Padang Padang turns it on for one hell of a contest.
It’s been eight years since a world tour event was held on Bali’s Bukit Peninsula, and if yesterday’s Rip Curl Cup Padang Padang proved anything, it’s that the WSL should hurry up and haul the Dream Tour’s arse back there. Why? Because the place is made for high order tube-riding, for the type of surfing and scenery that would once again help validate such a moniker, and because, if the surfers that took part in the 2016 Rip Curl Cup can put on the kind of performance they did out there with no serious pressure, imagine what those with world titles on the line could do on the same canvas.
Not that the guys who competed in this year’s event weren’t up to scratch. With Clay Marzo, Bruce Irons, Mason Ho and Damien Hobgood in the draw alongside some of Indo’s finest and a smattering of others who more than knew their way around the green room, the contest had plenty of high points. Four ten-point rides were dished out in one day of competition. Countless nines followed. Guys literally gauged themselves on the type of barrels that’ve made Indo a surf mecca for decades and Dave Wassell, aka the Will Ferrell of surf commentary, provided a highly entertaining dose of surf-stoked shit-talk that showed just how joyous and appealing our sport can sound (kudos also to fellow commentators Binnsy and Vaughan Blakey). It was an entertaining affair all round and one that demonstrated why an event that wasn’t even WSL-affiliated until now has long been attracting some of the world’s best barrel-riders.
After two rounds of tube-drenched non-elimination competition, which included a spectacularly deep Bruce Irons’ number, the field was whittled down to two four-man semis. In the first, Mason Ho and Damien Hobgood put on a clinic against young Aussie Jacob Wilcox and 2x winner Lee Wilson, who both failed to post significant back-ups and were ultimately left comboed. Semi two saw local boy Mega Semadhi, Brazilian goofy-footer Paulo Moura and the intriguingly brilliant Clay Marzo go at it in a frenzy of phenomenal tubes which had each surfer sitting on combined totals of more than eighteen points. In the end, though, it was Mega and Clay who scraped through to join Mason and Damo in the final.
After so much action, the final was a little slow to get started. Daylight was fading, the ocean regathering itself. Then Mega scraped into one ten minutes in and proceeded to plonk himself straight into the pit for a 9. Mason took off behind and got all kinds of funky with his tube stall but didn’t emerge. Another lull followed, before a quick flurry saw Clay, Damo, and Mason all luck into a set that handed Damo the highest score of the final so far for a long, deep 9.6. Time was running out when Mega called on the gods and years of local experience to stroke into an obscenely perfect Padang Padang wall, getting shacked from start to finish for the final’s only ten-pointer. It was enough to hand him the win despite late challenges from Damo and Mason, and for the second year running, the Rip Curl Cup trophy will remain in Indonesia.
The 2016 Rip Curl Cup Padang Padang was a special event, the kind that not only makes you admire the skills of the guys you’re watching but also amps you up to chase perfect waves, to indulge your inner-surfer. More events should appeal to that part of our psyche, to our saltiest impulses and fantasies. And what better place to do it from than Indonesia.
Main photo: Mega Semadhi doing the plumbing at Padang Padang. Nate Lawrence
1st Mega Semadhi 19.00
2nd Damien Hobgood 16.60
3rd Mason Ho 15.50
4th Clay Marzo 4.00