Slater says he “feels the fire going out”. If this is the way he needs to go, by convincing himself he’s leaving on his own terms, that’s his right.
Tough shift today, for fans and pros alike. But sometimes you just need to body it, so goes the London street parlance.
Surely only the most ardent fans, grim-knuckled gamblers and immediate family were logged on to witness Supertubos looking neither super nor tubular.
The BG live comment section tallied fewer than three hundred half-baked comments.
On paper, the Portugal leg should be a gift for me. It’s a place I know well, with a negligible time difference. But in this reporting gig I’ve found it’s a lot easier to moonlight by literal moonlight.
The Scottish Highlands were glorious at the break of day. Cold, clear and windless. Snow dusted mountains gleamed in the sunshine. A Whatsapp from a friend informed me that there were unexpectedly fun waves at the beach. It was a land of opportunity, ripe for the plucking.
Dutifully, I Iogged on to watch jumbled, desperate beachbreak whilst life unfurled around me.
I was in good company. On screen, a familiar bald head floated in the gloom.
Firmly established as a hater of mornings over the years, these are the kinds of days where Slater must truly be questioning his present and future.
Kaipo was saying stuff.
It was cold, desolate, grey.
No waves were ridden for fifteen minutes or more.
When they were, Ethan Ewing displayed the sort of rubberised spine Slater once had, rebounding from impossible positions and manufacturing torque in a way that’s matched only by Toledo in weak waves.
Slater, predictably, was sent to the elimination round.
He’s mentioned in more than one interview recently that he “feels the fire going out”. I don’t buy it, but I don’t mind either. If this is the way he needs to go, by convincing himself he’s leaving on his own terms, that’s his right.
The fact is, on days like today, scratching around in sub-par waves is no place for a man of fifty-one, and he should know that.
Of course, in barrelling waves he’s still there or thereabouts, and though it might be a pipe dream, retirement at the Teahupo’o Olympics would be satisfying for everyone who cares.
Of those in the prime of their careers, the man whose competitive fire seems to be burning brightly right now is Griffin Colapinto.
“I just love surfing heats,” he said after a sparky opening round victory.
The next few heats were fairly grim.
Jack Robinson ground one out in the yellow jersey, as he does, advancing without breaking into double figures. He was unperplexed on the glass. AJ asked him what he saw out there that others might not. “I always see other things,” he replied, sage-like. “But I don’t want to share them.”
Miguel Pupo, Yago Dora and John Florence all made the best of what was on offer to take wins in their heats. Florence dodged a bullet, given these are exactly the sorts of conditions that normally elicit lacklustre performances from him.
But the mantra of success in Portugal is barrels and airs, barrels and airs, so said Pete Mel repeatedly, and Florence certainly has those in his locker.
Evans, Mel and Wasilewski – the name of a firm specialising in financial improprieties, according to Paul Evans – did their best to keep the energy up, but the story of today was more about who didn’t perform.
Perhaps it was the cold, but there were several misfires. I questioned the sense of surfing in bare feet. I know the feel’s different, but when you can’t feel your feet at all it might be sensible to try boots.
Italo couldn’t concoct a double figure score, but at least went through in second place to Connor O’Leary.
Filipe Toledo couldn’t break four points for a single wave despite seven attempts.
Kanoa, the local boy, limped home in last place with a 7.70 total.
And Gabriel Medina…
Who knows what was going on with Medina today. All I can say is that he looked entirely un-Medina-like. His heat total of 7.10 must be the lowest in years. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was his lowest ever.
Though even in better form he might have been hard-pushed to challenge Rio Waida today.
The Indonesian rookie posted the highest heat total of the day with a 15.16 and deserved every bit of it. Worth watching on replay (for all you legions of fans who slept through today’s action) is his stylish and cleanly tweaked straight air. I’d call it a shifty. You can call it what you like.
Get the coffees on, chop up some donkey dust, do whatever you do to stay up for a few hours tonight.
The forecast’s good, some big names are on the block.
Tomorrow, for once, we’ll open with an elimination round worth watching.