"It was, at times, enough to dull yesterday’s failure to run, but never extinguish it."
Under a cloud hung sky, day two of the Lexus Pipe Pro, eventually, began.
Is there a worse sporting predicament than a surf contest under the gloom of a poor forecast? The vets must question their life choices. Opportunities missed. Educations a ghost appeal. Relationships blown to shreds in the wake of swells. Whole lives glossed over with a thin sheen of expertise in one, insignificant skill.
The rookies, too. What’s the use in all those reps if you can’t get off the bench? It’s enough to break even the emptiest of San Clemente’s home-schooled minds.
But chase it they do. That’s their choice. They choose to bump shoulders with the bumping gums of Joe Turpel and Kaipo Guerrero. They choose to be presided over by Jesse Miley-Dyer, Chief of Sport, a woman who increasingly reminds me of the way that porcelain cracks.
Yet still, she holds their bloody sacrifices in the palm of her hand.
Making the correct call and therefore serving your athletes and your audience is priority number one. That has not happened at Pipeline, as has been widely and correctly espoused by notable personalities and all surf adjacent media with a backbone.
Failure to run the Lexus Pipe Pro yesterday on the grounds of being “too big” is an egregious failure of duty by Miley-Dyer and the WSL, and we should make no apologies for continuing to state that plainly.
And so today, in the wake of this, competition resumed in waves that were just fine, perhaps occasionally pretty in the early heats, but deteriorated as the day ebbed. It was, at times, enough to dull yesterday’s failure, but never extinguish it.
We were served mounds of amphetamine sulphate when we should have had high-grade cocaine.
Perhaps no-one felt this more than Kelly Slater who lost to Ethan Ewing in the first heat of the day. He knew, as we did, that he’d been afforded a graceful path of lesser opponents in his side of the draw. He must’ve been gnawing the bedposts in anticipation of running yesterday. Big, raggedy Pipe would’ve been a gift to him.
But it was not to be, and he exited without making a wave.
The insert clip of a Slater interview took on greater poignancy. In it, he bemoaned the lack of competitive fire on Tour. Everyone was friendly, he said. There were no personal wars left, no bitter rivalries that marked his best years.
It was the melancholic reminiscence of an old man, but it was no less true. Slater’s only remaining battle is grimly within. In that we can find interest.
The greater the beauty, the more terrible the death.
It was a day of small deaths for some of the most beautiful Pipeline artists, robbed as they were of the basic constituents of their art. As with Slater, other past champions to fall in the round of 32 included Ferreira, Robinson and Medina.
Robinson and Medina were vanquished by rookies Ramzi Boukhiam and Crosby Colapinto, respectively. For Boukhiam, a verified sexual weapon, it was a narrow but deserved victory. It was also one of some significance for a man who suffered a season ending injury this time last year after trying to qualify for the WCT for a decade or more.
You would need to ask him personally, but I did wonder if it was more or less satisfactory than his conquest of Rhianna some years ago.
He was to lose in the round of 16 to the in-form Jordy Smith, but will be satiated nonetheless.
Unsatisfied and hopefully spun into bulging rage is Gabriel Medina. A 2.73 heat total in eight attempts was all he could muster against Crosby Colapinto, who took the heat victory with an underwhelming 8.86 total, despite a single wave score of 8.33.
The sub-optimal conditions at the Lexus Pipe Pro played into Jordy Smith’s hands today. A lacklustre Pipe surfer over the years, he was no doubt delighted with the energy focused on Backdoor. Two good victories see him move into a quarter final match up with Barron Mamiya, which will test him regardless of conditions.
Italo Ferreira was perhaps the unluckiest surfer today in losing to Smith. Not only did Jordy notch his winning wave in the dying seconds at Backdoor, but the 8.87 Italo held in his losing total was one of the most exciting waves of the day.
Glorious in slow-motion, he made a critical handsfree drop on a solid Backdoor wave where only the rippling power of his quads kept him engaged. Grabbing the rail at the bottom, he seemed to throw his whole body back into the wave face before disappearing from view. He was certainly too low, detonated under the lip, but somehow he exited cleanly, before standing tall and liplining the closeout section.
Judges took an age to drop the score, the longest by far all day. There was a lot to unpack. In the end the 8.87 seemed ok, but on review a point higher might not be disputed.
Of every man on Tour, none has suffered more than Italo over the past couple of seasons from spectacular moments that result in nothing. Let’s hope this isn’t a precursor for more of the same. If what we look for in pro surfing are explosive moments, then what we look for is Italo Ferreira.
Entertaining and successful today were the best tube technicians on show: Leo Fioravanti (my Surfvival pick!); John Florence and Callum Robson. All notched excellent waves and seemed at ease in the tricky conditions. For once, the eye test and the scoring were in accord.
Callum Robson, for my money, owes Kaipo a slap in the face. Every time Robson surfs Kaipo trots out the same old shite about “solid fundamentals…workmanlike performances…nothing flashy…” etc etc so on and so pish.
The man is patently one of the best technical tube riders in the entire world, especially in heavy rights. I truly hope you read this, Kaipo: put some fuckin respect on his name.
Unfortunately Robson was to come up against the untameable Florence in the round of 16, on imperious form at his home break.
Florence and Fioravanti will meet in the quarters. One to look forward to.
Jordy Smith and Barron Mamiya has the capacity to entertain, but my (literal) money favours Mamiya.
Hawaiians Ian Gentil and Imaikalani deVault match-up in quarter three, and if you’d picked that one pre-comp you’d have been a rich man. Neither surfer elicited a note from me today aside from a raised eyebrow of half-remembrance when AJ mentioned Gentil had been Rookie Of The Year last season.
In the remaining match up, Ethan Ewing meets Connor O’Leary. Ewing is there on merit, O’Leary as a conditions related anomaly with heat totals of 8.00 and 7.93, including a “buzzer beater” score of 2.60 in the round of 16 for one backhand turn.
Ladies and gentlemen, your Lexus Pipe Pro, presented by Jesse Miley-Dyer.
A break for the women next, I’d imagine.
Cloud hung skies or crystal dawns, I’ll be watching every minute.