Half of the Red Bull Airborne was completed in the onshore afternoon embers of yesterday’s swell. It wasn’t always pretty, but there was enough action to sustain a hardcore fan’s interest. We pick through the best, and worst, of the CT’s new wicked step brother. 

Eli Hanneman Is Surfing’s Next Big Star

“I want to give these guys the opportunity that I had,” Red Bull Airborne’s pilot-in-chief Josh Kerr said. “Between the ages of 16 and 20 I had the Airshow Series and that gave me a platform to get a profile. From there I had the confidence to hit the CT.” 

That could be true for many of the aerialists in the event (even if Kalani David said, “I’m on the CT without being on the CT, it’s way better) the current leader Eli Hanneman doesn’t really need the leg up. Now 16, he’s been the best surfer on the planet of his age since he was eight and that doesn’t seem likely to stop any time soon. His completion ratio is ridiculous and his rapid speed, corked, tail-high rotor was the best of the day. It’s only a matter of time before he will be doing them on the CT. 

Shit Surf Is Still Shit Surf

Let’s be honest, the conditions were pretty bad. While onshores may be the new offshores, when the onshore is shutting down sections and flattening ramps, it doesn’t make for any type of spectacle. Fitting the six qualifying heats, plus a Final, in and around the two CT divisions in a tide-and-wind-affected Keramas was never going to be easy. Yet the fact that it only runs for such a short time makes it even more imperative that they get it right. Just like the main event, the better waves, the better the surfing and the bigger the airs. The call is as important. 

Loose In the Booth

Ronnie alongside his brother Vaughan brings out the best in both of the Blakeys. Ronny is way looser and lets his natural humour shine through way more than when he is sat next to Luke or Pete Mel. Vaughan adds a genuine enthusiasm, coupled with an on-the-button knowledge of what is a pretty specialised niche in surfing. And Josh Kerr, who although hardly an unbiased commentator, remains the most articulate pro surfer of his generation. It’s hard not to get swept up in the sheer vision for his pet project. And when the cameras cut to Strider and Kaipo herding ducks in the traditional style on the beach, well the circle was squared. Such was the banter you weren’t irritated when Jay Davies was doing chop hops on a wave that came up to his calves. 

Where Were The WSL Surfers? 

Italo and Filipe were later withdrawals in the event, leaving just Jack Freestone and Yago Dora to fly the CT flag. Ferreira and Toledo were stars on the Gold Coast, but you can’t see them risking bones and boards as they get closer to a World Title. With those two, plus Gabe, Mikey Wright, Julian Wilson, Ryan Callinan, John John and Jordy Smith all absent, you couldn’t help but feel that the best aerialists in the world were by the pool and not in the water. 

Whose Going To Win? 

There is still three qualifying heats to go and so all the surfers get another crack at making the Final. Hanneman looks solid, as did Jack Freestone and Kalani David. Yet it only takes the blink of a bikini and any surfer could find himself in the Final. If the surf gets chunkier surely Jay Davies and Noa Deane must be considered a threat, while no man has done more airs at Keramas than local Lee Wilson. Basically, toss a coin, into the wind, and you’ll have as good as guess as anyone.