December Issue 2010 Surfing Magazine

posted by / Magazine / October 20, 2010

What’s
wrong with
this
picture?

This photo of Dusty Payne was taken during round three, heat 15 of the 2010 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, while Dusty was surfing against Kelly Slater. I know this because I was there. And just minutes before this shot was taken I was sitting with Dusty, asking about his daunting upcoming heat with Sl9ter. I sat and subtly pried at the World Tour rookie: “Are you nervous?” “Is he one of your heroes, too?” “How you gonna beat him?” “Do you think his foot is really injured, or is it a Kelly mind game?”

Dusty didn’t look too concerned, though. “I’m going to go about it as usual. No different than any other heat,” he said, chewing on sunflower seeds.

And what you see here is apparently what he calls “going about it as usual”: a first-wave, first-maneuver tail-blow nose-pick during a wave-starved heat at Winkipop. Not exactly conservative; not exactly safe — in fact, you might argue, not exactly smart. It was high-risk on several levels, and yet Dusty and his like-minded peer group know no other way.

So what’s the problem with the shot? Well, Dusty lost. Kelly won with a pair of low sevens.

While I doubt it’s a heat Kelly will remember for his own performance (after all, he did have an injury), he made it through to round four and actually ended up winning the contest — and I’m pretty sure he remembers that. As for Dusty, he got the photo and a ticket home that night. But staring at this image, I’m confused as to who really won. And it has nothing to do with scores or podiums.

The past few decades, competitive surfing has been ruled by surfers with a classically trained competitive mindset. It’s been dominated by those who want to win at all costs, those who will stop at nothing to pop the Champagne at the end of the final. They’d pray for lulls if it meant a victory. Paddle battle. Get all Dingo and grab for a leash (allegedly). Scratch at priority buoys. Grind three to the beach. Anything to surf another day. Lombardi dudes with the “Winning isn’t everything — it’s the only thing” mentality. But maybe that’s not how we’re supposed to do it in surfing.

I’d like to think there are a few guys on tour right now who care more about surfing wave for wave and putting on an exhibition of good technique than they do about making it through in some less-than-graceful fashion. They’re a new guard of competitor whose style of success comes with fewer bold statistics and more street cred, whose competitive style is shaped by the other side of the brain. Think about the likes of Dusty, Dane, Jordy, or Matt Wilkinson, Owen Wright, Pat Gudauskas (if a rodeo at Teahupo’o doesn’t catch your eye, you may need glasses). Even Josh Kerr, if they’d stop denying the man a damn wildcard. These guys are less run-out-the-clock, more slam-dunk-and-shatter-the-backboard.

I know for a fact that Dusty wasn’t stoked to lose that heat at Winki; his blue Holden rental peeled forcefully out of the parking lot right after the heat, stranding Dane, his roommate, at the contest site without a ride. But the fact that this photo of Dusty, in his rookie year, going for this maneuver against Kelly Slater, is getting run in our magazine — in a jersey (something we’d have deemed an unconscionable sin under normal circumstances) — represents so much more than a round-three win would have. It represents change. So when you think about who really wins in this instance, I think it’s pretty easy to see it’s us, the surf fan. Now tell me if you see anything wrong with this picture.  —Travis Ferré

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  • admin

    On an ironic page of SURFING’s Dec2010 issue: A 9-time world champion disses Richie Collins as being too focused on competition. Really? Admittedly, Richie is intense about all of his pursuits, competition and otherwise. Locals know he has some anger management issues. That makes Richie an easy target for anyone who wants to look laid-back by comparison. But feigned apathy in pursuit of coolness is often dishonest, while Richie is refreshingly and brutally honest. When Richie was struggling to make a living on tour with a back injury, he was honest with Kelly about taking competition seriously. That fair dinkum, recalled by The King of Competition in SURFING’s Dec2010 issue, may well have helped Kelly win a few heats over the years. So should we try to look like soul surfers by comparing ourselves to Richie? First consider: Richie has been free surfing on surfboards that he shaped himself since he was a grom – decades of experimentation and direct design feedback. Is your surfing soul really bigger?

  • Notpicky

    Editor. I just got the Jan 2011 issue in the mail. Quick question. The profile of Oney Anwar states that he is from Lakey Peak, Lombok, Indonesia. I used to live on Sumbawa which also has a Lakey Peak. Does Oney not know where he is from? Is there another Lakey Peak on Lombok? Is some staff writer being super lazy? Otherwise great issue. Thanks.

  • Tony Carson Big Island

    Surfing has never been about competition. Surfing is about catching waves, hanging out with your bros. at the beach, feeling the salt water and the sand beneath your feet, and all the other good vibes that go along with it. If you follow this crap,{ competition}, you’ve been brainwashed by these surf companies {Quickdollars ect. and mags.}, and your spending to much time watching it, instead of being in the water, actually surfing. Tony Carson Big Island