Margaret River Pro: Day 2
Twelve rounds of non-elimination heats run today - costing roughly eight hours of run time, approximately four times the average running length of a Formula One Race.
Yes, we got to see our pampered pooches in some onshore, ragged juice and by and large it was an entertaining spectacle.
Admittedly I felt a little dizzy towards the end, after a day in which the new docu-series 'Make or Break' was spruiked hard by anyone on set with a heartbeat and a functioning larynx. For years we've been pummeled by Turpel and Co about the blessed existence of Pro Surfers: best job in the world, Dream Tour, sunshine and unicorns flowing like honey out of the backsides of anyone who gets near the CT etc etc.
Now, all of a sudden, the talk is of sacrifice and hardships and this Kokoda Track of endurance which makes up the CT. The theme is war, according to seven-time World Champ Steph Gilmore.
Pardon moi for feeling a little spun sideways by this sudden reversal in fortunes of the fortunate few paid to travel the world and ride waves.
Callum Robson had never surfed Mainbreak before today's heat. Let that sink in. One of the trickiest, idiosyncratic stops on the schedule. Ethan Ewing called it “harder to ride than Bells”. Jack Robbo on the broadcast promo assured us it took “year and years of doing it to help us get through it”.
Meanwhile C-Rob waltzed in and took a heat win first crack at it.
My whole operating philosophy on pro surfing had been rookies needed to get a solid grounding at the tour stops before they got on tour. Get prepped and come on ready to show up and blow up. Ethan Ewing's disastrous first year on tour being the prime example of an under-cooked rookie not having the necessary experience at each stop.
C-Rob has blown that theory out of the water. Using local coaches to quickly acclimate and get accustomed to the vagaries of each location, sucking dry their surf IQ, and then backing himself to execute to the word the plan they give him. It's been an extraordinary method of success.
Not new, but the extent to which he has done it and the mental stability he has shown in being able to execute on it has been mind-blowing.
Jacko Bakehouse has similarly impressed, throwing marketing genius into the package. The pink boards. So simple. So memorable.
Big turns, pink boards. It feels completely punk, completely original.
Baker is below the cut and referenced the struggle to stay on top of mindset, saying mid-heat his thoughts went rogue and he would have to sort it out with his sports psychologist.
Good on him. Share those insights around Jacko, we can all use some help in that area from time to time.
More genius from Bakehouse: He made sure in the presser to let it be known he had won all his Round 1 heats so far in his CT campaign. That's quite a stat.
By contrast, Kelly has been sent to the Losers Round three times already this season. Including today. He didn't surf bad. Just weird. At fifty, a portrait of the Artist as an Old Man, Kelly tried to backdoor the peak on the right. Not once, not twice, but three times he had a swing at it. All of them fails. Two big turns on any of those waves and he might have got through. Zeke, clearly very rattled by the cut, surfed incredibly, with the ride of the day. Ryan Callinan was only a shade behind him.
Incredibly, neither surfer signed the petition to axe the cut.
Yeah, we all wanted to see Johnny Florence (as Jack Robbo calls him) have a crack at raw and ragged ten foot Margs. Nothing much has changed. The secret to Johnny's Marg's line is a peculiar reversal to the normal line in bigger waves. Instead of an extended, deep bottom turn, he starts it shallow and early. Gets to the lip earlier and with more speed and then lays down the deep cut. Still, five years later, no-one has figured out how to emulate it.
In my mind, there are only two relevant questions about John's MR campaign.
Is he getting better?
And, will the body hold up to the G-force stresses?
First question. I answer with a question. Does he need to be? With such a clear performance gap to the rest of the field, he doesn't need to improve, or innovate. Numerically, and objectively, the answer is a clear no.
In 2017, the benchmark year, he laid down fourteen excellent rides over the comp. His winning margin was six points in the Final, almost ten points in the Semi.
In 2019, he laid down five excellent rides, with a three point winning margin in the Final and a half-point margin in the Semi.
Last year in ten foot surf he was only good for one excellent score, one of which came from turns and a barrel.
This is a story of a surfer struggling to meet his own benchmarks.
Second question. The knee? Lets take JJF at his word: “I feel completely back to normal”.
One last observation. Without Medina, JJF has seemed listless and a little lost competitively. Hopefully the return of the Triple and Current World Champ at G-Land brings back the best of John John.
Filipe waited patiently as the ocean settled down and cleanly bagged two scores. It feels like another clash between Filipe and John could set the tone for the rest of the year, absent a rampaging Medina. Toledo seems hungrier, obviously aware a title day at Trestles is his best bet to put a World Title in the trophy cabinet.
'Make or Break'. At times over the last few years, and judging by the wild convulsions the sport has indulged in trying to break into 'mass market' sport, the WSL itself has seemed on the cut line. I doubt the double-meaning has penetrated the filmakers' consciousness. The problem with the Woz bubble has always been a pernicious groupthink, which manifests as a total refusal to piss in the tent, in case the dream itself was put in doubt. If 'Make or Break' can breach the walls of that insecurity they will have made an impressive achievement.
Can Ethan Ewing take down JJF? His turns are sufficiently delineated from the JJF template that judges may decide a fresh interpretation is preferable to a slightly smudged version of the Champ's own 2017 masterpiece.
Connor O'Leary looked awesome on a board brought over from Hawaii and tested at Sunset Beach. Very smart strategy.
Issy Nichols offered the most honest appraisal of the (hoped for) impact of 'Make or Break'.
“Look what it's done for F1,” she said, “Hopefully we get a few more people tuning into surfing”.
I call this strategy: To know them is to love them.
At the time, I was a believer. Joao Chianca was giving another thoughtful, heartfelt presser. There was a sadness in his words despite the positive message, “I'm not thinking about it [the cut], just cruising, enjoying my friends and the company.”
He alone, would make a great subject for a doco.
The war talk continued as the day ran out in deteriorating, slowly easing surf.
A tipsy and emotional Shaun Tomson compared the cut to the guillotine of the French Revolution. There was talk of surviving the convergence as Jack Robbo took heavy doughnuts smashing the end apex.
“They are entertainers,” said Bugs.
“All this, said Leo Fioravanti motioning with a sweep of his hand, and presumably including the guillotine, the convergence and the whole damn thing, “all this is part of it”.
Make or break? This feels closer to a make than it has since Kelly had hair.
Leo won his heat.
For a surfer with his physical talent, on the wrong side of The Cut®, that must have been a relief but he has a job to do.
Be a real shame to lose chianca. Has been a real stand out in solid waves. Looking back on pipe, sunset and bells was top 5, just met a better match early on.
Missed most of it as i was checking the surf to smorning even though the swell was too south but im watching it again from the start and it looks a lot bigger than what i saw of the end heats.
A shitty day in Hawaii is a great day at Margs , hence JJ,s dominance . The rest of them and all the froth over what was really an underwhelming day of surf ( compared with east coast ok it was biggish but gnarly or really big nah ) average day at windy Jocko' at best.
Hopefully it's Robbo beats JJ in bigger , cleaner more lined up surf next week
Rest of them .... Cut cut cut
Steve, appreciate your writing, I feel it has gone up a notch recently. Some gold in these reports. Have you felt particularly inspired of late? If you haven't already you should write a book - short stories, observations, anecdotes.
I think Steve used to write books or so i thought. And was a gonzo journalist for swellnet and some other site years ago.
Epic. I agree. Perhaps he was trying a touch too hard years ago? (feeling sheepish at my criticism, please forgive me). Such a pleasure to read.
Agreed. I’m not even watching any more. Better off reading Steve’s summary
in the absence of watching I find these write ups the next best thing.
Having pretty much watched the whole day today from beginning to end, I still look forward to the action (or sometimes lack of) being condensed into easily digested, bite-size chunks.
(I mean that as a compliment)
I feel it would be a great idea to make the first round actually count for something. How about you receive 500 points for winning your first round heat. If this was the case, Jacko Baker would have an extra 2500 points in his kitty towards requalification. All heat wins should mean something, except for the elimination / repercharge / loser round…
thats a good one with the cuts, make it all worth more, i think the half year chop will be good
You're right, upnorth. He is getting better. GOod stuff, FR.
Been looking at that JJF line for 5 years now, and while it's very easy to see what he's doing (well described in the article), what I found hard to figure out is: how does he go from flat, shallow bottom turn to to lip in time to lay down those tracks and not be late and blow it out the back?
The answer of course is that he goes fucken fast, and has the technique/skills to lay all that weight and torque into the top turn. Not easily done. I think a fair few of the coaches and surfers must have figured out the mechanics of it, but just can't execute it.
Which brings me to Joao Chianca. Talent, power, gung-ho attitude. Possible future champ - if he can make the cut, haha!
It would be a shame to lose Joao to the cut.
Just on his Pipeline performance alone he deserves to see out the year.
Epic wrap FR. Good observations on KS too. I was a little baffled by his approach. Almost a bit stubborn. Figured he'd seen big barrels from the shore, decided that it was all or nothing on the barrels, took the quad out, didn't get the tubes he imagined, so when he was out on the open face the board was fanging so hard he couldn't get a proper bottom turn in to slow down and jam some turns. I was surprised on the quad .
Great analysis above by Island Bay too re.JJF and yep, agree with Goofy and others, Joao is someone that the tour needs on there.
Loved Jacko Baker too.
I wonder if KS was thinking they might be at the box today
KS doesn't really have the right attitude for success at Mainbreak i reckon.
Same for Sunset.
He doesn't like the wave much,and just like Sunset too,probably hasn't freesurfed it since way back when he still had a full head of hair in the mid 90's.
And,more than any other CT venue,he always looks like he's on too small a board when it's over 6 feet.
I know that a lot of the CT surfers,current and past,didn't like Mainbreak much either and never surfed it outside of the event,and that's probably why most of them never won it.
I remember seeing JJF surf there the year he made the tour and it was a QS event that he won.
And he was out there surfing before and after the event,while before the event most other competitors were surfing elsewhere,and straight after the event he was the only pro still surfing it and the rest either left town or surfed other breaks in the area.
That says a lot about why he's another league ahead of the rest of the field out there to me.
Great to see the pic of Jacko Baker’s top carve. That wave involved an air drop paddle in to bottom turn to THAT turn, and scored an 8 I think, and deserved it.
I think those JJF carves are influencing the others. Jacko Baker’s could have read ‘inspired by…’ Ethan definitely has something like it and might even be smoother. Other guys realising they have to up their game.
Joao was great, Callum (Murray!) also, Ryan Cal, Conor. Barron Mamiya continues to show he is not out of place here. Just a really good rookie year and a few others who have only been around a few years. Gen next coming through
And I’m sort of digging the pressure of the cut and what it’s bringing to the surfing, and not in a schadenfreude way. Guys are responding to the pressure rather than wilting, at this stage anyway. Maybe it is lighting a fire under their bums.
On the other hand, some good surfers aren’t going to make it. The consolation is that there might be some good waves at Snapper for them to fall back on.
There was one guy who i cant remember his name of but he surfed pretty bad imo any good aussie surf spot has at least 3 locals that would surf better than him. Might be a good tuberider i guess i dont know who it was.
Great cut-through the soapy surf media PR
Make or break…is going to be a scripted melodrama sponsored by some woke company looking for a younger crowd.
Does anyone else get the feeling that fr is using the Woz to further his own standing? It all reads a bit flowery and over the top and unnecessarily artistic when really it's just a simple analysis of a day's surfing.
Eagerly anticipating your contest report tonight cock eye. With your name attached and all of course, as that's the right and true form of journalism. No pressure. How hard could it be???
What? As opposed to writing to weaken my own standing?
why the fuck would I not do the best I can and "further my own standing"?
it's my job.
But, appreciate the criticism of the over the top floweriness.
Will try and keep it tighter.
Not too flowery. Don't worry about it mate. I thought it was a perfect balance of writing. Loved it and judging by the vast majority of comments, almost everyone else did too.
Don't let one throwaway comment from a talking head suppress the “artistic” or “flowery” expression mate. Reading the writeups have been nearly as enjoyable as watching a good heat. Comments prove that crew are either waiting up late, waking up in the night, or checking their phones first light to read your perspective on the day's surfing. Only going to get better when the fat has been cut and this guy is back doing what he does best in a couple weeks/month:
outstanding response, almost better than your contest write up.
Cockee are you familiar with The Outsider and his other Comp Articles ?
As as ways Steve a beautiful summary of the days comp.. no sugar coating it .. the write up is as good as the contestant.. look forward to it .. thanks
More shots fired over on Beachgrit….
" Pampered Pooches" hmmm there is a theme Wsl could use, Jack 'Russell' Robinson, K9 Slater, 'War dog' Gilmore(Cringable Steph)
another well written piece. margs bores me most of the time as an event tho. only time i ever got out of my seat was when jjf got that crazy barrel and top turn for a 10 in a previous event here.
Is it just me? or is this the hardest comp to watch when at main break.
You ever read Matt George articles?
That fuckers middle name is Interflora.
Not interested in comparisons but just get the impression fr is auditioning for a gig with someone bigger than this humble media outlet. It's a feeling which has been building over the entire connest season, with each report being more verbose than the predecessor. Cases in point -
- 'we got to see our pampered pooches in some onshore, ragged juice'
- 'sunshine and unicorns flowing like honey out of the backsides of anyone who gets near the CT etc etc.'
- 'Pardon moi for feeling a little spun sideways'
- 'First question. I answer with a question.'
- 'The problem with the Woz bubble has always been a pernicious groupthink, which manifests as a total refusal to piss in the tent,'
- 'There was a sadness in his words despite the positive message,'
If fr wants to win a Pulitzer he may need to focus on something slightly more existential than the Woz.
But this is a surfing website. I don't get it..??
Gotta wonder your motives on this one cock eye.
me either, doubling down on it now too. At this point this guy should probably just look at the event results on the wsl website to get what he is after. Pointless post with baseless allegations of verbosity. A 17 year old could readily understand his cases in point and enjoy the article for what it is.
Have fun with your over analysis of the analysis.
Cockee, displaying the classic tall poppy syndrome.
Sadly,firmly entrenched in Aussie society.
Fr is at the top of his game,with numerous
runs on the board..
Stay strong mate,
Surf and write well.
'baseless allegations of verbosity' - you either don't know the meaning of the word or didn't read the article. 'tall poppy' - fr? Just making a casual observation which I'm sure will be shared by some but not all. Each to his own.
Hhmm, don't think so cockee. Generally speaking, criticisms around verbosity in writing is usually reserved for texts that are formal or academic. Read academic literature or policy. Rarely does an author writing about a hobby/passion get criticised for using all three rhetorical appeals (ethos, pathos, and logos) + expressive language to capture the imagination, and who is presenting his work to an audience who is more than likely emotionally invested. Which is evident in the comments...He captured (and has captured) the essence of whats going down and delivered it better than most surf writers out there. As most seem to agree. Yes, each to their own, subjectivity and all that.
I didn't take it as tall Poppy.
Feel free to swing Cockee.
I thought it was funny that you thought I was aiming for a Pulitzer though.
Cheers Steve. Nothing personal.