El Salvador Pro: Day 1

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)
Form Guide

My mental picture of El Salvador is quite dated, as is most people's I suspect. Mine is stuck somewhere in the Reagan era, with the right wing death squads, illustrated by Hollywood in Oliver Stone's eponymous film about a drunken journalist who gets on the wrong side of gangs there. I still think of drug lords and gangs and a macho culture where respect is paramount and social interactions have to be carefully negotiated to make sure you don't get on the wrong end of a knife or a gun.

Not the type of place where the whitegoods, active wear, scrubbed clean version of pro surfing circa-2022 belongs, although I guess it does broaden the “kaleidoscope of worlds” the pros must navigate through.

Punta Roca, looks a B-grade point to my eye, one of the many cobblestone-lined breaks of Central America and Mexico. Not as perfect as your QLD sand-bottom points but juicy under the exposure to long period southern hemi groundswells.

Today, however, was distinctly C-grade.

The brownwater gurgle, janky, join-the-dots pointbreak was reminiscent of days and weeks of post-flood surf here, which was not a pleasant viewing experience. In fact, it gave me a mild case of PTSD watching surfers bob in the bacterial soup. Air temp 28 degrees, water not much cooler.

Callum (WSL/Diz)

There's no denying the holes left by the non-appearances due to injury of John Florence and Kelly Slater. Particularly after the release of Episode 1 of Kelly's 'Lost Tapes' put the spotlight back on him. Is he really injured or is he just taking a breather to avoid another 17th place? Maybe looking for a circuit breaker to arrest the slide down the ratings which has gathered momentum since Sunset Beach?

Something like a week at Cloudbreak, maybe? That usually does the trick.

Is this how he retires? A series of no shows at events he doesn't like the look of? We are so used to the idea of a massive Kelly Slater retirement that the reality of a long slow fade out doesn’t seem quite right. But that is where we are.

As for John Florence. We may not see John again this year if he decides the risk to the knee does not justify the investment in the last two comps of the season. A fresh start at Pipe with at least five events to make the cut with the body as good as it can be, may seem far more attractive, especially if the Finals Day is moved somewhere more advantageous to his style of surfing.

Wildcards were in abundance today. Most failed to fire, including The Ultimate Surfer WC Tia Blanco, who was swiftly dispatched by Carissa Moore in their Elimination Round heat. That does show women's surfing in a good place for mine. No disrespect to Tia, but they obviously picked her for The Ultimate Surfer because she's a babe. The integrity of women's surfing has been called into question by mainstream journalists because of this “sex sells” element. Moore ground that fantasy into the cobblestones and showed that skills and competition is what counts.

Tia (WSL/Diz)

Caz Marks was back, with the high swinging arm style a little toned down, and the turn placements as dialed as always. She is through to the Quarters.

The high point of the women's heats was Steph Gilmore's 8.73 in Heat 4 of the Elimination Round against Tatiana Weston-Webb. Have a look at it. It seemed vastly over-scored to me, with the fall at the end, but judges were so smitten with the seamless read on a set wave it's hard to find fault.

A “tricky wave” according to Jackson Baker.

“The worst I've ever surfed it,” was Caio Ibelli's estimation.

Another surprise to the mental model was how many of the Brazilians were familiar with the wave, having laid down campaigns there. Apart from Ibelli, Medina has done his time here. “I've been here a few times,” he said. “It's a good country, the people are lovely.”

If you want to watch one heat from today go watch Gabe murder this jumbled up right. He caught a ton of waves and shredded them all, in a performance he claimed later was all about “letting go”.

He wants to do good, he asserted, “I wanna shot at Trestles”.

It'll be a strange Finals Day if he is not there. No John John, no Medina would have to put a very large asterisk next to the Champ's name for 2022.

Jack Robbo got through with a nice tweaked air. Every heat he makes now, puts him on the cobblestones at Trestles.

Robbo (WSL/Diz)

The highest score of the day, for a single ride, went to Yago Dora, who pumped around the large submerged rock just past the take-off and launched a super inverted tail high rotation. What's the completion rate on airs like that? Super low.

What did the judges give it? A flat 9.

Like G-Land, and unlike Bells, judges don't appear to have decided how to score this wave.

Is it a point to be judged in its entirety or will single turn beachbreak moves get the bikkies?

Yago (WSL/Diz)

The brown water and gloomy low cloud didn't have me racing to book a ticket to La Libertad and the loss of John and Kelly lent a low energy feel to opening day. Somehow, and counter to our intuitions, the post-cut tour has been less exciting, not more. 

Good surf fixes all problems.

We tune in tomorrow to see the first of the Men's field sent home. The Women are already at the Quarter Finals.



fishnsurf's picture
fishnsurf's picture
fishnsurf Thursday, 16 Jun 2022 at 2:20pm

So sick Yago!!!

mpeachy's picture
mpeachy's picture
mpeachy Thursday, 16 Jun 2022 at 2:37pm

The pre-cut waves were better than what we've had since, which makes a difference.

But without the risk of a cut, the rest of the year does feel a little flabby

jetson.rover's picture
jetson.rover's picture
jetson.rover Thursday, 16 Jun 2022 at 11:51pm

On the flip side,if JJF and Kelly do really well or get wins at Jbay and Chopes,they could still make the final 5 at Trestles.
I don't have high hopes for Kelly,even if he did make finals day,as i think he's well past challenging for world titles at this point.
But JJF is a different story.

peppa bluey's picture
peppa bluey's picture
peppa bluey Thursday, 16 Jun 2022 at 2:50pm

I’m glad you asked the question, is a point to be surfed in its entirety. Absolutely it should be. Otherwise what’s the point? (Really no pun intended). We can’t go back to the days of length of ride and number of turns being rewarded but a display of one dimensional surfing on a point wave is a waste. I was about to agree with you on Steph being overscored on that wave you linked to but then I look at Yago’s air and Steph’s surfing is more appealing. It wasn’t critical but then a one-air wave on a point lacks a lot too.

DudeSweetDudeSweet's picture
DudeSweetDudeSweet's picture
DudeSweetDudeSweet Thursday, 16 Jun 2022 at 4:07pm

What’s the surf for tonight meant to be like?

Much better or same / more dribble?

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 16 Jun 2022 at 4:15pm

Cleaner in the morning, same size.

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg Thursday, 16 Jun 2022 at 4:24pm

From a writers perspective...cracker opening paragraphs

tyzee63's picture
tyzee63's picture
tyzee63 Thursday, 16 Jun 2022 at 4:30pm

"although I guess it does broaden the “kaleidoscope of worlds” the pros must navigate through." - haha!

KON's picture
KON's picture
KON Thursday, 16 Jun 2022 at 4:52pm

I am the KON

Nick Bone's picture
Nick Bone's picture
Nick Bone Thursday, 16 Jun 2022 at 5:06pm

You’ve sold me! All hail the KON!!!

bigredcouch's picture
bigredcouch's picture
bigredcouch Thursday, 16 Jun 2022 at 5:38pm

“Good surf fixes all problems”

Nice Steve, nice.

savanova's picture
savanova's picture
savanova Thursday, 16 Jun 2022 at 6:58pm

As nobody gets eliminated till elimination round they should start first contest with full quota and whoever gets eliminated in first elimination round is out for rest of the tour and so forth for the rest of the tour. By the time they get to trussels they've whittled it down to the final show down. No mid year cut but every contest cut.

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude Thursday, 16 Jun 2022 at 7:47pm

Yeah I wouldn’t be hopping over there in hurry. Nor would I Rio. Wake us up for J-Bay.

Paul McD's picture
Paul McD's picture
Paul McD Thursday, 16 Jun 2022 at 8:17pm

I personally think Slater is ripping as good as he ever has, in small waves and larger stuff. Contest wise though he's on a bit of a shocker. But his surfing still stands up wholly in my humble opinion.
Sally was super impressive in her early heat. For all the backlash about her not deserving a spot on the CT, you can't deny, she's the only woman on the CT currently trying airs (if a little frantically), which seems kinda odd to me. Possibly the oldest female on tour is the only one pushing the progression.

Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67 Friday, 17 Jun 2022 at 10:47am

Kelly's free surfing at Snapper was insane. Watch the legends heat, he was on fire, loose 360's and really original lines

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Friday, 17 Jun 2022 at 11:35am

I agree but that loosey-goosey slidey twin fin surfing would not get over 5's in a CT heat.

Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67 Friday, 17 Jun 2022 at 11:37am

True Steve. And therein lies the problem

jetson.rover's picture
jetson.rover's picture
jetson.rover Friday, 17 Jun 2022 at 11:55am

Slater doesn't have big enough consistant enough close out hail marys in his repertoire.
That's the main difference all the world title winners and contenders have over him for the last half a decade or so i've noticed,which they can pull out at most events.
The events where those kind of moves are rarely or never done,is where Slater is still a frontrunner.
Sal is second oldest on tour i believe.
Steph is 3 years older.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Friday, 17 Jun 2022 at 12:11pm

His turns are now way weaker and less powerful than most of the Ct surfers as well.

He likes to ride super loose boards and that has cruelled the big powerful turns judges want to see.

When he tried to ride a CI Semi-Pro at Mainbreak it looked stiff and awkward under his feet.

Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67 Friday, 17 Jun 2022 at 12:15pm

Totally agree. Still rather watch him than most of the CT though, his surfing is never predictable in my eyes.

Paul McD's picture
Paul McD's picture
Paul McD Friday, 17 Jun 2022 at 4:18pm

Completely disagree that his turns are way weaker. Weaker than Cal Robs maybe. I reckon he still buries a rail and hits a lip as hard as almost anyone. Bloody subjective thing surfing is though.
And yeah, that board at Margs didn't go to plan.

bbbird's picture
bbbird's picture
bbbird Thursday, 16 Jun 2022 at 8:28pm

Gabe gouged grovel grade waves.

Airs = WSL points = Injuries

Remigogo's picture
Remigogo's picture
Remigogo Thursday, 16 Jun 2022 at 9:09pm

Good surf fixes all problems.. Nice.

Medina showing us an absolute master class in how to surf the ground swelly wonk. With an ounce of 'whatever' and 2 ounces of 'absolute control'.

Not flying too high or carving too fast.

Kinda... slaying a dragon with a fluffy pillow style. I'm glad to see him back.

Paul McD's picture
Paul McD's picture
Paul McD Thursday, 16 Jun 2022 at 9:21pm

"slaying a dragon with a fluffy pillow"
Classic Remigogo. haha

jetson.rover's picture
jetson.rover's picture
jetson.rover Friday, 17 Jun 2022 at 12:17am

I surfed there in '99.
Got one day 4-6 ft,glassy and pretty bloody good.
Top section has some good shortish barrels,most of the rest of the wave was long and super fun,interspersed with slightly slower and fatter sections,but not overly so.
Great for trimming down the line and going for turn after turn.
I was on my backhand and rate it as one of the most fun backhand surfs i've had,even still now 23 years later.
I though it had the perfect steepness and run down the line at the perfect speed for much of it's length.
Was almost completely uncrowded beyond the top section too.
About a dozen locals and yanks were just chasing the barrels and pulling off after coming out and showed no interest in surfing beyong the top section.
Was a long time ago though prob not like that these days.
But there's no more barrels to think about after the very top section.
I would rate in an A grade wave that day,in terms of super fun wave standards.
Can a wave be A grade if it mostly doesn't barrel?
I've surfed Bells at the same size and similar conditions a lot more times than Punta Roca back in those days,and Punta is definitely better.
Maybe more comparable to winki,but 3 times longer.
Also what's the go in the womans event.
Win your first heat and you're in the quarters already?
That doesn't seem right.
What happens if in the first heat one of them is a no show?
A walk through straight to the quarters?
That's really earning the equal prizemoney right there lol.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot Friday, 17 Jun 2022 at 8:34am

Found myself wide awake at 12:30 last night thanks to teething kid watching the contest which led to googling and wiki’ing El Salvador which in turn led to googling MS-13 and 18th street gang…

Holy hell they are some nasty sons a bitches. I’d seen little bits and pieces on them on Vice and YouTube but reading in to it was eye opening to say the least. They’re fucken nuts.
I can’t imagine growing up in an environment like that where gangs initiate kids on their way to school and they basically have no choice in the matter. Fucked up

I focus's picture
I focus's picture
I focus Friday, 17 Jun 2022 at 2:06pm

Was going to go there in "87" from Guatemala to surf the right hand points but it was two weeks to get a visa and the stories coming out (from locals at the bus station) of the killings then was beyond heavy hopefully the culture has changed, suspect not completely.

ringostarr's picture
ringostarr's picture
ringostarr Friday, 17 Jun 2022 at 8:50am

Just saw the vomit-worthy Sally Harvey Norman ad and now i get the kaleidoscope of worlds reference. Love it Steve!