Mongrel Mike is into the semis! (WSL/Sloane)

HERE COME THE MONGRELS

Gearing up for Final’s day at the Corona Bali Protected

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This thing is running like a Bali street machine. Hasn’t missed a beat, day after day, 6.55am start on the nose.  You can set your watch by it. Jam karet? Bali rubber time? No way. Tidak apa apa. This event has been more mechanical than the WSL’s actual mechanical event.

Does the Founder’s Cup seem so very long ago? The Founder’s Cup. You don’t remember the historic surf event held in a pool? It seems several lifetimes ago now, because ever since the oceans of the world have stirred collectively in response; Cloudbreak as big as its been, Barrinha the new Snapper Rocks, and new the Tour’s long overdue return to Bali has been on step-repeat all week. It’s a shame we’re running out of heats to run.

Women’s quarters this morning. Tyler has had an ordinary year, and even though she won through over Silvana this morning she did her best to lose it. Losing priority cost her the biggest wave of the heat, but fortunately for her it burgered wide and Silvana couldn’t do anything with it. Brazil needn’t fear though, for their adopted Kauzilian darling Tatiana would spring an upset in the following quarter.

This event has seemed like Steph Gilmore’s to lose, which is exactly what she did today. In a slow heat she went for the statement turn the women’s event has been missing, a blowtail reverse, missed it, then sat there waiting all heat for a five. As a Steph fan I would have been more comfortable her chasing a nine. Whenever Steph waits she waits uncomfortably. It’s not her. When her chance finally came in the final minute she bogged worse than Julian. The smile and easy groove disappeared just like that. She splashed the water viciously, and I watched on thinking I’d never want to be the guy who pissed her off.

I missed the women’s semis later in the day. I was down at Bells for the 50 Year Storm opening ceremony. It’s the local Eddie, a one-day big wave contest held in honour of Shaun Brooks, Troy’s older brother, a former tour surfer himself and a fearless big-wave guy. Shaun was also schizophrenic, wrestled with it for years, once famously putting a car through the front of the packed Bird Rock Bar on a Saturday night. He took his own life a few years back, and the local crew now get together on the biggest day of the year to remember their mate.

Humey, local Wauthurong surfer, lit the gum leaves for the smoking ceremony under the Bells cliffs and told the crowd, “We gonna talk to Brooko today. He’s here, don’t you worry.” He started chanting to Brooko in Wauthurong, and within a minute a rogue set roared up the beach, knee-deep through the crowd, but left the fire alone. It was fucking electric, and the crowd, standing there in the spirit world with wet pants, began hooting. “They’re here,” said Maurice Cole, matter-of-factly, “they’re all still here.”

So yeah I missed the women’s semis but Tyler and Lakey both got through, the interesting connection being the short, jinky, in-the-pocket rail game winning out over long, languid turns.

It was a shame Bourez drew Colapinto. Those two have been the performance bedrock of this event. Griff couldn’t get his forehand reverse to stick, but still had great tube sense and a beautiful parabolic forehand turn to fall back on. Kid’s a star, I just hope no one points it out to him. But Bourez cannot be denied in this contest. He’s seriously irrepressible, a French Polynesian tour de force. A lot of it is wave choice, but there’s subtlety as well. That little fade exit from the tube squares him up perfectly for the next section, every time. But there’s something else again. I hope he wins and I hope he wins with a giant slob grab, at which point I’ll truly believe the Island of the Gods is truly with him.

The Mad Mike and Big Bill heat was also a treat, two wild men at different junctures of their career. Can you believe Willian Cardoso did 10 years on the Qey before finally making the Tour? That’s a hefty sentence, and he deserves a day in the sun. He’s an intimidating figure – kinda looks like Jay Davies fell three storeys and landed on his feet, kinda looks like he’d rip the arms off anyone who stepped inside a cage with him – and he threw all his heft at the first wave of the heat. It might have been undercooked as a seven. When he drove through the throatiest wave of the heat his day in the sun looked to have arrived. A semi here in Bali would almost certainly guarantee he requalified. We’ve got no idea, after a decade of shitty two-star hotels in surfless backwaters, how much that’d mean to him.

But Mikey Wright is something else these days. If you look beyond the tattooed Croc Hunter exterior there’s a guy who knows how to surf heats, and against the clean, uniform backdrop of Keramas this week his lines have offered, like Mikey himself, something outta leftfield. But Mikey had to bowl for soup today. Chasing a low eight with a minute to go, he threaded a long tube, whipped his shoulder turn, and finished on the inside dunny flush section. It was coolly done, and it’d be close. The judges thought Bill had the better wave, but Mikey’s was the better surfing. On a beastly half of the draw, Mikey and Bourez will duke tomorrow for a place in the final.

When Jordy flew out of a long, backdoored section in the opening minute of his quarter with Phil T, things were all on his terms. The judges dined out on it like a Poppies Two nasi goreng for a 9.57. Phil read the writing on the wall. Big airs on inside runners wouldn’t be enough, and he got caught between two worlds. His rail game, so improved at other stops, seemed a little lost and skatey here, and he never got in the same area code as Jordy. I don’t know whether Jordy went to sleep last night marinating toxically in the Gabby episode from yesterday, but the war room in Jordy’s camp need to find a way to piss him off at every event between now and the end of the year. They need to poke the bear.

That just left Italo and Jeremy, but while it stayed on turns and not Backdoor tubes, Italo was never going to be stopped. You’ve got to remember, the judges have seen a whole week of these guys surfing four-foot rights. They’re looking for something to float their boat… like, maybe, a switchfoot floater? Italo might be the most spontaneous surfer on tour and the last of the entertainers. Occasion or not, audience or not, I don’t think it matters. It never stops. Freesurfing at Pipe last December on eight foot days, he’d get barrelled out the back, but then juice the inside section with a shovit, a couple of legitimate switchfoot turns, before jumping off on the sand, grabbing his board, then paddling back out and repeating that for four hours.

See you tomorrow morning at jam tujuh pagi.

Sean Doherty