Aaron "Gorkin" Cormican Goes On Occy-Like Rampage At 'King Of The Peak' Skins Event
He could have won all 11 heats, had he not been hammered for the last...
Two decades have passed since Mark Occhilupo ran the field at a now-infamous Skins event in 1997. On that fateful day in Victoria, Occy knocked off 11 straight competitors en route to winning $55,000 at six-foot Bells, which was nearly triple what Matt Hoy earned for his Rip Curl Pro victory a few weeks prior. Many still consider Occy’s upside-down theatrics to be one of, if not the greatest competitive surfing performance of all time.
At yesterday’s Quiksilver King of the Peak (KOTP) event, held at Florida’s legendary Sebastian Inlet, Aaron ‘Gorkin’ Cormican fell one heat and $52,450 short of tying Occy’s record. Nevertheless it was an incredible run for the Gork.
After drawing names from a hat, it was decided that Gorkin would surf in the first heat of the morning, in lumpy but not un-fun Inlet conditions. There’s a lot of pressure being in the first heat of a skins event, because if you don’t win, meaning a 1st-place finish in a 4-man heat, you’re out for the rest of the day.
In fact, before we go any further, let me break down the skins format (or KOTP puppeteer Matt Kechele’s version thereof) so we’re all on the same page.
76 surfers’ names are drawn from a hat to determine heat pairings/times (4-man heats, 20 mins)
The winner of heat 1 advances to heat 3, which becomes a 5-man heat. The winner of heat 3 advances to heat 5, so on and so forth until the last "odd" heat of the day -- heat 19. The same thing happens on the “even” side of the draw, starting with heat 2 and ending at heat 20.
If you place anything other than 1st in your heat, you’re out for the day.
Each heat win (i.e “skin”) is worth $255.
Heats are won with the single highest scoring wave, which needs to be visibly claimed by the surfer.
KOTP’s new rule for 2017: when a surfer claims the highest scoring wave of the heat, he must exit the water and sit on the “King’s Throne” (a rickety wooden chair in the sand). If one of his competitors claims a higher score, the usurped King may re-enter the water to win back his crown. However, a surfer can only claim twice in a single heat.
On day two the draw is flipped, meaning if you surfed in heat 1 on the first day, you surf in heat 19 on day two, and vice versa. No matter where you are in the draw, every person has the opportunity to surf 11 times in total, if they don’t lose any heats.
I hope that makes sense.
Now back to Gorkin, the east coast stalwart who allegedly hadn’t won a contest in five years. After scalping the first heat of the morning, effectively ridding himself of the competitive cobwebs, Aaron went on an all-out killing spree. The video above, which is something of a KOTP vlog by Ben Gravy, features the entirety of Gorkin’s 10-heat rampage on day one. His streak includes several airs (one of them damn impressive), a bevy of hacks, and a generally smart competitive approach. It seems that Gorkin’s key to success was claiming a wave early and putting the pressure on his competitors to take back the lead. None did.
At the end of the day, Gorkin racked up 10 heat wins and $2,550 in cash. He was noticeably giddy.
Contest director and Sebastian Inlet kingpin, Matt Kechele, was equally impressed. “This is the 19th year we’ve run the King of the Peak, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone clear a whole round before,” Matt confessed. “I could be wrong. Maybe Slater or one of the Hobgoods did it back in the day, but I can’t think of anything at the moment. This year was also the highest level of surfing I’ve ever seen at this event. Even compared to the CT, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many airs landed in a competition.”
Some of the major names in this year’s event included: Gabe Kling (the only man to beat Gorkin), Asher Nolan (who had the second-most skins with 5) Evan Geiselman, Michael Dunphy, Travis Beckman (winner of the Florida Beer Co. Air Show), Daniel Glen (who had the highest-scoring wave of the event: a massive slob-grab air for a 9.33) and a list of other east coast standouts.
Going into the final day of the event, Gorkin knew there was little, if anything, another surfer could do to steal his KOTP trophy. Despite not surfing until the day’s final heat, Gorkin spent all afternoon on the beach, soaking in that winning feeling plus maybe a few beers.
By the time heat 19 came around, with the official win already in the bag, Gorkin headed out for his final appearance “six beers deep” and with a Foster's mega-can in his singlet. Perhaps this wasn’t his greatest plan, as Gorkin eventually came up short against ex-CTer Gabe Kling, thus forfeiting the “perfect contest” of 11-straight wins. But despite not tying Occy’s formidable record, it’s hard to blame Gorkin for revelling in his victory -- even if it was slightly premature.
The 37-year-old surfboard shaper will return to New Smyrna Beach with a second KOTP crown, a couple thou in cash, and perhaps a slight hangover. Still, that’s hardly a price to pay for such a dominating performance.
If there’s one takeaway from this event, it’s that surfing needs to mix up its competitive structure. One-off comps like Quiksilver’s KOTP bring an element of fun and excitement not typically found at WSL events. I find the “skins” format to be a breath of fresh air and would love to see more events like it around the world. Occy and Gorkin would surely agree.
2017 Quiksilver “King of the Peak” Results
Aaron Cormican 10 Skins $2,550.00
Asher Nolan 5 Skins $1,275.00
Daniel Glenn 4 Skins $1,020.00
Gabe Kling 3 Skins $765.00
Chauncey Robinson 2 Skins $510.00
Nick Alexander 2 Skins $510.00
Tommy Coleman 2 Skins $510.00
Michael Dunphy 2 Skins $510.00
Evan Geiselman 2 Skins $510.00
Blake Speir 2 Skins $510.00
Evan Thompson 2 Skins $510.00
Sam Duggan 1 Skin $255.00
Mason Sapp 1 Skin $255.00
History List of Former Quiksilver “King of the Peak” Winners
1995 Kelly Slater
1996 Called Off(Flat/Bad Weather)
1997 Todd Morcom
1998 Bill Hartley
1999 Eric Hatton
2000 David Speir
2001 Kelly Slater
2002 CJ Hobgood
2003 Bryan Hewitson
2004 Justin Jones
2005 Kyle Garson
2006 Jeremy Johnston
2007 Eric Taylor
2008 Cody Thompson
2009 Eddie Guilbeau
2010 Aaron Cormican
2011 Travis Beckmann
2012 CJ Hobgood
2017 Aaron Cormican