Did Josh Kerr Just Announce He's Throwing In The Towel?
"In a round about way, yes"—and more news from opening day of the Rip Curl Pro.
Flying into Lisbon this AM, having slept an hour tops on cold Barcelona marble after a <2hr flight turned into an 12-hour nightmare (thanks, TAP Portugal, you pricks), it was all I could do not to fall asleep at the wheel of my comically compact rental, feeling defeated for not having been at Supertubos before dawn, ready for some shorebreak carnage.
But as I pulled into Peniche around 9AM, whether the event would go today still seemed very much up in the air. Walking through the Supertubos lot I was distracted by several bearded, substantial, hair-bunned men in full-on parachute pants a la Aladin and I was so distracted/confused I was nearly run over by Conner Coffin and his filmer Ryan Perry, pulling out in their eurowagon, making a quick dash for breakfast.
“The swell’s filling in, but the waves are really straight, just full-on closeouts. But I think they’ll call it on, it’s going to get good later, I think,” Conner said, before the Commish gave the green light, and Conner paddled out and sent two boards to the beach in four pieces, going full Off the Wall Archy on closeouts in his first heat, setting the pace for the rest of what quickly became a demolition derby day, board-wise, the lifeguards ruthlessly scolding children for daring to dive into the shorepound for a half-CT sled.
The beach at Supertubos stretches for miles, but the little corner pocket that really gets surfed at this size is fairly narrow, hemmed in currently by about three miles of way overhead horseshoe closeouts to the south, and by another two slightly more sheltered miles still impossibly walled shorebreak, save for a 300-eard playing field of rip banks where the shoreline bends southwest. But as the morning turned to afternoon, the swell began to peak and settle, and a few bombs stirred the thick crowd, assembled just beyond the aggressive shorebreak’s reach, into an absolute frenzy.
"If anyone’s out there that wants to do a surf trip, I’m ready!" says Josh Kerr. Photo by Alan Van Gysen
After nabbing what shade-thrower extraordinaire Ronnie Blakey called “a rare win for 2017” against Gabriel Medina and Wiggoly Dantas, Josh Kerr fairly openly committed to moving on to greener pastures next year:
Rosy: Josh, you’ve had some moments of brilliance this year, but a lot of disappointing losses. That first round heat was a stacked one; it must have feel good to get your competitive juices flowing.
Josh: Yeah, I’ve had a very lackluster year, which has been unfortunate… But I’m looking forward to turning a new chapter in my life after this and moving on and doing all sorts of fun trips… If anyone’s out there that wants to do a surf trip, I’m ready!
A big shout out to my missus and Sierra [Kerrzy’s uber talented daughter]; they’re on a plane right now, and Sierra kicked me in the butt about that heat, she said I better win it as a goodbye present for her. So, I did it sweetie!
Rosie: Oh, I’m so stoked to hear that. She’ll be cheering you on. But some perspective: two big events left on the CT, and two big QS 10,000’s towards the end of the year…
Josh: … Yeah, either way I’m kinda feeling… sorta… done with it. I’m just excited for the next chapter, just doing exciting stuff.
We were just starting to get over Taj; Kerrzy’s absence from the tour, despite his dull 2017 season, will certainly be felt by everyone who has enjoyed the Australian ex-pats bottomless positivity and froth, not to mention his unrelenting progressive approach.
After a brief nap tucked in the corner off the side of the media’s shanty town, sleeping through an alarm I’d set myself, I woke up to Mason Ho being chaired up the beach after his battle with John John, which was wonderful and confusing considering Mason’s 3.67 combined heat score didn’t come close to JJF. Surf fans just can’t help themselves when it comes to that Ho. John John handled Supertubos swirling, shifting bombs about as cooly as anyone today, and if he can keep that form he'll be pretty much running away with the Title before week's end.
As the afternoon stretched on the high tide pushed the growing crowd back against the event structure and the swell pulsed, as Zeke Lau, Michel Bourez, and even young Ethan Ewing made sense of the beautiful chaos, while Jack Freestone and Mick Fanning earned their first round W's on pure Australian work ethic, Freestone punching through impossible falling chandeliers, escaping otherwise completely unmakeable waves, while Mick turned in one of the highest heat totals of the day, a broken board and two denials in the shorepound leaving him "as tired as he's ever felt from a heat."
As the last heats of the day wound down—Gabriel Medina keeping Mason Ho at bay, and local shredder Vasco Ribeiro—whose name I'm claiming you should get to know, Vasco a vicious Portuguese talent—dropping a 9.3, flying out of a solid, wedging pit, much to the dismay of Owen Wright's camp.
Seemingly everyone has agreed that Sunday will be a good bit smaller, but way more contestable, at least than today's earlier rounds. With the last heat in the water, we're looking for the nearest vacant pillow; tomorrow's going to be an early day, and probably a memorable one.
More of this tomorrow. Photo by Alan Van Gysen