Is The Wavepool Surfing’s True Test Of Ability?
How do you explain all the top seeds at the top of the leaderboard?
Stab is good at many things but internal communication is not always one of them.
Which explains how, as the final heat of the Surf Ranch Pro’s second day was nearing its end, with Julian Wilson loosing his fins on the inside bowl, Stab’s Chihuaha in Chief sent through the following message:
“Mikey, we are working on the galleries, can you hammer out a comp wrap?”
Uhhh… sure, boss!*
Thus began an intensive review of the Surf Ranch Pro’s “Replay” feature, which provided all the necessary data for a late-night competition review on the eve of a 4 AM wake-up.
It’s currently pushing 2:30 so may we fucking begin?
The event as a whole:
Being able to watch every person on Tour approach the same(ish) wave from myriad angles and abilities is more interesting than I’d assumed. There are still many boring rides, especially on day one, but as a surf geek I find it fascinating to dissect the surfers’ different approaches, physically and mentally, in pursuit of a “score”.
Also, the Surf Ranch Pro’s cutoff-line system makes the whole event feel directly competitive, even if singular waves are not. This is appreciated. Surfers like spectators can look up at the pool-side monitors and, based on a quick analysis of the cascading integers, determine what their next rides, both right and left, will have to include to transcend that pesky yellow line.
As it turns out, this rule applies to some but not all competitors.
“Nah, not at all actually,” said wildcard Mikey Wright, when asked if the leaderboard was dictating his approach to the wave. “I’m just kinda surfing the wave as it comes.”
Meanwhile Jordy Smith took the opposite angle.
“Yeah, 100%,” Jordy responded to Rosy Hodge, who had just asked her countrymate whether he’d decided in advance to set up for airs in lieu of the end tube. “I was just looking at the scoreboard and made my decision based on that.”
Now, how is it that two highly-rated professional surfers could have such divergent approaches to this new judging system? Both the scores and logic say that Jordy is in the right, so what, beyond a stubborn surfer’s mentality, could be fueling Mikey’s neglect of the board?
And what the fuck does he mean by “surfing the wave as it comes”?
The best surfers in the ocean are still the best in the pool.
On both the men’s and women’s sides of the draw, there are zero (0) surfers currently above the cutline who surfed on day one of the event. On the men’s side in particular, there is only one surfer above the cutline who is outside of the CT top 10 (Kanoa Igarashi).
So what does this mean?
Either the waves were significantly better today, or there’s a very good reason for why the people at the top of the CT rankings are at the top of the CT rankings.
Considering the nature of this event, it’s probably the latter.
Does that make Slater’s wavepool the true test of a surfer’s ability?
The women sizzled, sparked!
Based on her 9.23 this morning, Steph Gilmore has retained the title of best tuberider in Lemoore (earning her the Jose Cuervo “Shot of the day” – yes, actually), but her backhand leaves much to be desired.
Steph has always favored her forehand, no doubt the result of her upbringing on Queensland’s Gold Coast, but typically there’s not such a blatant disparity between her toe and heel sides. Steph still scored a seven on her left and is sitting well above the yellow poverty line, but in order to win this thing she’ll need to find another gear on the heels.
…Especially when Carissa Moore’s turns look better than 90% of the guys’.
After scoring an 8.9 on her opening right, Carissa knew she could let loose on number two, which spawned a few of the most powerful and impressive hacks seen all day. She would have gotten an 8 on the men’s scale, easily, had she not fallen on the middle section.
Female air update: Several attempts, no completions. Yet.
Airs matter most for men, but only just.
Airs are the only thing that make this show truly interesting, and the judges get that, so they score them well – usually.
One exception would be rodeo flips – a move historically gifted eights in its own right, but for some reason in Lemoore, even when preceded by a wave full of turns and tube, it’s worth only six or seven. Poor Pat and Jordy probably don’t know what to think!
Another exception would be Kolohe Andino.
Following his second righthander, wherein Kolohe stomped not one but two forehand air reverses – one before the first the barrel and the other after the last – Kolohe approached Rosy for a giddy post-heat presser.
After answering several of her questions, Kolohe visibly stopped listening to Rosy Hodge and snapped back with a query of his own:
“Wait, what did I get?” Kolohe asked to nobody in particular, “…A 7.7? That’s… weird.”
And who could blame him for having such a reaction? Considering both Kanoa and Griffin had just gotten high-eights for waves with a similar air out the back and a fall on the inside, it would be totally logical for Kolohe to expect an equal-or-better score for himself.
Alas, his fell a full point short.
And I must admit, at first glance this felt like a highway robbery. It wasn’t until I poured through the replays, really dissected the eights of Kelly, Seabass, Kanoa, and Griff that I came to understand what the judges were alluding to with their score: by setting up his whole ride for those two impressive maneuvers, Kolohe forgot to surf the rest of the wave.
He did quarter-checks out the back, half-turns through the middle, and failed to ever get deep in the tube. Also, in comparison to Kanoa and Griff, Kolohe’s air out the back looked forced and without pop (though the ender to the flats was magnificent).
So if Kolohe was cruelled by the judges, it was only by a hair.
One just hopes he’ll take this as another learning experience rather than getting bitter and confused.
Which is to say, Kolohe: Adding a couple Carissa hacks and Steph tubes between punts will see you to the top of the pack.
Speaking of the top of the pack, how fucking good is Gabriel Medina at riding surfboards?
Despite surrendering a couple rides to his sister on the practice days, the first Brazilian World Champ looks possessed by adding another goblet to his mantle in 2019, Filipe be damned.
Even the World Number One had to admit Gabriel was impressive:
“He was definitely the most solid surfer today,” Filipe said, after retiring with a nine of his own.
Medina and he own the only two nines on the male side of the draw, though Filipe is currently sitting on a soft six for his left.
Other notable performers include: Jordy Smith, who refused the tube and instead decided to fly, fly, fly(!), Owen Wright, who made a quick joke out of Jordy’s “[human] size = [lack of] depth” claim, by stuffing himself deeper than most in two back-to-back rights and also demoing his left, Kelly Slater, for that foot-revealing hack, and Italo Ferreira, who I just love so very much.
Watching the (true) world’s best surf this wave was genuinely enjoyable, and in conjunction with the current leaderboard, it made me realize just how clearly the CT needs to be halved.
It’ll save money, time, and increase the viewing experience for all.
The only people it would hurt are the low-to-mid-tier CT surfers, and frankly, I don’t give a damn. Maybe a little occupational uncertainty would make Connor, or Conner, want to throw an air every once in a while.
See ya tomorrow, when the real fun begins!
*I was actually much more difficult than this.
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