The Newcastle Cup: Day Three - Meowcastle
By 3.30 this arvo, your Ding Alley creative team still had no idea what ‘toon we were gonna come up with today. Text messages had been bouncing between our respective coasts, until Macca suggested, ‘What about Alice in Wonderland, with Morgan Cibilic as the Cheshire Cat and JJF as Alice?”
Sounds good to me. After all, it’s the talking point of the day, the Newy rookie with the teen-idol grin out-railing a perplexed JJF in surreal ambush.
So I texted him back. “Sure, let’s do it, but I think we need Joe T as the caterpillar.“
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the ONLY relevance today’s title (and illustration) have with any part of this article.
You shouldn’t be surprised by this lack of cohesion. Ding Alley’s quasi-surf-journalism caper is a total rort really. Let me explain.
Back in the day before the interwebs, real journos and writerers would take themselves to the beach in question, notebook in hand and start journalisming. Some would lurk in the shadows, low-profile observers and eavesdroppers, others would go Gonzo, place themselves in the story. Regardless of their line of attack, they’d be there, observing the real thing unfold.
And while real, on-site journalisming is still a thing, this writing-about-a-webcast schtick is more commonly practiced, and it’s one where a writer needn’t get out of his or her pyjamas to get the job done. Which is kind of lame when you think about it.
Sometimes, though, even this easy-peasy comp caper has its challenges. Your correspondent kept tabs on the first chunk of today’s action on a draining-battery iPhone – one bar of 3G leading to multiple freezes and dropouts – in waiting and consultation rooms of the local Medical Centre, accompanying a beloved family member through a rough ol’ time.
Didn’t help that the Covid mask was steaming up me bloody specs, but hey, Ding Alley’s a professional outfit, and we soldier on despite less-than-stellar circumstances, which feels like a decent segue into today’s comp.
The good news is – and it’s worth reminding ourselves of this, as how quickly we forget – that we have ourselves a contest! Groms pestering their heroes for autographs, pulling faces and throwing shakas behind the post-heat presser plexiglass, the drone of the beach commentary, a moderate crowd on the sand. Zillas waving flags in a slightly menacing way, It’s all reassuringly ‘normal’
The less-than-good news is, day three of the Newy Cup’s not gonna be one for the books. 32 of the world’s best surfers throwing spanners at each other in middling to mediocre waves. Though, as Kanoa sensibly observed later in his post heat presser, “You can surf this wave as hard as you want, ‘cos it’s always coming back at you.”
And it’s the coming-back-at-you dynamic of this little rocks-break that makes the comp entirely watchable. It may not be Keramas, or Snapper or J-Bay, but at least there’s lots of rides to watch.
A positive mindset is required through such a marathon day of heats, and here’s where the fresher faces of the commentary squad prove their worth, to wit: Laura on the sled in the first heat sharing her excitement about the tide going out, Richie in the booth nine heats later celebrating the fact the tide’s coming back in.
When one considers that the oceans of the world are in constant tidal shift – (Laura’s preferred outgoing, Richie’s favoured incoming, back to Laura’s preferred outgoing, etc) – it’s good reason to be perpetually cheerful.
Just something to keep in mind if you find modern life getting you down.
Righto, to some uninspired notes on a few heats:
OK, so when Gabby steamrolled Connor O’Leary like a Panzer tank in the day’s opening heat, and the camera cut away to his missus on the beach, you had to spare a thought for stepdad Chuckles, watching the Wozcast back home in Brazil. I picture him, standing in the living room, barefoot with his jeans rolled up, ready to dive through the portal of the screen, appearing out of nowhere on the Newcastle sand for a hug and a boardchange.
I’m mentioning Frederico versus Ace in heat two, because otherwise it’d be forgotten forever by everyone. How’s this, we’re FINALLY in the guts of an Honest-To-God ‘CT event in Oz, after fuck-knows how long, but given our exposure to epic clips on demand, etc, elite-level-jerseys doing three whacks to the beach in underhead surf isn’t captivating as it once was. Still amazing surfing, but we’re so well fed with content these days. Anyway, Ace found himself needing a high six as the clock wound down on his heat, and, some might speculate, career.
Now, it may seem like D.A zeroes in on Joe Turpel with unfair and malicious intent, and it’s true his role as hyperbolic straight man makes him an easy target, but we like him a lot, and it’s with great affection that we draw attention to his claim midway through heat three (Flores unexpectedly falling to de Souza) about “some of the best coffee in the world here at Merewether.” Therein lies the greatness and weakness of Joe’s act: relentless sunny praise that, while it often cannot be factually argued against, is largely bullshit fluff anyway. We say this with love.
Missed the Jack and Jules heat due to various doctors yammering away, but did manage to catch Jules having a decent crack at some post-heat shade-throwing, conspicuously calling Robbo a ‘kid’, and warning “Ya gotta get out of my way if I’ve got priority and there’s one minute left.” Oooh! Feisty!
Get home with a dead phone to catch the back half of the JJF / Morgs heat. Not a lot to say really, other than, “beware the wounded competitor”, which the commentary team will reliably recite ad infinitum. A bummer to see JJF go down, as we’re denied the spectatorial pleasure of more Newy heats, but here’s to the continuing feelgood story of Morgs and more reason for Cheshire grins from the young fella.
Similarly, we didn’t pick Wade-O the Pie Man to scoot past Seth Moniz. Goes to show!
Maybe this is some Joe T-level sunny optimising, but when the waves are ornery, maybe it brings the competitive aspect more to the fore, because the back half of the day features some intriguing-enough tussles, not to mention a welcome swell pulse in the last two heats.
Given the unexpected outcomes of the previous two heats, it felt like R-Cal was never totally safe against sponno wildcard Crosby Colapinto, but good to see the beloved local lad back himself at the death.
A similar pattern with Miggy Pupes scaring Owen, and the big fella needing to show his mettle to squeak through, turning up the intensity of backhand hooks when needed.
Gotta say though, Miggy’s always had such a great style, and it seems he’s perpetually thwarted by small margins.
Particularly pleasing to Ding Alley’s ear is Bugs’s inability to say ‘Miguel’. There’s daylight between Bugs and the next best commentator at this comp, but to hear him say ‘Migwell’ a dozen times is a delightful reminder we all have our verbal tics.
At this stage, possibly emotionally tuckered out by a morning spent in the QLD health system, or possibly by witnessing too many four-point rides, Ding Alley kinda threw in the towel on the old note-taking and giving a damn.
Jacko Baker gave it a nudge against Italo, but no surprise result; Griff Col (heir apparent to Ace Buchan as best tactical claimer) took Bourez out; Ethan Ewing misfired against the People’s Republic’s Kanoa; Heat 12 between Deivid Silva and Caio Ibelli was… I don’t even care to be honest - one of ‘em won. Big dog Jordy and Orange-Is-The-New-Black Conner Coffin, bullocked their way through (good to see Conner get a roll on). Yago-Chris Cornell-Dora threw thingy of the comp to remove Jack Firestone, and Filipe ToldYaSo looked incredible over a valiant Leo.
And we’re done diddly done.
Actually, one last thing. Something interesting happened in the last few heats. I don’t know if it was planned, accidental or opportunistic, but some clever WozCast camera person or director set up a slo mo cam on the shorey, and shot in tight on the surfers’ faces as they completed their step-off closing moves. The late arvo light was perfect, and there were some REALLY interesting replay studies of unguarded emotion and intensity. Whoever was responsible should get a gold star, as it was that rarest of things – a new view on this pro surfing racket. Well played, whoever you are.
// DING ALLEY