Tom Curren showing he's still Tom Curren.
Action, drama and life lessons aplenty as the Superbank comes to Supertubes
Look, um, I don’t where to start. We contest writers are an excitable lot, prone to superlatives and exaggeration at the first glimpse of a stickered board, a contest singlet and a fan of spray.
But today was ... heavy.
Luke Egan wondered aloud if the Tweed River Sand Bypass system had drifted 20,000 km west to Kitchen Windows and transplanted the Superbank to Supertubes. Six foot rifling barrels for hundreds of metres were the order of the day - with Parko, Sean Holmes, Dane and Kelly among the stand-outs in a blur of ridiculous tube-rides, crazy hacks and Dane Reynolds’ outlandish, newly named ‘Stinky Roll,’ a Josh Kerr-style grab-rail, inverted reverse.
It all started on a grey drizzly morning with the sun barely over the horizon but the contest grandstand packed. What got them up at this ungodly hour was the “clash of the icons.” Occ, still the raging bull, versus Tom Curren, ever the minimalist mysto man. Curren snatched it with a sharp, busy wave in the last couple of minutes that he rode almost on to the rocks as if there was a title on the line.
The crowd were in a festive mood even if the early morning waves were slow. “The last time I was at a surf contest, MR beat Cheyne Horan in Durban,” one old local told me.
Then, after Occy and Currens’ fairly slow heat, the ocean began to pulse, and things got really interesting. There was the local Zen Master Sean Holmes versus the amped, twitching world title contender Taj Burow, with the local hero prevailing. “My best board is still lying in my room. I decided to bring out my shortboard,” said Holmes ominously, who rode a 6’1” epoxy, before moving to his trusty 6’3” round tail for more afternoon heroics in round three.
Dane and his killer tube face.
There were the wonderkids Dane and Jordy going head to head, Dane virtually free surfing and throwing his “stinky rolls” with gay abandon, Jordy focussed and driven but ultimately unsuccessful.
Now what about those Stinky Rolls, Mr Reynolds? “I don’t know if I should say this. Jamie (O’Brien) would probably be pretty bummed, but I guess he was trying to rename it himself because he thinks he does it better,” Dane grins naughtily. “We were laughing we were going to rename it the Stinky Roll after Jamie. It’s not a pretty manoeuvre, they’re ugly as shit.”
There was an on-fire Fanning charging out of the gates with an 8 and a 9 and surfing an almost perfect heat but running smack bang into the brick wall of the Spartan, Michel Bourez, who copped a 10 for a ridiculous triple barrel. “I wish I made a mistake or something so I could be angry about something,” a philosophical Fanning noted afterwards. There was a silky smooth Parko living up to all the world title hype with two masterly displays to eliminate last surviving trialist Heath Joske in round two and Keiren Perrow in round three.
Then there was a ridiculous end section through Impossibles and Salad Bowls providing free surfing opportunities that looked like Greenmount circa 2001, when the Superbank was at its prime. Below sea level dredgers delivered rifling barrels for hundreds of metres, all with a view of the contest - a surreal kind of nirvana for any surf fan - with Curren and his old Search travel mate Frankie Oberholzer ruling.
At one point a bearded Dean Morrison in a red singlet popped out of a spectacular barrel in the midst of the free surfing crowd and had to wave and scream at the judging tower to make sure they realised he’d come out of the thing hundreds of metres down the line. A free surfing Dayyan Neve had dropped in on him because the barrel looked unmakeable,
but Deano pulled a Houdini act and scored a 9.63.
Slater dropping his wallet.
Highest heat score of the event was set and re-set throughout the day - first by Parko with a 16.90 then by Sean Holmes in the very next heat with an 18.60, then Kelly four heats later with an 18.84 in his round two demolition of Nic Muscroft. “Kelly’s got his mojo again, he just gave us a couple of events off,” observed Fanning. “Today was a special day ... That was the most spectacular four hours of surfing I’ve ever seen,” Sean Holmes reckoned, after disposing of Mick Campbell in the last heat of the day.
What to take from all this? Pro surfing looked pretty damn healthy today and all the rumours and gossip about alternative tours were pretty quickly forgotten. Kelly’s back to his best, riding his Trestles special conventional thruster. Parko’s justifying all the title predictions, and showing no signs of cracking. If Dane wins his third round heat against Michel Bourez, he’ll draw Holmes in the quarters in what should be a clash for the ages. Knox and Slater meet second heat of the morning in a showcase of surfing longevity. Parko runs into standout goofy Bobby Martinez in the quarters. And Dean Morrison is looming as a quiet “Into The Wild”-styled dark horse, with his old mentor Rabbit Bartholomew providing stage whispers from the wings. Swell is predicted to hold in the morning and drop slightly through the afternoon, by which time we should have a champ. Tomorrow night, we drink.