What we need to make the difference.
All eyes are on the top five surfers on the Men’s Championship Tour in Lemoore, while some of the underperforming surfers like Julian Wilson, Sebastian Zietz and Jack Freestone to name a few are feeling the glare of the spotlights, as sponsors, fans, supporters and family members watch on to see if they can pull themselves out of the quicksand that is their current 2019 campaigns.
The one point that has been made quite succinctly I might add, is that there are very few tactics to employ at Lemoore. “Lets face it, it’s not rocket science,” said Ronnie Blakey on opening day.
There is no need to guess or second-guess your opponent, there is no need to think about priority, and there is no need to worry about the wave behind the one you’re paddling for. Basically, there is less chance of making dumb mistakes.
This does have an equalizing effect, because it now means that those surfers with intense tactical skills no longer have that much of an advantage, and lesser tactical-orientated surfers (read: boneheaded) are now with an advantage. The actual tactics no longer exist, and the difference lies in the surfing skills and techniques.
The three things that are going to separate winners from losers throughout the tournament are the following:
1. Backhand barrels. To watch bigger guys like Jordy, or somewhat cumbersome surfers like Willian Cardosa and Owen Wright contort and grimace into ill-fitting backhand tubes in an attempt to scrape a few more points is uncomfortable to watch, and does not fit into the free wheeling high-action paradigm that the wave pool is aiming to portray. Many backhand tubes are blown, like Owen getting too deep and messing up what could have been an excellent score. Maybe a backhand air, like a solid boost with a twist, will score more points than those grimy little barrels.
2. Frontside barrels. They’re obviously a lot harder than they look, because there were plenty of botched barrels, with surfers continuously getting too deep and thus getting sucked into the maw. Never having surfed it, novice riders talk about the barrels section ‘not revealing itself’ and being ‘difficult to ride.’
Many rides will be won or lost on a barrel being made or not. The actual time in the barrel is somewhat vague, and depth needs to be looked at closely. M-Rod was barely in the barrel in his flat-line ride today. A really long barrel might not necessarily score higher than a second or two of a deep, tricky barrel. There is also the conundrum of making identical barrel sections look interesting. If you figure out the barrel section (by aligning a marker on the train with a certain marker on the fence, or something) what can you do to make two barrel rides different? Who will be the first to attempt and pull off something new and as of yet unnamed in the barrel?
3. Going to the air. It seems that the offshore wind that seems to sit around the right-hander is quite strong in the morning, and tends to push surfers over the back on some air attempts. Then again, in a bid to compensate for the wind, many surfers attempted airs in too critical a part of the wave, often landing in a barrel or on a barreling lip, with little success. Once again, easier than it looks, and with a deeply engrained ideology that rides need to be run through to the finish – two to the concrete beach – there are many surfers who are not going to go near to the air, and will instead smash countless repetitive turns in a bid to get enough from the judges to beat anyone attempting risky moves and failing. Mateus Herdy was incredibly repetitive, Kanoa blew his air attempts, as did Owen.
Those three elements, the backhand tube, the forehand barrel section and the air play, and how they are going to be treated, are not going to make winner or losers, but they are going to provide spectators with much-needed variety. Without variety people are going to switch off their screens. The whole thing just seems slow.
As Jeremy Flores, said post-run, “I find it hard to take this event seriously.”