The most brutal cull in professional surfing's long and important history?
Well who would have guessed, waking up on this first day of daylight savings in these United States, that an absolute massacre was happening across the Atlantic there at Supertubos. Sunday Bloody Sunday. The Portuguese waves, described as “massive” by Kaipo Guerrero, “powerful” by Jesse Mendes, utterly decimated the draw.
Death began in the morning with surf great Kelly Slater falling to Joao Chianca in heat 4 and nearing that dreaded cut line. Slater began the season with big dreams, imagining that he could just might sneak onto the United States Olympic Team and end his career in golden fashion at Teahupo’o. Alas, it looks instead as he will fade away after Margaret River only to reappear for the next ten years as an increasingly annoying wildcard. A few quick notes. I used to applaud Slater’s refusing to retire. His thumbing his nose at fate but now? It seems profoundly sad. A man who knows nothing but professional surf competition. A scary emptiness spreading out over the horizon. The 11x World Champion’s singular accomplishments are not diminished but witnessing an icon, a legend, caught at his desk job because he’s afraid of change is a human, all too human, moment that was frankly unneeded.
Current world number two, and sitting champion*, Filipe Toledo came undid by lightly-regarded Frenchman Joan Duru, next, netting a heat total of 6.17. The largess of the surf, I’d imagine, had something to do with it though I did not catch the heat. Toledo is well-known for his small wave magic. When it gets big, though, his nerve fails, knees quake, arms refuse to paddle. The San Clemente transplant will head to Australia without fear of the guillotine but Teahupo’o is still on the calendar. Lurking.
Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi, who began the season with title dreams, became unstuck by one of the Pupos, Jordy Smith fell to R. Cal and, maybe most shockingly, John John Florence bowed before Indonesian upstart Rio Waida. Paul Evans, Pete Mel and Strider Wasilewski, sitting in the booth and a commentary dream team, could not believe their eyes. Florence broke his board on a duck dive at the beginning of the heat and then looked confused, lost. Cursed by the World Surf League? A video spot advertising the glories of Portugal was aired before his heat featuring Blonde Ambition and it was… not good. Florence saying, “Uhhh the ocean is raw here. Pretty cool, I guess.”
Well, a full wrap will be yours, soon, from an in-prime JP Currie but until then let’s, again, count the scalps. Kolohe Andino (in the elimination round), Kelly Slater, Filipe Toledo, Kanoa Igarashi, Jordy Smith, John John Florence. Andino and Slater in real danger of falling off tour.