Perfection is subjective.
But if you had a glimpse at Lowers yesterday afternoon and didn't think that it was just about as perfect as Lowers gets, I'd want to both question and slap your psychiatrist. Light offshore winds, a solid combination of swells, lightly textured canvases reeling down the cobblestone point – some waves ridden, and others painfully not. But is it this form of perfection that we're really after here? I know that "the world's best surfers at the world's most rippable wave" sounds like the ideal collision of excellence, but I think that statement needs to be re-thought.
Today, Lowers wasn't as good as yesterday. The swell was still there, the sun was still out, the water still warm and the wind still light — but that “perfect” factor wasn't there. Which is exactly why today's competition was more entertaining than yesterday's.
In the opening heat, we saw Filipe Toledo vs. Ian Crane. After a highly anticipated, yet anticlimactic heat yesterday, Filly was looking for a sweet slice of redemption pie. And in the end, Toledo did end up taking the win, but not without clawing himself the score he needed after being pinned against the wall thanks to Crane posting a near-perfect nine. Which brings me to my next point:
The best surfers in the world rely heavily on reaction.
Think about the times in your life when you've performed your best at whatever it is you do. Were you in a relaxed situation? Did you have a wide-open shot? Did your teacher tell you to turn that paper in whenever you felt like it? Was there nobody watching or counting on you? No, because most people thrive off of pressure. In Filipe's case, it was the situational pressure of the heat — other times, however, this pressure can be anticipatory.
Lowers is such a perfectly playful wave that when you take off, you pretty much know exactly what it's going to do. In your head, you've thought for weeks about how you want to surf it. You've imagined the first turn that you'll carve out, the deep bottom turn you'll take, the speed blast into huge rotation you'll launch off the end section – it's played out in your head a million times. So when the moment comes when you're left out the back and that dream wall rolls right to you, the potential flaws are pushed into your court. And as you juggle this mental chainsaw of anticipation, you realize the frustrating lack of adversity to react to – there's no shelf to get over, no section to make, no foamball to wrestle or reef to avoid – it's just a shimmering opportunity that only your surfing can dim. Which, to me, sounds absolutely terrifying. So no matter how perfect the situation may seem…
Walk before you run.
A lot of the guys were getting ahead of themselves today – just needing to slow things down a bit and remember the fundamentals (wow, do I sound old or what). They were trying to surf the heat they had imagined in their head rather than the one they were in the middle of. It was pretty obvious that John John Florence fell victim to this axiom of forgetting to walk before he ran in his heat against Glenn Hall today. Yes, he was cursed with an unfortunate lack of waves, but so was Glen. And so what did Micro do? He walked the shit out of that heat and right in into Round 3.
Could the pressure of constantly being deemed "the best surfer in the world" at what most people would call almost perfect Lowers have gotten in John’s head? Possibly. But he should know better. He should know that he's not trying to please a beach packed with onlookers and a webcast full of fans, but rather five sweaty men sitting on the top floor of scaffolding. And in today’s scenario, he didn't need to do anything extraordinary, he only needed to surf the heat at hand. John eventually realized this in the dying minutes when he pocketed a 6.5 with ease on a medium-sized wave, which left him only needing a 7. But as time ticked away, you could almost smell the frustration coming off the wild underperformance of the man who many people would've picked to win the event.
The most notable display of composure and experience came from Mr. 2012 World Champ Joel Parkinson, who walked with leisure before he ran like a gazelle. After building momentum through the first half of the heat, Joel finished with an 18.74 total after painting two right-hand masterpieces, as well as landing not just one, but two airs in the climax of the heat. Which for him, I'm pretty sure is considered sprinting.
The comp should be on for tomorrow and at least one day this weekend. (They can't run both days over the weekend due to state park rules) So hope for (near) perfection, loosen those expectations, and just remember that your favorite surfers are human just like you. – Dayton Silva