Forget the numbers. Waves ridden per day. Runs remaining. Score requirements and fractions needed. The lefts. The rights. The tube timer. Amongst all the crunching of data and possible outcomes for those 8 surfers who qualified for the final run and shot at making history, fortune and glory, only one thing mattered: Adaptation.
Nobody moved better, evolved, changed up their approach and synchronised an attack with greater strike power and versatility than Gabriel Medina.
He flew when others hid behind the chlorinated curtain, drove longer tubes when his rivals took to the sky, and more importantly, was the first to do things differently. And in a sedate, staid environment, where predictability is ironically applauded, it’s only when somebody genuinely shocks you with something unexpectedly original that you stop to think:
Why the hell have I been so impressed by the expected, by something so unoriginal? Yes, that guy got an 11 second barrel, but that’s exactly what I expected. And that’s the problem. You’re giving the audience and the judges what they want. Unless you’re Gabriel Medina.
Medina surprised. On every single wave. He did it differently. He didn’t give you what you wanted. He gave you what you didn’t see coming.
Over 4 days at the Surf Ranch He was that plot twist that makes you watch a gripping movie again and again. And again. He’s the book you couldn’t put down.
It’s difficult to be original and win people over these days. Whilst the masses (and judges) will demand it, they’ll also scold you if you get it even slightly wrong. Why didn’t you just do what was asked of you? Because that doesn’t win people over. And it certainly doesn’t win world titles.
If what we saw at the Surf Ranch was a movie, then Gabriel Medina played good cop/ bad cop, Filipe Toledo the people’s champion and Julian Wilson the antihero. It co-starred Kelly Slater as the returning hero, Kanoa Igarashi as the new kid and Owen Wright reprising his role as ‘possible world champ in the making’. As for the rest of the field, they were all extras.
No doubt about it, the 2018 Surf Pro was a big production. It needed to be. Many people hadn’t seen it before, the jaded cynics who had wanted to see it fail , and to the surfers themselves, who would probably like to consider themselves the real stars of the show, it was a stop on the schedule that was either going to de rail their world title ambitions, or put them back on track. The fact that the wave itself was driven and created in large part by a train, is merely circumstantial.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the heroes and villains of the 2018 Surf Ranch Pro.
The Big Basin. Starring a clock that counts a chlorinated curtain.
The soft, weak 12 second tube ride. The official barrel of purgatory. The ultimate consolation prize. With all the power of a wet rag and the kick of a sedated dwarf.
There was nothing more frustrating than watching surfers become contortionists as they somehow had to grapple and grab their ankles to fit themselves into the small tubes of the Surf Ranch.
There was no threat of bloodletting over dry coral, no kinks or foam balls, there was just a straight line and a clock to count some inane curtain time. As Griffin Colapinto said, “all you gotta do is just not fall off and you’re coming out.” Hardly suspenseful. Definitely boring.
If its banal to watch, imagine the frustration Kolohe Andino is feeling right now as he tried everything (including some lofted high risk airs) to shake the judges from staring vacantly at the tube clock to award a suitable score.
For me, the tube section on both the left and right was too predictable and too boring. But the show, frat boys drinking beer, band stands, and CBS broadcasts included…the show must go on…and as long as it does…so will the tube and its chlorinated clock counter, just to keep you, and more importantly, the judges scale in check.
The Ten Denied. Starring Filipe Toledo.
“What do I have to do to get a ten?” Filipe Toledo announced to fans who had erupted in boos when the judging call was announced after a ride that everyone knew was perfect.
What’s a man gotta do to get the judges attention? If it’s anything more than 3 perfectly weighted and executed airs on a single wave, please let us know.
Maybe Toledo should have just gone for a 12-second tube instead. After all, in the Big Basin, that’s really laying it all on the line. A bunch of high-risk airs is for pussies. That’s why it deserved nothing more than a 9.8. After all, the judging scale needs room to move, what if somebody did a backflip inside a barrel?
Man Robbed. Starring Jordy Smith.
Jordy Smith can feel shortchanged. Again. This certainly isn’t a pity party or a South African bias. It’s a case of Smith being on the wrong side of a judging call that was inconsistent and unfair. He looked razor sharp, light and fluid and got underscored.
Hell, it’s not like it hasn’t happened before to the big guy. Cast your mind back to his quarterfinal loss To Julian Wilson at Uluwatu and his backhand drainer barrel that was definitely undervalued. Maybe Jordy should have chlorinated that pit and the judges would have responded more kindly?
Yes, underscoring may be a common theme in the Smith story of late, but what it can’t do is rattle his concentration on the job at hand: a strong Europe leg and a big Pipe finish. Time to shine in the brine and reclaim a rightful spot in the top 5.
Expect a David Guetta album to be crap, the All Blacks to stick 40 points to your team in the second half and the water to be cold in Cape Town, but don’t expect the obvious from Gabriel Medina. Ever.
Will Gabriel go back to back in Europe, can anyone stop him?
Will February and Smith gain ground, what about an Owen Wright versus Wilko final? Will Kelly stub his toe on an empty wine bottle and gift Mikey Wright an injury wildcard?
I’ll be watching as always and look forward to your company. See you in France.