Australia's answer to the Brazilian Storm, Jack Robinson, is in the extremely weird position as an anti-Filipe:“I have to prove myself in little waves all the time,” he said in the post-heat presser with a certain grim irony.
The Australian close-out is the globally superior closeout, far better than its Brazilian or European cousins. That’s about the most parochial take I can muster after day one of the Narrabeen Classic, held in wobbly two-to-four-foot Sydney closeouts.
Caz Marks won her heat with two turns.
Not on one wave.
Two separate turns; a whipped frontside snap and a whiplash inducing backside hook. If she kept up that regimen and won the comp each one of those turns would be worth $14000. It’s crazy but comps in one -turn closeout beachies could just produce those kinky outcomes.
Or the kinky outcome at the other end of the scale which Italo catching a squillion waves and doing three turns where others can only do one. It wasn’t a surprise to see him pick up where he left off in Newy.
There is now a real gap opening up on Tour, maybe the biggest ever. With Italo, Gabe and Filipe/JJF on one side and everyone else on the other.
There’s no Aussie within coo-ee of the top guys.
Jack Robbo is closest and it’s highly unliklely he’ll make the top five cut. Which puts us in the very queer position where Australia remains the global centre of the sport as far as CT’s and the government support it needs to survive even as our standing has dropped so low we’ll be unlikely to produce a World Title contender for the forseeable future.
A perfect snapshot of this premise came in Heat six, Fanning’s wildcard entry heat with Ciblic and Italo. Mick craned his neck to look at the crowd in the opening minutes.
He looked scared. That was an appropriate emotion.
Seconds later Italo threw a big backhand whip, one of those lightning fast but full round turns that only he and Gabe can do, a queasy long float along a backwashing section that would have made a hardened seafarer green in the gills and then a straight up high hook in the closeout. And for good measure grovelled it to the beach. He followed it up with the trademark super fast whipped flat-spin air.
Not my favourite turn but enough to put Fanning and Ciblic in combination.
Three years retired and still our biggest surf star, by far, made to look very, very outdated.
This whole Fanning wildcard tilt has made no sense from the beginning.
None. Why Narrabeen for starters?
There’s no story there, no history. He was always going to be made to look second rate on beachbreak lefts, especially by Italo and Gabe.
Nothing about the Wildcard makes sense unless you realise it was a contingency plan for a Bells or a Lennox Wildcard, where there is a lot of story to tell. The Bells Wildcard victory, the incredible boy to man show on the day of days in July 2001 at Lennox Point. Where he might have a performance advantage against some of the Top 34. Could he have beat Italo at Lennox? I say yes, but only if the surf was perfect like it was all last winter, where I saw with my own eyes Fanning still at CT-winning level.
Rip Curl panicked when the Lennox proposal got shown the door and obviously made a decision that their biggest Australian star should be rolled out to the Sydney market. The reality was somewhat different. Italo mobbed by a cheering crowd of Brazilians on the beach and Fanning looking crestfallen nursing a broken board.
As far as humiliating performances go, it was up there.
You see what I mean about Australia’s queer position?
Support for the sport is at an all-time high, or close to the all-time highs enjoyed in the eighties. Our talent stocks are so low that in Australia’s biggest city, population over five million, traditional home to pro surfing, beaches everywhere there ain’t a single “brand name” surfer they could drag in as a wildcard.
Hence Mick Fanning.
That’s no disrespect meant to Dylan Moffat. Just some local boardriders kid who I’d never heard of, and neither had you.
Thats where it’s at.
Australia is now home turf for the Brazilian Storm. That’s also become a slow dawning reality. There’s more Brazilian support for Brazil in Australia than there is Australian surf fans supporting Australia.
While Fanning was enduring his debacle a relaxed but still imperious Medina thanked the crowd claiming “we have the support, there are so many Brazilians here”.
Filipe Toledo is also surfing at another level. He made it look like a different break. Our answer to the Brazilian Storm, according to Rabbit Bartholomew is a guy not even on Tour, Reef Heazlewood, who threw a grand straight air to take the win in heat four against Jordy and Ace.
Australia’s other answer to the Brazilian Storm, Jack Robinson, our only real answer, is in the extremely weird position as an anti-Filipe:“I have to prove myself in little waves all the time,” he said in the post-heat presser with a certain grim irony.
The kids were out in force and the mainstream narrative pushed hard by our leading broadsheet, The Sydney Morning Herald, is that exposure to the pros in real life is going to kickstart a pro surfing revolution in our glittering Harbour City.
I do find it a little hard to believe in the age of YouTube and WSL webcasts, more pro surfing content than at any other point in history, that the missing link between Sydney groms and pro surfing success is getting Gabe’s autograph.
But I’ll put this marker down in the permanent record and if, in five, ten, fifteen years, Sydney is once again producing a conga line of surfing champions, I’ll eat crow.
I hope, and do believe, that Kelly Slater was watching today.
We know that (busted) hoof of his so well now.
Maybe better than the GOAT himself.
It’s a highly sensitive instrument. It hates to be beaten, hates even more to be humiliated.
It’s very much made the right decision not to come downunder and face-off on the beaches with the current elite.
We trust it will also be a good guide, in years to come, about what wildcards to accept, no matter how much a sport in need of a fillip requires his appearance.