11 September, 2012 11 September, 2012

Lowers Expectations – Hurley Pro Trestles Preview

You check out your favourite forecasting site, cross-reference it with the others, send a few texts to your buddies, make the call, and hit the road with your set of expectations. When your prediction yields to reality, they very seldom match. So it is with the World Tour. Very few would have predicted things at the sharp end to look like they do now. The landscape has changed drastically over the last year. The top 10 are mostly grizzled veterans, supposed to be past their prime, or near to absolute rookies. There is no normal anymore. Someone must have broken the pro-surfer mould a few years back. And despite all the chatter of the tour’s demise and rumours of rebellion, it’s been a very interesting year.

There was a time when pundits were talking about a window between Slater getting old, and certain prodigy coming of age that would be available for other notables to lay claim to the title. That window never opened as the aged refused to lie down, and the young arrived on the scene ahead of their time. Slater’s persistence, Fanning’s present run, and John John’s arrival have proved that winning is not a function of experience, youthfulness or a medium between them. There is also no room to rely on the misfortunes of others. Victory is bestowed on those who make it their own.

Lower Trestles in San Clemente, California is the venue for this, the 6th event of the Men’s World Championship Tour. Trestles consists of Uppers, Lowers and Middles, but the Lowers is the diamond in this jewelled crown of coastal geography. Accordingly, it is always ridiculously crowded – even under moonlight. It’s pretty much a byword for crowded. A wave to yourself out there is a rare thing indeed. But, just like finding that gem, once you’ve got one, you just can’t help but come back for more.

There’s never a shortage of ‘bums on the beach’ in California.

And so perhaps the greatest pleasure of being on tour is to enjoy waves like these with just a single other guy out there. Trestles is a blank canvas for surfers to draw their own crazy lines. With the word’s best setting their rails into it, you can expect some amazing surfing. It’s a wave that seems to say, ‘Here I am. I’m all yours today. Go wild.’ Its long rights and bowly lefts are wide open to interpretation. It’s a high performance wave without consequence so it brings out the best in anyone. It works on almost all swells, and only a south wind will shut it down, so it’s very hard to have a lacklustre contest there. A large part of the surf industry is nearby, and Californians love a beach and a party more than pretty much anyone, so you can be sure that there will be an electric atmosphere to it.

Event marketers are quick to hype up that this could be Kelly’s 50th tour victory. Yes, it’s a milestone, but I don’t think it really matters. It’s not possible for him to want to win more than he already does, so it’s just a number really. Lowers is already one of his most successful venues, so…well, the rest goes without saying, really.

Yet, Mick Fanning is the most victorious surfer to date this year and leads the title race. He’s got the form that saw him claim two world titles in 2007 and 2009. Apart from a slow start at his home on the Gold Coast, he’s gone on to the semis or a win in every event.

His friend Parko, forever the bridesmaid, is also having a good year and sits in second. He will need victories, not podium finishes, if he wants to claim the lead. John John is also proving to be a persistent threat. A year ago he wasn’t on the tour. Now he’s ranked 3rd. Julian Wilson’s US Open victory is still fresh in his memory and he’ll also be a force to be reckoned with. These will be the guys to watch.

Jordy’s inverted and powerful approach is well suited to Lower Trestles.

Of our own riders’ prospects, as has been said before, we know how good they can be. They actualise that potential. While there is some muttering amongst patriotic supporters, it is foolish to write Jordy off. Few other contenders possess the carve/air combo he does, which is perfectly suited to the Trestles arena. Looking at the bigger picture it’s true that, barring a fairy tale finish to the season, this has just not been his year. That’s fine. We all have our ups and downs. But Jordy needs a good result at Trestles and nobody knows this more than he does. A decent run up and in to Hawaii will help build the confidence and momentum needed for next year, where he can kick off with a clean slate and get back into world-title contention – exactly where he was before an injury put paid to his campaign in 2011.

Travis currently sits at 37th in the One World Rankings – five places shy of retaining a tour ticket. Although his goals may not be as lofty as Jordy’s, they are more pertinent. Requalification is essential. Yet, like Jordy, he also needs to string together some solid performances. There are good guys ahead of him and a once-off good result will help him up the ladder, but he’ll want to push some low-scoring figures out of his best 8 results basket. Consistency from here on will do that. With lefts and rights to choose from at Lowers, he has the option to play it on his forehand, or unleash that ferocious backhand attack.

You can watch Jordy and Travis, along with Rudy Palmboom and other friends practising here:

If Jordy can do that in a heat, he will be hard to stop.

Conner Coffin – a young phenomenon with a bright future claims a wildcard with the other going to 19 year old Floridian Evan Geiselman. Remember, with perennial crowd pleaser Rob Machado also in the Hurley stable, it says something that these guys have been favoured.

The waiting period starts on the 16th of September and the action is over by 22nd – showing belief in the location like nowhere else.

Catch the action at http://www.hurley.com/hurleypro/index.cfm

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