And the show has gone on in France.
Even though it has only been a fortnight, Trestles seems to belong in another geological era. Who could forget (or even remember) those crimes against humanity committed by the judges? The World Title race so deliciously (and hyperbolically) log-jamming? Jordy's wife away on a yoga camp and Jordy playing poker with the boys in the garage before waking up the next morning and cleaning up the bottles before winning the contest?
Yes, how could we forget/remember in this churn-and-burn world?
But the Tour has crossed the Atlantic to France, only that one member of the "pro surfing family" won't be here.
You'll remember, of course, that Trestles began under a dark, grim cloud, with the news that the WSL's longtime head of security, David Wood, had taken his own life in a local hotel room. The immediate shock and the circumstances around his passing made it tough for those there in San Clemente to adequately acknowledge at the time. The fact it happened with the contest in full swing made it amply so. The show had to go on.
I'd traveled with Woody for many of his 20 years on Tour and was floored that not a single pro surfer showed up to his service. Not one. If anyone has the gall at any stage during this French event to mention the "pro surfing family," I'm swimming to France and calling that bullshit out, right there
on the sand.
Woody was laid to rest last Monday, at home, outside of Melbourne.
The service celebrated the life of a guy who lived for the Tour, loved his mates, and loved his circa 2002 surf fashion. A guy who'd devoted his life to the Tour for almost 20 years, a guy who selflessly saved surfers from themselves on several hundred occasions, a guy who fell on grenades – over zealous gendarmes, blindly drunken world champs in nightclubs snotting random punters, psychotic bunny-boiling female fans. And he was a guy who seemed to internalize much of the drama that came with his job and just dealt with it.
Guys like Woody are the glue that binds the pro surfing family, so it was tremendously sad to look around the chapel last Monday and discover none of the family had showed.
Not a single pro surfer showed. Not one, despite the service falling between Tour events…and despite these guys having spent half of every Tour year alongside him. No one showed to represent the WSL brass. Pottz was there, of course, but Pottz was there as Woody's best mate. Long-time Tour judge, Pritamo Ahrendt, was there, but he was also Woody's close mate.
And that was it. Just them.
I'd traveled with Woody for many of his 20 years on Tour and was floored, and if anyone has the gall at any stage during this French event to mention the "pro surfing family," I'm swimming to France and calling that bullshit out, right there on the sand.
I thought they'd be lined up out the door – like they might be, say, for one of the surfers in the same situation – but no one showed. The circumstances of Woody's passing at his own hand, I'm sure, made it difficult to process and deal with for many, made it uncomfortable, but that was all the more reason for turning up and making a statement. Woody was loved and respected, and even if in those tortured minutes a few weeks back he didn't believe it, then he needed to know it last Monday. The world needed
to know it.
Outwardly chipper guys with dream jobs and everything to live for taking their own lives shouldn't just be swept under the carpet. It should be talked about. It should be learned from. Fuck the taboo. The "Pro Tour family" had the capacity and profile to make a difference here, but nobody got on a plane.
On the first day of the waiting period in France, the show went on… for a farcical hour before all of France closed out from Biarritz to the Belgian border. This is the French event, notoriously fickle, of course, so we're prepared for the show to go on, then off, then on, then off again, all in the course of 15 minutes.
On the second day, the show went on…although your correspondent was torn away on shark-related matters at the peak-hour Shark Highway of the NSW North Coast. A sizeable white shark had apparently swum underneath me at Tallows, Byron Bay, or so my real-time Twitter feed warned me an hour afterward when I checked it. It was Round One, anyway, and when nobody loses, nobody ain't writing anything meaningful about it.
On Day Three – today – the show went on in a seasick Bay of Biscay.
There were no sharks (the last of them was hauled aboard here around the time Napoleon was in short pants), and there were no sharks in the field, either, with Round Two consisting solely of surfers trying to save their asses from either World Title embarrassment or career humiliation.
After the carnage and controversy of Trestles, where all the World Title leaders – the lot of 'em – were comprehensively dispatched by hundredths of a point, there was a seismic mirroring of fortunes in France. Wilko, who had controversially fallen 0.23 of a point short in California, suddenly found himself 0.23 to the good here in France against local wildcard Joan Duru. The winners, it seemed, were suddenly winners again.
Except for Jordy, who promptly lost in the next heat.
Suddenly, the World Title race that seemed to have been defibrillated – even artificially revived in California to include everyone down to 37th position – was soon cut back to John, Gabby, and Wilko.
Whether Jordy deep down gave himself a chance of winning the title or not, we'll never know, and fellow South African Rosy Hodge certainly wasn't game to find out as Jordy stormed back into the competitors area after losing to Ryan Callinan. Microphone in hand and positioned for an interview, Rosy saw the look on Jordy's face and performed a subtle evasive maneuver as Jordy whacked his board into the plywood cladding of the locker room.
Whether Kelly deep down gave himself a chance to win the World Title was a little clearer. He looked disinterested and flat against wildcard protégé Leo Fioravanti. There was no hurricane under his feet, just one at home in Florida.
And if ever you need convincing that the show goes on and the past just gets paved over, remember the phrase we heard today.
"The surfer from Rome is now undefeated against Kelly Slater."