Drugs, Black Magic, And Dream Tour Existentialism
Historical context and contemporary insight for the CT’s eeriest event, the Quik Pro G-Land.
The last time surf fans watched a (W)CT contest at G-Land, it was on VHS tape.
This was in 1997 — before current world #1 Brisa Hennessy was born, but still four World Titles into Kelly Slater’s career — and webcasts did not exist. There were 14 perfect 10s. Luke Egan won. Political unrest saw the event canceled in 1998, and it hasn’t returned since.
Well, it almost came back in 2011 but that’s a different story (read here).
Also held in 1995 and 1996, the string of Quiksilver Pro G-Land events is credited with spawning the concept of the “Dream Tour.” With some exceptions, most contests in the ‘90s were held at city beaches with event windows running from Wednesday to Sunday. The crowd was prioritized, not the conditions. Bruce Raymond dreamt up an event at the distant/perfect/mysterious Grajagan with a 12-day waiting period, and it actually went through.
Life on site was interesting. Photographer Peter ‘Joli’ Wilson recounted the following in a story on the WSL’s website:
I can remember arriving at my hut for the first time to be greeted by a black and red snake about 40cm long crawling through the grass at the bottom of the steps. Before the day was out I’d watched a deadly green mamba snake slither from a tree and into the thatched roof of my hut. As it turned out, seeing snakes was a daily or nightly sight and if the stories were to be believed, tigers still roamed freely.
Then there were also the noises in the night. High pitched screaming from the monkeys, loud grunting from feral pigs and other sounds that you couldn’t place and didn’t really want to think about. The banners for the contests had a tiger head on them and while there were never any sightings, we did find big cat prints in the low tide sand one morning. Enough to help keep you alert walking around during the day or the mind racing as you tried to sleep at night.
The original surf camp at G-Land was a primitive setup founded in 1974 by Mike Boyum, a man who was not particularly fond of the law. Heroin and weed were the drugs du jour and popular amongst some of the surfers who frequented Boyum’s camp. A few of these surfers began trafficking drugs, which was the subject of the greatest surf movie ever made/never released, Sea Of Darkness. The film toured festivals and collected awards, then got buried when those involved (some of whom have ties to the surf industry, which perhaps uncoincidentally, roared to life around the same time) got cold feet.
For some reason, Bill Murray was also there.
It’s been said that Javanese locals believe this area of the jungle was not meant to be inhabited, and should be left untouched for spirits to roam. As the story goes, the wave was discovered when a surfer named Bob Laverty saw it from the window of a plane. Shortly after finding his way there and surfing it for the first time, Laverty drowned at Uluwatu. The term “black magic” is often used. Considering all of the above, we’ve no reason to doubt this.
Enough of the past. Where are we now?
At press time, we’re two days away from the start of the waiting period and there are already rumors of canceling G-Land for 2023. We know that Quiksilver and Roxy signed a two-year contract for the event, which was originally meant to run in 2020 and 2021. COVID hindered that. Now that the event is finally here, the deal stands but the location might not.
The lack of infrastructure at G-Land means that surfers — many of whom are used to traveling with entourages — can only bring a +1. Consequently, we’ve heard whispers of the WSL pushing for Fiji to replace G-Land in 2023.
To summarize, an event at a world-class wave that was pioneered by drug-fueled pirates and proceeded to change the way professional surfing works might soon be canceled because modern surfers cannot tolerate a week in air-conditioned rooms with wifi and hot water and perfect waves and nothing else.
Don’t be surprised if this event is a one-and-done, adding to the eerie mystique that has always surrounded Plengkung Beach.
Although G-Land is less than 100 kilometers from Bali, the quickest way to get there is a high-speed boat which takes 2.5 – 3 hours when the conditions are good. Add an hour and some Dramamine when things aren’t looking great.
The wave is 1.5 kilometers — or just under a mile — long. The sections are Kongs, Money Trees, Launching Pads, and Speedies, in that order.
Swell and tide allowing, competitors will likely be surfing Speedies, as it’s the best wave on the stretch. However there are multiple judging scaffolds and camera stations set up across different portions of the reef, should they be superior options on any given day.
If there’s swell, the highest potential scores will be found in the barrel. If not, combos will be queen. The closest possible comparison is Cloudbreak. Regardless of the conditions, Italo will still likely find a way to punt.
There was a curious piece of language that emerged during the WSL’s slice controversy. “The mid-season cut ensures that events can run within one optimal swell cycle,” wrote Erik Logan in his letter to CT surfers. Rapid firing through an event sounds a lot better than having to remind fans that the Semis are coming on five days after we watched the Quarters.
But can they actually run an event over the course of one swell?
The new format features a total of 48 heats (31 men’s, 17 women’s). This is down from 70 (47 men’s, 23 women’s) pre-cut. If the heats are 30 minutes, an event can finish in three 8-hour days of surfing.
It’s doable in theory, but the forecast for G-Land suggests we won’t yet see this strategy in practice. It’ll be interesting to see how future events unpack, though.
-We polled the competitors in this year’s event to find out who’s been to G-Land before. Approximately half of the male surfers responded, and 64% said this would be their first time there. Approximately half of the female surfers responded, and 100% said this would be their first time there.
-The 1995-97 events were won by Kelly Slater, Shane Beschen, and Luke Egan. Two of the three finals featured a goofy, with Jeff Booth finishing runner up to Kelly in 1995, and an all-goofy final in 1997 featuring Luke Egan and Chris Gallagher.
-Three locations in Indonesia have hosted the CT. Uluwatu (1981-82, 2008, and the end of the Margaret River comp in 2018), Keramas (2013, 2018 and 2019), and G-Land, 1995-97). All nine events have had a different winner — 4x goofy and 5x regular. Kelly Slater has surfed six of these events.
-Cloudbreak is arguably the closest comparison we have wave-wise. Eight of the nine different champions at Cloudbreak between 1999-2017 were goofy. Kelly was the only regular footer to win there.
-John John Florence has only made one semi-final at Cloudbreak in five CT events. That was in 2013, and he lost to Kelly. In three showings at Keramas, he’s never made it past Round 3.
-The last time we saw Gabriel Medina surf a heat was on September 14, 2021. He posted 17.53 points in his second Finals surf-off against Filipe Toledo to win his third World Title. Gabriel reached the final at Cloudbreak in 3 out of 6 events (2012, 2014 & 2016), and won twice.
-Four women’s CT events were held at Cloudbreak between 2014-2017. Sally Fitzgibbons (x2), Johanne Defay and Courtney Conlogue won. Steph Gilmore was a finalist in 2014, Carissa Moore in 2016, and Tatiana Weston-Webb in 2017. All three winners were regulars, and there were only two goofy finalists during this time.
-Wildcard Rio Waida is fresh off the biggest win of his career in Manly. He’s also won two QS events in Indonesia since 2015, the Hello Pacitan Pro at Watu Karung in 2017 and the Vans Bali Pro this season. Rio has had two previous CT wildcards. At Keramas in 2019, he beat Gabriel Medina in his Round 1 heat. And in the Corona Open Mexico last season, he beat Filipe Toledo in Round 2. He was also raised on the Bukit Peninsula, which has endowed him with a hell of a backhand.
Mikey’s Betonline.ag picks
- $25 on Tatiana Weston Webb at +1000 to win $250
- $25 on Filipe Toledo at +800 to win $200
- $10 on Kolohe Andino at +3300 to win $330
- $10 on Sally Fitzgibbons at +1400 to win $140
- $30 on Italo Ferreira at +600 to win $180
- $20 on Rio Waida at +6600 to win $1,320
Total spend: $120
- $5 on Seth Moniz at +450 to win $23 (Since we made this bet, Seth has pulled out of the event. $5 down before the comp even starts!)
- $10 on Kolohe Andino at +350 to win $35
- $10 on Kelly Slater at +175 to win $18
- $10 on Jordy Smith at +165 to win $17
- $15 on Rio Waida at +425 to win $64
- $5 on Caio Ibelli at +385 to win $19
- $10 on Miguel Pupo at +175 to win $18
- $10 on Isabella Nichols at +275 to win $28
- $40 on Tatiana Weston-Webb at +250 to win $100
- $10 on Sally Fitzgibbons at +250 to win $25
Total spend: $125
Pipe earnings: +$465
Bells earnings: +$337
Margaret River earnings: +$136
2022 Season earnings: $938