What Are The Chances Kelly Slater Wins Fiji And Retires?
Damien Fahrenfort’s self-indulgent picks for the OK Fiji Pro.
Well, Brazil was no surprise–save the Filipe Toledo storm. Just a bunch of upsets and Adriano for the win. And, the wave wasn’t any better. But, now we’re back to our regular scheduled program because Fiji looks like it might not be half bad. The forecast is decent and Kelly is back from injury, or golfing, or pumping airs on the Goldy, or whatever. Anyway, I took a recent trip to Fiji. So in the next eight picks, I’m going to talk about it and make it about me.
It’s his wave and now his event. If you think Kelly got a deal on the Outerknown Fiji Pro, think again. Word on the street is that OK paid top dollar to be the title sponsor. Remember that swell where Harry Bryant took to Cloudbreak like an old friend, I was there, and it was humbling. The wave is scarier than I had imagined and far from perfect. The lineup is constantly shifting and after my shocker, and some much needed perspective, I gained a new appreciation for the performance that Kelly puts on at Cloudbreak every year. Other than Jordy, I hope the old man gets an overdue win. And if he does win, think he’ll retire on the high note? Probably not, Fiji has always been a place where Kelly gains momentum. But, it’d be one hell of an ending to the 11-time world champ’s competitive career.
Owen has proved he’s back and maybe better. And, in 2015, he put on one of the best performances we’ve ever seen at the venue. With a bit of swell on the forecast, it could be a huge opportunity for Owen to take back the yellow jersey. Plus, I think the wave’s easier for goofy footers to read, or maybe I’m just making excuses for my natural footed blunders out there.
John is the best tube rider in the world. He’s better than Kelly because he’s younger and can bounce back from heavy wipeouts quicker than the old man. Fiji tubes often end like J-bay. You come out of the barrel higher than where you went in; John is a master at that. This is weird to note, but I think JJFs new design (grey board, red rails) is going to look better at Fiji when he hits the lip.
Fuck this guy for constantly making me look bad for picking him. 2’s and 10’s have never rung truer for anyone. Julian is really good at Fiji and his backhand is top three on tour. Don’t believe me? Watch his heats from the previous years and his latest edit. He’s beyond overdue for a result and he’s good in the tube. C’mon Jules, redeem yourself. Better yet, redeem me.
He’s the returning champ and incredible out at Fiji. The lineup at Cloudbreak takes knowledge and energy. The rule out there: Stay high on low tide and low on high tide. Meaning the lineup is completely different when the tide swings. It’s easy to get caught in the wrong spot when you have priority. Gabs will start off on the inside, get the first score and then get another on the way back out while everyone else is too deep. He surfs heats smart, that, plus his skill set keep him a constant threat.
This guy is ready for a big result. After his win at Bells, he saw that there was a big swell heading to Fiji. Instead of heading home to celebrate, he bolted straight to the South Pacific for a week to put in his time and figure out the lineup a bit better. Jordy’s backhand, as you’ve probably noticed, has improved tenfold. And, he has the ability to be up there with the best in big tubes. His boards for are dialled, his surfing is inspired and well, I want him to win.
Like Jordy, Brother also took off to Fiji after Bells. He had a few days at home first due to his early exit, but from what I heard he went out there and put on a good show. Kolohe is fast becoming one of the best in big, hollow waves. He’s also figuring out how to get out of his head and let his natural surfing ability take over. It’s been fun to watch him mature.
Wildcard pick: Tevita Gukilau
Instead of my usual rookie pick, I’m going to put Tevita in here. While I was in Fiji there were some of the best surfers in the world there, and still, Tevita got the best wave of the day, almost every day. I only started almost getting in the tube after he gave me the 411. Tevita knows every inch of that reef far too well and, if it’s barrelling, he could do some serious damage. Which doesn’t bode well for JJF as they’re more than likely to come up against one another in round one and three.
Side story: Because of the weird way they write the date in the US (month/day/year) the Fijian customs office thought I was doing a visa run and fleeing America. After two hours of being grilled, I finally showed them that I was friends with Tevita on Facebook and that’s why I was coming to the Fiji and they let me in. He’s the Australian/Fijian man of the people.
*If you ever find yourself in Fiji and bump into a legend named Uri, buy him a beer for me and I’ll Venmo you the cash*
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