Tahiti Pro, Day 3: “Medina imperiously calm; close to perfect; Kelly Slater too cute for judges!”

Six-to-ten-foot waves distended nostrils and quickened hearts in the best contest day at Teahupoo in five years…

Going to the land of nod last night knowing I/we would be waking up to a day of eight-foot Teahupo’o broadcast live made me feel quite deliriously excited.

I didn’t need to neck any sleeping pills like Filipe Toledo, but then I wasn’t one who would be paddling out with the whole world watching.

If the Tour disintegrated under the weight of its own contradictions and all we were left with were a couple of speciality events: Chopes, Pipe, maybe something in Indo it wouldn’t be the worst outcome in the world.

Long as we got to watch it live.

Gotta say though, the draw did not excite as much. Lot of one-sided encounters on there, some of which did run to script while some turned out to be almost surreal in their reversals of expected fortune.

Barton Lynch was enthusiastic to a fault in the post-show wrap claiming despite the evil nature of the surf, “The world’s best surfers had a dig” The missing qualifier “some of” was starkly visible to all, except the commentary team.

Only the most timid observations of reality were allowed to escape, if at all.

Overlapping heats seemed a disastrous choice for the day. Confusion was the dominant theme, in the judging panel, in the broadcast, amongst the watching fans. Too many waves were missed, commentary had no clue what was going on, it was a mess.

Inconceivably, the WSL looked to have shot the one Golden Goose that managed to fly into its orbit this year. I never thought I would utter these words about pro surfing: there was too much action.

Riding forwards on a longer board, Italo sat deeper than Adriano, surfed on the foam ball and threaded multiple huge carverns perfectly. I am sure one of his eight-point rides was critically underscored. Maybe all of them.

Italo Ferreira and Adriano De Souza were the first to give the day some shape and an epic flavour. I’m still deeply baffled by how Italo lost.

Riding forwards on a longer board, Italo sat deeper, surfed on the foam ball and threaded multiple huge carverns perfectly. I am sure one of his eight-point rides was critically underscored.

Maybe all of them.

The final exchange was emblematic of the day: the second wave of the set was the heat-winning wave and De Souza rode deep and long on a …..what do we call it now in the Wavepool Era? Twenty-foot wave?

It was a surreal close, commentators had brought in a babe to discuss the coral gardening. Barton spent half the heat engaged in WSL talking points while the best heat of the year played out in front of him.

Barton’s worst day on tour as a commentator. He missed the other high point of the day. Medina’s ten. More on that later.

De Souza could not be denied.

But even after rewatching I still can’t reconcile the Italo loss after one of the most incredible performances ever seen at Chopes. That he was beaten while another surfer in the concurrent over-lapping heat barely caught a wave seems a criminal travesty.

In round fucking three! Wasn’t the seeding round supposed to fix this?

De Souza claimed a spiritual advisor in the departed Ricardo Dos Santos accompanied him to his epic win.

His advice, according to De Souza,“You have to treat Teahupo’o like you treat your wife” was wisely left uninterrogated by Rosie Hodge in the presser.

Cardoso could not take off. Ricardo Cristie struggled. Wade Carmichael was a deer in the headlights. Thirty-five minutes of a heat passed without Yago Dora molesting a wave,or seducing it ala De Souza. This caused the mellow Williams to declaim without a trace of irony, “Some guys are a little better than the other guys”.

Do not get me wrong. I do not judge.

CJ Hopgood in an impassioned commentary performance of mostly unintelligible gibberish said when you surf Teahupoo the “the black pearl is right behind you” and that you get to find out “what’s on the other side of your fears.”

Real things, as it turns out. Shallow reef to be slammed into. Death, serious injury. As a rec surfer who has looked down into the belly of the beast as those west bowls bend at you and drain the reef, it is the most frightening reality imaginable.

Brother had everything to overcome in his heat to hold the yellow jersey. His own fear, the hometown crowd baying for his seventeen-year-old Tahitian opponent, the waves themselves.

He did not let himself down.

He surfed a smart, brave heat. And then with a minute remaining the broadcast inadvertently captured a moment of pure pathos. Vaast paddled right past Andino and Andino’s expression of startled, unknowing arrogance as he watched him segued perfectly into Vaast stroking into a blue cement mixer which delivered a wild foam ball victory ride for the wildcard. It was beautiful sport.

The yellow jersey now shifted to Filipe Toledo, if he could somehow prove the naysayers wrong and make sense of full throated Teahupo’o.

He did, barely, against Jesse Mendes. It was obvious he wanted nothing to do with it. Christ, the man was coming down from sleeping pills! You want to be up to surf Chopes, not down. He could not force his way in there and wrangle a bomb.

With a heat almost spent Pip did get behind one and threaded it. Judges were generous but as Pip paddled back to the boat the look he gave Tatiana Weston-Webb clothed in a black Thrasher T-shirt was not one of machismo, but more of sheepish acknowledgment that he had done just enough to get the job done.

Ace Buchan in the booth spent the heat throwing shade at both men. On Jesse Mendes he noted that Jesse was the defending Triple Crown champion but was yet to really pack a bomb. He wryly observed that Toledo “needs to be deeper”.

With a heat almost spent Pip did get behind one and threaded it. Judges were generous but as Pip paddled back to the boat the look he gave Tatiana Weston-Webb clothed in a black Thrasher T-shirt was not one of machismo, but more of sheepish acknowledgment that he had done just enough to get the job done.

In the presser, as he accepted the accolade of the yellow jersey he said “I’m blessed” four times in one sentence. He did not look like a man blessed. He looked shell shocked and half dead.

Jeremy Flores in a helmet was magnificent, but that is not newsworthy. Same with his fellow helmutee Owen Wright. Both were almost insanely competent and hungry for the bombs.

The surprise was Kelly Slater.

After watching all day the danger was Kelly would get too cute and try and showboat his way to scores. Which he duly did, and which judges duly lowballed.

The second wave of the set had been the heat winner. He took the first. Jack Freestone was solid, just drew a clean line from A to B under the axe.

Kelly needed one bomb to make the heat.

The set came.

Kelly, after spending most of his commentary session the other day detailing how to make the drop, could not get in. He pin-dropped from the top. And watched as Jack Freestone rode the second wave to a heat-winning score.

Either wave successfully ridden would have been Kelly’s heat winner.

After calling Kelly and Italo on day one it was a bitter pill to swallow to see both gone while a third of the tour floundered like toddlers in a wading pool.

It was pro surfing overload but somehow the Bourez/Owen Wright heat cut through effortlessly. Owen rode a million deep tubes. Bourez was crushed beneath a collapsing west wedge that was so, so heavy.

On the ski ride back over dry reef into the lagoon he looked like a floppy puppet.

He can’t come back from that, can he?

Minutes later he paddled into an even heavier one. A legit tow wave. Impossibly heavy. He needed a high Nine. They gave him a 9.43. For a fucking tow wave! If there was ever a noble defeat this was it.

Moniz and Ibelli were grand. They get short-changed here in the hope tomorrow gives them the coverage they deserve.

The final word has to go to Medina. He was imperiously calm and composed in dispatching Zeke Lau. Against a hard-charging Colapinto in heat six of round four he was much much closer to perfect.

He rode two waves separated by more than 30 minutes.

The first to open: a deep, travelling tube, weaving in and around the foam ball. A type of tube-riding he specialises in.

The second a much bigger throatier set. Delaying the bottom turn for a micro-second put as deep as humanly possible. The foam ball pushed him around and almost threw him to disaster. He emerged and splayed ten fingers out to the judges with a shrug. The only thing unseemly about it was the time taken for judges to award a perfect ten.

And Barton missing it while an interview with Flores played on the split. He missed it! The two peak moments of a day of days missed by the booth, for shame.

A day where almost too much pro surfing was barely enough.

Thats a long wrap and so much has been left out.

Much to discuss etc.

Comment Live: Day 3 (again) Tahiti Pro Teahupoo presented by “Behold a pale horse and upon him sat death!”

...and Hurley!

So tell me and tell me true, is today’s Teahupoo forecast really going to be what World Surf League President of Content, Media and Hyphy Rap Dancing Erik “ELo” Logan calls “48 hours of #mustsee?” Is it going to be, as he also calls “EPIC TAHITI?” The “monster swell of Kanoa Igarashi’s young life?”

Oh he didn’t describe it as the monster swell of Kanoa Igarashi’s young life but will it be?

Do you believe?

I was in the channel, on a boat during a medium-sized Teahupoo swell once many years ago with Mikey Wright, Leo Fioravanti and Kanoa Igarashi. Kanoa did not like it and refused to paddle. Oh, I didn’t blame him. Seeing that beast up close is something that will haunt me for the rest of my life. The reef is right there, like right there, and the lagoon that folk gets washed into is literally* filled with razor blades and MMA fighters pointy elbows and the wave, that wave, is thick and fast.

Reflexes, man. You need reflexes.

Will any surfers chicken out? There are a full 32 of them. The entire field minus four and one of those four is a young Tahitian hell charger.

*Various dictionaries have officially changed “literally” to “figuratively” to reflect usage.

Watch here!

Writes Brisick, "In a clip on The Surfer’s Journal’s Web site, for instance, the South African pro Michael February surfs solo at a remote point break in West Africa. His hand jive, soul arches, and toreador-like flourishes play to the camera in a way that breaks the spell of the itinerant surfer in far-flung solitude. His style is as self-conscious as the duck-face selfie. And by no means is February alone. Scroll through Instagram and you’ll see it: exaggerated arms, too-perfect fingers, the surf dance served up almost smugly." | Photo: Steve Sherman/@tsherms

The New Yorker: “Mikey February’s style is as self-conscious as the duck-face selfie!”

Jamie Brisick observes "how the omnipresent camera has affected surf style…"

There’s a scene in David Egger’s dystopian novel The Circle where an exec from a fictional Bay area tech giant is pitching a new gadget to his adoring disciples.

It’s a Steve Jobs trope. Ear mic. Black skivvy. The whole show.

But he’s also a surfer, and his breakthrough innovation is a pocket-sized, mass- produced camera that can be placed on any beach to live stream surf conditions. You can keep it as your personal feed. Or you can hook it into the network of millions of others of cameras

It’s the ultimate surf cam. Nowhere needs to be secret, anymore.

Of course, like any good sci-fi, curly questions are posed about omnipotent technology, the public’s right to know vs the individual’s right to privacy etc

But the thing is, this sorta tech is already here.

The writer and former pro Jamie Brisick has written a story in The New Yorker, and published today, riffing on this very topic.

Read, Surfing in the Age of the Omnipresent Camera, here. 

He opens his scene with a new VAL toy called Surfline Sessions™. It’s an app that recognises subscribers and records their every wave, if it’s in front of a Surfline camera. You can have your videos cut and ready waiting for you by the time you get back to your car to dry off.

The video guy for the everyman.

I saw another one recently that is a camera you leave recording on the beach that follows you around the surf using a GPS tracker.

Never miss a wave, anywhere, anytime.

On Mikey February: “His hand jive, soul arches, and toreador-like flourishes play to the camera in a way that breaks the spell of the itinerant surfer in far-flung solitude. His style is as self-conscious as the duck-face selfie.”

It all makes for great marketing hooks. But isn’t also sorta fucken …lame?

I quoted Parmenter recently when he said surfing is the ultimate selfie sport.

In The New Yorker, Brisick takes it further.

On Mikey February:

“His hand jive, soul arches, and toreador-like flourishes play to the camera in a way that breaks the spell of the itinerant surfer in far-flung solitude. His style is as self-conscious as the duck-face selfie.”

He then quotes Slater.

“Style should be natural, and not perfect. I really dislike watching someone, anyone, who seems to be trying to look a certain way.”

Is it true style when it’s just for the camera?

Even Al Knost’s biggest fan would say no. (Though I’ll still watch him and Feb errrr’ damn day)

But what if constant recording can help you improve your surfing?

Is it still narcissistic then?

Already, surf dads sit for hours on beach capturing their kid’s every move for feedback. Surfing Australia do adult camps out of their Cabarita high tower “for all levels of surfer”.

Even I did it recently with our Ments trip photog. It was the first time I’ve seen proper video of myself surfing. It wasn’t pretty.

But it did help me pick up on a few things I already felt I might be doing wrong. I’m not about to go and hire Martin Dunn to follow me around with a drone and a clipboard. But I will open my shoulders a little more through top turns.

Surely that’s not a core crime?

Anyway, all argument is academic at this point. The future is already here. In Egger’s Circle, the tech bro’s grand reveal is that his cameras aren’t just capturing surfing. They’re also in Gaza, and Chechnya, and inside politicians offices.

It’s full transparency, whether we like it or not.

The revolution will be televised.

And it can help you with your roundhouse cutties.

Surf Lakes, in Yeppoon, Queensland, with the facility's ambassador, investor and world champion, Mark Occhilupo, on the left side of the peak.

Question: Do “Ocean Surfers” need to readjust concept of wave-size to fit pool VALS?

Does the Pool Era fill you with joy or an existential terror that your entire surfing life is a house of cards?

A little turbulence a week or whatever it was ago when Surf Lakes presented a prone bodyboarder on a four-foot wave and claimed it as the world’s first artificially created eight-footer.

Watch, and read, about the Miracle of Yeppoon here.

Arguments for the validity of the size revolved around two positions: Surf Lakes’ transparency that it was the wave face being measured and therefore wasn’t beholden to archaic, culturally entrenched sizing, and it didn’t matter, anyway, ’cause the wave looked pretty wild.

That night I lay alone in the dark rear bedroom of my rental and my thoughts swung to the Pool Era, which we’ve just entered.

I doubt if many appreciate just how much surfing is going to change, and how quickly.

Already, little girls are doing airs beyond the capability of female world champions and ten-year-old boys with falsetto voices are mixing combos the sort only Reynolds or Not Deane might dream up.

The thing with pools is they’re pitched at VALs. Yeah, there’s an “expert” wave, but the money that keeps the pool alive comes from VALs on softboards and plastic double-enders.

And a VAL, if she reads the promotional literature and sees the advertised max size as four foot, why, she would fall on the floor laughing.

So small!

A wave barely the size of two toilet brushes stacked end to end!

Soon, with the creation of that new spawn, the Pool Surfer, there’ll grow a new language, new boards, new moves and new ways of measuring waves.

An Ocean Surfer will visit a tank and be schooled by the local hot-shot riding switch inside his eight-foot tube.

He’ll be hectored by a mom running up beside him in the lineup telling him it’s her kid’s turn on the next wave.

He’ll watch as every advantage he had, the ability to study rips, channels, time sets and so on, disappear; his once proud athletic stride a stooped shuffle.

Let me wonder aloud.

Do we need to adjust our concept of wave size?

Of what a surfer is?

And do you fear the Pool Era? Or do you believe that pools will set free your inner power and strength and let you achieve, finally, the glory of your surfing?

I’m the latter.

Comment Live: Day 3, Tahiti Pro Teahupoo presented by Hurley!

Come to the end of the road!

It was Sunday morning in America, yesterday, and the last hours of summer with nothing to do but luxuriate. It was a gorgeous day in southern California, sun shining and hot, some small but fun waves on tap. No major sporting events on television as we’re still a week away from the start of college football, two weeks away from the National Football League, but there was day 2 of the Tahiti Pro Teahupoo presented by Hurley on the computer and I imagined it would do very well, airing in the wheelhouse of typical American sport consumption with no competition elsewhere.

I flipped it on and watched for a few moments, a smattering of minutes, but couldn’t really get engaged. The surf looked fine, interesting enough, and there were some fine enough storylines but… my mind wandered and then I received a revelation.

Is professional surf watching only tolerable when sitting under fluorescent lighting in a cubicle, on an interminably long road trip, when there are pressing chores to do but unpleasant chores like putting fitted sheets onto beds etc? Or must there be some other event happening, another televised game or some such, to have on concurrently with professional surfing running in the background?

The interactions on our patented “comment live” feed were slim and I had the distinct feeling that no one was really watching anywhere because, again, it was a glorious day in southern California and probably the rest of the United States from the looks of it.

Well, I don’t know that the contest will run today but I am out early and, as you know by now, would rather wear the shame of posting our Tahiti Pro Teahupoo presented by Hurley without it running rather than wear the shame of not posting it and it running.

Also, today is a work day. Enjoy the slightly better alternative to your job.