Stab Magazine | Sally's Air Was Criminally Underscored And (Male) Australian Surfing Is Reborn!
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Sally’s Air Was Criminally Underscored And (Male) Australian Surfing Is Reborn!

Finals day at the Tweed Coast Pro.

news // Sep 14, 2020
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Judges. You gotsta be kidding me. 

Sally Fitz does the best air we’ve seen a female over the age of 14 do in a surf event and she gets a seven? A seven? Boys, gals, Stevie Wonder, whoever’s dropping digits for this exhibition comp: are you aware of the damage this kind of cruelty can cause? You might have just set (adult) female progression back another three years.

At least Sierra, Erin, Molly and co. will nearly be on tour by then. 

To be fair, Tyler Wright deserved the heat win. And the event win. Her surfing was stronger, faster, and more precise than the field’s. But those two eights Tyler earned in the Sally heat? She would have gone excellent 95 times out of 100 on those waves. Sally’s air was something we’ve rarely if ever seen in women’s professional surfing, and you gave her a seven. That’s just poor form. 

Sally, we see you. That was a proper section and your technique was flawless. Good pop, no early grab, seamless rotation. Give the gal a nine, Tyler retains the heat win, and we call it square.

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For the record, this is not the air in question.

Today, in gutless QS conditions, we saw the Australian guard change before our eyes.

All the Tour elders (Owen, Julian, Ace, etc.) went down to the young bucks in the quarters. This made the average number of years on tour for today’s semifinalists 0.5.

Babies!

There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about which males were going to carry the torch for Australian surfing in the coming decade. In spite of its mediocre surf, the Tweed Coast Pro provided an answer: Jack Robinson and Ethan Ewing.

I recently heard a Stab staff member say that Ethan Ewing is the best surfer in the world right now. While I can’t outright deny that claim, I’d say Ethan and Italo might co-own that role as surfing’s yin and yang. 

As for Jack, I just finished pre-judging Surf100 North Point and holy fuck. That guy can surf. But what’s even more impressive than Jack’s preternatural tube talent is his commitment to improvement. Shortly after Surf100 was filmed, Jack moved from the gorgeous, wave-rich, and 5G-repellant WA to the crowded, also quite pretty, but teeming-with-electromagnetic-currents Gold Coast. All so he could improve upon the one relative weak point in his surfing: small waves.

That’s the kind of decision that spawns a future world-beater. His loss in the semis was a crime against humanity.

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At one point in the day, a commentator referred to the Tweed Coast Pro as a “strike-mission” event. I’m not sure if that’s how you want to brand a competition marred by dribbly waist-high surf. However, I’d have to agree with the commentators’ overall summation that a two-day, creme-de-la-creme showdown is an optimal format for the WSL.

Apparently the surfers agreed too. That is, the surfers who were invited to this comp. Methinks that the Ace Buchans and Macy Callaghans of the world might feel differently about this arrangement when the borders reopen and they realize they no longer qualify for that “creme-de-la-creme” conversation. 

But sometimes you need to trim the fat to save the herd. And the WSL could really use a shave. Despite the poor surf, this event was watchable because it required a relatively small time investment and the field was mostly elite. Waves like this at a traditional CT event would have lost us in round 1 heat 3. 

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I didn’t get a proper look at Steph’s surfing until the final. She was on an epoxy. The first turn I saw her do was a wild forehand finner, landed with dexterity and grace. 

“Better than McGulliver, or whatever the fuck his name is,” my girlfriend quipped. 

My male superiority complex didn’t even flinch. She was right.

Tyler, however, was surfing even better than Steph. It’s undeniable, both quantitatively (her heat scores were higher on average throughout the comp) and qualitatively (she was more faster and more fluidly on her waves). Last year, Tyler returned to competition at Honolua Bay after some 18 months out of the jersey. She looked significantly slimmer than years past and was surfing with increased style and precision.

Was it the new Pyzels underfoot? Did the weight loss allow Tyler more mobility on the wave? Or had the 2x Champ been meticulously refining her technique during this competitive hiatus? It could be none, some, or all of the reasons above, but what really matters is that Tyler is back, and despite the cliché, might just be surfing better than ever. 

Steph, Carissa, and co. should be fearful. 

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Following the final, Steph was welcomed on the beach by a few cheery fans—what Ronnie described as a “small crowd”. While objectively true, it made me giggle that in pre-covid times, that same number of spectators would have been described as numerous and rabid. Just a funny little reminder of the random ways the pandemic has altered our world. 

With Jack unjustly ousted from the event, the final was a walkthrough for Eazy E. Dropping the event’s highest score of a 9.77 and clocking a high-8 as his back-up, the Australian was simply unbeatable. The disparity between his and McGillivray’s surfing was so defined (reminiscent of John vs. whoever at Margs) that the South African would have needed a hail-mary air to have a chance. And the section just wasn’t there. 

So, is Ethan the best surfer in the world right now? Impossible to say, but he’ll be wearing the yellow jersey come Straddie.

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