On This Day: Pottz begins his '89 campaign

Stu Nettle
The Rearview Mirror

On this day in 1989 Martin Potter began his domination of the Men's Championship Tour by beating Brad Gerlach in the final of the O'Neill Pepsi Cold Water Classic at Santa Cruz.

By June of '89 he'd claim his fourth win and have a choke-hold on the '89 World Title. A further two more wins later in the season would seal it. At the time, Pottz' four wins from five starts was a record on the Men's tour*, one that wouldn't be broken till Slater's 1996 blitz - five wins from six events.

Potter's '89 World Title win is conspicuous, not just for the records broken, but also how he did it.

Pottz on his signature flame spray from Glen Minami - which came after his signature yellow and green cut out and before his signature blue and green bullseye. So many signatures!

Potter's World Title year mimicked his debut onto the world stage eight years earlier. In 1981, aged just 15, Pottz entered and won his first pro contest, a local event in Durban, taking down 1977 world champ Shaun Tomson in the final. The following week, riding a 5'6" twin-fin, he placed second behind Cheyne Horan in the Gunston 500, his first ever world tour event, and a week later he placed second behind MR in the Mainstay Magnum, another world tour contest.

At the end of his first year on tour, and now aged 16, Potter finished eighth on the ASP rankings.

For the next seven years Pottz maintained that middling top ten position. He won the occasional contest, though more often he'd lose mid-comp as the percentage plays of his unyielding approach came to pass. Kids loved Pottz' crash through or crash attack, and his sponsor's did too. An '88 poster for Gotcha captured Pottz' intrasigence: "I never surf to the system. I just surf the way I feel."

But this all started to change in 1989 when, despite the marketing taglines, he tweaked his contest strategy. Now living on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Potter trained with Tom Carroll and took a more measured approach to his heats. The specifics of this can still be heard whenever Pottz' doles out the advice on WSL webcasts: finish your rides, surf at 90%, stay calm and surf clever.

Potter did just that against Brad Gerlach at Steamer Lane in March 1989. In abysmal conditions, Pottz scored two good waves then slowed down and took his pick as Gerlach scratched into anything, even catching more than his maximum allotment of ten waves. Pottz continued his moderate approach to heat surfing and it paid dividends, winning Bells, the Coke Classic at Manly, and the Marui Pro Japan, Later in the year he'd also win the Quiksilver Pro in France and the Arena Surfmasters, also in France. He won more contests in that one season than all his previous years combined.

To win the title in 1989 Martin Potter made a pragmatic compact: no longer would he freesurf in heats, trying to "rip every wave to pieces", as he says in the video below. It was a compromise against his earlier ideals, but he made no apology for it. What would be the point? He was a contest surfer and his mission was to win the world title - which he'd now done.

(*Wendy Botha also won four events from five starts in 1989)

Peter Townend hosts 'Wave Watch' from Steamer Lane. Pottz surfing from 15:20, plus interview with PT at 18:40, or sit through all 29 minutes if you can bear it

The Pottz v Gerr final at Steamer Lane - pre Dream Tour clearly

Comments

lost's picture
lost's picture
lost Tuesday, 5 Mar 2019 at 3:05pm

Nice gloves :)

Finntim's picture
Finntim's picture
Finntim Tuesday, 5 Mar 2019 at 3:25pm

I very much enjoyed the "big floater aerial re-entry!" yesI did.

loungelizard's picture
loungelizard's picture
loungelizard Tuesday, 5 Mar 2019 at 4:06pm

Wow!

Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake Tuesday, 5 Mar 2019 at 3:32pm

I loved Pottz's round house cutties, and therefore the 'yellow and green cut out' design on the bottom of his boards. SO much so as a teenager I got a board made which was sprayed red and the cut out design was a pink colour. (Didn't want to be a total colour clone)

dawnperiscope's picture
dawnperiscope's picture
dawnperiscope Tuesday, 5 Mar 2019 at 4:00pm

Great memories.
My parents VHS should be able to play strange desires without even putting the cassette in.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Tuesday, 5 Mar 2019 at 4:22pm

I loved Pottz but gee's that surfing in those vids looks dated, crazy to think Kelly Slater in Black and White came out only 2 years latter and much of the surfing still holds up today like the Trestles section which is from only a year latter 1990.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot Tuesday, 5 Mar 2019 at 4:52pm

Don’t agree with you about Slaters surfing in black and white still holding up today, he’s so flickey and slidey. Today’s top pros shit all over him from back then

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Tuesday, 5 Mar 2019 at 6:02pm

I mean relatively speaking, yeah 100% todays pros surf better, but that surfing in black and white in contest at trestles (just re watched it) even today could still win heats, it's still better than some of the surfing we see from lower ranked pros in comps and we are talking surfing from almost 30 years ago.

Meanwhile the surfing in these two videos by all surfers is only a year or two older, but apart from the odd nice carve it's very average surfing.

6:10 to 8:00 min mark

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Wednesday, 6 Mar 2019 at 1:59pm

Geez Indo your a hard man comparing rubbish with OK Trestles. They could hardly float at Santa Cruz whereas Slater has pretty reasonable waves. Not sure that surfing would win a heat at CT level as it is quite slow compared to the speeds they reach these days. He looks a lot smoother back then whereas now there is a lot of arms and body going everywhere. To me that movie looked really dated (considering the hype around it) and I have never seen it before, great surfing just the same.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean Tuesday, 5 Mar 2019 at 10:12pm

Ah, there's an old Quik vid with Slater surfing pipe that's was and still is unbelievable.
Not sure of your age goofy
You should check out the search videos, wave warrior's for pottz section and match it today's standards.
Sure surfing has changed.....I still like the old days more.....

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot Tuesday, 5 Mar 2019 at 4:50pm

Hey is that the ‘89 world champ???

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Tuesday, 5 Mar 2019 at 5:17pm

I think some of Slater surfing from Black and White holds up but agree that surfing of Pottz has dated terribly.

Funny that out of all the old surfing the Morning of the Earth single fin surfing still looks the most timeless.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Wednesday, 6 Mar 2019 at 2:02pm

And some of the stuff from Bustin down the door is rock solid. The late 80's wiggles was a worry.

rees0's picture
rees0's picture
rees0 Tuesday, 5 Mar 2019 at 9:46pm

Slaters surfing in endless summer 2 at cloudbreak holds up in my eyes.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Wednesday, 6 Mar 2019 at 6:29am

all his surfing at Cloudbreak holds up.

from start to finish.

fucking shame it's not on Tour for his last lap.

rees0's picture
rees0's picture
rees0 Wednesday, 6 Mar 2019 at 7:10pm

Will never forget kelly pulling jesus christ tube stance at macking cb vs fanning, not sure when might have even been the final or semi at least but boy the surfing he was doing that day made me feel more insignificant then i ever have.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Wednesday, 6 Mar 2019 at 7:17pm

I think that was the highpoint of his career performance wise. that day was insane.

ringmaster's picture
ringmaster's picture
ringmaster Tuesday, 5 Mar 2019 at 10:40pm

POTTZ in 89.

Best human on the planet!!!

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups Wednesday, 6 Mar 2019 at 5:18am

Fark, so much wiggling back then. I'd forgotten about that.

garyg1412's picture
garyg1412's picture
garyg1412 Wednesday, 6 Mar 2019 at 8:21am

Gotta love the sponsorship back then. Ciggies (Gunston 500) and booze (Mainstay Magnum) were all the rage. Remember the pic of Cheyne Horan with a pack of Gunston ciggies in the foreground with the slogan "Men Rate Gunston Great". No big deal puffing on a few back then!!!

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups Thursday, 7 Mar 2019 at 9:31am

I guess the modern equivalent of that is to get sponsored by a Porn Site. This is something the WSL might need to be thinking about if their billionaire benefactor gets tired of throwing his money down the drain.

Tubbabird's picture
Tubbabird's picture
Tubbabird Wednesday, 13 Mar 2019 at 5:19pm

ALL HAIL KING POTTS! WE ARE NOT WORTHY!