ALL OUT PADDLE WAR!
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Was I imagining it or did Steph Gilmore just use the word sanguine?
I could have sworn I just heard her describe the paddling style of Dave Rastovich as sanguine during her post-heater with Kaipo this morning. I might have been mistaken. Silence followed while Kaipo processed it. Sanguine? Could she not have just have used heat-speak and just said 110 per cent? Jesus, and where was the word “fun” in all of this? Like, really. Ronnie Blakey skipped the big words and used some Aussie vernacular to describe Steph’s paddling style, saying she had a “90 horsepower Mercury outboard on the back.” It got me thinking about the biggest word ever used on a surf broadcast. Buttery-butter-butter? Fun? Wow?
But then I remembered – back in the day – Blakey and I playing a game while commentating at Snapper years ago, back before my papers were stamped never to be employed. We’d start each day with a word we had to drop into the broadcast somewhere during the day. The word “photosynthesis” popped up on finals day, where Taj, under a hot Queensland sun, seemed to draw energy as the final went on, almost like…
Anyway, today started just like every other day of this event – cloudless, clean, and Keramas looking like an A-minus Mentawai wave you’d be paying $500 a day for. You forget how reliable Indo is sometimes, especially in the southern reaches of the archipelago. I recall being in G-Land one time and on the wall were the contest results of the very first Tour event there in ’95. In fine print on the right hand side of the page were notes on each days swell. It ran something like this:
May 29 Speedies 8-10 feet, offshore. Round one heats 1-6
May 30 Speedies 8-10 feet, offshore. Round one heats 7-12
May 31 Money Trees 12-15 feet, offshore. Round two heats 1-6
June 1 Speedies 10-12 feet, offshore. Round two heats 7-12
Etcetera. Jesus. Can we get back to G-Land just once? Anyways, Keramas is making my point for me this week. The Tour needs a presence in Indonesia… and with that we hang on the announcement of next year’s tour schedule and the magical mystery boat trip.
The ladies started the day and it became clear immediately that the Women’s tour should be held exclusively at Keramas. Ten events, one after the other, wrap it. A couple of days in and they’re starting to get a feel for it; the tempo, the tube, the aesthetic. We’ve seen the first tentative signs of wanting to break free from the lip, but the waves have been too sweet to risk. If you kept them out here long enough it’d come.
Steph herself looked sanguine without breaking third gear. She’s employing the tube to swoop, which is just fine when you tube and swoop like she does. It might not be enough to win the contest however. Her long rail might face a challenge from the short rail gals going straight at the lip. I’d count Silvana, Sally, and Tyler here. Carissa meanwhile bombed. She fell chasing a score she’d notch in her sleep, unless of course she was sleeping in the last five minutes of a crucial heat.
Bourez, meanwhile, is my man here at Keramas. If this event is going to be won below the lip Bourez is the man for the job. He had enough waves in his heat today to win the whole event but only needed two. They’ve come to him all event, summoned out of the Lombok Strait. With the black sand and the volcanic backdrop he’s felt right at home.
Watching him fly out of the best tube of the event only to fold comically through a turn that was too huge by half, his feet almost driving through the deck and him walking up the beach wearing the board around his waist, it struck me why I’m jazzed on his success. When he fell today after a heat with three sevens, an eight and a nine, he became – just for a second – one of us. Michel’s best and his worst surfing can often sit there side by side, he rarely exudes complete mastery, and that makes us all feel a little better. We’re there with him. Surfing is fucking hard. Maintaining a mastery of it for a long time is fucking harder. But when it all comes together like it is for Michel in Bali right now there’s no better thing in the world. If he wins it’ll be a win for the people.
What a masterstroke to actually make these round four heats count, huh? For there to be some actual consequence involved. These heats today would have been dead rubbers under the old no-loser system, instead it was the best round four we’ve seen this year.
That’s two days in a row now. The tour has hit a rich vein.
Griff Colapinto and Mike Wright won through to the quarters, making finals day harder to script. Mikey won after losing his front foot on a wild off the top before recovering a la Curren. He looks crook as a Balinese dog and probably needs a day off, but like his siblings he tends to work better under adversity anyway. Griff meanwhile through some style shouts out to Parko today, but more than anyone he has the wobbly middle section of the wave dialled. If either of them win the Komune pool will resemble the old Mad Hueys contest, where surfers prepared for their heats with a dozen warm Bintangs and no one got out to piss.
The big heat though was Jordy, Gabby and Jeremy. When Jeremy turned Keramas into a plausible version of four foot Backdoor, the penny dropped to the other two that only one of them was getting out of this. With four minutes to go Jordy kicked out a yard in front of Medina, looked him in the eye, and challenged him to beat him out for priority. I’ll be honest; I thought Gabby would lap him. Jordy doesn’t scream athlete, whereas Medina is shredded and even shaved down for the hydrodynamics. A quarter of the way out and Jordy appeared to be paddling in molasses, while Gabby moved forward evenly like a killer robot from the future.
But Jordy dug in. He pulled water. Halfway out and with his nose in front he took a look toward the tower as if to say, “You bastards gonna call this or what?” He was huffing hard but kept paddling and if anything surged ahead till Gabby threw in the towel and the judges gave priority to Jordy. And it would be crucial. Both Gabby and Jeremy blocked him in the last minute and he was left stranded out there, needing only a six. His winning wave came a second late. Gabby was toast.
A simple race for priority might, however, tip the whole season.
Jordy has been nowhere this year, and your columnist might have been a little premature when putting the red pen through him yesterday. But today wasn’t old Jordy. Not candy glass Jordy. No way. He came in, and after being revived had enough oxygen to get stuck into Gabby in an interview. He talked about the peacocks and big egos paddling past him up the point, then of the paddle battle said, and I paraphrase because it’s not sitting on the WSL site, that, “You grab my leg once it’s an accident, you grab my arm twice it’s on.”
And it’ll be on again tomorrow when he gets Phil Toledo in the quarters.