Stab Magazine | Would You Rather Be Surfing Average Waves Yourself, Or Watching The Surf Ranch Pro?

Would You Rather Be Surfing Average Waves Yourself, Or Watching The Surf Ranch Pro?

Existential queries lie within. 

news // Sep 9, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Miguel Pupo, you pitaya-plated rascal!

Sitting in the equivalent of dead last and without a legitimate score in his line, Brazil’s style benchmark handled a consecutive left and right with robust speed and control, resulting in a 15-point total and a jump straight to number three on the leaderboard.

How’s that for a Saturday morning shake-up?

Of the 28 men who were below the qualification line coming into day three of the Surf Ranch Pro, six surfed their final rides well enough to jump into the top eight (at least briefly), however several of them (like Yago Dora) were bumped out when top seeds (Julian, Filipe) reclaimed their rightful place in the winner’s corridor with aggressively brilliant surfing. 

“Safety surfing” wasn’t the only route to a final’s berth. Julian Wilson demarcating safe from risky. Photo: WSL/Cestari

This whole who’s-in-who’s-out business made Saturday very fun to watch, I would assume, but wouldn’t really know because I spent most of the day surfing myself.

Some context for that admission:

All the way at the bottom of yesterday’s comp wrap, one commenter noted the following about your author:

Glad you pointed out that you’re a surf geek, how much time do you spend sitting on the sofa watching? I have to agree with Sam George, ‘real surfers don’t want to watch, we want to ride.’ Which may be a dilemma for the Wsl.”

And despite the sofa-sitting diss I think this guy has a point. Or rather Sam George has a point which the commenter copy-pasted with aplomb.

In my little slice of the world, the waves were quite remarkable today.

As big as most would like, clean, hollow, and due to the multi-mile beach upon which I reside, entirely without crowds.

While this may smell foul to many of you, I found myself pleading to non-existent gods that someone, anyone would paddle out and join me for the morning surf, as to subvert the fear of getting hit on the head and drowning alone.

For some reason drowning without as much as an witness seems much more depressing.

Had it not been the best day of waves in over a month, I would have happily cut my morning session short and committed to a day of sofa-sitting for the Ranch Pro’s elimination round. But deep in my soul, and in all of our souls I’d imagine, lives an obsessive surfing bug that forces us to drop all non-absolutely-essential tasks and simply ride waves on those rare remarkable days.

On most days though, the waves are not remarkable and therefore we can enjoy watching something as unique and entertaining as the Surf Ranch Pro from the comfort of our sofas – especially on elimination Saturday, or as they call it in golf: “moving day”.

Like Greenmount, except more perfect, yet somehow worse. Photo: WSL/Cestari

And at its core, this event is nothing more than a reverse-engineered, mildly aquatic golf tournament.

Just with (many) more mulligans.

So no, Mr. Commenter – this idea of “surfers would rather be surfing” is not, as you would lead us to believe, statistically problematic for the WSL. Because waves around the world are typically average (ha, get it!) and the League’s apparent target market is non-surfers anyways.

Despite the distraction of waves, I did catch a few cool moments live today, one of those being Kolohe’s candid post-heat presser.

After burying the nose just a fraction too deep on his end-section punt, Kolohe knew he’d missed out on finals qualification. Or rather, he knew that’s what the judges had decided for him.

I know I should be in the top-8 right now,” Kolohe declared to the WSL’s international audience. “I think Jordy should be too, he did a big blowtail and an air at the end. I just don’t understand how guys who are safety surfing and getting a little barrel getting the same scores as me. I’m pretty baffled. When I was training for this event, I really thought I had to go bananas to do well. I thought the judges wanted to see point of difference – they’re always talking about a point of difference. And risk. I was one of three guys who went for it out the back, risked the entire wave for a turn on the first part of the wave. I’m just frustrated and confused. I feel like I get the short end of the stick a lot, but that’s professional surfing. That’s the job I chose.” (Author’s note: The above is paraphrased based off hastily-written notes while watching this in real time. The interview does not appear to exist anywhere on the WSL site so it’s the best we could do.)

Yesterday I explained how at first Kolohe’s 7.7 seemed like a blatant robbery, but that I was able to understand the judges’ logic after thoroughly analyzing replays. While that sentiment remains, Kolohe’s speech also rings of truth, even if it is just his truth.

Whether or not Andino deserved the scores to usurp Seabass and claim a spot in the top eight, it’s clear that Kolohe cares deeply about this sport, and that when his dedication and effort are met with indifference from the judges, it hurts him not just professionally but emotionally as well. 

It’s like a surfing soap opera and I fucking love it. 

Medina placing a point of exclamation upon a comparatively colourless left. Photo: WSL/Cestari

Surfing-wise, I was amazed to watch Slater, Filipe, and Seabass step up and achieve their much-needed backhand scores. Meanwhile Yago and Italo failed to capitalize on their right and left respectively, leaving both Brazilians shy of the cutline come day’s end (though Yago’s left was a thing of artistry).

Also interesting is the fact that seven of the eight men in qualifying position used at least one score from today, the exclusion being Medina. I’m not sure what that means exactly but maybe we’ll find out tomorrow.

Here are the final 8 men:

Screen Shot 2018 09 09 at 13.08.41 AM

Oh, and the gals didn’t move at all from yesterday’s position, nor did any of the top four use a ride from Saturday in their qualifying score. 

Sally Fitz came close to threatening Steph but found it difficult to snarl through those pearly whites.

Meanwhile Carissa brought out her “air board” but failed to complete an end-section rotation. Her turns remain gender ambiguous in the very best way.

Here are the final four women:

Screen Shot 2018 09 09 at 12.07.50 AM

Come tomorrow, each of the 12 surfers remaining will receive three more rights and three more lefts. The top number in each direction will be counted for each surfer; he and she with the highest two-wave total will be declared victorious.

And one more thing: they’ll be using the same seeding system as today, wherein the surfer at the top of the leaderboard gets to go last. This is theoretically advantageous for the high seed, as he and/or she is able to recognize a clear banchmark for victory, whereas the others are merely left guessing where the finish line resides.

But in Lemoore, where the sun sets behind the train and into the eyes of the right, going last could be more curse than blessing.

Just watch this wave of Gabriel Medina, surfed 10 minutes before the end of day 2.

That continuous transition between shadow and glare, shadow and glare is a killer of surfers and epileptics the world over. How Gabby managed to score an 8.4 with all that going on around him remains a mystery, but it will be interesting to see if afternoon light plays a role in tomorrow’s outcome.

Despite your local surfing conditions, I expect you’ll be watching like the rest of us. 


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