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.