The new world number one has opened up a new front and punched a huge hole into future dominance over John John Florence.
Has there ever been a contest victory more predictable, more pre-ordained than Gabe Medina’s win today in the 2019 Freshwater Pro at Lemoore?
From the start to the end, he made a mockery of his opponents, of the format, even of the optics and context itself; with the event following on from the greatness of Teahupoo. From start to finish Gabe transcended.
He found a line on the slopey, crumbly left that eluded others, continued to refine the backside power game and parallel back leg laid flat tube-riding stance going the same way that has proven unbeatable in comp after comp there.
He destroyed the Coté doctrine of a universal tepid positivity by elevating the dynamic range of an event that had seemed mired in a vanilla blancmange. Without the negative counter-balancing there would have been no way of understanding the extent to which he dominated, rescuing the tub from terminal mediocrity.
Most surfers got thirty seconds in the post heat presser, Kelly Slater, following his elimination got minutes, including an entire ride from Willian Cardoso explaining mostly how the event had elevated performance levels from last year.
Jordy Smith had the temerity to lay a passive-aggressive goldmine in front of his remaining peers claiming they were “not pushing too hard, merely placing their turns and getting the scores”.
As far as Jordy Smith chokes go, it wasn’t top five, but it was up there.
Medina was the sole plank underpinning that argument.
Most went soft. Predictability and safety ruled.
None moreso than Jordy Smith. After a completed rodeo in his bonus run his finals runs were a letdown. Bad reads, incomplete, too easily paced. He then had the temerity to lay a passive-aggressive goldmine in front of his remaining peers claiming they were “not pushing too hard, merely placing their turns and getting the scores”.
As far as Jordy Smith chokes go, it wasn’t top five, but it was up there.
The argument for progression was on much more solid ground for the women’s draw. Backside tube-riding prowess, or lack of it, drew the ire of Pirate Commentator, David Lee Scales, who posited a biological impediment, an argument swiftly demolished by Derek Rielly as antiquated phrenology.
Guys could barely ride backside in the tube as recently as Grajagan in the mid-nineties he claimed – rightly – and the women were advancing rapidly, despite varying levels of skill set. Johanne Defay stood out with a classic stance, Lakey’s was solid, Caroline Marks had a tube stance that looked more awkward but still got the job done.
The scoring seemed to fall apart for the women during the finals. Historian Matt Warshaw was running through a detailed history of the original wavepool event in Allenstown PA as the top women flared out. It was a radical enough juxtaposition of history overlaid on the present to highlight how far women’s surfing has come.
Carissa Moore surfed a right perfectly and with no commentary I scribbled down 9.1. It was awarded a 7.73. Lakey P smashed her bonus runs to finish ahead of Defay and then thanked God and dedicated the win to the climate strikers claiming the “Earth really needs our help right now.”
Even allowing the most generous interpretation for the water hungry, power hungry tubs it’s hard to see how the Earth would be helped by more of them. Unless we abandon ourselves completely to hedonism and they are made free for every man, women and child in the first, second and third worlds.
Who buys the do what I say but not what I do enviro-messaging of the WSL?
Honest question. The kids don’t. Thats for sure.
Warshaw flagged the possibility that our collective read on the tub maybe minorly, or majorly off base. That what we see as failure might be success, perhaps in the medium term, perhaps even right now. Tuning back to the pirate YouTube feed Chas had a full kitten head wobble going, on the FB feeds 2.2 thousand were watching the English feed, 6.2k on the Portuguese. Granted, there can be a stunning disconnect between online and the real world but I’d walked the streets and stalked the local line-ups speaking to guys and gals who I know live and breathe surf comp watching.
I could not find a positive spin, nor even a committed watcher. The promised stadium surfing vibe was AWOL, at least judging from the broadcast. Judgement had been made.
But the Finals Day was sick. Incentive to go big was finally present. Julian Wilson dodged the toob, who would have ever anticipated that tube-dodging would look as liberating as the French Resistance? – to launch a backside big spin, or varial, greased perfectly.
Colapinto looked both mechanical and as loose as Travolta in Saturday Night fever in his opening left. The 7.5 drew queries from the booth, as an underscore. It seemed more of an indictment on Colapinto for failing to bring an aerial attack than legit reckoning of the wave ridden.
Twelve of the 32 rides (pre-bonus) of the final were fallen on. The outside section of the left being a notable graveyard for pro surfer ambition. Only Griffin and Yago Dora were able to improve on the opening runs.
Filipe made it look the most fun.
Nursing a back injury that flared up after his best wave in the final he gave us an old school layback on the end section toob on the left and a pair of cheater five toobs on the right, when he seemed in cruise control. In toying with it so he redeemed the wave from what had been identified by Warshaw and commentators as what I call the “scarcity paradox”.
Despite the machine pumping out perfect waves all day long there never seems to be enough. Enough to feel the joy and the abundance of the ocean. This scarcity produces a grim, grasping feeling, both in the surfer (who all expressed this desire for more, more, more) and the watcher.
Pulling individual rides out of the three-day melange of rides is almost impossible bar the handful that Gabe rode and the ones Pip toyed with.
It’ll take ten years to parse the history of this event. Whether we see it as an anomaly like jetski tow-ins in big surf or if this really does represent some new step forwards. After today, my earlier unshakeable convictions that we were witnessing the live snuff movie of the wavepool experiment feel more brittle.
And if they do go forwards with it Gabe Medina has opened up a new front and punched a huge hole into future dominance over John John Florence. It was hard to see John making the top eight at the pool, let alone coming anywhere near the tracks Medina laid down.
He laid the Medina line on for his opening left in the finals. The fin-drifts at speed, gaining speed as the fins are loosed over the coping that seemed super-glue for others, the repertoire and the Kerrupt flip at the end. It was perfect. A ten that was short-changed seventh hundredths of a point to satisfy, what? Some future that may never be realised presumably.
The final was over following Gabe’s next wave, a righthander that turned the torrid sky above into a cascade of slowly diminishing rainbows as spray plumes hung in the air.
What to think. Three days does not work. A
one day, a half-day novelty event for big money? UFC man on man match-ups on different equipment?
Gabe did not need his bonus runs but we wanted to see them.
We did not. Dead air followed by a half a left then nothing.
It ended as it began: a debacle where the only person covered in glory was Gabe Medina.