Griffin Colapinto drops the hammer in his round 3 matchup with Matt Wilkinson. Image: Ed Sloane / WSL

The WSL Is About To Go All-In With Facebook Reports Sean Doherty From The Corona Bali Protected


Do you remember a time when Keramas was the Waco of the surfing world, the wave that had the final say in performance surfing? Keramas hit its zenith in the mid noughts. Think Andy, Taj, Julian, and whoever was leaping out of a Stab chopper at the time, their baggy shorts acting like parachutes as they acid dropped into the lineup in an act that progressed the end of surf magazines more than the future of surfing.

That was then.

But by the time they ran a Tour event at Keramas in 2013 it was won on tubes and cutbacks. There’d been a collective regression, an Ice Age of progressive surfing on Tour. And now? Well, we came to Keramas expecting so much more than we’ve got. The surfing this week hasn’t hit any rarified heights. It’s been no Waco.

The ad playing before John Florence’s heat this morning says, “I want to win doing the biggest things I can,” but John’s camp says on the quiet that 80 per cent works 80 per cent of the time. Jesse Mendes seemed like an 80 per cent heat. John is a league above the Brazilian rookie. Mendes couldn’t win with simple backhand wack-wack and he knew it.

John John’s loss to Jesse Mendes in round three was one of the biggest upsets of the day. Image: Ed Sloane / WSL

John struggles in slow heats however and the Lombok Strait was still sleeping 10 minutes into his heat. John looked to have nodded off as well. With the slopes of Agung illuminating in the sunrise the scene was positively serene. With 13 minutes left John got waves back-to-back and was finally liberated by the scoreboard. The relief was palpable in the commentary and with his coaching staff. It was just a matter of time. It always is.

But the inevitability of the Florence Golden Child storyline isn’t there right now, hasn’t been all year, and when Mendes got thrown a wave in the last minute needing just a five his goose was cooked. Few imagined however he’d go for a nine… and make it. Mendes’s backhand rotator wasn’t pretty but it was the kick in the nuts this contest needed, in the process delivering a kick in the nuts to John’s defence of his world title. The loss went through him like a satay stick from a Kuta cholera cart.

Who’d have thought that the Zeke Lau hassle at Bells would create a chain reaction that has left John’s season on the brink of collapse? It’s been a pile-on ever since. They all paddle out now thinking they can get him. John hasn’t been bad, he just hasn’t been ruthless and he’s running out of time to do so.

What Bourez versus Lau lacked in Kerrupt Flips and slob grabs it made up for in Polynesian savagery. Bourez claimed he’d stepped on a stonefish in the warm up. The commentary questioned it. Stepping on a stonefish generally results in death, only that when Michel Bourez steps on a stonefish it’s the stonefish that dies. The Polynesians surfed with heavy feet and heavy rail, Bourez getting the win. There’s something about him and this wave, and if the swell stays up you wouldn’t discount him for the win.

The vital energy of the day however peaked with the Wilko/Colapinto heat.

Wilko has been down on his luck all year, walking around like a shaggy dog that’s just been made to take a bath, heat after heat conspiring against him. Well he’s roared back to life at Keramas. He’s been the only goofyfooter outside Medina who’s looked capable of doing anything here. His tail blow reverse and some free spirited lines have made him great to watch. He’s looked like Wilko number one in the world from 2016.

His problem of course is that Griff thinks it’s 2005. More than anyone in the field Griff is surfing Keramas like it was surfed back then, before heats made it complicated. When Wilko landed a rodeo flip to get the lead back, Griff just went straight to the air with a giant, weightless forehand hanger, landed inside the tube and busted out with that same goofy grin he’s been sporting all week. As this column has mentioned, Griff has been enjoying Bali this week like any other 19-year-old, burning up the clubs, burning up the good living, and now burning up Keramas. Bali is a holiday island and Griff is the only one surfing it like he’s on holiday, having some fun.

In a round of surprise defeats, current world number 1 Julian Wilson went down to Mikey Wright in their matchup, and all eyes returned to a leaderboard shrouded in uncertainty. Image: Ed Sloane / WSL

In between heats I’ve watched the Indonesian tourism commercial with interest, the one set to What A Wonderful World. It’s interesting first up because Bali doesn’t seem to need any more tourists. Secondly, the ad itself looks like it’s been shot by Westerners, for Westerners, with Western actors and looks nothing like Bali. As shots of smiling white couples in white linen walking down empty white sand beaches played, I imagined Satchmo singing What A Wonderful World to a montage from a real Balinese holiday. Gridlocked on Sunset Road for two hours. Hitting a dog at full speed on a scooter. Faded by a Russian longboarder at Canggu and threatened with a quiet disappearance. A Crying Game moment in the dark corner of a Kuta nightclub. But then the screen resolved back to Keramas and it looked better than the commercial did. It was a dream out there today. If they’re going to highlight the island’s plastic problem they’re going to need to back some trucks full of rubbish up to the river under the cover of darkness because it was a bluebird.

Julian Wilson led the Tour coming into Bali, but apart from finals day at Kirra in the season’s first event he hasn’t really looked like he’s owned it. Today was his chance. Four foot Keramas, a wave he’s turned into clips and campaigns and his personal plaything for years, but he couldn’t put his stamp on it today. Mad Mike Wright looks like he’s just crawled out after a month in the G-Land jungle, stick-thin and silent, and stole the lead off Jules in the dying seconds. Jules caught the last wave of the heat and should have iced it but instead bogged his first turn and sunk without a trace. Julian may be the last Great White Hope standing between Brazil and another world title, unless of course… no, surely, despite surfing like he did today we can’t go there again with Jordy, can we?

Medina is the sleeper, both in this event and for the title. Riding those flat, corky boards, he simply put turns where he wanted them. He could ride anything that floats out of the river at Keramas and win a heat on it. He was, as Strider put it, “99.9% amazing.” I like the new strident Strider in the booth, throwing out truth grenades albeit occasionally in the wrong direction. After Medina’s first wave he questioned why Mikey February would give it to him so meekly. “Why would he give him that wave? It was like he didn’t have priority.” Mikey of course didn’t have priority, but I’m liking where he’s going with this.

And so the day ended as it does with the lunchtime onshore and an announcement that the WSL is about to go all-in with Facebook, and that from Saturday onwards – potentially finals day – you’ll be forced to watch the broadcast online exclusively through Facebook.

“There are many positives to our expanded Facebook partnership. Not only will you be able to enjoy the same level of quality you’re accustomed to from the WSL, but you’ll also have access to additional features to enhance your experience such as interactivity with the commentators, mobile-friendly graphics packages, optional live chat and the ability to scroll through scores and previous heats.” You’ll also be able to have your private information hacked by black ops data mercenaries and used to brainwash you into electing a President who conducts high-level policy discussions with Kim Kardashian.

The WSL of course announced their Facebook partnership back in January, two months before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke and Facebook shot up the ratings straight into the top 10 of the World’s Most Hated Companies. Rolling out this deal must be making the WSL nervous. The comment board directly below the WSL announcement on their site today was roughly 122-1 in favour of the Facebook partnership being a very, very bad idea. Not even Griff winning on Saturday will get them back.

Sean Doherty