...a total refutation of the piece I was going to write but have to now choke on.
Ever have those nightmares where you’re trying to run away from some beast in the night but you can’t run? You can’t run, you can’t scream and the sticky tentacles of some grisly fate seem to inexorably drag you downwards. S’how I feel about covering pro surfing. I try to escape and I can’t. Just end up alone in a room under a single bulb at 2am trying to make sense out of the nonsensical.
Which in this case was a whole day spent in a funk wondering why pro surfing seems to inevitably drift towards the safe and the conservative. It was dragging me with it, serving up lukewarm meat and potatoes camouflaged as surf writing and there seemed no escape. No Dane clause I could invoke.
Stick with me. Risk does not equal reward under the current format. A subjective sport pitching itself as the elite surfers surfing at the highest level has an existential problem – an ugly monster David Lynch himself would be proud of – that all the sports management jargon in the world can’t hide.
Y’see I wrote that as the opening heat siren went to begin another days competition in perfect Jbay. An a priori observation. What happened next was the most stunning counter-factual to the above argument. I’m still stunned by it.
Filipe came on stage the third heat of the day and dialled up the intensity 20, 30 percent on what had transpired previous. The turn speed, vicious angles and repertoire made the screen sizzle. He put Yago Dora in what Joe Turpel called a “subtle” combo and then what I call a brutal combo.
It was a total refutation of the piece I was going to write but have to now choke on: That somehow skill development and risk became stymied in professional surfers and that what we, the general public and pro surfing fan base get served up, are slowly degrading versions of the surfers who come on Tour. Maybe the argument still holds, but huge exceptions now need to be carved out, weakening it; perhaps fatally. Kelly Slater in the Dane Reynolds Era is exhibit A for the rebuttal. Filipe Toledo, Exhibit B.
Griffin Colapinto, one of the rare mutants to drop out of the QS womb fully formed, gave a clue as to how the progression might take place. It accords with the science of expertise and skill acquisition analysed by Florida State Professor Anders Eriksson. Eriksson highlighted the importance of “mental representations” in becoming a master. Colapinto in his post heat presser said he’d been lying in his bed dreaming, imagining the pure Joel Parkinson line at Jbay. He outdid the master and outclassed another scrappy dog performance by Mikey Wright. Griff was sharp and smooth but not sterile, his Final wave was fucking blem. A 9.57.
Medina and O’Leary tore into sunlit walls that had what food writer AA Gill might describe as a “delectable texture”. I’ll say what you were thinking: Medina now has the best style with the fewest interruptions to the pure top to bottom speed line of any Top 34 surfer. The lack of nervous movement is a gorgeous divinity and no, I’m not high.
The final 4 heats of the day, being Rd 4 heats one to four cumulatively represented the best sequence of pro surfing heats this year. Jbay specialists Joel Parkinson, Jordy Smith and Connor Coffin derived top flow and tremendous rail turns in Ht 1 as the lead seesawed and then reversed. Parko took off from the gates like a 2 year old at a barrier trial and then was run down by a fast finishing Connor Coffin. His last place was a savage indictment on his inability to find another gear. As a swansong it was both elegant and elegiac. His presser was an examplar of grace. Please find it and listen.
Julian kept his shot at the title alive after an indifferent heat with a wave of brilliance in the final minute to go from last to first.
Three man heats in perfect surf are a sweet spot of performance and entertainment. We can agree on this, no matter our country of origin, sexual identity etc etc , yes? I think we can. Waves being ridden, nothing going to waste, a mini leaderboard. Drama. Filipe took it to another level in Heat 3. It was obvious that he was prepared to build on his performance from last year. He fell on the end turn of a wave that was a certain 10 , a wave that made my body twitch with pleasure. Adriano was magnificent; another example of one of the rarified few who have managed to improve their skill set while on Tour. I think, I hope, all the talk of the ugly squat style will be banished, will become as offensive as the n word after Adrianos surfing today. No disrespect intended.
Seabass was a cooked goose, shot. Stick a fork in him and pull him out of the oven. With half the heat done it was like he was shot out of a star cannon. He ditched Adriano from second to elimination with brutal radical precision.
I was glad they called it off after the end of Heat 4 , Rd 4. I couldn’t take much more. I did not know Kanoa Igarashi could surf that good. Total revision of my opinion of him required. Medina looked bemused, almost shocked as Griff elbowed him out of the way to ride a wave on the buzzer. It was not enough. But still an almost comical end to a heat that Medina looked to have squashed between his thighs with two powerful 8 point rides.
Did you watch? Thrilled? Almost as much as by Stone Dead Soph’s mea culpa on Facebook posted on the WSL site today. What a great day it was. What a turnaround! There is hope for us all, even us
Men’s Corona Open J-Bay Remaining Round 3 (H5-12) Results:
Heat 5: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 16.77 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.70
Heat 6: Julian Wilson (AUS) 12.80 def. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 12.23
Heat 7: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 16.60 def. Yago Dora (BRA) 7.94
Heat 8: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.77 def. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 10.84
Heat 9: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) def. Owen Wright (AUS) INJ
Heat 10: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 15.83 def. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 7.67
Heat 11: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 17.70 def. Mikey Wright (AUS) 11.67
Heat 12: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.63 def. Connor O’Leary (AUS) 14.20
Men’s Corona Open J-Bay Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Conner Coffin (USA) 16.03, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.56, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 14.20
Heat 2: Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.66, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 13.00, Frederico Morais (PRT) 12.90
Heat 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 17.23, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 16.13, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 15.23
Heat 4: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 18.04, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.50, Griffin Colapinto (USA) 9.50
Men’s Corona Open J-Bay Quarterfinal Matchups:
QF 1: Conner Coffin (USA) vs. Wade Carmichael (AUS)
QF 2: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Jordy Smith (ZAF)
QF 3: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Gabriel Medina (BRA)
QF 4: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)