And swipes the yella jersey from John John Florence…
It’s run and done. No more weirdness I promise, just sportswriting.
By the way, it’s not muckraking I long for, though it’s good if done right, just good sportswriting and if you’re worried about hurting your friends feelings you’re fatally compromised before you write a word in anger. The only measure of success or failure is who is the last man, or woman, to put the boulder on the shoulder and trudge up the hill to file.
And thanks Kelly, I know you read yesterdays story and my Outerknown goody bag arrived in the mail this morning. I’ve worn the t-shirt proudly around the house, at your recommendation. Very soft, very comfortable, very sustainable. How good was it to have Kelly in the booth for the quarter-final between Bede and Parko?
No, that comment isn’t related to the receipt of the goodies. He just analysed and called it perfectly, once he was done with the spruiking.
Lets begin with the Wilko/J-Dub quarter-final. I have a dog in the fight when it comes to Matty Wilko, it’s not well known but he wouldn’t be on tour if it wasn’t for me. True fact. 2010, Teahupoo, with a mid-year cut. Remember that? Everyone who got cut had their careers crucified. John John and Medina came on Tour at that point. Round two four-to-six-foot Chopes and Wilko is on the knife edge. He loses this heat against Kekoa Bacalso and he’s off tour. Wilko is stressing in one of the boats before the heat. He needs a caddy. I volunteered. Yep, bush league to the max. Five minutes to go and Wilko is behind. I gave him a pep talk from the channel, just like Belly and Egan and the other top coaches, and wore a nicer hat than Glenn Micro Hall.
“Matt, get a tube and come out and do a turn,” I ordered.
Amazingly, he did just that and won. And now here we are, all those years later with Wilko right at the top of the tree.
Did you listen to the podcast Rory Parker did with surf writer Nick Carroll? Yes, it is hard to keep track of them all but in it Nick waxed lyrical about the amazing ability of the pros to keep command of their own performances and tailor them to what the judges want to see. Julian Wilson would be the perfect rebuttal to that premise. The most technically gifted surfer on tour who could be sitting on multiple world titles but just can’t seem to produce the correct performance at the correct time.
Matty Wilko showed it was no fluke when he beat JJF like a gong, twice, last year to final against Medina. He’s a fruit, not a yobbo, but now with a stainless steel core and he blew J-Dub off the park with three devastating opening rides and, really, that was it. J-dub fought back with two solid efforts including one under priority that Wilko surprisingly let him take unmolested. Day late, dollar short.
I thought Wilko was the only one doing proper turns all event, cutting hard against the grain, and Connor O’Leary was “cheating”, surfing off the fins and tail, releasing too quickly and not properly digging in. He was sneaking through heats but in the final he opened with some full-throated turns.
We’ve raced ahead. Rewind the tape.
Stupidly, without checking the draw, I called a Bourez/Wilko Final, an impossibility according to the draw, but it should have been, based on form. Wilko stuttered at the beginning, as if the pressure of favouritism had suddenly kneecapped his mojo. He chipped away while Bourez nailed a few mid-range rides, just critically underscored. That left Wilko needing a mid five.
On the buzzer he paddled into a smallish wave, did a fading cutback and threaded a small throaty tube. I wrote “no” on my palm cards. Judges, aware of favouritism, myth, Wilko being the best surfer of the event, a hundred other subconscious influences that Richie Porta would never dream of, said Yes.
Who was in the other semi? I forgot already. Parko and O’Leary. Parko went to sleep and O’Leary went to work and with a minute remaining Parko needed an eight. He hadn’t had an eight all event and he was out.
Lennox Pub was heaving for the final.
You could see the popcorn out in the channel as the tradewinds shuffled into the line-up. O’Leary stepped it up, Wilko countered then butchered the wave of the final on his opening turn. It was a ten. Then took ten tons of punishment on the inside. If you haven’t surfed Cloudbreak it’s the worst place on earth for getting pounded if you screw up the take-off. Every wave swings wider and hits harder until you’re scraping knuckles down the inside with screaming lungs.
Old Wilko would have crumbled like mouldy cheese. Current Wilko calmly recomposed and surfed the best wave of the final. It is weird. You look around the web and interest in pro surfing is bumping along the bottom yet the Australian leg was insane and this conny has ended in an epic final.
What is keeping it going? Is Ziff pumped on it? That might be all that matters in the final analysis. It’s chump change for him to keep backing it. People in California might not throw grenades but they do here Chas.
“Back in your fucking box Longbong”, someone shouted across the bar.
Thank you ball-boys, thank you ball-girls and if it’s your shout I’ll have a Grey Goose and Gatorade thanks.
PS. If you’re reading Wilko, my caddy fee was ten thousand dollars.
One last thing: if the Giant Clam has been the totem animal of Fiji, what will the totem animal be for J-Bay?
Longtom, Post Restante, Lennox Head. Cheers.