These guys, am I right?! Photo: Taras
Unprecedented (adj.): never having happened before.
This year on the WSL Championship Tour, we are looking down the Pipeline of two probably unprecedented occurrences. I say probably because I can't be bothered to look through 40 years of WSL/ASP/IPS rankings and results in order to verify my claim. Does that info even exist? Warshaw?
First up is Kanoa Igarashi. The young, young, young Japanese American surfer has impressed far beyond expectation this year, at least for me. Sure, he's currently outside the 2017 cutline, but he's also one of three surfers who hasn't recorded a last place result this season. The other two are John and Gab, numbers one and two in the world, which is to say it takes a helluva lot of talent and competitive wherewithal to avoid the dreaded 25th.
With one competition left, Kanoa is poised to retain a title that he wants nothing to do with. A 13th at Pipeline might make Kanoa the first rookie to not record a last-place finish over an entire season, but it would almost definitely make him the first surfer to fall off tour without a round 2 loss. That kind of consistency is ridiculously uncommon, so when somebody manages to achieve it, they're basically guaranteed to have a few big results in their scoreline. Unfortunately for Kanoa, he has one 9th and nine 13ths, leaving him just shy of the demarcation line. The lesson here is that consistency is not such a virtue if you're only consistently mediocre.
Despite his ranking, the kid has kept it positive all year long — hence his refusal to lose in round 2. Photo: Quiksilver
Speaking of consistency, let's jump to the other side of the scale. Keanu Asing, owner of seven 25ths, a 13th, a 9th, and a win (Yes, a win — in France. It happened. Look it up.), has himself just 750 points above Kanoa Igarashi, thus proving there's more than one way to skin a cat. Which is good news for the K-boys, because if their rankings don't improve after Pipe, taxidermy might just be their next occupational pursuit.
The point I'm trying to make is that Keanu Asing is also at risk of etching his name into an unprecedented, highly-undesirable statistic: the first surfer to win an event and fail to requalify in the same year (wildcards excluded). I'm less sure of this stat than the Kanoa situation, but it definitely hasn't happened in the past seven years (that's as far back as the WSL's readily-available stats go) and it seems unlikely to have happened at all. If I'm wrong, let me know, but in the meantime let's just roll with the idea.
How devastating for Keanu! To have the best result of your career and lose your dream job all in the same motion is comparable to finding a hair in your delicious, three-quarter-eaten sandwich. Ick! The Hawaiian earned his European win but has not yet reserved a spot on the 2017 tour. He's only 250 points off the mark at this moment, but that number will likely increase come the Pipe Masters.
Aggressiveness — it brings wins, it brings losses. Keanu rolls with the punches. Photo: Jimmicane
A 9th place finish in Hawaii would significantly increase Keanu and Kanoa's chances of requalifying through the CT, while a 5th would damn near guarantee it. Keanu could maybe squeak through with a 13th, but he shouldn't count on it. Were they to falter early, Keanu and Kanoa would achieve two of the most statistically-improbable, somewhat comforting, but deeply devastating feats in the history of surfing. Part of me hopes it happens, as I'm a sucker for anomalies, but a bigger part of me hopes they step up to the plate and deliver some butt-stalling, air-dropping, ass-whooping performances at the Banzai.
Because in their own ways, both Kanoa and Keanu earned another chance at this. They're the absolute best of the worst. But more importantly, they’re unprecedented. Like Kelly Slater, Stephanie Gilmore, Ricky Basnett…