Introducing the 5 minute contest recap. All the important details (sans the lulls between sets) that transpired during the 2018 Margaret River Pro. Fights, sharks, and a 24-way tie. Bite sized, potent, and straight to the blood stream. Enjoy!
The 5 Minute Recap is made possible by Finatic.com. Use promo code “podcast” to support this show and get your 1st month free.
Events are supposed to answer questions, close the gap, define . . . who is the best surfer at Margaret River? And build the anticipation for . . . who is the best surfer of 2018? John John Florence foreshadowed the answer to “Who is the best surfer of 2017” when he won this event last year with now legendary surfing. Disappointingly, those turns also turned out to be the highlight of the 2018 event, as they played in-between each of the 24 mens heats surfed in this years event. That’s right, 24 heats, of the scheduled 47 required to run an event. An event that was canceled due to 2 shark attacks that occurred in nearby beaches. Beaches in between 2 of our event venues; Main break and North Point.
Both surfers survived the attacks, one with very serious wounds, and the other with a harrowing video captured by an onlooker on the beach. Jason Longgrass was attacked, fought free from the shark and then body surfed in, missing his first attempt at a wave and then catching the 2nd. Because of these incidents, the WSL erred on the side of caution and cancelled the rest of the event. The men had completed 2 rounds and the women 3.
The Margaret River Pro was established in 1985 and has run consecutively since, sometimes a CT, sometimes as QS, and with inconsistent sponsorship, sometimes sponsored by various agencies of the Western Australian government.
Traditionally the event has been held at Main Break, which is unique on tour because it’s the only open-ocean wave; harnessing powerful energy over a vast playing field with lots of moving water and often strong surface winds. In recent years the event has improved by the addition of 2 nearby alternative venues: The Box and North Point, each worthy of their own event but rarely consistent enough to offer up the 332 high quality waves over a 4.5 day window. The Box and North Point are more exciting waves so the WSL, surfers, and fans alike hope to run at least 1 complete round at each venue per event.
After a trials event at Main Break and 2 laydays, the Margaret River Pro’s webcast hobbled to a start on day 3 at North Point. The webcast was schedule to begin at 7:15am but instead asked viewers for patience while technical difficulties were being sorted. The stream started with 8 minutes left in a specialty heat where Jack Robinson had already amassed an 18+ point heat total over a wildcard whose name I can’t recall and cannot find anywhere on the WSL’s website.
These 2 surfers finished equal 3rd in the trials event, but in the subsequent 2 days Caio Ibelli was forced to withdraw due to an ankle injury sustained in a layday freesurf, thereby leaving 1 more spot open in the event. This was a blessing for fans of surfings (sorry Caio) as Jack Robinson is one of the most exciting and talented surfers in the world and an absolute savant at him homebreak of North Point. Unfortunately, the bulk of the trials event ran at Main Break, Jack lost, thought he was out until he got a call from commissioner KP while drowning his sorrows in chocolates.
(02:40 min mark)
Robo’s diet served him well as he put on an absolute clinic in that specialty heat and then again in round 1 heat where he smoked Owen Wright and Miguel Pupo.
In this event, more than usual, the frailties of the wildcard concept were highlighted. The concept is to designed to have the world best, most well-rounded, seasoned surfers compete against the best local surfer whose likely advantage is a knowledge of that specific break. Unfortunately, too often the local wildcards are simply not world class surfers and even when they are, they lack the competitive savvy and comfort to perform in the jersey. In this event we got both, Jack Robinson, Kael Walsh, and Mikey Wright were uninhibited by the jersey, constantly on the best waves and finding sections that previously went unnoticed. Unfortunately other local wildcards displayed the stark contrast in ability level and wherewithal. The tour is already bloated with surfers, making it very difficult to run an event during 1 swell, and making it difficult to maintain a high level of entertainment for the viewers. David Delroy-Carr losing in round 2 with a 5.43 heat total is not good for anyone, and yet it happens with regularity. We need to rethink how local wildcards get into an event. And we need to consider following the UFC’s lead and place the reward on excitement. If you ask anyone in Margaret River or any of the ‘CT surfers who should be in the event, they’ll tell you Jay Davies and Jack Robinson and then keep an eye on Kael Walsh. That’s good enough for me.
On the women’s side, Bronte Macauley was able to benefit from both competitive savvy and her local knowledge as she surfed the best I’ve ever seen. I was eager to see her surf against current number 1 Stephanie Gilmore, but it wasn’t to be.
Another storyline we’re following is rookie performance. Colapinto, Carmichael, Gudauskas, and Hermes all lost in round 2 while Yago Dora, Michael Rodriguez, and injury replacement Michael February all made it to the final round, round 3.
Jordy was riding a board shaped by his coach, Chris Gallagher. It looked great in competition and in the freesurf at Main Break the day of the shark attacks.
Just as John John Florence redefined how Main Break could be surfed in 2017, he began to threaten that again in round 1 at North Point. His ability to transition speed from a down carve into a bottom turn and then up through a snap was so seamless and fast. And raw and refreshing. The amount of speed through it was the key and none of it was diffused and he did it all with zero awkwardness nor hesitation. It looked supremely natural in a way only Jack Robinson shares.
Again, as was the case at Bells with Filipe’s freesurf clip, the most viewed clip from Margaret’s this year will not be a wave surfed in the event. It will be the shoving match that transpired between Jesse Mendes and Mikey Wright. Not so much a match really, just Jesse shoving Mikey. Apparently during a freesurf at North Point, it was crowded, Mikey had scored some good waves, Jesse hadn’t gotten anything for an hour, a good one came towards him, Mikey backpaddled him, Jesse took off in front of him anyway, Mikey slingshot around him and got shacked all way to the end of the wave. Jake Patterson filmed the waves and the following altercation and then posted it on Instagram. It caught fire and everyone from Tom Carroll to Kelly Slater to Jadson Andre chimed in, many of whom shamed Jake for posting the footage. Jake eventually deleted the post and apologized for fanning the flames.
This was a highlight of the event for me. It generated more of my personal interest and it’ll generate more fan interest at large. Stories like this prop up the surfing that happens in the event. Just as with Peter King’s fun, albeit soft, #TourNotes series, the stories behind the scenes elevate and add richness and context to the surfing that takes place in the heats. And with this specific case, Mikey’s hassling in the free surfs is riling up his competitors. Perhaps his behavior is sincere, but other surfers should consider it and use it as a tactic. Assessing one’s own game plan is a key to success. And the game starts way before the heat begins. Mikey is psyching guys out and Jake was an accomplice. No doubt this incident raised Mikey’s profile, both for the world at large and among competitors who will have to face Mikey in the future. He’s in their head. I was actually a bit disappointed when the @PeopleonTour instagram account posted footage the next day of Jesse and Mikey hugging and apologizing to each other. It’s nice that they are friends, but it doesn’t bode well for competition nor for fans. Lean into these things, let them simmer. Let the viewing audience pick sides and passionately battle on the Internet. Can you remember a single wave Sunny Garcia surfed in a contest jersey? Probably not. But do you remember his presence on Tour? Of course. And competitors and commentators still reference his legacy of intimidation. We need new long shadows to be cast.
The cancellation of his event leaves a lot of unanswered questions. How will this affect the world title race. The WSL stated that they would like to finish this event at a different location later in the year. That would help keep all the math straight for accumulating points towards a world title, but it seems logistically very unlikely. Ultimately, it will compress the numbers and make it a much tighter title race that might include a larger number of contenders and hopefully come down to the very final heat at Pipeline. Unfortunately for John John’s aspirations for a consecutive 3rd world title, that race might not include him as he has two 25th and now a 17th.
This also begs the question; what will happen to The Margaret River Pro? With the emergence of Wave Pools, with an already saturated schedule in Australia, with the high costs of maintaining 3 contest sites for this one event, with the lack of sponsorship for this years event, and with current plans to reshuffle the 2019 calendar, did Coco Ho surf the final wave ever of the Margaret River Pro? We’ll see, but if so, it was 2.83 and she lost with an interference. A small metaphor for the anticlimactic finish with so little resolution.
See you in Brazil.
Music: Atlas Sound feat Noah Lennox, “Walkabout”
Produce, Edit, Host: David Scales @david_lee_scales