Do we stand on the precipice of a new era in women's surfing?
Earlier this year you’ll remember, or maybe you won’t, memories ain’t what they used to be, BeachGrit flew Lakey Peterson to Mex to enjoy personal aerial tuition with Filipe Toledo.
Along with another coach, Huntington Beach’s Brett Simpson, and iPads with the Hurley Surf Coach app, and GoPros affixed hither and yon, and a Karma patrolling the sky, we had four days to coach, and coax, Santa Babs’ Lakey Peterson into the biggest huck ever by a girl.
Get a little taste, here.
Today at the Swatch Pro, Ms Peterson, who is twenty four years old and has a velvet complexion, drew on her newly learned skills to perform a grab-rail air-reverse and score an 8.83. It wasn’t the prettiest air, something that would have accomplished male surfers dragging the clip into the trash, but it glowed starkly against the safety turns that define women’s surfing.
Maybe there was a little sugar floating in the warm air ’cause in the previous round, fellow Hurley team rider Carissa Moore, who was our initial pick for the Mex project, scooped a clean air-rev, a 7.73. A score which indicates the judges thought the wave good, though not excellent.
Do we stand on the precipice of a new era in women’s performance? Will risk enter the game or will waves like the 7.70 Carissa’s opponent, Malia Manuel, got for a couple of turns (second scoring wave on the heat analyser) be enough incentive to keep playing it safe?
A week or so ago, I had an interesting back and forth with the little pro surfer gal Sabre Norris. The kid is sharper than most adults and has a curiosity that never dulls. Twelve years old. What an interesting life she’s creating for herself.
“You are lucky that you can just look at the writing and you know how to make it better. That’s an easy thing for you. It’s kind of like a secret talent because if you just saw you walking in the street you wouldn’t know that that talent lived inside you. I always think that’s interesting, you know if you just see a random person and you wonder if they have a secret talent and what it might be?”
Then she asked: “Would you swap your talent of writing for say Ryan Callinan (a surfer who is not on tour but really good still) surf ability?”
As it happens, I’m contemptuous of my writing. I find it derivative, lazy, misses important points, my own opinion is clouded by my inability to express clearly, I bury the lead (this story included) and I make people angry when I don’t mean to.
So, yes, Sabre, I would happily hand over the keys to whatever it is that comes out of these fingers just to feel the wind in my hair like Ryan Callinan. I would also include a substantial cash amount.
Just the fantasy of being Ryan has me panting and threatening hospitalisation from nervous exhaustion.
Am I alone in these fantasies?
Would you give up your primary skill to be a pro surfer?
Water slapping, locker smashing! Oowee, little waves and big passion!
I am standing again on the dirt in the sun facing Lower Trestles. A man of the people. A surf populist.
Yesterday, in case you missed, I was given a revelation. A truth as profound as the Buddha’s. Oh I didn’t need a Bodhi tree nor a cave in the desert. All I needed was the god forsaken media tent that was positioned on top of spent nuclear fuel 3.5 miles south of the actual Hurley Pro event site. For it was there that a whisper entered my heart saying, “Forget the small comforts. Forget the elites. Forget the free Michelob Ultra and chicken caesar salad wraps and shade from tents. Get thee amongst the people. Be one with them.”
And I heeded the whisper’s call.
How invigorating it felt to stand shoulder to shoulder with you, your faded Brazilian flag lapping at my shoulder, your eager shouts when Italo flies into the oncoming section.
I was so invigorated that I woke up, made a peanut butter* and jelly sandwich, cut it in half and put it in two brown paper bags. One for Hurley’s Evan Slater and one for me.
Working man’s food. The bread of the people.
And here I am again, the dirt silently coating my Louis Vuitton drivers. The sun so hot that I must flip the collar on my Dior button up lest I get a red neck.
And I’m sorry. You, at home, working hard jobs for near minimum wage also want to hear about the surf action. Oh it is my pleasure to describe.
Heat 4 (Kerr vs. O’Leary)
Very little makes me happier than Josh Kerr heat victories. He is such a wonderful man, kind, fun, a good father and an amazing surfer. He has invented surf moves (the club sandwich) all by himself. He doesn’t win often but he did today and against an Irishmen, who are having a rough couple months in competitive surfing/boxing.
Heat 5 (Jadson vs. Kolohe)
Kolohe dropped anchor, as they say, and didn’t catch many waves. Jadson won and normally I would have been cheering this outcome. Jadson drives a car of the people. An old, beat RAV-4 with the word “limited” on one front fender and it being damaged to “limit” on the other front fender. He is us. But I love Kolohe and Kolohe became us in the locker room afterward by beating his locker senseless. The World Surf League cameraman was too chicken to stay fixed on the shot, or so I am told, and Joe Turpel was too chicken to dip in for a quick interview but Kolohe… be proud! This rage will serve you well in Europe. Bottle it and smash it into those continental faces like America of old did.
Heat 6 (Pupo vs. Michel)
Heat 7 (Joan vs. Nat)
Heat 8 (Buchan vs. Stu)
This heat thrilled and mostly because Ace surfed on his backhand and Stu slapped the water with anger in his veins. Not Kolohe-style anger but an off-kilter Australian version. He was so angry at the judges. So mad. He surfed, from my perspective in the dirt, better than Ace but that’s mostly because I don’t like goofy feets. I like regular. Regular blue collar men. And I should like Stu Kennedy. Right Longtom? I should? But I can’t get over the “Kennedy.” All I smell is Hyannis Port. “Kennedy.” The elite of the elite. Right Longtom?
Heat 9 (Dantas vs. Leo)
Leo lost and Wiggolly won in large part because of his paddling style. He got to waves quicker. Uglier but quicker. And sometimes Wiggolly’s Paddling Style is all you need.
Heat 10 (Kanoa vs. Caio)
Young Igarashi did not surf well but he won and, for my three hard-earned dollar bills, the fact that he is still in the event should scare the rest of the field. He knows small waves. He knows how to hop and jive. If the fates smile he could walk away with a victory and leave the John Johns and the Jordys in a world of “trouble.”
Heat 11 (Italo vs. Jack)
The beach announcer was talking about how much Jack Freestone and Mick Fanning were hanging out and giving each other tips during the heat. Mick was seated in the VIP athlete area and his jaw was set strong and his face was seeming to redden. He did not seem to be enjoying the scrutiny. Or maybe it was just my imagination. Maybe just the way it looked from the water’s edge.
Heat 12 (Zeke vs. Ian G.)
I turn around and look up at the 1%. At those VIPs and VVIPs in the athlete guest and WSL and athlete area. Covered by parasols. Drinking Michelob Ultra. Separate and separated.
“Look…” I hear one of the wonderful people standing beside me say, also looking up at the privileged. “…there’s Crooked Jessi.”
I wipe the sweat from my eyes and see the WSL’s commissioner Jessi Miley-Dyer so high up in her gilded tower that she’s almost in the clouds.
“Lock her up! Lock her up!”
The chant begins rumbling through the crowd. I don’t know what she should be locked up for and try to intercede on her behalf. “People…” I say “…Jessi Miley-Cyrus is a beautiful soul. She is kind and gentle, smart and fun, and she surfs very well.”
But the people are not in a listening mood. I hear something about the gall of dropping “e” from “Jessie.” Something about coastal elites and their love of hyphenated last names but am certain that if Jessi Miley-Dyer just came down from the exclusive places and graced us with her presence whatever misstep would be forgiven.
The people may not be in a listening mood but they are gentle of spirit.
* There was actually no peanut butter in the house this morning so my sandwich was made from $20 live almond butter.
Come and listen to the longest podcast in surf's history!
You are well aware, at this point, that I am one half of a biweekly podcast that is part of the Surf Splendor Network. It is called Grit! and hosted by the note perfect David Lee Scales who is actually and truly named after David Lee Roth. You probably also know that podcasts are not my natural environment. I love the written word. Love to sit down at the computer and punch away.
Podcasts are so… long. So… talky. Oh, sure, men like J.P. Currie can’t get enough, raving:
Painful. Chas – stick to words on a page, paper or web. That way I can read them in something other than monotone drone. You’re a ball hair away from Spicoli. David – stick to earnestness and interviews. I know Chas makes you swoon and you’re elated to be hanging with the cool kids, but you’re trying too hard.
But still. I feel like I’m finding my feet. I always feel like shorter is better but people who listen to podcasts want long so do you know what I did? I went and tried to break the medium. To test not only your patience but your sanity as well.
And here Mr. David Lee Scales and Mr. Chas Smith present the first three hour long podcast in surfing’s long and illustrious history.
What could possibly be talked about for three hours?
Gerry Lopez not getting barreled at Kelly Slater’s wave pool, leather-lined sneakers, Tom Carroll’s Gath helmet, ummmm ukulele playing, vodka, asymmetrical surfboards, uhhhhh and how much I hate egg shaped surfboards. (visit surfspendorpodcast.com for a visual guide!)
I dare you listen to all three hours. Defy you even. I bet you can’t. I bet your will isn’t strong enough. I bet you give up when trying to jog. I bet you can only ride your bike for two miles.
What would you do? Like, spell out your reaction moment by moment if he dropped in right in front of you and proceeded to do some air or something that would certainly be shaming but not, like, the best thing you have ever seen in your entire life.
This is important.
And it is important because it happens all the time at waves many of us surf regularly.
2. Australia’s Gold Coast
Do you like that? Do you like how I expanded from wave (Lowers) to region (Gold Coast) to country (Brazil) to continent (Europe)?
I did. I thought that was very funny.
But back to Gabs. He does this sort of thing all the time and easy to say, “Ooooh I’d punch him in the face!” But he never gets punched in the face. He gets splashed then paddled away from. So be honest. What would you do if Gabriel Medina snaked you?