The Pipe Pro: Day 3
The Pipe Pro: Day 3
The Women's competition is now on the board after the six heats of Round 1 were run in lacklustre 3-5 foot surf at Backdoor. We did learn a bit about who was ready to go (basically Molly Picklum) while retiring five-time World Champ Carissa Moore looked overwhelmed and distracted, failing to exit a couple of nuggets she normally would have made.
One thing that was apparent, as it has been in the Men’s competition, is just how much of a disconnect the Final's Day at Trestles and then the long off-season before Pipe is to the tour structure. With the Final's Day held in mid-September, then four-and-a-half months off before Pipe there's a complete severing of form and confidence between one year and the next. Previously, the year would end at Pipe in late December and when competition resumed in late-February or early-March there would be a continuity with World Champions bringing an aura of superiority to the opening event.
Not now. The Men’s World Champ doesn't want to know about Pipe and the Women's World Champ still looks like a rookie out there. Caz Marks did OK out there today - she never looked like getting barrelled but scraped together a few turns for an unconvincing win against India Robinson and Moana Jones-Wong with a heat total of 5.84. She said she's feeling really good, happy to be back in Hawaii etc etc. No existential crisis, no Tyler-esque deeper questions about “why she is out there.”
OK, great. There's nothing more cringe than pro surfers who can't figure out why there are doing it (because you are good at it and it's your livelihood and it's an amazing privilege to get paid to travel the world and surf, simples).
To be fair, John Florence suffers the same existential wondering, and if you didn't need the tour to survive maybe it would make no sense to show up to be one of the WSL dancing seals.
To be equally fair to Tyler, the daily reality that workaday Johnnies and Johnettes experience is completely foreign to her. Paid a million a year to surf since she was a teenager, all she knows is this strange insular world of professional surfing.
If I was part of her team - here comes the amateur psychologist! - I would recommend a year off to work a real job. What would she qualify for? I would suggest lawn mowing. It's robust, physical work with plenty of time to think.
Tyler actually looked good in her heat - ready to knife a late drop and pull in. Spicy turns. At small Backdoor she will be a solid favourite. But at proper Pipe..? It remains an open question as in multiple starts and even a Pipe Title, we are yet to see her successfully navigate a proper Pipeline (left) barrel.
Caity Simmers laid bare the disconnect between seasons. Asked about her off-season following Final's Day she said in the aftermath she was “mentally dead” and had to spend a couple of weeks sitting in her room doing nothing. She didn't think she would ever be ready again.
She climbed off the couch, decided it was time to “come back and get serious” and showed up today, freshly graduated from high school, ready to rumble.
That included the most stylish ride of the day where she came in deep from the dark side of the moon, slouched through a stand-up Backdoor tube and did the matador exit before the explosion. Worth a look. Caity made it enjoyable to watch.
It was Pickles in the next heat who set the standard. There's no clearer front-runner and World Title-ready surfer in either male or female draw than Molly Picklum. She looked incredible with super-late drops to deep tubes, big steezy turns and just a general vibe of complete joy and competence about her work.
“I feel comfortable roaming the reef,” she said, which was the same method John used to hoover up the best waves of the day yesterday. Asked her goals, Pickles went straight for the top: World Title and Olympic Gold.
She also said she wanted to, “showcase my surfing”, and I’d say it’s the best on tour. Pickles could easily be the best female surfer on the planet right now.
The California rookies Alyssa Spencer and Sawyer Lindblad got through. Spencer with turns, Lindblad with the only successful backside tuberide going right for the day. The older guard: Defay, Lakey Peterson, Tatiana, Sally, all looked a bit off. All looked undercooked and not ready for the first day back.
In perfectly groomed 3-4 foot surf, JMD called a halt to competition for the day with zero surfers eliminated.
So, we wait for the next swell to arrive.
As the Guinness beer commercial stated: We wait. It's what we do.
// STEVE SHEARER