J-Bay Loser’s Round: “Jeremy Flores’ power carves are the closest thing we have to vanished John John!”

And further meditations on losing.

When it comes to the vexed issue of Pro Surfing we always think about winning because, let’s face it, we watch to see the freakish and the inspirational. We rarely think about losing but there is far more losing than winning and far more ways to lose than win, so maybe it’s time we did.

Easy enough for scribes to fuck it up. This afternoon, Australian Eastern Standard Time, they put the comp on hold and I gambled it would be off for the day and started drinking early.

Voila, they called it on and it was either drink my way through and lose all faculties or stop and deal with an early hangover before the night was through.

I stopped and in this mild funk offer a brief anatomy of losing.

In inconsistent and warbly speed-runners opportunity was scarce but there were enough for three people to have a swing. Bede Durbidge-lookalike Beyrick Devries found an early scorer then sat out the back like a buddha statue in a Bangalow garden: spiritual but impotent.

Jordy in the booth called bullshit on airs at J-Bay “It’s a turn wave,” he said sternly, “a rail event.” Jack Freestone calmly stomped an alley-oop with a late-tweaked rotation. Beyrick waited, and his winning wave came. He limped along it, under surfed it and failed to get the score required.

Way to lose number one: Surfing conservatively, nervously or tentatively on a wave and leaving too much in the tank. Worst way to lose.

Seth Moniz was all over heat two. The battle to avoid last place was far more interesting. Ace Buchan fell off, and fell off again. He was caught behind on a prime set wave. In the Aussie parlance, having a shocker.

Couzinet had problems of a different dimension.

He had no idea what the wave was doing. Out of flow, turns in the wrong spot. “Trying to find chemistry” as Ron Blakey so aptly put it. A disjointed, jagged attack on the wave of the heat pushed him into second place and it seemed like Ace’s shocker would be the reason to lose. Ace blitzed a medium sized wave and got the score to advance. Couzinet lost.

Way to lose number two: Inexperience at a specialist wave resulting in an out of sync performance.

The only time we normally focus on losing is when the judges take it into their hands and get the result wrong. Like when Fred Morais got a ten at J-Bay 2017 and knocked out JJF. Freddie didn’t need any judging help today. Nor did Jeremy Flores, the only surfer in the Losers Round who looked capable of going anywhere in the draw.

His power carves with the extra sting in the tail are now the closest thing we have to JJF’s turns, with a more classic configuration. It was Jesse Mendes who got sat in the dunce corner. Two strong rides completed and a third set wave that didn’t quite co-operate. In the end, the numbers didn’t add up.

Way to lose number three: Outsurfed by superior opponents and not enough risk taken.

Heat tour was an all-Brazilian affair and I thought Jaddy Baby might suffer the same fate as Jesse Mendes. Not self-destruct but just fail to bring enough firepower to the heat and be scored too low. Which has been his problem his entire CT career, apart from the big win over Slater in Brazil in 2010.

How do get past that? You bring your best, good enough to win QS events until the crack of doom and CT judges look at it and say “Nah mate, not good enough.” Which is what they did.

Way to lose number four: Just not good enough. Brutal assessment but that’s what is happening.

Jordy was sensational in the booth; he brings an edge to the game. I think him and Ronnie would create some magic. Filipe was a bit too modern Christian bland, if one can make that observation in this day and age. Jordy Smith the only man standing between Filipe Toledo and a three-peat? I think, yes. I don’t understand the draw and seeding system, is there an astro-physicist in the house?

Elimination Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Jack Freestone (AUS) 15.93 DEF. Ryan Callinan (AUS) 11.40, Beyrick De Vries (ZAF) 11.14
Heat 2: Seth Moniz (HAW) 14.27 DEF. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 12.03, Jorgann Couzinet (FRA) 11.73
Heat 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 15.84 DEF. Frederico Morais (PRT) 13.23, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 11.83
Heat 4: Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 13.07 DEF. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 12.20, Jadson Andre (BRA) 11.86

Round of 32 Matchups:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Soli Bailey (AUS)
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Joan Duru (FRA)
Heat 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Griffin Colapinto (USA)
Heat 4: Ryan Callinan (AUS) vs. Yago Dora (BRA)
Heat 5: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Adriano de Souza (BRA)
Heat 6: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Deivid Silva (BRA)
Heat 7: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat 8: Conner Coffin (USA) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS)
Heat 9: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Michael February (ZAF)
Heat 10: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 11: Wade Carmichael (AUS) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
Heat 12: Michel Bourez (FRA) vs. Ricardo Christie (NZL)
Heat 13: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) vs. Frederico Morais (PRT)
Heat 14: Seth Moniz (HAW) vs. Peterson Crisanto (BRA)
Heat 15: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Caio Ibelli (BRA)
Heat 16: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Jack Freestone (AUS)

Cursed: Man pulled off life support after possibly drowning at Waco, Texas wave tank

A rough year.

The hits just keep coming for the BSR Cable Park there in Waco, Texas. It was reported yesterday that a 42-year-old man was pulled from the wave tank unresponsive on the night of July 4th and taken to a local hospital. Yesterday he was taken off life support and died. This is the second fatality associated with the Waco surf facility in under a year which makes for a rough one.

I am unaware of any other fatalities at any of the other Wavegardens around the world or at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch and it makes a man wonder if there is something in that central Texan water besides brain eating amoebas? Oh I am not an overly superstitious man but David Koresh and 79 of his Branch Davidian followers were burned to death just two miles down the road from the park.

Do you believe in curses? Ghosts? Etc.?

And do higher odds of dying at a wave tank than dying by shark in Ballina, Australia give you pause?

Many questions.

Kenny Igs, from Japan, slaughtered returning-from-injury world champ Adriano de Souza and punchy Brazilian Jesse Mendes in the seeding round.

Open thread, Comment live: Day Two, Corona J-Bay Open!

Pull up to our bumper etc.

I’m not exactly sure why my impulses didn’t remind me to kick open the Comment Live post on yesterday’s opener at J-Bay? I was watching, though drifted off during the slower heats into dreams of a better life, perhaps a job as a character at Disney World.

Chas woke to the midnight push notification from the WSL on his phone but the journey downstairs and into blackness was unappealing.

Today we’re back and we got an elimination round featuring Ryan Callinan, Jack Freestone, Beyrick De Vries, Seth Moniz, Adrian Buchan, Jorgann Couzinet, Jeremy Flores, Jesse Mendes, Frederico Morais, Willian Cardoso, Peterson Crisanto and luckless Jadson Andre who may as well snap open a beer and enjoy the sun.

Climb inside.

Opinion: Sal Masekela* is the worst thing to happen to pro surfing since non-elimination heats!

*And by Sal Masekela I mean cloying fan boy-ness!

The J-Bay contest is very rough for every single professional surf fan outside of South Africa. Oh, the wave is gorgeous, a dream, perfect, iconic and the culture is fascinating, interesting, fabulous and the history is unique, long and important but the time… that damned time… ooooeee!

Very rough.

I somehow imagined that the Corona J-Bay Pro would get underway before my tired eyes closed in the, admittedly, early evening. I was wrong. I also somehow imagined that the time would be in Australia’s wheelhouse and that Derek Rielly would get our patented “Live Chat” feature up with ease.

I was also wrong.

South Africa exists in a timezone unto itself. Like the store in O Brother, Where Art Thou? that serves FOP for Men but can’t get the auto part from anywhere in a reasonable time, South Africa is a geographical oddity.

Two weeks from anywhere.

And so I didn’t watch the contest, you didn’t watch the contest, thankfully Longtom did watch the contest (read here!) but as I went over the replays I experienced a shocking bummer.

Sal Masekela in the damned booth.

Now, you may like the man’s velvety pipes as he calls the action but there is a profound and troubling truth about Sal Masekela. A virus that threatens to infect even Joe Turpel, ’89 World Champ Martin Potter, Ron “Dog” Blakey and even our happy savior Barton Lynch.

Sal is surfing’s biggest fan boy.

Biggest by far, and you can’t even imagine how many dinners I’ve sat across from Sal as he pulled out his phone to show the audience text messages from Kelly Slater etc., how many times I’ve heard him derive personal value from his professional surfer “friends” but the fan boy drive is not his alone.

Surf media, in general, suffers from wanting to be “liked” by the professionals who dance across the waves. Wanting to be acknowledged and accepted by the hot, now surfer demanding attention but this instinct cuts across surf media’s very job.

Shouldn’t we be clinical, analytical, unmoved by personal preference or desire for hunger for proximity? Shouldn’t we all be ruthlessly immolating ourselves for the truth and for The People™?

It’s why Longtom shines. He doesn’t want friends, he wants to do the best job he possibly can. It’s how any sport’s writing/commentating works when it actually works. When writers and vocalists are free and willing to gut golden calves in order to share what matters.

And certainly what we do is not important. Certainly we operate in a backwater of a backwater but I think it’s time to demand a separation of church from state, or rather bro from bro, and bring some actual, honest critique to the booth.

Gimme Paul Evans.

Gimme Jen See.

Gimme a woman or man that has enough smarts to call it like she sees it and enough backbone to not shirk from truth.

The action in the water has never been better but, like in O Brother, Where Art Thou? the allure of popularity and closeness is pulling us toward the rocks.

It’s high time we demand a fix.

J-Bay seeding round: “Standard day in head-high rockrunners and Pip looking unbeatable!”

"There, I put the last sentence as a one sentence summary in case you are short on time."

Covering Pro Surfing is a brutal game. It took me a week to get over Brazil. Times zones, sleep deprivation, “jet” lag , all that. I know you scoff.

It’s hard to think of an equivalent sport that drags on and requires so much sustained attention over such an extended period. Maybe test cricket if it had a two-week waiting period?

I’m not complaining: living the dream, enjoying the journey as Filipe said today etc etc. The hourly rate is measly but there is a side benefit. I noticed it before I turned pro, getting up to watch Dane Reynolds. Watch enough and the body might feel stiff but the mind opens up to technical advancement. One day with coquettish amazement I did something on a surfboard I had no right to do. I call it the Dane effect. One day you just surf better than you should. Somehow the mind has absorbed a new technique and been able to translate into action.

It really almost should be a raison d’etre for a rec surfer to watch pro surfing.

But it’s not everyone in the top 34. In fact, it’s the very few. Which makes the John John injury such a blow for scribes as well as fans.

As Italo Ferriera said, “So sad about John, he’s so fucken good.” He said that to Rosie and straight after she disappeared from the broadcast. Co-incidence? Was she skyhooked to a secret WSL retraining encampment? Why? It wasn’t her fault Italo dropped the f-bomb.

So no John and a day late for the swell of the year at J-Bay. Made a steep mountain to climb, as far as providing an entertaining product for fans. Head high rock runners on offer. Strider Wasilewski with attack dogs tits well sheathed in a 4/3 made the astute comment that it’s an easy wave to run down the line on, hard to hit the corners.

So no John and a day late for the swell of the year at J-Bay. Made a steep mountain to climb, as far as providing an entertaining product for fans. Head high rock runners on offer. Strider Wasilewski with attack dogs tits well sheathed in a 4/3 made the astute comment that it’s an easy wave to run down the line on, hard to hit the corners.

I would have chosen a little Bonzer octafish and done just that. Run it down the line all day long.

Gabe Medina in heat one found no difficulty squaring it up and “hammering it shut”. It was soothing to have Turpel back in the booth. You’d want Joe there at the end to send you off into heaven “There he goes, closes his eyes for the last time, hammered it shut, sends it off and the judges should like it” It would be a nice way to go.

Medina was mechanical but in the nicest possible way. I ain’t a watch guy but if I was I imagine there must be some aesthetic satisfaction in contemplating the fine mechanics of an expensive watch. Which is what I feel when I see Gabe putting head-high waves to beddy-byes. The conventional narrative is that Gabe starts his year at J-Bay and there was nothing in today’s performance to counter that.

Italo was similarly sharp and tactile in heat two. A little faceplant on the bricks after a shallow finish was the only blemish. Soli Bailey got the best waves and showed some hints that he might be capable of opening up and showing some repertoire. There’s been something cramped about the way his front arm has led through the turn this year. An unfortunate tic that has made his surfing look nervous and forced. If he can relax and open up he could win some heats, and that would be good.

Jordy had ultimate flow. Jorgann Couzinet had terrible flow. Ciao had moderate flow but jiggled and bobbled too many turns to threaten the multiple Jbay winner. That question of flow is a strange one. Kolohe came on like a sorority gal with one too many trips to the sangria bowl before settling down and laying down one turn after another.

G-med gives me the Dane effect, so to Italo. Not so Filipe. Too frenetic, too otherworldly maybe? Maybe just a goofy/natural thing. No matter, Pip cranked up the heat of the day, which will surprise exactly nobody. Like Gabe he rocked a green board which looked very slick on blue walls. Despite the timing of the dropping of the WSL edit which details the capitulation at the Box (one wave where Jack Robbo takes a wave off Pip while he has priority: brutal) it could have been a lifetime ago for Pip. Electric, electic King of variety laid it all down in head-high walls. The 9.10 was the highest score of the day, the 8.5 was the better ridden wave, for mine. If you are catching up on the heat analyzer, start there.

Pottz was praying Michael February was surfing on a twin fin, my preference would have been a sleek Bonzer like the one he rode in Ghana. He looks better on alternative boards. That awkward angularity becomes perfect flow, on the modern shortboard trying to surf CT style it just ain’t right.

Don’t know about you, but I’ve never felt any relationship to Kelly Slater’s surfing. But I am enjoying this year, his 27th and possibly final year on Tour more than any other year. If the surfing is unrelatable the guile, the presence, the trash talk is not.

It’s all deeply engaging.

Having Slater surfing head high J-Bay with a head of steam for the year and Sal Masekala in the booth was close to heaven. He was off, by his own admission, after a dose of the flu. Turns a bit janky, a bogged cutback but two fives was enough to progress, as Pottz had predicted in the first heat of the day.

Standard day in head high J-Bay rockrunners and Pip looking unbeatable. There, I put the last sentence as a one sentence summary in case you are short on time.

J-Bay Men’s Seeding Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.03 DEF. Joan Duru (FRA) 10.57, Frederico Morais (PRT) 9.00
Heat 2: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.43 DEF. Soli Bailey (AUS) 10.67, Peterson Crisanto (BRA) 10.34
Heat 3: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 12.16 DEF. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 7.33, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 6.74
Heat 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.77 DEF. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 9.27, Jorgann Couzinet (FRA) 8.67
Heat 5: Kolohe Andino (USA) 11.43 DEF. Yago Dora (BRA) 9.84, Beyrick De Vries (ZAF) 8.30
Heat 6: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 17.60 DEF. Michael February (ZAF) 12.83, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.77
Heat 7: Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.97 DEF. Deivid Silva (BRA) 10.60, Jadson Andre (BRA) 10.56
Heat 8: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 13.17 DEF. Conner Coffin (USA) 11.84, Willian Cardoso (BRA) 5.27
Heat 9: Ricardo Christie (NZL) 10.66 DEF. Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 9.03, Ryan Callinan (AUS) 6.10
Heat 10: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.40 DEF. Kelly Slater (USA) 10.67, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 9.27
Heat 11: Michel Bourez (FRA) 12.24 DEF. Owen Wright (AUS) 12.00, Jack Freestone (AUS) 11.86
Heat 12: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 13.24 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 13.23, Seth Moniz (HAW) 10.83

J-Bay Men’s Elimination Round 2 Matchups:
Heat 1: Ryan Callinan (AUS), Jack Freestone (AUS), Beyrick De Vries (ZAF)
Heat 2: Seth Moniz (HAW), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Jorgann Couzinet (FRA)
Heat 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA), Jesse Mendes (BRA), Frederico Morais (PRT)
Heat 4: Willian Cardoso (BRA), Peterson Crisanto (BRA), Jadson Andre (BRA)

Women’s Seeding Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 14.80 DEF. Johanne Defay (FRA) 12.57, Macy Callaghan (AUS) 8.40
Heat 2: Carissa Moore (HAW) 12.33 DEF. Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 11.70, Sage Erickson (USA) 9.97
Heat 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 12.60 DEF. Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 10.30, Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 9.83

Women’s Remaining Seeding Round 1 Matchups:
Heat 4: Courtney Conlogue (USA), Brisa Hennessy (CRI), Paige Hareb (NZL)
Heat 5: Lakey Peterson (USA), Malia Manuel (HAW), Keely Andrew (AUS)
Heat 6: Caroline Marks (USA), Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA), Silvana Lima (BRA)