Is Kai Otton Sydney's Only Hope?
By Col Bernasconi | 13 February 2012
Kai lets the dogs out (fins) on a small wedge a few headlands north of Manly Beach today. Pic: natesmithphoto.com
No! Really? What about? Nah, he’s dropped off... How about? No, he failed too. Kai Otton and I go silent, minds flipping through the Rolodex ASP World Tour surfers in our minds. Blank. It’s official; Kai Otton is the sole Sydney male surfer treading the boards on the world stage in 2012. And that’s a big deal.
Australia’s most populated (and popular) city has spawned numerous world champions – not to mention a host of top tenners, who at for a very long time have terrorized the tour. Tom Carroll, Damian Hardman, Barton Lynch, Rob Bain, Mark Occhilupo all born and bread 20 clicks north and south of the city centre. There are six-world titles in that lot alone.
“That’s why we need events like the Australian Open at Manly”, he goes on to tell me. “No way am I saying Manly is worthy of a World Tour event, but for a big six star QS – it’s perfect!” While Kai points out that he was originally from the country town of Tathra, he’s had digs at Manly for over a decade and happily calls the place home. It’s close to the airport, occasionally gets good and he has a host of friends and thrives on the positive social scene centred on a mutual love of the ocean.
As good as all that sounds, life hasn’t been all creamy lattes for the charismatic goofy footer. Kai had a tough year last year, and is only on tour again this year thanks to a wildcard [*surfer wildcard (next on the ASP World Rankings)]. “Through 2010 surfing changed so much and for a lot of it I was out injured – last year was a bad year for me... Not that I’d use the injury as an excuse. I lost two close heats by such a slim margin, had I won those I would have re-qualified.” I remind him of the heat against Julian Wilson in Portugal, a heat Julian refers to as one of his best ever. “I reckon I won that!” Kai says jovially. “And at Chopes I started off with a 9.5 and ended up losing!”
Confused by his enthusiasm in reiterating such a frustrating time in his life, I question his current positive mental state [the fact he has one of the best jobs in the world aside]. “Right now I’m frothing to be sleeping in my own bed...” He explains. “Finally there’s a big event on my doorstep, which is so cool. I’ve always been jealous of guys like Mick (Fanning) sleeping in their own beds when the Quik’s on at Snapper.”
Rolling out of your own bed and cruising to the work as opposed to dealing with hotels and airports does sound good I tell him. “Plus, I’ve just signed a new deal with Reef [having been with Insight for many years] and started riding Channel Islands surfboards.” Bing! The penny drops – literally. New deal, new sticks and a new lease on life.
Sounds to me like we’re going to see a new Kai Otton on tour this year, so be sure to check out his first heat at The Australian Open Presented by Hurley and Billabong on Thursday.
Get down the beach or watch it live on the webcast: AustralianSurfingOpen