Opinion: “Martin Potter is a man reborn! He knows professional surfing like few others, like no others!”

The '89 World Champ is in the best form!

If this is truly the ’89 World Champ Martin Potter’s retirement lap then he is making me teary-eye’d. Have you been watching his performance at the Male Rip Curl Pro Portugal?

Have you been at least listening? Rare bits of true, deep-baked, knowledge are being dropped every fourth heat, or so. Unfiltered gems that I’ve been wanting, that I’ve been waiting for, for years. He is a man reborn.

Martin Potter, who won a World Championship in ’89, knows professional surfing like few others, like no others even, having both won a World Championship in ’89 and sitting in the booth for the past goodness only knows how many years watching every turn, every stinking squirt off the top.

I’ve wanted insight, true insight not just throw away responses to Joe Turpel’s meaninglessness.

And Martin Potter (’89 W.C.) has delivered at the Mayo Rip Curl Pro Portugal.

For example, on the post-show today, speaking about the Patrick G. vs. Griffin C. heat, he dropped an absolute bomb. Pat G. had just completed an air that Griffin C. watched from the lineup and Potter, who clawed a World Championship from the maw of ’89, said, “He’s such a grommet he still likes watching good surfing.”

I stopped dead in my tracks and am still wondering about it. Is it true? Is watching good surfing an exercise for the young?

Is that part of the “grumpy local” phenomenon? That “grumpy locals” are old and can’t enjoy the spectacle anymore?

I would very much like to know more about all of this.

Mr.Smith, You're on dangerous ground here. You're causing a major disturbance on my time. Chas: Just explain to me what a thruster is again…

Confession: “I thought a ‘thruster’ was directly related to sex. I thought ‘goofy foot’ was harsh criticism!”

And other misconstrued surf flotsam…

When Steve Shearer’s peerless work first started appearing on BeachGrit I was overjoyed. Good writing is rare, good surf writing even more rare and great professional surf writing is non-existent.

I don’t count Nick Carroll here because he is a god moving amongst us and above criticism. Anyhow, Steve writes under the name Longtom here, as you well know, and when I first read it I thought, “Well look at that, Mr. Longtom. Really bragging about your ol’ Long Tom there, ain’t you.”

In my mind “Longtom” was somehow similar to “Longshanks” which, if Braveheart taught me anything other than the futility of fighting the system, meant “Long Dick.” But it totally didn’t did it? Shanks are legs.


So Edward Longshanks who had William Wallace gutted was probably only a tall man.

Which leads me directly to my point.

Surf lingo is a cultural phenomenon. It is born amongst barely literate surf youth before filtering into the still barely literate surf masses and you must catch it quick and discern its meaning even quicker from reference points alone. Maybe easier if you are born in coastal southern California or Sydney’s eastern beaches but when you’re a kid up in the mists of Oregon trying so so hard to figure this all out many many mistakes are made.

Have you ever been tripped up by surf lingo?

I’ll start. I thought Sex Wax was directly related to sex. I thought Billabong was pronounced “Bill-a-bonic.” I thought a “thruster” was directly related to sex. I thought “goofy foot” was harsh criticism.

Your turn.

Gabriel, middle, hot for world title, but, hoo-ee, he's gotta stomp on Julian Wilson and Filipe's lifelong dream.

Surf Gambling: “There’s no greater certainty in sports right now than Gabriel Medina taking title number two!”

And more bold bets for MEO Rip Curl Portugal Pro! (Wilko at 30-1 to make the final, for instance.)

So I missed the start of the comp. While the pros were hoofing out of Hossegor on the A63 into northern Spain, before cutting out for the divine Peniche peninsula, I was visiting old haunts. I marvelled at the uniquely Glaswegian juxtaposition of ornate, olde-worldy architecture and the chillingly dull thunks of a man’s head being kicked repeatedly against concrete under Central Station bridge.

Ah, Glasgow…how I don’t fucking miss you.

But, betting! My solace and my shame.

France worked out well in the end, thanks mainly to Ryan Callinan. I cashed out the majority of the bets I wrote about previously, my instincts about Zeke Lau proving correct. I used some of those profits on a couple of multis that didn’t work out, though I did get a good return on Callinan in that banger of a round four heat. £225 @ 37/20 for a £641 ($US840) return. A rich stake for some folk’s tastes but if you don’t know, now you know…

Ultimately, I plan to wrestle the login to the BG betting account from Blake Thornton before he spunks it all away, lukewarm dribble by lukewarm dribble. By my reckoning his total so far is -250 for Surf Ranch (actually +100) , and +70 for the Quik Pro.

So a 200 loss overall? Tremendous.

(Editor’s note: $170 up.)

Portugal may well be a crap shoot for some people, but it’s one of my favourites, not least because it’s the only CT I’ve ever attended I.R.L. Yep, I’ve got down in the sand with the shit munchers and The People and been marginally entertained but less so than if I’d stayed home and watched it on my 4.7 inch phone screen.

So my stakes.

Outside bet for the finals? Wilko. He has a pep in his step in Portugal. Think wetsuits with screen printed sardines and tits, think impossible backhand smashes on close-out end sections. And think of the time I bumped into him blundering around outside the hotel, three days after the comp had finished and everyone else had gone home, in all his Worzel Gummidge glory. I miss that Wilko, but I sense his spirit still wandering around somewhere in Portugal.

I’m also betting on Italo, like I almost always do. He will be world champ one day, of that I’m sure. And until then I’ll be backing him, because on many, many days I’ve seen him as clearly the most explosive and talented surfer in the water, regardless of what the judges say.

And De Souza! How is our one time world champ and previous winner in Portugal still so disrespected? He’s surfing’s Pusha T. He puts numbers on the boards. 20/1 to make the final? 40/1 to win?! Keep his name in your mouth.

Honestly, has there ever been a guy who looked less like he belonged on Tour than Michael bloody February? He’s like an ornamental vase, an indulgent waste of space. The sooner he and his little T-Rex arms are gone the better…

My bets placed thus far are:

Rd 2+3 multi:

Wilko over Seabass; O’Leary to beat Lau; Dora to beat Morais; Rodrigues to beat Bourez; Medina to end Callinan’s run, sadly. £20 @ 35/1

The same, but with the addition of Duru over ADS (puncher’s chance); Griffin to beat Gudauskas; and Flores to best February. £10 @ 220/1

(Honestly, has there ever been a guy who looked less like he belonged on Tour than Michael bloody February? He’s like an ornamental vase, an indulgent waste of space. The sooner he and his little T-Rex arms are gone the better.)

I’ll also be betting on Wilko to make the semis (14/1), and the final (30/1); Italo to make the final (9/2) and to win (9/1); ADS to make the semi (8/1) and the final (20/1), and possibly to win (40/1); and Michael February to be whisked away by a stiff Northerly breeze (Evs).

As for the big picture.

There is no greater certainty in the wide world of sports right now than Gabriel Medina taking title number two. If you’ve got the stomach for it, carve out a sizable chunk and throw it at Gabby for the overall win (11/10).

Day one, MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal: “Facebook-live numbers magically inflate 400%!”

While America and Australia sleeps, China and Russia tune in to pro surfing!

You might recall, way back in March, March 9 to be exact, when veteran surf journalist Sean Doherty made the statement that “after 20 years, this will be the last time Snapper will open the tour”.

Word was, that in the grand new tour restructure it would be Portugal having the season opening champagne cracked on her bows. I expressed disbelief because I didn’t think the person had been born yet who thought the optics of opening the tour in grey old wintery Europe on the shores of Melville’s “tornadoed Atlantic” were a good idea.

Thus it came to be. We got our old comfortable tour back, shorn of its sponsors and revelling in weird zeitgeisty names like Men’s Gold Coast Pro and France Women’s Pro.

An astute commentor said there is room for France or Portugal on a world tour, but not both. I lean towards France because the evening light is dreamy and that almost alone, is how locations should be determined. If no blue water or backlit evening dreams then a castle or a cobblestoned street should be clearly in the field of view.

Supertubos, with its industrial backdrop and brown, rip-ravaged line-up is a tough watch. Especially on a day like today, when we got to watch the field stooped and swinging pick-axes in a mostly vain attempt to excavate what assistant Comish Trav Logie called the “diamonds in the rough”.

The basic stat: an average wave score of 4.32 for the days 18 heats shows the poor quality of the ore, if you’ll pardon my mangling of the mining metaphor.

Italo seemed to warm the lineup with low altitude airs and punchy turns after a winning heat from Jordy which he generously described as “dressing up a pig”. The Facebook feed had somehow magically inflated from it’s typical two to three thousand viewers to over nine thousand. America snoozing, late night in Aus and a raggedy rip-torn round one Supertubos lineup bought three times the viewers to the yard?

In a day of low drama, interest focussed on the first six heats of round one, which mercifully contained the Title contenders, plus front runners.

Italo seemed to warm the lineup with low altitude airs and punchy turns after a winning heat from Jordy which he generously described as “dressing up a pig”. The Facebook feed had somehow magically inflated from its typical two to three thousand viewers to over nine thousand. America snoozing, late night in Aus and a raggedy rip-torn round one Supertubos lineup bought three times the viewers to the yard? Not doubting the brilliance and efficiency of the WSL marketing. But when a highly invested semi-pro fan like me is scouring the site for WSL news and a forecast and on the days leading up to the event there is still nothing…

Lot of hectic flak came my way over perceived unfair criticism of Keanu and his expositions on winning strategy in the booth. My counter-argument: that it’s surfing performance and not strategy that wins heats was brilliantly exemplified by France winner Julian Wilson. Wilson said something in France which caught my ear. Words to the effect that even though he won at Kirra with a busted shoulder his surfing hadn’t been where he wanted it and now at the back end of the year he was finally getting his surfing to a level he was happy with. Cliche I know, but the improvement has been marked, beginning with Surf Ranch. Manifested in a willingness to go to the air and go big in the air. He threaded a deep tube and ran an audacious line across the top of a horrowshow close-out lip for a dominant victory.

A north wind slowly cleaned up the line-up, sun came out. It looked prettier as Filipe took on Tomas Hermes and Miguel Blanco in heat five. Toledo looked, shaky. Again. Even half a world away you can sense the mojo has drained out of him. Three minutes to go and he needed a 6.97. He exploded into a inverted air reverse. Judges gave a five, preferring the meat and potatoes, lean and sweet granted, of Tomas Hermes. Hermes must have been tuned into the Asing strategy brouhaha as he pointedly told Rosie that competition came naturally to him due to his country of birth but that he required “evolution, I need to surf better.”

Remember Kelly in his heyday? I very much prefer the second act , Titles 8, 9, 10 and 11, against vastly superior opposition to the early titles. No disrespect intended to Shane Beschen et al. A day of low-scoring closeouts and Kelly would appear and conjure a massive heat score. Medina is not quite there, but he’s close enough. He motored around the lineup picking off scoring waves at will. Tube-rides, aggro two turn combos on brutal close-outs. I just can’t quite get my head around why judges are giving him sixes and Julian sevens. With Fanning in the booth as the analyst it became a joy to watch. I never quite developed the love and reverence for Fanning which seemed to become his national legacy, but as soon as his voice came through the ether I realised I had missed the bastard. He truly went out on top. Parko has stayed a couple of years too many, Kelly will never go.

Round 2 ground on. Filipe did enough to squeak past wildcard Sammy Pupo on the strength of a deep tube ridden in the opening minute. Cardoso knocked a hapless Asing. Sport is cruel. Sublimated cruelty is cathartic.

Callinan remains the sole wildcard left in the field. His round three match-up with Medina has potential to be the heat of the comp.

On a day like today of mostly stultifying routine a rule like that which introduces the potential for last-second drama and chaos is a godsend.

One last word on that technical rule that saw Pat G defeat Kolohe in France. On a day like today of mostly stultifying routine a rule like that which introduces the potential for last-second drama and chaos is a godsend. The aim of the rule: to break open the heat right at the death and allow for a last-minute buzzer beater to be ridden without being shut down by priority is pitch perfect. It functions as a stupidity tax, which is to be applauded in modern life.

Please don’t change it Mr Comish.

See you back here tonight with all our new found Chinese and Russian fans.

Martin Potter: “Wilson to win Pipe Masters, Medina to take the title!”

"But my heart wants Filipe..."

I woke up long before the sun this morning to watch live professional surfing. Oh I can get so grumpy about it all, like a father who has grand expectations for a talented but spastic daughter. I see what is possible and want to pull, tug, push, prod toward the ideal. My efforts often read as pure criticism but it is a criticism born of love and there I sat, bathed in the warm glow from my computer screen, watching live professional surfing, listening to Pete Mel and Kaipo then to Joe Turpel and the ’89 World Champion Martin Potter.

I’m not about to even try to give a day one recap here. As revealed, I am a talentless man and it is difficult for me to riff on what I see remotely. I need to be there, loafers in the sand, with The People, in order to feel it. In order to breathe it. Plus, we have Longtom and no surf journalist is performing at a higher level than he right now. To rob even one jot, one tittle, from his potential arsenal would be an absolute crime but there were two points impressed upon me this early morning.

For all the pulling, tugging, pushing, prodding, for all the constructive criticism (too long, too boring, too etc.), The WSL is doing much right. The highlight packages between heats, for example, absolutely sparkle. It is a good show which teeters on possibly being great.

And Martin Potter, who happened to win a World Title in ’89, weighed in on the 2018 World Title Race making the call that Julian Wilson is going to win the Pipe Masters but Gabriel Medina is going to win the whole thing.

You know, of course, that there are three potentials left. Filipe Toledo, Julian Wilson and Gabriel Medina.

Filipe lost his round 1 heat to I-can’t-remember and Longtom-will-fill-us-in and was relegated to the dreaded Round 2. A loss there would have spelled the official end to his campaign and Martin Potter, who coincidentally won his own World Title in ’89, threw down his prediction. Julian for Pipe, Gabe for the whole shooting match, Filipe for Mr. Congeniality though he did add, “My heart wants Filipe…but once Gabriel has the taste of blood in his mouth he’s just too good.”

Do you agree? Is ’18 over? Filipe, for the record, went out and destroyed Sammy Pupo in the dangerous Round 2. Barrels and airs.

Barrels and airs.

I’ve got Filipe for both Pipe and the title.