Yesterday’s Tahiti final, wherein Australia’s Julian Wilson extricated himself from needing a combination of scores by picking two waves, one under priority, and surfed them near perfectly thus vanquishing Gabriel Medina and the dreams of a proud South American nation, was so wonderfully dramatic.
And it was grand to see Julian Wilson so happy on the boat afterward reveling in the praise and the surreality but the star of the entire Teahupo’o’o show was none other than Gabriel Medina.
For Medina’s semifinal heat against Kolohe Andino and then his finals run against Wilson were cinema. Pure Hollywood.
Mr. Steve Sheare’r described the action better than I ever could but what thrilled me the most was that for the first time maybe ever surfing actually has a villain. A proper bad guy. An evildoer who possesses enough skill, talent, knowledge and drive to win many more events and possibly many more titles.
Most professional surf fans look back so fondly on the Andy Irons vs. Kelly Slater years and they were very fun with Andy occupying the bad boy role and Kelly playing the good boy. Both were near equally loved and cheered which was entertaining but…
…the visceral hatred pouring out against Medina is art.
The way he got under both Kolohe and Julian’s skin through tactical annoyance. The way they both fell directly into his trap. The way that most professional surf fans took to comment boards and social media to decry the “poor sportsmanship.” Julian Wilson (after getting very lucky, let’s just be honest) could only muster, “Gabriel Medina has a big heart. Let’s leave that one in the water.”
It could not have been better. I swore, near the end of the semifinal, that I saw Kolohe kick his board toward Gabriel. I have watched the highlights replay now twice and can’t find it so it must not have happened but in my mind it did and that is the performance Gabriel Medina is delivering. So full-throated, so all in, that I imagine egregious acts.
Gabriel Medina is a method actor. He is Billy Zane in Titanic. He is Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He is Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest.
Breitbart ads banned from Teahupoo broadcast at the behest of San Diego shaper Rich Kenvin.
Earlier today, as the Billabong Tahiti Pro skidded to a surprisingly exciting end in smallish grey Teahupoo, the WSL website was festooned in ads for the right-wing website Breitbart.com.
Breitbart, in case you didn’t know, is a news website that really sticks in the craw of Castro-hat-wearing leftists for its pro-Trump, anti-open borders, pro-Israel positions. Its founder, Andrew Breitbart, switched the site from news aggregator to news network a decade ago after a trip to Israel with his co-founder Larry Solov.
Breitbart, Solov? Yeah, both Jews.
“One night in Jerusalem, when we were getting ready for dinner,” says Solov, “Andrew turned to me and asked if I would de-partner from the 800-person law firm where I was practicing and become business partners with him. He said he needed my help to create a media company. He needed my help to “change the world”… We were blown away by the spirit, tenacity, and resourcefulness of the Israeli people on that trip. Andrew could be quite convincing, not to mention inspiring, and I decided right there and then to ‘throw away’ (my Mom’s phrase) a perfectly good, successful and safe career in order to start a ‘new media’ company with Andrew Breitbart.”
Anyway, for a lot of people Breitbart represents the devil, for others its a voice that ain’t often heard.
Richard Kenvin, who enjoys Castro hats and is characterised by Coke bottle spectacles and who once won a pro event at Blacks, is of the former. And when the Breitbart ads started lighting up the WSL site he became terribly upset and loosed his fury on Instagram.
Obviously, in that little echo-chamber the response was uniform.
milesjackler Yay! Glad something could be done. Cheers for making the effort aaronpores Nice job, Richard. A little gumption and a few well-placed words go a long way. meyerhoffer Yep. mystic_looch ✌️ jallenz Post of the day. m_laraghy will.batman Great job!! @hydrodynamica arbosurfboards adamsurfs Thanks for speaking up! davodenis sli_boogie Well done @hydrodynamica @wsl
Are you as thrilled as the Rich Kenvin fans?
Or do you think, oowee, can’t a brother have an opinion anymore unless it conforms to strict guidelines as laid down by San Diego surfboard designers?
The WSL, Breitbart, and Kenvin have all been approached for comment.
Gives away priority and Julian nails a bomb to win Tahiti Pro. It's done! An insane final.
The Universe. Benign, indifferent or hostile?
I say benign.
Why else would God/Nature/Evolution make glacial blue head-high peelers on a reef in the South Pacific and give us the ability to ride inside them? Or let us marinate a bunch of diced tailor (bluefish) fillets in lime juice and coconut milk* for a morning poisson cru to start the day?
Are we, as a sport, disabused of the notion of white supremacy? I believe so but Medina’s people took great umbrage to my assessment of his attitude yesterday. My inbox was full of angry emails despite my record of being one of Medina’s biggest fans.
And although it was neglected in previous coverage I had made a call on Medina, to be confirmed by Beachgrit publisher D. Rielly via text message yesterday. Further confirmation, via a tube-ride to alley-oop in round five against Connor O’Leary, a clear statement of intent.
Then a 10-point ride to start against Owen in the first quarter final. Maybe a little overcooked by the judges but an inevitable result of cumulative pressure. A gripping heat ensued. The Gabby strategy: advancement by making mistakes, saw many nervous moments as he hunted and stalked half-rides and low scores. The clincher, an 8.23, looked a dramatic over-score designed to put Owen out of contention but was fair balls in the wash-up.
Can we finally put this one to the big sleep. The spelling/pronunciation of Teahupoo that is. Okina or apostrophe in Polynesian languages is a glottal stop and signifies the enunciation of both vowel sounds. In the case of Teahupo’o it would make the last two sounds oh-oh. Which it ain’t. Chope-oo. The oo is Polynesian deep, from the back of the throat not southern Californian nasal.
What did it take to let that wave go to John Florence? “Mainly that thing between my legs. It took big balls” On heat strategy? “You learn as you get older- every day you learn something new” And my favourite, “All the crumbs make a loaf of bread.”
John Florence employed the Medina strategy in his super heat against Jordy. Opened with two mistakes. Jordy caught the better waves, riding without distinction but solidly. Was I the only surf fan pining for a Superman over dry reef? Not to be. John clawed back the lead with a skilled ride on a wave that Jordy passed up, paddled back and sat in right up in Jordy’s grill. Jordy calmly slotted the only set wave of the heat and that was that. Yellow jersey for California.
One thing that did enter the excellent range was Jordy’s post-heat pressers. The homespun wisdom was beautifully delivered. What did it take to let that wave go to John Florence?
“Mainly that thing between my legs. It took big balls”
On heat strategy? “You learn as you get older- every day you learn something new”
And my favourite, “All the crumbs make a loaf of bread.”
I got straight on the phone to Jordy’s people back in South Africa and suggested a coffee table book of Proverbs, maybe something that could be tacked onto the end of Gideon Bibles (after the Book of Revelations, as a source of hope) and placed in hotel rooms. Possibly even a new religion, with Jordy as the white-robed leader. Could be a real goer as a post-professional surfing career option.
Strange memories of the night before Andy’s last event win, right here in Tahiti 2010, just months before he died. Golden light and perfect head-high backlit tubes. Andy was glowing, ethereal, gliding around the lineup like a ghost. Death had already seemed to have cast its shadow upon the living but in reality he was probably high, in that strange euphoric semi-death familiar to the opiate addict. No judgement here, I love the oxy.
John got the AI award, a downbeat presentation given the conditions. Strange memories of the night before Andy’s last event win, right here in Tahiti 2010, just months before he died. Golden light and perfect head-high backlit tubes. Andy was glowing, ethereal, gliding around the lineup like a ghost. Death had already seemed to have cast its shadow upon the living but in reality he was probably high, in that strange euphoric semi-death familiar to the opiate addict. No judgement here, I love the oxy. And If I end up shuffling off the mortal coil on the end of a couple of oxy’s and too many tallie’s don’t posit any nonsense about dying doing what he loved. Just the machinations of an indifferent universe.
Nothing indifferent about the Medina/Kolohe semi. It began and ended with tactical supremacy from Medina. Trolling Kolohe deep up the reef, then doubling back to spike the opening score. Paddling him around, blocking, putting his body in his face. I didn’t see a board flick by Kolohe against Medina, did you? It has been reported. Chas will elaborate.
With a stranglehold on the heat, Medina paddled Kolohe right up the reef to close it out. Masterful. Same thing he did to him in 2014 in ten-foot surf.
Medina starts the final with continuing physical intimidation. How you like that action? Repulsed or turned on? Me, thrilled. Then tube-threading and full-rail-cutdown-to-fins-free hooking. Taking off deeper and there’s no need for the most ugly stance in surfing: the double armed forehand stall, with that gross bent elbow leading instead of delicately splayed fingertips. Wilson combo-ed at the halfway point on the back of two sizzling rides from Gabs. Wilson breaks combo with ten to go on the back of a long soft tube and strong basic turns. Then roars back with a fins free sideways take-off on a west bowl.
Medina blew it. He gave away priority and Julian nails a bomb to get it. It’s done! An insane final.
Wilson dominates a benign day at Teahupoo, master for the day of a benign universe that smiles on boldness and audacity.
Thus endeth the coverage of the Indo-Pacific (Grand Slam) leg of the Tour. I hope you have, like me, enjoyed the highs and learnt from the lows. We give the final shovel load to Henry Miller and his concluding words from Tropic of Cancer, written about professional surfing in the 1930’s.
“Human beings make a strange fauna and flora. From a distance they appear negligible; close up they are apt to appear ugly and malicious. More than anything they need to be surrounded with sufficient space ― space even more than time.”
Can you believe that Teahupoo (Better Mr. Longtom? Proper enough?) is over? Can you believe that nothing but nothing stopped its march straight to the final? Not the many sides of white supremacy, not lower quality surf, not temper tantrum surf board shooting, not Gabriel Medina’s apparent demon possession.
Longtom will, of course, bring the most scintillating full coverage in just a few moments but until then let’s just celebrate Australia’s Julian Wilson.
And let’s also talk about Joe Turpel!
Most men, as they age, turn crackly and haggard. Too much time in the sun. Too much hard livin. Too much vodka and it all goes straight to the face. And the face turns crackly and haggard. Skin that leathers. Red patches mix in with white patches. Eyes that lose spark and stare dull-like, angry even, into the distance.
But look at Joe Turpel!
His face looks softer than a baby’s bottom. Fuller too. Skin such an even shade of tan without one blemish. Eyes that gaze, innocent and naive, into the distance. He looks like a doll. Like a Russian Matryoshka doll and, speaking of, how much would you pay for a set of WSL Matryoshka dolls? Waz inside Pete inside Pottz inside Ron inside Joe.
Joe Turpel is surfing’s Benjamin Button. He is our fountain of youth.
And congrats again to Julian Wilson coming back from a combo situation in one of the greatest ever heats in professional surfing history. Have you ever read a worse analysis of one of the greatest ever heats in professional surfing history?
Ain’t it the most wonderful thing in the entire world to have our boys back in the water? Professional surfing! Days that were, just last week, filled with dark depression now shine. My best friends Ron, Joe, Marty, Pete, the Waz and Kaipo!
Oh how their voices fill me with joy. How their voices chase my demons back to the recesses of my mind.
They are all at “The End of the Road” in “Tahiti” which is pronounced “taHIti” by Americans and TAhiti by Kaipo and Australians. They are at Teahupo’o.
But what does Teahupo’o mean? Either “heap pile” or “place of crushed skulls” or “pile of heads” I think.
But how is it supposed to be pronounced?
Why then do Ron, Joe, Marty, Pete and the Waz say, “Cho-poo?” Why then does only Kaipo get it right?
Linguists, the scientific study of language and my graduate degree, tells us that Kaipo is Hawaiian and does everything right.