The timing couldn’t have been worse. As contest director Matt Wilson was telling hundreds of thousands of disappointed fans on the internet that conditions were not good enough to run the Volcom Pro, Fiji today, Australian Ryan Hipwood was screaming his way through a perfect 12 foot tube.
“We’ve called it off for the day because the wind hasn’t cooperated….and it’s gotten worse since we called off the event,” he said, as the webcast team crossed to live images of Australian big-wave surfer, Ryan Hipwood piloting a cartoonish tube at Cloudbreak.
The much hyped and anticipated swell predicted to hit Fiji arrived today, sending triple overhead barrels thundering across the reef and witnessing some of the most spectacular surfing action in history. Two heats of the Volcom Pro were run in the morning, with Bede Durbidge beating Adam Melling in a tubeless affair and Kai Otton edging out Raoni Monteiro despite the Brazilian scoring a several-second 12-foot tube before being crushed as he attempted to doggy door it. Then they called it off.
“For all the people watching on the webcast, you have to understand that the chop on the face is pretty extreme. It’s just not safe,” continued Matt Wilson
Big wave legend, Dave Wassel who is on the Volcom webcast team (and killing it, btw) and had surfed it that morning, agreed with the call.
“It’s the correct call. These guys with the giant boards travel around the world for stuff like this but these guys on the pro tour, they aren’t riding ten foot boards…There is huge amounts of chop coming up the face,” he said.
It was true, Adam Melling was clearly under gunned in the opening heat of the day and it’s unlikely many pros had the required boards to surf the waves. But why? It’s not like this swell took anyone by surprise. Surely, they could have included a couple of ten footers among the hundred or so boards they’re given by their shapers every year?
In any case, what followed as the tide dropped out and the wind swung more favourable can only be described as mesmerizing live surfing footage. Damian Hobgood was one of a dozen World Tour surfers who ventured into the lineup, including Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Kelly Slater, John Florence and Josh Kerr. The Floridian put on a master class, dropping in late on one, dragging the anchor, getting sucked back up the face and riding above the foam ball before emerging from the barrel. It was one of several incredible waves. Underground Chilean charger, Ramon Navarro scored arguably the wave of the day, highlining a 12 footer, riding behind the foamball for an age and coming out long after the spit. Other highlights include Mark Healey’s stand tall spitting canon and Pat Gudauskas impersonation of the infamous Jay Moriarity Iron Crucifix, when he stuck an impossible air drop on which his board was blown sideways to almost a right angle. Even the Tavarua boat operator scored himself a triple barrel.
Kelly Slater agreed with the call, saying that the chop on the face was enough to warrant the event being called off, though also called it “one of the best big wave days of all time and it’s only getting started.”
As debate raged, CJ Hobgood appeared on the webcast and spoke on behalf of the surfers.
“I think everyone right now is like I wish we were running heats right now. At least the guys are out there taking advantage. I think everyone on tour lives and loves that they send us out in the biggest best waves.”– Jed Smith