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Beach Grit

Margs, Day 3: “A swamp of mediocrity!”

Longtom

by Longtom

What works great as a live event sucks donkey dongs as a broadcast product.

Do you have a favourite cause, something you champion? Something lodged deep in your heart? I have two: orangutans and the Kurds. 

The thought of those wise old men of the forest getting burnt to death so sanctimonious vegans can get fat on palm oil saturated bikkies drives me wild. Even worse, those Pashmerga babes who made ISIS cry for their mummies now getting hung out  to dry by the west so a bunch of recycled jihadis backed by Turkey can overrun their beautiful gender neutral society just kills me. For real. If I had any bottle I would don the fatigues and jump the next plane to Kirkuk. I already have the camo.

But I’m thinking I, we; we being the ambivalent surf fan might have to champion a different cause. That cause being the Australian leg of the Pro Tour, maybe even pro surfing itself, because all leg it has looked, today included, on very shaky ground. Unable to lift itself out of a swamp of mediocrity, trapped in a dreadful paradox. 

The disconnect between what the public is viewing, what they say is their experience of the product, what the judges are seeing and the hype being put out by the WSL media machine which controls the broadcast is growing and reaching critical levels. The judges are saying it is fair to mediocre, the public agrees and the WSL is still stuck on a loop of “best ever, historic day, incredible action etc”

That paradox, heretofore unmentioned, is that the Australian pro surf contest has evolved hand in hand with the state, deriving funding for its ability to drive tourism and put bums on seats in regional areas. It works brilliantly doing that. People show up for the spectacle and the atmosphere and the surf contest bubbles away in the background.

What works great as a live event sucks donkey dongs as a broadcast product. A paradox with no resolution in sight. And seeing as the WSL has already shown that a contest – even the acknowledged best one on Tour, Fiji – is not viable without state backing we are in a quandary. Stay with the status quo, take the government money for the bums on seats and bore the global audience witless or take a chance on something new and risk all that juicy, guaranteed taxpayer underwriting. There’s no easy option there unless they want the next 10 years to look like the last 10 and Sophie G has already said that is not an option.

The disconnect between what the public is viewing, what they say is their experience of the product, what the judges are seeing and the hype being put out by the WSL media machine which controls the broadcast is growing and reaching critical levels. The judges are saying it is fair to mediocre, the public agrees and the WSL is still stuck on a loop of “best ever, historic day, incredible action etc”

Between the idea and the reality falls the shadow. Sooner or later, unless Ziff is happy for a conga line of CEO’s to pass through the revolving door, reality must be faced.

Four heats went by this morning in wobbly, mostly flat-faced, morning-sick Margaret River Main Break before two Brazilian goofyfooters, thank God for Brazilian goofyfooters, lit it up and provided premium entertainment. Miguel Pupo, my favourite goofyfoot for years came out with the best wave of the contest as his opening gambit; just a beautifully smooth high-speed, top-to -ottom piece of edge work. But he couldn’t quite find anything equally amazing to back it up and Italo hunted him down with brutal closing manoeuvres before spiking a set wave for the win. Sad. To see Miguel go so early. If anyone has looked world title material, apart from the no show at North Point, it is Italo. But you still get the feeling none of this may matter years end, that the tour hasn’t really kicked off, and remains in some strange sort of limbo.

Prior to that, wildcards Kael Walsh and Mikey Wright took out Wilko and Ace. It was obvious by that point, and reinforced through the day, that no-one had learnt the lessons of last year and tried to replicate the JJF line going right at Mainbreak. You really would think they would have studied the videotape, learned to draw the bottom turn a little earlier before the flat faced wave with its lack of what George Greenough calls “bottom tension”  ate up all their speed and initiated the high-speed, top-turn arc earlier. But no. No students of the game on show today. Sure, Bourez looked powerful enough in one of the better performances of the day but it was well down on expected levels.

I thought Seabass summed it up when in the booth, talking about his own performances and how he was frustrated with plateauing and not improving. He was asked how he could improve and he shrugged his shoulders, he had shades on, maybe baked?, and quipped “I dunno, train harder, eat better, stretch?” That just produces more meat and potatoes. It’s something else required here. An imaginative act. Not an athletic one. Thing is,  no imagination required now, JJF left a template to follow. 

Do I sound frustrated?

I couldn’t imagine the judges are filled with serotonin and dopamine after a another long, long day of pro surfing with a single wave in the excellent range. Count it. One. That’s hard graft for judges, surf journalists and an online audience alike. The numbers don’t lie and the numbers are terrible.

Joan Duru looked very strong in the last heat of the day. Dark horse pick.

John Florence comes up against Mikey Wright in round three. That will be the litmus test as to whether Florence is back on the pony proper or still lost in his own mind noise. 

Margaret River Men’s Pro Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) 9.77 def. Dave Delroy-Carr (AUS) 5.43
Heat 2: Kael Walsh (AUS) 9.77 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 5.07
Heat 3: Mikey Wright (AUS) 14.17 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 9.14
Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.67 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 13.16
Heat 5: Michel Bourez (PYF) 14.16 def. Ian Gouveia (BRA) 9.10
Heat 6: Michael February (ZAF) 12.73 def. Frederico Morais (PRT) 9.17
Heat 7: Yago Dora (BRA) 13.76 def. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 11.93
Heat 8: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 14.34 def. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 13.27
Heat 9: Conner Coffin (USA) 11.83 def. Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 9.57
Heat 10: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 13.50 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 12.50
Heat 11: Jesse Mendes (BRA) 9.37 def. Tomas Hermes (BRA) 9.10
Heat 12: Joan Duru (FRA) 14.57 def. Wade Carmichael (AUS) 11.80

Margaret River Men’s Pro Round 3 Matchups:
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Keanu Asing (HAW)
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Heat 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Michael February (ZAF)
Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Michael Rodrigues (BRA)
Heat 5: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) vs. Conner Coffin (USA)
Heat 6: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Kael Walsh (AUS)
Heat 7: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Jack Robinson (AUS)
Heat 8: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Connor O’Leary (AUS)
Heat 9: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 10: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Yago Dora (BRA)
Heat 11: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Joan Duru (FRA)
Heat 12: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Mikey Wright (AUS)