On This Day: Pottz begins his '89 campaign
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