Stab Magazine | Competitive Surfing (In The Ocean) Returns!
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Competitive Surfing (In The Ocean) Returns!

It might’ve been a head-high East Coast beachie, but it’s good to be back. 

news // Sep 13, 2020
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Competitive surfing from a spectators perspective is like sex. For the past decade we’ve been in a long-term and often loveless relationship with competitive surfing. There was some raunchy escapades (see: Kelly and John in Tahiti), but more often than not it’s been vapid and sterile encounters (see: half of the events each year). 

As a spectator we could complain, talk about how much better we deserved, and even felt nostalgic for the flames of yesteryear (see: the ASP when Kelly and Andy were in their primes). In short, we took it all for granted. Then in April the Snapper comp was cancelled, followed by Bells, Margaret River, and eventually the remainder of the 2020 schedule. 

Surf fans went from a long-term relationship to a dearth of jerseyed surf stimulus within a matter of days. All of a sudden we were regretting saying we’d be better off without the WSL or competitive surfing; because as much as we love to hate on it, like average sex, it’s a hell of a lot better than nothing.

During this period of abstinence some of us divulged in VR porn (read: pool based surf comps) and even considered the competitive equivalent of prostitution (read: Surf100). Eventually though, the real thing would return, and like a late-night nightclub lover who meets your threshold because you’re three-fourths drunk, the WSL returned. While we’d all love it to be heaving Pipe, firing Snapper, or any version of Chopes, a head-high beachie in NSW most-northern section would have to do. 

The first WSL event we’ve witnessed in the ocean since Pipe (well, one most of us would actually watch) is called the Tweed Coast Pro, and considering Australia’s strict border controls, the lineup was good: Julian Wilson, Ryan Callinan, Mikey Wright, Stephanie Gilmore, and Tyler Wright to name a few. The waves were pretty average and a shark sighting put the opening heat on hold, but oh my it was sort of nice to watch competitive surfing again. 

The lulls, the refreshing commentary team, the good surfing, the crappy but still sort of fun waves, it was all so nice to have back on our screens for a Sunday. 

In the first men’s heat, Connor O’Leary beat out his learned friend Mr. Ace Buchan and the other Avoca boy Wade Carmichael. The next heat however had a little extra spice. Owen Wright was semi-flaring with seven and eight, Ethan was surfing perfectly as always, and Margo’s son, Micah, got put to the sword with a real shitty wave selection. 

Ewing before the wind came up. Photo: WSL

Heat 3 is what we were all here for. Not since the Round 4 superheats of yesteryear would you see surfers of this calibre in the same heat – Julian ‘recently left Hurley’ Wilson, Jack ‘how the fuck did he get out of West Australia’ Robinson, and Mikey ‘he’d definitely rather be fishing’ Wright. It didn’t shape up as interesting as the drawcard would imply, but it was enjoyable, and Robbo showed why he’s more than just a good surfer in big West Australian waves to advance through. 

And in Heat 4, the only surfer in the comp to not hail from Australia won the heat. Mathew McGillivray beat out Ryan Callinan and Morgan Cibilic, the new star of Rip Curl’s Search series. 

Even a layback x Gath combo couldn’t see Cibilic into finals day. Photo: WSL

Over on the women’s side the opening round went exactly as you’d expect. Macy Callaghan won the first heat, Steph smoked the second, Tyler eased her way through the third and Nikki Van Dijk scraped through in the final heat of the opening round.

Tyler Wright also made a strong statement supporting the Black Lives Matter (which was also adorned on the bottom of her board) movement before her heat. Tyler knelt for 439 seconds, fist raised, to acknowledge the 439 Indigenous Australians who have died in police custody since ’91 and followed this with the below message to her Instagram followers. 

After the women’s first round the onshore snuck up, the tide had come in, and frankly I forgot how trying it is to watch 5+ hours of competitive surfing without a break. Knocked out of the men’s in a slow second round was Micah Margieson, Wade Carmichael (who had little hope against the nine-pointer Ethan Ewing posted), Ryan Callinan against Jules, and Morgan Cibilic losing to mullet Mike. 

The waves continued to worsen as the wind picked up, the women’s second round started and finished, so let’s hope tomorrow resembles the cleaner lines of this morning to wrap up the first comp we’ve seen in some time. 

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