Day 1 of The Quiksilver Pro, 2015 – Sean Doherty On...

28 Feb 2015 5

Sean Doherty

Senior Writer

Dusty Payne smoked his first heat in his return to the big league's dropping a 9.67 on one wave. Photo: ASP/Cestari

Dusty Payne smoked his first heat in his return to the big league's dropping a 9.67 on one wave. Photo: ASP/Cestari

Live Long and Prosper
By Sean Doherty

It’s been magic. Really it has. Mick Fanning even called it a 7/10.

The magic show at Kirra over the past week has been complete with disappearing acts and people being sawn in half, often on the same wave, as the whole bay from Snapper to Bilinga was turned into a an Escher piece, wave after wave spinning through the bay with sublime geometry.

It was the best Kirra since the last time Kirra was that good, and that was a while ago.

But the brackish, brown seawater of Kirra has curdled the milk of human kindness, and the mood in the water despite the quality of the waves has been dark. The world’s best surfers ™ have gorged themselves like pigs in a field of strawberries, and been tubed more in a week than they had in a year… occasionally at the expense of local Johnny Punchclocks. I flew in Friday and walked into my brother’s joint and the first words out of his mouth were, “F***ing Jordy Smith!”, the South African having burned him not once but three times in a single session. How that was even mathematically possible during a single session amongst a crowd of a thousand I wasn’t even sure. The one upside for Jordy is that Dean Morrison wore most of the virtual rotten tomatoes after his burning of a random punter on the wave of the swell went viral, and Deano followed it up with a tirade against the thousand-strong crowd, 500 of them being Deano himself. The sense of entitlement to set waves however out there wasn’t restricted to pros, or locals, or local pros… everyone expected a piece of it, and it descended into chaos. It was nice to return today to the sanity of pro surfing.

But seething, spitting brown ocean of a week ago was replaced this morning by placid green spinners at Snapper Rocks. The ocean’s tired and it looked like The Pass at Byron Bay out there this morning. Al Knost would have won heats out there today, and while it would have made a great longboarding wave, it was tough to flare. Guys who had spent their entire off-season thinking about coiling up on their first wave at Snapper and just letting the dogs out, unleashing hell, imagined themselves “dropping the hammer” or “stabbing the dagger” or whatever it is this year, suddenly found a wave that wouldn’t push back at all. The tour got lucky with surf last year, but in terms of swell here at Snapper we are a week late and a buck short.


THE WORLD CHAMP LOOKED INCREDIBLE OUT THERE TODAY, BETTER IN FACT THAN HE DID WHEN HE WON THE EVENT HERE LAST YEAR..


On the first dawn of the new WSL era we also mourned the passing of Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek’s hyper rational Mister Spock. While his unalloyed common sense would have prevented Spock from ever understanding pro surfing, he did understand the essence of most things, and left us with the line “Change is the most essential process of all existence.” Well, it was clear today that pro surfing had changed, if only incrementally. There was some good surfing out there today, and it showed that this might be the most open World Title in a long time. As to exactly why the performance levels had risen? Was it the transfusion Gabriel Medina’s World Title provided? Was it the performances of John John at the end of last year? Was it just, as most guys espoused in their interviews today, “a big off season”? Apparently not. The real reason we saw great surfing today, as explained in a live cross by a host who may or may not have been strapped into a chair with some serious voltage, was the fact that pro surfing now had a new three-letter name. Live long and prosper, pro surfing. The numbers on the back of the jerseys were a nice touch and some of the guys ran with them. Dusty Payne took Gronkowski’s 87. Taj Burrow took 99, a nod to the Jay Z classic.

I’m not sure what Gabriel Medina did in his off season – he may have employed several Brazilian supermodels as personal trainers – but whatever it is it’s working. The world champ looked incredible out there today, better in fact than he did when he won the event here last year. His backhand was crisp and metronomic through the inside Little Marley section, and there was just an assuredness about his whole act. This was no nervy Title defence, he was simply setting out to win it again. Speaking with Kelly he put his finger on the secret today, and that was pace. If you could match your pace with that of the wave, put yourself in the sweet spot, it suddenly looked easy out there.

It also looked noticeably easier on your backhand out there today. As soon as the bank shifts away from the rock as it now has, suddenly there is hope for the goofyfooters. When Fred Patacchia took down Kelly, there were scripts being flipped everywhere. More than any other event on tour, this event favours the local surfers by the simple fact they know how to surf behind the rock. But when it doesn’t barrel Mick and Parko come back to the field, and after today you’d be a game man to pick a winner.

It’s great to have Dane Reynolds here at Snapper.

It’s rumoured that he’ll be getting a brace of wildcards into events this year. The announcement by the WSL that wildcard points will now count toward an end of year rating has even been dubbed “The Dane Clause”, as many see it as them leaving a door open for Dane to qualify without having to surf the WQS. Well, if he’s to accumulate any points here at Snapper he’s going to have to do it the hard way. He lost today to Gabriel but showed some hustle. Dane needs waves with push, and today there was none. If he’s to go anywhere now in the event he now has to beat Mick Fanning, the most rational man in the field, the Mister Spock of pro surfing. It’ll be an interesting heat, battlelines drawn along surfing’s eternal divide between art and sport. His heat with Parko here four years ago survives as the gold standard for searing performance surfing and we live in hope that we might see something like that again here this week, although with a lightweight forecast this might be wishful thinking.

The girls are still in the water as we go live here, the sun setting, the swell dropping and the beers being poured into flip top heads. We’ll report back tomorrow.

MORE FEATURES BY SEAN DOHERTY

Gabby Medina was mobbed by fans as he left the water from his Round 1 win, looking like a mid-90s Kelly Slater at Huntington or something. The Kid Champ is very very popular. Photo: WSL/Cestari

Gabby Medina was mobbed by fans as he left the water from his Round 1 win, looking like a mid-90s Kelly Slater at Huntington or something. The Kid Champ is very very popular. Photo: WSL/Cestari


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