Mick Fanning wins the Rip Curl Pro Search
Words By Chas Smith
Photos By Jeff Flindt
Mick stood on the podium, smiling his chipped tooth smile, hoisting the hardware. A large globe. Rip Curl hat. The red wave breaking over his beaming eyes. No that wasn't a Rip Curl hat. It was Vasco de Gamma's hat. Mick the explorer. Mick the bringer of riches and disease. Mick had worn the gold singlet. The same that looked so prophetic on Joel just yesterday as he shot out of a toilet paper roll barrel. So long. So long. Today it is prophetic on Mick.
Bede stood aside like a jovial Fijian. He uncorked his champagne and sprayed, sending liquid streams Mick's way. His place in competitive surfing becoming serious. He is no longer a throw away. Maybe he never was? Maybe Rip Curl will sponsor him? The beach cheered for Mick. Cheered for his joy. Cheered for Bede. Cheered for his good nature. Cheered that Supertubos fired for two days. Cheered.
The conditions had steadily decreased in both size and quality. From both yesterday and this morning. But it was still surfable as evidenced by the way Mick sliced the wedgy faces. I wonder if there is any size of surf that Mick couldn't slice?
Mick and Bede each paddled out. The throng had thickened. Pulses raced. Joel sat alone either in the carpark or speeding to the airport. I couldn't see him. No he wasn't speeding to the airport but Mick and Bede were paddling and this was the final. It may not have been the final that surf fans wanted. Mick vs. Joel scratching against each other is sexy. Mick vs. Joel trading waves and barbs with the title on the line is delightfully cinematic. But this ain't the movies. Or rather, it is the movies, but this film has an easy-going spoiler.
Bede caught a trashy wave. Mick caught a trashy wave. Those on the beach waited. Mick caught a boring wave. Bede caught a worthless wave. Warming up maybe? Circling each other? Bede caught a wave that wasn't so bad. Mick caught a wave that was a little better. Then Bede struck gold. Mick struck better gold, a rippy little right that he destroyed with forehand hacks. And Bede was done. He only had two more uneventful waves while Mick went no to secure his second 6.00. The one that doomed Bede to second.
The crowd, in between the semifinals and the finals milled about. It seemed that everyone was grateful to be at Supertubos, the actual search site. But also it seemed that everyone in the country loved Belgas. It is still a mystery to me. Thousands upon thousands of surf refugees trekking miles and miles to a beautiful, though not mind-bending, wave. Rip Curl and the ASP certainly outdid themselves, logistically etc., when they pulled that off. Maybe the Portuguese are massive logistics fans. It would make sense with their discoveries of the new world.
It wasn't supposed to really be like this. Those first three waves Joel caught were all good. Some would even call his second wave really good. It appeared as if he had found what he was searching for during this event. Finally. That he had shaken off the cobwebs and doubts. The talk of ankle injury. California, France, Spain. Yesterday he surfed like a star. And today he was surfing like one too. Or like someone who understood what was necessary in the conditions. But Bede don't quit and his last two waves he overtook Joel sending the widow's peak out of competition. There were some groans on the beach. But Bede surfed amazingly throughout the entire event and everyone knew he deserved a shot at glory. Unfortunate that he was not given the golden singlet.
It was another early morning and early mornings in Portugal can be grand. I spent the night in Lisbon. Again. Realizing it is only 40 minutes by speeding BMW was a glorious realization and the Holiday Inn Lisboa provided enough accommodation, even though I didn't sleep. I wandered the seven hills and gazed out at a grand Jesus Christ statue. Very similar to the "Christ the Redeemer" in Rio. Here it is called, "Christ the King." I had a late night cocktail in the Ritz. The Lisbon Ritz is a gift.
The event happened at Supertobos for the second consecutive day. This time it was not so supertubo. It was a touch lackluster, but then anything might have been a touch lackluster after yesterday's carpet bomb. The crowd needed a winner. Were begging for it, and Rip Curl had to deliver one. The waves were good enough. The sun shining.