The swell has started to fill in, and The Goat and The Upstart put on electric performances.
The only reason why I watch the seeding round is my love of surfing. It is tedious, it is long winded and it leads to nowhere. The new format has been dissected and criticised endlessly, so no point in repeating anything, but on a personal level I don't like it, and find it boring. It’s not like the boys are blowing up, going to the air and treating it as a non-elimination expression session, they’re all conservatively wanting to jump the elimination round, and are generally surfing a ‘two-to-the-beach’ approach with neat little hits.
The fun only starts in round two, or the elimination round. Jack Robinson was up in the first heat, along with Jack Freestone and Wade Carmichael. They are three power-monger natural-footers, all surfing with serious intent, and with proper, well-formulated campaigns.
There is a whole lot of interest around Jack Robinson at the moment, as it has all become startlingly clear that he is no longer hindered by any external drama, and is now focused on surfing and winning. He has the skills and the talent, and without anyone pestering him unnecessarily, he is a free-spirited competitive mongrel who has all the skills to be one of the best in the world. He won the heat, despite doing nothing outrageous, banking a high 6 and a 5.77. Jack Freestone advanced with him, and the burly Wade Carmichael was eliminated, despite sitting with a 51% fan pick percentage on the World Surf League website.
There was a whole lot of expectation in the air when Kelly paddled out against Caio Ibelli and Ace Buchan for their elimination round heat. There is still much love as well as much confusion surrounding the goat, with people wanting him to do well, imploring him to do well. He is still the greatest, and people want to see him finish his career, whenever that might be, with a bang and not with a whimper.
He didn't disappoint. Pottz had just mentioned that the best moves, the highest scoring turns, with the full power carves, the type that John John emphatically brought to the party in 2017. The vertical re-entries and the foam climbs were great, but it was the gouging carves with spray to the heavens that the judges were enjoying. Slater did just that – big carves with a silky approach to them. Enough power to throw rooster-tails of spray, along with tight, complete finishes among sweeping white water and rocks everywhere. Slater just happened to come up against a massively on-form Ibelli, and despite the Brazilian pulling off some big carves, good airs and full rotations, Slater completely dominated.
It was great to watch. He kicked in with some great variety as well, climbing into one very cool carving 360, a move that he is owning right now but is not getting recognised by the judges. The speed, power and flow paradigm however, is working great for Slater and it could easily result in something big. With Slater you just never know. His boards are looking great, he’s using the rail, there is less twitchiness to his flow, and he is following through his turns with a pleasing amount of quickness. Slater on form.
Ace gave it as much stick as he could and fought a good fight, but the elder statesman bowed out with not enough in the tank.
Another surfer on form was Caroline Marks, putting her best Occy performance in the solid rights. Her board looked a little bigger, the rails a bit fuller and there was definitely more meat to it, as she utilised her equipment to totally destroy Paige Hareb in the round of 16 encounter. Marks started off with an excellent score of 8.33, but she hadn’t really found her stride yet. The 8.33 ended up being a throwaway, as the young Marks banked a 8.93 and an 8.67 for an unassailable lead. Before the heat she had ridden ten excellent-scored waves in her career, and after the heat she had 13 to her name.
All eyes are on tomorrow, with The Box looking like it might take centre stage with the massive surf predicted. There are a number of surfers who know that wave well, but Jack Robinson does most definitely have an edge surfing in his backyard.
Also, I’d hate to be a goofy-footer if it’s solid. Doesn't matter if you’re a world champion surfer, The Box must be a real prick of a wave to surf on your backhand.