Rip Curl Pro Portugal: Day 2
Rip Curl Pro Portugal: Day 2
There are those who thought I was being slanderous in condemning closeout beachbreaks and I have to admit the four Elimination Round heats held overnight in, let’s call it 8-10ft close-outs, were almost entertaining enough to turn me.
In the end though, after watching twelve surfers, including the GOAT, scramble around dodging wave after wave of massive sand sucking closeouts, it was impossible to escape the obvious conclusion.
What a fucking waste of a swell.
Imagine how sick that would have been with a reef or point handling that energy? Apart from Cal-tex's perfect 10, of course. More on that in a sec.
Briefly: Andino, out. Could not find a wave. Almost certainly will not make the cut after three failed results.
Zeke, out. Back to the bush leagues after a nightmare start to the Year. Almost impossible to overstate how much of a worst case scenario has unfolded after a podium finish at the Eddie and the wave of the day award had him on top of the world. Everything about the pre-cut events suits a big body like Zeke, including and especially the Hawaiian opening, and he butchered it by overcooking the alpha male aggression. Getting stranded in huge closeouts looking for a corner almost felt like a biblical punishment for his indiscretions.
Maxime Huscenot, who makes his debut at 30 after a decade of trouble and toil on the Q-ey, also out.
For the second time this year, just pipped into last place. In this instance a demonic bomb defused by Callum Robson for the year's first 10. Luck of the draw for Cal to be in the right place at the right time. Insane skills and courage to get the job done by successfully riding it. 99 out of a 100 surfers would not have made it to the bottom of that wave.
Maxime has alternated between looking like a deer in the headlights (heat totals: 1.96, 8.27, 7.44, 4.50) and on the wrong end of bad luck (heat totals: 12.14, 10.44).
At least he has got to surf.
I won't stop saying his fellow Q-ey grinder Ramzi Boukhiam's name because I know WSL higher-ups read these wraps and no-one deserves an injury wildcard and shot at the CT more than Boukhiam. If the Woz is serious about making the tour more inclusive of developing surfing nations then Ramzi needs his crack at it. God knows he deserves it.
Kanoa easily got through his heat with Slater and Morais. I don't know whether it was edifying or humiliating watching the GOAT scrap among closeouts looking for a sub-2 point ride and manufacturing a weird wave into the required score (2.03). It won't make any career retrospective highlight reels, that’s for sure, but the grittiness was impressive. That wave saved him from a last place finish and certain relegation. It may - big, big may - save his bacon due to the fact that so many mid-fielders are struggling around the cut-line like him. Kelly's gracious presser on the sand, after losing to Joao Chianca, hinting this could be his last time suiting up at Supertubos, was one thing. But like all things Slater, we observe and note the words that come out of his mouth, but make judgements according to his actions. That's the main thing.
And his actions indicate his spot on tour will be prised by force from his cold, dead hands.
Such is life.
After the break we came back to light onshore Supertubos with a closeouts-to-makeable waves ratio probably 70:30, as opposed to 90:10 in the morning. That did offer more opportunity. Overlapping heats kept the action chugging away, mostly at a slow simmer.
I enjoyed the commentary of Jesse Mendes - I found it measured, insightful, and honest when needed. He correctly identified the bobble in Kelly's opening left against Chianca contra Kaipo's reflexive hype. And the mid-3 score was right on the money. He then threw some magnificent shade on the GOAT saying his pro-surfing pals hoped to surf as much as they could with Kelly on the QS or CT. Sure, he was speaking retrospectively, but to even suggest Kelly is a QS surfer or could be back on the Q-ey is a slur.
The crowd was with Chianca. His rides were enthusiastically celebrated. Kelly has never looked comfortable in European closeouts - his rare Portugese successes all co-incide with good/great surf, most notably his runner-up finish to Adriano in Oct 2011 and his win in 2010 at 38-years of age. Five minutes to go, Kelly needs a five and change. Has priority. Lets a little nugget slip through to Joan Duru who surfs it and proves it was the score Kelly needed. Those little inexplicable errors now define a Slater heat.
Oh yeah, Kelly's 10.83 heat was the first time he has made double figures this year. In five heats in Hawaii he could not make a 10 point total.
Toledo, out. Didn't seem to really care for the conditions. Toledo has, in recent years, defied the critics by refusing to work on his weaknesses in heavy water and improving his strengths instead. And with a win at Sunset, more wins ahead, and a Finals Day at Trestles that is an entirely logical approach. Despite it being offensive to purists, he is simply adapting to the format.
John John was much on my mind last night. On both sides of the coin: as a guy who could tame giant closeouts and get a 10, and as an example of wasting generational talent in said closeouts. How much more live surfing will we get out of John? I want to see him in the best waves redefining what is possible at the absolute edge of his performance envelope, not scratching around in beachies looking for a 4. But that is what happened. And he looked a bit off in his loss to Rio Waida. Snapped a board (again), which didn't help. Timing looked a bit off, boards didn't look quite right etc etc. John is mid-pack with Bells and Margies ahead, both of which he could easily win, absent injury of course. There just seems to be a subtle note of disinterest in all his performances this year.
Good day for Australian mid-field goofyfoots with both Connor O'Leary and R-Cal getting through with solid, unspectacular heats. Connor is in a great spot to leap-frog Slater if he can punch through the draw for a few more heats.
Sorry for disrespecting any closeout beachbreak fans here. I feel qualified as a Bribie boy who learnt to scrap for corners in 2ft closeout shoreys to put my biases up front (in short: to hell with closeouts). But I know others feel differently, including a healthy beach crowd who seemed to very much enjoy the days action before a thick fog bank rolled in from the snot-green sea, two heats shy of completing the Round of 32.
// STEVE SHEARER