And performative activism backfires on WSL!
WSL played a strong indigenous hand on opening day at Rotto, or Wadjemup as it is known to the Nyungar/Whadjuk/Bibbulmun crew who had a thirty-thousand year reign over the Island before, what Professor Lenny Collard termed “invasion from ocean-borne forces”.
Which I guess would be the white man from post-Enlightenment Europe.
Lenny was in the booth with Bugs and Joe for heat two of the day. It was one of the most deeply weird scenes I’ve ever seen in pro surfing. I want to take the charitable view that this marks a new chapter of support of the WSL for indigenous surfing and a movement towards reconciliation in the most ancient country on earth. It seems so hard to avoid the cynical view that the WSL wants to be at the vanguard of companies practising what journalist Matt Taibbi calls “performative activism”.
Lenny got himself on a king hell roll in the booth.
Wadjemup served as an Aboriginal prison between 1834 and 1904 becoming in the process the “biggest deaths in custody site in Australia”. Lenny made the argument that these people were “patriots” who were “defending the homeland” against the aforementioned ocean-borne invaders.
He asked why we remembered Gallipoli*, why we refused to remember mass sites of Aboriginal death like Wadjemup and advocated for the site to be granted the status of “war graves” so it could be appropriately commemorated as part of the Australian history of “dark deeds in a sunny land”.
It was one of the most stunning and powerful pieces of oratory I’ve ever heard.
Joe seemed to sense the same sort of existential danger that the Fanning shark attack posed.
His response to Prof Collard’s soliloquy?
“Sixteen thirty on the clock, we’ve got some numbers to talk about”.
The segueway from Prof Collard to the “numbers” to Mikey Wright’s presser, where he said he was “ready to kick it in the guts and eff it off” in relation to the last place finishes, was sublime.
The peak at Strickland Bay was challenging the world’s best, bringing forth an at times alarming level of Kookiness. The left lurches along at an uneven pace causing many mis-reads and flubbed turns, ending with a gurgled out closeout section.
Two turns and a closeout; it feels like the entire Aussie leg has been two turns and a closeout reo.
Peak kookiness was supplied by wildcard Taj Burrow.
Following on from the hype of Fanning’s wildcard at Narrabeen, where Getting Heated unironically posed the question, Who will stop Mick Fanning? , expectations for Burrow’s return to the jersey were very much hosed down.
He expressed a clear message that winning was off the table as a motivation, it was all about connecting with old pals and showing his family what he used to do. Which I found oddly self-indulgent as a reason to slot him in the draw.
Either he is in with a shot of winning, or at least pushing the envelope, or he gets his back slapped in the competitors’ area and entertains us in the booth.
Tuning in to watch Teeb’s heat offered up as reward a curious blend of schadenfreude and awkwardness. For twenty minutes Taj sat there grinning inanely.
Happy to be there. Great.
Taj paddles for a closeout and aborts the take-off, a ride so abysmal judges deign not to have even considered it a score.
Five minutes to go, Taj is on zero.
Three minutes. Taj on zero.
Ninety seconds to go, Taj paddles into a close-out, falls on a reo for a 0.7.
The hooter sounds. A sub-one point heat for the wildcard.
I know this sounds crazy, but I feel confident I could have beaten Taj in that heat.
Two waves, with cutting across the green face and a cut down on each, surely would have been a point each?
Apart from Jordy Smith’s one delectable power hack on a right, scored as part of a trio of turns for a 7.33 it was the lefts that proved the more high perf. Brazilian goofy foots, it will surprise nobody, were the standouts. Aussie goofies, led by Ryan Callinan and Connor O’Leary were a half step behind. A faux-hawked and Sam George-earringed Medina was the pace-setter. It took him a wave to get his specs in, once he figured out the rhythm he went nuts.
If you’re of limited time, watch his waves.
His heat marked a turning point and a slow, inexorable rise in global performance levels, with the kookiness of earlier heats dissipating. O’Leary and Callinan both swung hard at the lefts. Flores, Pupo and Moniz in heat 10 fought a pitched battle that ended in the final exchange with Pupo in front by a bee’s dick.
The next heat with Bourez, Dora and Peoples Champ Ibelli was also a cracker. As the Main Break right can dish up a rare tube, the Stricko’s left delivered a length of ride barrel for Bourez. Ibelli was strong but Dora seemed more in tune with the lefts than anyone bar Medina.
I like the way reality is now, so, so slowly and incrementally, working its way into the booth. I believe as a result of our efforts here on BG.
Ronnie Blakey finally broke the “everyone can beat everyone” myth of equality at Margs by drily noting that backmarkers were going to have to lift substantially to upset Medina/Toledo/Italo et al. Reality dawned on Bugs today when, despite a massive four-leg Aussie Tour with a massive home advantage in the offing for Aussies, it was now looking likely we would not have a surfer in the Top Five Title showdown Day.
Deivid Silva drove the nail into the coffin by manufacturing an interference call against Morgan Cibilic. Paddled right, straight into him, on a left. It caused the normally conservative Richie Lovett to proclaim, “I’m not sure they’ve called that correctly”.
But, who judges the judges?
Thirty years ago, as noted by guest commentator Scott (sorry name illegible in notes), there were indigenous surfing events in Australia, possibly a far more robust application of the “inclusive” surfing concepts the Woz loves to trumpet.
With the fracturing of the QS, now might be the opportune time for the Woz to put it’s money where its mouth is if they want to build on the good will of the Nyungar elders who have put the welcome mat out at Wadjemup.
*Disastrous World War One battleground for ANZAC forces in Turkey that has become a defining event in national self-identity.