Not a bikini or boardshort in sight. No sunbathers or flip flops. Just a faded bottle of Irn Bru bobbing along in the bollock haemorrhaging North Sea chill.
Sick of the gloss?
The PG-13, anaemic, bloodlessness?
Where do you go when you need a break from the WSL pantomime?
Where do you go when you need an invigorating sneer of lager-breathed misery?
Britain, specifically Scotland.
….GB Surf Team qualifying event, taking place in Thurso this weekend, under the stewardship of The Scottish Surfing Federation (SSF) and North Shore Surf Club, not brought to you by Rip Curl!
Picture a solitary pop-up gazebo straining against a Highland gale. A lonely crackling tannoid struggling to be heard through another Caledonian downpour. Thermos flasks full of steaming hot salted porridge.
Red Bull? Ge’ tae fuck.
This is the grim-faced antithesis of the WSL sheen.
The basement hardcore show to the Duran Duran arena show happening downtown.
Not a bikini or boardshort in sight.
No sunbathers or flip flops or wrap-arounds.
Just a faded bottle of Irn Bru bobbing along in the bollock haemorrhaging North Sea chill.
Current Magic Seaweed forecast for Thurso East this Saturday? Eight-to-twelve feet. Brief snow flurries. Winds at 16mph. Zero-to-two degrees celsius.
Sunday temperatures set to max out at a sweltering five degrees; it is technically spring after all.
Shut down the lastminute.com tab you just opened though because due to current Covid guidelines spectators will not be allowed at the contest, but the event will be livestreamed on the SSF website.
No excuses. Aussies and ‘Mericans set your alarms accordingly. If you’re not two tinnies of Tennents in by the end of the first heat you’re a Tory.
From said website: “The event will bring the home nation surfing federations of England, Scotland and Wales together as their surfers (4 men and 4 women from each federation) battle it out for the 6 spots on the GB Team going to the Olympic qualifier in May ahead of surfing making its long-awaited debut at the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics this summer.”
Much hype. No mention of Northern Ireland though.
Are there no potential Olympian surfers from the six counties? Potentially contentious. Best not to delve into that particular can of worms.
Re: expectations for Team GB surf at Tokyo 2020: Great Britain ranked twentieth at the 2019 World Surfing Games so let’s just say… cautiously optimistic.
The very famous comic Rodney Dangerfield was a staple of my youth with those buggy eyes, that look of constant befuddlement and the catchphrase “I don’t get no respect.” I didn’t really understand, at the time, nor did I find his jokes particularly funny.
“I get no respect at all – When I was a kid, I lost my parents at the beach. I asked a lifeguard to help me find them. He said “I don’t know kid, there are so many places they could hide.”
I suppose it took three, or such, decades and a career as a surf journalist to truly feel the bitter humor.
For yesterday, the lifestyle, culture and sporting outlet Pubity, boasting nearly 30 million followers on Instagram, declared it was “not ready for this generation of elite athletes to end” before listing them all.
Included are world’s greatest surfer Kelly Slater’s surfing friends Tom Brady and Lewis Hamilton.
Notably absent is the world’s greatest surfer Kelly Slater himself.
As a surf journalist, I feel belittled and ignored. Not getting any respect etc.
Imagine how Kelly Slater feels.
Will surfing’s Olympic inclusion, Ultimate Surfer show in ABC kick him over the line and into Camp Elite?
Retrogression was a theme. Conservative surfing, highly contagious.
Big old day, classic QS-style meat-grinder pro surfing in classic QS-style surf.
We were informed that the daily “mailout” from the judges expressed a strong preference for progressive manouevres but for long, long stretches it was meat and potatoes that won heats.
Retrogression was a theme, so I went back over a decade to the Rip Curl Search at Puerto Rico’s Middles break. The last comp where Andy Irons, a still oft cited figure in the sport who was battling a serious opioid addiction, was alive. Sure ’nuff, in gurgly head-high rights not a million miles dissimilar to what we saw today, Dane Reynolds was a trillion times more progressive.
Whatever that means.
But then, what do we seriously expect?
In a sport held hostage to tourism money, integrity and progression are the easiest oxen to sacrifice to the God of Mammon.
Eventually we did see the usual suspects break the chains and bolt for the exits. Principally Filipe Toledo, Italo Ferreira and Yago Dora.
Gabe Medina to a lesser extent, though he didn’t need to.
His first heat was more a masterclass of slowly applied pressure. A death grip from beginning to end on Connor O’leary who didn’t seem to have the repertoire or the confidence to use it against the champ. One tail-high whipped air reverse on a nothing section was traduced by the booth as being ruined by a “boxy” style, although Richie Lovett soon qualified the slur by claiming the far more post-modern truth that “style is perception”.
Connor spent the last ten minutes like a buzzing fly in the window sill. Post heat in the presser we got a glimpse of the post-Charlie Gabe ethos. Gone is the siege mentality that infuriated some and delighted others (me). In its place is a happy, relaxed Gabe performing in front of a small, tight unit: his babe and coach.
I mourn the loss of that peculiar combination that found slights to their honor everywhere they looked and cooked up strategies of revenge and redress, sometimes served as cold as ice.
A happy, content Gabe is a less interesting specimen of pro surfer to me.
But to each his and her own I guess.
I loved Julian Wilson’s presser after defeating Jack Robinson. A sore loser is a spectacle. A sore winner is an even finer one.
And Wilson was furious.
Robinson had blocked him on the final wave, totally physically blocked him and there was a blood chilling moment for Wilson when he appealed for the interference as Robinson destroyed the wave.
The interference was granted and Wilson put the knife in.
“He’s a good kid but he’s gotta get out of the way with a minute to go.”
Kid. Love it.
He then shamelessly played the local card.
“I live here,” said Wilson “been here for three years”.
I hope he draws Jack Robbo at North Point or the Box. That could be a genuine grudge match.
The heat of the day, the major upset the Woz interns will be frothing over was the JJF/Ciblic boilover.
I’m not saying Ciblic’s injury was a hoax. But if it was, what a brilliant psychological weapon to draw on JJF. Perhaps lure him into a false sense of security and drag him into that low energy semi-somnolent free-surfing state that can sometimes bedevil the 2016/17 champ.
That wasn’t really a factor, at first.
Judges did over-cook the spread on the opening exchange.
They paid meat and potatoes low repertoire over JJF’s variation and whip.
In my spiked preview piece, I had talked up Connor, talked down Morgs. Thought he was cannon fodder for the big dogs, if you’ll pardon a mangled metaphor. JJF was trying to chip away, throw down some variation.
He fell on an air.
Did the extra stiffness and lack of give in the Carbon Dark Arts play a role, once the pressure came on and the neurons perhaps fired that little too excitedly, reducing all margin for error?
That was my random thought when the errors started to pile up.
A dejected John claimed he would watch the tape straight away, after admitting he had no idea why or how things went wrong. He needed another good wave is about the size of it.
And when judges completely lost their minds and awarded a 9.03 to Ciblic for three turns he was shut out.
The lesson should be: local wildcards are the biggest threat to JJF, as they were to Kelly Slater.
By my notes it was heat seven before anything above the lip was attempted, despite head-high gurgle just begging for it. A standard air rev from Crosby Colapinto got a 5.83 in a losing heat. Afterwards he wished he had gone bigger.
Conservative surfing, it seems, is a highly contagious condition.
Three to the beach. Four to the beach. Whack, whack, whack. That’s what won heats.
Owen, Griff, Kanoa. Kanoa took on Ethan Ewing. E2. Aping a style does not a valid comparison make. I’m talking about the groupthink consensus that E2 is somehow the second coming of Andy Irons. Would a youthful AI have surfed without loosing his fins at least once, tried something at least more radical than the other guy?
Of course not.
Aggression, attitude, creativity, flair, risk: all that defined Andy’s surfing. Not the way he held his arms in a turn. By that measure, Ewing is a pale simulacrum of AI, and I mean no disrespect to him. It wasn’t his call to start comparing himself.
But someone has to do the remedial work so E2 can start building his own legacy.
Japan was big today.
First with Japanese Australian Connor O’leary and then Kanoa Igarashi. Is it merely preparatory marketing for the Olympics or is there a bigger agenda at play to expand back into the Japanese market where apparently two million surfers would provided a willing receptacle for a WSL looking to expand?
It was never explained why a country that once hosted two back-to-back events for years suddenly dropped off the schedule without warning.
Certainly the business case must be tantalising.
A 2019 Bloomberg article featuring our own D. Rielly and C. Smith featured the remark, maybe somewhat cynically, that Kanoa had chosen Japan to compete for because of the money available. He said he was already “way” past two million a year based on Olympics sponsorship endorsement.
If Connor wanted to slice himself off a piece of that action who could blame him, let alone the WSL itself.
We live in the age of Casino Capitalism and Kanoa personifies that perfectly.
Big winners and big losers. Stark white beaks proliferate amongst the Top 34 like flocks of Ibis feasting on over-flowing bins.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book Black Swan called this tendency Extremistan, to differentiate it from Mediocristan.
In Extremistan, Kanoa is raking in millions while Caio has no sponsor.
The Brazilian Storm back markers went for the meat and spuds.
World Title favourite Filipe Toledo did not.
In the last heat of the day, as Medina did in the first, he laid on a masterclass.
As much as his Pipe surfing is a weakness, his small-wave surfing is unbeatable. Would you bet against him at three-foot Trestles?
On a sunny California day with time to spare, the bones warm, the muscles loose, his house and family minutes away?
His boards dialed in?
You’re braver than me.
Blood Feud: Gold Coast photographer squares up to local surfing legend after Kirra imbroglio!
Kirra Point, once the greatest wave in the world but now languishing in the lower teens after losing its sand to Snapper Rocks a couple of decades back, turned on its best waves since 1994 yesterday.
Lucky Gold Coast surfers, of which there are many, thrilled to four-to-six feet of east swell, Kirra organising the lines into these wonderful green funnels.
And Mitch Parkinson, cuz to Joel, son of hotshot eighties shredder Darryl, star of BeachGrit’s surfboard test series, rode the wave of the day, a tube filmmaker Justin Gane said had the potential to be one of the greatest rides ever ridden at Kirra – at least twenty-five seconds in the hole.
Of course, as vision shows, Mitch’s adventure was abbreviated when a man fell out of the air and into Mitch’s trajectory. Opinion was unanimous online, the drop-in a piece of cutthroat savagery etc.
Now, photographer Aaron Pierce has squared up to Mitch by claiming the act was karmic rebuttal.
Mitch getting drooped in on is KARMA as he himself dropped in on a guy about to get barrelled at the start of the wave before all the videos show! Even worse is a few frames before the shot above I zoomed in and Mitch is looking straight at the poor guy so he did see him, that’s poor sportsmanship and feckn selfish. Sure Mitch’s barrel was impressive and the other guy shouldn’t have dropped in on him as there was probably another 5 seconds at least left in that barrel but it wasn’t Mitch’s wave to have. I have a policy no matter who it is if someone drops in their photos of them getting barrelled will never see the light of day and most likely get deleted, it’s unfortunate as there’s some cracking shots especially a few frames after the shot above is such a heavy line up shot with Mitch pulling in. Too much of this is going on and surfers need to sort this out somehow but how can it be sorted when surfers like Mitch that kids look up to keep doing it and getting away with it, this time though KARMA got you and you totally deserved it, it’s not as though there’s no waves after this one! . And the way that guy was surfing he would’ve had a good chance making those barrels too, Mitch stole possibly the best wave of his life off him!
Mitch says he has no idea who the photographer is and dismisses Pierce as “another keyboard warrior.”
Did you look at man inside tube, destined for greatness, perhaps, and take-off regardless?
“Did I see him? Yeah, he was way too deep. He was on a seven-foot board and old mate didn’t have buckleys of making it. He didn’t make it around the first section and he straightened out.”
Mitch says the wave was the best wave he’s ever had at Kirra, “one of those proper long, crazy lines. I’ll probably have to wait another ten years for one of those.”
To the drop-in that ended his ride, Mitch says he was screaming at the interloper while in the tube and that “it was such a fucking good wave. It was heartbreaking for me to watch the clip after.”
The man, he says, was apologetic, knew he’d fucked up.
“He was back-pedalling as soon as he came up, saying, ‘I can’t believe it! I can’t believe it!’ I was still stoked to make it as far as I did, I wasn’t all that angry. I was kinda just shocked that I made it out next to him. I told him to fuck off and that was it. I almost felt bad for being angry at him, he was so rattled.”