Margaret River Pro: Day 1
Margaret River Pro: Day 1
Whatever you think about the cut, it certainly adds drama and spice to what would have otherwise been a pretty standard day, at a pretty standard wave.
Yeah, I know we think about Mainbreak in a different way in the JJF era but considering what is out there and what is being ridden these days, a wobbly, wonky boil-ridden right that gurgles out on a weed covered shelf is barely a pass mark.
The cut added a 'best of times, worst of times' element to the story as we saw reigning champ Isabella Nichols bundled out of the event in last place and kicked off tour. A clearly gutted Nichols kept the tears at bay unlike fellow cut-ee Macy Callaghan and had a clear grasp on how this whole game operates.
“That's competitive sport,” she noted, after detailing how she'd gone from the best day of her life last year when she won, to the worst as she got relegated to the second-string tour.
It is Bella, and it's why people apart from friends, family, and Joe Turpel tune in: they wanna see stakes, they want winners and losers.
Bella went further with the sanguine approach. “It's just a surfing contest,” she said. “Life goes on.”
It truly does.
Unfortunately for Isabella and Macy that will have to console them for at least six months. When all the chips were on the table both of them folded weakly, which they will also have to deal over the months ahead.
It was all about living the dream according to Lakey Peterson in her presser after a very impressive win over Steph and Caity. Sitting below the cut Lakey came out swinging with an exaggerated high rotation series of rail turns. Not as elegant and refined as Gilmore but it satisfied the judges who kept ratcheting up her scoring rides.
Despite the log jam around the cut-line Steph already looks safe, in cruise control after the opening 8.67 ride and a different vibe around her campaign after a very nervous start. Bells, Margies, Surf Ranch, El Salvador, J-Bay is a perfect run for her. She'll likely be able to coast at Teahupoo and make another run from deep in the pocket at Trestles. Or maybe not so deep.
Caity looked a little under-powered in the early heat for a dead last, before recovering strongly in the Elimination Round, where she has ended up every comp this year.
“Another day, another Elimination Round,” she said, before admitting she felt looser, “because I made the cut”.
The standard was high for the Opening and Elimination Rounds. Tyler Wright potted two 8's for an excellent heat claiming that the welcoming ceremony from Indigenous elders had helped ground her and was “very important for me.”
Lakey made 16, Gilmore close behind, Bettylou logged an excellent heat throwing the fins free across the inside section. Caz Marks threw some big round hooks at the outside and handled the inside shelf.
Gabby Bryan threw buckets in her Elimination Round to keep the dream alive.
It was only Macy and Bella who folded like wet spaghetti as the emotion and the pressure turned their surfing into mush.
Who is going to fold on the Men's side? No-one will admit to it in polite company but GOAT haters will be out in force watching the 51-year old try and wrangle a wave he's never really looked good at - apart from a few highlight moment when Mainbreak has been at its absolute best.
What will he ride if, say, it's 8ft and stormy? He'd have to change up the equipment but when he went back to conventional longer boards last time it was solid, they looked terrible under his feet.
If he loses early and gets cut the pressers will be legendary - we could have low blood sugar, bad sleep, insufficient rehab, god knows what else will come to the fore. Purely jesting, of course, but it's this unparalleled competitiveness and refusal to go quietly which makes Kelly so compelling. If there is something else to blame - some external event - then if that event was rectified he would still be a chance, correct? So must go the thinking.
Of course, he could go on a tear and blaze deep into the comp and keep his spot on tour.
Have you noticed that there's been some kind of hangover infusing the Final 5 Women surfers? Defay has been injured but hasn't looked the same. Brisa Hennessy has been around the cut line and looked very shaky. Tatiana Weston-Webb's usual aggression and confidence has been severely deficient. They all got through today but they all still look a step behind last year's form. Carissa has been solid this year but just a bit stale and safe.
It's not like loss hadn't ever occurred in pro surfing, it's just that the grieving former incumbents were shown the door and told to not let it hit them on the way out. It wasn't part of the show. I always think of Wilko - Bells winner, Fiji winner and still ripping - who within a month of losing a tight heat at Pipe was dropped by major sponsors and never heard from again. How would he be treated nowadays in this new system where athlete tears and vulnerabilities are considered a new type of currency and treated with the utmost sensitivity.
One thing's for sure, we won't die wondering how Kelly feels about it. The most bizarre outcome would be Kelly walking away from the sport, but even so, we go straight to the Surf Ranch where he will be all over it. Wildcard, for sure. In the booth, absolutely.
While we are all here, having a minute's silence for Kelly' career - if that is in fact what happens - can we all say a silent prayer for John's Dicky Knee. We've seen the free-surf footage, he's still the man. But on a wonky 8ft day if he decides to pit his fragile knee joints against that oncoming closeout section I greatly fear the outcome.
Don't hit it, John. It's not worth it. We just need to keep him healthy until the Finals Day gets shifted from Trestles to Cloudbreak.
Looks like a good mixed bag of solid surf coming up - a perfect place for pro surfer tears to be washed away.
// STEVE SHEARER