Pic: WSL/ Poullenot

In the Blood

So we sat and waited. On local Australian time 9pm, then 11pm flew by with no sign of life at Supertubos. The best day of the remaining waiting period was dead flat. A world title was on the line. I imagined Commissioner Logie hiding out in the adjacent cabbage fields, clenched so tight he could turn cabbage into diamonds.

I fell in and out of sleep. It was a hot night. I woke and sashayed through the Gram and came across a frame that stopped me. It appeared to be an image of some kind of cosmic nebula in a far corner or a far galaxy. Andromeda? Some vast Magellanic cloud? No, it was something far more mysterious. It Kelly Slater’s blood magnified 600 times. In his absence from the tour Kelly has turned inward for life-affirming answers, and a single drop of blood provided them. He hasn’t been properly assimilating his foods. His red blood cells are deflated and could be more oxygenated and hydrated. His dried bloodwork showed signs of previous chronic inflammation. We have long wondered how Kelly Slater operated on a cellular level, and here it was. I stared at the still image, and… did something just move? Did one cell just split, wriggle away, then merge with another? I pulled away from the screen like Fox Mulder pulling away from a microscope and some extra terrestrial biopsy. I looked back and the image was still again.

Some kind of cosmic nebula in a far corner or a far galaxy? Pic: @kellyslater

It was 1.05am and the contest was called on.

I was directed in the general direction of Facebook, and as the screen resolved messages began shooting up from the bottom of the screen, the first one reading “Robert Slater just joined”. The rest of them however, were largely vituperative and could be summed up adequately by Dean Rogers, from, I presume, somewhere in Australia. “This is horseshit.” It was a fair characterisation of the waves, for six of the remaining eight surfers left in the field anyway. The other two would make it look fun as shit.

Pic: WSL / Poullenot

A Medina win would clinch the title, and while his first opponent Wilko might have been some kind of chance on a long, loping righthand point, in waist-high zippy lefts running into an air breeze he was no chance. Waist-high zippy lefts are Medina’s primary form of locomotion. Medina simply headed into the wind and landed the first of several dozen forehand air revs, sticking everyone cold. Kaipo referred to it as a “rotation situation”. Medina himself became “The Situation”. On early form today he looked the man. On European form he looked the man. Medina is proof of the pro surfing universe in balance, a dark, potent surfing energy that counters so much sugary white light. The tour needs him more than it knows.

Medina looked even better when Julian Wilson paddled out next and just sat there. More than anyone Julian had found order from chaos in the Supertubes lineup this week, but today it simply wasn’t breaking. Wilson needed to win to ensure the title went to Pipe, and with minutes left trailed against Joan Duru. As the clocked melted away Wilson sat on the left and locked himself into an air-or-nothing mentality. It was nothing. The clock hit zero. Wilson came in and questioned the call to run at all, which he claimed was made before a wave had even broken.

Pic: WSL / Poullenot

Julian’s interview lit up the comment feed, which by this stage was the most interesting aspect of the broadcast. It inflamed simmering Australo-Brazilian tensions that, you could argue, had begun here back in 2012 when Wilson beat Medina in the final on a controversial last wave, and Gabe took to the stage in tears. The Brazilian fans ran hard with Wilson’s loss. “Bad conditions for world champ, good for baby,” came from Mauro. “Bieber crying like a baby,” came another. Wilson’s body language told us he believed Medina would win the title later that day. It looked short odds.

It was at this point that the Facebook feed froze. I didn’t see much of the Owen Wright and Kanoa Igarashi heat as the screen froze solid. The comments section however kept right on rolling, and it appeared to be a universal glitch as punters from all over the world vented. Brett Hardy from West Australia offered the only sensible course of action. “This is where you go and get a kebab.” Back in Santa Monica the WSL office were getting nervous. They missed last year’s world title moment when they were locked out of John John’s backyard. Would they miss this year’s with Facebook on the fritz? Good luck explaining that one to the boss.

The broadcast as a whole was, for the long-suffering surf fan anyway, largely insufferable. On top of the freezes, it appeared they’d redeployed the wide camera that allowed you to see where the surfers sat in relation to each other and the break, and trained it exclusively onto Brazilian soccer star Neymar, who was sitting with Medina’s camp in the stands. The view counter dropped to just 11K during that heat. There seemed to be more people in Medina’s entourage.

Pic: WSL / Masurel

The last realistic chance of anyone beating Medina was Italo. He has Medina four-one. He was the only guy left in the field that could go with Medina on the lefts and match him in the air. We were about to get dizzy. Italo launched first for a seven. Gabby went wack-wack on consecutive air reverses for the lead. Sensing the judges needed a different optic he threw a club sandwich, and on his next wave an alley oop that he landed so effortlessly and weightlessly it appeared he was surfing a hover board. Italo meanwhile waited for something bigger, and when it arrived he didn’t miss, racing into a boned out air reverse for a nine. From that point Italo was never going to lose either the heat… or the event. A microscopic view of Italo’s bloodwork after he won the final would have shown his cells dancing and bouncing off each other.

Pic WSL / Masurel

And that was it; the title would go to Pipe. Praise Hey-Zeus. It would have been a kick in the plums for the tour if the title had been decided today. Medina still has the title on lock – Joycey and Phil need to make the final at Pipe – but there’s nothing more deflating than a dead rubber at Pipe. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with the same scenario of Portugal being the potential kingmaker for next year as well. The WSL tried to move Portugal to the start of next year’s schedule, but, well, we know how all of that ended up. The upside of the administrative bungle that caused it – some unsigned paperwork in Honolulu City Hall – is that we’ll still have Pipeline to finish the season next year as well.

Sean Doherty