Oney Anway. Photo: Russ Hennings
The WCT has a long, proud history of chewing-up and spitting out local wildcards. They're scary nothing-to-lose hot shots for the Top Seed guy, but generally don't really shake up the title race or leave a lasting impression on the contest.
So read this quick, cause it might be irrelevant tomorrow.
The whole situation is hard for the local wild card guy too, 'cause on some level they've already won…which isn't good for the fighting spirit. In the case of Oney Anwar – who just won an all-Indonesian contest for the Oakley Pro Bali contest – he'll earn more money just for losing his first two WCT heats than he would for winning every single event of the awesomely competitive Asian Surfing Tour. That kinda thinking makes competitors want to get their contest singlet autographed by Slater when he has them combo'd halfway through the heat. Like, oh well, I'm rich.
But Oney says it's not about the money. It's not about the exposure either (though, neither of those things hurt). For Oney, this is another step in a long track he's been meticulously marching since a very young age. It’s his quest to be the first Indonesian to crack the WCT.
We've said this before, of course. But here's what Oney's got going for him:
1) He's not from Bali, where pros tends to have it too good and get addicted to home.
2) He's still young. Just 18. But he's spent the last 4 years getting sufficiently "westernized" at an Australia high school.
3) The Australian high school thing, it talk him to hassle, hustle, surf small waves and hold his alcohol. All important skills on tour.
4) He's just got his own signature boardshorts out called "The Animal." Actually, Rip Curl paid me to say that.
SURFING: So, this isn't your first WCT?
ONEY: No, I got a Wild Card to Bells.
SURFING: How'd that go?
ONEY: I felt numb. Not literally. My wetsuit was good. But my head, I just couldn't think straight. The crowd, the surfers, the whole scene…I just felt numb.
SURFING: So how will this event be different?
ONEY: More experience. Being at home.
SURFING: Does facing off with someone like Fanning or Slater scare you?
ONEY: Well, not Mick. I surfed with him all the time back home in Australia. He was my training partner there and we lived around the corner from each other. Surfing against him will just be fun. But I'm not intimated by the other guys either. Not too much.
SURFING: Really? You don't sound too sure.
ONEY: They eat rice. I eat rice. They have two hands. I have two hands. We're all just surfers. I just have to surf the best and never give up.
SURFING: How did living in Australia help you become a better contest surfer?
ONEY: I learned how to hassle more. I can play dirty. That Quarter Final with Lee Wilson was really intense. We both had some good waves, but in the end Lee needed a 6 to come back. He can get a 6 pretty easy, so I had to play a bit dirty with him. Hold priority. Get in the way. And that's how I won the heat. It's all just part of the game.
SURFING: Sounds like you're ready for the WQS. Is that the plan?
ONEY: Yeah, I'm doing a lot of WQS this year. I just got 2nd in a 4-Star in Japan. And I'm doing a lot more events. But it's hard for Indonesian surfers on tour. Getting visas to travel is complicated and expensive. And traveling costs for an Indonesian are very hard too.
SURFING: Indonesians have tried in the past, but nobody's really made a dent. Do you try to learn from the mistakes of previous contenders, like Dede Suryana?
ONEY: Dede had the support and the money, but he chose to stay in Indo, where he could still be a big star. At home he has a big hose, good contract to surf, and he can go fishing every day. But I'm still young. Too young to stay home. I can travel. I have friends to help me all over the world. I'm ready. I can go fishing every day after I win. First I need to prove something.
SURFING: Well, looks like you're about to get your chance. Good luck, buddy.
[Oney does something pretty amazing on every wave he surfs, so you might want to tune in for his heat and decide for yourself if he's got what it takes for the world stage.]