Margaret River Pro: Day 2
Margaret River Pro: Day 2
There was some pushback, and deservedly so, over my description of Margaret River Mainbreak as an unlovely wave and thus perhaps unworthy of being a CT venue.
It had only come about because in the interlude between Bells and Margarets I mostly watched free-surfing videos - Noa Deane's Noz, Surfers of Bali, primarily - and was struck at the vast difference in quality between the waves highlighted and the CT venues. No free-surfing edit would feature shitty old Bells or a wonky day at Mainbreak. Not high performance enough, not radical enough.
It has to be admitted though that this at times slopey, weird wedge with a gurgled out end section has enabled and enhanced a carving style of surfing which far and away exceeds any freesurf location. By far.
Considered by the previous generation with such fear and loathing that Mick Fanning claimed he never wanted to surf it again and would refuse a wildcard to surf there, to the point reached today where it was the culmination of the year so far and the best day of Pro Surfing in 2023. It's quite a leap, and I'm not entirely sure how we got here - apart from the obvious answer which is John John Florence on a forward-weighted round pin (Ghost) in 2017. It seemed to just flick a switch and turn a weird burger that looked odd even when Pros surfed it, to its current incarnation as the pinnacle of high performance carving.
The other notable theme from today was just how compressed the field is now in terms of surfing talent and expressed skill set. For years I felt like drop kicking the nearest cat when Turpel or some other flunky would exclaim how good everyone was and how anyone could win any heat. Which was complete bollocks then, but is absolutely true now.
Liam O'Brien was working in a surf shop last year contemplating resuming an engineering degree, unsure if he would get his chance on Tour, prior to that he was basically a complete unknown. Filipe Toledo is the current World Champ and a child phenom who was feted as a teenager. LOB smoked him with huge fin drifts on double over head rights.
Jackson Baker, courier driver, now delivering the biggest turns on Tour (second biggest today, after JJF).
R-Cal, Bells runner-up, Sammy Pupo and Jacob Willcox all looked capable.
Jake Marshall is considered barely CT standard, which should be reviewed after he relegated Leo Fioravanti from 1st place to 3rd with the help of Italo Ferreira. It was all incredibly tight across the field.
There was a magic trifecta through the middle stanza of the day. We got Elo, then Kelly, then John John in ascending order.
If there is ever an Olympic Gold Medal medley for corpo-speak and being a corporate stooge then the Elo / Joe Turpel combination would be a red hot favourite everytime they suited up. Asked about his favourite moments as WSL CEO, Elo launched into a soliloquy while I furiously scribbled the key words: growth, lean in, sharpen the focus on the mission etc. When it was over Turpel could scarcely contain the admiration, gushing “special moments with our CEO Erik Logan”.
Elo praised the Cut, saying it had “elevated the level of surfing in every heat”. Goddamn, I agree with Elo.
Then said the Cut was up for review and said “we always adjust the sport”.
Which means, I suppose that the Cut will be cut or tweaked.
I think we then got Ronnie and Richie for Kelly, which was something close to Pro Surfing heaven.
Kelly's opening wave, a 7.6, was shocking. Even a good Kelly heat now normally requires a few weird waves as warm-ups. This was a straight up banger, with the full karate style snap under the lip and then vicious lip tags. A vintage Kelly heat, on a board that looked great. It's debatable what he would have loved more - sending the World Number 1 Joao Chianca back to the showers in second place, or shoving a vintage Kelly heat sideways down the throat of critics like me. It was really fun to watch. “Timeless” in the words of Thomas Carroll, on the call in. “It's tricky to surf at that level at 50” said Tom, probably one the half dozen people on the planet qualified to make that call from personal experience, “It's a lot of work”.
One of the other things I watched in the Bells/Margies interregnum was a wildlife documentary about warring chimpanzee troops in Gombe Park, Tanzania. It's not fashionable to reverse the causal arrow and find similarities between us and our chimpanzee relatives but the way the aging alpha males desperately defend their positions and cling to dominance definitely reminded me of Kelly. If they want my spot they can come and get it off me, or words to that effect is what Kelly said in relation to the Cut. Straight out of the Gombe jungle.
Anything you can do I can do better (Kelly) seemed the clear statement from John Florence's first wave. The biggest challenge for John at Margarets is turning on the judges. Somehow they need to convinced afresh that the best surfer in the world, at his preferred venue, is worthy of excellent scores. They seemed to come already convinced and probably overcooked scores, then had to compensate but it didn't matter in the end. I enjoyed the air wave the most, which was not one of his top two.
John said he was beginning to “warm up and find his confidence,” which sounded strange after a peak performance like that and considering the entire body of work
It did seem like one of the few days this year when we actually got to see the field surf, not flail around in close-outs or scrap in onshore brown water slop. Medina appreciated it, and made it clear his sluggish results were only an effect of this simple cause. His two waves just had that pure Medina power to them, and delineated them from the sometimes late hits of other backhand surfers. Medina went straight up and threw huge rooster tails pushing the board through the full arc.
From well below the cut line Andino scrapped hard for a heat win over Yago and fellow cellar dweller Kanoa Igarashi, who could not create any magic.
Two big 7's for Connor O'Leary to best a powerful but sleepy Jordy Smith who last won a CT in 2017.
In the Final Heat of the day as the sun sank down into the Indian Ocean positions changed several times with Callum Robson ending up standing as the last chair was pulled and the music stopped.
It was a damn good day and the bodies will start piling up tomorrow. An epic day in the offing.
Sublime action on the webby today. Looking forward to what tomorrow brings.
I do wonder if the perceived evenness of the tour’s talent in each heat today was more to do with consistent opportunity that Margies on a day like this tends to offer. Anyone at the level should be able to rattle off a 7 in waves like that. Two reasonable turns on the outside and a closeout hit.
I feel as though those below the cut line after bells is a fair indication of the lower levels of talent on tour.
stoked to see ks turn it on!!
jjf is so good at margs….his 2017 was (imo) a defining moment in professional surfing, and he looked like he was feeling it again today
top wrap steve….don’t know if you saw the wsl post show outro highlights….top-notch surfing today
Good pick up on the Turple / Elo love fest. Think I nearly gagged when Joe talked about special moments with Elo.
Elo may be a total surf nerd but feels really contrived when you hear him speak about the surfers and history of surfing.
Particularly had to giggle when he talked about growth in all aspects of the WSL. Is that really true Erik?
Kelly. "Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Dog of a day if you weren't an underdog.
Great to see McGilvray turn it on to make the cut, even though it was almost completely missed by the commentary and they only caught half his wave that got him there.
"High stakes, high drama....oops we forgot." Maybe the sun got to them...maybe he's just not a marketable enough surfer to care about 'creating a narrative'
Exceedingly excellent write up. You had me at the interregnum in the Gombe jungle. Keep up the good work.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who cringed a bit when JJF launched a rather tame air manoeuvre, concerned that he might tweak his fragile knee on the landing - and have to sit out the rest of the year, again.
Note to JJF - no airs, thanks.
Have to catch up, missed both day 1 and 2, but maybe that is the way to do it, let Steve do all the hard work. Pity because I was working from home this arvo and could have tuned in.
I like Jacko Baker and a few other strugglers. They add meaning to it. Whether Kelly makes it or not has no meaning for me. Move on.
Good man Steve, another excellent report. Your honesty in reconsidering your viewpoints is appreciated, as was the radical surfing at Main Break today. Crikey, even some lefts were ridden…maybe even a few more will be scored there during the next rounds. Margs and West Oz looking fabulous, regardless.
Slaters long drawn out bottom turn where his chest was just skimming above the water for ever. Then went into that foam climb and went way past vertical was the highlight of the day for me.
I know it’s not the general consensus but I still want to see him win.
Yeah I took some screen grabs of that. The bottom turn was as good as it gets.
A wise prediction would've said, Kelly Slater under immense pressure will simply go surfing, put it on the rail, kick it in the tail and say fuck you standingleft, I ain't dead yet sonny
A good writer can transport us to another time and place. Great wrap-up of the day.
Having not watched one wave in this contest, I just knocked off and dove into this. Felt like haven't missed anything but really missed a lot.
Medina surfs like Wilko .
One turn only
Are you confusing John for Gabriel?
No, Gabe has the worst front side carve on tour.
And his back hand is identical to Wilko. The same move over and over
Great day of surfing, and a very good writeup.
I really hope Callum Robson makes it through the elimination round. His surfing was red hot, and I thought his 6 was well underscored.
Had to mute Elo and Joe after two minutes. Just didn't have the stomach for it.
"Kelly's opening wave, a 7.6... was a straight up banger, with the full karate style snap under the lip and then vicious lip tags." Quite exaggerated commentary there. Kelly's opening wave was timid & over scored.
the gaslit John Formula seems to have the collective world bewitched & mesmerized over laybacks & tail flaps.
…. Don’t forget power turns and airs…..
hang on, what’s he missing that others have?
Elo banging on about the importance of claims while Joe gave him a reach around was the lowest point in pro surfing commentary ever. This write up though, the complete opposite, great job Steve. Great to see LOB take down Fil too
Liam Obi’s 9 was a highlight for me. Timing akin to Steph at Trestles
Great to see Slater on a board for surfing not sales.
Interesting to see Jack Robbo putting the final nail in the coffin of the Nth West during the ad break.
What did he say?
Gnaraloo, Gnaraloo, Gnaraloo, everyone should go to Gnaraloo, how good is Gnaraloo, look at beautiful Gnaraloo. Gnaraloo... Gnaraloo.
“I come up here to get away from it all” or words to that effect. Lol
Settle down. It’s hardly a secret and a long long way from anywhere. It’s not going to be overrun with mal riding hipsters anytime soon
Hehe. It already is…And the hipsters can surf!
Can’t imagine the NW would be any busier than it had been through Covid.
Where’s this Gnaraloo he speaks of?
Got a good chuckle out of the Slater/chimpanzee analogy.
I try to give Turpel the benefit of the doubt, he's good at his job and clearly does the most homework of all the commentators, but yesterday watching most of the day he gave me the first headache I've had in years, had to take a few Disprin and had to mute the Elo love fest.
Kelly looked like the Kelly of old, seems like he's struggled for motivation at times over his long career. When you consider he achieved what all the pros are trying to achieve, win a world title, in his first year over thirty years ago and then did it repeatedly you could understand he needs something more to switch from jaded to jazzed, Andy flicked his switch, big Pipe and Chopes does it, and maybe the looming cut is doing it based on how he looked yesterday. Be interesting to see how he goes from here. JJF still the best in the world whether he wins anything or not and Jacko Baker the most improved on tour for mine. Another great analysis from Steve, good day to be a surf fan yesterday.
Turpel could scarcely contain the admiration, gushing “special moments with our CEO Erik Logan”.
Glad i missed it
F’n hate all these armchair critics that have never done anything with their lives except commentary from their home office chairs write off Slater who is doing something absolutely amazing.
Nobody draws better lines still and even if he’s not winning titles the feat of competing at that level still is so mental.
It’s going to be a sad tour when Kelly leaves.
Unfortunately for Kelly, the more we see of him, especially when his social media commentary, the less likeable he becomes for the rest of us. Turns out he was a bit of a dick the whole time.
Spoken like a true aforementioned “office chair commentary not so much”.
Never met the dude in his life and goes off some social media comments despite everything KS has done.
Oh and you’re talking for the dudes that are online “experts” that follow each other’s leads most likely riding JS, DHD, Firewire, wearing the most expensive Rip Curl wetsuits and surfing for an hour on Saturday and Sunday in between cafe and Lycra bike sessions.
I only ride local shapers thanks. You talk about how amazing he still is, and the lines he draws, but he didn't even make the cut lmao. So it looks like your completely wrong? f he doesn't want to face criticism about his constant poor surfing performances, he can retire anytime he wants.
Big, hard, fast snaps, carves, hacks! The way it should be.
This is better though https://i.imgur.com/GU8NBP9.mp4
Kelly soars to #1/2/3/4/5 on WSL Wild Card Tour...
WSL Wildcard Leaders Board ( May - Sept 2023 )
Comp 6 Kelly / Comp 7 Kelly / Comp 8 Kelly / Comp 9 Kelly / Comp 10 Kelly
2024 Olympic Universality Invites (M) Kelly + (W) Kellie
CT Fab 5 > #5 PM Kelly #4 PM Kelly #3 PM Kelly #2 PM Kelly #1 PM Kelly
Kelly drew with Kelly drew with Kelly drew with Kelly drew with Kelly drew with Kelly...
Kelly + Kelly + Kelly + Kelly + Kelly win all 2023 WSL Fab 5 World Titles just as Kelly said he would!
Newspapers already have Kelly's snout in the Goblet
How the fuck did Wild Cards get gravity...no one dare say tbb...never dreamt up this Revenge Porn Tour!
Request the Boss to give Steve time to recover from Eclipse [1/11/111]
1/11/111 = [ #1 11x Day 111 ]
WSL stickers ...All pray to the Supreme Master Kelly!
WA Eclipse cleansed Mother Earth...Kelly rises up as the New Messiah!
WA Premier : "Close the Border & Deny entry to all Qldurrz for the 111111th time!"
Clive : "Well FU2!"
WSL : "Please! Can we not spread Negative Vibe during the period of enlightenment!"
Well I've yet to see Kelly wearing a face covering unlike most other pros on Make or Break so am backing him all the way... I don't believe he bought the narrative....