With an eye-popping inevitability!
Nervous moments, as Pottz would say, when you hit send at three am in a stupor and wake in fright nek day wondering what the fuck that was all about.
Did I miss something? Over-egg the omelette, insult a powerful ally, send a steaming pile into cyber-space?
One concept that was sent out under-cooked is the continuing chokes from Jordy and Julian. Nick Carroll will bust a hemorrhoid reading this but I was struck, in both pressers, by the tone.
It was as if they had been body-snatched by zombie therapy bots. They were both uncomprehending but self-satisfied at the same time. Rationalisations, lack of insight. The problem: too safe surfing when big numbers were needed. And that is a structural problem for both. Becoming so used to conservative surfing they lack the neuro-muscular circuitry and psychological toughness to go big.
It was as if Jordy and Julian had been body-snatched by zombie therapy bots. They were both uncomprehending but self-satisfied at the same time. Rationalisations, lack of insight. The problem: too safe surfing when big numbers were needed.
The first problem I call the technique or hard problem, the actual surfing manoeuvres needed. The second is the mind or “soft” problem. Without a lock on both the Title choke is inevitable.
You disagree Team Julian? Then demolish the theory.
One man without a soft problem is Mick Fanning. Best mind game in the biz and now a willingness to deal with the hard problem and expand technique. One air yesterday, cute but legit then a tail high throw today against Joan Duru in round five. He didn’t need it. Short-arc power carving got the job done but the intent was clear.
The day kicked off in two-foot closeouts, a move that infuriated Owen Wright. Beaten by the luck that flowed to Seabass and not much more.
Fanning brought, by far, the sharpest knife to the round five draw with Parko and Kolohe finding wins. The first by huge first turns, the second by repertoire.
Jed Smith called me a veteran surf writer and I guess if you count a couple of decades of under-employment and fringe dwelling as a career that’s true.
But I’ve never been, like Carroll or Doherty, a true believer in the pro surfing project. I love its stupidity, it’s vacuity, its epic convulsions and compulsive tilting at a mainstream audience that seems to retreat, always tantalisingly just out of reach, into the near distance. The actual product, the surfing itself, is almost always the least interesting thing. To me anyhow.
I love pro surfing’s stupidity, its vacuity, its epic convulsions and compulsive tilting at a mainstream audience that seems to retreat, always tantalisingly just out of reach, into the near distance.
But if I squint my eyes into the french sunshine with Fanning and Florence heading out into headhigh beachbreaks I can feel somewhere the stirrings of how it must feel to be a true believer. Florence is not a man with a weak grip on either the hard or soft problem. He fixed the technical deficiencies in his surfing, the slightly gammy cutback, the weird arms, and reinforced the hi-fi strengths. And sorted out the mind game.
He prowled the lineup with Fanning, sometimes paddling cheek-to-cheek, other times paddling in opposite directions to different parts of the bank. It was a relentless continuation of what he brought to the game yesterday. Upping the ante. He dropped it on Fanning and Mick had no answer.
I called the judges counter-revolutionary scum yesterday for not dishing out a 10 for John’s lofted backside rotation but on reflection maybe we should be praising their restraint.
I called the judges counter-revolutionary scum yesterday for not dishing out a 10 for John’s lofted backside rotation but on reflection maybe we should be praising their restraint. Just a weird irony that the man who seems to be most often subjected to a rational restrained judging panel is most deserving of being on the end of the kind of judging exuberance that saw it raining 10’s in J-Bay.
As happened to Fanning, so too for Parkinson, with feeling. Gabe Medina turned him into a spectator. Sitting out the back looking shoreward anxiously as Medina spiked the sky with a clean oop.
You don’t do Pro Surfing to feel good about yourself. It’s not therapy. You do it to win. Which is why I like watching Gabe Medina do pro surfing. When those black eyes start glittering with malicious intent and he’s up in someone’s grill I’m glued to the screen. He reminds me of the anecdote told by one of Richard Nixon’s secret service agents who came upon his boss punching the chair on an Airforce One flight. “Gotta be tougher, gotta be tougher.”
The Medina /JJF semi-final started with a long waveless period. Both surfers stalking the lineup. With a minute to go before a fresh clock John broke for a small right. It was to be the fateful decision of the heat. He fell on an air, landing hard in the flats. Then fell again doing a regulation Oop after a small but defined tube. Both mistakes compounded in the back half of a now truncated heat as Medina capitalised, first with a powerhouse display of backside hooks then a semi-botched big spin that nonetheless put John in a combination. Relentless strength.
John didn’t crumble. The soft problem solved he backed himself and nailed the best wave of the heat for a nine but the earlier mistakes robbed him of what he needed most; time and it was Medina through.
There’s a documentary film doing the rounds on Netflix right now called Generation Iron 2. Bulging muscles ain’t my kink but the film was instructive, in terms of it’s analysis of how bodybuilding had made a big play to make it as a mainstream sport on the back of superstars like Arnie Schwarzenegger. One of the kingpins came on and delivered his conclusion that they hadn’t made the mainstream, that bodybuilding was a niche activity. It is what is and we all have to learn to live with it.
How long until Pro Surfing has a similar Come to Jesus moment? When the True Believers realise it’s a mid-tier niche sport that even lifelong surfers ignore, barely tolerate or openly despise?
I don’t see that moment happening any time soon. As Israeli historian Yuval Harari noted we are sustained by our fictions. They bind us together, help us and nothing helps bind together the true believers of Pro Surfing more than the fantasy of mainstream acceptance.
The final was an anti-climax. Medina’s win had an air of inevitability and Seabass couldn’t get started. The Final Horn sounded and Charlie ran into the shorebreak to chair his stepson up the beach, through the throng of an adoring crowd.
It was a gnarly contest and to quote the Austrian Oak, we’ll be back. Thank you and goodnight.
Quiksilver Pro France Final Results:
1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.00
2: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 9.30
Quiksilver Pro France Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 16.26 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.00
SF 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.40 def. John John Florence (HAW) 16.00
Quiksilver Pro France Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 15.93 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 14.10
QF 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) 11.60 def. Marc Lacomare (FRA) 6.10
QF 3: John John Florence (HAW) 19.67 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 10.67
QF 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.20 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 1.20
Quiksilver Pro France Round 5 Results:
Heat 1: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 14.40 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 11.73
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) 14.94 def. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 11.96
Heat 3: Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.70 def. Joan Duru (FRA) 13.37
Heat 4: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 14.03 def. Nat Young (USA) 10.24
2017 WSL Men’s Jeep Leaderboard (After Quiksilver Pro France):
1 – John John Florence (HAW) 49,900 pts
2 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) 47,600 pts
3 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 40,750 pts
4 – Owen Wright (AUS) 39,850 pts
5 – Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 38,200 pts