Despair and frustration from the (diminishing) legion of hard-core surf fans who have stuck with the broadcast from the basin…
Part of the feelings of despair and frustration from the (diminishing) legion of hard-core surf fans who have stuck with the broadcast from the basin has been the slow dawning reality that things have gone backwards from last year.
It was impossible to complete a statistical analysis comparing this year from last because instead of a “cut” day we got a half-dangling, half-sucked cock at a wedding (as my friend would say) day which left only half the surfers having finished their bonus runs. Nevertheless, prelim analysis suggested average scores are down about a point-and-a-half from last year.
There are outliers, Gabe Medina obvs, and almost the entire women’s side of the draw who rendered the normal gender disparity almost mute in the mechanical copulation of the basin.
Debate raged with some blaming the technology and some blaming the surfers. I think a complex-ish interplay of factors has created almost the perfect storm for producing and rewarding safety surfing and conservatism. The lack of practise waves is huge. Kelly Slater made the astute observation that Medina and Italo had an almost snowboardery (sic) look to their surfing.
Snowboard half-pipe is the obvious parallel to make with the basin. Except instead of unlimited opportunity to practice and perfect high-risk runs surfers here get two waves a day, a farcical amount of practice time. Kelly himself admitted that with only two waves available surfers were hardly likely to risk them by going big.
Practice safe = surf safe.
Another factor is simple calculus.
Despite their reputation for being intellectual pygmies pro surfers have been rational actors in the tub. With the double-cut format, a pair of sixes was a fair bet to get to the bonus round. Judges relentlessly awarded mediocre surfing with mediocre scores but pros held solid and in the reckoning their math was correct. Those who went big early and fell, like M-Boz, got shovelled out the backdoor with a thirty-third jammed sideways where the sun don’t shine.
That is a technology and a format problem.
The third factor was a lingering resentment from last year held particularly by Jordy Smith and Kolohe Andino, who felt judges did not reward progressive surfing. Jordy was staunch in his commitment to offering up solid safety surfing and got duly rewarded.
Made it to the bonus round, cruised a left and fell.
Came to his final right and boiled over. Loosed the fins on a section, got caught behind and in a moment of pure frustration went even bigger on the next section. The wave, as it does, peeled off without him.
He dodged the presser with Rosie but Strider caught up with him in the Jeep as it whisked him off the premises.
“How you feelin’ buddy?”
“I’m stoked,” he offered in a voice as deadpan as Death Valley.
In one of the more beautiful unscripted broadcast moments of the day the camera panned to Snips looking grave and Dino Andino tapping furiously on the wooden edge of the fence as a diminutive figure scurried behind in the background.
The vibe was, let’s be kind and allow for the flattening effect of video, low.
In the tent, a different reality prevails.
Could Soph detect the tragedy unfolding around her?
We’ll never know because the modern CEO maintains the veil, until death, or the ghostwritten memoir, whichever comes first.
Filipe Toledo did not safety surf, proving that the changes to the wave from CT two to three, or the reverse were no impediment to high-risk, hi-fi surfing.
The left is his weakness. He fell early on his first try, then spiked a right with various potent concoctions including a rapid-fire reverse and a club sandwich which clicked so smoothly it made the crowd gasp. He made a wave on the next left attempt and then threw away his final right before shepherding his young daughter away from the water’s edge.
Precision is key said Kelly in the booth, perhaps unaware how ironically the machine both demanded and robbed surfers of the ability to achieve it.
Brisa Hennsesy took a more philosophical angle, declaring that the mise en scene was beautiful and her method was to pretend she was in the ocean and this was part of her fate in being born as a surfer.
That romanticism attracted me. Her surfing, not so much.
It was left to Courtney Conlogue to come up with the perfect blend of the philosophical, the artistic and the athletic on afternoon bonus runs. Her exaggerated soul-outs into the tube section, producing flamboyant late entries seemed perfectly formed homage to Terry Fitzgerald in Morning of the Earth. Even allowing for an under-score those waves rocketed her up the leaderboard.
Was the day going to go on forever?
In late afternoon light and an atmosphere tinged with melancholy, like the end of a child’s birthday party, as the last guest prepares to leave and the child looking at his Dad asks, “Does night really have to fall on my birthday” the last bonus runs of the day were held. The commentary team were tight-lipped on the schedule, the website obstinate in its refusal to yield information.
Maybe it was going to go on forever.
Wade Carmichael crushed his left and improved the right.
Owen Wright mastered the low-risk, high-speed quasi-progressive surfing the basin demanded, first on the left with tail wafts and whips and a dramatic late-hit-to-freefall-tube-ride and then on the right, burrowing in on the outside tube section before unleashing a flurry of tight snaps.
For a man who had done no surfing for the day it was an impressive feat. Matched by few.
On a brown leather couch the man who had been thanked as a God by Deivid Silva a few minutes ago (“Thanks to God for the opportunity to ride more waves here”), the GOAT, Morpheus according to Ronnie Blakey, more Mephistophelean to me, watched his creation whirring on it’s tracks, the final perfect wave silhouetted in the scotopic light.
Men’s Freshwater Pro pres. by Outerknown Leaderboard Top 8
Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.77
Filipe Toledo (BRA) 16.07
Owen Wright (AUS) 15.97
Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.90
Griffin Colapinto (USA) 15.50
Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.97
Wade Carmichael (AUS) 14.90
Willian Cardoso (BRA) 14.70
Women’s Freshwater Pro pres. by Outerknown Leaderboard Top 4
Johanne Defay (FRA) 17.50
Carissa Moore (HAW) 16.23
Caroline Marks (USA) 16.10
Courtney Conlogue (USA) 15.83