Come thrill at another day of professional surfing!
Soz for the appalling misery guts who filed yesterday. What a negative Nancy, as Dave Wassel would say. Anyone would think Saint Mick himself had been put on the cross and crucified.
Y’see when Derek asked me to cover all the comps this year a current of cold fear ran through me. Every day. Of every comp. Something no surf journalist has ever attempted. For good reason, as it turns out. The problems with intensive pro surfing coverage are despair and gaffes. Already I compared Sophie G’s enthusiastic embrace of wave systems to the Nazi’s extermination of Jews in World War II, a completely unintentional Freudian slip and we are only at stop two on the Tour. Despair?
Well, I came up with the solution to that today.
While head judge Pritamo Ahrendt has raised the bar, very high as it turns out, on what is excellent surfing, I did the opposite. I dropped expectations so low that any heat, no matter how mediocre would effortlessly reach them.
And they did! To quote Freddy Nietzsche, “Nothing succeeds in which high spirits play no part”.
Seeing as the Grit has a man on the ground covering the play by play I guess that allows me to freestyle as the colour bloke. Or color guy. In which case, let me tell you about the time I pulled a root from the Torquay pub and maxed out the points, as Rondawg Blakey would say, in the judging platform at Winki. No, let’s a put a more wholesome subject on the block. Let’s put Fanning’s legacy on the judging into context instead.
Dane punched a huge hole in the judging criteria in 2009/10. Judges lost their minds. A crossroads was reached in the final at Bells, 2012. Kelly dropped a huge air for a ten and a bunch of weird stuff. Fanning produced classic Fanning rail-work and the judges, seeing the two side-by-side chose the Australian. That set the template for the next five years: Neo-Classical Australian Power Surfing. Everyone adapted. Adriano mastered it, Medina did, even John John developed mastery of the form for his twin titles.
Now, Pritamo has junked the script and the pro’s look lost. Deers in the headlights. There’s a call for new blood and new surfing but exactly in what form that will manifest is yet to be fully determined. There seems a lot riding on the slender shoulders of Griffin Colapinto. Weirdest thing for me yesterday was watching Griff huck and Filipe trying to best him with power surfing. The script has been flipped Filipe, I wanted to shout, and you’re the new fucking author. The old game is deadly bones.
Bells was at its prettiest early, as it always is. Unlike Snapper which becomes more sublime as the day wears on Bells reads like an Edgar Allen Poe story: glittering and sun-drenched early, becoming drenched in gothic gloom as the day wears on. Fanning waited, and waited, for an opening ride. In the end, he stitched together a couple of sixes for the win. It was utilitarian surfing at it’s finest.
It set the tone for a day of hard yards in the Bells Bowl. Pro’s seemed content with sixes and sevens, happy enough to limbo the new judging bar rather than high jump it. Seabass, J-Flo impressed in that space with neo-classical surfing that at least demonstrated some fine edge work. I started writing my own number next to heats as a measure of entertainment value, then looked at the lengthening list of fives and sixes and stopped. No point.
We agreed yesterday that mental health is a vexatious bitch. It was for Michael Peterson, it is for Shane Herring, was for the late, great Andy Irons, even the great Kelly Slater struggles. It sure was for the gal who threw herself off the cliff at Lennox Point yesterday eve. My go-to self-help to rebuild the psychic shield after a rugged day on the internets has been Marcus Aurelius or that little Thai buddhist Thich Nat Han, but after today I’m switching to listening to pro surfer pressers. Ace Buchan said competing at Pro Surfing helped him be the “best version of himself.*”
Could any surf writer stand before the creator on Judgement Day and say the same? Or do we blame God for admitting the awful truth that our good and bad are so intertwined that by throwing away the worst of ourselves we also discard the best?
Finally a heat appeared from the Victorian gloom where someone, both surfers, had a crack at broaching the new judging bar. Rodrigues signalled an intention to go big with a clean, tail-high air and Italo put the pedal down, hammering huge high speed hits. If you watch one wave today on the Heat Analyser watch his 8.33 and appreciate the speed. With the Griff in the box commentating it was a sublime moment of entertainment.
This part of the demystifying campaign, where they get the pro surfers in the box, is working brilliantly. From Jordy’s home-spun parables and definitions to Griffin’s kooky, semi-articulate but rock-hard assessments to Kelly’s pitching the Wave Tub Davis Cup Tennis Tournament, it’s all working wonderfully, wonderfully well.
After a day where, once again, too much pro surfing was barely enough it put me on the top of the forking world, guv’nor.
*Sadly, but truly my wife thinks the best version of me is the one heavily sedated on tramadol and…
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Remaining Round 1 Results:
Heat 9: Kolohe Andino (USA) 11.63, Willian Cardoso (BRA) 11.53, Frederico Morais (PRT) 10.26
Heat 10: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 12.00, Connor O’Leary (AUS) 8.40, Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 7.53
Heat 11: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.33, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 9.90, Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 8.50
Heat 12: Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.03, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 11.27 , Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 10.70
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 9.50 def. Carl Wright (AUS) 8.33
Heat 2: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 11.57 def. Mikey McDonagh (AUS) 8.87
Heat 3: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 15.17 def. Ian Gouveia (BRA) 9.43
Heat 4: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 14.33 def. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 11.03
Heat 5: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 11.43 def. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 10.00
Heat 6: Frederico Morais (PRT) 7.73 def. Michael February (ZAF) 6.43
Heat 7: Jeremy Flores (FRA)11.60 def. Keanu Asing (HAW) 9.84
Heat 8: Conner Coffin (USA) 13.74 def. Yago Dora (BRA) 13.64
Heat 9: Willian Cardoso (BRA) 13.36 def. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 11.33
Heat 10: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.83 def. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 9.73
Heat 11: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 14.00 def. Tomas Hermes (BRA) 11.70
Heat 12: Jesse Mendes (BRA) 14.26 def. Joan Duru (FRA) 12.80
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Round 3 Matchups:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Wade Carmichael (AUS)
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Heat 4: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Griffin Colapinto (USA)
Heat 5: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
Heat 6: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 7: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Frederico Morais (PRT)
Heat 9: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Conner Coffin (USA)
Heat 10: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Heat 11: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Jeremy Flores (FRA)
Heat 12: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA)