As well as Wilko’s title run.
In a lot of ways, Mick Lowe represents the quintessential Australian goofy-footer. Raw, hard-charging and powerful, he earned himself a reputation during his tour years as not only an A-grade spray-chucker and ultra-savvy competitor, but a genuinely smart dude who’s as adept at quoting Shakespeare as he is at breaking down the mechanics of a cracking good bottom-turn. Having finished runner-up at J-Bay to Mick Fanning back in the early 2000s (who, by the way, he regards as the greatest to ever surf the place), we thought Lowey would be as good a bloke as any to explain why Jeffrey’s is such a cruel mistress to those who surf with their right foot forward.
Tracks: It’s been more than twenty years since someone won Jeffrey’s on their backhand, and as it stands now, of the seven surfers left in the draw Gabriel Medina is the only goofy-footer. Why is J-Bay such a hard wave to surf on your backhand?
Mick: When it’s perfect, when it’s really good J-Bay, you’ll find the backhanders can surf it as good as the forehand guys. But with a small waiting period you’re not always surfing heats when it’s perfect and that’s when it gets a bit tricky. I think backhand you just don’t have the same repertoire of manoeuvres the forehand guys have. You’ve basically got a snap off the top and a carve down, and the carve downs don’t really score with the judges at all, because you’ve got someone like Jordy doing a carve down and he throws buckets but backhand it kind of looks shitty, it just looks like a linking turn. So I think that’s the reason. If it was guaranteed to be held in perfect waves every time I think you would’ve seen a lot more goofy-footers win it.
Being such a fast wave, is there a particular kind of approach on your backhand that Jeffrey’s requires?
I think one, you’ve got to have really good wave selection, you’ve got to pick those much slower waves. There’s always those quick ones and they’re just too fast. So a lot of it comes down to experience out there. And then for me it was all about that first turn, it sets up the rhythm of the wave. If you stuff up the first ten metres of the wave with a shitty turn you’ll find you’re slightly behind it the whole way, whereas if you get in a nice rhythm with the wave it sets you up for the whole ride and you usually complete your waves pretty well.
Bells is another wave that’s been notoriously hard for goofy-footers to be successful on. There’s an eighteen-year gap between when Occy won it in ’98 and Wilko taking it out this year. Do you think we’re starting to see a generation of goofy-footers that are good enough to close the gap on the natural-footers at right-hand point breaks?
Absolutely. When you look at the goofy-footers that’re on tour this year, you look at Medina, Wilko, Ryan, Wiggolly et cetera, we’ve definitely got the talent and the spark there to push the limits. Wilko’s busting fins backhand and really driving through the lip and it’s the same with Medina, plus his air work is pretty good too. Where once upon a time you’d have to wait for it to get smaller, he’s doing airs when it’s a decent size. I think the repertoire that backhand surfers have on tour now is much greater so they can just go to a lot more manoeuvers. And obviously they’re just a lot better than we were back then (laughs).
Speaking of Wilko, what do you think of his run this year? Do you think he’s got the goods to become the first Aussie goofy champ since Occ?
Certainly. I spent some time over in Fiji and I saw a new Wilko. It was one with confidence, it was one with a pretty steely nature, and I never thought I’d say that about Wilko. His surfing has always been there, there’s no doubting his surfing. It’s probably just everything else coming together this year and just an inner belief that he can win. I certainly believe he can and I really hope he does. He’s a great bloke and an incredible surfer and it’d be great for the sport if somebody that wasn’t so straight down the line actually won. And it’d be a hell party!