Sean Doherty On... The Hurley and Swatch Pros, Trestles 2014

9 Sep 2014 1

Sean Doherty

Senior Writer

Centre Court for the Hurley Pro, and Swatch Pro starting this week. Photo: ASP/Rowland

Centre Court for the Hurley Pro, and Swatch Pro starting this week. Photo: ASP/Rowland

Only In America
By Sean Doherty

You may remember I signed off on the Tahiti contest jokingly making reference to Trestles needing to be 12-foot and slabbing for anyone watching to get a half-blood surf-chub after the hydrodynamic horror show we’d just witnessed in the South Pacific. It was going to be a hard act to follow, especially seeing Tahiti itself had backed onto eight-foot J-Bay. Well, in a remarkable singularity, the day after Tahiti finished Trestles was every bit of 12 foot. Only in America, huh?

Unfortunately, Hurricane Marie has long since petered out and the only cameo we might get during the Trestles waiting period might be from the Teutonically-named Hurricane Norbert, which is set to deliver some suitably strange surf. I’ve only ever known one Norbert. I worked with him in a large organisation where they kept the mustached German national in a dark room under the stairs, the only time he’d ever leave would be to take extended and mysterious “holidays” to Cambodia from which he’d return dispensing one-dollar Viagra and Xanax and a spring in his step.

But I digress. After J-Bay and Tahiti, the Hurley Pro is going to be all about managing expectation, and they – the masters of hyperbole in the press – would be best advised on that front to underpromise and overdeliver. Because this is the part where we have to examine the claim that Trestles really is, in a phrase you’re going to have rammed down your oesophagus for the next week, “the most high performance wave on tour.”

Lower Trestles is of course the wave where you saw Christian Fletcher take to the skies in Wave Warriors IV. Where you saw a pre-title, pre-Pam, prepubescent Kelly Slater flaring in Black and White. This cobblestone phalanx of Lowers does indeed make a great graffiti wall. There’s some juicy symmetry out there with the apex take off, the good left, the better right, inside shooters and outside bombs. Waves everywhere. Short attention spans. The In and Out Burger of waves.

But the reality runs contrary to this.

It might be one of the world’s most high performance mindsurfing waves, but it proves a little trickier once you’re actually out there. It’s got that “fast and slow” quality where it seems to race off quickly but races off without a lot of gumption. In that way it surfs like small Rincon, and suits guys who surf light between turns and get heavy-footed once the section shows.

Trestles is also very much a wave catching contest. You can have all the finners and slobs and varials you like, you can Toledo the shit outta the place, but if you don’t get the waves in the first place, well, see you later, Frank. And if you think Tahiti gets slow between sets, wait till the same swell has travelled another three days to get to Trestles. Long waits on a long groundswell makes for limited opportunities and critical exchanges. Once you get your wave, don’t screw it up because the place doesn’t give second chances.

Trestles has also historically run on a short window – the result of their permit negotiated with the local state park. Last year’s event window ran only seven days. This year it has been stretched out to the standard 12 days, but the girls’ event also now has to fit. You can bet there’ll be a little more jockeying and diplomacy behind the scenes as to who runs when, guys or girls, because even with a healthy forecast in the closing half of the waiting period you can almost guarantee now some heats will have to run in marginal crumble.

The best surfer at Trestles also rarely wins. Last year’s final was ripe symbolism in this regard. No one was ever going to beat Julian Wilson here last year, right up until the point where his winning final wave swung wide, Taj caught it, and flayed it for the trophy.

And the fact Kelly is the most successful Trestles surfer of all time is also illuminating. No one reads the Lowers line-up better, and he last won Trestles in 2012 by doing exactly what Taj did last year – some sleight of hand to beat Parko in the final. Kelly pulls people out of position with the whites of his eyes, and it’s like the other guy can see it happening but can’t stop themselves.

Then there is the Tahiti factor, and how the surfers will handle the transition from high mortality to high performance. The night before he flew to California I spoke with Matt Wilko in the Top Pub in Byron and he was reliving the emotional rollercoaster he’d been on during the Tahitian event. He recalled how in the days leading up to his heat his emotional index graphed inversely proportional to the swell forecast – when the swell jumped up his mood got dark. But when the day finally arrived and there was no choice but to go over the ledge he surprised himself, and in Tahiti he wasn’t Robinson Crusoe. Everyone had to go above and beyond, and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle three foot of fun. The smarter ones will rationalise it thusly: a heat win at three foot Trestles is worth the same points as a heat win at 12-foot Tahiti, and they’ll be prepared to throw themselves over the ledge of the funnest three footer they’ve seen all year.

Gabe Medina doesn’t need to win Trestles. No goofy since Luke Egan has, so it’d be quite a feat if he managed it, but from here he could take the world title with quarters and semis. But that’s not him; not his style. He’ll shark for the win, already having pencilled in a finish line for the world title in Portugal, not Pipe.

But this event has been won on the rights for as long as anyone can remember… mostly by old dudes going right. Look at the past winners, in order: Taj, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Mick, Kelly, Kelly, Bede. Kelly will be there on finals day. And lets go through the annual exercise of dismissing Parko, Mick and Taj’s chances only for them to be there on final’s day too. Look for some kind of redemption from Julian and Jordy, and look for Kolohe to keep his breakout season rolling at his home break. Look for a couple of bolters, guys like Melling, Toledo, and Adriano.

The girls’ tour sits at an interesting point, and this event is far more critical for them than for the guys. While there’s a clear ratings leader and title favourite for the guys, no such thing exists for the girls. The world champ will come from The Big Four – Carissa, Sally, Tyler and Steph – but all have run hot and cold this year and on the ratings all four of them are crammed in a phone booth. It’ll also be interesting to see the approaches they take at Trestles. Just like Fiji, this will be another test for the girls, just one that’s unlikely to claw their face off. When Trestles was announced as a women’s tour event it was met with the reaction that finally the girls get a hi-fi progressive wave to surf. Thing is, so far this year we haven’t really seen anything too hi-fi or progressive from them, although this has had more to do with the surf than their surfing. This is their chance, and at Trestles the question will be, who’s going to surf above the lip?

The hype for this event will be nuclear… fitting, as it will have a nuclear power plant as a backdrop. Zosea’s first big event on US soil will not be an understated affair. They’re trying to get a toehold in their home market, and be warned Australia… the jingoism might get laid on a little thick. And we thought the Aussies and the Brazilians had the mortgage on over the top displays of patriotism at events. Kolohe draped in the Stars and Stripes being carried up the beach at Trestles? Feck yeah! That would be some Superbowl shit right there… and stranger things have happened.

More Features by Sean Doherty

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