Imagine for a minute you are a Portuguese contractor, hired to build a contest site on the beach. The eyes of the surf world will rest on your handiwork for the most important two weeks of surfing to go down in Portugal for well over a decade. Your little empire on the sand gradually comes together over the months until, with gleaming coffee machines, double-story portable offices for the judges, secure media rooms and a comfy and expansive lounge for the surfers, it is complete.
Then imagine you’re woken at 4 am by a phone call from an event staffer who is on the beach in the dark, just one day into the waiting period. They describe the sound of metal being twisted by whitewater, and eco-loos floating out to sea.
First call today was at the backup site, Lagido, some three miles north of Supertubes and the town of Peniche, a location marginally more sheltered than the main contest site. Even before we got there, we were hearing the destruction was of Katrina-esque proportions. Photos, as they tend to, tell a thousand words. But then, so does the phrase "worst storm in 20 years."
So we had swell today. But, clearly, the contest went on hold. Thirty-mile onshores will do that to a contest. Immediately, Mick Fanning and Taylor Knox rounded up the Ringrose brothers (legendary Australian water safety guys) and went towing. They'd seen a huge right, sheltered from the wind on the other side of a small peninsula, and were out there.
Back towards the main site at Supertubes, in the corner of the beach next to the breakwall is a wave called Molho Leste. And it was there, in wedgey head-high rights, that a good chunk of the top 45 chose to take to the water, ignoring the carnage at the main contest site a mile away. Walking across the sand at Molho Leste we found Luke Egan watching his boy Parko. Louie wasn't interested in going on record to speak about Parko's injury problems, but while the notebook stayed in the bag he was happy to have a chat. "Joel just needs to concentrate on doing what he's doing. He doesn't need to read any more speculation on what's going on," Louie told us.
Watching Parko tearing the wedgey rights, it was clear Joel's concentration wasn't an issue. In a session packed with fellow Aussie pros Bede Durbidge, Dayyan Neve, Tom Whitaker, Kai Otton and the rest of the boys, Parko's turns stood out a mile. What also occurred to your correspondent while watching these waves was just how well-suited they were to a certain gentleman named Dane. Mr. Reynolds, however, was nowhere to be seen. Neither was Mr. Slater. He'd drawn a crowd of hundreds to the beach for a quick freesurf the day before, but today he was a ghost. It's been pumping everywhere in Europe except Portugal this week. Ireland saw biggest evers. England's been pumping. Most ironically of all, Mundaka was the best it's been in three years, but there was no Kelly sighting there, either.
Will Kelly and Dane be present if the comp gets underway tomorrow? Of course they will. Until then, check out Joli's images, and imagine you are that poor Portuguese contractor.