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Beach Grit

BeachGrit’s Rookie Rankings Part 1!

Michael Ciaramella

by Michael Ciaramella

Who is a virgin flower, a Venus fly-trap, an ageing sunflower?

There are seven precious flowers joining the 2017 Chlorophyllus Tour. Some are virgin tulips, elated to stake a small patch in the world’s most vivacious garden. Others are Venus fly-traps, who salivate in anticipation of a hearty meal and years of upward mobility. The last is an aging sunflower, whose inclusion to the group derives from its refusal to bend under the weight of a thousand overcast skies.

Every year we contemplate which of our rookies will devour the Kellies and Micks and Ace Buchans of the world; which will crumble under the weight of psych-outs and homesickness and 1.86 billion scrutinizing eyes. And usually we get it way wrong but not this time!

I’ve put in the hours, conducted thorough research and established a fool-proof 2017 rookie analysis. If by late December I’ve been proven correct in my prophecy, I’ll be sure to ceaselessly remind you of my knowledge and foresight. If somehow my divination is shown to be misguided, I’ll scrap the whole harvest and start the process over again in 2018.

Deal? Cool. Let’s begin!

7. Ethan Ewing

Last year I fell victim to the early season smokebomb that was Stuart Kennedy. Despite multiple warnings from my Surfing Mag coworkers that his tailslide heavy, repetitious sidewinding wasn’t actually good surfing, I took the Sci-Fi induced bait. Over the course of the year I realized my mistake.

So after being initially enamored by Ethan Ewing’s mercurial rise in the QS ranks, I decided to take a step back and look objectively at the North Straddie teen. From all the videos I’ve scoured and heats I’ve replayed, it’s become apparent that he’s not quite ready for the big leagues.

Ethan’s board control is marvelous, his competitive acumen tip-top, but he still looks a bit pubescent when it comes to turning power. He’ll have a hard time matching the likes of Jordy or Julian or even Filipe when it comes to rail surfing, and then on the flipside, Ethan lacks any semblance of an air game that could save him from the perceived lack of power. Then when you consider his inexperience in large hollow conditions, I see Ethan having a rough year in 2017.

6. Connor O’Leary

Yes, Connor won the QS. The Cronulla kid also nearly qualified in 2015, proving that he’s got immense talent and consistency. But for me, something about his shtick is very… CT-lite.

Connor’s strongpoint is his backhand. He did a few turns at the 2016 Haleiwa Pro that left my jaw hanging and eyes blinking in disbelief. Considering the year starts with three right-handers, Connor could use the backhand to propel himself to a high seed for the rest of the season, thus making life much easier on the backend.

However, I believe Connor’s fixed-stance approach is detrimental to aerial surfing and his forehand. With very little front-foot movement throughout maneuvers, Connor hinders his variety and landing percentage on tricks both below and above the lip. I’ve also seen next to nothing of Connor in big left tubes, so unless he really fires in Oz, I see his year being mediocre at best.

5. Joan Duru

I feel bad putting Joan this low in the rankings. He’s a great surfer with a wonderfully adept repertoire for any type of surf. It’s just that this year’s rookie crop is so damn strong that someone has to take the fall.

Western Europe is home to any type of wave one could imagine, from two-foot beachies to corduroy points to dredging slabs to proper big-wave venues; Joan has sampled them all. Plus, hailing from Southwest France, Joan’s especially cognizant of shifting ocean conditions, making him a clever and resilient competitor. This level of adaptability will benefit him in CT competition.

Joan’s advanced age (27) also gives him more experience than the other rookies, both in terms of water time and competitive fortitude. He’s no show-stopping talent, but when Joan’s level of know-how is combined with solid turns, surprisingly proficient airs and a penchant for weighty tubes, all the odds seem in favor of Joan succeeding on the 2017 circuit. Consider him Kai Otton’s European understudy.

Part 2 tomorrow!