If you started watching yesterday’s action in the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal things looked a little strange. Frenchman Joan Duru was surfing the three-foot, crossed-up peaks, on his own. Turns out Adriano de Souza had been injured and left the water early leaving Duru in a man-on-none heat. It had me thinking about weird heats in professional surfing. A quick trawl through the Tracks’ archives shows Duru’s solo paddle doesn’t even touch the sides. 

Tom Curren Twin Fins Matt Hoy

In 1993, after having his second hiatus away from the tour, Tom Curren reappeared out of nowhere at a pro event in France. He rocked up for his heat against Matt Hoy on a 1970s twin fin he’d picked up secondhand at a New Jersey surf shop. You have to remember that back then a twin-fin was about as cool as a turd in a paddling pool. In the equivalent of Kelly Slater turning up in five years time on a 7’10” minimal, Hoy was suitably rattled and lost the heat.  

Tom Carroll’s Pipe Brain Freeze

The 1988 Pipe Masters saw perfect 10-12 foot Second Reef drainers in what Tracks Editor Reggae Ellis described as, "the most epic day in modern competitive history." Tom Carroll needed to win just two heats to win a third World Title, the first against Pipe rookie Todd Holland. With ten minutes to go and Carroll holding a substantial lead, shit got weird. "Holland continued to stroke into the first wave and then the unthinkable occurred,” wrote Tom’s brother Nick in Tracks. “Carroll started to make a move for the same wave. I couldn't believe what I was watching. Tom kept paddling for what felt like ages before he pulled back and Holland took off. An interference was called. That was it, the dream was over through a simple inexplicable mistake.”

Hemorrhoids and Rum

At the 1991 Coke Cola Classic some PR genius has signed off on a wildcard position for a winner of a public competition that involved a Coke can. That winner was Allan Willis, a 32-year old brickie from Bundaberg who’d surfed twice in the last six months and was recovering from hemorrhoids. His opponent was Ross Clarke-Jones who nervously won one of the weirdest heats in history. “Willis arrived with an esky full of fresh Bundaberg prawns as a gesture of gratitude to dispense to his hosts,” wrote Tracks Ed Tim Baker, in a suitably weird postscript. 

Battle Of the Sexes

In another PR coup Surfest organizers had granted Layne Beachley a wildcard for the 2004 QS event in Newcastle. Beachley, as the lowest seed, would draw the highest, which just happened to be Andy Irons. Irons quipped at the press conference that he should be granted a wildcard into the Women’s events, a line that showed just how nervous he was. In front of a crowd estimated at 30,000 plus the two wildcards paddled out for the four-person heat. In a suitably strange ending both World Champs were defeated by Bede Durbidge and Bernardo Pigmeau and so failed to progress.

Nick Woods’ Comeback 

In a scenario similar to the Coke Classic Wildcard, just without the hemorrhoids, in 2010 the organisers of the Burleigh Breaka Pro offered a place in the field by way of a milk based promo competition. The randomly chosen winner just happened to be Nick Wood, then aged 39.  Wood, a multiple CT winner, had been off tour since 1994 and had battled drug addiction and mental illness. He ended up facing Mark Occhilupo who came out of retirement to surf in the event. Neither progressed.