Pipe 2023: Day 3
Pipe 2023: Day 3
There may have been a worse competition day at Pipe, but if so it's certainly lost in a pre-webcast analogue history.
Nothing searchable online is remotely as bad as what the WSL forced the Women's Quarter-Finals to be held in today.
The cynical position, which my brain automatically jumped to, was that the Woz was desperate to re-route the narrative away from the new Trans inclusion guidelines which have blown up in their face in the most spectacular way. Rightly or wrongly, the mainstream media (mostly the right-leaning outlets) have sniffed out a new front in the culture war and with one of the WSL's media darlings dishing out the softballs it's been a nightmare 24 hours for the Woz. They would have been hoping the announcement would have sunk without a trace in between Pipe swells but instead they have been mercilessly exposed as an organisation running far ahead of their supporter base and even athletes. Although we wouldn't know that as, for the most part, it's been complete radio silence from the Women's side of the draw.
So, at the very least, instead of an horrendous silence filled with the clamour of one of (Western) societies most hot button culture issues they'd have some of kind of competitive surfing narrative to run.
So goes the cynical take.
Otherwise, I guess, we have to believe an armada of people reporting to WSL Chief of Sport Jessi Miley-Dyer saw something other than small inconsistent closeouts on a reef whose contours had been deformed by an over-abundance of sand.
Which seems more likely to you? They ran to change the news cycle, or they ran because they thought it was surf worthy of Pipe Final's heats..?
In a strange irony, despite the new breed showing a clear performance gap over the old guard it was old skool techniques that female pros had to traditionally rely on - i.e scrapping around closeouts looking for a corner - which won the day.
You could not say the best surfers won, with the possible exception of Tyler Wright who makes her third Pipe Semi-Final finish in as many starts without a single completed Pipeline (left) barrel. Tyler scrapped magnificently around the Ain'ts end section for a heat total over 10 (11.64). Not that she was challenged in any way. Tatiana Weston-Webb sat forlornly over on the lefts for the majority of the heat, catching absolutely zero makeable waves for a 1.16.
That was pretty much the difference but Tyler saw it as being, “solid in my underlying values; really connected and really present...I was really grounded in my process”.
Which caused Ross Williams to declaim, "the mental game is almost everything”.
That's a fashionable piece of sports orthodoxy but it measures up very poorly to observed reality. The waves were terrible and Tati sat in the wrong spot waiting for waves that never came.
Psychology had nothing to do with that.
Molly Picklum came out in a very feisty mood, scrapping up and down the lineup, which did not help her avoid the closeouts. She knifed into a Pipe closeout with a very serviceable pig dog for a 1.33, which was the only score (and indeed the only wave) she took to the heat's conclusion. Carissa ID'ed a small, open Backdoor runner that contained a toy tube for a 4.67.
Somehow that low point was bested by the next heat which saw zero waves made. Four non-makes saw Bettylou get a better closeout than Gabby Bryan. Mercifully, JMD called a halt to proceedings as the heat wound down. Sakura Johnson's assessment was still right on: “Nonetheless, these heats really matter”.
They very much do, and if it turns out careers have been sacrificed to fronts in the culture war, disgruntled participants may go looking for retribution - or answers at the very least.
It was not an easy watch. There was nothing resembling elite sport about it, which made Bettylou's parting comment even more gracious: “Thanks guys for watching”.
// STEVE SHEARER