Zeke Lay eats John John alive, Parko surfs like new-born giraffe with foetal alcohol syndrome!
Isn’t life the most whimsical, curious and inscrutable of affairs? It’s what I love about Pro Surfing, above all else: this eternal tilting at the windmill of a mainstream audience, its earnest and blackly (unintentionally) comic embrace of total corpo-speak, the smoke and mirrors faking it until you make it pieces in the mainstream business media. Its subtle and none-too-subtle shifts and changes that seem to leave all concerned – especially the surfers, sorry athletes – clueless and gawping like goldfish in a bowl.
I do not jeer. Believe me. Especially after a day like today.
People say to me all the time: “Why do you fucken write about pro surfing if you fucking hate it so much?” Lovers of the game think I should love and true haters think any attention is legitimacy to the evil commercialisation in surfing.
Jared Diamond in his foreword to Guns, Germs and Steel said in relation to similar objections to writing about Human History : “This objection rests on a common tendency to confuse an explanation of causes with a justification or acceptance of results”, which sums up my response on the matter perfectly.
You’d go a long way to find a more curious, bizarre in Strider’s words, morning in Pro Surfing history. I tuned in and after wrassling with the WSL webby which persisted in locking into yesterday’s stream and got live action halfway into the Zeke Lau/JJF round three heat. Replays showed Zeke, with a face like an Easter Island statue and physique to match, had monstered John, got all up in his grill and had sent the world champ into a tailspin. Combo’ed, Florence fell, then fell again as the clock ticked down. It was thrilling and almost wincingly painful to watch, like a David Attenborough documentary where the elegant ruminant gets savaged by a lion then has its insides ripped out by a pack of hyaenas. The champ looked so helpless. All that insouciance at the Gold Coast was gone and in its place was a lonely blond-haired kid being frowned upon by an older man on the stairs who shook his head sadly as the siren sounded.
John’s presser was abject. He looked terrible. Bags under the eyes like a parkie who’d skulled a flagon of cheap port and spent the night curled up in a bus stop. He called Zeke’s aggression “kinda lame” and said “I might do it in the next event.” Which made me snort my coffee and shout aloud “As if!”
John has no aggro in his game. None. Unlike Fanning, who brings an intensity to any recreational lineup, I have no qualms getting my quota if John showed at my local breaks.
Putting it bluntly, and regretfully, Parko’s surfing in his heat with Fred Morais was farcical, almost risible. It was borderline slapstick. He looked as coordinated and solid as a new-born giraffe with foetal alcohol syndrome stumbling it’s way across New York’s central park on New years Eve. Yes, it was that surreal. Only a faint vestigial image of something graceful and elegant was visible in the bumbling performance he laid on. To be charitable, and in his own words, he had a shocker.
Strider said it might be something in the water, as even the king of three turns and a solid finish Adriano De Souza struggled with standing on a surfboard. But what? There are drugs that make people smart, like Modafinil and Ritalin and Coffee. What could have made the best in the world stumble about like English accountants on a Friday night? Rohypnol? Ether? Had the earth’s magnetic field been reversed, as has happened before, overnight and suddenly everything was topsy turvy and upside down? Maybe it was just sleep deprivation, the Top 34 seems like Daddy Day Care these days and every Dad knows that wobbly burnt out feeling of being kept up all hours by a screaming kiddy. I don’t know.
It took four heats before the curtain was drawn on the slapstick and Filipe and Italo took the lineup. If you read any of the Snapper coverage you’ll know Italo is my boy. Using Nick Carroll’s objective analysis method I determined him to be the fastest surfer on Tour and the best goofyfoot and believe, to date, he has been crucially underscored. Like the Gold Coast, it’s a shame he had to meet Filipe so early in the draw. It’ll probably be the best heat of the comp. Toledo made a grey, wobbly lineup and grey sky shine with the light of a thousand suns. He blitzed and shralped and threw high speed edges at every half lip and corner he could find. Alone, he made it seem like a different lineup. But Italo was better. Very, very big high-speed cornering from bottom to top and massive finishes with perfect handling. My heart was in my throat watching Italo’s second ride with six minutes to go and needing a score. when he stuck a huge landing I found myself fist-pumping and saying “Yes!” First heat I’ve watched where Occy Skins ’97 looked dated. Could have gone either way but I think the judges have finally caught on to the fact that Italo is leading this wobbly old peloton.
An hour’s break and back to Winki with more gurgle to deal with for round four. Maybe something is biding its time, over the horizon and is ready to announce its arrival. Give this year it’s shape and definition; the way John’s performance at Margaret River did last year.
Michel Bourez was simply sensational and for all the big new meathead journeymen on Tour with hams the size of Sally Fitzgibbon, there is no one even close to him as the premier power surfer on Tour. That reminds of a post Chas Smith wrote about the rise of midget surfers… hold that thought, we’ll come back to it.
Mick Fanning was several shades off the pace in his round four heat with Wilko and Pat Gudauskas, and I feel like a worm for insinuating yesterday that Pat had nothing to offer except a few miserable sixes and sevens. He just looks… a little too hyped up for my taste. At least he didn’t get his coffee spiked with rohypnol this morning. Mick made a mistake, gave Wilko a scoring wave, looked resigned to losing and having his last heat, was over-scored on a ride which got him back into it and then loosed the old instincts to win the heat. Pressure now for a fairytale finish will be acute and severe.
Zeke Lau, Fred Morais, Italo and Gabe are through from round four.
Am I seeing this correct?
I often lie awake in the wee hours, unable to sleep, listening to the whine of a mosquito, wondering. what if I’m dead wrong? I don’t do Facebook much but I saw an update from the surf journalist Nick Carroll who stated, “There’s a potentially great and very challenging round three draw in the Bells men’s event. A lot of good surf coming, and some of the heats could go very big. I don’t normally hype the CT, it gets enough of that, but whoa. Take a look if you can.”
That is a totally different perspective to mine. I have to cleave to the view of commenter Wiggoly’s Paddling Style, who with his great flair for the scatalogical, sent me an email today saying, “This Bells is about as exciting as a half-sucked cock at a wedding.”
What are you seeing? Where does the truth lie?
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Remaining Round 3 Results:
Heat 7: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 13.07 def. John John Florence (HAW) 9.76
Heat 8: Frederico Morais (PRT) 11.60 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 9.07
Heat 9: Conner Coffin (USA) 9.83 def. Adriano De Souza (BRA) 9.63
Heat 10: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 16.60 def. Filipe Toledo (BRA) 15.40
Heat 11: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.86 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.73
Heat 12: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.16 def. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 13.30
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Michel Bourez (PYF) 15.77, Owen Wright (AUS) 12.00, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 10.60
Heat 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.33, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 14.00, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.17
Heat 3: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 12.57, Frederico Morais (PRT) 11.16, Conner Coffin (USA) 11.10
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.33, Italo Ferreira (BRA) 12.17, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.00
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Quarterfinal Matchups:
QF 1: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
QF 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Owen Wright (AUS)
QF 3: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
QF 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Frederico Morais (PRT)