Tweed Coast Pro, Day One: “We Don’t Mean Wobbly In A Bad Way”
Being curious to see exactly how the Woz Oz Grand Slam would explode onto the screen at 7.00am sharp this morning, your Ding Alley correspondent logs on five minutes beforehand, and sits there absorbing the oddly meditative pulled-back live overview of the break – wattlebirds chirping, the odd magpie song, the ambient hum of the surf and the occasional PA test in the background.
All that nature is a reminder we’re back in – ahhhh – nature – and there’s a world of separation between Caba and the Santa Monica Palace of Smarm that is Woz HQ, and the Amphitheatre of Shame that is Lemoore.
The opening dance by the Juraki boys is a nice touch. Good to see the crew put on a tighter performance than their Wadawurrung counterparts at Bells, who I swear kinda phone their performance in sometimes.
Anyhoo: Here we are at Caba for a good old fashioned Boardriders monthly pointscore.
Covid’s made beggars of us all, so let’s be grateful for being able to witness Oz’s best surfers maximising a day of turnable burgers.
The pockmarked nature of the Caba lineup presents equal parts challenge and opportunity for all concerned: surfers AND commentators. In fact, much of the commentary through the day will be dedicated to finding kind things to say about Cabarita.
Maximum topspin for positivity, describing the surf, is achieved by Richie Lovett with the glorious phrase: “We don’t mean ‘wobbly’ in a bad way”.
Anyway, it certainly feels like a Sunday morning kinda comp when the trials kick proceedings off. The highlight is Black Rock’s Grant Banning, who’s a far better surfer than me, but surfing a fishy ol’ thing with lots of volume, and representing all the not-quite-elite-level surfers out there: getting a few half turns in before presumably heading off for nine holes of golf.
Into the main event, where we can see what six months away from competition has done for the form of our Australian surfing heroes. I refer not, of course to the competitors, but to our friends in the commentary booth.
I’ll admit it, when the pallet-clad commentary booth comes into frame, and reveals the A-team of Ronnie, Vaughan, and Jodie I feel a clear sense of relief – not a Wasilewski or Turpel in sight – and with the lockdown situation in Victoria depriving us of Pottz’s Churchillian phrasemaking, we’re assured of relaxed and informative commentary at best, and only mildly awkward fumblings at worst.
Rick Lovett shows he can keep yakking in a worthwhile fashion, Laura Enever effectively channels the post-heat asking-you-a-question-by-describing-something-then-awkwardly-asking-how-you-feel-about-it spirit of Rosie Hodge, and Luke Munro does a dignified job on the back of the ski. If you squint, Luke actually bears more than a passing resemblance to John Shimooka, who’s absent from proceedings. Luke and Laura switch roles through the day and both do well.
We’ll take a point, actually a point-and-a-half, actually two, off the Brothers Blakey for far too many self-referential indulgences relating to their work on Postcards From Morgs, and deduct another point for all commentators constantly describing the Tweed Coast as a cornucopia of astonishing and uncrowded surf options when – let’s face it – it’s largely straight beachies riddled with gutters.
Some quick notes on the blokes’ round of 12.
Never thought I’d say I missed Ace Buchan’s surfing (always damned with faint praise by commentators are ‘precise’ and ‘surgeon-like’), but seeing Ace and Conor tear consecutive waves – real, honest-to god-ocean waves – in heat one is truly pleasurable for this viewer – certainly beats any moment in the entire Rumble at the Ranch
Owen Wilson’s (we’ll call him that in deference to Mr Turpel) eight pointer in heat two is a thing of beauty – the Big O taking his time on a grower that runs down the line, lit up by the sun and resembling Little Marley – a badly Xeroxed version, sure, but a version nonetheless
This heat sees an intermission courtesy of a shark spotted to the north. With the drone surveillance in place looking out for the pros, these two days might provide a small anecdotal snapshot of the prevalence of sharks in the area.
Heat three lives up to its promise, with Jack Robbo looking the goods.
And is it just me or does Mikey Wright have a bit of an MP thing going on? Of course there’s the lanky physique, the long sleeves and the mo, but there’s something about the way he holds himself between turns, the leading arm, perhaps. Whatever it is, it’s cool.
As the backlit morning glare mellows, I find myself genuinely enjoying the webcast. It’s no Superbank or J-Bay but with calibrated expectations it’s more than OK. The guys are settling in down the line a bit, the surface conditions are late-wintry, and it’s just unreal to see Oz surfer after Oz surfer heat after heat.
No disrespect to our Brazillian and international brothers and sisters, but each heat in this comp is interesting to watch by virtue of the fact they’re all Aussies. In cutaway shots to the beach there’s coaches in flannos and akubras, and even Jack Robbo’s post-heat-interview American twang is harder to detect. Glory Be!
The Gals are on next – trials and the round of twelve – all a fairly pedestrian affair if I’m honest, though it’s great to see trials winner India Robinson have ‘one of those heats’ to get through to the big show, and there’s no way to describe Steph’s performance on her epoxy as anything but regal.
Watching Steph – so relaxed, unhurried and fluid, all while letting go of critical turns – is a reminder of what I’ve missed most from the Woz’s roster of comps this year. The privilege of witnessing total surfing mastery in action is what’s genuinely special about the whole Pro Surfing shebang I reckon.
And good on Tyler for her BLM stance. In case you missed it, she takes a knee and raises a fist for the first seven odd minutes of her non-elimination heat.
Several years ago I took Tyler to task in a Burleigh Fruit Shop about all the single-use plastic she had in in her paws. I like to think that encounter awakened Ms Wright’s social conscience, which saw itself expressed so eloquently today.
And without belittling the issue, there’s great potential for surfers to take a knee more often in the future – whenever, a Woz Commentator starts murdering the English language, someone can drop to a knee, raise a fist, and effectively mute the broadcast. The profound and transformational power of silence is something that can truly improve the world on many levels.
And speaking of ethics and values: I was busy typing up how respectful the production team have been – not zooming in on any female bot bots paddling out when I looked up to see Nikki Van Dyke’s duckdiving arse framed fairly tight in screen. Not saying there’s any arse-cam directive, it was just a coincidence.
Rolling into the fellas’ elimination round. To be honest, had your correspondent not been commissioned to cover this comp, I would have logged off by now, but as long as the Woz presses on, I’ll be here, running out of puff as I am – so:
Ace aces Micah Margo.
Ethan takes down Wade – E.E looking particularly strong.
Jules smothers an out-of-rhythm RCal. Jules regularly gets talked up as Oz’s premier world title contender, but I think perhaps that window might have closed. Having said that, the bastard will now probably go on to win the event.
Shame to see RCal looking not-quite there. He’s one of the surfers we’re looking forward to cheering on in 2021 (assuming that when December 31 ticks over to Jan 1st, the world will magically right itself etc)
Mikey gets the better of Morgs, who cuts a Pauline Menczer type figure for some reason, in his sky blue helmey.
The surf holds up reasonably for the Girl’s elimination round and the level lifts from India Robinson and Isabella Nichols, both who rip. Spewing India gets knocked, she’d have easily accounted for Zahli Kelly and Phillipa Anderson in the next heat. Sprightly Sal takes out Holly Wawn, (with the highlight being guest Morgs in the commentary booth mentioning Sal’s Almond Breeze sponsor – which would have pleased team Bonsoy no end). Two genuine prospects Molly Picklum and Keely Andrew go hard at at each other with Molly more in sync.
And thankfully, a mere nine uninterrupted hours of competition later, we can draw a line under day one of the Oz Grand Slam here at Caba.
All up, a decent enough facsimile of a World Tour event. So well done you, Woz!
Ding Alley will tune in tomorrow for finals day with an only marginally diminished level of interest and enthusiasm. Here’s hoping this east swell doesn’t suffer a slow puncture overnight.
Ding Alley is Illustrator/sadist David @maccatoons McArthur and writer/masochist Gra Murdoch