Surf: Four feet, good (again), offshore/sideshore winds (again)
Events Held: Mens round two and half round three
Nature’s Call: OK, I admit it, it’s not me, it’s the sand dredge
Predicted: Slight swell decrease
Gold Coast, Australia: What are we involved in here — some sort of wacky surfing Valhalla??
The morning session today was Generational All-Star. Sitting outside the Rock with Tom Carroll, Ross Clarke-Jones and Gary Elkerton, your correspondent thought he was living an ’80s flashback. Further in, Shane Dorian and Luke Egan held up the mid-’90s in great style, while Parko, Fanning and Troy Brooks represented Modern Youth.
Finishing another ridiculously endless ride, Surfing spied the King of the ’70s, Mark Richards, walking around in front of Greenmount Point. Huh?? Invited to run, MR just smiled. “The legs and arms are gone,” he said later. “Two days of this place — it’s like death!” Well, when you’re that big a legend, running seems kinda pointless.
We’re still pretty early in the piece at this event, but already two things seem fairly obvious. Number one: The standard’s stupidly high. Out of hand. Heats are being surfed in the loser’s round that outrank prior years’ semi-finals.
And number two: Somehow, it’s all evolving toward the Coolie Kids. Those three great local surfers — Joel, Mick, and Dean Morrison — seem already destined to fight it out between them for the win.
Which isn’t to write off a lot of good performances through today. Heats happened that shouldn’t happen so early. Dean and Nathan Hedge, for instance. Hog was jumpy beforehand: “Gotta go out and sit on the rocks for a while,” he said. You could understand his nerves; a round two loss in the first event is like being punched in the head, and he’d drawn Morrison in perfect Snapper.
It was a great heat. Both surfers went hard. Hedgey held a lead until the last exchange, when Dean fell into a lovely tube and collected 9.17. Hedge’s follow-up wasn’t enough.
That’s the punch in the head. It’s also evidence of the frontside bias on this pointbreak. Snapper’s line is more easily drawn forehand, and it remains a bigger challenge to backside performance than far more dangerous and critical spots. Mick Campbell is one of the few goofies whose form is unshaken by the Snapper curse — his penetrative backhand bottom turn shone out.
Another heat that shoulda happened later: Richie Lovett and Taylor Knox. A bad wind and tide change threw the lineup’s balance, but Taylor forced his way through it: “I’ve had to learn to lose creatively,” he said. Well, not this time, buster.
This was good stuff. But Mick Fanning soon showed everyone the difference between good and brilliant. Fanning likes to catch a lot of waves — he needs to, in order to find the razor-sharp technical edge on which he rides — and perhaps the two-wave judging system doesn’t entirely suit his personality, but once he’s got his feet set properly on the board, there’s little anyone can do to stop him. Mick blew out his heat score record with 19.07/20, and blew out the world turning-speed record in the process.
Dean Morrison came next. Dean’s rhythm is markedly different from Mick’s — it’s scrappy, introverted, and occasionally, utterly magic. You can’t always tell why he chooses a wave, then he does something on it that you’d never have expected. His heat with Danny Wills was (and may remain) the finest of the contest, filled with dazzling exchanges and extraordinary accuracy in and out of the lip. Once again, it seemed unfair anyone should lose.