"A great contest wrecked by a lame ending…"
Just to clarify. My little tête-à-tête with John John and his self-appointed minder Peter King happened after his round four heat.
Which, as you recall, he won.
We were both in our professional employ, not in private spaces or training camps.
On reflection, it probably doesn’t reflect anything about John, just a simple case of PK being a “local custodian” and protecting his turf.
And he did make me laugh.
At one point he told me with a straight face that he was a journalist. All good, I can never resent a man protecting his livelihood.
Just don’t shoot me Peter. I come in peace.
Comparisons with UFC or other sports do offer insight, by contrast. A fighter at a UFC presser might be asked about drug use, terrorist accusations, family matters, nothing is off limits. Pro surfers luxuriate in one of the most carefully cultivated bubbles in any pro sport league.
Good for them, on the face of it.
Problem is, as someone suggested, in letting their surfing do the talking, pure surfing is understood by the very few. Even a panel of experts struggle to parse it to within a tenth of a point. Story, drama, character is universal currency. Suppress that at your peril.
Kolohe got robbed in the final against Italo. We all saw it. More on that later. The real story today is what happened yesterday. The ramifications of being beholden to Government Tourism funding smacked the new Commissioner upside the head.
D-Bah was pumping. Silken double overhead peaks.
The decision to put on hold staggered me.
A source close to the top of the WSL cleared the confusion. Contractual obligations to Tourism and Events Queensland were invoked, the income stream from Atlas Pass VIP holders was in jeopardy and needed to be thrown a bone. Stallholders and sponsors set-up at Snapper rocks were baying for blood. Sophie G has made it crystal clear that the commercial reality of the sport has to trump all other concerns, including it seems, holding the Finals in the best surf of the waiting period.
You could not blame Pat O’Connell for wishing and hopin’ for a golden Sunday afternoon in the Queensland sun to a capacity crowd.
Blind Freddy could see it was never going to happen.
Nursing a schooner at the Rainbow Surf club the impervious Tommy Peterson grumbled to me “Fucking nor-easter is up and won’t lay down. They should have gone at D-Bah; there’s no fucken surf coming”.
By 11.45 the wind was into it, the Finals would have been finishing in pumping D-Bah. They went on hold and on hold again. At 12.55 pm a black clad Pat O’Connell emerged from the main tower with a blue towel wrapped around his head Lawrence of Arabia-style.
A phalanx of Red Cameras departed within a the minute and the illusion was shattered for the day, obligations presumedly met.
That left the WSL in the unenviable position of selling a sub-standard Final’s day as a pinnacle when it was clear anti-climax. Competitors struggled, none moreso than John Florence who looked slow and sluggish in the soft peaks. He fell, and fell and fell against Conner Coffin but still managed to prevail after a 6.33 that looked a full point too high.
Despite not a single scoring ride in the excellent range team JJF will be ecstatic with a semi-final finish.
The week played right into John’s hands, away from the pressure-cooker of the Snapper fish bowl with all its scrutiny and potential for an aggressive opponent to test his resolve. Muscular peaks to roam around in and feed on. Freesurfing during the first half of over-lapping heats.
A dream return to competition.
Medina was clearly furious about the monumental failure to capitalise on yesterday’s dream conditions. He sat for half the heat waiting for a wave that never came and looked flat and ponderous on waves he rode.
“It’s hard to compete when there’s no opportunity,” he told Rosie in the post-heat presser.
Rosie stood mute.
I was reminded of the work of the chief Politburo ideology chief Mikail Suslov when rejecting Vasily Grossman’s epic novel about Stalingrad, Life and Fate.
“Why,” he said, “should we add your book to the atomic bombs that our enemies are preparing to launch against us.”
Medina launched another bomb.
“I was surfing D-Bah (yesterday) and it was pumping but whatever.”
Cut back to the booth and neither Ronnie or Pete touched it.
It was left to die. Like the swell on offer, slowly being torn to pieces by the despised northerly wind.
Imagine any other pro sport deliberately downgrading its finale to appease an outside funding body. Putting Wimbledon on a back court with cracks in it and a holey net, shifting a title fight from Caesars Palace to the parking lot.
Jordy and Italo finally brought some fireworks to the day. Trading full-rotation airs with landings of impeccable hygiene. Jordy’s was adjudged a full point and a third the better. Hard to argue with.
Hard to argue with Italo’s response: a flurry of rotations and varials.
Jordy looked confused.
The sheer weight of Brazilian spectator numbers meant a home court advantage for Italo. He used non-priority as a weapon, taunting Jordy with numerous waves under his nose. Jordy looked relieved to concede with the clock ticking down.
Kolohe had dismantled John with a superior make rate and technical advantage in the air, in particular a soft and subtle back hand caressing the rail by the back heel. Sublime aerial technique.
Vision of Italo cruising with his bottle blonde babe in the tent between heats, necking Red Bull and getting loose has to be the defining image of the day.
Surely that energy level had to be depleted come the Final?
Kolohe started strong. They both traded fives with no discernible advantage. Andino surfed a QS-level wave like a jockey coming down the home straight, whipping it mercilessly for a 5.93 and a handy lead.
Italo fell and finally looked drained.
Less than two minutes to go and he needs a 6.93.
The surf has turned to absolute dog caca. A maiden Andino Victory looks almost assured. He lets Italo go on what he called a “knee-high” wave. A decision he later assured us he would make “ten times out of ten.”
Italo launched a flat low and fast spin. The rotation was perfect and clean.
I wrote “Nah”.
But if they do, they’ll highball the fuck out of it.
The 7.07 was enough for victory.
Italo was mobbed. Kolohe looked to the beach, totally flummoxed. He later ascribed the loss to Rosie as “part of the Lord’s Plan”.
The lord works in mysterious ways but money doesn’t.
With a great contest wrecked by a lame ending we only place certainty in the fact that he who pays the piper calls the tune.