Morning Glory On The Competitors' Deck
By Luke Kennedy | 27 February 2012
Matt Wilkinson surfing for his brunch. PIc: ASP/Kirstin
The competitors’ area; that inner sanctum of pro surfing, where the surfers engage in ritualised pre-heat warm ups, coaches hover with stone-faced intensity, retired pros revel in past glory, corporates cut deals between cutbacks and media reps tread cautiously around twitchy pros in the hope of scoring an inoffensive scoop.
As I land on the competitors’ deck a post-heat drama is unfolding involving Matt Wilkinson. Matt has surfed exceptionally against friend and Rip Curl stable mate, Owen Wright, only to have the result go against him. The focus of Matt’s attention is his best wave, which he feels he was dramatically underscored on. Once changed he beelines for the judging tower, a look of scorn creasing his face in a manner that is at odds with his role as pro-surfing’s court jester. He returns minutes later, clearly dissatisfied with the explanation given by the judges.
“ They said my turns were better and that I linked them better than he did, but that the scores were still right.” Matt also suggests that wave had the judges divided and that there were significant differences in the scores they posted.
Wilko is flanked by a two-man entourage, each of whom are wearing a customised shirt splashed with the tag line “I love Out to Brunch,” printed with the love heart that is synonymous with the I love New York t-shirts. Out to Brunch is of course Wilko’s personal blogspace, featuring clips that splice high performance surfing with farcical scripts and occasional soft porn.
Travis Lee, Channel Islands' anchor man (L). Freddy P and Kelly in a chummy post heat bro down. Pic: LK
As Wilko’s Dad approaches to offer his commiseration there is an awkward moment when Owen approaches to shake his hand. The two goofies are great friends and Matt holds no personal grudges against Owen but it’s obviously difficult for him to hide his disappointment. As Owen departs, Wilko encourages the entourage to join him for breakfast. It was too early for brunch and maybe too early for Wilko to leave the contest. For the rest of the morning twitter and facebook are hammered with commentary on the controversial result, most of which suggests that Wilko was hardly done by.
As I return to my seat, Tom Carroll arrives in the competitor’s area, radiating physical wellbeing and positive energy. I quiz Tom about his morning surf at Snapper and he replies, “ It was certainly intimate out there… I had to duck dive a goat boater and if I didn’t make it that was it,” he states emphatically, simultaneously dragging his hand across his throat as he does so.
“Apparently the guy is a fifth dan black belt too,” he goes on to say.
Focus shifts to the lineup, where Kieren Perrow and Josh Kerr, two diametrically different surfers, have just met. “ Gee, Kieren surfed well insists Tom,” before excusing himself to hunt down the competitor’s area osteopath for some treatment. I glance left and see a seated man having acupuncture needles inserted into his neck. It seems all manner of medical treatments are available in the surfing inner sanctum.
The heat between Kieren and Josh finishes with 0.6 of a difference; too close as far as Shane Beschen is concerned. “Kieren got like a 6.5 for a wave without even throwing fins while Josh only got like an 8 something for a big fins throw and frontside grab, reverse. There should be more of a gap between those scores, insists Shane.”
As Adriano paddles out against Kolohe, I get talking to a guy named Mike, who tells me he’s in marketing for Quiksilver back in the States. Amidst the small talk we exchange about his life in America, he says a couple of things with broader interest. When Billabong and Hurley combined to host the Australian open of surfing, it seems every other company stood up and took notice. The other major surf companies are now contemplating the viability of aligning to host major surfing events. He was also adamant that Quiksilver would like to take a WT event back to New York in 2013 but will have to put the pieces in place by June this year if it is to be a reality.
Adriano out-muscles Kolohe, and Shane Beschen is back by my side asking for my opinion. Shane is in Kolohe’s corner and is obviously disappointed with the result. “ Perhaps he didn’t surf as well as the hype might have implied he would,” I suggest. “ Sometimes that’s the problem,” he concedes. “ Not surfing as well as the expectations that were held.”
In the next heat, Michel Bourez is whipping through sections, where Bede is only drifting. The acceleration through manoeuvres is the most distinctive difference between the two surfers and Michel canters to victory.
His partner sits three seats away from me, cheering on Michel, while clutching their newborn child. In fact there are kids everywhere and given the current crop of pro surfers’ penchant for reproduction, the competitor’s area looks a lot like crèche.
I bail for an injection of caffeine that doesn’t come in a can and by the time I return Kelly has arrived. He bounces around the area shirtless, chatting freely, joking and affecting the demeanour of a kid just having fun. The focus is there though. He’s already spent the morning posting his opinions on the early heats on twitter.
Suddenly there is a loud crash, it seems the perennially full Corona fridge has been over-stacked and the yellow-tinted ales have spilled forth from the glass doors with a will of their own. Kelly reacts like a kid, jumping over to the bar to survey the damage and come up with a quip. ‘For someone who hardly drinks he had a lot of interest in wasted alcohol,’ I can’t help but think.
Kolohe Andino wasn't jumping for joy after his loss to Adriano De Souza in round three. Pic: ASP/Kirstin
As the rank smell of beer-covered carpet fills the room, Heitor Alvez dices through Jeremy Flores with his switch- blade backhand hack. By the time Kelly is paddling out for his heat against Fred Patacchia, I’m standing next to Channel Islands' global marketing manager, Travis Lee, who doubles as Kelly's board consultant.
Trav is always generous with info’ and begins a long lecture about Kelly and his boards.“ He switches between Quads and thrusters and even twinnies better than any surfer,” Trav insists. “It only takes him about one wave to adjust.” No doubt this gives Kelly a distinct advantage when it comes to selecting exactly the right board for specific conditions. He is free to ride the board which will work best as opposed to simply the one he is comfortable on. As we speak he’s doing a job on Freddie on a 5’9 x18 1/4 x 2 ¼ Fred Rubble model.
“One thing Kelly has done is widened the nose on some of his boards this year,” Travis admits. Some will have a twelve inch nose and he likes that for paddling and for landing airs.” Trav admits that when Kelly went really short in 2009, the judges couldn’t see the board above the lip when he did a turn and that affected his scoring potential. “ Even if some of the surfing on those boards may have been better,” suggests Trav.
By the time Trav finishes detailing Kelly’s boards, Kelly has defeated Freddie P with a controlled performance, relying more on his power carves than contemporary moves. Kelly looked good but you got the impression there were still a few gears left.
As I leave the deck, Kelly is all smiles as he clutches his girlfriend Kalanni. Meanwhile Kolohe Andino is making an exit with his head slung low like a teenager who just got the bullet from their first girlfriend. I put it to him that this is exactly how he looks. “I don’t care about my girlfriend,” he insists, obviously conveying the idea that losing in his first WT contest is way worse than being ditched by a chick. It sounds like something Kelly might have said twenty years ago…
QUIKSILVER PRO GOLD COAST ROUND 2 RESULTS:
UPCOMING QUIKSILVER PRO GOLD COAST ROUND 4 MATCH-UPS:
ROXY PRO GOLD COAST ROUND 3 RESULTS: