It’s early morning on a cold, slate-grey Hossegor morning and Jordy Smith was drawing his own O’Neill logo on a 40 litre twin fin and strapping into a rashy ready to surf in an Airshow. No, this isn’t 2001, but Monday, 8 October 2018.
Yesterday a low pressure hard parked itself off The Rockfood, howling 40 knot onshores and driving horizontal rain towards the coast. It was 20 feet at four seconds and so absolutely perfect for destroying any sandbanks that has been established over the last few weeks.
This morning, miraculously, however saw light offshore winds that put some type of pattern into the freshly churned banks and jumbled swell. Commissioners Kieren Perrow and his local assistant Alain Riou, easily holding the most difficult jobs in surfing for the next seven days, scouted up the beach and found that the non-bank out the front was the best of all the other non-banks. Still too jumbled for a CT start they pushed the launch button on the Red Bull Airborne.
Over the weekend there had been some of the most minor of a social media controversy when local surfer Charly Martin had questioned the lack of local entrants in the event. “Good job guys, so not one French knows how to boost good enough to be in your wannabe contest on French soil,” he posted on Instagram. “I am sure the public is super stocked... We need to paint our hairs and nails to be in ??!! You guys are surfers and don't respect us still, that rat race caught you.”
If we ignore the fact that Charly grew up in a French territory in the Caribbean, his post caused a slight stir. It also became irrelevant as when it was called on the withdrawals came in fast. “My hip injury means I’m surfing with pain, I don’t want to push it,” Mikey Wright told the WSL’s Dave Prodan. “I’ll withdraw, but I want to give my spot to Parko,” he laughed. Kanoa Igarashi too was out, rumoured to have injured himself in the skate bowl. Maybe he was trying his grabs for the Airborne. That meant a bunch of locals could enter even if they didn’t have much of an impact over the course of the day. The fact that no women were invited didn’t however seem to raise much of a mention.
In any case, the event proceeded and some airs were done. Kalani David impressed early as did Griffin Colapinto and the eventual winner Yago Dora. Turns out best aerialists are on the CT. Who knew? The atmosphere on the beach was flat however, with the six surfers in the heat spread out on the far outside banks. The live broadcast did feel fresher. The surfers being miked up worked for the most part and there was a sense of the commentators trying to create a much looser and more fun atmosphere. The leaderboard style of results was also easy to get your head around.
Yet at the end of the day it was an Airshow still using a format that died a slow death around 15 years ago. Even with the best aerialists in the world flown in at considerable expense it was four hours of guys trying to post scores to win a heat. The final was an hour-long and felt longer. The conditions didn’t help, flattening the progression and making the conversion rate abysmal. No doubt the dream was to have five-foot chunky onshore wedges breaking metres from shore with a blue afternoon skies and a packed beach crowd ooohing and ahhing every massive boost. As ever though, the ocean intervened. It has a tendency to do that. Especially in France.
So perhaps this isn’t the time to judge. The final did feature a mix of CT surfers (Colapinto and Dora) and four of the best aerial surfers on the planet. If it was held in optimal conditions there may have been fireworks. Also the added webcast additions should filter in to the CT down the track and surfing as a whole could become a better package for you, the surf fan. It aint exactly original, but as Nietzsche said, “Many a man fails as an original thinker simply because his memory is too good.” Very recently it seems someone remembered the Airshow. Today they brought that memory back to life. I’ll let you be the judge on whether that was a good idea or not.