The best thing in surfing since Occy Vs Curren.
When Kolohe Andino strode on to the stage to accept his runner's up trophy at the Quiksilver Pro he had the American flag draped over his shoulders like a zealous patriot on Independence Day. It was a moment that screamed America F$&k Yeah!
Kolohe's bridesmaid finish came against a backdrop of insecurity about the state of American pro surfing. Kelly's inevitable departure, the possible absence of an alternative title contender, the rise of Brazil and the fact only five Americans (not counting John John) had qualified for the tour all seemed to be weighing heavily on the US fans (15 Australians and 10 Brazilians qualified for the 2016 tour).
There was a distinctive hint of desperation in Surfing Magazine's recent American special which suggested that Hawaiian surfers, who are traditionally granted their independence in the surfing world, were really competing for the USA. "Hawaiian surfers compete at Nationals, commute to the mainland, and pay their taxes to the IRS (ask Sunny Garcia). So by all means, keep waving that Hawaiian flag with pride, but you’re part of this dysfunctional family whether you like it or not," wrote Leo Maxam in the chest-beating piece for Surfing.
You can almost hear the Uncle Sam surf team screaming 'If only we could claim John John and Carissa we'd be back on top?' God forbid they ever try and call Kerrsy one of their own because he uses the US as a base.
Given the obvious anxiety infecting the American surf media and fan base, Kolohe's almost victory at the Quiksilver Pro came at a time when it was most needed by surfing USA.
Meanwhile, Matt Wilkinson celebrated his maiden WCT win with a beer fight on stage. The next day he was called a Yobbo in the mainstream press and then issued an Instagram post asking if the journalist responsible for the tag deserved a flogging. It doesn't really get any more Australian than a good blue involving beer, name calling and convict forms of punishment.
The point is that although it's early days on this year's contest circuit pro surfing's oldest of rivals Australia and The USA are right now locked in a battle for surfing supremacy, even if it is 5 vs 15.
On the Gold Coast Stu Kennedy and Connor Coffin played stellar supporting roles for their respective nations. Kennedy is the quintessential Aussie toiler, running an act that is hinged on channelled aggression and underdog drive. A classically Australian psychological profile.
Meanwhile Coffin is the epitome of SoCal cool. He borrows his carves from Tom Curren, his philosophical outlook from Brad Gerlach and loves strumming his guitar between heats.
Truth be told many fans choose their favourite surfers based on the way they surf or whether they might be able to relate to them. Nationality is not always the main consideration for their tendency to finger like on an Instagram post.
However, there's no denying that nationalistic rivalries can make the sport fun. Watching Occy vs Curren was incredible for anyone who had the good fortune to live through it. You could love both but still pick a side. Things probably got a little overheated when Gary 'Kong' Elkerton suggested "American pros were a bunch of soft cocks" but perhaps wearing your heart on your sleeve was a little better than pre rehearsed post heat interviews.
Surfing needs rivalries. They are just that little bit juicier when they also pit one country against another. Brazil's storm may yet have more rumbling to do but for now it's definitely going to be fun watching how things unfold between the Australians and Team America at Bells.