G'Land Pro 2022: Day 2
There's nothing remarkable about getting skunked - it can happen anywhere to anyone - but there seems something different about it when it happens at dry season G'Land. Considering the hype and the anticipation from all quarters of the surfing fraternity, to turn on the webcast and see onshore dribblers feels shocking.
As many others have noted it's hard to escape the cosmic significance of this particular skunking.
G'Land, the wave at Plengkung Bay fringing Alas Purwo National Park, has a deep spiritual significance for Javanese mystics. In their mythology, Alas Purwo is the place where the Earth first emerged from the ocean. Events which could threaten the sacred power of G'Land are considered to be subject to the laws of divine intervention. A belief is widely held by supplicants who make pilgrimages to the park that the area is spiritually protected.
To think there is a corner of the surfing universe protected by spirits against Harvey Norman carpet bombing is deeply comforting, even if it the jungle itself seems to be sending pros half crazy with boredom.
It was a day of many weird heats as a somnolent Indian Ocean struggled to send surfable sets. Not least the last heat of the day. In silky head high Moneytrees, Connor O'Leary bested 2019 World Champ Italo Ferreira. You'd think: High scoring heat with insane rides, yet neither of them could reach double figures.
Italo launched a huge full rotation air to the flats in the opening minutes - one of those WTF! airs he specialises in. He fell and then sat there like chastised toddler in the naughty corner for ten minutes, allowing his opponent free reign of the reef. Italo then launched, fell, changed boards, changed boards again, and looked thoroughly out of sorts. Almost as if some practitioner of Javanese black magic had laid a curse on him. Connor wasn't much better, falling on a wave that only required a simple finish to slam the heat shut.
G'Land has revealed a strange sense of post-cut torpor on tour. Everyone is safe until next May so the stakes are now substantially lowered. Absent the energy of pumping surf, no-one seems revved up to shoot for the Final Five. Maybe Trestles just feels too far away in time, untethered from the day to day dreaminess that life in the G'Land jungle camps engender. After a full day of running through the field, there is no clear frontrunner. Everyone seems content to cruise with the pack.
The closest to a standout today was Griffin Colapinto. In one of the tightest heats of the day (one of the very few), Griff exchanged scores and the lead with Miggy Pupo. Miggy's hit and drift at speed was sublime but Griff found a way to square up and push turns through the full arc. Running and gunning at head high Moneytrees was not a way to bag big scores according to judges. They paid beachbreak surfing more than classical reef lines.
Beachbreak surfing and scoring at G'Land. It was a bad joke a week ago. Our worst nightmares in that respect came luridly to life in the first heat of the Round of 16 between JJF and Jaddy. John was surfing silky with reef lines punctuated by huge gaffs and spray explosions. Jaddy turned the heat with two single air rides. Yes. Pump, pump, air reverse. God bless Jaddy, but that was an abomination.
While long lulls and nervous surfing tested the repertoire of commentators, cruel comparisons were in our face all day. Images of 8-10ft Speedies taunted us while a turn and closeout hit was enough to get through heats. No-one suffered more from the comparison than Kelly Slater. Images of his '96 win at 23-years of age, already a double World Champ, leveraging a 90's blade constantly beyond vertical into pockets running at full speed down the reef gave his heat performance today a poignant edge. Two low 4's scored for a few mis-timed and wobbly lip hits and an old man roundhouse showed the cost of continuing on after the Pipeline triumph. Father Time is undefeated and we now say (with sadness) Kelly surfs unreal...for a 50-year old. He can't hang with the pack outside heavy water lefts.
Even Medina looked odd against Andino. For a time. With five minutes to go he got a bomb set and unleashed the repertoire down the full length of the reef. All the old hunting instincts kicked in: a cheetah on the savannah with the weakest gazelle in the flock poised beneath the swooping claw, the sharpened canine. That was the best wave of the day for mine, a miserly 7.17, still not judged better than Kanoa Igarashi's 7.67 for a turn and closeout hit on a twenty yard ride earlier in the day. Madness.
Pro surfing in Indonesia would seem like the biggest no-brainer on Earth. It's got the world's best waves. Tropical conditions that make temperate European, American, and Australian audiences salivate with desire. Yet it has not been able to sustain a single CT despite an on again/off again relationship with many memorable high points.
Head of the Asian Surfing Co-operative and chief protagonist for the pro surfing project in Indonesia, Tipi Jabrik, alluded to the low level corruption and culture of kickbacks in a 2018 interview with ASB as a stumbling block. Interviewed today on the webcast he referred to his hard lobbying of the Indonesian government to support pro surfing as a way of increasing tourism - the highly successful Australian business model.
So lack of government support, low level corruption, and palm greasing are obstructions. Also, one more important factor: a home grown hero.
Enter Rio Waida in his heat against Filipe Toledo. Perhaps with an inkling of what is potentially at stake: only the entire Indonesian pro surfing project. Not saying that explicitly factored into the scoring. Just that there was a very strong “narrative drive” for Rio to succeed in the jungles of G'Land as an Indonesian champion.
In the first half of the heat, Rio had not much. Filipe caught a lot of waves and was surfing with an insane amount of speed and verve. A full speed snap to fins-free foam climb that looked a clear 6 was given a 5.33.
Low scoring kept Rio in the game - it did not seem justified. In the end the professionalism of Toledo was too great. He iced a wave for a 5.90, also lowballed, and Rio was knocked.
Will they come back to G'Land after this epic skunking? Indonesian pro surfing history would suggest not. Even epic successes like Keramas have not been followed up.
Minus support from the government we will see how committed to the project Quiksilver and the Woz are, or whether the spiritual protectors of G'Land will intervene to keep them out.
Seeya for Finals Day.
// STEVE SHEARER