15-Year-Old Ladybird Erin Brooks Makes Final In All-Men's Tuberiding Event - Stab Mag
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She'll be taking scalps at Teahupoo. Photo by Nate Lawrence/WSL

15-Year-Old Ladybird Erin Brooks Makes Final In All-Men’s Tuberiding Event

And Clay Marzo takes the dub.

news // Aug 6, 2022
Words by August Howell
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Around the same time Challenger Series warriors were S-turning or H-hopping their way to the sand at the US Open, halfway around the world, another tribe of competitors were threading one of the best barrels on Earth. 

To soul arch or to Clay-back?

After a two-year, pandemic-induced hiatus, the 2022 Rip Curl Cup Padang returned on August 4th. When the spray finally settled over the Bukit Peninsula, Clay Marzo emerged as surfing’s most inimitable tube-whisperer by winning the 16th annual event.

After not paddling for a single wave during an exceptionally slow round one heat, the ever unflappable Clay simply put his head down and did his thing, making barrels most humans would consider closeouts.

But that’s just half the story. In the final against Marzo and Balinese locals Mega Semadhi and Mega Artana, the Texas-born, Hawaii-raised, Canadian-repping Erin Brooks raised the bar for all of women’s professional surfing, taking out a handful of the world’s best tube riders and finishing fourth in the final in pumping surf. 

As the WSL transitions to equal footing for men and women in heavier surf, Erin’s performance is a warning shot to current vets and up-and-comers. Not only can she out-punt any of them, she’ll swing on critical dry reef cylinders.

It’s worth noting that Clay only made the semifinals after defending champ Benji Brand, who has yet to lose a heat at the fabled reef, withdrew due to a case of Bali Belly. But once in the last heat of the day, Clay cruised into a perfect 10 that got him atop the podium with a 18.73 heat total. 

“It was epic out there,” said Clay, the 2019 runner-up. “I am stoked to get those barrels, some of the best waves ever. The lightbulb went on when I found out I was still in the event. The pressure was off [after I thought I was out] and I found my groove. Benji told me to go get it!”

Clay Marzo in the (Bali) belly of the beast. Photo by Nate Lawrence/WSL

Erin had the lead for the first 12 minutes of the final with stylish double-hand stalls on double overhead (for her) drainers. The 15-year-old Stab High Ladybird winner surfed four heats on Thursday, including the first-ever women’s division with Taina Izqueirdo, Kailani Johnson and Ziggy Mackenzie. She didn’t flinch while overtaking Shane Dorian, Mason Ho, Nic Von Rup, Ian Crane, and a stacked local contingent that included two former event winners en route to the final. 

Speaking of that local crowd, can we take a second to appreciate how tube-savvy these guys are? Not only does Padang Padang boast impressive young talent, but there are several older heads that have had this dialed for more than a decade, like former cup winners Garut Widarta (2014) and Made “Bol” Winada Adi Putra (2004 and 2005). The takeoff and stall may look simple on the broadcast, but it’s gotta be hard to align everything and stay composed while “being inside a jet engine” as Ian Crane described it.

Clay and Erin made the difficult look easy and both got chaired up the beach. A party ensued above the cliffs and Bintangs flowed. A golden Balinese sunset capped off a historic day.

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