Gloomy day saved by John John Florence and Italo Ferreira!
A hundred days exactly comrades, by my calculations.
One hundred long days since the last heat of CT surfing was concluded on the sands at Pipeline.
A hundred days, forty-four years into the IPS/ASP/WSL adventure to crack the uncrackable code of pro surfing and deliver something dramatic.
You’d really think they would have something nailed down by now. Some basic presentable, exciting product to broadcast to the World.
And what do we get? We get a QS location with onshore two-foot dribble. It would be too easy to flog this very sick, not quite dead, horse.
I was groaning until my boyo flagged the waves in the John Florence heat as “looking really fun”.
Which they did.
For long minutes before his heat started a cameraman feasted on the two shot of JJF in tequila sunrise jersey staring wistfully at Filipe Toledo tail drifting every minor top turn.
It was a golden broadcast moment.
What the hell was he thinking, I had to wonder, after a hundred days mostly spent gorging on bluewater Hawaiian juice. Now faced with a sickly two-foot shorebreak.
World’s best surfers in the World’s best waves? Time to get the hell out of dodge and sail around the World?
No, as it turned out.
He was mentally mapping his upcoming demolition of the line-up. Despite a higher heat score from Ryan Callinan and an outrageous freesurf from Italo Ferreira, JJF was by far my favourite performance. That line-drive off the bottom which we’ve seen in all the edits was there, the constant. That drive led to A, then to B, and C and D, where each letter was a variation in the repertoire and framed by a stillness which accentuated each manouevre. The turns were big, and they flowed beautifully.
Beatific, if we can borrow the Christian phrase at this Holy time.
I felt shocked, and relieved.
Yesterday, I wrote a piece – a counter-factual rebutting Ross Williams idea that rookies were going to dominate Pipe and explaining how they were, in fact, going to be massively advantaged at Newy. How JJF would be the biggest loser from the QS conditions and location. How Matty Banting and Connor O’Leary etc etc were going to steamroll the more fancied higher ranked CT surfers. On a bad gut feeling I spiked it at the last moment.
It’s the accepted rationale for running comps in shitty beachbreak that pro’s bring the conditions up to their skill level, rather than get dragged down by the crap.
I thought otherwise, but then had to revise that position after JJF, Toledo, Medina and especially Italo’s heat.
It was a dizzying display. Almost disrespectful in it’s insouciance.
So many waves I even lost count with a simple tally. He pretended there was no-one else in the water skipping across the funky little rights near the rocks and surfed the left shorey, with the air wind that no one else had bothered with.
High, tweaked straight airs, corked reverses, extravagant layback slashes, weird little combos. He was daring the judges to pay the progressive, in the way that Dane Reynolds re-set the scale a decade earlier.
But they were intransigent, having rewarded Morgan Ciblic with a six for three bogged cutbacks in the earlier heat.
The point spread made a mockery of his dominance, but I suspect when the judges get together for their nightly briefing that a rebalancing will be in the offing down the track.
The size dribbled away.
Blackly surreal commentary ensued from the booth with ’78 World Champion and ASP President for a decade Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew responding to a question from Joe Turpel about the Dream Tour which he orchestrated.
“Yeah,” said Rabbit, “Kelly quit because he was sick of surfing crappy beachbreaks” I think that is close enough to a direct quote to put the quotation marks on.
At that moment all 200 pounds and change of Australia’s premier power surfer, Wade Carmichael, had flapped and hopped into the shorebreak and finished with a visible grimace on his face. There might have been a faint golf clap audible from the artificially suppressed crowd.
The quintessential company Man Joey, sensing dangerous waters ahead, quickly changed the subject and so the subject of how we ended up back in the crappy beachbreaks that the sport had supposedly evolved away from was left to poison the rest of the heat like an unseen gas leak in an underground mine.
The Canary had been silenced.
A clearly disadvantaged Owen Wright looked disinterested. Thirty seconds to go and needing only a three he loped up the beach with a stern expression. The grovel was on, big time, and the big man wanted no part of it. He could lay claim to no solidarity because both Jordy Smith and Wade Carmichael managed to sneak past the hangmans noose of last place.
Stagmatic seemed to be the word of the day from commentator Richie Lovett. Which seemed somehow apropos of the scene, like watching old whores jackhammering away for the titillation of a not quite adoring crowd of addicts. There wasn’t much love in it, but it was strangely compelling.
Judges had set the scale for meat and potatoes surfing with a generous dollop of gravy on offer for hometown heroes and Ryan Callinan duly obliged with two well apportioned rides that were appropriately over-scored. That’s no knock on him. He won decisively but the over-cooked narrative of a hometown hero duchessing local tourism officials fatuous egos will not be indulged in this space.
What about our poor, injured GOAT, the man for whose prodigious talents the truly visionary Rabbit Bartholomew had sculpted the Dream Tour from the clay of rubbish beachbreak, a gleaming statue that would forever stand sentinel to the dream and the possibilities of pro surfing, where was he?
Surfing double overhead blue caverns at Pipeline.
Perhaps once in a while tuning in and feeling a strange deja vu.