnetic. He is like a mix of Kelly Slater and Laird Hamilton and I wonder, as he ages, if he will eclipse them as the most popular surfer alive.
Do you think?
In any case, remember a few months ago when the Japanese surf icon Yu Tonbi Sumitomo almost decapitated himself with a foil? Read here! Jamie Mitchell responded, at the time:
So lately I have been asked consistently about my thoughts on the so called “NEW” foil popularity and haven’t really said much but, yesterday, sadly, I saw a photo that I knew was coming sooner then later.
Foils are for open ocean swells, outer bombies and places where there are no people or very few people doing it together. Foils are dangerous. Very dangerous. And do not belong in the surf zone with the masses and general public.
And it makes very much sense.
Yet, I have been seeing more hydrofoil SUPing across social media these days and personally can’t think of anything more dangerous in the lineup. I would rather wander to my local break and see a shark’s fin prowling between waves than someone who is already inclined to SUP with an aluminum blade set to disembowel for good measure.
But does this thinking only expose the hardness of my heart? Is it like a man clutching a cassette tape while sneering at shiny CDs telling anyone who will listen that the new technology is creepy?
Am I that man?
The one who caresses his Case Logic soft CD carrier while sneering at the iPod telling anyone who will listen, “But where is the music? Where does it fit?”