Gabriel Medina and Leo Fioravanti get physical and Filipe dominates, as expected, at Snapper…
Best opening movie sequence of all time, no thinking, gut reaction.
It’s the opening scenes to The Empire Strikes Back when those mechanical boxy giraffes belonging to the evil Empire are striding across the frozen landscape.
Is that not the perfect visual metaphor for the pro surfing Juggernaut under Sophie’s Reign on Season Opening Day One at Snapper Rocks? The control room so high above the Earth, those long, long legs, so impressive in full stride and yet so vulnerable.
Say what you want about the Paul Speaker Era but he steadied the ship, kept a full roster of events even if he did have to rattle the can for Ziff to chip in to keep J-Bay and Fiji on Tour. Now, not even a year into her reign, and Sophie has lost Pipe as the season opener for 2019. The only truly irreplaceable event on tour according to surf journalist Charlie Smith.
And how solid is the Aussie leg?
I know permit chasing is the purview of Rory Parker but before this contest croaks we will have the facts on the table.
Dating pro surfing back to 1976 gives us 42 years of market-testing the dream of Antipodean surfers who never wanted to work a real job. In that time, little ol’ Australia, Deputy Dawg for the US of A in the Asia/Pacific, stands alone as the only country on earth to invent and perfect a sustainable business model to keep the pro surf dream afloat. That being Big Top surfing underwritten by the State in good to classic locations. Bums on seats, all hands to the pump to man the deep fryers and coffee machines and pro surfers more or less happy to look a gift horse in the mouth. They should slap a tariff on it and export it to the world. If the Australian leg one day falters that mechanical giraffe would hit the deck faster than a bucket of prawns goes off in the Queensland sun.
The comp started with a long, dreary stanza of low-scoring heats in grey-green water, a combination of safety surfing and a Snapper sandbar that has only half-way filled in to Little Marley after an excoriating reaming from TC Gita. Innovation is the buzzword coming from the WSL brass and as part of the push the format has been tinkered with. No more round five and the possibility now of over-lapping heats for Snapper.
Nice, but far more radical conceptual surgery was/is needed. Jazzy P outlined a one-day format. I propose a two-day format. A 24-surfer tour. Six four-man heats lasting 80 mins with a leaderboard set-up on day one. That would penalise and make completely redundant safety surfing. Surfers would be effectively competing both against the “course” and the rest of the field. Best two or three waves go on the continually updated leaderboard. That is something anyone can understand.
Day two is the Top 16 surfers from day one in man-on-man heats to the final.
Pro surfing looked to the wrong sport for inspiration. Golf is a shit game but an awesome format. That’s the model they needed to emulate.
Portugal will never open the tour despite what Doherty says. On what basis do I assert that? On the basis that there isn’t a person alive on earth or as yet born who could think that having the season opener for the Championship Tour in the dark depths of a European winter is a good idea. It is, as they say, Bad Optics, and that is something the managerial class in the WSL do understand.
Heat five erupted. Gabby paddled over the top of Leo Fioravanti and having established physical and psychological dominance dropped a total backhand blitzkrieg on the next set wave. Got shacked came out, did the first full-throated roundhouse cutback of the day then chopped it into little pieces and dropped it in a bag with a bowtie on it in front of the judges. It wasn’t just the best wave ridden all day it was the best by orders of magnitude. Judges rewarded him with a priority error because Leo had had the sneakiness to slide in behind Gabby and take-off, too deep to make it.
Travesty! Blatant injustice! Gabby had established priority at the start of the heat, it should have been his wave.
I know he is friendless amongst recreational surfers for these tactics. He’s been hanging at my home breaks winning friends and influencing people the last month. But that’s life, that showbiz, that’s entertainment. Ranking the Brazilian Goofyfoots: Medina 1, Italo 2, daylight next. Italo through with intensely sharp backhand stabs.
Can’t remember much about Jordy’s heat except he won and laid down more home spun parables in the presser with Rosie. Said he’s been on the anti-aging cream because his looks are holding. There’s only one secret to anti-aging and thats stay out of the Queensland sun. Nothing makes for more beautiful youths at twenty and more hideous shipwrecks of human beings at forty. And I am one, with three frozen-off cancers sitting on my head like syphilitic chancres: the price paid, with interest compounded, for chasing tubes at Burleigh in my twenties.
Anyone who has done time in Queensland pointbreaks knows how tricky Snapper can be and was today. The wave is literally part of the current pushing down the bank. Finding it means hard graft fighting the rip and swinging on anything that moves. Over a day, a swell, that builds a wave count but in a thirty-minute heat the relentless metronome of short period tradewind swell hitting the bank from all angles and with all sizes grinds the clock down more quickly than you could imagine. John Florence got caught without a good one. Griff Colapinto found a couple gems and did the biz. Lets hope the WSL doesn’t squash the fruit out of his game. His beat is nice.
Filipe sizzled, as per, as per. If you dream of a Filipe Title then the boy would have buoyed you today.
Day one done. Have you looked at the WSL press releases lately? Lots of innovation.
What’s your favourite? Mine is this one: “With the goal to make surfing more accessible to the public, the WSL is about to deliver a season-long campaign to educate and demystify some of the more technical and complex elements of the sport, through all WSL channels, with ten initiatives”.
A whole season long campaign to demystify! Might I just say here Soph, that I am very, very skilled at demystifying campaigns and my rates are more than reasonable. I’m cheap as chips in fact!
One last thing.
I was lying awake last night thinking about what happened to journeyman pro Ben Dunn.
And guess what? He is a new WSL judge!
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 9.90, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 5.20, Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 4.57
Heat 2: Michel Bourez (PYF) 13.17, Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 11.26, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 10.67
Heat 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.66, Conner Coffin (USA) 10.10, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 7.64
Heat 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) 12.60, Joan Duru (FRA) 11.30, Ian Gouveia (BRA) 7.27
Heat 5: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.26, Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 8.44, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 6.05
Heat 6: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 12.50, John John Florence (HAW) 7.50, Mikey Wright (AUS) 2.00
Heat 7: Kolohe Andino (USA) 9.63, Keanu Asing (HAW) 7.83, Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 5.60
Heat 8: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 10.30, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 8.67, Willian Cardoso (BRA) 8.07
Heat 9: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.24, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 9.94, Yago Dora (BRA) 6.86
Heat 10: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 15.56, Frederico Morais (PRT) 9.00, Tomas Hermes (BRA) 5.50
Heat 11: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 13.16, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 7.63, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 7.46
Heat 12: Mick Fanning (AUS) 11.60, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 9.80, Kelly Slater (USA) 0.00
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Round 2 Matchups:
Heat 1: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Mikey Wright (AUS)
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA)
Heat 3: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Michael Rodrigues (BRA)
Heat 6: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat 7: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Keanu Asing (HAW)
Heat 8: Frederico Morais (PRT) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 9: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Yago Dora (BRA)
Heat 10: Caio Ibelli (BRA) vs. Tomas Hermes (BRA)
Heat 11: Conner Coffin (USA) vs. Wade Carmichael (AUS)
Heat 12: Joan Duru (FRA) vs. Jesse Mendes (BRA)