Stab Magazine | The air reverse that killed Joel's world title dream
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The air reverse that killed Joel’s world title dream

Until August 11, 2009, doubt didn’t exist. Everyone else gave up. Mick went to Vegas to drink and gamble; Taj looked at masterworks in Paris and Kelly continued to experiment with micro-sleds. And, then, on one of those bright, perfect Balinese days when the onshore gives welcome relief from tropical burn and makes it perfect for […]

cinema // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Until August 11, 2009, doubt didn’t exist. Everyone else gave up. Mick went to Vegas to drink and gamble; Taj looked at masterworks in Paris and Kelly continued to experiment with micro-sleds.

And, then, on one of those bright, perfect Balinese days when the onshore gives welcome relief from tropical burn and makes it perfect for airs, it happened. Standard air reverse. Ankle. Snap.

Stabmag.com’s Jed Smith reported the injury on the same day and asked the obvious rhetorical question. “Does this mean the world title race is back on?” The response from Joel’s support crew was as fast as it was furious.

Luke Egan wrote in the comments: Hey Stab, you can come to us for the correct info as everything in your report is false. Joel will be back in the water in a few days when this swell hits Bali. GET YOUR FACTS CORRECT YOU LOOK LIKE A BUNCH OF WANKERS.

Joel’s manager, Bree Andrews, called Jed with her spin. “I was just ringing about your report on Joel’s ankle injury. You put the fear of God through me when I woke up this morning.” Jed replied: “Really. Is there anymore news on the extent of the injury?”

Bree: Yeah, it’s not as serious as first thought. It’s just a strain around the calf or the achilles tendon. He will be fine for the rest of the tour. He will be surfing the next swell in Bali. If you could add that to the story that would be awesome.

The truth don’t spin. Joel was fucked. And, if someone stepped up, his title was in grave danger. History tells us the man in waiting, of course, was Mick Fanning.

Says the now three-time runner up to the title a week after, sitting in a park on the Gold Coast with his kids: “When I first did it and it felt the pain I thought it was a compound fracture (when the bone is sticking through the skin). I thought for sure the bone had broken the skin. I wasn’t trying to make the air. I knew I was hurt but I couldn’t get off. I was stuck on there, left standing there on my bad ankle. Then I rolled off my board and then I don’t remember much. It made a horrible noise, a really horrible noise. When it first happened and I couldn’t isolate the pain, it felt like it ripped right through me. It was like my throat even. It wasn’t a flesh or a bone sound so much but it was like tearing tarps. Like, shkeeeessh, skeeeooouush. Steds (Luke Stedman) happened to be there. He was the first one to pick me up.”

Says Steds: “I remember the turn vividly. He was on. He was absolutely ripping. He was making air reverses everywhere and surfing like a world champ. He’d do two huge turns out the back and then throw an air reverse on the inside. This was different. He was more inverted. He landed on the flats but because he was having one of those surfs where you make everything, he didn’t give it away. You could see the pain on his face. He was tense. He was biting his lip. When I got to him, he was in the whitewater on the shore and I helped him out. I was the only one who carried him up to the carpark. He was placing a tiny bit of pressure on it.”

Says Joel: “I don’t regret not trying to take time out of the water. What was I gonna do? Sit back and watch? I was never gonna do that. Fuck that! I could surf. I could ride waves. It wasn’t pretty or it wasn’t good but I could ride waves. I just had to get a result. I needed a ninth. And you know what? Both times, I got beaten right on the buzzer. I nearly did it.”

Does he regret playing down the injury and competing while clearly in pain?

“What-ifs don’t matter. If there had’ve been good waves, I woulda been sweet at Trestles. Same as Europe. I could go in a line, I just couldn’t go up and down as good. I could still carve on an open wall. Fuck. It wasn’t to be the case.”

And, how does he feel now? “I’ve had a lump in my throat since the day I lost and I can’t get it out. — The Editors. 

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