Three for three. Aided by the very real Owen/Kelly rivalry, that's the roll the ASP is on as they ride a wave of favorable-to-epic conditions over the last three events. Pro surfing doesn’t get much more intriguing than the product we're witnessing right now. Here’s a few surfers that have impressed me during Lowers as well as this latest string of events:
It started for Simpo when he had his balls finally drop at Teahupoo. Then he surfed equally well or better than everyone on tour in NY. And by the time he came home to surf Lowers, Brett looked to be a legit world title contender…for next year when the judges realize he’s surfing at a level few surfers can match. If his ex-NFL player father keeps coming to events, they may feel the pressure to begin scoring him more fairly at an accelerated pace. In Brett’s loss at Lowers, he put on an amazing display of consistently radical surfing on every wave he rode.
Kerr’s consistency is very different from the norm. For Josh it is all about his ability/inability to incorporate linking maneuvers between the impossible moves he pulls with his eyes closed. If it wasn’t for Kelly putting the brakes on Kerr in NY and Lowers, Kerr would be very close to the top spot right now. I predict that he or Julian Wilson will win an event before this year is over.
Who knew that behind the puka shells and Paul Fisher smile that such a serious competitor would emerge from the bubbly grommet of the Sunshine Coast. With power and tricks galore, Julian has been simply out-surfing every opponent he comes across—when he’s given a chance. The entire surf world cried when Julian was deemed to have interfered with Owen on the very first wave of their semifinal heat, negating the tremendous build-up for what was billed to be the heat of the event. The rivalry between Julian and Owen is going to be around for a very long time.
Before losing part of his mind in a drubbing at the hands of John Florence, Alejo impressed in Tahiti, went off in NY, and looked poised to keep it going through Lowers. It will be interesting to see how Alejo recovers emotionally. The Brazilians are extremely passionate, and I’ve seen it work for and against them as the pressure builds during a season/career. Think Neco and Peterson for prime examples of both.
John Florence went about his business so calmly that he almost sneaked up on Owen and sent him home. If Owen’s last ride wasn’t on the wave of the day, John would have won the heat on top of out-surfing him as well. If Hossegor even closely resembles last year, you can pencil John into the final now.
Medina and Pupo both have a frontside that is almost unmatchable. When Lowers decided to turn into mostly rights the final two days, those two lost their advantage and lost two very closely fought heats. The conditions may not always suit them, but when it does, watch in amazement.
This leaves us with the two horse race between Kelly and Owen that has been set up magnificently after three consecutive finals between them. With Owen feeling right at home now on the WT, his confidence and form has been unmatched. Only Kelly’s freaky, seemingly random heat strategy has been able to stop Owen’s tremendous roll. Basically Kelly goes about his business, giving the judges and his competitors as many different samples of the Kelly package as possible. During that process he confuses his opponent, while giving the judges a wide array of fodder to feed on. He usually reaches a victorious climax by vanquishing his opponent with a perfectly timed knock-out-blow they have no answer for.
He displayed this technique masterfully in the Lowers final with mid-heat adjustments and poise under pressure—passing on the first wave of a modest set as the final drew to a close, then sealing the deal with the top score of the final on the second. His ability to go out with a basic game plan and then adjust on the fly has him inching closer and closer to number 11. But like a super computer, the more experience Owen gains against the King, the less he will fall for the same tricks. At Lowers, Owen’s only mistake was waiting too long to unleash the more impressive, high-risk moves he can pull off with alarming regularity. Up against Kelly you have to come out with both guns blazing and never give him an opportunity to catch you sleeping.
If it wasn’t for Kelly, Owen would’ve just won the last three. If it wasn’t for the floater heard around the world, Owen would have won in Brazil earlier in the year too. Owen is that good.
Kelly is still the best, but with four events left, who’s it going to be?