Ruthless contest judges "fed Kelly to the pigs…"
There’s nothing harder in this polarised world than to get a handle on reality. I thought yesterday was a good day, a bold move going to D-Bah against the grain of commercial pressure, with a whole lot of entertaining surfing that was a massive upgrade from the QS that had been incubating on the shores of our sun baked continent for an eternity.
John John Florence back in the jersey, Slater on his testimonial testing his legacy.
In other minds, insurrection was fomenting. I took the early morning to take the temperature at my local where pro surfing is consumed by a very knowledgeable cognoscenti. A freshly waxed Sharpeye HT2.5 was incentive to take on sideshore rock runners, a story for a different time.
The mood on the opening day was contra my own.
“Sick of fucking watching Brazilians bunny hop and do air reverses.”
“Couldn’t watch more than five minutes.”
“Slater is gone” etc etc.
Not a kind word to be said.
I argued that Medina was a beast and worthy champ but the judgement was cast in stone: opening day was stillborn.
Got to the beach at D-Bah ten minutes before Slater’s heat started. Blue water was pulling hard out of the Tweed, a squall to the south-east trailed a rain cloud underneath it like a shroud.
Kelly was on the beach. A small flock trailed him. Notably small. For anyone who has seen full-blown Kelly-gasms before a minor respectful crowd was bizarre. He stretched. The double-jointed camel back was still there.
“Looks a bit stiff,” I said to the Maori security guard standing beside me.
“What do you think?”
He tapped his temple and said, “It’s all up here, eh”
“I don’t know,” I said, “everyone gets too old eventually. Doesn’t matter what you think about it.”
Kelly entered the water, the gathered crowd clapped quietly. A middle-aged woman in a WSL cap sighed deeply and contentedly.
She got what she came for: proximity to Kelly. Absent were the usual nubiles.
I can tell you from the beach the surf looked a lot better than on broadcast. It was confusing to watch.
Fifteen hundred, maybe two thousand, if that is too conservative lets call it three thousand people, were spread across the sand. Taking transects and methodically walking among them I estimated 70-75% spoke Portugese, Spanish, Basque or another Germanic language. The typical Australian surf fan was conspicuous by their absence.
I saw the young Brazilian up by the wall take a wave. Where was Kelly? He was down by himself at the middle peak, hundreds of metres away from Owen and Chrisanto.
He caught a wave. No-one on the beach saw it. No one responded.
It was wave three he did three big spicy turns and a high-speed layback to finish.
I scribbled down “7 +”.
Polite applause rippled around the crowd. An aeon later judges called it a 5.43.
Wow, I thought, they are feeding him to the pigs. How disrespectful.
A big power gouge snap under the lip, a move only Kelly can do, was given a 5.2.
Kelly was being crucified in full public view and no one cared. How strange for him. How very, very strange. A man with his own private fiefdom where a never-ending lineup of celebrities and billionaires are willing to line up to kiss the ring and his career is ending with a public humiliation on Duranbah beach in front of an uncomprehending and uncaring crowd.
Forty seconds to go and on my ticket Kelly has won the heat. In reality, he needs an 8.07., a score he once would have laughed at but that now seems completely out of reach.
30 , 20, 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
The countdown seems significant, as all of them will this year for the GOAT. If he lasts the year that is.
He ran up the beach and went straight to Rosie for the post-heat presser. There was no live cross, Ronnie and Pete were gabbing to longboard world champion Steven Sawyer while the GOAT was bleeding out… a very bad look.
Kelly said he needed to be hungrier, but that isn’t the problem.
The problem is much bigger, more intractable.
A year ago, he said he wasn’t content making up the numbers, he wanted to be contending for a Title. The reality of a last-place finish now removes that possibility entirely. Reality is overtaking him in a way that never seemed possible, but is happening right in front of our eyes.
His downfall in this manner diminishes us all.
Christie got through, that’s good news I guess.