Medina and Moore Win The Surf Ranch Pro – Nick Carroll Reports from the Scene at Lemoore

10 Sep 2018 12 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

Photo: WSL/Cestari

Photo: WSL/Cestari



By Nick Carroll

The Ranch nearly went there, then bogged it.

God, this event got close. It really did.

The first runs were cooked in, Carissa had already destroyed the girls, Gabriel had taken a lead in the boys, but it wasn’t an impregnable lead.

A couple more thousand of the People had shown up, many of whom were Brazilians, most of whom were Californians, and two or three of whom were Australians. Kiddies were possibly poisoning themselves in the lake. All was right with Lemoore — which in Lemoore, you sense, that means not too much is going on.

Then Filipe Toledo busted it all open, again.

I wrote yesterday that riding this wave doesn’t inspire fear. But I was wrong. It can, and it does. Its flat-affect nature causes everyone who rides it to have moments of panic. At the kooky end it’s, “Oh Christ what if I miss this?”

At the pro end it’s simple: How far do I go with this?

Either way, the thought shears you away from the moment and opens a tiny crack in your mind through which can leak doubt. It’s the thing T.S. Eliot named in his terrifying poem, “The Hollow Men”:

“Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the Shadow”

The best thing about Filipe’s 9.8 was not so much the performance level. It was the way he kept going BACK TO IT. Back into the moment. Early on in a ride like that, when you’ve put a rotation on the thing before the first barrel section, you’ll KNOW you have a potential 10 on your hands.

Yet this is a long ride. There is a lot of time for doubt to seep through. You can let it, and plenty did that here.

Filipe did the opposite. He brushed past the Shadow, and sprang to a brilliant, hypnotic, transcendent place. “It was one of those waves where you just stop thinking,” he told me. “I got to the end and couldn’t remember what I’d done at the start. I had to watch the replay.”

Suddenly this whole event felt super concrete and real, fulfilling its promise: a title contender seizing the opportunity, shedding the pressure, saying “I dare to.”

Then they decided to give everybody an extra left each.

I’m used to surf contests deflating before my eyes, usually when horrid Nature interferes in some way. Swells drop, winds swing dead onshore, people get interference calls when winning finals, it happens. But HERE?

Word was this happened because of some discomfort as to the quality of a few of the lefts in the prior runs. In which case — because believe me, watching live, this lack of quality was not terribly visible — why be out here in the goddam desert of the Central Valley, relying on a machine? In any case, the 11-wave cook-off changed nothing, just wore down the surfers. It KILLED the momentum created by Filipe’s crazy genius and Gabriel’s scary locked-in control, and Julian’s repeated attempts at switch rotations on the left inside, and even the remote possibility of KS grabbing his once-craved last tour win.

The surfers I talked to mostly seemed baffled. “I was angry,” Gabriel shrugged. “I was in a good position and everyone was getting another chance. Just some rule that was made up in mid-contest. But I was just one person, I just went, don’t fight it.”

“I agree with you,” said Kelly, when I suggested to him that this was an incomprehensible buzz-kill at just the wrong moment. “I had no part in that decision ... I couldn’t see anything much wrong with anyone’s rides. Maybe two or three lefts were smaller and more on the contour. But you could have run them last and made some drama out of it, like ‘They’ve got one last chance to win!’”

But they didn’t.

I don’t know if the People minded too much. They cheered Strider as he poached half the wasted rights, bought trays of beer and that weird brightly coloured shit the ladies were drinking, and generally cheered their favourites, especially the Brazilians.

It sure didn’t change the result. Nobody was beating Carissa Moore today, for one thing. Unlike several of the boys today, who began with 3s and 4s and little stumblies in the lip, she came out and hit a double home run, left-right, bang, and was never headed. Interview: “I’m so happy!” Etc. Just that. And why not.

Her scariest opposition, Steph, couldn’t get near her, and was thus far more introspective. “I was more nervous here than I was in my first surf ever here, when Kelly shoved me out and said ‘Don’t fuck it up,’” she said. She found it hard not to listen to her inner voice yabbering at her during rides: “Relax! Do something! Oh no, you shouldn’t have double pumped that bottom turn, it’s gotta look smooth!” The comic book version of the Shadow.

I could sense some uncertainty in her about the whole structure in some ways, but this event is baked into the Ziff/WSL DNA; it’ll happen again, and Steph, along with all the pros, knows it. “That’s it,” she said. “We can protest it in some way or we can evolve with it.” Which they’ll all do, no doubt.

As for the boys, well, that cook-off might have angered Gabby, but fact is, it destroyed any chance of Filipe or anyone threatening him. He is known for his great grasp of one-on-one tactics, yet he took to this format like a large dark haired tattooed duck to vaguely fresh water, switching between a 5’10” (lefts) and a 5’11” (rights), the shorter one for more effect on those more open-faced lefts. “I did well in the Founders Cup, so I just tried to go back to that feeling,” he said.

He’s going to Mex for a surf, the fucker. It’s pumping. When you’re the winner there’s no Shadow at all, at least till ya lose again.

Right now it’s a half hour after the presso and everybody has left this building. It was amazing really, one minute there were 3000-odd people and a couple of hundred VIPs, and the next there’s nothing but a long flat pond and the sound of tractors in the distance. Honestly, it’s strangely peaceful.

ICYMI: Read Nick Carroll's column from yesterday's action at the Surf Ranch Pro.

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