“Hi John, it's me Gabriel, I coming for you. How you like me now?”
As you lay in bed, erotically musing before trying to go to sleep, has your mind slipped to… the tour? The world title? Pipeline, and so forth?
Yesterday, the writer Longtom, gave us part one of his pre-Pipe Power Rankings.
Today, the top six.
A surprise? Compliant?
“Passion thrills but also kills.”
“No ticker, can’t close, choker, safety surfer extraordinaire etc etc.”
“Maybe life is just too good to justify the emotional hunger for a world title. Nothing in his personality requires it, in the same way Taj was happy enough without it, and hence he never really puts himself on the line for it, for long enough to give himself a realistic shot.”
1. Gabriel Medina
Current rating: #2
Straight up analysis: Gabe has a greater tactical range going into Pipe. Three strategies present themselves. First, if it’s bombing First Reef Pipe Gabe can roam the ledge and deep-throat bombs, with cleaner mid-sized waves his speciality. No falls. The so-called Teahupoo strategy. Second, if it’s ratty he can find scores in the air in a way that John can’t, or more likely won’t due to his pedigree and deeply ingrained habits at Pipe.
Third, in overlapping four-man heats he can employ the “rabid dog” strategy he used in Portugese closeouts. Roaming the lineup and savaging anything that moves, not scared to fall, putting scoreboard pressure on opponents too locked into patient strategies ala John Florence.
2. John John Florence
Current rating: #1
Hows’ John sleeping these days? Waking in the middle of night with his own Latin Incubus in the shape of Gabriel Medina spooning him and whispering sweet nothings into his ear.
“Hi John, it’s me Gabriel, I coming for you. How you like me now?”
And no matter how deep the preternatural calm that emanates from John descends into the psyche, all that “Oh it’s so fun. It’s fun being the leader. I’m really enjoying it. Nah, I’m not thinking of the World Title.” That presence of Gabriel and a whole year of red-hot favoritism, undeniably justified, will have to be quarantined for whole chunks of time moving slow as magma in the most intense pressure situation imaginable. If he falters here then we all stand down from the dream of a John Florence dynasty. That is a heavy burden to carry. At 25 he has to win back-to-back before embarking on a revamped tour in 2019 that appears to be tailor-made for his dominance.
3. Kolohe Andino
Current rating: #8
Preparation is key to any endeavour of excellence and to prepare for these power rankings I made a pilgrimage to visit my friend and mentor Derek Hynd. Hynd commands a compound in the hills behind Byron Bay, part Mad Max, part Blade Runner techno-futurism. Derek was enthused about plans to shake the foundations of Pro Surfing, another story for a different time but had equal froth for Kolohe’s European performances. His make rate and top turns in particular.
In his words: “How refreshing to see custard served up instead of muck”.
Which I took to mean: His surfing was creamy, “tasty” to the eye, and composed of an internal consistency which kept it together but fluid enough to fit the shape of any oceanic container. How did you read it? All the passion, the sporting fervour and chickenwing claims might have served him well in Europe but look like ballast for Pipe. Passion thrills but also kills. Clean mind better.
4. Jordy Smith
Current rating: #3
Not once in my career as a surf-writer have I missed an opportunity to sink the boot into the over-sized date of Jordy Smith of Durban, Republic of South Africa. No ticker, can’t close, choker, safety surfer extraordinaire etc etc.
But something has shifted deep within, maybe that photo where Jordy, walking past the autograph hungry throngs at Peniche with a face twisted in a grimace of self-disgust and disappointment, was the catalyst.
Maybe it was a dream last night. A loud noise, maybe a pawpaw rolling down the roof, or a chicken in it’s death throes as a python extinguished the last flame of life. Sitting bolt upright in thrall to a vision: masked Jordy at the door, wielding a machete. Raising it above his head “the shit talking ceases now bru” before bringing the blade down with the final blow.
Safety surfing infuriates me, does it you Jordy? In your heart of hearts? Come now Mr Smith, we’re not so different, me and you. You, the subject of a high priced bidding war between surf industry titans as a teenager. Me, the subject of a furious bidding war between Stab and BeachGrit. Both trained seals trying to entertain an audience that can turn on you with sudden and unexplained viciousness.
“Heres’ the thing,” said Ross Williams: Jordy Smith is still a mathematical chance for this World Title. You feel that bile rising in the throat when you read this Jords, the involuntary fist clench, the feeling of luxuriousness as the blade comes down on the faceless critics. Start there. Swing that blade. Take that title and shut me the fuck up. I’ll give you a 500 word written apology FOC, written the very next day if you claim the Title at Pipeline.
Not enough? Swing by for a double date with Greg Webber and sink the boot in in person. Character is destiny.
5. Miguel Pupo
Current rating: #23
Miggy, Miggy, miggy. We need a talk. We had you pegged as the missing link, the one who was going to banish style stereotypes of Brazilian surfers forever into the wilderness. The one who could link the past with the future. I pegged you as the Brazilian Gerry Lopez, a trope shamelessly appropriated by Martin Potter. You have a problem with the mind? A lack of confidence that seeps into the bones and makes nerves short circuit at the worst times? You need some help. I know a guy, an underwater guy who is available for coaching. A family man, like yourself. Will work on a no result/no fee basis. Send plane tickets for Pipe Post Restante Lennox Head. Let’s give it the ol college try eh and let the real Miguel Pupo loose on the world. We saw more than glimpses of him in Europe, which makes the spectre of possible relegation a bitter pill to swallow.
6. Julian Wilson
Current rating: #4
What’s he done to deserve a world title, the objective critic cries. Too much inconsistency and apart from the finals against Gabe in Tahiti, not a single barnstorming performance which would justify a world title. But there he is, standing patiently in a queue behind Jordy Smith, or is it in front? These world title calculations always perplex me, waiting for everyone else in front to fall over.
Maybe life is just too good to Julian to justify the emotional hunger for a world title. Nothing in his personality requires it, in the same way Taj was happy enough without it, and hence he never really puts himself on the line for it, for long enough to give himself a realistic shot.
He says he wants it, but observed carefully over a year, his actions betray his words.