Kelly, John John, Mick, Adriano, Jordy, Kolohe, all washed out of the Fiji Pro.
Welcome back to the Grit coverage of the Indo-Pacific leg. It’s June so it must still be Fiji, right?
I know, it feels a lifetime ago we last watched a heat at Cloudy. As we say in Australia, Lest we forget.
If you have children, and are of a certain socio-economic standing and reside in the coastal suburbs of Sydney or Byron or Costa Mesa or Fair Oaks or Long Beach or Berkeley, believe the White shark is gods favoured creature, you may send your kids to a Steiner/Waldorf school.
I did, until White sharks started leaving my friends grey on the beach with no legs and the fees damn near bankrupted me.
But fruitcake or genius, Rudolph Steiner had some functional ideas, one of which was that to develop objective thinking you should focus on something, and nothing else, for five minutes a day.
So I spent the lay days spending five minutes a day thinking about pro surfing, so you wouldn’t have to. You’re welcome.
Last article a knowledgeable commenter, Wayne Murphy, compared pro surfing to cricket test matches that stretch over five days and are a mostly a snooze-fest where the highlight can often be a seagull shitting on someone’s head.
It’s a perfect analogy. A vestige of a bygone era when people had nothing better to do, but even cricket with its centuries old hidebound traditions managed to evolve the game into more modern and exciting formats. One day formats, 20/20 games that are over in six hours etc etc.
American sports mostly evolved in isolation but being more modern are usually over in a day. But they take the luck factor out by having a series. Like the NBA finals going on as we speak.
You get to see the best guys in the best teams continually having to produce the best performances under pressure.
You see where I’m going with this right?
We get to see the best guys once or twice and if it’s a scrappy heat where luck rules, like at Cloudbreak today, they’re gone. Speaker wanted to emulate American sports but didn’t look at the most crucial aspect: format.
This should have been run and done in two days. We could, we should, be somewhere in Indo watching Slater/Florence take advantage of a bombing Indian Ocean, not seeing QS surfers in QS conditions disembowelling high seeds stuck in a loop of frustrated expectations like the rest of us.
The problem: you need four days of high-quality surf in the waiting period, and it just ain’t there most of the time. Square peg, meet the round hole of pro surfing anti-climax.
Enough fantasy, let’s riff on reality. Bourez has an equipment advantage with Firewires in small lefts. He brutalised Fanning in the worst surf of the day.
John Florence took on Leo Fioravanti. Perfect opportunity in a low-energy, confused lineup for the Italian rookie to knock out the champ. Leo went full Brazilian with the opening hassle, paddling right up the reef.
For fifteen long minutes, no wave was ridden and Barton was forced into very hard yards as the “insight” guy to elevate this into something resembling sport. John paddled away back down the reef. A flying fish skittered out of the reef edge like shard of broken glass and John flinched as it came towards him. Nerves.
John took a lead with surfing elevated beyond meat and potatoes by flared final manouevres on the coral. He looked the goods. I found the Italian Stallion irritating. Too much of an overpowering odour of a manufactured surf star for my liking, but then he nabbed a set and spiked it repeatedly. It was a superior ride and he repeated the dose to, in the end, dispatch Florence comfortably. I had to upgrade my opinion of Fioravanti big time. He’s legit. Cloudbreak remains problematic for Florence, somehow.
Are you a surf gambler? I’m not but I want to be.
I wanted to bet against Slater, which in effect is betting against the the house. I would have bet my house against Slater, if I owned one. Connor started with a series of errors but didn’t look rattled. Rosie and Ronnie riffed on J-Bay. Rosie in the most wistful voice imaginable, so soft as to be almost inaudible said, “ I can’t wait to go home, Ronnie.” It was the most honest thing to come out of the booth all year.
Carnivorous judges wanted the red meat of fully marbled turns and Slater gave them a mixed bag of lollies. It was sweet and quirky surfing but it failed to broach a seven, a number that has become a barrier for the goat.
With four minutes remaining Kelly needed a four. Rosie had sweaty palms, I had sweaty palms.
A wide set loomed and went unridden. The cruel clocked ticked down. This is how the champ goes out, with a whimper, needing a four. Famed Brazilian surf writer Julio Adler described Kelly loss as “melancholic.” Even more melancholy was the presser on the mothership where a disoriented Kelly couldn’t comprehend the loss, thought there was nothing else he could do. It was like watching an old man wandering the streets who has forgotten the way home.
Everyone expected De Souza to capitalise. The push was on in the commentary booth. I desperately wanted a Stu Kennedy victory. That to me, in backlit lefts that looked tantalising, would be a beautiful achievement to cap a mostly forgettable day.
Stu threw red meat to the judges straight away and they ate it up. I’d seen Stu surfing at one of Ballinas sharkiest spots and I knew his backhand was sharper than the perceived wisdom.
With a minute remaining De Souza sold him on a small runner and then snagged a set. It fell short and I, like Stu, said “Thank God.”
See, belief in a higher power can pay dividends.
This thing has to finish strong, surely.
I say Matt Wilkinson v Stu Kennedy Final. What say you?
Round 3 Results:
Heat 5: Michel Bourez (PYF) 13.53 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 11.20
Heat 6: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 16.83 def. John John Florence (HAW) 13.33
Heat 7: Joan Duru (FRA) 17.60 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.73
Heat 8: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 10.74 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 10.34
Heat 9: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.30 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.84
Heat 10: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 16.10 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 11.90
Heat 11: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.93 def. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 12.80
Heat 12: Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 14.83 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.33
Round 4 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Ian Gouveia (BRA), Julian Wilson (AUS), Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 2: Italo Ferreira (BRA), Michel Bourez (PYF), Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 3: Joan Duru (FRA), Connor O’Leary (AUS), Joel Parkinson (AUS)
Heat 4: Bede Durbidge (AUS), Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Stuart Kennedy (AUS)