Sunset 2023: Day 3
Sunset 2023: Day 3
Second comp in and we seem to have found a rough rhythm; that being the best surfing and most entertaining action happening whilst grinding out huge days of over-lapping heats with most of the field intact.
When the surf is pumping, as it was today, despite Seth Moniz calling it a “weird windswell”, it's not a hard formula. Let the surfing talent do the heavy lifting and try and stay out of the way. Which the Woz largely did. No major fuck-ups, no howlers from the judging panel or priority judge.
The howlers came from the surfers themselves; John John Florence being the prime example. The first indication something wasn't right came in his Round of 32 heat with Ian Gentil. He came off a bottom turn and fell on a regulation top turn carve. It does seem true that John is judged against the idealised version of himself and he was strangely downscored for his subsequent waves. Did enough to win but it was unconvincing.
The palpable feeling was he would “correct” that mistake in his Round of 16 heat against Nat Young with Sunset now fully on the pump and inside tube sections galore. A dominant JJF statement heat looked inevitable. He fell on his first two rides slightly overcooking turns. He fell again, he went over the handlebars on the drop, he bodged up tubes he usually makes in his sleep. By my calculations he rode six waves for no makes and a sub-10 pt heat total.
John now leaves Hawaii with a 5th and a 9th. Thats not shithouse, but it's a very weak pair of results for the widely acknowledged best surfer in the world. There are shades of last year where he wasn't 'on', often enough, to keep pace with the breakaways.
John being the exception that proves the rule: Shit surf levels the field, pumping surf shows where the true levels are at.
I was keeping a tube tally for Jack Robinson, and then at some point realised he had so many I'd lost count. He packed 'em out the back, through the middle, and down the inside. He looked thoroughly comfortable in the line-up and even on the glass the twitchy, tweaked out 'spectrum-type' energy has been tamed and toned down. We just see a young man at the peak of his powers - arguably the best surfer in the world at this moment. Best guy at Pipe, potentially the best guy at Sunset, already clocked wins at G-Land, Margies etc etc. Those are compelling stats.
He was never challenged in his heat against Carlos Munoz and always had things in hand against Pipe finalist Leo Fioravanti, despite a competitive performance from Leo that Jack described as “elbow to elbow from the start”. If anything his scores were slightly cool for the surfing he did.
The structure of the new tour has changed the equation with respect to desirable physical attributes. Pipe, Sunset, Portugal, Bells, and Margies favour big bodies who can throw buckets and chunks. Kelly looks on the wrong side of that calculus. Others did too.
The power differential between, say, Gabe Medina at close to 6 foot and 80 kegs and Rio Waida, 5'7” 64 kilos was stark. Gabe threw huge rooster tails off bottom and top turns and let go of the rail for a hands-free chat deep inside the inside bowl of Sunset Beach. Meanwhile, Rio looked spidery and sketchy through turns.
Small guys like Pip and Italo have been forced to accommodate the requirement for power by packing on muscle. The new start to the schedule - Hawaiian power compared to Australian beachbreaks - will continue to shape the tour in the same way physical demands shape rugby league players. Only the very best and most creative small bodies will be able to match the beefcake as your average tour surfer (think JJF, Gabe, Jack Robbo, R-Cal, Jacko Baker, O'Leary, Joao) trends towards a classic middleweight size.
Kelly looks undercooked now in most venues where turns count, none moreso than here at Sunset. 9.70 and 9.57 were Kelly's two heat winning totals - perhaps the two most important sub-10 points totals of his late career. Doing just enough to sneak past a hapless Jake Marshall gives him a 17th and a 9th coming out of Hawaii and a chance - forecast dependent - to make the cut.
Ethan Ewing official stats are 5'11” and 77kg. No way he is under 80 klicks now. Almost a light heavyweight. I saw him walk past me at the point and his quads in rubber looked a condom stuffed full of walnuts. The orthodoxy has been to compare Easy E with Andy Irons, yet I see shades of a different power surfer who could leverage his frame into extreme carves. Brendan Margieson.
Technique and muscle for EE. Kelly didn't even try and compete with the turns. He fell into one cavern right down the end of Sunset's inside bowl for a 5.67 before spending the last minutes of the heat needing an 8.17 paddling right up the top of the lineup, almost to the back peak, in a forlorn homage to “real” Sunset surfing which he acknowledged in a gracious but low energy presser. Citing Curren, Kong et al who paddled in from deep on the back button with the classic Sunset peak drop, he calibrated the present with the past. “We sit inside on smaller boards now and catch the edge of it,” he said. "A part of me wanted to go sit out there”.
Along with physiques, Sunset is reshaping surfboard requirements. Recent times we would never see anything whipped out of board coffins bigger than a 6'3”. Six fours, six fives, even Filipe Toledo on a magic six eight are bringing back longer lines and creative power surfing. Caio on a magic Rusty looked insane and he got himself into another Quarter-Final.
Chianca (no stats available but he looks 5'11 75+kg) stole the day though on a six two. The problem all day had been finding the good ones in a broad lineup, disfigured a little by short period NNE swell whipped up by a cranky Kona low north of the Islands. Chianca solved the problem by catching anything that moved. It was dizzying keeping up with the scores, he always seemed two or three rides ahead of the judges.
Nine rides, two over 8-points to defeat Yago Dora, and eight rides, two better than 8-points to best Italo Ferreira.
“Best competitive day of my life,” he called it whilst detailing he had a hard time keeping a lid on the emotion. Back into the Quarters for him and nothing but blue sky ahead.
My pick? Jack Robinson.
No real reason. It's very safe but Jack seems immune from anything that could be remotely described as dark forces. Three foot Sunset Point, inside bowls, back buttons, and all configurations in between. He's got it covered.
// STEVE SHEARER
Few other good photos from today:
Slater and his five fin
Argh you had me really excited for a second or two read the 5 fin comment before scrolling to the bottom pic.
For a second l thought Kelly was on 5 fin Greg Griffin (Sunset is Gregs backyard so made sense)
Would be interesting to see Kelly on one of these, love to give one a go, but they never made sense to me, even the snub fin to me just adds drag, but Kelly likes it.
Old read on the boards https://www.swaylocks.com/groups/obvious-answer-whats-deal-griffins-5-fins
I've got a Murray Bourton Reef Swallow, and he gave me a tiny little stub fin when I picked it up. Told me to try it if running it as a quad, and it bloody well works. It's less than 1" deep, but it feels good.
For some stupid reason I haven't tried it in other boards, but I will. Thanks for the reminder,
Muz uses the shapers dark drive.
I tried it, but I preferred just going a tiny bit bigger in the rears in powerful surf.
I made myself a copy of one of those - a really good fish design. Any loss of speed you get from drag - you get back in spades from the drive of the rail fins. Quads with wide tails and the fins out on the rails generally turn like a shopping cart with a loose wheel - the middle fin prevents that and makes it feel really positive - does demand a back foot technique though.
Indo you know that Greg passed recently RIP
I reckon if you’re gunna run a tiny little nubster like that, why not a single one tab fcs box?
Great write up Steve.
Stu, those angles on the water photos do sunset more justice than the drone / shore footage in the heats.
Finally got to watch a decent amount of the comp. Really enjoyed it. Great, but clearly challenging, waves. solid, somewhat (slightly) relatable surfing in that it wasn’t an air show or all deep technical tubes.. No jabbering Joe.
Gunning for the Aussies. As soon as Jacko Baker took that last shitty wave I knew he’d left the door open for Kanoa. Poor tactics.
Hopefully mention of the bashing of the board has been lost in the actual good surfing and surfing challenges of the day
fantastic day...I loved all I watched. Such a cool wave....it's not perfect infront of them and they have to work a bit
The Woz should start fining surfers who do that to their board, similar as racquet abuse at the tennis. It’s an awful look to aspiring young kids. These guys are meant to be professional athletes so learn how to control your shit.
iirc there was a board stomp that was on a promo vid the other year? Perhaps meant to highlight the emotion, but yeah...
Wondering whether JJ very very lightly creased / weakened his Board on that first wave
A small % of Stringer Weakness Damage just enough to change the way it Surfed but not noticable due to the conditions....Plausable ?
Either way its a pitty cause I really liked the look of the red / yellow board.
I feel he was just pretty unlucky today.could have went either way fall vs make.
That's a real short period swell for Hawaii.
Could of thrown him off .
Well it did actually.
Surely he'd know right away, Udo. After 20 years of finetuning boards with Jon Pyzel?
I think it's more likely that the pressure of expectations got to him. Top three surfer in the world, but I don't think he's figured out things competitively.
Some outstanding surfing in such a challenging wave. I love watching good sunset. Only small thing I would say is the odd judging occasionally. Accept it is subjective but thought RCal was comparatively underscored, and J Baker was just thoroughly robbed.
Agree on Jacko B. When Kanoa's scores were coming in, and it took ages for the decisive last two to drop, I 'knew' that the fix was in. Too bad that he even left the door open.
I agree about the length of time for those last 2 judges. But if you want to win a heat, then gotta do it convincingly - if it's close then you've left yourself open to judging shenanigans.
Baker ripped off
Yes he made error in not holding priority longer in last 4 yrs
Igarashi has long been a wsl favourite and often gets those close heats with his invariable claim
Off course their mindful of the Japanese market
His winning wave was no better than the 7.07 he got in next round vs mcillray
As I watched that score drop it would not have surprised me if he got the score
I fear that the heat loss for Jacko could sadly see him miss the cut off then the challenger grind
Yeah, same. I think the first three were
7.80. (WAY too high)
Then a loooooong pause and
Didn’t fill me with faith
yeah Jacko was ripped off bummer for him........they want a foot in the door with the Japanese market i assume with Kanoa.........what's the go with Kelly chopping and changing boards all the time....seemed like the board was good in a straight line but weird when put into a turn....wish he would team up with channel islands for a while and just see what would come of it in his last year on tour cause i can't see him being around next year .
Oh c'mon... WSL judged aren't juicing Kanoa's scores because "they want a foot in the door with the Japanese market".
Same thing was repeated ad infinitum with the supposed favoured scoring of Brazilians, because they "want to sell more boardshorts in Brazil" etc.
Sure, WSL's scoring is questionable at times, but it's not part of an international expansion strategy.
Don't spoil a good conspiracy here, they were clearly chasing the yen and prepared to do anything for it...well, at least until Kanoa came up against someone representing the highly lucrative South African market.
I'd like that too Simba, I reckon Kelly's results would get better too.
But: he is pushing boundaries and trying things in the ultimate competitive arena, best crucible to test in.
How's that last wave!
"the widely acknowledged best surfer in the world" title will soon be conferred on Jack Robinson.
Depending on how long JJF's knees last, as the past three seasons he has been able to surf just 4-5 events before his knee gives out?
“The orthodoxy has been to compare Easy E with Andy Irons, yet I see shades of a different power surfer who could leverage his frame into extreme carves. Brendan Margieson.”
I keep trying to work out who to compare him to. There’s definitely some AI and Margo, some mirrored Louie, but I reckon he’s got his own unique style that I could pick it as him from over a mile away.
Ethan, 5’11” and 77kgs - that’s as close to my figures as you’d care to imagine, but that man is a beast, and I’m not going to scare anybody.
‘A condom full of walnuts’ - attribution where it’s due Steve. That was Clive James description of Arnie Schwarzenegger, many moons ago. A great line though and worth keeping in the back pocket, as all good writers do.
A really good write up Steve. It was a good day of surfing much to our surprise. There were punchy and sizeable waves, and the fact that they weren’t mechanical perfection increases the appeal to me. That’s what ‘we’ surf, although maybe not that size.
Jack, Ethan, Jiao, Matty M were real highlights for me. Kanoa did well but I felt he was lucky to get the nod against Jacko who also surfed well.
Jack, or Ethan for me, but Grif Colapinto is a good dark horse bet.
And Stu, that photo at the top is a cracker.
Was impressed with Toledos approach. He was giving it to some big sections. Looks like that bigger board accomodates for the lack of physical size compared to other competitors.
To be honest, i'd prefer to see Slats step up his board sizes similarly and just draw pure lines. Strange not to have a plan B other than try to get barrelled. He'd never beat EE on turns, but in a 40minute heat, surely you have to have a crack as you never know how the heat would unfold. There was no pressure on EE and he just did his thing and ran away with it.
On EE, i don't think there's another surfer that has come before him as far as brutal rail surfing. He breaks waves in half so brutally and beautifully in a way i've never seen.
Chianca looking red hot to me for the win.
Great wrap FR.
Great write up Steve, but I will disagree 200% on the judging today. It was all over the place, and as bad as I've ever seen.
Go back and watch John-john's heat with Ian Gentile and tell me he wasn't surfing twice as fast as Ian and twice as critical? He was so underscored when you compare their surfing. He smashed Ian in that heat yet the scores say it was almost a dead-heat. What a joke if the world's best judges can't see the difference in speed when they are sitting on the beach. The difference when just watching video was so pronounced I fail to see how it wouldn't be even more obvious watching it live.
tho not really a fan of sunset i thought today was pretty effing good- ee was my pick for the day, looked like he was adding extra spice to some of those turns
is there any low down on gabe?? - things don’t seem to be clicking - (could just be me still thinkin he’s a peg above the pack)
Jacko was absolutely ripped off.
How good was that! Rounds of 32/16 in consistent powerful waves it's a shred bonanza but Sunset runs the show like a blackjack dealer runs a casino table. I'm sending 4 versions of 12 here, you read them, you make your own luck. No robots here.
Robbo he reads 'em so good. His surfing was perfect in r16. The ice chest sponsors have been frozen out! Cold cold judging? Surely there's a ice breaking perfect score chillin in there somewhere? Chuck a chest at Choob of the day at least, JR's throaty one with the exquisite slash stall, either way he should have a ute load by now though Gabs could have a couple too, his goofy tube skills are next level. I know he wishes there was somewhere on tour he could unleash a forehand downcarve slash like Ethan but he's settled for mental shackings.
There was some beautiful boards being ridden today, Mr Jack got a most in tune with your stick win too I think, Joao's seems to do all the work but Ethan's glued to his, how it cleanly distributes Niagaran amounts of water is greatly impressive. Personally I wouldn't mind getting my hands on Fil's 6'7 if I could steal one though I'd walk straight past Kelly's, what even is that, the twitch accentuator model? 3 minutes thirty to go and you've got the goat sitting inside you on a mystery stick, gulp.
Kai was horrified at the curved tail rocker on Griff's shape 'scared to ride it out there' and it did look shifty too but Kai is knocked out, maybe his setup was too stiff? Fine line in tail curves
I'm looking at the boards thinking finally they're getting on narrower like John John's been for ages, expecting him to come out and give a lesson to the class of 32 in exactly how they're meant to be ridden but someone switched it for a clown board ??
Sorry mate you know I love you, that wasn't the surfer we know today, hope you're ok. Highlights the heat in this hot tub of talent, I mean wasn't Jack Robinson looking deep in the dark eye of elimination there halfway through his heat yesterday?
Anyway, you nailed it Steve.
Bring on the dancing horses WSL the big show talent has arrived.
plagiarism alive and kicking to quote a simple minds song.
Ok Thano, thanks for that, I lost a nights sleep worrying the bunneymen legal department would be ringing.
For one beautiful brief moment there I was snaking North from Sydney towards Seal Rocks with an arm out the window of the Kingswood!!! Loved it....
Music and smells - clove ciggie; the perfume that girl wore - are so evocative.
Even better….the smell of clove ciggies AND her perfume all at once…
Ha, yes, my people! I didn't reference the song in my comment, I thought, 'who on here remembers or gives a flying f**k about Echo and the Bunnymen'? Happy to say I was wrong and yes I was probs pointing my Kingwood south to Yamba around that same time, elbow out the window of course, got the sunspots to prove it.
Did you upgrade the stereo? My favorite Kingswood memory was fitting a new one. I had the speakers in my hands to test it and turned on 4ZZZ in time for the start of this song I'd never heard before. Mind blowing moment.
Stereo cranked, went and bought the album too, still play it.
Good times. Waves and music were everything
Opening chords of ocean rain and my world stops still….
8 heats of women ran in head high gurgle today.
No great upsets- Steph looked great.
Caz Marks and Pickles the only other surfers to have winning heat totals over 10.
We'll pick up the coverage again on Finals Day.
They ran yesterday, ughhh.
I have not put a bet on surfing in 10 years when Slater piped Owen right last 30 seconds to win trestles final and turned ticket into confetti. But after watching 10mins of pickles heat yesterday this 17 year old kid looks another level above the rest of the field. Style/movers/reading the waves. If her coach tells her to stick on opponent last min of heat while holding P she must be a massive chance for the win yes ...
17 year old c.simmers sorry my bad
PS, great write-up, really enjoyed that day of surfing with the NNE swell. A much different and more appealing mood to Sunset.