Bad thoughts on Good Friday…
I’m so fucking glad I’m not at Bells.
I’m kidding, it’s an annual pilgrimage of impeccable history where the best surfers in the world gather to test themselves, longest-running surf contest in the world, best surf journalists on hand, you can pull a root from the Torquay pub, best CEO’s and the best crowd etc…
Fuck I’m glad I’m not there.
It’s as cheery as solo drinking a warm beer in a mausoleum.
Kidding but not kidding, watching a CT live is so incredibly different to watching on the webby it might almost be a different event. After Snapper, I had to spend hours reviewing the video tape to see what I had missed watching live and to parse the data. Live, the crowd responds like a single organism and, by and large ,historically speaking they get it right. They responded in the past to Slater, to Dane, to Fanning in his prime, Parko. Look at this vid of Dane vs Parko 2009. You couldn’t get near the beach. In 2018, it felt like it needed the defibrillator most days.
At Snapper they responded to Toledo, Mikey Wright and the rest might have well as been rubber dummy’s sitting in the lineup.
Ace Buchan? I couldn’t find a single note on him, not a murmur, maybe a polite golf clap, and he made the finals! Has this new judging direction taken the surfing away from the people? Question one for Bells.
The context of the question. Commenter Twillsy detected a sad note in the coverage of Snapper and he was right, but I couldn’t work out why. Days later it hit me like a wet fish in a cold sock. The crowd. T
The crowd was way down on highlight moments in the past and maybe the people, the Australian surf fan in particular have turned their backs on pro surfing. If so, and in the rush to “audience build”, the antipodean surf fan is alienated, disaster awaits. There is nothing more fundamental to the continuation of pro surfing than the Australian surf fan. They lend legitimacy to the whole enterprise. It’s the bedrock on which the whole creaking edifice rests.
In the parallel universe where Sophie G is the under-employed surf writer and L.Tom is WSL CEO, the first order of business is to make sure the Australian surf fan is the most duchessed, cosseted sports fan on Earth. If the Australian surf fan don’t like it, it don’t happen.
Back to Bells. Wimmins kicked it off in sunlit dreamy runner at Winkipop. The opening wave, of the opening heat from Carissa Moore was close to the highlight of the day. Coco kicked the tail with abandon, Silvana looked formidable and Lakey looked sharper, more powerful than the men.
Later, when Jordy was in the booth as part of the demystifying campaign he was asked by Joe Turpel to define flow. To his great credit he said the simplest definition of flow was no double pumps. Which I heard as spaz pumps. By this definition, the women were all over the men and the men showed horrible flow. Worst offenders: Pat Gudauskas and our World Champion John John Florence. Terrible, terrible spaz pumping. I am a horrible horrible Judas having dark thoughts about our beloved pro surfing comrades.
Why can’t it be…cool? Why can’t it be something we can all get behind? How did we ever lose faith in our beautiful little endeavour and hand it over to opportunistic suits?
Alvin Toffler in his book Future Shock described the surfing sub-culture as a “signpost pointing to the future.” As the wind turned onshore and we ground through heats it seemed an almost irredeemable throwback to the past. Bad thoughts on Good Friday.
And the weirdest thing: Bells works. People pay, real money!, to show up and imbibe the pro surfing Kool-aid. Always have, always will. In 2025, when the rebel Real Ocean Tour presented by Oculus Rift tussles with the WSL over locations and talent Bells Beach will be the site of the turf war to end all turf wars. Dreary old Bells. The beginning and the end.
The surf turned to gurgled-out runner. I was rooting hard for Local Lennox Grom Mikey McDonagh to do some damage. He’s a smart kid who rips, but he couldn’t get started and he couldn’t finish. John Florence looked unconvincing, to my eye.
The smoothest goofy was Owen Wright with Wilko second. Did you see that 1997 Skins Video posted up the other day? Supposedly, Occy did the best surfing ever that day allegedly with a fair amount of psycho-chemical assistance and a wonderful Dalhberg channel bottom. I believe he would have won any heat today. That is the most objective comparison I can muster.
Mental health is a bitch, is it not ? I thought succour from this dour assessment may lie in the last heat of the day with the final round one appearance of Saint Mick. He has been elevated beyond a champion sportsmen, which he is, total champion, and been fully canonized as a saint. A barefoot messenger of the divine who walks among us mortals, bringing us ‘strine, beer and performances to soothe the dark thoughts and inner demons of the Australian surf fan.
But in the end, as the gurgle worsened and the gloom deepened, even that hope was denied us by the commissioner. He pulled the plug after heat eight.
Day one at Bells was left on the cross, flapping in the onshore breeze.
Rip Curl Women’s Pro Bells Beach Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.50, Sage Erickson (USA) 9.33, Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 8.80
Heat 2: Coco Ho (HAW) 12.80, Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 11.93, Keely Andrew (AUS) 10.77
Heat 3: Silvana Lima (BRA) 15.67, Kobie Enright (AUS) 11.00, Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 10.44
Heat 4: Tyler Wright (AUS) 13.83, Paige Hareb (NZL) 10.83 Malia Manuel (HAW) 8.63
Heat 5: Lakey Peterson (USA) 14.17, Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 13.07, Macy Callaghan (AUS) 9.73
Heat 6: Johanne Defay (FRA)12.87, Caroline Marks (USA) 12.34, Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 7.63
Rip Curl Women’s Pro Bells Beach Round 2 Matchups:
Heat 1: Keely Andrew (AUS) vs. Caroline Marks (USA)
Heat 2: Sage Erickson (USA) vs. Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
Heat 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) vs. Kobie Enright (AUS)
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Paige Hareb (NZL)
Heat 5: Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) vs. Macy Callaghan (AUS)
Heat 6: Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) vs. Malia Manuel (HAW)
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 12.53, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 11.50, Michael February (ZAF) 8.43
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) 10.73, Conner Coffin (USA) 9.10, Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 6.17
Heat 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.30, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 14.27, Caio Ibelli (BRA) 12.16
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.50 Italo Ferreira (BRA) 11.40, Ian Gouveia (BRA) 8.23
Heat 5: John John Florence (HAW) 13.76, Tomas Hermes (BRA) 10.30, Mikey McDonagh (AUS) 8.34
Heat 6: Julian Wilson (AUS) 11.10, Joan Duru (FRA) 10.83, Carl Wright (AUS) 7.83
Heat 7: Michel Bourez (PYF)14.10, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 10.97, Keanu Asing (HAW) 10.87
Heat 8: Matt Wilkinson (AUS)11.70, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.00, Yago Dora (BRA) 10.16
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Remaining Round 1 Matchups:
Heat 9: Kolohe Andino (USA), Frederico Morais (PRT), Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 10: Adrian Buchan (AUS), Connor O’Leary (AUS), Michael Rodrigues (BRA)
Heat 11: Joel Parkinson (AUS), Kanoa Igarashi (JPN), Wade Carmichael (AUS)
Heat 12: Mick Fanning (AUS), Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Jesse Mendes (BRA)