Are pro surfers the most pampered sports people on earth doing the least demanding sport on earth?
Brilliant day, gripping day, best day of the Aussie leg as far as wave quality goes, by far.
Cemented a few narratives, mostly that Aussie pro surfing is in the doldrums apart from Morgs, Medina is cruising, perhaps to a bruising at Trestles and, as we noted in last report and confirmed by Tyler Wright today there is a lot of fatigued, “over-it” athletes and staff.
Which does beg the question: are pro surfers the most pampered sports people on earth, doing the least demanding sport on earth?
Tyler Wright in her presser claimed emotional fatigue was entrenched amongst surfers and staff and said “Everyone is holding on” as the limp to the finish line in this four-part Australian leg.
Tyler surfed two heats at Newy, three at Narrabeen, three at Maggie River and has surfed three so far at Rotto, for a total of about five-and-a-half hours of heat surfing in almost two months.
I don’t know the maths for a lot of other sports but in Rugby League an equivalent athlete would have completed almost eight hours of intense full-contact competition and numerous hours of intense training. Perspective is everything though, and if you’ve been highly paid since a teen and never had a real job then five-and-a-half hours of surfing over two months might be completely draining.
I don’t have a nationalistic bone in my body but thank God for Morgan Cibilic. After watching Owen, then Mikey Wright, then Connor O’Leary get smashed it was hard to escape a conclusion that we were no longer among what Prof Lenny Collard called “the top echelons of the ocean dance”.
Save Julian Wilson not a single accomplished aerialist amongst our current crop.
How long have airs been part of competition and not just a novelty?
I wanna say a decade.
Since Kelly’s bangers at Bells and New York in 2011 at least, right?
Even Connor Coffin loosed the tail while the usual suspects performed what Prof Len termed “loop de loops”. Having no airs in the arsenal in 2021 is a strange hill for Australian surfing to choose to die on. It’s like hoping for a time machine to show up and transport the tour back to 1999 when Occy reigned supreme and the tour hoped the whole Kelly Slater new school era was some kind of historical aberration that would soon be forgotten.
More on Kelly in a moment, he provided a highlight of the day.
A perfect example of Peak Slater.
The differences in aerial approach of the Brazilian goofyfoots were stark. Medina against Owen throws the air in first turn, often un-telegraphed, then comboes it up with fins-free blitzes and carves. Theirs is very much an emphasis on surfing top to bottom.
The bottom turn is huge, like a speed boat in the turn. Each air begats the next, even if the completion is absent, it brings the next air closer to fruition.
Italo is similar. Medina has the greatest variation in the air of the Brazilians, albeit with slightly less style than Yago Dora.
With fifteen to go in his heat with Owen, Medina left him needing a ten. Then paddled out and sat right next to him. I couldn’t help but think, “Pop an air you kook” , as disrespectful as that sounds.
O’course Owen safety surfed a left for a 6.5 and faltered miserably on an air attempt with a minute to go.
Biggest heat of Conor O’Leary’s year and he was in attack mode. Twenty minutes later, Dora had him combo’ed. Brutal airs and turn combinations beats straight turns every single day of the year.
Cognitive dissonance reigned supreme in the pressers of Owen, Mikey and Connor. Grinning like Cheshire cats, smug and satisfied. Humility was the appropriate response. We got dissembling and weak excuses. Owen claimed not enough waves in the middle of the heat despite Medina teeing off on them and getting his highest score under Owen priority.
He said he “felt good, felt sharp, great boards”.
Boards looked terrible. He overpowered the rail line and fins on several occasions.
There was an abundance of offshore OH lefts in the Connor/Dora heat. Yet O’Leary claimed in the presser he “couldn’t get a look at a decent wave to let me open up”.
Poppycock, baloney, humbug, BS.
After being well beaten by aerial attacks that exposed the deficiencies in Aussie pro surfing it was the blackest comedy when Julian Wilson, who fell in his last three air attempts to lose against Morgs, claimed that Morgs power surfing was over-scored.
He claimed to be “frustrated” that Morgs’ three-turn power combo’s were being given an eight. Morgs beat him, as he has all other opponents by going straight up at it “12 o’clock” harder each wave and not backing down an inch which causes higher ranked surfers to feel chippy and drop their bundles. Julian Wilson and John John Florence being exhibits A and B.
I see Morgs as being the best chance to beat Medina, for that reason.
Kelly on the tools is always gripping viewing for me. Now that the focus has shifted from the sleds to the phone-in I expected big things. Rabs and Turpel gave him plenty to work with but when Turpel pitched up the biggest softball of all time and asked Kelly to comment on what Adriano De Souza’s Legacy as world champ would be, I almost squealed in delight.
Oh. My. God. Kelly will not be able to resist teeing off on this.
And he couldn’t.
He went, not to Adriano’s world title, but to his own tenth title at Puerto Rico. And fleshed out a very revealing anecdote of how he’d paddle battled Adriano, ran him over, put him into tears, got into a beef with Jadson Andre over it and finished up the story by laughing that Adriano was so upset he walked home for two hours with three boards under his arm.
Classic, classic, Slater. Revealing, but not about ADS.
He finished the phone-in by telling Joe he would see him at Surf Ranch, so I guess our guesses about the injury being healed by the mystical waters of Lemoore were correct.
Italo telegraphs his airs far more than Medina. The pump up can sometimes consume an entire ride with Italo never dropping to the bottom of the wave. The separation is in the sheer speed with which he hits it. The speed of the launch and the spin. He pushed an unsuccessful attempt against Dora so high it made rain fall. I prefer his safety surfing, which are turns. He tends not to combo airs with turns like Medina.
A possible winning strategy for Medina given equal opportunities.
Medina seemed unbeatable, with just the slightest brittle edge to him. He put the success down to the small team of Coach King and wife hanging on the beach. I didn’t realise the extent to which he needed the emotional security of the entourage. “I feel safe, I feel good,” he claimed about the close bond with Coach King.
Is Liam O’Brien the next Morgan Cibilic?
The under-hyped kid who can get the job done at the highest level?
I detect a dry wit beneath the unflappable exterior, a type of Simon Anderson personality that only a hard-core surf suburb like Burleigh could produce. I think he will get smashed by Medina or Italo though. No air game.
I guess we wait now, until Tuesday, for the Final Day, unless Jessi Miley-Dyer loses her bottle.
With Medina and Italo through, it seems kind of irrelevant.