"The end of the elimination round was brutal. Nat Young sat forlornly in the murky water for a full half-hour in a loss to Jordy without a wave to ride."
Today I taught fourteen year olds a dramatic monologue about a disaffected teenager who takes a breadknife into the street and stabs someone.
It’s a poem that was erased from textbooks and banned from schools in England during a period when knife-crime was on the rise.
It seems unlikely that knife-wielding teens were plunging blades with couplets on their mind, but there you go.
The speaker feels alienated from society and ignored at school. The language of education is one he cannot understand. The language of violence he can.
The opening line is unequivocal.
“Today I am going to kill something. Anything.”
It’s sinister. The character is no-one exceptional, and that’s the point. He might be sitting next to you on the bus, momentarily eyeballing you as your shoulders collide in the street, or watching sullenly from a doorway.
The point is that life can be shit, for all of us. It’s how we respond that’s important.
We could choose darkness. Choose to blame everyone and everything. Condemn the world around us. It’s not my fault…
Or, we change our perspective.
We can be like Jack Robinson or Griffin Colapinto and master our minds, understand the kingdom’s all inside.
Or we might hand our fate to a higher power, like Filipe or Gabriel, have faith.
I don’t have faith in anything in particular, and I’m not in control of my mind, but I know I need to alter my perspective sometimes. After the first few heats today I’d jotted down a few negative quips and acerbic barbs. But that was too easy. It’s too easy to dismiss it all – waves, Kaipo, judging, commentary, Kaipo…etc, etc, the usual.
So I won’t.
But allow me one, before I renounce.
Fuck, if I hear Mitchell Salazar say Poooonnta Rrrrroooka one more time…
We get it, Mitch. You speak Spanish, along with about a billion other people.
He’s like a kid I once taught who wanted to show the class magic tricks he was learning. It was a low ability class (it’s not all poetry and Good Will Hunting, you know) and they were poor souls. And so I said yes to indulge him and kill some time. Bless him. It was awful, god awful. Neither magic nor tricks. But we made the mistake of ummmming and awwwwing regardless, pretending to be astonished, as if he were David Blaine. After that the poor fucker wanted to do magic every day, and I didn’t have the heart to say no. And so the end of every lesson consisted of pretending to be wowed by tricks that got ever more elaborate, increasingly ludicrous, and neverendingly shit.
That’s what I think of every time Salazar rrrrrrrrolls some rrrrrrrs and badgers his co-commentators into trying to speak Spanish.
This morning we marched through men’s elimination then round of 16 with overlapping heats. The waves were fairly grim – if you’ll allow me a little reality – and I wondered if it was contestable, nevermind suitable for overlapping heats. But Miley-Dyer’s hand had been forced. With little time and much to do, we had to march on.
The end of the elimination round was brutal. Nat Young sat forlornly in the murky water for a full half-hour in a loss to Jordy without a wave to ride.
Miguel Pupo, a surfer who has been superb all season, thumped his board in fury as the hooter signalled his loss to Jake Marshall. Until the final seconds all he had was a 2.97 and a 0.90.
Meanwhile, Shannon and Laura chirped merrily in the background like we were all having a wonderful time.
“So, so contestable,” said Laura.
Jordy was graceful and honest in his post heat interview. “Luck,” he said, when asked how he won. Salazar trotted out the J-Bay comparison, clearly expecting Jordy to stick to the script. “Someone has to be slapped every time they call this J-Bay,” he snapped, forehand smashing the inane comparison right back into Mitchell’s taco.
Jack Robinson looked roundly trounced by Jackson Baker for the majority of their round of 16 heat. Bizarrely, waves appeared, and Baker picked the best ones, building a solid and deserved lead.
But with four mins on the clock, Robinson found a wave and shook it like a terrier with a rat for an 8.93. The aggression was arresting. It’s the most impressed I’ve been with Robinson in three comps. The camera cut to Julia on the beach, gesticulating wildly. We couldn’t hear what she was saying, but I imagine it was something along the lines of “Any of you fucking pricks move, and I’ll execute every motherfuckin’ last one of you!”
Jack sat in the water, composed himself, then turned and paddled in. There’s something vaguely psychopathic in his demeanour, like he’s scared to lose control. He surfs like he’s possessed, yet talks like he’s half-asleep.
Robinson and the other key players (plus Callum Robson) advanced to quarters, and that was fortunate because Punta Roca finally showed some of the quality we’ve been hearing about.
Medina vs Robinson was the heat everyone wanted to see. Jack’s board snapped on his first top turn, sheared by the lip. He got back out quickly, but was out of rhythm. The waves were better but not spectacular at this stage. Really, Medina dominated even though he once again looked chronically underscored with mid-sixes.
In the post heat interview, Laura asked him whether he pushed Jack deep on purpose for the last set. “Just testing these guys,” Medina replied, like a grinning assassin.
Yes you are, Gabby, and they’re being blown away like dust in the wind.
Some of the quarters were still plagued by lulls, but it was eye-rubbing in disbelief stuff to watch Filipe standing tall and eyeing long, double-overhead walls before obliterating the lip on every turn, when just a couple of hours before Carissa Moore couldn’t find a wave in her quarter final loss to Caroline Marks. A couple before that it had looked unsurfable.
Filipe dominated against Robson, as you might expect on clean right point waves. He was never threatened, always in control. He seems more composed than ever.
Kanoa and Colapinto both registered excellent heat totals. Either would’ve been a worthy victor. Kanoa had the wave to steal it at the end, had he not fallen on his closer.
Griffin will face Medina in the semi. He’s looking forward to it. He feels he was just a kid the last time he surfed against Medina. “Now I’m becoming a man”, he said.
He’ll need to be more than a man to advance through that one.
Ethan and Italo battled an excellent heat to finish the day. The waves were nothing short of pumping and perfect, if a little lully towards the end.
Italo took the win, trading 8s with Ewing. Just as well, for the sake of justice. Ethan’s scores weren’t so much inflated as Italo’s were squashed. He continues to be undermined by the judges. His 8.80 was the highest score of the heat but still lowballed. What else could he have done with that wave on his backhand?
Today was far from perfect, but there were glimpses that made it all worthwhile. Really this is all we can hope for.
I found myself enjoying the imperfection, relishing it even. When the good waves came, I appreciated them all the more.
“Why is everything we study about death, pain and tragedy, Sir?” a pupil asked today, justly.
It’s because happiness is the dullest state you can find yourself in.
Contentment? No thanks.
Negative emotions challenge us.
They help us create.
They help us to connect, to know that others suffer, too.
We learn to appreciate what we have. We see silk purses in sow’s ears.
Above all: without sorrow, how would you recognise joy?
And if all you know is happiness, what of ecstasy?
It seems unlikely there’ll be an ecstatic finish in El Salvador tomorrow, but that’s ok. There’ll be other days. It can always get better.
That’s what keeps us going.