And what will Kelly Slater do to subtly delegitimise it?
Night sleeping is a bogey-man at Teahupoo. According to poet Morgan Williamson*, of all the elemental sounds of nature the sound of the ocean is the most awesome, beautiful and varied.
Subconscious dreams at Teahupoo are invaded by sharp rifle cracks, hollow boomings, vague roarings, splashing, whisperings, grave and solemn groaning and moanings.
Sleep is fitful. I slept fitfully, woken by sober, racing thoughts: why does the world title race suddenly feel so flat? The schizophrenic performances of Toledo? By turns bloodless and blazing.
Surfing has never been more omnipresent and felt more professionally impotent. It’s everywhere and it’s nowhere.
Or the absence, finally, of Slater who may come back but will never again challenge for a title. Fanning is making noises of retirement an Parko can’t be far behind. Bede is doing a testimonial lap.
Combined, that represents the loss of 15 world titles worth of experience. Not replaceable by the current rookie crop or anyone else on the QS radar. Surfing has never been more omnipresent and felt more professionally impotent. It’s everywhere and it’s nowhere.
Medina sat lifeless against Bede for an age, looking vague and uninterested before spiking a clutch bomb with a minute to go, making a mockery of my premise.
Who could replace the retiring veterans? Medina, JJF, Wilko? Yes.
Julian, Owen: Maybe.
Kolohe, Connor Coffin: Yeah, but nah.
Italo F: Definitely.
Did anyone else get the ad on the website for vaginal leaking pads? Market research from big data or a wild guess? As much of a mystery as the phenomenon of the boardshort riding up on the thigh of the backside tuberider.
No more off-message impressionistic wanderings – Derek hates it – and seeing as a new Pyzel Ghost is still in negotiation as part of the coverage fee, let’s go back to sportswriting, and nothing but.
Slow starts and sleepy heats were a symptom of a somnolent South Pacific and a funky breeze that laid down lips across sections that wouldn’t stay open. Zeke Lau and Wiggoly Dantas sat too deep up the reef for half a heat, while absolutely nothing happened. Emblematic. Zeke got pinched twice, Wiggoly racked up a couple of makes and that was the heat.
Wilko maintained command of his own performance against Ewing in the last scrappy heat of the day. Threaded one for a mid seven, incomplete on a bomb which could have been close to a ten. Ewing got, not much, but walks away with a heat win for the year.
Caulerpa is the brown seaweed that embraced and enhanced the vision of John Florence as he sat on the foam ball for a pair of nines against Nat Young. Edible, favoured by Okinawans and claimed to help increase longevity and virility. Available to citizens of the coterminous United States according to Ed Ricketts in the Log from the Sea of Cortez. If JJF goes through to the quarter-finals or better and Wilko makes round five or better then Teahupoo is essentially a dead rubber and we walk away and dream of Trestles.
Fear is an essential element of surfing Teahupoo, no doubt. Life changing wipeouts, according to Strider. The most fearsome image for the recreational surfer, sprint paddling for the horizon as the ocean sucks dry, paddling downhill, then uphill, up into the blue sky against the blue lip, so impossibly thick, looking over your shoulder into the pit and seeing someone beside you scratching into it, maybe Owen maybe a Tahitian, and looking into the pit. The mind rebels, goes blank, freezes in fear. Head snaps back to the horizon, no more waves, then back to the channel to see surfer gliding over the shoulder in a huge shower of spray. There’s no other wave like it.
But still, not the scariest thing about Teahupoo.
That is seeing Toothless and his mates well sauced on a weekend, getting corralled , fed warm beer after warm beer. Giving up on escaping and then being physically frog-marched down the road to the end of the road, gaining new drinking companions. Bottles getting smashed, shouts, preparing for some street fighting with “townies” from Papeete down for the weekend in jacked-up pickups and lithe girls lounging in tropical sun. A little whitey caught in a scrimmage of jacked up, tense drunk, hefty Polynesian men. The romance of the South Aeas. Bit of play fighting going amiss, someone throws a punch, Toothless has me in a headlock, friendly for now but too firm. Marching onwards, stuck in a granite strata of destiny. Cold fear. Drunk fear.
But no more digressions, I need that fucking Pyzel Ghost.
Winds turned trade, tubes stayed open. J-Dub and Ferriera indulged a tube duel in conditions that verged on the magical. I thought judges got the result wrong way around because they failed to give any account of Italo’s full speed, full-rail punctuation points on the ride.
Beatings to start the Fanning/Ace heat. Fanning should have had a ten for the biggest chamber of the day– what were judges waiting for? An aquatic unicorn? A new Global tour sponsor? Both would have been more likely than a better wave and better surfed wave than that today. Fanning made a critical error giving too much latitude to Ace, who, without priority, collected crucial scores under Fanning’s watch.
Last heat. Steinbeck looked forwards, with a masochistic contempt, to confounding his critics with Log from the Sea of Cortez, and knew it was likely to have limited appeal, but he never wrote for the internet and coveted a new Pyzel.
The greatest beneficiary of small Chopes is/was not Toledo but Jordy Smith and he is capitalising like Gordon Gekko on insider stock options.
Can you live with a Jordy Smith world title and what will Kelly Slater do to subtly delegitimise it?
Join us here tomorrow comrades for Finals Day and the final instalment in the Indo-Pacific leg of the coverage.
*Henry Beston actually, but Morgan woulda if he coulda.
Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.83 def. Taumata Puhetini (PYF) 9.60
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) 14.50 def. Aritz Aranburu (ESP) 12.10
Heat 3: Ethan Ewing (AUS) 10.06 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 6.56
Heat 4: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.00 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 8.16
Heat 5: Nat Young (USA) 10.74 def. Frederico Morais (PRT) 8.93
Heat 6: Michel Bourez (PYF) 14.97 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 14.77
Heat 7: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 11.50 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 2.67
Heat 8: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 10.53 def. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 5.60
Heat 9: Conner Coffin (USA) 12.56 def. Stu Kennedy (AUS) 7.10
Heat 10: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 18.77 def. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 16.60
Heat 11: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 10.50 def. Jack Freestone (AUS) 7.27
Heat 12: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 12.57 def. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 8.03
Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 13.77 def. Ian Gouveia (BRA) 10.60
Heat 2: Connor O’Leary (AUS) def 14.33. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 13.27
Heat 3: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 13.33 def. Adriano De Souza (BRA) 9.57
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.60 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 13.23
Heat 5: Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.67 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.27
Heat 6: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 11.57 def. Ethan Ewing (AUS) 8.67
Heat 7: John John Florence (HAW) 18.70 def. Nat Young (USA) 15.23
Heat 8: Conner Coffin (USA) 13.77 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 12.90
Heat 9: Julian Wilson (AUS) 17.46 def. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 16.54
Heat 10: Joan Duru (FRA) 16.40 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 14.40
Heat 11: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 16.70 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.90
Heat 12: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.00 def. Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 2.26
Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 4 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS), Connor O’Leary (AUS), Wiggolly Dantas (BRA)
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Kolohe Andino (USA), Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 3: John John Florence (HAW), Conner Coffin (USA), Julian Wilson (AUS)
Heat 4: Joan Duru (FRA), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Jordy Smith (ZAF) \