The Boost Mobile Pro Gold Coast: Day One - I’m on the Edge of My Chair*
By Ding Alley
Things get off to an ominous start for your Ding Alley correspondent this morning, with an email touching down in the wee hours from the Woz, announcing ‘Unboxing Things With Koa Smith is BACK’.
This ancient sport of Hawaiian Royalty, this once edgy, countercultural pursuit of beauty and truth, now governed by an entity that sees tearing open packages in front of a camera and hooting like a chimpanzee once the prize trinket is uncovered as THE news item to lead with in its weekly broadcast.
(Actually, Ding Alley can’t verify that chimp comparison as there’s no way we’d actually click through to check out 'Unboxing Things with Koa Smith' – just as a matter of principle and self-respect.)
Nonetheless, sight unseen, I’m calling ‘Unboxing Things’ – as a surfing content idea – the lowest of all low points in the entire history of surf content, (this coming from someone who’s churned out some stunningly low-grade shite in his time).
Enough of that, we’re here, of course, to throw day one of the Boost Mobile Pro Gold Coast under the Ding Alley microscope.
Held on South Straddie, this is stop two of the three-part Oz Grand Slam, sandwiched between the surprisingly decent Caba comp a few weeks ago, and a Margies mish a few weeks hence.
Ding Alley is as fond of competitive surfing as anyone, but even WE drew the line at tuning in to any of the parallel specialty events over in Brasil or Portugal or whatever. Well, we logged on, but lasted about two minutes when it became clear that they were shit.
We’ve been anticipating this Straddie comp, though. The Other Side (TOS) occupies a warm place in Ding Alley’s heart: many were the times your writer and cartoonist would sprint-paddle across the seaway at dawn in the late ‘80s, playing an aquatic version of frogger with the trawlers, to enjoy the Straddie smorgasbord of uncrowded peaks.
More than nostalgia, however, there’s a few questions only tuning in to the webcast can answer: Will the modest gains made by the Caba comp be consolidated? (For example, the Woz did a great job involving and acknowledging the Bundjalung / Juraki mob in Caba, with mentor heats, profiles and Joel Slabb in the booth. Will they follow that up with the Yugambeh and Kombumerri crew?) Which surfers will fill the draw in this crazy COVID-bubble-border-crossing era? Will the next two days vindicate this domestic grand slam format? Or was Caba simply thrown into a deceptively flattering light by the complete absence of connests over the six months preceding it? And can an organisation with people who green-light ‘Unboxing Things’ prowling its corridors do un-shithouse things as well?
On the beach in Burls under the waning moon early this morning, one thing isn’t in question: The conditions are not exactly screaming of a vintage morning’s surf on South Straddie. Unkempt, ornery, and out of the east. Were this the late-80s, Ding Alley would not pile into Macca’s lime green Mazda 303 and tootle north for a sesh.
Regardless, come 7.00am QLD time, the Wozcast begins with the not-unpleasant revelation of Bugs and Occ as the commentary A-team. The thought strikes me that we could well do worse than these two, (and sadly in a few heats time, when the B-team rotates on, worse is indeed the case, but we’ll get to that.)
OK, so there’s no indigenous acknowledgement or any of that carry-on (unless I missed it) so Caba must have been an enlightened one-off in that respect. (Gotta love the Woz’s mix of opportunism and inconsistency, hey). This small but significant bummer is countered by the pleasant surprise – no token non-elimination ‘seeding’ heats this time round! Heats with consequence. Like a REAL contest!
The kindest thing to say about the morning’s conditions is that they can only improve with the tide and some random puffs of unseasonal south-westerly airstream. The 12 girls go first in what’s essentially a lucky dip. Nikki VD looks the most sure-footed in the washing machine, yet amasses a total heat score still in single figures. Isabella Nicholls is first to put the jigsaw together and gets a 13.5.
As the men come out for their Round of 12, the sun breaks through, the tide moves in over the bank, Robbo and Liam O’Brien get shacked and it feels like the promise of a sick day might yet deliver. But it’s a mirage, really.
There are diamonds in the rough all through the day, and some marvellous surfing from both guys and gals, but if you’re considering, say, sitting through all seven-plus hours of the broadcast replay, I would beg you, for the love of God, to consider seeking out a highlights package instead.
I’m determined for my seven-hours of continuous arse-sitting watching this webcast on your behalf to count for something, however, so here are some observations. In point form, as I don’t possess the Shearer-or-Carroll-or Nettle-esque ability to weave ’em all into a Ewing-esque smooth narrative.
- I can’t think of anyone who veers from crimes against commentary to poetic eloquence and back again as radically and often as Occ. For every time Occ repeats his belief that TOS would be a great back-up venue for the Snapper comp (no less than nine occasions), or murders the Queen’s English, he’ll come out with something effortlessly lyrical, like this gem when describing heat management in such a confused lineup: “There’s no rhyme, no reason, no method, you really just gotta flow with it.” Sure he’s a better colour guy than play-by-play commentator, but it’s a tick for this national treasure.
- Bugs delivers a commentary masterclass: Informed, whimsical yet disciplined. Relaxed. Many bonus points for not once pushing his political agenda or sloganeering.
- The commentary B-team consists of Reg Prasad, surf reporter at uber-plebeian FM station ‘Hot Tomato’ and unfortunate companions producing a spectacular lack of chemistry. Their heat calls have all the excitement of a strictly supervised school party where there’s no alcohol, ciggies or fingering allowed. Reg also isn’t as knowledgeable about the surfers he’s calling as an anchor should be. (Example: labelling Soli Bailey ‘a true toiler’ and ‘consistent’, moments before Soli comes close to landing the day’s most monstrous, reckless, and inspired air.) Fail. Unkind on my part, I know, but too bad.
- In place of any Indigenous recco, It seems we’ve got a GC tourism campaign featuring Parko and Fanning sincerely urging one and all to come to the GC. “Bring ’em all to our place and show ’em all how great it is.” Uh, OK. Parko’s call that the GC “feels like home” may not come as a surprise to many. I do hope these guys are doing this for some motive other than money, otherwise it’s undignified hustling for a buck neither of them need.
- Nice moment when Chris “Ibis” Bennetts gets a tunnel back up the beach from his North End buddies. It’s a reminder of the energy a club dynamic brings. Actually, just having people around elevates proceedings hey.
- Seeing the sand-pumping pipe, prominent in many angles and shots through the day, standing dormant makes Ding Alley wonder about generous benefactor Dirk Ziff, working the levers of financial supply at the other end of the Woz’s money tunnel. How much longer is he willing to pump coin into the machine before he concedes it’s always gonna get washed away up the beach and out to sea? And what then..?
- And is it just me or is it strange that the Woz push the line that the 2021 tour is gonna go ahead seemingly free of the 2020’s troubles and afflictions? Will there be some magic kind of reverse Y2K in play, when, at the stroke of midnight on December 31st this year, this bastard virus evaporates or something?
- This pro surfing as entertainment thing isn’t rocket science: The more the waves have to offer, whether it’s performance or consequence, and the better the surfing, the better the spectacle. Pretty simple.
Back to the heats, the girls quarters see Steph misreading the lineup, reduced to braille by the flushing tide, and little Sophie McCulloch – who I’ve never heard of – belts a turn better than I’ll ever do.
The men’s quarters see Jack R’s next-level tube-drive. (seriously, if there’s one wave you should check out, it’s Robbo’s nine-something. Not worth sitting through seven hours of a comp for, god no, but that’s some extraordinary foamball work right there.)
By two-ish, the tide's dropping and the northerly’s ripping through the lineup like a cough through a pensioner and the comp’s called for the day.
And for all Ding Alley’s bitching and moaning and carrying on, and for how the Woz seems determined to shred any vestige of respect from the game (I direct the court’s attention to Exhibit A: Unboxing Things With Koa Smith) – if the surf’s just a bit cleaner tomorrow, and if that Hot Tomato guy maybe has to be elsewhere, then it could be a ripper morning of comp watching.
// DING ALLEY
Ding Alley is Illustrator Dave @maccatoons McArthur and Writer Gra Murdoch.
*The article’s title is a verbatim quote from the day’s commentary. It was either that or 'Adaption Is The Name Of The Game.'