That's it for the Aussie Leg. It ended, like the World in TS Eliot's Hollow Men, not with a bang but a whimper.
We ended the last piece prophesising an anti-climax but the chance of a bell-ringing bluebird Finals Day in glorious pumping West Ozzie reef break demanded a re-estimation upwards.
Italo and Gabe going head-to-head in chunky lefts was a salivating prospect.
Unfortunately, the anti-climax prediction was on the money, just even more-so than thought.
A Finals Day that somehow lacked a single competitive heat, men or women. The Women’s Final was probably the closest after judges took a generous view of a small, well-surfed left from Defay. It would have been a travesty if she got the score on the last wave, she fell anyway and didn’t force the judges to decide. Sally Fitzgibbon was easily the dominant surfer on Finals Day, man or woman.
That’s it for the Aussie Leg. It ended, like the World in TS Eliot’s Hollow Men, not with a bang but a whimper.
Should we put numbers on the entire leg?
I say Broadcast: 3/10 (missed way too many waves),
Commentary: 4/10 (lost touch with the live action too many times, phone in’s became a joke),
Surfing : 5/10 (apart from Gabe 9/10 and Italo 8/10), very many mediocre rides,
Wave Quality : 5/10 (lifted by a handful of good days to a pass mark).
Is that too harsh? I know I see it with a critical eye.
The only thing that gets in the excellent range is the camera work, especially that duck-diver’s angle at Rottnest: 8.5/10.
Light winds seemed to mitigate against airs. Italo came out with the strategy to blast Medina away with airs and could not stick one. He tried left, then right, then left again. As a strategy it made more sense than the one Cibilic employed in the final, the old sit and wait until the siren goes. Normally Italo lands one eventually, and gets the reward that justifies the risk. But not this time.
Which meant another lopsided heat, to run on from the very, very lame first semi with Morgs and LOB, where neither of them got a hold of anything. Which ran on from the lopsided women’s semis.
Gabe was brilliant in fits and starts.
His 8.5 to open the semi with Italo, which the live broadcast missed, was the best ride of the day. Three perfect turns, framed up with deep top-to-bottom surfing. Amazing, but safety surfing for Gabe.
Then he could barely nail a follow-up.
A safety surfed wave from Italo would have put him back in it, but he launched, then waited and waited. Took the early concession with a minute to go then drifted back to the peak hoping to nail one. The final ride went to Medina, who launched a massive backside rotor to coyote splat on the flats.
Putting his body on the line after the heat was won was the clue for Morgs. Find a way, any way, to put him under pressure and try and elicit one of the famous brain explosions from Gabe. Scoreboard pressure, personal space pressure, something, anything.
Gabes was beatable.
Despite the lopsided results he still looked brittle. Couldn’t get his air game going, had to manufacture some scores with weird rides. No one was able to put him under any pressure. Morgs cracked a seven and change with three turns. Gabe backed up a seven with an over-scored 8.5.
That left 15.5 playing 7.87 with fifteen minutes to go.
Morgs paddled out the back and set anchor, a strategy that has consistently failed all Aussie leg. Gabe just roamed around and caught waves. And fell consistently. Thats how the last fifteen mins of the final, the last day of the Aussie leg played out. Morgs sitting there. Medina, under no pressure, goofing off while his babe in the stands put her head in her hands, whispered prayers to the Good Lord and Coach King, who had set the theme of “airs are your weapon” grinned inanely as the clock ticked down.
Three out of the four finalists rode Sharp Eye surfboards designed/shaped by Brazilian Marco Zouzi, the fourth finalist rode a board shaped by Brazilian Johnny Cabianca.
Another indicator of Brazilian dominance of the pro surfing “space”.
Medina gets a fresh Search trophy, after the last one, earned a decade ago in San Francisco in his rookie year, had “spiders on it”.
Italo, speaking to the fatigue at the end of the Aussie leg, called it a “long journey”. He said the wavepool was hard and he hoped to speak to Kelly Slater to cajole him into letting “me surf a little bit more”.
At the end of the Aussie leg we ain’t far from where we started, with Gabe and Italo on top and the nightmare scenario, the Armageddon scenario drawing potentially closer.
That is, a completely dominant Gabriel Medina getting beaten at Trestles.
I know I’m being a bit ungenerous in my assessments, how do you see it?